How many real people are there?

Back when I was a little monster, I was pretty sure that there weren’t very many real people in the world.

Most people were just fillers, walk-ins, extras, robots, like those fake Western streets in Hollywood backlots. It looks like a Saloon in front, but walk around back and it’s just facing, nothing there but plywood.

Once I got a little older, I began to notice that people could change. When I met, or saw most people for the first time, I was pretty sure they werren’t real. After I spent some time with them though, they seemed to attain some measure of reality. Sometimes this was gradual, sometimes all at once.

There were two possibilities. Somebody was pulling a switcheroo “Uh oh, Little Scylla seems to be spending a lot of time with his neighbor’s kid, we better get that plywood cutout and put a good actor in there before he catches on.”

The other possibility (which I later settled on,) was that I was making these people real by spending time with them.

They start off as those plastic can’t-knock 'em down, blow up dolls, and the more time I spend with them, the more they get filled with my energy, and become real. They absorb it from me, and attain reality.

If I don’t spend any time with them, they kind of fade back into the scenery, and no longer are actual people.

A couple of the weird effects of this was that I found that if I got into a situation where I knew nobody, I had to watch out, and take it slow. If I spent too much time around too many new people at once it would feel like I was losing all my energy, all my identity. I was in danger of fading into nothing and becoming one of them.

At first, I would just stay off by myself, but that was boring, and hard to do. The next best idea was to find just one or two people and work on making them real. Once that was done, I could move on until I’d given the gift of reality to everybody.

You had to be careful though. Bestowing reallness on somebody could backfire. If you gave them too much energy they became an enemy, they could actually hurt you!
Once they became your enemy it almost seemed like they had their own energy, and could stay real even if you spent no time with them. It’s hard to make them fade away. If you defeated them completely though you’d get all their energy, and be even stronger. But, if they got you, you could start to fade, and it might take a long time to come back to reality.

Other people it seemed were just destined to remain filler. They never attained reality, or independent existence no matter how much time you spent with them.

Also, I noticed that you could make somebody real before even meeting them. I worried about meeting my father for the first time that I could remember. He’d been in the military, and I was 3 years old. He’d been gone a year and a half in Vietnam, and I was very afraid of this person, that I couldn’t remember. I’d seen pictures, and been read letters. I even saw a Super 8 film, and listened to a reel type audiotape he’d sent me to go with it.

But I was still afraid.

I thought about him a lot as the day grew nearer. I thought about exactly who I wanted him to be like, and what he would do. I thought hard about it, until I figured exactly what I wanted. By the time I met him, I was convinced he was that person. And he was. Perfect. Then he became my Dad, and his reality didn’t matter. We were part of the sam. He was a part of me, and my reality. Forever.

Another thing I noticed was that there were other real people out there. There weren’t many of them, and they were tough to find, but they existed.

Sometimes this was a bad thing. Get too close, and all of a sudden I wasn’t real anymore. I was getting and depending on their energy. Usually it was best to get away quick. Sometimes it wasn’t so bad and the energy was resistable, and I could tolerate their presence for extended periods without discomfort.

A couple of times I found somebody who was both real, and neither needed my energy, or choked me on theirs. This happened to me five times that I know of, and I remain in contact with all of them (I married the 4th, and we merged kind of like me and my father did.)

It’s a long time since I thought this way (having grown up and stuff.) Even when I stopped thinking or believing this way, in hindsight some weird things tended to happen.

Occasionally, when I would go into a new situation, I’d think about what I needed, what kind of person I wanted to be there. I’d picture them, and imagine how it would go. Almost inevitably, I’d find just that person, and things would go exactly as I had imagined. Sometimes this was a bit of a letdown.

When I was sixteen for example, I really wanted a horny girlfriend. I also wanted her to be very pretty, and a nice girl (just a slut with me.) I wanted her to be Irish with stawberry blond hair, skinny, and athletic.

Megan was pretty, Irish, strawberry blond, horny, nice, and in dance school. In my imaginings I had never thought about her personality, and as it turned out in real life, she had none, which I guess was the downside to being able to create people at will. If I didn’t think everything through, the people I created just weren’t complete, or even worse the details got filled in randomly.

This kind of thing happened often, with friends, schoolmates teachers, girlfriends, doctors, etc.

I even read a short story that told me Indians believed something like this. Except they beleived reality was a quality you had to work out to keep. I worried about that, that I might lose my reality, and, like the Indians, I kept a rock in my pocket (like a Medicine bag,) as my reality baseline. If things got weird or disturbing I could focus on the rock as kind of my Bureau of Standards for Actuallness, and consult it to get myself back in sync. I think I had that rock for almost a year. Then I must have no longer needed it and stopped carrying it. I don’t remember what happened to it. Occasionally I wish I still had it, as just any old rock won’t do. It’s like metric and English systems of measurement, or plugging a 6 volt device into a 12 volt system. There were compatibility issues that had to be worked out with the rock before I could use it. Don’t ask me what those were, how or I determined if the rock was good or not. Some I knew were bad mojo, others just didn’t do anything. Others would work, but you neede time to understand there baseline.

