Tain L. Barzso
Stephan put on a headset and absent-mindedly fiddled with some buttons. He used a small, wireless interface to check chronometers and waveform scopes, and then entered a date. The computer display spat it back at him in flashing green: October 15, 2046.
He sat in the project’s sensory deprivation tank, door open and virtual input gear hanging on all sides. This gear was the expression of project Solstice. Rather than simply immersing the user’s senses in a computerized virtual world, the gear was focused toward the goal of taking over the senses, straightening out brainwaves, and putting the user into an altered state of consciousness. Once the traveler was in an utterly peaceful, utterly open state, the Solstice intelligence subroutines could interface with the traveler’s mind. The machine bombarded the traveler with information that the conscious mind could never process, and the human brain would find its way through centuries of social progra! mming and return to an enlightened state of consciousness. Man and machine would bond, and the result would be a fully perceptual experience of time travel – past the constraints of speed or energy.
At least in theory.
Stephan’s mind tried to hold onto the idea of time travel and quantum physics, but it kept returning to one thing – and it was all he could do to stay in the present long enough to get the project up and running. His thoughts already dwelled on the past, and Solstice’s help was, at this point, just a way to make those memories and desires into pictures.
He drifted into his own world of memory, and he thought of Samantha. Opposites repelled – that had been Stephan and Samantha’s theory and they stuck to it. While she shopped for tribal art and icons from every religion she could get her hands on, he lost himself in studies of time travel and the nature of the universe. This was a broad topic, of course, and Samantha’s direct approach to these things made his life simpler – if not more frustrating. Somehow, though, they always managed to marry their beliefs.
"It’s impossible," he would say to her, "travel faster than the speed of light is impossible. There isn’t enough energy in the universe to boost a human being to those speeds." He’d pace their home, mumbling to himself or half talking to her and half talking to his voice recorder.
"Always such brute force." She smiled and looked up from her painting, a dream mandala. "Simplify, babe, simplify. My car goes just as fast down a hill in neutral as it does if I’m giving it gas." She filled in a stroke of red oxide. Samantha knew nothing about theoretical physics. Maybe, thought Stephan, that was her genius. He’d often turn off the recorder and go to his study to lie on the floor and think about what she had said. When Samantha got sick, Stephan sat by her bed and read science fiction stories -- Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, H.G. Wells. When she died, he stopped reading fiction.
The daydream was interrupted.
"Come back, Stephan. I need you here and now. There will be plenty time to travel in time after we go into trance." Solstice’s artificially intelligent voice had been programmed to keep him on task.
"Thank you, Solstice. I’ll be back in a moment. Please run a redundancy check in my absence."
He stepped out of the chair and through the laboratory door. A long hallway stretched in front of him. On either side were square white art pedestals and framed paintings.
The house, though covered in art and memories, felt empty. Each wall, decorated with a different religious or spiritual, gave off a numbing silence. Statues of Shiva and a host of Indian gods and goddesses froze in their eternal dances; The Buddha sat in a place of Satori on the north wall, while ancient Islamic calligraphy reached for heaven with piercing, hand drawn minarets. Yet the most notable piece in his collection was the most recent. Samantha had come home with a laser-etched image of the Virgin Mary – as a joke -- and then had given it a place where the sun from the skylight could hit it directly. It glimmered in the sunlight, laser-etched surface a wash of blues and deep blood reds.
He stopped and explored the Virgin’s surface and his thoughts drifted again back to Samantha. Since her death, his visions of science transformed into visions of heaven – and sometimes visions of nothing at all. And these blank, cold visions were the most frightening! They were the ones that shut him down and made his work seem meaningless. The idea that maybe for once he should see the next world as one of angels and light rather than of dirt and decay had finally taken him over, and this was something he could never admit to himself – or his colleagues. But he wished. He secretly hoped that just maybe he was wrong. What if heaven was not an equation, and what if somewhere in time she – and anybody else who has passed – still lived?
