“Many a false step was made by standing still.” ~Fortune Cookie

Action is the grating sound of the crude, midnight lock pick on the iron-barred, stone-brick door; the focus that comes ten seconds before the hammer falls, the buzzer rings, and the contest is decided – flying, searching, balancing perfectly, speeding on through the deepening twilight, filled with exhilaration, overpowering pain and fatigue, nervousness fading to confidence and worry to motivation; holding straight with unimaginable, superhuman precision even as the world collapses behind you because you know that is the only way. Action is springing awake, inspired with a vision at that time after midnight when words, algorithms, pictures, music – connections – fly from your spidery long and preternaturally deft fingers, fingers that tacitly remind you they cannot be stopped or even hindered in their transcendent quest for future glory, that drill into your mind the joyous realization that whatever it is you once had, you still have it.

The rapid release of energy, the visceral beat of adrenaline against the knotted stomach, darkness evaporating, doubt so far from consciousness as to have never existed, the pre-knowledge, the intuitive certainty, of victory. Taking off ever later, deeper – not banishing, but simply never entertaining thoughts of the rocky reef below and the dredging mountain of water forming up steeply under your shortboard’s tail; seeing thousands of miles ahead, but focusing only on the next step, next step, next step, as time beats rhythmically onwards. Pumping harder than ever before, than is mortally possible; the splash of foam and salt rising as you land high speed aerials never successfully completed on a calmer day, but that you knew you could then. Automatically, subconsciously, upping your game as the stakes grow higher.

Time passes. Every second is judged, every word, gesture, sentence, test, program, contract – business deal – weighted successively more heavily in the gradebook of life. Pressure-action: sprinting across the finish line, no time for celebration because it’s too late already, the shining gossamer fabric of Now tearing ever more rapidly behind your leaden feet. Clearing abyssal gaps, scaling colossal boulders in the budding spring, running up the icy mountainside without a moment’s breath, pulling your scarf close as you trudge on under the waning moon – the only light remaining in a darkening world of thunder-shrouded planets and smoke-veiled stars. The chest-tightening realization that the same heavens shine forth upon the comfortingly dusty chaparral hills you left behind…

And then breaking free: suddenly being the fire, the infernal flames that leap maniacally onward towards the quenching sea that lies always “another mile” distant, that absurdly, cruelly, recedes even as you charge faster towards it. Giving energy, receiving energy, inspired by the companions with whose paths, for a fleeting moment, your blazing, advancing, wild, savage, beacon of fire-consciousness, kilowatt-laser-determination intersected…

But an impasse approaches: fear – the primal light glinting from the blood-red eyes of the feral beast, evil unspecified in form but dagger-point definite in destructive power. Mountains and precipices rising where the treasure map indicated molehills and ant-lion pits. Despair: falling short microns before the threshold, again, and again, and again. Ever-compounding errors cancel out innate advantages; false step by false step head slides deeper under the freezing water as once-exorcised demons transgress inviolable laws of magic, haunting anew the untrodden paths of the world, awaiting the blithe, unwary traveler. Waylaid: confident, searing torches and firebrands blown to cold heaps of ash and tar by the swishing wind of fell, unearthly cloaks. Acuity freezes to instinct, mind echoes with the strained heartbeat of fleeing dreams as faceless and un-combatable enemies rise, unwittingly summoned from what should have been an inescapable grave.

But hark! An angelic counterpart to these unforeseen, unspeakable, bottomless pitfalls and savage hairpin twists in the rope of fate! Not the dawn, but an overlooked possibility, a pale yet effulgent doppelganger of the sun, rises silently, blazingly before our desperate faces. Split-second but total commitment: the chase is full on, but an end is now in sight. Unbeknownst, the world bates its breathing as theirretrievable, deciding instant draws nigh. In robot-like delirium, we extend our grasping hands…

And there the path diverges; two parallel outcomes, worlds, universes unfold, equal and opposite, juxtaposed in their reverse synchrony, simultaneously enticing and repelling us, the sojourners of space and time. We cannot stop to think: in a moment, all illusion of choice will slip away into the nameless obscurity of the past, hidden behind a bend, a far-off streetcorner alley, in time. But that should not trouble us. Though we live in the future, actions dictated by plans and expectations, and at best perceive those events that have just elapsed, we are denizens and masters of the Now and the Now alone, constituent parts of the vibrant, scorching thread that ties that which has happened to that which may. And “a moment” is the vast stretch of time after which all superposition of possibility will be collapsed, history written, outcomes decided. But It – the gyrating, amorphous chimera of fire, ice, and life – the consummate entity that is all undecided future – nonetheless tightens around us, sepulchral, extremely loud and incredibly close, screaming its dissonant, paradoxical bidding into our minds.
It is now our time to choose – to take action – and decide what It will become.
And with that, we begin.