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The Center of All Things

By Gordon McWhorter



The Fifth and Final Book

“Discourses in Reality”















“When you die it is the very same moment when everyone else in the

world dies too.”


A Seizure of Landscapes, 2009




“The trees are our true parents. They are the old ones who still grant unto every one of us our every breath.”



Exponential Uncertainties, 2010



"One of the greatest tests you can ever pass is the one where you embrace your death. Accept the unacceptable. To be content with the mystery...that unknowable thing."



Perpetual Existentialism, 2011



"Because we had failed and followed Lucifer into orbiting another center we would need to prove ourselves through time: time being isolated to physical worlds, and distance: we would be banished as far from The Center of All Things as possible, and then choice: we would be born with complete amnesia, free to choose good or evil, and then to be judged accordingly. We would be tested and tried in a world that hated our bodies, flipped our reasonings upside down and turned suffering into the only achievable goal. Only the truly penitent would make it through this. Only those with love would be allowed back into The Center of All Things."



An Intellection on the Post Mechanics of Death, 2016







Dedicated to my Father, Gordon Steven McWhorter...

...and his father, Gordon Sloan McWhorter.

May we meet in the afterlife when all three of us are young again.











6,316 people die each hour








The only valid question left is this:

“What will we do now?”











1







“Holy Jesus! What the fuck are you doing, Steve!?” Steve had been a friend of mine for years. It just so happened that this year, Steve went batshit crazy and decided to mock crucify himself on the roof of our small, Mormon communities, neighborhood church.


“Oh shit, Jeff. Make it stop.” Said Steve, hyperventilating from the physical trauma of nails hammered through his feet and left hand. His right hung limp, the obvious culprit of the crime, the hammer dropped a few feet down the steep pitch of the church’s roof.


“Dude! Get the fuck down, Steve! This is crazy!” Steve moved his head side to side in a swoon, almost passing out. There was not much else to do but climb up there and get him. Steve had been at the edge for months, I know, I was there when the cops came to separate him and his two little ones, letting the old lady take away those precious babies like a thief in the night.


Steve seemed to have a grasp on things after they left. He worked hard, sent money, contacted ORS to make sure they didn’t want anything else and the years just slipped, bye-bye. Kids got older, we got older, everyone got older...but no pictures. He tried calling once. Heard his little boys voice on the voicemail and it just about killed him.


“Helium and a trash bag, Jeff. That’s what I need right now.” Steve laughed and the surreal lights of several Beehive State Troopers, along with the County Sheriff and Ambulance Services, made the whole show....what? Spectacular? If Steve wanted attention he'd certainly got it.


Steve told me once how it felt to suddenly live in an empty house after taking care of babies for 3 years...


They haunt this place, Jeff. I can hear their little feet running around early in the morning waking me up just like they use to. It’s like they’re really here, but dead, you know, ghosts...I break sometimes, just break, and it all comes rushing out of me in this gush of unstoppable tears...


“Steve, hold on man. We’re gonna get you down.” The Sheriff was buzzing the local mad house, while a few locals on the search and rescue squad set up shop just below Steve, mumbling on about how crazy Steve was and the inevitability that he would be good and locked up away for a long time. An argument quickly rose up among them about who would climb up first when Steve started screaming holy bloody murder. It was Sunday, 7:30 am. Church starts in an hour and a half...what a mess.


“Get him the fuck off that roof!” Yelled the Sheriff, his large frame half in and half out of his patrol truck, CB in one hand, cell phone in the other. “Before the goddamn media gets here!”


“Sheriff, let me go get him.” I said, pointing to my neighbors, boys we had both gone to school with so many years ago, arguing about who was going up first. You could tell there was a heightening sense of superstition among them.


“Jeff Mallory, right?” Said the Sheriff, his CB squawking back and forth with the fire department four miles away who was supposed to be bringing the big rig ladder, but had run into mechanical troubles.


“Yes, sir.” I said.


“You feel comfortable getting geared up? Are you afraid of heights, Jeff?” Asked the Sheriff.


“Yes and No.” I said, already wishing I was back in bed with the wife. Jesus, what a mess...


“John!” Yelled the Sheriff over to the group of fumbling, volunteer search and rescue. “Get Jeff here tethered up. He is going up first.” My neighbors took a moment to notice me for the first time before nodding their heads in agreement. Soon, I was cinched up, roped off and climbing the ladder before I could really concentrate on what I was going to do. Steve’s screaming had turned into terribly sad moaning and it just broke my spirit as fear gripped me the higher I climbed until the morning sun broke above the tree line and lit up the scene of Steve on the church roof like some horrible, low grade movie on Netflix.


“Steve?” I looked up from the steep roof, the ladder's top rung just barely catching the edge. Steve was moaning incoherent words that spooked goose bumps on my skin. “Steve, buddy. Let’s get you down, man.” I carefully got a firm footing on the pitched roof and side stepped my way up to Steve’s unresponsive form. Slowly, I roped off around Steve’s makeshift crucifix, taking mental notes on how Steve managed to drag this thing up here and bolt it down to the roof peak, let alone the clear and insanely difficult task it must have been to then nail himself to it. Steve had obviously been planning this for awhile. The ladder he used was tossed off the back of the church, where it had caught in the lower limbs of an old Oak tree.


“What’s the situation look like, Jeff?” Cried the Sheriff over his bull horn. “What’s it going to take to get him down?”


“Hold on!” I yelled, my breathing was fastly taking over my entire body, shaking me at the knees, as I carefully found a good balance on the peak and inspected Steve’s wounds. “Ah, Steve. What a mess.” I would not be able to pull the nails. They were driven deep and would need to be cut. “Can I get a sawzall up here!”


