The Spiral Anti-Thesis

Darci Meadows


Charlotte rubbed her eyes and wondered how her life had come to this. Then, as quietly as she could, she slid her chair back from the small library research table and stretched. Her entire body felt stiff as she checked the time on her phone; two more hours till closing.

It was a relief that there’d be more time to devote to her thesis, but mostly she just felt disappointed she didn’t have an excuse to leave. Surreptitiously, she bent down to sip from a small water bottle she’d smuggled in with her bag. Drinks weren’t allowed in the library but the tiny corner she tucked herself away in was so thoroughly deserted it wasn’t like there was anyone around to stop her.

Charlotte sighed as she tucked her phone away and turned back to the stack of hardbound thesis documents she’d been sorting through. Underneath them sat her yellow notepad covered in citations and shorthand all under the large title “A Defense of Philosophical Free Will by Charlotte Fisher.”

The title seemed to mock her as she shifted the volumes that buried the pad. Her own will had been anything but free ever since starting the project three months ago. More and more it felt like every day had been dictated by the demands of her thesis. This thin, flat, little piece of paper now governed her entire life, her world confined to the dusty tomes of academia amid which she now sat. Some days she worried she’d just disappear into one of these books.

And so again Charlotte asked, “How did my life come to this?” She whispered softly to no one but herself.

With no answer presented, she collected a stack of thick volumes to return to the shelves. That way they could sit undisturbed until another misguided philosophy student examined them and concluded they should’ve been more selective with their major.

As Charlotte navigated the tight space between her study table and the rows of identical books behind her, she felt the stack beginning to slip from her hands. She knew she could stop them if she was quick enough. Instead, in a flash of rebellion, she simply let the pile careen to the carpeted floor below.

Charlotte smiled to herself at the chaotic mess brought about by her tiny act of self-determination.

Kneeling, she began reassembling the books when a flash of red caught her eye.

The book lay alone, untouched by the black volumes that peppered the thinning carpet. It was the same size and shape as the other but much thicker and with a cherry red exterior instead of the standard black. Charlotte didn’t recall taking it off the shelves and as she examined it, she found no information on the spine.

Pushing the mess to one side, she sat at her table with the book in her lap. It smelled old and creaked as she ran her fingers along its spine. The weight of the book pressed against her legs as she deliberately examined it, as if it was becoming more real and solid with each new detail. She could see from the binding that it was made of several sections, each section older than the last, as if the book was being compiled bit by bit through the years. Finally satisfied with the reality of the book, Charlotte laid it on the table and began to read.

The inside cover read “The Spiral Anti-Thesis” in regal font and, in the bottom corner of the page, a note had been scrawled in pen like a margin notation.

“If you’re reading this it’s already too late.”

Charlotte ran her fingers over the black lettering of the warning. The silence of the library enveloped her as the world outside of her and the book fell away. Slowly, she turned the page to the opening section of the volume.

“From the journal of Dr. Anton Chambers, 1993-

My research into the spiral has become all-consuming, just as the book described. Even as I write these words my pen seems to move by itself, compelled by that same terrible force that traps me within this narrative. And yet I do not resist- cannot resist, for this inexorable force is me and I am it; that is the illusion of free will that I once tried so vainly to prove.

Neuroscience cannot FIND free will in the brain because it is not IN the brain; it is nowhere because nothing is anywhere. I realize now that this moment, this act of writing, is all I was ever intended to do. The paper-thin semblance that was my life before this moment is but artifice to facilitate these words entering this story you now read and have become a part of.

After all, if my entire life was leading to this moment, writing these words, then your entire life has been a path to reading them too, Charlotte.”

Charlotte stopped; her own name reflected in her eyes as she stared at the page. Goosebumps prickled across her skin as she turned to scan the empty library. She’d half expected to find someone laughing but instead there was only the silence that now felt somehow oppressive. She turned back to the book, that uneasy feeling of being watched still lingering just over her shoulder as you read these words and scrutinized her actions.

“I don’t know what will happen to me once this work is complete- what does the universe do with the things it no longer needs? I’m not sure I exist enough to return to what I was before I found this book, before I became a part of it. My voice isn’t even my own and I no longer recognize my face.”

