I looked east to see mountain ranges, now clearly in view, and I realized that we were beginning to descend. By now, our ship was also in the shadow of the earth, as night fell completely on the landscape below. The patches of desert-like terrain were quickly rolling away to our west, and directly below us, now, were mountains. A larger, vast chain of mountains was rapidly approaching in front of us, from the east, as we continued to descend. I looked out the window again and was startled to see an unbelievable number of stars erupting out of the darkening sky above. “Wow,” was again all I could say.
“That’s nothing. Wait until we land.”
“We’re going to land?”
“Sure! That’s why we came out here.”
I looked at the screen again. We were still descending, and by now the screen was filled by a massive chain of mountains, stretching out seemingly into infinity, below. “Oh my gosh! What mountains are these? They’re huge!”
“That, my friend, is the Himalayan Range.”
“Wow.” I don’t know if I could adequately express the visual impact of the Himalayas, seen from this perspective. Awe-inspiring, majestic, glorious, magnificent- none of these words come very close to describing the actual scenery. I found myself, quite literally, with my mouth wide open as I scanned the monumentally vast, snow-capped range.
“Amazing, right?” said Merle.
“Amazing is right. Oh, my, gosh. Amazing, amazing, amazing.”
“I know. This is my favorite spot to go and think. This is actually one of the most awe-inspiring places I have ever been, anywhere in the galaxy.”
“What country is this below?”
“I don’t really want to say exactly where we are going to land. But I’ll go anywhere from Northern India, to Nepal, to Bhutan, to Western China. It’s all beautiful. If I’m looking for animals, I might head more towards the Tibetan Plateau.”
I gripped the armrests more tightly, as the mountains below were zooming towards us as we came in for a landing.
“Don’t worry,” said Merle. “I’ve done this almost a hundred times, now.”
And with that, I realized that we were already on the ground. Or, more specifically, we were on the snow, on top of a small plateau, near the top of one of the higher mountaintops in that area of the range. I looked out the window, and by the surprisingly bright starlight I could see, rather clearly, innumerable gigantic mountains reaching for the sky, all around us. I reflexively whistled in amazement. Then, Merle touched his finger to the screen, and the entire ship faded away into transparence, leaving just Merle and me, in our chairs and still perfectly warm, sitting on a mountaintop somewhere in the Himalayas, in the middle of the snow. The stars above us were so overwhelmingly numerous, that I audibly gasped. “Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. Oh. My. Gosh. Merle, it’s so beautiful up here!”
“Yes, I know.”
“Where is the ship?”
“We’re still in the ship. I just like to get rid of the clutter, so we can see better.”
Merle gave me some time to soak it all in. He went back to the dashboard, temporarily made visible, and tapped it. The sounds of the high mountain wind came through, very loudly and clearly, as it howled ferociously over the rugged and unyielding landscape. At that volume, we’d have had to shout, just to hear each other. Merle continued to tap the dashboard, and the sound reduced down to a more manageable, almost peaceful level. Then the dashboard disappeared again. It truly was like sitting on a couple of chairs on top of the mountain, with no other indication that there even was a ship in the vicinity, except maybe for the fact that we were still warm, and the sound of the wind was subdued. I turned in my chair, which turned right along with me, and scanned around in all directions. There was nothing but craggy mountains, blowing snow, and a star-packed sky that was unlike any I had ever seen, with the muted, deep whooshing sound of mountain top winds furnishing the only sounds. The density of the Milky Way made clear where our galaxy’s moniker came from, as it was so thick that it was difficult to distinguish individual stars, and it did indeed resemble a gigantic milk spill, albeit with some sparkling effects.
After a minute or so, I turned back to Merle. “Wow, Merle. Wow.”
“It makes you think, doesn’t it? That’s why I like to come out here. And now I’m going to ask you to do some thinking, Ken.”
“OK. What about?”
“Well, I have a little device here in my pocket that will serve as my prop, as we discuss electromagnetic energy.”
This sounded very interesting, and I craned my neck over towards Merle to see what kind of amazing, futuristic device he was going to pull out of his pocket. I was surprised and confused when he pulled out an ordinary green rubber band, maybe four inches in diameter, and held it up for me to see.
