A signed card changes. Or, more exactly, the universe changes around a signature.
It's a Friday evening.
"If I tell you something, do you promise not to think I'm crazy?" I ask.
"Too late," she says.
"I'm serious. This is going to sound weird but I want you to experience it. Do you know about the idea of parallel universes? Okay, well do you know about the idea of a multiverse? It can mean different things but one of the ways of thinking about it is that there isn't just one or a few different universes, but an infinite number of universes. And at each moment, each universe is splitting off into another infinite set of universes, leading to new moments that themselves split into an infinite number of pathways. It's like an infinite number of branches coming off a tree, and an infinite number of branches coming off each branch, and an infinite number of branches coming off of those branches, and so on." As I talk I draw something simple to illustrate the idea.
"Every possibility for your life is happening somewhere. And that doesn't even begin to address all the universes you don't even exist in, where your parents never met. It's too overwhelming to even begin to grasp."
"So let's just think of this moment and this universe before it splits. Going forward from this moment there are an infinite amount of universes that will split off. Later tonight, in one of these universes, we're going to run off to the justice of the peace and get married. That's sweet. But also, in one of these split universes you're going to kill me. And in one of them I'm going to kill you. That's not so sweet."
"Have you ever had a decision to make, and you know you should go with one option because it's the best for you but you find yourself following a different path? Well, you just happen to be in the universe where you follow that path. Don't beat yourself up about it. There was nothing you could do about it. Well... kind of."
"Let me show you. I'm going to make a decision that's going to split this universe. It's a decision about what I'm going to do this weekend. The options I've given myself are to do something evil or something good. I want you to snap your fingers and at the moment you do I'm going to choose one of those courses, and when I do this universe will split along those two paths. I want you to really remember this moment and everything that happens going forward. Now, take a deep breath then snap your fingers." She does. "And with that, the universe has split again. I've chosen to do something evil this weekend, so we're on that timeline. The other universe, where I chose to do something good, is spiraling away from us somewhere. Here, let's do something to help us keep track of things." I grab a deck of cards. "Is there a card in the deck that seems evil? I mean, like it could represent the dark-timeline that we're on."
"Hmmm.... the ace of spades?" she says.
"Yeah, that will work, let me find it. Okay, here it is, the ace of spades. Sign your name on the back. Also we need one more piece of information. We need a Constant. Something personal to you, but something that would be the same in any of the universes that led to you being here today. Is there a word or a number that has a special meaning to you? Like if I said, 'What's the most important word or number in your life,' is there something that immediately comes to mind?"
"Yes," she says. "The number 26."
"And what does that mean to you? Actually, don't tell me, it's none of my business. But that's not just a random number you're picking, right? And it's not a number that comes to your mind from anything that happened in the past few minutes or anything? The 'you' that woke up this morning would always answer '26' to what's the most important number to you?"
"Great. Write 26 under your name."
She does. I take the card, fold it into quarters and have her put it in her pocket.
"Let's get out of here," I say. We leave my apartment and start walking a couple of blocks to a US Mail box.
"What's something evil I can do tomorrow?"
"I don't know," she says. "You could hit someone."
"Huh? That's not really evil. That's just bad."
"Okay, good idea. I'll kill that kid who lives next door to me. Ryan. I'll sneak into his window tomorrow night and slice his neck open from ear to ear. Then I'll cut his head off his body and put it in the toilet tank. I'll take his body back with me and then take a bunch of pictures with it in funny poses and post them to his mom's facebook. Then I'll sell his body to a pedophile on Craigslist."
"Ooooooookay," she says, taking a step away from me.
When we get to the mailbox I pull a piece of paper and an envelope out of my back pocket. I ask her for her mailing address and write it on the envelope. I turn the envelope over and write "26" on the back. Then on the sheet of paper I write the following:
I am going to kill my neighbor Ryan and desecrate his corpse.
This was all my idea. I take full responsibility for my actions.