He laughed when the irony struck him. A scientist finding the secret to time travel from a religious icon and his own moody daydreams. The concept had come to him quickly, in a moment of accident.
As the sun had set on the day she brought it home, he watched as the picture cast blue streaks of light that traveled across the walls. As the room dimmed, he lay on the floor and traced lines between the myriad dots. Each was independent, yet each still somehow connected. No single spot moved on its own – move one and the others must move with it. He pictured the stars in the sky and heaven as a great mass of clockwork and machinery. If only he could go there, if only he could ride one of those blue lights to their source and touch her face.
He couldn’t. But what that pretty lady had managed to do was give him the concept for Solstice. Puzzled, he looked again at the Virgin and thought about the lights. Each came from its own source, and each at the same time. But the connection was on a deeper level – move mass to the speed of light and watch it become energy. He had been using the University supercollider to generate atomic levels of energy, been trying to send quarks and hydrogen atoms half a second into the past or future using a city’s ration of power. But maybe this was archaic, a caveman throwing a rock at a computer. Maybe it was simpler. Maybe it was all right in front of him – or, in the case of traveling back in time, all right in back of him. Some physicists and spiritualists say that the possible paths we can take are all laid out before us, ready for the choosing. The question he now asked was this; what about the paths time itself has already taken?
He couldn’t move forward in time; it would take an infinite amount of energy to move along that infinite road of possibility. It would be like trying to drive along a million freeways at once in a single car; no matter how fast that hot rod is, it won’t travel down more than one road at a time. But to move backwards, one would trace only one road, and trace it straight back to the source, straight back to that laser-etched face and the shining blue source of it all. Rather than using his powers of choice and mind to move forward down his singular path, Stephan would simply turn around.
He was ecstatic.
"Samantha, I found it."
"Oh, good – you like the Mary, then? I was afraid you’d want me to throw her away."
He left the university, took his funding with him, pulled some favors, and restarted the project on a scale that fit into a room in his house. Yet it wasn’t until she died and he started traveling in his own mind that he could make any headway. Solstice, with all its power, could only give brief glimpses of the past – and only from a few seconds in the past. Her technology was sound yet her capability hit a wall every time - Until Stephan added human perception into the equation. It was his longing for Samantha and its incessant denial that made him see the human-computer connection.
Stephan wandered back into the laboratory.
"Think we’ll find anything, Solstice?"
"That’s a pretty vague question."
Stephan brought up a computer display that showed a graphic of something that looked like a very complex tree.
He touched the screen and the image magnified tenfold, revealing more connections and branches. There was a bright red line crisscrossing a path through all the chaos. He zoomed back out and the line ended at the tree’s trunk, a single, thick line.
He spoke out loud to the computer system.
"I went into this with a spiritual slant; Samantha taught me that science is only one way to understand the universe. There are the common denominators of dozens of religions and belief systems in this project, but it still all boils down to science." He paused, running his hand over the deprivation tank’s smooth surface. "I guess in the end I just don’t want to find out that there’s nothing else."
"Understood. Would you like me to integrate that into the logic database?"
"No thank you, Solstice."
He scrolled down the display, trying to find the trunk’s end; he scrolled for minutes, and it went on indefinitely.
"Strange," said Stephan. He stood for a moment, watching the monitors and machines. For a moment he felt like a shade tree mechanic, standing around staring at high technology in the same way his great grandfather had stood in the hot sun looking at internal combustion engines. Time repeated itself.
And it was time to put in the key and see how she ran.
"Solstice, please initiate alternate voice recognition and personality pattern."
This was something that Stephan both anticipated and dreaded. Solstice’s grand parallel processing powers were the cutting edge of quantum computing. Her ability to integrate trillions of data sets was greater than, probably, the combined computing power of North America – and she fit in a space the size of a closet. This power gave the owner special liberties, such as giving her ultra-realistic speech and recognition algorithms. It also let a grieving Stephan use video and audio recordings to shape Solstice' s voice – and even give it personality. His first test of the basic AI functions had been with Samantha – and it had made her a bit jealous, for obvious reasons.