“Just an ordinary rubber band,” Merle said.
“I see that.”
“That’s all we should need to come to a good understanding of electromagnetic energy.”
“If you say so, Merle.” I very much doubted that I would be able to understand electromagnetic energy with just a little rubber band.
“First, though, let’s think a bit about what it means when we talk about the space/time reference frame of any individual observer.”
“I like to think of the space/time continuum as a series of shells, or spheres, with the observer at the center. Although one shell cannot truly be separated from another, let’s imagine that somehow we can just look at one shell, or sphere, of the space/time continuum, that is presently 186,000 miles away from the observer in all directions, and traveling towards that observer at 186,000 miles a second, like a giant imploding ball. There are also portions of space/time, at that same distance, that are traveling in a vast– actually infinite– range of velocities, as well. But we are only concerned with that portion of the continuum traveling at 186,000 miles per second, or the ratio of space to time, relative to the observer. The key here is that the space/time continuum interacts with any single observer at that very velocity- 186,000 miles per second. That’s how it works. That’s why 186,000 miles per second is the active ratio of space to time, anywhere in the universe, for any observer.”
“In one second, that portion of space/time will be upon the observer. In another second, it will be 186,000 miles away from the observer again, as an expanding sphere. In ten seconds, it will be 1,860,000 miles away. In an hour, it will be almost 670 million miles away. And the observer can point to that receding shell, 670 million miles away in all directions, or 1.34 billion miles in diameter, as being his or her slice of the space/time continuum, from one hour prior. But there is another portion of space/time, 670 million miles away, and approaching the observer at 186,000 miles per second, that will intersect with that observer in exactly one hour.”
“Yes, pretty fast, right? It’s all relative, though. But that’s how the space/time continuum works. The continuum operates in all directions, at an infinite range of velocities. Therefore, for any single observer in the universe, there is a sphere of space/time that acts as the reference frame of the observer, moving towards him, or traveling away from him, at the ratio of space to time in the universe. And behind that shell is an endless stream of shells– a continuum of shells, traveling at the same ratio.”
“I can see that.”
“Good, good. Any object in the universe that is traveling towards you, or away from you, slower than your shell of space/time, is part of your space/time reference frame. Any object in the universe that is traveling faster than your shell is in an entirely different perceptual dimension of space/time; meaning that you cannot see it, or measure it, or weigh it.”
“Now, you may be wondering how electromagnetic energy fits into all this.”
“Yes, I was, actually.”
“Well, that’s where the rubber band comes into play.” Merle held the rubber band out towards me, between his thumb and index finger. “This rubber band represents a photon.”
“So a photon is a loop?”
“Actually, yes. The photon is a loop, indeed. Actually there are electric and magnetic components, each traveling perpendicular to each other, but for our demonstration purposes, this single loop of a rubber band will represent a loop of electromagnetic energy.”
“I thought that a photon is a wave.”
“Well, that is almost true.”
“Or is it a particle?”
“Well, if you consider a loop to be a particle, then a photon is a particle.”
“I’ve always been taught that the photon is both a particle and a wave!”
“Well, it’s not, really. But let’s move on with the demonstration.”
“All right.” I was highly skeptical of the demonstration, at that point. That just demonstrates how stubborn people can be when faced with truths that contradict their own “knowledge”. I suppose that is exactly what Mark Twain was talking about.
“Imagine a light source, 670 million miles away, pointed towards us, and motionless in comparison with us. So it is completely in the exact same frame of reference reference that we are.”
“It releases a photon in our direction.”
“Now, before we get into the rubber band, and discover exactly how photons move through the space/time continuum, let’s step back a bit and think about a wheel on your bicycle.”
Maybe what impressed me the most about Merle was his ability to use the simplest props to explain the most complex manifestations of the universe. Whether it was a rubber band, the wheel of a bicycle, ducks bobbing on a lake, or breakfast food, he came up with some amazingly simple analogies that truly helped clarify new ways of thinking about things.
