Each and every day is the same; the same featureless walls, the same monotonous charging forward to consume the standardized detritus of my very small, confined world. The arrangement of the walls change, yes, but their essence remains identical, their meaning inalterable. I am accompanied only by the monotonous sound of my own gluttonous consumption.
I am pursued by all that I have repressed. All my anxieties, my denial, that threaten to overwhelm me. To these psychological shadows of the self I assign names so that I may somehow take control of these by the act of naming: Inky, Blinky, Pinky, and Clyde.
Sartre says hell is other people, but I can think of no worse hell than to live within myself, and only myself. In those rare moments of courage where I consume that powerful pellet of confidence, only then do I turn and confront my trailing demons, my phantom issues. But as I go in pursuit of my troubled past as a therapeutic gesture for my own psychological emancipation, I see there the financial cost of such therapies––and each issue I gobble, that I cannibalize, is added to my overall existential debt.
For it matters not as all that is repressed and eventually confronted only returns to threaten me again, to endlessly chase me in this labyrinth of the self. And there is no way for me to chase these phantoms that beguile me to their source, for the source is bricked up, and I am prohibited access. Only the eyes of my repressions purchase entry only to return in full, vivid garb, in pursuit of me once more. And still I become nothing more than a spectator to an arbitrary increase in numbers of a score that has no extrinsic value.
It is this inescapable entrapment, and this endless pursuit. I move so rectilinearly to evade the ghosts of myself and rush to consume as though this will make me whole, will restore some lost unity. The gap between me and some threatening phantom in my psyche narrows, and so begins my mad munching scramble for anything that will shift the balance on my fate, even if only temporarily.
I think to myself perhaps there is a god that may rescue me from this monotony, and perhaps his name is Mitchell. And perhaps my entire life is a coin-operated madness, my every move the whim of a failing god whose dexterity might err. But to what end this pursuit and evasion, maze after maze? I am reminded of Freud's remark in his The Interpretation of Dreams: "With one of my female patients all dreams have the character of 'hurry'; she is hurrying so as to be in time, so as not to miss her train, and so on. In one dream she has to visit a girl friend; her mother had told her to ride and not walk; she runs, however, and keeps on calling." What am I hurrying to or from? I have only the immediate to focus on, and the perpetual dread of turning a wrong corner and being outflanked by those creatures I am sure are of my own making. If there is a god who pilots my movement, who has authored this maze, I cannot be sure that this god is anything but imperfect––perhaps even negligent or insane.
I am told by those articles of faith that after 255 rounds of this maddening grind that I will come to some victory and that my self will be united with the meaning of it all. Yet, I see myself weakening before this abstract future may be realized, to allow––as is my right to take destiny in hand and terminate my own life––the phantoms to overtake me, to deflate me like a slashed tire. Anything to end this incessant sound of my own munching, my own slavish consumption! But what happens at this mystical end? The limits of my world, perhaps, when the last fruit––the vain pursuit of possession––is drawn, only an impassable gibberish of my world's code spat out and blocking any further progress.
I have choice. I need not appeal to the limits of a transcendent world that confines space and purpose to essence. But this choice may itself be banal, a Gentzen tree where I may opt to chew down one corridor or another, forever or for as long as fortune holds out. I have another choice, and that is to allow all that lurks within to accost me and bring an end to these meaningless pursuits. Survival is the motif, but survival to no purpose as I move parasitically from maze to maze.
I know myself to be round, but this does not furnish me with any significant meaning; I must undertake to understand this serialized space. What I take to be exists on the left and right only succeed in making me appear on the other side of this mirror. Or, perhaps it is more the case that I have taken this world as flat, as square, when in actual fact it is a labyrinth printed on the surface of a sphere with no depth. I am just a tracing of a looped space, and I can only secure my release once I have exhausted the resources… only to repeat the process yet again. But for each successive world that I enter, the challenges increase, the phantoms of all that I have repressed gain in speed, my ability to confront them contracts in duration. I have discovered this insipid truth: That at a certain numerical achievement in consumption, I am granted an added chance to repeat this existential folly. I must absorb into myself 200 of these tasteless dots, or 50 of those pellets that artificially buoy up my will. I scramble about for other truths about this space that might provide insight to my purpose that may be concealed from me. The following are true:
The ghosts of myself are immortal, or perpetually regenerated for as long as I am alive.
The configuration of the labyrinth is variable, but not infinite.
The walls of the labyrinth are impassable.
I travel at a constant speed whereas my phantoms increase in speed over time.
All objects in this space are identical according to their type, and my interaction with them produces the same sound.
There is no escape; only repetition is afforded me.
These truths do not redeem me, nor do they bring me closer to the purpose of this existence. I have only to hurry, to hurry again, and in the process suffer as the foes within myself gain on me until that one erring moment where I choose the wrong turn in haste, and find myself boxed in. There is no time to reflect, no way of interrogating my pursuers, no means by which I can appeal to any entity to grant me the reason as to why I am compelled to perform this function.
I dream of completing this labyrinth forever and being transported to a space without walls, without pellets, and without motion. I crave absolute inertia so that this tiresome scrambling may come to a definitive close. Perhaps, in that mystical afterworld of level 256 there is a world unlike the previous 255; or else, as may be the dark humour of an unseen god, I am condemned to repeat my Sisyphean labour at level zero as the rock rolls back down the hill.
Kane X. Faucher is the author of The Infinite Library and other novels. He teaches at the University of Western Ontario.