Chapter 5

It’s hard to remember how many cops and quacks and priests I’ve spoken to in how many versions of prison in this penitential land, or how many times I’ve had to explain to psychiatrists come from all over that I’d not done it for ransom or because I was angry or in love, or whatever other reasons my counterparts had done it, but for the sake of the most important experiment in the world(s?): my set theory, the theory of the spiral — no, the spirals! My discovery of a loom…

True, my perception was suffering by then, at the hinterlands of the variations, where the labels of things changed. Logos and album covers were as different as they could be without being my negation, the taste of treats, the fate of villains in comics I thought I remembered: things fizzed. My interrogators merge and cut into one another, merge with every slapping detective or pipe-and-lab-coat with all the answers. Hence this singular title card: ‘The Interview’. They always began the same.

“Why Eddie Murphy?”

“He was a lead. I’m just a detective, like you.”

“You’re garbage who stalks for kicks.”

“Hahaha! I wasn’t stalking him! What would I do without him? No, no, no: I was making sure of him.”

“What has that got to do with anything?”

“It’d be proof. That my theory about the set I’m in is correct.”

“You’re in this world! One man: yourself. And there ain’t no world but this one.”

“You’re wrong there doc. I’ve been in other worlds. I’ll never think it was just my imagination.”

In this way, they wouldn’t change tack, year after circuitous year. Then again, neither would I. They wanted me to agree with them, to hoodwink me so they could be done with me. I wanted them to understand how I might have found a way out. (A way back to her so I could explain.) At this point, Bad Cop would usually tag in Good:

“Convince me. Tell me every last detail.”

“Back when I was picking between suicide and hope, I realised that what would swing it was whether this nightmare could theoretically end. To work that out I had to work out what defined the set I was scrolling, because that would mean I’d be able to work out the size of it too — again, in theory. So allow me to recall a few axioms; Murphy’s Laws, if you will.

“First, and most obviously: in all members of the set, Eddie Murphy exists, as does a counterpart me. Already this reduces the number of worlds that I might have to get through. Second: in all of them, my counterpart exists in the right co-ordinates, while Murphy exists at a variation. Third: in all of them, he and I co-exist, and this is key. You’ve read all their notes, you know the things I’ve seen: Murphy rivalling Letterman. The Michael Jackson concept album. Among the youngest to get tenure as a professor. But never Professor Murphy who found a cure for cancer, never Edward Regan Murphy who assassinated Ronald Reagan. Because those variations need such different pasts and make such different futures as to disturb the delicate circumstances behind the conceiving of a me.”

“Then the real problem with your theory is that it’s inconsistent as all hell. Sure, your folks living before Murphy’s time mightn’t been disturbed by his so-called variations. But as for you, ain’t you always said you knew about him since you were a kid?”

 “Quid pro quo, I tell you things, you tell me things: how influential is pop culture trivia on the course of our lives? Would Eddie Murphy never having appeared in any films meant my counterparts wouldn’t have emigrated? Fallen in love? Broken the law, sir?”

“Why, there’d have to be snowballing differences. On a long enough timeline, everything’s triviality drops to zero.”

“Precisely, ma’am, and such worlds do exist, but they do not belong in this set. Those aren’t the worlds that I’m scrolling through. Or can do, since a me isn’t in them, or is in them but not in a congruent way.”

“Then the real problem with your theory is that it’s rigged to fail. You proclaim the variations of Murphy are limited. But could there not be infinite gradations within said limits, infinite ways in which he could, for instance, have been in the employ of the police constabulary? Thus we’re back, with you ensuring that your febrile delusion cannot and will not end.”

“Thank heavens then detective for the theoretical geometry of possible worlds. Try to imagine existence as a volume of threads, unspooling down through time, each thread a different life you could’ve had, or rather, are having. What defines the proximity of other threads to your own is their similarity. And though adjacent, they’re separated, isolated, these might-have-beens to everything but themselves. Except with me. I have come unstuck in mine. Wider and farther than anybody in my place would dare to dream, to the remote point in a spiral, where he’s - well what? Why won’t you say? What harm can it do now?”

“A man with a wife. Children. Someone who simply made different choices to what you think he should’ve made.”

“Yes doc, ones that made not only his life but the entire universe different. In an equation as complex as the universe there is no such thing as just one variable; look at your lab coat: why is it red? The only worlds that can possibly be are those coherent combinations of variables. Take Carol’s ‘Cyberian Winter’: the granular difference needed for my counterpart to have been in the right circumstances, where an infinitesimal difference would not have sufficed. A new slogan therefore, for the workers of the worlds: Neither fractals nor determinism! My set is composed of an indefinite but not infinite number of members.”

