Among the infinite forms which the natural world delivers us, none is more fascinating, more truly wonderful, than that incomprehensibly complicated movement referred to, in its entirety, as ‘human life’. True comprehension of life, with its fathomless direction and astonishing intricacy, may ever elude us, and yet we can readily apprehend it as a form of movement; a unitary mass being moved by a force, and thereby, no matter its nature, may come to know its laws and rhythms. This is a crucial point and provides the basis for the investigations discussed in the present work…
—Nikolai Tesla, Spatial Abjection and the Problem of Increasing Human Energy. Moscow, 1920.
[Diary of Alexi Alanovonovich, Sep. 28th, 1919]
I can barely believe it. I am actually here. Here! Where they are actually making the revolution.
Though I feel so provincial. So inappropriate, and so…dislocated, not only from home, but also from what I’d expected would have made up city life. Moscow can’t always have been this disorienting. The rate of technical change is at such a fever pitch these days that, if you are from the country, it is difficult not to feel as if demons and angels were everywhere, flying about carrying things, picking things up and dropping them, and building temples.
My rooms are more than adequate, though there is a stiff draft that blows into my bedroom through an exterior wall. I am worried about what effect this will have in the winter. I may have to move my bed into the kitchen come December.
Mama and Papa have convinced themselves that there are bandits roaming the streets here. ‘Robbers posing as revolutionaries’, as Mama puts it. But, of course, it is safer here than it is at home, or in any of the other border villages among which the Whites choose to commit butcheries.
The scholarship I’ve been awarded by The Department for the Mobilization of Scientific Forces still overwhelms me. My entry was a piece on magnets, that before being told otherwise I was certain would have been the most moronic and fanciful piece of garbage the judges had ever seen. However, with evident disagreement, the Department has awarded me full room and board, and money for books and writing materials, as well as covering the tuition costs for all my classes at Moscow University. And yet, I would have given all the rest of it up to receive the last thing granted me: tomorrow I begin work at the side of Soviet Russia’s greatest scientific mind, Comrade Nikolai Tesla, as one of his scientific assistants.
I’ve already been given one of his latest essays to translate. Apparently comrade Tesla’s Russian is not exactly perfect and my knowledge of Serbian was a deciding factor in the acceptance of my application (Mama, I am sorry for all those years of complaint, I take it all back!). That said, the man does speak six languages, so poor Russian is, I think, excusable, all things considered.
Unfortunately the city is experiencing a shortage of notebooks, so this one will have to do triple duty! You, little notebook, get to be scientific log, diary and translator’s workbook, all at once. My goodness! It would appear I’ve moved up in the world!
Spatial Abjection and the Problem of Increasing Human Energy
When we speak of man, we have a conception of humanity as a whole, and before applying scientific methods to the investigation of his movement, we must accept this as a physical fact. This perspective requires little defense. After all, can anyone doubt today that all the millions of individuals and all the innumerable types and characters constitute an entity, a unit? Though free to think and act, we are all held together, like air and water, or the sides of a sphere, with ties inseparable. These ties cannot be seen, but we can feel them. I cut my finger, and it pains me; this finger is a part of me. I see a comrade struck down, and it hurts me, too; my friend and I are one. And now I see my enemy laid low, a lump of matter, which, of all the lumps of matter in the universe, I care least for, and which deserves this agony, and yet, still, I feel grief. Does this not prove that each of us is only a piece of a much larger whole?
Our unit of analysis established, conceive, then, man as a mass urged on by a force. Though this movement is not necessarily of a translatory character, implying change of place, yet the general laws of mechanical movement are applicable to it, and the energy associated with this mass can be measured, in accordance with well-known principles, by half the product of the mass with the square of a certain velocity, which, in the present state of science, we are unable exactly to define and determine. But our deficiency in this knowledge will not vitiate the truth of the deduction which I shall draw, and which rest on the firm basis that the same laws of mass and force govern throughout nature.
For we must recall the universal property that all mass possesses inertia, and all force tends to persist. Owing to this, a body, be it at rest or in motion, tends to remain in the same state, and a force, manifesting itself anywhere and through whatever cause, produces an equivalent opposing force, and as an absolute necessity of this it follows that every movement in nature must be rhythmical. It is borne out in everything we perceive—in the movement of a planet, in the surging and ebbing of the tide, in the reverberations of the air, the swinging of a pendulum, the oscillations of an electric current, and in the infinitely varied phenomena of organic life. Does not the whole of human life attest to it? Birth, growth, old age, and death of an individual, family, race, or nation, what is it all but a rhythm? All life-manifestation, then, even in its most intricate form, as exemplified in man, however involved and inscrutable, is only a movement, to which the same general laws of movement which govern throughout the physical universe must be applicable.
DIAGRAM a. THE THREE WAYS OF INCREASING HUMAN ENERGY
In diagram a, M represent the mass of man. This mass is impelled in one direction by a force f, which is resisted by another partly frictional and partly negative force R, acting in a direction exactly opposite, and retarding the movement of the mass. The difference between these two forces is the effective force which imparts a velocity V to the mass M in the direction of the arrow on the line representing the force f. In accordance with the preceding, the human energy will then be given by the product ½ MV2 = ½ MV x V, in which M is the total mass of man in the ordinary interpretation of the term “mass,” and V is a certain hypothetical velocity.
Historically speaking, there have only been three possibilities for humanity to influence the mathematical product of its own human energy. As illustrated in the diagram above, we could attempt to increase the overall mass of humanity (as indicated by the dotted circle shown in the top figure), leaving the two opposing forces the same. An increase in the global population would achieve this goal. The second way is to reduce frictional force R to a smaller value r, leaving the mass and the impelling force the same, as when literacy, hygiene, and the abolition of superstition are advanced. The third way is to increase the impelling force f to a higher value F, while the mass and the retarding force R remain unaltered. The many machines and power-systems upon which the human race now draws have furnished us with a powerful example of this increase.
These three vectors—mass, resistance, and impelling force—have heretofore constituted the sole means of influencing the velocity of human movement. But there is an unprecedented alternative, and one that I would like to propose here. After all, since these factors determine the speed of the transmission of humanity over some distance, might not distance itself deserve some consideration as a thing amenable to manipulation? Have we properly considered the diminution of space itself as an approach? Might not the void itself be compressed? My critics will, of course, assert immediately that space cannot be manipulated. That it is an inert, lifeless thing, without properties; that it is, in a word, nothing. But this opinion will change; though as a mass in movement resists change in direction, so does the world oppose a new idea. Nevertheless, I have witnessed, and more importantly, have demonstrated under laboratory conditions, not only the life-like changeability of space, but its purposeful manipulation. Specifically, between the period of 1915 and 1918, I observed space undergo processes such as compression (the reduction of space); deformation (the rearrangement of space); and oscillation (a periodic rotation of space), by means of deliberate efforts on the part of my scientific team. In other words, space and distance, long the adversaries of movement, have finally come into the ambit of human aspiration.
[Diary of Alexi Alanovonovich, Jan. 13th, 1920]
Adjusting to life in the city is a bit more difficult than I’d originally imagined. I am enjoying work and school. A bit too much, perhaps. Because I have so little else to do!
I don’t really know anyone else here. My classmates and coworkers are friendly, of course, but all they do is drink, and I simply can’t keep up with them financially or physically, financially mostly. If we go out after class, I end up sitting in the corner, obsessed with how much the night is costing me, and inevitably become withdrawn and distracted, which, of course, makes me quite the popular one.
