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FLASH Writing Challenge 100 – Day 4

“Tesseract!” H’s memory finally supplies the word he’s been struggling to recall. The word for a four-dimensional cube. He is depressed and knows that depression can also play hell with the facility of memory.

When he lifts the cube from the table he can tell that it is not a normal puzzle cube. ‘I should return this to the curio shop,’ is the thought that is looping over and over again from some small sensible voice in the back of his mind. He ignores that voice as he’s been ignoring all such suggestions since L died. H lifts the cube again. He considers it briefly, holding it up to the light from the window in his dimly lit study. He sets it down again.

It is the shape of any normal Rubik’s cube, but the entire cube is a flat black color. The black is so dark, it’s like it’s an absolute black, a black that reflects zero light. Like looking into a void.

The cube feels both hot and cold to H at the same time! How is that even be possible? H had minored in physics about a million years ago, it made no sense to him. Also, the cube seems to be vibrating at a very high frequency. When H’s fingers brush against it, he imagines 10,000 very tiny bees, delivering little stings causes his fingers to go numb.

When he looks at it, his eyes are never able to focus on the solid flat black of the surprisingly heavy cube. H accidentally discovers how to focus on the cube, by not looking directly at the cube. By resting his eyes just off the cube, the cube popped into focus. It seemed to be slowly undulating, shifting, transforming., oozing, something most solids are incapable of. The triple point of water is the tightly controlled laboratory conditions of pressure and temperature, that enable water to exist in all three phases – solid, liquid, and gas – simultaneously. He feels like this alien artifact must exist in multiple dimensions.

It’s barely 3 inches wide and yet it feels like it weighs ten pounds. In keeping with the overall wrongness of the cube, however, when H places the cube on his kitchen scale the needle doesn’t move at all. His organizing mind has no idea what to do with this piece of data and so it refuses to consider it.

H knows there are seams in the cube. He saw the shop owner, the tiny, wrinkled Chinese man twist the puzzle several times. But when he examines the puzzle it appears to be a solid cube of metal.

Ultimately the cube feels elemental. Something that exists in its own right. Like a force in physics, a given.

The shop owner warned him that he would be better off just keeping the cube as something to display on a shelf. He strongly warned H, to not attempt to ‘solve’ the cube. With each side being the same black color, if one weren’t careful, it would be impossible to return the cube to its initial state.

He picks the cube up. Eager to see what, if anything, lay on the other side. He holds the cube in one hand while tentatively twisting the top portion of the cube clockwise. The invisible seams separate as the layer of pieces swivel around its vertical axis. When it’s turned 90 degrees, the seams coalesce and the cube offers an oddly satisfying tactile clicking sensation. H twists the top layer again. The top layer is now 180 degrees from its initial position. Again the seams close and the layers click together as the cube settles into its new configuration.

He hears a humming, coming from everywhere.

He flips the cube in his hand several times. Already it would be impossible for him to restore the cube to its initial state. He turns the top layer once, flips the cube again, swivels both the top and right side of the cube. The humming grows louder.

Looking up from his desk, he sees a mirage. He can see the carpet in front of the desk, the sofa, the coffee table, the path to the study’s door. Superimposed upon that level or slice of reality, another level of existence starts to reveal itself to H. He can see both existing together.

The alternate dimension he sees is a long hall, with a mosaic of walls protruding from walls at impossible Escheresque angles. Everything is straight lines, but paradoxically, impossibly curved at the same time.

He continues to twist the cube in his hand without looking. Each twist of the cube seems to shift the configuration and opacity of the other dimension. The details of his study, are barely discernible now.

He continues to twist. He feels the cube itself guiding his hands. Nudging H to move the cube into its ‘solved’ state.

Three more cube flips and side twists. The final audible click seems to shake the ground where he is. His office is gone. The cube is ‘solved’ and he is lost.

A type of music unlike any he’s ever heard before begins filling the impossible-looking hall of straight/curved walls. Then the music subsides and he hears them. He hears the metallic tinkle of their chains, the languid, glacial, gait of their heavy footfalls. He suddenly regrets this and looks down at his desk for the cube, he must undo this now. But his desk is gone. The cube is gone. He looks up again as the creatures arrive just as his sanity begins to melt inwardly.

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