Three of Time and One of Space
“Becky, do you know what a Magus is?” I asked as we walked. We crested the little ridge that set the interior of the island apart from its beach and the river. My mood was calm and the strange dusk of the apparent evening helped keep me that way. The assault by the tree and the subsequent healing by Adam and his wife, Eve, had rounded off the anxious edge to my confused emotions between Becky and Lilith. The island, the river, and the soft, thatched ground beneath our feet were in themselves restful things and instead of running from them, I now embraced them. Even the Muppet trees did not worry me, though I was not fool enough to approach them. About us, they were silent and still; their floppy leaves seemed dulled in the diminishing light of the pendulum moon, for it was clearly on its upward swing, and as it rose, its light became weaker. Fall had come fast to Wormwood and the colorful shag of the murderous Muppet trees looked as if they had been dipped in saltwater and then left like an abandoned car in a hot sun, so wilted and so rusty did they look they barely appeared to be trees at all. They had all the look of a forlorn, forgotten heap of sackcloth that I almost forgave the tree that attacked me, almost, but not quite, for all of me felt fine but for my left hand. It burned like fire, and while the barb that had penetrated it had not left a mark as far as I could see, I wondered if there was some undetected poison in there that Adam had missed.
Becky held that sorry hand as we went and hers felt warm and dry in mine, and I felt happy beside her and because of her, I ignored the throbbing pain it was causing me.
Lincoln rushed about us in a dog’s typical zigzag pattern of sniffing and nose-poking. He was into everything. Any rustle in the bushes or any scuttle upon the ground seemed to interest him. He raced about us like a mad thing, so intent was he he barely noticed us. Like me, he knew well enough to keep away from the Muppet trees, giving them a wide berth in his endeavor to chase the little creatures that hid in the great Lavender-like bushes that grew in patchwork regularity along the beachhead. This bush had a high-topped flowery stem that indeed smelled of lavender and so perhaps that’s what it was. And Lincoln, intent on his chase of whatever little thing he found there dove recklessly in amongst this lavender. Their waving, flowery tops easily exposed his presence.
Lincoln held, I reflected, a bizarre position within the realm of Universal Celestials; for in Heaven, Hell, or anywhere else that may or may not be out there, he remained to me, an ordinary dog. And I shook my head in the wonder of it as he romped carelessly in the bushes about us.
I looked up at the sky. The pendulum moon that had brought the short summer to Wormwood was almost gone now and I wondered what the new night would bring.
Becky had no recollection of how she had come to the lake or of her role in the total and absolute destruction of the Muppet tree that had attacked me. I looked at her. She appeared winsome in the failing light.
“A Magus—-you mean like a magician?” she answered.
“I guess…? I guess that’s it. Sort of like Merlin the Magician from the King Arthur legends.”
“Yes,” she said, pausing. “Except Merlin was nothing like the comic book magician he’s portrayed to be. Magicians back then saw magic as vehicle between the living and the dead. They used the dying or the dead to communicate between the two worlds.”
“Two worlds?” I asked. “Which two worlds?”
She looked at me. Her eyes were wide and looked almost Asian-black against the backdrop of Wormwood’s diminishing light.
“That world that exists between life and death,” she said. “The afterlife! The place between!
“Their magic is the natural gathering of life-energies and death-energies. It is the power of the tether that binds the world of life and the world of death to the other; a Magus believes that to manipulate that tether he or she will become master in both worlds…
“And they use a traveler to explore that place.”
“A ghost. A ghost of a near dead or the newly dead. Merlin and others like him murdered children to use as travelers. They took control of these murdered ghosts and used them to explore the tether. In short, exnzpat, a Magus is not a nice person.”
“Oh, my God!” I said, startled. “Why children?”
“Children trust. It’s that simple. A Magus is a deceiver of the living, dead, or dying, and a child is easily deceived in any state. How many times did your parents tell you not to talk to strangers?”
We walked in silence while I pondered this horrible information.
