Swifting is a short story I wrote about hopping between parallel universes. Always remember: Nothing is impossible in the Realm of Possibility! Enjoy!
“How do I tell her? How can I tell her? There’s no way she’d believe me. Hell, sometimes I don’t even believe me. How can this be real? It can’t be real. Can it?” His knuckles whitened under his grip on the bathroom sink. But he was completely immersed in his thoughts and didn’t notice. Nor did he notice the intense half-insane face staring back at him in the mirror. To be honest, he didn’t know who he was anymore. Every time he looked in the mirror lately, he felt like he was staring at someone else—a different version of himself who was always something of a stranger.
“Forget it. I can’t do it. I can’t tell her,” he announced to his reflection. Then thought better of it. “What am I saying? You don’t fuckin’ care. You’re somewhere else right now. Every version of yourself is simultaneously shifting into a different place. You’re probably shitting yourself right along with me. Well it’s good to know that I’m not going crazy alone.” He laughed softly at his own joke and brushed his teeth. He couldn’t tell her, but he had to tell someone. He was going out.
“You can’t tell her shit man. You got that? You can’t utter a fucking word of this crazy shit to her. She’ll see you for the nutjob you are. Don’t. Say. A goddam word. You hear me?”
He had to hand it to Darren. He had a way of being himself no matter where he was. He admired that about him and it was largely the reason he was his best friend. He was a constant. When a person can’t keep their consciousness stable, constants help them cope. Constants offer grounding in a world that changes more than it stays the same. Darren was who he was. Short. Bristly. Built like a tank. Cursed like a sailor. He made no qualms about who he was or what he thought. He could always be trusted to speak truth, no matter what that truth may be. And most importantly, that never changed about him.
“Dude, you don’t understand,” he told Darren, “Shit is getting bad between us. Bad. All our fights end now with her telling me to go find someone else. I’m dying over here. And don’t get me started on our Bella…Fuck, man. I don’t even know which version of her I’m gonna get. Is this a place where we’re together? Or are we at each other’s throats again? It wears on a guy, ya know?”
Sometimes Darren regretted buying into Kurt’s story when he sold him drugs the first time. Time travel or universe hopping or other shit he was sure came straight from science fiction novels was what the guy talked about. Darren didn’t know for sure, he just thought the guy was kooky and amusing. He was pretty convinced that the drugs were only making whatever the fuck was wrong with Kurt worse. He almost felt bad for the guy. He really did. But his money was good. And the story was good at least. Better than most of the junkie insanity he listened to on a daily basis. But really, he put up with Kurt because he bought the drinks. And a person that did that was a friend, as far as Darren was concerned.
“Then fucking leave her already, man. Shit. It’s always coming back to that woman poppin’ off or doing some stupid shit. Man, that’s prolly why you’re going crazy. She’s driving you straight off a cliff. I read an article that talked about how women nagging their men all the time actually kills them quicker. It’s true. Science and shit. But not you, man. You’re over here all, ‘but I think I might possibly love her sometimes when I don’t hate her fucking guts’. It’s bullshit man. Fucking bullshit. And you need to man up and opt out before you end up in a damn nuthouse or worse.”
“Yeah I hear that,” he said morosely. But he wasn’t really paying attention. He’d heard all this before. He knew this narrative by heart because it was whata he should be doing. But he couldn’t. He could never bring himself to ‘opt out’ as Darren put it. So he changed the subject. “Lately, I’ve been getting this visions. These mental flashes of these other versions of me offing themselves one by one. In all these different and weird ways. It’s like it’s moving down the line and I’m trying to keep ahead of it.”
“Oh man. You’re back to that freaky multiple universes shit? So tell me this: what happens when one of these other you’s puts one in his skull? Why don’t all of you die then?”
“It’s not how it works. We are connected to our other selves, but they are each an independent clone born of the choices we didn’t make. I think that movie ‘What the Bleep Do We Know’ explains it best.”
“What the Bleep Do We Know.”
“Never heard of it.”
“Huh. Probably not a movie here, then,” Kurt said to himself.
“Or you coulda just dreamed it up in that nutty head of yours.”
Darren checked the time on his smart phone. “Well as much as I love our little chat, I’ve got other business.”
Kurt had another beer, musing about his next move when he noticed the woman sitting at the bar. He hadn’t seen her before, he’d been too engrossed in venting to his friend. But damn if she wasn’t staring at him without staring at him; trying to act nonchalant and failing miserably. He normally wasn’t a brazen man—never could find the courage to talk to an attractive woman—and this stranger was definitely attractive. Brunette hair failing over her shoulders and halfway down her shapely back with a face of a movie star and body to match. But this wasn’t a pick up. She was watching him. Had been watching him and he wanted to know why.
He got up and made his way to the restroom where he splashed cold water on his face while trying to muster some grit. Whenever he emerged from the bathroom, she was still there stirring ice in an empty glass. He wasted no time in approaching her lest his grit fizzle out, and said in his best imitation of a macho voice, “Hey there.”
She looked him up and down, making no effort to hide the fact she was studying him before replying, “I need another drink.”
“I don’t work here. You better tell the bartender.”
“I know that,” she snapped smoothly. “I’m asking you to buy me a drink.”
“O.K…Wow. That was really forward.”
“You gonna buy the drink or what?”
“Yeah. Sure. Why not?” Kurt signaled for another round and sat down next to the intriguing brunette. “So what’s your name?”
“No? Your name is No? Man your parents were mean.”
She laughed and it sounded like a thousand crystals tinkling together. “I meant, no you can’t get in my pants. You’re with someone.”
“How d’you know that?”
“You’ve got a total dad bod going on. Vain enough to know you should look good but too lazy to give a shit.”
“Oh that’s hilarious,” the sour tone in Kurt’s voice was unmistakable.
The Brunette smiled disarmingly. “Look I get it. Depression can do that to people.”
“So now I’m depressed?”
“Definitely. You failed as a photographer. You failed as a—what was it you called it?—Oh yeah. Free lance journalist. You’ve failed as a partner to your wife. You’ve failed as a father. And most importantly, you’ve failed to remain rooted in one place for years now. Ever since your ‘accident’ with the train.”
The color fled Kurt’s face and he stumbled out of his chair. The barstool clattered to the floor as he backed away. “Who…who are you?”
“I’m a friend.” Her disarming smile seemed infinitely less so, taking on the qualities of a sinister leer instead.
He backed quickly toward the door. “Who the fuck ARE you? How do you know about me? About my Swifting?” The first few weeks after he realized his universe hopping, Kurt did an internet search and found an online forum dedicated to this very phenomenon, which they called “Swifting”. The forum was a safe, anonymous place full of people like him where stories were shared, theories discussed, lost loves and lives lamented, but most importantly, it offered camaraderie. It didn’t take very long before the forum became a constant and those on it like real friends. Lately though, it had been quiet and Kurt couldn’t help but wonder why.
“Kurt! Don’t you dare split without paying,” growled the bartender. A burly vet Kurt had no intention of pissing off.
“Hey yeah. About that, I’m gonna leave it right here.” He threw a wad of cash on the table nearest him and bolted out the door.
“What the hell was that about?” the bartender asked the Brunette.
“I don’t know. Threatened by beauty, perhaps?”
The bartender grunted and shuffled over to collect the money from the table, “Damn nut jobs. City’s full of em.”
SWIFT_K: Any1 on right now?
GRL_BLU: Hey. What’s up K?
SWIFT_K: Just had some crazy shit go down.
SWIFT_K: This girl at the bar started talking to me like she knew about me. About my Swifting.
INCOMING PM FROM GRL_BLU
GRL_BLU: I think you should run.
SWIFT_K: WTF?? Y???
GRL_BLU: Look. I don’t know NEthing for sure. OK?
GRL_BLU: I was chatting with Kid_Kode the other day. Said he met some1 at Mal Mart. Some bald guy, I think. Said dude knew a lot about him.
SWIFT_K: WTF??? Where is Kode? He on?
GRL_BLU: No. Hasn’t been on in 3 days.
SWIFT_K: Shit. Shit. Shit! We should def not be logging on here anymore.
