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Part 3: The Infinite Jest
After another minute of arguing, during which time Jester threatened to camp out at the desk all day until they let her have me, the two men finally acquiesced.
Triumphant, the beaming young woman waved her hand to open another portal. Instead of asking me to step through, she promptly pushed me into the iris. The next thing I knew, I was lying on the ground, a searing hot pain rushing away from my elbow.
The pain only consumed me for a brief moment before I realized that I was in outer space, hovering directly over Earth, which looked to be the size of a small beach ball. Stars hovered around it, stunning me with their multiplicity. I tapped the transparent material of the floor to ensure it truly was there, the pain of my landing suddenly not enough to prove its existence.
“Get up,” Jester said hurriedly as she walked past me. “I have a lot to show you!”
Judging by her tone, her rush wasn’t motivated by fear or desperation, both feelings that I could relate to. She sounded excited.
Anxious for answers, I jumped to my feet and pursued her. I couldn’t help but notice the way her tight neon green and orange striped pants clung to her curvy hips. It wasn’t enough to distract me entirely, though I forgot to be angry with her for pushing me.
“What do you want me for?” I asked as I finally matched her stride.
“They send all of the nameless back. I was the only one they couldn’t return, so I’ve been alone. I’m tired of having no one to talk to.”
“Why couldn’t they return you?”
She gave me a conspiratorial glance. “They tried, but my brain is ultra-resistant to programming. In the world you just came from, I was one of the most unstable people my doctors had ever seen. That’s how I ended up as a nameless in the first place. The programming that let me function in the world just wore off.”
“Nameless?” This much was accurate for me. “You have a name though.”
“I chose it. I didn’t want to live the rest of my life here without a name. And here, we live a long time.”
The slight skip in her walk caught my attention. Her shoulders bounced, and her long braid swung from side to side.
The distinctive sound became audible again, though it was even quieter than it was in the first room. I felt it more as a background vibration. “Did you end up here because you heard the sound too?”
She nodded. “The sound led me to a gateway that brought me here. They keep the gateways open so they can fix anyone that’s in danger of figuring it all out.”
“What is the sound? I heard someone say something about engines.” Even as I asked this question, I had my eyes focused on the ground. With the initial shock fading, I was able to take in the incredible sight below me. After only a few moments of walking, I noticed a large yellow sphere with beautiful rings. Something in the back of my mind recognizes it as Saturn. I had no idea who I was, but some bits of knowledge were still intact.
“You could say it’s the engine that drives that world,” Jester said brightly. “I, on the other hand, call it the absurdity.”
“What?” It occurred to me that I might be repeating myself too much with the bewildered questions, but I couldn’t help myself.
“The absurdity of life.”
Looking around me, all I saw was absurdity. “I think everything in my life is absurd,” I agreed.
Or at least I thought I was agreeing with her. Jester suddenly threw back her head and let out a high-pitched squeal of delight that made my eardrums ring. My hands flew up to protect what was left of my hearing.
“What’s wrong with you?” I demanded.
Her laugh subsided and remained only as an occasional hiccup through her reply. “That’s not what I meant, silly! The thing you call life is the absurdity! You’re only hearing the engines that generate it because you’re seeing through the thin veneer.”
“So. . .” I looked around me and tried to soak in the implications. “Are you saying this is reality?”
She shrugged. “I think it is, anyway. No one can ever say for sure, but it’s the only place where I make sense.”
Blank slate or not, I still had more experience in the other world than I did here. My mind wanted to resist what she was telling me. “I jumped off that cliff. Maybe I’m dead, or maybe I’m still falling and this is a hallucination.”
Jester smiled, and I noticed how startlingly green her eyes were. They matched some of the jewels in her hair. “I doubt you’re dead,” she assured me.
Now I felt a laugh coming on. “You only doubt it?”
“I’ve learned that it’s impossible to know anything for sure,” she said playfully.
I didn’t know whether to take her seriously or not, but I found myself sliding my fingers across my neck until I felt the comforting throb of my pulse. “Well, my heart’s still beating.” Looking down, I guessed we were well beyond the solar system by then. I only saw a few scattered rocky objects floating in the void.
Jester laughed again, but my eardrums were better able to withstand this assault. “You can put stock in that if you want, but experience tells me that having a heartbeat isn’t as reliable an indicator of being alive as you might think.”
I just gaped at her.
She grabbed my arm by the elbow and tugged me along. “Come on! There’s a lot to see.”
Part 4: The Third
Part 4: The Third