“Here. Put these on.”
Tortoiseshell aviators with scratched lenses. Oddly heavy.
“It’s for your own good.”
Up close the lens scratches looked like overlapping letters, as if many sentences had been carved over each other.
I felt deeply uneasy.
“What will you give me?”
“Raymond, these glasses will let you see infinity. It’s the quickest way to settle our argument. It’ll completely smash your ideas about free will.”
“Mmm, yeah, sounds fun…” I laid them carefully on the nightstand and maneuvered toward him. “Let’s just…”
“What’s wrong with you? You want to stay ignorant? Are you afraid?”
“I’m not afraid.”
“Then put them on. Just for a second, and afterward we can…”
The glasses felt like two stone tablets crushing my face.
“Dude, come on. You have to open your eyes.”
First I saw N. He was smiling, and suddenly it seemed worth it that I had put on the glasses.
Then his face wavered: his eyes seemed to be open and shut, and his mouth was a flickering scramble of lips and teeth.
He swung off the bed, leaving behind a trail of selves, and branched backwards into the bathroom.
Then dozens of Ns, many totally nude, burst back in, crowding through each other.
Copies of myself multiplied everywhere, flipping through expressions.
Other men appeared, strangers to me. Many duplicates of each one climbed into bed with us, and the air filled with their thrusting bare asses.
Over them the walls and ceiling became flimsy and ghostlike. Glaring skies shone through, kaleidoscopic with scrawly birds. Trees mutated through each other.
The sun was a screaming oscillation.
In the distance giant sloths wandered through rolling tanks.
Metal strings spread everywhere, as if over some cosmic guitar, but they were only bullets existing along their entire paths simultaneously.
How can I say this? Everything branched and intertwined, everything wove back into itself without ever ending. Every moment that had ever existed hung there overlapping, and then it all abruptly sort of turned at an angle, the trillion trillion instances spreading out like a deck of cards, and I saw my life cross-sectioned two hundred times a second from birth to death; I saw every face I would ever have, frozen in mundane scenes of supernatural beauty, and it was immediately obvious just how much love and patience had gone into rendering every hair and wrinkle, how meticulously each expression had been carved.
My life was a majestic baroque sculpture perfect in every detail, unbelievably grand, and yet it was only a microscopic subpart of the universal masterpiece, just a tiny, glowing vein deep within the huge frozen block of infinity.
Free will? Forget it. What we call time is just the tour through the four-dimensional sculpture.
N might have won the argument, but I ghosted him.