I opened my eyes.
The window was still there, as
unlikely as it was, beside the one-way, glassed observation room. If it
had been a normal window, it would have looked into the observation
room, the attached electronics closet, or the hallway beyond both, but
it wasn't and as such, it didn't.
I always insisted on a
tour around my room before I would settle down in new quarters, and the
doctors gave in, believing it affected my neurosis. They kept moving
me, hoping that something would be different enough that my behavior
would change, but it never did. The simple fact of the matter was that
they couldn't see the window; however, that didn't make me think it was
any less real.
I knew my imagination was top notch, but
there are some things that even the mind can not be tricked into, even
within the realm of a full-fledged dream. I could make myself taste and
smell food, rich and delicious, and other things, notably less so; I
could make myself feel textures rubbing against me; I could make myself
hear sounds that were never there; I could even make my internal
gyroscopes fluctuated from imagined gravity shifts. However, I could
never imagine into reality the feeling and warmth of sunlight on my
skin, or the chill and wildness of moonlight. When I sat in front of
that window, I could feel them both as the days wheeled by, at an
altogether different rate than that of our own.
This window looked out onto a world that was as real as our own, if not more so.
walls of my cell were padded enough to sleep on, springy enough to keep
me from injuring myself if I chose to, warm enough to keep me from
growing cold. I slept in there, took my meals in there, and even my
doctor visited me there for my examinations. I was considered a danger
to myself and others, but for different reasons.
considered a danger to myself because I would stare out the window to
the exclusion of everything else, including eating, until the doctors
discovered that they could place food in front of me during one of my
"episodes" and I would eat it. On occasion, I would throw myself at the
"apparition" that I saw in the wall.
I was considered a
danger to others because I spoke of freedom from prisons between my
"episodes." The doctors feared I was trying to stage a riot or a coup,
but I was talking about the Cavern.
found me in my apartment. I had cleared out all my belongings, and
empty bookshelves were piled dangerously in one room. My bedroom was
empty except for my bed-frame, and I has tied myself down to it, binding
my head in place with the window to my back. I stared at a bare wall.
I was unconscious, my body gaunt and nearly void of life--I'd been in that position for several days, unmoving.
was easy to close out the world, sitting in a white room on a
comfortable floor, watching a world through a window that only I could
I didn't feel like I was in a prison any more than
I had before they brought me in, because I knew that our world was a
prison, with bars only I could see. I wasn't seeking to overthrow the
guards or the doctors, and I wasn't trying to free anyone but myself.. I
knew and acknowledged the fact that if I couldn't free myself first, I
would never be able to show others the way.
I recognized the risk that once I was free, I might never be able to get back, but my dreams were clear enough to give me hope.
time you're in the shower, soap up your body last. Go ahead and turn
off the faucet, once you've got a good balance of lather and steam, to
make bubbles in the ring of your hands. Slowly make them larger, until
the bubble is ringed by your arms, hands, fingertips barely touching,
and chest. Watch the bubble's surface, the reflection of yourself
stretch and writhe.
Take a breath, lift your hands over your head,
still keeping the ring and bubble intact, and dive into it. Sometimes
it helps to soap up your nose too.
The first time, I closed my eyes. I still close them, the transition is rough enough without having to watch it.
The first time, I came out of the other side of the bubble under water. I still do sometimes, but my aim is getting better.
first time, I had to lather up my whole head, slick back my hair, and
dislocate my shoulders. It still hurts, but it's worth it.
The first time, I couldn't get back.
say some people can cross just by holding their hands out in front of
them, index fingers and thumbs forming a ring. Through that ring is all
most people see, all they can see, all they want to see. Focus on the
ring, until something steps into your peripheral vision. Step sideways
and follow it, keeping your eyes on the ring of your index fingers and
thumbs. Step sideways through the veil.
The first time, that's how I got back.
was passing meaninglessly, and I never bothered to count the days. The
lights in here never dimmed at night, never were bright enough to keep
me awake. My feeding cycle was regular. They left food in my cell in
front of where they supposed the window was and took the remnants back
after I had eaten. Sometimes, the food sat there for several hours, but
never more than a day.
Even if I had had a way to tally
the days, there would have been no reason to: I did little enough of
that when I was out in the world, my schedule so regular that the months
flew by without me noticing, sometimes startled by the coldness of the
air when stepping outside after working like a zombie through the
My paychecks were automatically deposited in my
checking account, my rent automatically taken out. If the balance got
over a certain level, the difference would automatically be transferred
into my savings account, and the reverse if it went below a certain
level. I paid for everything with my debit card, and carried no cash.
usually slept in front of the window, often being comforted by the
warmth of the sun shining through it onto me. I never noticed whether I
tanned or not, and wouldn't have been surprised either way.
day, I woke and someone was looking back at me. When they noticed me
raising myself back into my sitting position, they started banging on
the window. I slid forward and put my hand against it.
were clearly shouting, but I couldn't hear a word. I mimed back, and
when they had calmed down enough to see, they calmed down, sat on the
grass on the other side, and mimed back.
she was there and sometimes she wasn't. Sometimes she left suddenly, or
appeared suddenly, but it didn't seem to be a big deal.
Through our conversations, I learned her named was Beijing, and shared my own: Cairo.
knew what I was trying to do, and tried to discourage me. Life on the
other side was hard: dangers everywhere and places of safety few and far
between. But the colors were more vivid, just as they were in my
dreams, and I couldn't live forever in this place, knowing there was
She had felt the same way, at first, but now she couldn't get back.
tried teaching her the trick I had learned, after learning myself that
fiction was more true than anyone knew, painted as fiction to keep us
She stopped coming to see me, and I slipped back into my unenthusiastic routine.
was a commotion outside my cell, and the observation window that I
could never see through, vibrated like someone was pounding on it.
stood carefully, my legs not used to holding my weight. I placed my
hand gently on it, feeling the vibrations. I recognized the pattern.
once said that the only difference between a door and a window is that
windows are harder to open, and harder still to pass through.
But not impossible.
See also: "Cairo" on ThisIsAce'sMagic