Hello Anya. I am glad to hear from you. I always enjoy your letters.
I am sorry for the lives where you tried to find a door. I don’t imagine they were very pleasant. But at least the door eventually came.
I am fairly sure a door is never going to come for me. I have been trying to make my own door. I had to stop, after the fire. Sarah said it wasn’t healthy.
I don’t know if I agree with her or not.
Right now, at this very moment, I am not clawing at the boundaries of my own universe. I am breathing inside it, and there are trees and grass and birds and bushes, and it is not so bad. The sun is shining on me. Watching me. I don’t think it is very hungry today.
It’s good that you’re feeling better too.
Sometimes a rock is all you have. Maybe while we’re here I’ll find one and take it home.
We did take a trip. We’re in Granite Falls. There is less cardboard here.
I would miss you. I hope that if a door comes for you soon, these letters will still reach you in your next life.
I have not known fifty people. If you have known far more than fifty over all your lives, and I’ve known far less over my one life, then at least we can be statistical outliers together.
I think only Sarah would notice if I disappeared. She would know that I had not moved to Madagascar. She might say that we fell out of touch.
Perhaps reality is a spectrum. I am not sure how we would determine where people are on the spectrum. It may be an observer-based phenomenon, which would make sense with that study you mentioned. The reality of others is determined by their closeness to us and our ability to name them as real, and as they fall away from us they shift from reality to cardboard.
I suppose that also explains why we don’t know if we’re real either. I think I have fallen far away from anyone who could press themselves down upon me and name me as real. I am trying to get back, at least to Sarah if no one else. It’s hard, though.
Do you have fireleaf where you are? Maybe in the Tuesday garden?
I know about bones on fire and false hopes.
The colors of your emptiness sound nice. I like the bonesalt white especially.
I don’t know what my sun can eat. You are probably correct about it not being able to eat cardboard. If it could, it would not be hungry. It would be overfull and lethargic, its sunbelly hanging down on me and pressing me into the earth.
No, it doesn’t want to eat Sarah. Perhaps her caramel is not salted enough.
I don’t know how it feels about hollow words or divisions between cardboard. I don’t know if it feels anything other than its hunger.
I feel it watching me as I pick the fireleaf. Its teethlight scrapes against my knuckles. I wonder if it knows what I mean to do.
The man who told you that there were only two types of people and that everything you said could be used to determine if you were the right kind of human was definitely cardboard.
I think there are three general types of humans myself. The ones who hurt you, the ones who are too cowardly to hurt you themselves but who enjoy watching as you are hurt, and decent people. There are only five or so decent people in existence at any one time. Everyone else is a creator or a spectator of pain.
I think movement between those types is fluid, and it can depend in part on circumstances and the environment that the person developed in and the chemicals zooming around in their brain. There is no right or wrong kind of human. There is only the kind that you are in that moment, which is mostly determined by what happened in all the moments before. Still though, I think people should make the effort to become decent if they can.
I don’t know about where you are, especially since there isn’t anyone else there, but where I am I think cardboard is the atmosphere in which humans live. They breathe the cardboard in along with oxygen, and then they exhale carbon dioxide and cardboard dust particles that scratch the throats of the other humans around them.
That may be why you couldn’t remind the cardboard hipster who thought he was an intellectual that he was just a chicken at the time. He was breathing cardboard dust into you, and it choked the passage of your words. I would have fully supported you in your decision to yank his feathers off had you done so.
I am not sure how you become decent, how you whittle away the layers of cardboard surrounding the caramel center until you are only caramel. It must be very hard. I don’t think that even Sarah has managed to do it fully yet.
I don’t know what I am, if I am cardboard or caramel or somewhere in between, or if perhaps I am just an absence of things.
I have the fireleaf safely secured in my pocket, and I am now watching a waterfall. The water booms as it falls into itself. There is a rainbow shining in the mist. The sun must not be hungry so much as thirsty right now.
I cannot shout down the cardboard people either. I am reserved in this life, I think. If I get another one after this one, I would like to be a dragon, and I would breathe fire that would cleanse the atmosphere of cardboard and stop the pain.
Maybe the scalding when you go through the doors is the burning away of the layers of cardboard that you accumulated in the life you are leaving. There is no shame in having some cardboard. You can’t help breathing it in.
What sort of door do you think would lead to a dragon life? Do the colors and materials and shapes of your doors relate at all to the lives that you find on the other side?
I think I have had enough of the waterfall for now.
Do you ever look at other people and…no, wait. I guess you don’t. Sorry.
But you probably did in your other lives before this one. So in your previous lives, did you ever look at people and wonder about them? What it would be like to perceive reality through their neurochemicals and brain structure, to feel what they feel when matter external to them passes over the receptors in their skin, to see what they see when their brain receives and interprets the signals from their retina?
Or is that how your doors work, dropping you into someone else’s body? From what you’ve said, each time you go through a door you find yourself in another life. Is it a life already in progress, or is it one that is just beginning, or maybe sometimes it’s one and sometimes it’s the other? Has it ever been at the end of a life? Maybe that’s what’s going on when you go through a door and you immediately see another one upon your arrival.
