Maybe time will absorb it, as a sight unseen, one of the lengthy catalog of mien, the glimpses, escaping us, and ignored with decent regularity. The LifeRaft®, SUM, the base of Hydra, the neighbor of Centauri, labeled it “remarkable,” and eventually conferred upon the design, — certainly, Nature’s design, — a beauty comparable of nothing less than a “chrysanthemum.” Plainly, Aji suspected it was this way, but in a way one knows something they’ve yet to truly imagine; but she was not there. Her eyes were glassy, and her manner, deliberate, and resolute. If she would have said anything to him, anything at all, it would have been “good-bye” ; but, for her, the construct lacked a scientific basis.
She watched the diffusion of color in her infrared screen. The LifeRaft® was dijecting to the dimension of time nearest to the “Big Bang,” the “explosion.” Aji was searching for a decent “seam,” pleasant enough, but also musing, quietly, how it could surely be the last, the end, of her friend from New York, that is, approaching the Big Bang. He was presently devoted to a game of Hearts against SUM, the LifeRaft®’s Selective Monitoring Unit, in the passenger chair behind her, bravely awaiting Aji’s departure, and a solitary ride home to Coney Island, perhaps even “friending” SUM, who would navigate it. Aji was bid to discover the “Grand Lights.”
“Was that the Big Bang?” he asked the LifeRaft® mainframe, SUM, the guidance computer, possibly too often; each time, SUM replied, “Probably not.” As space, and life, frequently, enjoys a paradox, the Big Bang was not available to view, which may seem surprising; but there were other sights in the offing, and one may have been the Grand Lumineres.
The Grand Lights, or “Grand Lumineres,” was a theory of state of time, and space, a “situation,” as SUM designated unusual events, prior to the Big Bang. “The absence of a vacuum,” as Aji described it, musing, as she did from time to time, about the convoluted words of science. Aji completed the program to bring him home safely, and then set SUM’s voice feature to “shuffle,” hoping to stifle its oral capability, because she felt the system was far too gregarious. SUM nonetheless kept him company, as the pod jetted to acquire a new mathematical destination, downloading instructions in the vicinity of Jupiter, and İo, and computing too swiftly for a human to gauge.
Paradox remained part of Nature’s society. One suspects most people would choose to see a “cataclysm,” as SUM termed it, if the must, and only a cataclysm, without too great concern for the phenomena around it; in this final trip aboard Aji’s LifeRaft®, what they witnessed was not the “Big Bang,” as expected. Hydra’s best aeronauts would later strafe for matter sundry, and unseen, like some of the data collected by the LifeRaft®’s probes. Their view had been obscured by the cataclysm. He didn’t see the parts, with all of the minutiae; rather, only the whole. He didn’t notice human civilizations living upon many of Centauri’s 3,000 terrenes; it was not something they expected to find, and therefore didn’t search for it; many of the constellation’s planets, such as Proxima B, were already known to emulate the stratas of Earth. They didn’t see the homines sapientes, photographed by the probes; life in nascent phases, whose origins were believed to have been Earth; there were natural species separated by space, and existing upon countless Centaurian spheres, light years apart; it found Cro-Magnon, and Neanderthal Man, for two, hunting, and gathering on different orbs; there were endless species subsisting in astral disarray; and eras of civilizations, commenced on Earth-like moons, suggesting the era of the Middle Ages; India, and ancient Greece.
The LifeRaft® acquired İo, and was preparing to allow Aji’s exit to the Grand Lights in less than an hour; sparing everything else, she wanted to talk about a cat. He asked Aji, “Cats?”
Aji sat near him on a LifeRaft® Exit bench, and exhaled. “It’s not just any cat, but when the trip is over, you may enjoy more context, yes?” she said. “Or is that a cliché?”
He buckled his chin, and raised his brows. Aji said, “Now, about Schrodinger’s cat.”
He was resting ambivalently in an ergonomic chair designed the co-pilot, instead of the passenger chair, which was reserved for persons not allowed to effort official duties. He leaned in the back support. “Shouldn’t we do the flight plan?”
Aji replied, “All done, safe and sound.”
He shivered, said, “Never mind,” and then, “What about the cat? Did he ever travel alone?”
