1 week and 17,496 words in to NaNoWriMo 2013. This is the final novel in my Ouroboros trilogy. The below excerpt is from the POV of the character Lynn whose daughter, Sophie, has been acting strangely since the presence of her new imaginary friend. Sophie explains to her mother that her imaginary friend needs her help finding someone in Winnipeg.
“In this version of Winnipeg,” Sophie corrected. “He said he’s looked and looked and looked and this version had me in it so he stayed to be my friend . . . and because he says he needs my light to find . . . find . . .” Sophie stopped and turned to the empty space beside her and whispered something. Lynn realized she was pressing herself against the wall. Her body decided to retreat without informing central command which was preoccupied with the ominous exchange taking place between her daughter and the invisible being inside the shadowy air. “Is this some kind of creepy bit you memorized from a tv show? Did uncle Seth put you up to this? Did daddy show you that link on BuzzFeed about the creepiest things little kids say?”
Sophie continued to converse with the air until finally she spoke: ”I can’t pronounce his friend’s name . . .”
the Watchers – excerpt
Lynn had gone to Sophie’s room to make sure that she was asleep before she, her husband, and their friend uncle Seth had lit up the bong in the living room. Sophie’s room was on the other end of the house from the living room and while she didn’t think that they were don’t anything wrong, sometimes it still made her paranoid that she was being a bad mother.
Lynn came back into the living room and Seth was loading the bong.
Her husband was playing Dynasty Warriors 7 on their PS3. They had the recording device on top of the television to record the night’s conversation.
Lynn spoke up as she sat down on the couch beside her husband: “When we listen to this back we’re only gonna hear the sound of the video game. Like when we were listening back to the other recording when you guys were listening to music. ‘Cause it’s on the tv. Or you could put the tape recorder behind you.”
“Oh I guess that’s true.” Her husband stood up to move the recorder.
Seth was giggling. “I think it will pick up less sound actually, ‘cause it’s on top; it’s pointed in the same direction the tv speakers are pointed.”
Her husband stopped his hand before he moved the recording device and went to go sit back down.
“Don’t sound waves go up?” Lynn said.
“Well, they actually go out in a wave so that the device might pick up the waves after they reverberate off the walls and come back but our voices are louder than those reflected waves and the waves of our voices are actually going toward the device instead of away, bouncing off the wall and coming back. We should be okay,” Seth assured her.
“Huh, that’s fuckin’ cool,” Alex paused the game and took a hit from the bong.
“I’ll trust you ‘cause you have a bachelor in Music,” Lynn smiled as Seth passed her the bong.
“Acoustics,” her husband grinned.
“I aced that course,” Seth laughed. “It was like High School physics and so many people were having problems with it and for me it was the easiest thing. Those were the people that got through school because they were good memorizers. They memorized facts but not concepts.”
“Yah, there were people who kinda missed the point about education and rather than expanding knowledge and understanding concepts they just tried to ‘get the right answer’ so that they could score well on tests,” Lynn shook her head. “For instance, at the end of World War II one group of homo-sapiens dropped a bomb on another group that instantly incinerated almost a hundred thousand people and destroyed most of the city. Some people remember that as: c) at 8:15 a.m, on Monday, August 6, 1945 the U.S. dropped a bomb ending World War II. There’s a difference between knowledge and understanding.”
Her husband had been massaging her shoulders, but then stopped abruptly. At first she thought it was because she’d blown his mind, but no. It was something else. She could feel his thoughts as if they were tangible, knowable. She was aware of something so ridiculous and so impossible that it almost made her laugh. But instead she said: “Holy fuck!”
She could feel the division of space where her husband’s physical body ended. It was a cold, claustrophobic barrier that blocked him from truly connecting with anything outside of the shell, that apparatus, through which human beings experienced the physical world. Lynn felt the wave of anxiousness that slammed against her husband’s racing mind. He shivered. In that moment she too felt like everything around her husband was one object that enveloped him. She felt the bright flashes of panic and could follow the contents of his mind like a narrative. He was worried that only he really existed, that the whole of reality was only a film that clung to the edge of his physical barrier. His hands were still on her shoulders, but they limp. She felt his hysterical isolation and his disconnectedness as it reached its height, but then he saw her. Or really, not so much saw her as become aware of her awareness. He calmed for a moment as he welcomed her awareness into his thoughts. She was somehow synced to him. The detachedness bled away and the warm buzz of their symbiosis enveloped them. They were one. And then it sensed another. Three. Lynn. Her husband. And now this other. Each was aware of the other, though each was aware of their sameness.
Her husband shivered and Lynn shot out of his mind and once again they were separate. Her mind was thrashing about, trying to comprehend, trying to rationalize their interconnectedness. She wondered about the source of the other, and why it felt so familiar.
