A lifetime can be spent in the processes of being born, becoming, and living, surviving, and dying. The former three states are those of growth and the latter two are those of decline. I tread water in the middle of the ocean, holding onto a life ring; a palette next to me holds my provisions and some paraphernalia to keep my mind occupied. I look around and find that I am surrounded by people, floating, everywhere, but they are all out of earshot and barely recognisable in the distance. Everyone has their own life rings and provisions, some have more than others - some have even fashioned nice comfortable boats for themselves, and some life rings remain but without any people. In my zone, a single rowing boat floats around, upon which a man sits, beaming swaying it by shifting his weight, letting the oars slap sharply on the water's surface.
I am getting hungry. So I blow my life whistle and he answers by drifting towards me. He tosses over a bag of dried fruit and then a sachet of powdered milk, I grasp them clumsily and turn my wrist to glance at my watch in doing so. I set to work upon the bag and sachet, opening them with my Swiss-army knife, writhe to get a better position on the life ring and dig in. The helicopter which hovers sentiently overhead suddenly turns to search out a figure in the distance: it appears an elderly woman has just gone under and they need to act fast. A man dives from a bungee out of the helicopter and resurfaces with the woman, placing her back safely upon her ring, talking soothingly. He ties supports to her so that she does not need to exert so much energy holding herself up, and arranges for her extra provisions.
With a last exchange, a sympathetic glance, he clambers back up the ladder into the helicopter to dry himself off. The water is at a mildly comfortable temperature and the clothes we are given are well insulated. From their guidelines it states that one is encouraged not to look up or down, but rather straight ahead and maintain the horizon line exactly at eye level, so as not to cause unnecessary stress on the neck and spinal column. I certainly try not to look down as I am already afraid of deep water, and it appears I'm never going to get used to it. Every now and again I look up to read the position of the sun in the sky so I can try and work out what time of day it is without looking at my watch. This particular time, as I look up, I see something unprecedented. A flock of birds soar overhead, probably albatrosses. They weave in and out of each other, barely moving their wings, carving arcs into the sky. As I stare, I find my back starting to ache. But I cannot take my eyes off it because it is majestic and magnificent.
I stare and I stare and I stare, longing myself to become one with what I am witnessing, and feel myself transfigure. My arms and my legs whither as I become smaller and lighter. My organs shrink and my skin is pulled taught over me. My field of vision widens and my beak clicks shut. I try to shout but my voice rasps and squeaks. I now find myself out the water, sat perched atop the life ring. I stretch myself and raise my arms, only to find that they have become skeletal and soft. I bend my legs, face the invisible torrents, and attempt to push myself up, off the wobbly surface, and feel the elements take me as I plummet forcefully backward in the air. I lower my head and turn to face the flow, angle my wings so that I become buffeted upwards, higher and higher. As I flap hard to catch up with the flock, I find that they are already turning back to get me. I look down upon the field of floating people and figure out we should save the rest.
As I sit sketching and thinking on the third floor of the University Library, I happen to come across a door whist ambling about the corridors on the edge of my psyche. It may have just fabricated or may have been there all along. Now I have noticed this door, it will remain there, whether I choose to go through it or not - but the longer I leave it, the harder it will become to open. Of course, if I leave it too long, I will forget that I ever discovered it. Upon closer study, I find that the features of the door bear semblance to the space in which I now sit- the library, a converted railway goods store. The door is faced with an exposed green oak, heavy and thick,like the row of queenpost trusses above my head; it is set in a brick arch like the window beside me; it has a small window at head height with clean black steel mullions. My view through this window is obscured through a set of blinds and a layer of condensation from the central heating. In the centre of this door is a blacksmithed knocker: clunky, hammered and weathered like the wrought brackets that bear the trusses on the eaves. The door handle - the handshake that initiates me - is of brushed steel, sleek and minimal; it clicks, rotates and shies tentatively downward under the push of my palm. As I apply pressure, the door rolls forwards, first smoothly, then jarringly, as its foot - swelled and saturated by cycles of frost - scrapes over puddling on the concrete floor. A salty breeze works its way through the opening, growing with vigour the harder I push. I start to take it in and let it saturate me. And as I do my thoughts start to resonate clearly and volubly in my mind. They ooze and ejaculate out of the pores in my skull, glowing and pulsating, taking flight, bouncing off windows and walls, gathering speed, clashing and conglomerating like the formation of a star. They hurtle back towards me, sear through my skin and embed themselves inside me, playing some vibrant and intricate melody with my heartstrings. I breathe the air in, feel giddy and light, I sway and smile. The breeze becomes a torrent, buffeting around the sides of the door, as I push with all my strength - my legs give way as the door suddenly swings free of its own accord, and I am sucked out of the corridor, soaring over the horizon, submerged headlong into an ocean, and feel a clear rush of possibility. That moment is fleeting but profound, but when I feel truly alive. I pack my things back into my bag, zip on my coat, and exit the building quietly. I blow into my hands, unclamp my bike and glance back at the window which I was previously sat next to, from the outside. I mount my bike and arrange myself: I am going to ride for a while and think. And upon my return I will sit at that same spot, walk back through the door into the warm corridor and find somewhere on my mantelpiece to place a souvenir of my visit.