Astro Boy

Tell me, astro boy

What does it feel like to have no friends

To sit alone like this

Under your great starry sky

Before your glowing door


Tell me while I am here

Everything around, it’s lit by starlight now, beautiful

And sad beyond words, there’s death in this light

A clinging on through aeons, a breathing one’s last

Only drawn out through years of lonely time


Astro boy, how do you wait

and what have you to wait for?

Tell me, so I may sit and wait with you.

I am tired by all that I waited for

never having waited for me.


There is an empty solace in your galaxies

There is a bare truth.

If only I could lay my mind to sleep

And sit with you on your starlit ground

And watch your stars as ages float by.


But astro boy, I need to go

Into the light through your glowing door

Where there is no silence, darkness or respite

Only a waiting on all that won’t wait for you

I’ll be back, and we’ll sit and dream.


Wait for me.


When you are in an empty room for some time, you may hear whispers.

There’s a fully sound-proofed room at the annexe of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in France. It’s used for measuring and calibrating units of sound intensity and frequency. The decibel was first set in that office, and so was the Hertz.

It’s in a far, secluded corner of the sprawling bureau. From the outside, it looks like a small, ordinary office. But it’s when the huge padded and reinforced metal alloy door hisses open slowly via combined pneumatic and hydraulic pumps, releasing a burst of chilly, lifeless air from within its dark cavern, that you first feel a distinct sense of discomfort.

You enter the room, and the door swings back closed, enclosing you with liquid darkness that you can feel clawing up your limbs and crawling into your clothes. There are no incandescent bulbs inside because the air must be at a uniform temperature throughout the room for correct accoustic measurements. There are no fluorescent tubes either because they produce a constant hum, which would be loud in that chamber.

In short, it’s pitch black.

But it’s not silent, especially not after a few minutes.

The first thing you realize after some time is that there is a constant low sound, pulsating regularly. The man outside would already have told you what that is. It’s the blood flowing through your veins. Even then, it’s unnerving.

Then you sit down on the soft padded floor. You are forgetting whether your eyes are open or closed, it’s so dark. You imagine the darkness facing you, staring at you, cold and expressionless, the ancient darkness that was there before our lights, before our Earth was formed, before all else. A tiny ball of panic starts rising up your throat.

It is then that the whispers start.

You can scream. But nobody will hear you. If you have asked for fifteen minutes, they will let you out after fifteen minutes. Those guys are very particular about time, staying in a place that measured the second.

It is not someone else who is whispering to you. It is you. There’s always so much noise in life, they never got to say anything. Now they know, those voices, that you are listening. For fifteen minutes you are theirs. That is all the time they need. And the things you hear are the things that you never wished to hear ever, even without knowing it. Everyone has things like that, you too.

It’s not a good idea to scream. It will drown out the voices for some time, but there is only a limited amount of oxygen in the room. If you scream, you will notice that you start panting. You will have increasing difficulty in breathing. But they won’t know that outside. They will only let you out after fifteen minutes. That is one clause you must sign before entering the sound room.

When you start having trouble breathing, the whispers get louder. And then you can’t scream any more, because you know that you may start to choke. Then you must huddle up and listen.

You cannot cry. You must breathe normally, in and out. You must sit quietly in the blackness, amidst the pounding of your heart and the rushing of your blood through your vessels, amidst the whispers that are tearing your mind apart.

When they come out from the sound room, they all grow quieter. They walk quietly, drive quietly, and reply in brief to questions. It’s because the whispers will keep knocking about inside their heads till the end of their lives. There’s always so much of it to listen to, there’s no room for other sounds.

Some of them end up in quiet padded cells of a different kind.

In the winter of 1997, when faced with several public cause litigations, the annexe office of the Bureau admitted responsibility for several cases of terminal schizophrenic dementia admitted in various institutions around the country. That same winter, they stopped issuing permits for visitors to the sound room.

Schizophrenia as understood today, is when one communicates with or acknowledges the presence of an other being who is not there. One of the above patients, however, reported in a rare and brief medical interview that she was fully aware that she was talking to herself.

If you want to know what the voices say, there’s a way that sometimes works. After midnight on a clear moonless night, you must go somewhere open, like a roof. You must be alone. Look up so that the sky spans your entire field of view, and there is no source of light in the field. Calm yourself and try to think of who you are. Who are you to yourself? Step outside yourself and observe this being you have been inside for all these years. Don’t look away from the sky. Visualize your face, spell your name inside your head. Who are you? What do you do everyday? How are you different from everyone else? What do you mean? Why are you?

If you are (un)lucky, you might actually start hearing the answers.

Don’t make it a habit.


Now I know how valuable is darkness. If there’s one thing that civilization has lost and should mourn, it is darkness. It lets the mind gather its thoughts and maybe think about a few things that it doesn’t normally do.

I am attempting something I have given up for quite some time. How easy it is to loose the correct mood for writing. I would like to say that what I have given up is writing, but it’s bigger and more difficult than that. What I have given up is a self. That self used to keep producing the writing. It used to make me feel. I don’t get that emotional urge any more these days. Practice could get a habit like writing back. But could it bring back a self?

There, we have lost the darkness again. I know light is convenient and necessary, but is also obscene in some way, especially after you have been in the dark for some time. The darkness does not disturb. It lets you collect yourself. It is so polite. The light is loud. It crashes into the setting and stays, moulding the environment in its own way, the way it was set up by the electricians.

The place I live in is really loud, and full of other people invading into all six of your senses. I wish I could have a full string of wild mountains all around me, and loads and loads of darkness. I have no idea what I’m going to do with that, but I guess it would get me somewhere.

Feynman once said of learning that it’s like the motion of clouds in the sky. If you keep watching it, it doesn’t seem to move. But you suddenly realize it has progressed since a certain time ago. This is true of all change, including the change of a self and its connections. My friends are changing. My relationship with them is changing. My life is changing. My wants are changing. My happiness and sadness are changing, and my secret despairs are changing. And there’s usually too much light and noise here to feel and analyse all that. I think I need a bit of silence and darkness. For example, I can feel a little of that self now. It’s afraid of the light. I know that if I switch on the light now, it will just leave. So maybe if I have enough silence and darkness, I will be able to harvest that self again. It is important that I do so, because there was something of key importance in that self I don’t want to see off.


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