The Mound

by Nicolas Badot

After the disappearance of the final Lamp, only the Mound remained visible on the horizon. It is said that a person may walk a thousand miles towards or away from it and still be no nearer or further from its base, and thus, it is equally distant to all persons. It appears to be a perfect Hemisphere, and its other half is believed to be visible in an “underworld”, a mirrored world that exists far below us, populated by demons and other creatures too abominable for the surface. (It must be noted that most of what is said and believed about the Mound is the result of Conjecture rather than Knowledge, and as such does not appear in the Book). Only two pieces of Knowledge about the Mound are scribed in the Book. The First is that the Mound is the repository of all abandoned Ideals. The Second is that it exists beyond the constraint of Time. These facts combined produce a compelling, and largely accepted, Conjecture: given that time is infinite – and thus, that all objects that can exist will exist, become Ideals, and finally be discarded – the Mound must contain all possible objects, and consequently, all possible Knowledge.

Acquisition, the sacred duty, predates the dying of the final Lamp, and has only grown in importance since, for it is believed that Knowledge, once scribed into the Book, becomes the property of all the Living once and forever. There was an Ideal once, that was called The Sun. A hypothetical entity greater than all the Lamps combined. In its warmth, all the Living would achieve prosperity and marvels beyond the imaginings of any mortal mind would become possible. It is not known who created this Ideal, but the fact that it exists is undisputed by even the most contrarian of historians.

This is, in part, what spawned the tradition of the Voyage. The Druids have composed the following Conjecture: 1) No route to the Mound exists in material geography, it being equidistant from all persons in all places reachable by physical means; 2) There must exist a path to the Mound, else it would not be visible on the horizon and there would be no Knowledge pertaining to it in the Book, indeed the existence of Knowledge indicates that one of the Living has been to the Mound and returned; 3) If there is a path but the path does not exist materially, then it must exist immaterially; 4) The mind is partially immaterial, and thus able to locate the path within itself. Every year one among us is Selected to drink the Haze of the Voided Lands, and disappear within themselves, hoping to obtain the Mound and discover the Ideal known as the Sun and return to scribe it into the Book. This is the Voyage.

So far, none have returned.

There are those who, like the Dead Druid in the salt, say that the Mound is, by its very nature, unconquerable. That attempts to obtain it are vainglorious blasphemies against Knowledge; that the Voyage is a profane endeavour that can bring only doom to the Living. I am one of them.

Mound help me – today, I was Selected. There has never been a refusal, so no punishment has yet been prescribed for doing so. But it was my own personal Conjecture that it would be a fatal one, more unpleasant than the profane voyage itself. And so, I did not protest as the Druids dragged me to the edge of the Voided Lands, nor when they stripped my robes and held me by the leg over the gulf so that my lungs could drink the Haze. I felt weightless for some moments after I inhaled. Then I sensed the ground beneath me once more, throbbing with rage. And then, I felt nothing else.


My mind floats away from my body. I am aware of the Druids pawing my old shell; two of them shuffle over the Book while another positions my arms so that I may hold it.  With the Book laid down in the crook of my elbows, one Druid creases it open and the other forces a stylus into my hand between clenched fingers. But my animosity is gone; I do not feel anger.

I move over the Voided Lands, and below the gargantuan husks of the Lamps. I note that the Mound grows in size and I wonder if I am wrong to think the Voyage is a profane thing, but I know that I shall not have my answer until I reach my destination. I am puzzled by the fact that this immaterial path still seems to obey some sort of physical geometry, and that I am still perceiving the world in the familiar guise of corporeal sensory input. Mind transcends the body, but is still limited by its senses. What would my mind detect had it not previously been chained to a body?

To pass time, I Conjecture further (and somewhat facetiously, at first), that I am the only real person in the universe. I suppose that: 1) The Mound exists within this immaterial realm; 2) This immaterial realm exists within my mind, constructed as it is from the senses it once knew; 3) The Mound then, exists within me; 4) The Mound exists in all immaterial realms constructed by all minds, the Mound theme exists within all persons just as all persons exist within the Mound; 5) In this case, all  persons exist in infinite, recursive layers, and that I contain all persons within myself; meaning that any one person is all persons, and thus entirely indistinguishable from me.

