Chapter 116 – One

What does it mean? Go where? I expected to be transported from the place of my assassination, the cellar at the bottom of the stairwell leading to my Snorralaug, but to where? At that moment I had no perception of any place, not here, not there, not anywhere. All I had was the voice. His voice. It sounded like my voice. As if I was talking to myself, yet I was not myself. It was all a mystery yet it seemed like the most natural thing, an experience I had already had more times than I could possibly count. Was this heaven? No. Was this Valhalla? No. Then where was I? Where were we? I felt him in me. We came to this place together. Me and him, the voice, my dream person.

“I know,” the voice said. “I have questions too, though it seems like I already know the answers, that I just need to wait for them to come out of my memory.”

“I’ve been killed,” I said. I lifted a hand to the wound in my head, but all about me was such pitch darkness that I could not see my own hand, nor could I feel it touching my head. “Arni beisker struck my head with an axe. Is this the place I go when I am dead? I am blind, I can see nothing but pitch black.”

It was the darkest place I had ever known, as if all the light of earth had been sucked away, as if all sensation of sight, and touch, smell and sound were sucked away as well and all I had was my thoughts, and the voice, our voice. We were entombed in thick deep blackness together.

“I am gone as well,” he said. “I was killed from life too. I died in my bed. I was so tired but I hung on so I could make the Singularity. This must be the Singularity then; I have made it. You have made it too. You are Snorri, my Snorri. I can’t see you but I know it is you.”

“I am Snorri; I am Snorri son of Sturla, of the Sturlunga, chieftain of Reykholt and master of many estates, twice lawspeaker of all of Iceland,” I said. “Who are you, this voice in my head, this person that I cannot see? Are you a ghost, a specter, a troll that lives inside the rock, a devil or angel? And what is this thing you call Singularity?”

“It’s me, Jon,” the voice said. “I am Jon Magnusson, your grandson from nineteen generations past.”

This made no sense to me, of course. It was all so confusing, nonsensical; yet it made complete sense at the same time.

“I am not afraid. I do not even feel sad or angry that I am killed,” I said. “Since Hallveig left me I have only been half, anyway. The pointlessness of life. All of my accomplishments have no value to me now, I do not care that I leave no real legacy. All these things that were my life, have no meaning. In a hundred years nobody will remember me anyway. I have not been a King, as I had wished. All my years of living, of working. What meaning does it all have now that I am killed. I did not know the true bond with my Hallveig, until she was gone. That is the only thing that has meaning for me.”

“I am the same,” the Jon voice said. “After Harriet it seemed like all meaning vanished. I thought I should just go lay on my bed and go to sleep and not wake up. But then I had this vision. Like looking at an unopened flower blossom that instantly came to full bloom before my eyes. I knew if I could just make it to a hundred years old I could achieve immortality. Not in my old decrepit body but in my spirit, my soul, if there is such a thing, even though for most of my life I have never believed such a thing as a soul. I could be with Harriet again, in that place where our essence goes when we die. I thought this even though I knew it was crazy to think such a thing. I guess I just hoped it might be true. For almost all of my living days I have believed that when I am dead, I am dead. Gone, just gone. No heaven or hell, no floating on clouds and endless verdant pastures and valleys, surrounded by angels and beauty, nor eternal furnace, the stench of seared flesh, no fear, no pain, just gone. Now I’m here with you because I lived long enough. Anyway, you are remembered by a great many and you are ancestor to a great many as well. Like me.”

This made little sense to me because I was there with him and I had not aged to one hundred years. I told him this and he went quiet for a long time, so long that I thought perhaps he had left me to remain singular and alone in the pitch dark emptiness. But he went silent because it made him ponder.

“This thing of a hundred years, it is just a number. I see that now. I am dead and I am in this place of total darkness,“ the Jon voice said. “Harriet is not here. It is just you and me in the dark nothingness. Is this my eternity? To spend it with the thing I made my life around, my old ancestor?”

“All I wanted,” I said, “was to be King of Iceland. For my people.”

“For your people,” the Jon voice said. “Or for yourself?”

Perhaps he was right. My life was just for myself. I saw the world only through my own eyes. How else could it be. Empathy and sympathy were only things I could give away. I could not see or feel the world through someone else. I was selfish for myself in this way, though at those times when I was cruel or selfish it was not my intention to be so. I could not help myself. But now, in this place of utter dark, in this state, I understood clearly the good as well as the pitiful things that were my life past. I should have felt shame, yet I did not. No more than I felt pride at the beneficial accomplishments of my life, no more than I felt joy at my magnificent victories or at the birth of my own children. After all they are my real legacy; I see that now. The seed of what they are, who they are, has come from me. The fruit of their life beyond what I have given them, they have grown for themselves. That is my real legacy, not my land or money or power. If they do ill it is from me. If they do good, it is from me and those before me. Though not from Sturla, my brutish father, I hope. More, I hope, from Loftsson and my teachers and mentors at Oddi. Now I am here, wherever that is. Now I see that I am part of the greater whole, that I am of the greater whole, that I am the greater whole, they are what goes on after me.

