Scanning a Pocket of Reality

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Image: Gerd Altmann

Want to specify ahead of time that this is not intended to be anything other than a writing exercise that was my way of dealing with my own mortality and fear of death, but I don’t posit any of this as what it’s actually like. I know as much about the afterlife as the yogurt I just ate. I originally wrote this in January 2020, so this was also not intended as a “life during quarantine” piece, especially considering how quickly things would change, so here’s the revised version for your reading pleasure:

“I think the worst part about existing as a sentient being is that they’re pre-occupied with the notion of what happens after death, they’re pre-occupied with here. Sometimes they almost detect you inside of them, namely us, and they’ll go to any lengths to find us within their psyches.”

It was difficult to get used to the Fourth Dimension. They didn’t call it the Fourth Dimension themselves, but that was the way that You had gotten used to imagining it as you settled from a single consciousness back to the collective. You had gone to the planet where its sentient life was most-preoccupied with the nature of death. Out of all the alien civilizations out there, Humanity definitely took the prize for that kind of pre-occupation. Sure, they did tend to kill thousands of each other off at a time in an ironic ploy to prevent such a state for themselves. You compared the human fear and fascination with death to the same feelings they shared towards fire. That was, of course, not a unique phenomenon to life, but other civilizations You had gotten to witness didn’t seem so fascinated by it. The rest of sentient life across an infinity of existence meant to be a waiting room for whatever came next, to use the Human parlance, had not advanced quite the same way Humanity did. Humanity loved to pretend the rest of life would advance the way they had, even when the rest of life wasn’t even comprehensible to them.

You’d been there for their equivalent of eighty-four years. The life had been unfathomably difficult. Once they ceased and you found yourself ascending back to your current state of collective consciousness, You had remarked to the rest of Yourself just how short the time had actually been. The body You had occupied for that length of time always referred to death as the Fourth Dimension, and despite how mathematically incorrect that statement turned out to be, it was the part of that life, that small infinitesimal moment, that came back with You. The Human comprehension of the concept turned out to be very limited in its scope. You were much closer to their definition of a Sixth Dimension, but it had sounded smart to the teenager who had said all of that. You had said all of that. That was the advantage of the collective consciousness becoming singular for a time. You could keep Yourself in check that way.

The process of re-assimilating took a while, which is why You found Yourself separated from Yourself. The assimilation wouldn’t take anything away, but it would keep You stable in a space that required cooperation for survival. It was a space that You, even with only having been out of the Third Dimension, as they described it, for only an eternity, had to slowly become a part of again. The way Yourself had described it to You was that it was like a drop of water hitting a lake, that as a Human, You perceived it as instantaneously combining with the rest, but that the actual process of the lake contorting and allowing the droplet within did take some amount of time.

You didn’t feel fear. You had felt this all the time, you’d been back there many times before. You had experienced lives on every civilization that ever existed. It was a paradox, You being separated from Yourself, but it was a necessary one, as the universe, all of them really, had to keep on going. As Humanity had been the most recent civilization You interacted with, this meant you’d process this higher plane of reality on their terms. The wonderful part of it all is that every life was celebrated regardless of how it turned out. Adolf Hitler and Jesus Christ were celebrated in the same breath, to use sort of a metric of who Humanity considered its Worst and Best. This was not to say that Yourself did not recognize that the former had been far worse for Humanity than the latter (though ironically the Worst had been a follower of the Best).

Yourself did not actually consider either of them to be the Worst or Best. That had caught You by surprise. You had been quite devout and quite faithful Your whole life, but You didn’t especially feel saddened to discover that what came after death did not quite match what You had believed during Your life. The actual Best, the real one according to Yourself, the Best of Humanity, had not been You. at least not this time. As You were part of Yourself, You had experienced them at some point, but You had to be reintroduced.

The Best, the actual Best, did not inspire a mass following. Humanity had this awful habit of assuming those with the highest following were in fact the most significant. It held them back for so long. In many realities, this meant that Humanity would destroy itself. In others, they overcame it and created a utopia accepting of all people, eliminating their prejudices while acknowledging the harm those prejudices had caused, holding themselves accountable. You had most recently been to one where they would eventually destroy themselves about a century after the eighty-four of their years you had spent being alive. The Best, regardless of which reality You chose, always remained the same, and had always been one alive during the beginning of what Humanity referred to as its twenty-first century.

