Pedersen’s Last Dream – Four

icicle window

THE ODDEST THING on the day of the accident occurred at the hospital. Well, not the oddest, exactly. Suffering an accident in the first place was fairly odd for me, insofar as I don’t have them every day. Not major ones, at least. In fact, thinking about it, it was probably the very first serious accident I’d ever had.

Having endured the indignity of strangers ripping my clothes off legally, and all the other nonessential rituals medical personnel seem to inflict upon hapless victims of accidents before bothering to treat them, a couple of clumsy brutes wheeled me into an examination room bumping the trolley on as many walls, and against as many lift doors, as they possibly could along the way. I’ve suffered smoother toboggan rides down heavily rutted country roads. Here I was to be abandoned for the period of obligatory neglect deemed so necessary to complete the full medical experience before being allowed proper treatment from a licensed physician.

And I wasn’t wearing clean underwear. Even though my grandmother tried knocking into my head for years that one day I might have an accident and regret it. Which bloody day though! When you’ve been raised in rural Norway, believe it or not, the state of your underpants is something you think about even when your arm is killing you and people are tearing at your clothes. Particularly when they’re tearing at your clothes. I saw the shame on the face of my grandmother’s ghost flit across the ceiling above the masked faces staring down at me.

Nobody ever explains anything properly in hospitals. They might be using the masks to conceal their identities, for all I knew.  They could’ve even have been mugging me for body parts to sell in the souks of Dubai. A hand slipped inside my torso, a kidney slipped out. As easy as taking a wallet from an unsuspecting tourist, in my condition. Luckily I’d left my wallet at home. There wasn’t any money in it, anyway. Such bizarre thoughts cross your mind. Or are they so bizarre?

In conjunction with wishing for my arm to be ripped off, to ease the pain, instead of my clothes, I was wondering whether the bloodstains would come out of my shirt. I only have three. The brain works in such mysterious ways. I may not have mentioned it, but my landlady, Wenche, had stopped doing my laundry, as well as cooking my meals. Before, she used to put it in with hers. It takes as much time to do one lot of laundry as two – they’re her words, not mine. It takes as much time to put another pizza on a plate too.

Left to my own devices, and not knowing exactly how to operate the infernal machine, I learned to ration my clothes out more sensibly. Instead of washing them after only a couple of outings, I’d taken to not changing them quite so often. After all, changing clothes all the time is just a ploy by global detergent companies to get us to use more of their products. In many ways, I was doing my bit for the environment, saving water, saving the planet and saving energy. With the added advantage of saving some energy of my own. I was one of those children born with an energy deficit.

Coincidentally, I was going to bathe and change my underpants on the day of the accident. I’d sorted out a replacement pair that’d only been worn for a couple of days a week or two beforehand. They were damned near fresh. They’d been circulated in a scientific method I’d worked out, which would not allow enough time for too much smell to impregnate the nylon. And I’d given them a bit of an airing by hanging them outside my bedroom window overnight. It really works wonders, you have to sniff hard to tell they’re not clean, I mean they don’t smell of soap and stuff, but who goes around smelling other people’s underwear? Actually, thinking about it, there are people. One of the first stories I ever covered for a newspaper was a court case about a man who did just that. Back in Trondheim. He used to break into people’s houses to go through their laundry, sniffing out used underwear. People do have the strangest hobbies. I once used to collect abandoned dog leads. You’d be surprised how many you can find. All different sorts. And then Wenche found them at the bottom of my wardrobe and threw them out. Said they were stinking the flat out.

So, anyway, I was just about to have a shower, and change my underwear, when I fell asleep on the sofa. I seem to be doing that rather a lot lately. I was in this wonderful series of dreams, waking from one into the next, when Wenche comes home, taps me on the shoulder, and suddenly I’m in her nightmare. And I don’t seem to be able to wake out of it.

Immediately, I felt I had to go out of the flat. I couldn’t share the same space as her. I know it’s hard to believe, but even that I was wearing dirty underwear was her fault.