"Hello," said a voice that was distinctly Samantha’s. Stephan shuddered.
He sat in the console chair again. He closed his eyes. His hands stopped shaking, and he was visibly soothed.
Stephan spoke in a soft voice, the voice intended for a lover. "Solstice, please activate main logic, cross reference with databases alpha through omega-32 and route output to external monitors."
After a brief pause, two large flat screen displays came to life. The tree graphic appeared on both, then after a moment of static the screen turned to a soft blue. A sharp hum filled the room.
"Thank you, Solstice. Please check power levels."
"All the batteries are charged up. We’re good to go."
"Sam, please activate tracing subroutines and apply. Route display to external monitors."
"No problem, babe."
Solstice and Stephan both went silent for a moment.
What seemed to be a live feed of Stephan appeared as a panorama across both monitors. The only thing differentiating this image from that of a basic video camera was the angle of view. This feed appeared in ultra wide screen and, as he ran his finger across a touchpad, he was able to spin spherically around the entire scene, from ceiling to floor, zooming from wide angle to the finest detail of a fingerprint with perfect resolution.
"Perfect present feed, one-to-one ratio."
"Looks good from here," said Stephan.
"Let’s push it. I want to move it back a few seconds. Solstice, move me down the path by your maximum."
"Maximum duration as per processing power – two seconds. Done." He smiled. On the screen, he watched himself lip sync the last words he had spoken, then watched as the video images of his own monitors all updated, two seconds after the other, into infinity. It was as if he had trained a video camera on its own display, or put two mirrors together facing one another. The monitors flickered for a moment, and he thought he saw it shudder slightly.
"Solstice, what was that?"
"Power spike. It’s resolved, though."
Odd. It looked like those monitors were vibrating."
"Would you like me to play the recording back to you?"
The display rewound for a moment and he watched closely. Aside from a quarter-second of blank screen where the spike happened, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. The display flickered and again Stephan was peering into the past, watching himself watching himself from a minute ago.
"Solstice, please move back to present."
"Present view already shown."
"Odd. Solstice, please stop program."
The monitors went blank.
"Solstice, please re-initiate program as before, present time on display."
The current time’s feed reappeared on the screen. "Must be a glitch. We’ll have to clear that up. Look -- I want to go in all the way. Are the subconscious routines online and set?"
Solstice’s beauty was not entirely in her own processing power; though great, it was still limited by physical constraints. Her function was to provide a starting point for the human host. She would provide the initial time-shift, use a complex system of harmonics and consciousness-altering stimuli to synchronize the user’s mind with her output, and then allow the user to explore, using latent perceptual abilities, the whole of time. It would appear to the user as ghostly.
"If this works and I can actually travel further back in time with my own faculties, it’ll be a step closer to understanding my own spirituality."
"Or understanding that your brain is still just a computer."
"Either way, we’ve got to do this."
He opened a laboratory refrigerator and took out a handful of small vials. He inserted them one by one into a drug injection gun and applied the drugs to his own arm. He then put on the immersion gear, including a headset, a chest plate, and gloves. He lay back in his chair, woozy. The dep room’s door hissed shut, and Stephan was surrounded by complete silence. Stephan’s hands relaxed and he leaned his head backwards. He had tested the immersion gear dozens of times. With each successful test, he came closer to a subconscious understand of time and its pathways. This session would activate the posthypnotic sessions and, if successful, merge Stephan with Solstice. Mind and matter would come together.
"Solstice, initiate Stephan Beta."
"Initiating. Good luck."
Stephan was immediately immersed in a pulsating pattern of light and sound. He could feel his consciousness slipping, as if he were about to faint. Images deeply rooted in his own brain flashed before his eyes – computers, code, equations, memories, and Samantha. At first, these images were random images and thoughts associated with the project. Afterward, the flurry of memories started to flow like the scenes of a movie. Quite simply, his life flashed before his eyes. He skipped around from childhood to adulthood to college, watching his life unfold, seeing connections that he had never before noticed. Degrees of separation became apparent, the outcomes of his choices appeared before he made decisions. His life seemed simple from this vantage point, a planned out sequence of events.