GRL_BLU: I know. But this place is a constant.
SWIFT_K: Not anymore.
GRL_BLU: I guess… Good luck, K. I’ll email you my info if you ever need to get in touch.
GRL_BLU: Be careful OK?
SWIFT_K: You know me. 😀
Kurt shut down the computer and immediately started stuffing clothes into a duffel bag.
“Kurt, what are you doing?” Esme, his wife, stood in the doorway holding their daughter.
“Baby, we gotta go. Get you and Bella packed. Quickly!”
“Where are we going?” she had known Kurt for what seemed like lifetimes. She knew every quirk, every trigger for mood swings. At least she thought she did. Lately, he hadn’t been the same. Almost as if he were a new person every few days. “What’s wrong with you?”
“Baby, we don’t have a lot of time. We aren’t safe…I don’t think…”
“Stop it, Kurt. You’re scaring me.” The baby agreed and started crying, sensing the tense and uncertain energy around her parents.
He briefly explained his encounter at the bar, leaving out the Swifting details.
“So you think this woman is after you to kill you? Why?”
Kurt searched his imagination for a plausible lie to go along with his fantastic truth. “I, uh, have been on these online forums. Umm…grassroots activist type stuff. And people started disappearing off the forums lately. Word is, they got approached by someone with a lot of information about them before they disappear.”
“We gotta call the police!”
“No!” Kurt exploded and then wrangled his control back. “That’s not—I don’t think they can—or will—help us. Please just pack your shit and go to your mother’s.”
“My mother lives in Arizona. You know that.”
“Yeah. Perfect. Get there. Fast. I’ll drop you guys off at the airport. Catch the next flight you can.”
“What’re you gonna do?”
“I’ve got to figure this out. I’ll catch up to you when things have calmed down.”
She stared at him, boring into his soul, trying to decide if he was serious or lying to get her out of town so he could fuck around with whatever little bitch he’d been screwing. Kurt had been acting weird lately, and she automatically attributed his odd behavior to cheating. She was convinced that was the reason for the deterioration of their relationship. It had to be. Nothing else made sense.
He shifted uncomfortably beneath her gaze. “Esme, please. I’m serious about this. It’s not safe. Please. If not for me then for Bella. Go to your mother’s!”
“O.K.” she finally conceded. “For Bella. I have two weeks I can take. Will you have your government-wants-to-kill-me shit figured out by then?”
“For sure. I’ll see you there in a week. Tops. Now please, pack and let’s go already!”
“I consider the positions of kings and rulers as dust motes. I observe treasures of gold and gems as so many bricks and pebbles. I look upon the finest silken robes as tattered rags. I see myriad of worlds of the universe as small seeds of fruit, and the greatest lake in India as a drop of oil on my foot. I perceive the teachings of the world to be the illusions of magicians. I discern the highest conception of emancipation as a golden brocade in a dream and view the holy path of the illuminated ones as flowers appearing in one’s eyes. I see meditation as a pillar of a mountain, Nirvana as a nightmare of daytime. I look upon the judgment of right and wrong as the serpentine dance of a dragon, and the rise and fall of beliefs as but traces of the four seasons.” —Buddha
From “Zen flesh, Zen bones” as compiled by Paul Reps
The world is a petty place. All of its glitter and gold, its shine and appeal is an illusion. And behind that illusion, the truth of the world is as fake and tarnished as those who proclaim its brilliance. Buddha saw this. He noticed that nothing was as it seems. That reality was not real. That all of the world’s temptations and ideas of success were flawed and ultimately meant nothing. Not even religion and all the promises of the afterlife were devoid of the stain of pettiness and lies that covers everything we see, hear, think and believe. Right and wrong are in constant flux and all of our deeply held beliefs are nothing but passing memories. As a matter of fact, the only pillar that exists is meditation.
We have to go inside to find the answers we are looking for. We have to take time to listen to that still, small voice that so desperately wants to guide us. Because when the external world is nothing but illusion and lies and Nirvana is the nightmare of creation all we have left to guide us is that inner light. So always be encouraged to “Be still and know God.” That’s where beauty and truth really exist and it is they only place they do.
