“A poet is, before anything else, a person who is passionately in love with language.”
Although others may argue otherwise, there is a logic to poetry, one which Logan finds unquestionably satisfying.
There is tone and pacing, a rhythm of mathematical precision, each couplet carefully arranged and measured according to a predetermined formula. There is scientific fact bolstering each stanza; an equation underpinning each word, the placement of each rhetoric device organised to fit a pattern – sometimes the pattern is obvious, and sometimes not, but once the pattern has been discovered, each poem becomes as predictable and familiar to him as basic chemical formulae.
Poetry is mathematics, disguised as an art and thinly veiled in flowery words and emotional language – and it is a comfort (though Logan would never say so out loud), to examine words on a page and find familiarity hiding in plain sight.
“Prose fills a space, like a liquid poured in from the top, but poetry occupies it, arrays itself in formation, sets up camp and refuses to budge.”
The change, when it begins, comes in increments. Each week brings small adjustments in behaviour, miniscule shifts in the landscape of Thomas’ mind. At first, the changes seem tiny and insignificant.
Patton begins to spend less time in his room, and more time in the kitchen of the mindscape (the kitchen itself is an illogical fallacy when they do not require nourishment to live, an unnecessary addition to their ‘living space’, if the anthropomorphised section of Thomas’ mind can be called such, though Logan has long since given up pointing this out to the others).
As Thomas learns to cook, in his ongoing efforts at self-improvement, so too does Patton, until the mindscape frequently carries the smell of pasta, Thomas’ favourite dish. Logan catalogues each new recipe Thomas learns, as is his function, and in time recognises the smell and taste of each ingredient. Cooking, after all, is a close relative of chemistry, and Thomas (and Logan, by default) has always excelled in chemistry.
Perhaps (no, not perhaps, logic can only be found in absolutes, in concrete data), this is why Logan is the first to notice when Patton… deviates from the recipe. Makes changes and adds unfamiliar flavour combinations to their shared meal. Initially, Logan attributes it to an error on Patton’s part, a miscalculation of the recipe; but as the flavours and dishes evolve and grow ever more complicated, grow to something beyond Thomas’ current knowledge and understanding (beyond Logan’s knowledge and understanding), Logan can no longer ignore the obvious.
Patton is learning. Changing. Developing skills independent of Thomas, independent of his purpose as Thomas’ Morality (and have Patton’s freckles always been so obvious, or is his appearance shifting as well?).
After this realisation, it becomes easier to identify a change in the others as well.
Initially, Roman seems his usual loud and exuberant self. He still spends a significant amount of time in the Imagination, the part of Thomas’ mind where Creativity and Ego are most at home (where Logan, the epitome and centre of rationality, of facts, of absolute truths, is least comfortable). He frequently disappears for several hours, undoubtedly on some imaginary ‘quest’ to save a prince in distress from an equally imaginary foe. This behaviour falls within the expected parameters of Roman’s personality, as mapped by Logan after many years of observation, and is therefore of no concern.
And yet – he too starts to exhibit signs of change. It begins when he first apologises to Virgil, after a disagreement escalated into a verbal conflict. This is not too unusual; it has happened before in their videos. However, this is not a scripted apology, nor is it the result of Patton’s gentle encouragement. It is of his own volition, his acceptance of blame and guilt (it is the antithesis of the Ego which forms the marrow of Roman’s bones, of the self-interest threaded between his arteries). Not long after, Logan observes that Roman is spending less time alone within the Imagination and more time with the others, assisting in their endeavours or asking for assistance in return. The first time Roman asks Logan for help with developing an idea, without first exhausting himself trying to develop it on his own, Logan nearly drops his pen in shock (the shift from predictable to unpredictable is
terrifying startling), and it is suddenly undeniable that Roman, too, is developing and changing independently of Thomas.
The change in Virgil is simultaneously harder and easier to detect (this is another illogical fallacy, but Logan has become resigned to Virgil’s ability to undermine his scientific rigour). His observational data for Virgil’s behaviour is less substantial than that for the others, mostly due to his previous flawed judgement of Virgil as a negative influence, rather than as the survival instinct necessary for their continued existence. It is difficult to track changes in a dataset when the data itself is still tainted from an incorrect qualifier.
Nonetheless, out of all of the sides, Virgil is the one he finds easiest to understand (even in the depths of the darkest cognitive distortions, Virgil’s ability to analyse, to evaluate situations for the best outcome, even if that outcome is to flee, is comfortingly familiar to Logan). He knows that Virgil occasionally finds comfort in being surrounded by the others, even when he has his headphones in and refuses to participate in conversation – after years of exclusion and being ostracised, the reminder of their acceptance and support is useful in keeping cognitive distortions at bay. Despite this, he also knows that Virgil cannot control his reaction to said cognitive distortions; that his fight or flight instincts are strong, and are the essence of his function as Anxiety, and any suggestion of danger for Thomas is enough to send his thought processes spiralling and to put him on high alert. It is an indisputable fact, a fixed point in his assessment of Virgil’s character.
