Thereís that feeling again. It feels like falling, like Alice must have felt falling down the rabbit hole. At least the gun is gone from my head or the sword from my throat. Itís a relief to get away but thereís a hell of a price to pay. Sometimes I think it would be easier to just let my fate catch up with me and stop all this running. But Iím a coward. So far I feel that life on the run is still preferable to what fate has in store.
Running means falling through the tunnel and waking up in a new time and a new place. It means learning a new language and a new history. Strange people and even stranger customs. itís such a strain. The choice is staying put and having my brains blown out or my head chopped off or any of a dozen variations of violent death. Life is something of a standoff right now. My fate is to die but my ability is to escape. I suppose I could keep it up forever but Iím not so sure I want to.
Iím starting to see a pattern in all this.
It has been several beginnings now. Itís difficult keeping track. You probably want to know how it all began. Like all stories, mine began innocently enough. I was a working man, an employee of some kind. I lived among you, in your time. I remember I worked with numbers. What was I, an accountant? a mathematician? One of those. I worked with numbers and honored them. I worshipped at their altar and gave them my devotion.
I had a job. I can remember knotting my tie and putting on after shave. I kissed the wife and baby and drove to the office where I immersed myself in numbers for some purpose. It was the numbers that led me on. I saw the stream of them gliding past my desk and I followed that little trickle to a wider stream and a swifter one and finally to a river of numbers that connected all things and all time. I donít know why people hadnít seen it before, itís right there at our feet, our private little time stream flowing, growing, merging with the big, strong and hugely powerful river that sweeps the universe along. It frightened me at first. I glimpsed it but would not go too near. It would sweep you away like a twig.
I went back to my trickle. I could go to the river in my mind. It was hard at first but I practiced until I could go there when I willed. I experimented with the little stream that made up my life.
Such a pathetic stream. All our tiny rivulets. Accountants intuit it. They can sense that numbers flow like water. They use terms like cash flow and revenue stream. They have the right analogy, for that is what it is. By playing with the stream of numbers that represented my reality, I saw that I could make things happen. I could dam the stream, divert it, siphon it off or change its direction.
Like a child at the beach I could play in the stream; only every change altered reality in some small way. Still, it was heady stuff playing with reality. I didn't have much effect on the lives and fortunes of my coworkers or of the company I worked for. At first it was all pretty random. Iíd move a rock or change the shape of the bank and Iíd gain or lose weight or suddenly have a beard where before I was clean shaven. Small changes that were fun at first. Eventually I learned how to control what happened. I used my skill to enrich myself and improve my position. I gave myself raises and promotions. No one suspected I was behind any event as reality has a way of flowing around all obstacles and seamlessly adapting to small changes.
In no time, I had wealth and position. My family was secure and it should have been enough. Manipulating my little stream should have been enough but, of course, it wasnít. To be fair, I had the best intentions. My wife was ill, cancer I think it was. Who wouldnít try anything to save a loved one? So I messed around with her stream and tried to alter her fate. Thereís that word againó fate. Itís a bigger concept than the little trickles that make up the minutia of our lives. Itís the meta-concept that overlays the entire systemó its direction, its rate of flow, everything. When I tinkered with mine, often good things happened but when I started monkeying around with my wifeís, things didnít go so well. I found a way to keep her from dying of cancer but I was helpless to keep her from dying. She didnít die of cancer, she died in a traffic accident and took our children with her. I was devastated. Her fate was to die and nothing could alter that.
I was horrified and blamed myself for meddling with forces I didnít understand. I should have left well enough alone.
At work I became more ambitious than ever and put myself on a path that would give me control of the company. All I had to do was derail my chief rivalís career. I visited his stream and did the mental equivalent of dropping a boulder in its path. The rock caused turbulence in his life but, unfortunately, had many unintended consequences in my life as well.
My rival, Edmund Norquist, was found beaten to death in his bedroom. His wife described the assailant. The description sounded an awful lot like me. The police suspected me but I had an alibi. I could not, however, explain my fingerprints on the table lamp which matched the murder weapon exactly. I was accused and tried and condemned to die by lethal injection. I appealed of course but how could I explain to a judge and jury that it wasnít me. It was the stream of numbers that propel us all. I did not kill Ed Norquist, at least not directly. He was probably going to die anyway. All I managed to do was get myself entangled in his murder.
The night before my execution, I did my little mental exercise. Only this time I followed my personal stream to the big river and jumped in. I felt that dizziness I was telling you about, that falling sensation for the first time. I found myself in another time and place. I was in Greece in the late 1930ís. I was lying in the street in the middle of a demonstration. There was fighting and shouting. I was bleeding from my head. I crawled into a doorway thoroughly confused and disoriented. The door I had been leaning against opened and a young woman took me in and gave me shelter. I couldnít understand a word she was saying but she cleaned my wound and comforted me.
I remember she was beautiful. She took me into her life and taught me Greek. Her father owned a bakery and he gave me a job feeding the ovens. I got comfortable in my new life. I learned to speak the language and Sophia and I were married. I worked hard at the bakery. We were poor, times were tough. I wanted to improve our condition. I thought I knew how to manipulate my lifeís stream to benefit us both, so I did; and at first things got better. Sophiaís father was killed in a riot and i inherited the bakery. We were happy. Even I was happy. I didnít need to meddle with my stream any further. I saw how I could increase efficiency at the bakery and grow the business as big as I wanted. Unfortunately history had other plans. In October 1940, Italy invaded Greece. It was the beginning of the end for the Greek people and my little bakery. In this life I was rounded up by the Naziís and accused of being a communist collaborator. I was marched against a wall to be shot. I did my little trick and fell through time.
I landed in Jerusalem in 1098. It was the time of the first crusade. The city was under siege. I was just one more frightened foreigner trying to stay alive. When the city fell the following year, I was caught up in the general slaughter and escaped a crusaderís sword by jumping into timeís raging river.
I popped up on an Australian transport ship en-route to the Gallipoli Peninsula. It was 1915 and the allies were about to throw away an entire generation of Anzac youth on a fruitless attempt to knock the Turks out of the war. We were headed for certain slaughter which i did my best to avoid.
Well you get the picture. Over and over again, I was forced to escape my particular circumstances but i could not escape my fate. The precise circumstances of my life didnít seem to matter, all roads led to the same end.
Iím getting tired of all this running, all this starting over again. Where am I now you ask? I hardly know myself. Looks like Japan sometimes in the 40ís. With my luck itís probably Hiroshima in the summer of 1945. I expect just being an American is enough to get me killed. Maybe Iíll see how this one plays out. Oh God, here they come. What should I do?