Psychedelic science fiction story - "Zero Dimension"
This is a sequel to my last story, A Life-Altering Peyote Trip: A maybe-true science fiction story. It's better to read that story first to fully understand the context, however, this story can be read as a stand-alone piece.
If you prefer to listen, download the audio here or listen on YouTube here:
I remember having this argument with a friend once.
"Everything is relative," she said.
"Is it? Is it really?" I responded, aggressively. "What if your boss tells you 'I need these reports on my desk at 9 a.m. sharp tomorrow, or you'll be fired.' Is that relative?" I didn't think so.
Now I consider these scenarios: What if you put it on his desk at 9:01 a.m. - will you still be fired? What if the boss sleeps in till 11? What if he's sick and doesn't know what is or isn't on his desk? What if the office burns down or otherwise has to be evacuated, and nobody even gets a chance to look at their watches?
Perhaps everything is relative... Or maybe it just depends on your perspective.
Where I'm from
When people ask my age and where I'm from, I tell them I'm 32 and from Australia. That's what it says on my passport - at least, that's what I remember it saying last time I looked. But people tell me I look 27 or 28, and clean-shaven, 23-25. If I told people I was 22, they would probably believe it. People in Australia hear my voice and ask "Where in the States are you from?" or "Where in Canada are you from?" Once a merry fellow in a bar in my hometown asked me "Yerr not from Australia, are ya?" I told him I was from Sweden, and he said that he knew it all along.
Most people are aware that human memory is unreliable at best. If I forget to look at my passport, forget my age, forget where I'm from, and tell people whatever number or place comes into my mind, who is to say how old I really am, and where I am really from?
In the desert
"I hope I never have a trip that fucking weird again," I mumbled, lying by the fire in the middle of the desert in San Luis Potosí.
The previous night, I had had the experience of taking peyote for the first time, seeing strange lights in the sky, and eventually communicating telepathically with the intelligence behind the lights, a sort of interdimensional intelligence with a very different understanding of space and time. They had given me an unusual gift, as a token of their gratitude for the information I freely offered them, which, from my perspective, had gone back in time and changed the course of my entire adult life.
That was a difficult pill to swallow. Some plot twists in movies can leave you with your jaw gaping, forcing you to reinterpret every event in the movie in a different light. Imagine a plot twist which forced you to give a new context to everything you'd ever done.
I felt like my central nervous system had been rewired.
A rude awakening
A few weeks later, I woke up at around 3:00am, and instantly I happened to notice that I couldn't move my body. The odd thing was, it wasn't like normal sleep paralysis where everything seems fuzzy or where my vision seems vague. I could see everything clearly, think clearly. I started to attempt to move my hands. I knew that if I pushed my will hard enough I would be able to escape the paralysis. But then I thought no, best not do that right now.
I felt a presence in my room, and goosebumps start to spread all over my body. I thought great, I really don't need this tonight. What do you want, I thought.
Listen closely, for we don't have much time.
I quietened my mind and tried to focus.
The 'time-hole' won't stay open much longer. If you want to talk to us, it will have to be in the next couple of days. If not, you might have to wait 40 years before we can contact you again.
Okay... but there's really no way I can get out into the desert and take peyote in the next couple of days, I thought. I have stuff to do.
We have travelled from the edges of time to contact you.
I have these earthly things to do. I can't just up and leave, take a bus out into the desert in the middle of the night. I have responsibilities. I gave my word that I would be here... How long do we have?
Days, hours, minutes... We don't understand your Earth time.
That's a problem.
It is for your benefit that we are here.
I appreciate that, but... I just...
Very well. We understand. God be with you. I felt the emotion behind that soft, familiar sentiment.
I thought about something my friend Miscellaneous had said to me the day before. Miscellaneous is living as a Buddhist monk in Thailand, and so, he is not supposed to touch women at all. However, if he ever were to encounter a situation, for example, where a woman was trapped in a burning building, of course he would do everything he could to save her. If he didn't, he would be an asshole, with just this somewhat flimsy code of honour in his defence.