But then, even if the doors are gateways to other people’s lives and bodies, it sounds like you retain your self in each one. Or at least some bit of your self. Hmm. If your idea of a chorus of ghosts is correct, then perhaps the body that the door leads you to also retains some bit of the self of its former occupant, and that bit comes with you when you go through the next door. I will say though that your voice seems consistent to me. Maybe you are the sun of your system of selves, and the others rotate around you.
Have the doors always led you to a human body, or have you ever been dropped into the body of another species? If you were in a body without opposable thumbs, would you still be able to go through the doors? It sounds like sometimes you don’t go through them willingly, so perhaps they sometimes open by some means other than you turning the knob.
If they are indeed hungry atomic furnaces, then no, you would not need opposable thumbs. That also fits with the scalding you mentioned. Do the doors open wide when they swallow you, red burning doorteeth protruding from their frames? Do the doorteeth look like doorknobs, or maybe knockers?
Are the doors ever locked? For some reason now I am picturing a black metal double door, locked and chained and barred. The doors are shuddering and the hinges are groaning, and through the spaces between the doors and their frame you can see the red glowing churning furnace of the sun.
I am in a life where I can look at other people and wonder.
I like your idea of the smaller doors that take bits and pieces of you when you go through them.
Is there anyone who has a blithe confidence in the basic morality of humankind? Can we find this person and protect them?
I just passed a woman. She seemed happy and relaxed. I can still see her, walking away from me. I wonder if maybe she has this confidence. I wonder what it would be like to be inside her brain and to feel it. I wonder if I should turn around and go back to her and keep an eye on her to make sure she doesn’t get hurt.
Have you ever felt it, in any of your lives? What was it like? Did you get hurt as a result of it?
I can’t imagine what it would be like, to not realize how dangerous humans are, to not see the cardboard and to not feel it scratching against your skin.
I must have gone through a smaller door that took that confidence from me long ago.
I don’t know, though. If I went back to her, I could get hurt. She could be cardboard under that smile. Probably best to continue on my way.
Hmm. Do you really think that’s what happened in the blank spots after the fire? Maybe I went through a door but I didn’t make it all the way through, and the door spit me back out on this side of it. But the me that was spit out is not exactly the same me that went in, even if I am still in the same life.
That….that actually fits with a lot of things. Thank you.
I know the word you’re looking for, but I prefer your way of putting it. “The unexplainable urge to do something that you know will leave you cracked open like an oyster, reduced to muscle and slime.” No words other than those needed.
But still, if you want to know how to spell it, one way would be “thanatos”.
I don’t know if I believe in a then and a now. Yes, there is a before the fire and after the fire, before the cardboard and after the cardboard, before Sarah and after Sarah. But I feel like all of those befores and afters exist simultaneously. If I were to crack myself open, there would then be both a cracked Seth and an uncracked Seth, and no real state change would have occurred.
Well, perhaps the cracked Seth would think so, if he could think. I don’t believe the uncracked Seth would notice any difference though.
If my sun is the sort that chews away problems with its teethlight, it is not doing a very good job. I like it here in the woods, with the trees and the bushes and the rocks, but soon I will have to go back to the cardboard canyons of San Myshuno.
Not yet, though. For now, in this moment, I can breathe and the sun is gentle and warm on my skin. And who knows, maybe I am the Seth that will stay here, in the before returning to San Myshuno, and it is a different Seth that will have to live in the after.
Do you think it’s possible that we are always going through small doors and leaving bits of ourselves behind? Maybe the people whose lives you lived went through too many small doors and left all of themselves behind, so that there was only the cracked version of themselves, and then a big door appeared because it needed you to come fill the empty space.
I could already be cracked Seth, with a piece missing for every small door I have been through. It could just be a question of how many cracks you can bear before you shatter.
How many cracks do you think you have?
I am sorry that you don’t have coffee. Not that I like the taste, but the smell is nice. How does your house smell?
I cannot ever remember liking the taste of coffee. I may be somewhat cracked, but I am still pretty sure I’ve only ever had this one body with its one tongue and one particular set of tastebuds.
I think it’s going to take longer than a three day trip to find a way to unstick what is real.
I have been wandering through the forest as I’ve composed this letter. I have now found a door.
It’s not a door like your doors. No hinges or frames or dooknobs. It is a black hole in the trees, guarded by tangled roots.
I can’t watch you, since I am not there, but I am reading your words. I hope that helps.
I don’t think you drank the orange juice either. You are writing to me, so you are not completely cracked. Therefore you did not drink the orange juice.
You think the house wants to know if you are real? Certainly talking to it would help it figure that out better than crawling through its windows would. What did you say to it? Did it answer back?
As for me, I think I can spare a few more cracks. If later I am the Seth that went through the hole, I will tell you what I found behind the roots, and if I am the Seth that did not go through, I will tell you what the Seth that went through left behind.