Merle continued with his bicycle analogy. “Let’s look at what is happening with a bicycle wheel as you ride your bike at ten miles per hour.”
“How fast is your wheel moving, overall, relative to the ground which is typically your frame of reference on earth, if the bike is traveling at ten miles per hour?”
“Ten miles per hour, right?”
“Right, when we’re talking about the wheel as a whole, or maybe if we’re just talking about the axle of the wheel. But how fast is the top portion of the wheel moving?”
“Ten miles per hour, right?”
“No. Think about it. The bike is moving at ten miles per hour. So the axis of the wheel is moving at ten miles per hour, relative to the street. But the top portion is rolling in a forward direction, at just about twice the velocity of the axis, or an angular velocity of just about twenty miles per hour.”
“OK.” I didn’t really understand the concept, at that point, but after I thought about it a bit, it was sort of obvious.
“And how fast is the bottom portion of the wheel traveling, then, relative to the ground, in terms of angular velocity?”
“Twenty miles per hour?”
Merle just looked at me for a moment. “No, Ken. Is the bottom portion of the wheel rolling in a forwards direction, relative to the axle?”
I had to think about it. “No, it’s not. It’s actually rolling in a backwards motion.” I had never really thought of it like that before, and it sounded weird.
“That’s right. The very bottom portion of the wheel is actually traveling backwards, relative to the axle, at an angular velocity of just about ten miles per hour. That counters the overall forward wheel motion of ten miles per hour. So the bottom of the wheel, which is in contact with the pavement, is virtually at a standstill, relative to the ground, at any given moment. That is how a wheel maintains traction with the road, even if it is turning quite rapidly.”
Those were some weird ideas, to me, especially considering we were talking about such an ordinary, commonplace thing, which I had never really thought about much, in the past.
“So the uppermost point of the wheel is traveling at twenty miles per hour, the bottommost portion is at a virtual standstill, and various points in between are traveling anywhere from zero to twenty miles per hour, relative to the reference frame, represented by the ground. The leading edge of the wheel is traveling perpendicular to the direction of movement, with no angular velocity either forward or backward, so that portion of the wheel is traveling at the same velocity as the wheel itself, relative to the ground– 10 miles per hour. And that is very much how a loop of electromagnetic energy travels.”
I took a deep breath and sat back in my chair a bit to think about what I had just learned about a simple bicycle wheel. I peered up at the magnificent bounty of stars above, and a prominent meteor caught my attention as it blazed past.
Meanwhile, Merle continued with his lesson. “So let’s go back to that photon that has just been released from a light source which is 670 million miles away, and completely motionless, relative to us.”
“So in one hour, that photon reaches us.”
“That’s right. Anyhow, here is the secret to how a photon loop travels, Ken. A photon is a loop of energy that is orientated in such a way that it allows the space-time continuum to carry it along without any real impedance. Think of it as being like a rubber band, or a bicycle wheel, that is absolutely perpendicular to the road, which in this case is the continuum, which is itself a form of moving energy, like a fast, rippled conveyer belt, as opposed to a motionless road. A photon is not only propelled along at c, by the continuum, but it also rotates at c, as well, as it travels through space, as if it were actually rolling on a motionless road, at that velocity.
“As the photon is released, it is propelled along by the portion of the space/time continuum which defines the reference frame for the light source. In other words, the photon loop is propelled along by the space/time continuum, at the ratio of space to time relative to the light source. Merle held up the rubber band, in a loop shape, and moved it forward, in a rolling motion. As he held it up in the air, backlit by the bright, broad band of the Milky Way, I could imagine the photon rolling along with the space/time continuum, as it raced towards Earth from a light source that was 670 million miles away.
That gave me an idea. “So, Merle, the top portion of a photon is rotating at just about twice the ratio of space to time, relative to the reference frame of the observer and the light source which shares the same frame? And the bottom portion of a photon, at any given moment, is at a virtual standstill?”
“Yes, that’s right, Ken! And the leading edge is moving at the exact ratio of space to time, relative to the light source. Not much different than how your bicycle wheel moves along the pavement.”
