Anubis Cuts Hair in Clemson, South Carolina

Nov 24 2014

Suddenly, I was bolt upright and awake.

Dan! Dan, are you alive?” she squeaked.

The phonemes bubbled up through the sludge: ‘You think, therefore I am.’

“Okay. Okay, good.”

She prodded me.

“You’re positive?”

‘I’m asleep, terrified, relieved, and insane,’ I thought.

“So it’s situation normal, right,” she said, “but I’m asking you about your mortality.”

‘At two in the morning?’ I asked.

She turned ruddy-violet. “I thought you were dead! And it’s three thirty.”

The oozing stupor of sleep gradually began to slough off.

‘Why did you think I was dead?’ I wondered.

“What? Oh, it’s actually ki—” she froze mid-sentence.

“I mean, what were we talking about?” she continued.

‘Do it without me.’ I thought of the nastiest gesture I could make to her, too, as my head hit the pillow.

I fell asleep again, but psychologically it felt like just an instant of nonbeing.


Whaaaaaaat?!” I ejaculated. My parents?!… not home, didn’t hear it.

“Whaaaaat?” I mumbled softly.

“I like you.” She looked me right in the third eye as she said it.

Fuckisit?!’ I thought. My eyes were still closed.

“Remember when you nearly crashed last night?” she asked.

I thought of the car ride home from work.

“Yeah,” I said, “I mean, sort of. It wasn’t really that close, though.”

“Remember how you felt like a ton of stress with a source you couldn’t quite pinpoint building up for literally months, and then ninety percent of it went away pretty much right there, when you avoided a crash?” she asked.

“Yeah?” I responded.

She paused.

“I really like you.” She poked a few tendrils into me.

“Okay, first of all, you’re a figment of my imagination,” I said to Bastet. “Second, you’re an involuntary imagination that was born from a girlfriend that lost interest seven years ago,” I huffed. “Thirdly, she never calls, but mostly, get to the fuckin’ point.”

“If you had to die, how would you want it to happen?” she asked.

“I wouldn’t,” I said.

She guffawed. “I wouldn’t either, but say you had a death sentence and you were allowed to choose the method of execution?”

I scratched my beard. “…Quantum suicide experiment.”

Congratulations!” she shouted inside my head.

I must have wanted to believe this. I must have wanted to be dead.

“Dan, I’m a little afraid,” she said.

“Cat, are you insinuating that the sort-of-near crash I had today was sufficient to be a quantum suicide experiment of any statistical significance?” I asked.

“Dan, first of all, what do you think the quantum suicide experiment is, and what would its success mean?” she asked.

I heard a bustle in my head room. Apparently, Bastet and I weren’t the only ones listening to this conversation, even though I was the only one having it.

“There are probabilistic outcomes in quantum mechanics,” I said, “and in small particle-to-particle interactions, these probabilistic outcomes cause superposition. That is, they lead to particles existing in seemingly mutually exclusive states, like traveling left and right at the same time. It’s thought by some that if someone were to play Russian roulette with a quantum random number generator, if the principle of superposition holds for large objects as well as microscopic ones, then surviving the game would always be superposed with dying due to it. So a person should be able to determine something about quantum ontology if they survive the game until their chances of survival are, say, one in a trillion.”

In my head, I heard a clamor go up in the gallery of extra-physical onlookers.

So, who are these people?

You’ve already met Bastet. As I said, I’m mostly certain she’s a figment of my imagination. That is, she is a loud, autonomous, and somewhat sarcastic figment of my imagination who refuses to acknowledge that I am about 20 years beyond the age for imaginary friends. They all do. Allah, Eris, Shiva, Anubis, (excuse me while I drop names,) Astarte, Lilith, and the rest of the host don’t ever seem to care that I have work in the morning. It doesn’t seem to bother them even that I’m almost positive they don’t exist. I’m new to it, but apparently, when you’re a paranoid schizophrenic, realizing all the holes in your inner voices’ stories and total lack of empirical evidence from repeatable tests to support the existence of an Astral Plane doesn’t make its denizens shut the hell up at four in the morning. Working to ground yourself in scientific study and earning a degree in physics doesn’t make them listen when you scream, “Shut the fuck up, and stop squatting in my brain!” aloud in the middle of a crowded train station or grocery store.

