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Hifuu Club Investigations No.1 - Chapter 3: The Experiment

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Chapter 3: The Experiment

We decided to hold the experiment that Saturday night. I spent the day getting ready for a lucid dream — near-constant reality checks, making sure I was well-rested, and so on; I couldn't make any real preparations for an otherworldly dream, however, until it was time to go to sleep.

I waited in my apartment, a "single-room mansion" that was only slightly larger than a dorm room. I got impatient as 9 PM drew near; when it passed, I must have checked my watch every thirty seconds until there was a knock at my door a little before 9:05.

"Hello, Renko," I said as I led her in. "You're almost five minutes late."

"Sorry, sorry!" she said. "Uh. I'm just really bad at managing my time, in case that wasn't obvious ..." She'd added a black capelet to the outfit she'd had before, and there was a laptop bag slung over her shoulder.

"So, you're a university student, in other words," I said, grinning.

Renko grinned back. "Yeah, basically! So, got everything you think you'll need?"

"Yep," I said. I walked over to my desk, where my supplies were arrayed. "Purse-sized notebook, pen, flashlight, spare phone, and distinctive outfit." I was wearing a sky-blue blouse and a deep purple skirt, and of course my mob cap.

"Spare phone?" said Renko.

I grinned wryly. "Well, I didn't want to risk my regular phone getting damaged," I said. "Y'know, in the dream."

Renko chuckled and shrugged. "It's your money."

"It was just 1500 yen, I could've bought a fistful of packs of gum for that." I picked up the phone, which belonged to a brand called "Absolutely" in English. It came preloaded with a bunch of non-removable Absolutely-brand apps which seemed to exist for the sole purpose of advertising the Absolutely-brand phone services.

"Well, all right," said Renko.

I shrugged. "I don't even know what I was thinking," I said. "It just seemed like the kind of thing where it was a risk that was too easy not to take." I set everything to "mute" so I wouldn't annoy the neighbors if it decided to scream at me, and slipped it back into my purse. I glanced at my watch. 9:06 PM, just like it said on the phone; signs and watches tended to be inconsistent within dreams. "I mean, not that there's any chance it would affect anything."

"Well, that's no reason not to put it in the experiment," said Renko. "One hundred percent certainty is all the more reason to test something, isn't it?"

"True enough," I said, trying to brush aside the gut feeling that it wasn't one hundred percent certain, which made no sense whatsoever. I glanced at my watch again; still 9:06.

Renko grinned. "Nervous?"

"You bet," I said. I switched the flashlight on for a second just to test that it still worked, then deposited it back in my purse. "I mean, this is exciting, y'know? I'd never really thought of systematically experimenting with my ability before."

"I guess I caught you at the right time," said Renko. "I'll send you the notes from my own experiments at some point."

"We can go over them when I show you my dream diary," I said.

"Works for me," she said. "So, just so we're on the same page ... the first hypothesis we're testing is that when you lucid dream, you'll be able to explore these other worlds, see what distinguishes them from normal dreams besides your boundary-power."

"Right," I said.

"The second hypothesis is that your clothes, and the items you're carrying, will carry over to the dream," she continued.

"Right," I said. I grinned. "And the third hypothesis is that any changes in the dream won't carry over to the real world."

"Well, of course!" she said.

I unrolled my futon mattress. "I'm not sure I'm going to be able to get to sleep like this," I said. "Especially fully dressed and with my shoes on. At least I'll be comfortable in my nice clean sheets ..." I grabbed my purse where it was sitting on my desk.

"Well, if this doesn't work out, we can probably just try again some other time," said Renko.

"I don't know if that would help, but all right," I said as I laid down. "You going to be all right staying up late?"

Renko shrugged. "This wouldn't be my first all-nighter," she said. "It'll probably be the earliest in a semester I've done it, though."

"Well, all right," I said. "G'night, Renko!"

"Goodnight, Merry."

The apartment was lit only by the glow of Renko's laptop over by the kitchen area, dim enough that I could ignore it if I closed my eyes while facing away from her.

This was going to be slightly tricky. I needed to drift off gently for the purpose of a lucid dream, while simultaneously wielding my boundary-power for the purpose of an otherworldly dream. I finally got it to work when I visualized myself passing through the boundary between sleep and wakefulness, with the boundary between fantasy and rationality just on the other side.

