Tuesday, February 26, 2013

But Wait...There's More!

Okay, this is just something I threw together in the space of an hour, a couple years ago. Super-extra-randomness, kind of reminiscent of the old "Interactive Story" games on the black-and-white computers, where you could create a story with click-able hyperlinks embedded in the "story cards" to lead the reader through each one. I guess that's kind of how I envision this story... just a string of events that lead to an inevitable point, but taken as a whole, it's really point-less... 
Golly, what a way to introduce my own story... Moving on!
 
A man begins in a room; the man is alone in that room. There is a solid-oak table, a sturdy wooden chair, and a single hanging lamp shining on it. There are no windows, no doors—nothing to visually explain how he got there, nor why he has any reason to be there. He stands, waiting for a sign, or a noise, something to give him reason to do anything beyond what he is doing right now, but none comes. There is just the man, the floor, four walls that reach up to some dark ceiling beyond human comprehension, the table, the chair, and the lamp.
            But wait, there is more! Upon closer inspection, the man discovers a hairline crack barely visible in the surface of the table. He reasons that a hairline crack must mean a secret compartment of some sort. And a secret compartment means some hidden switch or protrusion that must be twisted, pulled, removed, or pushed to release the lid of the compartment. The man begins to inspect every inch of the table. As he investigates, the man muses to himself the possible reason for this scenario. Perhaps he had dropped into a coma staring at an M. C. Escher painting, and this was his subconscious trying to make sense of it all. Perhaps he is part of some government conspiracy, and this whole room was the extent of his inner mind. Perhaps there are one million different metaphors for the significance of the room, the chair, the lamp, and the table, and the utter absence of any other object or person in the whole of the cloister.
But wait, there is more! From underneath the table, the man sees that the back of the chair has two upright posts, and four slats. He realizes that it almost looks like a ladder. He ponders what it could mean; perhaps the escape route was somewhere near the invisible ceiling of the room, and he must use the chair as a ladder (or use the chair to find the ladder) to reach the top and climb out to freedom and fresh air. The man crawls out from under the table and turns his inspection to the chair. Pensively, he tries moving the chair from its spot on the table. It makes the same sort of noise you would expect from a chair scooting across a cement floor, but other than that, nothing happens. The man picks up the chair and carries it to the wall. He sets the chair against the wall, stands upon it, and looks around.
But wait, there is more! There is no ladder, but he is surprised to see another chair exactly like the one upon which he now stood, still behind the table in the exact same spot from which he had removed this one! Curious, the man steps off the first chair; it feels solid enough to be real. He stalks over to the new chair. It, too, feels solid and real. The man leaves the second chair where it is at, and there at the table, he stands upon the seat. It bears his weight like a real chair. Where did it come from, then? The man, intent on uncovering the mystery of the chair, picks up this second chair in his hands (it even weighed the same as the first chair), and walks backwards, slowly, staring at that spot behind the table. The minute he measures out five paces, exactly on the fifth step back from the table, a third chair appears! The man stops and takes stock of his surroundings. There are indeed three chairs: one against the wall, one in his hands, and one at the table.
What could this mean? Would the chairs multiply as he removed them? Did they need to be aligned in a specific pattern in order for him to realize his escape? Was there a specific number of times they must be multiplied before something else would happen? Could he possibly exhaust his supply of chairs? The man decides to ignore that fact for the time being, and instead the man tries to re-focus on his original goal: finding the ceiling. He had established that the back of the chair resembled a ladder; how could he use this to his advantage?
The man looks at the chair standing against the wall; he could use that one as an anchor. He removes two of the four slats on the back, so that they are far enough apart to get his feet on; now he has the first two rungs of his ladder. But with no tools, how does he expect to be able to remove the back of the second chair from its base, to use that as the next piece of his ladder? And what can he use to attach the two pieces, should he succeed in taking them apart?
But wait, there is more! The man inspects the second chair and discovers for the second time a hairline crack at the base of the posts at the back of the chair. The man pushes against the back while resting his weight on the seat, and the back breaks off cleanly at the crack, leaving him with a short ladder in his hand. Feeling the success coursing through his body like an electric current, the man breaks off two slats just as he had done the first time, and turns back to the first chair. There, he returns to the second dilemma: what to do about attaching the pieces of ladder?
The man looks down; he is wearing a collared shirt that tears easily, but holds firmly. He could use his shirt, possibly some of his pants, also the laces from his shoes, to tie as many ladders as he could together. He sets about taking off his shirt and unlacing his shoes, but leaves off tearing his pants when he discovers that he cannot do it with his bare hands, and he really has nothing else to use. Between his shirt and his laces, though, he has enough strips to tie together enough ladders to enable him to climb beyond the thick black shadows. By the time he is finished, he has split more than twenty chairs, he has splinters in his fingers, he is dripping with sweat, he is hungry, thirsty, and tired of being in the same room for who knows how long, but the thought of freedom quenches his thirst and fills his belly. The man climbs his ladder, leaving the room that could have been his prison far behind him. He looks around as he climbs, eagerly awaiting the top of the wall, or the sight of the rafters, or even so much as a gaping hole or crack in the wall behind his ladder. He reaches the top and finds none of these things.
But wait, there is more! As the man climbs down from the great height, he imagines that he saw the glint of a light on the table. This distracts him from maintaining his balance, and he falls the remaining ten feet to the floor—more specifically, to the seat of the first chair, and from there, the floor. The man lays prostrate for several minutes, holding his eyes closed, willing the situation to be over, but when he opens his eyes, he is still in the room. Only one thing has changed: the chairs have disappeared. The chairs, and also his shirt and shoelaces, the man notices.
A sense of dread descends upon the man; he slowly works himself up to a sitting position, crosses his legs, and attempts to rationalize his experiences. He found himself in the room; he had assumed there was some purpose for it. He had seen the hairline crack in the table; he had figured there was some sort of device that would open it. He had observed the resemblance of the chair to a ladder; he had attached significance to this fact and had destroyed his shirt and shoes acting upon the significance. Furthermore, any sort of hope he had that there might be more than this room, that an escape was even logical or feasible, had come crashing down as he fell from the ladder, which now did not exist. What other possible recourse did he have? The man devotes what little energy he has left to deep, intense thought.
But wait, there is more! The more he thinks, the more the man realizes that it is very possible that the walls, or even the light could hold some key to his escape. He leaps upon the table with renewed vigor; standing at the center, he can see the top of the lamp, all the way up to the cord that seems to stretch into eternity. He finds nothing of significance on the lampshade, but he discovers that if he pulls on the cord, a winch somewhere in the great, dark beyond releases more cord. The man continues to pull, and soon, he has enough cord to use the lamp as a flashlight, to inspect the walls of the room. He probes every crack, he scans even the slightest shadow, but in the end, the man collapses to the floor as he realizes that there is not even the slightest vestige of hope left in those walls.
            But wait, there is more! Wearily, the man turns back to the table. What other way out could there possibly be? Covered in bruises, sore, exhausted, shirtless, and thoroughly at his wits’ end, the man fairly drags his shattered body back to the table. He returns to the original spot in the floor where the whole adventure began. He stares at the table, and for really the first time since the very first moment he began in that room, the man at last sees what he saw. A sharp click makes him flinch, and a metal blade appears out of the secret compartment on the table. The blade is serrated with razor-sharp teeth at the top, and one end holds a large handle for easy gripping. Ready now to act upon the occurrences rather than sit and rationalize them, the man marches forward and grabs the saw to use it. Working steadily, sweat pouring from his brow, the man cuts that solid oak table in half, since there was nothing else in the room on which to use the saw.
            When he finishes, he steps back to admire his work. The rational side of his brain (not quite worn out from the ordeal) recognizes that he now has two halves to the table (plus a mound of sawdust). Two halves, mathematically speaking, are equal to one whole. Another flash of light, and the man finds himself staring at a wide, open hole where the table once stood. The hole is wide enough for him to crawl in, and the slope of the path is not overly steep. The man muses to himself as he makes his escape: is that really all there was to it? Look at the table, see what he saw, use the saw to cut the table in half, put the two halves together to make a whole, and crawl out the hole to freedom?
           
            And for once, there was no more.