“My calling-name is Kate,” she said.
I felt a momentary flash of anger at ‘calling-name’. Why couldn’t she just say ‘name’? But I had promised myself to suspend disbelief, to go along with it all, no matter how ridiculous. My time would come. For now I was about to be inducted into the secrets of their religion or whatever it was. This was my prize.
“We are all inside each other,” she began gently.
As usual it was to be a guessing game. They could never say anything directly.
“You’re inside me?” I asked, struggling to understand.
“I am inside you and you are inside me,” she confirmed.
“Is anybody else inside me?” I asked cautiously.
“Everybody is inside you, “ she replied.
“What are they doing in there?” I didn’t mean to sound facetious but I was running out of questions that might guide me to enlightenment.
“What you see,” she replied.
“Then what is outside me?”
“We don’t speak of that. You must ask a healer.”
All of a sudden I twigged. She was just playing with words. To be precise, she was just swapping the words inside and outside. There might be something in it, my editor had said. I felt a sudden urge to laugh and quickly suppressed it.
“I see. And my house is an artificial outside?” I could play this game too.
“You could look at it that way. When you wish to be alone, to rest from being within, you go outside your house.”
That meant inside my house, I reminded myself. This took a bit of concentration but I could keep up now. “But it’s only an illusion, because my entire house is inside everybody?” I hazarded.
“Exactly,” she smiled. “Don’t try to rationalise it. At the moment you’re just substituting words. Everybody does at first. Soon you will know things as they really are. Now let us go and put out some food.”
“And bring in some shit to be among us,” I thought, but kept up appearances.
Over the following days I tried to visualise the world as Kate and her co-believers claimed to see it. I was nothing if not thorough. One evening I took a walk a little distance from the village. As I stood watching the moon rise over the distant trees I sensed I was not alone. Kate had followed me and now, in an inexplicable, child-like gesture, she put her hand in mine. I looked at her, but she too was watching the moon. I returned to wondering idly about my place in life. How would they see it? Was I on the inside trying to get out or on the outside trying to get in? And then it happened. In a vertiginous moment I suddenly saw the world in its inverted state and in that instant – it wasn’t anything that could be spoken or written – in that instant I knew Kate’s name. And, for the first time in my life, I knew my own.