Planet Zhelanie

At dawn I found a stack of papers on my desk, with the mysterious title Planet Zhelanie inscribed on the cover. At first I was apprehensive, later my unsettled feelings dissipated and I became enraptured by the mysticism and ambiguity of these strange words.
Planet Zhelanie is a celestial body that materialises in accordance with one’s inner most wishes and dreams. To live in this planet, however, is by no means a commodity: your dreams and wishes may be harrowing and treacherous. We always have contradictory feelings as to what exactly we truly want; Planet Zhelanie amalgamates all the hope and all the turmoil that may reside within our minds.
    I, too, once lived in the pitiable wasteland called Earth. Through determination and application I learnt to unlock the coded secrets of Planet Zhelanie. Writing it down in words is a way of chronicling my experience for those who live in this wasteland. Maybe it will help them solve all the irksome mistakes they have made – their incapacity at abandoning their immediate surroundings, abandoning their loved ones or fleeing the tranquillity of their cosy neighbourhoods.
The room was shrouded in darkness, light radiated onto remote places, creating luminous blotches that glinted autonomously. As I persevered through the rickety wooden floor, I finally arrived at a study illuminated by a fireplace, where an elderly man worked his way through a disordered mass of papers. He caught my eye, a smile formed on his face and he addressed me: “You have found me, Igor. You are the first in millennia to reach my study.”
    “Yes,” I said, surprised by the suavity and softness of my voice.
    “Oh, you really admire me – don’t you, son? You really aspire to be sat here, working methodically on a novel, crafting together a masterpiece. Bless your little cotton socks.”
    “What’s the reason for this condescension?”
    “Oh, Igor, how else would I address a person your age?”
    I lowered my head and saw that my hands were infinitesimal; I also saw that the ground was practically inches away from my waist. I dashed to the window, from which the snow could be seen eddying and I saw the face of my infancy. A current of electricity ran through my body, my eyes transfixed on my reflection in terror.
    Laughter came from behind, the elder cackled as he now rested his feet on the desk. Leaning his chair backwards, he looked contemplatively at the ceiling. “You really want to be a writer, Igor?”
    “Look at yourself; you are a mere infant! Igor, look at the difference: you have literary pretensions
yet you are five years old. I have existed for millennia. Do you want to read my manuscripts?”
    Trembling, I staggered over to his desk, on which were placed, with boldly sized font, War and Peace, The Brothers Karamazov and Don Quijote de la Mancha. “You think you can equal me, Igor? You can reach the summits I have climbed? You will die in no time, you have a pulmonary infection.”
    I coughed and coughed, blood flowed out of my mouth, staining the manuscript masterpieces. “That’s all you can do, Igor: stain a masterpiece. That’s what your writing constitutes: an insult to the dignified works. But, Igor, you are nothing – you are vermin!”
    Now falling to the ground, blood soared out of my mouth relentlessly, dampening my clothes, the fittings, the adornments and the wooden floor. “You are an insult to literature,” he said, laughing inertly.
    Everything in the room became blurred; the writer became a blot in a jostling series of hazy smears, which in turn began to fade out and gave way to a mass of darkness.

The snow plummeted onto my trench coat; it amassed on the ground and slid into my footwear. I turned back and saw a hut, its chimney releasing vapour onto the white level sky. I walked inside and, when glancing at the numerous insignia and emblems dotted all over the stodgy thickets of wood, was confronted by the haunting address “Igor?”
    Turning to the left, I saw – another – decrepit man, with a joyous and startled face. His eyes were disfigured – how he could recognise me? The fire continued to flicker in the stove.
    “Igor... your steps. Your steps. Your steps seem so fragile... like. Like in your infancy.”
    I now realised that the voice, though gravelly and cracked, was my father’s. My father passed away when I reached my twenties, at the age of fifty-two. But this man, with his creased skin and furrowed brow, resembled someone who had cheated death and attained immortality. Looking closely at the facial complexion, the symmetry of his body and his weight, he did indeed resemble my father, albeit as a far older incarnation.  
    “Igor... I have been waiting over a hundred years for you to walk in here... Now my prayers have been answered.”
    “Was it one of your dreams for me to walk in here?”
    “When you died, did you despair at how you could have spent more time with me.”
    “Well, here you have me.”
    “Igor... Igor. What you don’t seem to realise is that you are now a child.”
    “Yes, I know. I have assumed the character of my younger self. It has always been a dream of mine to see you again... ”
    “Were you wondering how all the insignia on the wall appeared there?”
