“Walk with me Nathan,” Terrence said, throwing an arm around the soldier’s broad shoulders. “Let me tell you a story. It’s a conversation between an old and a young man.” They turned to walk down the corridor, the pulsing light of the fluorescent bacteria globes casting undulating shadows beneath Terrence’s cheekbones.
Terrence began speaking in his sonorous voice, “The Old Man says, ‘Young One, take heed to my wisdom. Listen to your mirror. Do you understand it? The stirrings of your soul, can you decipher their whispers Young One?” The Young Man ponders on this and replies “no Old One, I cannot honestly say I understand my impetus.” Terrence’s voice took on the timbre of a story oft-repeated.
“Young One, your experiences are lessons on the character of your inner selves. You are not you. There is the higher self, the one that observes and characterizes, the one that plans and obfuscates. Then there is the lower self, the one that acts and reacts, the one that loves and fears. You are the higher self, and life is about learning who the lower self really is. Do you understand this?” At this Terrence paused in the story-telling cadence to look at Nathan, who nodded hesitantly.
“Well most people would agree with you and the Old Man, Nathan. But the Young Man said ‘I do not dispute your wisdom and observations Old One. But are we not constantly changing? I am not me from ten years ago, and both inner selves have grown and changed. Thus what I know about myself is not what I know of my present self, but of my past selves. One can never truly characterize the present, as it must be lived without review. The day that I am not surprised by my inner self is the day that I have stopped living and started dying.”
Terrence stopped walking. Nathan turned to look at him. Bioterrorist, immortal, philosopher – in this light, with weighty words ringing with thought and truth, Nathan almost forgot that his mission was to destroy this man. Terrence gripped Nathan’s shoulders and looked him full in the eye, “we are in a state of flux. You can shed your past self like a snake shedding a skin if you so choose to.” Does he know of my subterfuge? “Nathan, you must always reevaluate. Stagnation is the death of creativity, life, humanity. The only way is forward, you see that, don’t you?”
“I-I’m not sure. I must think on what you’ve said.”
“I cannot ask more of you.” Terrence searched Nathan’s eyes for one last full second, nodded, and then turned sharply. Nathan watched the figure recede down the length of the corridor, his body limned in the pulsing blue light. I must end this.