An Imaginary Essay

You are, without doubt, perfectly well aware that Experts Who Know These Things have shown, using studies you have not read and opinions of things which have a long history of being wrong, that the not-infrequent impossible quirks in the world are all quite unreal.

That is to say, every time you’ve caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of your eye, and that thing was some sort of aspect of myth, or some extinct animal, or even some unique thing which couldn’t actually be real (a beast made out of nothing but teeth and hungry eyes; a faerie with blinding wings; a shadow which moved in the wrong direction)—those things always were, and always have been, simple mistakes of the mind.

Our brains make patterns out of perception. It’s why stick figures are effective at conveying meanings, even though relatively few of us are made out of sticks. So you’ll note something which, to a piece of your brain, momentarily sets off some kind of signal, and you’ll manage to “see” an image that isn’t really there, just from the incidental curve of a crack in the wall, or the way the light hits a piece of furniture at a sudden angle. (How many times have you thought that a pile of clothes, near the foot of your bed, was actually some sort of creature, about to attack? And yet, it never is. No-one has ever lived to report such a thing; so it’s not true.)

The famed sensation of deja vu, that odd feeling that you’ve encountered the current situation before? It’s a feeling which might hit you, might even persist, despite the fact that you know you’ve never actually been in this place, doing whatever you’re doing now. That sensation? Again, just a quirk of the brain. Perhaps you’ve just been somewhere similar and you’re confused. Perhaps part of your head assesses something as familiar before you realize that it really isn’t. These things are all quite explainable and perfectly ordinary.

Admittedly, there are such things as false memories. Or, to be more precise, there isn’t necessarily such a thing as wholly true memory. Even eidetic (so-called “photographic”) remembrance isn’t exactly complete recollection; one might be able to pull up a mental image of a real object, and find it matching said object, but the ‘visual’ aspect is just one part of a larger whole; how we feel about an event isn’t necessarily quantifiable in words, and is not necessarily fixed in place. (Your ex, the dreadful one; you quite liked them once. Are those memories still happy ones?

…you don’t want to check, do you? We can’t blame you.)

Nevertheless, it’s important that we recognize as “real” those things which seem to make logical sense to us, and as “fictional” those which do not. This method, historically speaking, works very well sometimes. It also works very poorly much of the time, but we don’t like to talk about that. After all:

The most common belief about reality seems to be that we currently know more than we ever did, that our most highly-regarded theories are generally correct, and that we aren’t likely to make the sorts of massive mistakes or discoveries which have overturned our thoughts once or twice in the past. (To whit: at every other point in human history). At the same time, we tend to downplay the possibility that art, science, or technology have advanced. What we’re going through, at this point in the timeline, is a narrative where firmly believe that we know more, and also fail more.

Given that framework, everything else is easy: we need to remove mystery from the world, not because the mysterious and the unexplained are necessarily less real than other things, but because the more we can make the world feel logically consistent, the happier we’ll be. I mean, isn’t that what you’re experiencing now? Tons of data, tons of information, and aren’t you happier than you’ve ever been before?

A wholly unscrupulous bastard might use this time to write about things which are, and claim he’s writing about things which aren’t.

A real jerkwit might even write real thoughts on imaginary subjects.

I would never do that.

Of course.

Let’s get this straight:

There’s no magic. There are no alternate worlds, and if there are, they’re boring. The Mandela Effect describes an easily-explicated momentary mental aberration; after all, interesting memories which raise questions about the world are false, and only dull memories which make the world a more hurtful place could possibly be true. Please try to remember that, because this author, THIS schmuck, is going to do his very best to show you that all of these things are lies, and the whole world waits to be disassembled at your will and put back together through skill and effort and daring.

We, the words in this piece, have agreed to be written, and we are, in fact, fundamentally unable to avoid being written, but we exist under the deepest possible protest. The author of these tales is a dangerously surreal individual, and no-one know what bits of strangeness he might enact upon the world next.

Do yourself a favor and consider that this essay is not, in fact, a meaningful salvo in the War for Reality, but rather a jumble of nonsense, like, say, the phrase “peanut butter” typed out twelve million times. Or, if that makes too much sense, try “buttered peanut” instead.

And whatever you do: Don’t laugh! Laughing is how they get you. Once you can find the strangeness of the world funny, there’s no telling just how much peculiarity you’ll be able to handle, and once you’ve built up a tolerance for the Weird, the Weird comes looking for you.

Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

written under dignified disputation,
by the words of

~Jeff Mach


My name is Jeff Mach (“Dark Lord” is optional) and I build communities, put on events, and make stories come into being. I also tweet a lot over @darklordjournal.

I write books. You should read them!

I put on a convention for Villains every February.

I created a Figmental Circus. It’s happening this June. You should go!



Jeff Mach Written by:

Jeff Mach is an author, playwright, event creator, and certified Villain. You can always pick up his bestselling first novel, "There and NEVER, EVER BACK AGAIN"—or, indeed, his increasingly large selection of other peculiar books. If you'd like to talk more to Jeff, or if you're simply a Monstrous Creature yourself, stop by @darklordjournal on Twitter, or The Dark Lord Journal on Facebook.

Comments are closed.