Anyway, to get back to the subject, someone else would have to wash the blood from my shirt; I don’t know how to operate the machine.

But was that the day of the accident? It’s so difficult to remember with all the premonitions and flashbacks I’ve been having lately. And dreams.

To get back to the odd occurrence at the hospital. It happened after all the tubes and needles had been put in my arms. After all those endless questions, they ask you, had ceased. I tell you, the interrogation was worse than when I got arrested for shoplifting. That was just a momentary lapse. I wasn’t actually stealing anything; that’s why I couldn’t understand what the fuss was about. I was just deciding whether I should, as we all do, most of us being on the more imperfect side of creation. Trying to see if I could; if I was capable of doing it more than anything. It was to be a test of moral fibre and nerve. Or lack of both. Or lack  of one, depending on how you looked at it. It was a tartan dog lead. Although I quite liked it, I didn’t want the bloody thing. I’d lost all interest since Wenche  got rid of my collection. It was the philosophical aspect of theft that really interested me. Leaving aside the strictest interpretation of the eighth commandment – which, incidentally, Hebraic traditionalists insist only applies to kidnapping women – is the commandment not to steal really a moral imperative, or a political ploy to keep society’s wealth in the hands of a controlling elite, as Proudhon would have us believe? In other words: should we do the opposite of what the Old Testament tells us? Do we have a moral duty to steal? Were my feelings of guilt just part of an indoctrination programme invented by the rich to get their greedy paws on everything? Now, try explaining that to some gorilla in a uniform who’s too stupid even to get into the real police force, and you’ll understand my dilemma. As you might expect, I was marched into the store manager’s office to wait for the real police to take me away.

In some ways, they were more understanding at the real police station. It was just a job for them, and they could see I wasn’t the kind of person who would steal something out of a material desire to possess it. When I told them I didn’t even have a dog, they saw I had no need for it. Besides, as I told the officer, I had stopped collecting dog leads months before, when my landladly had thrown my entire collection out. That’s something I hadn’t even bothered to report to the police. And it was a crime. Some Norwegians might’ve have said it was a crime not to report it. But the police had plenty of other things to think about. Nothing could’ve been further from my mind than to steal as a common criminal might. It would have to be some other reason that would drive a person of my standing to attempt such a thing. Hunger, for instance. But then I’d be more likely to steal a can  of dog food, not a dog lead. Any fool could see that. We were soon all laughing about it. These stores shouldn’t be allowed to employ thugs without any education. It ought to be illegal. After all, when all’s said and done, I’m a writer, not a common thief. I’ve written for some of the best papers in town. They know me, you can ask. Knut Pedersen is the name; anybody who’s anybody in the newspaper business has heard that name before. And I could quite understand I had to be charged. After all, everyone has their job to do. Decent sort, that particular officer.

♦♦♦

Well, after they put all these tubes in my arms, and finally gave me something to relieve the pain, they stuck me in this huge cylindrical thing to scan my brain. Then they X-rayed me, and did God knows what.

That was when they wheeled me off to the darker, quieter ward for my second period of compulsory neglect. One day, I’d love to see what they might’ve removed from my body that time. Driving around in an expensive Mercedes somewhere is a millionaire with a bit of my body inside him. Or her. It’s interesting to think it might be a woman. If she knew, would she tell her boyfriend or husband, she was partly male?

♦♦♦

In hospitals, no sooner do you begin to adjust to constantly-changing surroundings than they stop changing them. It’s one of those wilful acts of perversion hospital staff become so practised at early in their training. After being surrounded by noise, having bright lights shone into your eyes, and people sticking things into you, and onto you, being left alone in relative dark and quiet becomes even more unnerving.

