I blacked out on the first drop of the Kingda Ka, probably the meanest roller-coaster in the world, Six Flags in New Jersey.
I didn’t realize it, but I sort of switched places with myself. It was like I had always been here inside this little spaceship, looking out at the back side of the Moon with some hot blond alien girl. Her name was Shibani.
We’d been talking awhile.
Her hair was yellow-blond, you know? Not white. Her eyes were violet and familiar, both rare on Earth.
“You gotta be kidding,” I said when our conversation came back to me. “You’re a materialist?” A disgusted expression came over me, but I pulled back fast. “The best physicists I know say materialism is dead and gone.”
“Yes, but I’m not that breed. Space-time isn’t flat.”
Her lips didn’t move, but I could hear her voice. Worse yet, it seemed normal.
“My people believe energy is conscious.” She pointed a thin index finger at the ceiling and twirled it. I found myself staring.
She had no fingernails!
Pretending it didn’t matter, I said, “But if energy and mass are interchangeable, you’re saying everything here is conscious, right? Like this goofy chair.” I leaned over and patted the arm of a child-size chair like the one she was sitting on. “Does this thing have a mind of its own? If a Jewish man in a moment of weakness builds a statue of Buddah, bows down and worships it… is it thinking, ‘Don’t get too attached, dude”?
She laughed. “Consciousness collapses when the wave function collapses.”
Out on the back side of the Moon, an asteroid smashed into a giant spherical structure. An astronaut in a stay-puff suit stumbled away from the edge of a small new crater. I blinked and tried to ignore my desire to help the poor guy. What could I do, anyway?
“So light is conscious until someone measures it, huh?” I pulled my eyes off the moon and gave Shibani the skeptical eyebrow thing. I’d practiced that expression for months so I could do it on command. Well worth the effort now.
“There’s individual mind and Transcendent Mind,” she said. “Before a light wave collapses into a particle, it carries Transcendent Mind and exists independently of the space-time interface. When a light wave comes into contact with an individual mind in space-time, it joins this realm and becomes a measurable photon. The Transcendent Mind vanishes, and now it’s part of the physical context we call the Universe.”
I had a physicist friend, Don Hoffman, who talked like this.
Or did I?
I tried to picture his face, but couldn’t. It was like trying to remember a dream from last week.
I tried to picture my family, but each of their faces had faded into a tan fuzz.
I remembered my Hopi friend, Joy Pisano, telling me that when someone dies without being prepared for the next life, that person wanders the spirit world looking for familiar things, haunted by vague memories.
Was this happening to me now? Was I dead?
I looked out beyond the edges of the Moon for the Earth but couldn’t find her anywhere.
If only this girl had fingernails, I wouldn’t be all alone.
Shibani, what are you?
No, don’t ask. Just breathe. Don’t panic, be conceptual.
“OK, so does this mean the Universe is a simulation?”
“You could say that.” She cupped her palms, held them up facing each other and fluttered the fingers of her right hand. “From here, the Universe is as real as love and suffering. As real as good and evil.” Then she fluttered the fingers of her left hand. “But from beyond the interface, the Universe is all good, just another option for personal growth. A simulation, you might say.”
“What type of growth are you talking about?”
She pointed outside at the astronaut, now lying flat on his back, motionless beside the new crater. A woman with no spacesuit came up from the underground, knelt beside him and collapsed over his body.
“This Universe develops courage through love and suffering.”
I awoke with stars curling through my head. We were at the bottom of Kingda Ka’s first drop and barrelling on to another splendid terror. The girl beside me, Amanda Stanly, had her eyes closed and a grip on my right hand. I squeezed her fingers, pulled them up to my lips and kissed them.
Fingernails! Jet black and perfect.
A sense of relief flooded over me from head to toe, like the welcome tendrils of a hot shower on a frosty winter morning.
An image flashed into my head, and my phone signaled a text…
I fumbled a hand into my coat pocket, pulled out my phone and glanced at the screen as another set of G-forces arrived. The phone slipped away and flew off into the night, but I’d read the message.
“Love from Medusa Merger.”
M. Talmage Moorehead