The Mound is closer still. Enormous beyond imagining. Approaching its slopes, I “see” that it is not a perfect hemisphere. There are layers of concentric circles piled one atop the other, each with the silhouettes of abandoned Ideals imprinted in salt upon them. The temptation of Knowledge draws me, like a compass is always drawn towards the Mound, but I resist when I “see” one of the former Living minds, one of my predecessors on the Voyage, fusing into the salt, so enthralled by the Ideal that they become it.

Further still, and I am struck by visions of the underworld. An enormous creature with wings and the head of a lion appears before me in the empty sky, grey tendrils erupt from its mouth and devour the perfect layers of salt. I scream in anguish, for the destruction of the Mound is the destruction of all persons, and thus myself. My outburst summons more visions; spindly demons with stone knives that pounce upon the apparition. In their hundreds, they die, consumed by the tendrils or torn limb from limb by monstrous tooth and claw. In time, they overcome their foe, piercing the leather of its wings with their knives and forcing the Lion-headed monster to descend. Once landed, its paws catch in the Silhouettes of Knowledge. Flesh becomes salt and stone.

I continue upwards towards the peak, sensing more minds fusing into the circumference of the Mound. They account for my predecessors on the Voyage, but there are others, from other worlds. I realise that the Lion-monster must have been one of them; I feel a brief pang of remorse but do not let it halt me. What does it mean that other minds have been captured by Knowledge but mine has not? I cannot say. Perhaps it is my reluctance to partake in the Voyage; my unwillingness to believe all Knowledge must flow to the Living. There is a story of the Barbed Crown, the one that grants Knowledge to its wearer, but slays them if they attempt to share it with the Living or Scribe it in the Book. Many, even among Druids, think the Crown to be a great treasure – and I wonder every time this view is voiced if they have heard the same story as I.

I banish the Crown from my mind.

The circles become smaller and smaller; and the silhouettes of Knowledge become more alluring as I approach the focal point on the peak. A figure rises and bars my way. Its face is carved from salt, with obsidian gemstones for its eyes and marble for its hair.

“Who am I?” it says.

“You are the Dead Druid,” I answer.

“And who are you then?” it asks.

I ponder my answer for a moment and then reply: “I am all persons.”

The Dead Druid smiles, revealing diamonds on its teeth. “Go then, and learn the true profanity of Knowledge.” The figure dissipates back into the salt.

I continue until I am on the summit of the Mound.

All Knowledge flows into me.


To possess all Knowledge is to see all things at all times in their totality. I will see that all things that can exist will exist; and that it will all exist both simultaneously and not at all. Omniscience will be indistinguishable from ignorance. The Sun – countless Suns – will birth in a crescendo of primordial forces, and then wane as all things must, and then exist once more. Suns will usurp the Mound, and be consumed by the Mound, and both will exist in harmony, and neither will exist at all. I will try to make these countless Suns eternal – but as I make them I will also unmake them, for to create a thing is to create the possibility (and thus, the actuality) of its absence. In this way, omnipotence will resemble impotence.

I will observe the Living; watch them find Prosperity and Knowledge under their infinite Suns; or watch them suffer silently in infinite dark; I will create the Lamps and then extinguish them. Often, I will watch the Living be sated, only to then ask for more. Sometimes, I will answer them, bring them down the secret of Fire and watch them scorch themselves out of being; or I will leave their wants unanswered and see what they discover without my aid; or I will find their arrogance distasteful, and simply destroy them myself. Mostly, I will observe.

I will do all of these things and none of them (indeed, I have already done so, there is no distinction between the cyclical and the simultaneous). Knowing all of this to be inevitable, I will allow my immortal mind to leave the Mound and return to my mortal body, the one that will be hauled away by Druids and forced to drink the Haze of the Voided Lands. I will return to this body at the moment of its dissipation, knowing that the Knowledge in my mind is too vast to be contained by a physical form, and that mind and body will both die under the strain of this reunion. But death will not come before the mind sends the body one final command: with the last spasm of your mortal hands, scribe these words into the Book:

“Let there be Light.”



Nicolas Badot is an Irish-Belgian writer of fiction and poetry currently living in the Balkans. His poetry has appeared in The Provenance Journal and Rabble Review and his short fiction in 7th Circle Pyrite. He is currently working on a novel about endless towers and the ruins of cities in the desert.

Philosophy Note:

Pascal (and later Borges) imagined the universe as an infinite sphere in which the centre was everywhere and the circumference nowhere. It may not be an accurate representation of the universe, but it’s a good starting point for applying the infinite to real-world geometry. When the infinite is applied to our finite perception of space and time, things can start to break in interesting ways.

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