We had come to the beach. Our footfalls scrunched in the cooling sand. It felt good on my feet and for a moment, I forgot my place in the universe. Surely, a pretty girl and a beach underfoot is all a man should ever dare desire from life. Why does any one of us ask for more?
I looked to Becky for some clue as to where this ugly, dark knowledge of magicians had come from, for I had only expected a perfunctory, dictionary type answer. What she had given me was disturbing; it had not been what I had expected at all. And it was then I noticed her face, seeing it, I think, as it truly is. For her face, framed in thick, black hair was beautiful, yes, but there was much more. Her mouth, when she smiled crinkled somewhat and because of it, it created a smile that masked the rest of her face in a veil of brightness. Her perfect teeth, her cheeks of gold, and her eyes of green hedged by heavy dark lashes are suddenly lost in that little crinkle; her smile shines out like a drying sun in an afternoon rain. Surely, it is the Sun! Oh, the glare of it, for she is hard to see. Round her head is an almost perfect halo, for it is almost perfect and because of it, her emotive expression of face goes unseen. Her eyes, the way they sparkle in the light; her cheeks, with their little dimples forming in little points where they touch her lips; and when angry, a platoon of tender worry lines cross her forehead giving real passion to the hurricane eyes below.
And so, looking at her now in the last of the pendulums moon’s draining light, I wondered if I had ever really seen her before, for tears were pooling in her eyes and threatened to crest her golden cheeks.
“These people, these Magus’s–like all occultists and materialists, want only to enrich themselves.
“They are pathetic!” she spat, and her eyes flared up as if a pair of fireworks had suddenly exploded there. And all of those things within the halo twisted and revolved, changing their shape and filled the halo with a horror of anger and hatred.
Shocked, I slowed, and suddenly all of her face unraveled and softened into despair. I tightened the grip on her hand, stifling a gasp from the pain that shot up my wrist into my arm. I loosened my grip and the pain receded. I looked at her curiously.
“And what did Merlin want?” I asked quietly.
“Power. Arthur was merely a tool he used to protect himself with while he acquired it.”
“You talk about Merlin as if he was a real person.”
“He was… He is.”
“And how would you know that?”
She said nothing for a long minute and then seemed to shrug the whole of it away and said, “I was an English literature Major. I wrote a paper about him—-but then I should ask you, why are we talking about this?”
“No reason. I’m just not familiar the term, Magus.”
“Well, just so you know. They’re not nice people. They believe the things written about them and they transcend their minds into alternate states with hallucinates and other drugs. They will hurt animals, children, and adults to achieve their petty goals. And what’s worse, exnzpat, they believe their power comes to them through God. They consider themselves Christians. The power they seek is Christ’s ultimate power over death, and because of it they don’t care who gets in their way.”
I stopped and pulled her to a stop. Tears rolled freely down her face.
“Becky? what’s wrong?”
“Nothing. I don’t want to talk about this anymore…” we had reached our water-lily and she looked up, “…Oh great,” she said, rubbing at her cheeks, “your girlfriend is back.”
I looked up and saw Lilith standing nude on the beach before us. She had her back to us and she was looking out across the river toward the hanging mountain towering above us.
Lincoln immediately leapt forward, running to her and barking like an excited puppy at dinnertime.
She turned and saw us but her eyes went to Lincoln first and she knelt to greet him, and grasping him in her arms held his wiggling, exuberant form tightly, kissing him, and fondling his ears with real love.
“So?” I asked, not exactly sure where to begin. After our battle with the Muppet tree and our apparent destruction and resurrection, I was not sure exactly what emotions had passed between us, for I looked at Lilith and then back to Becky, not sure of either them, or even myself. Was I in love? And for a moment the idea seemed absurd and then Lincoln’s coat began to pulse its black and white tattoo, and he growled up at me with bared teeth.
“BAD DOG!” I shouted at him. I did it so suddenly I surprised myself. Lincoln shied from me, hiding between Lilith’s legs and emitted but a whimper.
