Drunk on Time
by J. H. Malone
Saul is a 20-something computer expert. He’s somewhat undisciplined and drinks too much, but he is charming and has a soft spot for older people and for his love interest, who is a brilliant but enigmatic researcher. They unlock the secrets of parallel universes with unexpected results for themselves.
Table of Contents, parts:|
1, 2, 3, 4. 5, 6, 7,
8, 9, 10, 11a, 11b
Liesl and I had bed-and-breakfast accommodations in Ledyard. We turned off the highway on Indiantown Road and drove until we found a white clapboard farmhouse with a discreet sign out front.
I parked by a compost pile around the side and hauled our overnight bags out of the trunk. Inside, Liesl spoke with our hostess in fluent French. The woman led us out and showed us to a cottage situated next to a hibernating garden.
There were fresh flowers in our bedroom even though it wasn’t the season for them. We showered and dressed and drove over to Foxwoods, which was situated on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation. We had dinner and went to a show at the Fox Theater featuring a new circus troupe.
Before coming back to the bed and breakfast, we walked over to the Casino of the Wind. Liesl spent five minutes learning the rules of blackjack and another ten watching the action at one of the tables. She asked the dealer a question or two. He answered in detail, patient with her, as were those at the table. The aura of her personality did that.
When she sat down to play, her bets were decisive. She drew a crowd, which in time cheered frequently. A hostess served me two quick drinks. Liesl won in spite of the eight-deck shoe. Her cheeks were still flushed when I turned out the lights in our cottage. Her excitement carried over.
“You know that I love you,” I said in the morning.
Liesl put her arms around me. “It is not love.”
If it wasn’t love, it needed a name like love.
* * *
I worked late at Lankershim the Friday after finding Cannelita’s key, and got to The Studio at nine. Garza came in fifteen minutes after me. A Dodgers-Giants game had reached the seventh inning on the flat screen behind the bar. Keishi disappeared from my side when the big man entered. The other drinkers kept their eyes on the ballgame or the glass in front of them. Garza dropped onto the newly vacant stool at my elbow. Mimi brought over the Red and a glass.
“Well?” Garza said, pouring himself a drink.
“Sorry,” I said. “So far I’ve got nothing.”
“You’re lying,” Garza said. He wasn’t speculating. He said it like he knew it.
“In my business,” he said, “I hear lies all day, every day. After a while you can tell.”
“I’ve made some progress,” I said.
“I’m rating that a half-lie.”
“I said before, I help you find him, you hurt him, it’s on my conscience.”
“We talked about that. I won’t kill him. Where is he?”
“I can’t tell you for sure where he is right now, but I can call you tomorrow and tell you where he is then.”
“That sounds like the truth with a little bit of lying thrown in,” Garza said. “You’re not telling me everything but, okay, you’re telling me enough. Tomorrow. Just in case, though, I know a guy. Like you, he’s into computers. I’m gonna send him around. He’ll help make sure you get this done.”
“Don’t do that.”
“Hey, I’m not trying to steal your... you know, tricks of the trade or whatever. My neck is on the line here.”
“I don’t need help or supervision. You can trust me and, if you can recognize the truth, you know that’s it. And remind me again why you coughed up the twenty thousand.”
“You have found him, haven’t you? My mom was right. You are an amazing guy. I coughed up the twenty because Tommy never lied to me, not once. I like him. He believed everything he told me, but he was wrong. Plus there’s that thing where my daughter is in love with him.”
“What’s she saying?”
“If I hurt him, she’s leaving home, but she don’t mean it. If he takes off, she’ll get over it.”
His turn to lie: Tommy wasn’t taking off, which meant Garza would have to disappear him to keep peace with both the family and the mob.
“I’ll call you tomorrow,” I said.
“You still got my number?”
“I understand you don’t want me to hurt the kid,” he said. “I respect that. Only sometimes life don’t give us a choice.”
Liesl had also told me that. Garza caught the sudden fury in my face before pain killed it.
After Garza left the bar Friday night with my promise to call him on Saturday, I sat for a while, thinking. Mimi let me be. Presently, I got up and left.
* * *
“Please don’t go,” I said to Liesl over breakfast, the first Monday in December.
I swore to myself I wouldn’t plead but, a week after Foxwoods, I heard her on the phone to Germany, and it hit me that she had one foot out the door.
We were sitting in the Forbes cafe in MIT’s Stata building. Semester’s end loomed. Liesl put her hand on mine, next to the syrup. “I must return to my family and the Institute,” she said. She picked up her fork.
“You told me it wasn’t love, what I feel, but it is,” I said. “Got to be.” I hadn’t been going to say that, either.
“This is not a time for love,” she said. She busied herself with her breakfast.
“Why not?” I said.
She didn’t answer.
“I want to know,” I said.
“I owe you this answer,” Liesl said. “I am too fond of you.”
“Whoever you saw in the future, it wasn’t us,” I said. “We can make up our own minds. We’re on a different branch. You can stay.”
