The protagonist asked, looking at the ruined stone arches and crumbling walkways beneath his feet. The rose-colored pool on either side swirled constantly, probably because of the stiff wind, and the weeds occasionally took on the appearance of familiar shapes or faces. The protagonist assumed it was just tricks of the eye and mind and was thoroughly unimpressed.
“Yes,” said the robed figure standing under one of the broken arches, “This is that place.”
“I guess knowing everything really means knowing everything but masonry, huh?”
“Or perhaps when one has all knowledge, one does not concern one’s self with works of stone,” the robed figure replied.
The protagonist shrugged and glanced down at his feet where some weeds had blown out of the pool and onto the walkway. They moved almost like a sentient thing for a moment before sliding slowly back into the water. The protagonist rolled his eyes.
“Then let’s get on with the omniscience, shall we? I’m already sick of caring about architecture, so it shouldn’t be much of a change.”
The robed figure nodded and disrobed. The clothes fell at his feet and revealed that he was a him in only the non-gender-specific sense. He lacked all genitals and even normal orifices. When he spoke again, the protagonist saw his mouthâ€”his everything, actuallyâ€”was covered by flesh and the only openings on his body at all were the pus-seeping sores dotting him, head to toe.
“Kneel and drink from the pool on either side of you,” the now disrobed figure instructed, “Drink and know all you have ever desired. Know all and more still.”
The protagonist cocked an eyebrow and knelt cautiously. His hands nearly touched the water when he drew them back to his side, shaking.
“Tell me, good-lookin’, what happened to you with the skin and sores wouldn’t happen to have anything to do with drinking from this pool, would it?”
“When one knows all, one’s vanity ceases to be important,” the disrobed figure said, jaw moving up and down behind a curtain of skin.
“Be that as it may,” the protagonist said, “I am quite vain now, and certainly quite pretty. This is part of who I am. Maybe not my most attractive quality, but part of who I am nonetheless. I want to know everything because I’m ambitious, but the narcissist in me wants nothing more than that: to be myself and know everything. If I know so much I no longer care about appearances, I don’t suppose you could really call me ‘me’, could you? In fact, I think it would mean I’d be you. And no offense, but I do not envy you.”
“This is because you are ignorant, ignorant of the present as much as the future. Even of the past you are ignorant and forgetful. This was a long journey, was it not?” the figure said, drawing the robes back over himself and placing the hood to shade his face once again. “Turn away now, and you will be condemned to your ignorance forever. There is no greater ignorance than the grave, forgetting all, learning nothing, perceiving nothing. Drink and you will live forever.”
The protagonist scratched his chin and looked back into the swirling water. A group of weeds seemed to turn into the face of his father for a moment before coming apart again. The longer he looked, the more people he saw. Brothers, lovers, friends, strangers. All alive at some time and dead now, or whenever their deaths became now. He hadn’t even let a drop touch his lips, but maybe the vapors were enough for him to see with total certainty the eventual demises of everyone he had ever known or in fact would ever know. And then at last he saw his own death, the death he would receive if he walked away from this opportunity now.
He switched his hand from his chin to the back of his neck and continued thinking for another moment.
“You know, as much as I’d love to live forever, I’m also quite lazy. I thought knowing everything might make lfe easier, but if I’m going to know how never to die, that’s quite a lot of work, and I’m not sure I can handle that,” the protagonist rambled, “Plus, there’s all of that pus that has to get all over your robes and after a while it must really smell awful. Not that you have a nose to notice…”
The protagonist frowned then looked back at the re-robed figure, but found he’d already begun to walk away into further ruins.
“Hey, you know everything, don’t you?” the protagonist shouted, “Just tell me what I’m going to choose already so I can hurry up and get it over with”
“You will do the opposite of what I tell you in order to prove a point,” the figure said, “So you walk away from the water when I tell you you will drink it.”
The protagonist grinned.
“I knew this omniscience was load of shit,” he said, standing up again, “It’s just a bunch of doubletalk and horseshit.” The protagonist took a step back from the edge of the walkway, and stopped. “Whatever you received, I’ll receive a double portion.”
And with that the protagonist leapt into the rose-colored waters and sank like a stone into the midst of the weeds at the bottom. He smiled as wide as his mouth would allow the moment before his lungs accepted the water. When the protagonist screamed, no one could have noticed any change in the surface of the water just as no one could have noticed the grin spread across the robed figure’s face. But then he had been grinning throughout the entire conversation.