Wednesday, March 26, 2008

He Talks to Himself, Part 3

To use the computer, he would have needed his eyes and at least one arm. His computer sat on the nightstand on the right of his bed well within reach while he was lying down, and the screen was clearly visible from the bed. Practically speaking, it would have been possible for his left hand to reach out and use the mouse and keyboard if he were laying on his right side. The theory was getting more plausible now, and it explained why half of him was asleep sometimes during the day. It was exhausted from staying up all night!

But his eyes would have been open. Dr. Felstead had explained about his visual fields and the optic chiasmus, how both hemispheres could see out of both eyes and the only difference was which side of each eye the hemisphere saw out of. And some people can sleep with their eyes open. He remembered when he was younger, he had crawled over to Daniel Murphy at a slumber party to lift the kid's eyelids off of his eyeballs to see if he were really asleep. Dan's eyes had been darting all over the place at lightning speed. Rapid Eye Movement. The dream phase. It had scared the hell out of him. Dan hadn't budged, and kept sleeping like a dead man.

Well, if one hemisphere were in REM sleep and the other were wide awake, it made sense that each hemisphere would interpret the sensory information differently. Just for fun, he thought, I'll pursue this. He didn't admit to himself that it was more out of fear than interest. There was still the problem of what on earth could Right have been doing? It couldn't be sinister. Anything that hurt one side would hurt the other. Wouldn't it? It was probably just porn or something. He found himself hoping it was porn. Oddly that seemed like the most benign explanation. Then again, there was no mess. Shopping? For paint maybe? For something else? Right had asked for paint, and Dennis had promised it, so there was no need to buy paint. Plus his wallet with his credit cards were all out of reach. And really, wouldn't Right just ask for anything else he wanted rather than go through all of this cloak-and-dagger nonsense?

This is stupid, he thought. Why not just ask? We're on speaking terms now, after all. The only problem would be if it was something sinister. He shuddered again. Right would deny it. Or lie. And probably carry out whatever his plan was even faster. A third shudder. That's when he realized he had been sitting there staring at his computer screen for ten minutes. Right might be getting suspicious.

He wrote down the address of the art supply store, showered, ate breakfast, and so on, all the while thinking of how he could find out what was going on. First of all, was Right really using the computer? He could check the browser history. Right might have thought to erase it, but maybe not. After all, Right had not expected Dennis to know anything about this. Of course, he couldn't just check it the way he normally would. Right would see, and would know what was going on. He would have to pull up the browser history with his right hand and keep the computer screen to the right of his eyes so that only the left sides of each retina, and therefore only the left hemisphere, would be able to see it. Perfect.

At the advice from the guy working in the store, he had ended up buying about seven shades of acrylic, some brushes of various sizes, a masonite board and a canvas with a frame, “For a gift”, Dennis had said. The left side of his body seemed a bit more energetic than usual, which probably was because Right was pleased with the purchases and anxious to use them.

The meeting with Dr. Felstead that day was not terribly productive. He was afraid to tell her about the computer because he didn't want Right to hear. She would probably just laugh anyway. He did talk about the dream though. She seemed interested and, again, amused by the sea of velvet. He pressed her again to tell him what it was, but all she offered was some advice. "Try drawing everything you have seen on a sheet of paper, with your right hand. Then see if it fits together in some way. If you can’t figure it out in the next few days, try drawing it again but with your left hand." He hated drawing. Whenever he drew, everything was terribly out of proportion. Looking at any one feature it looked all right, but the sizes of the different parts were so inconsistent that it looked like whatever he was drawing had some kind of hormonal disease. He would try it anyway.

Back at home, Dennis put his plan ino motion. He would check his browser history while Right paints! Nothing would seem more innocent; he often spent his free time surfing the web. And Right would be so engrossed in painting that he probably wouldn't even think to glance at the computer monitor.

The plan worked perfectly. Right painted aimlessly, or so it seemed. Dennis started off checking his email to cover his tracks. Once Right seemed totally absorbed, Dennis quickly opened up the history pane in his browser window. He found the last page he visited yesterday and the first one he had visited that morning. In between were a few visits to gmail, and one to He didn’t have a gmail account, but he visited it anyway and tried his universal login and password, as well as the several variations of them he had used in the past. No luck. So he was emailing and...buying something maybe? Looking for a job? You could post anything at all on craigslist. He clicked on the link, but the page just said "this posting has been removed by the poster". Hmm. Suddenly his left hand put down the paintbrush. Dennis thought fast, and quickly closed the window. "What are you painting?", he said, looking at the canvas. It was lines of blue and white on the top half of the canvas, with orange and vermillion on the bottom half. There were specks of pale green on the orange lines. It looked vaguely like a ground and sky. A little bit featureless, but it had a sort of stark beauty. "I like it.", he said. It was true. "Is it a ground and sky?" His left hand reached for the legal pad and pen, and wrote: "You'll see." Then it reached to write something else. It paused, then wrote "I", then scribbled out what it had written. "Is there something you want to tell me?" Dennis asked. The hand wrote: "Tomorrow." Then followed that with "You read too fast." Of course. Both hemispheres read independently now. Dennis would have to turn his pages more slowly in the future. "Sorry, I'll slow down." Dennis said. They talked about movies for a little while, which was pleasant. Dennis almost forgot his uneasiness and suspicion, but not quite. And then Dennis tried drawing his dream snapshots. Two steep mountain peaks. A frayed whip. A sea of velvet. That was hard to draw. He put a little bit of brown paint on the paper and spread it around a bit. Close enough.

Dennis had another plan. As he got ready for bed that night, he reached for the Gold Bond. Nothing suspicious about this, he thought. Dennis often used Gold Bond to keep away the athlete's foot that would otherwise plague him all winter long. He squeezed a little too hard the last time, and the powder shot onto and past his foot, settling on the nightstand and the keyboard of his laptop. Perfect. "Aw, damn!" he said, a little unconvincingly. "I'll have to clean that up tomorrow."

That night Dennis dreamed of two caves that were the same size and shape, side by side. He had a feeling of respect, and maybe even reverence. The caves quivered and expanded, then contracted, both in unison. He walked closer to one of them, but it emitted a gust of wind that had knocked him backwards and wide awake. It was morning.

It was all he could do to not look right away at the keyboard. Instead he casually walked over to retrieve the dustbuster from its wall charger, then back to the keyboard. In an instant he carefully noted that the powder had been disturbed. The only keys that still had powder on them were the ones that never got used, like "scroll lock" and the top row of keys that start with "F". But he didn't betray his intentions; while noting all of this, he fluidly turned on the dustbuster and brushed it across the keys, sucking up the powder.

Today was Saturday and there was no appointment with Dr. Felstead. He decided to read a little. Might as well make the most of his vacation. Dennis read all day and into the afternoon, pausing at the end of each page for Right to catch up. When Right wasn't reading, he was painting. Right had brought the pad with him. "Thanks.", he wrote. "No problem." Dennis answered. Should he ask? He did anyway. "Um...what did you want to tell me yesterday?" Right wrote an ellipsis on the page. He needs time to think. That's okay. Give him time. And then suddenly, Right answered "I can speak."

"I know." Said Dennis. "We've been speaking for the last few days."

"Vocally." wrote Right.


"Can I show you? Don't be scared."

"Um...okay. What do you want me to do?" asked Dennis. "You don't have to do anything."

Dennis was confused. Why had he said that last part? Then he realized: he hadn't; Right had said it.

Part 4 to be posted 3/30/08

No comments: