Sheldon, part 28

November 28th, 2014

“First of all,” said the cat, addressing Charlotte’s mom, “I disagree with your basic premise.”

“Which premise?”

“The premise that a fictional character cannot be at fault. An author cannot simply dictate actions. Characters must be free to make good choices and bad choices. Otherwise, how can they learn and grow?”

“But wait,” Charlotte said, “isn’t it actually the author making those choices?”

“I’m surprised at you Charlotte,” said the cat, “You are the one who studies PolySocial Reality. The ‘you’ who interacts with me is not the same ‘you’ who interacts with your mother. So it is meaningless to speak of a single person, let alone a single author. PolySocial Reality exists just as much within us as between us. As Whitman said: ‘I am large. I contain multitudes.’”

“Or in other words,” Sheldon said, “it’s turtles all the way down.”

“Yes, exactly. It’s all described very well in Minsky’s ‘Society of Mind’. The reader recognizes within the author’s characters that same fragmentation and multiplicity of state that she sees within her own mind. Why else would she ever care what a character does, and why would she bother to keep reading?”

“Well, there’s plot!” Charlotte said. “I mean, Sheldon is a ghost. Wouldn’t a reader be a little curious about why?”

“I’m certainly curious about why,” Sheldon added. “And that has to count for something. If you’re such a smart cat, tell me why I am a ghost.”

Sheldon, part 27

November 27th, 2014

“Of course it’s not your fault, pumpkin,” said Charlotte’s mom. “It couldn’t be your fault.”

“By definition,” added Charlotte’s dad.

“What do you mean, by definition?”

Charlotte’s parents looked at each other. “You see,” said Charlotte’s mom with an understanding smile, “Nothing that happens can ever really your fault, because you’re a fictional character.”

“You’re not writing all of this,” added Charlotte’s dad, “You are being written. We all are.”

“Yes,” Sheldon said, interrupting, “but who is writing us?”

“The writer,” Charlotte’s parents said in unison.

Charlotte laughed. “Sheldon, I guess you could have seen that one coming.”

“I suppose so,” he said, “but none of it seems very fair.”

“What’s not fair about it?”

“Well for one thing, even Philip K. Dick didn’t tell his characters they were in a fictional universe until the last page of the book. Whereas we just sort of jumped right into the deep end of the pool.”

“I think it’s all going swimmingly,” said the cat.

“Maybe it’s all to the good,” Charlotte said, ignoring the cat. “I mean, we’re not going to be able to figure out the whole story of why you’re a ghost, unless we confront the creator.”

“And you think playing ping pong against the fourth wall is how we’re going to do that?”

“Yeah, pretty much. Sooner or later we’re going to smash right through that fourth wall, and then we’ll see who is on the other side of the looking glass.”

“Mixing metaphors much?” asked the cat.

“Do you have a better theory about what to do?” Charlotte asked the cat.

“In fact,” said the cat, “I do.”

Sheldon, part 26

November 26th, 2014

“What do you mean, you really disappeared?”

“Haven’t you learned anything dear? You keep hopping from one reality to another, but you never stop to think it through.”

“Think what through?”

“Charlotte, you have the wonderful ability to be completely in whatever reality you are in. That truly is a marvelous thing. But not everybody is as talented as you are.”

“I don’t understand.” Charlotte looked genuinely confused.

“Let me try,” said Charlotte’s dad. “What do you think a ghost is?”

“The spirit of a dead person?”

“We prefer ‘formerly living’,” Sheldon interjected.

“Sorry, no offense,” Charlotte said contritely.

“None taken.”

“But that’s not quite the whole of it,” Charlotte’s dad continued. “A ghost is a person who is alive in the wrong reality. A kind of misplaced person, you might say.”

“I’m in the wrong reality?” Sheldon asked wonderingly.

“Well yes, but not completely,” Charlotte’s mom explained. “That’s the problem, young man. Our Charlotte attracts that sort of thing.”

“Wait,” Charlotte said, “Mom, is that what happened to you and dad when you disappeared? You went to the wrong reality?”

“Well yes, pumpkin, that sort of thing has been happening to us for a long time. It hasn’t been easy being your parents.”

“You mean, this is all my fault?”

Sheldon, part 25

November 25th, 2014

“Oh come on,” Charlotte said, “it’s the same thing. You just renamed it.”

“What can you expect from a cat,” Sheldon said.

“Hey!” Charlotte said, “there’s no call for that sort of thing. Cats are people too. Just look at you, so big on ghosts’ rights, yet so quick to attack another misunderstood minority.”

Sheldon was dumbstruck. “Gee, I never thought of it that way. I’m, um, sorry,” he said uncertainly, not sure whether to apologize to the cat or to Charlotte.

“It’s quite all right,” the cat said, “I get a lot of that sort of thing. Humans can become quite upset when they encounter other creatures that talk. And former humans can be even worse,” the cat added, giving Sheldon a pointed look.