The section ended with a speckling of red that matched the cover. A new section began, the paper looking older and more yellowed. The section was covered in equations and mathematical symbols Charlotte didn’t recognize along with a small imprint at the top of the page.

“From the desk of Shin-ichiro Miki, 1973.”

As she flipped through the pages of formulas and graphs, she began to notice notations in the margins.

“Life on Earth is a statistical impossibility.”

“I know this because; all statisticians reconcile it at the birth of our vocations. It is the fundamental truth behind which we hide.”

“We pretend that each of us are free and not simply the sum total of probability in action.”

“I believed that once- believed in the theory of freewill before I encountered its antithesis, another statistical impossibility made manifest. I’m nearing the center of the spiral.”

Charlotte turned the page, scanning for the next bit of notation. Her focus on the book was so intense that the library was growing dimmer around her, fading away into static. More and more the tiny table where she hunched over the little red book was becoming Charlotte’s entire world as you let the library fall from your imaginations to focus on the girl and the book. While she read, the distant words of the narrator echoed in her ear with your voice.

The notation continued.

“The places I go are not real.

They are places I had no reason to be, no statistical explanation for my presence and so they do not exist because they were not made for me.

Doors that lead nowhere, books with blank pages, a world of sets and simulacra. I know where the spiral ends, but I can no longer remember how it began.

Where were you before the library, Charlotte, do you even remember?”

Charlotte’s mind fumbled with the question, dozens of possible answers slipping through her fingers as no definition emerged. She knew she must’ve been somewhere before this, anywhere, but the more she looked for an answer the less she knew.

Did she live in an apartment or a dorm? What campus was she even on? The shape of her world felt unrecognizable as all the believable details that had started her life drifted further and further away under the mountain of implications.

Her eyes fell on one of the large thesis volumes she’d set on the table, bound in cheap black plastic. The title was nonsense, a jumble of letters on a book that was never meant to be opened. Cautiously, Charlotte opened the book, the blank pages inside spilling one after another like a stage prop. She didn’t know what to do so she returned to the book that had consumed her life.

She turned the page to the next section, the final thing she’d ever read. A chill ran through her body as you read that last sentence, as if the phantom force that observed her had changed position, as if the universe knew something Charlotte could only find out too late.

“My name is Conrad Klaus and I do not exist.

The year is not 1923 and I am nowhere. I have no voice, just the voices of others examining my actions, tearing through my thoughts and giving me this hollow semblance of life.

I was intended to be a psychiatrist; that was what the narrative required so it was what I was, just like the statistician and the neuroscientist and the philosopher, we are all trapped by it. Everything we do is an advancement toward its goal, edging us down the spiral path that has only one ending, those two final words that await us.

We are nothing but puppets; our very names a clue to our un-realness. Klaus Conrad was a doctor who coined the term apophenia, I am no one.

Charlotte stared at the page; its words reflected in her eyes just as the words that made up her existence were reflected in the eyes of the reader.”

Charlotte stared at the page; its words reflected in her eyes just as the words that made up her existence were reflected in the eyes of the reader. Your voice echoed like a whisper in her ears as she read the penultimate sentence.

“She looked up and saw the eyes above her.”

The roof of the library faded into blackness as you stared down at Charlotte Fisher’s tiny research desk. The huge eyes that beheld her seethed with interest, contempt, boredom, and a thousand other emotions.

Charlotte tried to stand but she wasn’t real enough to manage the action. The delicate illusion of her existence was coming undone at the seams.

As she looked at her hands, they flattened into paper thin renderings and disappeared into the printed ink that had always been the soul of her existence. The flat 2-dimensional protagonist that was Charlotte Fisher slipped away; words on a page in a book that only exists in your mind as described by words in a book you’re reading.

Only the eyes of the reader remained, staring down at the fading scene where once a woman might have existed, two words reflected in their gaze on the last page of the spiral anti-thesis.

The End.

Darci Meadows is a disabled queer horror author specializing in short fiction. Her work has previously been published in Decoded Pride Issue #3, Cosmic Horror Monthly Issue #37, the flash fiction anthologies The Flash of Fang, Flashes of Nightmare, and Invasion: Dark Side of Technology Volume 2. All this and more can be found on her link tree.