Psi Phi

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Sharyl Hatton created "life in a test tube." She didn't mean to, exactly,but her Physics PhD project took on a life of it's own - literally. Her friend Misha builds Psi Phi, a computer program that reveals her discovery as another universe, one that can transform a consciousness or destroy a mind. Now they are the Gods of Psi Phi. The trouble is, they are only human.

NOTE: Psi Phi will be published as a serial, one section a week. It's an experiment - let me know what you think.

Chapter 1 (v.1) - Psi Phi

Submitted: May 01, 2013

Reads: 102

A A A | A A A

Submitted: May 01, 2013



Post I





Psi Phi

 By Eve Messinger


330 Pages


















The scientist, the philosopher, the saint, and the artist all take different paths up the mountain, but the higher up they go the closer they come together at the peak of human consciousness. Each is given the grace of a different landscape on the way up, but one landscape is not better than the other.


William Irwin Thompson

The Time Falling Bodies Take To Light


















Misha closes his eyes and Psi Phi is there. He sees its blobs and blobettes bopping to a velvety jazz saxophone. When he can't stop imagining the keystrokes to coax those critters into dancing just that way, he opens his eyes.

What more to say, what’s there to say? Back to Boston and then what? OK, I’m not exactly doing anything here, why not do nothing in Boston?

The phone rings once, then stops. It is a big black telephone with a spiraling handset cord, the whole landline thing. The phone fights for space with an electric alarm clock and a boom box, currently playing Dave Brubeck, on Misha’s bedside table. He lies in bed where the clock numerals, beaming 13:07 in glowing acid green, casts a sickly light on the curves of his face. Across the room, an IBM laptop glows blue in the farthest corner, an answering machine blinks red with his father's voice. The yellow cone of light from his desk lamp has attracted moths.

Sharyl in the computer, Stepan in the answering machine, me in the music. Captain Stepan to you boy.

The phone rings again, then again, and he picks it up. But this is Ukraine and it’s 1994, so the phone call dies in a storm of static and crackle.

Sharyl pulls him to Boston. Psi Phi pushes him away.

The phone rings again. Aye, aye, Dad. He reaches for it then changes his mind and studies the lamp and the moths, how their beating wings blur the cone of lamplight.

It’s the first warm night of the year and just beyond the lamp, new lilacs have appeared outside his open bedroom window. The light is a night artist, Misha thinks, carving lilacs from the darkness and painting the air with aroma. Drawing bugs.

The machine clicks on. He reaches to turn the speaker volume down, just as it catches the tip of Sharyl’s voice. "Misha, I hope you're OK, I …”

He grabs the receiver. "I am here," he says in English.

"Oh good.” Sharyl sounds as if she’s calling from a recess in the earth. "It's really hard to get a line through."

“How are you?”

"Good. I’m good. I'm coming to Kiev."

Misha smiles, sweet Brubeck of bugs and beauty!



Sharyl Hatton is flying to Ukraine. She’s in the swollen belly of a 747, with rows of people stretching away from her in parallel lines. The cabin is filled with the smell of warm meat and the clinking of glass and china, emanating from behind the blue Business Class curtain, where stewardesses are serving dinner to Euroexecutives. Sharyl saw them when she blundered into the wrong restroom before takeoff: men holding fat reports with pale blue covers that mimic the sky beyond the window seats, sunlight glancing across their frameless eyeglasses.

Sharyl’s dinner will arrive an hour into the future. After that, small TV sets will fold down and, the video gods permitting, she will watch the movie Sleepless in Seattle.

The plane banks, sliding sunlight across her face. A loud conversation in Russian reaches her by way of the plane’s curved ceiling, muffled in the humming blanket of air travel. In her ears a woman sings,

Take me inside you, into your room. I hear it's lined with the things you don't show.

Sharyl just wants to drift into the music, but she’s too tall and round for long stretches in an airplane seat.

She understands that Kiev is not a world vacation capitol. She doesn’t know a single American who has ever been there. And now this.

"I'm coming to Kiev," she told him on the phone. "But Misha, I'm only coming for three weeks."

“Three weeks no good. You stay longer."

"I can't stay longer. Please don't make me have to choose."

Sharyl closes her eyes. Then yesterday, those branches that formed in Psi Phi. They had constructed something that looked like a tree house out of themselves, changing texture, shape, and color with ambiguous precision.

And the footfish. Sharyl sighs. She sees them in her mind’s eye but doesn’t have the words. If she did, she might say: there are fifty-five bloody blue footfish, lurching in asyncopated harmony like cartoon sentences of a foreign script.

She'd like to stop thinking about those critters, about how she's heading for a country she's hardly even heard of, and so painfully in love. And oh yeah, expecting a baby.

Sharyl digs into her purse to find the book Mary pushed into her hands at the airport. She tears the flowered tissue paper away: The Time Falling Bodies Take To Light. The book's cover is a William Blake drawing, with sinuous gold lines set against deepest blue. The woman reaches down from gold-edged clouds, embracing a man who kneels in a landscape of flames, his outstretched arms reaching towards her. Sharyl sees an echo of her own body in the fleshy woman, and imagines that the burning man is Misha.



Sharyl and Misha. Sharyl, Misha and Psi Phi. There is no longer a way to talk about one without the others. Easy enough to describe the two of them, but who speaks for Psi Phi? You’ll notice that this problem has already presented itself, and we are only up to the Prologue. Sharyl Hatton will not find the words, I can promise you that. Misha? Maybe in Ukrainian - but, frankly, I doubt it.

So I have taken on the job myself. Yet, I feel a responsibility to caution you: I’ve never narrated anything before. I say this not only to beg your forgiveness for possible clumsiness, but because it creates a problem. You see, I can’t seem to write this story if I'm in it. The trouble is, I am.

Every time I've tried to write it down, beginning where the story itself began and ending the other day, I've gotten stuck at myself. Finally, I went through this manuscript with Find and Replace, making me just another character in the story. I'm not at all shy and I'm not ashamed of my part in it, not as much as I should be, I suppose. Everyone in this story, many not mentioned, and a few who weren't even there - we all know that this is how it happened, more or less. So I solved the problem of me being in it by pretending I'm not.

Since this isn't a mystery story, it doesn't really matter who I am, OK? If you find yourself wondering, remember that I may be a few of us, getting together after so long and recollecting.

Still, I sometimes wish Sharyl had just churned out a more, shall we say, “normal,” thesis project. If Psi Phi didn’t become what it became, I wouldn’t have to be a narrator. There would be no story. All Sharyl’s pain and betrayal, gone - poof! You could argue (and some of us do), that if it weren’t for Psi Phi, ambitions would not have been stoked, trusts not broken, insanity not provoked, infidelities not committed. We all would be quite different people today, I suspect. But Sharyl would never have met Misha. And we would never have seen Psi Phi.

So, I propose that the only questions that matter are these: Are we so hypnotized by reality’s machinery that we can’t fathom the fire within? And, why does love make you act weird?



© Copyright 2017 Eve Messinger. All rights reserved.


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