And then, after I’d finally convinced a group to at least do something different, a play, where we would meet and find seats together; on arriving at the theater I had the distinct pleasure of discovering that the performance had been oversold, and that my ticket was no longer valid. No refunds… Today at work they all told me about how wonderful the play was, after expressing their sympathy that I’d been unable to get in, of course…
This unfortunate episode did, however, lead to a rather enchanting coincidence. I decided to walk to the laboratory instead of going home from the theater, thinking that I might work through the night and thus be a whole shift ahead on my projects. I was also in a terrible mood, and a miserable tramp through the snow seemed like a good way to punish myself. But when I got to the lab I found Dr. Tesla there, alone, and I was able to have a very long, fascinating discussion with him about…well, everything imaginable!
He is an incredible man. It seems as if he has been to almost every country and to have done everything, but the circumstance of his return to Europe is a particularly interesting story. He recounted to me how the capitalists Westinghouse and Edison swindled him most outrageously during his time in America, stealing the patents for his most prized inventions and claiming for themselves the credit for his discoveries.
It was at this point that his mother fell quite ill, and he was forced to spend the last of his savings to return to Europe. A combination of events, he told me, that brought him to the edge of a suicidal desperation. Destitute, he arrived in Paris at the time of the French World Fair, where despite several dark nights alone with self-annihilating thoughts, the scientific advances on display renewed his spirit and recharged (this is the word he used, like a battery) his very will to live. He saw the unveiling of the Eiffel Tower at the fair, and spent quite some time telling me about a ‘brace of vibrating diaphragms’ that a Norwegian scientist had assembled, which the man had stimulated by means of electromagnetic waves.
The Abjection of Geometry
January 19th, 1920
(Speech to be delivered before the Department for the Mobilisation of Scientific Forces of the People’s Commissariat for Education)
Colleagues. Comrades. I cannot find the words to express how deeply I feel the honour of addressing some of the foremost thinkers of the present time. In this case, my inadequacies are both literal as well as figurative, and so the organizers of this evening’s talk have afforded me a translator to speak to you today. However, despite these limitations, I would still like to say a sincere thank you to the Chairman of the Central Committee, and to the many able scientific men, engineers, and electricians who have come to listen today, of the country greatest in scientific achievements.
Now, I know that many of you are already familiar with the experimental evidence I have amassed confirming the existence of electromagnetic spatial abjection, and I know that you have come here, enthusiast and critic alike, not to learn more abstruse details about spherical wavefronts or oscillating demi-rotations, but to evaluate my proposal for an industrial application of the principles I have uncovered in the laboratory. I promise, I will not dwell upon experiments already described, but I must beg the indulgence of my more knowledgeable audience members before going into a detailed description of this system’s engineering, for I think it necessary to first make a few remarks regarding certain conditions existing in space and physical geometry, which are only beginning to make themselves known to modern science.
A case in point: by now the notion of “curved space,” supposedly in existence according to the teachings of relativity, has become familiar to many, and it could be inferred from the arguments I am putting forward that I share such a conception. But while Minkowski and his student Einstein merely make theoretical claims to the effect that in the presence of large bodies space manifests the property of curvature, my experimental results have revealed that the ambient geometric medium is, in fact, much more malleable than the mathematical chicanery of the relativists would suppose. The electromagnetic abjection of geometry is not a theory or a mere possibility, but a fact demonstrated by me in experiments which have extended for years. Nor did the idea present itself to me all of a sudden, but was the result of a very slow and gradual development and a logical consequence of my investigations, earnestly undertaken in 1893, eight years before the publication of Einstein’s treatise. The abjection of space having been found practicable, it occurred to me immediately that a multitude of industrial applications were possible.
To the popular mind this sensational advance conveys the impression of a single invention, but in reality it is an art, the successful practice of which involves the employment of a great many discoveries and improvements. I viewed it as such when I undertook to solve the problem of the ambient geometry and it is due to this fact that my insight into its underlying principles was clear from their very inception.
However, the chief discovery, which satisfied me thoroughly as to the practicability of utilizing abjection in an industrial capacity, was made in 1919 in Saint Petersburg, where I carried on tests with a generator of seven-hundred and fifty kilowatt capacity, achieving a 50% increase in energy output. Though the specifics of the experiment are still, unfortunately, of a proprietary nature, I can say that, induced by certain preparations, a variety of crystalline masses can have the effect of decreasing the quantity and influencing the shape of the ambient void, and it was by the use of such a mass that I was able to project a field of spatial compression. By using these masses, and by operating alternating current generators within the radius of the fields generated, I was able to ascertain that the intensity of the spatial compression corresponds with an increase in the power output of an energy-producing machine.
This obvious efficiency means that whatever the future may bring, the universal application of these principles is fully assured, though it may be long in coming. With the opening of the first power plant utilizing abjected geometry, incredulity will give way to wonderment, and this to ingratitude, as ever before. The time is not distant when the energy of abjection will be man’s life energy. He will live on diminished geometry, and cling to it like a babe to the mother’s breast. “Give us our daily abjection,” will be the prayer of the coming generations. Deus futurus est deus geometriae abjectus.
Diary of Alexi Alanovonovich [Jan. 20th, 1920]
Even though I’d been given all the details in advance, was privy to the mass’ projected dimensions and the timetable of its growth, it doesn’t seem to have gone very far in preparing me for the thing’s actual size, or the quickness of its transformations. The mass has now reached full enlargement, and it looks like we’ve grown a flat, black hill against the back wall of the warehouse. The hill looks somehow bigger than it actually is…that is, since its amniotic phase, the thing has reared up into a paraboloid shape twice, and twice it has collapsed down to become a low hill again, and after each flattening it revived with an increased bulkiness, a kind of thicker thickness to it; a size that takes up more space than it actually does (I’m sorry, I don’t know how else to say it).
It’s also begun producing significant quantities of heat. The temperature practically leapt after the second collapse. Now the room, which once seemed so cavernous, is muggy and close. Our devices and bodies are crammed to one side of the big chalk circle that indicates the abjection field’s edge.
At the beginning we were very lax about stepping over it. Indeed, at the very start, we had to palpate and compress the rubber sack of crystal foam by hand. Leaning over the edge of a steel drum with a long stick, standing right beside it. But once we’d established a positive indication of the field, Dr. Tesla sat us all down and described the results of the animal trials in Petersburg. Now no one goes near the thing.
After all, what it has done to the test casing…What the mass has done to the test casing…I don’t know if I’ll be able to describe it properly. As I noted before, the huge, metal cylinder that is standing in for the actual generator began to develop pock-marks. But the whorls that at first just blemished the surface of the cylinder have deepened, pushing further and further in as the mass grew, until they finally met at the center, so that now the thing looks like it’s half-curled into itself. It is as horrifying as it is beautiful, but mostly it just looks wrong. I don’t like looking at it, but I keep wanting to.