I turned and stalked away. I went to the water’s edge and wondered where the hell I had left my shoes.
Thinking back, I realized I must have removed them before coming ashore; then they must be still on the water-lily. I stood there looking at the Lily, it was stuck upon a small sandbar about ten feet from shore, and as I debated on wading out there to get them, Lilith called to me.
“I see you have not come very far. Clearly, you were not paying attention when I explained the navigation of Wormwood to you.”
“Lilith, I don’t care. I’m going to get my shoes,” I said without turning. I rolled up my pant legs and splashed heavily into the water.
“Three of Time and One of Space, exnzpat, watch!”
Because of the fading light, the water in which I was treading was becoming ominously dark. And looking for my feet beneath me, I imagined only a pit; so, despite my anger, waist high in the water, I turned to see but with the intent of yelling an obscenity at her; I was in no mood for her pseudo-science.
Lilith walked a little way up the beach toward where the last spit of sand curled outward from our little harbor and made contact with the deeper current of the river. There, a skeleton road emerged from out of the water and crossed the island sharply, disappearing back into the water after a short distance across the land.
Lilith stopped at the road and beckoned Becky to come to her and after a short spell of hesitation where she looked to me in annoyance, walked over to Lilith to see what she wanted.
Lincoln discovering himself alone on the beach looked between us. Seeing me out in the water, and Becky and Lilith up on the sandy point, he decided that whatever it was I was doing seemed more fun and so he splashed happily into the water and padded out to me with a mad grin plastered across his whiskered face. He swam about me in circles, clearly delighted with his choice of companions.
Pretending to go after Lincoln and after he shied away, I saw that Lilith had taken Becky’s hands and had pulled her gently toward her. Then slowly, turning together about some point in the road and taking a single step inward together, as if in dance, they suddenly, in a wink of blurred light, simply vanished before my eyes.
One moment they were there and the next, they were gone. It was a startling thing to witness. I stood there dumbly in the water for at least a minute, expecting the same trick of light that had made them vanish return them. And when nothing at all occurred, I slogged quickly out of the water and ran to the spot on the road where they had been standing.
I saw their footprints in the sand and the scuffle of it their feet had made upon the road. In fact, the spot was an intersection in the road. It had not been obvious to me out in the water. This other road, at right angles to the first, ran parallel to the river; rising up out of the water it made the join with the first and then disappeared under the sands and grasses of the island.
I backed away from the spot expecting my friends to pop back into existence at any moment; I waited. And after a few minutes of nothing but a light breeze beginning to blow, I called out nervously to the spot, “Guys, this isn’t funny anymore.” I waited again, staring like a sentry at the spot, and still they did not reappear. I began to wonder if this was a punishment of sorts. Was Lilith trying to punish me because I had not figured out her riddle: Three of Time and one of Space? Her last words before she disappeared. In itself, it is a riddle. In concept, it is specific, but by its very nature, it is esoteric. For to visualize such an idea, is impossible. And as I sat there waiting for them to rematerialize I was forced to think about it.
Lincoln, wet and with a fishy, lolling tongue, left the water and trotted up the beach toward me. My angry earlier outburst he seemed to have forgotten or had immediately forgiven me for; and that is a marvelous thing about dogs. He nosed at my shoulder and licked my face as I knelt there in the sand before the road, and seeing I was doing nothing interesting, shook himself suddenly, showering me with water. “Arrgh,” I said, pushing his soggy body aside. “Lincoln!”
I smoothed a patch in the sand before me. And Lincoln, done with shaking himself plopped down beside me to watch.
I could understand the 4 dimensions (3 of Space and 1 of Time) of my own universe–we all can if one really thinks about it, and so, with my finger I drew a horizontal line in the sand and then another across it making an T lying down. From the join in the T I drew another line, but vertical.
