“You’re not my wife.”
“Then who am I?” asks the woman who looks like my wife, Farah Heichmann.
“How would I know?” I wish I did. I woke up next to her. Everything seemed normal. I was happy. I touched her. Sniffed her. It was her.
At least I thought it was, until I happily dashed outside and greeted an old friend walking past our house. What was he doing here after all these years and over all this distance? What a coincidence!
“Ceciliani!” I shouted as I jogged toward him waving. “Leland Ceciliani! It’s me! Unbelievable!”
“Sorry, think you’ve made a mistake,” said the man.
No. No way. “Leland, it’s me! We went to school together for years!” Farah came out, watching intensely.
“That’s not my name,” he explained patiently as he kept walking.
“Honey, come inside!” Farah suggested strongly.
I wouldn’t have it after what I’ve been through. I ran to the man, touching his shoulder to get him to stop.
“I’m really sorry and I don’t want to bother you but it’s impossible that you can be so much like my friend! Who are you?”
He pulled his ID and showed me. A different name. A different city, far away. “This is my first hour of my first night in this city ever. And I went to school in Nairobi. Please excuse me now.”
Nairobi? Never been there. I go back inside. Concerned, Farah sits me down.
“You’re showing symptoms of Fregoli Syndrome,” she says solemnly. It’s been going on for days.”
“What syndrome? What the hell is that?”
“It’s when you insist and believe that you know someone who is demonstrably a complete stranger. I wish that were all. Honey, you’re getting very sick.”
“You’re basing that on one event?”
“One? Holy shit!” Farah says, holding her head. “In the last week you’ve demonstrated three – now four! – symptoms of extremely rare clinical psychiatric conditions: Prosopagnosia, Cotard’s Syndrome, Capgras Syndrome and now Fregoli Syndrome.
What’s she talking about? I haven’t even been home!
“On Friday you were unable to recognize human faces. You only knew me when I started talking. You didn’t recognize your best friend until you saw his shoes. That condition is the one that first drew me into psychophysics, Prosopagnosia.“
“Then you showed signs of Cotard’s Syndrome!”
“Okay… And that is…?”
“You believe you should be dead and that you are a living corpse!”
“Did I say that out loud? Really? Wow…”
“And then you appeared to have Capgras Syndrome, when you absolutely believed that your friends and family were identical impostors!”
“Hang on,” I interject, stopping this landslide. “You’ve always been a psychologist simply interested in relieving depression and anxiety for everyday people. When did you become an expert on this weird rare shit?”
“When I started working with Doctor Bijaksana, of course.”
Him again? What kind of nightmare is this? But I won’t get emotional. I won’t.
“When I was at university,” Farah recalls, “I studied quantum mechanics with a minor in biology, and the confluence of information gave me a theory of cross-consciousness based upon a biological vulnerability to quantum tunneling effects. I wondered, what if in some of these cases people are actually experiencing mixed consciousness with one or more others elsewhere on the planet?”
“Or,” I suggest based on recent experience, “even crossing thoughts with their parallel selves whose perspectives are different?”
“Or...” Farah went further, wide-eyed, “if a patient died but quantum immortality is true, then that patient might have a vague feeling he should be dead despite his vertical stature in this reality.”
“I’m not dead,” I’m happy to point out.
“Perhaps these people weren’t mentally disturbed, maybe they were just – perceptive?” she ponders.
“But how to get to the truth?” I ask.
“I find little hope in conventional methods when I’m granted access to such rare patients,” Farah laments. “That’s why I came up with this.”
It’s a glove. If I look closely I can see circuitry printed on the palm and fingertips.
“Consulting with drug specialist Dr. Hedley Stonemaster and neurotech engineer and roboticist Lawrence Tieger, I created a synaptic glove out of polycarbonates. Because of its astonishing – but potentially dangerous – capabilities, I named it the Psyphy (sci-fi) glove both for psychology (Psy) and physics (phy) as well as science fiction, or ‘sci-fi.'”
Farah sits me down in front of her entertainment center and pulls up a recording of some guy in a uniform dealing with a rough looking dude.
“That’s Meth Man,” Farah says. “You remember him? You remember this case, don’t you?”
“No, sorry,” I admit. “Who’s the dude poking Meth Man?”
“That’s Psyphy. Psyphy? The top trending psychophysicist on Tweeter?”
On the recording Psyphy is poking the demented Meth Man with his “forefinger of the far past,” I learn. Only “he” is actually “she” because Psyphy is Farah Heichmann, psychophysicist, an agent on this Earth who is occasionally summoned by police for help in sensitive situations.
“I’m disguised as a man because my identity is shielded for our family’s protection. No memory of this at all?”
None. She pulls the glove out, puts it on, and using the glove, a touch of her forefinger triggers a 5-minute flood of my earliest memories.
Then a second touch, using only her middle finger, triggers imagery and hallucination of my probable future.
A touch of her ring finger triggers visions of an alternative present I might be living.
A touch of her little finger triggers revelation of a world where I never existed; my own version of It’s A Wonderful Life.
Each touch overwhelms me as both vision and hearing shut down during the experiences.
Exhausted, I’m happy when she lets me relax and recoup. As I do she tries to explain to her “sick” husband what’s going on.
“According to the branch of psychophysics taught by my mentor, Doctor Bijaksana, beings such as we exist because possible pasts and possible futures occasionally clash, cresting in actual brained bundles, squeezed out on material shores. We brains are timeless swimmers in riptides branching toward the future against the currents that flow yester-way.”
“Then you believe that human perception of time is illusory?” I wonder. I’ve always wondered…
“In fact,” Farah tells me confidentially, “the sense of time is only possible because brains produce it as a way of ordering knowledge. All Mind that ever has or ever will exist is already here and has never gone away.”
So “Now, “Then” and “When” are all possibilities, each trail slightly different each way it’s explored.
“And with but a momentary disturbance in your flow, you can perceive the multiple realities in place of only one?” I ask in awe. This is what my wife might have been?
“I’m always on the edge of madness, Dr. Heichmann admits. “But I regularly visit my psychologist.”