Black Hole

He was known to disconnect from the world on occasion. One minute, he’d be in the grocery store, leaning over to smell the flowers, and the next he’d be floating alongside the Orion Nebula, not able to breathe, swimming his arms in empty space but not going anywhere. He’d be out there just until he thought he’d pass out from lack of oxygen, and then he’d blink and be back wherever he was before the episode started, gasping for breath but alive. Looking for a diagnosis was a farce. Half of the MDs he saw pegged him as a drug addict, while the other half wanted to have him admitted. Some suggested narcolepsy with vivid dreams, but these weren’t dreams. He could feel the coldness of space biting at his fingers, the sting in his eyes when he looked at the bright light of the stars unencumbered by an atmosphere to shield out the harmful rays. He could feel the pressure in his head and chest, hear the absolute silence of the void.

He never knew when it would happen. It didn’t seem to be triggered by any specific smells or sounds or sights. It could happen when he was happy or sad or angry. He made detailed logs of his episodes and shared them with the MDs who actually stuck with him, but it got him nowhere.

He never knew where it would take him, either. He’d witnessed the creation of stars, flown over alien planets he’d never before seen, each of them dotted with lights like you’d see in a photo of Earth from space at night. Gaseous clouds of every color undulated past. Hunks of rock of unbelievable size hurtled past, so massive that they seemed to be lazily sliding past him. Satellites of a construction he’d never before seen flew past, sometimes stopped in place as if to observe him, then continued on their way. Every time, he’d hold his breath as long as he could and try to take in as much as possible before going back. If he was in public, he’d inevitably find himself surrounded by unfamiliar faces, concerned faces that were relieved to see him regain consciousness. That was better than waking up in an ambulance or hospital room, because at least then he wouldn’t be charged for the ride and visit.

He took whatever he had with him. More than a few times, he found himself aimlessly pushing a shopping cart through the yawning abyss of space, his groceries slowly floating away from him. When he’d wake up, everything would be back in its place. Then, one day, he got an idea. He was surprised it hadn’t struck him before.

He’d wear a breathing mask and oxygen tank.

He went to a scuba shop and bought the best mask and biggest tank he could find. He called a week off work and wore the mask and tank 24/7. He’d basically never gone a week without an episode before, so all he’d have to do was wait. He also kept a fire extinguisher handy at all times so that he’d have something to propel himself with in space. He spent as much time as he could in bed to ensure that he wouldn’t fall and get hurt if an episode hit. He was ready.

And then it happened.

He found himself hovering above an alien nebula he’d never seen before, each twinkling pinprick within it a star, some of them perhaps suns for habitable planets. He had to remind himself that he wasn’t technically above the nebula, that there was no “above” in space. Some concepts are hard to shake off.

He got to work right away. His mask secure, he turned on the oxygen and was amazed to find that he could breathe. All these years, all these episodes, and he’d always been holding his breath. When that was done, he sprayed a bit of the fire extinguisher by his side, just enough to make him spin. He needed to see where his destination would be.

There were massive clusters of stars everywhere, uncountable. But then there, in the center of it all, there were no stars. There was nothing at all. A perfect circle of nothingness stared back at him, whether taunting or beckoning he couldn’t tell. An unnamable dread consumed him, a fear of something he did not and could not understand. A black hole.

He fought against its pull at first, the different vestigial parts of his brain fighting against this threat, trying to liken it to an apex predator in the wild but having no clear strategy on how to outrun something so massive that it can slow down time.

He’d read all about time dilation. The frequent, unplanned, and initially unwanted trips to space had developed in him an interest in the infinite. Theoretically, if one were to be pulled into a black hole and somehow survive, time would slow down to such a degree relative to them that it would seem like they were being pulled in for millennia. There were many theories on what would happen once an object or person was entirely pulled in, but no one knew for sure.

Now he would.

He pointed the fire extinguisher behind him and propelled himself forward, toward the black hole. He saw this not as an end, but a new beginning. A gateway to something else. A path leading to a world he had no concept of. He flew, and was pulled, and carried. He watched as the light went in along with him.

