He pushed into the object with his hand. The surface was smooth and static-y, and his hand sank into the surface like it was oobleck. Oobleck is that substance made out of corn starch and water.
He knew that, where his hand was submerged, there was a totally new environment. He could just feel it. It was like a different planet where wind was hitting his fingertips. He left his hand in the machine until there were too many hands touching him.
Elyssa had gone into the machine and, just before her head had totally followed her body into the other world, she had started gasping for air and had become pale. It was an old memory but it was certainly real.
He was not a human being. His neighbors – who he could not talk to, but could only watch – were cool. They had all experimented with their machines.
There had been a giant spider in front of his home for three days now. It wasn’t threatening because the glass was tough but it was disturbing, although at this point most of the time Gerry was pleased to have something to observe. It was like staying up until 3 a.m., it was uncomfortable but also an interesting experience.
Gerry reclined into his static chair. The surface was made up of a very minute layer of the substance, so wherever his back and legs were appearing in the other world no one noticed or bothered him. This lead to a very comfortable chair because when you would sit on this chair you would feel like you were existing in two worlds simultaneously, but just a little bit, and it was just your back and your legs appearing in the other world. Imagine reclining in a chair with warm water running down it, and pooling in the seat. This chair was like that, but the water was a portal to another dimension.
Gerry let his feet dangle in the machine, while he threw bits of food into an orbit around the portal. He looked up and watched the cloud swirl around him, the walls of his hut obscured by the purple and blue and red glow of the portal, and the particles orbiting his body partially consumed by the light. Eventually there was a cloud circling him, a silent cloud of tiny particles and stopping and getting sucked in where they collided with his face. A hand groped him, on the other side of the portal. Then a blade lightly ran across the underside of his foot. He could feel a weak chain being wound around his calf. The foreign sun, that he could not see because the otherside of the portal could only be felt, was beating down on the skin of his legs.
Four hands appeared at the fringes of his sense doors and he flipped out, immediately pulling his legs back inside.
The thing is, Gerry had been toying with this machine for 200 years and was not willing to enter it and was not going to. And the inhabitants on the other side were gentle and Gerry suspected that he could leave his body partially in there forever, and they would be nice. But he had never lasted more than twenty minutes, because he could not risk being pulled in.
He wondered if his life was a metaphor being painted by God; an idea being explored in physical form, in the life of a being. Perhaps the question was, what happens when a being closes a spiritual door, and convinces itself that door should never be entered? He had felt that way in his mind before – in fact, Gerry had discovered plenty of these same “doors” in his mind and body, which he had learned to enter.
The keys of the synthesizer were goop. Elyssa pressed into them with her fingers and a high pitched squeal appeared over her head, ringing off and smooth. It wasn’t unpleasant, because she was dreadfully bored.
Bored, bored, bored. She took a knife and sliced into the key of the keyboard, which she used to play music, and watched the surface heal itself instantly. It was a strange device – this organic electronic – because it was covered in scar tissue, and functioned like the electronics of old. But it was soft, and goopy. It didn’t leave stuff on your hand though.
She missed Gerry. She knew she would return to him one day, but it had to go that way, unless he entered the portal too.
She laid on her bed, which was carved from a giant spider. The fur on it was very soft. There was another spider that she had tamed, whose head poked through the wall. It wasn’t tamed in the traditional sense. She had fed it genetics that had hollowed out its body. The outside world was inhospitable and the spider’s digestive tract acted like a buffer, so she used it to pass letters outside. A robot would collect them.
Elyssa gave the keyboard some attention and then turned around, and noticed that the letter-spider was holding an envelope in its fangs. She ripped open the parchment and read the contents:
How are youu/. I’m a little drunjk but I liked thi letter I wrote you a few months ago and I want to send it anyways. I hop this isn’t going to them!
here’s the letter:
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says that it is not difficult to succeed in the world of men. At first I thought this was stupid but I’ve talked to you about the way that book affects me. I’m wondering, is it really easy? If I am successful in life – in a few years maybe – will that mean that life was merely success, disguised as decay? Which begs the question, do the people around me who fail or die miserably actually exist?
Elyssa sat down the letter and pondered while absentmindedly tapping the eyes of the genetically modified mail wall spider. She hummed and the keyboard heard her and hummed back. Lana was crazy. But craziness can be interesting and in all honesty, Elyssa loved adapting her mind to Lana’s reality. She was very prideful about her ability to do that but it was, of course, one of those secretive personality tricks she couldn’t convey appropriately (if not pretentiously).
