Open your eyes and the dream persists. He steps into the Metaphor House and all he can see is a rickety table with a can of Acme Processed Meat. Then it is a room with a man in a chair stroking the ugliest cat you have ever seen.
Another rickety table with a typewriter on it wobbles and then falls over, the rusting machine atomising in a puff of dust as it hits the floor. James Joyce holds up a copy of Ullyses and likewise falls to the floor and is translated by the action into a cloud of dust.
‘I am a Delta, and I know that you are Carter Brecht.’
‘Are you really here?’
‘Really here? Am I what I am? What a strange question to ask, here of all places. I am and am not; am knot; am united and untied, all at once.’
‘Great, so I have travelled from the interior logic of reality, into a place where reality in a fungible thing, and I am dealing with someone who may not be in front of me’
‘Does it matter as long as it helps?’
i Suppose not’
‘Anyway, what did you expect coming here? I know you for what you are and you are trained to operate flawlessly, even within the bounds of a place that is resolutely not what it seems. And is, at points, exactly what it seems – and at others exists somewhere in between. I am here to help you, of course, but the nature of this place is not about straight lines, and in that, isn’t it a mirror of the game your are playing?’
‘Don’t mind if I do. You know there are deteriorating pathways that make this game as beautiful as it is? There are misunderstandings that enrich the experience. What would life be without friction? Without fiction?’
‘The cat Spay? James Joyce was Arnover? Who are you? Is the house Reality?’
‘This place is all about metaphor We explain ourselves to ourselves.’
‘Something like that. Or a Marley perhaps. Aren’t all metaphors really just data-ghosts? How do you think the people reading these words in the future see your reality?’
‘When are you from?’
‘Always or yesterday. You are asking the wrong questions. I am here and not here. Maybe you shouldn’t even be talking to me. Weren’t you looking for a distraction.’
He blinked, and The Metaphor House was emptied. And he wondered for a second whether or not it had been filled.
‘You know, in the beginning was the word was a pretty good story,’ said a voice out of nowhere, ‘And then the word became flesh is a pretty good continuance,’ and a man wrapped around the words. ‘Do you think I had an idea or the idea had me? Am I the egg or the Bloop Hen?’
Carter stared at him blankly – this person or whatever it was that he was witnessing, was not in need of any answers.
‘Did you know that the first Reality Engineer was a Metaphor Technician? Sorry, I mean Neanderthal: a being called Bartag that dreamed himself immortal. He started off painting pictures, and then he learned words, and after he realised that he could change the perceptions of others, he rebuilt the world around a new idea of itself.
‘The problem you have is that you think that the future is arrived at in a straight line, and that it is travelled to from the past, so that it is the past upon which tomorrow is built, but what if yesterday were built on the foundations of tomorrow? What if we were all travelling in circles?
‘See, you think that the Carter Brecht you saw was something out in front of you, but he may have been something from behind you.’
‘Look, I know that Reality and time aren’t a straight line, I am a Reality Engineer.’
‘Or an engine. Just a reality engine. Isn’t that true also?’
‘What’s happening here?’
‘What’s happening here?’
‘You’re an echo.’
‘I’m an echo.’
Carter laughed. Playing fucking games at the end of the universe. Or was it the beginning? It didn’t matter, did it? He came here to work out his own thoughts on what to do next – the whole conversation a metaphor for his own internal thought process. Well, with a little spice thrown over the top by the architecture of the house; it was an engine housing, and he was the engine. He knew all this – strange how one could forget things that they had been trained in for years.
Step back from the enfolding dream, and it was like you never left. He understood things a lot better now. This was a story, and they had all forgotten that that was what they were doing.
‘Where’ve you been, Carter?’
‘Spirit Quest in the bathroom.’
They both laughed. A break in the clouds. A glimpse of sunlight.