“Don’t trust them!” The whisper was not the voice of my friend. Steve’s body seemed to let go of something heavy he was desperately holding onto, when he looked up into my face and grinned, “They’re not real!”


I admit I was a little more than scared. This was all way too much for me to handle on a Sunday morning. I haven’t been to church in years, but that doesn’t mean I don’t believe. I certainly do believe. I believe in a lot of things. Demons come to mind and I am way too close to one of them right now.


“And some bandages, please!” I ignore Steve’s strange mumblings and pretend I don’t see the demons fighting to get inside his compromised body. For what seems like forever, Steve and I hang out together watching the sunrise take over the morning skies when Alan Dubois made it to the top rung of the ladder with a sawzall and a chain linked extension cord.


“Here Jeff!” Alan said, refusing to come any closer.


“C’mon man!” I said angrily at him, “Give me a little love here, Alan.”


“Sorry, Jeff.” Said Alan, “I didn’t sign up for this kind of craziness.” Alan left the sawzall propped up against the top rung, the heavy extension cord looped over and tied off loosely before he headed back down the ladder with a deep frown on his face. It was 8 am.


“Thanks, Alan.” I said, giving up on the merits of other men. “I got this.”


“He’s not real...” Steve mumbled behind me as I slowly worked my way down to the ladder on my rear end. The Sun was warming the roof up quick, making the grit on the shingles soft and crumbly. Whatever I was going to do I better do it now. Grabbing the sawzall I about slipped off the roof down to a pretty certain end before catching my balance and pushing myself back up to Steve’s side.


“...not real.”


“Steve, buddy, it’s almost over...don’t move, okay?” I tried to smile, find some humor in this absurd craziness as I tied up my loose rope under his armpits to the cross beam and then slipped the metal sawzall blade behind Steve’s left hand and severed the nail. His limp body fell heavily against the rope and for a moment I thought the cross would not hold us as we teetered precariously forward.


“Jeff!” Came the Sheriff’s voice over his loudspeaker, “Everything alright up there?” My ears are ringing from the adrenaline pumping through my blood. I have a vague smell of tarmac and cinnamon entering my nose and I am just about to answer an okay when Steve starts laughing hysterically.


“Can’t you see!” Shouted Steve, hanging limp from the cross like some horrible marionette puppet. “They’re not real! None of this is real!”


“C’mon buddy, work with me here.” I said through clenched teeth, wanting to be upset, but knowing I hadn't the luxury nor time to do so. “Just relax, Steve...almost gotchya, buddy.” The sawzall slipped beneath Steve’s punctured, bare feet, but it was too tight a fit, Steve screaming all sorts of expletives from the pain of the blade cutting deep into his heels, waking him up just enough to the reality of this absurd situation.


“Ah shit, Jeff!”


“Hold still, man!”


“Ah shit!” Steve was bleeding all over my hands as I slipped the sawzall back into place and finally snipped through the thick nails under his feet. Steve weighed about a buck ninety and the cross creaked with the shift in weight.


“Almost there, Steve. You gotta help me out here, buddy, okay?” Steve was mostly unresponsive, his curled up left hand cradled next to his chest, his bare feet spasming and useless after I jerked them from their posts. I ignored the further directions from below being shouted up to me and cut the rope holding both of us to the cross. The release of his weight almost threw me off balance before I could grip back into the cross and let Steve's weight slide us both down the roof on his rear end. I wrapped my arms around him from behind and skidded us both slowly down to the ladder below where Alan had found his hidden sense of courage and reappeared to help guide us to safety. It was 8:23 am. Plenty of time for us to get the hell out of here before folks started showing up for church...what a mess.


I half expected folks to start clapping when we reached the solid ground, but the automation of law took over and I was replaced by those in charge. Steve was forcibly placed on a gurney and a short, quick thank you from the Sheriff ended the scene. In a daze I walked back to my truck, Steve’s coagulating blood still fresh all over me and I lost something human there as the ambulance flashed away to the highway, courteously keeping it’s sirens off as to not disturb further the good and normal people of our small town.


I never saw Steve again.


I remember trying to visit his hospital room, but was explicitly told that would not be possible. I heard rumors he'd been charged with several absurd felonies and ended up as a ward of the State of Utah, but when pressed about Steve’s whereabouts I was told he was no longer in the system. I had bills to pay, work to do, kids and a wife to pay attention to and the years just slipped, bye-bye.



. . .



Yesterday, I met a stranger asking about Steve. I decided I better write some of this down so I don’t forget. The man wanted to know where Steve was, said Steve was missing and may be a danger to himself and others. I was flabbergasted. It’s been thirty years since that Sunday morning so long ago. I hadn’t even given Steve a thought in over five, which is sort of a lie, but the stranger spooked me, tasted all like secret government shit that I wanted nothing to do with and the stranger knew it.


“Listen, Mr?” I said, letting him see my reluctance.


“Noel.” Said the man, “Just Noel.”


“Gotchya...Listen, Noel...” I said, shaking my head side to side. “What happened to Steve traumatized my life. I’ve not seen or heard from him since and I don’t expect I will ever see him again. Sorry, I don’t think I can be much of any help to you.”


“If it’s all the same to you, then, please take my card. Call me if he shows up.” Said Noel, standing up to leave as he fished out a government card for me to take.


“You’re from the CDC?” I said, bewildered and angry. “What did you do to him? Turn him into a guinea pig for some of your experiments?”


