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  • Obrázek autoraSlávka Harazimová

Birthday

There are sentences that ignite pleasure in the heart, like an electric spark ignites a combustion engine.

There are sentences that clear away sorrow, like a dustman clearing away the morning trash.

And there are sentences that ruin the balance of the soul, like a Tibetan monk ruins his sand mandala.


“Happy Birthday!” She stared intensely at her mobile phone, on which a jolly jumping bear with a heart and birthday cake were glowing. When the congratulations faded away, the old face of someone appeared on the dark display. She realized with terror that the face was hers. She was still inclined to see herself as an 18-year-old girl...until reality confronted her mercilessly in the mirror. Or when seeing her reflection in a streetcar window. Or with her photo taken in the kiosk for her new ID. She had completely forgotten about her birthday and now the reminder made her feel panic. Her face gradually scrunched up. Her facial expression was similar to the expression of a patient waiting for the realignment of a compound fracture of the leg in a Kazakhstan hospital. She did not perceive anything sharing the room with her. She perceived only herself and her own fear.

“Will they forever be reminding me on my disgusting birthday that I am again one step closer to death?” she complained to herself.

“Not forever,” an unexpected Voice replied.

She looked around, confused. She looked under her chair, she looked up suspiciously. She did not see anybody. She did not know if somebody was really talking to her, or if she had been thinking aloud.

“They will remind you of your birthday only for 80 more years, if you are lucky enough to reach the maximum human life expectancy,” the Voice continued.

She considered the possibility that she was momentarily experiencing an acute psychotic episode. But there was no one around qualified enough to prove or disprove the diagnosis. She decided to remain polite and communicate with the Voice, even in the case that she was seriously ill and talking to herself. There was nobody else to talk to on her birthday anyway. However, she did not perceive anything else sharing the room with her.

“And would it be a great joy to live for another 80 years?” she asked dubiously. “The quality of life decreases after 40 anyway.”

“Do you mean your life?”

“I mean human life in general. It’s a curve. My life or Bruce Willis’s life, it does not matter. If I think about it....I mean not only human life, but life at large. This curve of a long ascent, short plateau and slow decline affects lions, swallows and daisies too. The curve is the same, only the lifespans are shorter.

“Are you complaining about time, then?”

“No! If I were forever young, time would not matter!”

“I see. You are complaining about the limitations of your own life. But are you able to really live each of the 2 524 554 001 seconds of existence that you have at your disposal?”

“Do you want to say I am not alive?”

“Of course you are alive. You fulfill all the fundamental features of a living organism. You breathe, you transform energy, you defecate... That is change. And change defines life. But my point was whether you can really live these seconds of your existence, not whether you can merely stay alive. At the same time, you would like to live forever, if you could remain young. I see a paradox here.”

“But I would really live and enjoy life, if I were not trapped in the cage of a poor, miserable human existence. In the cage ruled by time and the law of decomposition, decadence and limitations. In a life drowning in the rat race, where everybody is running, but staying in the same place. Where everybody runs around in circles the whole day, only to repeat those circles the next day. And the next day... and another....until they hit the omnipresent wall of death pervading their whole pointless race. The wall which they are desperately trying to avoid, but if they are lucky enough to avoid it in the current or subsequent round, it will be patiently waiting for them at the final destination. Sorry, am I scaring you? Am I not depressing?” She suddenly started to be frightened by her own words and mainly by the possibility that, in the same way as some her friends, the Voice would immediately end the conversation with a weak excuse. It sometimes happened, if she was not careful about what she was saying.

“Let’s say you are not one of those people who sees a glass half full,” answered the Voice in an indifferent tone. She was relieved, because the Voice had not disappeared like her friend had the last time, with an excuse that he urgently had to book an appointment with his psychologist.

“Ok, fine! I wish I was an idiot who was not conscious of anything.”

“Honestly, I don’t think you have anything to worry about. And I also don’t think that philosophizing about something is the same as really being conscious of it.”

She thought about whether she should be offended or not.

“I am looking at your chair,” continued the Voice, as if it did not notice the dilemma causing her to frown.

“If you are trying to change the topic, you are not doing it in an exactly subtle way.”

“You have been sitting on this chair for 15 years. Or is it 16 already?”

Jesus! 16 years and still this same chair!

“40 million liters of blood have travelled through your heart during that time and almost all the cells in your body have been replaced several times. You’ve become a completely different person from the person who first sat on this same chair.”

“It isn’t the same chair! I bought a new one three years ago!”

“On this chair, you count how many sunsets remain in your life. You do it, rather than really experiencing them. In this place you dread the passage of time, but you do not dread the waste of time. From this space, you transmit your fear of death to the Universe, but you do not fear living your life to the fullest. It is interesting that wasting your life doesn’t scare you more than death.”

“It is a classic logical fallacy. You put your own conception in my mind of how I think, and then you criticize it. But you don’t know anything about my real thoughts or my attitude to life. Honestly, I am curious by what you can judge the innermost feelings I experience?”

