RUNCITER VERSUS DECAY

He wondered how much time he himself had left.

Now he became aware of an insidious, seeping, cooling-off which at some earlier and unremembered time had begun to explore him – investigating him as well as the world around him. It reminded him of their final minutes on Luna. The chill debased the surfaces of objects; it warped, expanded, showed itself as bulblike swellings that sighed audibly and popped. Into the manifold open wounds the cold drifted, all the way down into the heart of things, the core which made them live. What he saw now seemed to be a desert of ice from which stark boulders jutted. A wind spewed across the plain which reality had become; the wind congealed into deeper ice, and the boulders disappeared for the most part. And darkness presented itself off at the edges of his vision; he caught only a meager glimpse of it.

But, he thought, this is projection on my part. It isn’t the universe which is being entombed by layers of wind, cold, darkness and ice; all this is going on within me, and yet I seem to see it outside. Strange, he thought. Is the whole world inside me? Engulfed by my body? When did that happen? It must be a manifestation of dying, he said to himself. The uncertainty which I feel, the slowing down into entropy – that’s the process, and the ice which I see is the result of the success of the process. When I blink out, he thought, the whole universe will disappear. But what about the various lights which I should see, the entrances to new wombs? Where in particular is the red smoky light of fornicating couples? And the dull dark light signifying animal greed? All I can make out, he thought, is encroaching darkness and utter loss of heat , a plain which is cooling off, abandoned by its sun. This can’t be normal death, he said to himself. This is unnatural; the regular momentum of dissolution has been replaced by another factor imposed upon it, a pressure arbitrary and forced. Maybe I can understand it, he thought, if I can just lie down and rest, if I can get enough energy to think.

“What’s the matter?” Joe asked, as, together, they ascended in the elevator.
“Nothing,” Al said curtly. They may make it, he thought, but I’m not going to.
He and Joe continued on up in empty silence.

Philip K. Dick, Ubik.

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