An essay by Samantha Fremont, as provided by Regina Clarke
Art by Katie Nyborg
(Editor’s Note: Since Ms. Fremont left before completing her graduate studies, the following document, proved now to indeed have been written in her own hand, is of relevance only because it was found in the Spheren collection. Its content is specious and derivative, at best.)
“I am greatly chastened by events that have recently beset me.” Those words appeared suddenly on the page. How could I have missed seeing them before? For a year I had pored over the papers and journals of Dr. Richard Spheren looking for information to complete a study of his work. There had been a curious gap, a period of several months during which he had inexplicably disappeared. His wife had awoken one morning to find him gone, and woken up another day, three months later, to find him beside her, snoring lightly. He claimed no memory of the lapse of time.
I couldn’t accept his assertion of amnesia. In reading about him I’d discovered a like mind, someone whose reflections seemed to accord with my own, and I wanted, above all, evidence of uncommon reality. I worked under the assumption that Spheren had been hiding something, and that it had to be connected with his primary work, research into what he termed “magnetic transference.” The term itself was vague and hinted of outdated mesmerism. But I felt certain that he must have discovered something important and that he’d spent those three months exploring whatever it was. No doubt he was aware that the scientific community would not receive his conclusions with approval and so chose not to reveal them. As a community, it is profoundly conservative even now.
He had only filled half the page in that journal and dated it the same day he had reappeared to his wife. “Were I able to share what I have learned,” he continued, “I would have to describe such an alteration of perception as to challenge all previous assumptions about the nature of reality.”
The closed stacks that held most of his papers were situated on the third floor of the university library. Outside the window where I sat reading that fateful passage I could see new foliage opening, as the pale, light green leaves of the maple tree brushed against the glass. Beyond the outline of the east wing I could follow the course of the wind as a hawk glided effortlessly in the morning air. Between me and the creature lay wood, a piece of glass, a tree, some stonework, an invisible atmosphere–but what else? Except for the agreement of those around me at any given moment, how did I know that what I saw was real? Old questions, many answers, depending on one’s point of reference. Was that what Spheren meant? Some version of Plato’s shadows in the cave? No. I felt that was too easy. He was troubled in some way, apprehensive about it all.
Nowhere in the pages was there a repetition of the passage or any hint of what the words about reality meant. That is, until I read the final paragraph of his last journal, dated July 14, 1894. From there I collected the clearest insight I would have into the man, and began my own investigation deeper into his world, one that would take me at least as far as Spheren had gone–and, as I must admit, somewhat further.
To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Winter 2014 collection.
Samantha Fremont spent most of her graduate studies in philosophy, focusing on phenomenology. Her dissertation was tentatively titled “Fallacies in Husserl’s Full Noema,” with an emphasis on why transcendental perspectives cannot possibly define all objects as subjective experience. Her work could very well have provided significant contributions to current theory, if she had not allowed her obsession with Dr. Richard Spheren and his curious explorations into consciousness to divert her attention. Her disappearance was a more a relief to the thesis committee than a source of concern.
Regina Clarke has a doctorate in English and has worked as a technical writer in high tech, focusing on network management systems, virtual protocols, augmented reality, and military surveillance software. Her stories have appeared in Thrice Fiction, Kzine, Bewildering Stories, Subtle Fiction, and Over My Dead Body!, among others. Her passion is for mysteries, film noir, science fiction B-grade movies, and biographies of writers. It pleases her no end to live in the Hudson River Valley, not very far from where Rod Serling grew up. She has a brilliant, green, eclectus parrot–Harry– who talks a great deal about himself.
Katie Nyborg’s art, plus information regarding hiring her, can be found at http://katiedoesartthings.tumblr.com/