As it’s grown, we’ve needed to periodically replace the sheath of rubber covering the foam, whenever a fissure appeared of sufficient size so as to compromise the overall elastic force of the enclosure. According to Dr. Tesla, it is the compression of the stuff that makes it grow at such an accelerated rate, constraining the mass while simultaneously precipitating its enlargement, a dynamic that must be maintained in a delicate balance. This now involves dropping the rubber, boiled to a liquid, onto the mass from 20 m above it, which it should go without saying is fantastically dangerous for the workers involved. We’ve erected an ever-rising scaffold around it for these purposes. Soon they’ll be pouring the final sheath, which must be particularly thick so as to overcome the pressure asserted by the crystal’s growth. This is excellent, since the ceiling is not far off.
Fumes from the rubber make the warehouse noxious with the stench of liquified tar, as it is filled with all manner of adulterants, and I leave with a blinding headache if I stay in the room for more than a few moments. For this reason I try to do all my work in the adjoining offices.
Laboratory Notes February 2nd, 1920
Industrial Application of the Type 3B (Compressive) Abjection Mass Using a 2000 kw Ganz Generator
Given the results of experiments previously carried out by Dr. Tesla—those showing a 50% increase in energy output from a 750 kw generator when in the immediate proximity (within a 5 m radius) of a 5 x 5 x 2 m enclosed crystalline foam matrix (abjection mass type 2B)—we postulate that a 50% increase in energy output can likewise be achieved in a 2000 kw generator when it is brought into the immediate proximity of a 10 x 10 x 4 m enclosed crystalline foam matrix (abjection mass type 3B).
Although the exact mechanism that allows an abjection mass to recompose the ambient spatial geometry remains unclear, our understanding of its limits continues to grow. Chief among these, a previously unknown force has been observed acting in opposition to spatial compression beyond 50% (180 degree spherical). This makes any attempt at further quantitative reduction beyond this point progressively more difficult to achieve. There does not, however, appear to be an upper limit on the power of machine that can be influenced, other than the limitation of a device’s physical size, which is constrained by the size of field emitted by the abjection mass. As previously documented, the extent of the field generated corresponds to the size of the mass itself, with a diminution of effect corresponding to the inverse square law after an abjection mass has achieved a size of 5 x 5 x 2 m. Thus, while a 5 x 5 x 2 m abjection mass will emit a spherical field around it 15 m in diameter, a 10 x 10 x 4 mass will emit a field only 25 m in diameter, with a net gain of only 2.5 m of useable horizontal space for purposes of installing a generator or other device.
For this reason, in order to accommodate a cylindrical, 2000 kw Ganz electric generator—with a radius of 3.66 m and 4.57 m in length- we will need to induce the growth of a 10 x 10 x 4 m mass in a type “3B” arrangement (see previous experimental notes). This will enable a 50% (180 degree spherical) compression of the space abjected within the field’s radius. We hypothesize that this will increase the efficiency of the 2000 kw generator to the same degree that it did the 750 kw generator. The operation of an experimental generator will be compared against a control generator, housed in a separate section of the laboratory complex, of the same make and manufacture. This experiment will be carried out in the city of Moscow, U.S.S.R, beginning on the date February 2nd, 1920.
The procedures for readying an amniotic stage abjection mass have already been detailed in previous experimental reports (see Tesla scientific logs 1915—1918). Suffice here to state that our experiment differs only in the quantity of amniotic material prepared (50% more than in previous reports for the 2B arrangement), and the need to fabricate an additional series of rubber enclosures.
As previously described, under elastic pressure, growth of the prepared, foam-crystalline matrix is rapid, with our projections indicating that the mass will achieve median size 4 weeks from the experiment’s start date, and full size within 8 weeks. The area of effect will also rapidly increase along with the growth of the mass, stabilizing at 5 x 5 x 2 m growth, and diminishing thereafter, until the elastic enclosure constrains any further mass growth at 10 x 10 x 4 m hemispheric.
As in previous experiments, it is predicted that the rapid growth of the crystal-foam matrix will produce a state of intense heat and vibration, and further, that the relative increase in the size of the mass will likewise result in an increase of effect as well. For this reason, the enclosures applied after the mass has reached 5 x 5 x 2 m in extent will also be increased in thickness, with the quantity of rubber employed increased proportionally to the mass’ increase.
Previous results indicate that the mass will also emit signature electric effects at the various stages of its development. These electrical forces are to be continuously monitored by means of a coherer with an ink recorder, attached to the side of the bladder. The coherer will consist of a glass tube holding loose iron filing between its terminals.
To increase the sensitivity of this instrument, the same coherer will be installed within the supplementary circuit of a transformer, one that is likewise connected to the interior of the bladder-space. This assembly will include a terminal extending beyond the mass’ projected radius of effect for purposes of continuous monitoring. Finally, the coherer will be connected to an oscillator, enabling the application of voltages at Hertz-Wave frequencies, to sound a telephone bell in the event that the mass registers electromagnetic activity.
Both the experimental generator and the control generator will include armature attached to a measurement device for purposes of comparing relative energy outputs. In the case of the experimental generator, this armature will extend outside the area influenced by the abjection mass.
Their specific measurements and types are as follows…
The Abjection of Geometry
(alternative conclusion paragraph)
But we should take note that an equally compelling argument can be made suggesting that the highest forms of motion involve a certain kind of immobility or stillness, as with processes of mutual replacement, and as with phenomena such as vibration and communication. For since the whole of nature accessible to us forms a system, an interconnected totality of bodies (and by bodies we understand here all material existences extending from stars to atoms, indeed right to ether particles, in so far as one grants the existence of the last named) one may make the argument that this change in place is not, strictly speaking, necessary to have motion, and further, that the principle holds in reverse. For in the fact that these bodies are interconnected is already included that they react on one another, and it is precisely this mutual reaction that constitutes motion. Contrariwise, it also becomes evident here that matter is unthinkable without motion, and, causa sui, that motion is also therefore matter.
For it is that when two bodies act on each other so that a change of place of one or both of them results, this change of place can consist only in an approximation or a separation. They either attract each other or they repel each other. Or, as mechanics expresses it, the forces operating between them are central, acting along the line joining their centers…Hence the basic form of all motion is approximation and separation, contraction and expansion—in short, the old polar opposites of attraction and repulsion. Or, to label this relationship in its purest form: the dynamic of abjection.
[Diary of Alexi Alanovonovich, Mar. 16th, 1920]:
I haven’t had much time for diary entries lately. A lot is happening, and I’m very tired. And sick. They’ve moved me out of my adequate, little apartment into the engineers’ dormitory, a former talc factory that has been repurposed into living quarters. The place is still rank with the smell of the perfume. All the students and staff share some kind of an eye infection, and the meals are all of the same type, always, if they’re served at all. Bad tea with no sugar and soup, or bread and soup, or just bread, maybe some salt, never enough of any of it. Not even potatoes, nothing fresh, no vegetables. The peasants have been withholding food from the cities in response to the grain appropriations, even while the Red Army is starving in Poland. In response to this, the government has ordered all of the towns to elect “committees of the impoverished” to oversee food collection and land distribution, but from everything I’ve heard it’s not going very well. They haven’t begun redistribution at home yet, but the letters from Mama are becoming increasingly fretful. It will come. This whole decadent, moribund country is going to have to be torn apart before we can rebuild it. To make it into a place where the needs of the toiling masses take priority over the needs of the masters. But, still, I’m worried about Mama and Papa.
The most depressing part about the place though, is that some goddamn parasite, most likely one of the other students living in the dorms, has been stealing from all the rooms. Since moving here I’ve lost my comb, an ornamental tin, and the copy of Dead Souls that Mysha gave me for my saint’s day. But far worse than the theft of any of these little things, yesterday the bastard stole my goddamn boots!!!
