The book slams shut. Then, as if it's a game of follow the leader, the rest close as well. Soon, every computer, every data log, every file, every piece of information ever recorded, shuts down, turns off, erases.
What did I forget? I never forget. I am the greatest mind, I have the best memory, my IQ is too high for a word like "genius" to define me. Why did I forget?
The Sun. I see it; or, I don't. I'm looking west, searching for a sunset that should be there. I check my watch, check the sundial in the yard. They both say nineteen hundred. Nineteen hundred is evening, it's when colors should be streaking across the sky, the sun should be slowly sinking below the horizon, and eventually dark should be taking over. But that's not what is happening. What's happening is the complete opposite of that.
I run to the other side of the house. There it is; rising for the second time that day. And again, something happens that has either never, or seldomly occurred before. I'm almost... confused.
I am someone who has worked their whole life to learn. Now, I know everything and anything. If you ask me how I did it, I wouldn't say that I "stayed in school," or "studied," or "prayed God would bless me with wisdom." No, I did more than that, way more. Knowledge became my life, it became me. With every day that I grew older, I knew that my time was increasingly becoming more and more limited and I had just one thing I wanted to do before my final day. I wasn't a fool, I didn't want to fly, or read minds, or have eternal life. All I wished for was to feel fulfilled in my quest to learn everything possible and impossible to learn.
Saying a single creation has "all the knowledge in the world" is a romanticized term for the public, but what no one realizes is that no computer or machine or book or library can hold all that information. But I can. I know I can because I have. I ignore anything that says I can't do it, that one person can't learn that much, that one day I'm going to reach my limit and go crazy. They say, "there is just too much to understand about our world, and what is beyond it." I just tell them that at one point, everything has to come to an end and nothing can't be explained or justified, it's just a question of how.
The endless Sunday drags on, yanking me with it. I think and I think, giving myself a headache from scanning my brain as if I hope to find something there. Why is the Sun rising in the West? The Sun rises in the East and sets in the West. That is a fact even the most mediocre being living on this Earth can stand by. The problem is that I am unable to find anything to tell me why this is happening. I don't have an answer to this question, for this unsolvable problem. I have read, listened, or created everything there is to know in the present and past, so there is no way that I have missed something. This must be new. New is uncommon, rare, unusual. Normally there are patterns; maybe hidden but they are always there. Not this time, however. This time is different because I have the patterns of all the abnormalities in existence memorized. None of it aligns with the remarkable event occurring right now. The Sun doesn't rise in the West.
Moving stiffly, I shuffle into my house and settle myself in an overstuffed armchair, kicking over the pile of books balancing precariously on the coffee table. "What is hidden from me?" I think to myself. All this time I have spent preparing for when I have a question, only to not be able to answer it? I doze off into a sleep so heavy any dream is smothered before it can take hold.
When I wake up again, I have a feeling that still more has slipped away from me. Only, I don't know what. I'm not even sure if anything really has, or if it's just a suspicion provoked from the earlier events.
From my living room window, I usually have a good view of the sunrise, which is now the sunset. It seems like a new pattern has started. The rotation of the earth has turned and now the sun will rise in the west and set in the east. But why? I pinch the bridge of my nose and let out a sigh. If today was Sunday, would tomorrow be Saturday or Monday? Technically, no matter what day you call it, living for yet another 24 hours would automatically give you a day on your age even if the calendar was no longer correct, meaning that yes, tomorrow would add one more day to my life. Still, there is something that's obviously wrong in the universe and it would be bold of me to assume that the regular laws of nature still function in the same way. "Is the rest of the world also in this new solar cycle, or is it just me?" I wonder.
Forty-nine hours from that Sunday, I make a trip to the bathroom, but I avoid looking in the mirror. I can't stand to see the lost man I know I would find staring back at me. Instead, I direct my attention to my hands as I slowly wash them over and over again. In the act of reaching for the hand towel, the reflection catches my eye and I can no longer resist. What I see shocks me. I haven't shaved for a couple of days, but the stubble that had been growing on the lower half of my face is gone. In awe, I touch my bare face lightly and rub my eyes. I look at my watch again. The minute hand is ticking, but counterclockwise. That's when it clicks.
It's all going backward. The days are moving in reverse. Instead of progressing, everything is rewinding. It makes sense now, why things I've done days ago are reoccurring, why I am losing my memory, and why my watch is counting in the wrong direction. While this is bad news, I am grateful for this feeble beginning of understanding because it can help me get a grasp of what is going on.
In terms of the reverse days, it is now Friday, and the time is at eighteen hundred hours, but because of the change, Morning takes the place of Evening. Time is going backward. My sleep schedule is, of course, jumbled, but that is the least of my worries. It feels like I have hit a wall, not able to move forward, but turning around would be worse.
I guess struggling to comprehend this new branch of information is understandable since I have labored by whole life and done everything I could to achieve a seemingly impossible height of learning and even break the surface of the known, only to fail miserably. Now, it seems like my efforts were for nothing. The habits I have built throughout my life make it difficult to accept that there are things I don't, and can never know. I am cursed to forever want to seek answers to things while at the same time learning more just opens other doors for curiosity. And yet, if nothing else, the universe is truly the one to blame with its ever-changing systems and rules that are not infinite, much less staying definitive long enough for even a man like myself to keep up with. I have made it farther then anyone else has gone and I was so close to holding it all in my fist, even if it was just for a few minutes. Maybe, just like a child's wish to have magical abilities, it is impossible. Maybe there always has to be something I don't know.
Something I don't know.
The realization smashes me over the head with a brick. I can't breathe, I can't think.
I'm not sure how to digest this news. It almost hurts to think about. I become frantic, pacing the room and impulsively scrolling through old pages, finally tossing them aside in frustration. A battered encyclopedia falls at my feet. On the cover, a quote from the philosopher Socrates mocks me with the words, "True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing. And in knowing that you know nothing, that makes you the smartest of all." In waves, I connect the dots; I have ignored the warning from all kinds of sources that too much knowledge is dangerous. I ignored it because I knew it was true. I knew I could never achieve my ultimate goal. I had reached the end, I had learned everything there was to learn, and I came to a dead-end. But no one can have all the answers, and no one can remain in that high of a position for long.
I remember. The books, the computer, the data logs, the files. They had closed. That's when the Sun reset. That's when everything happened in reverse. That's why my memory was slipping. The universe was undoing my years of learning and forcing me to forget. This realization leaves a ringing in my ears and I hear myself say, "I know nothing."
I have the answer to my last question; I have known it all along
The sun sets in the West.