3: Torsten Underground
“A wall that isn’t there?” said Oscar, his voice losing an octave. “I knew it had to be some Malkuthian trick. I’ve always said you cannot trust these things!” He stuffed his cellular into his waistcoat pocket and started for the wall.
And passed straight through.
“Man, that’s some proper voodoo,” said Joel. “Is there, like, any magic words I should know?”
“Just keep walking,” said Byron.
It took him two tries, but then Joel also vanished from sight. Byron looked to Dante. “I would think this an easy obstacle for one who shrouds himself in illusion. There is a passage on the other side. Make haste, lest you spend the rest of the day victim to Shimomura’s mockery.”
Anything but that. Dante stepped up and ran his fingers down the wall. It was smooth as marble, its surface a muddy mixture of greys and browns. Everything told him it was real, every sense, every instrument, and yet he had witnessed his friends walk through it as if it were air. Taking a deep breath, he stepped forward—
—and walked into a solid wall.
Byron didn’t bother to hide his grimace of disappointment. “Close your eyes, if it helps. The wall is only here so long as you believe it here.”
Instinct told him that there was no wall, that it was all an illusion, a Malkuthian mirage to deter trespassers, but to accept instinct over fact would be to open a door he preferred to keep closed. All it took was a crack, and Dante wasn’t prepared to risk that. Not today.
He pushed instinct aside. He needed facts.
The wall had to be some form of aethex, he reasoned, a cloud of molecular machines that could convey the illusion of a wall—even a solid surface—as and when required. But, if a person approached it without hesitation, it would allow them passage. It was a test of belief. Of mind over matter.
After Dante’s third attempt, Byron rolled his eyes and left him behind. On his fourth, he tried running, reasoning that momentum would trump hesitation. Instead, he stalled at the last moment, as one would if they thought themselves running at a solid wall.
He was trying to walk through it backwards when Joel returned.
“It’s pretty whack,” he said. “Wanna try a smoke, get your mind off things?” He reached into his shirt and pulled out a pre-rolled joint stuffed with herbs from Byron’s garden.
Dante shook his head. Sedatives and stimulants were one thing, but he couldn’t trust a hallucinogenic, no matter how mild. He did enough to avoid sleeping as it was, he didn’t need his dreams invading reality.
Joel shrugged and lit the joint regardless. “You’re not missing much, anyway. Just some abandoned junk, like some kind of old base or something. Proper wreck.” He dragged on the herbs, released a cloud of smoke across the tunnel. “Must’ve been a helluva fight down here.”
“Yeah.” Dante wasn’t sure if he wanted to contemplate the possibilities. ‘Lex parsimoniae’, as Sohrabarak al-Hakim might say; keep it simple. And simple was the Sophists attacking the Donara and burning down their forest.
Joel slapped him on the shoulder. “C’mon, mate, let’s scarper before Ron knows we’re gone. Leave him to wank off with Oscar, y’know? I’ll tell ol’ Sahara Hackin’ you got through that wall same as I did. Not like he’s gonna know, is it?”
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Lex parsimoniae or, as we normal people might call it, ‘Occam’s Razor‘.
And no, society doesn’t have a problem with Joel smoking drugs. Or drinking alcohol. Or, indeed, most things. People have other things to worry about.