Christ’s Cock!!! Who steals boots?!!
I now have to “rent” boots from Anton Ivanovich in order to attend lectures and get to work, and I can’t go outside in the meantime. Which means idling in this reeking hole instead of spending time at the lab. He’s the only one in the entire dormitory who has a second pair, and he insists on being remunerated in case of “loss.” He doesn’t seem to mind that everyone calls him a class enemy (and a traitor, and a profiteer, and a leech, and a beast). He’s also the only one without the damn eye infection.
Things at the lab are not much better. Dr. Tesla has all but halted work on the polyphase motor apparatus, even though its operation constitutes the sole justification for the project’s existence, and the reason for such a massive expenditure of resources in a time of war. The condenser assembly has been making strange, loud and ceaseless noise. A repetitive ringing that, admittedly, does appear to progress arithmetically, which is to say that there is some organization to it. After it had begun, it was so definite and ceaseless that we finally had to disconnect the bell to be able to get any work done at all. And while I do understand that this is an experimental procedure, that one must investigate such a phenomenon as it arises; this is also war. Civil war, a war for Russia, and the vanguard of the class war, all at once. A time of pivotal struggle when it will be determined if the forces of the proletariat or the bourgeois will prevail. I’m sorry, but we just don’t have time for experimental procedure.
I applied for a position in the army, but they tell me that my work here is too important, that any replacement they might find wouldn’t understand all the specifics and nuances of the project, and that anyway they need me for my translations. Our comrades are dying in Poland, for socialism, and I must work for a man who is in ecstasies over ringing bells.
But what concerns me the most is that, at the deepest level, I think he believes them to be some kind of communication. He’s begun urging us to look for comprehensible patterns: syntax, grammar, punctuation. Language. We might as well be practicing the Kabbalah or Masonism.
They’ve just called us for what, with a stretch of the imagination, we’ll call dinner.
Talking With Planets
March 19th, 1920
(For Publication in Young Pioneers’ Pravda)
In this age of reason it is not astonishing to find persons who scoff at the very thought of effecting communication with a planet. First of all, the argument is made that there is only a small probability of other planets being inhabited at all. This argument has never appealed to me. In the solar system, there seem to be only two planets—Venus and Mars—capable of sustaining life such as ours: but this does not mean that there might not be on all of them some other forms of life. Chemical processes may be maintained without the aid of oxygen, and it is still a question whether chemical processes are absolutely necessary for the sustenance of organized beings. My idea is that the development of life must lead to forms of existence that will be possible without nourishment and which will not be shackled by consequent limitations. Why should a living being not be able to obtain all the energy it needs for the performance of its life functions from the environment, instead of through consumption of food, and transforming, by a complicated process, the energy of chemical combinations into life-sustaining energy?
We can conceive of organized beings living without nourishment, and deriving all the energy they need for the performance of their life functions from the ambient medium. In a crystal we have the clear evidence of the existence of a formative life-principle, and though we cannot understand the life of a crystal, it is nonetheless a living being. There may be, besides crystals, other such individualized, material systems of beings, perhaps of gaseous constitution, or composed of substance still more tenuous. In view of this possibility—nay, probability—we cannot apodictically deny the existence of organized beings on a planet merely because the conditions on the same are unsuitable for the existence of life as we conceive it. We cannot even, with positive assurance, assert that some of them might not be present here, in this our world, in the very midst of us, for their constitution and life-manifestation may be such that we are unable to perceive them.
At the present stage of progress, there would be no insurmountable obstacle in constructing a machine capable of conveying a message to Mars, nor would there be any great difficulty in recording signals transmitted to us by the inhabitants of that planet, if they be skilled electricians. Communication once established, even in the simplest way, as by a mere interchange of numbers, the progress toward more intelligible communication would be rapid. Absolute certitude as to the receipt and interchange of messages would be reached as soon as we could respond with the number “four,” say, in reply to the signal “one, two, three.” The Martians, or the inhabitants of whatever planet had signaled to us, would understand at once that we had caught their message across the gulf of space and had sent back a response. To convey a knowledge of form by such means is, while very difficult, not impossible, and I have already found a way of doing it.
[Diary of Alexi Alanvonovich, Apr. 29th, 1920]
What the hell to say? Was he right? If he was right…(!) Goddamn. If they’re actually there…If he was right. Christ! But it has got to be some grand hoax! Doesn’t it? It can’t be real. Otherwise…I guess… otherwise, we’ve made history.
It all came out today. Kolya finally made good on all his muttering and informed on Tesla. The commissar came to the lab with the chief secretary of the militia (and three soldiers who just stood around looking embarrassed), and they demanded a full review of the project, which took place in the back office. Kolya, who I guess had decided that all his chips were down by this point, stalked back and forth against the back wall of the lab and badgered us all about sabotage and treason. Saying things like, “Well, Dr. Tesla is a foreign agent, simple as that! Or he’s crazy. Same difference, isn’t it?!”
All sorts of things like that, forever, over and over, to whoever would listen, which was pretty much nobody by the end, but still he went on, talking to all of us in general.
But he’d been holding things back, Dr. Tesla that is. Insurmountable evidence. Incredible…incredible evidence(!) But right there under our noses, he’d established real communication with them. He must have suspected that the assistants were beginning to chafe under the strangeness of it all. Kept it from us for just this eventuality. For the time when someone inevitably reported him for all of it.
He’d been speaking with them, well, communicating with these…things for at least three weeks now, everything documented. Then he asked the commissar and the secretary to propose to the creatures some mathematical puzzles. Anything they could think up. And he got the things to answer. Beeping the correct answers out of the coherer, which Tesla had adapted in some fashion.
I wonder, though, if there will still be an investigation of some sort. The commissar seemed quite enchanted by Dr. Tesla’s explanations; Venusians or Martians, alien civilizations of incalculable scientific sophistication, and a methodical system for achieving complex communications. The guy just kept taking notes and nodding. Just ate it up. But the secretary looked less than pleased. Angry even, or maybe not quite angry, but his jaw was tense and he kept staring at Tesla as he blathered on. Like he was watching for the cheapness of the carnival trick to show.
I can only imagine what this will do to Dr. Tesla. His health is suffering as it is, and it has become increasingly difficult to talk to him these days; he works from three in the morning until eleven at night and refuses any treatment for this severe insomnia. Whenever anyone brings it up, he claims that he only needs a forty minute nap, and this also constitutes his response every time we find him passed out from exhaustion on top of his work-desk.
His idiosyncrasies have also become worse in recent weeks. He had a fit when Comrade Dmitrievna came in wearing earrings yesterday, and he will not eat if he is not first given the opportunity to measure the contents of his plate with a ruler. Just yesterday he began pontificating on the importance of the interaction between the two-dimensional topology of his mashed potatoes and its infinite cubic sub-stratum. When I mentioned the flatness of soup he became very quiet. I think he thought I was making fun of him. And maybe I was. It’s becoming difficult to tell the difference anymore.
An Exchange With Triangles: Part II
October 7th, 1920
(For publication in Pravda)
As I review the events of this astonishing and altogether unprecedented first contact with other thinking entities, for the first time in human history, I realize how subtle are the influences that shape our destinies, and how fortunate it is that after centuries of mute cohabitation on this Earth, this truly epochal conversation has at last occurred between our species.