“It’s not like that, Mr. Mallory. Steve is very important to us.” Said Noel, shoving both his hands into his thick, black coat pockets. “Call me if you see him.”


“Wait! What happened to him? Where has he been? Is he in danger? Is he...dangerous?” I said, getting a little nervous that Steve would show up one morning on my front porch, ravenously contagious with some rare disease.


“Good day, Mr. Mallory.” Said the strange man in black, leaving me to stare at my coffee and uneaten toast. I looked over his card and on the back of it was written a date, 09-27-2017. September 27th, 2017, or was it a code? I left breakfast at the cafe and drove back to the house to do some research.


The wife and I were empty nesters now. Our oldest, Tyler, was at UC San Diego working on some of the new electric supertrains being designed there and my little Taylor was married to a ego addict businessman out of Chicago, making their own way easy with some kind of newfangled, online sales widget. To say the least, my kids taught me how to google.


Google sucks.


The only remotely recent information I could find about Steve was from fourteen years ago in 2002. A list of people working on a tectonic research vessel off the coast of Northern California near Eureka. The picture on the page was definitely Steve. He looked normal, happy, smartly dressed with his arms around his fellow crew, smiling as they set sail to explore the ocean floor and repair Buoy Station, 46022 EEL River, which had been recording sustained drops in ocean floor elevation for the last six weeks. The name of the ship was SS Hermione. When I did a google search for this NOAA registered vessel I found nothing. When I tried to go back to the page showing the picture of Steve on SS Hermione the web page came back with an error, 404, webpage not found.


My curiosity was way past peaked.


I do a search for CDC and the date September 27th, 2017 and google blows up with thousands of superstitious, doomsday preppers warning about the next world wide, viral pandemic. Videos showing lengthy convoys of U.N. military trucks, with the red cross and crescent on the side, traveling by locomotive across the country. Convoys of Semi Trucks that appear to have thousands of ready to use coffins stacked to the full. News about radical government policies allowing “refugees” into America on the basis that we can help, but underlined with the orders of the W.H.O. that would otherwise deny America’s Special Drawing Rights from the World Bank if not fulfilled. Weird shit, none of it made any sense, but entertaining for sure. The wife found me several hours later still watching Youtube.


"Are you busy?" She asked me. I wanted to say yes. I wanted to tell her about the man in the cafe asking about Steve, the weird shit I was finding on the internet for Sept. 27th of next year, but I didn't.


"Not at all, Babe, how can I help?"


My life was a dull, boring mess. I loved it that way too, I guess, or else I would have been actively involved in something...anything, besides staring at the computer screen.



































2






Steve showed up in my living room three days later.


“Holy shit!” I said, grabbing at my heart as it sparked with pain from the adrenaline pushing into my old veins.


“Yes.” Said Steve, “Holy shit. How are you, Jeff?” Steve is sitting with his legs crossed comfy style in my blue arm chair where I relax when watching Netflix with the wifey late at night. The parody of Steve compared to the shows we watch on Netflix made me cringe in desperate control of reality.


“This is my home.” I said, grabbing onto reality and commanding it into audio.


“Yes, it is.” Said Steve, uncrossing his legs and gesturing towards the couch where the wife would fall asleep late at night halfway through our movies. “You’re going to want to sit down, Jeff.”


And I did. I sat down, took a big inhale and placed my hands on my knees bracing for impact.


“Jeff, you can’t imagine how good it is to see you.” The honesty in his voice turned my head to face this specter from my past...a specter who had for years lived inside my head as a mutated doppelganger of Christ, twisting my faith and finally taking me away from the church altogether. How many times did the visiting teachers come by? Or the wife beg until she cried at the edge of the bed? The kids didn’t mind. They hated going to church until it was only mother going.


“I don’t breathe well anymore.” I said, stupidly trying to say the most important thing in my head at that moment. Steve laughed, pulled out a pack of Newport Menthol's and lit up...in my house! I was furious! It was something I'd been dying to do for 30 years.


“Here.” Said Steve, handing me a smoke. “You’re going to want this.” And I did. The whole world orbited that moment and I smoked as if it was my last. “Now, I want you to listen to what I have to say, and if you think it’s too much I will go away, but you are a huge part of this, Jeff, maybe the only part.”


“Me?” I cough, hacking for a good ten seconds before Steve can continue.


“Jeff, please. Just listen, smoke your cigarette and don’t fucking move.” Steve’s sudden shift in attention was like super cold water constricting my throat and all I could do at that point was shut up, smoke and listen. I nodded my head in a weak yes. I am all ears.


Steve continued, satisfied I was not going to interrupt him again. “In 2002 you designed a simple device, Jeff, a Time Loop Battery, you called it.” Steve then placed an old envelope onto the coffee table, it was stamped and dated Sept. 17th, 2002. I picked it up, examining the familiar writing, my writing, mailed to myself from myself with addresses I did not recognize. “Jeff, what’s in that envelope cost the lives of some of my closest friends. You do not remember, yes, and that’s okay, you see...” Steve inhaled one last drag and then put his spent cigarette out onto the wife’s cherished china set meticulously decorating the coffee table. “What you designed inside that envelope turned out to be exactly that...a time loop battery used in next generation Quantum Computers, and boy, Jeff, it fucked things up good.”


I stared at the envelope, no longer looking at Steve. I wanted to open it, see what this Time Loop Battery was all about, but there was a stain on the envelope that looked like old blood and the thought of someone, anyone, dying from something I could not remember even doing border lined on the “too much”. Before I could tell Steve to get the hell out of my house, go away and never come back, he continued down the rabbit hole of non linear reality.