But I wasn’t quite so neglected as I thought. I wasn’t quite alone. A nurse was sitting at a desk at the end of the bed, her face lit by a small lamp. She looked up at me and smiled. So I smiled back. Better be nice, it must be her job to keep an eye on me. To make sure the plastic tubes stuck up my nostrils didn’t fall out, and the cables and things, plugged onto my chest didn’t drop off. She occasionally glanced up at the TV screens with the squiggly lines that go bleep, bleep, bleep all the time. When the squiggly line goes straight and they bleeeeeeeeeeeeep forever, you know you’re dead. On TV they do, anyhow. So they thought I might still die. Interesting that. They weren’t quite so confident in their work as you might expect them to be. After all, that’s what we pay our taxes for.

The nurse was startlingly beautiful. Long, jet-black hair tied behind her neck, and the bluest of eyes. As blue as summer cornflowers. A real dream. Perhaps it’s something they give you to stop the pain, but it was like being in a new, more wonderful dream. We spoke. I said something like, well I don’t actually remember, but I asked her where she lived or something like that. I know she told me her name was Kari. I like that name. And then she did this amazing thing. It wasn’t that amazing, not in the sense that she might’ve put her hands under the bedclothes and masturbated me, but it was amazing to me. It was amazing because it made me realise something. She leaned over me and stroked my cheek with the back of her hand. The very lightest of touches. The amazing thing about it was it made me realise nobody had touched me so tenderly in a very long time. It was an act of pure love, and I wanted her to know I knew. It reminded me of my mother.

♦♦♦

When I am a boy, I go down to the lake each winter as soon as it freezes over. A different sort of blackness then. Ice as hard as rock, smooth as mirror. A mirror with no reflections. Like a thick pane of frosted glass. I try to stare into its darkness. I catch a glimpse of a white face, long dark tresses flow behind, suspended in motion. Six tiny kittens just beyond the reach of a waxen hand. When I am a boy, I look into the lake in winter; my own screwed-up face doesn’t stare back at me. Cats in ice.

♦♦♦

An old widow lives alone in a flat in Baklandet. On our way to school each morning, Katrina and I see her through her window, sitting in a wooden armchair, staring out. She’s always there, come summer, come winter. Katrina and I are eight years old.

One day, Katrina tells me the old widow is too afraid to go out. She says she can’t stand any sound whatsoever. Even the noise generated by the flap of a butterfly’s wing is enough to make her jump out of her skin and drop down dead.

We spend days musing on how she manages to arrange her life for no sound to penetrate her apartment. We decide that nobody visits her, and plan how she copes. Her food is shoved through a felt flap in her door. Softly cooked pasta, finely chopped, served up in a rubber dish greased with cooking oil so it makes not the slightest sound. We spend so much time on the finest details of excluding noise from her life that it becomes real. She eats her soft pasta with a rubber spoon, never slurping. We imagine she is so afraid of the sound of her own voice she doesn’t even dare to whisper, and she never moves for fear the quickening beat of her own heart might frighten her to death. Once we even creep into the block of flats where she lives to see the felt flap in the door. There isn’t one, so we begin to devise other methods for her to receive the nourishment essential to life.

We create a pipe of finest latex dangling from the ceiling. Lined with cotton wool and trimmed with satin at the mouthpiece, for fear the smacking of her lips might scare her witless, she pulls it towards her face by a silken cord. Gone is the pasta. We cook up thick broth of the quietest type to spoon through a funnel from the flat above, so she can draw on it as silently as she pleases. Her floors are laid with layers of down-filled quilts. Her walls are covered with velvet plush. Not the slightest sound can intrude.

Comes the day, we look up, and the old widow isn’t at the window anymore. The chair is there, but nobody sits in it. Next day, the chair isn’t there either. And not the next, nor the next. Then we see a removal truck. We see the chair being carried out and dumped into a skip, followed by a table, and a rusting fridge. Her other things go into the back of the truck. We peep inside the skip to see if we can see the latex pipe with its mouthpiece of satin, or the rubber dish lined with dried remnants of broth of the quietest type. But there is nothing. And then it is as if she never lived there at all.

