Dimension jumping was not to be approached lightly. Quite frankly, it probably was not to be approached at all. Yet he had gotten over worrying about that long ago.
He flipped through the notebook on his cheap, folding-table, and examined the scrawled notes and patterns inside. The gray, concrete and plaster room was dimly lit by the glow of a computer screen displaying an erratic wavelength before him and the flickering glow of a fluorescent light overhead. The two provide an eery and artificial ambience, one that was accentuated by the dull white noise, occasionally crescendoing in a pop, emanating from the speakers on either side of him.
These turbulences in light, picture, and sound were not random. Their rises and falls were each tied to a different sensor, each monitoring a different facet of a single, elusive signal he had been chasing for years. These three had been his first instruments of measurement, afterwards he had had to come up with increasingly creative output devices. Of course he could have created an entire wall of screens, each showing a different plane of the signal, but he wouldn’t have been able to take them all in simultaneously. In the end, all of this data had to be processed simultaneously by his own human inputs, his various senses and stimuli. Processing multiple visual displays at the same time was far more difficult than one visual, one aural, and ambient, and so on.
Perhaps the most notable of all his contraptions was the one that took up the entire back half of the room. Here a number of old radios and televisions sat on wire-metal racks, each appearing as though they had been exploded in a way that, though carelessly dismissive of their panels and compartments, left each piece of circuitry and wiring intact and stretched out to various cluster points where they would snake into the back of complex logic units that ended in large filament lightbulbs. The locations of these bulbs had clearly not been left to random chance, as each had three or four strong, steel cables running out to the nearest walled surface, anchoring them in suspended space. The exact machinations of how it worked and what purpose it fulfilled were a mystery to all but he, yet one could see the evidence of conscious intent in how illumination would grace one bulb before leaving it for a neighbor, traveling complex routes among the cable and copper, and occasionally either ceasing entirely or else splitting off like an explosion of light to several neighbors all at once. Looking at them one couldn’t help but imagine the network of neurons in a brain, and the intangible thoughts chasing each other around incessantly therein.
But this curious invention was of little importance to the man now. He suddenly halted flipping through the notebook and smoothed down the well-worn page, apparently having discovered the entry he was looking for. The paper was covered in seemingly random scribbles, lines and curves trailing to and away from one another with reckless abandon. Taken piece-by-piece, though, there was again some conscious intent to it. The first thing of note was a series of deep, dark arcs, each wending their own path through the sheet of paper though never intersecting. Next, in thin, multicolored ink, there were wavelengths drawn between each pair of neighboring curves. Each wavelength had a repeating basis, but then would modulate and distort based off of whether the neighboring curves were bending towards or away from one another at that particular moment. And finally, at the rare points where the curves were, for an infinitesimally small moment, perfectly parallel to their neighbor a single, thick, red stroke smeared the connection like an almighty exclamation point.
He spread his fingers like spiders on the page, tracing along multiple arcs at once, occasionally snapping up to verify some value on one of his signal monitors. Then his neck snapped so quickly it made a crack, and he looked down the rows and columns of a table taped to the wall, coming to an entry labeled Temp Control. There was a corresponding tab in his notebook and he flicked over to it as he pushed against the ground with his feet, rolling his chair back to the wall where a single control unit with two rows of chrome switches stood. Glancing down at his notebook he flipped three of the switches from the on to the off position, and another six he switched the other direction. Almost immediately the temperature in the room plummeted, so quickly that he could feel his heartbeat flutter from the shock of it and the stack of power generators in the corner whined from the strain. He shook his head, apparently not pleased with the result, though not because of the discomfort it provided. This was just another one of the monitors on that elusive signal he was tracking, and the lowering mercury thermometer nailed to the wall next to his head was suggesting he had somehow veered far off course.
On top of the control unit there was a series of dials, each marked with a different order of ten: 1000, 10, -0.1, and -0.001. He slowly turned the 1000 disc, keeping a constant eye on the mercury in the thermometer as it slowly began to rise. The original temperature markings on the thermometer had been pasted over with a new set of metrics, and he continued turning the dial until he reached the marking of 17m. Another query at his notebook and he left the 10 dial as it was, instead beginning to spin the -0.1 dial, resulting in the slightest bubble forming at the bottom of the mercury and slowly rising within it. When the bubble had reached the point 11m he finally transitioned to the -0.001 disc. As his fingers glided across its close ridges the thermometer began to quake violently and the bubble inside started to shrink in girth and elongate vertically, becoming taller and taller until its upper and lower bounds extended between 14m and 8m.
