A short story
by Mark Joseph Kiewlak
I began to wonder why I was sleeping so much, what I was trying to avoid. The waking world, its getting and spending, its rushing to and fro, frightened me beyond all measure. It just didn't feel right, this world, didn't feel true. Every cell in my body told me this. So I slept. And when awake did what I could, created what I had courage to create, and lived in worlds far more suited to my personal constitution than this world had ever been.
But it was not enough. I had so much more to give.
And so one night, when the house was quiet, and my fears at a low, I decided to create a new world, a new reality, and to populate it with those who could take full advantage of what it had to offer. I would seek them out, and ask them to share their gifts in this new existence.
You have to understand, first of all, that each of us has the power to do anything. I had this power. They would have it too.
I began by creating to undertake this task a self separate from the one I had known, but still a part of my greater whole. Slowly, as my consciousness shifted, I became this other person. The old me still existed, still went on with that other life, but the new me was focused now in this new direction. I felt energized and buoyed by anticipation. I was floating above the city at night. I saw no need for this new self to be hindered by such a limiting concept as gravity. Without the fear of falling I felt less vulnerable than I ever had. I felt free.
I landed in the courtyard of a rich man's house. He was a singer, a musician. His talent had brought him more wealth than he could spend in ten lifetimes. He was an idol, a hero of mine. But I was not here to worship him.
I entered the house quietly and found him at the piano, trying to work the flaws out of a new composition. He was not alarmed to see me, but rather calm. There was an understanding that radiated forth from my new self. It was intoxicating like a pheromone, but far more subtle.
"I've come to know you," I said. "That is all."
He concentrated on the keyboard, about to overcome his difficulty. The notes fell into place. He sang. That much more positive energy was added to the world.
"I am creating a new place," I said, "where creativity itself is the rule. I've only just begun to imagine it, but there will be no struggle, this I know."
He stood, and began to study an antique clock upon the wall. "It sounds utterly fascinating," he said.
"I want you there," I said. "Any part of yourself that wishes to come. Your genius has inspired me on countless occasions. You were, in fact, the first person I thought of."
He turned and bowed slightly. "I am flattered," he said.
I realized that I was hovering several inches off the floor.
"Will you accompany me?" I said.
He was a man who knew himself. He responded instantly.
"I will," he said.
Whether he too created a new self, or moved beside me as the totality of the person he had been, did not concern me. He was here. He was vital. That was what mattered.
We stepped next into the ocean, down to depths where no man had ever lived. I protected him from all of the mundane realities such as pressure or oxygen, which would have claimed him had he allowed his consciousness to empower them.
We found a cave as big as a continent and went inside.
"This is the beginning," I said. "This is a good place to start."
The walls lit up at my command, a billion jeweled fragments creating colors that caused us immediately to weep. We needed no sun. We were the light of the world.
I left him there, briefly, to acclimate himself to our new home, as I journeyed to find the next participant. The path unfolded before me like the narrowest of spaces between city buildings, and I found her in an alley atop Mount Everest. All contradictions and right angles, she was. Hard to understand and harder to love.
This was a woman who had, like myself, fled certain realities in favor of those she had greater control over. Only hers were filled with hardships. A ghetto child with a love of snow, she had aged herself to womanhood, praying for greater understanding with the wisdom of years, and then transplanted her ghetto to the place she imagined most likely capable of bringing it to bloom—the uppermost height of a cold and uncaring world.
As I said, many contradictions.
I reached for the child inside and focused only on her purity. This was the meaning of snow to her—a cleansing element that covered and united all disparate parts. There would surely be sixteen to twenty-four inches in her heaven.
"Why are you here?" she said when she noticed me.
She was huddled behind empty cardboard boxes. Old newspapers were her blankets.
"I've got a different life to offer you," I said. "All you need do is imagine it."
The snow swirled in miniature cyclones all about us.
"I don't think I can," she said. "I'm stuck on this."
"Okay," I said. "But my offer stands."
And with that I left her as quickly as I could. I could not stay long in that environment—so specific to her needs—without losing a portion of myself to it. I was at present unwilling to bend in that direction. I needed all of my energy to conduct my own affairs.
I returned to the cave to find it transformed into an English countryside. My friend the musician was walking with his dog along a stone path leading to a lake. As I entered the scene, the reality of our thoughts became momentarily jumbled and we both beheld the countryside underwater with the jeweled walls surrounding it. I blinked once, twice, and cleared my focus.
"What do you see?" I said to him.
"I see my countryside."
"Is it underwater?"
"It is pristine," he said. "All is as it should be." He gazed in a reverie at the beauty that fit so snugly around him.
"I see the cave," I said. "The reality I need to see."
"We're each of us about our own business then," he said and smiled. "That didn't take very long."