I have already described in the preceding section of this report, how exactly this communication was achieved and the various devices used in our increasingly complex exchanges, as, owing to the understandably sensational nature of the topic, the editors of Pravda asked me to be quite explicit on this subject. Likewise, in this section of my account I have been asked to be as clear as possible regarding the physical makeup of the beings, and to use as simple and non-technical language possible, so that all citizens who read this paper will grasp the essentials of the matter. I will try my best, but as shall be seen presently, this is no small feat.
It should be clear to the reader by now that the inexplicable electrical actions observed were not, in fact, from another planet, but originated from an altogether unexpected quarter: that of an intelligent society of second dimensional entities invisibly covering our homeworld.
I myself submitted to this fact unwillingly, but the signals were simply too strong to have traveled the great distances from Mars to Earth.1 Once basic communications were established, the notable absence of any sort of time lag between replies confirmed my mounting suspicions. I was forced to admit to myself that the sources must have come from somewhere in nearby space, and that the creatures communicating with us every night were not from Mars, or any other planet in our solar system 2 for that matter. This led my investigations back to our own terrestrial sphere, which is, of course, where I finally discovered the signal’s origin.
Even now, I can vividly recall the initial incident, the first contact, and can see my apparatus as if it were actually before me. These ordered and yet incomprehensible signals positively terrified me, as there was present in them something mysterious, not to say supernatural, as I sat alone in my laboratory at night. The variation in the signals were taking place periodically, and with such a clear suggestion of number and order that they were not traceable to any cause then known to me. I was familiar, of course, with such electrical disturbances as are produced by the sun, the Aurora Borealis, and earth currents, and I was sure as I could be of any fact that these variations were due to none of these causes, but it was only some time later when the thought flashed upon my mind that the disturbances I had observed might be due to intelligent control.
It was, more likely than not, arrogance on my part, as much as an overactive imagination, that led me to focus first on extraterrestrial causes. My feeling was that the electrical activities of the planet were so well-familiar to me by this point, constituting decades of effort, observation, and consideration on my part, that I assumed only factors beyond this sphere could possibly be responsible for the phenomenon in question.
My character notwithstanding, we did in the end obviously establish complex communications. The torrent of technological discoveries to come will vindicate me on this mark. But it was not without great difficulty, requiring the sustained efforts of my—rightfully skeptical—scientific team as they employed my plan for establishing contact with this unknown group of entities.
For, as I have already said, in the beginning there was no way of knowing if the beings we had begun exchanging signals with were ahead of us in terms of evolution. Their means of communication could have been perfect, and thus incomprehensible to us, or so base and rudimentary as to be likewise indecipherable. It is enough to say that a message from these beings, which might describe a triangle to them, would appear as some other form to us, and vice versa, these differences only to be resolved by time and careful study. So it is wonderful enough—though it perhaps should be unsurprising given our shared ancestral home—that the creatures shared many concepts and means in common with us, chief among these being similar concepts of mathematics and a common geometry.
Regarding their form, I can say…
[Diary of Alexi Alanovonovich, Oct. 08th, 1922]
“Your grandfather is a kulak, come home.” This is the gist of the letter I received today from Mama. So apparently there is now grumbling in the village amongst the smaller landholders about the size of Grandfather’s allotment. I warned them that this was going to happen, several times. Because the unfortunate truth of the matter is, has always been, that Grandfather is a kulak! And I certainly don’t see why the villagers’ finally realizing this fact is a reason to come home.
Mama and Papa have always been willfully blind to the fact that Grandfather owns far more property than he should. It is the Achilles heel of their bourgeois radicalism, this sentimentalism, rife among all the old Narodniki. A romantic, and frankly religious, fixation on the archetype of the peasant father, despite all their talk about women’s liberation. So long as they still get to see Grandfather on the horizon, walking in the yellow light, as bearded as Tolstoy, Christian, smiling, then everything will be all right. No matter that the acres and acres on either side of this lone organism belong to him. No matter the men and women that toil for his benefit. Well…I suppose their opinions don’t count for much now; now that the People’s Conscience is knocking at the door.
Which means that now, on top of my studies—studies that, since translating the first principles of the entities’ science, now seem like a bunch of cretins playing in the muck—and on top of the lab—and the anxious, giddy nervousness that now daily infects everyone there—I am going to get to worry about Mama and Papa every night.
Because as a result of Grandfather’s patrician generosity their tiny lot has always been, indeed was granted in such a fashion so as to ensure, that Papa’s property eternally edges Grandfather’s. And it is not at all evident to the villagers that the little fence Papa put up indicates my parent’s high-minded renunciation of his father’s domain.
Papa is generally well-thought of by everyone, but they also all think he is a bit of a buffoon, worse, a kulak’s son who takes on airs. The kind of man who likes to be seen walking around with a book. When it comes down to it between them and my grandfather, the villagers will not give much thought to my parents at all.
Letter to Dr. Shukov
Moscow, Jan. 13th, 1923
Dear Dr. Shukov,
I must start off by thanking you for your insightful and gracious reply to my last letter. Especially given its seemingly bizarre context, I am doubly indebted to you for agreeing to join my scientific team. I have absolutely no doubt that your help in decoding the signals will be indispensable, despite your insistence to the contrary. Indeed, the observations made in your last letter have already enabled marked progress in several of our projects involving the entities. In the following section I have attempted to respond to some of your questions, with the caveat that our communications with the creatures are still greatly imperfect and prone to misunderstandings.
First, I must disabuse you of the notion that these intelligences take residence in any other dimension than our own. Though they are referred to as “second-dimensional” it is only because they are composed of length and width only, having zero thickness. They are, on the contrary, very much our neighbours on this planetary sphere, being perfectly distributed over the superficial topology of the globe, and also apparently able to penetrate the interstitial space of certain types of matter; the surfaces of our bodies and those of other animals included. Indeed, it would seem that they are omnipresent; every manifest plane, every angle, every nook and cranny, is covered or filled by these intelligences, and may even make up its second dimensional sub-stratum.
From this it follows that they are beholden to the same forces as are we. Constrained and motivated by the same tides, atmospheric pressures, gravity, and so forth, in exactly the same manner that you or I are influenced (though they evidently do not react to the visible spectrum of light). All of this is of course not to say that such forces are experienced in the same fashion. The perceptions of these intelligences are wildly different from ours, as we will no doubt discuss at length. Nevertheless, the natural forces introduce certain regularities that can be referenced, assuming a common system of numeracy and mathematics, even when the sensorium of a being differs radically from that of another. After all, the world is really not ‘optical’ and ‘aural’, (is it?), it is integrated. But reactions of a certain frequency and force (and from them reflexes, and then organs) have developed in protein-based flesh in response to these manifestations.3 In our case, it was the electromagnetic waveform—specifically the transverse sinusoid—that finally gave us a point of purchase for further discourse, but this knowledge was hard won. Most of our early efforts were fruitlessly wasted in attempts to transmit pictorial data according to a mathematical system. It never occurred to us that the entities could not see (or hear, smell, or taste, for that matter, with only an approximate sensation of touch). It is a small miracle that they developed mathematics at all. Even more so that their math and geometry is organized in a similar fashion to ours.