He had been about to turn the dial still further when his fingers froze and his nostrils flared with a feverishly excited inhale. Almost imperceptible, but continually increasing in volume, a strange, high pitched hum was reverberating between the walls. The harmonics seemed to be the combined effect of every device’s quivering vibrations, the little ripples and waves of their noise coordinating perfectly to cause cascading amplification until they formed one whole ethereal sound. The dimensions of the room had been specifically designed to be conducive to this phenomena, and now the man had to be careful where he stood so as not to disrupt this effect. He remained motionless, waiting as the high-pitched hum gradually became still louder and louder, and is it did so it became deeper, crackling, and more protracted. It even started to carry a physical weight, the various instruments and electronics in the room shuddering as the waves passed over them one way, then bounced off the wall, and disturbed them again as they went back the other direction. It wasn’t a particularly pleasant experience, each time the compression of the wave passed over the man he felt a dramatic shift in pressure and even lost his breath for a moment. That really didn’t matter to him, though, for at last he was convinced that the harmonics of the space were finally appropriate.
It meant he had entered a parallel line to the elusive signal he had been chasing, or at least as close to parallel as he was ever likely to achieve. Now, with the press of a button he could begin the long-awaited next phase, the leap from this signal he called life over to the other signal that he called the Great Infinite. If he committed to the jump, no one in this universe would ever know the outcome, for it was, by definition, unknowable. And among those potential outcomes, the majority were different forms of ultimate destruction, almost comical in their exaggerated totality. He might be off in a single measurement, in which case he would not actually be in harmony with the target signal, and would result in him jettisoning into a literal void where he would instantaneously blink out of all existence. Even if his measurements were right, he could impact on the target signal at a slightly too steep or too shallow angle and either be crushed into a paste less than an electron thick or deflected off at a strange degree, spinning at such speeds that he and his craft would melt into a single alloy and then dissipate as pure energy. He might successfully enter the signal, but at too high a velocity and the massive forces would pull his very atoms apart and stretch him from one end of the universe to another. His nervous system, unable to break, would strain across entire worlds, limply attempting to send signals that would never reach their destinations for all the filters of matter and noise that they would pass through; all consciousness and perception therefore ceasing to register forever. And again, even if he could be entirely successful, and enter safely, then the variables would still be innumerable. He might emerge as that sphere’s analog to pond scum. He might be a mineral or a gas. He might even be an intangible thought in a being’s mind, subject to arbitrary change or dismissal.
Yet any of these later outcomes he would consider a complete success, for there was one truth that mattered above all others. This unknowable sphere he was harmonizing with, this target signal he was considering, it was of a higher dimension, order, and existence than the one he now belonged to. That was why it was unknowable and incomprehensible, and it was why he called it the Great Infinite. No system or sensor he might devise in this lower realm could truly perceive aught of that higher place, they only measured the shadows of the ripple effects of it. But what he did know was that it was greater, and infinitely more so. It was simply a mathematical certainty. All the wealth of the universe his heart now beat in could not hold the same richness as flowed in the blood of that higher world’s most pathetic lifeform. Truly, in this sphere man was less than the dust of the earth in that sphere.
“To the etcetera” he declared, deftly flipping open the protective, plastic case and pushing the button. As his finger lifted off the button with a satisfying, deep click, the pulsating soundwave dissipated and the whole room’s weight dropped, feeling as though it had only been connected to the earth by magnets that were now detached, leaving it to hover in space, tilting slightly forward and to the right. Just like that, he was disconnected from his universe, never to return.
He scrambled over to his desk again, flipping a switch there which started a whole array of computers, control units, monitors and oscilloscopes, pedals and levers, indicator lights, and various, custom-made mechanical contraptions to hum to life. The power generators were beginning to buckle under the strain, but they would cease to be drawn on once the room could tap into the infinite power stream pulsating at the end of the void it currently floated through. For the void was just a socket point, and as he passed through it he entered the flowing stream of energy that connected all disparate dimensions and realities. That power stream came into view as the walls seemed to dematerialize into nothing, the dim lighting of the room replaced by scorches of bright orange, a strange canopy of millions of glowing fibers flowing by. He glanced over at the monitor that was tracking his life support, ensuring it handled the power surge properly. All oxygen, gravity, and even time itself were being artificially generated, creating this room-sized pocket of reality around him. As they made the jump over to the other signal he would have to be especially careful that none of these life support systems transitioned out of his little bubble before he did.
He pulled a dusty, old keyboard to him and punched in the shortcut for a preprogrammed command. With a jolt he watched as yellow beacons began emitting from a dish placed on the front of the desk. They were small orbs of tuned energy that bristled in unique, electric patterns. It wasn’t appropriate to say that they moved through the stream of energy so much as transmitted their own patterns through it at high speed, leaving lingering traces behind like the wake of a boat in the sea. The first two were way off course, though, as he hadn’t accounted for the inherent resistance in the pulsating streams of energy, but he quickly took note to compensate for it and the next orbs rushed out ahead of him as intended.
