Derek awoke from a dream and realized with a sickening lurch that the world he lived in was not real. It seemed real enough—the shadows casting off the walls, the steady ticking of the clock, the memories of his ex's tongue in his mouth—but it was all lies. He knew the Greeks—were there Greeks?—had had a word related to this, gnosis—inner knowledge—and that there was a philosophical term for it too—solipsism. Derek took refuge in cogito ergo sum: he thought, therefore he was real. Derek knew that much at least.
Why did he believe the world was fake? Derek asked himself this. In college he had majored in philosophy—"love of knowledge"—and he felt—not saw, but felt, what he could only describe as the Lurch, capital-L, like the christian God, or a german Noun. Everything Derek looked at—he decided he should think more scientifically, given he likely was insane—every object in his field of vision appeared to have a slight ripple around the edges, a perturbance in its essence.
Derek blinked and the ripple went away. But the Lurch was still in his stomach, and he knew the essences of the objects in his field of vision were still fundamentally perturbed. He felt—intuitively, as with the Lurch—that the essences of these objects could be manipulated. He tried, visualizing with his mind that the chair in front of him was transmuted into a block of solid gold. He saw the chair begin to transform, the ripple around its edges enveloped it in a full haze, and the chair began to resemble a block.
Derek suddenly had what his therapist referred to as an intrusive thought. What if manipulating the essence of the chair required pulling material from the essence of another entity, for instance, his dog? The chair-block shivered in his field of vision and the haze around it dimmed. Derek tried to concentrate again. What if the chair-block was crawling with maggots? The Lurch intensified, and Derek stopped trying to manipulate the chair-block.
Derek decided, very reasonably, that he was sleep deprived, mentally ill, and terminally lonely, and after fitful stops and starts, went back to sleep.
As Derek slept, the haze enveloping the objects surrounding him intensified. His dog walked into the room, curious, and sniffed the chair.
The dog bit into a maggot.