    “I am one of the few to have survived Planet Zhelanie for centuries. All those honours on the wall, however, are rendered meaningless by your presence.”
    “Father... I am a mere beginner in this ambiguous game, you on the other hand are a veteran, but we have finally met, and by attaining our wish, we have conquered the game. Father, our wish has come true...”
    “Don’t be too jubilant. I was in your position hundreds of years ago: a mere infant, a neophyte coming to grips with this strange palimpsest. This is nothing more than a stepping stone, Igor. When I entered this zone, after I passed away, I also met my father, who was also blinded. I’d say that you will only have conquered this ‘ambiguous game’ once you have passed away, become blinded and hear the steps of your own son... in his infancy, desperate to reinitiate contact with his deceased father.”
    “I don’t have a son.”
    “Neither do I.” His head slumped. With my child-like hands I flitted through his body, looking for a pulse, a pulse which wasn’t there, that could never be there. 
The front reflected the back, the back reflected the front, the sides reflected each other, the front reflected the sides – ad-infinitum. I awoke in what appeared to be a glass-room, completely encased by mirrors, in which my physical form could be seen, not once, but twice. As anticipated, my reflection was on the mirror – I was no longer a child, now I had taken the form of my twenty-year-old self – accompanied by the appearance of my double.
    I turned to the left, he turned to the right; I arched my head, he moved it down; I stirred my foot forward, he moved it backwards. It was a continuous process of contradiction, opposition and negation. So it was until my double broke out laughing and fell to his knees, which I bewilderedly witnessed. “What does this mean?” I sullenly asked him.
    “Don’t you realise that you are nothing...”
    Perplexed by the ambiguity of his words, there was nothing for me to say other than the interrogative “Why?”
    “Igor, don’t you realise that you have been culprit of the most heinous sin – egocentricity? You think you are full of life, full of vitality, when you don’t realise the nothingness of the self.”
    “How can these be my words, eh? You are meant to be my double! Shouldn’t you comply, agree, converse?”
    “This is a mirror image, Igor. You don’t realise that to obtain what you truly want, you have to realise that you are part of a wider universe, where many individualities exist independently, forming part of the greater whole, the greater universe.”
    “I am more important than anyone; I am the universe!”
    “If you truly want to attain your wishes, you must deal with the counteractions inherent in human existence. Individuality is a farce: you have searched for it in writing but have failed colossally. You didn’t learn to write in symbols; you stuck with the decadent romantic notion of the artist stamping his individuality into every word.
    “Reality is in no need of tangential ones. You form part of the greater whole; the trees, the substances, the air have nothing divine about them; it all coheres into one greater reality which we complement.”
    “Surely you have not taken notice of the greatly topsy-turvy world we currently inhabit, my dear doppelganger. We are clustered together in a small room surrounded by mirrors, without entrance or exit. I have taken on the body of my twenty-two-year-old self – I am fifty-six! How can we possibly inhabit one exclusive reality? This is a manifestation of all my characteristics – my individuality – for all I know you may be a mere figment of my imagination.”
    “Igor, I am here to contradict you, to shake you out of your egocentrism. You dream after something deep inside yourself; such selfishness won’t unlock the coded secrets of Planet Zhelanie.”
    He walked forward into the mirror, subsumed himself into it and I was left me alone in the glass room. Presuming that I would be able to break into the glass, as I attempted to walk into it I forcefully slammed my head onto it and fell onto the ground unconscious.

While reflecting the glare of the azure sky onto the window pane, the ocean water porously assailed the ship, misbalancing and diverting it from its course. Taking my mind away from the threat posed by the malign sea, I lay over the bed and glanced at the ceiling.
    As I lay sedentarily on the bed, I heard the cabin door open. I heard muffled respiratory sounds and quietly paced footsteps; I tilted my head and the face of my dead wife, Isla, came to view. Her light brown hair, shimmering with the faint rays of the sun, hung over her forehead, disparately branching out, bringing to the fore the oblique outlines of her face, which glanced at me passively.
    Isla passed away two years after our wedding ceremony, at the premature age of twenty-seven, which shattered my strength and left me in a continuous state of lugubriousness. Now she had returned in the exact bodily form at the time of her death, the exact form that I had morosely scrutinised at her funeral, when my hands were firmly latticed onto hers. The coffin was sealed, taken away and I realised that it was impossible for her to come back. I never had another relationship with a woman ever again. It was during this period that I engendered my solitude and, as a consequence, sketchily began formulating the coded secrets of Planet Zhelanie.
    “Igor,” she uttered, with a coarse and withered voice weakened by excessive smoking, “Do you look forward to our destination?”
