I put my suspicions to a test. I did not sleep. I did not eat. I didn’t clip my nails or wash my face, or do anything that fell under that category of human maintenance. Weeks went by, or at least I thought they did, but my stomach never rumbled and my eyes never grew heavy.
I was definitely on to something.
Maybe I was in a coma, and if that was so, I could try to at least become lucid while I was trapped in here.
“I am dreaming!” I shouted to myself, as the sun slid down the horizon and the stars gently started poking out. “I can do whatever I want.” Bell flopped onto the couch and started purring in response. Observing her from the corner of my eye, I eventually gave up my lucid notions and started petting her. She was curiously quiet.
“Bell, how come you never talk to me?” I quipped, stroking a big black spot on the top of her head. Nothing.
I released my back onto the couch as well, reclining in resignation. As I pondered the mess I had found myself in, another thought wavered over me as a listless film.
A version of myself, older, peered at me from above, as if in a trance state. “Hello?” I surprised myself by asking. Bell readjusted herself to get more comfortable.
The floating version of myself did not respond. She simply stared on, barely moving, and every so often sighed while looking quizzically to her upper left. Maybe she was looking at something, maybe not. I tried to mirror the face she made and realized it’s the face I make when I’m trying to remember something.
I puzzled. She stopped. I studied the lines on her face. Her hair was frizzier than mine, and a frown line appeared right in between her eyebrows, where my face always furrowed when I was upset. I smoothed my hair out in response.
I couldn’t make out anything behind her, but wherever she was it looked bright. The image of her there stuck with me for days. I would often watch it after I got back from a long walk. She seemed unchanged this whole time. Growing bored, I yelled to her, “Hey! You know anything about B1? How about B4?”
She stopped. I realized that she was typing on a computer. She waved a hand in my direction and I felt a shock of recognition shine through me.
“I know about B2.”
I suddenly saw what she was typing, as if my vision and hers had become linked. The black strokes on a white page flew across my gaze, and a flicker of disbelief wavered across my face. She was writing me.
The words seemed to flow like magic all around me.
“I know about B2.” She said again, not sacrificing structure for expediency. “That’s where I live. I think you exist somewhere I’ve never been before. I call myself the Researcher. What are you?”
I thought a long time before I answered. “I call myself the Whisperer.” I finished lamely. She was suitably impressed.
“What made you think of me?” We asked each other, getting confused. I took a step back, reacquainting myself with the couch and immersing myself in Bell’s soft fur.
“What made you think of me?” I asked to her again, better situated.
“Two days ago the trees started talking to each other loudly. I described it to myself as whispering, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.” She was excited, happy to realize that this hadn’t just been an idle stroke of inspiration. “Then today, when I was walking in to work, it just felt as if you existed. I haven’t been able to do anything but flesh you out all morning.”
I laid back, serene. “So, am I real?” I asked, trying to make sense of it all.
“Well, I think you could be.” She said, hoping she wasn’t sounding as cryptic as Aza, as she knew this would frustrate me.
She continued, “I have never been to B4 before. Hah. What a joke. Anyway, I think something happened around 2012, where shades of myself became fragmented. I think it happened to a lot of people, but for some reason it affected us more intensely. I think it has to do with our strange spirituality. In this reality, I have a terrible job and nothing ever goes right. I’m stymied from acting in any meaningful way.” She paused to let me reflect on how miserable that would be for me, and I immediately empathized with her.
“I believe the service I perform is that of a dutiful cataloguer of this experience,” she continued. “I’m trying to reach out and find all the fragments of myself throughout these dimensions, so that we can learn what has caused this deep fissure, and see if there’s anything we can do about it, together. I am sorry that you are alone where you are. I was saddened to read that.”
“Wait,” I asked. “I thought you were writing me?”
“I suppose I am,” she answered. “But I don’t think that makes me any less surprised about where you are.”
She looked down at something for a long while, then returned to look at me. “Look, I have to go for a while. I don’t know when I’ll be back.”
The words started to slow their spinning around me and fell away from my vision. The computer screen stayed silent for a long while. I did get the feeling she may have been reading me to someone else, and when I couldn’t shake this feeling, it filled me with immense loneliness. I started to think deeply about what she had said.
If it was true, then what I was thinking now would likely have already been read by her. My voice and her voice at once the same and yet different. I had a message in my head, but I knew it didn’t quite make sense. I just decided to roll with it anyway.
“I think I know of another. I call her: the Emissary. I hope you find her. She may help.”
Photo Credits: Autumn Lakeside by Stanley Zimny
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