Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Solipsist

You may recall that about a year and a half ago I participated in an online fiction contest, held on the website Writers on the Loose, that was held by the President Emeritus of the BYU 38th Ward Book Club. My submission was called Quaver.[1] Since then Jonathan, tired of the squabbling on the site, has ended his membership. But the biannual contest lives on, now overseen by another member of the site, who goes by the handle 'deep water'.[2] I haven't participated in the last few contests, but the theme this year actually incited me to write not one but three stories.[3] The suggested them was "…something fictional on the 2012 world-ending scenario; it could be in the realm of science fiction, crime, comedy, etc." When I first approached the prompt I wanted to have the world end, but not in a way that has been done before (e.g. nuclear holocaust, devastating disease, alien invasion, zombies, asteroid, the Rapture, etc.). This is what I came up with.

Grégoire de Sauveterre was the only real person. Everyone else, including you and me, existed only because he thought we did. He was quite oblivious to this fact, but we can hardly hold that against him. All those who ever met him worked, whether they meant to or not, to convince him that the exact opposite was true—that they were just as real as he was. Furthermore, Grégoire’s subconscious ability to observe, and therefore to create, was so powerful that things went on—we went on—around him whether or not his senses were active. So when he slept we went on building this world of deception.

Even Grégoire’s own mind worked against him. It set boundaries for him so that he couldn’t exceed its capacity to imagine. The Earth was round so that Grégoire could only travel so far before space ran out and he came back to where he started. This limitation on space also placed a maximum bound for the number of people, cultures, etc. that he could encounter. The time that he traveled to Africa with the Peace Corps he found a land that had apparently existed for a very long time. In reality it had only existed for twenty-two years when he arrived there; his mind invented everything before that. To be sure, the people believed that history—they had no reason not to. The ancient and personal histories he’d created for them were impeccable. But that is only a testament to his subconscious power to create.

But the completeness of this great deception was inherently dangerous. Because Grégoire was unaware of his uniquely central role to existence, he had the capacity to carelessly obliterate it. On June 16, 1996 he was nearly killed in an automobile accident when he fell asleep at the wheel and veered into an oncoming car. Four years later, while in Africa, he had an allergic reaction to a nut he ate and nearly died of anaphylactic shock. Three years ago he nearly drowned because of a whitewater rafting accident on the Tully River in Australia. His mind did nothing to prevent these events, for doing so would risk exposure of the illusion it had worked so hard to maintain. And were Grégoire ever to realize the deception, everything but him would cease to exist just as surely as if he died. Thus for the last thirty-four years, the existence of every other creature has been imperiled by Grégoire’s recklessness.

A few months ago things changed. Grégoire began to grow weary of life. He had traveled the globe and now he was finding it was too small. He wished to leave this globe, but he only saw one way to do that. His subconscious mind picked up on this change in Grégoire. It could do nothing to prevent his desire; all it could do was to prepare the rest of us for the inevitable. It changed a part of our perceived history. Some of us suddenly believed it and thought we always had. But the majority, including Grégoire, simply learned of it on the television or the internet and just accepted that it was of an ancient date—just like we did about so many things. Most, upon learning of it, dismissed it as myth.

Grégoire didn’t believe it, either. But because of its sudden prominence in the public mind, he chose that date. And so, for once, his conscious mind determined the fabric of reality.

That brings us to December 21, 2012. It is 1:13 pm Central European Time. Grégoire is loading the gun that will end it for us all. He puts it to his mouth and—


[1] You can read it here.

[2] They may not be available indefinitely, but for now you can read the other stories here (scroll down to July 3).

[3] You can read the others here and here.

1 comment:

  1. I find the idea of being someone else's dream, or everyone mine, to be very disturbing. Although I think it would allow me to blame my problems on someone else if done right.

    As I said in the comments in the contest, this kind of reminds me of your "Think" short story from way back.