Anchors No More #7: Where We Find OurselvesMar 3, 2014
Their cell was cold and the vomitish mint green color of the concrete walls did little to improve their state of discomfort. Holly stared at the floor, hovering on the precipice of tears since they were locked in the small holding room five hours earlier. Her sorrow was not due to the more obvious factors, not because of the accusation of treason, not because they were arrested, not because the military had confiscated their notebooks full of personal work, and not because of the fact they were thirsty and exhausted, their wetsuits making them fidget and itch. No, her sorrow came from something more subtle, something she noticed as she and Gary were escorted into the cell. It was the look in Restrepo’s eyes as he closed the door behind them, that brief moment when he and Holly met gazes. There was an apprehension in his brown eyes and it seemed as if he wanted to say something. He quickly turned his head, shut the door and walked away. Holly knew she and Gary would never be free again.
Gary was spared this thought as his partner remained silent in her despair, and he stood leaning against the wall deep in contemplation. He was fixated on the membranes they had emerged in. There was no explaining them, no reasonable theory why they should exist or why they… His head cocked to the side and after a moment he ran his hand up the arm of his wetsuit and examined the drying crusty gel on his fingers… unless they… “They’re organic right?” he suddenly asked, causing Holly to jump. She shook off a shiver and shot Gary an annoyed look. He ignored her and continued, “The bags, I mean the membrane-things we came out in. They were organically structured, right?”
She thought a minute, her mind so far away from what had happened before they were captured that it seemed like a dream. “Yeah,” she said, picturing in her mind the smooth, slimy, warm texture of the cocoon, the copperish syrupy fluid filling her lungs, mouth, and nose, “It was definitely an organic compound, oxygen rich, carbon based.”
“It was a byproduct of the time jump. We stepped in the machine, linked and accelerated the wormhole, and we…” he paused trying to remember. This is where it got fuzzy. “Do you remember anything? Like what’s the last thing you remember?”
She scrunched her chin, searching her mind for a memory. There was the bright light as the energy of the machine’s process reached its height, then darkness, a strange blackness that somehow flowed around her, like heat waves on a desert trail. And then… “I don’t know,” she told him, “It was so fast, like blinding light one second and utter privation of light the next. But the darkness, I know it was only a couple seconds at most, but I feel like it was longer, like a couple hours or something.”
Gary nodded his head in agreement, “Yeah, exactly. The process should have been instantaneous, like the beginning of a finger snap to its end. Just instantly over. I feel like that is exactly what happened in one way but that it was something else at the same time.” He paced slowly, holding his chin with one hand and his elbow with the other, appearing every ounce the philosopher he was as he tried to grasp what occurred next. “And then the membrane. It had to be spontaneous, right? It had to be formed and embedded in our biology in one single heartbeat. It was purely organic, able to sustain us and keep us… what? Shielded? Protected? From what?”
Holly stood, a jolt of inspiration striking her, “Not how, but why?” she said, stopping Gary’s pacing, “Why? Because the machine was not there, it was moved and our account was only for movement in Time, not Space. The link only bends Time. It exploits the distinction between Time and Space.”
Gary nodded, “So that means what? That the SpaceTime continuum is one whole with two aspects, we know that. They simultaneously manifest and sustain one another.”
“As each other,” Holly interrupted, “Not only for each other, but as each other. You know, those frogs that change sexes depending on the need of the whole? The continuum is a self-generating, self-regulating, self-sustaining system, and what the bags mean is that we are both a part of the systemic whole and also distinct from it.”
Gary continued her thought, the two of them comfortably riffing off of one another like analytical jazz musicians having the night of their life. “Right, like what your precious Kant said, that Space is our outer sense and Time is our inner sense, that is how we experience it. Our experience is that we are in time but time is also in us, we are both of it and in it. That is our experience. So, we stepped outside of the Time continuum but the fact of our foreign nature did not allow the aspect of Space to compensate. We moved in time, the machine did not. So when we emerged one second later, and the machine had been found, turned off, and removed from the basement, the Continuum as a whole protected us from being torn apart, like we were bacteria to a pack of white blood cells. It created a primordial, basically embryonic, shield so that we could enter back into our point in Space even though it no longer contained the other end of our little rabbit hole.”
Holly didn’t go on, she remained quiet, her head nodding to the rhythm of her thought. Gary sat down on his cot and tried to organize his mind as it crackled with energy. He wanted his notebook, he needed to jot down his thoughts and get them out before he forgot them, before they unraveled his already worn and weary mind. Shit. His stomach twisted and he suddenly felt light-headed. Shit, my notebook. I’m in jail. I’ve been arrested.
He would never see his research again, never lie on his couch and wile away an evening watching a movie or reading a good book. One night ago, he and Holly had Thai food and a fun conversation, keeping it light to avoid the nervousness they felt concerning their plans, and they walked home together in the dark of early spring, the air still chilly and the moon small in the sky. They hugged goodbye and Gary once again hid his impulse to kiss her quickly on the cheek, he had almost done it so many times but never dared, he respected her too much to risk telling her how he felt. That was just one night ago, he thought, trying to wrap his head around the reality that it was actually four years and one night ago. He looked at Holly and he held back his tears, though his voice quivered in emotion, “I’m so sorry, Holly, I should have said no, I should have just told you no. Some things are better left as ideas. This is too big.”
Holly looked at him, a sad smile crossed her lips. Before she could reply, the door unlocked and slowly opened. Sargent Restrepo stood there pointing his rifle at them, briskly commanding them to follow him.
© David Edward Wagner 2014. All Rights Reserved.