    “Isla... You look beautiful... Isla... I am not aware of any destination.”
    “We are on a ship, can’t you see? Igor, we are going to an island, celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of my death.”
    “What island is this?”
    “An island for the deceased.”
    Intrigued by the idea of such an island, excusing myself from Isla by saying “Just a minute,” I dashed towards the corridor beyond the door. I saw a throng of couples striding along – some elderly, others middle-aged – affectionately holding hands and smiling. I turned back to the cabin.
    “Isla, is this a single encounter or... will we be together everlastingly?”
    “Igor, come here,” she said, with a benign look. I sat on the bed, where she held my hands, the hands that I wished to clasp eternally, which were taken away for her to be buried deep down in the soil. Now she was back, clasping mine. “You wish to live in Planet Zhelanie eternally? Well, stick by me and you will master the codes. I was your guiding light during your lifetime; now, in the afterlife, I will help you attain your wishes.”
    “Isla, this has been reiterated before, but every time I am about to conquer my wishes they are inadvertently interrupted... They consist of fragmented moments and I assume different forms: first I was a small child and now I am in my twenties... What’s more is that I am stamped on as an insignificant little rat... I am condescended, insulted, spited... Isla, I wouldn’t want you to spite me... I want you to love me... like in our lifetime...”
    She held my hands firmly and kissed me on the neck, moving her hands to my back, caressing it lovingly and thoughtfully. “Igor, I am indeed here to love you... That’s the purpose of this island we are heading towards.”
    Taking her arm away from my back, her lips away from my neck, she moved over to the window. “Look, Igor, we are arriving.”
    We were arriving at a port, which glimmering in the sun, illuminating an island burdened with a profusion of trees and wilderness, where amorous couples kissed each other by the tide.
    All of a sudden, the sky turned grey, thunder broke through, the sea, much like at the start of the journey, began assailing the ship and unsteadying from its course, rain crushed down onto the pane wrathfully. The ship assiduously kept tumbling and moving; Isla and I violently crashed onto all the walls of the cabin. The frenetic movement kept intensifying until the ship tumbled over and we drowned. Once more I held her dead hands.
Dizzied and jaded, with an implacable assault of forgotten memories weighing over my mind, I awoke. Directly above me, the sky was leaden and white; the ground on which I lay over was riddled with pot-holes, stones, roots and pieces of mud; and the horizon in front of me was limitless, without an end or beginning in sight.
    I walked forward, occasionally stumbling over loose scraps of wire embedded into the ground and pools of water placed arbitrarily. I explored furtively, looking for something that could help me piece together the disconnected pieces of information that were spiralling within the recesses of my mind. To piece them together, I thought, could invoke what my amnesiac mind was striving for – the coded secrets of Planet Zhelanie. 
    This was a wasteland, but my malformed mind struggled to make sense of it. Its entire database had been erased; nothing, not even the remotest understanding of who or what I was, was archived. I searched for something foreign to me. Did I realise that this desolate wasteland was the paving stone to my understanding of this planet? The endless horizon beckoned towards me.
    Below me, as I tripped over a nettling of plants, I saw a dishevelled copy of a book. I picked it up, perused its cover and saw the title Don Quijote de la Mancha. Below the title, written in bold letters, the name Igor Adravitch was inscribed.
    What did this mean? While the bulky creased book weighed over my hands, I tried to make sense out of the two titles. Suddenly, it all made sense: Don Quijote, widely considered to be the greatest novel of all time, was the book the elderly writer I met claimed to have written. Igor Adravitch was, I realised, my name.
    I recalled the incident in the barren house, when the masterful novelist humiliated and crushed me off like a parasite. Had I now, having learnt the lessons of Planet Zhelanie, turned into a canonical novelist? Had I conquered my wish and unlocked the coded secrets of Planet Zhelanie?
    Walking farther, keeping my sight fixed firmly on the ground, continuously crashing into more and more barbed wire, I saw a framed photograph of a person in profile. I picked it up.
    Glancing into it, I saw an elderly man, his face engorged with wrinkles. He was wearing a uniform decorated with a limitless number of glittery insignia and emblems. The face looked eerily familiar yet remained distant. Inspecting the outlines of his face, I realised that this was the face of my older self.
    This triggered remembrances of the second encounter. My father claimed to have mastered the planet, which accounted for the number of honours on his wall: had I now reached this level? I had apprehensive feelings: I looked at my skin, which was crystalline and soft. At most, my body belonged to someone in his forties. So was this photograph an object of the future or a documentation of the present?
