The Infinite Theater

The Infinite Theater

A Story by Joℏn / Jack / Turtle / Kurmasana

Short story for SDMB contest


note: this was written by me for a SDMB short story contest, with the following parameters to ensure spontaneity:
1) be under 2000 words (I’ve included the slightly longer version here)
2) be completed in 60 hours
3) include the terms Anonymity Drift Radar
4) incorporate the following image:

Benjamin Green said, to no one in particular, “I need a change in perspective,” not suspecting his absent minded utterance would later be heeded.   

He sat at his desk, hunched over his computer, with shoulders pulled taught towards his neck and stomach clenched, despite the fancy Swedish chair he had acquired to help with his posture. One hand draped lazily over the mouse, with his forearm perched painfully on the edge of the desk. The other hand digging into his thick black curls as though expecting to snag them on a loop, pull his skull open, and start tinkering with the clutter inside.   

He supposed, in some sense, he was being productive, as he tried to clear out his inbox. It was on his to do list. Maybe there were higher priorities, like dealing with his late father’s mess of an estate. But his to do list was so long by this point that it felt like nothing other than a dense series of thick iron tendrils weighing down his entire body.   

Picking any particular task over any other seemed without merit. Yes, he definitely needed a sense of perspective. He tried to think of some sage advice to point him in a direction, any direction. Absurdly all that eventually entered into his mind was an old episode of a science fiction show. Some ancient alien had helped the protagonist orient himself with two basic questions.   

“Who are you?” Was the first.   

“Benjamin Green,” he answered in thought. “A random accident of chemistry in a long series of confusing and arbitrary events starting with the beginning of the universe, who will cease to exist long before he had any chance of getting a clue as to what it was all about.”   

The second. “What are you doing?”   

“Damned if I know!” This time out loud, again to no one in particular. But it didn’t quite feel right, the way that his thoughts about those answers never quite felt true or complete. Ben decided his productivity in this particular context had long since plateaued, and if he couldn’t make sense of his whole life at the moment, he could at least get a change of scenery, and maybe work out some of the kinks in his neck.   

His location was, at least, somewhat ideal for these purposes. The steep hills and Bohemian atmosphere of San Francisco afforded him the opportunity for decent exercise. There was a stunning viewpoint of an already beautiful city made even more divine seeming by the sweeping vista ending at a deep blue bay, and colorful architecture peeking out of enigmatic twirls of fog. And the neighborhood was colorful in the metaphorical sense as well, with offbeat venues and larger than life residents.   

Not that ever experienced it personally, directly. The mystique of the city permeated the air, and touched his skin, but he had never taken the chance to actually breathe it in. With his car parked right outside and ever ready to take him to work and back, the most adventure he ever met up with was up and down the three story stairwell to his apartment.   

But not today. Today everything else that had formerly seemed important, even urgent, had settled into an indistinguishable sludge in his mind. He was neck deep in his own mental sewage, and needed a change, any change really, to gain a sense of perspective. He walked for about an hour, mostly randomly and without any sense of purpose. At first, his body was still taut with stresses, and tight with anxiety. His mind was still scattershot with ripples of noisy chatter. He resisted both, but this only seemed to magnify his physical and mental anguish.   

Finally he gave up and accepted both. He stopped where he was, standing on the sidewalk facing downhill towards the bay. At first he felt self conscious, but there was no one else nearby so he dismissed the notion in his apparent anonimity.   

The mind chatter subsided first, as he stopped giving it audience and paid attention to his surroundings instead. Nothing notable in particular. Just a typical neighborhood on a nearly sideways street. His attention drifted back inward, this time not into his mind but his body. Instead of fighting all the tension, he started to really feel it. He had been trying to counteract it, and force his muscles into some ideal posture. But now he just let his body do what it wanted to do.   

For awhile he felt like what he imagined it’s like to be one of those old men with the severe hunchback, and limp serviced by cane. Eventually he realized some of the tension was accidentally self inflicted. He had been absent mindedly crossing his arms and putting pressure on his ribs. He dropped his arms and felt a release. He fully embraced the tension in his shoulders and mysteriously his arms dropped and his head swung backwards slightly. His chin lowered and his gazed was attracted to the right.   

He swung his left foot around stood facing across the street. His first instinct was to arch his body against gravity, but he rejected that thought out of whimsy and stood at angle to gravity, but straight with respect to the sidewalk.   

From this unnatural perspective, and ignoring the sensation of the pull of gravity, the street seemed flush with the earth, but the buildings looked as though they were at an absurd angle.   

It was just a plain pink (no salmon, why do I know that?) structure without any apparent importance, but from this angle, the absurd appearance of the building in his view seemed to take on some kind of significance.   

Curious, Ben crossed the street for a close look, and walked through the empty space between two vehicles until he got to the door. There was a tiny decal on the window to the door, which said “Satori. Come inside.”   

Ben opened the door carefully. A tiny bell in the other side jingled at the motion. He peered inside but it was dark. He took a chance and walked in.   

He was in a dark hallway. The walls, floor, and ceiling were all painted black, and softly illuminated with small sporadic inset bulbs. A few feet in, there seemed to be either a coat check or ticket booth, but it was unoccupied. On the counter was a small sign that said simply “help yourself,” and a business card holder. He took one of the cards, but his eyes hadn’t adjusted enough to read it yet.   

He continued down the inclined hallway as it meandered back and forth a few times, finally letting out into a dark theater. There didn’t seem to be anyone else there, so he found a seat near the middle and waited for his eyes to adjust.   

The screen eventually came into focus. What it seemed to be was a live view, from the rear, of the theater. But no, the theater being shown had three people randomly dispersed throughout the seating. He turned to look behind him. He was still the only one there, within his dim radar. So this was some other theater, or else this theater but at some other time.   

His eyes continued to focus deeper. The audience on the screen was also watching a film. And that film was also the rear view of an audience, who was also watching a film of an audience. And so forth. It penetrated the film as far as he could make out.   

Feeling confident in his vision, he took the card out of his pocket. “Satori” it said in bold letters. Below that in smaller letters, “The Infinite Theater.” Makes sense, he thought. Perhaps this was some kind of avant garde experimental art project.   

He turned the card over. “Parodox.”   

His mind started to flash. What’s the biggest paradox in my daily existence? Life at the ordinary day to day local level seems totally arbitrary and absent of wonder. But at the largest level, what happened before the big bang? Why do things exist at all? It seems like an unanswerable mystery.   

Paradox after paradox, his mind led him naturally to answer after answer. He realized that the universe must be part of some infinite metaverse, which must be part of some kind of mathematical wave function fractal of everything that could ever be imagined. Insight after insight came to him, until he felt completely awake for the first time in this life.   


Benjamin stepped back out into the light. He had gotten his wish. He had, really, gotten everything he had unknowingly asked for. Time to revisit those two questions, he supposed. Who are you?   

“Benjamin, an immortal fractal memetic holonic entity, the part that mirrors the whole,” he thought.   

What are you doing?   

“Everything I ever wanted. Being in a body. Living at a medium pace. Lover to the universe. In an infinite theater living the story of how I become one with the Tao.”   

And finally, for the first time, it felt true, and complete.    🐢

© 2017 Joℏn / Jack / Turtle / Kurmasana

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Added on August 25, 2017
Last Updated on August 25, 2017


Joℏn / Jack / Turtle / Kurmasana
Joℏn / Jack / Turtle / Kurmasana

Port Jefferson Station, NY

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