Valley of the Seahorses.
“To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour “
I took the serum, Nancy. You told me not to, but I did. You know me- ever the rebel.
I couldn’t bear the thought of the answer to all my questions, to my life-long research and years of toil, just stagnating in a vial in a lab, with no-one to test its efficacy. It would be a crime against humanity, a disservice to posterity, I reasoned. So one night, I crept into my own lab, like a thief in the night- even though it was my own lab and I had security clearance- and I injected the formula into my pre-frontal cortex.
I was foolish. I was naïve . I was damned naïve fool.
Needless to say: the serum works. It works too well. The human brain can now perceive different alternate realties that it would usually through a complex process of quantum mechanics, filter out and discard. Every second, every choice we make, every action, even the seemingly insignificant ones, lead to different destinations, like branches forking off from a tree. Now I can follow them and explore them all Nancy. I need not worry about “the road not taken.”
You won’t believe this but so far I have lived in 470 realities and counting. Every time I go to sleep I awaken in another version of myself. Dreams are the entrance way. They open the door to a widened perception and my serum keeps the door open, wide enough for a person to enter through and experience it whole.
Only the door never closes Nancy. It opened out to infinity and I have no idea how to shut it again.
You were right- we could synthesize a chemical compound using the Mandelbrot set equations. You always said, mathematics was the universe’s base code, the underlying pattern and chemistry was about weaving the fabric.
Remember the first night we met? After the conference, stranded in a hotel as the a storm raged outside? We talked for hours. First in the restaurant, then the bar, then my hotel room...
We talked about anything and everything. I still remember the passion in your eyes and the heat in your voice as we argued about Mandelbrot fractals. I loved how you described the awe of infinity , the beauty and elegance of mathematical patterns that could go on forever. Your favourite iteration was the Valley of the Seahorses- I remember that well because I googled the patterns afterwards (math was never my forte) little did I know I would be tumbling through it just a few months later.
You quoted a William Blake poem that night, with tears pooling in your eyes, and I recall taking a breath because I knew I was falling for you. Even though we had only just met and love was a notion so alien to me then -I knew I wanted to spend my life with you. But I was all science wasn’t I? Lived and breathed it, rarely found time for anything else much less a relationship.
I was wrong Nancy. I have lived so many different realities that I have drifted into the realm of madness. I can’t recall which one is which , they all blend together like living Jackson Pollock painting. But there’s one thing that I’m absolutely certain of: I only love the versions of reality with you in it.
And no matter how many choices I make and how many different lives I lead, I can never repeat that night in the hotel.
I have to explain myself. I have to write this down otherwise I will lose my true self completely, but I feel like a ghost, a fraudulent copy, an attenuated version of me . I float from one existence to another, unmoored, with no direction or purpose. Until last week when I heard that William Blake poem again in a podcast and I silently broke into pieces, crying under damp bedsheets like a new-born for two straight hours.
I tried to kill myself that night Nancy. I had hoped it would be some sort of reset switch. But I just awoke in a divergent timeline. I tried several times since then in actual fact. I have drowned myself at sea, I have thrown myself off a skyscraper, even laid down on train tracks only to wake up in a different reality, living as a train driver, desperately trying to hit the brakes before I hit a body on the tracks. It was insanity on a Mandelbrot loop.
That’s when I came to an epiphany. Well, more like an educated guess , but it was my anchor, something I could grab hold of ,something to guide me back to dry land and back to you.
You see my serum opened up the brain’s perception to space: multiple realities, multiple locations, divergent points in the universe etc. But what if it could be applied to Time?
If I could alter the equation and chemical compound to include the recursion of time- there may be a possibility I could experience a different past.
A past where, or more accurately, when- I didn’t take the serum. When I stayed at home, enjoyed dinner, snuggled on the sofa and watched you sleep instead.
So calculated and I developed and on another stormy night, which I saw as a benevolent omen, I injected the modified serum into my brain. Now that’s when Alice careered down the rabbit hole and disappeared forever.
All paths, past and present became like an open map to me. I could see it all. I could see where each branch splintered ,where each fork in the path led. I could choose my destination like ordering from a menu and appear there- alive and present- but just outside of my own body. I was in the ether. The astral field. Nirvana.
I felt God-like, superhuman, existing in a heightened, spiritual form and once again you were right- you always said “spirituality was just science we couldn’t understand yet.”
Well, I understand it now.
And thanks be to God , I found the version of me that led to you.
I saw myself six months ago, sleeping sweetly in that same hotel, after the first day of the conference. Unaware in blissful ignorance that not only would I meet the love of my life, of all my lives, the very next day, that I would also lose her a few months later, purely due to my own hubris. I wanted to shake him awake, to explain everything, to slap him in his arrogant face and scream don’t do it!
However, my theory included more drastic, more violent, measures.
I had to chop down the tree, as it were, before the branches splintered off , to cut if off right at the stem. Ergo, I would have to kill that version of me in order to reset completely. I didn’t know if this would work, it was all theoretical , all complete guesswork but the scientist in me reigned supreme and I knew I had to see it through.
The problem was, just as I was about to execute my plan, the curtain twitched. A dark silhouette formed at the window. The frame creaked and windowpane slowly rose- revealing a murky human form, which quietly climbed its way through into the room. I belatedly realised not only was it was a person but it was someone familiar to me, as I recognised the minutiae of movement.
With burgeoning clarity, I realised that person was me.
Another version of me.
He turned and looked directly at my “out of body” self. His eyes crazed, hair matted, lips cracked. He was an emaciated, shrunken, shell of a man and I knew that version of me had been to the nine circles of Dante’s hell and somehow back again, just to get here.
I mercifully hadn’t experienced his reality….yet… and just as I was about to attempt shouting, he swiftly lifted an axe, swung it with all his might and chopped down the tree trunk- killing the original version of me in my sleep.
It worked Nancy.
All versions of me coalesced! Right there and then in that hotel room. A gigantic wave of memories, experiences, emotions from hundreds of timelines engulfed me and I was so overcome, so overwhelmed and euphoric that I danced with the bloodied axe.
The serum worked and I had come back from the depths of infinity. It was a scientific marvel, a paradigm-shifting creation, I could chemically change the course of human history!
Unfortunately the police didn’t see it that way. They didn’t accept my explanation.
So, now I sit in this high-security institution ,imprisoned in a padded cell, staring at four white walls and I’m begging for your help Nancy. Please visit me. Please bring all my work from my lab.Help me tell my story Nancy.
Tell them about our night in the hotel waiting out a storm. Tell them all about the Mandelbrot set and the Valley of the Seahorses. Show them my serum. Only you hold the key.
Please come quickly. I need you Nancy.