With irrepressible ego, I tried to punish the Universe by ignoring it.
I had failed. I loathe failure. I’d never failed before– not that I would admit to. No, not ever. So this couldn’t be failure. It must be something else. A set-back– a new factor which would lead to greater insight into the problem.
I looked up into the sky full of stars. How could Schiller attain Valkynne so quickly? He was a scientist– deeply entrenched in the material world.
And yet, I felt the sky watching, felt the borders of reality. My experience with Schiller had both the weightless aura of illusion, and a palpable consistency.
Could something be both fact and fantasy at the same time? Perhaps. In the sky above, shooting stars streaked their striped patterns across the cheeks of a face made of stars.
Truth can be a matter of context. Like light, which is considered waves for some purposes and particles for others.
I grabbed a trickle of starlight and began to pull it apart into rainbows. In this context, in this universe where I had failed, reality and illusion were no longer effective frames of reference. I decided to discard them, and strive for something different… something creative.
I had to use time to best advantage. Time is merely a collection of layered dimensions. And any dimension can be pierced.
So I scratched the surface of seconds. Loose strands pulled into hours. Time began to unravel and rip, like a poorly made tapestry.
I rode rips through time, out of the universe.
It was a hazardous trip, for time tears of its own accord.
The ages ripped by in reverse, the images shifting too fast to register on a conscious level. Each individual sight blinked into something different in the time it took to give it a name. The images merged into blurs of succession, staccatos of strobe. I found myself spinning from place to place, propelled by the Earth’s rotation as I moved backward in time.
Registering global events backward, in streams of a subliminal visual meta-language, I began to conjecture about the way mankind apprehends reality. Pendulum swings occurred between mystic and scientific thought. I found myself crossing between these opposing poles with quantifiable regularity.
For some reason, my temporal descent slowed in Europe, around the time of the Seventeenth Century– perhaps because of some point of tension there, or perhaps because my original impetus reached the nadir of its Doppler.
As I watched the Seventeenth Century churn backward over the course of an hour, I was struck at once by the stark contrasts between the wealthy and the impoverished; the perfumed velvets contrasting with contaminated rags. Although the people around me were speaking in reverse, and at accelerated speeds, I could see how the exploitation of the underclass fueled a frenzy of intellectual activity. Bit by bit, the poor had been robbed of their magic, the one universally accessible resource. Charity Clinics, which had opened under the auspices of the new medical universities, provided free care, with experimentation as the quid pro quo. As I proceeded into the past, the clinics were replaced by local shamans and faith healers. The scientific method devolved back into superstition. Chemistry frothed and bubbled, and churned, unstirring itself back into alchemy. The knowledge of nature’s geometry subtracted its key discoveries one by one until it had reverted to mere numerology. I saw astronomers abandon their futures in the stars until they were again astrologers, beginning to ruminate about planetary motion.
I fell all the way back to the true beginning of human awareness, when our first ancestors turned their gaze from the demands of the moment, and apprehended the glittering void overhead, where the waxing and waning of the moon and the slow cart-wheeling of the stars informed them of the existence of Time. In that moment Art, Science and Magic were born.
Then I had to try to go forward again. The hard part was changing directions. Moving into the future meant facing events that could fork into new possibilities. One wrong move and I could find myself in a different universe. Or I could be trapped between points in time… condemned to spend eternity repeating my mistakes.
ARTHUR VERTINSKY HOLDS TO THE BELIEF THAT SEGMENT THIRTEEN FOLLOWS
TO CONTINUE IN ORDINARY SEQUENCE, FOLLOWING NUMERICAL ORDER, FOR ZEKE RINGO’S ULTIMATE VERSION, NEXT TURN TO SEGMENT TWENTY ONE