Friday, September 10, 2004


The Witch

It all comes to an abrupt halt at some kind of rough ceiling. It extends as far as the eye can see in every direction, and looks and feels like the bumply bottom of a molded sink.

He just sticks to it, along with all the other random trash picked up by the updraft.

His first instinct is to cling to the surface for dear life. The panic passes quickly. He isn't going to fall. He isn't being held up by suction, or pressure, or reverse gravity. The force holding him there is alien to the electromagnetic fields of the space-time continuum he has spent his life mathematizing. Nothing to do but trust it, for now; take some notes; start figuring out ways to reduce his new environment to numbers.

So for a moment he rests, getting his bearings, then pushes himself up into an upside-down crawl. There must be holes in this surface too: it is quite patently no three-sphere. (But would the Poincare hypothesis hold here? Only one way to find out.)

After searching an unmeasurable period of time, perhaps an hour, perhaps a century, he comes to an irregular cavity in the bottom of heaven's sink, and carefully climbs through. Just above the surface, rough steps start.

They are, however, covered with some mucky substance, which his nose tells him is, well, blogshit. Clearly, the blogosphere is no perfect three-sphere either. The steps and walls are a good ten centimeters deep in the shit.

Grisha plays it safe: stays on his hands and knees. Tries not to think about what he's crawling through.

At the top of the steps there is a slight recess. On a small ledge there cowers a not-unattractive blond woman. She is shivering and hugging herself for warmth. Her face, clothes, and hair are smeared randomly with blogshit.

"Hello," Grisha says. The woman just shivers and stares. "Do you need help?"

"I--I don't know," she finally manages to say.

"Here, give me your hand," Grisha says.

She reaches out tentatively, and he helps her to her feet.

"How long have you been crouching there?"

"I don't know."

"Right. Sorry. Stupid question. No time here. Come on," he says. "Let's go topside."

They walk up into the light.

"Where are we?" the woman says.

"Either this is heaven," Grisha says, "or--"

"Or what?"

"I don't know. I was going to make some kind of Wizard of Oz reference. But I think this is heaven."

"Where are you from?" the woman asks. "Are you Chechen?"

"Russian," Grisha says. "And you?"

"I'm not sure. I think--I've lost my memory. I don't know who I am."

"I see."

Grisha looks around. Twenty steps away stands a beach shower, with soap-on-a-rope and towels on a hook.

"Shower?" he says.

She nods, and they go over, strip down to their underwear, and wash off. As they towel-dry their hair, Grisha has an epiphany.

"Wait," he says. "I know you."

"You do?" she says, her eyes lighting up pathetically.

"You're that fascist! You're--what's your name?"

The name is on the tip of his tongue. The woman's eyes fall.

"I'm a fascist?"

"Well, yes--or, well, maybe not a fascist. But so far right that you--well, hate everybody that loves freedom and diversity. What's your name?"

The woman shrugs miserably. Tears well up in her eyes.

"I don't want to be a fascist," she says, her voice breaking.

"Then--don't be one," Grisha says easily. "Change. Be something new. Be a lesbian. No," he corrects himself, eyeing her lycra-sheathed breasts, "don't be a lesbian. Be a liberal."

"What's a liberal?" the woman asks.

"Someone who loves liberty," Grisha says. "Liberty and justice for all."

"That sounds good," the woman says. "I think that's what I'll be. A liberal. That has a nice sound to it."

"Wouldn't the fascists back on earth shit bricks!" Grisha says happily. "But I wish I could think of your name! Oh well," he sighs, "it'll come to me. Shall we go explore?"

She nods. They set off.

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