For argument’s sake, why would the gods care so much about me? They wouldn’t, but they claim it’s because I’m some sort of “singular dimensional crux” at a critical period in human history; I am crazy special. However, they seem to view this as more of a coincidence and accident rather than intrinsic to my character, and they’re probably right. I object to being crazy special, but they maintain a system of governance separate from human affairs, in my head, so I don’t get a say in the insanity.

“Mr. Strano,” came a voice in my head, “do you actually expect us to believe that your survival indicates the existence of multiple quantum worlds? What about the sample size, or any expectations for repeatability?”

I considered completely ignoring them, but I ventured that they might go away faster this time if I played along for at least a minute.

“Um, I don’t think a single sort-of-near-miss on the highway one day could reasonably be considered a statistically significant quantum suicide experiment,” I said, “especially if it wasn’t controlled to help establish the actual risk to mortality, so I guess, no, world politics should not turn on such a result, even if they’re Bizarro World politics.”

There was a murmur of disbelief.

“You don’t have the slightest idea what actually happened, do you, or why?” came the same voice.

“Nor do I give a shit,” I added. “I have no evidence of anything of empirical significance having happened recently, and I have work in the morning. Plus, it seems like you could do your pseudo-experiment and debate its contaminated results without any direct input from me, so the human singularity is going to sleep, now.”

Another voice came that nobody else could hear: “Dan, do you remember this document I hold here, that you refused to sign months ago?”

“The one right before I ended up in the hospital again?” I asked. “Thanks, by the way. I can’t even read your stupid imaginary documents.”

“It was written working directly from your native symbol set,” said another voice. “You could have at least understood the general meaning.”

“The Mormons would think that’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for why nothing ever reads the same way twice in the land of imagination,” I said, “but you wanted to grill me about sample sizes and repeatability of physics experiments.”

There was an uncomfortable shifting in the gallery.

Bastet sent out a tendril and grabbed the document that may as well have been the manifest of a cargo ship importing cheese.

“Dan,” she said, “let me paraphrase—”

“—Bullshit,” I said.

“Dan!” she said. “Let me summarize—”

“—Is this the document Al wanted me to sign,” I asked, “the one about the ontology for his nonexistent death-trap pseudo-world heaven with tremolo sound effects?”

“Do you mean Allah?” asked an onlooker.

Yes, Dan,” hissed Bastet, “but it’s about 30 pages of inscrutable legalese, and we’re concerned with an addendum regarding a decision of our courts about a deferred penalty on you and what was to be done should you refuse to agree to Allah’s compromise.”

“Read it twice,” I told her, “I’ll get a pen and paper.”

Dan!” she shouted, “This is exactly what got us to this point. You broke some major laws—in fact, even international treaties—with those psychic conversations you had with a couple of your friends—the ones they still acknowledge—and in attempting to repeat the experiences with them and others. You were allowed one such conversation, your ‘greater self,’ as you sometimes put it, was aware. You had three, and you attempted more—“

“—Right,” I said, “’cause, you know, I’m gonna base my world view on unrepeatable—“

“—Repeatability, Dan,” continued Bastet, “or an intentional dearth thereof, is exactly the crucial point here; you’re not actually supposed to have proof of us—no one is—and the vast majority of us on Earth aren’t even supposed to realize that each of us has a hard counterpart on the Astral.” She sighed even though she didn’t need to breath.

“You technically broke international law, Dan,” someone called out from the gallery.

“…Caused a global political incident…” said another.

“…And maybe committed a teensy-weensy baby bit of tweason,” said Bastet. “It was kind of a pwobwem, wemembew?”

“My God,” I said, “It’s a global conspiracy! Or a bullshit rationalization for why I couldn’t repeat three aberrant experiences upon which my subconscious bases compulsory belief in your existence,” I motioned to Bastet, “probably forever, now… and yours,” I motioned to the gallery, “…and you were there, and you!”