For I always remembered a description of our 4 dimensional universe like this: imagine you are given directions to company meeting at say, 1 o’clock in the afternoon, in an office building on the 10th floor. First, you must locate the building on a map and this is done by considering the first 2 spatial dimensions of Space. The third spatial dimension then, represented by my vertical line is the line in space directly above this intersection, in this case, the 10th floor. The last element to a 4 dimensional universe is Time—and, as I said, 1 o’clock in the afternoon. I drew a wavy line touching the top of the vertical line. The wavy line represented time. Its intersection with the vertical line is exactly its 1 o’clock position in space. Simple, right? I sat back to admire my work, but still, something, was missing.
My sandy diagram was something that we are all familiar with—something anyone can wrap their mind around. But to apply the same idea to Wormwood—with its 3 dimensions of Time and 1 dimension of Space? How do you do that?
I looked to Lincoln for inspiration, but he just licked happily away at one of his forepaws and ignored me.
“What do you think, Lincoln?” I said. He looked up and gave me his doggy grin. “One of Time is easy, but three? Hell, it’s all a matter of perception… isn’t it…”
And suddenly my mind seemed to fall in on itself. “Lincoln, my friend, I think I’ve got it!”
My excited tone made Lincoln jump up and begin licking my face again. I gave him a kiss on his nose and rubbed at his ears. He seemed satisfied with this and plopped down with a thump right on top of my drawing, erasing it completely. “Darn it, Lincoln.”
I found another spot in the sand and smoothed it over, and began to draw again. When I was done, I had 3 wavy lines that represented Time and 1 straight line that represented space, and after a moment of thought, added the arrow of my perception, as I had done with the first drawing.
I felt my spark of inspiration dwindle as I looked upon the formidable problem before me. What light remained of Wormwood’s summer was fading fast. The white, pendulum moon was now almost gone, and it was becoming difficult see. In a few minutes, I would be plunged into darkness. I needed to figure this out quickly. And so I stared hard at my rude etchings, and suddenly, I saw it: I can only have one perception of time–not three! For that is the key. Neither Space nor Time owns the mind.
I smoothed over my drawing and began again.
I began with the line representing Space. It wasn’t a line at all, but a point. And as a point it must exist, or travel, on any one of 3 wavy lines of Time; but which one? Actually, it didn’t matter I decided, and boldly struck my finger once again into the sand making a dot to represent a singular dimension of Space.
I stared at it stupidly for a few moments, smiling, my mind raced like a runaway train. For I had almost grasped this thing but the sooner I had it, it was gone again. And seeing it again and again, finally it began to sink in. My perception of Wormwood is that of a dinner plate, with me standing in its middle and I see what I will see, regardless of which timeline I’m on. I had it now. It was so simple!
Lilith described Wormwood as a sort of time machine. It is a thing that grows in length and breadth within the real universe. But I deduced (correctly, I think) that it is only a time machine from the perception of entry and exit. Wormwood knows nothing of the universe in which it exists. Its insides are but a single point of space. All of them connected to the other, but separated by whichever timeline you happen to be moving along. So, in the end, my drawing was of three wavy lines, not intersecting in a single point, but intersecting to create a sort of triangle. My dot, my dinner plate of singular Space, could exist upon any of the wavy lines. My perspective, my dinner plate, travels with me wherever I go, but together we can only travel along one Timeline at a time. It’s all a matter of perception! My mind is witness and its perception is my gyroscope.
When confronted by the probability mathematics of Quantum mechanics Einstein wrote, God does not play dice with the universe. Surely, I thought, he is correct. With my singular perception to the motion of Time, I can only exist on one of Wormwood’s 3 Time dimensions at any one time. So then, it is easy!
I looked up from the drawing, quite satisfied with my new knowledge, though, studying the drawing, I realized (because Lilith had said so), I could move back in time as well as forward, not past 1976 when Scudamour made Wormwood, nor forward beyond the existence Scudamour’s home, the Dark Tower. But, regardless of these obstructions, this meant my perception of Time’s motion in Wormwood while travelling upon any of the three Timelines could be in either direction. And for some reason I found this rather disturbing because it meant that there were six possible directions within Wormwood in which I could travel, or six possible dinner plates from which to observe this world.
