(Right, so as promised here is one of my stories. Not, by any measure, my best, but I selected it for the very simple reason that it is the shortest story that I have bothered to type-up. It’s probably best understood as being my first, somewhat half-assed attempt to directly address my transgenderism in writing, back before I was prepared to own up to it. You may also notice that the character(s), such as they are, aren’t exactly super well-developed, because the emphasis is more squarely upon the ideas. I hope that the ideas, in any case, are interesting.)
“What is this place?”
There is no answer. Not even an echo. Hardly surprising—echoes are reflected sound; you need a wall for the sound to reflect off of.
There are no walls here. Nor canyons, nor mountains, nor anything else a voice might reflect upon. It would be false even to say that I am in a void. Outer-space is a void and this isn’t like outer-space. Outer-space is black, but black is still a sensory response; here there is not even that. I can no more see this place with my eyes than I can with my elbow.
I’m not even sure I was talking just then. I don’t see how I could have been. I think perhaps it was just the idea of speech, as it is in a dream. Speech, after all, is sound and there can be no sound without air. Or, indeed, without lungs, vocal chords, a trachea or a mouth, none of which I seem to have.
And it dawns on me that I have no outward expression. The elaborate network of sensory and motor neurons which connect one’s consciousness causally to the world around it—so ubiquitous that we pay it no heed in day-to-day life and take it entirely for granted—is gone. I have been reduced to a singularity—a nucleus of consciousness with no extension in space.
I wonder how I came to be in such a state. Perhaps a severe stroke…or death. If consciousness continued after death without any way to interact with the physical world, there would be no way for any living person to know about it.
And yet here I am. Wherever ‘here’ is.
“Where am I?” I call-out.
This time there is an echo—or something very like an echo. A ‘voice’ like my own, only somehow different. Out of phase, slightly.
I become aware that I am not alone here. The ‘echo’ is another presence entirely.
“Who are you?” I ask.
“Who are you?” it says simultaneously.
I find myself stumped by the question. Identity is rooted in memory; memory is stored within the brain; the brain is found within the body; and a body is what I do not have.
Do not be afraid.
Another voice; not like mine or the Other. This one permeates everything, dominating my entire field of consciousness when it speaks.
“I’m not afraid,” I answer. This is true; I don’t even remember what fear feels like.
This is an experiment.
“What experiment?” the Other demands, asking the question before I have a chance.
The answer comes to both of us; not in words, but in the form of pure, unfiltered information, and we come to understand.
The universe as an unfolding series of events; the events as nodes on a graph, multiple edges issuing from each one, each edge corresponding to a different possible outcome, weighted by probability but all, when seen from this perspective, real.
And there, amongst the chaos of this unceasingly branching tree—was me. My consciousness, perceiving the universe from inside, bound to travel only forwards along the temporal axis and along only one edge, perceiving time as linear with only intellectual knowledge of how things might have been. As a creature of the universe, I arose naturally from history; one event leading seamlessly into the next, from the scales of electrons to those of galaxies, from the beginnings of the multiverse to its eventual endings.
The state of my particular consciousness, that which made me who and what I was (rather than someone else) was similarly shaped by circumstance—by the particular path I had run in my life (and, indeed, the path that my universe had taken before I was born).
And I see my place in it—objectively, for the first time: Richard Prince (yes, that was my name): mousy brown hair, green eyes, white skin, stout build. The man who chased a cat across the street when he was two years old and whose mother denied him breakfast as punishment. The man who watched every single episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation as it was broadcast when he was growing up; who had fallen from a bike at age seven and skinned his knee on gravel; who read an editorial when he was seventeen which made him so angry that he tore it out of the paper and used it to wipe his ass; who had majored in philosophy in university after a particularly well-taught introductory class. These and a billion other events, both within and outside of my control, had shaped my view of the world and made me the soul I am today.
And then, there is the Other. It was me once, or it might have been, but its life had traced a different sequence of events and it had become someone else.
And then there were others. Other Others. An infinite number of variations on myself; entities who had been me, or who had had the potential to become me, or who had had the potential to have the potential to become me…
But none of them are here. They are still wandering the halls of the multiverse. The Other and I are outside of the multiverse. But that still left the question…
“How did we get here?” the Other asks.
I brought you here.
You are part of my experiment.
You will teach me the nature of the soul.
“How?” I ask.
The voice makes no reply.
“How!?” I try to ask again, but it now comes out as a garbled mess. Real sound too…and real light on my eyes. It takes my brain a split-second to start processing…
I have a body again! I can see, hear, breath and feel! My heart is racing, my breaths are short and fast as a wave of exhilaration sweeps over me, just for the thrill of being alive!
I realize I’m in my basement, the basement of the house I’ve lived in since childhood.
Too bad I’m not in my body.
Suddenly, I feel a sharp spike of terror—this is a woman’s body, and I’m not a woman!
Or am I?
I’m very confused.
“Who am I?”
The named ‘Richard Prince’ flares up and fades away just as quickly. What was that name again?
Desperately I plunge into my memory, looking for an answer! Who am I? Who am I!?
The memories are hers, not mine.
Vainly I scrounge around looking for some sign-post; some element I still recognize—the day I sprained my ankle in a ballet class I never wanted to take when I was five years old (No!); the day I swiped a cigarette when I was eleven and found it so nasty that I vowed never to smoke again (No!); the time I worked day and night in order to be accepted into the ‘advanced’ section of Grade Eight math, or when I was bullied so much over my weight in Grade Nine that I had an emotional breakdown, or when I discovered how much I loved swimming…
None of those were me!
Then what was?
I feel panic! Despair! I feel everything I’ve ever been swirling around like so much shit in a toilet bowl, fading, fading to black….
And then it stops.
I look around, wondering what caused me to become disoriented. This was my house after all; my life.
Nothing more normal in the world.
“That was weird,” I say out loud, and shrug it off.
Meanwhile in the World of Forms, a domain of ideals existing outside of the multiverse, the Archetypical Scientist takes note of His latest experiment. He has just switched the souls of two variants of the same individual from two separate universes—one where it was born male, one where it was born female. It was an easy enough thing to do; as souls lacked any sort of mass-energy, charge, momentum or entropy, He didn’t need to violate any of the laws of physics.
In both cases, it had taken the souls approximately 23.7138 seconds to become ‘ontologically integrated with their new environments’—in other words, for them to turn into one another. The Archetypical Scientist found the symmetry pleasing, although not in agreement with his theory.
He had already swapped trillions of pairs of souls by that point. He had started with pairs that were virtually identical with just one minor difference in their past histories and worked His way up to souls with significantly different lives; as the differences between the souls grew greater, the Scientist found that it took logarithmically longer for them to integrate. That trend appeared to have suddenly accelerated as He expanded the experiment up to its next natural level; pairs of souls whose bodies had been born with minor variations in their genetic codes. It suggested a sort of quantization of classes of events; more research was necessary.
The Scientist decided that He needed to do a hundred thousand more trials. One day, He hoped to progress to swapping souls whose world’s histories differed significantly, and finally to souls whose universes were entirely different, but all of that was still a long time away.
Time was no object in the World of Forms.