MANDELBROT MAN

It began with an internet search, as most crazy discoveries do nowadays. And what started as harmless interest quickly grew into obsession. I’m talking eschewing wikipedia, even google, and sifting through mountains of data himself. Talking finding things that he couldn’t even locate later, they’d mysteriously disappeared. That sort of thing. But basically, his research centered on the pineal gland and the mandelbrot set.

Apparently, people have the ability to channel ungodly amounts of energy and information through this gland in the brain that’s the size of a pea. Perceive light through it, observe things on the microscopic and telescopic scale. Have out of body experiences, religio-spiritual occurrences. Just happens to line up with the center of the forehead, where the third eye would be. You get the idea.

As any good mysterious idea is, this one’s locked up in an intense conspiracy theory. Claims that the pineal gland soaks up fluoride like a sponge, clouds it so that the average person’s powers are diminished. Government control to keep us docile through the water supply. I’m sure you’ve heard about it.

Well, our protagonist decided that he was going to do something about it. Bought a big, honking distiller. Pumped the fluoride right out of the water. Started meditating, focusing on that little pea in the center of his forehead. Looked up mandelbrot sets, those fractals that are popular with the psychedelic crowd, the self-repeating shapes and colors that go on and on ad infinitum. Tried the Ganzfeld effect, with ping pong balls over his eyes and white noise pumped into his ears to produce hallucinations. Our guy went all out.

And this story wouldn’t be a story if nothing happened, which it actually did. The little gland started pulsing in his head the more he focused on it. A tingly sort of warmth emanated from it, until he could actually feel it coursing through each and every nerve in his body. Could feel the blood pump through his veins, filter into the tiny, branching capillaries and enrich his body with oxygen. Basically experienced the weird, New Agey stuff he’d initially scoffed at when he’d first read about it.

But he’d invariably get excited and focus even more on channeling his third eye, which would stop the experience immediately. If he wanted to get the full effect, he’d have to stop thinking about it entirely. Kind of like when you space out and look at a wall, your vision tunnels into the single point your pupils are focused on. But the second you become aware and try to actually focus, the tunnel is gone. This would take some work.

He meditated tirelessly, induced sleep and sensory deprivation, drank pitchers of the distilled water to cleanse out all the fluoride. Only ate foods with five or fewer ingredients on the label, and no processed crap. Determined would be an understatement.

And I wouldn’t be telling this story right now if it didn’t work. He divorced his self from himself. Had no concept of subject or object, no us and them or me and you. All was one and one was all. He was the breath in his lungs, the perspiration dripping down in rivulets from his forehead. His third eye was throbbing, until it felt like it was his entire body.

And in an instant, he became entirely aware of the universes within universes that composed his body. Each individual cell among billions was him. He felt when they split and reproduced, when they atrophied and died, only to be replaced by another. And each cell was composed of still tinier forms, on and on like that, even beyond quarks, to a realm beyond human understanding, where microscopic galaxies spiraled on in empty nothingness, where planets bearing minuscule life orbited miniature suns. And within those tiny lifeforms, tinier still cells, and universes within them, and so on beyond any human conception of limit.

And outside of our protagonist was a boundless universe, stretching up into sizes that human brains can’t conceive of, going on and on until it could be seen in its enclosed state, as a single cell in the body of an inconceivably immense being, that being itself a part of its own universe which in turn is just a cell within a larger cosmic framework.

Seeing this then, as it was, his body had no limit. He was the size of the building he was in, and then larger. He was floating and then flying, simultaneously in that moment and witnessing his own birth and death. Transcending his body and then even the body of the tiny cell he called his universe.

He stretched on and on, heard all sounds and saw all sights. His body became light and then snaked and twisted through nebulous clouds, evaporated at the slightest touch and then spontaneously retook his mortal form. And then, when he had reached a plane that is entirely beyond human capabilities, he shed his human body. He became the single drop he’d started as, and returned to the endless ocean of consciousness.

He’s never been seen or heard from again. His friends and family naturally reported him missing, but it’s no use. And besides, if they knew where it was that he’d gone they wouldn’t worry anyway.

Some say you can still feel him even now, wrinkled within the fabric of the universe itself. He might manifest as a slight tingle down your spine here, a chill in the air you can’t explain there… Either way, he makes his presence known. So be sure to watch out for him.

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