I close my eyes and drift into the hallucination like a piece of flotsam being carried upward by the wave of music flowing in my ears. It lasts for a second, maybe five, but it feels like I’ve glimpsed a whole day of some alternate earth where an arbitrary detail of the laws of physics or nature has been altered.
The trolley lurches to a halt. I lose the alternate earth. It disappears in a wink, along with any memory of it. We are two stops before mine – enough time for two, maybe three, alternate days before I absolutely must pull the ripcord and bobble my way to the front of the vehicle.
Does this happen to you? I always assumed it was universal – that adding music to a state of half-awakeness yielded a kaleidoscope of unknown realities. Maybe it’s not. Maybe it is a form of synesthesia that I’ve always had, which might explain why I am and have always been so obsessed with music, and also with the literature of psychedelia.
This week at work we discussed Breakfast of Champions. We have a book club at work, that’s a thing I should probably tell you. I hated it, a little. The book that is, not the club. I love the club, partially because it inspires me to do things like read my first Vonnegut novel despite mostly hating it while I read. (Later, other members of the club confessed they thought it was a terrible idea to read Breakfast of Champions as a first exploration of Vonnegut, but they did not want to intercede in our plan.)
I didn’t like the book for a few different reasons. Primarily, it was basically the worst in medias res ever. It says what will happen at the end, spends an entire book describing the rather dull steps leading to that point, and then the thing that happens turns out to be relatively inconsequential. It’s an entire book of prologue to some interesting thing of which we only catch a glimpse.
Despite hating it a little, I’m very happy that I discussed the book with other humans(/robots). It helped me to pull out the things I loved about it. One was the synopses of the bizarre sci-fi stories of author Kilgore Trout, our of our protagonists (sort of). He invents stories of alien worlds that would fit perfectly in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Our club debated which otherworldly tale was our favorite. The world of eating petroleum where real food is considered pornography. The world where all art is assigned an arbitrary value and venerated appropriately. The world where language is as beautiful and distracting as a song, so anything serious like a law must sound deliberately ugly.
As I popped out of the final micro-hallucination of my commute, it occurred to me that my fractional alternate dimensions were a lot like Kilgore Trout’s stories. Each one of them change just one or two fundamental things about reality, all seemingly droll in summary but potentially dull if explored at length.
Maybe having a form of synesthesia is just a way to know you are a robot programmed to ingest music and output the fantastic.