[Warning: Adult Words]
“Look man, stories with a multi-verse storyline are fucking repugnant to me,” Chris said.
The room deepened into the ground for a moment, all of the legs on all of the chairs, even the ones that no one was sitting in, sunk a little farther into the carpet. Matter just seemed to be heavier for one dense moment.
“What?” he continued, as if this was the most natural thing in the world (which, I suppose to him, it was), “All that I’m saying is that when you constantly re-write your characters and bring people back to life and change the past and the future and all of that, the story loses its weight. You can’t have any tension in a story where a character can just be in a slightly different reality from his own and solve all the problems presented by the plot.”
I tried to stay quiet, but after another moment where the clock slowed down a tick and I gained ten pounds just because of the gravity around me, the words leaked out of my mouth anyway.
“But that’s how it is,” I nearly whispered. “The differing results of every decision that has ever had to be made are being played out somewhere. So why can’t we write about it? The problems that our protagonists face aren’t any less immediate to them in the moment. How would you feel if doors to other worlds just started opening up? That would give me a lot of tension.”
“Who are you, anyway?” this girl, Gale, piped in. Apparently, Chris was a pretty well-respected philosopher in this group and, when challenged, people came to his aid.
I looked at her for a beat. I couldn’t help but smile because I really had no idea who I was at this point. The universe had become so confusing that I didn’t even know how to answer fundamental questions like ‘who are you?’.
“Um, I don’t know,” I said truthfully, “Just a guy who does stuff. Who are you?”
“Look,” Chris was tired of being quiet, “I’m just saying that if you let your characters run in and out of dreams and timelines and realities, then the rules and structure start to break down. And the structure is what provides resistance to our character achieving progress. It just suggests that we’re all hurtling towards the same goal and that we are going to get there. It takes away all the stakes. It makes everything too easy, like ‘Oops, I died, I guess I’ll just have to get it in the next life or some other reality.’ It’s like a video game where you get an infinite number of chances until you beat the mother-fucker. Where’s the fun in that?”
“I don’t know,” I said again, “but it IS fun. And it’s easy. Take comfort in that.”
“Life isn’t easy,” Gale seemed to be furious, and I could tell that the other folks who were crowded around were on her side. They leaned in a little, to show their support, “Life is hard. Life is struggle, and so is fiction.”
“Yeah,” Chris on his own, “She’s right. If you think that it’s easy to create something, you’re not doing it right. Do you think it’s easy to play God with these characters? What am I supposed to do, just let them do whatever they want? No! You have to control them. Make it entertaining, relevant.”
“That’s not what God does,” I said. Now we were talking about God, “and you’re not creating anything. If you think that you are making anything up, deciding anything about what your characters do or don’t do, then you’re the one who is doing it wrong. And you’re messing it up. That’s why no one connects with your characters. They are people with feelings and brains of their own. Just watch them and record what they do. Read their minds, if you are able. But if not, certainly don’t try to guess of them or force them into anything. And if they happen to wander into another world, who are you to stop them?”
Gale stood up, “You know what? Fuck you, motherfucker.”
Chris, sitting next to her, tried to reach up and touch her arm. He was comforting as he did it, but he had suddenly switched sides. Gale jerked violently away from him.
“No,” she said, not entirely out of defiance. I think that Gale had a problem with human connection, “This asshole is saying that, one, we’re not doing anything. And two, that what we’re trying to do is irrelevant.”
“It’s not irrelevant,” I tried to be nice, but it came out condescending, insincere, “just know that the worlds you are talking about are real. Just as real as this one. Do them justice. If you fly back and forth between realities to serve your own purposes, then the multi-verse that you are creating is ineffective to your aim. Especially if you are trying to write about a steady, forward-moving reality. Does that make sense?”
Chris exercised his quiet resolve in order to get the room to give him a moment to formulate his response, “Look man, I get what you are saying,” no he didn’t, “but you’re being lazy. There is a craft to this. Being creative isn’t just throwing shit at a page and seeing what you think sounds real. Fiction is hard. Fiction is work. Fiction is a craft.”
“I get what you’re saying, writing is hard. Communicating the things in your head onto a page others can understand is a craft. But as for the content, it’s all real,” I said, then stood. The chair that I had been sitting in made an odd squeak as I pushed it back with the back of my knees. It was odd because the chair was on carpet. I stood and looked at Chris for one last moment, “There is no such thing as fiction.”
Outside I concentrated hard. Sometimes this was still difficult for me, especially when I had a head full of the laws of reality that I had to disconnect with first. Eventually, though, the door did appear.
It looked like what I assume migraine sufferers would refer to as ‘a spot’. It started small, in the center of my vision, and then grew wider as I stared into it. Eventually, it was big enough for me to put my hand into, and this time, that was all that it took.
I don’t know who I left behind out on that street, but I hope that he didn’t get into too much trouble without me.
As far as that reality was concerned, I was gone.