In my dream, I found myself in a path in the middle of a hilly bamboo forest at night. The sky was full of stars — much more at once than I'd ever seen before, though it occurred to me in the dream that this was probably just because there was no light pollution here. The moon was full, rather than the waning crescent of the waking world, and it was warm enough to be daytime in April, not nighttime. Automatically, as I'd been doing all day, I glanced at my wristwatch, which didn't say anything in particular.

I could sense boundaries of space in the distance all around me, as if the forest had been disassembled and then put back together improperly. This seemed particularly odd, even in the dream. Was that even physically possible? I glanced at my wristwatch again, and realized that it looked very ... vague. Waking awareness began to stir.

But this time, I was expecting that awareness. I gently grasped it, and allowed myself to ease into lucidity without waking up. Immediately, I felt a sensation of hurtling through the boundary between dreams and reality, while standing perfectly still and upright ...

... and found myself standing in the middle of the forest, wide awake.

I looked around. It looked like a perfectly ordinary path in a perfectly ordinary forest of bamboo. Apart from the boundaries of space I could still see around me in the distance, that is.

Well ... that wasn't quite what I'd been expecting.

I tried my usual lucid dream tricks, just to be sure. I willed the night to turn into day; nothing happened. I tried to rise up off the ground and fly away; still nothing. There were a few boundaries over my head, anyway. I recalled a gag from a Douglas Adams book, and visualized the bamboo and hills becoming a uniform shade of pale pink; nothing continued to happen.

I flicked on the flashlight. It was tinted faintly blue, but otherwise looked normal when I shined it around. I pointed it on myself, and nearly dropped it in surprise when I discovered that I was slightly transparent and didn't cast a shadow.

That's when I realized that I couldn't see the boundary between "fantasy" and "rationality." I was completely and utterly within the world of fantasy.

The words "astral-projecting in her sleep" rose unbidden into my mind.

I decided to test what would happen if I tried to speak aloud. Which is to say, I said, "Holy shit." I sounded perfectly natural.

(Renko glanced over when she thought she heard me mutter something; but no, I looked like I was definitely asleep.)

Okay, that left the obvious question: where the hell was I?

I pulled out my phone, which surprisingly still worked when I unlocked it; it promptly lit up with the text "Absolutely: No signal." I chortled.

I snapped a few photographs, then realized that that didn't make a whole lot of sense either. I made a mental note to ask Renko if she'd heard any sounds from my phone in my purse, and then, to quote from the same Douglas Adams book, I made a mental note to stop making mental notes like that.

So ... what now? Well, I'd heard an ancient adage that the difference between science and screwing around was that you wrote it all down, so I sat down with my flashlight in the crook of my neck and started writing in the notebook. "2016-04-04, 10:13 PM - Am I a human dreaming I'm a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming I'm a human? It seems that the truth is that I'm in one reality, astral-projecting into some other world." I trailed off and stopped as I realized that these notes probably wouldn't carry over to the waking world. There was a faint, nagging feeling that maybe they would, but again, that didn't make any logical sense.

Well ... whatever. I resumed writing, continuing on the back of the page and onto the next where necessary. "I am in a bamboo forest at night, still wearing the same clothes I had in the waking world. Off in the distance, I can sense boundaries of space, but I'm not sure what they are. Strangely enough, my phone still works, including the camera. How are the photons even hitting the lens?" I glanced back up at the moon, and felt my skin crawl as a thought struck me. "Also, it is much warmer than I would've expected for a night in April, plus the moon is full —"

My pen jerked as I heard a strange keening cry off in the distance.

It didn't sound remotely human. It didn't sound like any animal cry I'd ever heard before, either. But there was just something about it that made the hairs on the back of my end stand up. I just knew, deep in the depths of some primal instinct, that it wouldn't be a good thing at all if I was caught by the source of that sound.

I carefully wrote, "— and as I was writing this I heard what sounded like the cry of a youkai." Then I put away the notebook and switched off my flashlight, waited for my eyes to adjust to the moonlight, and carefully and quietly started walking down the path in the opposite direction from the sound.

Over the crest of a hill and around a bend, I suddenly found one of the space-boundaries directly across the path in front of me. I tried to make sense of what I was looking at; all I could figure out was that it was just sort of generally space-y. I took a mental step back, and recalled my initial impression that it was as if the forest had been improperly put back together. Hmm ...

I looked around, then sat down and pulled out my notebook again. There was just enough moonlight to write by. "10:17 PM - I've reached one of the boundaries. It doesn't seem to be particularly dangerous" — insofar as that weird youkai-noise seemed more dangerous — "so I'm going to make a prediction: it is a boundary of non-Euclidean geometry, and will take me somewhere else in the forest."

I closed my notebook, and stepped through the boundary. The boundaries in the forest all seemed to jump around, and the one I'd passed through vanished completely. I looked back the way I came; the path was now a lot shorter, twice as steep, and curved into the opposite direction from the one I'd arrived in. Off in the distance between the bamboo stalks, I could see orange flickering lights, like a campfire or something.

There was an odd warbling youkai-cry, and it seemed closer than the one before.

I looked around; there was another boundary just down the new path. I cautiously made my way towards it, hoping it wouldn't take me too close to another monster, and slipped through. Once again, the forest seemed to jump around me.

Or rather, I'd jumped around the forest.

The path forked ahead of me; both directions went up different steep inclines. I sat down on one of them and resumed writing. "10:19 PM - My guess was right. When I pass through the boundaries, it takes me someplace else. Is there even any way out? This is certainly an odd forest, but even with that in mind —" I paused as I reached the back of a page, and realized that I'd just about filled two whole sheets of paper. Well ... it was pocket-sized anyway. "— it seems like it would be unusually easy to get lost in this forest. My phone's getting no signal or GPS, and I've never seen so much natural bamboo in one place before."

I glanced up at the sky. "The sky's so full of stars, too, and I can see the moon more clearly than I ever have before." I hesitated, then wrote down the thought that had been bothering me before the youkai-calls distracted me. "This almost seems like Japan might have looked a long time ago. Did this 'dream' take me through a time-slip?"

There. I'd written it down. I'd successfully raised the possibility.

"Am I in a closed timelike curve? Was Hawking's reversibility of the arrow of time actually true?" I stared at what I'd written for a moment, then added, "Am I completely mixing up physics terms?" Then I wrote, "I'll have to ask Renko about that when I wake up" and shoved it back into my purse before I started full-on babbling onto the page.

I stared at the sky, and whispered, "Magic is real."

Renko had been right. Even though we knew that our powers weren't mundane in a literal sense, we still hadn't taken them seriously. I mean, yes, I'd had a history of strange dreams, and we both had uncommonly strong spatial awareness in our own ways, but the entire rest of our bodies were in the world of the mundane; in terms of what we'd been doing with our abilities, we'd been acting as though we had a shared passing interest and had both independently come up with the same secret handshake. Great-Auntie Sumireko's stories? Just tall tales for the sake of passing on a weird "legacy."

But here I was, with my disembodied spirit wandering through a forest which apparently actually existed somewhere, hearing the cries of monsters in the distance, and going over all the evidence that I'd inadvertently traveled through time.

If this had been one of my usual otherworldly dreams, I would have woken up in surprise by now. The problem was, this was technically an ordinary otherworld-dream.

Oh ... and then I had a sudden insight about why I could never remember anything when I was woken up suddenly: it was because the "consciousness" that was doing the remembering had to return to my body in a hurry, and wasn't properly settling in. I had a feeling that wouldn't be a problem while I was lucid, though; my dream-self was already too "connected" with my waking-self.

In any event, Sumireko's stories were still too strange to take seriously, but the rest of it pointed to one conclusion.

"Magic is real," I whispered again.

The real "rationality" was the existence of the so-called supernatural. The real "fantasy" was the idea that humans had the slightest hope of understanding the universe.

I sighed, wondering how the hell I was going to convey all this to Renko. I wondered how easy it would be for me to just get back to university life; was that even possible anymore? I felt like I'd discovered fire, and then realized that I might accidentally burn down the forest.

I shook my head, and got to my feet. Well, even if a large part of the body of scientific knowledge was wrong, I could still follow the scientific method. Hell, I was going to be a psychologist, my chosen field of study would be completely unchanged even if the discovery of magic tore physics apart. The only thing to do was just to keep on keeping on.

I heard a third youkai-cry from the distance. I spared a moment to write, "I should keep wandering, the youkai are making this whole outing a lot less fun." I'd probably just wake up if one of them attacked me, but I didn't want to take an chances. I cautiously made my way up the hill to the nearest boundary.

On the other side, I found the fire I'd seen before.

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