“Then the real problem with your theory is that it doesn’t have the right evidence. If you do have all these threads around you that you’re spiralling through then, gosh darn it, you’d be in a constant blizzard of other worlds.”

“I’ve skewed across to a discrete thread with each scrolling and then gone straight down. Something else has been moving in a spiral. Something that keeps coming back for me. Catching me.”

“You’re not helping.”

“What do you mean I’m not helping?

“I mean you’re not helping. Damn it, you’re not being hounded; singled out for some goddamn trial.”

“Except for my legal charges... No, I’m being helped. Or at least something is trying. Trying to put me right, your honour. Searching through worlds for one to put me into.”

“Oh sure, some kinda benevolent filing system…”

“But multiform! Multi-thread, like a loom. One that’s meant to keep every self bound to its thread — perhaps ensuring we’re not conscious of all our other selves.”

“And would you say you are conscious: of yourself? Aware of yourself?”

“I’m aware that with me something has snagged.”

“Is that so?”

“Snagged, and ever since, this tie or bond’s been spiralling overhead, catching me on each pass and sorting me into a life it thinks is mine. I go down that thread irrevocably, one where circumstances seem to be as they were before. But the loom only compares with the world just gone and only achieves a near match. Concordantly, my counterparts and I are never identical; their similar-seeming circumstances are built on different histories — for how else could they fit into the wider world vis-à-vis Murphy again having varied? Ergo, I don’t stay, I’m reloaded, and the loom scrolls again; but taking longer now, having to look further afield, spiral even wider.”

“Then the real problem with your theory is that it’s a sublimation. You betray it as such. This ‘spiral’, a cry for order. This ‘loom’, a manifestation of a desire to be helped from the outside. Let us help you like you want us to!”

“Only the reeling power of the loom can help me further now. For its spiral-mechanics limit my already limited set. The loom cannot run backwards, since whatever happened, happened; it widens its search, but in doing so it scans through only the variations that are left. And it always fails. But if it could be tuned, it would become a powerful ally…”

“Don’t you see the danger, Kon, inherent in what you’re doing here? Mental delusion is the most stubborn problem the planet’s ever seen, but you court it like a girl who finds mind-games fun. ‘Ties’ and ‘bonds’? ‘Tuning’? Stop enabling your madness!”          

“But forwards is the only way outwards. Although the outer limits of the set must exist, they nevertheless might be too far away to reach in my lifetime. And even if I sat around and waited and did reach a limit, the loom might simply stall there at the last possible Murphy variation. But there’s another possibility. Something else might happen when I reach the widest gyre, the last Murphy eddy. The loom might recoil. With no options left, it might recoil and reel me back. Not back in time but back in reality.”

“And like that - phuh - it’s gone?”

“I’m afraid my dear that the two cones match: it’ll take as long to spiral back in as it did to spiral out. For all the poor Carols of all the worlds I’ve scrolled, it’ll be as though their Kons are regressing to a former madness.”

“Then I just don’t know if I can wait that long.”

“And I can? Even if the loom does recoil, I’d have to risk the Twilight Zone irony of finally getting back to her but just as I’m about to die. So there has to be a way I can start the process sooner, make the set run out quicker…”

“If you wanted this over quicker, you’d please just accept that you’ve gone insane.”

“It’s more comfortable for you to label me insane. If I’m insane how come I don’t know everything in much detail? Because I’ve never been here before: who the hell are you people? Why the hell’s this Kon been put away?”

“You honestly don’t remember? Because of your… issues with him.”

“No. That is incidental.”

“Sure. Then tell me in single words, only the good things that come to mind — about Eddie Murphy?”

“Let me tell you about Murphy: he was reliable, that’s all. When Carol got upset at me for not noticing her hair, I saw that OK it was different, but only in some worlds, while in others it was how I remembered. Eddie Murphy though always varies. He’s a trans-dimensional gauge. Hence one that could show by a repeat variation that my escape plan had worked. And you took him from me when you detained me, and I’d gleaned it in his face on the football field, and it’s tearing me apart.”

“An… escape plan, Kostya?”

“One of you give me your pen and I’ll show you.”

“You know we can’t hand you anything.”

