I made what I thought was a relatively harmless reposting (on Facebook) of a comment I originally made there about a minor character in the only novella I’ve written so far. It provoked some nice responses but then, unaccountably, the whole thread vanished. So, as a reward, (or maybe punishment) I’ve decided to publish the entire chapter as a blog. It’s chapter 10 of Alternative Dimension. The story describes how Joe Lorimer invented the role-playing game of the title, (called ‘AD’ by its players), then visited it in the forms of a couple of avatars: Red – its all-knowing creator; and Ross – a ‘normal’ role-player. This chapter records one of Ross’s adventures. It’s called Descartes and the Rabbit. First, though, one word needs explaining: the ‘FUCCers’ are members of a community Joe met with in a previous chapter: its name was the Faith Under Control Community.
The trauma of losing control of Red stayed with Joe. The absurdity of assuming anyone could link abstractions, thinking, or freedom with some form of concrete realisation of them was obvious. On the other hand, by creating AD, he’d done something very close to that. Joe remained a romantic, unwilling to reject the possibility of transcendence. And yet Red’s exploitation of the gullibility of the FUCCers and the ease with which he’d turned their spiritual yearnings into a crazy articulation of flailing legs stressed the vast distances there were between the world of pixels and that of people. Nonetheless, Joe’s pursuit of the elusive synthesis continued and, on more than one occasion, he felt certain he’d found it. That time, for example, when he sent Ross to the underwater caves off the coast of Chile.
Ross was talking about Descartes. That wasn’t unusual, it was the sort of pretentious stuff Joe had found himself doing more and more in AD. This time, though, it was slightly different. He was talking to a purple rabbit. Quite a tall one. Again, there’s nothing remarkable about that, not in AD. But this was one of those furry things that disconcerted him. She had the Bugs Bunny face and ears, but a near perfect figure: 36D breasts (he was pretty confident the size was right; he’d become an expert on avatars), slim waist, and a ‘two synchronised ferrets in a sack’ butt. He was getting enthusiastic about the ‘cogito’ bit of the Descartes and a bit concerned that, by the time he got to the ‘sum’ bit, his gesticulating hands might inadvertently clutch a furry lump of mammary gland and, in the process, undermine his whole thesis.
They were standing on the pebbles of an underwater cave. Breathing without difficulty as the tropical fish swam around them and two couples from Denmark and Holland got more and more enthusiastic about the sets of action hooks strewn among the rocks there.
The rabbit seemed unaware of them.
‘It’s the “I” in “I think” that’s the problem,’ she said.
Joe knew that. Everybody knows that. But this was a pedantic rabbit. She needed to spell everything out. Joe decided to try to disorientate her.
‘Kant,’ he said.
Her hesitation was brief.
‘Not only the name of the writer of the Critique of Pure Reason’, she said. ‘An apt description of its hypothesis, too. And,’ she added, ‘just a vowel away from encapsulating the man himself.’
One of the Danes stood up, a blonde, bronzed individual with ludicrous shoulders. A line of (Danish) chat splashed across the screen, followed by ‘lol’. Joe thought it was probably a Danish joke about sex.
A dachshund appeared from behind a clump of seaweed.
‘Nice put-down, Doris,’ it said to the rabbit.
That puzzled Joe. Her name tag identified her as Drindle Pinkneery.
‘Doris?’ said Ross.
‘Yes?’ said the rabbit.
‘No, I mean – why did he call you Doris?’
‘LOL. That’s my real name. Dennis is my husband.’
‘Dennis?’ said Ross.
‘Yes?’ said the dachshund.
The Dane settled back into the action hook athletics. Joe looked at Ross. Young, dark hair, good looking. Not for the first time, the experience of virtuality disorientated him. He was, after all, a highly respected IT designer, with his own major company and millions in the bank. Why was he here on the sea bed talking about the nature of existence with a purple rabbit and a dachshund? He sighed; it was a question he seemed to be asking himself almost daily.
‘Wet here,’ said Dennis.
‘It’s symbolic,’ said Doris.
‘Of what?’ asked Ross, immediately regretting prolonging his stay with them.
‘All sorts of things,’ she went on. ‘The womb, lubrication, rain.’
‘Wetness isn’t a symbol of rain,’ said Ross. ‘It’s a characteristic of it.’
‘Alright, just the womb then,’ said Doris.
‘Dominicans,’ said Dennis.
‘What?’ said Ross. (Joe was beginning to feel as if he was being subjected to some sort of brainwashing.)
‘Founded in 1214,’ said Dennis. ‘Preached the gospel, fought against heresy. Great intellectual tradition, bags of philosophers.’
‘And the connection with the womb? Or wetness?’ said Joe, trying to make the words look sarcastic on the screen.
‘Ah,’ said Dennis, tapping the side of his nose with a paw.
‘Dennis,’ she said, ‘stop teasing him.’
‘Well, he should have realised by now,’ said Dennis.
‘Realised what?’ said Ross/Joe.
‘You think, therefore you are,’ he said.
‘Who are you?’
‘Ross Magee. Check the name tag.’
Dennis shook his head. Briefly, Joe admired the animation. So realistic. He allowed himself a small grin of pride.
‘That’s just a tag,’ said Dennis. ‘I asked who you “are” – from “to be”. What’s your essence?’
‘What’s yours?’ replied Ross.
‘I have none. I’m a dachshund,’ said Dennis.
Joe thought that, for a dachshund, he was a smug bastard.
Suddenly, Ross was being hugged by Doris. Her furry arms were around him, her huge hairy breasts were crushing into his rib cage.
‘Let’s get back to wetness,’ she said.
Joe was taken by surprise.
‘Only if you take your head off,’ said Ross, as Joe warmed to the idea of the breasts, convincing himself that Ross wasn’t feeling rabbit mammaries against his chest, but a thick woollen bikini top.
‘But that’s where my cogito happens,’ said the rabbit. ‘Without my head, I don’t exist, can’t exist. Without that, no wetness.’
Suddenly, it hit Joe. She was right. This tall, purple rabbit was right. Here was Ross, sharing (on Joe’s behalf) a womb with two Danes, a Dutch couple, a rabbit and a dachshund. They were all breathing under water. Impossible elements. Chaos, mayhem. All held together by the power of thinking, the willingness to believe that we can live our dreams.
In his study back home, Joe spun round in his chair and looked out over Hampstead Heath. The Cartesian duality was a myth. The Frenchman said the body was a machine but the soul couldn’t be defined by the laws of physics and yet the two acted on one another. Well, here and now, if Ross played his cards right (and somehow got rid of the dachshund), he could make this rabbit pregnant. Descartes didn’t think of that when he was writing his Discourse on the Method. Joe was back in control.