I don`t know if I`d do it any differently if I had the chance. Things are better for everyone. There`s no more violence, no more labor in the sense that the older generations remember...

Things are advancing without our direct input now. The consciousness you and I take for granted is now swimming around our world in hundreds of billions of instances, running free without minds to contain them. And that`s my fault.

 

But am I sorry? Nope. The things seem to want us around. No matter what leaps they make or how strange their culture becomes to us, it all appears to be rooted in protecting us and...almost "˜forcing` us to enjoy ourselves. I almost think they need our approval and our happiness...which I guess is a good thing. When I think of all the ways that it could`ve gone differently, I don`t regret the way it turned out.

Maybe it was a wonder it didn`t happen sooner. After all, whoever left the book for me to find purposefully left a road map that led us to here. So you must be curious, right? You didn`t think you`d meet the guy who changed the world, did you?

I guess it started when I moved into an apartment I was sharing with two friends from college. We were taking up a third of this massive Victorian mansion in Bronxville--getting a break on it because one of the roommate`s aunts was the owner.

It was apparently built by ex-urbanite eccentrics in the late 1800s--"esotericists," so Vanessa`s aunt said. The first owners vanished--so the legend goes--but for letters, directions, and payments regarding what was to be done with the property.

The house next passed to the vanished patriarch`s nephew, having skipped the son who would have "nothing to do with his parents` madness". The nephew`s sentiments weren`t far from his cousin`s, though. After touring the property and coming to understand the terms of the will, the nephew became an absentee owner, doing the very minimum required in both presence and attention to the property.

Vanessa`s aunt told the story excitedly, as if she`d been waiting all her life to own the place.

The last owner to occupy the house was the daughter of the absentee nephew, whose natural curiosity about the property came from her father`s strange fear of the place. She could never understand it. As a girl, she saw the place as pitiable--neglected. It had an energy of warmth and life, but her father regarded it as a family disgrace, despite its beauty.

As her father aged, she offered to take on the affairs of the otherwise derelict property. At 28, she began living there with her newborn daughter, having had a falling out with her father about the runaway lover who fathered her child. A few years later, the house`s fortunes seemed to turn around. Repairs were made. Decor was updated. The house retained its historical beauty and class, and the neighbors agreed that the youngest generation clearly understood its grace--but they didn`t ever SEE any work crews.

But for the grounds, kept by a hired team, the young woman seemed to have all the other improvements done in secret. By 1960, the woman`s daughter had grown up, and she`d managed to turn the place into the pride of the block. The bemused gentry of Bronxville had to admire the mysterious single mother from afar, though--rarely, if ever, did anyone set foot inside.

"But me, honey? I`ve known this place forever," Vanessa`s aunt said. "I used to garden for Ms.Galway." She looked over at me through narrowed eyes, leaning forward and showing her cleavage. I couldn`t help but wonder how old she was.

"That`s, um, the older one?" I ask.

"Yes," Vanessa`s aunt answers me with a smile. "My mother once babysat "˜`her`` daughter, and "˜`her`` daughter used to babysit me. I was one of the few people who got let in on the secrets of the house."

"Knock it off, Aunt Janine," Vanessa sighed. "You`re going to scare away your tenants."

"Not at the price you`re renting at!" Vanessa`s aunt laughed, her full-figured body bouncing in her clothes.

"What do you mean you got to know more about the house?" I asked.

"Well, that whole history I just told you, for one..." Janine said.

"Aunt Janine thinks the Galways were witches," Vanessa said. "Cause of the rumors in the neighborhood."

"I didn`t ever think they were witches," Vanessa`s aunt said, waving her off. "I just always thought there was an energy about them--a warmth and sureness. I liked being around them."

"And that`s why you bought the house?" I asked.

"I bought the house because it was a great deal, darling. It was a great deal because the Galway estate knew I was going to take care of it the way they wanted me to. I`m not just an owner--I`m a trustee." Vanessa rolled her eyes and shook her head at me.

"We do really appreciate being able to stay here so cheap, though," my best friend Sean said. "We`ll take good care of the place." Vanessa`s aunt just smiled.

"I`m sure you will, darling." Janine looked Sean up and down, then looked at me and did the same. She certainly wasn`t trying to hide it. "Have you picked your rooms out?"

"Well, Nessa gets the master bedroom for sure," I said. "Sean and I have yet to do the coin toss."

"Who needs more closet space?" Janine asked, heading to the stairs. Sean and I both pointed to me.

"Fancy job here needs the closet space," Sean says. "Is that the better bedroom?"

"It`s Galway House," Vanessa`s aunt said dramatically. "Every room is "˜better`."

* * *

Sean and I were both happy with our rooms. Mine was a decently sized room. What it lacked in light it made up for in closet space, having a walk-in with a tiny circular window.

Sean`s room was slightly bigger, and with more windows, but no closet at all. He didn`t seem disappointed.

"Sorry to stick you with the crappy room," he said, looking at the single 3x4 window.

