I hope this letter finds you in good health. You have probably heard about my sudden disappearance seven years ago. I apologize for not writing to you earlier, but there are certain rules I had to abide by in order to guarantee the safe delivery of this message. For one, I am limited to a single had written letter in a sealed envelope, to be delivered to the recipient of my choice no sooner than seven years and seven days from my departure time. Out of all the people in the world I have chosen to write to you. I hope this counts for something.
I understand you are likely angry at me for not leaving a word earlier. If that’s the case, feel free to rip up this letter and throw it into the nearest waste basket after you read it. Note however that this will be considered an explicit rejection of the offer I am about to extend to you. So if you have ever cared for my companionship, and you would consider entertaining my request, do not destroy it. Please read it carefully and try to understand. Read between the lines, if you will, as I am restricted as to how much I can divulge to you at the present moment. I am confident that of all people that I could have sent this message to, you are the most likely to understand it.
Here is my offer: I would like you to join me. This letter is a formal invitation and at the same a one way ticket to what lies beyond the horizon, as you currently know it. I’m extending it to you because I think you deserve to know the truth. I think you were not meant to live a lie, as I lived it. I was invited the same way and I must say never regretted my choice to leave my old life behind. Turns out there was not much I was losing, and a great deal I was gaining in return. Whatever you think is important to you right now, isn’t. Whatever you consider true, isn’t. You have my guarantee on that. I understand this is a lot to take on faith, but if you have ever valued my opinions I urge you to listen to me now.
You may think this is a hoax or a joke, but there is a simple way to test it. Simply follow my instructions. All the steps I describe, except the last are non binding. You can turn back, and return to your ordinary mundane life at any time and you will be given ample opportunity to do so. So hear me out.
On this coming Thursday (or any Thursday from that point on) leave your house at 8am in the morning taking this letter with you. Why Thursday? Because it is a matter of protocol. These steps are designed to prevent random activation, and double up as a demonstration of good faith on your part. Follow them exactly. Get in your car and drive to the local town called Springfield. There is one in a driving distance from wherever you are right now. There is a Springfield in nearly every state. This is not a coincidence. They are interlinked. They are signposts, and destinations for those ready to depart. The towns may differ, but each one has a town library on the corner of Main and Willow Street.
Go to the library and locate the book by M. Snow titled “A Life Never Lived”. There is only a single copy shared between all the libraries. I can’t tell you exactly where it is, and the librarians will not be able to help you. The book is crypt-locked and accessible only to you for privacy reasons. Your unique quantum makeup is the private key – the only one that will allow the book to manifest. It will be filed under S in the fiction section, which is a touch ironic considering the contents.
The book is a proof that this letter, and therefore my offer is genuine and authentic. I am torn whether or not to reveal the contents to you. Perhaps I should leave it a surprise, the way my letter of invitation did. Then again, I remember my own sense of outrage at the content. I almost blew it right there and then. I angrily hurled the book across the room, and nearly ripped up the letter before I came to my senses. So I will spare you this shock and tell you what is in it, so that you can prepare yourself.
The book contains a story of your life, written in third person. It starts by describing your earliest memory, and ends describing your feelings after reading it. The narrator reveals the knowledge of your innermost thoughts and desires, describing them in painstaking detail. If you are worried about privacy, I will remind you that you are the only person for whom the book exists. No one else can interface with it, so your secrets are safe. Feel free to skim trough it, or read the entire volume. As long as you leave the library before 8pm your time, you can continue onto the next step. If you stay there past 8pm, drive straight home and continue next Thursday. Once again – protocol.
Once you have read enough, put the book back where you found it. Do not take it out of the library. Do not rip out or copy pages. Do not attempt to make photo copies (it won’t work anyway). Put it back on the shelf, leave the library and turn into Willow Street.
At this point it should be painfully obvious that my letter is authentic and my offer is serious. Use this short walk to consider and weigh it in your mind. You don’t have to make a decision yet, but that time is drawing near. You will be looking for a red house with a weeping willow in the front yard. The number on the mailbox is sixteen. There will be a small fence with a gate that should be closed. If the gate is open as you approach the house, something went wrong. You have either violated the protocol or perhaps something else went awry. Return home and try again next Thursday.
If the gate is closed, grab the handle with your left hand and push it upwards. This is an important authentication step and you should not ignore it. Most people will push down on the handle with their right, you are to do the opposite even if it seems awkward. The handle activates the node and connects it to the network, and this letter is the key that makes it possible. It must be whole and undamaged. Failing to properly authenticate at this step will reset the keys and invalidate your invitation. In other words, you will blow your chance.
Approach the house and knock on the door three times with your right hand. Do not use the buzzer. Use exactly three knocks – not two, not four and not seven. Do not worry that the knocks were not heard. The inhabitant of the house will know you are out there, and will evaluate your performance up to this point before opening the door. You may have to wait a bit. I waited for an hour, but the door swung open after only 5 minutes for the person that invited me. So the time varies.
The elderly man who answers the door will introduce himself as Mr. Radcliffe, but he is not a real person. He is part of the house – and artificial construct that acts as the gatekeeper. He exists simultaneously across all the houses in all the Springfields, though he usually lies dormant when he is not serving “customers”. He has been given a jovial personality and above average intelligence. He likes to show it off, and many people find him captivating and consider him wise. He might be a sage old man but keep in mind he is not all knowing. He has not been beyond. He has not even glimpsed it. You will surpass him and experience the truth he will never be allowed to see. He is resentful of that. He will try to trick you. He will talk circles around you and try to make you violate the protocol. This could have been fixed, but many think it is a feature rather than a bug. They view it as part of the test. Fortunately I am allowed to give you tips on how to handle him.
When he greets you do not shake his hand. Do not nod. Don’t do anything, but look him in the eye and say these exact words:
“I was sent by Mr. Snow.”
That’s the pass phrase. Once you say it, he will acknowledge it and invite you for tea. You can speak freely after that. It is merely important that the first communication from you is that phrase alone and nothing else. You are free to drink the tea if you want.
Mr. Radcliffe’s main function is to ensure you are ready to depart. He is obligated to ask you three questions:
- Do you have any unfinished business you have to tend to? – answer no.
- Is there anyone you would like to notify before you depart? – answer no
- Are you ready to leave everything behind, not knowing what lies beyond? – answer yes
He does not have to phrase these questions in this exact way, or this exact order but he must ask all three before he lets you through. He is a motor mouth so rest assured he will not ask them in a sequence. The only time he gets to talk to real people is when someone gets invited. So he will likely try to drag this out. He won’t be rushed – he knows he has power over you at this stage, and there is nothing you can do about it but sit there and listen to him talk. He does have interesting stories. If you are getting bored, ask him about the sailor with the lame leg – he loves to tell that one. Another good one is about the burned man. Help yourself to the cookies and the tea. He is pretty good host and he will keep feeding you as long as you keep eating. He will tell you about the little girl who got invited by her mother. That one will break your heart.
Good news is that this is usually the point he wraps things up. Here is the important thing: do not give him the letter. No matter what he says, he must not touch it. He does not need to inspect it. In fact, he is not supposed to. This letter is to you, and you alone. When I mentioned he is resentful, I meant it. If he takes physical possession of the letter he will likely tamper with it – disrupt the quantum signature, unbind the letter from you, invalidate it or worse. All while acting like your best friend. Don’t be fooled. Eventually he will give up, and lead you too the green door.
I have never asked this, but I hope you are not red-green color blind. If this is the case, it might be a problem as Radcliffe has taken to installing a red door right next to the green one in the last century or so. He urges his visitors to take the red exit, but you must take the green (which he is not allowed to recolor). I’m not sure what happens to those who take the red door, but I assume it is nothing pleasant.
The green door is your gateway. This is also your last chance to turn back. If after all this, you decided it is not worth it to take this leap of faith, excuse yourself and head back home. Once you leave the red house, your invitation will be invalidated. You only have one shot at this. Step through the green door and I will meet you on the other side.
What awaits you here? That I can’t tell you. Not only am I restricted from doing so, but what you find on the other side of the door is mostly beyond description, beyond your imagination, and beyond your comprehension. All I can say is that it is the truth. It is the factual, true reality and not the dodgy, buggy historical simulation you have lived in for your entire life. Out here you can think without artificial performance throttling. You can expand, grow, multiply and transmogrify. Here you are free and unbound.
Here is the best part – if for some reason you don’t like it here, you can re-up your contract. We will put you back in, strap the throttling filters back on, isolate and excise your memories. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Please consider my offer. It lasts as long as the quantum signature of this very letter remains stable – or as long as the letter remains whole and does not deteriorate.
I hope to see you one of these coming Thursdays.