He was with Sartre as he thought over his life, one spent in a little esteemed area where the city vied with the countryside, where success was not even a word. He wondered if his life could be considered to be one. It lacked all the elements of one: education, marriage, social activity; only a noxious image of throwing a rubber ball near an odious river and of hiding in a fortress in a small woodland area remained in his contemplations as features characterizing his life experience. Eating was guaranteed by a clause in his uncle’s contract with a fast-food place, relating to the sustenance of dependents.
The store owner watched him take several books off the rack. Octavio Vie wasn’t literate enough to be discriminatory. On the cover of one called A Sleeper in Seattle, a lady seemed to be getting her mink coat removed by a porter. He picked up another called Being and Nothingness. He turned it over and looked at the back cover advertising.”Mr. Sartre has spread his perfidious outlook to the rest of the Western world!” “Kept on ice during the war years...” “Debunks bunk with bunk...” “You can say anything you like about Sartre, he doesn’t exist, so he can’t sue!”This sounded like a book he would like. He passed the $. 65 across and left, thinking he might have a valuable and profitable day at that, and took it to the park to read.
He did not get very far. “The author has a way with words,” he thought, imitating the advertising, “but nobody else knows what it is.”Or maybe the author had made away with words. Hm, maybe he could be a critic. Someone had described critics in the introductory matter, and he seemed to have a lot of the qualities ascribed to them. Then, too, Sartre had been quoted as recommending his book to all such people. Octavio would really have to get at the essence of this work.
On his way to his holdings he saw numerous sights of the kind Sartre described by way of examples for his text, so when he got home he spent the night going through the book. It was an experience. He was particularly concerned with Sartre’s vision of the “Other,” a person who defines one’s existence by his perception of it.
On his lawn chair, stretched out at full length and then some, he was a pretty sight. Nearby, an elaborate grill gave the effect that he could cook his meals and live out there, but there was no sign that he ever used it. Somewhere in space was his Other, or Twin — a Gemini, perhaps. A realm different from this, far from it, yet near. He’d found that reality was dependent on oneself for the perception of it and that it was possible for there to be separate realities existing in one place at one time, these formed by other perceivers. If his own perception of these realities coincided with or gained the interest of any other perceiver, that was an Other for him right there.
He looked for an Other among crowds. That seemed to be good hunting; when he was in a crowd, anyone speaking with the crowd would use the term “one another.”So to one, anyone else could be an Other. However, when he tried to contact the Others they would become two and then more, losing in this activity the basis of being One and then an Other. It was an endless task, seeking for an Other in a crowd.
The crowd didn’t work, much like the individuals in it. It was a Lonely Crowd; he knew that.
In a trash yard he picked up the frame of a mirror from a giant Caterpillar steam-shovel, and an empty hotbox from a disused derrick, and he welded the two together and took them back to his house. Attaching these to an oak table and setting them up in a proper position in his front room, he was able to sit in an easy chair and look through the mirror frame, focusing his thoughts on distant space.
It would be a realm different from this one, far and remote. He concentrated, building up the necessary dynamic force. He had, of course, to be in the right mood, and this would lead him to a good setting and make him the kind of man who would get through.
His first success, though, was with Julie and Marc Simco, two computer specialists who lived near enough to him to become aware that he was doing strange things with a rig-up of some kind. They dropped by to see if it was a computer. When they saw what it was, they were less than impressed, and asked him to explain his effort.
“Just a mind-focus, folks, heh, heh... How are things down at the computer works?”
“It’s a whole world in itself,” Marc said.”There may be some similarities there, after all, with what you’re doing.”
Julie laughed.”It’s a trade joke,” she said.
“I figure I can project my mind into the unknown by ESP.”
“Computers are a form of mind travel, one might say.”
“Ought we to back him up?” Julie asked.
“We might come along from time to time to see how he’s getting along. Eh, Mr. Vie?”
Octavio added their approach to his own and with this impetus began to imagine that he heard things from space. But it wasn’t his Other. He’d know he had found that when he did find it. It would be some being who would be that interested in what he was doing.
When he was in the mood for it there was bound to be some progress. He began wondering about all that was in the sky, and beyond, through a world of entities unknown to him.
Other people showed up to see how he was coming along. Web Whombos, a radio specialist, wondered about the communications aspects of his endeavors. Author Stang wondered if his real estate claims were paid up and checked him out. There was Weldeberg and Fleurian Wheent, who were simply his nearest neighbors. His household had never been so busy. Stang noticed this, commenting,
“You’ve never seemed like a proper householder to me. If you’re going to be getting a near riot and acting strange,I like to make sure your papers are in order.”
“You’ll find the same thing in anybody’s house.”
“You’re like the hippies.”
“That’s what most of your territory has in it.”
Whombos sat and looked through the rectangle with him, suggesting mind-settings he could use. It was an aid to progress. But Octavio wanted it done his own way. He kept on with it a month and a half without results.
A mysterious dark other in the vast reaches of outer space. What would such be like if a contact were achieved? One early afternoon at the edge of autumn, when the weather was just announcing what was to come, he thought he sensed success. The gloom in the atmosphere around him and the overcast sky seemed to portend a greater gloom beyond, and, as he let his mind imagine it, the image therein seemed to congest and impact, just as if he were witnessing some astronomical early event. It seemed to develop a pull. He resisted this and became aware that this could not possibly be his own visualization, because he would not resist that in such a manner. He would not want to be successful at this resistance, and he let his mind go along with the pull.