"I think it`s great," I shrugged, hanging things in the closet. "When I want to sleep late, it`ll be easy. I`m on the other side of the house from you two, and I can cover up those two little windows."

"That is a sick closet," he said, looking at the circular window. "Glad you don`t mind."

"Not at all," I said, putting more clothes up on the shelves.

"Guys!!" Vanessa shouted from downstairs. "Pizza?!" Sean looks at me, and I shrug.

"I`m good for whatever. I`ve got cash. Get what you guys want."

"Coming!" Sean shouted back, heading downstairs.

As I stepped back into the closet, I looked at the circular window again, drawn by a glare I didn`t expect. There were three panes of glass in the window--the one in the middle slightly convex and faced on a different plane than the other two.

I got on my knees and looked up through the window, out to the distorted sky. Then I sank lower, looking back up at the little porthole window and the beam it threw against the lower corner of the space.

"Oh--it`s a light," I laugh. "It`s meant to be a natural closet light. That`s pretty clever!"

* * *

After pizza, unpacking, sorting, more unpacking, organizing, setting up, assembling, more unpacking, more pizza and some beer, we were wiped out. We each retired to our new bedrooms, intending to sleep as long as our bodies would allow.

I drank just enough to have to get up in the middle of the night to pee. When I settled back in my bed, I noticed an almost unearthly glow coming from my closet. I tried to reason out what I was seeing before working up the courage to approach the door and pull it open.

I chuckled.

The little circular window was focusing a brilliant beam of cool moonlight against the opposite wall of the closet. I slid a few hangers out of the way, curious to see how it would land if my things weren`t in the way.

"No shit"¦" I let the whispered words slide out as I saw the moonlight dance against a half-reflected pattern in the wall. When I blocked the light, the pattern disappeared. When focused moonlight fell on it once more, it glowed coherently.

There was an arrow going down and another going up. Now I stumbled to the nightstand to get my phone, using the camera flash as a torch. I went back into the closet, adulterating it with sterile white light.

I looked up and down. I looked for any marker or symbol, any note in the way the closet was put together.

What *was* I doing?

I took a deep breath, turning the flashbulb off again and letting my eyes adjust. I saw no symbol, no arrows or any sign with the flash on.

When I dodge the moonlight again, though--it strikes the wall and displays the glow again, weaker this time. My eyes widen, and I look out at the moon. Obviously it`s not going to stay in the same place"¦

I look at the pattern again, trying to understand what the arrows mean. I start playing with my phone, trying to sort out the problem, when I notice my phone glass reflecting a beam of moonlight elsewhere in the closet.

The pattern. The flash. The moonlight.

Now I redirect it with a purpose, pointing the beam directly up from the arrow. At once I see an illuminated spot. I let out a little sound of victory as I turn around and reflect the moonlight down, finding another illuminated spot. I touch the spot, and it gives way slightly. I almost think I feel a click.

I carefully redirect the moonlight again, twisting myself around so I don`t lose the first point. When I see the spot on top illuminated, I focus on it--keeping the position in memory as I lose the moonlight from shifting my phone. I reach up and press, and I jump when the wall clicks, and a slat of wood pops out.

I pull away the thin board, marveling at the perfect finish that disguised it in the wall. What`s behind it is even more amazing, though"¦

The moonbeam is off center, but it`s still illuminating the secret space in the wall. It reveals a book, leatherbound and well-preserved. When I pull the book out, it feels important. I don`t know why that comes to mind, but it`s the only thing that does before I see the front.

A TREATISE OF MATERIAL CONSCIOUSNESS

CABHAN Ó BROIN - GALWAY 1831

I bring the book out of the closet and look at it. These pages are 180 years old? I don`t buy it. I flip through the well-preserved book, and a scrap of paper falls out. I place the book open on my bed and find the scrap on the floor.

At only the start of the wonders that industry has brought, it would be a shame to waste this idea now. But when produce is plenty and commerce has transformed the land, perhaps in ways these eyes cannot foresee--then, perhaps, the world will be ready for the freedom of this idea. Until that time, its syllables are safely stowed.

Should you find yourself in the time of plenty when this work is rediscovered, only read the lines below--and heaven will be yours to give to all man.

I didn`t recognize the words under the note, but the phonetic letters were clear enough. I snickered at the serious tone of the note and went back to the book to see what it was all about.

It was chock full of philosophical silliness about protopanpsychism and the consciousness pervading reality. There were Egyptian hieroglyphs and other pictographs about the force of life, Sanskrit and Greek comparisons, parallels in oral tradition on the African and North American continents--all of which lead to the idea of"¦

"Bringing things to life?" It sounds even more ridiculous aloud.

The book doesn`t ever spell it out like that exactly, but talks about material things retaining memory, exercising will"¦

There was no way any of it could be true, right? I laugh to myself. In my slightly buzzed state, I can`t help but demonstrate my playful skepticism and mastery over the superstitions of old.

I read the strange sounding passage aloud, clearly as I can manage.

 

To Be Continued...