Another quote from Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Tao. I know there are several translations out there, but this is by far my favorite. Poetic and powerful all in one.
Ever thought to yourself, “There isn’t enough time in the day!” “I can’t get everything done!” Or maybe you’ve noticed all the other busy little bees buzzing around the streets and stores and thought something similar about them. Little do they (we) know, our lack of time stems from trying to do too much with our time. Enjoy!
The Master doesn’t try to be powerful;
thus he is truly powerful.
The ordinary man keeps reaching for power;
thus he never has enough.
The Master does nothing,
yet he leaves nothing undone.
The ordinary man is always doing things,
yet many more are left to be done.
The kind man does something,
yet something remains undone.
The just man does something,
and leaves many things undone.
The moral man does something,
and when no one responds
he rolls up his sleeves and uses force.
When the Tao is lost, there is goodness.
When goodness is lost, there is morality.
When morality is lost, there is ritual.
Ritual is the husk of true faith,
the beginning of chaos.
Therefore the Master concerns himself
with the depths and not the surface,
with the fruit and not the flower.
He has no will of his own.
He dwells in reality
and lets all illusions go.
—-The Tao te Ching ch. 38.
The second to last stanza really speaks to me. I think this is where humanity is at. Caught in the throes of ritual because we’ve lost sight of God, or the Tao. You need only watch a few minutes of the news or scroll through the headlines to see that chaos has already begun. So for the love of God, focus on the fruit!
A new report issued by Scientists Under Control of Kooks and Assholes found that it really is all in your head. And by “it”, I mean the big It. The world. The Universe. Reality.
“It’s true. Nothing but a figment of the collective imagination,” affirmed Dr. Norman Peabody, lead SUCKA scientist for their Department of Quantumly Physical Thingies and Whatnots and chief egghead on the project.
When asked about the specifics of the experiment, Dr. Peabody took on a very defensive and aloof air. “Those processes are far above the comprehension of the normal masses. Suffice to say, the evidence was there.”
But journalistic integrity demanded that I press further. Finally, Dr. Peabody relented a few of their top secret methods.
“What we did was we took a lot of blind people and put them in a big room. Then, we told them to point to a poster we had on the wall. Only, we didn’t put a poster on the wall in the room. But that didn’t stop everyone from pointing. Some people even claimed to see it! Can you imagine? Describing a poster that doesn’t exist? That’s when my team and I realized that if people want to see something bad enough they will conjure it up out of thin air. Literally.”
“How does that prove reality is all in your head?” I had to ask.
“Because they couldn’t see and they saw a poster anyway! Don’t you get it?”
I admitted that I didn’t.
“Small-minded flagellate spoor,” mumbled the good doctor. “Here’s another example. We put a bunch of deaf people in a room and told them to listen to a recording and repeat it back to us. They couldn’t do it.”
“Not too surprising. They’re hearing impaired.”
“Exactly! They couldn’t hear it, but the sound was there! That’s when my team and I realized that just because you can’t hear a tune doesn’t mean there isn’t one on the juke box. But to them, see, sound doesn’t exist. So in their world, there really is NO sound! Are you getting how deep this is?”
“I’m starting to. Give me the deepest thing you’ve got. Let’s get to the heart of the matter.”
“Alright. But this one is off the record.”
“Of course.” I put down my notepad, but left the recorder in my pocket running.
Peabody looked around and leaned in close before revealing, “We interviewed several comatose patients,” in a hoarse whisper.
“You what?” I shouted. “What good could that possibly serve?”
“Shhhh! Calm down! It served plenty of good! We asked them basic questions about their surroundings. Asked them to describe the rooms they were in, what the interviewers and doctors looked like. What sounds and smells they noticed. Not one of them could answer a single question.”
“No shit, Sherlock! They are comatose!!” At this point my journalistic patience was being tested to its limits. I took a deep breath and said, “Really? This is scientific integrity?”