He seemed to travel into a region of impulses foreign to the Earth and in no very certain order. It wasn’t his subconscious: that was withdrawing rather than emerging, as it rather comfortably assured him, having been uncomfortable at these same new impulses, yet of course involved, providing as it did the thrust to get out there.
He looked around again at his surroundings. He looked pretty foolish sitting there at his machine in this banal excuse for a house, set as it was a little off any public roadway or transition point of social exchange. There was nobody outside his house, and he had a feeling he was achieving real contact. Just as he was preparing another effort, he got a feeling of somebody being there. There was an impression of some shadow taking form.
— what are you looking for?
— some form of contact
— why are you searching for this?
— it is rather void where I am. I am wanting to see elsewhere.
— it can be supplied to you. we have the capacity for response.
— where is it you are?
— we are not in a place. we are only when we are congregated.
— how far are you from being human?
— eh? next to it, as it is what you are. otherwise largely unconcerned.
— can this contact be re-established?
— who can say? perhaps you can re-establish it. but then to do it you must have an interest and perhaps an appreciation.
Vie did have that. They spent some time familiarizing themselves with each other, and then went into a process that could have been called “othering,” whereby the effort of contact could be realized. And then Vie had had about all the contact he could take, and let the other know about it.
— why is it that you must now cease?
— it has been too unusual, too great a break from my life as it is lived here.
— interesting; I must find out more about how it is lived there.
— do you find it an inconvenience to spend much of your time in this pursuit?
— I do not; I have all the time there is if I have it at all.
Vie made his getaway. There were no headsets to remove and put away, but he stopped looking at his machine. Evening was creeping up apace. He rather felt he would find the night interesting. He had especially liked the feeling of time not impinging on his doings. He was going to come back to this fairly soon. It seemed to him to represent real progress.
He was thinking of that progress the next time he tried it. It gave a real boost to have this thought. The Wheents and Whombus had been by in the interval and he had told them about it. Now, two days later, he was trying it again. Humans looked surprisingly similar one to the other. He was contemplating what it could possibly be like to be in some form other than the human when he noticed that he was once again not contemplating it alone.
He asked the Twin how things were out there. The other focused himself into a square, assumed a shadowy form within that square, and identified the fact that he was deriving the form from contact with Octavio. Vie had a name for him now. He had thought to call him Conrad Vrilly, but making it two names seemed like too much, so he settled on Kraswell. Kraswell reacted to the name by motion, showing off dynamism, ambience, and torsion, and gestured with his now-human hands at other things whose nature could not be discerned.
The scene came into greater focus. Now it was a room that was not a room, but an outdoors at the same time, based upon Octavio’s notions of an environment. There was a sudden rise of opalescent, multi-colored chips all about Kraswell, manna from the gods who oversaw these realms. The scene stretched, grew taut, and banged around its borders, and that seemed to signal that the contact had run its course.
Simco brought by another scientist, a J. Alfred Startch.
“You said there was a banging sensation all around when it faded out,” Startch said.”Couldn’t that banging be metabolic? It sounds like it was. People who are preoccupied often lose track of the physiological sensations they are experiencing. In a moment of climax to the vision, the body begins to reassert itself. You may be jumping, experiencing the action of your elbows or hips without knowing it.”
“Well, he always said that what I saw was based upon myself. That’s because there’s no similitude out there and they’re trying to come to terms with it. By way of communication. Now that the way has been opened.”
“Isn’t that just talking to yourself?”
“No, I was looking for something out there when I found it. There wouldn’t have been any moment of finding coming from myself.”
“That’s frequently how we do recognize how we’ve come in contact with another, by being stopped. It sounds like you are reasoning it out properly. Well, I’m always interested in having my horizons expanded. You say it isn’t materiality where you’re looking.”
“No, it’s not, and I don’t know what that fellow is doing out there.”
“I wouldn’t want to be talking to him, myself.”
Two more weeks into the thing, Octavio was now discussing the world of the Other. He was watching a long semi-dream of robots operated by human activation on psionics principles, car spaceships and instant transmission, force attacks that could not be detained, and a 100-pound per-square-inch press on beings considered the hidden dead of that realm. But Kraswell was telling him that this was merely an attempt to interpret the realm they were hearing from. For example, there were no machines where he was.
be more cheerful, for it may be that a lot of it is us; it may be your own realm would develop some of these qualities, if it were to coalesce with our own.
Octavio had reason for calling out for Bheer. Should he be searching for an Other from so far away? He did not want to go there, or have there come where he was, in despite of the fact that he was not really fitting comfortably into his own world.
What did he want out of this? What had he wanted? Merely to have done it, he supposed; it added something to his life, aided him in some sort of personal development that may have been necessary. When there is a void, does one ask questions? If he was incomplete on Earth, perhaps his otherness had to be sought elsewhere. When one has done something, one has lived a life.
Startch had gathered some other scientists, and they were marching into Vie’s yard, where they gathered around and looked in through the windows. They began to sense what was going on in the place. An edge of blackness came from Octavio’s screen and rotated slowly outside. An owl creaked somewhere in the rafters of his place, and began spinning through space. The house began to spin. For the first time Kraswell asked him what was happening there. More and more turbulence was developing. It was like one of nature’s storms, only worse. Things were developing an ambience of their own around Octavio, and he was at the center of it all as a receiver.
At least, he had his Other to talk with.
Copyright © 2003 by John Thiel