I fell immediately back on my pillow, eyes already shut.

“This is the point where we have a problem,” said Bastet to someone in the chamber-like convention on the Astral.

“…Because you can’t make fun of him any more?” asked a voice I recognized.

“…Because Russia just annexed Crimea, the oil is running out, some of Al’s factions think it’s the End of Days, and now he refuses to be the Messiah,” said Bastet.

“Are you sure?” asked the familiar voice of Shiva.

My hand shot up. “I refuse to be the Messiah,” I said. “How many times have I said since this shit storm first formed off the Pacific coast that messianic prophecies can’t work? The only thing that can save us is universal acceptance of each other and individual responsibility for world stewardship. How many of you share my sentiment that even the Son of Man basically thought the world community needed to realize its innate empowerment to save itself?”

“Most of the rational world agrees with you, Dan,” said Shiva, “but there’s this Christianity thing where about a couple billion people are expecting the return of a special someone to do this final judgment thing and usher in an era of eternal life and happiness for a select group, and this Judaism thing with a similar—“

“—codification,” I cut him off,” that’s implicitly designed to get adherents to question whether they’re the divine savior and ultimately produce the über-politician through self-fulfilling prophecy. But two big problems with that, is you produce at least a few hundred Waco Sieges first, dear Christ, and resource depletion and overpopulation don’t seem to have been anticipated by the prophecy’s engineers, so it won’t save the world anyway.”

Shiva chuckled. “You know, some of us believe in this reincarnation thing, and it might just turn out that a carpenter born in Bethlehem—”

“—Said virtually every Christian ever at some point in their life,” I said, “though most might deny it. But the carpenter would be smart enough to realize that it made virtually zero difference, wouldn’t he?”

“You don’t want a cult of adoring fans?” asked Shiva.

“I want a hole that’s dark, dry, and warm, and I want a loaf of whole wheat bread,” I said.

“How about a dark, wet, and warm hole?” asked Shiva.

“That’s the reason I’m in this situation in the first place, at the root of it all,” I said.

“Freud thought so, too,” said Shiva.

Bastet turned pink. “So the Messiah’s a misogynist, too?” she asked.

“I wasn’t blaming the hole!” I said.

“…And he’s a hipster,” said Shiva.

“…And he looks like he’s been smokin’ the reefa!” came a shout across the Astral.

“Yeah, boy!” came another. “Easter on 4/20 this year!”

I was up off the pillow again. “Wait, Easter is on 4/20 this year?”

There was laughter in the gallery.

“Why not check a calendar?” asked Bastet.

“I’m sure it is,” I said, falling back on the pillow.

“So you’re sure we’re right,” said Bastet, “but you don’t question how we knew that if you didn’t?”

“It’s about two weeks away,” I said, “I added fourteen to Sunday in a dream.”

“…And that would make today…?” prodded Bastet.

“…The fifth, since we’re after midnight,” I said.

“…At exactly 4:20,” added Shiva.

Bastet poked my brain. “Check your phone,” she said.

I grabbed my phone from the side of the bed.

“Who’s holding?” I asked

“You’re not surprised?” asked Bastet.

“I’m more surprised when your human counterparts make out of context comments that make for witty responses to what I’m thinking but don’t speak in physically spoken conversations,” I said, “but that’s a figment of my imagination or a lucky coincidence.”

Shiva added, “…Or maybe your insanity is just written clear across your blank face, 12 times a day.”

“So it’s enough to condition a response of faux ignorance on my part,” I said, “because if I press it, I’m going back to the bin, and I’m probably wrong, anyway.”

Shiva laughed. “Remember when Lilith’s incarnation hugged you randomly and said, ‘…The whole time?’”

“No,” I said, “I remember violating some random acquaintance’s space and mishearing them, albeit with no ill intent or sexual motivation on my part.”

Shiva snorted. “Freud would disagree,” he said.