This is why, when a new opportunity for Thomas to perform for a local theatre comes up, an opportunity with significant risks attached, Logan is ready to help Virgil talk through his panic, to soothe his anxious thoughts with logical assertions and statistics – and his understanding of Virgil instantly shifts when, instead of finding Virgil in the midst of an anxiety attack, he instead finds him in the midst of writing a list of pros and cons with Roman, his voice quiet yet earnest as he reassures Roman that they can do it, that they can make time in their schedule, that the benefits outweigh the risks.
(It should be reassuring, seeing Virgil use techniques Logan has taught him without his help, and yet his fixed point moves so unexpectedly, shattering into something unfamiliar and unknown, that he has to retreat to his room before the others even notice his presence, his hands trembling and the ground shaky beneath his feet, even though he knows he is in perfect health).
The changes in the others behaviour are suddenly accumulating each day, until it is a tide, the curve of an exponential function charted on a graph, a line moving ever upwards with no limitations or backspace.
Like dominos in a line, the changes began as individual pieces, small and insignificant, and yet when they begin to fall they fall together, an inexorable chain reaction, creating something entirely new (and like dominoes, there must be a pattern,
a logic to it all, but Logan looks and looks and cannot find it, cannot see it, and it makes something inside him twist and bite and ache).
“Poetry is ordinary language raised to the Nth power. Poetry is boned with ideas, nerved and blooded with emotions, all held together by the delicate, tough skin of words.”
Ever since Thomas left his academic ambitions behind in favour of more theatrical, creative pursuits, Logan has found comfort in poetry.
Where there was once the consistency of chemical formulae, underpinning Logan’s focus, there is now poetry; words which are the pinnacle of creativity, the direct opposite of the Logan’s comfort zone, and yet which move in deducible patterns, in ways he can track and analyse and catalogue.
He has consumed the classics with single-minded focus; has devoured the words of Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Maya Angelou, William Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, as many great works as he can get his hands on, has dissected each and identified their core equations, filled flash card after flash card with the terminology of rhetoric language (alliteration, assonance, consonance, onomatopoeia, simile) until the techniques are as familiar to him as the periodic table.
In the face of the unknown (of the things that he can never quite grasp, the emotions which pulse in the heart of the other sides yet slip from his hands when he loses focus, spooling in his stomach like loose and tangled threads), poetry is his refuge – his retreat, where even emotional language, expressive and evocative and heavy with sentiment, is part of a wider pattern, with its roots in reason, in fact, in logic.
And yet – for once, the poetry in his hands is not as diverting (is not chasing away his shaking nerves and the unruly emotions weighing on his chest). As he reads and rereads the words of Sylvia Plath (“Let idiots reel giddy in bedlam Spring”), as he underlines and annotates the consonance, the repetition, for the first time he wonders if, in all his knowledge of figurative language, in all his research of poetry and poets, if he is still missing something – something essential.
(It is a painful realisation, and he puts away his poetry for the evening – for what is the point of logic,
of Logan, if he cannot understand?)
“The poet doesn’t invent. He listens.”
The changes are undeniable – they are a fact, and as such must be observed and catalogued and understood. It is his duty, after all, as Thomas’ Logic, to digest and compute knowledge, to turn it into something useful, something that will help Thomas improve and learn.
He creates folders for each of the Sides, colour coded for efficiency (and sentiment, though he would never acknowledge it). He keeps careful and precise notes of each change in behaviour, dated and timestamped and organised by significance. He draws out graphs for each of the Sides, seeking out similarities and comparable datasets.
As with all the knowledge he accumulates, his main aim is understanding (he needs to know why, needs to understand the source of the change
maybe then he can fix it, turn it back into something predictable).
But it is difficult, to find a science in measuring behaviour, in measuring the shifting dynamic between their relationships, a method of mapping out Patton’s increasing experimentation and Roman’s growing willingness to work together and Virgil’s rising confidence. No matter how many graphs he draws, he can no find no rhyme or reason to their behaviour.
They are changing, but there is no discernible pattern. There is no discernible cause.
(As he stares down at reels of graphs and charts, the reason for it all eludes him. No matter the approach he takes, the tools he uses, there is always something missing – something essential).
“There is poetry as soon as we realize we possess nothing.”
Poetry, where it was once reassuring, a creative pursuit where even the strongest and most fanciful of emotions had an underpinning in the logic, has somehow become the opposite.
The techniques of figurative language still hover on the tip of his tongue; he can still recite definitions and quote Shakespeare by rote; has perfectly memorised the lives and passions of all his favourite poets, their favourite literary techniques.
And yet he cannot focus – whenever he cracks open a poetry book, or pulls up a favourite passage, the motivation to study and analyse slips between his fingers.
(He wonders if he too is changing. If his lack of understanding, if his inability to find a reason for the tectonic shifts he feels spreading from his feet, subtly and surely changing the world around him, is causing him to unravel at his seams – what use is Logan, what use is Logic, if he cannot find reason, cannot find meaning, if he cannot understand?)
“Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful.”
Gradually, in the face of questions he cannot answer (and he has tried, over and over), Logan finds only one solution; he retreats.
He stops venturing out of his room for anything but video recordings, and even then he abides by the script – he feels no urge to offer questions, or improvements, and ignores the looks the others share when they believe he cannot see (he has no need for their concern, though it makes his hand twitch, longing for something he cannot name).
He decides to stop coming to their shared meals (he does not require sustenance, so there is no need), and ignores Patton’s invitations to participate in group activities, ignores Roman’s calls to help him refine an idea, pretends he cannot hear Virgil pacing fretfully outside his door late at night.
(When he does surface from his room, for videos or because it is simply unavoidable, a part of him half-heartedly notices their behaviour is changing again, that the commons is no longer filled with the smell of Patton’s experiments in baking, that Roman is once again retreating to the Imagination more often than not, that deep shadows hover around Virgil’s eyes and his hands tremble with nerves – but he could not find the cause of the first change, so how could he think to find the cause of the second?)
With each passing day of isolation, it becomes harder to shake the lethargy from his limbs, though he finds he doesn’t much care to. The world, once bright and full of curiosity, seems dull, and it is hard to find interest in the things he once coveted (even poetry has betrayed him).
A few weeks pass by, stretching onwards and onwards, before he feels Thomas summon him for a video and, for the first time, decides to ignore it.
Yet Thomas tugs, and tugs, until he can’t deny him.
He appears in his usual place, eyes dim and shirt rumpled, his tie lost somewhere in the chaos of his room, and is met with their probing stares.
The others are emotional (they should know by now that Logan has no need of their feelings), and then the room is filled with their voices, rising in a cacophony (of concern, and worry, and fear, and anger), until a single question cuts through the noise, slices through his fatigue with all the precision of a blade:
“Why have you changed?”
And something inside him suddenly bursts open, like a torrent, and it is anger, and for once he does not try to squash it, or pretend it is something else – for how could they accuse him of changing, when they were the ones who changed first?
He raves, and rants, and does not care that his emotions are slipping through his carefully constructed walls; he conjures his graphs, his colour coded folders, his carefully catalogued notes, pointing out each change in behaviour he has recorded since his predictable (reassuring, secure, stagnant) world began to unravel, until the anger has drained away, and all that is left is exhaustion, and reluctant acceptance, because even after all this time he still doesn’t understand why.
As he falls silent, the others glance between themselves, and he recognises confusion in their expressions, but he has no patience for questions he cannot answer. He moves to sink out, yet, before he can, Virgil reaches a hand out, a placating gesture that stops him in his tracks.
“But it was you, Logan. You were the cause. You’re the why. Why we changed. Can’t you see that?”
Logan freezes, every sense attuned to Virgil’s words, desperately analysing his intonation and expression and body language, but all the evidence suggests he’s speaking the truth – or at least thinks he is.
“He’s right, Lo. It was you,” Patton speaks up, voice soft and undeniably warm, and Morality cannot lie, not about this, and Logan feels something hard and painful inside him shatter, “You were the cause. We didn’t change to spite you, Lo – we changed because of you. You made us want to be more, to do more.”
“It’s true, Specs,” Roman admits, smiling in an oddly bashful way, “I started spending more time outside the Imagination because I enjoyed brainstorming with you.”
Logan shakes his head, but before he can reply, Patton speaks again: “I started to experiment with my cooking because you always encourage Thomas to learn more and to try new things, and you inspired me to want to try it too!”
“And I started acting more confident because you taught me how to handle cognitive distortions,” Virgil raises an eyebrow and smirks, as if he can’t believe Logan could miss something so obvious, “You couldn’t find the reason, because you’re the reason. We changed because you helped us be better Logan.”
And for the first time in weeks, understanding blooms in his mind, the data and graphs and charts he has long since memorised connecting in a chain reaction, dominoes falling anew, but he knows this pattern now, knows the reason and rhyme, and suddenly, change does not seem so frightening, not when he has the others to show the way.
(And as he struggles to contain his emotion, to stop tears of relief and happiness from falling, because there was nothing missing, it was him all along, he just couldn’t see it, he cannot help but look at their smiling faces, at their relieved expressions, and think that maybe he has changed too).
“For what is a poem but a hazardous attempt at self-understanding: it is the deepest part of autobiography.”
Later, after a shared dinner where Patton combined all of his new recipes into a feast far too calorific for four people, after Roman had enthusiastically explained all the new ideas he gathered while roaming around the Imagination, after an impromptu movie night where Virgil carefully leaned into Logan’s side, seeking reassurance that Logan is glad to give, Logan once again finds himself alone in his room.
With a smile, he pulls out his poetry books, his mind already alight with the reassuring predictability of rhyming patterns, of meter and pace, and of reading another’s words and knowing that at their centre still beats a heart of logic.
(And if, for the first time, he finds himself lost in the words, in the thick web of emotion they weave, without thought to the hidden equations lying beneath – well, who said change had to be one sided?)