Rather astonishingly, given the absence of a visual faculty, they assume that reality is a perfectly flat distribution of geometric forms, arranged in a plane formation. The vertical dimension, and any forms distributed vertically, are thus not considered a “part” of physical reality, and are instead registered among them as a complex variety of social and ontological distinctions, similar in some ways to the manner we perceive time.
Communication among themselves proceeds by way of electric stimulation, using rhythmic, vibratory pulses to distinguish phonemes, stress and inflection, and can only take place with a geometric form that is immediately adjacent to the shape in question, though, again, their exact understanding of adjacency continues to elude us. Nevertheless, almost all the shapes seem happy to carry messages to one another, and there is quite an enthusiastic culture of metered, and perhaps even chanted correspondences (or at least the electro-stimulant equivalent) circulated as a means of preserving knowledge and directing important messages. In this way, their exceptionally complicated mathematical formulas, logarithmic tables, and other scientific information are committed to cultural memory and transmitted socially.
In reply to your questions concerning the creatures’ locomotion and average lifespan, I can only say that they are not mobile and do not die of old age. In fact they cannot even be said to recognize life and death, or self and other, as we do, and likewise make no distinction between living beings and nonliving objects. Instead, they appear to be functionally polyphagomorphous, by which I mean they “eat” any other forms that they come into contact with, and incorporate them into a larger body. This process bears some similarities to the eating habits of the amoeba, whereby the term is derived, but is crucially distinguished in that each such “meal” changes the core identity, as well as the geometric form and intellectual complexity of the new form-creature. The individual subjectivities of the two shapes are merged, and an altogether new being is formed. For this reason, the continual shifting of forms in our world, the ceaseless action of animal and vegetable life, and the movements of forces upon the Earth, constitute a kind of life-cycle and destiny for these beings, and have been mathematically plotted, much as we have charted the orbits of the planets and other stellar bodies. They have tracked the blowing of the wind, as a constellation of leaves being stirred by the breeze may offer up a host of ever-altering geometric arrangements, and therefore also configurations of intelligence. They have constructed mathematical models of our wars and our marriages, and our trips to the grocers. They have meticulously plotted the motions of our days and lives, as if we were natural forces, which, of course, we are.
We do know that most of the communiques held so far have been with angular formations (line-forms) of various complexities, who firmly maintain that intelligence among individuals in their society is directly related to the overall nuance and complexity of their bodies. For this reason, we hypothesize that it was the geometric complexity provided by the foam-crystal matrix, its proliferating hedration, that enabled the formation of an intelligence sufficiently advanced so as to communicate with us.
As to their mathematics and “flat sciences,” as you call them, their insights are nothing short of remarkable, if not fantastical, though exceedingly difficult to interpret. Thus far, their breathtakingly elegant grasp of fluid dynamics and most of their crystallographic observations have been transmitted comprehensibly, and have already borne much scientific fruit. But their cosmological equations continue to appear as a parade of the most ludicrous impossibilities, filled with inexplicable mathematical constants and models of wholly bizarre shape and operation. For example, in their central account of this type, they seem to be trying to describe…
[Diary of Alexi Alanovonovich, March 17th, 1921]
We are finally seeing the beginnings of winter’s departure. Thank the gods. I am so sick of being tied to the nearest stove, and of coats worn inside. Last week there wasn’t even coal to burn at the dormitory, and because the lamp oil had long ago run out, in the end we were tossing furniture, pictures, newspaper, and then, of course, books into the fire. We joked about it at the beginning, made a game of selecting the most counter-revolutionary texts first, and then debating the relative merits of the others; a hierarchy that ran from fuel to genius. But in the end everyone just became really quiet, and we all just sat around dumb as any cold pack of animals.
But even with winter starting to leave, the early warmth hasn’t drawn out its usual, eager few. In the street outside the dormitory there is a complete absence of scurrying and bustling. The street has failed to perform. The snow begins to melt, the heavy white curtain lifts, but instead of the play we have paid for, all we get are props and set-pieces. The corpses missed by the searches, and revealed by the melt, count as scenery. There are no actors and there is no action.
Moscow has been practically abandoned. Anyone who could has already left to try to find food in the countryside, running home to their kulak relatives so they can burrow underground and suckle at hidden pantries. Our team is still receiving a bit of food. The work we do has been given the same priority as high-level administration, and the rest is sent off to the Red Army, but it’s surely not enough. The quantities here constantly diminish.
I’m also fairly certain by this point that the reports we’re sending to the executive committee are being made deliberately incomplete. Tesla is censoring the more bizarre details on purpose, in favour of the scientific breakthroughs. I can’t say that I blame him. I wouldn’t want to have to pass on some of this stuff either. For the longest time I was sure it was because our whole approach to translating the creature’s messages was wrong. But the scientific principles they’ve handed to us are all accurate, they work. Every experimental proof verified. Which means that the other stuff has got to be more or less accurate too, doesn’t it? Or are we getting a whole raft of two-dimensional religious nonsense along with their brilliant mathematics?
When we first contacted them, before we’d even established the prime numbers or the geometric sets, they sent us a message that I decided to translate just recently. With what we know now, it came out to,
“Are you trying to communicate with us?”
Then something like, “Do you communicate? Are you aware?”
Followed by something like, “If this equals that (if so) then our regrets(?)/our condolences(?)/our deepest grief(?)”
We’re already forced to work under so many layers of interpretation and assumption that it’s difficult to be certain of anything once you’ve received the final product. Every missive from these things must be first transliterated into the correct binary sequence, then re-translated into a base of 10, and then the endless, mind-wracking attempts to imagine what a given force would seem like for a blind man who imagines a flat world. And then the disagreements…
Poincaré, Lobachevsky, and the Abjection of Geometry
Moscow, Feb. 03rd, 1921
To understand the mighty scientific leap represented by the Poincaré/Lobachevsky model of a hyperbolic universe it is essential that the reader be familiar with Euclid’s fifth postulate and with the general scientific notion of geometric parallelism. Stated simply, Euclid’s fifth postulate claims that for any given line we draw through the universe, and for any given point not on that line, there is at most one line parallel to the original that will run through our given point. Generations of scholars, from Euclid to Proclus and from Ptolemy to Vitale have attempted to prove this axiomatically, and failed. This is simply because the fifth postulate is in error.
A child’s perspective on this problem will assist us in grasping the error of what appears to be a beguilingly intuitive theorem. Think then of that time when one was introduced to the difficult and yet elegantly simple notion that two lines in parallel, extended to infinity, will never touch. We imagine in our child’s mind here these two lines disappearing into a perspectival point, the place where, for our eye, the train tracks come together and meet, even though we know full well the tracks continue on to the next town.
What the child grasps here, and what the (literally!) rigidly inflexible axioms of Euclid cannot allow, is the fact that the point seen here in the child’s eye is a real point in space, to wit, the physically unreachable point of the absolute. A point outside of our physical universe and yet consubstantial with it, as with the geometric dimension of time. Most importantly it is a point where these parallel lines do meet in tension with the physical reality of our dimension. A reality experienced by us as if they do not and will never meet. That is, until we are done with time, matter and movement itself.
This is, unfortunately, a rather crude rendering of what is, at its base, one of the most elegant mathematical models discovered in the course of human history. However, I believe that one more illustration will induct the reader into the very first stages of this modern-day Eleusinian mystery cult.