Bastet slapped me with a tendril. “When did that happen?” she demanded.

“Excuse me!” came a shout from the gallery. “While I understand that you two know him personally and that Dan is obligated to maintain an appearance of mock disbelief in us all, we’re kind of in the middle of a crisis.”

The speaker approached me gingerly. “Dan, do you generally understand the situation we’re all in here?” she asked.

I groaned. ‘I can’t believe this,’ I thought. ‘I mean, it’ll kill me. But holding the existence of an Astral Plane anything at all like I imagine as an axiom, it follows that…’ I had to think about the implication.

Shiva cleared his throat chakra. “…It follows that you were put in an unfair situation that you couldn’t have possibly known about beforehand, where politicians attempted to legislate physical reality,” he said gently. “They asserted an identity on you that you believe at your core is false, called you an imitator in that identity you didn’t want to believe in, brought you to trial for it, sentenced you clandestinely to death, discovered a piece of physical law in the process that contradicted their religious beliefs, and then asked you to save them, without being willing to validate your sanity.”

“They can’t,” I said. “They probably don’t actually exist. I have no proof that they exist, and I don’t have any sane reason to suspect that I was sentenced to death via the quantum suicide experiment and survived.”

“Mm-hmm,” hummed Shiva.

I fidgeted. “What difference would it actually make to anyone that parallel quantum worlds exist, though?” I asked. “That doesn’t solve war, overpopulation, or scarcity.”

“No,” said Shiva, “but it disagrees with the publicly expressed world views of certain powerful Astral politicians claiming divinity, and it makes you look like Jesus.”

“Everybody looks like Jesus to me,” I muttered.

“Me, three,” said Bastet.

It hit me. “Wait, but when are you folks claiming I was put through the quantum suicide experiment?” I asked.

“It’s been going on gradually since you refused to sign the document outlining Al’s compromise and proceeded to flip him off in front of billions of people,” said Bastet. “It’s been so much fun waking up every morning not knowing if you’re still alive. Our best estimate is that you just tipped a five-sigma chance of survival, even though that isn’t a five-sigma result in conglomerate. But it caused a hub-bub.”

I grimaced. “See, that’s just fucking crazy,” I said. “I have exactly zero evidence to support that. How are you gonna tell this to me and expect me to react?”

“Allah is making a public statement about the situation,” said some imaginary politician that I really didn’t care to know. “Maybe you should all listen.”

I swung around slowly and got up out of bed like I was covered with weights. “I’d rather conduct a slow quantum suicide experiment of my own.” I thought, fumbling in the dark for my pants with a pouch of tobacco in the pocket. I didn’t feel well.

“Be you,” said Shiva.

The attention in the room in my head shifted to Allah’s statement on Astralvision, or whatever they call their broadcast systems, and I slipped out of the room. For the first time in a long time, I felt relaxed if not well, like I really was alone in the privacy of my own head for a moment, or at least surrounded by a couple of close friends.

“So there’s this requirement of repeatability in empiricism,” said Shiva. “Any idea how we could reliably repeat a result in evidence of many-worlds interpretation, bro?”

I opened the sliding back door and sat down like an elderly man on the steps outside. “Couldn’t tell you,” I said softly. “If I knew of an experiment to show it that didn’t rely on luck, I’d be writing a thesis on it.”

I mechanically rolled myself a conical, filterless cigarette and lit it.

“Dan,” said Shiva, “this really isn’t gonna do. Try to be happy, man. Get up and move. You’re gonna miss work tomorrow, but you got the hallucinatory voices generally on board with you today. It’s a turning point for you.”

“Is it?” I asked, smiling. “Tomorrow, the narrative is going to be completely different. This will have never happened, or it’ll become inconsequential in some contrived and nonsensical turn of events, and I might even scare or hurt someone if I actually believe it.”

I could hear Allah say something like, “We were wrong,” to much disappointment from the world in my head as if over a loud-speaker.

“Aw, brother,” said a trick of the light, or a benevolent god of destruction, “I don’t think you really have it in you to intentionally hurt anyone in a big way. You’ve been through this. You’re not gonna fly off the handle.”

