The Time Exchange
Chapter 7

Now, I didn't give it much thought at the time, but I was vaguely aware of the two explanations I could use to assimilate this particular oddity. I had already made enough progress with my telepathic investigation to propose that the dog and I had a telepathic rapport with each other and that what I had observed was yet another example of its peculiar machinations. I would have to believe, however, that the dog had learned a lot of English words just from listening to people speak. And then I would have to believe that he could wrap his somewhat crippled linguistic equipment around a question of this nature, something which he had never done before and would likely never do again.

The first part I could accept without much question. I believe that animals possess much greater abilities than people give them credit for. But the second part only led me to a struggle with the alternative explanation which I could also accept without much question, but which entailed a much more disturbing proposition. Before I point out to you what the alternative must necessarily be let me provide you with a couple more examples so that there can be no doubt about the nature of this phenomenon.

My sister's place was in Lane Cove which is about ten kilometres from the Sydney CBD so I was walking around Sydney a lot on my nights off, and during the day. Stopping at a cafe for coffee and a tasty treat became a reward after a long walk. I wasn't doing much cooking in those days so I would also provide myself with a decent meal on such occasions.

I was in Chatswood late one morning when I stopped at a cafe for a glass of milk after a long walk. I loved my milk and I could usually make a glass last half an hour or more. I'd sip it slowly and drone on and on over some of my favourite thoughts some of which required a very subtle degree of mental concentration. It was more of a mood or a feeling I was trying to get into which I could assemble from a number of little glimpses of eternity. I'd listen to the traffic out on the street and the voices of people ordering their tasty treats at the counter. It wasn't a big cafe so I wasn't far from the door or the people making their orders. It seemed like a perfectly normal day to me, but as I sat there drinking my milk it took a rather disturbing turn.

The first odd thing I noticed was the sound of the traffic diminishing out on the street. It took a couple of minutes to disappear entirely during which time the volume rose and fell couple of times, but before long there was an eerie silence out there. I could hear the voices of people chatting as they were walking by and the sound of their footsteps on the pavement, but the sounds of the cars passing were gone completely. I sat there for a couple of minutes checking all my senses to make sure I wasn't mistaking the phenomenon. I wanted to check that I was still seeing cars go by, which I surely was of course, so I began to suspect that I was experiencing some kind of perceptual distortion. But as if this wasn't odd enough then something really weird happened.

As I sat there listening to the silence out on the street a woman came towards me from where she had been ordering her lunch or something at the counter. She was about my age and looked like a business woman of some sort, but I didn't pay her much attention because I had never seen her before, and because I was more interested in listening to the scene unfolding before me. Nevertheless she stood before me and said in a quiet voice, "You're not really alone here you know Mike." I looked up at her surprised that she knew anything about me, and as I began to examine her more closely, she smiled with an air of triumph and returned to where she had come from. She stood at the counter for several more minutes while her order was being completed and then left the premises without so much as a look in my direction.

I sat there not really thinking much about what had just happened as was my habit when something odd like this unfolded in front of me. The traffic sounds returned soon after the girl had left, so I was left alone with my glass of milk which I finished a little more hastily and also left. I didn't look for her when I got back out on the street. I had more or less concluded that I had suffered from a perceptual aberration of some sort and that she may well not exist at all much less be somewhere out on the street where I could find her.

I didn't think much about this episode when I got home later that afternoon. As a matter of fact it was only after several months of this sort of thing happening relatively frequently that I was able to assemble some ideas about how best to characterise it. None of these had anything to do with the possible development of a mental illness which was close to the bottom of my list of likely suspects. I was thinking more along the lines of some kind of wakeful immersion in my dreaming but before I elaborate this intriguing possibility let me relate one more example which I'm sure any cannabis smokers among you will recognise immediately.

Cannabis smokers will be able to relate to this one because I expect that watching TV while under the influence will have been a fairly common pastime for many smokers. They will also agree that the most interesting time for a smoker will be the first five or ten minutes of intoxication. It is during this interval that the psychedelic effects are most evident and a smoker may relish the perceptual aberrations which result when the cannabis molecules first begin to flow through the circulatory system.

