Friday, April 16, 2010

The Anachronomist

I saw myself sitting, straddling the ridge line of the roof with physics books splayed around me. Some were suspended in mid-air, pages held apart as if by static electricity, but they weren't. I don't remember exactly what I was reading at the time.

This is not how it was supposed to be. Not at all. I used to worry about how much I procrastinated in life -- all the promises to myself of things I would someday do -- but someday never seemed to come. I was worried at the moment I died, when I had no time left, and my last possible someday had arrived, that I would think about all the years and years of time that had just evaporated. Time has a friction to it, it pulls you from where you want to be. It is only through immense effort that you can resist it. And yet, even with my worries, I had never wished for this fate. Who could have possibly predicted this? It is simply not possible -- physics does not allow it, yet it has happened. Time has a friction...I can't overcome.

If it is possible for anyone to find me, if this has just happened to me, and not the entire universe but me -- it should be known that it started without warning.

I watch her again -- me -- steadily running. She has a perplexed look. She looks to each side. The birds have stopped moving and making their noises. There is no sound but what comes from her and even that is slightly thudded, slowed and lowered, as if the air grew suddenly more viscous. She slows and then stops. After a moment, she puts her arms around herself -- she feels neither cold nor warmth, there is no temperature, but she shivers with the odd sensation. She squints ahead at a point in the trail. She begins to head towards a tiny object suspended in the air. When she is closer she sees that it is a butterfly in mid-air, frozen with its wings fully spread. Her mouth is agape with astonishment. She blows gently on it. It's antennae move slightly. Then she pokes it with a finger, nudging it. It moves, twists, but does not react. When she removes her finger the butterfly remains tilted.

That was my first real memory of this place. I call it a place since I don't really know what else to call it. In the moment before it started, it was normal Earth, with rain and sun and lapping oceans, grass growing, people dying of preventable diseases, babies crying, and would-be terrorists plotting things they think are revenge. After the butterfly, it was just a different place. Not another human around, though I did find plenty of life frozen in place, like I was trapped in a taxidermy museum. For awhile I occupied myself with making maps of where all the animals were in my vicinity, but that was long after I came to accept the situation and before I memorized where all of them were.

I didn't need food anymore. It was disconcerting at first, but I realized that somehow the laws of physics governing the entropy and conservation of energy had changed, so eventually it made sense. Unfortunately, this made death by starvation impossible. There were other methods I could have tried I supposed, and maybe I did because I can't remember everything that happened between then and now and back again, but ultimately the curiosity of the situation wouldn't let me go.

This place has a boundary. Sometimes I think of it as an event horizon, but it's not really a thing but rather a where, and I can never quite reach it. I can see it a bit from a distance, but when I get near it, I feel pulled back. From what I can see, it looks blurry. I can sort of see objects beyond it, but they are hazy, gauzy, etherial, and dark. Sometimes I see movement, and my only hypothesis is that it is me -- either a mirrored surface reflecting me, or a transparent surface, showing me in a different time in the same place. I can't explain it as well as I'd like. It's strange though because even in my immediate vicinity I can see myself, like I'm looking at myself on the roof reading right now. She can't see me. I'm not sure when that happened, but she might not have known then that she could see back. I cannot see forward, and I cannot interact with my otherselves. It's a one way deal.

I think maybe that's why everyone else went away. As I have a barrier between me and my otherselves, maybe there is a barrier between all other people. I barely remember other actual people, other than what I see in books. Thankfully my vicinity contains a well-stocked library although I've been through that several times.

I remember electricity. I think that was the eeriest loss, even more so than the other people. So much of the world before this place came to be was integrated with it. I vaguely remember watching television, and using a computer, talking on a cell phone. All those are useless objects now. Awhile back I glued a bunch of TVs together in the middle of the street. I supposed it could be called art, but part of me was making it as a monument, a sacrificial offering to whatever caused this, if anything did, so that I could get electricity back. When I was done, I laid down on the asphalt next to it, looking up at the relentless gray sky. it never changed, and there was never any weather. When this started, the day was overcast, but not this solid gray. Whenever I go back to the time with the butterfly, I can never quite catch that change in the sky. It bothers me that I can't. I can't ever go further back than when it was gray.

My relationship with gravity changed. It's not gone, and it still acts the same most of the time, but if I think about it, or feel the urge, I can move around my vicinity without the influence of gravity. I'm not bouncing around like an Apollo astronaut on the moon, but I guess the best description is that I'm able to levitate, to glide, to float, or even to find myself suddenly in a different area. I remember having dreams like that when I was a child, and when I'd wake up, somehow I always knew that the ability was with me, but just that I couldn't figure it out. Now it's no problem.

I've tried to fly up into the sky. Usually I get a sick feeling inside if I go too fast. A little bit of me is afraid I might not be able to get back down, but from what I've been brave enough to explore, it's just gray. Even though my bravery was limited, no matter how high I'd push, the town and forest that make up my vicinity would never get smaller than that I could make out the detail of the roads and the tops of the trees.

