A Step Over
I’m writing this down, discreetly, because in a very short time I won’t be able to. It’s not that I won’t remember it—it won’t exist.
I think of those people who always read the ending of a book before they start, or go to websites that tell you the year you’re going to die after you fill in their blanks with all your secrets, and I don’t understand how anybody would want to do that. It’s obviously better not to know. Ever. My God, are we going to engineer our way out of the very mercy of time?
Probably—but it’s no matter to me. I don’t have that luxury. After ten years at the Shing Clinic, I know.
I can’t say it was Dr. Shing’s position so near but still this side of that murky line between legitimate and pseudo medicine that attracted me—bottom line, I needed a job—but it was partly that. In my experience those lines are mostly political, and the truth is, the man was so brilliant, his unconcern for his reputation so genuine, and his devotion to his patients so complete, I was honored to work for him. Not to mention the trust he placed in me. I would not betray him. These words should stay in your keeping forever, if that’s possible; and if not, certainly while that man lives. Here.
When I started at the Clinic it was the time, you will remember, when the Priola virus was first appearing. Of course we still don’t understand this wasting disease, and the fact that it almost solely infects those immersed in electronically constructed worlds was not scientifically, but soon enough popularly, construed as causative. Recent research is, in fact, beginning to find some connection between the sedentary radiation-saturated lifestyle bypassing so many evolutionary entanglements with the natural world, but there’s still no proof. The only thing known is that the disease is one hundred percent fatal.
Dr. Shing had never, from childhood, believed in a unitary reality—I think because with an instinct one can only call genius, he had been aware of the multiplicity. Through experience. The experience, he would say, we all share—but not the awareness. The human mind hides its tracks, and strives with the ferocity of survival to sustain the illusion of a single self. The exception being minds like Dr. Shing’s.
So it was inevitable that he would make the study of the parallel planes of reality, and the role of the internal DNA mechanism to respond to its circumstances and adapt, his life’s work. The medical degree was only a necessary logistical step. He practiced a conventional enough form of medicine, but behind that screen devoted himself from the beginning to his true work.
I’m not sure how many terminally ill patients I ushered into adjacent lives. Dr. Shing’s work, as I’ve indicated, was an elaborately guarded secret, all word of mouth in a small circle. I’ve come to understand how he agonized over the ethical question in the early days, and still does, but he remains adamant that no one but the patient him or herself, and a small circle of trusted staff, would know. The family would pick up the body, as with any death, which I suppose is what it was, and that would be an end of it.
True, as for me I was never a fan of the extro-world, nor much a one for exercise or natural experience. But that hardly makes me unique. I was shocked, but not surprised, when I contracted the disease, and had an ethical quandary of my own in debating whether to write this. I can only say, I had to. And stress that it is for no other eyes than your own.
Dr. Shing is a compassionate man. He threw himself wholly into my case. It took him four tries to find a me with no Priola, in a plane reasonably redolent of this one—more or less the same principal people, whatever “same” means.
I offer you the consolation that I will certainly be I—and you, you—at any given time—and that all I’s and you’s are illusions anyway.
They have never been what lives on.
April 29, 2019