She said, “I don’t know if it was a he, or a she.”
A cup of McCafe, topped with whipped cream, and a dose of Grand Mariner, was set on a circular table in the Florida room, a porch enclosed, and attached to his double-wide in a Port Canaveral subdivision. The table cloth was checkered green and white; the sky was mostly cloudy, and the temperature in the high seventies; late in morning, it was almost time for lunch. He smiled about the paucity of groceries, compared to LifeRaft®, but he had just arrived in the sunshine state. He did return safely to New York, in the LifeRaft®. It settled upon dry land near Steeplechase Pier, and Brighton Beach; redoubting it, and as a special request, which the pod kindly permitted, as it added no more than seven minutes to the journey, it whisked him away again, and bemused him by fetching to land in a parking lot between the cruise ships. It was then, with a bit of solace, SUM, and the LifeRaft® departed, too, like Aji, perhaps to the Grand Lights, most likely, and it disappeared, blinking, in disco-like colors all the while, a technological farewell, until invisibility slowly enveloped it. He believed he waved to it, rather slowly, and emotionally, and kept waving surely after the pod had left his dimension. He stepped into the driveway from a taxi cab, standing, as it were, as if he’d just gotten the mail out of the box. He jingled his keys to the trailer door, then brewed coffee, and, forever an academic, decided to “situate” on the porch, in the Florida room, with a pencil, and a pad of paper.
He leaned forward at the metal table, – as if to find the future, or his friend, the sand-hill crane, – and began this account. He said aloud, “Deja vu.”
He enjoyed the simplicity of space, of it all, the blacks and the whites. Star-gazing, alone, and absent-of-mind, he noticed a glowing dot. “SUM?” he called. “Are you there?” The star was distant, growing exponentially on the horizon, into a sapphire blue.
SUM: Neptune. It’s a part of the Local Group.
N (Narrator): It’s beautiful.
He watched Neptune rise into the range of sight more visible from the LifeRaft® shield. It was not like Saturn, the incredibly-peaceful planet, but Neptune was clean, blue, and more dramatic. He expected the color to change, as it often did once the planets were closer, like Titan, which was light brown, at first, and then more white. SUM appeared to be frustrated, and busily tabulated formulas, shortly issuing a non-sequitur: “Enceladus is a ‘golf ball.’”
N: You don’t like Enceladus?
SUM: It’s not making sense.
N: How’s that?
SUM: It wants to get rid of Titan, I see. It is slightly changing its native dimension. Or there’s two of them. That is clearly impossible.
N: Is that a bad thing?
SUM (pause): I don’t want one Enceladus. I have no use for two of them.
The LifeRaft® entered a cloudful of stars, many with a color other than white. The computer became more brash, and occasionally “impolite,” and refused a raft of his questions, replying instead with sequential rows of red lights, similar to a xylophone, on the board; troubling him, it adopted a tinny, mechanical voice, without any inflection. He had stumbled to shield, feeling as if he may be needed, something of a deposed captain, and he sat querulously studying the controls, and immediately abandoned a thought to drive it. He waved a hand in front of his face. The sky was not only black, but possessed the absence of any light. He felt the pod steaming ahead to the destination, presumably Earth, and could feel the internal thrust on the deck. It had surpassed a speed where the LifeRaft® entirely blurred stars into white lines, and other objects into a geometric form; occasionally, if they were gone, and he would ask SUM, “Where are the stars.”
SUM (abruptly): There are no stars.
“None?” he asked. “The stars are gone.”
SUM: They’re gone if you can’t see them. Either they haven’t been born, or have left our space.
N: You’re placating me. That’s a lie.
N: It’s ‘dark, at night.’
SUM: It’s dark.
He decided to ask SUM about Orison, and rephrased the question several times.
N: Where is Orison?
SUM: You mean, is there an Orison?
SUM: There’s a Ho-rizon. The computer reset, contentedly, and processed another xylophone.
