Leaving Cole’s body felt like standing naked in a howling hurricane as the forces of the universe tried to rip him asunder, to spread his energy across the stars, to push him to entropy. It went on and on as Cole’s body died.
Then suddenly, Ethan launched into the ether and serenity filled his thoughts. He had all the time he would ever need to do whatever he wanted to do. He stayed in the no-place and assessed himself. His thoughts and memories remained whole, his awareness clear. Somehow, he had done it again.
Ethan sensed the tenuous link to his own body. Like a rubber band stretched to its maximum length, his connection tugged at him to return. Should he succumb to that pull?
How am I doing this? Am I existing in more than one place at the same time?
His mind filled with contradictions.
Do I have to return to my own body? If it dies, what happens to me?
Were cause and effect necessary parts of the equation, or just an illusion?
Ethan again faced the perplexing question of how he could know two different histories: one in which Cole died in September of 1862 and one in which he died over a month later. Couldn’t only one event be true? Yet Ethan knew both existed.
Or did they? Was one a real event and the other merely an idea? Or did they exist in different planes of existence, different universes so close in detail they could not be told apart?
Ethan could not see how to prove either theory.
Was he a tiny fish in a big ocean, responding to that which already existed all around him, or was he changing what existed? If he could make small changes in the universe, then could he make big changes?
Ethan realized he had caught himself up in the symbology of thinking, using the limited context of physical existence to interpret his experiences. But he had caught glimmers of something else outside comfortable frames of reference. He tried to relax, to let this new information come to him without pushing it for meaning.
He thought of existence as the part of a magician’s act that an audience saw. The audience was unaware of the stage hands and the mechanisms that brought about the illusion. For the first time, Ethan began to see behind the curtains and under the props.
Ethan could now cross vast distances, millions of light years from star cluster to star cluster. It had always seemed so huge. Yet, Ethan saw that it was all connected, part of the same thing. Distance really did not exist. The universe existed as an enormous system, expanding exponentially, yet all the same interacting organism wherever one looked. Stars, planets, matter, and energy were merely the tools, the stage props. Behind and under all that existed the magician’s art for making something out of nothing.
He sensed something disturbing. He could not pinpoint it, but somewhere out there was chaos and an indefinable force that terrified Ethan.
Am I touching God?
Suddenly, Ethan had an irresistible urge to make sure of his anchor. He needed to return to his own time, his own body.
He thought of where he had been. Like a gopher sticking his head above ground and getting his bearings after hours in the dark, Ethan found the place he needed to be.