I was visiting a puff buddy in North Sydney one evening when the TV happened to be on in the background. A game show of some sort was on, and without paying too much attention to it I could hear the compere coordinating the action as required by a TV show of this sort. My friend offered me a smoke which I gratefully accepted. It would have been my first in a while so that I could have expected the psychedelic effects to be even more pronounced. After I had a couple of puffs she went into the kitchen to see about the evening meal and so I was left alone to somewhat absently focus on the drama unfolding on TV.

I was trying not to get too involved with the TV show when something really disturbing happened. I remember the effects of the smoke were starting to kick in when I happened to glance at the TV and saw the compere look directly at the camera before he said "Oh, look who's just joined us." I found the inference that the compere was aware of my presence so disturbing that I immediately averted my gaze, but I couldn't help listening to what else he had to say which was not much more than a few muffled grunts and heavy breathing.

This may ring a bell with cannabis smokers because I expect that this sort of perceptual distortion is a fairly common occurrence among this group. Cannabis is an hallucinogen after all, so this sort of thing is only to be expected. It is for this reason that cannabis use is such a contentious issue in society with some members horrified that others could subject themselves to such abuse. And cannabis smokers themselves will suffer a great deal of anxiety because experiences like this are often very scary.

In spite of whatever benefits or risks may be seen to exist from either point of view I believe that episodes such as the one with the dog and the girl in the cafe became possible because my body had learned to hallucinate in the absence of any narcotic stimulation. Smoking cannabis had evidently triggered a memory of what appeared to be a natural ability residing within me, and my body was now able to perform this behaviour spontaneously. This is not to underestimate the significance of my relationship with the ghosts I've been telling you about. They had their own objectives to achieve and I was often just a pawn in their game. Let me also point out that in spite of the growing chaos in my life I couldn't help noticing that these individuals behaved consistently, as had been the case since the day I stumbled on the host model and its implicit regression. It seemed to me at the time that I was mixed up in some kind of cosmic convergence involving different levels of my consciousness. I began to suspect that the drama spun around my situation had conspired to bring what should have been my dreaming to the surface of my consciousness where it could enter into a renegotiation of my beliefs about the world.

Now, I won't deny that I'm probably atypical in this regard, but I remember a lot of things from very early in my childhood. I remember a time long ago when there was no discernible difference between my dreaming and my waking which was as dreamy as this time must be for all of us. Consciousness undoubtedly dwells in a half light at this time of our lives which is not to say that it isn't filled with light but that it's a state consisting of both waking and dreaming. This may not be a particularly surprising thing to say, but what may be surprising in my case is that I remember quite a lot from this time.

I remember dreaming of the nursery room very early in the morning. I found the half light particularly spellbinding and I would relish the perfect stillness of the room at this time of day. I remember I was able to examine the room in great detail and I paid close attention to the window where the light was most dramatic. Looking back on a memory such as this and with the benefit of hindsight I'm able to infer that I was dreaming at this time because of the mobility of it. An infant in a crib just wouldn't be able to view the room like this.

My dreams weren't confined to the nursery room, of course, or even to the locality of the house where my family was living at the time. I was dreaming of countless other places as well but the only ones I can remember now were of quite country dawns. I remember visiting old rustic country houses and rusting derelicts all of which were united by the common theme of being dreams of a perfectly still early country morn.

I was a prolific dreamer when I was very young and I have many fond memories of this time, but when I got to the age of about four it gradually began to dawn on me that I just couldn't do this anymore. Quite suddenly I realised that I was confined to the house I was sharing with my family, and I remember making a deliberate mental note to remember what it was like before. I didn't actually do much about rehearsing my memories of this time, but just making a mental note about it was enough to remind me throughout the following years that once long ago I was an infant dreamer.

Needless to say my wings were clipped by the time I started school about a year later. I was becoming quickly socialised into a group which had no particular use for one with dreaming skills, but my dreaming still had a way of getting through to me. And I'm not talking about the ordinary dreams which everyone has, and which I also have in abundance. I'm talking about special dreams, dreams in which you wake up in the place you've been dreaming about, although to be honest not counting those times it happened when I was an infant this has only happened to me once.