I think twice I found a good workable rock, that helped me. Never could hold unto them, and haven’t needed one in 2 years or so (since my daughter was born. Didn’t have the time to go find one then, though.) Neither was as good as the original. Come to think of it it might be nice to have one in reserve.

Now that I just happened to start thinking about this again, I kind of wonder about consistent and useful this point of view actually was (the people, not the rocks, those weren’t that important, just nice to have.)

Though I certainly know better intellectually, the back of my mind (which has a lot fo say in my life, as it’s often more realistic and pragmatic than the rest of me,) says “It doesn’t matter. It worked. It still works. For all you know it might really be true. It fits the evidence just as well as any other explanation, and it actually works much better for you if you operate under its principles, than most other worldviews.”

But the other part of me knows that to far down that path lies selfish egomania. “Don’t walk to far into those woods,” it says.
Hmmmm. So, I thought this would be more humorous. Sorry. What do you think? Do you feel this way? Have you ever? Any weirdness along these lines ever happen to you?

More importantly though;

Let me know if you’re real, or just a cutout, ok?

Scylla, have been reading G. Nome’s pamphlets again? You know you’re not supposed to sniff the ink, right?

Hmm. Well, I have been told more than once that I’m unreal… I always assumed it was in jest.

And the first post is from a guy named Vince the Intangible?

I have wondered about my and others’ realness.

One time, it got really bad. I was put away for a bit then.

But, I live right near shitloads of rocks.

So, I am going to check for any that speak to me, in a little bit when I walk my dogs.

I never thought of that.

The closest I’ve come is to check my dogs when I am in a scary place. If they’re ok, I know there are no vampires.

You know, Scylla, there are medications for this sort of thing these days.

[sub]Attention, all units: the Sol III-Alpha-Prime sequence has destabilized. Prepare to re-initialize; set all memory traces to zero and deactivate all non-sentient simulants. All personnel are to withdraw from the Sol III-Alpha-Prime matrix immediately. This is the Coordinator. This is not an exercise. That is all.[/sub]

Actually, there ARE times when I feel like a “cardboard cut out.” Though, I usually refer to these phases in terms of being a “zombie.” I have these periods in which I feel like I’m just going through the motions with no REALITY attached. It’s something like watching myself do things in a film but not particularly grasping the reasons or emotions behind the actions.

Luckily, I consider this depression related, and that’s (fairly) easily treatable. Or at least it’s only temporary to varying degrees. So the majority of the time I am, indeed, a very real person.

By the way, when I was a kid, I thought football players had to have really big shoulders in order to get picked for the team. I didn’t figure out the whole “shoulder pad” thing until I was about 8. Not as interesting as YOUR childhood understandings, but I thought I’d mention it anyway.


That’s right Scylla, because I’m not as here as you think I am.

You’ve been reading Zelazny’s Amber chronicles, haven’t you? The more a “real” person in is a place, the more real it and it’s inhabitants become.

Please tell me your real name isn’t Corwin.

Couldn’t you have made me taller, for god’s sake? If you had just given me a little more thought, I’d be able to buy jeans that are the right length, but nooooo - you had to imagine me at 5’ 1." Thanks a freakin’ lot.

[sub]Coordinator - initializing departure sequence. Message ends[/sub]

Scylla, if I’m a product of your imagination, you must have one wild one.

When I was small (about 3-6), I half-believed that everything around me was a dream that I was having in-utero, as something of a preview to real life. Eventually, I realized that this was an awfully long dream, and decided that this was probably it, no prequels involved. I suppose that within this theory of my life, everybody around me only existed as they related to me, within my dream, just as regular dream-people have no back-story.
Of course, when you’re four, you’re supposed to be egocentric and believe that the world revolves around you, no?

This reminds me very little of my own theories about “synthesizing reality”. I sometimes wonder if a large portion of reality exists only because so many of us are watching it.

Scylla, the outside world has been trying to reach you. All these “posters” are fake and are filled in with actors in the event of a “DopeFest”. The Truman Show was an attempt to get you to notice and pay attention!

You gotta get out of here Scy… ::gagchokegag::

[sub]::sounds of kicking and screaming getting muffled::[/sub]

On the Internet, no one knows you’re a cardboard cut-out.

How fascinating, Scylla. I have another perspective for you - I am a cutout for most of the world. It’s easier than being real all the time, and it lets me use my energy for more important things. Sometimes folks will pull a little of the real me out (those bastards) but mostly I save the real me for me. My cutout needs some trimming around the hips and tummy…where are my scissors?

Exactly what I wanted to say, and worded much better than I would have.

[sub]Zenster manages to do that more often than not.[/sub]

I never felt so…* alive * untill I read this post, so…* aware *.

Lets get Scylla…take the energy!

I have it on good authority that there are only 500 real people in the world. 'Twas writer Terry Pratchett who told me this during an interview, and I figure he’s gotta be right. Anyone who can create such brilliant characterization with such deep insight into the human soul using just words on a page has gotta know something about what people are really like.

Then again, I have sometimes thought that I have no real personality. I’m just a composite personality of all those I have encountered. But I get to decide how much of each personality.

I am not real. Ask anyone here who has met me.