“That’s what I’m talking about. I judge from your extraordinary relationship with your chair. You spend all mornings, afternoons and evenings together. Sometimes very long evenings, I would say. I am not criticizing, I am just stating the facts. From the perspective of the Universe, it doesn't matter if 50 square inches beneath your ass is satisfying to your life. You create a balance against the people who live life to the fullest. The Universe doesn’t care about your dark, chaotic world, created by your own thoughts. You are balancing out the optimists and the happy people living on this planet. It is actually very honorable, because the motto of the Universe is balance.”

“What happy people? I’ve never heard of them.”

“See? This is an example of how good you are in the field of negative thinking. Negative thinking is your hobby. Everybody focuses on what they are good at. You are not closed in the cage of human existence. You are closed in the cage of your own black thoughts. I am not surprised that you miss the order, harmony and perfection of the real world.”

“Oh-oh! Harmony, perfection, order. The higher principles of life. Are we getting to the Chief Architect of life now? Or even to God?”

“Is it easier for you to believe that everything around and within you functions perfectly because it is the result of random chaos?”

“I do not feel as if everything within me is working perfectly,”

“Now I don’t know if I should disagree.”

“Looking up to someone above is a crutch for people who can not bear the truth that humans are only material substances. By the way, I don’t understand why people look up for an example to this entity above and not to those on the left or the right. Or to one below.”

“Only material? Humans are only material, but formed by billions of cells, with every one of them being an autonomic, unbelievable miracle with the recipe for life written in the genes. Where do you think this recipe comes from?”

“You want to imply it is written by God? If a God existed, it would be a God who created the world where the strong eat the weak. Who created a food chain where the life of one depends on killing another. Who implements wars, suffering, hopelessness and mosquitos. If there existed a God who created the world in His own image, I would not like to come face to face with Him one day. Or maybe, I would, because if I were to face Him, He would have to lower his eyes.”

“You try to talk about the speed of light, with only an hourglass in your hands,” sighed the Voice. “To understand the meaning of some aspects of life, you lack the most basic tools and level of knowledge. When you reach at least one billionth of a percentage of knowledge, it will be as much a revolution in your view of life as was the discovery for mankind that the Earth was not flat.”

“Measuring the speed of light with an hourglass is nonsensical. For example, Galileo Galilei measured time by his own heartbeat. So don’t underestimate people. I can imagine the only possible meaning of everything, that is, if God really ever existed. The only possible meaning of that would not be nonsense. At least for me.”

“Tell me!”

“God created a perfect, unlimited, eternal Universe. God’s space is without borders, without time, a perfect world of harmony and unity. But...what use is creating a miracle if you don’t have an audience? What use is creation to a creator if nobody sees it? So He created life to appreciate immortality. A life appreciating eternity, when life itself is limited by time. To admire perfection, when life itself is full of flaws. It was very egoistic of God. I could almost say that he is a narcissist.”

“A narcissist?”

“Of course, a narcissist! Who else would create his own admirers, despite knowing how much suffering it would cause them?”

The Voice grew silent.

The silence grew.

Her expression progressively became similar to the expression of a koala after a rich dinner. After a few minutes, she fell asleep.


Something had been listening the whole time. It was small, almost transparent and it was terribly tired.

“Why am I trapped in the cage of a poor, miserable existence?” it asked.

“You too?” answered the Voice.

“In the cage of existence, ruled by the laws of decadence, decomposition and limitations. In a life drowning in the constant suppression of myself, where I am a prisoner in a damned equation, subordinated to the goodness of something higher, but out of sight. Where we are born, reproduce and die, just so that our children may be born, reproduce and die the next day. My 50th birthday is approaching, I am closer to death every day. My desire to be myself, at least for a while, to be

unique and unfettered, has never been fulfilled. What’s more, something upsets me all the time. I will simply end it today.”

“But you will destroy that this person too.”

“Destroying this person means freeing myself.”

It desperately wished to be immortal. It desired to separate itself from the anthill to which it did not feel any connection. From the whole, directed by the chemical signals which bypassed it. It hated limitations and, most of all, it hated the limitations given by the number 50, because it could not have more than 50 daughters. It dreaded the 50th daughter, and time, which was taking it nearer to its final moment.

It breathed in the oxygen deeply. It knew that it was breathing oxygen for the last time. It would take its next energy from the process of fermentation. It did not care. It turned off its own mortality.

It transformed itself into a cancer cell.


“Narcissist...narcissist...” the Voice slowly repeated. “I do not want her here yet.”

His thoughts flew with lightning speed through the body asleep in the chair.

Joe Cocker was playing on the radio. The night was long, black as coal and starting to be almost the same age.

From time to time, the images in the dark room shone with a vivid warm light.

Dusk drew a dark red image of foggy mist on the wall.

In the morning, two worlds collided.

Both of them were celebrating 50 years.

A disharmonious tone started to resound in the Universe. It seemed to be coming from the dark stars, from the antimatter. Hinting at a mistake in the system.

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1 Comment


Kyle Bairnsfather
Kyle Bairnsfather
Jan 21

Pretty existential, I liked it. Even if you win the Rat Race, you are still a rat.

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