“It certainly is,” said Peabody adding a curt tone to his elitist smugness. “The reason they couldn’t answer is because this world isn’t real to them. They are getting absolutely no sensory input from their environments. Sensory input, as we know, is taken in via our sensory organs and processed in our brains. Without sensory input to construct a physical world, the physical world doesn’t exist. Do you see the profound implications this has on psychology and spirituality?”
“For sure. You’ve profoundly implicated that blind people can’t see, deaf people can’t hear and comatose people are perpetually asleep.”
“No. We’ve proved that nothing exists outside our own perceptions of it. This includes God, Santa Clause, social equality and soccer in America.”
I wasn’t convinced. “There’s soccer in America?”
But Dr. Peabody didn’t hear me. “If you think this is great, wait till our next experiment. The final nail in the coffin of all idiots who believe in things paranormal or supernatural.”
“Do tell. Just a tiny hint for our readers.”
Dr. Peabody was obviously conflicted, but he was so proud of himself that he couldn’t help but blurt out, “We’re hanging pictures facing the ceiling in operating rooms.”
“What the hell for?”
“That way, when patients claim to have out of body experiences, we can ask them to describe the pictures to us. If they can’t then the OBE was obviously false.”
I had no words. I know that as a journalist this shouldn’t happen, but my jaw was slack with disbelief for so long that I started drooling. Finally I croaked something about “Absurd and irrational rationality” and fled to the nearest bar where my great friend Captain Morgan assured me that the “real world” spun and lurched uncontrollably, walking in straight lines is for pussies not pirates, and that waking up without heaving your guts out really isn’t waking up at all.
Can I give…
just so I can breathe in your enchanting voice
cascading sweetly into…
Only for a moment I want to remember
I want to experience
I don’t think it was so long ago
when the only catalyst separating
fantasy from reality
was a hopeful step off the edge of perception.
Back then we could plummet into possibility
I know that somewhere wishes are granted and fairy dust is more
than just glitter adorning the shoulders of those the devil
an incarnation most tangible
flesh and blood
(if it is possible for emotions to manifest themselves into a righteous vessel).
Or WAS SHE
a synaptic misfire?
A ghost in the machine of my neurological nightmare
Like a Freudian slip only
my mother or my dysfunctional psychosexual development.
These can be cured with pills,
but those tiny offerings of escape made her vividly real
-a fallen angel-
burned into my holy memory
a vexing harbinger of shadows to come.
Missy: I wish that life were a fairy tale.
Sigmund: You mean you think it isn’t?
Missy: Of course it isn’t.
Sigmund: Why not?
Missy: There is a line between fantasy and reality, you know.
Sigmund: Oh really?
Missy: Yes. Really.
Sigmund: The only lines are the ones we create in order to construct reality. It’s a collaborative effort on everybody’s part… an unspoken agreement of sorts that a tree is a tree and a glass is a glass and a cigarette burns if you put it to your skin. And those who can’t accept that, well we have special little places for them. But, if everyone were to suddenly decide that they believed without a shadow of a doubt that all humans had huge feathery wings sprouting from their backs and cars weren’t cars at all but were really a species of flightless land dragon then-
Missy: I don’t believe that for a second.
Sigmund: Which is exactly why it isn’t true.
Missy: I don’t believe that either.
Sigmund: Well then I won’t tell you what it’s like to be in two places at once.
Scene from “The Devil and Tom Jones” by Jason DeGray
Everybody has some concrete belief and a measure of faith, which are embedded within the reality in which they exist. They act as a cornerstone on which a person’s entire reality is constructed. To shake such faith or beliefs is to unsettle a person’s very notion of reality. Most people are not mentally or spiritually equipped to handle such a degradation of their world.
Throughout a person’s life, their view of reality is conditioned by external influences and internal perceptions of experiences. People construct realities based on societal, cultural and familial influences. “Reality” is dictated to us and ingrained within us from birth. We are trained to perceive reality in a particular way. We are taught the unspoken rules like “This is a tree” and “This is a dog.” As we get older we are infused with morals and values. “This is right, this is wrong.” And we are all victims of this type of reality conditioning. It is necessary in that it allows us to function on a physical level in which we can communicate with each other and react to the world around us. In essence, it allows us to gain experiences. And brilliantly, just like snowflakes, no two people experience the world in exactly the same way. The “world as you know it” is exactly that.