Katrina and I puzzle on this for several weeks. We keep checking the skip to make sure the wooden chair is still there. But soon it is gone along with the table and rusting fridge.

Eventually, we begin to surmise that somehow a chrysalis managed to get into her latex food pipe lined with cotton wool and its mouthpiece of silk. It worked its way down among the broth into the flat where it dropped to the floor, its fall cushioned by the soft down overlay. For days it sat there as metamorphosis took place. The old widow hardly noticed the faintest cracking as it broke from its prison, neither did she hear its fragile insect legs touch the soft down as it dragged itself out. Nor its wings being pumped with liquid. The virtually undetectable sound of them drying was just enough to make her suspect the apocalypse was near. Wings stretching created the slightest of draughts to fleetingly brush her cheeks. But when those wings batted together for the very first time there followed an almighty scream, loud enough to strike her stone dead from shock. The old widow died from the noise of her own scream, we conclude.

♦♦♦

Each dream has its own history, its own beginning, and its own ending, if it has any ending at all, for dreams rarely have endings in the sense stories do. Have you ever had the eerie sense of déja vu? The feeling you read exactly the same words before? Well, perhaps not exactly the same, but very similar. It’s particularly disturbing if you happen to be the author.

♦♦♦

“What’s time, Dr Finkel?” I asked. Taking an old-fashioned pocket watch on a gold chain from his waistcoat pocket he sprung it open. I thought how contrived the gesture appeared. He squinted at the dial.

“Almost four,” he said.

“No, you misunderstand, I asked what is time.”

“Time’s money,” he answered. “And talking of time, I have another one of life’s unbearable victims to suffer in half an hour. Roll on Friday.” And then, for no apparent reason whatsoever, he asked me if I had ever been married to a beautiful woman. Without waiting for an answer, as he must certainly have known I had not, he said: “Do you know, the greatest advantage to ugliness is that it doesn’t fade as you get older.” Then he looked out of the window.

I followed his gaze and noticed tiny dust motes caught in rays of winter sunlight streaming through the slats of the blind where he stood staring down onto Bygdøy alle. And as I watched them, I saw the ones closest to the blind flashed in and out quickly, but the further away they got, the wider the beams became, and the dust motes appeared to be caught for much longer periods by the light. In that instant, it occurred to me that if one were to apply the same principle to The Big Bang, it would indicate that time slows the further it goes. I went on to surmise, if time travels in the same way as sunbeams travel across Dr Finkel’s grey carpet, it must inevitably expand, and therefore widen in every direction. Time might not be infinite in quantity, as previously supposed, but limited to a finite amount of it spreading into the infinity of the nothingness it can never fill. Through widening into the very universe it creates by its motion and the depletion of energy that act must occur, its dynamism is lessened accordingly. In effect, time slows simply because of the increasing area the same amount of it has to cover. In the very act of expansion its impetus is diminished. I’m sure it’s been thought of already. Or, as another thought sprang to mind, gravity. Time and gravity could even be so interconnected as to be indivisible. One totally dependent on the existence of the other. Direct opposites; in the same way red is the opposite of green and everything is the opposite of nothing. (I have to put in here that most people believe something is the opposite of nothing, but that cannot be, in the sense something is too ill-defined. In that sense, nothing is also some thing everything can never be. It’s a paradox that the concept of nothing cannot exist without everything in place to define the fullness of its nothingness). But to get back to the point, before I lose myself in the downward spiral of endless and contradictory logic, which leads to insanity, according to Dr Finkel, whereas time loses its impetus as it expands, the influence gravity wields might not lessen with the expansion, but actually increase. As the elasticity of time stretches to its utmost limit and the force it loses becomes gravity’s gain, time inevitably strains too far and gravity takes over to whip time back, quicker than the bat of an eyelid, to where it started out. Black holes. The beginning of time. Repetition, black holes, and déjà vu. It’s so obvious. There must be a flaw in it somewhere. Then I get the loathsome sensation I might have read it somewhere, or seen it on the telly, and I’m just spewing out half-digested ideas. I wonder if I should tell Dr Finkel about my new improved theory, or whether it might be a step too far?