He sensed a splitting sensation, as if his brain’s hemispheres had pulled apart. His vision doubled and blurred, and then gave way to complete blindness.
He began to panic. He wanted out, and tried to thrash his arms. He found them paralyzed. It felt as if something heavy were sitting on his chest. But the splitting sensation settled, and he felt as if the two halves had woven back together; in fact, as if they had rewired. A peace came over him, and the darkness gave way to light.
His memories were washed clean by a humming wall of light and, within moments, he found himself staring at complete whiteness, with not a thought in his mind. The door into the trances of the mystics had been replicated, and Stephan had entered a world that no modern Western man had ever experienced. When combined with the mysteries of science, the ages-old mysteries of the spiritual, intuitive world had given birth to precisely what he needed – a view of the path into the past. Again, Samantha’s artwork and spiritual side had soothed the scientist. And through the subliminal programming of his consciousness with these patterns, it was possible to travel back – at least mentally – in time. The roads narrowed to a single path and he found himself looking at the laboratory as it appeared six months ago.
Still, he felt waves of warm adrenaline wash through his body. The humming in his ears grew louder.
The world dissolved around him. Trackpad input had been, as planned, replaced by thought control. He was completely immersed in the simulation.
And unknown to Stephan, a slightly more important side effect of the mind-machine symbiosis had occurred. Moving his mind past the constraints of thought and matter had rendered his body, for all intents and purposes, useless. And the universe, being rather efficient at cleaning up excess, obliged.
His body disappeared from the deprivation tank and the gear clattered to the floor.
He faced nothingness.
"Sam…Solstice, let’s push it back a little."
There was a tingling sensation through his body that ran up into his ears and lingered for a moment. He though he heard Solstice giggle.
He moved back just a few years. This thing was touchy – one wrong move could have him in the Stone Age. He marveled at how Solstice could synchronize its input with his own senses – even more so at how realistically she could render the ghost images being created. Though he could not alter the past, he could watch practically anything he wished. The codes that solstice generated allowed him to regroup at any point in the past at any point on the globe. The latent perceptual power of his mind did everything else. It was the greatest example of mind over matter ever demonstrated. Man and machine became one and traveled together through time.
He found himself standing in his hallway. Rather than emptiness, it surrounded him with warmth. It was sometime in the last two years, from what he could tell. He walked slowly, hands along the walls. He was incorporeal, his fingers passing through the stone and plaster. But he could imagine how they felt – he had felt them thousands of times before. At the end of the hall, a door was open, and from the opening came a soft light. It was candlelight, and it was coming from Samantha’s study. She liked to write in her journal by candles.
"It’s fine, Stephan." The voice was garbled, but intelligible. "Operating within normal parameters."
He entered the room and, if he were to have breath, it would have been taken from him. Samantha, head resting in her hand, wrote in her diary.
He could not touch her. Though he could see and hear all, he could do nothing to affect the world before him; he was an intruder, a bit of garbage in a universe where new energy and matter are not welcome. As such, the universe kept him safely on the outside. And again he suffered. When she died, he burnt every one of her diaries. Her thoughts were always her thoughts and to read them would have been a crime. In ten years of marriage, he had never broken her trust and read her diaries; once, he had opened the cover – but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. He set it carefully back in its place on the bookshelf and cursed himself for the thought. Now he was invisible, just a trick of light watching her as the ink flowed from the pen, as her thoughts flowed into the ink. He didn’t even have to peer over her shoulder – to read the page would have taken a thought. But he refused.