These beacons were tuned so that they would occasionally send reverse pulsations rippling back to him, set to a frequency that his own pocket reality was synchronized with. This had the dual benefit of effectively tethering him to their course as well as giving him data on what sorts of obstacles there were ahead, hopefully in time to adjust as needed. He checked his beacon counter, he had fired seven out, that seemed sufficient. He turned to the row of old television screens on the side wall and turned the first seven on, dialing each one to a separate signature of the beacon transmissions that would soon come.
Much as he would like to do something more proactive, there was nothing but to wait for the next few seconds until the first waves of data arrived. His mind drifted to the different theories that had been posited as to whether navigation such as he now attempted was even possible. Though the problems of inter-dimensional-signal-tracking, quantum-trajectory-alignment, and pure-energy-tunnel-transference had each been solved in their own ways, there yet remained the simple theoretical argument that it should be impossible for a lower-dimensional element to be able to force its way into a higher-dimensional projection. It seemed that this would suggest that the lower-dimension somehow had power over the higher one, which defied the logical hierarchy and presented a paradox.
Suddenly he was snapped from his reverie by the sight of a writhing, yellow mist approaching from ahead. It was the first pulse-back from the beacons. As it collided with his reality capsule it created a tugging force which slightly corrected his alignment and one of television screens fizzled to life with a strange cell-like pattern of multiple colors splayed across it like a psychedelic voronoi graph. Each cell was trembling and shifting, taking and giving space to its neighbors in chaotic ways. He continued to watch as one beacon pulse-back after another reached him, each activating a different television screen. Now, what did all these images mean? He had never been able to rehearse for this part, the patterns and nuances of the power stream had been impossible to observe from without, so it had always been understood that the hopeful journeyman would have to make sense of the data and adjust in the very moment it was occurring.
He grabbed a number of large chrome handles that spun heavy dials set into the wall. Each one would rotate him along a different plane. As he slowly turned them he watched to see how the actions affected the patterns on the screens. Right now his working theory was just to get each image as stabilized as possible, make them consistent in how the cells were expanding and retracting. Afterwards he might experiment on if the signals would clearer if he tried to adjust so that the cells were steady and large, or steady and small, or steady and blue, or…
With an almighty roar he felt his whole reality capsule pivot wildly and multiple warning klaxons started shrieking as the cells on the television screens spasmed convulsively. There was a visible plane of light beginning to intersect through the middle of the room. On the near side of it everything remained as it was, but on the other side every piece of equipment began flickering in and out of existence, leaving a temporary dark vacuum before being replaced with the returning object. With each successive flicker the duration of them became both longer and more frequent, soon they would be severed from him entirely and the craft would shatter apart. The man stood up from where he had been thrown to the ground and cast his eyes and mind around to determine what had happened. He realized in horror that he had never severed his ties to the original beacons that had fired first and gone so far astray. Their first pulse-backs had just arrived and jerked the craft off its proper course. Scolding himself for being such a fool he leapt back to the table and slammed his fingers on the keyboard, setting the capsule instruments to drop the errant beacon signatures before they could do more damage.
That done, he still needed to counteract the chaotic spin he was in now, which would require putting out some opposing thrusts. He sat back at the table and inserted his hands into a strange device in the center. There was a metal sheet, forming a sleeve over a bundle of ordered wires, which were connected to highly sensitive force gauges on their bottom ends. Pressing his fingers between the cords he could effect the most delicate of gestures, resulting in the minute directional thrusts which would provide the needed counterspin. His eyes locked on the television screens as he began to pull one cord and then another, racing to find which combinations steadied the spasming pictures. Well, at least that was one theory he had had confirmed: rapid changes in the beacon signals were not a good thing. To make the process more difficult, sometimes when a cord pulled it wouldn’t register, no doubt due to part of the wiring that ran from the force gauge flickering out of his reality at the time, but if he continued to pluck away eventually it would catch.