“So how does the photon interact with me, then? How do I see it?”
“That is a great question; a very pertinent question, Ken. You, quite simply, see the portion of the loop that is moving at the ratio of space to time, relative to you.”
“So… my incoming slice of space/time is moving at the ratio of space to time in the universe, relative to me. So I am able to perceive the portion of the photon loop traveling at that speed—the leading edge, in the case of our example.”
“That’s right! You measure the speed of the photon at 186,000 miles per second, based on the velocity of the leading edge, but what you are actually measuring is the speed of the space/time continuum that interacts with you. And the portion of the loop that you see is only that single point that is traveling at 186,000 miles per hour, relative to you. So you only see it as a point; you don’t see the entire loop. Then, the energy of the entire loop is transferred to an electron within a photoreceptor cell in your eye, through its intersection at that single point.”
“Wow. That’s incredible!” I was absolutely blown away by the concept of the photon being a rolling loop. “So what happens if the light source is moving away from me?”
“That’s another great question, Ken! Another great question! So let’s say the light source is moving away from you at 100,000 miles per second, as it releases the photon. The photon loop travels away from the light source at 186,000 miles per second, relative to the light source. Therefore the loop of energy is actually approaching you at only 86,000 miles per second.”
“But that can’t be right! Light always travels at 186,000 miles per second!”
“One would think, right? But that’s not quite what’s happening when we ‘measure’ the ‘speed of light’. As the photon loop in our example approaches, at 86,000 miles per second, relative to us, are any portions of the photon loop traveling at 186,000 miles per second, relative to us?”
I thought about that one for a bit. “Well, the photon is still rolling at 186,000 miles per second, I assume- just traveling more slowly, from our perspective.”
“OK, so photons always roll at c, relative to their own axis. So the top of the photon is traveling at 186,000 miles per second, plus the 86,000 miles per second the overall loop is traveling at.”
“So the top of the photon is traveling at 272,000 miles per second, as it arrives,” Merle said helpfully. “That is more than fast enough. The bottom portion of the loop, in this case, is actually rolling away from you at 100,000 miles per second, matching the movement of the light source.”
“True enough,” I said. “But there is a portion of the loop, part-way between the top portion and the leading edge, traveling at 186,000 miles per hour, relative to me.”
“Yes.” “And as it rides in on me, that portion of the photon is what I see.”
“And I measure the photon as traveling at the ratio of space to time I absorbed it at, when in actuality the photon is traveling only at 86,000 miles per hour. What I am actually measuring is the slice of the space/time continuum which is incoming at 186,000 miles per second.”
“Yes! Similarly, if the light source was approaching you at 100,000 miles per second, there would be a portion, part-way between the leading edge and the bottom portion, traveling at 186,000 miles per second, relative to you.”
“So, no matter what speed a photon is traveling at, there is always a portion that is traveling at the ratio of space to time, relative to me, and that is what I am actually measuring the velocity of.”
“Well, not exactly,” Merle said. “What if the light source is traveling away from you, or towards you, at a velocity greater than the ratio of space to time, relative to you?”
I gave that some thought. “Then there wouldn’t be any portion of the photon traveling at my own ratio of space to time. So I would not be able to see it.”
“Isn’t that what I was saying,” asked Merle, “when I talked about the length contraction transformation? If something is traveling at a velocity greater than the ratio of space to time, it cannot be seen. Now you can understand that from the physical mechanism of a photon, as well.”
“Wow. You’re right!” I was amazed by this observation. “Either by the Lorentz transformation, or by the physical mechanism of the photon, you can’t see a light source that is traveling at speeds greater than 186,000 miles per second, relative to the observer.”
“Wow, Merle, I just realized what the Lorentz transformations are, really! The space-time continuum allows us to perceive other objects, relative to ourselves—in terms of being able to see things and measure their length, in terms of being able to feel things and measure their mass, and in terms of being able to spend time together and measure the passage of time. The Lorentz transformations describe how the continuum shifts our perceptions of a traveler, at relativistic velocities: Mass appears to increase towards the infinite, length appears to contract towards disappearance, and clocks appear to slow down towards meaninglessness. The Lorentz transformations are just showing us how the space/time continuum works, in terms of allowing us to perceive portions of our universe in a frame-shifted manner, but only up to a certain velocity. The transformations define the physical reference frame of any single observer—the four dimensional frame of the observer.”