    The human mind, I realised, is prone to forgetfulness. My father claimed to have lived in Planet Zhelanie for millennia; for all I knew, I also could have inhabited the planet for that long. I held onto the photograph and the novel. I was determined to discover new relics that may potentially harness more forgotten memories.
    Unintentionally, as I walked I crushed a mirror, reducing it into smaller shards of glass. I kneeled over and glanced at the broken mirror, revealing fractured reflections of my face. These partial reflections brought back to mind memories of the mirrored room. There I was ridiculed by my double for being narcissistic and egotistical, prioritising my individuality. My double emphasised the ‘nothingness of personality.’ By crushing the mirror I realised that I was obliterating my individuality.
    Planet Zhelanie, my double informed me, is in no need of individuality. To truly master it, one must coalesce with it. If I wanted to be a canonical novelist – my ambition – I must shun the depiction of a personalised world to create a multifarious all-encompassing universe. Encouraged by this revelation, I walked farther ahead into the horizon.   
    The final object I arrived at was another framed photograph. A beautiful woman, with perfect features, tangled hair and slanted face posed in front of the camera. This rekindled memories of my great love, Isla. All I felt when seeing her beautiful face was that the female soul would help me uncover whatever wish I strived for. Dead or alive, the memory of Isla would be the stepping stone to my domination of Planet Zhelanie.
Snow amounted on the window ledge, causing an eerie coldness to unfetter around the house. I scampered over to the stove and lit it.
    I sat on the chair, calmly looking at the montage of whiteness. Turning my hands over I saw that my skin was creased and worn, interposed by an enlacement of varicose veins. Inspecting my surroundings, they seemed uncannily familiar and reminiscent of a past event. Dashing over to the window I saw the reflection of my face, its features scarcely discernible, obscured and concealed by a pronounced abundance of wrinkled flesh.
    It all rushed back to my mind, the encounter with the masterful novelist. This was the very house where he resided and where I first entered into the enigmatic mysteries of Planet Zhelanie. It was also where I was ridiculed and put to shame.
    Looking at the desk on which I sat, manuscripts of famous novels brimmed all over the place: Don Quijote, The Brothers Karamzov, Madame Bovary, all with my name Igor Adravitch imprinted on their covers. A typewriter was placed on the far end of the table, encased with soot. I hit the keys violently, writing whatever came to mind – “over the embankment, Luciana peered at the bright blue sea” – to test whatever formidability I may have possessed. Evidently whatever I wrote on the typewriter was of insufficient quality, but I still felt a scorching imagination burning inside me.
    I typed and typed; hours, days, weeks, months and years elapsed as I frantically poured my life and soul into a literary work of great calibre. After the passing of millennia a 65.000 page manuscript of The Coded Secrets of Planet Zhelanie was ready.
    As I began to undertake the task of proofreading, I heard the sound of faint footsteps nearing to my desk. I raised my sight from the manuscript and encountered a small child, who had ragged clothes, watery eyes and held a withered cuddly bear. He apprehensively looked up to me. “What do you want, son? You are the first in millennia to have reached me, just as I completed my weighty tome.”
    “Do you wish to conquer Planet Zhelanie?”
    “Oh, how can you? You are a mere infant!”
    The child appeared to be aghast by these words and hopped over to the window, on which he saw the reflection of his own face. “I am not this young!”
    “Oh, yes you are! I have done what the masterful novelist couldn’t do – comprehensively unlock every single code of Planet Zhelanie! For anyone who wishes to read and comprehend this book, you must have agonised, suffered and struggled with the complexities of your wish! Yes, my son,” I told him, “You wish to be a novelist, but you are a long way from reaching that goal. I withstood millennia of negation and contradiction; now I have endured millennia to craft together the secrets of Planet Zhelanie into prose. I have finally conquered my wish: I am a master novelist.”
    Tears streamed out of the child’s eyes. He contained his tears, but soon a flurry of wailing burst out. He screamed and cried anxiously, his teddy bear fell to the ground, he collapsed forcefully, weeping in despair, unable to conquer his wish. I turned my back on him and saw the snow amassing on the ground, hitting the mirror with all the wrath the God of this sovereign universe could possibly dare to inflict.
Feeling powerful I sat on the great armchair, looking over my surroundings, which were blurred and hazy – a vast confluence of vague outlines, coated by a luminous yellow colour.
    On the wall adjacent to where I was sat blots were visible that, when looked at closely, seemed to be medallions. They glinted amidst the confluence of vague outlines, glistening with the coat of luminous yellow. Yes, these were the merits I was awarded after having documented all the coded secrets of this ambiguous planet.
