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184

FINALIST
Jury Selection

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Louis disappeared on the morning of 6 September. He had gone off alone to camp in the forest for a few days. When he failed to return on the expected date his family grew worried and informed the police. Searches were organized, they hunted far and wide but found nothing, not even his tent or his other belongings. People thought he might have met with an accidental death, or committed suicide, or have disappeared of his own free will, or even been murdered, but none of these explanations seemed very satisfactory. And with reason: Louis had well and truly disappeared from the face of the Earth, yet for all that he was not dead. He had met a Surveyor. 

Surveyors are quite fascinating creatures but the chances that a human could spot one are almost non-existent. They are capable of altering their physical body according to certain laws governing quantum physics (most of these laws are as yet totally unknown to Man) so that they can travel between different universes using dimensions shut away inside them. Our universe, for example, seems to have eleven dimensions, only four of which we are aware of: three spatial dimensions and one of time. The Surveyors try to exist only in these other hidden dimensions so that they do not disturb the established order of the revealed dimensions, and so they are never seen. But it just so happened that this particular Surveyor, on that exact day, at that precise moment, suffered a sudden cramp in his leg and could not help stretching it out into our three spatial dimensions and our time dimension, just to get a bit of relief. 

Louis had just woken up and had begun extricating himself from his sleeping bag and wriggling out of his tent. He was doing a few morning stretches, with his head between his legs and his fingers touching his toes, when suddenly he saw an oblong shape fall out of the sky and hit the ground, yet without making any noise whatsoever. He stood up and turned round. It was a black shape, huge, that seemed to extend upwards far beyond the clouds, but its circumference was no larger than that of a good-sized fir tree. Louis went up to it, half afraid and half intrigued, and placed his hand on the strange object. He sensed something like a shiver run through the thing then suddenly felt himself being snatched up and absorbed into the shape. 

Louis felt himself floating, all around him everything was black, it took him a few seconds to realize there was no longer any air, and he began to panic. Suddenly a bubble formed around him and he was able to breathe again. 
“Where am I?” he murmured. 
The sides of the bubble began to sway. The Surveyor took a few seconds to decode Louis’ words thanks to his multi-universal knowledge, then replied to him in a strangely neutral voice, which seemed to come from every direction, 
“I am sorry, I snatched you inadvertently, I will return you to your land, try to forget all of this.” 
“Wait! May I at least know who you are?”
This whole situation seemed so unreal to Louis that he was not even surprised that he was able to hold a conversation with this thing.
“That would take time you do not have on your earth but which I can only give you if I remove you from your world, with no guarantee you can ever return there.”

Louis hesitated. He felt an impossible dilemma surge up inside him. On the one hand, regret at having to abandon something that was undoubtedly spectacular and truly unimaginable, on the other hand, regret at giving up his life on earth. Then he seemed to see his whole life pass before his eyes. That was literally what happened because onto the sides of the bubble he saw projected some of his memories: his fifth birthday, his first kiss, the day he was awarded his diploma, and so on.
“I didn’t know a four-dimensional micro-existence could interact with me like this! Your world seems narrow to me yet fascinating!”

The dark space around the bubble was suddenly enlivened by the earthly landscapes Louis had explored during his many travels. They were recognizable (the Alps, the Gobi Desert, Patagonia, New York, Rio de Janeiro, etc.) but strangely distorted by the Surveyor’s imagination.
“I’ve made up my mind,” said Louis, astonished, “but could you bring me my tent, because I think I’ll find it very useful.”

So Louis began to live in the Surveyor. He learned that the Surveyor was a creature who came from the Total Universe, a universe where every possible dimension is unfolded, and that his mission was to count, list and measure all the existing universes on behalf of what Louis understood to be something like a government. It was a very hard job and a very thankless task, considering the infinite possibility of universes. As for the Surveyor, he learned that however minuscule a universe might appear, it could harbor existences – microscopic, indeed, but whose every subtle nuance in no way lacking interest or beauty – and that a universe was certainly not limited to its size, the number of its dimensions or of the galactic super star clusters it contained. So he decided, from now on in symbiosis with Louis, that he would give up being a Surveyor and become an Explorer.

Translated by Wendy Cross

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Snowman · ago
Beautiful and inspiring. Ready for more!
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