“You can also see the implications for the First and Second Postulates.”
“Sure. Now we see that the First Postulate and the Second Postulate are both offshoots of the transformations, really. Although the Second Postulate doesn’t really apply, once a traveler exceeds c.”
“That doesn’t stop us from accelerating to any possible velocity we can think of, though, does it? We can go as fast as we want!”
“Yes, of course we can go as fast as we want. We sure can! I’ve never heard of any big walls out there, in space. We’re just in a different physical dimension, if we go fast enough. Or, I should say, if we shift our perceptual frame in a certain direction.”
“But wait, Merle!” I just had a disturbing thought. “I can see how the photon fits into all this—into the hyper-dimensional space/time continuum, and the transformations, and all that—but how does a photon appear to travel as a wave?”
“Ah,” said Merle. “Yet another fantastic question!” He held up the rubber band again, and began rolling it through the air. “You see, Ken, not only does the photon roll, but it also ripples, as it rolls.” He tried, fairly unsuccessfully, to make the rubber band smoothly ripple as he held it in a very rough approximation of a loop. “That’s why I am using a flexible rubber band in this demonstration, although it’s hard to make it ripple the way I’d like it to. Anyway, a high energy photon rides the space time continuum with a lot of power, you might say, so it is more significantly rippled, as it rolls, than a lower energy photon. Either way, the entire rubber band—or photon—ripples, as it rolls.”
“The high energy photon has a short wavelength,” I said.
“That’s right. The rippling comes fast and strong with a high energy photon. High crests, short wavelength.”
“And a low energy photon?”
“Well, that ripples more gently, with longer ripples, and lower crests.”
“Long wavelength with the low energy photon,” I said. “That’s right. Let’s look at our original example, where we end up seeing the leading edge of the photon.”
“In a high energy photon, the leading edge is bouncing up and down, quite rapidly, due to the rippling. If you plotted the course of the leading edge, as it bounces and rolls through the continuum, you’d see that it manifests itself in a wave.”
“Wow! I do see that.”
As Merle rolled and bounced the leading edge of the rubber band up and down, the visual was obvious. Traveling forward while moving up and down pretty much describes a wave, all right.
“Either way, whether it’s a high-energy photon, or if it’s a low-energy photon, the observer will interact with a portion that is rolling along with the ratio of space to time, relative to him or herself, and it will be perceived as traveling at the ratio of space to time, in a wave. Even though it’s just a rippled, rolling loop of energy, that is quite possibly not actually traveling at the ratio of space to time, relative to the observer.” Merle stopped bouncing the rubber band for a moment, as if to reinforce what he was saying.
“Although the photon is really a trans-dimensional object, due to its velocity range, the diameter is always the same, whether high-energy or low-energy. That’s why Planck’s constant, as it’s called on Earth, is measurable as the constant ratio that it is.” The Planck constant was another concept that had always interested me, and it was pretty neat that Merle’s model of a photon fit it perfectly.
Merle continued. “Another point to consider is that while the loop as a whole is rippled, the bottom portion is much more heavily rippled than the top of the loop.”
I was a little confused by the concept of the rippling.
“I’m not sure I see why the photon ripples, Merle.”
“Well, think of it this way, then. The photon is rolling forward, along with the space/time continuum. The top portion of the loop is moving in the same direction as space/time, so it’s a smooth ride, you might say. Also, the top portion has to move forward very rapidly to keep up with the main axis of the photon, so to speak. So there’s no reason, and no time, for it to be bouncing up and down very much. It only has a slight ripple, perhaps.”
“OK. That makes sense, I guess.”
