Searching for Locks in a World of Keys: Fictional Uncertainty
Yes, a key can lie forever in the place where the locksmith left it, and never be used to open the lock the master forged it for.
— Ludwig Wittgenstein
All is in flux, even under the hand that writes that flux into being, since the uncertainty of the imagined world is a part of this world. Flux always finds a way in. Temptation lies in attempting to tame this flux, through meanderings rather than falls, miraculous preservations rather than tragic ruin. Through a sacrifice of time and thought, readers invest themselves into specific characters, hoping that foreshadowed dangers are perceived and the keys left by the writer’s words are used before dissolving in their hand. Of course, writers often raise the stakes for the sake of the stakes, engineering danger upon danger, with so many ‘Redshirts’ in disguise that only the most word-costly protagonist will make it out alive, at least, until the climax. Story depth levels out into a fallow field. Keys lead to salvation and doom, but keys often open a door into the next step, rather than into another realm. Locks are the rarities in a world full of too many keys, those hermetically-sealed ‘doors’ that lie in every word, the letters of those words, the words before and those to come, the subtext of the subtext and the words that were never written.
How hard I find it to see what is right in front of my eyes!
— Ludwig Wittgenstein
From pulp to Classic, characters are composed of the symbols that fail them. We are composed of the cells that fail us. While human cells regenerate, they also morph and die off, until the singularity of death comes. Words always fail, since nothing can do more than metaphysically point at the hyper-complexity of every glance, every sound, touch and smell. Every single word betrays a character. And yet, every single word carries them along, like the untrustworthy guide through the cursed woods. There is no choice. When characters are already climbing, dashing, falling, squeezing and sliding along the many letters that constitute every page of the many pages of a book, they begin as we do, screaming that they have found themselves in a clutter of vague signifiers, far more daunting than Mirkwood. Keys are only as meaningful as the locks they open, just as words only have meaning in where they take us. A hidden lock might be drifting right in front of a character’s eyes, or looming at the top of Mount Doom, but keys that open things through simply ‘being’ are no keys at all, only devices, quickly disposed of and as common as plastic bottles at the bottom of the ocean.
Whoever cannot seek
The unforeseen sees nothing,
For the known way
Is an impasse.
To give in to the flux of the world would result in a page dripping with ink, words upon words, in an impasto of darkness. Just as the characters struggle through every single letter composing them, so the writer delves into the flux and attempts to find a way to hidden locks and hope the infinite keys of language might open one, if the writer even finds it. All along the way, in every direction imaginable and beyond, there are ways out. Language is a labyrinth with countless escapes, but only through the sacrifice of the story, through cliche and shiny artifice. The tricky thing is, finding a way to remain in that labyrinth. A universe of neuronic stars ignite with every movement of the writer’s hand(s). In that dizzying display in the darkness of synaptic firings, a lock is waiting to be found. The singular key is in those hands, but so are all the rest, ready to find a way out and dissolve back into nothing.