And all he wanted to do was run; and he did run. His thoughts betrayed him and, in an instant, he stood alone in an amber grassland. In the distance, mountains thrust upward, white with glaciers. He could hear the Earth quake and thunder as dozens of huge, tusked animals moved by him. It was sometime in the past – the distant past. He had jumped beyond where he thought he could ever go; it seemed to him that the trails of the past stay forever. The trails led him to the last ice age. He closed his eyes – or at least imagined closing his eyes – and saw himself as a teenager in a snowball fight with Jenny White, his first love. She was the first one to treat him with kindness, and for that he never forgot her. And then, of course, he thought about Samantha. But she was gone, and he was a time traveler and there was nothing that could be done about it.
He sat in the field for what one would call a long time. The sun set a deep red, and the field, clear of animals, was still in the breezeless evening.
It was time to go home and cut this experiment short.
"Yes, Stephan?" Her voice made him shudder.
"Please return me to the present."
"You are in the present."
"Solstice, please return me to starting point."
"You are at the starting point."
Stephan grew annoyed.
"Solstice, please reverse subliminal state, break link, and terminate program"
"Unable to comply."
His field of vision went blue, and then he was surrounded with the mumbled hieroglyphics of deep error messages. The tree-display that shuttled him to this point in time appeared before him and then adjusted itself slightly. The branches had moved downward somewhat; looking more closely, he saw that his present time was indeed his new starting point. The problem made sense -- to the system, any point in the past became the starting point, and the future became infinitely uncertain. As such, moving back forward was an impossibility. The problem here was that there was no route back the way he came; the Hansel-and-Gretel trail he had left for himself was gone. Stephan had no future – and the only movement forward was the clock ticking the seconds away. Though the path to the past was permanent and traceable, the path to the future was closed. Relative to where he was, the future did not exist.
Stephan watched the clock tick for some time, and then brought his display of the present back up. He watched the sky grow dim and blue. Two birds chased each other in a love dance and he couldn’t tell which pursued which. A wind kicked up from the north and he could make out a faint cloud of mist from one of the mountain’s peaks.
He couldn’t get up and walk out of his seat because, in theory, all his movement was limited to his own mind. He was in a dream state, paralyzed – or so he believed, anyhow – in the system’s tank.
Stephan closed what seemed to be his eyes, and took what seemed to be deep breaths. He thought about the pulses of light, the endless programs of creation myths, the brainwave patterns taken from the trance states of shaman and mystics from around the world. He thought of physics and the uncertainty principle. Couldn’t he, as an observer, still affect his reality? As the owner of his own brain, was it not possible to bring himself out of this trance-state?
His world went white for a second, and then reformed around him. The difference was that he was distinctly aware of the virtual reality set covering his body. The gloves were heavy, and the headset was tight around his face. He removed the gloves first, then the chestplate. Then he reached up to remove the set from his face. He pulled it away slowly, squinting his eyes at the shrinking image. Everything outside the helmet was bright and washed out, and he dropped the headset to the floor, bringing his hands to his eyes. He closed them tight – it was the first time during his journey that he was able to rest his vision. He enjoyed the blackness for a moment and the let his lids flutter open.
Lying beside him was the virtual reality gear. Around him was the same vista that had been fed to him by that same gear. Nothing had changed, and the laboratory was gone.
He stood on the same plain, looking at the same mountain, watching the same breeze move the grass.
"Mind over matter." He said this aloud, realizing that his was possibly the first human speech uttered in all of history and that he was perhaps the only modern human in existence.
"Solstice?" He screamed. There was a ringing in his ears, and a voice whispered something quietly inside his mind.
"Forty-six thousand, three hundred and twelve B.C.E."
"Where is the laboratory?"
As the voice became more distinct, his vision again changed. The mountains took on a more symmetrical quality, and he could see what he thought were waves of heat and cold coming from the rock. The wind stopped, and he instinctively said to himself "fourteen point three-two miles per hour, ten second gust."
The wind started again. Solstice’s voice whispered "Accurate prediction, Stephan." He was then aware that it was more than her voice that had become a part of him.