“Jeff, this world we are in is not real.” Said Steve, leaning forward into my attention, his elbows resting on his knees, so normal as if there was not thirty years separating us from doing this same thing each day and wasn't that the last thing I remember Steve saying to me 30 years ago? NONE OF THIS IS REAL! “Never has been, you see, Jeff, this device, this Time Loop Battery, made it possible for Quantum Computers to connect with hybrid possibilities, parallel universes, particles that can be in two different places at the same time. Something happened, Jeff. Something happened to the real Earth and the world we are in right now is only a simulation.”


For years I have secretly been preoccupied with mankind's reality. I greedily willed away countless hours thinking about the state of man, but never did a thing about it. I don’t vote, I don’t go to Town Council meetings, I don't email my congressman, I don’t write commentaries or leave comments on YouTube videos intent on changing man's thoughts for the better and, as the world seemed bent on destroying itself from the inside out anyways, I just faded more and more into the safe little bubble of my small, back country, Utah town. I felt more like a spectator of world affairs than a participant, but now...now, well, Steve was talking about my dreams. Dreams of being an intricate part of the bigger picture. Something important...something that actually mattered, but Quantum Computers? Parallel Universes? Steve was plum nuts, crazy as shit on an absurd level and possibly contagious.


“Why is the CDC looking for you?” I asked, breaking my oath to stay silent.


“The CDC?” Said Steve confused, breaking character for just a split second, but enough for me to feel the very real possibility that Steve was dangerous, infected with some kind of terminal disease I was sure I've already been exposed to.


“Yes, three days ago I was approached by a man looking for you. He gave me this.” I said, reaching into my wallet and pulling out the man’s card. Steve reached over, scanned the writing on the card and quickly discarded it onto the coffee table.


“No, that holds no consequence here, Jeff.” Said Steve, reaching for another smoke and offering me one as well.


“No, thank you.” I said, and for the life of me I don’t know why I let him light up again. I should have called the cops. I should have told him to leave, but life as I knew it was too conformed, rigid, and...well, hopeless. I needed something to hope for. Something to believe in. If this world was just an illusion, what happened to the real Earth? The real me?


“Ever heard of the Mandela Effect?”


“Mandela? Like Nelson Mandela?”


“The same.” Said Steve, “Tell me, is Nelson Mandela still alive?” I thought about it for a second, the embattled leader of apartheid in South Africa fighting for Black Rights, the Boers, Afrikaners, a movie or documentary I'd seen on Netflix, but for the life of me I could not remember if Nelson Mandela was still alive or not. “Before you designed The Time Loop Battery, Nelson Mandela was well known to have died in prison from tuberculosis in 1991. Millions of people still remember his funeral broadcasted live on television, Jeff, but now, in this timeline anyways, he was very much alive throughout the nineties serving as South Africa's first black president. He recently passed away in 2013, for the first time, mind you, "


“Is that a bad thing?” I asked, not wanting to feel as if I'd been directly responsible for saving such an important figure in history from an early death, but doing so anyways.


“Not in and of itself, Jeff, but causality cannot be about just one man. What you did in 2002, just the act of placing The Time Loop Battery on paper, split reality in two. This present life is not suppose to be here. None of this world is suppose to be here, Jeff, and I can prove it to you. Do you remember Star Wars, the original movies?"


"Yes." I said, when I should have been shouting at him to get the fuck out of my house. I was now sure Steve was crazy. Contagious or not. I needed to find a way out.


"Do you remember C3PO being all gold or did he have a silver, right leg from the knee down?"


"Are you kidding?" I said, seeing the Ewoks suddenly in my head raising the full golden C3PO up as King of the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi, "He's gold from head to foot."


"Google it, Jeff. C3PO has a silver leg now, always did." And I do. I pull out my phone and google C3PO. Immediately, I notice that most of the images pulling up have C3PO standing on a silver, right leg from the knee down that I do not ever remember him having...ever.


"What the hell?"


"That's just the beginning, Jeff. Inconsequential layers of a much, much bigger picture...or smaller, if you consider we're all just zero flash points on some microscopic Quantum chip."


"Good God." I am shocked. The pictures of C3PO included original figurine dolls from 1977 still in the package and yep, C3PO has a silver leg in each one of them!


"Maybe you're thinking it's just a detail you've missed all these years?" Said Steve, and yes, I was thinking exactly that or, at least, I am now. I could have just missed that, right? "Do you remember Darth Vader saying to Luke in The Empire Strikes Back, 'Luke, I am your father'?"


"Who doesn't, Steve?" I said, confident in my memory of that famous line from my youth. Why was I still listening to this bullshit? Find an escape, Jeff, now! But I don't, I can't think of one. I can't see past the incredible possibilities Steve was pushing at me. I am the superintendent of passive aggressiveness.


"Wrong, Darth Vader never says that." Said Steve, and the chills that course over my skin are very, very real. I google a clip of the original scene in The Empire Strikes Back and several references to the Mandela Effect, memes, misnomers, confabulations and false memories on a mass scale pop up at the top of the search results. Others were searching this too and my curiosity that this was not just something Steve was making up relieved some of my fears. I play the first clip and have to play it again, and again, and again...


"That's not what he says!" I said in anger. What was going on here? Darth Vader had always, from the beginning of time, said, 'Luke, I am your father.', but no more. What Darth Vader actually says is, 'No, I am your father.' which makes no fucking sense to me!


