First there’s the life-drive, something above the fundamental energy level but more basic than pleasure-satiation. In the stem, not even in the thinking part of the brain, it handles the regulation of heartbeats and breathing; things not thought about and impossible not to do because otherwise you die.
As an earthworm I lived this life drive only. Blind and deaf, brainless blumbering, hoping to run across a bit of sustenance. Sample it, if good that means nutritious. If bad don’t eat not good. I was a primary school kid drilling a basic lesson. As I learned I matriculated; as I lost sight I flunked.
I remember the result of all ingestions ever. I guess they must be important. The more intensely delicious, the more solidly the chemical highway got paved, like an army of ants laying a secretion road to dorado. I really remember narcotics, for example. And I can’t drink gin because my first time made me sick.
I started out as an animal, I’m not really aware of what kind—but I do recall wanting to mount this slobbery creature when I scented the bitch was in heat. No wait, that was Kat, from London. Shit, now I’m getting confused, the memories are all melded together–it’s very difficult to explain.
Some feelings come and go. Others I don’t see so clearly. I can if I try really hard, because every detail of every life I’ve ever inhabited is tucked away in my basement storerooms somewhere, but if I considered everything all at once how could I function? Better just to trust my subconscious, which seems always to have whispered the deep-ingrained themes no matter which body I took.
That is, I don’t believe in free will because I’ve been always the same.
I’m sure I was a plant once, but those memories are understandably un-complex. Which makes them tough to re-conjure, but they’re nice. Just try to picture being on the beach asleep, tilting your face towards the sun. And think of how it feels to have grown. Think of all the growing you’ve ever done as one continuous motion. An inexorable yearning towards a definite goal. Absorbing water, creating new cells, renewing energy burned, never relaxing for rest. Photosynthesis meaning life; stasis death.
I expect I was an ant once, completely unconcerned about dying. It was like having a billion genetic clones running in a horde beside me. No conception of self-versus-whole. Un-bothered by individualist thought. Though possessed with a nominal brain, and capable of independent perambulation, I was like the bud of a flowering tree, lacking the ability or desire to disobey. I don’t recall any one instance specifically, not having had much of a cortex to imprint, but I feel the truth of it within me now, so I’m confident the experience happened. And as a human soldier once, I threw myself on a grenade.
As an eagle I hovered over dominion like God, observing with excellent eyes the daily routines of fellow creatures, the perfection of total interdependence, the majestic layout of the wild. And now I have a recurring dream I am free and can fly.
I was reborn a shark. With see in the dark vision this time. Everything alive emitted electricity, energy, body heat, whatever you want to term it, life force burning into the watery atmosphere warming it a milli-micron, their auras, is what I could see. I was driven by an insatiable kill-lust; my hunger ruled, and I did its bidding. Murder did not make me feel ‘happy’ per se, but rather, strong and vigorous and invincible.
Then I was a Kodiak bear. I remember well one groggy day, starting to feel kinda warm. Hot even–it was getting stuffy in that cave. Bleary, mushbrained, stupid after a long time away from the Sun. I’d been having comfortable dreams, opening my eyes a while sometimes and yawning, rolling over, staring at the walls leaden-lidded, drifting back down down down… It had been a pleasant little semi-coma, a luxuriantly long lie in. I was tempted to nod off again, except I really had to take a dump. I could smell the unfreezing soil outside. I pictured pungent trickling streams, drip drip flowing towards the big river down in the valley–now I had to piss. But I was a pretty big guy and it took me some time to get moving; the old joints felt creaky, the muscles weak, after all, I’d been laying on my fat ass doing nothing for months.
I emerged and performed my toilet. Sniffing the scat, I was pleased to note no parasites had infested my colon, and that my bladder was also free of infection. Feeling healthy, I scented the wind, noted the presence of some other mammals in the vicinity: squirrels in a tree, further away an elk, a couple of dogs with a bitch, no humans. Decent start to the spring. Now let’s see, I could do with something to eat…
I ambled along, uncovering a few bulbs, scarfing down random snacks, just moseying with my nose to the ground, the whole wilderness potato chips. I trailed the sweet promise of honey, found it, and smeared sweet sticky deliciousness all over my face. Ah, that Kat was a tasty piece.
Autumns I spent desperately gorging on salmon fighting upstream to spawn, giving myself up to absolute gluttony (as a salmon sex sated my life drive, it has always been my innate answer to nihilism). Which was followed by an inkling of thanks.
Bear was good. I thought bear was best. Until I made lion.
Young, I teamed up with other bachelors. We made a gang, practiced stalking and sparring, banded for protection and company.
I had a brother. After we were weaned (I fail to distinctly recall much of my cub-hood, possibly because I was engaged in learning the same basic skills as I did incarnated as a turtle, for example) we killed immediately and naturally. Starting with fieldmice, pouncing unthinking, reacting to their panic. Later we learned how to flush big beasts, to single out a vulnerable target and tire it out, trading turns keeping it running. We were fit and clever. It was fun. When I got close enough my favorite technique was to swipe the haunches, then tackle the stumbling body and go for a spine bite. Or I would clench the animal’s muzzle in my jaws and suffocate it. Once down they rarely escaped. I remember well the thrill of saliva trickling down the back of my throat, the excruciating wait until my prey stopped kicking and I could feed.
As I grew, I felt an almost unlimited power coursing throughout my exquisite musculature, and knew I was beautiful. I could see it in my brother as well. Survival was only possible in peak condition. We slept a lot, to conserve our strength for bouts of furious athleticism. To live we had to kill and to kill we had to be rested, and utterly ruthless. The greatest moment was the life and death chase. Everything depended on that. My one vocation, to which I was wholly devoted, was concentrating maximum controlled fury for a perfect sprint and takedown and death hold.
That was before I had my lionesses, of course. Three sisters, and cubs by each. They worshiped me, groomed and coddled me. They killed for me and offered King’s right. They were awesome, cunning, and ferocious. They could take down all manner of creatures, and did; one time an old bull elephant fell prey to their deadly ambush, and we feasted for days. I grew massive. My mane flew wild and I dwarfed my harem, head and shoulders taller and more than double their weight.
Occasionally a rogue male would flirt with my pride, and they’d mewl to alert me, and I’d come running, colossal heart bursting with rage, a demonic apparition of incalculable energy, and the would-be-cuckold invariably ran like the wind. Upon a vista-point until he was well out of sight I unleashed from my depths a deafening roar: I AM ALIVE.
Then I was but a man, who commenced to be a god. For infinity. For a lifetime. Which to that man was neverending, after all.