The point was: sometimes principles must be ignored, in favour of greater principles.
Sitting on my desk was a matchbox. In the matchbox, there was a piece of tin foil. In that piece of tin foil were approximately 375 µg of lysergic acid diethylamide, blotted onto three pieces of paper, each about half a centimetre across. I opened the matchbox.
Out of nowhere, I could suddenly hear a faint chorus of aliens chanting Take the medicine! Take the medicine!
Oh boy, I thought. I really don't want to do this.
I messaged a friend of mine from high school, whom I knew had extensive experience in unusual situations.
"Hey buddy, are you around? I want to ask you a bizarre question"
«I'm just about to start work, but I have a moment.»
"Alright." I explained the situation. "But I also have work over the next few days, so I'm not really sure if I want to take what might be a twelve hour trip. Any ideas? Assuming the alien is real that is."
«If I were in your shoes, assuming I got a positive feeling from the entity, I would do it. You might feel much clearer after taking the psychedelic, if that's what you're worried about. I think this kind of connection to different intelligences is important to future growth. Happy travels.»
"Right. The thing I'm concerned about is cancelling the interviews I had scheduled today... But I guess greater things are at stake here."
I opened up the foil and put the tabs under my tongue.
"This is fucking nuts. I hope it works."
«I hope you find what you're looking for. Not many people can converse on these topics. You've got balls man. Have fun, and be your awesome self.»
"Thanks for your kind words. I'm pretty sure i haven't crossed the line from courageous into ridiculous, but right now taking acid on the advice of interdimensional beings, it's easy to feel like I might be crazy."
«We both know crazy is an overused term, usually to encourage dismissal without investigation or consideration. This topic fully deserves investigation and consideration; I think we are learning that its an inner investigation and a personal shedding that leads to these contacts. Trust your nature. If you need to chat through something or it gets rough let me know.»
"Thanks man, that makes a lot of sense. We have to have a kind of 'scientific' attitude towards these things... Look at the evidence when we can."
A specific locale
You need to go out the door.
What are you saying?
You need to go out of the door.
I put on my white counterfeit Nikes. They were rather dirty, and the canvas at the back was torn.
I descended to the street, and started walking around. Now what, I thought.
Go to the park.
I walked, and passed a black four wheel drive, parked in the middle of the street, with its lights still on.
I went to the park by Jesús García, the next street over. In the middle of the park is a rather large red rotunda.
It's not big enough, not clear enough. Find something bigger.
On the side of the park is a taxi rank. I have no idea why there's a 24 hour taxi rank in the middle of a quiet suburb like Santa Tere, but there it is, was, has always been. The taxista at the front was wide awake.
"Excuse me, do you know any big parks close to here?"
«Sure... There's Parque Rojo on Federalismo. There's always a lot of movement around there.»
"Hm... that's not going to work. Are there any others you can think of which would be quieter?"
«Not really, not around here.»
"Any that are farther away?"
«No, no, not that I can think of.»
"Hm... okay. Thank you."
I walked around the corner, turning back a few times, very unsure of what I was going to do.
Find a big park. The stadium.
The black four-wheel drive passed by a few streets away. I'm not sure why, but I didn't want to be anywhere near it.
A taxi drove past me, and I felt my right arm twitching.
You were supposed to stick your arm out.
Oops. By the time I stuck my finger out, the taxi was about three blocks away. I ran over.
"Are you still available?" It was the same taxi driver from before.
«Sure. Where to?»
"How much to Estadio Jalisco?"
I got in.
Why had he driven three blocks just to park in front of a house? Never mind.
I made conversation with the taxi driver, telling him about where I was from, what I did. I could feel my central nervous system, and I was peripherally aware of his central nervous system. I thought, as uncomfortable as I am, as strange as this situation is, in this moment it is my responsibility to make sure he is comfortable. I asked about his kids and he told me about their studies.
