The World as We Know It

Justin Lo



            The hallway wound about wildly, churning and flickering as its long beams rippled and crinkled in the wind.  But John still felt that rush of elation.

            gAre you sure this will work?h he asked his partner in anticipation, a large mouse scurrying parallel on an enormous cage-wheel made of smaller mice tied together tail-to-paw.

            gOf course it will work,h squeaked the mouse, vanishing from sight.  The dim green lights reached out at John, who quickly shielded his face with his arms.



            Marianna was a quiet, shy girl who had gorgeous silken hair but not the face to match.  She always sat in the back, her face ducked in such a way so that her hair would be the main focus of anyone who chanced to look at her.

            She seemed to be just a bit out of it at times, and this intrigued some of the more curious students in the classroom.

            gMarianna,h asked one boy who approached her at the beginning of lunch one day, the girl still hunched over at that desk, immobile, well past the sound of the school bell.

            gYes?h she replied without looking up.

            gWhat are you doing?h

            gSketching,h she said, pointing at her small leather-bound notebook with the ballpoint pen she was holding in her left hand.

            gWhatfs it of?h the boy asked.

            He worried if he was being too nosy, but Marianna didnft mind at all.  She was not shy out of introversion; she simply did not have the motivation to initiate a conversation.  And so she willingly laid the notebook out for the boy to see, and he took a seat nearby to avoid towering over the diminutive girl in such an inadvertently intimidating way.

            The page was filled with nonsensical abstractions, with scratchy marks vaguely suggesting objects, but even then, objects of utter inconsistency.

            gAbstract art?h offered the boy.

            gI guess you could call it that,h said Marianna.  gBut I donft really think so.  Just look around you.  What do you see?h

            The boy complied and answered: gChairs, students, posters, the ground, the sky, and a whole lot of other stuff.h

            gYeah.  But do you notice how everything seems to just c make sense?h she asked, looking at the boy directly for the first time.  Her hair fell out of the way, and her slightly crooked nose and asymmetrical eyes greeted the sunlight.  The boy was mildly surprised, but felt more of a strange attraction than repulsion.

            gWell yes, it makes sense.h

            gYeah, so look at that poster of there – the one of the tree.h

            gO-okay,h said the boy, unsure of where this would be heading.

            gNow look at me.h

            The boy turned his gaze back to Marianna.

            gWhere is the poster now?h

            gItfs still there on the wall c,h said the boy.

            gYes, even though youfre not looking at it right now, you know that it is still there, donft you?h

            gOf course.  Only a fool would think that just because he doesnft see something, it doesnft exist.h

            gGood, good.  And what about you?  Every day that you wake up – has there ever been one when you woke up and you were not who you expected to be?h

            gNo, Ifve always had this body,h said the boy.  gAnd it has changed gradually, but never with any surprises.h

            gHave you ever thought about why this world makes so much sense?  Why chemicals react the same way if you mix them the same way, why no human has twenty eyes, why a cat always meows but never barks?h

            gI suppose thatfs because like objects tend to act in like ways,h said the boy.

            gYes, and things out of the extraordinary are not only amazing c they also are almost always made up.  No person can fly, do you agree?h

            gYeah,h said the boy.

            gBut why would it be so great to fly?h

            gI suppose itfd be fun to see the world from another perspective.h

            Marianna shook her head.  gNo, itfs so great to fly because we canft.  Because wefre bounded, because wefre limited.  Because this world has rules and regulations, consistency and persistence.h



            gJust hang in there,h said the now-invisible mouse.

            The walls sank and then coursed into liquid, carrying John along a narrow canal as mountains and stars whizzed by.  He watched as passed through a few creatures on the same canal, he watched as the canal vanished and was replaced by an endless field of lavender and blue.

            Out of the ground flew a few twigs that spun around and then multiplied into a small hut.  This would be his final destination.



            gWhat are you getting at?h inquired the boy.

            gThis,h Marianna said, pointing at her picture.  gThese are objects no more extraordinary than the ones we see every day.  Here is a cow.  This is a desk.  This is a boy.  This is a girl.h  She began pointing out each object with her index finger, and the boy saw that he could not recognize them before not because of inaccuracies, but because they had been contorted or represented at bizarre perspectives or magnifications.

            gHavenft you ever seen anything like this before?h asked the girl.

            gUmm, not around, not recently,h admitted the boy.

            gI think you have,h said Marianna.  gOnce in awhile, when you fall asleep, right?h

            gI guess c some dreams have been this weird.  Like that time when a very sexy woman grew out from my light switch.  That was certainly odd.h

            Marianna smiled.  gI think I know the answer.h

            gThe answer to what?h

            gWhy this world is so ordinary, so regular.h

            gAnd why is that?h asked the boy.

            gBecause we made it this way.  You see, I think I finally understand.  A long time ago – I donft know exactly how long, because the ordinary passing of time here might be very misleading compared to real time – but a long time ago, I think our ancestors, in the real world somewhere, were fed up with a world of inconsistency and of senselessness.  And so one by one, they let themselves drift off to sleep.  Not any ordinary sleep, but a coma almost.  A coma in that world that would allow them to enter a collective consciousness in a virtual realm.

            gIt was a virtual realm governed by all the rules that they wished would exist so that they would not have to constantly live in worry or cope with sudden changes or lose everything they once had.h

            Marianna paused for a moment.

            gSo when they fall into a coma, they appear here?h

            gNot just appear,h said Marianna.  gThey are born.  Not really born, of course.  The real birth still happens there.h

            gBut if they spend all their time here, how do they have time to make new children there?h

            gFor everything like that – sustenance, childbirth – they have to go back.  And they do.  We do.  We just donft remember it, usually.h

            gThe dreams we forget?h asked the boy.

            gAnd the ones we remember, too,h said Marianna.  gAll of them.  But as well as we can, we try to purge all memories of our times in the real world, to live in comfort here.h

            The boy nodded and abruptly announced, gI should be moving on to lunch now, but thanks.  Itfs definitely an interesting idea youfve got there.h

            Marianna smiled.  She knew that he didnft believe her, but it didnft matter to her one bit.  No one had to believe her.  Because she was probably the only one in the whole world who, due to pure accident, could truly remember.



            John stepped into the house.

            gAnyone home?h

            gJust come right over here,h said a voice.

            John followed the voice that repeated itself periodically, always saying the same thing, followed it down a long, damp corridor until he arrived at a small bed.  Out of his pocket he pulled out his lucky leather-bound notebook.

            And he lay down, clutching the notebook, closing his eyes as he had been told at the very beginning of his journey.  Off he went, mind wandering, world growing hazy, and then he opened his eyes.  To Earth, the land of dreams.