John knocks like only John knocks: as if there's a monster stalking him through the apartment building halls, and he's run up the stairs while it was in the elevator, and he's looking over his shoulder while knocking and dreading the ding of the elevator arriving. That's how John knocks. When he's stoned and half-asleep, he knocks the same.
He also, apparently, sometimes yells, "Let me the fuck in!" At least he did this time.
I opened the door and John brushed past me and pushed the door out of my hand and closed. He locked all three locks and then leaned in to listen at the door.
"John, what the—"
After a moment, he seemed to relax somewhat. Somewhat for John, everything being relative. He flopped onto the couch and started rooting through his bag. "Do you remember Rigoni's Second Theorem?"
"John, I didn't go to MIT with you, remember? I went to art school. What are you doing in New York?"
"Ugh. Okay. So, Rigoni." John squared his shoulders and took a breath and started the lecture. "He says you can exist in more than one place at a time, so long as those places are adjacent in the fourth dimension. So—"
"Don't mock this." He stared at me, shook his finger. He seemed almost schoolmasterish, if that's a word. "It might be important later. I need you to do something for me. If I can find it."
"It's not drugs, is it?" I asked, half-hoping it was drugs. John hooked me up with a brick of hash once that had lasted all summer. "Is it drugs?"
"It's not." He pulled a small box from his bag. It was taped shut, and he held it like it was a ticking bomb. "It's the prototype."
"Rigoni, Freddy, Rigoni. The prototype makes any two points adjacent, fourth-dimensionally speaking. You just tell it what two points. Right now it's set for my lab in California and Mom's place over in Park Slope."
"So you used this thing to come here from California?"
"No, no, I'm still in California, I'm just also here." He got up, listened at the door. "But they're coming, so I have to get rid of it."
"What do you mean, who's coming?"
"They're not coming here, they're coming to the lab. Freddy, if they get their hands on this, it'll be bad. They won't know how to handle it. Do you still work with metal? Do you have the smelter?"
"Sure. At the studio."
"Take it, drop it in. Do it now, today."
"What happens to you?"
"I don't know. Either there'll be one of me, in California, or two of me, one there and one here, or I'll get ripped apart, quantum-wise. Or the universe will. It'll be one of those." He sighed. "Probably the first one. Or the second."
"…Okay, I guess."
"And Freddy…" He put his hands on my shoulders, "Don't open the box. Really don't open the box."