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An Infinitely Small Universe
I want to tell you something, Rachel. Will you listen? I just want to tell you one thing.
So you know how we're in a room which is in a house which is on a street which is in a neighborhood which is in a city which is in a state which is in a country which is on a continent which is on a planet which is part of a solar system which is part of a galaxy which is part of a cluster which is part of the entire universe? You know that? Well, you know how there are other universes, too?
I know. You can't prove that. I can't prove that. I never can. But even though I can't prove it to you, Rachel - which is why I consider it really generous that you're listening to me - I can tell you I've been to another.
It happened - or at least it started - in this very same room, actually. And I wasn't performing any weird experiments or daydreaming or anything like that. No. I was watching TV, which is the least productive and least educational and most mind-mushing thing you can do. Not at all conducive to discoveries, which makes it all the more amazing that this particular thing happened to this particular person, me. So anyway, I was sitting here watching TV, and the commercials came on. And I, being the mind-mushed lump of chemicals I was at the time, got really gruff and bored and angry at the powers that be for necessitating commercials. After I calmed down a little bit, though, I started to notice this little speck of dust. I wasn't even focusing on it that much at first; my eyes were just roaming around and I just happened to notice it.
I was going to look away, but then I noticed something. It wasn't anything I can describe, but it was something. Something that isn't normal for a piece of dust to do. It just looked like . . . more than a piece of dust. More than what a piece of dust should be doing in this room. And that was what got my attention, Rachel. This piece of . . . of more-than-dust that was doing weird stuff. And as the commercials kept going on, I made this really arbitrary, absentminded decision to grab the dust. Which I did. And that was when it happened.
When I grabbed the dust, when I reached out and took the speck with my hand, I was wrenched forward suddenly, and it was like I was falling, but not like jumping off a high dive or falling off the house or anything. It was like I was falling into nothing, or falling eternally. And as I was falling down this . . . this rabbit hole, Rachel, I noticed thing. Just blurs, nothing distinguishable, but as I fell and fell - although it really only took a split second - I had the feeling I was witnessing all of time as it had already happened and would happen. I was watching something - I hadn't figured out it was the universe - happen.
And then I landed.
I was just back on the couch. Not anywhere special, just back on the exact same couch I had just left. At first I thought I'd had a hallucination or I was on some sort of drug or something, but then I realized that there was this weird buzzing in my ears. And then I looked at the TV and I realized that my show was back on, but like everything else, it was . . . different. The most noticeable thing was that the sound was off, like I was listening to the guy talk like he was underwater. There were words on the screen, too, and they were in English, but - same thing - it was off. Like the English was backward or the letters were jumbled so that it was recognizable as the English language but just unfamiliar enough that I couldn't understand it. And even though I had seen the episode before and knew what happened, I couldn't make myself understand it. It was the trippiest thing.
Or at least I thought it was, until I walked into the room.
It was me, a different me, a me that belonged to this weird place. I - it - walked in and saw me, and I saw it. It looked exactly like me, but it had a two-dimensional quality. Come to think of it, everything had a two-dimensional quality, except for me.
I tried to talk to the me in the room, but it screamed - I would have screamed too, though. It just kept screaming and screaming, and I think I must have looked like a monster, being a fuller version of what the me had ever known. I didn't know what to do, so I just started screaming too. We both screamed for awhile, and I started to hear other footsteps, but muffled like everything else. And just as a whole bunch of people - my mom, my dad, my brother, you - spilled into the room, I saw the piece of dust again. And I grabbed it, and I was falling again.
The last fall took both a second and eternity. This one just took eternity.
It was like I was suspended in blackness. All I could see was just darkness, and there was a light breeze. I was actually kind of surprised I could breathe, because it looked like deep space. It gave me time to calm down, but it also gave me time to think. Like I said, at first I thought I'd taken some drug or something, but I don't actually remember doing something like that.
And so I started thinking more - was I going crazy? Was I having some sort of illusion? Could this even be a religious experience?
I was starting to think about alien abduction, actually, when I saw the dust again. It just floated out of nowhere, floated right toward me, and without even thinking, I grabbed it.
There wasn't even the sensation of falling this time. One minute I was in the black, and the next moment I was sitting on the couch again. And for a second it seemed normal, but then I was being squeezed and crushed in just a really incomprehensibly infinitely way. I was really small and really tall, and everything seemed to be compressed into just one line. I could see everything normally, but at the same time it was elongated and really skinny. And after a minute, it hurt. It hurt worse than anything I'd ever felt before. See my arms, Rachel? See how they're shaking? It hurt so much that I shake just thinking about it. And I was screaming, screaming like I've never screamed before, and after awhile there was another me, screaming right along with me, but for a different reason. Seeing the dust particle again was like being saved.
And then I was zooming through a tunnel. I was in an infinitely fast vehicle - in fact, Rach, I was an infinitely fast vehicle. And there was another speck of dust, and it put me right back on the couch, only this time, everything really was underwater.
And if you can believe it, Rachel, it just went on like that. I would grab the dust and be in a different place and grab the dust again and be in a different place again. It just went on and on and on, and finally - finally - I realized that I was in different universes every time, each one contained on a little particle of dust infinitely - I keep using the word infinitely - smaller than the universe before it. Some were in different dimensions and some were completely different from the TV room and some were just like it, only there was something - just a little something - that was different, that reminded me it wasn't my universe. And every single time, a different me appeared, one that actually belonged to this universe.
It went on forever, Rachel. Forever and ever and ever. I don't know how and I don't know why. It went on for eternity. Literally, Rachel. Eternity. I have been caught alternately in these lives of mine that aren't mine and places that aren't even recognizable.
But I'm here telling you this, aren't I? I stopped, didn't I? I'll tell you how that happened.
I appeared on the couch again, watching the TV show. And for a moment, I thought I had arrived back where I started. Everything was the right dimension. Everything was the right size. Everything was the right color. And texture. I could even recognize the language on the TV screen. And I can't even describe to you the relief I felt, the pure, absolute relief I felt at being back. I didn't have to grab the dust again.
But then . . .
But then I came into the room.
I don't know what happened, Rachel. I just lost it. As I - it - started screaming, I couldn't take it anymore. I couldn't be an intruder into someone's universe, so I blew up. I got up and rushed forward and clapped my hand over its mouth. I thought I would just shut it up, so I could explain what was going on, but I couldn't stop. I just couldn't. I moved my hand from its mouth to its throat. And - oh, God, Rachel. I squeezed.
You know, I always thought strangling takes a long time. I thought it took a strong and strong-stomached person to do it. But it didn't. I got it done in just a couple of minutes. And you know why? I think that was the different thing about this particular universe. People strangled faster.
So after I was done, I got afraid. So I dragged me to the closet and shut the door. And there, I thought, I'm done.
And then, just as if the next universe was reading my thoughts, the speck of dust came floating my way.
And you want to know what I did, Rachel? You want to know?
No. I didn't grab it.
You know what I did? I took a magazine from the table next to the couch and I swatted the thing into the ground. And then I ground it to even more dust with my heel. Don't ask me why it didn't suck me in anyway, because I don't know. But I destroyed the dust, and quite probably that whole entire universe.
So how did I get back, you ask?
To tell the truth, I didn't.
Go look in the closet, Rachel. Go look.
Or don't, if you're afraid of what you'll find.