“Once you take a photograph, the image it reflects stops being real life and becomes another place. A different world fixed to one perspective. What’s beyond the corners of that image becomes an unknown entirely. You might be able to guess based on the location it resembles in real life, if you’ve been there before, I mean. But this couldn’t be farther from the truth. What’s beyond those four lines could be anything you want it to be.”
“What’re you saying?”
“That the world is a malleable thing. The four lines of the box you’re reading this on contain only one perspective too, just as the corners of your vision obscure what’s out of sight. Have you ever considered that when you’re not looking at something it ceases to exist completely? It’s true in quantum physics that observation can change a subject, and this is something I don’t really understand yet myself. But the power of looking and perceiving another person is powerful, don’t you think?”
“I don’t follow.”
“Take you and I for instance. I’m perceiving you, but I’m also not at the same time. I’m looking at the four corners of this box and your consciousness is transmitted to me in a curated form. This curation has no correlation to your actual self, and could be an abstraction a million times over. But the fact is that abstraction when broken down and returned to yourself is still you, so I’m still receiving you through this box.”
“So it would make no difference if I was claiming to be a 400 pound man in Boston? That persona and this persona would be one in the same because they’re both me, right?”
“Exactly. The photograph is the same thing. I’m seeing what I’m led to believe is the world based on what’s within those four corners. It’s definitely possible to say the internet is like an evolution of photography—an extremely realistic representation of the flesh and blood that’s an abstraction at the same time. For the first time in human history, we’re allowed to decide what’s outside of those corners. Information is in our hands, and so are the boundaries within which we receive it. Reality is beginning to be shifted according to the whim of the user.”
“The whim of the user, huh... Hey, HelterSkelter, what do you think our meeting means then? Is it for good or for bad?”
“I don’t know, because I’ve yet to see things that are either truly good or bad in this world. I used to believe in God, you know. I was raised that way, as most people in my country are. I really believed it, too. The only thing I believe in now is the internet—and I’ve come to realize that God is just another set of four lines. I think God is something that is reborn cyclically throughout history, there when we need it, gone when we don’t. The internet is a kind of god, and soon enough another god will probably take its place.”
“I don’t know too much about God, but I do know it’s not my area of expertise. I know, though, the power of the internet. That’s why we’re here, isn’t it? Because we’re both people who feel this way. And because of that, I think our meeting definitely has significance. Maybe we don’t know if it’s good or bad, but it’s definitely meaningful. You know, sometimes I like to think of my life like a story. Maybe it’s because I was raised in the countryside and things become pretty monotonous pretty fast, but I try to imagine things with a bit of drama and flair, or at least I try to add that into my daily life. I have this feeling—this feeling like you’re a very important person in my story. It’s the first new thing that’s happened to me in my short, pathetic little life. But talking to you makes me feel larger than life, or that I can be bigger than the small area I’m confined to everyday. It lets me see the scope of the world, reminds me that there are places far beyond the ocean where people like you exist. If our meeting doesn’t mean something poetically, it at least means something to me personally, and I think that’s what’s most important.”
“That’s touching, really.”
“I am glad I met you.”
“I’m glad I met you too."
She sat in front of the computer monitor, this dialogue still dancing behind scanlines jumping up and down on the screen. The words brought her comfort, and she relished in them. At the same time: despair. There was comfort in the fact that someone who could meet her at the same level intellectually existed, but a pain in it too--that the other party was not here, wasn't anywhere Eriko could even imagine. The size of the world was so large, larger than she would have ever imagined when staring at geography books as a child. The internet gave scope and meaning to names of countries and cities, populated by people infinitely more suited for her personality type than anyone in dreary old Kobe, she thought. She was used to this thought by now--it didn't upset her as much as it used to. Of course, talking to HelterSkelter always brought her back to a certain kind of mood, but she was long since addicted to it. It was better than feeling nothing at all.
Suddenly she remembered something and began typing immediately.
"I want to teach you a ritual."
"That's right. This is something my grandmother taught me before she died last summer. It was one of the last things she ever told me, in fact, so you better listen well. Don't disrespect my nanny here, okay?"
"I would never."
"Thank you. Here's what she told me: that when she was to die, she would be somewhere really far away, far enough that she wouldn't be able to see the city lights of the earth, she thought, but also possessed a strange kind of conviction that she would still be able to see the moon, even from a million miles away or wherever she thought the afterlife was."
"That's a little precious."
"Oh, it's more than precious. That's why I'm teaching it to you, so we can have a precious little unbreakable thing between us."
"Let's hear it."
"Here it is, and don't you forget it: she told me that if I ever felt lonely, I should look up at the moon, because she promised me she would always be looking at it too. The moon would become a kind of halfway point for us between life and death, like a landmark where distances didn't matter--our gaze would connect us. Precious, right?"
"I think it's very romantic. And you want to do this with me?"
"You bet I do. Actually, get off your computer right now and go outside. Even if it's still light out, I want you to search far and wide for that pale white dot. Promise?"
She pushed away from her desk and went outside. It was cold now, past midnight, and her parents were long since asleep. She knew that wherever HelterSkelter was the moon had to be there, even if it was hiding behind the sun. Her moon too, revealed itself from behind a patch of clouds and slowly sent its light across the rice paddies outside her quaint home. She had gone out dressed in pajamas, and the cold wind entered her body--she did not tremble. The moon illuminated her face and she stared right back at it with a sense of indignant revolt. Cold tears came down her face, but she did not tremble. There was no sound to any of it. The moon simply hung in the sky, just as it did across the world in Germany, where HelterSkelter stared back.
There was no sound to it. The silence was heard all the same between them, and the gap was closed.
By the time she went back inside she was already sneezing.