"I'm sorry if I appear strange. I'm having a very strange night."
"I woke up in the middle of the night with a very odd feeling. So I need to go somewhere green to think."
«It happens to all of us some times. There are a lot of green areas near Estadio Jalisco, lots of trees around.»
"Good... so it must be the right place."
I got out of the cab a few blocks from the stadium.
«Walk in the middle of the road,» said Fermín.
«Because that's where it's well-lit.»
"Oh. Of course. Thank you."
Buy some water.
I was right next to a pharmacy. I bought a litre.
I started walking north and checked my map. There was a green area marked on the map about a block away from the stadium. That's it, I thought. It was little more than a very large nature strip, with a sculpture in the middle.
I crossed the road.
Mind the organism.
"Mind the organism," I repeated. I remembered the state I was in, and looked around carefully to make sure a car wasn't about to run into me, crossed again, and walked up onto the grass.
The idea is to sit here and meditate.
"Okay, great. I can do that."
In the hours to come, sometimes I would hear and see things in my head, and sometimes I would hear my own voice, speaking out loud, explaining some things to me.
The beauty of existence
I sat down, crossed my legs, and put my water bottle in front of me.
Have a look at this.
I looked at the grass, and though it was still dark, it suddenly seemed that the grass was illuminated by a noon sun, that daffodils had sprouted from the ground, that butterflies were circling around and birds were chirping.
"That's cool, but it's just a visual effect. I came here looking for something deep."
My own voice responded: «But what if the depth is in the beauty?»
I looked again, and I saw that the answer to the question was obvious. Contained within the instant was an intrinsic majesty, a holy and whole perfection that was indicative of the completeness of existence.
Every time throughout the conversation if things got a little too over-the-top or emotional, I would hear my own voice say «The beauty of existence. Look at the beauty of existence,» and there I would be, focusing again, my mind encompassed by the glory.
'Marveling at the beauty of existence' or 'Admiring the glory of God' are codewords. When you hear someone say these things, you will know what they mean.
«Let me tell you a joke.» Here.
I got it.
"Wait, the joke is that all this was put here, my entire life leading up to this moment in exactly this sequence of events, all of these ideas, memories and sense impressions that comprise my life, were just a set up for this punchline: I'm here to tell you that your entire life was a set-up for this punchline?"
I laughed. "Okay, that's a good one."
Reality is a poem - every piece of it finely made, every single petal, every leaf, every breath, perfectly placed to match the perfect metre and cadence to formulate a sequence of events to show you the full gravity of this idea: I love you.
Reality is a love poem - from us, by us, for us, eclipsing and encompassing us.
My voice said «It has about half a litre of water. This organism will be fine here; it will be sustained. This organism will not require food for 24 hours or more. It can stay here for hours. It can stay here all day if necessary.»
At certain points during the conversation, I would become concerned that someone was listening, or looking at me strangely, or I was paranoid about something going wrong in my apartment. «Don't worry, everything has been arranged. We have taken care of everything.»
You did this
«This is great; this is just great what you've done here! Look at this!» My hand reached out and touched the grass.
«Feel it! It's just... it's really something! You ought to be proud of yourself!»
"I'm not really sure I can take all the credit here..."
«Oh, don't be so humble! It's not like you've done something so small. This is GREAT! This is incredible - you can hear, you can smell, touch, taste, feel! Everything! It's amazing! Every moment of it is simply amazing, and so are you! You did it! You did this! You made this!»
"I made this? All of this? What about the friendsh..."
«THAT'S THE BRILLIANT PART. THE FRIENDSHIPS YOU MADE ARE ALL REAL! THEY'RE REAL! REAL FRIENDSHIPS WITH REAL PEOPLE WITH REAL EMOTIONS AND OH MY SHITTING JESUS FUCKING CHRIST DO YOU REALISE HOW GREAT THIS IS??? THEY'RE FUCKING REAL!»
