Ottilie was not an angel, despite firsthand testimony to the contrary. The eyewitnesses weren’t liars, mind you, they accurately relayed what they saw; they simply hadn’t seen the event in its entirety. Blame it on the limitations of sight from three-dimensional eyes.
As a child, she was fun and full of life, enthusiastic and excited about everything. Blessed with a contagious personality, an infectious laugh, and vivid imagination, she was always in the middle of trying to sort out an illusory problem, usually some trouble she had unwittingly started, running two steps ahead, dragging me and explaining the faux pas while we ran from invisible monsters.
As we grew older, the monsters never stopped chasing her.
Ottilie was never satisfied. Born fortunate and afforded comforts most would have killed for, my sister always yearned for more. Not to have more, but to be other than what she was. Something less limited. In fact, that was a bone of contention between us. She never grasped how I was so contented with my lot and the finiteness of my existence. I tried to explain I had two lives, my own and the one I lived vicariously through the connection we shared; that bond that was more than just mere telepathy, shared consciousness or psychic rapport.
To me, it was far better to be the only ugly entity in a world of beauty rather than the reverse. From my vantage point, whenever I looked out into the world, all I’d ever see would be splendor. And that was what it was like sharing Ottilie’s mind. I tried to present this as eloquently as possible, but somehow her thirteen and a half minute head start in life granted her a gift of expression that I lacked and allowed her to brush my reasoning away with weary disinterest. I never held it against her, though. I knew I had the better view.
Sadly, what made her beautiful to me, made her dangerous to herself. She realized early on what her life could be and her mind would not, could not, allow this world to be enough, so she contemplated and calculated for days on the best way to escape. And those days blossomed into months and those months matured into years. A lifetime of limitation, combined with therapy and drugs—both prescription and street—wore down the tread of her spirit.
To everyone else, she was a woman of secrets and it bothered her that she couldn’t keep those secrets from me. I told her I would never discuss it with anyone and I never did, but she didn’t believe me.
In drugs, she finally found a way to shut me out. Her mind became a shattered prism refracting pieces of wailing mayhem in the blindness. My first and only choice for a sister and best friend became little more than a stranger to me. A clouded reflection trapped beneath a layer of ice too thick for my thoughts to penetrate. For the first time in my life, I truly understood the meaning of the word loneliness and I thought what did I do that could have led to this?
Among the things she dabbled in, philosophy, inventing, and mathematical architecture, Ottilie was not a busker. Yes, she performed in the park, but not for money, merely for her own sanity. I visited her most days when time allowed. I wasn’t quite sure she knew I was there most times. Except for the last time I saw her perform.
On that particular afternoon, the old spark had returned to her eyes. I knew instantly she was off her meds because I felt her consciousness tickle the outer fringes of my mind. Not like it used to be, her thoughts were close yet somewhat far away but I didn’t care. I had been alone in my head for so long I’d gladly accept any crumb or morsel thrown my way, and this was the first time since we were children that I had seen her approach anything near the neighborhood of happiness. She could barely contain her excitement when she told me she finally figured it out.
“Harmonics!” she said, as she danced and twirled around me like a pavement ballerina. “The answer was there all along, hidden in plain sight, staring me in the face, and now I’ve worked out the formula!”
She sat me down on a park bench and sang for me, or rather she sang to me and for herself. Her voice was divine, unmatched; a summer breeze through crystal chimes. People were drawn from their workaday existence. They formed a circle around us, unable to turn away from Ottilie, who sang of theories, both superstring and Bosonic, of manifolds and fractals, octonions and triality, as she strummed vector chords of coordinate geometry on a second-hand acoustic six-string.
What the throng of spectators saw was Ottilie being lifted into the air; her toes brushing the top of the manicured grass as her skin turned a tone so soft and unearthly to the eye that the color defied description, yet radiating like so many suns. The light that enveloped her made all other light seem dark in comparison, for the briefest of moments, before she popped completely out of existence.
What they hadn’t seen was the enormousness her frail frame acquired—probability, enfolded symmetry, phase space—as she ascended dimensions. Her song had given her the freedom she desired all her life and carried her onward and onward until she encountered a barrier that prevented her progress. Thinking quickly, she changed the tone of her song. She no longer sang for herself, she sang for the barrier and what lie beyond. Flattering it with melody, requesting an audience.
That was when a pinhole opened in the outer barrier of everything, allowing the omniverse to kiss my sister. She knew in that instant it was not what she wanted. She tried to flee, but the feverish rush of knowledge feasted on her being without mercy. She suddenly understood everything that was meant to be understood, as well as all the bits that weren’t. This tremendous understanding allowed her to spy the surface of a giant puzzle that contained the ultimate ensemble of every conceivable information pattern, as it was about to be solved.
But she simply couldn’t endure her brief exposure to timelessness. Her bones popped, limbs twisted and organs reformed as she was purged from the omniverse; stripped of her personal dimensionality and the many unnecessary facets of humanity attached to them. Layer by layer. Until all that remained was her core self, a small and insignificant thing that lost all depth, width and finally length, as they imploded within her.
Ottilie was not an angel, but I allowed people to think she was, as I combed the park grass daily, searching for my sister who called out in my mind telling me she wanted to be other than what she was—a zero-dimensional entity.
Text and Audio ©2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys