Here, Darby has had a revelation about Time travel. He is explaining it to Greta in an empty Bavarian farmhouse one evening…
Greta was struggling across the loose soil at the top of each trough.
“Why did I think of that now?” he thought aloud. “I haven’t thought of that in years.”
“Darby, please! I can’t keep up with you.”
Her words stopped him cold. He turned. Regarding her from even a short distance it was as if he could see the formulas, graphs and numbers filling the air and space around her. Friedman’s equation, Hawking’s work on black holes, Ricci’s curvature and more. She paused, wiping her brow before noticing the exuberance in his expression, so much that she thought he might burst.
“Was ist los?’ she asked.
“Wrong? Absolutely nothing. You’re behind me!”
“My dress and shoes,” she replied, almost slipping.
“No, I mean behind me!”
“Darby, don’t tease.”
“Physically, but in time,” he exclaimed, working his way back to her. I paused. “I’m here and you are there, in a different place, but also in a different time, and yet we still manage to communicate across space and time!”
“I don’t understand.”
Darby took her arm and helped her across the field. He was almost breathless with excitement; certain he was on the edge of a breakthrough. By the time they reached the farmhouse even Greta was completely infected by this sudden enthusiasm.
“What is it?’ she begged. “You must tell me!”
But Darby wasn’t quite sure himself yet.
“Something, I think. Maybe…” he turned suddenly to her on the step. “What if you could come back, or forward or ahead with me?”
“In, to your time?” she said, disbelieving. “Is such a thing possible?”
Darby remembered the graphite stick from Block’s studio. Upstairs in the bedroom, like a man possessed, he pulled aside a small vanity in front of a pale blue wall at the end of a big goose down bed. He removed a lovely framed needlepoint image of a shepherd boy and the Alps.
“Darby, what will you do?” she asked, aghast at this unexpected behavior.
“I hope they and you will forgive me,” he replied, “but in the interest of science.”
He began with a sphere, with a curved equatorial belt and a straight line through each pole. At the top of the line he drew an arrow. Beside that sort of a half curved tube and below that a long rectangle. Beside all of them he drew a crazy amoebic shape with an arrow running diagonally through it. For reference to one side of the wall he scribbled Hubble’s law pertaining to the expansion of the Universe, , Friedmann’s law governing the expansion of space and more, writing them in an astounding blur of energy and excitement with all the discipline and intuition a star athlete might bring to a given sport. Darby moved back and forth across the wall. For measure, above the drawings he wrote in the equation for the Bekenstein-Hawking Entropy, or the so-called Black Hole Entropy, expressed as
Greta watched all of this from the edge of the bed with no small measure of awe, even if there was little or nothing of it that she understood. That was all about to change, or so Darby hoped. He turned and touched the tip of the rapidly shrinking graphite to the wall beside the geometric shapes. His finger tips were already blackened by the graphite.
“Know what this is?” he asked. Greta shrugged. “It’s an unfair question. This science hasn’t even been discovered yet, and hardly anyone in my own time even knows about this, but it is every bit as important as the discovery of fire or electricity. In a dozen or so years from now a young man from Munich will unlock mankind’s access to the atom.”
Darby turned back to the wall and quickly sketched a simple hydrogen atom with a single Proton in the center and a single small electron in orbit. Greta smirked.
“I feel like I am in gymnasium again.”
“You and me both, sister,” he began. “So, one of the revelations of Eins…, this scientist’s work was that matter is essentially nothing. These little shells of charged energy that give the illusion,” he wrapped his knuckles against the wall, “of reality. And our little electron buddy here is even weirder. It’s essentially nothing too, but in a different way, because it can be a wave sometimes and a particle other times.”
“But how can that be?”
“Oh, just you wait, missy. What if physicists, like me, have been wrong all this time about space and nothing and matter?”
“It’s a bit startling so far,” said Greta.
“I think it gets even weirder,” he told her, as he drew a circle surrounded by other circles. “My field of study is the multiverse, and using the physical laws and understanding of this universe to predict if those other universes exist and what they might be like. Sort of like…did you take an Art class in school?”
“Of course. It was one of my favorites.”
“They taught you about negative space?”
