She smiled and nodded approvingly. “Good, welcome to all the world has to offer. And more.”
He nodded too, as if to convince himself of his own consent. “Well…for the time being I think I’d be satisfied if you just break me out of jail.”
“No, I am going to instruct you until you are able to break yourself out of jail,” she corrected.
“Right…and do so in a way that—what was it—alters reality?” the words sounded ridiculous in his mouth and he felt a fresh wave of doubt flood over him. Of course, he reminded himself, he was still talking to a face in the wall, ridiculous was the order of the night. Whether she sensed his hesitations she did not say, she just continued on.
“We might as well get started, but I should warn you, what I have to teach is terribly simple and that is what makes it so dreadfully difficult. It can be summed up in a single sentence… When you convince yourself of a new reality, the world will realign itself to accommodate it.”
He waited for more but there was none. “Could you…could you just repeat that?”
“When you convince yourself of a new reality, the world will realign itself to accommodate it.”
“Oh…” he said blandly, not feeling any clearer about it. He understood the words of course, but they were simply unacceptable.
“When you convince yourself of a new reality, the world—”
“Yes, yes, yes. I understand,” he interrupted. “But…I just…well…why? And how?”
“No. We’re dealing with very fundamental concepts here, ones which you likely carry ingrained opposition to. We can’t challenge those objections unless you are able to fully voice them. ‘Why’ and ‘how’ aren’t enough, you need to identify what your barrier is precisely and explain it to me.”
That was no trouble. He indeed felt no shortage of disagreement with the idea she was proposing. “Why would the world realign itself, then? The world doesn’t work that way. And how exactly would I change my own reality? I do not possess that ability.”
“That’s not how the world works? How does it work then?”
He felt a little flustered, being asked to explain the most basic of things. “Well…I mean, clearly…” he was surprised at how hard it was to vocalize something so simple. “The world… it just is what it is, it doesn’t change. I believe the word is immutable?”
“So you can’t realign it. The way it works is that the world defines our reality and the rest of us live according to it. Not the other way around.”
A bright smile washed over her face, apparently not at all upset by his conclusions. “So you do admit that there is the ability for one reality to define others, then? Just you see it as one-way, the world defining our own?”
“I suppose so.”
“Well you’re already halfway there then! You just have to let go of that notion about the world being immutable. You change its course all the time, and don’t even think about it as you do.”
Without warning, one of the pebbles encased in the mortar next to her head started to vibrate. She glanced to it and the stone broke free and was sent propelling directly at his face. Fast as it was, he managed to instinctively swat it away.
“You see!” She said gleefully. “I imposed my will on the world, the world accepted it and sent a rock at your head. You imposed your opposing will and the world accepted it and let the rock fall to the ground.”
His mouth was agape from the shock of the strange assault and he stammered for a moment. Finally he spoke. “That’s hardly the same. Swinging my arm isn’t hurtling a rock with my mind!”
“Hmm, don’t think of it as my mind. It’s more that I’m projecting my will.”
“I don’t see that that makes a difference.”
“Oh but it does! Because people project their will all the time. Some do it by physically moving their limbs, as you did, but you know of others that don’t. Kings on their thrones, inventors with their machinations. They do not physically perform their will, they merely dictate it and the work is done.”
“Well I’m no king or inventor,” he said brusquely, still a bit offended by the rock.
“I know, William,” she said sympathetically. “That’s why this is going to be the hardest part for you. You’ve been so used to having others’ wills imposed on you and never the other way around. You have not been an actor, only a receiver. Not only does the world dictate your actions, you even presuppose what that dictation will be and rush to fulfill it early. You feel it mandates that you never amount to anything, so you self-fulfill that prophecy.”
He looked down bitterly. “Go softly,” he whispered.
“I mean no harm. But you must be satisfied that I understand, or else you won’t trust that I know the course you must follow.”
A pause. “I’m satisfied.”
“Well now is the time to let go of that way of thinking. As I said, when you convince yourself of a new reality, the world will realign itself to accommodate it, doesn’t matter if you’re a king or commoner. You’d like the door to the cell here to be unlocked, wouldn’t you? Yes, I expected so. Well convince yourself that it is and you will have the power over it.”
He raised an eyebrow. “So, to be sure I understand, I just persuade myself the door is unlocked, I make that my will and all that, and then I can just open it and leave?”