What would have confused You had you still been in your previous existence is that this person never got much attention at all, never achieved much by human qualifications (themselves quite shallow). They lived a little life, and spent the entire time doubting themselves and shaken with self-loathing, a concept Yourself always had trouble getting familiar with, such a Third Dimensional mindset that was.

Here a particular fear shook Your mind and You asked Yourself for clarification, interrupting Yourself. They were more than used to those who had once been sentient still operating on those means of communication:

“What if I don’t want to be Yourself for a while?”

A collective laugh, affectionate and not mocking, an untranslatable feeling diluted down to what someone who had been Recently Human could process, shook through the mass. “You can be You as long as you like. The ones down there value their individuality to the extent that they do not connect with others of their kind. But that is not necessarily a bad thing.”

It sounded almost like Your parent talking to You as a child, and yet You had been them at one point! You’d had a go as both of them, and saw those multitudes of interactions from both perspectives at once.

“It would drive us all insane if we could do that.”

“Indeed. Which is why You have all the time You need to acclimate to having these limits lifted.”

The Best Human had posited that religion was like looking at the sun only through a kaleidoscope that had been put over one of your eyes. It was an errant thought made during one of their many brushes with narcotics, something You had enjoyed during your last existence but hid from many others, out of fear of divine reprisals that’ll never come.

You could see the sun now.

You were Your own parents and Your own children.

You could begin to feel the acclimation begin again, as the collective experience of another little life would be added to the accumulation. You did not fear it as much as You would have had You still been purely Human. Nothing would be taken away, you would be both individual and collective all in one. The Human notion of combining consciousnesses imagined the end of individuality, but here, it was one and the same. You felt Yourself sharing with the others, and with as much speed and also care that Yourself looked at the little life, you all observed it together.

It was a particularly difficult one this time around. Yourself winced at every injury, every rejection, every failure. The years of substance abuse and unemployment, the self-loathing, the suicide attempts, they observed it all with so much emotion being expressed, emotions beyond the comprehensions of the single life they got to add to the collection. There were successes too, little ones by Human standards, but unimaginably impressive by their standards.

You were Yourself again now. You saw it all at once as they did, backwards and forwards the little life went, and so did the untold amounts that drifted in as a different part of Yourself ascended back to the rest. Every animal, every cell, every molecule of existence, analyzed and observed. Still other parts of Yourself split off to become a You again, and all at once you could observe all the births.

The little part of Yourself that was still You paid a tiny bit more attention to a section of You becoming a Human again, it was always fun to be surprised by a life. Looking at the life in advance, You knew the bit of You who would take it over and become it was in for a difficult one as well. You cheered on the successes in advance.

You went back to the life You had lived previously. You did not fixate on the moments of achievement dictated by the rest of its particular civilization. You fixated on a quiet night they spent with friends. You fixated on the intimate touches both platonic and romantic that fueled their existences like gasoline to a fire. A kiss, bodies wrapped together in ecstasy, a beautiful sunset with an older relative. A toy they were particularly attached to. The taste of a particular food, you could catalog the tastes! And so Yourself did, observing all the wonderful tastes of the various foods this person had gotten to try, then going about the smells, delighting in the limitations of only six or so perceived senses rather than the infinite number they had access to all the way up here. Beautiful sights, beautiful sounds. Anything they hadn’t already catalogued could be remembered at a moment’s notice. Even though countless others had experienced similar experiences, nobody had experienced it quite like Your most recent life. It was new all over again.

The tiny bit of You that wasn’t Yourself wasn’t quite ready yet to take on new life. You didn’t want to be Human this time, but You’d grown fond of the planet you had observed, with all its contradictions. You considered what Your new life might be, you considered a dog and a cat since Your previous life had been so fond of it.

You made an unusual choice at the end. The Best Person who had ever existed, though a section of You had gotten to be them already, had once been a friend of Your most recent life. You had heard about the kaleidoscope and even had the concept demonstrated to You.

You’d already been the friend, You’d already been You, but You hadn’t been the kaleidoscope yet. You became the metals it was forged from, the colored glass blown into the intricate shapes and put together. Assembled so delicately, with love and care, a priceless heirloom. You felt Yourself lifted into the sky by the Best Person and looked straight into the sun. All they could see was fractals and distorted shapes. You could see the sun. You had experienced this moment from their perspective, and You couldn’t wait for the life that had ended, that had begun anew, to end again so You could recognize that other part of Yourself, recognize the oneness of it all.

You wanted to say: “I saw the sun, but what you saw was greater still.”

Atlanta-based writer and filmmaker. You can find so much more at

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