That final spur, the one that carries skydivers across the threshold, out into the abyss, is faith: faith that it all—the system, in its boundless and unquantifiable entirety—works, that they’ll be gathered up and saved. For this man, though, the victim, that system, its whole fabric, had unravelled. That, and not his death, was the catastrophe that had befallen him. We’re all going to die: there’s nothing so disastrous about that, nothing in its ineluctability that undermines the structure of our being. But for the faith, the blind, absolute faith into whose arms he had entrusted his existence, from whose mouth he’d sought a whispered affirmation of its very possibility—for that to suddenly be plucked away: that must have been atrocious. He’d have looked around him, seen the sky, and earth, its land mass and horizon, all the vertical and horizontal axes that hold these together, felt acceleration and the atmosphere and all the rest, the fundamental elements in which we hang suspended all the time, whether we’ve just jumped from an aeroplane or not—and yet, for him, this realm, with all its width and depth and volume, would have, in an instant, become emptied of its properties, its values. The vast font at which he prayed, and into which he sank, as though to re-baptize himself, time and again, would, in the blink of a dilated eye, have been voided of godhead, rendered meaningless. Space, even as he plunged into it, through it, would have retreated—recoiled, contracted, pulled back from its frontiers even though these stayed intact— withdrawn to some zero-point at which it flips into its negative. Negative world, negative sky, negative everything: that’s the territory this man had entered. Did that then mean he’d somehow fallen through into another world, another sky? A richer, fuller, more embracing one? I don’t think so.


Excerpts from: Satin Island, Tom McCarthy (New York: Alfred A.Knopf, 2015), 85–86.