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 but impossible not to do because otherwise you die.
As an earthworm I lived this life drive only. Deaf and dumb, brainless blumbering, hoping to run across a bit of sustenance. Sample it, if good that means nutritious. If bad don’t eat it 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. The more intensely delicious, the more solidly the chemical highway got paved, like an army of ants laying a pheromone road to dorado. I really remember narcotics, for example. And I can’t drink gin because the 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 blended together – it’s very difficult to explain.
Some feelings come and go. Other knowledge I don’t quite see. I can if I try really hard to, because every detail of every life I’ve ever inhabited is tucked away in my basement storerooms somewhere, but if I thought of everything all at once how could I function? Better just to trust my subconscious, which seems always to whisper whichever deep-ingrained theme I need.
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 pixelated. Which makes them tough to re-conjure, but they’re nice. Just try to picture dozing on the beach, 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. Thousands of genetic clones ran in a horde beside me. I had no conception of self-versus-whole; was un-bothered by individualist intention. 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, 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, aum – whatever you want to label it: life force zapping 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. I never considered it wrong.
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 – stupefied after such a long time out of the Sun. I’d been having comfortable dreams, opening my eyes a while and yawning, rolling over, staring at the walls leaden-lidded, drifting back down down down… It had been a luxurious lie-in. I was tempted to nod off again, except that I really had to take a dump. I could smell the unfreezing soil outside. I pictured pungent trickling streams, drip dripping towards the big river down in the valley – now I had to pee. But I was a big guy and it took me some time to get moving; the old joints felt pretty creaky, the muscles quite 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, feeling good, I scented the wind, noted the presence of some other mammals in the vicinity: squirrels in a tree, an elk maybe a half-mile away, 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 tubers, just moseying with my nose to the ground, the whole wilderness potato chips. I trailed the sweet promise of honey, found it, and smeared the sweet sticky deliciousness all over my face. Ah, that Kat was a tasty piece. No, wait-
Autumns I spent desperately gorging on salmon fighting upstream to spawn, giving myself up to the joy of absolute gluttony. (As a salmon, the sex-release sated my life drive; sex 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 formed a gang, practiced stalking and sparring, banded together 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 that I did while incarnated as a turtle, for example) we killed immediately and naturally. Starting with fieldmice, pouncing unthinking, reacting to their panicked flight. Later we learned how to flush big beasts, to single out a vulnerable target and wear 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 my victim’s muzzle in my jaws and suffocate it. Once down they rarely escaped. I distinctly recall the thrill of saliva trickling down the back of my throat, and the titillating 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 I 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 quick 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 focusing maximum controlled fury for a perfect sprint and takedown.
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 me King’s right. They were awesome, cunning, and ferocious. They could take down all manner of creatures, and did; one time they felled an old bull elephant, and we feasted for days. I grew massive. My mane flew wild and I dwarfed my harem, head and shoulders taller than any of them and heavier than the three of them combined.
Occasionally a rogue male would flirt with my pride, and they’d mewl to alert me, and I’d come running, bellowing, 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 never-ending, after all.