“The bottom portion, on the other hand, is going backwards, against the flow of space/time, to some extent. By the same analogy, the ride is not as smooth on the bottom as it is on top- you might say it is fighting against the stream. At any rate, the bottom portion, with its backward motion, naturally ripples much more heavily. That is how it manages to keep in sync, velocity-wise, with the much straighter section at the top.” Merle crinkled the rubber band at the bottom while keeping it much more directly horizontal at the top.
“That is why, if a light source is moving away from an observer, and the intersecting point is more toward the top of the photon loop—which is bouncing less than the leading edge– the wavelength gets longer, or is red-shifted, you might say. Conversely, if a light source is moving towards the observer-”
“The wavelength shortens, as the intersecting point moves towards the bottom of the loop, which is bouncing more, and therefore blue-shifted,” I said.
“So the bouncing is really from the interaction with the space/time continuum?”
“Yes. Actually, it’s more accurate to that the photon rides the space/time continuum, which travels not only in an infinite range of velocities, but also in an infinite range of wavelengths. The space/time continuum itself is the wave, you see. The photon just finds its place within. The quantum loops of energy we call photons interact with the space/time continuum in the range of wavelengths that we have observed and documented. Whatever wavelength is needed, based on the actual energetic qualities of the photon, is delivered by the infinitely variable space/time continuum.” At that, Merle stopped and watched for my reaction.
I thought about those words. “The space/time continuum itself is the wave, then. Not the photon itself?”
“Oh. My. Gosh! Merle! That is a huge concept!”
“Yes, and not only does the continuum influence small quantum units of mass-energy, like photons, but it also influences larger, more massive units, like you, or me, or Planet Earth, if only through the passage of time. Time itself is a wave phenomenon, really, but the effect is vanishingly subtle, on our level.
“Perhaps you can begin to understand, Ken, what I meant by saying that the space/time continuum itself represents energy, of a different sort. You see how it physically interacts with electromagnetic energy, and how it travels in a wave. Those aspects of the space/time continuum describe a direct, energetic manifestation. One might even think about the passage of time itself, another effect of the space/time continuum, as a similar energetic manifestation upon mass/energy, exerting change upon it. And, obviously, gravitation is the involuntary movement of mass/energy through the continuum, in a particular direction, which is an energetic action, in itself.”
So that is how Merle taught me how a loop of electromagnetic energy interacts with the space/time continuum, always appearing to travel at c, and always appearing to travel in a wave, while manifesting itself as a particle. He used a rubber band as his prop, my imagined bicycle wheel as a secondary example, and the Milky Way galaxy and Himalayan mountain range as the impressive backdrop. Another important thing I gained perspective on that day was that the space/time continuum is actually a thing in the universe—an important moving field of energy of sorts, which affects every quantum manifestation, one way or another. The continuum is not just some abstract, irrelevant, inconceivable concept, but an understandable force, with infinite range, that unfailingly follows a set of rules.
I was struck with a thought that actually disturbed me. “So are you saying, Merle, that the light from a distant galaxy is actually traveling to Earth at velocities below the ratio of space to time?”
“So that must mean that those distant galaxies are actually much farther away than we realize! And the visible universe must be far older than what we have been assuming!”
Merle laughed. “On the other hand, these now-distant galaxies were much, much closer to us when they released the photon than your astronomers believe. So maybe they are not quite as much older as you might think. Then again, maybe they are. It gets sort of complicated.” He winked. “Remember, I can’t give you all the answers. What would be the fun of that?
“See the sky up there?” Merle asked me. “That is just the portion of the universe that is traveling at velocities below the ratio of space to time, relative to us. But the portion that is traveling beyond our perceptual dimension of space-time is literally endless. In other words, our perceptual frame of space/time is not even a grain of sand, compared to all the matter in the universe. Nowhere even close to a grain of sand. We’re just a grain of sand on an infinite beach.”