Aji completed her exit regimen, and continued to explain Schrodinger’s cat. She called the theory, “Many Worlds.” She said, “The Copenhagen interpretation gave us the notion of ‘Many Worlds’ in 1957. It focused, no pun intended, on a photograph. There were two photographs, a clear one, and a blurry one. The man was an Austrian, whose name was Erwin Schrodinger. He proposed that, if a cat, – ‘Schrodinger’s cat,’ as it were, – was contained, together with a flask of poison, and the flask collapsed, the cat would die.”
He said, “Obviously. Where do you people get these things?’
Aji said, “But the cat theory contains a paradox. One picture was the live cat, the other was the cat who expired, due to the flask. Schrodinger said that both the live cat, and the dead cat, would exist, at the same time, but in a different reality, in a different wave of quantum mechanics. The wave is like a reel of film, and both photos are tangible, and both real. It’s alive and dead, because the state of the cat is relative. The theory, that both the live cat, and the dead cat exist in the quantum wave, became part of the general theory of Relative States, and it was called ‘Many Worlds.’ The cat is dead and alive in separate dimensions, that cannot interact, but are equally real.”
He mentioned, “Why does it remind me of DNA?”
The monitoring unit broke its silence to inform him of a new problem. It reported the pod was temporarily engulfed by a cloud, which it called “Planet X.”
N: Planet 9? I thought it didn’t exist.
SUM: We call it ‘X.’ It’s a molecular cloud, in another dimension. ‘Sad, and orphaned’ place. The state of X is peculiar, however. It could be studied more, but Hydra tells us it is not interested. It doesn’t have mass, and it doesn’t have the correct properties to reside in the Local Group. It’s an anomaly of the Milky Way.
SUM: It will take us a little longer. We occasionally get stuck in these clouds.
N: It’s like an oil leak in the ocean, a – glut.
SUM: Very good.
The dire wolf, who promised to see Slack, and Glug again, one day, all at once was a small muffet in the wood, and disappeared in a brush of the forest with the sound of rustling. Her quest had been too long delayed, a search for her lost den, and its denizens, particularly her spouse, Gerald. The outlaw Yon Raulyn’s second in command, Tune, eventually opted for a more righteous life, to “go straight,” in the realm of Hydra, the giant galaxy, and to leave Lazarus Taxa. The crocodile, Slack, soon ruled the remote outpost, with his gator betrothed, sharing it with the dust of the empty Cache.
The Cache was the depository of Sawbones’ notable pilfered treasures. Tune swiftly liquidated The Cache, as part of his effort to live lawfully, and sold all the precious contents to a variety of suspicious, but amenable rival gangs. It caught the attention of fellow outlaws, H.L. Tauri, and his wife, Mare Ligeia, who told Tune his bid to eliminate the contraband, according to his plan, offering at a discount of a paltry eleven cents to the dollar, was “virtual philanthropy,” which could flatten the market, and was otherwise “a bad thing..” H.L. prevailed upon him, and they slightly inflated the asking price together to cover a sensible cost of freight, making it closer to 100 percent for each item of the unusual pick.
He asked Aji, “Why does it remind of DNA?”
She said, “It has a similar form, I guess, illustratively, to DNA, I suppose.,” and elaborated, “There may be, with this basis, an infinite number of universes, all equally real, although they cannot communicate with each other.”
“The one where the Mets lose, but actually win,” he grinned.
“Try to take it more seriously,” Aji shrugged, and then squeezed his shoulder, passing by him towards the auxiliary pod. She added, with one eye, “Or at least, – be more optimistic. Much more optimistic. You could think of it as – I don’t know – romantic.”
“Yes, and no,” he iterated. “Many Worlds.”
Aji grinned, and nodded, hurried by a date with the LifeRaft® clock. She said, “This last trek fulfills your duty. That is, if you can withstand SUM, and the rag jingle a little longer. You’ll be having Coneys at CitiField in sixty-three minutes,” and, finally, “Don’t touch anything!”
The LifeRaft® was mired in the glub of Planet X, causing him to ask SUM, “When will we lose this Gasoline Alley?” The molecular cloud was many times the size of Earth. The computer has just issued several probes, like roundels, which were haphazardly zipping towards the nearest constellation, Centaurus.