I was about ten years old and it was winter, so it would have been the winter of 1966. I remember it was winter because my father had the gas heater on in the living room where I woke up. I had gone to bed at about half past seven which was normal for a ten year old in those days. My father was an accountant who frequently brought his work home, so he was often up late working on his sums when everyone else was asleep, and the house was perfectly quiet.

It wasn't an ordinary dream so much as a strange tactile obsession which had captured my attention. I was exploring a tactile surface with my fingers, and I call it a dream because I was asleep in bed when it happened. It wasn't the first time I had this dream either, but this was the first time it had this surprising conclusion. It was a rough and spongy surface which may have been wet, and my brow furrowed as I tried to make sense of it. On this occasion my sense of the surface grew until I recognised the fabric of the armchair in the living room, and it was at about this time that I woke up somewhat dazed across the room from where my father was working.

The chair was a little behind his, so my father had to turn before he said "Oh, hi Mike. I didn't hear you come in."

The room had two glass doors which my father had closed to contain the warmth from the gas heater, and they made a distinctly clunky noise when either opened or closed, so his surprise was only to be expected.

Now, it is very likely that most of you will want to doubt the truth of a report like this. I won't doubt that waking up in the place you've been dreaming of is a very uncommon experience, but try to look at it from my point of view. My memory of this occasion is quite clear, and in spite of the apparent oddity of this the logic is water tight, so I find it very difficult to contradict my beliefs about the matter. I expect your best contradictory argument would have me sleepwalking into the room somehow. But let me assure you that there were only two ways to get into this room, either through the rattling glass doors behind where my father was sitting, or from the dining area which would have been in my father's line of sight.

If you happen to be struggling to give credence to my account of this incident then you'll just have to reassure yourself that I am a maverick thinker, and leave it to some future age to make sense of such unlikely things. In any case much of what follows depends on my adoption of this premise, so you'll just have to make the most of your objections at this point in my story and struggle on as best you can.

In spite of whatever your particular beliefs may be, in terms of my own experience it goes a long way toward explaining a lot of the odd things I saw and heard during the early days of my psychosis to suppose that I could wake up in a world which subtly differs from the one I went to sleep in. I'm talking about a world in which cosmic identities intersect with the lives of individuals, and where a conscious individual can encounter the dreams of others, but before I leave this cosy childhood scene let me tell you about another sequence of events which may have begun here.

I had a very happy childhood, my home life was always secure and my parents were very supportive of my siblings and myself. I don't remember any of my siblings getting special treatment from my parents, but at some point in my childhood my father started calling me "The Great Miko!" whenever I did anything idiosyncratic which was often enough for such occasions to register in my memory. I don't remember the emergence of this behaviour clearly, but it was nevertheless very distinctive perhaps because I could never grasp what the dickens he was talking about. I assumed it was some kind of compliment but what exactly he was complimenting always remained a mystery to me.

Many years later when I became embroiled in the details of the story I'm telling you here I began to suspect that my father was involved in a secretive conspiracy to entangle me in the practicalities required by the emergence of the host model theory. In view of the potentially historic nature of the host model and the seemingly orchestrated cacophony swirling around me I thought there may be a good chance that all of this had already been planned. There were two alternatives I had to consider. Either members of my immediate ancestral family were in cahoots with some level of the British government (my father was a post-war British emigrant), or I had to entertain some giddy speculation about the ghostly presence I had been consorting with. I decided it would be better for my health to blame my family for my predicament, but I couldn't ignore the alternative hypothesis looming largely over every step I took.

Throughout the many difficult years which followed my development of these suspicions my father's "Great Miko" adulation was at the heart of them. But when in the fullness of time my father passed away without so much as a whisper of any grand family plan I had to reconsider my position. I now believe that my father thought of my silent entry into the living room that winter's night as an act of prestidigitation, in which case his "Great Miko" reference drew regard to an entertainer of some sort such as a magician or a circus performer. Either way something mystical happened to me that night and my father's surprise and subsequent adulation reassure me of this.

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