Haunted Mansion

Science is a wonderful thing. It has discovered a great many truths that had before lay hidden beyond the horizons of the imagination, and who should dare circumscribe the domain of future science? Where shall it send us? Annihilation, perhaps, but we will die in any case. Perhaps it will carry us to the very limits of fact. Who is to say?

I might venture to guess that there is one thing that science shall never discover. That one thing would be that I stand here, gazing over the back of his shoulder. I would love to tap on his shoulder and capture his attention, but I have no objective existence. He cannot feel my prodding finger, for I am entirely subjective. Alas! Science is indeed a wonderful thing.

What am I? I look down upon myself. I believe that I am a creature with legs, feet, arms, and hands. Yet in moments, with no small difficulty, I have removed them, and somehow I feel that I am unchanged. Using two newly liberated fingers I plug my ears. I close my eyes and mouth. Still I am unchanged. I smell and taste, but give me a smoke, and I find that losing even those does not change me. It seems at last that I am a brain operating under an external life support system. A brain, or perhaps a portion of a brain: a network of neurons firing in some perplexing rhythm I cannot understand. I may not have any senses, but my world remains full of detail. Yea, it is even a new world of discovery, for I have up to now been too involved in my senses to bathe in the fantastic world of unfettered imagination. Am I at last a single neuron? No, that must not be, for a neuron cannot be aware of all these memories and echos of smells, tastes, textures, sounds, and images.

Am I conscious? A bystander looking upon me would not think so, but I know that I am; or am I? Am I, rather, in a dream? Should I strive to open my eyes, or would that only wake me?

Have I ever been unconscious? Or has all of my sleep been a chain of dreams which I have simply forgotten? Perhaps I could live a lifetime of imagination, if I can only keep my eyes closed. After all, I have never once seen anything for myself, but rather, I have always been interpreting signals. Signals! I have all along been listening to a story over telegraph, converting it into experience with my imagination. Perhaps the story was true, but was the experience? I created every smell, touch, image, and sound to correspond to the code I received.

How can this organ be me? I know that it is mere matter. Perhaps all of its atoms were the soil of a wheat field somewhere once before I was born, or perhaps more recently. Where then is the portal through which I gaze? It is a perplexing old question. Is the matter magical? Perhaps it is the way that the matter is put together? Even if that is the case, should not the stuff itself have some magic? The stuff that dreams are made of, as the bard said. The very soil of the field. Alas, why should I persist in pretending that I am something other? Am I not a fantastic palace made of sand? On a beach perhaps, in the path of a wave, yes, but a brilliant palace.

Rearrange the furniture and paint a room: perhaps I might rememble a thousand other palaces. Were I to be destroyed, another palace would be here tomorrow or the next day, knowing nothing of me, but not much different than myself. None other than me, perhaps, only refurbished, renewed; untainted by the past.

In a moment, time’s dial will pass me by, and I think of the sparkling sand: what it must be like to sleep with such simple dreams, tossed to and fro in the waves, utterly forgetful of the palace it once embodied.