I'm drifting away from watching myself on the roof. I feel the air blurring against me. There is no wind, but I can feel it moving around me as I move against it. I'm headed for the horizon. It's been bugging me. There is a dark spot at the end of one of the roads. I can see the road going through the event horizon, I can see a red car parked on the other side, and then the dark spot, frozen hovering about five feet up. I have a theory that it's a weak spot in the horizon but I don't know. I can't get near it. I'd really love to touch my hand to it.

I'm over the road now and I touch my bare feet to the gritty asphalt (I've abandoned wearing clothes for the most part -- I mean why bother at this point?) I see some of my otherselves in turn, watching, looking, trying to test out the theory. They cannot get near. They evaporate just inches before, and then another otherself takes her place. For me it's like picking at a scab. I can't not try it over and over again even though I know it does nothing.

I hold back. I sit down on the road, on the meridian line, just watching. The scene begins from the beginning and plays over again in a loop. I wait. Finally I decide to move forward, not in space but in time, to a time none of my otherselves have yet visited. I want to be alone, to try pushing through the spot alone, but then I have an epiphany, and I can't believe I've never thought of it before. Could this last forever?

I forwarded myself again, but this time faster and continuously. I watch the spot. At first there is no change, but then I think I see it changing, moving. It's not getting bigger or smaller, it's moving away. I stop and get up. How far have I come? I don't know, it feels as it always does -- there is nothing expended in exertion. Maybe I could learn to go even faster. I look at the blurry red car, and notice that part of the bumper is clearly visible. It's on this side. I stand next to it, reach down, and touch it. I am still here -- it is here. I push the bumper towards the horizon, and it slides through. It does not come back.

I leave, excited. I'm not sure what it means, but maybe that the event is not static, and I may not be stuck. Unfortunately, it looks like it will only continue to expand. Did it originate from a point? It must have exploded very quickly, imperceptibly quickly. I wonder where the center of the event is. Was it me or was it something else, something random? I thought about the geometry of my vicinity for awhile. The butterfly would not have been the center. I spent some time and measured the area of the vicinity, rather inaccurately I suppose, with a battered old yardstick from the elementary school. I drew a map of the area inside the horizon on top of my animal map. I'd always thought the shape was circular, or spherical, but it was more like three wobbly overlapping circles, like a Venn diagram. I couldn't figure out what the center was just by looking on the map, so I went with it and tried to dead reckon where it was. The most significant object to the center was a gas pump at the service station. It was labeled "Self Serve", which I thought was moderately funny, given the circumstances, but there was nothing else of note about it.

I was stumped for awhile, and went back to my old ways, watching my otherselves, occupying myself with various hobbies (I'm a kickass piano player now, I've taken to composing even, and my cello skills are coming along -- thank goodness for analog instruments), and generally trying not to think about the oppressive endlessness. I'm watching my otherself now that day I went to the gas pump map in hand. I have an idea.

I wait for her to evaporate. Then I go and sit down on the little curb next to the pump. I really do hope this is the center. I push back now, or maybe that should be called pull. I push back until I begin to get a little tired -- more of boredom than of any exertion. It's hard to tell if I'm actually going back. There are otherselves passing through now and then, but this was never a place I really lingered, so I don't see much of me. I try again, harder, concentrating. I start floating up off the curb, and this distracts me. I loop an arm around the curved metal pylon that was meant to stop cars from clipping the gas pump. I begin again. Faster I think. My feet leave again. Faster. My body falls upward in a quick jerk, as if gravity suddenly switched orientation (and maybe it did), but I'm still clinging to the pylon, concentrating. Faster.

I can feel the air moving gently around me. My skin begins to prickle and tingle. I can hear the thoughts of my otherselves, closing in on me. That has not happened before. They are not aware of me. I begin to feel that I'm the last otherself, finally. The voices are a loud cacophony, and my skin is on fire but I still push faster. My arm is falling alseep, holding me groundward. My grip is still secure. The air is buffeting me violently now. This is the most independent movement I've ever noticed in the vicinity. I'm suddenly cold, a burning cold, and there is light now. The gray is being seared away. I am still -- totally frozen, there is total silence.

Ahead of me is a butterfly. I'm mid stride, and I stop running, not knowing that's what my body was doing. I stumble closer to the butterfly. It's flapping it's delicate wings. I reach out a hand, and it lands on me. I can feel it walking around on my thumb. There are birds in the trees, I can hear them. I look up, and there is a bit of blue peeking out from between the clouds. It worked. I worry briefly. Having lived for an infinite period, and now facing a very finite life, I feel a bit wistful--but I'd trade it all just to have this moment now, with tiny little feet on my hand, and the sounds of the forest in my ears, and the sun on my face.

I wrote the first four paragraphs in a notebook probably three years ago. I remember it being one of the first few ideas I had surrounding a novel I'm working on, but that story ultimately turned out much differently. I expanded the rest just now, as I went to post it -- and just lost an hour of my life doing it--kind of want it back because I have other things to do, but I guess I wouldn't trade it ;-)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Katharine;

This is a good, strong story. Possibly, we have different scenic dimensions of our mind. Most people could not perceive of anything like that. You are special; in that you can imagine it and turn it in to belief.

P.S.: Yesterday's story was another good one.