Logic Is a Halfway House
by Regina Clarke
Part 1 appears|
in this issue.
So here he was. The room was now bathed in a cool, blue light. He walked toward the space that Sellers had drawn. It showed in phosphorescent white on the dark floor. Halfway to it he hesitated. “Exactly how do you control our return?” he asked.
“Frequencies, Tony, a matter of frequencies. Interesting, how that word keeps cropping up — ‘matter’, I mean — isn’t it? My device automatically retrieves the invisible spectrum and then moves us beyond it. The lines here serve as catalytic agents. This blue will change. When it does, we’re off. I have an embedded reset programmed in. When it kicks in, the blue light returns, and so do we. We’re riding the wave, you might say — yes, I like that. I could call the whole thing ‘spectrum surfing’! Now, come along.”
Anton went and stood on the line. These theatrics irritated him. His back touched the shoulders of the two women.
“Here we go, partners!”
At Sellers’ last words Anton felt a small charge run through his body, the smallest of sensations. Other than that he felt nothing specific, no sense of motion at all. Then, suddenly, he seemed to be in a gray cloud. Yet it wasn’t gray. It wasn’t a color he recognized, nor was it a cloud. It was empty, devoid of any possible reference for sensation. If he were moving, he didn’t know it.
“Just wait, Tony old friend, at any point that seems uncertain,” Sellers had said. “Don’t try to do anything, and if possible, allow some freedom to your thought process. Don’t analyze, just feel. It’s like a zen state, you might say, temporarily, if that helps. But it won’t stop there, so just hold on. And beware! If you try to control the process, you’ll be back in the room immediately, but we won’t. The results for all of us would become rather disconcerting, possibly disastrous, you see. I have no idea of the specifics, since it hasn’t happened, of course, but I’m relying on your cooperation, needless to say. I like my, ah, normal life a little too much to want permanent probability status just yet! Just remember, there are four of us to consider!”
“There is only thought, Tony. Try to remember that!” It was Sellers’ voice in the emptiness, a faint echo that Anton felt at the back of his mind.
Then he felt the pressure, as if every part of him were being compressed into a smaller and ever smaller space, an implosion, and he felt panic wash over him in a giant, oppressive wave. Just when he was certain of death, Anton began to experience the sensation of expansion and an effect of reversal so sudden and total he was convinced that he would burst into millions of fragments, while at the same time the gray vanished and in its place immense objects moved toward him at accelerated speeds. As they almost reached him their size diminished until he could see their shapes. Each one was a geometric design slowly forming into a version of himself, like so many mirrors placed about him.
A hallucination, thought Anton. Sellers has sent us into his own dream world. It was what his own patients would try to do, nothing more than that. He watched the figures, their gestures and faces so like his own, but he saw the apparent imperfections, minute differences in each one, changing rapidly, melting, he thought with bitterness, like the wicked witch of the west. As the thought occurred in him, all the cloned versions collapsed into a whirling sea of colors, indistinguishable shapes that merged and separated before him, and as suddenly disappeared.
He was adrift again, and held out his hands but found he couldn’t see them. A total isolation. Nothing to fear, he told himself. It was all illusion, all a product of his own conjuring. There’s an explanation, he reminded himself, and an endpoint. And where was Sellers, anyway?
No sooner had the thought come to him when he saw at a great distance in a space shaping itself into whirling streaks of light and dark the form of Sellers approaching. He seemed fluid, somehow, moving toward Anton in a gliding, blurred motion, enveloped in multicolored light.
“Come to see how your little scam is working, Colin?”
“Delighted! Delighted! And on a first name basis, finally! What do you think?”
“Not at all. Do you think I’m here, now before you? That this form I assume is real? Consciousness is arbitrary, Tony, surely you admit that? Matter is a state of mind, so to speak... a coalescing, as it were, and again, from our point of reference, each of us alone, and then all of us together. That’s the game, after all, right? To play in tandem, combine our perceptions, have a little fun — invigorating. I think.
“Ah, yet you persist in three-dimensional perception. Yes, of course you do. I see. Won’t work here. Let go of that, m’boy, or we’re all going for a bigger ride than I’d planned! I exist in ten times three, Jeanine and Sam many times more than that, I have no doubt — they are fearless. You still are choosing three. Not very imaginative, Tony — no, not very ‘realistic’, either, all things considered. After all, to persist in seeing three dimensions when you yourself are already in a multidimensional certainty? Remember the game! Your sanity, m’boy, could be at risk! Not to mention ours!”
“I’m not playing the game. I won’t!” said Anton. Why did Sellers have form and he, Anton, did not?
“No form — that’s the point, don’t you see?” Sellers said, reading his mind. “We never have form, we just agree to perceive it. Anton! Dare to see it!” With a sudden motion Sellers drew off until he seemed little more than a speck of color, and then accelerated toward Anton one more time, only now he was little more than a series of blue and white lines.
“No!” Anton shouted. But he knew he had not spoken. In that place there was no sound. Yet once again he heard Sellers’ voice.
“Ah, Tony — I thought I could help you. It is so confining, this insistence of yours on an orderly progression. I feel claustrophobic, yes, exactly what I feel, just thinking about it! I’m sorry, Anton, I can’t contain it any more. The journey beckons! You’re breaking us up, so off we go. Try to remember, nothing is what it seems. It’ll be the truth!” Sellers ended with hilarious laughter.
The lines of color vanished.
I exist, Anton said to himself. He can’t fool me.
Somewhere, surrounding him, he heard sounds like wind chimes and falling water, forming into words.
“Come along, Anton, join with us! It’s not enough, stopping where you are, you could go so much further.”
“Listen to us, Anton, Sellers is right: we can all go so much further — why stop? — you’ve only come halfway! There is so much more waiting! We’re meant to do it together!” Jeanine and Samantha, their voices receding.
No thanks. Anton didn’t hesitate. There was only what he knew, what he could verify, what he knew was finite, contained. There was always an explanation, an endpoint!
With the last thought he found himself back in the room again. The light wasn’t blue any more. It was a pale mauve reflecting off the walls. He stood on the same line. The shoulders of the others touched him lightly. He checked his watch, but it had stopped. He turned toward Sellers, calm for a moment but feeling the anger growing again. Still, in spite of himself, he was curious. It was illusion — or delusion, more likely — but very well done.
“All right, Colin, how did you do it?” he asked. “And I want the truth.”
The other three stepped off their lines and faced Anton.
Each face was his own.
“This is one of your tricks, Sellers!” he shouted, and the other three shouted with him.
“Sellers! Take me back! Sellers!” Anton screamed into the room, and the others did the same, with just the slightest, infinitesimal, differences.
Copyright © 2012 by Regina Clarke