I remain skeptical about this voice's claim about who is responsible for the universe. However, the parts about the senses being amazing I agree with 100% - especially scents. Smell a cup of coffee, some basil or spearmint, inhale deeply, and you will immediately know that you are alive. You will experience the beauty of existence.
«I know you like researching conspiracy theories. Let me tell you about the biggest one: reality.»
«Reality is a conspiracy. They want you to believe that everything is sort of fixed and permanent, unable to be changed, that the rules remain the same. But it's not objectively true. Nothing is objectively true. It's just that you're all dreaming the same dream.
«They try to make out that there's something out there that can stop you, that there is something bad out there. Stay in your lane, stick to your job, be normal, whatever, don't travel, it's scary out there. But it's actually fine. It's all just shadows on the cave walls. There's no bogeyman out there.»
"What about death?"
«Death is 'real', but not in the way you conceive of it.»
Breaking the law
I remember at one point I became hysterical, shouting, laughing, crying, or I don't know what.
«Settle down,» my voice said in a hushed tone. «If you keep carrying on like that, you're going to attract the attention of the authorities.»
"I wasn't aware we were doing anything illegal."
«Of course it's illegal. You know very well people don't like it when you break the laws of their governments - imagine how they feel about you breaking the laws of their reality. If anyone holds power over you, they're going to make you think that the good stuff is illegal, that it's immoral. They don't like it.»
«Have a look at this.»
This is my best translation of what I saw next:
By presenting a certain two-dimensional figure to your left eye, and a certain two-dimensional figure to your right eye, we can create the illusion of a three-dimensional image.
By presenting two one-dimensional figures, we can create the illusion of a second dimension, an illusion of width.
By presenting two zero-dimensional figures, we can create the illusion of one dimension, the illusion of distance.
Right now, if you look at yourself, your jacket, your jeans, you will have ideas about yourself - memories and other thoughts. You have the impression of time, the impression of a fourth dimension. But it is just an impression.
Walking along the street, you have the impression that you were a moment ago, a few centimetres behind where you are now, and in a few seconds, you will be a little ways ahead. However, that is no more evidence of time than drawing an arrow or speed lines onto a cartoon is evidence that the cartoon is moving.
Time is an illusion. Space is an illusion. Depth, width, length are all illusions.
Or, to put it another way, things are only as real as you think they are.
«It's all just information. When you make money, you assume the money you receive is more or less proportional to the effort you put in, or the value someone received from it. But money is just information. The bits stored on a computer about how much money you have. The bills in your pocket. They don't really exist; they're just a perspective; they're just one way of seeing things.
«If you have a computer program, a game with many objects... If you want to remove an object from the game, does that require energy? Does it require effort or skills proportional to the complexity of the object? What if you want to add it back again? What if you want to duplicate it?»
I remembered in the first Diablo game, how easy it was to duplicate objects, due to a glitch.
"You're saying there's a sort of 'cheat code' to reality."
«Oh no, it's not a 'cheat code'. There's no 'cheating' involved. It's just the way things are. It's not cheating to use the rules of the game to your advantage.»
"It seems a little unfair that someone should be able to receive something with essentially no effort."
«That's where they've got you. It's in the interest of certain powers to make it seem like there's something holding you back, that everything isn't available to you right now.»
"How do I know that this isn't some sort of trick? How do I know you're not manipulating me into signing some sort of Faustian pact?"
«Would you look at this? Try to give a human some knowledge and you see the stuff that they come back with. Try to tell it that all its dreams are possible, and more, and it comes back with this paranoid bullshit. Look at it. It can't even stay still. It's in a constant state of discomfort. What good does it do even talking to it?»
It's no good. It's never going to get this.
"Come on, give me a chance," I said. "It's supposed to take an average of three times for a human to be exposed to an idea, for it to sink in. Can we try looking at it another way?"
