(From the notes of Harmon Blake.)
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There are a number of things which, no matter where you go, remain constant about the world. For instance: Your bread, once buttered, will always land butter-side-down, unless you are EXPECTING it to land butter-side-down, in which case, it will land sideways and bounce onto your shoe and THEN land butter-side-down. That is, if you're lucky enough to be wearing shoes at the time. For instance: There is always at least one idiot who is willing to take the time out of his life to argue that the sky is, in fact, not blue. For instance: Someone will always ask the colorblind guy how he can follow stoplights.
For instance: Towns always have secrets.
Not that this doesn't make sense. Towns are good at keeping secrets, though I can't fathom exactly why. They take them in and keep them, only dropping hints to those few who are curious- or foolish- enough to go asking the right questions. At this juncture, I cannot be sure I am not the latter of the two. Y'see, Serwood is unlike most towns in that, instead of keeping it's secrets close, it lets them out at night to run rampant. And believe me, Serwood has a number of secrets I would not wish to meet in an alley at night. This place is warped- there's no better word for it. Things just tend to happen here. Nothing that would hold up in a court of law, of course, but that's just the way of things. In fact, I've noticed that almost everything that falls under the heading of paranormal cannot be proven in a laboratory or court of law. This is, I think, is the most convincing statement in favor of the existence of paranormal phenomena- the fact that so many people have encountered it, and NO ONE can prove it. But I'm ranting again.
People see what they want to see. You look at a tree, and despite all arguments to the contrary, you interpret that tree in an entirely different fashion than anyone else. The defining features stay the same, but only because there are blanket words to indicate them. How would you describe a 'branch' to someone without using the word 'branch'? Do you honestly think you imagine the same thing they do, when you think of a 'branch'? Not even close. Everyone lives in their own private universe, and these universes only rarely manage to touch each other signifcantly.
Now take everything I've just said, and multiply it by five hundred thousand. Okay. Now you have an idea ghosts.
How can anyone possibly agree on ghosts? You take a dubious piece of sensory apparatus- the eyes- and combine them with the most complex and self-decieving machine ever built- the brain- and add to THAT the knowledge that no-one has proved whether or not the phenomena even exist, and you have a royal fucking mess on your hands.
To get a really good example of how utterly ridiculous the whole field can get, attend one of those student-held discussions about paranormal phenomena. They're hilarious, better than Abbot and Costello- and where else can you watch three people argue for an hour and a half over whether or not we should call them 'ghosts' or 'spirits'? Absolutely hilarious. These meetings do not, however, go entirely to waste: I met my long-time and longer-suffering assistant Sarah Walden at one.
The speaker at hand- a dress-shirt-wearing, pants-creasing, thesis-writing asshole of an excuse for a college student- was just finishing up his speech. His closing statements ran something like this:
"So if you should chance to see one of these wandering spirits, do not hesitate to make contact, since they're really only lonely entities, in search of human contact. Thank you."
There was some sporadic clapping. The asshole smiled smugly, left the podium, and sat down. In accordance with the list of speakers, Sarah stood up. She strolled casually to the podium, set down her notes, and looked me directly in the eye.
"That was," she said "The most idiotic, festering, misinformed, foolhardy, dangerous, useless, self-decieved pile of dogshit I have ever had the bad luck to listen to. I hope you employ the methods you've just described, Tim. It will ensure that we won't have to put up with your dangerous stupidity any longer."
I was smitten.
I cornered her at the coffee stand after the discussion was over. She was drinking it black.
"How can you do that?" I said.
"Not so hard, really. He had it coming, and he should have known better."
"No, I mean: How can you drink your coffee like that?"
She looked down at the cup. "What, black? Or out of a styrofoam cup."
"Black. I don't think the cup affects taste much."
"You'd be surprised. I had an aunt who wouldn't eat ice cream with anything but a fork. She swore up and down it make the ice cream taste better."
She looked thoughtful. "It might have." She extended her hand. "Sarah Walden."
I looked at it. "Harmon Blake, and I don't shake hands."
Most people, at this point, ask why I do not shake hands. I don't have a good answer to that. I just despise the whole act.
Sarah shrugged it off. "You were at the discussion."
"What did you think? Of the whole thing, I mean?"
"Ever seen the Keystone Kops?"
"It's like watching the intellectual's version of THAT."
She grinned. "They are ridiculous, aren't they?"
"What about my speech? What'd you think?"
"I liked it, for the most part. You outlined a lot of good ground rules, especially in light of Mr. Tim's wonderful dissertation. There were, however, a few problems once you got to the Crowleyan philosophies..."
So it went, out the door, down the steps, and onto the sidewalk (a journey that took three hours in the midst of conversation) until we were both standing outside, knee-deep in Eldrin University.
"...can understand that such phenomena might be affected a little by outside impressions, but not to the extent you're suggesting."
"Oh no," I said. "More so than that. I think sometimes they are given form entirely by how we decide to interpret them. People see what they want to see."
"It just doesn't make SENSE."
"No? Then I'll give you a demonstration."
"How long have you been living on this campus?"
"Going on two years."
"Then you should know full well by now: This place is teeming with paranormal hot spots."
"Yes. I HAVE noticed that. It's odd, really." Her eyes were far away.
"Yes, it is. How many have you found, since you've been here?"
"At least four."
"Four? You either have a bad sense for it, or you haven't really been looking."
"Well...I'm not VERY good at it."
"Fair enough. Do you have somewhere to be?"
"Not really, no."
"Then I'll show you something tonight that will help with my point- or should, at least."
"Let's go then. I'd rather be hunting ghosts than talking about them."
"Quit this world, quit the next world, quit quitting!" -Sufi proverb.