♦♦♦

I woke. Kari had gone. There was another nurse sitting at the end of the bed at the desk lit by a small lamp. Blonde, with a face as pale as winter and eyes light blue as morning sky. I knew I’d never see Kari again. I’d never be able to tell her how much her little gesture meant to me. Just as I was beginning to think all nurses might do that, they all might stroke your cheek with the backs of their hands, that it was part of the treatment, the second nurse came up to me and took my temperature. No stroke, no lightest of touches, in your dreams, pal. Kari was gone, and I’d never see her again.

But I was wrong about that as well.

It was only a few weeks later. I was discharged from hospital after a couple of days. Far too short, if you ask me. They just don’t seem to realise how long it takes to get better. My arm was in a sling, and I was keeping out of the flat as much as I could to stay out of Wenche’s way. Even though I’d had an accident, she wasn’t showing me any sympathy. Not her, heart of stone, that one. She still refused to cook food for me, not that I asked; I wouldn’t stoop so low. I was beginning to feel my presence was less welcome than even before. I couldn’t think why. It was obvious I couldn’t work with my arm in a sling, and blood-soaked bandages wrapped around my head. And if I couldn’t work I wouldn’t earn. I noticed something different about her. I could swear she was putting on weight. Perhaps, she was cooking for me, then eating it herself.

I was so bloody cold I went into a bookshop to get warm. My father’s money had long disappeared and, as I said, I was keeping away from my landlady as much as possible without actually moving out. Why, I’d even slept a night in the open to save her money. I certainly wasn’t using the place as much as the rent she was charging me warranted. So, in my own small way, I felt I was doing my bit.

She was dreaming I was starving to death. And to be honest, I was as much for it by that time as she was. The sooner I was starved out of her dream, the sooner I could get back into dreams of my own. As it happened, I didn’t mind the starvation method so much, if only I didn’t get so hungry all the time.

As soon as I was dead I suppose she’d advertise my room as vacant, entice some other victim into her dream. But I wasn’t dead. And I was becoming unsure I wanted to be. It was pure perversity; her desire to kill me off in her dream had given me a reason to live on in it. But the point is, she’d taken to being in the flat a lot more when she wasn’t working, so naturally that meant I would have to keep out of it, and that meant tramping the streets of Oslo in all weathers.

I’d taken to imagining Kari’s face as I walked along to keep my mind from thinking of the hunger and cold, trying to conjure up that jet-black hair, and those cornflower blue eyes. I looked at all the women’s faces passing by, seeing if I could spot women that looked a bit like her. That was my biggest mistake. As one face replaced the next, her features gradually assumed some of the features of each last woman I saw. Until eventually, the face in my mind bore almost no resemblance to Kari at all, becoming obliterated into a conglomeration of all the women’s faces I had looked into along Karl Johans gate. I’d almost forgotten what she really looked like completely. And I was trying to keep her image fresh in my mind. They’d all gone and spoiled it. I attempted to build a mental picture of her up from the beginning again, trying not to look at other women’s faces at all, the jet black hair, the cornflower blue eyes. Cornflower blue, cornflower blue. But even that wouldn’t help, the others kept on insinuating themselves. After a time, I gave up the game completely while I still had a few details left I could hold on to.

I felt so cold, so hungry, so very hungry. I hurried up Universitetsgata. There’s a big bookshop there where all the intellectuals from the university go. They stand around brushing away the locks of greasy hair that keep falling in front of their eyes, and try to look intelligent. It’s always warm in there. They might go for the same reason as I. Of course, people have to be warm to buy books. Nobody likes standing in the cold, reading.

The thing with bookshops is that you can hang around even if you look a bit shabby. But having my arm in a sling wasn’t helping my appearance, as not so many rich people seem to have broken limbs. And now I’d taken the dressings from my head, the dried blood stitches made me look as though I had escaped from the operating table in the middle of a lobotomy, or a drunk who’d just lost an argument with a cobbled street. It’s the way they have to shave your hair to put the stitches in. They never think to shave the whole of your head. It must be something to do with the efficiency drives they keep going on about. I’d ended up with an island of stark baldness where no hair would grow at all.  The middle of which a small mountain range of dried blood ran with stiffened stitches sticking out I couldn’t stop myself from touching with my fingertips. Whenever I caught sight of my reflection in a shop window it looked as though a team of brain surgeons had been messing about inside my head, removing the more untidy bits of brain. It shouldn’t matter in dreams, but there you are, in Wenche’s, it did.

That’s when I spotted Kari again. At first, she didn’t notice me. It was getting near to Christmas and all the stores were crowded with shoppers. It was difficult to find a cash desk without a long queue at it, not that I wanted one, I was just seeking shelter from the cold, but I’ve already gone through that. Once she did see me those cornflower blue eyes flashed and sparkled. I searched for words, but none came, so I smiled and almost bowed. She smiled back, which made me feel foolish for some reason. I quickly pretended to be involved in the map of Armenia in an atlas I was cradling. My broken arm did me proud. I would never see her again. Not far from Yerevan, Armenia’s capital – I noticed – stands Mount Ararat, where Noah’s Ark landed after the flood. On the Turkish side of the border. There’s a nuclear power station on the Armenian side. Ironic that. If there’s another big flood, I’d rather not be in that area.

In some ways the whole incident of seeing Kari irritated me, because it meant she was following me around in someone else’s dream. I could forgive her that, once I accepted I’d surrendered my destiny to my landlady, then it became free for all to plunder. After all, it wasn’t even my dream, so who was I to say what went on in it? If the nurse wanted to plunder a little bit of it, then how could I to stop her? But it irked me, I’d expected more from her, and I made a mental note to try and avoid her from then on. As soon as I made it I realised how impossible it’d be. Especially in a dream. As I didn’t know where she would crop up, I couldn’t possibly make an effort to avoid her. She’d have to avoid me, and if she didn’t, she’d have to be told. She’d already arranged to be in the same place as me twice. A third time would expose the previous incidents as being rather more than mere coincidence.

♦♦♦

Doctor Finkel hadn’t always been bored by me. When I first used to lie on his couch he would ask me a few questions. Without waiting for me to finish answering he would launch into stories about life in Old Budapest. It seemed like a fascinating place before the Russians came. And then everything changed for the worse.

But one day something clicked. Dr Finkel could only be in his early fifties. He couldn’t possibly have known what Budapest was like before the Russians came. Not from personal experience.

Before the Russians came?” I ask him.

“Before that even. Before the war,” he answers.

“Surely you must be too young to remember Budapest before World War Two? You must mean after.” He looks at me with a frown and shakes his head. “You have been back to Budapest?” I ask, “since the Russians left?”

“Who would want to go now it’s changed so much?” he answers.

“Ah, but you’ve been back while they were still there?”

“Of course I haven’t been back, I told you. Who would want to go now it’s changed so much?”

“But how can you know it’s changed so much if you’ve never been back to compare it with what it was like then?” I asked. “Whenever that was.”

Dr Finkel walked across to the window to look on Bygdøy alle below. For a moment he stood stroking his chin.

“Look,” he said, “you seem to be missing the point. I never told you I’d ever been to Budapest.”

“You mean you never lived there?”

“Never.”

“You went on holidays there?”

“We always went to Tønsberg.”

“You left it as a baby?”

“I told you, I’ve never been there. I was born in Oslo.”

“How can you have such strong memories of a place you’ve never been?”

“I come from an old Budapest family. For generations Finkels have lived in Budapest.”

“But that’s not the same as living there yourself. They were other Finkels.”