“You watch too many movies, quacks. Well I’m going to have to put it down on paper at some point… My escape plan is to crash the loom. Say I made a change in the thread I was in; something major though, mad; the kind of plan cooked up by a mad scientist: I could blow the Hoover Dam perhaps, or deface Mount Rushmore. Because if I did so, then the next time the loom scrolled, it would have to find another world in my set in which another me had done the mad thing too, and had an Eddie Murphy locked in a motel room — but all for his own reasons! Surely there’s no way it could. Instead it would hit its limit early.”

“And yet here you are.”

“Quite. Between the two of us, I don't think those mad changes would’ve worked. It’s not as if the loom’s ever struggled to find me worlds where I’m some weird stalker Eddie Murphy obsessive. And what with me being so poor and high-strung of late, I’m sure I’d have messed up even a simple bank robbery. Then one dog of an afternoon I realised: like I was shot. Like I was shot with a diamond. A diamond bullet right through my forehead.”

“Realised what you did, Mr Desadeski?”

“Realised how to make a simpler change. One that’ll at least put a stop to this. Or maybe, just maybe, send me on my way back.”

“It seems to me you’ve overlooked a glaring third option.”

“… Meaning what?”

“I’m glad you asked. Maybe there are no real problems with your theory. And you can and do make whatever big or small change that forces the loom’s hand. But what if instead of stalling or recoiling it scrolls you somewhere else? Is forced to reach for an extreme?”

“Murphy and I together prohibit any.”

“Yes but not alt-histories or weird parallel dimensions. Something, as you said, simpler — and yet for you inconceivable. For there might be another world out there with a Kon in it who’s done whatever ‘change’ that you’re planning. In fact, he’s done all that you’ve done, he is in the right circumstances. But, unlike all the other Kons, he also claims he’s been going through the Murphy variations.”

“Wait, no, if there were identical worlds then the loom would’ve matched me with one the first time round.”

“I never said identical. It’s not. In a simple way. The Kon in that world claims he’s gone through the Murphy variations but for him they just never really happened.”

“…No.”

“In that world, Konstantin is just mad.”

“No, no, no.”

“So if this all works like you say, if you insist your theory is true, then what we believe will become true. You will scroll into him. Or you might even already be him.”

Things usually stopped there.

Awful tired, dog tired, I accepted the shot then limped out of the interrogation while trying not to cry. I once even turned round to add, “Fucking cops.”

Another time, though, it was they who turned round.

“Just one more thing. This ‘escape plan’ of yours... If it worked, if your calculations were correct: when you finally got back, to your centre, would you hold on?”

“How can anyone predict themselves in a world where this happens? It’s like a natural disaster. It can only be attributable to non-human error.”

“Or maybe it was your fault.”

“Me? What did I do?”

“Oh Kon. Kon, you are blind. Look where you are for Pete’s sake.”

 

*

 

The morning I got out was a wet and sunny morning. In the rainbow I could see a white castle. The years have been kind. She wasn’t mine though. I walked as if to her but then went past her, headed one last time for Eddie Murphy.

The authorities have not taken well to my recidivism. I hide in alleyways. I think about their third option. It’s got me up nights, that’s the truth. I’ve started to lose hope. What’s more, I still haven’t found him. Maybe I am wrong… about the set: Eddie Murphy’s not a condition of it. The dumpster goes dark and fills with sour threads.

Time’s up.         

Just remember the change. Simple, doable - and yet so unlikely to be repeated, down to the letter but for different reasons, in any world that’s left.

This is it. This, what you’re reading. What I’ve been writing. To be on the safe side though, some original last words (a victory cry, even?): colourless green ideas sleep furiously.

With that, the escape plan is done, held up where I can see, where you will see. I wait. Everything rests now on the incoming variation. Whether I return to a world I’ve seen before or whether the next scrolling won’t be the scrolling home. Akh, how I wish I’d found him.

I wanted to shake Eddie Murphy by the hand; to thank him for taking it as well as could be expected, and to tell him how I knew of him: not a resident of a hospice but the comedy Hall of Fame; not a defector to the Soviets, but a star; and one whom my father and I had loved watching together in Trading Places and The Shawshank Redemption – and then I’d have left, swapped with the last Konstantin to have kept my thread warm.

It’s to him I’ve been writing: to ‘me’, to you. You for whom I will also do my own ‘Eddie Murphy doing Bill Cosby’ impression:

 

“I HOPE these words don’t just end up with the Trashman, though to him Cyrillic may as well BE computer CODE. I hope you didn’t leave or FIND things with her… in too bad a SHAPE. I hope I’m corRECT… and you are the last and not the next. I hope the Manchester SHIP Canal is as grey as it has been in my DREAMS. I hope…        

“DAAAAAA