“All right, all right,” he muttered to himself. “Cords 4 and 7…steady screen 3…but make 2 worse, though not to as great a degree as 3 was improved.” It was like working a rubik’s cube, where some concessions were made to effect a greater gain elsewhere, and soon he had all but two of the screens returned to their proper rhythm. Those two, however, seemed to shift so dramatically from one extreme to another that it was impossible for him to tell if his alterations were being helpful or not. Getting desperate he was trying random combinations of cords now, when he started to pick up on an unusual pattern. Whenever he made an input that was wrong, the half of the room that was partially reality-severed would flicker more intensely, yet if he held the wrong course for a few moments more then it would flicker less. He realized it must be that the two halves of the room were out of phase. The partially severed half was reacting first to the wrong velocity, resulting in the increased flickering, which lessened as the rest of the room then followed it into that wrong direction. This was a blessing in disguise. It allowed him a few moments delay where he could consider a change, perceive its effect, and if needed retreat from it before the full effects would be brought to bear. He had clairvoyance and could do no wrong. Ignoring the television screens for the time being he instead focused on observing the room as a whole, only fully committing to the cord pulls that brought the flickering half more and more in tandem with the correct alignment. As he did so, the cell patterns on the two troublesome beacon monitors resolved themselves and he found himself back in proper sequence.
Breathing a sigh of relief he allowed his mind to briefly flicker back to the theoretical arguments against the possibility of success in such a jump as this. The fact was, he did not actually disagree with the disparagers. He believed in a hierarchy of dimensional realities as well, and so he did not believe it was possible for him, as a lower being, to force his way into a higher sphere. However he felt that fact came with an all-important corollary that was too often ignored: that it was possible for a higher being to draw a lower one up into its realm if it chose to do so. And what better candidate would there be for ascension than he, who was so willingly reaching out for the catch?
He was again interrupted from his thoughts by a fascinating new development. There had started to appear cores of different colors in the center of several of the cells displayed on the screens. Again, he wasn’t sure whether that represented a good or a bad thing, but was going to hope it meant he was nearing his quarry and he thought it worth trying to amplify the effect if he could. He stepped back to the chrome dials on the wall, experimenting with different thruster combinations. At first none of them seemed to be having any effect, so he spun them up higher, producing an audible strain and the cell cores started to grow larger. Oddly enough, though, straining the thrusters in the opposite direction did not shrink the cores back down again. In fact it didn’t matter which direction he strained the thrusters in, the cores would each time grow to possess half of their containing cell and then pause.
“What is it?” he asked aloud, and as he did so the cores grew a little bit more. He had a sudden epiphany. Perhaps it had had nothing to do with the thrusters? Just the audible strain they produced? “HEY!” he shouted and the cores filled the entirety of their cells and another, different-colored core appeared again at their centers. At the same time a deep thrum pulsed through his little reality capsule and somewhere, far off in the power stream ahead, another echoing thrum sounded in perfect harmony.
The hairs on his arm stood on end and he inhaled deeply, preparing for a long, protracted tone. “Aaahhhhhhh…” he hummed out, watching as the images on the screens responded to his voice, one different color growing from the center of the cell to consume another, and then repeating that process, and at each completion of the cycle another thrum, simultaneously through his ship and again at an unseen point that seemed to be growing closer and closer. Then, in an occurrence that shocked him more than anything else previous, his voice emanating from his mouth began to shimmer with a visible dust, which quickly started to expand and become a floating, gray volume undulating and pulsating rhythmically. Traces of it even reached down his throat and to his lungs like pleasantly warm liquid metal before he thought to stop shouting. His eyes flashed, realizing that he may have just arrived at the Great Infinite, so close now that its very matter was pervading into his own. It was time to find the nearest void socket and exit the power stream.
His fingers trembled as he punched in the commands. It wasn’t a difficult sequence, but he found himself struggling to recall it. Taking a couple deep, calming breaths he brought his mind back to the present moment and finished entering the proper functions. All around him the orange power stream was disappearing, and so to was the room and all its instruments; each component and surface appearing to warp, bleed out its color, and then silently slip into the black nothingness. He stepped over to the exhaust vents from which all his life support systems emanated, not wanting to be cut off from them until the last possible moment. He watched as the dark vacuum continued etching along the walls like the thin slivery fingers of frost across a pane of glass. It encircled and descended on him, all colors and shapes seeming to melt into one and then he saw nothing, not just because there was nothing to see, but because his eyes were no more. He heard nothing. He tasted nothing. He felt nothing. There was one vague sensation, like slowly falling or quickly ascending, it was difficult to tell which. He was still consciousness, but that too would dissipate, either to emerge in some new, higher form that likely had no knowledge of this prior mold…or merely to just be lost forever.
The thing about his theory of another higher being watching him and pulling him safely through…well it really was just a theory. There was no scientific measurement to guarantee to him that any benevolent receiver was waiting on the other end of this void. But honestly the uncertainty was part of what gave him hope. He felt it was designed to be this way, ascension simply shouldn’t be possible except for by some blind leap of faith. And so he was leaping.
Silently, slowly, he counted into the dark. 1… 2… 3… 4… 5… 6… 7… 8… 9… 10… 11… 12… 13… 14… 15… 16… 17…