“Essentially…” she said, but there was a hesitation in her voice, suggesting she felt he was still missing something.
He stood up, strode over to the door, tugged on the iron ring and heard the deep thud of the bolt catching in the lock, refusing to budge an inch. He turned back to her and shrugged his shoulders with a disappointed-though-not-surprised expression on his face. “It didn’t work.”
She closed her eyes for a moment, then opened them confidently. “Try it now.”
He gripped the handle again and pulled, the door swung easily and gently, far more so than its weight and rusty hinges should have allowed. Before he could react, the handle tugged out of his grip as the door slammed back closed with a bang, followed by the click of the bolt sliding back into its lock.
“SHHHH!” he gesticulated wildly to the face. “The guard will hear!”
For a moment her left eye sunk back into the wall, the rest of her face remaining motionless. The organ returned and she said “No worries, he is on his patrol elsewhere, we’re quite safe.”
He shuddered at the sight and slowly walked back to the wall she occupied. “So what did I do wrong, then? Why can’t I open it but you can?”
“How do you know you didn’t open it?”
He was annoyed at the question, it was stupid. “I know I didn’t open it because it didn’t open! What do you mean how did I know? It was self-evident!”
“You exerted a force and somehow had an understanding of what the result of it was. How? Your senses I would assume?”
“Of course,” he said shortly. “I saw that the door didn’t move. I felt the lock catch. Is that what you’re looking for?”
She proceeded as though not noticing the derision in his voice. “Whenever you are trying to exert your will on the world, it will try to resist it. Like friction. You cannot let its resistance convince you, though, then it wins. You pulled that handle like you were asking a question: ‘world, is this door open?’ and the world responded ‘no’ and you accepted it. You have to pull that handle like you’re making a statement: ‘world, this door is open’ and then reject any sense or experience that suggests otherwise.”
“Reject my senses?”
“Of course. You’ve given control of them over to the world long ago and are going to have to work to wrest them back. Don’t let them tell you what your reality is, you tell them what the reality they should be sensing is instead.”
“That’s insanity!” He exclaimed. “Raving about things that don’t exist and ignoring things that do.”
“It might be insanity. For myself personally I do not think so because I tell myself my face is peering through this wall and I see you, another individual, reacting to it accordingly. Of course you might just be a figment of my imagination, or I suppose from your perspective I might just be a figment of yours, in which case you’re already insane, darling.” She smiled broadly.
“Maybe I am,” he agreed, unable to resist a small smile himself. “It’s definitely the most logical explanation for all this, really.” Despite the skeptical words, he couldn’t help but feel that she was right. There was no denying that she had projected her face into this room, released his shackles, healed his head, and unlocked then relocked the door. Either he was already crazy, or else she was doing just as she said. Somehow he found the first option more difficult to accept than the second.
“Go and try the door again,” she encouraged. “But this time you’re the one defining what will happen.”
He nodded. He strode back to the door and gripped its handle, the iron cold and smooth on his palm, so hard and real. He closed his eyes and urged his hand to forget that feel of physical reality, to stop sensing the touch of it. His fingers seemed numb and a strange floating sensation came over him. Almost in a thoughtless haze he pulled the door, imagining in his mind’s eye how it was swinging out to him, how his arm was experiencing the sensation of it opening. His eyes fluttered open and he was looking into the outer hallway, the open door still gripped in his hand.
In my post on Monday I discussed the technique of a story starting narrow with a more lifelike character, then expanding with them into a fantastic world. In the first part of this story we were introduced William, who is a thoroughly ordinary human, not only in abilities but also in his social status. He then met this strange lady with her face imprinted in the wall, and in this section began his induction to her unique world. Note that by the end of this section it isn’t just the world that has expanded, William has himself, and accomplished something extraordinary.
Another important thing to note is how his personality is evolving as well. He was introduced as brash and beaten down by the world, and he has evolved to show vulnerability and is taking his first steps to secure power back over his own life. Obviously its condensed in this short-story format, but I intend to continue evolving his character through the next and final part. This sort of story that entwines character arcs with journeying into the great unknown are some of the most popular ever written. These are the adventure stories that date back thousands of years and top the sales charts today. On Monday I’m going to look more closely at them with my next post, and then wrap up Imposed Will with its third part on Thursday. Have a good weekend!