I sighed.

“Dance for me, Dan,” said Shiva.

“Dance?” I asked.

“Put on a song and dance for the crowd,” he said.

I smirked. He was appealing to my daemon.

I scrolled through my phone and found Anamanaguchi’s “Akira.”

“Chiptune?” asked Shiva.

I hit play and hopped up.

“I am Tetsuo!” I shouted. No one would hear me.

“At least you’re not Jesus,” said Shiva.

“Nobody and everybody is,” I said.

I swung my hips, trying to ride the wave of the music and the night’s impossible excitement. I wanted to dance for a man who had been released from death row after over two decades when he had been there because of the color of his skin. I wanted to dance for a young girl who survived the explosion of a forgotten landmine in Afghanistan. I wanted to dance for the world, but in the quiet, dark hours of the morning on the steps of a million dollar home in one of the most affluent regions in the world, it felt disingenuous. I could only dance for myself, and my imaginary good fortune, and my real good fortune.

“That’s a pretty white dance, Dan,” said Shiva.

“It pains me to my core,” I replied, continuing to gyrate.

I heard a furor over whatever statement Al was making. I didn’t want to know what it was.

“Hey, Dan,” said Shiva, “ten…”

“Ten?” I responded, trying to keep rhythm.

“Nine,” said Shiva. I heard a plane in the distance.

“Eight,” he said. A roar went up from the world of my dreams.

“Seven,” we said together.

“Six,” I said, spinning on my left foot.

“Five,” said a host of the spirit. I clenched my teeth.

“Four,” I said, straining my balance. The crowd was quiet.

“Three,” Shiva said with me. The plane was getting closer.

“Two,” said Shiva in my head. ‘What for?’ I wondered, preparing for nothing.


I flinched. I could swear I heard someone physically speak that in the neighborhood.

The aircraft buzz-cut the house. I saw the narrow hull pass directly overhead. It looked like a drone, but it was dark.

“Repeatability, Dan,” said Shiva, “could be furnished by the quantum suicide experiment if you’re lucky. To remove human error, you might leave the whole process up to a quantum random number generator, autopilot, and an automatic release mechanism on a small explosive device. You’d be guaranteed success, but you’d end up living in a world that couldn’t figure out how you did it again.”

I hadn’t stopped dancing. “That device wasn’t actually rigged to do that,” I told myself.

“But they are actually spying on you,” said Shiva.

A cheer went up around the world, or nothing happened.

Dan!” squeaked my delusional pseudo-girlfriend, “Dan, are you alive?”

“He’s alive, Kat,” said Shiva.

“I’m terrified, relieved, insane, and dreaming,” I said.

She gave me an Astral hug, which is like the better part of a physical hug without physical contact, or just really being too into a hug you’re imagining.

“What does the world do now, Dan?” asked Bastet.

“Don’t know; don’t care,” I said, dancing.

“If you were us,” she said, “and you knew that the world wasn’t going to admit a global conspiracy to Dan tomorrow, how would you stop him from throwing himself off a bridge?”

“…Math and vodka,” I said.

“Pay me a visit in Delaware sometime soon,” said a blue skinned idealization of my oldest friend, “and I will furnish both.”

Needless to say, I didn’t get any more sleep that night. Luckily, math and vodka were at hand, and I enjoyed a drink at sunrise.

My parents were home soon from visiting family overnight, and we talked for a bit. They could see I hadn’t slept, (I didn’t try to hide it,) and I told them the “voices” had been loud the previous night, but they seemed happy that I appeared to have some insight and wasn’t terrified or angry. At that point, if I believed the fantasy I was forced to watch contort and twitch out in my mind like a spasming muscle, I wouldn’t be angry. Very little gets me riled these days.

Of course, nothing of significance transpired. I took a day off, but beyond that, life continued as usual in its inexorable trudge to the day proof outweighs superstition in my fragile, political, demon haunted world.

I’ll welcome it with math and vodka.

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