In his book Science and Hypothesis, the French physicist Henri Poincaré proposed a scenario wherein the existence of a hypothetical ‘small’ universe is posited. This universe is Euclidean, existing in a bound plane, and has for its form a flattish disk. Its temperature is 37.78 degrees Celsius at its center and it decreases linearly to absolute zero at its boundary.
Poincaré then had his little inhabitants carry out an expedition. As the scientific adventurers move toward the boundary of the disk, their legs become shorter, their steps smaller, their machines less efficient, and so on. They cannot reach the boundary, and they conclude that the universe is infinite.
This story tormented me for a very long while, as I imagined the implications of such a universe and what physical possibilities that such a universe might harbour or limit. It occurred to me that, first, ‘we’, human beings, are of course the creatures of the fable and, second, it followed from this that there were also, in all likelihood, a stratum of such beings who exist at the level of the second geometric dimension, as well as that of the first, the fourth and so on.
The insights of my spiritual mentor, Dr. Lobachevsky, then allowed me to connect this ideal with reality. For his mathematical elaboration of hyperbolic plane geometry via the Poincaré disk model finally decided my course: Forward! Into the second dimension!
[Diary of Alexi Alanovonovich, Jan. 25th, 1924]
Our movement, for the moment at least, feels listless. Emptied out. Still present. Still present in its millions of pounds of cement and protein and will. But somehow bereft of its most vital directive energy; lost and cycling inside itself.
It’s uncomfortable to think that the blossoming of Soviet power could die with its leader. The historical path to socialism is inevitable, surely, but there are nevertheless those who move history a bit more quickly; those incarnations of the world mind that ride like suns and lions on horseback, announcing the heroic impatience of the spirit. The men and women who, in their very individuality, rise up like ideas, as easily snuffed out, but as sure to rekindle in another form. But who knows when? Or where?
They have put work on hold everywhere to give people time to mourn. The lines to see Comrade Lenin’s body are literally days long, and everywhere there is an intolerable amount of weeping. I understand their sense of grief. I do. But I really don’t think we should be going in for hysterics at this point in the struggle. There is still much work to be done, and much to look forward to. Comrade Lenin was, after all, only one man. The army of international socialists numbers in the millions.
I went down to see him, the body, for a while, until I couldn’t stomach the crowds any longer. Near the mausoleum that they’ve begun building, I found a beautiful commemorative edition of his speeches, put out at a very reasonable price by the Russian Association of Proletarian Writers. I’ve already almost finished reading it.
Still, taken as a whole, I think the most poignant of his theses remains:
“Soviet power plus electrification of the whole country equals communism.”
And it is this, beyond anything else, that is at stake in the work of Dr. Tesla, and in all the science we’ve garnered from the entities. Limitless energy. Imagine it. Limitless energy. To power, and this is crucial, to power a directed vision of an emancipated humanity.
Power on its own, in its inert form, is useless, or rather, meaningless, like the power of a waterfall’s rushing, meaningless in and of itself, trapped in rotating biological idiocy. Just as all the potential force of a rock lies latent in its resting body, waiting to be picked up and hurled. Power must be directed toward a goal, an end.
If Soviet power directs the electrical forces of this country, if, as brothers and sisters, together, we imagine a place for the energy to go, in concert with the needs of everyone, then this place, the place we arrive at, this place is communism. Its achievement provides us with justification for the deaths of the civil war, the men and women whose sacrifice fed the human velocity of the socialist world, by allowing for our survival. This is what will literally power the dreams of our tomorrow: energy directed to a final purpose.
And so I’ve found myself asking exactly what this final purpose is, in terms of energy, in the terms Dr. Tesla works with. Where are we going to direct all the energy that the revolution has unleashed and will unleash? Because what I am coming to realize is that the total, annihilating, ugly truth of it all, the difficult truth, is that this is a worker’s struggle, moreover a struggle that lionizes workers, which is surreptitiously predicated on a certain type of horror regarding work and workers. To sum, we are struggling, obsessed with labour, so that we ourselves will not have to become workers. Our labour-power is directed toward its own annihilation.
Because it is hard to carry generators up stairs, and somewhat ludicrous. And it is vexing to polish glass and oil dynamos. And it is as boring to work in a factory as it is to toil growing cabbages and wheat. It is vile, the work we have to do, and so we dream of using the waterfalls and electricity and the fissuring of geometry to free us…from work.
Letter to Dr. Shukov
Moscow, Jan. 13th, 1923
…they seem to be trying to describe a shift in the epoch of the universe. An event that is theoretically to occur in the same fashion as all the other major phase transitions throughout the history of time, which is to say that we will witness the formation of spheres (or in their depiction, circles) containing the new, emergent laws of matter, space and movement. These enclosures of superior symmetry will expand and collide with one another, much as with bubbles in a vessel of boiling water, until the old era of our physical universe disappears completely into the steam of the new.
Within these spheres time will become spacelike, without preferred direction, as with the rotational symmetry of water, and the events we know as constituting life will begin to obey new laws. In other areas, they seem to speak of the whole universe moving like a wave, one that begins and ends at the same point, or of hyperboloid vacuums foliated by spherical pulses, attached to an infinity predating time by means of stretched, rotating vortical cones.
They describe a surface tension in the proliferating fabric of the universe, one that pulls us back to an antique point in the physical order, as with the restoring force that anchors the crest of the ocean wave, whereupon a primordial timelessness will finally reclaim us.
It is all laughable, of course, but I include it because knowledge of the more irrational components of their discourse is surely to be as important in communicating with the creatures as correct apprehension of their rational meanings, as so with people in day-to-day life, it would seem.
I am very much looking forward to meeting you in person, anticipating our discussions, and wish you the safest of journeys.
[Diary of Alexi Alanovonovich (first section missing) (date missing)]
…the global reports obviously disprove my previous theory, that we are being subjected to some kind of hitherto unknown type of radiation, unleashed upon us by the capitalists. London, Paris, and Tokyo have all been hit, and presumably many others, so I can only guess that this is some kind of natural event, or at least not a political act.
But if it is a biological agent, as the newspapers claim…so far I’ve managed to avoid contracting it, as with many of my colleagues at the laboratory, though most of the students at the dorm have it. I think this can, once again, be attributed to the superior quality (and quantity) of the rations that we’re receiving for our work. It makes me feel guilty to think about it. And yet, still, I never end up sharing any of my food with my needy comrades, despite such guilty feelings. So I should probably just shut up about it. In any case, the lethargy and nausea are consistent with radiation poisoning. But I’m still at a loss to explain the hallucinatory effects, not to mention this business with the clocks.
There have even been accusations levelled against the triangles and the lab, claiming that we’re responsible somehow. The Physicians’ Union is demanding that we be brought to trial for causing over 10,000 stillbirths throughout the U.S.S.R. No one in the party is giving them much credence. For the past several months, all we’ve done is send little electric signals back and forth over the surface of the mass, and the mass itself is just a bunch of crystal in a rubber sack. But it’s a horrifying thought; that we might somehow have caused all of this. Ludicrous. Just the other side of the enthusiasm that the creatures have generated. The inevitable drag of the public mind, swinging back from romance to xenophobia. Which had to come at some point, I suppose. Still, it’s so damn…pitiable…and frustrating…and frightening
Report to the Undersecretary of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
March 21st, 1924
As per your instructions I have assembled all the relevant details, however cursory, that might be of interest as to the events being experienced in the Soviet Union and internationally. As you put it so succinctly yourself, it would be disingenuous of me to claim absolutely no connection between the events and the work of my laboratory. The mathematical and scientific formulas sent by the two-dimensional beings, and later exegetical analysis by my team, have unearthed references that could be construed as relevant. However, in this report you have asked for certainty of a wholly infant science, the earliest findings of the first, true, exo-linguistics, and I beg you to keep this in mind before rendering any judgements.