Sheldon looked stricken.

Charlotte nodded sympathetically. “Maybe we’re just jealous of our linguistic heritage. It can be hard to accept that you’re not unique in the universe.”

“Only if you assume a single universe,” said the cat. “Which brings us back to our point of disagreement.”

Charlotte started to respond, but was interrupted by a loud crashing noise. They all turned to see what it was.

“We’re so sorry dear,” said Charlotte’s mom, wiping bits of plaster off her shoulder.

Charlotte’s dad was doing the same. “It seems,” he said, “we are better at exits than at entrances.” He glanced guiltily in the rather large ragged hole they had left in the ceiling.

“Mom, where did you and dad go?” Charlotte asked. “I thought you’d disappeared.”

“Well, technically we did.”

Sheldon, part 24

November 24th, 2014

“So,” Sheldon said, “are we ready to go now?”

“Just one more thing,” Charlotte said, looking pensive. “I had another thought.”

“Another thought? Really? Are we in a story or are we in a philosophical treatise?”

“Yes, I think so.”

“OK, I give up,” Sheldon shrugged his shoulders. “What’s this new thought?”

“Well, according to Applin and Fischer, this whole complicated intersection we’re doing between ways of communicating and modes of physical existence is actually a kind of PolySocial Reality.”

“How do you even know about this stuff? You’re only thirteen.”

Charlotte gave Sheldon an exasperated look. “This ‘stuff’ is totally relevant to thirteen year olds. I mean, how do you think I got through ‘Harry Potter’? I never would have finished those last three books if I didn’t have my copy of AACSI to help me figure out what was going on.”

“AACSI?” Sheldon asked weakly.

“‘Asynchronous Adaptations to Complex Social Interactions’, silly.” Charlotte rolled her eyes. “You don’t get out much, do you?”

“I’m a ghost,” he sniffed. “We don’t do ‘Harry Potter’. I got to Headless Nick and stopped reading out of principle.”

“That’s beside the point. What I’m saying is…” Charlotte began.

“You’re wrong, you know.”

Charlotte and Sheldon turned in surprise. They had both forgotten the cat was there.

“What am I wrong about?” Charlotte asked.

“Yes, we’re in a PolySocial Reality,” the cat continued, “I mean, who isn’t?” She paused for a moment to clean her left paw. “But that’s not what’s important here.”

“OK,” Charlotte frowned, “So what’s important?”

“What’s important is that we are in a Social PolyReality.”

Sheldon, part 23

November 23rd, 2014

“I’m sort of ready, but…”

“But what?”

Charlotte looked apologetic. “While we’ve been standing here, all these questions have been coming up in my mind — I’m not sure from where.”

“Like what, for instance?”

“Well, like what does it mean that we came back to a different reality? I mean, how do I still know that there was any other reality before this one? And does the book talk about that different reality at all? Or does it now talk about both realities?”

“Wait — all those questions came into your head just this moment, while we’ve been standing here?”

“Yeah. Weird, isn’t it?”

“Maybe, but they are very good questions. What’s different about you that allows you to pass between realities and still remember the one you were in before? Is it because you’re the only one of us who’s not a ghost?”

“No, that can’t be it,” Charlotte said. “Remember, in the other reality my parents weren’t ghosts either.”

“So you’ve said. I don’t actually remember them not being ghosts, but I remember that we’ve been changing realities, so I’m going to trust you on this one.”

“Oh wait — that’s a clue!” Charlotte said. “You remember some of the other realities, but not all of them. So whatever gives me the ability to think about more than one reality, it’s also given you some of that same ability.”

Sheldon shook his head. “It’s a puzzle, isn’t it? I still can’t believe all those questions came into your head between one moment and the next. Sometimes I think there’s more than one person in that mind of yours. I wonder just which one, exactly, I am talking to now.”

Charlotte just smiled. “No comment.”

Sheldon, part 22

November 22nd, 2014

“Wait,” Charlotte said, “my parents aren’t ghosts.”

“Apparently they are,” Sheldon said. “I’m surprised you didn’t know.”

“No, really.” Charlotte walked up to the desk and started reading. “Oh my, we seem to have come back to a different reality. This is not good.”

“What’s wrong with being a ghost?” Sheldon said, looking offended. “Are you saying you have an issue with ghosts?”

“Well no, being a ghost is ok. I mean, if you’re really a ghost. I believe in diversity.”

“So what’s the problem?”

Charlotte thought about this. “I’m saying that it’s not ok to suddenly turn into a ghost just because you’ve somehow moved sideways within some kind of fictional five dimensional parallel space-time continuum.”

“Oh great,” Sheldon said. “We’ve gone from Ashton Kutcher to Christopher Nolan. I’m not sure that’s any better.”

“Sorry, I got carried away.”

“No worries. So does Christopher Nolan.”

