Lifting the coffee cup to slurp the last of his java, Eddie frowned down at the neat rows of math that explained how the knothole did what it did. The brown ring from his cup intersected four results and five computations. He considered giving Armelle an apologetic look, but decided against it. Instead, he slid the stained sheet out of sight under several others, then did his best to look like he’d been listening to her and Vančura the whole time.
The big man was tapping another paper, indicating one formula after another.
“So, according to your math, time reacts to… injury… the same way living things do?”
She squinted, then shrugged.
“If you want to break it down to one sentence, sure. Really, it’s a huge number of phenomena creating that appearance. See, the only reason we know about time is because we have “memories”. We know we did something and we’re not doing it now and experience tells us we can’t remember what we haven’t done yet, so our minds label it as having happened in the “past”. It’s a lot like the way we see or hear.”
Vančura appeared to understand that, but Eddie could smell his own mental gears starting to smoke as he tried to figure out what she meant. By habit, his hand went up and he coughed. Armelle looked surprised, but not half as surprised as Eddie himself. His eyes widened and he yanked his hand down with the other one, looking remarkably like a deer in the headlights of an oncoming tractor-trailer.
“Uh… you says we sees time d’same way we sees or hears noises. Dat ain’t right; we sees wots dere and we hears what’s dere. Right?”
She shook her head and Eddie’s headlight-shock was replaced by pure consternation.
“You sayin’ we don’?”
“I am. Our brains have learned by experience how to process light and vibrations into information we can understand: vision and hearing. But really, light and vibration are just by-products of other things. It’s our minds that assigns a value to them and lets us understand them. That all works by experience; your brain knows that a funny blob of light is a car and the steady rumble is the sound of an engine. That’s how we can have the Doppler effect and gravitational lensing. It’s still the same sound and light, but the way we perceive it has been changed.”
Across from her, Vančura nodded in absent agreement, still studying the papers. Eddie pursed his lips understandingly and was quiet for a few minutes. Then, he scrambled off of his chair.
“Dis is gonna need me another cuppa coffee, Armelle. Gravitational lenssing don’ work right if it don’t have lotsa coffee.”
She laughed and turned back to Vančura as Eddie began refilling the percolator.
“Okay, what’s next?”
Vančura traced the curls and pathways of the time map with his finger, then looked up at her.
“This. If the way we see time is just a limitation of our perceptions, how does time work when we can get past that limitation. I understand that it does and the result it gets when it does it, but I don’t understand how. Time is supposed to work like dominoes. Topple one that’s far enough back in the pattern and everything based on that domino changes, falling into a new pattern. The grandfather paradox should prevent the toppling from occurring at all.”
Armelle shook her head and grabbed a pen, illustrating her words as she spoke.
“That’s your limited perception talking. Imagine a pool of water, still and quiet. A dolphin is swimming under the surface; the underwater currents are affecting it as it swims. Suddenly, it leaps out of the water, reversing it’s direction and going back fifteen feet. It’s reentry causes new currents underwater, changing everything. What it doesn’t change is the dolphin. It removes itself from the water, from the system, then reenters the system at a different point. The water has changed, but the dolphin hasn’t.”
He studied her face for a moment, pondering the idea. Then he looked back down at the map.
“This is really, really bad.”
She rested her elbows on the table and rubbed her eyes.
“And now you know why we broke you out of your time loop.”
“Yes. Now I know.”
They were silent for a long time, staring at the papers and listening to the drip of the coffee maker. Finally, Eddie’s cheerful tone cut through the quiet.
“Okay, I got m’coffee. Wha’ is it we knows now?”
End Chapter 13 – Part 1
Go to Chapter 13 – Part 2
Wow. This installment picked up a lot of cool theory, compared to the others. If it hurts your brains… sorry, but I’ve been watching a lot of TED Talks. The ‘perception’ theory just had to seep into this story somewhere!
Want to read the previous installments of ‘Twicebound’? They’re right here!
Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three,
Chapter Four, Chapter Five, Chapter Six,
Chapter Seven, Chapter Eight, Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten, Chapter Eleven, Chapter Twelve