The computer, SUM, repeated his phrase, “Mmm,” and relieved the tension using the extended time to tour-guide objects in the LifeRaft® shield. The Local Group, as it is called, contained the Milky Way galaxy, in the center; at 5 o’clock, there was the Triangulum Galaxy, and at about four, Andromeda I to III. The constellation of Centaurus included Rigil Kentaurus, a star very much like the Sun, but larger, and a close twin, Toliman, a bit smaller; these were also called Centauri, A and B; a third star, the smallest, Proxima Centauri, was the closest to the Milky Way, a mere century of light-years away. The planets were bathed in waves of blue light. Many of its modest orbs had violent flares, like the Sun; by contrast, the surface of Proxima was placid, stony, and mountainous, like the American west, and existed in a permanent state of twilight.
The clearest, best-known picture of Centauri, A and B, was taken by ESA/NASA; the twins appear to be two Suns, and the photo, in the monitor, reminded him of headlights of an automobile, at night. “Really,” SUM replied. “Is that deja vu?” He did not answer. The shield then revealed an “unhappy crescent,” he thought, at the time; it drew his attention away from the flat screen, and, later, quite often, from the empty noon road outside his trailer in Florida. A curved line formed at the far edge of Planet X, the regular curve of a planet, and a line the LifeRaft® had to cross to leave the cloud. The line was a stark blue line; he knew it was an event, an event in time, but not in space, an abyss, a colossal blue horizon, and he saw a dazzling white orb in the very midst of it, in the midst of the blue line, which was like the charm of a pendant, emanating more blue light, to the east and to the west of them, to the breadth of both extremes, at the curve of Planet X, in front of them; the quiet of the predicament was unearthly, and the orb seemed to be peaceably spreading out its arms. His mind was searching quickly for image of gas pillars, and the color ranges of brown-to-red, expecting this might be the explosion of an emerging star, but there were none.
The computer focused the frames of the monitor on the nearby Local Group, visible from with the glut of X; unmistakably, he saw planets, a few of them familiar from his previous trips with Aji, the most notable, Saturn, Ale, surely, The Ponds, Titan, and Enceladus, which SUM rued, reiterating, “the golf ball”; yet, these spheres were contained in the night’s skyscape by the oblique echo of the two suns, Rigil Kentaurus and Toliman. SUM diligently recorded the event, nearly stammering to confirm the constellation’s other orbs; it was able to photograph several, including Proxima B, Beta, and Omega, but mistook another sphere in this gallery for Barnard’s Star. SUM said, “The planets simply resemble the others, the ones in the Milky Way. And that isn’t Barnard’s star, either, although it should be. The probes will tell us. That one looks more like Enceladus, or a very, very early form of Earth.”
He protested, “I know that’s The Ponds. I’m certain.”
SUM: And that appears to be Ale.
N: Well – that blue line. Do you think that was the Big Bang?
SUM: Probably not.
The computer was to offer the Coney Islander was “dense,” and, in fact, that was “not a bad thing,” but chose to redact it. He could see a navy blue horizon, in the offing.
Unhelpfully, he said, “Enceladus looks like a soccer ball.” SUM provided a huff, in frustration.
They studied Centaurus from the far edge of the cloud Planet X, the molecular cloud the LifeRaft® was traversing in dijection; the blue glare of the line became an awesome, widening span, and whiter. They were nearly out of the molecular cloud, escaping X’s sphere of inverted time, and space, and surging beneath it, fortunate it existed in another dimension; recognizing the event was happening at another time in Laniakea, SUM commented, only, “Into the glub, out the other side.”
Unknown in the perusal of the strange order of Centaurus’s planets were photographs taken by the probes. Hydra, which located next to Centaurus, eventually posted one famous picture in its museums, a likeness of the dual stars, Rigil Kentaurus, and Toliman, the third, Proxima Centauri, and a fourth imposing, and quite prominent star, a perfect brother to these, the Sun. Everyone knew this anomaly was not easy to explain; in real time, in the time of the Milky Way, and Earth, the Sun was supposed to churn well-beyond the dazes of Hadar, and some five light-years away. The Sun, in this photo, completed a quartet, a diamond, with the other three stars of Centaurus.