"Jeff, this world is a fake." Said Steve, reaching over to take my phone and stop the madness. "I too remember the iconic phrase, 'Luke, I am your father.', but it seems that's not where we are any longer. The Earth on which that movie existed the way we remember it is gone, Jeff."


"I don't know...." I said, with the memory of hearing Darth Vader say, 'Luke, I am your Father.' already fading, as if I hadn't been so sure just a moment ago that it was so, "Maybe...maybe we just remember it wrong?"


"You, me and half the world, Jeff." Said Steve, pulling up another web page on my phone to show me. "Do you remember the classic song by Queen, We are the Champions?"


"Of course, I do." I said, hearing the tune in my head even as Steve started to play the song. We listened to just the last few verses and where the end of the song should have been sung '...Of the World!' the song abruptly stops right before it with Freddie Mercury singing, 'We are the Champions." End of song. Roll credits. "What the heck? Give me that!" I grab my phone from Steve's hands and google the lyrics. "Holy shit!" Impossible, there was no fucking way my brain would stop singing the last part! "I can't believe this..."


"It's tough." Said Steve, with a knowing frown. "The moment you're made aware of the changes in memory it fades and you second guess yourself. Do you remember placing your hand over your heart to say the pledge of allegiance? Or when the doctor checked your heart with his stethoscope?" Steve stood and placed his hand over his left breast, recalling the ritual every morning in school when we said the pledge of allegiance. For some reason it was important for me to stand up too, both of us standing, facing one another as if 30 years of separation from the last time we saw each other never happened and Steve had always been here...just down the street, living his life. "The left position of the heart is no longer valid, Jeff. The human heart now lives at the center of your chest."


"Mine has always been at the center." I said, mass confusion just inches away from becoming a real time matrix that I am desperately trying not to see through. Take the Blue Pill, Neo...take the Blue One! "I do remember the emphasis of the heart being on the left, but really? I don't remember! What would cause that, Steve? And why? How could anyone change that?"


"Our Earth is gone, Jeff, and these are just tiny examples of the ghost in the machine, a glitch in the system. What I need you to remember is that this all started in 2002 after you created the idea of The Time Loop Battery. It may be that in creating the power supply for these Quantum Computers you inadvertently set up a backdoor for the truth, a passage through the matrix, Jeff, a way to get back home. This is your doing, Jeff, and I know you can fix it."


“What?” I was so lost. “How in the world am I suppose to do that?” Steve smiled sadly, pointed at the envelope and gestured for me to open it. As if Steve had given me a key I now had the ability to do just that, carefully tearing one side off of the envelope and blowing a quick breath of air into the opening to poof out the sides revealing a single piece of unlined paper with my familiar writing on it. It was crude, the math was all wrong, but the concept was sound. Just a simple torus loop, a metal hoop bent like the hull of a ship with a ball inside that once initiated would, if balanced correctly, continue to speed up until...










"Exponential motion." I said, not realizing I had even opened my mouth.


"Yes." Said Steve, pointing at one of the symbols, "Exponential motion is the right word. That's where the rip in time starts, Jeff. A tiny black hole. The infinite source of power needed for a Quantum Computer. I believe your Time Loop led up to the creation of this parallel universe and that you may be the only person holding this reality together. It's time to make things right, Jeff. It's time to go back home to the real Earth."


Steve's words were delayed in my head. The image before me of the simple shapes could not ever work for me. The brief moments of reality shaken by The Mandela Effect examples Steve had shared was already fading away into unimportant garbage. I was no more the wiser of my current reality than I was yesterday. None of this was making any more sense to me and I needed to find some ground level to stand up on quick before this madman said another word...


“How can this thing really work?” I asked, bewildered at the simple shapes, like one of those semi-perpetual motion desk toys that always stops moving eventually. Steve leaned back in my chair and smiled, as if he'd accomplished the thing he'd set out to do 30 years ago. It wasn't going to work though, nope. This was all some farce of my own imaginings.


“Agreed.” Said Steve, as if he could hear my thoughts. "This is your fault and you can fix it." Steve closed his eyes then, placing his open palms on his chest, looking for every reason in the world as if he was just going to take a short nap while I figured out how to reverse the matrix.


Despite Steve’s obvious belief that I would somehow remember doing this and suddenly figure it all out, I immediately snuffed the bright little lights that had, for a moment...just a tiny spark of a moment, made some sense to me. A memory of another life, real, but now faded...poof and it was gone. I laid the Time Loop plans onto the coffee table with a hand stuck in slow motion knowing I did not have the momentum or drive, the inclination or need to change reality. Steve had obviously been infected with some kind of crazy contagious brain cancer and I wanted no part of it.


“Steve, where have you been the last thirty years?” I said, willingly changing the subject to one I could wrap my squishy brain around. “I tried to find you. For months, I called every hospital and court in Utah, but no one knew or refused to tell me a thing.” Steve stayed motionless, hands on his chest, breathing slow easy breaths, eyes closed and already sleeping as far as I could tell.


“Steve?”


“Steve, I don’t think...” But I could speak no more. My eyes were too heavy to keep open and my body rebelled against this waking reality. Pins and needles slipped through my old veins blacking out my vision and I could no more resist falling asleep as if Steve’s condition truly was contagious. With one last attempt to stand up before succumbing to the darkness, I fell flat on my face feeling nothing as Steve led me down into a dream I will never, ever forget.


. . .