She put down her fork and plucked her napkin out of her lap. “Come with me to my office, mein Schätzchen,” she said.
We left the public fishbowl and hiked over to Building 6. In her office, Liesl sat down behind her desk while I perched like a freshman on the edge of a chair in front of her. “It is not a time for love, Saul. I will explain.”
I opened my mouth, but she cut me off. “I came to America for this time with you,” she said. “Now I must go back to my family. Life gives no choice.”
I knew it all along, but I didn’t want to know it.
“I must prepare for the future,” Liesl said. “You also must prepare.”
“Prepare how? For what?”
“There will be changes,” she said.
I leaned forward.
“Everyone will have a scanner,” she said.
“You’re releasing it? Why would you do that?”
“I am not releasing it. Another person discovers it.”
“You told Lehmann in Providence about the dimensions and their time arrows.”
“The next inventor does not know my theories. He is a young man in China. The government takes his device, but skrupellose Männer sell the knowledge. The dimensions exist. Machines use them when we ask them to use them. My teaching helps prepare science for the shock caused by the scanner.”
I tried to take in the notion of a world full of scanners.
“We Liesls kept it a secret,” she said.
“Then what happens?”
“It is complicated. Everyone scans the future, to take advantage over others, to avoid accidents, to plan a day or a life. They make choices.”
“The worlds around us are no longer the same as ours. They... beginnen sich zu verändern.”
“Begin to change,” came the translator’s muffled voice from Liesl’s back pocket.
“Diversify,” Liesl said. “They begin to diversify.” She shook her head. “Science becomes collecting,” she said, “not researching. The future is like returning to school.”
“Does society survive?”
“On some worlds, yes; on other worlds, no.”
“How should we prepare for this?”
“I do not know,” Liesl said. “I have no practical answer.”
“How soon do the scanners appear? How quickly do they spread?”
“On the early worlds, they come now in three or four years. On the late worlds, they come in ten. When they come, they spread quickly.”
“Are we an early world or a late one?”
“There is no way to know.”
“So this is why you came here?”
“I came here for what we have done together. I came here for all these experiences that I did not have before.”
“The civilizations that survive, what do they look like?”
“It is not so simple to explain.”
“After the scanner, the transporter is discovered.”
“The scanner displays. The transporter moves.”
“My God. Time travel? Across the multiverse? How is that possible? Wouldn’t we have seen it happening in the past? Wouldn’t we see it happening now?”
“It is happening now. It has always happened. We do not see it because we experience only our three particular dimensions and their time-flow.”
“You and I might be here from the future right now?”
“You do not understand. We are here now in all dimensions, moving toward infinite futures in infinite directions. We have not yet learned to perceive this, except through the scanner’s mediation. Other races have learned.”
“That makes no sense,” I said.
“Each of us is... eine Zusammenstellung.”
“An assemblage,” her phone said.
“Of matter and energy,” Liesl said.
She thought for a moment. “The constituents of every atom in our bodies, all the way down to the elements of our quarks, exist in an infinity of dimensions. The relationship of these constituents to each other varies. In an infinity of worlds, they compose our bodies. In an infinitely larger infinity of worlds, they are not associated. Most universes are formless and chaotic.”
I held my head. Liesl sat waiting. “What about killing my grandfather?” I finally said. “That paradox.”
“You are not understanding infinity and dimension. On infinite worlds, in infinite dimensions, of course you kill your grandfather. Or any other living thing. Remember Umkehreinwand. Causality follows the arrow. Jumping to another world and killing your grandfather is not a paradox. Using the transporter, the interface between known and unknown is pushed beyond human understanding but, by integrating cognition using ever more dimensions in our minds, perhaps we can understand enough to advance.”
“Stop,” I said. “You’re going back to Germany. That’s all I know.”
“I am sorry.”
We sat in silence. I let Liesl’s coming-soon news sink in. Students passed in the hall outside, noisily.
“Then what?” I said. “Assuming we survive the scanner and transporter.”
“We disperse.” She fluttered a hand.
“We disperse using other dimensions,” she said. “It is why we find no advanced races in this three-dimensional universe. This answers the Fermi question.”
“Why do we disperse?” I said. “What’s so special about where we disperse to?”
“All things are possible somewhere, mein Bärchen. Perhaps we each find our own paradise or our own heaven. Perhaps we find ways to higher-level multiverses. Perhaps the infinite is an aspect of the eternal.”
“I’m coming to Germany.”
“Now you surprise me.”
I stood up. Liesl pointed at the chair. I sat down.
“I seek truth,” Liesl said, “but the infinite defies truth. Every theory is true somewhere. Every idea is true. Now I return to my family and the Institute to find a new philosophy. I have lived this life with you. I must go back.”
“I could use a new philosophy myself,” I said.
“I think your philosophy is okay now for you.”
Maybe I had the right philosophy but I didn’t have the girl.
* * *
Copyright © 2020 by J. H. Malone