    Hearing faint steps, painstakingly placed on the wooden floor, I heard a young voice intone “Father?”
    “Father?” I retorted, baffled. “What do you mean – father?”
    “I am your son.”
    “I have never had a son.”
     “You do now. I was not conceived biologically; I was engendered by your writings about the coded secrets of Planet Zhelanie.”
    “How is that... How is that possible... I would have been aware of such a thing.”
    “You were unaware that, as you spent millennia writing your manuscript, a circular temple was engendered, creating progenies who followed and studied the creed of your newly forged codes. Planet Zhelanie has always been accessible to those who live on Earth, but you were able to create pristine human forms that were conceived within the planet itself.”
    Startled by the infant’s words I remembered one of the earliest encounters I had in the planet, when I met my very own father. “I... I also met my father when I first accessed the planet... He died the instant after having denied being my father.”
    “That was you. The writing of your book fractured the very essence of time; you became your own father since you engendered all the past histories circulating through your blood stream.”
    Listening to these words, my pulse started accelerating. My breath halted. The child walked over, fumbling has hands through my body. “Father, don’t die,” he muttered.
    “I won’t let you conquer the codes... The codes are for my personal gain only.”
     “I am writing a sequel to your manuscript; soon I’ll be in your position.” As he said this, my heart ceased to beat.
Unsure whether I had now awakened in the afterlife, as I opened my eyelids I saw the mirrored room, which vividly remembered. Here I met my own double, who jested and torment me. My reflection, as expected, appeared on all the surrounding mirrors of the room. To my left I did not see a double but a youthful man, with immaculate features and haunting green eyes. He glanced at me, authoritatively scrutinizing my face with an expression of intrigue. “What on earth do you want?” I asked stridently.
    “Sorry, master. I am one of the many progenies who were brought to life by the hard work you undertook for millennia.”
    “I already met one of your kind...”       
    “Yes, he is an ambitious fellow, but as you can see I have already surpassed him – I have reached manhood.”
    “I entered Planet Zhelanie to unlock the codes of my secret wishes – not to create a school of followers.”
    “Master, you are slowly losing grasp of what once made your work so strong and special. You have met three of your progenies – all of them at different stages – and they all professed a wish to usurp your control. As much as you’d like to change it, we are very ambitious entities who strive to be in your position. You might not be aware of it but you are past your prime, in your dying days.”
    “You may not believe this, but... I still haven’t found peace of mind. I have unlocked the secrets codes, I have dominated the planet, but... I still have not experienced my wish...”
    “We have carefully studied your work and... it seems that it is only possible during your last days on the Planet... I don’t mean to alarm you, but that is coming very soon.”
    “No... That does not alarm me at all.” I walked all around the room, my reflection steadily keeping me company. “All I wish... all I wish is that I could spend more time with Isla.”
    He kept his eye on me; I continued to roam through the room. No more words emanated out of his lips, he continued to gaze at me with those imposing eyes. I walked ahead, into the mirror directly in front of us and I subsumed myself into it.
Once more I was on a ship heading to a destination, rekindling more memories of forgotten events. Beyond the window pane I saw the steady sea and the unfurling wind. Taking methodical steps through the cabin, and gradually thinking of every single episode on this planet, I was reminded that this may well be my final experience on Planet Zhelanie and the last of my entire existence.
    While lying on the bed I realised that my skin was, once more, crystalline; my body could be moved without great trepidation or pain. I deduced that at the very least I must have been in my twenties.
    Though this did not mean that I would live through all of my hazardous experiences again. Perhaps I adopted the bodily shape of my younger self to feel, breathe, act and experience like I did at my prime. I had finally attained the wish I desperately strived after and, in doing so, would pass away peacefully. I would have no afterlife. I had unlocked the codes of the planet, engendered progenies but I had not attained my most wanted wish: meet Isla one final time.
    The ship arrived at its destination. Leaving the ship, heaving with couples, I heard a stewardess tell me “Welcome to the island for the deceased.”
    I walked forwards, passing the quay and the crowd of jubilant people and I saw Isla smiling. She held her hand toward me, which I clasped. We calmly strolled into the island to spend the last peaceful moments of our ephemeral lifetimes.  
How did this appear on my desk? Am I to leave Earth in lieu of this ‘ambiguous planet’? Have I myself begun formulating the codes to enter it? He attained his wish, he reunited with his deceased wife; I myself, with the gradual wearing of the years, am forgetting the features my soul mate. Will I meet her if I enter the Planet?I live with that hope.
May-June, 2011

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