A scientist with nothing to lose is, arguably, the most dangerous creature alive. As the last of the sunlight disappeared beyond the horizon, he imagined the sun as it was in space – hot and alive, the source of everything. And then he thought of the beginning to it all – the big bang, so the journals say.
And then he and Solstice made their decision – he would go back to the beginning. And either he would witness the fiery birth of a universe and die a wise man, or he would meet God upon his moment of creation and die as a fool.
With a thought, the horizon dissolved into a wash of dark blue. He was underwater. Another thought brought him above the water; the mountains he had seen before appeared as islands above a sea. The sky was somehow bluer, and the land rumbled in the distance. He closed his eyes and saw a computer readout of time, altitude, temperature, and hundreds of other pieces of data. He consulted a three-dimensional map of the Earth, the continents hopelessly crammed together and the oceans hopelessly vast. He mentally touched a point on the map and was brought to a warm equatorial region. It was lush with primitive plants and ferns, and crawling with reptile life.
He watched this spectacle for some time, and then again closed his eyes. Accessing his and Solstice’s databases, Stephan realized that he had countless arrays of information for the times that he had skipped – he saw meteors rising from the crust of the Earth and escaping back into space, tiny mammals scurrying backwards into their burrows, generations of lizards growing larger and stronger with each passing epoch, the continents drifting together and mountains rising and falling. In their new collective memory, Stephan had taken in the history of time, and it flashed before his eyes. If he ever returned home, perhaps there would be a way to download it all. For now, with all the time in the world, there wasn’t enough to look at what he had seen. His curiosity about the human race nearly drove him mad, but then he remembered his goals.
He closed his eyes again and imagined himself somewhere in space. Incorporeal, he floated beyond the moon, looking over the Earthrise and into the blazing yellow sun. Then he moved back, back past the first creatures rising from the ocean, back past the primordial seas of amino acids and an atmosphere of methane and poison. He opened eyes again and watched.
The thing that would become Earth moved along its clockwork path, ending an eclipse and revealing a crescent ring of fire. Sunlight filled his vision and he shut his eyes tight; it came in waves and he could almost feel the warmth wash through his body, from his toes to the top of his head.
Memories replaced the blindness and he was five years old, trying to cook insects with a magnifying glass from his father’s office. A hand reached down and blocked the beam of light – a large, heavy hand with a metal wristwatch that hung like iron. The concentrated sunlight spilled out and over the fingers as they closed over the lens and his father pulled it away.
The primitive Earth spun along its orbit and reached out toward something beautiful – and suffered the consequences. Struck by something massive, the proto-planet gave up part of its mass in a great, painful contraction. Its innocence lost, the Earth and its own new child separated in a fiery birth. The child held close to the mother, wobbling and whirling in cosmic fire. The moon had been born.
Stephan then witnessed his own birth. It was a simple affair, really, and like all other births it made his stomach turn. He was small and purple. Stephan couldn’t tell whether his mother was crying or laughing.
He closed his eyes. The molten Earth disappeared and he was surrounded by sparkling space dust, blown on a solar gale from a hot blue sun. Particles of ice and stone swirled around him like tiny tornadoes of fire. They would merge and break apart, waiting for their star to cool so they can join together and start on their pet project, the solar system.
This time he saw his father and mother, two twenty-somethings sitting at a poetry reading somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. He could see the shining blue spark move between their eyes as they met, she a reader and he an admirer. In that spark was as much life as the spark between God and Adam on the Sistine chapel’s ceiling.
He moved further back – how far no longer mattered. The sun dimmed and broke apart into a cloud of gas and light; the band of stars that showed him the galaxy dimmed and finally disappeared. As the stars went out, he spun furiously to find his orientation. He found it by a single star, shining brighter than any star ever had; It was a pure light, a bluish white, and far away. Space had become more void than ever; the distance between Stephan and that bright light was long and lonely. And he went further.
The light grew brighter and larger; rather than moving toward it, the beacon seemed to be moving toward Stephan; or maybe even growing. It glowed brighter and took up his field of vision until, finally, it encompassed him.
