His End and His Beginning
Jorge Luis Borges (1969)
The death throes done, he lay now alone—alone and broken and rejected—and then he sank into sleep. When he awoke, there awaited him his commonplace habits and the places of his everyday existence. He told himself that he shouldn’t think too much about the night before, and, cheered by that resolve, he unhurriedly dressed for work. At the office, he got through his duties passably well, though with that uneasy sense (caused by weariness) of repeating things he’d already done. He seemed to notice that the others turned their eyes away; perhaps they already knew that he was dead. That night the nightmares began; he was left without the slightest memory of them—just the fear that they’d return. In time, that fear prevailed; it came between him and the page he was supposed to write, the books he tried to read. Letters would crawl about on the page like ants; faces, familiar faces, gradually blurred and faded, objects and people slowly abandoned him. His mind seized upon those changing shapes in a frenzy of tenacity.
However odd it may seem, he never suspected the truth; it burst upon him suddenly. He realized that he was unable to remember the shapes, sounds, and colors of his dreams; there were no shapes, colors, or sounds, nor were the dreams dreams. They were his reality, a reality beyond silence and sight, and therefore beyond memory. [This realization threw him into even greater consternation than the fact that from the hour of his death he had been struggling in a whirlwind of senseless images.] The voices he’d heard had been echoes; the faces he’d seen had been masks; the fingers of his hands had been shadows‐vague and insubstantial, true, yet also dear to him, and familiar.
Somehow he sensed that it was his duty to leave all these things behind; now he belonged to this new world, removed from past, present, and future. Little by little this new world surrounded him. He suffered many agonies, journeyed through realms of desperation and loneliness—appalling peregrinations, for they transcended all his previous perceptions, memories, and hopes. All horror lay in their newness and their splendor. He had deserved grace—he had earned it; every second since the moment of his death, he had been in heaven.