I’ll never, ever forget the realization I had, at that moment. There we were, sitting on a desolate, snow covered mountaintop at night, somewhere in the vast, seemingly endless expanse of the Himalayas, our surroundings brightly illuminated by a brilliant blanket of hundreds of millions of blazing stars strewn across the boundless sphere of the sky. Just one single star was nearly incomprehensibly massive, to my previous way of thinking, but suddenly I realized that all of it represented not even the tiniest speck, in the grand scheme of the multi-dimensional universe. All the grandeur, all the vastness, the totality of all the distant galaxies that have ever been imaged by Earthly telescopes, was a mere dust mote of near-insignificance, compared to the unseen portions of the universe. At this point, I was still some ways from fully understanding the real nature of the “greater universe,” as Merle put it, but even so, I was overwhelmed by the thought of what I did already know. I was getting quite emotional, the realization was so intense.
Merle put his hand on my shoulder. “It’s OK, Ken. I know it can be overwhelming. I’ve put a lot on your plate here, today.”
“No, no,” I lied. “It’s fine.”
“Well, I think it’s probably just about time for us to call it a day. You still have to go to work this afternoon, don’t you?”
That comment shot through me like a lightning bolt. “Crap, Merle! I’ve got to get back! I do have to work today! I was supposed to be at The Enterprise at 1:00!”
“Not a problem, Ken. Not a problem. We’ve got plenty of time.”
“You mean it’s not even 1:00 yet?”
“No. It’s only about 10:30 in the morning, still, back in Rundle Heights.”
“Wow! How in the heck is that possible?”
“You left the house very early, this morning.”
“I guess I must have. But it seems like we’ve been out and about for a full day, already.”
Merle laughed. “Not quite! Less than four hours.” “Less than four hours? Damn! How did we do all this in less than four hours?”
“Moving fast, I guess. Speaking of which, we should probably get going.”
And with that, Merle touched the screen, our spaceship reappeared around us, and we lifted back off the surface of the mountain. It all took about three seconds, and we were in the air. Merle just continued speaking, matter-of-factly, and no differently than as when we first pulled out onto the street that morning. “Do you realize, Ken, you are the first person, in the history of the Earth, to understand the Lorentz transformations as you do, and understand the space/time continuum and electromagnetic energy as you do?”
I didn’t really know how to respond to that. I was pretty freaked out by that thought.
“No need to answer that, Ken. I’m happy for you, though, really happy. You worked for it, too, which is great. Now let’s get you back home in time for your job.”
Merle was not kidding. He had me back home by 10:45 a.m., in fact, which I had a hard time believing. I was exhausted from the events of the morning, so by 11:00 I was asleep on the couch. I napped for almost an hour, and then I still had some time to sit around the house, before leaving for work, and to think about what had happened that day. I wrote down everything I could recall, which helped me out later, when I decided to write down my experiences. After I came home from work that evening, I made some dinner, and I wrote some more, until bedtime. By now, I was totally hooked, regarding this new way of thinking about the universe.
That night, I dreamed of flying through space. I can’t remember exactly what it was all about, but I know I was gliding through an endless field of stars. They were so thickly spread that it was like swimming through a dense and limitless school of shiny little fish in the ocean. I had to sweep the stars out of the way, with my hands, as I flew along, to avoid getting them in my eyes. I wasn’t in a spaceship; it was just me, in my pajamas, flying through the universe, all alone. I wasn’t scared, either. In fact, it seemed very reassuring and peaceful. That’s all I really remember about it.
When I woke up, I was in a bit of a stupor, still drained and dazed by my dream. I remember that I opened my eyes, bolted straight upright in bed, and immediately thought about Merle. I realized I had no way to get in contact with him. We hadn’t discussed any of that, the day before. I jumped up, showered, and quickly made some coffee and gulped a cup down. I assumed that I had to go to the forest preserve again to meet him, and it was already getting late. As I was in the kitchen getting ready to leave, I briefly heard the now-familiar droning sound again—even though I was still in the house. I glanced out the window, and I noticed that somebody was on the front porch. I looked out the blinds for a closer look, and I saw that it was Merle! I dashed over to the door and threw it open. “Merle! How long have you been here?”
Merle looked at me and raised a finger to his lips. “Ssshhh. You’re scaring the cat.”
“Cat? What cat?” I looked down and saw a little black and white cat, backing away from me, apparently getting ready to take off, down the stairs.
Goczeski, Kevin. The Enlightening. Kindle Edition.