Aphelion Issue 275, Volume 26
August 2022
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The White Room

by Pedro Blas González

The smell of dew on the grass was almost too much to bear.

Max Wallace looked around. He felt exhilarated, almost joyful, without knowing or caring why this should be. "Another day," he told himself, and that seemed reason enough. He continued walking. He didn't remember how he had arrived at this place, or how long he had been walking, but that, too, seemed unimportant.

The hill sloped upwards at enough of an angle that Max could not see beyond it. With few trees or bushes around, he was surprised to notice that the green grass stretched in every direction, as far as he could see. Looking back, he noticed that the bottom of the hill was a lovely golden shade, as the low morning sun shone on it.

Being the walker that he was, Max welcomed the sight before him. He often said that walking freed him from the constraints of place and time. He was of the opinion that when he took a walk his senses became inflamed in ways that removed him from his daily toil and predicament.

Then, pausing for a few minutes, he began to look around in amazement at the surreal landscape that engulfed him. He thought of the green grass that surrounded him as being the opposite of a moonscape, where only short grass dominated his view.

"I wonder if I'm..." he began, but interrupted himself to watch a lone hawk that circled above.

He watched the hawk and decided to sit for a while on the wet grass to witness the graceful bird of prey soar with the rising thermals of warm air.

The bird tipped its wings left and right ever so slightly, enough to test the wind currents. Max watched the bird attentively, somehow able to see the subtle movements of the long primary feathers at the tips of each wing as the hawk maneuvered. He quickly became mesmerized by the animal that soared overhead.

Occasionally, the large bird turned its head downward, as if to let Max know that it was watching him. After several minutes enjoying the flight of the bird, the animal descended a considerable degree, so that Max could easily see its markings. Max felt a strong desire to join the majestic bird as it circled the hilltop. He became intrigued by what he imagined to be the bird's looming, panoramic perspective.

"What does he see from up there?" Max became curious. Max began to envy the winged creature.

Then, coming closer still, the bird began to stare at Max. As he continued circling, the hawk never took his piercing eyes from the man sitting on the wet grass. Max laid on his back and gazed up at the infinite blueness that was the sky. The air was cool. Max welcomed the gentle breeze that caressed his skin. He took a deep breath. The morning breeze invigorated him.

Still looking up at the radiant blue sky, Max forgot the bird for a few minutes. He closed his eyes and imagined himself hovering above himself.

"If only I could disembody myself for just a few minutes," he thought.

Several minutes elapsed in this day-dreaming state, when he finally dozed off into sleep. At first, Max's sleep was light, as he could still faintly hear the breeze. Another couple of minutes passed and Max began to dream.

He began to see the totality of the landscape around him. The hill stretched for miles in every direction. He found it a curiosity that there were no recognizable landmarks of any kind, only grass. He strained his eyesight, as he took a panoramic look around, but grass was all Max could see. The green grass met his eyesight in a uniform way. Max liked the perfect symmetry that he witnessed.

Max then noticed that the hawk was gliding effortlessly next to him. He looked closely into the animal's eyes and realized that the privileged perspective that the bird enjoyed up to then was now his own.

Looking down at the world below, he noticed that his senses had become heightened. The individual blades of grass seemed to call attention to themselves. Max could make out the low hum made by the blades of grass rustling in the morning breeze. He could also decipher the otherwise inaudible sounds of small critters that made their home in boroughs under the grass. Max could hear the sounds made by the different types of feather arrangements on his companion hawk. He was able to discern the exact instance when the wind flowing over the top of the wings met that traveling through the bottom.

The hawk's eyes, too, Max could see, had a distinct gleam. The hawk seemed to be looking through him.

In the distance, he could see where the hill gave way to flat grass. He directed his glance to that chimerical 'vanishing point' at the horizon. Max was delighted to witness the point where the sky met the sea of green grass. The hawk accompanied him.

Then Max looked at the hawk, as if to share his new found perspective. The hawk merely stared at him. A few minutes passed and Max heard a voice that said: "Max Wallace, look at yourself. There, on the ground."

At that point Max looked at a figure lying on the ground. The hawk now led Max down toward the figure. On closer inspection, Max could see that he was indeed looking at himself asleep on the green grass. Even though the figure on the grass looked peacefully asleep, Max could see that his hands and face were wrinkled. The figure on the ground was seventy years old, eighty, more? But somehow Max recognized himself.

He hovered above the motionless figure for a few minutes. He wondered what was taking place. He had been -- or felt -- young, before he had joined the hawk in flight, but now looked ancient...

The hawk looked at him. Max could discern a look of sadness on the hawk's face. Max knew that the hawk was trying to communicate something that he could not decipher or understand.

Then, without warning, the hawk flew up towards the sun. Max tried to follow it, but he became exhausted and gave up the chase.

When he woke up, Max found himself sitting on the floor of a room with white walls. He was disoriented. He looked up to the sky but instead saw only a white ceiling. Then he looked down and noticed that the floor was also white. While the floor was firm, he was confused about the whiteness that surrounded him. Max stood up and looked around. He walked up to a wall but quickly noticed there was no such thing. He walked further and looked around. While he knew that he had indeed walked, he could not tell if he had covered any ground. He then walked in another direction. But this, too, offered him the same vantage point, the same result.

Max became weary, thinking that perhaps the glowing, white floor which supported him would give way. After several minutes of this surreal experience in the white room, Max could no longer see his hands. At first he thought this to be a visual trick brought about by the abundant white light. But then he also noticed that he could not see his lower extremities.

After a few minutes of this confusion Max realized that he could no longer feel the ground under him.

Like an all-seeing eye that sees everything around it, but which cannot see itself, Max felt a cold wind going through him, or where his body used to be. Now, he noticed that all his senses except sight had disappeared. He couldn't even tell if he indeed was using his eyes to see or some other newly discovered faculty. Max merely witnessed the whiteness that enveloped him like an ever-present camera.

Max had never felt lighter, something akin to waking from a long nap in the middle of the day. Being weightless, he moved about through the whiteness that surrounded him, yet he discovered that his memory was left intact. He recalled his youth, his parents, the excitement he felt the day of his wedding, and the birth of his children. These moments all seemed to have taken place only minutes ago. Max now let himself go wherever his all-seeing camera-eye would take him, for what he couldn't see with his eyes, he now deciphered with his understanding: The green grass, the hawk, the sharpened senses that he had developed while hovering next to the winged creature, these where now like the flight of a butterfly that he had witness close by, but which he knew he could not touch for fear that it would dissolve right before his eyes.

His memory served him well, for Max hovered around the whiteness around him understanding full well that he had never left the white room -- and he never would.


© 2010 Pedro Blas González

Bio: Pedro Blas González is professor of Philosophy at Barry University, Miami Shores, Florida. He is the author of a number of non-fiction books, including Human Existence as Radical Reality: Ortega y Gasset’s Philosophy of Subjectivity (Paragon House), Essays in Subjectivity, Individuality and Autonomy, (Algora Publishing), Ortega’s the ‘Revolt of the Masses’ and the Triumph of the New Man (Algora Publishing), Unamuno: A Lyrical Essay (Floricanto Press), and the novel Dreaming in the Cathedral (Floricanto Press). His story The Persistence of Memory appeared in the April 2010 edition of Aphelion

E-mail: Pedro Blas González
Blog: castle to castle

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