“Could reality actually be a solid and we’re really just displacing the substance around the space our bodies takes up?” Her husband said and she was back in their living room, sitting in front of the television, watching her husband and uncle Seth play Dynasty Warriors 7. She was overwhelmed and tried to stay silent and in her present moment. Not so much denying the experience, but allowing herself time decompress and digest.
“Like how when you go swimming you’re in the water and the water is around you but you are just displacing the water that had been in that position before but now you’re moving it away so that your particles and your matter can take that position in the water?”
She wasn’t paying attention to her husband. She was worried that the weed had been laced with something. And then she worried about Sophie. She was about to get up to go check on her but then her husband resumed the shoulder rub. “‘Cause, like, the electrons of other atoms are pushing back against the electrons in your atoms and that is what we perceive as being the sensation of touch, but we’re actually not touching it because any two like-charged electrons repel each other, right? There are no absolutes,” he said.
“You’re tasting the chemical reaction of the food on your taste buds and it’s your brain interpreting those messages as flavour. That’s why flavor is also subjective. Some people think certain things are tasty and others think it’s gross. So really, reality is only experienced in the brain’s subjective interpretation. There isn’t really a true objective reality. No two people can really have the same interpretation of reality,” Seth said.
“Except that since we’re a society, we are expected to have the same expectations as to how things work. Herd mentality,” her husband said.
She tried to reengage herself into the conversation, hoping that the discussion would shove away the anxiousness long enough for her stoned mind to latch onto some other thought, any other thought, that was less psychologically crippling.
“Yah, we’re looking around for consensus about what is going on. That’s how some people connect to the world. They just try to mingle with others who see the world in the same way that they do. When you look at the world through a different theoretical lens you see things in new ways. Like if you look at things en mass, the group is expected to disregard certain ideas as foolish and those become unreal or impossible, or fantasy. Like how western secularism has kind of destroyed the legitimacy of spiritual experience,” Lynn said.
“Christianity as well has a big part of that too,” Seth said.
Her husband’s massage was easing away her anxiety. It helped that that he hadn’t acknowledged the experience of their metaphysical trinity in any way.
I’m just really high. She giggled.
“I’ve often wondered if Christianity was a false religion. That the actual intent is to make people less spiritual because it kind of homogenizes thought and makes people take things as they’re presented to them without questioning things for themselves. They’re experience of spirituality is a kind of restricted . . .” he paused. “There’s that word again: prism,” she stopped.
Again? She didn’t actually remember using it recently and wasn’t sure why she said it. After another silent moment, he continued: “That ‘this is the framework in which it is appropriate to experience spirituality and everything beyond this is either unsanctioned, cultish, ‘of the devil’, or whatever. It’s just shouldn’t be entertained as a legitimate idea or else you’re heretical and dangerous and people shouldn’t be thinking about those kind of things.”
“We’ve kind of rejected spirituality and adopted a new cult of material wealth. It seems like now our gods are brands, celebrity, and sensationalized accounts of world events that aim to color the world was unfriendly and dangerous. We are told to find our self-worth, not in knowledge or wisdom, but in the objects we possess that somehow have become symbols of our success or I guess the lack of possession that symbolizes our failure. We are always so wrapped up in appearance and how we are perceived by other people. Appearance is about more than maintaining and attaining stuff, ‘cause it’s more than what I had before so in a kind of way they’re attempting to surpass experience through material means. Consumerism,” her husband said.
“It’s about more. And more is about trying to prove that you’re alive,” Lynn paused. “There’s a quote I remember that went something like: ‘Life is occupied by perpetuating itself and surpassing itself but if it’s only preoccupied with maintaining itself than living is only not dying’. The reason people get married and have kids is that living is about finding the purpose of perpetuating itself but that’s sad ‘cause it’s as if they’re not surpassing their existence. They’re putting their purpose into maintaining their current experience of existence instead of trying to attain a higher level of consciousness.”
“I really think that’s our purpose,” her husband said. “I think we are the shamans, we are the oracles. We can search out the way to surpass ourselves and make our existence more than simply not dying.”
“Oracles and Shaman’s weren’t the ones going hunting or producing. They were kind of lethargic and often lost in silent contemplation. They didn’t really do much. Instead, the tribe provided for them. Their focus instead was to help raise the children, give spiritual guidance to the tribe, give counsel to the chiefs and other important members,” Lynn said.