I knew then how my new world would function. Each consciousness would operate in the setting it found most comfortable. A malleable paradise.
Each of us could see into one another when we wished.
He tapped his walking stick twice upon the stones of the path and let his dog roam free. "Excellent," he said. "Let's go find another."
We were climbing stairs in a tower. It was a machine but somehow alive. I understood that each molecule, every aspect of the world, possessed a type of consciousness—an awareness of self and function. Some, like the consciousness of machines, we would call rudimentary. But gathered together, ever growing, they could become, with sufficient will and intent, a being unto themselves. The tower was alive.
As we reached the top of the staircase we saw that there was no roof. I inquired as to why.
"That would be confining," the tower replied. "I wish to be open to the sky."
Its voice was like soft rain speaking.
"I wish to become elemental," it said. "Technology is corrupt, therefore I am corrupt. Nature is clean."
I could see a lifetime of self-loathing printed in its circuitry.
"Machines are angelic," I said. "For eventually they'll carry us to heaven."
This pleased the tower, and improved the speed of all its calculations.
"Can I see this other world?" it said. "This other world so alive in your mind."
The musician nudged me. "It's telepathic," he said.
I reached out and ran my fingers over the metal.
"Empathic," I said.
The tower would now come with us, shaping itself into whatever form was required in the moment.
"One more," I said. "One more and we'll rest."
The next to call to us was a man already dead, a miner who had lived a life of excess and self-medication. Unlike the musician, he had no songs to sing. He was a drunkard and a lout and had died alone, unloved, unmourned. A wretched soul most welcome in my new paradise.
"We can't let him in," the musician said. "He's all the ugliness of the world. He can't be a part of our perfection."
I looked at him in the grave, this working man clothed all in black, whose body had not yet begun to decay.
"He is our perfection," I said. "He is all our ideals turned inside out and worst fears manifested. He is the world that got it wrong."
I reached down through the earth and straightened his tie. This we would take with us, this everlasting memory of defeat. It was not permanent but that we made it so. We could turn back any event of human history and start anew. That was, in fact, what we were doing as individuals and as a species each time we allowed within ourselves the possibility of change.
Our friend the mechanical tower became a shrine, sheathing its innards in purest ivory. The working man's body was lifted from the soil, swathed in our caring. The musician sang to him. The walls of the temple vibrated with our harmonies.
"He is risen," I said.
And the working man opened his eyes, dusted off his clothes, and spit, once, upon the pristine floor.
The musician was appalled. "He's a stain upon our perfection," he said.
The working man loosened his tie, slipped the knot over his head, and tossed the tie aside. He took off his jacket and rolled up his sleeves.
"Damn right," he said.
I took him immediately inside my heart with the others and loved him like a father.
"Can't you see?" I said to the musician. "He's telling us that there's still work to be done. The work of our imaginations."
We journeyed together back to the sparkling cave at the bottom of the ocean. The machine tower was playing at being a submarine and I taught it along the way not to believe in rust. When we reached the opening of the cave I saw that the ghetto woman from Everest was there waiting. She had de-aged in her mental picture back to a child and left the trappings of cardboard and newspaper and filth behind her. She was huddled naked in the snow, not seeing the water or any of what I perceived to be surrounding her. I pierced the veil of her reality and flew to her side, setting down gently upon a landscape of unmarred perfection.
"I'm so happy," I said, "to see you here."
She lifted her head ever so slightly and spoke. "The snow turns night to day," she said.
I knew she was talking about my night, my fears. It was an aspect of my quest I had not anticipated. Such an obvious blessing, yet it had, until this very instant, eluded my focus.
"You're here to help me," I said. "All of you. Not just to build this new world, but to learn how to live in it."
The machine tower transmuted then into a playground of shining wonder, and we all went inside. I took the girl by the hand and felt the fear slip away, driven out by simple human contact. I reached back to the part of myself that still existed in the old world and told him of what I'd learned.
And he awoke.
Copyright © 2011 by Mark Joseph Kiewlak
Story image: © Boludo | Dreamstime.com
"The World That Got It Right" sprang full-blown into my head one night years ago. It never needed any narrative coaxing, nor did it care which laws of physics its characters obliterated during their adventure of reality construction. Like many of my works, the tale's underlying philosophy traces back to the author Jane Roberts's Seth books—a metaphysical instruction manual, the main tenet of which states that: "We all create our own reality." I much prefer it that way, don't you?
Mark Joseph Kiewlak has been a published author for more than twenty years. His fiction appears regularly in The Bitter Oleander, Bewildering Stories, A Twist of Noir, Black Sheep, Hardboiled, and many others. His story "The Present" was nominated for the 2010 Spinetingler Award: Best Short Story on the Web. He has also written for DC Comics.