I give her the letter and envelope and don't touch it again. I tell her to read the letter, fold it, and put it in the envelope, and seal it. I give her a stamp to put on the envelope. I say, "Okay, this part might not work, but I want you to put a little tear in the envelope. Just a small one, but somewhere that feels right." She puts a tear in the envelope on the right-hand side, just above the bottom corner. I tell her to drop it in the mailbox. She does and we start walking back.
"After the shit goes down this weekend, it may come out that we were hanging out tonight and I don't want anything to come back to you. So now you'll have that letter as evidence that you had nothing to do with it. And because you won't get it until after I do the deed, it's not like you could have stopped it in any way."
We step inside a corner store on the way home and I buy a box-cutter.
When we get back to my apartment I explain that I'm not kidding. This is really going to happen tomorrow. But not to feel bad because that just happens to be the timeline we're in. Then I explain that there's another universe out there where we are having the inverse evening. Where I'm still talking with her about the multiverse but in that universe I made the decision to do something good this weekend. "What type of thing do you think you would have suggested I do in that universe?" I ask.
"Hmm... maybe volunteer at an animal shelter."
"That's nice," I say. "Too bad for this universe's Ryan that he's not in that universe. This is pretty weird so far, yes?" She agrees. "Okay," I say, "It's about to get a little weirder. Here's the thing I've discovered. I can send my consciousness out from the universe in the timeline I'm on, and into the universe that's on the timeline I want to be on. And I can take you with me. All we need is a Constant, and that's the number 26 on the back of that card. You told me that's the only number that would have come to mind if I asked you to think of the most important number to you. So that's also the same number that would have come to your mind after the split in the good universe. And because there's that overlap, I can send us into that reality. It's really easy. It's just done with visualization. Give me your hands. Close your eyes and don't open them until I tell you."
After a few moments I tell her to open her eyes. I look around a bit and say, "It didn't work. Let's try again. Close your eyes. This time I'll talk you through what I'm doing."
"I start by visualizing the number 26 in your pocket. Then I scan forward along this timeline to see myself killing Ryan. Now I zoom out from that image. Way, way out until it's just a speck, and my consciousness is just floating in the void. Now I zoom in on the image of myself doing something good this weekend instead. And I shift my thoughts back along that timeline to the number 26 in your pocket again. Now open your eyes."
I look around and think a little to myself.
"Yup. It worked. We're in the good timeline."
"How do you know?" she asks.
"Well, I know because when I think about what I'm going to do tomorrow, it's not killing Ryan. So clearly we're no longer on the dark timeline."
"So you just changed your mind," she says.
"Hmmm... no. It's not that. How can I explain this... Remember when you snapped your fingers earlier and we started out along the evil timeline? Well, we did a bunch of stuff after that. You wrote your constant on the back of a card to represent the timeline we were on. We went outside, sent a letter, and so on. Well that all happened in a different universe. I'll show you. I forget, what card is in your pocket?"
"The ace of spades."
"No. I mean, yes, that's true, in the other universe. But we're in the good one now. And in this one you would have chosen a card to represent the good timeline. In the other universe, you chose the ace of spades to represent the bad timeline, so in this one probably the ace of...?"
"Yeah, probably. Take a look."
She reaches into her pocket, removes and unfolds her signed card. It's now the ace of hearts.
"No way. No way! How did you do that?"
"Well, you see, there's a multiverse..."
"No, really, how?"
"I'm serious! We're in a different universe now. There hasn't been time for much to change since the moment you snapped your fingers, but you'll definitely spot a few differences in what has transpired since that time."
As I'm talking I unroll the plastic bag that held the boxcutter I bought. And in it's place I remove a Snickers bar, tossing the obviously empty bag on the table. I unwrap it and take a bite.
"You're looking at me funny," I say. "Do you want a bite?" I offer her the candy bar. She scratches her head.
"The best part is, now that you know how to do this, you can use it. In every possible version of your life that you can imagine going forward you will have had this experience. So in each of those universes you will have that playing card. It's your Constant going forward. Whenever you have a choice between two things, and there's a choice you know is right but you're tempted to take the other path, just shift yourself into the timeline where you make the right choice. It's very easy. You just visualize the card, then visualize the action you don't want to take and zoom out from that action into the void. Then you zoom into the action on the timeline you do want to take. Then scan from that mental picture to this card on that timeline. And you'll find yourself there. I promise it works. And if it doesn't just try it until it does."
