And now, to end the month of November (at least on the day for your weekly dose of bits from fiction), hereʼs the rest of Chapter One, “End of an Affair,” from Slaves to the Lesser Moon. The previous part was here, last Sunday.
Hunter and Birch are talking as Terry passes out in the apartment. Birch is trying to explain Dr. V.J. Fairchildʼs accidental intrusion into the nature of time and space…
“So you push things through your… — gap into another time? Is that it?”
“Kind of, sure. Only the things are the gap, in a way, probabalistically. Theyʼre equivalent with timeless spacetime, only timeless and spaceless, too I guess. See, she was working with some abnormal results published a few years back, in Physics Notes, from CERN, and she realized last year, about now, I guess, a year ago, that if you removed the temporal elements in the equations — she was developing different equations than youʼd have thought — , dividing out the vibrations in the strings, the abnormalities made sense, fit her new timeless equations… but those were highpowered experiments. I mean, itʼs CERN, itʼs the biggest, most-highpowered… Then in second semester last year she realized that the same results, well, similar ones, equivalent, could be reached at relatively low powers, too. Not exactly. What took her attention, what captured her imagination, was the time absence. See? Her idea was that we could manipulate, create an actual gap, thatʼs what I call it, in spacetime, so thereʼs no time, and so I guess no space, same thing, you know, within the radius, briefly.”
He made no sense to me. I donʼt think he did to himself. He acted really frustrated.
“But you did it? You made whatever you are talking about happen?”
“Um, yeah. In a way. I guess. Yeah. We have demonstrated her equations. After Thanksgiving, we used a pencil, then bigger objects. We celebrated New Yearʼs using a mouse I, uh, liberated, from the bio lab.”
Terry mumbled suddenly in his stupor, and I realized I was feeling pretty dopey myself. Maybe what Birch was saying made sense if you hadnʼt guzzled a dozen beers. Thirteen. I looked down at the one still in my hand, heavy, barely drunk at all.
“You used things? How?”
“We, uh, made stuff change their place in time, spacetime.”
“You made stuff travel through time?”
“Uh, sure, although I donʼt think thatʼs really a very good terminology, Hunter. The device creates this spacetime gap, and if we introduce something into the gap, or rather create the gap around the object, well, as the object, really, it no longer occupies spacetime. Itʼs independent of the framework. The whole framework. Thatʼs what Valjean doesnʼt see. Even gravity doesnʼt affect them. Maybe not even dark matter or energy.”
“I donʼt get it. You put things in your machine and they just sit there? How do you know you are doing anything at all? What is it? They donʼt age or what?”
“No. Well, they donʼt. Age, that is. Or rather, they shouldnʼt. Not while they equate with the gap, are the gap, become the gap…” He was losing us both trying to identify just what happened inside their time machine.
“Can I see it?”
“Yeah, Birch. Will you let me see it? Maybe you could show me what it does, you know. Maybe then Iʼd understand…”
I had lit a little fire in him, visible in his eyes. “You want to see what it does…”
“Sure. Show me. Maybe itʼll all make sense then. I want to see what happens to the things in your gap.”
“Not in the gap. They are the gap. Briefly. Well, not briefly, thatʼs time. But they re-emerge. Before we put them in. Sometimes.”
“Before? Before you put them in? They go back in time?”
“Sort of. Not always. The cat came back, came out right away — “
“You tried this thing on a cat?”
“Valjean found it hanging outside her condo. Brought it in on Monday.”
“But it didnʼt work on the cat?”
“No. It worked. Just — … differently. Itʼs really hard to explain…”
“Youʼve got to show me, Birch.”
“She wanted me to try it on a bigger subject. Living things donʼt behave, react, the same as other objects. Shouldnʼt matter, but apparently it does… And sheʼs not considering the gravitational aspect. She thinks thatʼs an electrodynamic effect that weʼre observing. But it isnʼt shouldnʼt be… Sometimes I wonder if itʼs not dark energy thing. — I didnʼt want to try it myself, you see. I think thereʼs other issues… She just focuses on the time-negativity all the time, but time is space. I know it. Timelessness is spacelessness, too. That matters.”
He was all worried about something else, trying to make all the numbers add up or something. I wanted to see the machine. I wanted to see something travel through time.
“Come on, Birch. Iʼve got to see this. You have to show me.”
Something clicked in his mind. Something changed. He agreed. “Okay. I can show you, Hunter. Hell,” he looked sly, somehow, “if you ask real pretty, I might even let you try it out for yourself…” He was staring right at me really funny, but I didnʼt register it at the time. He had made me think.
Could I try it out? Go back in time? I suddenly imagined stopping Jen from hooking up with her Jack last summer… It was only a few hours from Pashitakua to Hartford. Could Birch send me that far back? He wouldnʼt want to. Heʼd never want to help me with anything. But if I didnʼt tell him…
“Youʼd let me try it out, Birch?”
“Sure, dude. Maybe. I mean itʼs experimental. But if you see it, and want to try it out. Why not?”
Why not indeed? I started to see it all in my head. I could steal my own car from myself, my old self, and drive straight to her house, the day after she got home. Sheʼd said she didnʼt see that Jack jerk for the first time until the middle of June… Itʼd be real romantic. Sheʼd like that… Sheʼd like that a lot…
“So, Hunter, you want to go? Give it a looksee?”
By now I wanted to do a whole lot more than see. I thought the only hard part would be getting Birch to really, truly let me use the machine. If only I had remembered what he had said when he arrived. But I didnʼt. I just sucked on the beer can instead.
And thatʼs the end of Chapter One, about 5500 words altogether. Scrivener estimates that at fourteen paperback pages. Too long?
The big issue is whether I have had time to finish (or will in these next three days) the final 7000 words to reach 50,000 and thereby “win” NaNoWriMo.