I looked about that darkening world now. The towering, hanging mountain, petrified and as stiff as dead man’s up thrust hand, helped blot what light remained. The pendulum moon swung upwards, toward it as if to cut itself upon its icy cold fingernails. Round me, short, truncated shadows cast by the now bare Muppet trees darkened the beach. Their barbed branches looked like writhing snakeheads in the dim evening light. I counted almost twenty of them. They had gathered, and had come to the beachhead to either kill me or drink from the river. I had been concentrating so hard on the problem before me I had not noticed them creep nearer. I shivered from the cold of the coming night and from fear of my relentless enemies. Lincoln looked up at trees too and growled dangerously in their direction.
I stood and brushed the clinging sand from my ragged clothing. I knew now what I must do.
The great curve of the horizon to the north and south seemed convex to me now, as if I were at the very bottom of my deduced dinner plate looking outward along its smooth rim. My new understanding of Wormwood was now changing the way I saw things. For my singular location in Space is the nadir of the dinner plate and from it I had options. To leave it I could do so in six directions. Lilith, Becky, and the Dark Tower was that direction, and instinctively I knew how to catch-up with them.
I looked at the pendulum moon again, my eyes drawn to it like a moth to a flame, it was merely a pinprick in the darkness now, and it seemed to hover there, drawing me upwards in its relentless swing. And seeing it with my new perspective I realized that it only gave the appearance of swinging—for it simply followed the lay of the land—that singular spot above in which I trod. Yes, I saw it all now, and looking back upon our passage to date, I saw things as they had really been. The violet moon, her pure, straight passage; it had pushed us along the river, not in a straight line as the river looked to be, but in a semicircle until we had run beyond her range. And the pale moon, moving as if it were an angry hornet across the sky keeping a hunters pace but a narrow range when really it must have been stationary the whole time; its crosshairs fixed to the spot above us as our perspective shifted within the rim of space about us. And in time, we shifted until it no longer saw us or we it, even though we had not moved at all.
Yes, I was beginning to know Wormwood now. And its slow moving sun? Surely, we had crossed the desert to the Dias in a circle; the sun had remained stationary only because it and we shared the same space and timeline. Its ever-present location on the horizon was simply the lip of our dinner-plate perception. We moved in the bowl beneath it, but most probably at a pace relative to the sun’s own movement on the horizon, and stopping the extended time at the Dias as we did, allowed the sun to pass us and eventually disappear from view, and I smiled thinking this. It was still out there somewhere I just couldn’t see it.
Yes. I understood now.
I eyed the assembled Muppet trees. They had not moved since I had spied them standing there; and so I went back to the roadway that Lilith and Becky had danced upon and studied their footprints in the sand where the two roads crossed. I smiled. + marks the spot! With my new knowledge of Wormwood, I surmised, this intersection, like all other intersections in Wormwood, was not just a confluence of bone upon bone but a single point in space. Stacked together they make a spine of sorts, shackled and hung, one to the other, much like a human backbone. I laughed. How could I have not seen this before? While there were thousands, maybe millions of intersections just like this one, all of them must share the same point of singular space at the bottom of Wormwood’s inestimable dinner plate.
I knelt and brushed the sand from it. It grinned ebony in the last of the pendulum moon’s light, and like a madman I grinned back at it, for there were no secrets between us now.
I stood upon the boney junction and looked up. Suddenly Wormwood shifted about me and the pendulum moon shot to a point directly overhead; fighting a sickening vertigo I held my ground and watched as the moon finally receded into the void, plunging Wormwood into night.
Lincoln barked somewhere in the darkness and the ugly rootish feet of the Muppet Trees shuffled and snuffled and shifted in the dirt before them: they were coming now.
I called to Lincoln and he came gladly and nosed at my outstretched hands.