The torus and ball are made of 24kt gold. The soft gold allows the torus to bend as the speeds of rocking and rotation increase exponentially, expanding the metal with velocity and heat until the looping motion blurs into a sphere of golden light. The light increases with a new sound, a pitch not unlike that stuck in my old ears when the world is altogether too quite. The sound presses into my brain with force and squeezes my Pineal Gland with tiny fingers, milking the gland of it’s potent chemicals and releasing undiluted DMT into my bloodstream. Every sense and sensor exploded at the same time as the device reached maximum threshold breaking through the sound barrier only to find more energy and more speed as the golden sphere flattened, thickened at the edges and all together appeared to stop moving.


“Is it done?” I asked, instinctively reaching out to touch the gold disc that no longer looked anything like the original torus loop.


“Don’t touch it yet.” Said Steve, cautiously standing off behind my peripheral vision where I could not see him. All was a white landscape except the gold disc hovering in mid air in front of me and my old, wrinkled fingers reaching for it. I stopped short of the smooth surface, noting that there was not a reflection of my fingers even as close as I was to the highly polished gold when suddenly it popped and with it the whole world popped and the sounds of a great, rushing waterfall filled my ears.


“What's happening?!” I yelled against the storm.


“Almost done!” Steve yelled back at me. I attempted to turn and look at him, but all the sounds in the world rushed into the popped disc sucking us out of air and into a perfectly silent and empty white room except for a black, disc shaped rabbit hole where the golden Time Loop had been. “There.” Said Steve. “It is done.” Steve strode forward comfortably then and with the sides of his fingers he stretched the hole open a few feet with a grunt of satisfaction. “You first.” Said Steve, gesturing gallantly for me to step inside.


“Where does it go?” I asked, “Or when?”


“It goes inside.” Said Steve, peering deep into the black waters of the holes opening. “About twenty five thousand light years inside, actually.”


“Is it safe?” I asked stupidly, but really just wanting to linger in this moment of superior wonder. To trap it in a bottle somehow and save it for those rare, rainy days out on my porch of normalcy.


“That’s funny, Jeff.” Said Steve, slapping my back and pressing the point that yes, I was going into this hole first. “Don’t think about it too much, Jeff. There’s a little discomfort at first, but it is so fleeting you won’t even remember it when you arrive on the other side.”


“Ah man, Steve. This is crazy!” I said, letting the tang of fear taste itself on my tongue and spread into my limbs. Why didn’t Steve come to me when I was young and fearless? How had growing old taken that sense of adventure from me? I looked at my hands then, teasing out the lines of old age and remembering the grip I had held onto life with when I was young. I would not have hesitated in the least back then. We would not even be having this conversation as I would have already jumped inside and fuck the consequences.


“Hold on, Jeff.” Said Steve, helping me step into the hole. “This is nothing. It’s coming back that is painful.”


“What?” I said, trying to turn back around and step back out into my pain free life where it was safe and easy growing old on the porch, but Steve would not have it and unceremoniously dumped me over the edge into an abyss of black. My mind separated from my body then, and it was all I could do to hold on as the space between things slung past my view in blurred shapes of stars and geometric galaxies.


When finally I was able to open my physical eyes I stood in the soft moonlight of a garden orchard, crickets chirped all about me and in the distance I could see thousands of warm lights decorating an ancient landscape of stone walls and captive, medieval towers. The sky was a purple fold of stars and smoke.


“Where are we?” I asked, turning to find Steve looking in the opposite direction. I turned my attention to what Steve was watching and saw a shadowed stump of a man leaning heavily into an old, gnarled olive tree.


“Jerusalem.” Said Steve mystically, eyes sad and looking longingly at the poor man under the tree as if he wanted to help him. “This is the garden of Geth, Jeff. You need to see this.” Just like the dream it was, I watched it all go down as it had happened two thousand years ago. I was watching Jesus atone for man’s sins and the more I watched the more I wanted to scream out and stop this madness from taking place again. The man, Jesus, was in obvious pain, wracking sobs convulsed his body as he begged some unseen God in hushed and throaty Hebrew. I could understand none of it, but I felt every word and the more I felt the heavier this place seemed until I could no longer stand and watch, but had to kneel with my hands outstretched to the ground to support my own increasing weight.


Suddenly, Jesus arched backwards screaming up into the night sky with a dreadful howl.


“What’s happening to him, Steve?” I asked, but Steve was bowed heavily to the ground as well and struggling with all his might to keep his eyes on the scene in front of him. It was all too real. The intense emotions coursing through the ground like bugs finding their way to your exposed flesh to crawl all over your skin in shivers and goosebumps.


“Watch!” Said Steve through clenched teeth and I struggled to lift my head as it now weighed a thousand pounds and felt as if some unseen hand was pushing down on my neck with full force. Blurred from the struggle, my vision was not the best, but I do believe I saw it then. The old tree, that gnarled, ancient olive tree opened up like a scroll revealing what appeared to be a door, a portal...another hole in time.


“Steve!”


“I see it. Come on!” Steve reached out and grabbed me up to my feet just as the weight of the entire universe suddenly lifted off us and allowed us to race into the tree right past the blood soaked figure of Jesus still fixated on the stars and talking to something or someone just out of visible sight.


The old olive tree caught us up like two flies in a Venus Fly Trap slamming us tightly into dense, unmovable heartwood and against one another, squeezing the air out of our lungs, and for a moment I fought back in panic only to realize I no longer had a body to fight back with. I was wood and wood did not need to breathe. Not like humans do anyway.


