The professor’s laboratory was centered by a walk-in freezer, where he stored his collection of cube-shaped pseudobrains. Each was formed from a mixture of carbon and silicon nerves, equally sized, and wrinkled with pearlescent grooves. The chamber’s subzero temperatures prevented them from storing thoughts and memories, allowing each experiment to begin tabula rasa.

Once these cubes were restored to room temperature, however, their batteries began to whir. They buzzed liked insects as he picked them up with gloved hands, one by one. He liked to imagine that this sensation was a sign of their approval- that they could sense when it was time to think again.

The rules of the dialectic were simple: cubes placed parallel to one another horizontally would always agree with one another, while those stacked vertically would never cease to argue. Once formed into layers and towers, a single thought would be fed into one of the pseudobrains on the lowermost level, which would then begin to communicate this thought to all adjacent cubes simultaneously. Because they were cubes, up to four other brains would readily support any thought communicated outward, while never more than two would be present to oppose it. This made it particularly difficult for thoughts to flow upward through the structure, as each layer spent most of its time reacting to the one beneath it.

That’s not to say that cubes on alternating layers necessarily agreed with each other; cubes on the third layer tended to view the thoughts of those on the first as overly simplistic, as did those on the fourth regarding the thoughts of those on the second, and so on and so forth. However, due to the nature of stacking blocks, higher layers in the structure only ever contained as many or fewer cubes than those in the layers beneath them. As such, despite higher-level thoughts being the most sophisticated, they were also the least supported, and tended to remain isolated from all of those present below. Half-jokingly, the professor liked to refer to the topmost layer of each pseudobrain structure as its “ivory tower.”

That night, he built a simple step pyramid, with eighty-one cubes on the bottom layer, making for one-hundred sixty-five total. He then fed a single sentence to the closest corner: “There is a God.” Then, he sat back in his chair, and listened to the pseudobrains’ electric hum. As they debated, each and every argument that they produced printed onto his computer’s screen. Together, these cubes digitally reproduced the complete history of theology, regurgitating arguments spanning the full spectrum from Celsus to Russell. After forty-two minutes of heated discourse, the topmost cube at last issued its first argument: a concise, compelling proof for the presence of the divine which had never before been written.

The professor stopped the experiment, and the brains droned to a halt. Then he read the top cube’s argument again, and sighed. “I could write a book on all the reasons this is wrong,” he muttered to himself.

Strange things happen when brains are forced to work together.

Some brains have no means of communicating their thoughts at all.

Impossible problems are the norm at the University Beneath Chicago.

North of Reality is an explorable fiction space written by Uel Aramchek. You can receive these pieces overnight via email by signing up here. This is entry #203. Learn how you can receive secret stories via physical mail here.


Glitter and the Glove

As the limo drove us to the Shrine Auditorium to downtown LA for an awards show in 1990, Michael handed me the first glove he ever wore that he made and told me it was his gift to me. “See, Bush, if I can make my own clothes, then maybe that means you can sing for me.” His eager smile and soft giggle told me he wasn’t playing his usual tricks on me, but still there was no way I was going to play karaoke as we sat in the car. As I held the modest glove, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic for a young Michael Jackson sitting in his small Indiana home, pushing rhinestones into the right-handed white waiter’s glove. It was small and flimsy, amateurish, nothing like the man.

The type of microphone, choreography, or mood often dictated which hand would don the glove during “Billie Jean”. But no matter the circumstance, Michael never wore two something that started in the late ‘60s or early ‘70s, when he was coming into his own.

It surprised Michael how the world stopped for that glove after his performance of “Billie Jean” at the Motown 25 anniversary special. He said he owed it all to the magic of television. “I’ve been wearing this glove for years, and now they finally notice it?” The white leather golf glove sparkled with 1,619 crystal rhinestones and was made by an assistant to the Jackson family. With every replay of that clip, the glove became synonymous with Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.”

There were several variations of the Billie Jean glove, including a left handed red leather golf glove made in the ‘70s, before Bill Whitten took over the job and changed the glove from leather to spandex in time for the Victory Tour in 1984. When I joined Michael’s camp on the Bad Tour in Japan in 1987, Michael was alternating the glove on each hand. On the third night of the first leg, however, Michael’s mic which he held in his right hand, rubbed against the rhinestones sewed to the palm of the glove. Michael could hear the static on the tape as he reviewed it, and it upset him. A perfectionist, Michael wanted it fixed immediately and tasked me to figure out how. I removed the crystals from the inside of the glove, and together we decided the glove worked better when Michael wore it on the hand with which he held the mic – his right hand. He never alternated after that.

-Michael Bush

TF2 Go character selection screen.

No one ever picks Bidwell

‘To me, nothing is more important than making people happy, giving them a release from their problems and worries, helping to lighten their load. I want them to walk away from a performance I’ve done, saying “That was great. I want to go back again. I had a great time.” To me, that’s what it’s all about. That’s wonderful. That’s why I don’t understand when some celebrities say they don’t want their kids in the business. I think they say that because they’ve been hurt themselves. I can understand that. I’ve been there too.’ - Michael Jackson, Moonwalk (1988)