Tales From Earth:When we met
‘When we met’ by number9dream
We met through Perplex City.
I was on a research project that was winding down, spending long latte afternoons in internet-disabled coffee shops, searching for wireless networks and piggybacking on them to surf the net. I loved this particular one, just off the Osbourne Road, long leather diner-style booths, sockets for the power supply underneath and an unsecured wireless broadband connection in the flat upstairs. The owners of the shop were obsessed with an Eastern European cola alternative, or ‘anarcho-cola’ as they sold it. The profits were ploughed back into funding anarchist organisations in the former Soviet states. Whatever, it made you feel superior when drinking it, even if it did taste of diesel oil.
This must have been April or so, I had discovered the world of Perplex City, and the mysterious theft of ‘the Cube’ from the museum of the Academy there. It was really so interesting, that we were being contacted from what was speculated as another world, another dimension or another planet, which nonetheless shared some history with earth or at least had access somehow to it. It became an obsession, every morning I would log on and check what had been happening, read the paper and browse the related websites. Amazing how the idea of not being connected is almost unthinkable now, merely a couple of years after the concept was even invented. It’s almost taken for granted now that you can find a connection to use or, in desperation, use your phone to connect. From a small café to the world, and in fact beyond the world to another world, it hurt to think about it too hard.
One Wednesday, she walked in. It was the kind of day you never forget, cool blue sky stretched from horizon to horizon, like it was nailed down all around, cold and clear. The world tipped and spun, gravity strobing, my dreams were crystallising in front of my eyes. She was oblivious to me of course, never once looked at me, she had the kind of air in which she just knew that she was the centre of the world. Well from that day she was the centre of mine, at least.
Except - she wasn’t there, no one else reacted to her presence, she left no impression on the world, danced lightly across the surface of reality and was gone again. How could a presence so vital, so impossible, so vibrant that it could warp gravity around me, not be amenable to my touch, or even notice my presence? Then I was sure she was looking at me, pleading, eyes wide, and she was gone again. I began to think about my sanity, who was this girl and where did she come from, why could I see her and could she see me?
There was a thunderstorm one day. It was miles to my car. I wondered if the rain was real or if it was part of my dream, part of my reality or a different one. I began to walk and suddenly she was there. She held her umbrella for me, I don’t think I have ever been so aware of an absence before, it was almost a physical sensation where we didn’t touch, the space between us and the distance between us. Then the street was empty and the rain was running down my face.
I began to see more things. Every now and then I would be making coffee, or walking, and I would see another street, another place, different faces, cars, trees. But when I looked there was nothing there, just the usual, the mundane, the ordinary. Time would bleed away without my volition, without any evidence of its passing, and I would see her face, her eyes looking at me through the windscreen of my car, laughing, shifting in and out of phase, then nothing.
There were more times when we were together and yet not together. I would be on a train alone at night, staring out at the reflection of the carriage in the window, and she would be sitting opposite me, a smile on her lips, but of course when I looked there was no one there. Yet still I felt touch sensitive, like my skin was thinner and I was closer to the world than ever before.
I decided that our worlds were barely physically separated, hardly any distance apart, only kept divided by an invisible membrane, which was already stretching and thinning around us. It was so thin at times I could see through it, see through to the world on the other side. It was like life suddenly became widescreen, surround sound, but distorted and in flashes.
I wondered if our growing love for each other could break the seal between the worlds, if we could break through and be together, touch and kiss. If we could stretch the plane between the worlds so thin that our very atoms could pass through it. I began to notice more of the ‘other’ world, its buildings and gardens, the flora, different but recognisably the same, the busy streets, the sky.
I sat in my booth with a cooling espresso, connected to the other world through my internet connection. She was sitting opposite me, almost pleading with me to find a way to cross over, to burst out of my life and into hers, but I couldn’t work out how. I had tried running and jumping, driving towards traffic lights and intersections from another world, but they just moved away like a rainbow’s end.
She was holding a small card, it looked like a postcard but with a silver border, she stretched out towards me and I could see the familiar pattern of Shuffled. The silver was crackling with electricity, sparking and throwing me into alternating patterns of dark and light. I took out my own card, the border was a kaleidoscope of colour, the waves of the spectrum dancing across it. The moment was huge, massive and full of gravity, bursting with possibilities, I reached out towards her, card glowing with energy, and then I knew, I could see everything, the two skies, two horizons, the worlds were becoming one and I was the focal point. I actually felt her hand holding the card towards mine, and realised that now was the time. We touched the cards together and there was a flash of light, everything was blank, all sound was static.