The campus was empty as far as Mona could see. There was something eerie about the emptiness. The flag chimed incessantly against the flagpole in the chill and she wanted to capture that somehow, but didn’t know where her ‘in’ was. She took a few preliminary photographs, just warming up. A man sat on a sandstone rim of the amphitheatre, looking out over the empty field. Mona raised her camera, then lowered it. Normally she didn’t have qualms documenting grief, not that she could tell he was grieving, though she knew that that would be the narrative, and she felt cheap about that. She wasn’t interested in creating a sob story, though she’d done well at it in the past. Maybe it was the wind, the chill—she wanted solace and she wanted him to be okay.
“Hello,” she said, approaching.
“Oh, hi,” said the man. He had an Indian accent, wore an expensive-looking but gaudy striped purple silk shirt. He was slender, and though he trembled he had his sleeves loosely rolled up. He checked his watch.
“I thought there was going to be a cricket match. I thought…” he said.
“Oh,” said Mona, adjusting her scarf, taking a seat next to him. She recognised his face. She was very good at faces.
“Where have I seen you?” she said.
“I don’t know…maybe….around?”
“I don’t know,” he smiled, revealing crooked, food-stained teeth. Mona lit a cigarette and thought leisurely about it.
“What do you study here?” she said, offering him a cigarette, which he refused.
“I teach mathematics,” he said.
“Oh, yep, yep,” said Mona. “Now I know, you were in the newspaper, I remember you, wow. Sorry, I don’t mean to sound glib, what I mean to say is I read the article about you, you’re Suraj, you’re a genius.”
“Yes, and no,” said Suraj, extending his hand, smiling.
“Why are you out here?” said Mona, “It’s freezing, isn’t it?”
“Oh, well, I had heard there was going to be a match, I thought I’d come down.”
“But there isn’t.”
“No, there isn’t.”
“Hey, do you think maybe there’s a theory-of-everything twist in this somewhere?”
Suraj frowned, amused. He looked out over the empty cricket field. There was something in his demeanour that was at once self-conscious, small and proud—he was cultivating somehow her approval in the sometimes subtle, sometimes conspicuous and varying changes in his expression. There was a kind of role being performed, which made her uneasy, ready for something unusual to pop out. Once again she raised her camera, but struggled, not knowing exactly what she was intending to capture, afraid of destroying something—that undecidedness and variability.
“Yes, I see what you mean,” he said finally. “Life never makes more sense than when you see it could be different. We can relocate ourselves in a sense. At least I can. In another density I think there is a game happening, here,” he said, indicating the field with a slender, up-turned hand. His gold watch dangled loosely from his wrist. “But it’s tenuous. I think all consciousnesses involved in such a scenario eventually take the path of least resistance, that is the physical one. This one. We could cause a cricket match to happen now.”
“Now?” said Mona, impressed.
“In five minutes. Ten. In ordinary circumstances it would take a lot of energy.”
“Just so we’re clear, you’re not talking about going round, knocking on doors and convincing people to come outside to have a game?”
He smiled and shook his head. At first Mona saw the topic dissolving, that small aspect of Suraj shutting down what was left of this speculative, possibly unresearched conversation—teachers she knew liked to be guarded in that sense with students, in case anyone quoted them. But his proud aspect seemed to carry him along. “That is one way to share information, but information is more available than most people think. Intentions affect the physical world. Affect other carriers of consciousness. Information, ideas can spread simultaneously through intention.”
“Are we talking about telepathy?”
“Yes,” said Suraj bluntly, and Mona’s heart raced.
“Can you…are you…can you…?”
“You would have to keep it a secret,” he said.
“I will, what am I thinking?”
Suraj focussed on her, trained his eyes on hers. He closed his eyes and lightly touched his forehead, the point just between his eyes.
“A blue…” he began. “A blue…post-it? With something written on it…three, eight.”
“Stop!” said Mona, standing up. “I have to have another cigarette. I have to rethink my life. Why don’t you do that all the time!” she screamed, nearly dropping her camera. “Why doesn’t everyone do that!”
“It’s, ah…well you know,” said Suraj. “People are distracted, there’s a lot going on. And some people just aren’t fit to…to…”
“You mean, what, mentally? What about me?”
“Well it’s both, if you’re physically unhealthy, that’s a big drain on your mental power. If you’re depressed or anxious.”
“And this is mental, this ability?”
“Mental in the sense of non-physical. You know,” he said in his peculiarly Indian cadence, the rise and fall and rise, a duality of introspection and assertion, question and response, like a raga. “Everything,” he began, “is numbers, you know, I know that, you know that, everything in the end is information, not particles, like atoms. It is only through consciousness, not as well as, only through consciousness that information is shared, becomes real, is absorbed. So we are absorbing the information in its essential and nonphysical form that eventually, telescoping out of the quantum domain, that part of the universe, descends into other densities—vibrations, strings, quarks, atoms—and then taking on physical properties…eventually you have a chair, a mountain, what have you. It was energy first—information. And that information is for us, the telegraphists. Look,” he said, noting her non-plussed reaction. “You see something?”
He turned his head slightly and pointed up at his face.
“You see that?”
His ear moved slightly up and down, wiggled. “Can you do that?”
“No,” said Mona.
“Well I can. But not always have I been. Somewhere along the line I took conscious command of those muscles there on the side of my head—I got an impression of them, distinguished them from the other muscles, and just for fun began activating them. So this.”
“Just for fun,” said Mona.
“Yes. That’s one thing about being lonely, you have to entertain yourself,” he said.
In the distance, far away in the colonnade someone was calling.
“Mummy!” called Mona’s little girl. Gertie was on her phone, scuffing her shoes and milling around in the shadows.
“Okay, careful!” said Mona. The child clambered down the sandstone steps, then sprinted to her across the green grass. She leapt and demanded to be taken up into her arms.
“Look!” she said, holding up a lollipop still in its wrapper.
On the field the casual players pulled the wicket stumps from the lawn, congratulated each other, pulling off gloves and shaking hands. Dark clouds were moving in—they swept rapidly, low and strangely overhead. Mona picked up her cigarette butts, looked around her for anything she might have missed.
“Has Gertie been treating you well?” she asked.
“Yes! And she said that Grandad will be over for dinner!”
“Well, we’ll see,” said Mona. “We don’t know about that yet.”