I remained fixed and patient, the way I had when I had lost my way in the mansion of the dancing statues. And yes, luck was again on my side. The luminosity of the creatures of the river, their shimmering phosphorus selves shone up through the vast waterway and gave me enough light to see the iridescent shape of Lincoln next to me, and looking about I saw the horrid Muppet trees, as solid as a castle wall, moving toward us. Their gnarly, twisted branches gave their topiary the look of a barbarous thing. It was as if the fall of their shaggy leaves had left the mark of a butcher: naught but a freshly sloughed carcass remained. Theirs was a hedge of villainy, bare and reaching, and onward they marched. They were coming, but they were coming slowly.
I ordered Lincoln to STAY and then ran quickly along the beach back to the water-lily. I waded out into the water, and hearing Lincoln’s urgent barking behind me began to swim as hard as I could. The luminescent, microscopic creatures in the water about me exploded into full bloom as I broke the surface. They covered me in a shimmering green froth as I swam.
Reaching the water-lily, I climbed aboard and retrieved my shoes. Then, over by the hump, I spied my ragged and torn jacket. I had removed it when we had eaten earlier on the beach. Folded square, it wrapped something. I opened it and saw Becky’s two remaining fish, and seeing them, I felt a pang of guilt. I had treated her badly. And as I hovered there thinking about my unforgivable comments and behavior, Lincoln’s barks came furiously across the water to me. I grabbed the fish, the jacket, my shoes, leapt into the water, and swam as best as I could with my bundle back toward the beach.
Lincoln had begun his eerie black and white pulse. Danger, I knew, but for me now he served as a beacon. Four of the trees had come all the way down to the water. They hung their wooden toenails into the water, blocking my exit. Like a crab, I skirted to my right, and keeping well clear of their reach, I slogged through the water toward Lincoln’s pulsating light and once clear of the murderous trees, rushed up the beach to Lincoln. The Muppet trees closest the skeleton road had now gathered about Lincoln in a semicircle. Their knotty, weaving braches reached madly for him, but still they fell short, and Lincoln’s glow and powerful voice seemed to confuse them and the whole group of them shuffled and crashed into one another to find a firm enough footing to get at him.
I rushed up to Lincoln and caught him by his collar, “Come on, boy. No time to mess about.”
I pulled him roughly onto the intersection, ducking to avoid a barbed branch that swished toward me.
Lilith had made one and one-half turns. “Let’s catch them up, shall we?” I said this brightly to Lincoln, trying to distract him from the wild, writhing hedge before us. He was difficult to hold.
“Stay still, will you! …Let’s find Lilith.”
I turned, stepping carefully, ignoring the swishing madness only a few yards from us now, and stepped as Lilith had stepped. Wormwood winked and the luminescent night, the beach, the Muppet trees, the island, the river and practically everything else but Lincoln and me, shifted and blurred. It was as if a shutter closed upon one world and suddenly another shutter opened before us. I stepped toward it pulling Lincoln behind me. I saw a landscape of snow and Lilith, naked, with her hands on her hips, impatient as ever, beckoning me forward.
“At last!” she cried, seeing us emerge from nowhere.
Lincoln broke my grip on his collar and bounded joyfully toward her. Nodding over her shoulder to where Becky crouched, huddled under a snowy, overhanging slab of rock and feeding small sticks into a small fire, she said, “You have taken many hours and I have grown weary in this miserable company, exnzpat. Your woman is an insufferable bore. Really, I don’t see what you see in her!”
I grinned foolishly at Lilith and looking at the snow about me skipped my way barefoot over to Becky. There was no snow under the overhang, and I saw it was the mouth of a cave.
Lilith caught my elbow as I passed. “Perhaps you’re not completely dense after all,” she said, and suddenly bent forward and surprised me by kissing me on my cheek.
I blushed and not knowing what else to say, announced, “I have fish!” and Becky had looked up at the two of us from her fire and her angry glare all but froze this already frozen world about the four of us.