“Right. Anyway, what are we going to do about it?”

“I suggest,” Sheldon said, “that we follow them to where they’ve gone.”

“But how do we know where two ghosts would go?”

“You realize, I hope, that you’re talking to an expert.”

“Oh … good point.”

“Thanks Charlotte. Glad you’ve been paying attention. Anyway, I can take you to them. Are you ready?”

Sheldon, part 21

November 21st, 2014

“No, you can’t do that, dear,” said Charlotte’s mom. “Schrödinger’s a boy’s name, and this is a girl cat.”

“I was being conceptual,” said Charlotte’s dad, clearly hurt.

“Can you two please concentrate?” Charlotte said impatiently. “This is important.”

She waited a few moments, until she was sure she had everyone’s undivided attention. “Ok, now watch.”

“Watch what?” Sheldon asked.

Charlotte looked toward Sheldon, but as though she were looking right through him. “OK, let’s do this.” And she held out her arms.

“Do what?” Sheldon said, clearly perplexed.

But Charlotte had not been talking to Sheldon. She had been talking to the cat, who at that exact moment was standing directly behind Sheldon. With a graceful leap the cat jumped into Charlotte’s arms, passing cleanly through Sheldon’s body.

Sheldon looked startled for a moment at the sight of a cat jumping out of his chest and into Charlotte’s arms. Then a look of understanding dawned on his face. “I remember now!”

“Tell me what you remember,” Charlotte said, observing him carefully.

“That I’m a ghost, of course. I mean, isn’t that obvious? After all, cats don’t go jumping clean through people who aren’t ghosts, now do they?”

“No they don’t,” Charlotte said triumphantly. “That’s the sort of thing that can only happen in a fantasy universe. And look!” She pointed at the desk.

“The writing,” Sheldon said, “it’s all there. You did it!”

“Did what?” Charlotte’s mother looked confused. “What are you two going on about?”

“Don’t you see?” Charlotte said excitedly. “Once Sheldon realized that he’s a ghost, he remembered that we are all in a fantasy world — characters in a book. And then everything returned to normal.”

“Of course he’s a ghost,” Charlotte’s dad said, taking his wife’s hand. “What’s so special about that? After all, we’re ghosts too.”

And with that, Charlotte’s parents vanished.

Sheldon, part 20

November 20th, 2014

“OK,” said Charlotte’s dad, “we’re listening. How are you going to prove we are in a book. Apparently a book that hasn’t been written yet.”

“That part is temporary,” Charlotte said. “Anyway, you all agree that there is a difference between reality and fantasy, right?”

“Of course,” Sheldon said, “in reality, only possible things can happen. In fantasy, anything can happen. What does this have to do with us?”

“Suppose, just suppose, that I could convince you that we — those of us right here in this room — are living in a fantasy world. Then you’d have to agree that this isn’t the real world, right?”

All three looked dubious. “OK,” Sheldon said, “I think I see where you’re coming from here. But if we were living in a fantasy world, why wouldn’t we know it?”

Charlotte looked toward the desk. “I think the not knowing part has something to do with that book. When we started to rewrite the book, we created a kind of schism, like we were suddenly between two worlds, but not quite in either of them. The book is going to come back, and then you’ll be able to remember it, but first we need to land in some actual plot line. Until then, there sort of isn’t a book. There’s just …” she shrugged “… the possibility of a book.”

“Wait,” said Charlotte’s dad, “What if we land in a different plot line?”

“I’m willing to take that chance,” Charlotte said. “I mean, right now we’re not anywhere.”

“We’re in this house,” Charlotte’s mom pointed out. “Then again, I have no idea who’s house this is, or how we got here.”

“Exactly!”

“But how are you going to do that?” Sheldon said.

“The cat!” Charlotte replied. “I can use the cat to prove to you that we are in a fictional universe. If I can do that, then we’ll actually be in that universe.”

“Hmm,” Charlotte’s dad said, “maybe we should name the cat Schrödinger.”

Sheldon, part 19

November 19th, 2014

“What was written on them?” Sheldon asked.

“The book we’re in, of course,” Charlotte said.

“Wait, are you saying we are in a book? That’s crazy!”

“Wow, you don’t remember anything, do you?”

Sheldon snorted. “That’s not very fair is it?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I can’t very well answer a question about whether I don’t remember anything. I mean, how would I know?”

“He has a point pumpkin,” said Charlotte’s mother. “What are we doing here anyway? What is this place?”

“I suppose it wouldn’t help to tell you that it belongs to the author of the book we’re in.”

“There she goes again!” Sheldon said, and both of Charlotte’s parents gave him a sympathetic look.

“Let’s go home dear,” said Charlotte’s mom to Charlotte’s dad. They started to head for the door, with Sheldon following.

“Wait,” Charlotte said, “I can prove it. I can prove we’re in a book!”