“That the space around an object defines the object as much as the object itself. Herr block and Herr Hauptmann employ it in their art on a social scale. I am very aware. But these other universes actually exist?”
“No one’s ever been to one, but if I had to bet my life I’d say absolutely. I’m sure of it. The existence of other universes explains a great deal about ours.”
“But what does this have to do with you and me and getting back to your own time?”
“Remember our assumption that the universe is essentially nothing?”
“Not mine, but, go one.”
“Right. Now, remember when you were a little girl. Your mom, for example. You never told me about her.”
Greta smiled weakly, looking to her hands folded in her lap. Her voice was low and distant. “I remember my mother’s kisses, and when the influenza took her how I felt her hand grow cold in mine, and the rain in the procession to the cemetery, and how my father cried so.”
Darby went to her and stroked her hair as a tear slipped across her cheek. She looked up at him, rescued by his eyes.
“You still have those memories,” he said.
“What if the universe also held onto its memories?” Darby returned to the wall. He pointed to the sphere, the tube and the rectangle. “The negative space defines the subject.”
“These are the shape that scientists use to describe the shape and size of the universe. They have been used so much that they have sort of become the paradigm, but the universe is probably more like this amoeba like thing here; bumpy, uneven, maybe always changing with all these other universes. The newly created matter is spewed into space. It looks like filaments, or ink squirted into a medium, but what that means is that there is no space. There is no nothingness. Like a drop of water. The universe is filled with itself! With the sum total of its own laws and existence. The universe is not empty, and if it’s not empty that means it is filled with information, information defined and derived from its past- Memories!”
“But what about getting back to your own time. Does any of this get you closer to going home?”
Darby returned to Greta and swept his hands lightly across her pretty face. With the tips of his fingers he mapped the warmth of her lightly flushed cheeks, the smoothness of her forehead, the texture of her soft hair. He committed the slightest detail of her to his eternal memory. No matter where in time or the universe he was Darby Armstrong would remember her.
“What if the universe held its memories, all of them? Every instant?”
“It’s not a living thing,” she observed.
“But I think that it is alive, in a way,” he said. “and every instant of its existence is stored in a collective memory. Archaeology. That means moving from present to past is akin to drilling a hole back through that memory.”
Great. Can you do it?”
Darby paused, contemplating the question and his work. “Good question.”
Darby returned to the wall, lamenting that he couldn’t take a photograph of his work. It would certainly be something that he would wish to revisit. As he beheld the work there was something about it. It was almost spiritual, in the way that it affected him. It bespoke some eternal truth, as if he was looking at the very face of creation itself; something of such unfathomable beauty, like an overpowering symphony or a poem that swept away his breath and evoked such an upwelling of emotion that Darby almost believed his heart might burst. He went back to work, hardly noticing as Greta drifted off for a nap and then left the room some time later.
When at last he paused once more the waning light of a setting sun poured a persimmon light into the room, setting everything aglow. Darby guessed he’d been at this for the better part of a day, as time passed with hardly a notice. Taking a step back he set what remained of the graphite on the vanity and took a deep and cleansing breath. Still, something was missing. The medium, the means and the vehicle eluded him. Darby rubbed the tension from his neck and thought a break might clear his head enough.
He found Greta downstairs in the kitchen. The house was filled with the warmth of baked bread. The salty-sweetness of caramelizing onions and of bacon. She was just pulling out a fresh Flammkuchen from the oven, setting it on a cutting board on the table to cool.
“What is that amazing smell?” Darby exclaimed.
“Something my mother use to make each autumn with a bit of father’s Apple Wine. Come and have something to eat.”
Greta cut a large portion for Darby and placed it on a plate before him. Her turned the plate around studying the dish for a moment.
“I found a bit of Crème Fraiche in the icebox,” she said, waiting with baited breath as he took his first bite.
“God, it’s delicious!” he beamed.
“More importantly,” she flirted, touching his hand across the table, “we get to spend a night in a real bed.”
It took a moment for him to understand just what she was saying, Dropping the food on to the plate he stood and pulled her from the kitchen as she laughed with delighted relief. “Thanks to god, I was afraid I would have to explain that to you!”