The Other Nightmares – Zaza Asatiani ’21

Besieged amongst timeless mountains, torn apart by relentless rivers, and shrugged under boundless forests, the tiny village of Nakieti nestles in the Northwestern Georgian region of Racha. Every summer my family used to go there — almost a rite of passage; annual, though. As the car followed twisted roads hanging on cliffsides, the promise of leaving noise and dirt of the capital behind would diminish the fear of a dangerous drive.

Predictably, all youngsters, visitors or locals, in the village pursued storytelling with a frenzy: they found themselves telling scary stories or sharing their nightmares under the starry and cold cover of the night. I and my sister were no exceptions. Once we joined a group of valiant teenagers heading towards abandoned graveyard animated by the raging waterfall. On site, our company sat down in a loosely defined circle on the leveled-off ground enveloped by two adjoining walnut trees. Before my ever-impatient sister drove the somber silence away, our uneven, warm breaths, fractured by the cold air, sounded inappropriately loud. Equally loudly, my sister began recounting her story, but, of course, I could not not interrupt, and so we continued threading our narratives, one by one:

“A bright light cuts my sight. The brightest, most powerful light in the universe. It is so intense that it inundates the spacetime, creating the resonant, melodic sounds. I am submerged in the fabric of the cosmos, one of the many shining stars.”

“Cold. The new moon is not powerful enough to illuminate the surroundings. I am in the woods, one of the ancient trees, stretching from the ground to the sky, cutting the space vertically, stripping the thin atmosphere with black lines.”

“There are so many stars: yellow or red, tiny or giant, but even the tiniest of them are larger than me. I am as big as our Sun, though, it cannot be seen anymore — I am in a more remote part of the universe. In this part nebulas dominate. They are multihued, but the role of those colors is to camouflage the lost spirit. Nebulas are stale. Their joy is frozen in time. I do not want to be part of their lifetime pain. I drift intensely away to the colorful rings, orbiting around planets. Oh, how I wish to have one of those circling rings, but I am just a wandering star. I am lost! I am lost in the amorphous sea of galaxies, moving without a purpose.”

“There are so many trees in the forest: pines, firs, cedars, cypresses, junipers . . . I am one of the junipers. We all dance, holding each other’s hands. Our dance is stagnant yet melodic, though, mostly menacing, as our cumbersome feet might smash blossoming flowers beneath us, hiding within the whispering grasses. Flowers are the authentic colors of the forest, not the leaves, not the leaves that were wiped out by the tyrannical wind, striped away. It is still blowing, making our dance even more dynamic. The ground is shattering. We move even faster. My balance is gone. I am lost! I am lost in the amorphous sea of primeval forests, wandering without a purpose.”

“In the distance, far, far away, I see a gigantic red ball, drowned in waltzing rays. Its proportions are transcendental, so massive that it curves the fabric of the space. It must be the biggest star in the universe. Oh, divine cosmic order! Perhaps it is the Creator itself.  I fly towards it. No, no, it’s not my free will. It is an irresistible draw of the creation. My heart will burst from the feeling of overwhelming marvel. It’s inevitable! My fragile remains will embellish the crown of that magnificent star, move around its crown. Oh, what a wonderful death to die with! Oh, what a star to die for!”

“Far-off, several miles away, I notice a flickering, yellowish light within the colossal trees. Its shifting pattern is alluring, as if its windy flames are dancing to the ceded beat of the woods. My heart tries to emulate that timber beat. I try to move according to that beat. Elucidating light in the dark, dark forest. What a blessing! It must be an epiphany of hope, definitely! Oh, perhaps it is a heavenly calling! Maybe the universe is trying to communicate something with me using the primordial tongue of the civilization: the movement of fire. I tear off the ground, rolling down the hill raucously, toward the source of that distant light. It’s more of an unremitting attraction rather than an independent choice. Perhaps that light can grant an eternal emancipation from the pain, the perpetual freedom. Oh, what a promise! Oh, what a promise to die for! I am running toward it.”

“I am already near the red star, the origin of all kinds of life within the universe. Minutes more and I will find myself in its embracing arms, suspended in the serene harmony of the cosmos. But wait, the star is waning, shrinking from every side, with redness draining into the surrounding space. The star is bleeding due to the invisible injury. Oh, how I wish I could help! In seconds, there is no great red star anymore. Just a tiny white dwarf, the miniscule remnant of once a giant star. Its whiteness is ethereal, as if coming from the Creator itself. The sacrifice of the red star was undoubtedly worth it, as the new star is much purer, born out of the forfeit for the greater good, so the whole universe can move on.”

“I am getting closer to the light, the sole spring of brightness in the prevalent darkness of the primordial forest. My judgment proves correct: it is certainly a fire, ever-burning and self-sufficient, perhaps emerging from the incessant battle between the light and darkness. Minutes more and I will fuse with this divine fire, acquiring its radiance. But wait, the fire is dwindling, disappearing, absorbing the disseminated light from the environment. Oh, it is because of the rain — expressive tears of the towering sky, moving, falling down. But what for? What for? What could had stirred the benevolent spirit of azure firmament? Maybe it’s not a punishment at all. Maybe it’s a holy grace for the invigoration of Mother Nature. After all, water is a key to the sustained existence. Fire should vanish for something larger than itself, the sky has already decided so, that is why its tears move down here.”

“The white dwarf is just gorgeous; want to observe it again and again, until my eyes start to pain. But I am not that lucky, as suddenly, it collapses in the thousandth of second, flaring up tons of deadly blazes around. At this point, what remains is just an emptiness, a black hole through which nothing is visible. Oh, I have to flee, but I cannot; its gravity is too powerful, I can only move towards it!  The hole is forcefully pulling me to its abysmal heart. I am going to splinter, explode in colorful particles of dust. As I get deeper and deeper through the black hole, time stops, and everything ceases to exist.  I am frozen within time in the black loop. Sweet silence! Darkness. Darkness. Darkness.”

“The fire is gone, and with it my senses as well. I have no idea where I am. I am lost! The rain only gets more and more torrential. I am all alone in the woods. I have to go back home, but I have forgot the path, I cannot move. I am lost! It gets darker and darker. The murky clouds have already fully engulfed the moon, and with it my last bits of hope dissolve. The wind is completely relentless, moving through me. Then, chinkas, untamed spirits of the forest, appear out of nowhere. I am besieged. I cannot survive — there are too many of them. As my life force fades away, my suffering enables those spiritually emaciated non-beings to transform into physically replete well-beings. Darkness. Darkness. Darkness. Move. No. But I can still listen to their morbid murmur.”

“I think, um, time to return home,” someone murmured indeed, but betwixt and between the sighing forest and the overarching sky, it was impossible to decide exactly what and where home was.