We’re all gathered around the box drinking memphamet tea.
“Mmm, tea’s good,” Mary comments. We all nod and slurp. The tea is good, excellent even, but that’s not why we’ve gathered. Today, famous astronaut and explorer Mirek Li sets off to achieve the unprecedented feat of reaching the Edge.
Collectively we fill out the communal area to witness the embarkation of this event. Some explorers have already tried and failed to record any data from the Edge. Some have never returned from their missions. Most call it a waste of time. Not Li. Li is different; and he’s never failed anything that he’s set out to achieve.
Recent studies have indicated that the Edge is real, is palpable, and that we are closer to discovering its mysteries than we have ever been. We just need to push that little further! Mirek Li is the man to do that.
It’s all very exciting. The picture is incredible too. The box, by the way, is the new Sonifica 545, a present from the Boss for hitting our highest revenue yet last quarter. And now we’re all drinking memphamet tea. Who would have thought?
What a day this is for mankind. He will travel to the furthest star. How about that?
Janet is leaning over Mary’s desk when we exchange eye contact. It’s unintentional, and just for a second, but evidently enough. She and Mary promptly finish their exchange and Janet is up, on her way over to me. “Phil,” she smiles. “How are you getting on?” I’m not given the chance to answer before she starts again, ever the socialite, Janet. “Have you heard?” she asks, leaning in.
I smile, taking my mug in hand as I lean back in my chair. “What’s that?” I ask.
“About the Astronaut?”
I blink twice. I’d almost forgotten. How could I forget? “Li?” I check. “He’s back?”
“Already?” I hear from behind. That’s Amanda, hovering over my shoulder.
“He’s not back,” Janet tells us, “but he’s there…”
“The Edge!?” I almost spit out a mouthful of tea. What news! This is huge! How could I have let something of such magnitude slip my mind? All this work, I suppose…
“That was quick,” Amanda comments with juxtaposing nonchalance, sipping at her own mug of tea.
“They did say that there wasn’t that much further to go…” That’s Andrew. He takes to perching on the opposite end of my desk to Janet, arms folded.
“It was like an illusion or something,” Janet explains. “Space messes with all your dimensions, you know? You think that you’re going straight but you’re really going sideways – that’s where they were going wrong before.”
“Li’s got it,” we hear. That’s Simon.
As the crowd gathers around my desk, Janet leans in closer. “That’s not it, though… Did you hear about the transmission that was sent back?”
I’ve never known the undulation of modern syncretises to succumb to such effect. There is a sense of disorientation about this conjecturably perpetual reality of ours – I don’t know how else to describe it. Imagine that the Earth were not spherical. The world has been turned onto its head. The chaos which has ensued recent astrophysical discoveries has left us in a state of desolation. It truly feels as if we have discovered some completely and utterly dystopian parallel but unparalleled universe.
The mood in the office is just as aberrant. It’s completely off. It’s still amicable as workplaces go, but it’s more sombre, and has been increasingly so since news spread of Mirek Li’s leaked report.
It’s strange, to tell the truth. This isn’t something that I, or indeed any of us – including the culprits – have experienced before. It’s probably strange and sad in equal measure. I haven’t been affected so much to this point, though, because I’m not sure if I can believe everything that has passed my ears – it is just rumours after all. I’m still a little sceptical about the credibility of many of the things that I’ve heard. That is why Stuart has all but dragged me in to watch this report that he has found on the box.
Andrew’s arms are crossed, tight to his chest as he sits back onto the table beside me. Though memphamet tea is still the choice of refreshment for most of us, some have taken to drinking substances with more potency – namely, the forbidden fruit. I have kindly refused to partake.
Despite this, as I have already said, we continue to find ourselves in a relatively civilised place of work. What is frightening is what the global news has been broadcasting about places that have been left with no more than rubble, even in this country. I should be thankful that our little office is even still standing, and I am. There has been a divide in opinion, but at least we are all still together.
The Sonifica 545 flashes before it crackles into light. A youthful news team appears in a desolately rocky location. The speaker is a young woman, no older than my niece.
