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The Shell

Alone in a room there sits an old man. Though not a large room, it is large enough for him. The old man was not always so old, and there were even times when he remembered having been outside his room. But not for a long time. In fact, he had been in his room so long, he no longer even bothered pulling the shades on the window to let the light in. It was not that it was too much effort, but instead that he had grown used to the darkness, and the piercing light hurt his eyes. He sometimes wondered why he even had eyes---he hadn't really needed them since coming to his room. His room had aged with him; it had grown about him, and he saw nothing that happened beyond his small cell.

He remembered from time to time the days long ago when he had had friends, people who kept him company and kept the darkness at bay. Those days were long gone, and for all he knew, those companions of his had forgotten about him. He did not understand who or what had built his little room, but he felt that as he slowly began to remember less and less of what there had once been, the outside world, too, would soon cease to remember his very existence.

When he had first come to his current quarters, he had protested, knowing himself to be in a hostile environment. His sight was useless, there were no birds to listen to, and there was absolutely no one to touch him, to hold him, and to give him the simple comfort of connecting with another human being, so he had to rely on his imagination. Yet there were only so many songs he could compose, only so many fanciful stories he could weave, only so many dreams into which he could try to lose himself before it all became pure banality. Creativity lost its focus when it ceased to have a goal. He paced and paced, from wall to wall, in circles, and then in a spiral until he came to rest at the center. Existence for its own sake possessed no meaning, but in the absence of a strong will, not even \emph{that} could be brought to an end.

In the beginning there had been occasional visitors; not to his dark world, but on the outside, dancing around where he used to be. No more. Only shadows remained, and even their lines faded when total darkness began its encroachment. Wilted memories all melted together into one mass of cluttered debris.

Gone were the days of smiling and laughing, playing in the spring breeze and swimming in summer's hot passion. Lost were the feelings of joy which had been a barrier to that which was cold and lifeless. those shallow feelings had dried up like tears in the august heat, leaving behind only cracked bones for the winds to shred and blow to the many corners of the earth.

Lost was the chance at having a true love, or any love at all. His was a prison of non-feeling, of non-passion, of non-hope. No despair at the situation moved him, no feelings of anger. No feelings at all.

All was just an empty shell, containing what had once been a real man.


Notes: Like other texts in this collection, this text came to be one afternoon as I sat in my Oldenborg dormroom. The text itself does not deal with any angst that I felt; instead, it reflects---somewhat crudely---upon topics from my undergraduate German courses. I furthermore wished to structure this piece as a short of shell, spiraling inwards, with long paragraphs at the beginning, and only a point at the end. This text always reminds me the song ``I am a Rock'' (Simon and Garfunkel).