The Eleventh Gate – Snippet 25
Days and nights of grief.
After Julie discarded him — that’s how it felt, yes — Philip left the university, rented a cheap room in the city, and tried to touch again whatever he’d reached while lying, drunk, in that field. That touching had happened at night, so he bought sleeping pills, slept all day, tried all night. He experimented with drinking, then fasting, then lying for hours in a warm bath. Nothing worked. He mediated on his bed, outdoors in a park, on the roof of his boardinghouse, almost tumbling off its steep pitch. He began to wonder if Julie was right, and he was becoming crazy. His obsession reminded him uncomfortably of Tara.
He paid no attention to news, including the war, which seemed just as remote as what he now thought of as metaconsciousness. He barely ate, growing thinner. He stopped shaving or having his hair cut. Some days he didn’t shower. The room, already musty with stale odors, grew mustier. The window had been painted shut. Philip’s money was running out.
I have to stop this.
I can’t stop this.
When he wasn’t trying to connect to the universe — and how stupid that sounded, even — he read physics on his tablet. He couldn’t afford access to scientific journals, which — like everything else on Libertarian Galt — were not free. But the university library had vast archives, many of them from old Earth. Philip read about two-hundred-year-old theories, never proven as the slow train wreck of the Terran collapse took scientific inquiry down with it.
Physicist Gregory Matloff’s idea of a “proto-consciousness field” extending through all of space.
Bernard Haisch’s rogue theory that quantum fields produce and transmit consciousness in any sufficiently complex system, organic or not.
John Wheeler’s “participatory anthropic principle.”
Much older, Roger Penrose’s argument that quantum events in the brain link self-awareness with the cosmos.
And oldest of all, Albert Einstein’s “cosmic religious feeling.”
Although what Philip felt, what he touched, was not religious — was it?
He meditated again. Nothing.
But once, he did succeed, at least partially. Definite contact, but he couldn’t sustain it. He was like a drowning man who gulped one lungful of air before the waters again closed over him. And he couldn’t go there again. But he had touched it, or them, and that emboldened him to keep trying.
He was lying on the bed with a plate of congealed food on the floor beside him, waiting for night, when someone knocked on the door. The room was not electronically wired. Philip leapt up and flung open the door. “Go away and leave me alone!”
Two men, both in Freedom Enterprises security uniforms. “Philip Anthony Anderson?”
“Go away!” He started to slam the door. One of the men deftly blocked him.
The other said, “Philip Anderson, I have a message for you from Freedom Enterprises CEO Rachel Landry. She wants to see you immediately. We’ll take you there, sir.” He handed Philip a datacube.
Rachel Landry? Hadn’t Julie told him that she was very ill, that the Landry granddaughters were running the corporation? He hadn’t really listened.
Curiosity pricked him. Also, he was nearly flat-out broke. Rachel had brought him to Galt; perhaps she would fund his return home. Although wasn’t the Galt-Polyglot gate now in Peregoy hands? Philip slid the tiny datacube into his wrister. The two men didn’t turn away, so presumably they already knew what the cube contained.
The visual was not Rachel’s face, but a holo of a gate against a miniature star field. Her voice said, “Philip, please go with these men. I have a way for you to get what you most desire.”
He blinked. Probably the guards thought that meant sending him back to Polyglot. Philip knew better.
He said, “Give me five minutes to shower and pack.”
They drove him out of the city. Philip smelled the sea long before he saw it. The security men would answer no questions about why Rachel was here, away from the city, instead of in a hospital or at her apartment in the Landry compound. If one of the guards hadn’t already spoken to him, Philip might have thought they were both mute.
They passed through a gate in an electronically fortified wall and up a winding drive bordered with flowers. The rich on Galt, with none of the taxation taken for granted on Polyglot, certainly did themselves well. The house sat on a cliff above the ocean, with a gorgeous view of blue water dotted with distant islands. Rachel greeted him in a wide, plastiglass-walled room. She lay on a sofa, dressed in a long-sleeved top and calf-length filmy skirt the same color as the sea, made of some material that probably cost as much as Philip’s weekly salary. She looked paler and thinner than he remembered.
“Philip. Thank you for coming.” She flicked her eyes toward the guards, who immediately left the room.
“It didn’t seem I had much choice. Would you have kidnapped me?”
“Yes. This is that important.”
Her directness reminded him of Julie, which hurt. “What exactly is so important?”
“Not here. Help me up.”
He gave her his hand. Carefully, as if she’d aged decades in the months he’d been on Galt, she rose to her feet, leaning heavily on his arm. He said, “Are you well enough to stand? Shouldn’t you have a carrybot?”
“No, and no. Take me to the elevator. Over there.”
A small plastiglass elevator took them down the cliff face. The beach below them was pure, pale blue sand. Dyed to match the water and sky, he supposed, and grimaced. What chemicals had it put into the environment?
They left the elevator, Rachel again took his arm, and they walked slowly toward the water. “We can talk safely here.”
“Who would, or could, overhear you in the house?”
“Oh, you’d be surprised.”
Drones flew noiselessly overhead, each bearing the Landry logo. Philip didn’t know if they were eavesdroppers, security, or possibly fakes bearing Peregoy bombs. Rachel ignored them.