She felt a neurosis crop up and felt the familiar option. Freak out, or settle into the natural reaction of not taking it seriously. She settled into the natural reaction, and then observed the neurosis. It subsided, a demon turned into a flower. An immense relief flowed from her abdomen; a stream like a field, spreading up into green and dark hollows hidden between each blade, but the light beckoning her.
Elyssa turned back to the letter and once again pondered a response. She thought of one:
I’m sorry, Jefferey got me in the habit of always giving advice so I’ll stay quiet. I like your idea. I’d like to say I’ve had the same thought.
Do you want to come over on Thursday?
Something like one hundred gentle hands were pulling Gerry, placing a slight strain on the rope. He could hear the echoes of whispers but they weren’t bad. This was his third experiment.
The second had taken place fifty years prior, and the first the day he had been deployed into the hut. The hands were running up his body, along his arms and hands and (gently) trying to pry them.
Gerry’s only fear of death was programmed. So his curiosity became very extreme sometimes. He missed his sister too. Elyssa…
The moon was shining behind the orbit of debris he had thrown around the portal before (drunkenly) deciding to experiment. It was very interesting looking. He realized the border he was about the breach. So he pulled himself back out of the portal.
His clothes were gone. They had been cut up and stripped off, yet his skin was unscathed by the beings on the other side. And there was writing, all over his body in tongues he didn’t know. There were drawings of himself, throwing goo at the portal. Pictures of clouds of thought sketched into his stomach. There was a drawing of Elyssa, with an eye perched above her nose.
The portal terrified him. He. Could. Not. Go. In.
Elyssa felt a presence. There were ghosts in her apartment.
“You know, “ Lana said. “You know, I do feel it…oh god. Do you think it’s a woman?”
“Yes,” replied Elyssa. “We always agree on the gender, don’t we?” They both silently acknowledged the meaninglessness of gender and both sides of that debate in their total, tragically equally valid glory.
Lana threw a piece of fried glop at the genetically modified mail wall spider, who snapped it up. Its torso was translucent so they both watched the food travel down its digestive track and get deposited in the trough of the mail robot. Lana reached her foot out in to the air and pressed the touch screen, for “Daryll”, and giggled while she watched the robot drive away with urgency.
“Do you ever want to kill yourself?” Lana whispered.
“Yes,” Elyssa replied. “Doesn’t everyone?”
“Well,” Lana replied. “There are levels of sadness. You know, in Buddhist thought they say that when a heavenly being realizes it isn’t immortal, its pain is greater than the pains in all of the hells. So I do think that when your soul is large enough, you can really want to kill yourself.”
“Yes,” Elyssa whispered. Then she thought for a second, and her smile broadened. “Wow that’s beautiful! That’s neat.”
Lana narrowed her eyes. “I read it somewhere?” she looked down. “It was certainly a book. Maybe Daryll said it to me.”
Elyssa was silent for a minute, while Lana was also silent. Then she looked up and said, “Have you figured out how to resist suicide?” to Lana.
Then it was strange because Lana, suddenly, gained an intimidating sense of personality. There was a glow. Elyssa knew it was an illusion; like a peacock’s frock. She also knew that by being aware of Lana’s glow, and exploring it with kind patience, it would turned into a flower.
And it did, when she allowed all of the doors to open, and she explored them with total acceptance and then quietly orbited back to the conversation.
“Lana?” Elyssa said.
“I don’t like it when you give advice like that,” she snapped. “You always do that, you act like you’re wise but I’ve seen you. I hate you! Fuck you! You know, I can’t believe you dated that faggot, Daryll…”
Elyssa tried to reposition herself to balance the energy but it was no use! Blast! There was a torrent going on but it was not raining outside; it was all happening in the little room they were in. Lana could be so evil.
200 years! 200 Years and they had taken his legs, they had actually slashed him. His face was pale and he could barely speak, he wasn’t bleeding because he was a machine but his legs were gone.
Elyssa was standing by the door and shouting at Lana. “Lana, when you get like this, I have to tell you to leave.”
Lana was standing before her, her face covered in goo. She had attacked Elyssa and slashed her arm, which was bleeding. Elyssa moaned and cursed her mortality. She thought of her brother, and loved him.
In self-defense, Elyssa had slapped Lana with the soft keyboard. In this strange world it was considered no big deal to kill an android. Elyssa, however, didn’t like killing them. So she stood by the door and groped at the odds. Lana, silently, rose and left. But not without grabbing the soft keyboard off of the table and feeding it to the spider, and punching in that dreaded address – the Spearheads – and hitting “send”.