To put it as simply as I can, the entities do make certain mathematical assumptions in their physical models of the universe, in particular they have provided us with equations that have to do with movement through space. We have received communications that we believe describe such phenomena as velocity, inertia, angular rotation, circular and vortical motion, harmonic momentum, impulse, and a host of other, more obscure, concepts.
In these, much less decipherable, communications, the creatures appear to be trying to describe the growth or life-cycle of space, or the universe itself. They also assert a belief that the universe moves in cycles, an oscillation between positive and negative mass, which will come to its end in phase shift resulting in a sudden cessation of movement. Now by “sudden” I am speaking in relative terms, and would remind you that these equations measure time in its celestial incarnation. The scale of cosmic time being what it is, this putative event could thus occur anytime between now and several thousand years in the future. More importantly, mathematics can, with some effort, be made to represent utter fantasies and impossibilities, which is what I believe to be occurring here. Even if the claims are representative of some level of truth, they describe a process that is altogether out of our hands, and one that is as irrevocable as the eruption of a volcano. I hope, then, that you see why I did not include these details in my official reports to the undersecretary’s office. To my view, they were either the result of a lurid, alien theology, or a description of the inevitable end of all existence and the irrevocable death of the species. It was my feeling that such sentiments were already well known by this country’s clergy, or were otherwise irrelevant to the duties of my team.
[Diary of Alexi Alanovonovich (first section missing) (undated)]
…and now that it’s deepened, and since the more bizarre effects have begun to emerge, I can’t even imagine a cause. Unless of course it is the triangles…but they’ve stopped speaking to us. Perhaps entangled in their own, two-dimensional version of the “sickness.”
So stupid that people continue to call it that. An illness that dims electric lights, and lengthens the day. A plague that diminishes velocity.
Today at work everyone was talking about the whole Natalia Ivanovna thing as the probable “next stage of the disease.” The woman couldn’t even make it up the street to her house. Just kept walking and walking until she collapsed in the middle of the road, wailing at the gawkers that her, “steps weren’t moving her,” and begging for help. Eventually they figured out that they could bring her back to the cantina where she daily collected rations for her family. No matter how many steps she took, though, they couldn’t get her any closer to the house. In the newspaper she said that she probably spent most her time waiting in the cantina anyway, so really it was more convenient. There’s Russian black humour for you. The physical universe is literally against you, so you make a joke out of it.
A Reply to Those Perpetuating the “Triangle Plague” Rumour
May 1st, 1924
(A Public Address by the Chief Scientist of the Institute for Socialist Exo-Communications)
Much gossip and rumour has been circulating regarding the so-called “Triangle Plague” being experienced globally at this very moment. The author of this article responds to these rumours with a direct statement of the unequivocal scientific facts for the purpose of calming the public, promoting public order, and quashing unfounded opinion, so violently in expression at this time.
The first point, and most important, is that there is no “radiation,” toxic seepage, or any effulgence whatsoever coming from the experimental site of the Institute for Socialist Exo-Communications. This can be easily observed in the global scope of the phenomena being experienced, which has in no way been strengthened or accelerated in the Moscow area. Effects retarding the phenomena reported by individuals working at the laboratory are accurate, but are only a side-effect of the electromagnetic fields generated there, and have in no way contributed to the current state of affairs.
Second point, the phenomena are a series of interrelated, natural events, as intended as a summer morning, and should in no way cause panic, though, of course, we understand the sense of alarm generated amongst our citizens. All state organs and advocates of civil order, including the author and the editors of this newspaper, urge the people of the U.S.S.R. to remain calm, and not to repeat the mass disturbances and bourgeois hysterics seen in other countries. These events will pass, and we must show courage before the uncertainty and strangeness that is befalling us all. In the meantime, all available resources are being devoted to grappling with the problems being experienced by the common people, with an emphasis on delivering food and other necessary items despite the increasing lags in time and growth of space.
[Diary of Alexi Alanovonovich (undated)]
So, of course, as predicted, they’ve blamed the whole thing on us. And who knows…maybe we are to blame.
It’s everywhere now, finally caught up with me, with everyone at the lab. Everyone in Moscow, everyone in the world presumably…
Maybe it isn’t so terrible after all, this slowing. Or maybe it’s some sort of punishment, or a kind of balance, for all the speed and impulsiveness generated by our little planet. More than likely it has nothing at all to do with us.
I can’t make it to any of the food distribution outlets anymore, and neither can Anton, though we’re still able to move between our bedroom and the common room. Gregor & Misha have been bringing us food. They used to spend all their time hanging out near the cantina, apparently, cutting deals and buying ration tickets. But it’s only a matter of time before either they’re stuck here with us or they’re stuck over there. It seems that you retain your freedom of movement for the longest periods in those places you traversed most regularly. Which says something about Natalia Ivanovna’s life. And mine. Everyone’s, really. With all that we have in front of us, everything that we have available to us in our lives, it can all be boiled down to these two or three places, the points where we spend our lives in endless rotation. For me, it’s this stupid room, and my bedroom, and I could probably make it to the lab, though I haven’t tried.
Gregor said that they’ve arrested Dr. Tesla, but have been experiencing difficulties expediting the case. So ridiculous, of course, but it’s what he said. He could have been joking.
[Diary of Alexi Alanovonovich (undated)]
The last of it is taking hold. I am having trouble even moving my hand across the page, one of the very few gestures I have left. I can’t stop imagining the quickest of motions brought to a halt. Candle-flame, and the toppling of a cliff-face, or an avalanche, any cascade, air… and what will light oscillations seem to be once they are still? Dimness, apparently, for us at least, and then what comes next?
The melancholy I’ve been enduring this past while seems to be lifting the closer that we come to final stillness. It doesn’t seem as horrifying as it did, if it’s natural, because it’s painless and happening to all of us. Even at their most incomprehensible, the triangles always seemed to be describing a cycle, a beginning to come after this end, but I have trouble imagining it (while at the same time it seems my only solace). Socialism seems so small now, capitalism too; there can’t be politics without movement.
Mama and Papa have become larger, if only because they will still seem real after this is all over. I imagine them, see them frozen in their last, most familiar positions. Mama standing in front of the open door, looking out on a good night. Papa is reading in his smelly chair. I will end hunched over this notebook. Perhaps caught in mid-sentence. Maybe not. In any case, I know that we’ll persist beyond this. For some reason, we’ll still be here.
1 Tesla quote from The Lost Journals of Nikola Tesla (author and ed. Tim Swartz). 2000. Inner Light – Global Communications. https://archive.org/stream/TheLostJournalsOfNikolaTesla/The%20Lost%20Journals%20Of%20Nikola%20Tesla_djvu.txt
3 Savchenko, Vladimir, “Mixed Up”, Red Star Tales: A Century of Russian and Soviet Science Fiction, Ed. Yvonne Howell, Russian Information Services, Inc. 2015. Originally published in 1980 (in Ukrainian) and in 1983 (in Russian).