“I think that’s why we find it hard to be part of the modern day work force, even though we can do it,” Seth said. “It’s soul crushing for us because it isn’t who we are. I often went off day dreaming while doing repetitive tasks at work that I found hard and discouraging because it so much effort to concentrate on those stupid repetitive tasks I was expected to be doing when all I wanted was to experience reality, contemplate ideas, and question things. I couldn’t understand how people could just do their job happily and not question anything and just keep going every day, every year, for their whole lives. If we were still in small clans of homo sapiens we would totally be the shamans or medicine person or the oracles. In contemporary society those things, though, are seen as obsolete. Unneeded and illusory. We have to be productive. You’ve gotta get a full-time job. Pay your bills. Pay taxes. Contribute. Follow. Obey. I really don’t believe that we’re all that unique. I think that we are afraid that all the others will think we’re crazy or dismiss us as flakey or delusional so we remain quiet. Trying to have conversations with other people makes people feel isolated. I know we’re not the only people thinking these thoughts, but I think that people are afraid of expressing these thoughts to other people because we think we ARE weird or unique or that no one else thinks these thoughts. I think many more people have actually considered and are aware of much more than we are collectively expected to be, or that is culturally acceptable.”
“We are conditioned to believe that we are no more than just the 9 to 5 partition of time in which we are being productive and fulfilling our place in the societal machine and in our off time we are required to consume products that we are expected to desire. The presentation of those products to others become a symbol of our status and our importance in the machine. Like people in Hummers, or who wear Rolexes, or have a summer villa in Tuscany. I mean, it’s a part of reality, but they put importance on material, physical objects that show others that they are more alive somehow than others with fewer or less extravagant things,” her husband said.
“Why are they so preoccupied with stuff? People try to send a message to other people through what they possess. If you look better than someone else or have better possessions or more possessions than someone else then you are somehow superior to those who have less than you,” Lynn said.
“Wealth and possessions are the only part of reality that is objective that other people can also perceive them so you’re showing other viewers of this reality that in this existence that we’re mutually experiencing: ‘I’m surpassing you in a certain way and am therefore somehow superior and more alive’,” said Seth.
“Going back to that quote, ‘maintaining is only not dying’, so you have to surpass just surviving in order to be perceived as being alive. That’s why. Think about brands. Expensive things. Your possessions say something about you and your existence. If you have affluence then you’ve more than simply surviving,” Lynn said.
“Getting back to this control thing,” Seth started, “when a majority of people try to propagate the idea that this is how the world is, and ‘don’t challenge that idea’. And if you do, they say: ‘you’re flakey’ and shit like that and are immediately dismissive of anything that does challenge their paradigm, well I think stuff like that makes peoples’ individuality dissolve. But that sounds like the point. Everyone has to be in agreement as to what the world is so that we can interact with one another in predictable ways. People want the world to be predictable. We want to know what the consequence of this action will be or this one. We have to all be in agreement as to what is real and what isn’t. And people are more easily controlled when they knew their limits. But what if reality doesn’t have limits? What if we create reality but a small ruling class of homo-sapiens are indoctrinating the rest of us into homogenizing our interpretation of reality as though we’re kind of being corralled or herded into being happy workers. Just aware enough to keep doing whatever our purpose in the societal machine is to maintain the status-quo but ignorant of anything else beyond that. We are taught that we shouldn’t question and that we should just accept things the way that they are and don’t rock the boat. Faith is a virtue. But the rational and intelligent people dismiss, and kind of delegitimize, the spiritual experiences of others. They try to make people skeptical of anything outside of science and that’s the other extreme too.”
“We should model our society after Fraggle Rock,” her husband smiled.
Lynn looked down the dark hallway, focused intently on the closed door to Sophie’s room.
“You okay?” her husband gave her a quick hug.
“I’m gonna check on Sophie,” Lynn stood up and started towards her daughter’s room.
“She’s fine,” her husband called after her.
Lynn opened the door and Sophie wasn’t in her bed. When she went further into the room, Sophie was kneeling at the mirror beside the closet, in the dark, staring at her own reflection.
“Mommy?” Sophie turned to her and she felt like she was living out some bizarre scene from one of those paranormal films.
“Yes?” she whispered back apprehensively.
“Am I the real Sophie? Or is she?” She pointed at the mirror.
Lynn couldn’t process it all so her mind stalled and when she got it up again it was humming in neutral. She blinked at her daughter silently for a long while.
“She looks exactly like me. And she does exactly what I do? How do I know if I’m her, or if she’s me?”
“Go to sleep, sweetie. You have a play-date tomorrow morning,” Lynn started closing the door and then just before it clicked shut she whispered, “I love you, Sophie.”
“Love you, Mommy,” she heard her quiet voice reply her little feet jumped back onto the bed and snuggled into her covers.
When she reentered the livingroom Seth was gone and the lights in the livingroom were off. She wasn’t sure how long it had taken to go check on Sophie, but it was late anyway. They had probably decided to call it a night.
She walked over to their bedroom and he was asleep on his side of the bed. In that moment she became aware of exactly how tired she was. Between the experience with her husband and that other and Sophie questioning her existence, the night was becoming far too heady. And maybe it was the drugs, maybe it was her tiredness, maybe it was the blinds blocking out most, though not all, of the street lamp outside the window, but it looked as if her husband’s forehead was glowing.