Beyond by Demetrios Matsakis

Beyond
Demetrios Matsakis

My son said, “Father?”

“I’m right here.”

My daughter said, “Are you in pain?”

“No. I am peaceful, I think. Yes, peaceful.”

My son said, “We should have spent more time together.”

I could only say, “But there were reasons.”

My daughter said, “A priest came earlier and asked if you wanted to see him.”

“A priest? No. I’ve used every astronomical tool invented, and found no evidence that the universe cares about us.”

My son said, “Are you afraid to die?”

“I am. But that feeling is a product of evolution. I will miss you. I wanted to know you better. I also wanted to contact E.T., and to learn what dark matter and dark energy really are. I never did any of those things, but …”

My daughter said, “Father, the computer screen. Your vitals are failing!”

I started to say, “You are my vital …”

#

“That’s all I can remember of life as I knew it. There followed light, bright light. It was coming from me, draining my mind and consciousness. After that, I never heard or saw anything again. Was I asleep? