"Transterrestrial intelligence exists through the material of this world
it can get into a human mind and operate it subliminally.
The Logos doesn’t know info but is info;
it could pass into a door or rock or crystal."
Philip K. Dick, Exegesis
As Richard lifted the crystal from the desktop, its irregular tessellations pressed into his fingertips. In his dimly lit office he rotated it over and over in his hands, watching as intermittent red feathery streaks flashed from deep inside. Holding the cold surface of the crystal against his cheek, he felt a familiar presence fill the room.
Richard closed his eyes and spoke aloud, "Can you hear me?" The sound of his voice startled him as it echoed into the emptiness, causing him to whisper as if speaking to the crystal directly, "Are you here Celeste or is my mind playing tricks on me?"
"Deer Hill..." Her voice began to flood his mind as Richard relived the fateful conversation. Tears welled in his eyes as the memory continued, "You know I've wanted to go there for the longest time. Some of the darkest amethysts ever found have come out of that particular site."
Richard was not fond of camping and disliked rockhounding even more, but Celeste had lately been so consumed by her work that he couldn't remember the last time he had her all to himself.
She continued trying to convince him to go with her, "Imagine what we could find there Richard. Together, just you and me... Oh come on, don't make that face, I promise it'll be fun!"
Reluctantly, Richard agreed to go despite his overwhelming uneasiness about the trip, "Alright, but I thought you said they closed that site years ago?"
Celeste paused uncomfortably before she answered, "Yes, but I got special permission. Anyway, it's too dangerous there, I couldn't possibly go alone."
At Deer Hill, Richard set up camp while Celeste scouted for locations to excavate. After two days of looking, she finally selected a cliff face atop a high rocky slope. The path to the site seemed overly treacherous to Richard, but Celeste reassured him it was not picked over for exactly this reason.
Around the campfire that evening her eyes blazed, "This site is going to yield something amazing, I can just feel it!"
Meanwhile, Richard kept making attempts to redirect the conversation towards his own motivations for the trip, "Come on Celeste, let's retire to the tent where we can talk about it more. I'm getting cold."
Celeste gently backhanded him on the shoulder, "You and your one track mind! Are you even listening to me?"
Richard awoke the next morning to find Celeste already gone and assumed she had left camp at first light to begin excavation. After having a quick cup of coffee, he carefully started out across the unstable path toward the site, shuddering every time a rock shifted under his feet. Carefully, he tested each rock with his foot before taking a step. In this way, he slowly made progress toward the site and took comfort in the fact that each time this path was crossed it would become more stable.
To further reassure himself, he spoke out loud to the rocks as he ascended the slope. "Steady now," Richard said to a large rock underfoot as he felt it settle into place. Then looking up he found himself finally arriving at the site where Celeste was excavating. Thinking he was speaking to her, she stood up and turned around to face him. "Oh Richard, good morning! Sorry I didn't wake you," she said, her face glowing with satisfaction. "Come over here. You won't believe what I've uncovered while you were sleeping the day away!"
She summoned him closer with one hand and held a stunning crystal out with the other. As he approached to take it from her, a deep vibration suddenly filled the air. Richard slowly realized the sound was emanating from the rocks underneath their feet and in his confusion, he took the crystal from Celeste's hand as she began to slide away from him. Frantically, she tried to grab his arm as he stretched it out to close the gap, but it was too late. As Richard stood motionless holding the crystal, the rocky slope in front of him collapsed and Celeste was buried by a massive rock slide below.
Richard opened his eyes and quickly tried to shut the memory out of his mind. Scolding himself he pounded his fist on the desk, "I had forgotten completely and my mind was floating in superposition. Why did I have to remember and collapse myself back here again?"
Knowing this outburst of emotion would only serve to reinforce the unsettling memory, Richard took a deep breath. He closed his eyes and began playing back the sequence of events in his mind again, but this time he remembered things differently. As Celeste handed him the crystal, he immediately reached out to steady her, pulling her close as she lost her balance.
Surprisingly, it was the Black Amethyst which introduced Richard to Celeste in the first place. She had accepted a position as a crystallographer at the college where Richard held a professorship in the math department. She flustered him by asking a difficult question during one of his informal lectures. Richard never expected questions during these talks and certainly not ones for which he was ill prepared. Most of the professors at the college considered it a courtesy to attend these lunchtime lectures knowing it was necessary if they wanted anyone to attend their own.
While Richard busily mumbled at an equation on the chalkboard, Celeste interrupted him, "Doctor? Is it ever the case that these geometric frustrations you study, the mistakes in perfect orderings, might be more than just obstacles to your theory? Perhaps they are actually required for the ordered structure to exist at all."
Celeste stared at him expectantly. Turning around to see where the question came from, Richard realized he had completely forgotten to introduce himself. Now facing the small crowd, most of whom were eating their lunch or reading, he could see Celeste raise her eyebrows and repeat herself, "Doctor?"
Richard brushed the chalk dust from his hands on his pants and uncomfortably looked her in the eye and suddenly found himself unable to say anything intelligent, "Um no, I hadn't thought of that before... By the way, you can just call me Richard."
"Fine," Celeste said, pausing just long enough to make it clear she found his tone unprofessional. She continued, "Dr. Richard, have you ever considered these errors which occur when packing similar objects together are not only statistically certain, but in many cases might actually be necessary for the ordered structure to exist at all?"
Richard was intrigued, he never considered that the mistakes in the packings might be worth studying. Until now his work had focused only on perfect orderings. "Apologies, what was your name again?" Richard asked. He was so derailed by her question he could only think to avoid it with another question.
"Dr. Celeste," she quipped with a smile.
At this first meeting, Richard was not familiar with the ground breaking research Celeste had conducted for her graduate dissertation. During this work she had observed that flaws in crystals not only appeared to be necessary for an ordered structure to exist elsewhere in the crystal, but more specifically these flaws were interdependent. In other words, one flaw could not exist without another, or possibly many others, somewhere in the crystal. One flaw disrupted the order but in turn offset another disturbance. In this way the ordered part of a crystal is preserved.
These constellations of flaws embedded in the ordered structure of a crystal also create a semi-regular pattern which contribute to its physical properties. The properties of a flawed crystal are often very different than those of a near perfect one with a similar composition. Amethyst is a good example of this because without its many imperfections, it would simply be clear quartz.
Looking back, Richard found it hard to believe that this chance meeting with Celeste had occurred almost twenty years ago. Two years after their first encounter, he and Celeste worked together to complete a rigorous mathematical proof of her idea. By the time the paper was accepted for publication, the two were engaged. And before it appeared in print, they were married and a year later that their son Alex was born.
Richard awoke to a sudden blinding light on his eyelids as the curtains of his office opened. "Alex, I told you to leave those closed. We have to manage quantum decoherence. We must try to prevent information from flowing outside and from coming inside. Honestly Alex, how many times do we have to have this conversation?" Richard shook his head and then looked down at the crystal still in his hands.
Alex gestured outside, "Dad, there isn't anyone out there. Just trees." He was right, all that was visible through the window was a thick forest of evergreens and a long driveway winding away from the house. Filling a long awkward pause in their conversation, a lone chickadee sang from somewhere outside in the forest.
"And birds I guess," Alex continued. "Nothing ever happens around here anyway, I can't imagine what information you're talking about. Information about what?" Alex raised his eyebrows and gestured toward the desk. "I only came in to take your dishes anyway. Why can't you clean up after yourself?"
Richard spun around in his chair, turning his back on Alex, and let out a deep sigh. "You know very well what I am talking about Alex. Do you want to jeopardize everything I have worked for over the last year? How am I supposed to achieve the level of superposition I need in order to cross over when you keep coming in here and spreading your decoherence everywhere!"
Alex looked exasperated, "You're a smart guy Dad, but you can't bring someone back from the dead. I'm not happy about what happened either, but we have to move on somehow. Besides, mom died doing something she loved. You of all people should understand why that's important. You sit alone in this office all day tumbling that crystal in your hands. Well, mom loved crystals and she was a beautiful person who loved us. We should celebrate that and cherish every moment we had with her."
"I just miss her so much," Richard said quietly, barely audible.
Alex began pacing the room waving his arms in great circles. "And you are aware that the entire world thinks you're a crackpot, right? They're going to take this house away from us. Do you understand that? Where are we going to live? Are you even a part of the real world at this point? How much savings do we have left? You have to get better soon!"
"Stop dramatizing Alex! They can take the house because I don't plan to be here by then. No one is talking about bringing her back. I just want to fix a simple defect in an almost perfect life. One tiny mistake!" Richard clenched the crystal so tightly in his hands it hurt as he tried to avoid eye contact with his son who now was face-to-face with him.
Out of breath Alex whispered, "But crystals are beautiful because of their defects Dad. Isn't that right? You of all people should know that. You're famous for the proof you wrote with Mom. That lives on forever. Doesn't that mean anything to you?"
"It's a flawed analogy Alex. There's nothing beautiful about the universe we've been forced to inhabit. Besides, the crackpot idea you mention isn't even mine. It was your mother's. She constructed this... new theory of consciousness before she... Anyway, she wasn't crazy. She was the smartest person I ever met." Richard began to cry as he slowly looked up at Alex.
"Dad, you have the stoniest logic. Are you going to start talking about how rocks are alive again?" Alex smiled, hopeful that his father was beginning to come to his senses.
Richard sat for a moment furrowing his brow. He sighed heavily and then in a slow over-enunciated tone said loudly, "Multiuniversal Constituent Panpsychism!"
"Right. You're trying to tell me rocks are alive dad. Seriously, you need to get a grip." Alex shrugged and raised his eyebrows again.
"We've been over this Alex, time and time again. Why do you continue to torment me? It doesn't mean they're alive. It just means they're conscious. I shouldn't even be having this conversation with you. It's eroding any superposition I've recently gained. Please close the curtains and leave me alone. I need some time to myself now." Richard set the crystal down on the desk in front of him and leaned back in his chair.
Alex walked over to the window and closed the curtains. "Have it your way Dad, but you can't sit in this house forever. Eventually you're going to have to get up and walk out of here."
As Alex left, slamming the office door behind him, Richard said to himself, "I'm sorry you can't come with me Alex. But you'll be there." Then he shouted again, this time through the door, "Multiuniversal Constituent Panpsychism!"
In an attempt to calm himself down, Richard tried fixing his gaze on a small glimmer of light coming from deep inside the crystal. However, once his mind was still, it immediately drifted to his favorite memory of Celeste.
"The human brain does not possess some magical property that grants it consciousness Richard, nor is it an emergent property. Everything, in fact every particle in the universe, maintains consciousness. What makes our brain special is its ability to store and recall information. Memories are presented, used to generate possible choices, and then consciousness selects an action. A particle has no memory and therefore no choice. It simply acts." Celeste dropped her sandal and paused for a moment to pick it up.
Richard squeezed her hand tightly as they continued to stroll down the beach. Trying to change the subject he said, "I'm not sure I agree or even understand, but one thing's for sure. I'm glad I married you."
Celeste continued, "It's true for any event where different outcomes exist. You know... the quantum thing. So, for each possible outcome a universe is created, right? Presto... the multiverse. An event occurs, it's observed and a memory of it is recorded. Whether it's recorded in a brain or in an inanimate object, the result is the same. A new universe splits off every time. Bifurcation!"
The warm wind meant the ocean was rougher than usual and Richard strained to hear her voice over the waves. He always resented it a little when Celeste got drunk and started talking philosophy and physics. In addition, the wine he drank at dinner was preventing her words from fully integrating in his mind.
"Did I ever tell you how beautiful you are? We're walking alongside this breathtaking sunset, but all I can look at is you Celeste." He couldn't recall if he had actually said this that evening on the beach, but he allowed the memory to continue nevertheless.
"Don't you see Richard? That's how the multiverse is created. Brains... rocks... you name it. Every object creates a new universe for itself each time information is stored within it. However, we maintain a single consciousness spread across this multitude of universes. The stored information bifurcates the universe, but not the consciousness observing it. It's just a kind of illusion that we see only one timeline." She wrapped her arm around his waist and pulled him closer.
Richard understood at this point just enough to be confused, "How can that be? Wouldn't I be aware of other universes I exist in?" He tried again to change the subject, "Like what about the universe where you and I find a quiet spot on the beach? It's getting dark."
"Why?... Because consciousness can't communicate between two universes containing contradictory information. You should know that! You're the mathematician!" She stepped back from him, putting her hands on her hips.
"And what about my other idea? You can keep talking about your theory or whatever. I'm getting tired of walking," Richard said as he began arranging the blanket on the beach.
Celeste threw her hands up, "You aren't even listening to me!"
"Oh come on Celeste, you have forever to tell me about your crazy ideas. Right now let's just sit down and enjoy the sunset."
"Alright, you win!" Suddenly, she jumped towards Richard, grabbing him and pulling him down to the sand.
"I love you Celeste."
Saying the words out loud returned Richard to his office. He opened his eyes and found the crystal still sitting on the desk in front of him. With tears in his eyes his gaze fell on the bookshelf across the room. Its shelves were full of crystals, photos, and awards from Celeste's life.
And then he saw it. Something that gave him an idea. It was the award given to Celeste for the construction of the bifurcation transducer.
Breaking the silence of the empty room, Richard spoke aloud, "Of course Celeste... Why didn't I think of it before? It's the crystal that has been keeping me stuck here. It doesn't have a memory of the event, but it was there when it happened. The imperfections formed during its creation are a kind of signature. They contain information about its very existence in all the different universes it inhabits."
In an effort to remember how the device worked, Richard's mind turned to the memory of Celeste presenting the transducer to a room full of potential investors.
"The bifurcation transducer is a practical application my team and I have constructed based on the theory Richard and I formulated together. As you know, in the production of synthetic crystals it is desired, but almost impossible, to create completely perfect crystals. Under some very controlled processes, synthetic crystals can be made almost perfect. But alas, all crystals, even synthetic ones, contain some flaws."
Celeste clicked through a vibrant slide deck filled with stunning pictures of crystals before and after the process. Some of the investors began speaking in hushed tones to each other. Celeste knew they were impressed.
"Our discovery gives us the key to removing all the flaws in these almost perfect crystals. The secret is they need to be removed in sets. In other words, each constellation of interdependent flaws has to be removed simultaneously. This is exactly what the bifurcation transducer does. By using our patented method, it locates and removes these sets of flaws one at a time from the crystals placed inside, leaving behind a completely perfect crystal."
Celeste put her hand atop the small box on the podium, "Now... would anyone like a demonstration?"
Richard had never used the transducer before, but he had watched Celeste use it a number of times and it seemed simple enough. He got up from behind the desk and found the device on the top shelf of the office closet. Placing it on the desktop, he plugged it in. The box awoke immediately and displayed some diagnostics on a small screen located on the lid.
Celeste's voice filled the room, "Welcome to your perfect crystal. Please select the program you would like to run." Richard opened the lid on top, placed the black amethyst in the box, and then snapped it shut. After Richard hit the green button on top to start the process, the device continued in her voice, "Running identification and correlation analysis. Fixing all flaws found."
Suddenly, the box started making rapid clicking noises. Glowing green numbers and symbols flashed across the screen as the machine identified all the flaws in the black amethyst and determined how they were related to one another. Since this was not a typical application of the transducer, the analysis would likely take a few hours while the machine cataloged the enormous number of flaws that existed in the crystal. Once this initial analysis was complete, it would start to remove the flaws, one set at a time.
Richard fell asleep listening to the machine click-click-click each time it activated the servo inside, slowly scanning every cross section of the crystal. He soon found himself inside a strange dream where each click from the machine presented him with a different vision from his past. At first, familiar events clicked by in front of him. The first time he met Celeste. The night Alex was conceived on the beach. The last night they spent together in the tent at Deer Hill.
As the visions continued, they became less and less familiar and Richard began to wonder if he would ever find his way back to a life he recognized. It would be like searching a vast beach for a single specific grain of sand.
Richard awoke to Alex opening the office door, flooding the office with sunlight. "You fell asleep at your desk again. Do you want some breakfast?"
"Sorry, I got wrapped up in something. I designatured the crystal last night. I had this crazy idea... I think I'm cracking up. I miss him so much Alex."
"So do I Mom."
Suddenly realizing he wasn't in the room, Richard had a brief memory of reaching out to Celeste as she slid away from him on the rocky slope a year ago, quickly pulling her to safety as he lost his own footing and fell.