She looks at the card. "My head is spinning," she says.
A few days later she gets home from work and is sorting through her mail. She finds the envelope she mailed that night with the 26 on the back and the tear she made in it. She opens it and inside the letter says:
I am going to volunteer at the animal shelter this weekend.
This was all your idea. I give you full credit for my actions.
She texts me a picture of the letter and writes, "I have no words for this..."
I text back. "Oh yeah, I forgot to thank you for the idea, it was a blast." And I attach a picture of me and Maggie the dog from the Brooklyn Animal Resource Coalition that I volunteered to walk and spend time with that weekend. We're in front of my apartment and Ryan is holding the leash, both have big smiles on their faces.
The card: A cull to bring the "opposite" of whatever card she names as the evil card to the top of the deck, above the card she named. Then a couple double lifts to convince her she's signing the back of a card she really isn't.
The boxcutter: Nobody knows what's coming. You swap bags in your jacket pocket. It's 20 minutes later before they even know there was anything to suspect.
The letter: You write a second letter after she leaves, putting the same "Constant" on the back and tearing it where she tore it.
Ah, but what happens to the original letter you sent? Do you have to camp out at her apartment and try and intercept it before she gets it? No. The genius part is that that letter disappears.
Okay, let me thank Alvo Stockman/Acar Altinsel. First for inspiring the effect above with his effect, Postmentalism. And second for giving me the okay to briefly describe the method for that effect in this blog post, which he did with no hesitation at all. In the all-too-few releases Acar as Alvo Stockman has made available, he has shown a very similar esthetic to mine. So if you like the stuff I write about, you should check out his effects. If nothing else you should definitely pick up Postmentalism which will give you the main tool you need to perform an effect like the one above, or Alvo's brilliant use of it as part of a mailed prediction.
So here's what happens. You do this effect on a Friday or Saturday night, or whenever you know the mail won't be picked up from the mailbox the following day. Your friend really does put the letter you wrote in an envelope with her address on it and really does drop it in the mailbox. And it really does disappear. You see, the letter, the address, the Constant on the back, all of it is done with a pen that writes with disappearing ink. By the time the mail is picked up on Monday, there is nothing for the postal service to deliver. It's just an empty envelope with a blank sheet of paper inside.
1. You want to use paper that the pen doesn't leave a deep impression on. Check out Postmentalism for more tips on this. You don't want some hero postal worker trying to make out the address and delivering it to the person along with your second letter. Or worse yet opening it up and finding the faint impression of someone threatening to murder a little boy.
2. Don't drop the second letter in the same mailbox. Again, just in case there is some curious postal employee who goes out of her way to associate the two pieces of mail together and ends up delivering the blank one along with the written one.
Thanks again, Acar!
The mind: The stuff about using this experience to make better decisions going forward isn't completely jive. I mean, I'm hyper-rational, but it would be hard to deny that if you visualize zooming out from a poor choice of action and zooming in on a positive one, and you continue to do this then you're going to be more likely to choose the positive course than you would have been without that same visualization. And you can you the same logic from the post yesterday to encourage your spectator to take this technique with them and use it. "Look, you can choose not to believe me and not employ the technique and we will be able to say for sure that you definitely aren't capable of hopping into the timelines where you take the action you'd like yourself to take. Or you can go along with what I'm saying and believe you have this capacity, and whenever you're faced with a decision you use this technique to shift into the timeline where you make what you know is the better choice. And if you always do that then, at the end of your life, you will be able to look back on your life and see it as a series of choices where --from this moment onward-- you always picked the most beneficial, least self-destructive option. And then it's completely academic if it's real or not. Either you lived in one universe, always making what seemed to be the best choice at the time, or you skipped from universe to universe ending up in the one where you made the best choices throughout your life. From your perspective, there's no difference."