Our clothes are soiled. I’m staring into the trunk of the car. My hands and arms are sore. There is a fresh cut near my left elbow. In my right hand I’m holding a frayed nylon line. Two roughed-up flashlights are lying in the shadowed space.
“I’ll have to pick up more rope next time we go out on the river. We pretty much destroyed this one in the cave.”
“Yeah, that was amazing – just right there at the bottom of the hill,” he says.
Back in the car now, I tell him how completely surreal I feel about what’s been happening.
“There seem to be big gaps in what I can remember about this trip.”
“Things don’t make a lot of sense,” he says. “That’s all there is to it.”
“For me, it started after we got out of the car.”
“I don’t really think it was yesterday, Keith. I have a feeling this is the same day we left.”
“Yeah.” That’s all he says.
“You act like this is no big deal, man.”
“It’s not really. It’s just the way things are, I guess.”
“OK, for one thing, I know – or remember – this trip is sometime in the mid-80s – like 1984, maybe. I wrote about it for the first time in 1997. But at this minute, I know I’m typing and reading these words on a computer screen in September of 2009… And now, here we are – sitting here right now… I start up the car and the windshield display says it’s August of 2022!”
“Weird. That means you’re a dead man, like me.”
His smile can mean a thousand things. This time though, it’s just disconcerting.
“Look,” he says, “you’re always talking about stuff like this. About how you don’t believe in time; how you think that, because the universe is one thing, nothing is separate from anything else. Or everything is the same thing. So like, why does all this seem so strange to you?”
“Because it’s actually happening like that, man. I’m not just talking about it.”
“2022… Cool.” he says, still smiling. “That means we’re both dead.”
(to be continued…)
Image: “Living/Dying,” Digital Image Mashup (Orion Nebula and unititled painting by Tullio DeSantis), 2009.