“I spent my entire childhood surrounded by images of Budapest. The photos and pictures on the walls were all of Budapest. The furniture in my mother’s flat is still arranged exactly as it was at the family flat in Budapest. When I was growing up  it was exactly as though we were living in Budapest. We spoke Hungarian, we ate Hungarian food. We talked of little else but Budapest. Walking out of the flat onto the streets of Oslo was like going to a foreign land for us.”

“You mean you don’t even remember anything of Old Budapest from your earliest childhood days?”

“I keep on telling you, I’ve never set foot in the place.”

“And I keep on asking how can you possibly know what a place was like when you’ve never even seen it?”

“My mother told me all I needed to know.”

“Your mother? But that’s not like living there yourself. You told your stories in the first person.”

“But I wanted you to know what it was really like. So you could really feel how it was. You can’t do that by talking in the third person. It makes it sound so distant.”

“But you don’t know what it was really like. You were never there.”

“You liked the stories I told you, didn’t you?” Dr Finkel demanded.

“Yes, but you didn’t tell me you hadn’t been there. In fact, at one time, you said you wanted to go back.”

“As I say, I was just telling you in the first person, to keep it simple for you. Keeping it in context in order not to confuse you. By that I didn’t want you to believe I wanted to go back. Remember, you have a psychological disorder. It would be wrong to confuse you. If I start something in the first person I have to continue it in the first person. Besides, I already told I didn’t want to go back because it had changed so much. When I said my mother, or to put it in context, when I said I wanted to go back, I didn’t mean literally go back in that sense. I meant, or my mother meant, to go back in the sense of time, back to the Budapest of the days before the Russians came. Back to having coffee at a pavement café listening to roving gypsy musicians playing violins. To smell the black River Danube with the musky scent of rotting autumn leaves upon it.” He closed his eyes as though remembering.

“You could still go there,” I said.

“Now it’s changed so much? Never.”

“But it hasn’t changed for you because you’ve never been there.”

“That’s what you say, but I have such a real picture of it. The old trams rattling along the boulevards, bells clanging, the bull horn of the Daimler Benz, my father used to drive, honking.”

“Your father used to honk?”

“Not my father, the horn, you idiot!”

It was a defining moment in our patient doctor relationship. Okay, it was a bad joke, but it was one of those just waiting for the right moment to get out. And from the moment it did get out Dr Finkel was nearly always moody during our sessions. He hardly spoke a word, and left me to do all the talking. Of course, he would’ve become bored anyway sooner or later, that I knew.

Pity really, his mother’s life had been so interesting compared to mine, and I longed for him to tell me how wonderful Old Budapest had been in the days before the Russians came again. But he wouldn’t.

♦♦♦

Imagine stepping into universes parallel to our own. Without even knowing it, because they are virtually identical in every tiny deatil. Imagine entering certain states of altered consciousness where that was possible. Though nearly everything appears almost exactly the same, there would have to be minute differences.

Think about it. As time went on, the minute differences would become more profound. But our physical entities would draw us back to our original universe, and the differences we might have detected would no longer be there, I suppose. I was going to tell Dr Finkel but then thought better of it. His mind would already be on lunch. He would only think I was mad. After all, that was the reason I was there.

But think for another moment. Think of the times where you have returned to a place only minutes later, and a thing you know for absolute certain was there the first time is no longer there, or appears to have changed. Most observers would say you had got it wrong the first time, that what you thought you saw on the left-hand side had always been on the right, or vice versa. Perhaps they are right. Perhaps they are wrong.

Most renowned scientists accept the possibility of parallel universes. Not one or two, but countless billions. Not scientists, countless billions of parallel universes. There aren’t countless billions of scientists. Well, only if you count all the ones in the countless billions of universes.

Since my accident I keep on getting the feeling  I’m slipping from one parallel universe to the other. All the time. Not the same ones, different ones that look the same. Different, but only very slightly, so you would hardly notice. But I do. Or maybe it’s coincidence? Or prescience? Or even déjà vu.

Copyright © 2013 Bryan Hemming

To read the fifth chapter of Pedersen’s Last Dream click here

Conil de la Frontera

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