For what seemed like a forever moment frozen in time I understood the true nature of being. A being rooted in the Earth to watch the years slip by like night and day, perfectly balanced, ebbing from deep under the Earth. Chemical sensations of touch and laughter, knowledge proceeding wisdom from a billion other trees talking, moving, knowing one another as individuals as well as a whole until I did understand and with understanding came the power to move. I was no longer tied to the ground. In fact, I was more free and mobile than ever I had been as a human on two legs. All of us flew through space like eagles soaring on crystalline wings, matrix ships packed full with billions of helical codex's.


I was a tiny speck of pollen orbiting another speck of pollen that orbited a third. We were transporting a whole other world inside us, a world twenty five thousand light years away.



















3





When I awoke, Steve was no longer there.


“Did you smoke inside?” I looked up out of my saliva, drooling face to find the wife, hands on her hips, looking down at the four cigarette butts distastefully smooshed in her china bowl. The envelope with the Time Loop diagram lay beside it...unopened.


I tried to explain to the wife what had happened, even going into detail about the dream. I thought she would particularly like the part about seeing Jesus, but that didn’t go over so well...


“What are you trying to tell me?” She said flustered, as if I was giving her a secret code to the bible. “If this is just another way of putting down the church I won’t have it.”


“No, that’s not what I am trying to do at all!” I said, getting upset at my inability to relay my seriousness to a dream I wanted her to believe in word for word. “I’m just trying to confide in you, babe. Please don’t get upset.”


“I am upset!” She said, storming into the kitchen to fill up the sink with Pine-Sol. She always starts cleaning when she’s mad at me. I think I know it’s because of the cigarettes in the house, but because I am only male I have already closed that part of the case as cleaned up and resolved...won’t happen again, my love.


“Babe...”


“Don’t babe me!” She said indignantly, “I hate being called that, Jeff. I hate the fact that you think it’s okay to wander around the house like a ghost. You use to have real dreams, Jeff. Real opportunities that you have just let go of! I really have no idea what we are still doing here, together.”


“What are you saying?” I said, shocked that our conversation has suddenly twisted out of control. All I wanted was someone to listen to my dream, validate it as a very real possibility, hell...I even had the envelope to prove it! The wife sighs, her old hands wrist deep into Pine-Sol suds as she squeezes the rag and rings it out in slow motion.


“Jeff, Taylor has asked me to come visit her in Chicago for awhile.”


“What? Without me?” We had never been invited to see how Taylor lived. That’s just the way Taylor liked it. Both our kids were viciously independent, so I wasn’t exactly buying her story.


“Just for a couple weeks.” Said the wife, absent mindedly wiping down the countertops with the warm sudsy rag.


“When do you leave?”


“Tuesday morning. I take a flight out of St. George to O’Hare.” She stops cleaning for a moment as if replaying her words inside her head and then she turns and looks at me. “Take some time off, Jeff. Go fishing, you know, get out in the mountains again and find some peace.”


I push off the feeling of abandonment, try to analyze the value of doing just what she asks, but my peace is already found on the front porch with a cold beer and a smoke while I watch the shadows of day race across this lonely desert landscape. Okay, so maybe I am a little depressed. Maybe this would be exactly what I needed to jump start a new phase in my life. I give her a warm smile and offer her my open arms for a hug. It breaks my heart that she hesitates, but then she quickly hugs me before going back to cleaning the kitchen, even though the kitchen is already spotless.


. . .



When finally I realized the wife was not coming back I had wasted nearly a month with my regular routine. Work was a no brainer and only strengthened my excuse for not doing a goddamn thing with my free time except sit on the porch and grow old. I had several times attempted to open the envelope Steve had given me, but knew that once I did I was obligated to follow through with whatever was really inside. Rather than obligate myself I quickly and easily forget the envelope and this thing called, 'The Mandela Effect' all together.


“Tyler, it’s your Dad. Please give me a call.” I had left several of these messages for my son, Tyler, but the cell phone sat on the coffee table not making a sound. I wanted to call Taylor, but was put out by those two conspiring against me somehow. How could she do this to me? Leave me here all alone in an empty house to force myself to reevaluate life? I was too old to do anything worth reevaluating! Didn’t she know this? Wasn’t it just a fine life living in a small town with nothing to do? No one knocking at your door expecting things or bothering you on your day off? Finally, I called my daughter.


“Hey Dad.” Said Taylor, the noise of people and things busy in the background, “What’s up?”


“Have you seen your mother?” I asked, my heart pounding at the sound of a familiar voice. Sweet Jesus, I was about to choke up and cry there.


“No, isn’t she with you?” The concern in her voice was real and it hits me then that I had been set up and the wife had never really intended on visiting Taylor in Chicago.


“Uhm...yes, I just haven’t seen her all day.” I said, lying to my little girl so she wouldn’t have to worry, but playing the old man Alzheimer gig only made Taylor more suspicious.


“Dad? What’s going on? Where is Mom?” Silence...try as I might I could not come up with a valid excuse for calling Taylor with reports of misplacing her mother. The only other option was the stark and sad truth.


“Dad?”


“Sorry, love. I think your mother may have finally had enough of me.”


“Oh, Dad. C’mon. She’s just taking a break, I bet. How long has she been gone?” Oh my god, this was breaking my heart! How was I supposed to tell my little girl it’s been almost a month and I was just now calling? The lies run deep to cover my guilt.


“Just a few days, sweetheart. You’re right. She’s just taking a break.” At 59 years of age my heart was just not taking this well at all and before I lost what control I did have on my emotions I told Taylor not to worry and be good out there in Chicago.


“Love you, Dad. She’ll be back. She loves you!”


“Thanks, angel.”


“Bye, Dad.”


“Bye.”


