This was all getting a bit deep and intense, so I served out some more coke and opened a couple of bags of liquorice bullets.
“Right,” I said to Carla. “So reality is a figment of our imaginations but since you, and we, and everything else is inside that figment, it’s also completely real?”
“No,” Carla grated.
“Reality is more complex than we will ever understand, but if we keep looking at it through a keyhole we will only ever see small pieces that tell us nothing?” the Drake hazarded.
“No,” Carla repeated.
Winona raised a liquorice bullet contemplatively before his eyes. “Perhaps reality is what we make it,” he said, “and so responsibility for its preservation lies with us.”
“N – no,” Carla said, sounding a little less certain.
Mister C of 9 stood up, one black-stained hand clenched around his staples and torn clothing, and raised the other dramatically in the air. “Every rose-”
“No,” at least three of us said.
“Which fucker slipped me a mickey?” Mell growled as she raised her head and lifted her hair balefully from her face. “I feel like a toilet that’s been turned into a person by some sadistic fairy godmother.”
I pointed at her. “I feel like we’re getting closer.”
“I wish Ian was here,” Creepy remarked.
I smiled, thinking about the timeless, irritable reindeer. Munching on a bowl of nachos and holding forth about the nature of existence and the weirdly integrity-bound ideology of the absolute cynic.
The world, the universe, is a tiny little air-bubble rising up through a body of water. When it reaches the surface, it pops and the world ends.
The lake is slo-time, surrounding the universe. You can’t think of it in a linear sense, or a physical sense. The bubble didn’t rise up from the bottom of the lake in the past, to arrive at the surface in the future. The surface appears and the bubble pops when certain requirements are met.
That’s what the end of the universe means. Everything inside the bubble ceases to exist. Slo-time, the real universe, continues in its own unfathomable way, but we are all returned to whatever pure expressions we exist as out there. Standing waves, inconceivable and inapplicable to anything within this universe.
Same would happen to you, and everything else in this universe, only you have no theoretical roots in slo-time to fall back onto. You’d become one with the Wasteland in a planck-length, then the Wasteland would be swallowed by slo-time. Without form, and void, darkness upon the face of the deep, that’s what slo-time is.
What had any of that been about? If slo-time wasn’t the real universe, if it wasn’t the endless nothingness that waited on every side of time and space, then what was it? And what was real? And what could Creepy and I do to affect something so meaninglessly vast?
And were any of these questions even remotely the right ones? I got the feeling, looking at Carl as she drank coke more angrily than I’d ever seen anyone drink coke before, that they weren’t. Probably by definition because it was us asking them.
This little bubble is amazing. It’s the only bubble in the lake. And this is our way of being a part of it.
“I wish Ian was here too,” I said.
“Who’s Ian?” Winona asked. “I assume you are referring to ‘Ian the Reign Dír’, whom you mentioned before?”
It was weird, I reflected, how I could tell exactly when Winona was saying a normal word in a hilariously misunderstood high-fantasy way. “Yeah,” I said. “Um, a reindeer is actually a sort of semi-domesticated livestock animal, um, like a Xixian thunder hamster but with only one pair of horns.”
“Ian was a special magical breed that could fly and talk, though.”
“But he doesn’t exist anymore, and technically never really did exist in the first place because what he really was could only express itself in this universe as a reindeer-shaped – you know what, this is probably not helping,” I concluded.
“Who knows what might help?” Winona chewed on a liquorice bullet. “These chocolate-covered rat poops are unsettlingly tasty.”
“They’re not chocolate covered rat poops.”
“Well whatever the rat poops are covered in…”
Carla slammed her fists on the table hard enough to make the glasses of coke jump, the bags of liquorice bullets rustle, and Mell to somersault out of her seat and come down in a crouch with her knife out.
“This,” she said, and raised a fist to point around at the six of us, “is really bad.”