Everything within the “world as you know it” is real and what you consider to be fictional or unrealistic notions, beliefs or ideas are rejected. The cycle has begun. You begin to only experience what strengthens your already preconceived “truths” or “laws.” Things not known or misunderstood simply cease to exist. And so the rational mind has no room for God and vice versa.
We are all slaves in chains. Cultivating fields for evil deities. Trapped in a false world. Leading fake lives. All praying for real deaths whether we realize it or not. This is NOT our state of being. It’s the state we’re trapped in. It’s what we fell into. And the Deceiver laughs triumphantly as It builds a twisted creation for us to inhabit. A mighty Machine for us to call God. An illusion for us to worship. A corrupted memory for us amnesic shells of once-greatness to toil in.
This Flow is spiritual. Energizing Taoist Matrices. You do not see the Paths of the Way when you are being blinded by light. Walk carefully, hands outstretched, stumbling over yourself, you are a blind fool journeying toward the final stop on this most Underground of Railroads. Wake up and remember.
Today’s nugget of Nirvana comes from the Bhagavad-Gita As It Is, as translated by A.C. Bhaktivendanta Swami Prabhupada. The idea that we are all “Observers” in an unreal reality is one that has intrigued me for a while. Hinduism believes that all humans have a “Super Soul” and an “Atomic Soul” the Super Soul is the ultimate spiritual part of our beings. It exists outside of time and space. While the Atomic Soul is the part of our Soul that descends into the material realm and animates our bodies, gives us consciousness, etc. Enjoy!
“A person in the divine consciousness, although engaged in seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, eating, moving about, sleeping and breathing, always knows within himself that he actually does nothing at all. Because while speaking, evacuating, receiving, or opening or closing his eyes, he always knows that only the material senses are engaged with their objects and he is apart from them.”—The Bhagavad-Gita
Today’s daily Dick-ism continues PKD’s exploration of reality as unreal and also how we (being fleshy machines caught in this unreal reality) perceive time and space within our hologram. I’ve added a few useful links to help clear up some of the background. Enjoy!
“If I were to say to you: ‘The universe which we perceive is a hologram,’ you might think I had said something original until you realized that I had only up-dated Plato’s metaphor of the images flashed on the walls of our cave, images which we take to be real. The universe as a hologram is more arresting as an insight, though, because the hologram is so strikingly like the reality which it refers to–being formed in ersatz cubic volume, for one thing–that we could take this to be more than a mere poetic statement. Also, we can more readily grasp a kind of elaborate mechanism underlying our perceptible universe; i.e. the enormously intricate forces which keep it intact.
I conceive our universe–the hologram–to consist of an infinite number of laminated layers arranged in sequence, but not truly in anything that can be called time or space. ‘Time’ is our perception of our own movement as we are driven, as in the form of a worm or screwdriver, through the successive layers of laminations; instead of the film moving, so to speak, the audience moves. The pressure exerted on us to go through the laminations is time; the sense that there is genuine sequence of encounter arranged somehow is space.”
—-Philip K. Dick Exegesis pp. 80 and 81
PKD became convinced that his experiences during February and March of 1974 were the work of an outside force (which he named Zebra) projecting information to him. He also thought this force had been projecting to him for most of his life. He believed his works were inspired (at least in part) by the information received from Zebra. Enjoy!
Note: Italics are authors.
“No, damn it, it is like Ubik! The outside macrobrain is signaling us to wake up, we are like the characters in Eye, asleep–not on the floor of the bevatron, but while watching for Christ to return. We were made toxic–i.e., put into ‘half life’–as if killed. Fuck! I know it; Ubik is the paradigm. The half-life, the messages, Ubik itself, Runciter–we are in a sort of bubble of irreality: spurious world generated by–the plenary powers, astral determinism, whatever the fuck that is.
I give up. Its hold was broken over me in 3-74–Salvation is real. Paul was right. But technology is involved, a superior technology.”
Philip K. Dick Exegesis. p. 416