BY DAN HEIN
“Look out there,” The Man in the Grey Suit said to me. “Tell me what you see.”
It was me and him, alone, in a - I won’t call it a room. It wasn’t anything, really. It was just space. White space, as far as the eye can see. There was no noise, except for the sounds of our body movements, which when heard amidst the vast silence that surrounded us, sounded all the more clear. Besides the white space and the two of us, there was only one thing to see - a red line, drawn on the floor, which we were situated next to. It seemed to span infinitely into the distance on both my left and my right, trapping both me and the Man in the Grey Suit on one side. The other side was empty - as far as I could tell - excluding the abundance of white space, of which our side had plenty of.
So it was that the only two things that distinguished either side of the red line were the Man in the Grey Suit - and myself. How I got there, and where I came from, I don’t care to remember. It wasn’t like it mattered, anyway - this was now, and now, I was here. Alone, with only the Man in the Grey Suit, the abundance of white, and the big red line to keep me company.
My assumption was that the answer he was looking for was not “white space”, so I figured that there was something out there that I was supposed to see so that I may give him an answer. If that was the case, I couldn’t figure out what he was referring to.
“Nothing,” I said. “There’s nothing there.”
The Man in the Grey Suit said nothing. He simply turned around to face me. I tried to avoid his gaze, worrying that my claim to the absence of anything beyond the threshold had upset him. The intensity of his facial expression - which I had only imagined as being there, mind you - compelled me to keep away from it. And though I couldn’t see them, I could feel his stare piercing through my body. It felt like a knife being driven into my system, and yet it didn’t feel like at anything at the same time. I thought I was going insane.
“You see nothing,” The Man in the Grey Suit said, in a sort of annoyed, grumbly tone that made me think he had deliberately left out a “you’re a moron” from his statement. It made me feel worse. I kept looking forward into the distance, still seeing naught but the plentiful supply of white.
After a long pause, The Man in the Grey Suit said “Look again. Tell me what you see.”
If this man - this crazy, insane man - thought that a reaffirming of the question was going to make me see this magical sight that he so desperately wanted me to see, then he was mistaken. Because despite his prodding, the only thing that I could see were the man standing to my left, the red line in front of my feet, and the white space that expanded infinitely forward.
“There’s nothing there,” I said, resolute. “Just whiteness.”
I was expecting The Man in the Grey Suit to chide me for my insolence, as it were, but he remained silent. I gathered the courage to finally look at him, and I was greeted by a face of quiet resolve. He didn’t look mad - rather, he looked like he was expecting me to tell him that there wasn’t anything there - which there wasn’t. I turned away, continuing in vain to find whatever thing it was that he was so desperate for me to find.
Hours passed. They felt like hours, to me, anyway, even though they probably weren’t any more than mere minutes. The Man in the Grey Suit held out his hand. I turned to see what he was holding. It was a shiny blue orb, no bigger than the palm of his hand. Was he offering it to me? Was it what this insane man wanted me to see? I was hesitant to take it.
“What is that thing?” I asked after examining the object in his hands. It’s glistening beauty was beckoning me to pick it up, but I forced my feeble hands to stay by their side.
“This is a tool,” the Man in the Grey Suit said. “A tool which many men before you have used for the purpose of guidance and enlightenment. It is a tool that many seek, but only the ones who not only have the willpower to find it but also the strength to try and find it will ever obtain. Call it what you will. I call it ‘George’.”
He was overselling it.
“And it’s for you,” he said to me. He held out his hand further. The orb, in its splendor, was practically whispering to me. It was temptation to use the orb, I guess, more so than my willingness to go along with whatever this suited psycho wanted me to do.
I went to grab for the orb - and I couldn’t grab it. I don’t know what force on this great Earth was stopping me from doing it, but I couldn’t force my hand to take the orb. Something was stopping me - was it the man? He wasn’t holding me back with his hands - if he was doing something, it was through the power of his mind. Or, that’s what I figured - it was the most logical explanation I could think of, though I figured logic as I understood it may not apply in this white space.