***

Out of the utter blackness a tiny white speck of light caught the corner of my sight. I cannot say it caught my eye as I had no sense if I even had an eyeball to see from. It was just there. And then another blinked on, then another and another, all quite distant. So distant that I wasn’t certain they were dots of light at all. Perhaps just imagination, a desire to have sight of something, anything. Suffocating anxiety permeated me with the feeling as though I was imprisoned in a bleak tomb, a grave deep in the underworld, dread so pervasive that it consumed my entire being. I needed to escape that place. It was only the appearance of those dots of light that saved my sanity, that gave me hope that refuge was possible, that I would not have to endure a living death for all eternity. Alone, except for the Jon voice.

“Do you see it?” the Jon voice asked me.

“Yes,” I said. “So far away but I see it.

Then another light blinked into view then another and another until there were hundreds, thousands of them, more than all the stars in the night sky, until my view was filled with innumerable glowing points of pulsating light, each growing brighter with each blink until the brightness filled the dark space with pure light. It should have been blinding but I could see them quite clearly, individually, even though there was a multitude. The magnificence of it filled me with joy such as I had never experienced. At the core of my being I felt that I had arrived home after a journey of many years, decades perhaps more. So long away and now finally home, such great comfort in this sea of light, as if those points of glowing light were my people and I had come to them.

I thought I could see something, a shape, a person, or at least the shadowed outline of a person, standing against the light. Then the shape dissolved and became absorbed into the light; first the shadow figure glowing in its own brilliant blackness, then it’s coming apart into a million tiny weightless pieces. Absorbed, becoming part of the light. But the light was not light at all, it was the sensation of light, the feeling that everything was illuminated, though no detail could be seen.

“Did you see that?” the Jon voice asked.

“Yes,” I said. “It’s such a strange thing yet I feel as though I’ve seen this a thousand times or more. I feel as though I’ve been that shadow shape myself, separating into tiny pieces and dissolving into the light.”

“Me too,” the Jon voice said.

“I feel drawn to that light,” I said.

“Me too,” the Jon voice said.

But there was something preventing moving forward. Something that had to be done, to take place before being entitled the same victory of light.

“I can’t move ahead,” I said. I had no body, no shape of my own, I was nothing more than thought, weightless, formless with no substance, an incorporeal replica of my being.

“Me too,” the Jon voice said.

In the next instant the darkness returned, leaving just the echo of light. The shock of the loss of the light had me cry out in despair.

“No, don’t go,” I wailed.

“No,” the Jon voice wailed.

As quickly as it vanished it returned. This time the light grew like a rent out of the darkness, a trickle growing to a waterfall. We fell through a tunnel of light that was not luminous white but brilliant in its blackness, or perhaps we rose, I could not tell. It was as if we were fully aware of our own birth, emerging through confusion, not knowing what was happening. There was excruciating pain, liquid slime, darkness with episodes of light, screaming, terror and then the feeling of release, like birth into a strange world where everything was new but wonderful and interesting.

I reached for him, the Jon voice, with an arm of pure thought and touched his hand. His hand, my hand, his arm, my arm, his body, my body, melted into each other becoming one and we moved forward as a shadow shape into the presence of the light, as if we were born together.

There was something in there with us. I felt as though I should be calling us ‘we,’ now that we seemed to be joined. I owned all his thoughts and memories and he owned all of mine, as if they were not from separate lives but from one life, our life. There are no words that describe this joining, where two become one. Yet it was not like a ‘becoming’, more like a returning to a state of existence that has always been, where ‘we’ have always been one, and yet still more than one. Where we have always been ‘all’. We were part of one thing, part of all things that have substance and all things that have no substance at all, existing in forms and in places beyond my knowing, places inside places, of this time and not of this time, time inside time as if all moments of time occurred all at once, occurred continuously. More than the sum of all things. Much, much more. We moved towards ‘home’ with all the cosmic dust, in the place where time and space begin and end and exist, unseen yet seen completely, where all exists inside the fabric of time and space.

There were a thousand voices, a thousand conversations, a cacophony so multitudinous that any conversation should have been indiscernible, yet we could hear every single conversation clearly, as if we were a part of each one, multiplied a thousand times.

I thought I saw his face, then his whole body, in front of me, facing me, our hands grasping the others hands. We were not standing or sitting, though we were not floating in the air either. We faced each other, formed shadows against the light, our hands tingling, rippling, bubbling against each other, merging into each other until we were joined by our hands that became both of our hands. His blue eyes looked into mine and I saw myself through his eyes as he saw himself through mine. He spoke. He was Jon. We were Jon and we were me, Snorri of the Sturlunga.

“As I read from my book,” he said, “and looked at the etching of you, it was as though I was in the eyes of the etching looking back at myself, from the pages of the book, as if I was seeing myself from your eyes. Even though it was just a drawing of you and didn’t resemble you in real life, I could see through your blue eyes.”

“As I can see through your blue eyes now,” I said. As I thought those words they echoed, as if the words were spoken once and then once again right after.

The lights swirled around us. More than mere light, it was an eddying vortex of time, as if time itself had substance, a living viscous thing, with breath of its own. We could touch it, as if it was a thing of substance. We could hold it, embrace it, be part of it, one with it, as if we were time and could ride upon it through sky and sea, in the place above the earth with wind blowing in our face.

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