I sat back in that silent, darkening house and soaked myself in pity. I could've pick up the phone and called her, but my pride was a horrible thing. The pity turned to anger as I imagined her out on the beach with some guy. I could see it in my brain, full color and it solidified into truth. The wife had left me for another man...another life far from this silent, uneventful place. Could you blame her? No, I answered. No, I cannot. With my anger refocused on myself I once again paid tribute to self pity and the absolute absurdity of doing nothing as the world turned and ever crept closer to doomsday.


. . .


That night I dream. Something I don’t remember doing since Steve paid me that visit a month or so back.


In my dream I was in some hotel room in Salt Lake City, alone, flipping through channels on the TV that were all just static. It was late, there was commotion outside on the city streets that scared me and made me stay where I was, presumably, safe in my room. I drifted off in my dream, dreaming within a dream, the TV still on with silent static, when around 3 am the TV gave out a long, sharp, audible tone that woke me. The emergency rainbow bars on the screen blinked out to reveal a familiar government seal. I want to say it was the seal or banner of the U.N., a blue globe, strands of wheat curving up the sides and then the tones pulsed as if counting down, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1....before the image of a woman, executively dressed and primed, took over the screen and said,


“Welcome to the New Republic.”


The commotion outside heightened and I was too curious to stay in my room, no matter what dangers lay out there for me to avoid. Outside, the streets were full of people protesting, marching North on Main to the Utah State Capitol building and I was easily swept up into the mass. No sooner did the crowd reach the bottom of Capitol Hill than we were met with tear gas, rubber bullets, and flash grenades. Utter chaos separated the crowds and I witnessed real gunfire and RPG’s returning fire into the ranks of battle ready officers. Troops of National Guards rallied in their favor and a real war between what appeared to be U.N. blue helmets and the US Army rained down death and destruction on all of us scrambling for safety around those masonic, Salt Lake City streets...


I wake then, covered in sweat with the old heart barely able to keep up. The clock says 3:13 in the morning and I am all alone in a dark, creaking house as the wind outside blows the chimes on the front porch madly. I lay there for a bit before concluding the chimes are waking up my neighbors. I get up to go take down the noisiest of the chimes when the dream comes back to me. I ponder on the very real possibilities that Donald Trump is going to win the elections and how that would all play out. Election day is just two weeks away and I hadn’t given it a moment's thought. The news was just too much like watching monkeys play with matches. Sure, it was funny, but sad and pathetic all at the same time.


I sit on the porch for awhile after removing the bigger two wind chimes and listen to the dark wind blowing the future inevitably closer to my doors. I think about the wife and where she is right now, hoping she is okay and knowing she must miss home. The guilt of not going back to church with her, or helping her more with the kids weighs down on my soul and I know I am very close to calling it quits here with life. I can totally just check out, bon voyage kind of stuff with that old tank of Helium in the garage that Taylor had used for blowing up balloons. That and a piece of tubing running up into a plastic sack over my head. Wouldn’t feel a thing. Nope, just breathe until I pass the fuck out...goodnight.


Feeling sorry for yourself is aggressively addictive. Getting the motivation to do something about it is a totally different animal, one that requires you to move, for life or for death, but once you move the momentum builds and that’s where I am when, finally, I make the decision to check out...


The garage is full of half completed projects, ideas...dreams that the wife was so right about. I have let sadness and complacency somehow take over my soul and there is no more running from the inevitable outcome subjugating myself to these pity monsters affords me. Death will come now and that will be that.


It is an easy thing to find the three components to my demise. The garage is stocked with every little tool and hoarded component from a lifetime of tinkering with inventions, hoping to discover the next big thing that would bring in the money enough to quit working for the man and retire while youth was still on my lips. Boy, what a delusion life has been!


The Helium tank is half full, the clear plastic tubing from the weed killer will work perfectly, but the act of stuffing it up the clear plastic sack covering my head sends me into a panicking claustrophobia and I remove the sack, taking in deep gulps of air until I can light up a cigarette and go over my plans again.


“Holy Jesus! What the fuck are you doing, Jeff?” Jumping out of my skin I turn to see Steve with the garage door wide open.


“Oh no!” I scream, “Not you again!” The last of my pride bursting out into tears as I collapse into the greasy, dirt covering the garage’s cement floors, happily finding rock bottom.


“Get up, Jeff. We have work to do.” Steve pushes his hands under my armpits and lifts me up as easily as if I am a child.


“Are you real?” I ask, not wanting to touch upon a possible psychosis that I am delusional and just imagining Steve, but really now...the timing is way suspicious.


“As real as this moment, Jeff.” Says Steve, stealing one of my smokes out of my front shirt pocket and lighting up.


“What happened to you?” I press, Steve doesn’t even look like he's sixty, at most he looks forty, but he's suppose to be my same age. Hell, we graduated high school together!


“What do you mean?” Says Steve, grabbing the Time Loop envelope out of his pocket and ripping the edge open just like I like to do. “Haven’t you wasted enough time already? C’mon, man...let’s focus here.”


“Goddamn it, Steve!” I yell, slamming my old fist against the wooden work bench. The helium tank wobbles with the impact and seeing the items of my demise laid out in front of me it occurs to me how easily it could have all been, or should have been. Why was death so hard for some and yet so easy for others? Shoot, people are dying by the thousands every hour while I waste another heartbeat.


“Jeff, you’re stuck fast. I need you to reach down deep inside and pull your silly selfish shit out of your ass and stop feeling sorry for yourself. It’s doing nobody any good, least of all yourself.” Says Steve, smoothing out the plans for the Time Loop Battery and pushing my tools of death to the side for more table room.


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