When I get to the last page, I look over at Gus, who’s wearing a bewildered smile that manages to cram more emotion into it then words possibly could.
“I…” he trails off.
“Yeah.” I reply, as I kneel down to check on Melinda. I touch her forehead and a sparkle drifts behind her eyes as she jostles back into our world. She blinks a few times before locking eyes with me.
“Oh, you.” She says, raising herself on her elbows.
Melinda sees the PalmPilot in my hand and nods, “You read it?”
“What did you think?”
“It’s an interesting idea. But I can’t help but wonder, if reality is fiction and held in the mind of the beholder, who’s the beholder?”
She sits up fully now, “I’m sorry?”
“Well I mean, are you in charge here? Am I?”
“In charge? I think you’re misunderstanding something.” Melinda finally stands up and brushes herself off. “I’m fine, by the way.”
“Sorry, you just through me off,” I look back to Gus for help.
“What were you doing, er, there, on the ground?” Gus asks.
“Oh,” Gus says, hoping for more.
Melinda looks at Gus, clearly thinking about whether she wants to indulge his curiosity. “In order to create, we must be quiet, right?” She asks, “So I call it meditation. But it’s more of a creative exercise. I like to lay still and think up new places.”
“What were you thinking about just now?” I butt back into the conversation.
Melinda pulls out the pamphlet I made and hands it to me. “I was thinking about this.”
“I made this,” I reveal, with a tone of self-righteousness.
“I figured,” Melinda replies, nonplussed.
“If you suspected it was fake why did you come?”
“It doesn’t make any difference. I liked what you wrote, and this area,” she gestures around us, “is lovely. It seemed like the perfect place for a portal.”
“But it’s not real, I made up the portal.”
“What’s that matter?”
“What do you mean, ‘what’s that matter?’ Of course it matters. It’s not real. I made it up while sitting in a copy shop.”
Melinda sighs and turns back to the place she was laying. The stones around us seem to vibrate.
“Those of us in Owl accept one thing above all else,” she says, “That reality is a fiction. As such, it can be changed. Present moments can be dictated based on any past we choose, and past moments are created to help sustain the present we choose. That’s where all the books and stories come in. It’s one thing to say the present reality is a fiction we can alter and change to our whims, but without the backbone of the past, it’s too hard to hold onto the present we desire. Owl seeds stories through books, art, and,” she holds her arms out to me, “maps. And any other medium we might find useful. The more building blocks we leave, the easier it becomes to control the present.”
“I’m sorry, I’m having a hard time here. Is this some hippy new age collective conscious thing, is it some thing where we’re all figments of your mind? Is it something else?”
Melinda shrugs, “Perhaps it’s none of those things. Or all of those things. And even if it was, who’s to say figments on my mind can’t have a conscious? Or for that matter, who’s to say we’re not figments of your mind? After all, you’re the one who choose to find the history of the book. You’re the one who created the map to this place. And countless other maps, I’m told. You’re the one who seems caught up in this narrative most of all.”
I look to Gus for help. He has a worried look on his face, but seems stuck. Like he can’t move forward. Melinda too. The whole world feels like it’s on a loop, waiting for me to choose how to move forward.
“Maybe I need an example,” I finally say, “Can you teach me how you meditate?”
“Of course,” Melinda says, “Take a seat.”