The Sublime is Difficult to Replifake
Reading time: ~5 minutes
From the Editor: Some stories reach to provide us with an alternate way of understanding. This is one of those. As in Hanarejima's other work, the surreal mingles with magical realism to tell some truths we might not otherwise be able to access. I can't wait to hear what you think of this one.
—Yi Shun Lai, Fiction Editor
You seek out your old supplier, because she always had the goods: euphoric emotions capable of counterbalancing all the torque of adolescence upon your psyche. Raw certitude was your favorite. Like compliments on steroids, a version of affirmation providing existential levels of validation—sheer, cosmic acceptance.
Now in a different stage of life, you need your state of mind to be tipped in another direction.
You meet her at a cocktail lounge, where both of you can flex some sophistication.
“I need something quietly transcendent,” you tell her.
She leans back into the plush cushions of the armchair beside the one you’re in.
“That I can’t get,” she says. “But I can get you the name of someone who can. Though it won’t be cheap.”
“Let’s do it,” you reply, more than ready to dip into your savings for this.
“All right. I’ll consult my sources and get back to you soon,” she says.
With business concluded, the two of you talk about the rise of sympathetic confabulation, intermittently imbibing—her a martini, you an old fashioned.
The following days pass with fitful restlessness. Your heart leaps every time the phone rings, then sinks when you hear a voice that isn’t hers.
A week goes by, and you worry that she hasn’t been able to turn up anything.
Work dulls your mind and senses, taking thought after thought from you.
Then, there she is, framed by your kitchen window, in the backyard hammock. She waves to you, hand reaching up into the sky as if to swirl the clouds.
You rush over to her in flip-flops.
“You have the name?” you ask.
“Better than that,” she answers. “I set up a meeting.”
The grin she gives you from her recumbent position feels auspicious.
Two days later, you’re at the Olsito Preserve, hiking the Porcelain Berry Trail. He’s supposed to be waiting somewhere along its wending path.
Carrying a backpack that holds only a water bottle, granola bars and cash, you move briskly through fresh air warm with ample sunlight. Saturnea speckles the grassy slopes around you.
When the trail crests its first hill, you see a man sitting under a stubby oak tree. He strikes you as timeless, like he’s always here in his canvas jacket, a contemplative feature of the landscape. You assume this is the guy. Who else would be here at 11 a.m. on a Monday?
“So, you’re the one,” he says as you approach.
“I am,” you reply.
He stands up and says, “You’re essentially asking for the effects of beauty without something beautiful to evoke them.”
“That sounds about right,” you agree, impressed by his understanding of your situation.
“Very few people even think to ask for something like that. You seek to quell a subtle human yearning. Alas, the sort of feeling you desire isn’t in our repertoire of synthetics yet. We’re getting close, but mimicking the sublime delights of beauty and wonder has proven trickier than expected.”
“What’s the closest you’ve got?”
He withdraws from his jacket pocket a vial of iridescent orange fluid. You recognize it immediately. Pure awe.
Rather heavy handed, you think. But maybe I can cut it with quotidian contentment.
Perhaps noting the lack of immediate interest, he says, “Alternatively, you can take up birdwatching.”
Really, birds? you wonder.
“Here,” he continues, “I’ll give you these for a hundred.”
He holds out a weathered pair of binoculars. Compared to the likely price of that awe (and compared to the cost of new optics), this is a bargain.
“Until we can fake it, you’ll have to settle for the real thing,” he adds.
“I appreciate the offer, but how about eighty?” you counter.
He smiles, seeing you’re no stranger to doing this kind of business.
“Like you said, I’m settling,” you remark.
“Well, this has sentimental value.”
“Not to me it doesn’t.”
“A hundred, but I’ll throw in a field guide.”
You open your backpack and pull a single bill from the wad you prepared for this meeting. You close and shoulder the backpack, then give him the bank note, which he takes with a certain thoughtfulness, perhaps wondering what you traded to get this—how much time, how much genuine emotion.
Soramimi Hanarejima had this to say about "The Sublime is Difficult to Replifake":
In this age of material and informational abundance, we have almost instant access to commercial products and internet media with the power to alter our psychology. In the mood to laugh? Stream a comedy special. Want to mellow out? Search for a bluesy playlist.
What if we could cut past these stimuli straight to the feelings we want? Would we? Would it be addictive? Would the emotions we pine for change with age? What about subtler emotions, like quiet awe? I embarked upon “The Sublime is Difficult to Replifake” to explore these questions, but found another: Are particular mental states, like contented communion with nature, too nuanced to achieve by artifice?
Soramimi Hanarejima is the author of Visits to the Confabulatorium, a fanciful story collection Jack Cheng said, "captures moonlight in Ziploc bags, and gives us the pleasure of opening them, one by one." Visit her at CognitiveCollage.net