No matter what I might write this morning, the reader will not believe me. Not because I would tell lies, but because the truth I would tell would simply seem  too improbable to be based in fact. My words would strike the reader as utterly too far-fetched. Only a dim-witted, deeply gullible, overly-trusting, incredibly naive person would buy into stories so obviously contrived. Yet what I might write would be based entirely on truth as I understand it—reality scraped clean and polished with dusty, dry remnants of decayed strips of leather. Truth, you see, is awkward and potentially dangerous. A deep breath at the wrong moment can ruin even the most glorious experience. Whether this might be one such experience is a tale yet untold.

My tale begins as I hear the rusted hinges of the Gates of Hell creak. The pre-dawn darkness, though deep and unsettling, is imbued with an eerie, grey glow. Barely visible light with no discernible source filtered through fog as thick as honey. But the fog does not smell like honey; its odor is more like the rotting corpses of flies, with just a hint of sulfur and jasmine. Corroded flecks of metal, cast off by the slow, grinding movement of metallic hinges frozen for hundreds of years, leave copper-colored dust on the ground; like dried orange peel left to wither long before the collapse of Rome.

There is no point, is there? No matter how pure, the truth is unbelievable. I might as well claim to write the autobiography of Jesus or the a book entitled The Life and Times of Socrates, as Told to His Great-Grandfather’s Oldest Aunt. But those, too, are true. They arose from memories contained within the fragments of molecules floating freely through space and time. Facts are subject to manipulation when tiny pieces of the detritus of the universe as it once was collide with shavings from the rubble of what might yet be. These concepts are difficult to fully comprehend, but understanding them is vital to a complete appreciation of truth in all its forms. But, no, you aren’t buying it. This, to you, is merely whimsy. It is irrelevant to “real” experience. As if experience is ever “real.” We manufacture reality from shreds of incomplete thought, never accepting for even a tiny slice of a miniscule component of time that the existence we build is even remotely possible. Have we ever considered that the reality we collectively experience is merely an artificial manifestation of the way blocks of paraffin interact with the atmosphere of Planet Earth? Every single thing we see, think, feel, touch, smell, taste, hear, or otherwise experience could be the product of our own engagement (as chunks of paraffin) with the world around us as we willfully exchange wax for dreams. We believe we can light candles and watch them burn. In fact, though, we are those candles. We unknowingly play a hideous joke on ourselves, not realizing that we mock each other for being so thoroughly taken in by an imaginary universe. What fools!


I should not have answered the phone late yesterday afternoon, especially given that I could tell it was the oncologist’s office. Magnesium remains low. Potassium is high. “Come on in on Monday.”  I ran out of magnesium pills, but the APRN called in a new prescription; maybe I can pick them up today? Tricked by the universe again.


If my head were clear earlier in the day, I would visit a pastry shop/bakery to buy sausage rolls. Instead, I have to think what I can eat, instead. Old eggs? Very old eggs? Can eating old eggs make a person sick? Can eating old eggs lead to a person’s death? Put another way (from an ancient memory of mine), is it possible to “die of old eggs?” Soylent green; it’s what’s for breakfast.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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One Response to Artifice

  1. Meg Koziar says:

    Interesting ruminations. Note to my niece: When writing my obit, please list the cause of my death as old eggs.

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