«You have a name, an impression of what you look like, an address, a backstory. And you assume those things have some reality, some gravity, that they mean something, that they are indicative of a continuous and stable reality.»
I started to look down at my jeans, my jacket, I remembered who I was and what I'd done.
«It's not like that.»
I persisted, attempting to cling on to some fragment of who I thought I was, what I had done over the preceding hours, my work, the songs I had written. "But I am real."
The response was immediate: «No.»
Suddenly, I wasn't very sure who I was.
«You assume those things are permanent, and they are in that respect - of your assumption.»
But, from another perspective, all those things are mere details. Details can be changed. Details can be changed in less than an instant. They can be changed without even the necessity of time.
I was transported to a realm outside of time, looking down on several lives at once, all equally me, and all equally not me, just floating pieces of data, capsules of information which contained entire life stories.
Then I was back in my body. Or at least, a body.
«Look around you. You think you're limited to this body? It's all just consciousness. Look at that flower. Would you like to experience life as a flower?»
My consciousness entered the flower. I can't remember anything of what it was like; I suppose because it is so different from human consciousness.
«You think time exists here? This night could go on forever. We could sit here forever. The sun would never come up.»
A couple of thoughts
The sun came up, and the communication was about over. I lay back on the grass, and looked up at the sky. Everything was an expression of love - everything. Even the things we think of as the worst of this world - death, destruction, violence - everything. Of course, not that I considered that a good reason to start doing those things.
A couple of final thoughts floated into my brain.
Just go out there and have a good time. Do what makes you happy. Enjoy life. Smell things, taste things. Be who you want to be.
And buy some new shoes. I mean... it's your trip and you can play it however you like, but heavens... why would you want to wear those? You've got money. Buy some new fucking shoes.
Lying down on the grass, I felt like I had been beamed down from some distant constellation, to this Earth freshly made for me.
I stood up and crossed the road, where there was a taxi waiting, with a cholo in the driver's seat.
"How much to Santa Tere?"
«It's uhh... Well, that is ahh, like um... it's ahh... It's by the meter.»
"But how much would it be?"
«Ahh... 90 pesos.»
This is a dream, I thought. That's why he couldn't respond about how much it would be to Santa Tere. Does Santa Tere even exist in this dream?
I got in, and the taxi went up, down, left and right, stopped at traffic lights which never turned green and went down roads which never ended. Was I in Mexico City? Or Guadalajara? Or just a dream city, that appeared to combine the two?
After jumping out of the taxi, harassing and hugging a few strangers, telling them I was from the stars, becoming desperate and believing that I had come back to the wrong reality, a reality where not I nor my friends existed, my Uber arrived, and I finally made it home.
I wrote a message to a friend over Skype, and explained to him a few things about the night.
"I'm never doing that again," I typed. "If an extraterrestrial intelligence wants to contact me, they need to notify me in advance."
I lay down on my bed, and curled up into a ball. Once again, I felt like my central nervous system had been rewired.
Around 5pm, I unlocked the bike from the station, and hopped on. My muscles seemed to know exactly what to do, but I got the impression that the action was something entirely new for me. It was like I had never ridden a bicycle before, but knew exactly how to do it.
I walked around the marketplace at San Juan de Dios, looking for for some new shoes, a wallet, and some other things.
I picked up a nice leather wallet, with a sort of flesh tone to it.
«Hey man, how are you? Where are you from?» said the fellow at the stall.
I paused for a moment. "I'm from... Australia."
He chuckled. «Very nice my friend. This is a nice wallet. Pure leather, very durable. We can mark it for you, with your name or some special words.»
"Oh. Make it say 'Estrellas'."
"It's a name?"
"No, it's more like... a code." To help me remember.
When people ask me where I'm from, I tell them Australia. When they ask how old I am, I tell them 32. But both feel like lies. The truth is, I am from beyond the stars, and I am from beyond time.