Great Barrington, Massachusetts
Harte pulled into the driveway of his house in Massachusetts, a grey barn of a place near a large lake. The windows seemed disproportionately small for the size of the place, and Lily realized that it was probably well over two centuries old. Normally, Lily liked old buildings; she enjoyed the sense of history, so different from most of the architecture back home in California. This bare structure, though, standing isolated among the pines, was forbidding.
The thought of San Jose reminded her of the messages from her mother she had yet to return. Lily checked her phone, and found she’d lost the signal. Probably as they’d driven into the Berkshires. At least she’d have a break from that pressure.
Moving her suitcase into the severe building, Lily was struck by the built-in bookcases lining virtually every wall in the place. Most of the shelves were filled with psychiatric and psychopharmacologic reference works, or volume after volume of professional journals, the earliest dating from the late ninteen-sixties. However, several unusual titles on one shelf caught her eye: "The Structure of Magic in Stage Performance, Vol. 1"..."Frogs into Princes: Neuro Linguistic Programming"..."Pure Effect: Direct Mindreading and Magical Artistry with a Live Audience."
When she asked about them, Harte muttered that they were “from another life,” without turning his head. It struck her as uncharacteristically metaphorical; in her memory, he had never used so much as a euphemism. But he refused to be drawn when she tried to pry further, just shaking his head and beckoning her to follow him to the examination room he intended to use for the administration of the Visulex.
The room was remarkably well equipped for a rural practice. In addition to the normal accoutrements of a practicing psychiatrist, there was a variety of other equipment that Lily thought would have been more fitting in a research lab. There appeared to be a full set of electroencephalography gear amid some less identifiable devices, as well as a small collection of cameras and other recording devices connected to a set of monitors mounted on the wall. Rather than a table, there was a rather odd but comfortable-looking chair in the center of the room, with head and foot rests, like the offspring of an overstuffed recliner and a dentist’s examination chair.
She dropped her suitcase in a corner, while Harte began puttering around the room, setting up an intravenous feed and plugging in the EEG sensors. Lily realized that he intended to take the drug immediately, and that she was out of time to debate the idea that had come to her during the drive.
So she spat it out. “I’ll take the Visulex.” She was amazed that she said it without stuttering.
Harte stopped mid-putter, and turned to look at her. His face was unfathomable. “In good conscience, I could not possibly allow you to take that risk, Ms. Breckenridge.”
“We’re co-conspirators now, so you can call me Lily. Look, I worked most closely with Matthew, and if he’s where you think he is, then understanding him is probably important.” She gestured at the equipment around the room. “Besides, I’m not even sure I’d know how to operate all of this, especially if something goes wrong. You’re the most qualified to administer the drug, monitor my progress, and deal with any problems.”
A dark look crossed Harte’s face. “Out of the question. What you say makes sense, but I cannot allow you to put yourself in harm’s way in an attempt to fix a prior mistake. It would simply compound my error.”
“It has to be me, Professor. I’ve been seeing Matthew in the real world for the past few days. I think – I think we’re connected somehow.”
Harte stared at her. “Why didn’t you report this earlier?”
“I thought, I don’t know, it was just my eyes playing tricks on me,” she said awkwardly. “You know, guilt or something making me think I saw what wasn’t there.”
“But you no longer believe that.”
“No. I can’t explain why.”
Harte picked up a notebook and started flipping pages. “If Mr. Larkin is in aleph-two...,” he began, and trailed off.
“Then what, Professor?” Lily asked.
“If Matthew is in aleph-two, then what?”
“Well, a single object in aleph-two can be conceived of as a superordinate abstraction of a series of objects sharing a similar characteristic in aleph-one.”
Lily thought that through. “You mean every object in the dream world is equivalent to multiple objects in the real world?”
“Essentially, no; but, solely for practical purposes, yes. If a person's ontological state is shifted from aleph-one into aleph-two, then it is possible that multiple coordinate instances of that person will be projected into aleph-one. Indeed, must appear, most likely as fragmented sensory images.”
“So that’s what I’ve been seeing,” Lily said. “Projections of Matthew from wherever he is, split up into different places like light through a prism. Professor, that has to mean something. Don’t you see, I’m the only choice to do this?”
He shook his head, and she thought he would refuse again. Instead, he said, “I’ll need to adjust the dosage for your body mass. How much do you weigh?”
In for a penny, in for a pound, Lily thought, as he began fussing around her.
* * *
[Go to Chapter 8.1]