They could not see the entire Milky Way, from their viewpoint, in the substance mire of X, and, in a way, it was sort of fair play, as X, or Planet 9, did not exist, mathematically, in the Milky Way, it was well-known; it was a shadow planet, a myth, like Orison. But, if they could have seen the Milky Way from their dimension in Planet X, if they were able to view the galaxy, or stood, with a monitor, where the probes had taken their picture, the Sun was no part of the situation, no where close to the Milky Way, and the Milky Way galaxy was nothing, but a dark, blank, and empty space. It did not exist.
He was grateful to view the planet Mars, emerging from the Planet X cloud, and could barely suppress his pleasure; the notion of plying condiments for a Nathan’s frank rose in his mind; beyond Mars, he saw the “pale, blue dot,” floating innocuously, obsequiously, as if they might be returning from work, or just another day away from home. He noticed the probes lock into the pod, fair-sized globules which had been deployed into the air to photograph the Local Group; they looked like flying saucers.
SUM: We’re safely away from the cataclysm.
N: That blue wave?
SUM: The blue wave. It was a cataclysm. It happens every day, somewhere.
N: There’s Earth.
N: It’s like “deja vu.”
The computer responded, quoting circa Dictionary.com.
SUM: ‘The illusion of having previously experienced something actually being encountered for the first time.’
“Deja vu,” he repeated, rhetorically. He would return to it, like Yogi Berra, — over, and over again.
The computer, SUM, termed the image of the “cataclysm,” the expanding blue arms of within Planet X, a “fire on the edge,” and it clicked through its lexicon. The LifeRaft® then stunted, like a circuit-breaker had been overloaded; and the pod almost seemed to stop momentarily; the lights flickered for an instant, too briefly to say the LifeRaft® stalled, and the power was restored. He waited for more encouragement from SUM, but the computer kept its promise to be quiet, once all of the data requested by Hydra had been gathered; those moments reminded him of a time once when the college faculty was called to an emergency meeting, and he, a new instructor, was left in the office. He was alone in a pod; the computer was just another mainframe, with non-descript walls, and a bevy of servers. He gazed at the night sky. He sat back in the chair.
Oddly, the file name SUM gave to their final trip to İo was “Orison.” He saw it on the screen.
One day in New York, Aji curled into a yoga position, near him at Brighton Beach, and said, reflectively, “Do you ever think about paradise.” She said, “I’m beginning to believe our life is a daydream, and reality, somewhere else, — maybe, in paradise, or a multivry.”
“Orison,” he said. “Everyone says it doesn’t exist, so it must.”
“Orison,” Aji repeated.
He added, “It’s a gray area in physics.”
Aji smiled, “The brain, yes.”
He stepped through the sliding doors of the Florida room, and into the living room at Port Canaveral. The clock in the room was an imitation, a knock-off, of his Miller chimer in New York, hoisted years ago from a yard sale into the bed of a pick-up truck. The clock struck at the same moment. He waited to hear the tick of the second hand. He had jotted down in his notebook,“paradise, or ‘ paridaya,’ – a ‘walled enclosure,’ or a “fruit garden.” These were official, and original descriptions; neither very helpful. It was hard to see the glub of Planet 9 as paridaya. He breathed.
Whether it was Enceladus, or Titan, or perhaps Proxima b, or Earth, it didn’t really matter; and despite the staid, and dusty metaphysics, the personal values, subjective views, ideologies, ideals, or other theses, it was boldly there to see. A navy blue planet, stark, and fresh in the cold night sky, beautiful, peaceful, possibly once in Centauri. There was finally a question.
His grandfather liked to gauge the morning sky for potential snowstorms in Brooklyn on a daily basis, in spring, even the summer. He told his family precipitation actually came from land, and not the sky. He loved to challenge the obvious, the palpable, everyday beliefs, to sharpen their sensibility. He reminded his son people were misled easily by Nature, often for their own good. Flowers, and trees, for instance, were presumed to grow from soil; but, if one looked carefully, mindful of all, the roots grew into the ground.
– The End –
¤ JUKE BOX ¤
Theme: “Canon in D (Piano Variations),” Kristi Kruze | playlist, “Flea Markets, Nos. 1-50,” a myopic vaile (No. 43)
..… from The Echo By Seas; & Other Stories, by Soda Tom.
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