“We are broadcasting live as to prevent this information from being tainted in any way. What we are about to tell you is the uncompromised truth… Mirek Li’s report on the Edge of the Universe was intersected and made public knowledge by a source still undisclosed, though we believe it to be somewhere in Australia… The essence of the message was that he found the Edge, but the edge is all that it is. We have found the end…”
“You see!” Andrew exclaims, standing to accentuate his point. “See!”
“I knew it!” Simon shouts. “I told you!”
Animosity has certainly grown amongst the men, but I think that the thing that was most shocking to me was when Amanda threw her mug onto the floor. Right there beside me it smashes into a hundred pieces. “What did you do that for?” I ask.
“I don’t feel like working,” she says.
“That doesn’t mean that you had to smash the mug…”
Amanda swipes mine from the grips of my fingers and smashes it onto the cracked porcelain of her own. “There,” she says. “Take that.”
Andrew looks hollow. His eyes are rung black. I don’t think that I’ve ever before seen a man in such a state, shunned, almost cowering in the corner of the room. We are the only two left in the office. Everyone else has left. Time has seen the waves of news on the subject pass, and things are normalising again, but some are still stuck in the hole, refusing to work, filled with intentions only destructive. I cannot much relate with such feelings, and I think that it would be best I retreated to a place of greater sanctum at such an hour, but I feel that I need to console the likes of Andrew if I am able. That’s why I have decided to stay, at least for now, because he doesn’t know where else he can go.
I can’t remember the last time that I saw him without some form of intoxication within his grasp. “It’s not healthy,” I tell him, gesturing to a flask beside him.
“What’s the point?” he’s mumbling, taking to mixing undiluted memphamet with his drink.
“You probably shouldn’t have so much memphamet,” I mention. “It’s not good for you in large quantities – especially undiluted.”
He looks up to me. The box flicks on in the background. 90% of channels are off air, but HIC is still on. They are interviewing a man about the worldwide repercussions of Li’s discovery.
“The belief in God hasn’t existed for a thousand years…” the interviewee says.
“No,” the interviewer concurs.
“No, but the belief in something has…”
“What do you mean?”
“The concept of God has remained; it is something that I do not think we can ever be without.”
“The concept of God, but not God?”
“Well, yes, God…”
“What do you mean?”
“This idea of God has never really left. We have been disenfranchised with his teachings as religions, but this idea of a greater force cannot ever be truly lost; a being more elusively powerful than we could ever possibly conceive.”
“And so what is your interpretation of this greater force?”
“There isn’t a name that I can give it… But let’s, in this instance, call that thing God – God in the most interpretable, ambiguous sense. ”
“With all things being known, even being common knowledge, and without God, we are left with no real purpose. Correct? No greater power than one we derive for ourselves; and we have now lost faith in our own ability…”
“We have reached the end, if you will…”
“My point is that there is no reason that this should be the end. There remains one question that human endeavour has not yet answered…”
“And what is that?”
“The question of the mind.”
“You believe that the mind is God?”
“I’m not saying that exactly, but I believe that the answer is not out in the deepest depths of space but right here in front of us, and has been this whole time. We have only to diminish this perception that everything must be visible to our eyes, palpable to our touch, just as space, in its barest form, is.”
“Are you now saying that space might continue, but that we are unable to see?”
“Space as a concept, perhaps – but no, I’m not saying that space may continue. It might, I don’t know… All that I’m doing is hypothesising about this universe not necessarily containing the boundaries of our existence… What I’m saying is that man, in his ignorance, is susceptible to believing this to be the case…
“What I find—” The box shuts off. The power stations are still only running intermittently since the incident.
Things have normalised again over the course of the past six weeks or so. The power stations have been running without fault as the raucous in the wake of Li’s expedition has been gradually sucked back into the sea in light of new discoveries. It feels almost surreal that we should all be back at our desks, with a conjointly clear mind-set. We are fully focused on our revenue targets for next quarter, and we are giving it a pretty good go at making them.
Janet is gleaming this morning as she comes over to my desk. “Did you hear?” she asks.
“Hear what?” I respond.
“They found a hole.”
“There’s a hole in the wall… It’s not the end…”
“Oh, yes,” I say. “Well that’s great!”