I turned to look at the man. “Why can’t I grab it?” I asked.
“Do you want me to say that it’s because you don’t believe hard enough?” the Man in the Grey Suit said.
I shook my head.
The Man in the Grey Suit continued. “You say that you see nothing out there. Does that mean that there’s nothing out there?”
I thought about his question. “Well, no.”
“Good. I could tell you that there’s something out there, but I wouldn’t be able to tell you what it is.”
He paused. “I know that wouldn’t exactly help you to believe in it. All I can tell you is that something is out there. It is real. All you have to do is believe that it is real. Then, you will have the strength to grab this orb.”
It sounded like a load of shit - and at the same time, it didn’t. I couldn’t understand it, but it seemed like there were two forces working inside my brain, one telling me to believe him and one telling me not to. The proverbial angel and the devil on my shoulders, shouting at each other through my earholes. I didn’t know what to believe. It was all so whirlwind fast inside my brain, thoughts racing back and forth, trying to contemplate the details, the what-ifs, and the could-it-bes. I’m surprised, thinking back on it now, that I had the ability to remain standing.
Through all the whirlwind chaos, I managed to convince myself - if for no other reason than to just to get every thought going around my mind to stop - to believe that some magical object was out there, beyond the red line, and that the only reason I couldn’t see it was because I didn’t believe that it was there. It took a long time. I repeatedly told myself: yes, something is out there, and you need to believe in it. The thoughts that bounced back saying that it was all a bunch of lies gradually started to dwindle. I stopped resisting the negative thoughts bit by bit, until at last I had managed to convince every fiber of my body that something was out there, even if I couldn’t see it.
I reached for the orb one last time. I closed my eyes, half-expecting my hand to stop midway. And it did stop - it stopped, though, when I felt a spherical object against the palm of my hand. I was stunned - I was grabbing it! I was so overjoyed with the thought that I was able to do what was once impossible that I could barely contain myself. I was laughing, and on the inside, my mind was going crazy. Quickly, I grabbed the orb and palmed it in my hands.
And suddenly, a flash. Out of the orb came a series of dazzling lights, all shooting towards whatever heavens were above. Their dazzling splendor, I can remember clearly, was almost inviting me to touch them - but I was so overwhelmed with the emotions of my accomplishments, and simply stared at them in joy. The Man in the Grey Suit was laughing along with me. It wasn’t the laugh of a madman, as I previously thought him to be. It was the gentle laugh of a cheery old man telling tales from his childhood around a fireplace - a happy memory. This man had me here for what might as well have been eons trying to get me to just believe in something that I wasn’t sure was there. And I don’t know what he did, but by some miracle, some ingenious goddamn miracle, he pulled me in with him.
“What do you see now?” the man said to me, after we had finished laughing.
I looked beyond the threshold. And there it was - I saw it, by God! I don’t know what it was, per se - it looked vaguely human. It was a male figure, staring back at me. He was extending his arms towards me; it looked like he was trying to communicate something to me. He was too far away for me for me to tell what he was doing specifically, but it seemed like a welcoming gesture.
“A man,” I said. “He’s motioning towards me.”
The man smiled at me. “Well done,” he said, putting his hand on my shoulder and patting me.
And then - nothing. He lifted his hand off of me and said nothing. I was expecting him to tell me about this figure I saw, and his significance, but there was nothing. My smile faded. I wasn’t filled with a sense of joy anymore - I was just confused.
“So,” I said after a period of waiting. “What do I do now?”
The Man in the Grey Suit kept smiling at me. “You know the answer to that.”
I looked out at the figure in the distance. Like the orb before him, he was beckoning towards me, trying to force me out from my shelter. The answer to my questions didn’t wait for me behind the line. If they were anywhere, they were out there, with him.
I had to ask myself: am I ready for this? And I was skeptical. Thoughts began racing inside my head, but I knew that the only thing that could quell my mind was to reach out beyond the red line.
Slowly, I lifted my leg to the inevitable first step in a long journey to the answers I didn’t know were there, to the heaven I wasn’t sure existed.