Whirlwinds of light danced past him. Flecks of color twisted themselves into infinitely long ladders resembling DNA, or spread out into beautiful tree-like formations. It seemed that the universe was preparing for its big show; inside that gleaming ball of light was the stuff that would, when the time came, bang, as they say. He watched this in awe, seeing patterns that seemed somehow familiar. It was all organic, and it all seemed to follow basic mathematical principles. What would Einstein say? It seemed that he could watch this and field theory would be a breeze. Yet he needed to know more; he was finally at the edge of science and still had to know; where did it come from?
Again, he thought. The colors dimmed and darkness prevailed.
And then he stopped moving.
"Solstice?" He said this inside his own mind now. "Solstice, why are we not moving?"
He saw a heads-up display of the tree image, representing time. There was no trunk – only branches spread out before him. And his position was marked by a great, cosmic ‘you are here’ marker, a single white dot at the base of what would be the trunk. He was at the end of the line.
Stephan stood on nothingness, looking out toward nothingness. There were no stars, there was no great gleaming source. There was, simply, nothing at all. And Stephan felt alone, utterly alone in the silence. His curiosity disappeared for a moment and all he wanted was to touch Samantha’s hand, to have something warm near him to say this it was okay. If she were here, they could live forever. They could walk hand in hand, imagining the blackness to be a home, a garden, trees, children, a sunset. Together, the two of them could paint this blank canvas with the paints of reality.
‘It’s okay, Stephan. I promise." The voice calmed him somewhat, artificial as it was.
He looked into the distance and still nothing appeared. Instead of giving him photospheres to keep things entertained, his brain and optic nerve did nothing. It seemed to be somebody’s definition of hell. To be trapped without a world and without even a body to speak of.
But then he clasped his hands together. They were solid, or so at least he thought. In this place where it seemed here was no matter or energy, there was only potential; and with his solidity Stephan was finally not an intruder. He marveled at the silence
This place was a blank slate. The! re was nothing to react with anything else, and there was nothing on which to apply equations. How could a physicist figure anything out when physics don’t exist? He was at the end of the longest path, a string running back to the end of time that should have never existed – or at least one that he should have never followed. He had ignored the great celestial ‘No Trespassing’ sign and gone where nobody should have ever gone. If only there were something to see, if only there were a voice to comfort him.
He spoke his own name aloud. It boomed, echoing off of nothing, growing louder and louder with every moment. He cried "Stop!" and the echoes disappeared. He whistled, and the sound disappeared as it normally would.
He stared straight ahead and thought about how nice it would be to see a tree and maybe some grass. Ahead of him there was shimmer and a beautiful pine tree appeared. He walked toward it on a sidewalk that formed beneath him. He thought of a house, and there was a house. He walked to the door, sweating, afraid to face what could be inside- When he tried to touch these things, though, he found them just mirages. He tried to imagine Samantha, and she didn’t appear. He tried to envision a path to the future, and still he found only darkness.
Then he thought of the sphere, the great seed of the big bang. He saw ahead of him the swirling strands of DNA, the trees of light, and patterns and mandalas, the beautiful cyclings of color and dancing light.
And then he understood. Ahead of him now, there lay the potential for only a single path. And he could see that path clearly. He would not die. In fact, he would live far longer than he had ever dreamed. He would never be with the women he loved, but from his own memories he would create her again and know that she lived and loved on her own – and yes, he would love as well. Not just a single woman, but all of creation.
Then he laughed to himself. It seemed at this point there was only one thing left to say. And the irony of it was not lost, and would not be lost.
"Let there be light."
And he gave his form, a blueprint for everything that would come to pass. And the light shone, and the path forward was finally created, moment by endless moment.
Tain L. Barzso says
I a working writer and independent filmmaker living in Flagstaff, Arizona. My work has appeared in local publications, New Mexico State University’s literary journal, and as a number of professional publications and magazines in the New York City area. I am also currently a graduate student in Northern Arizona University’s creative writing program.
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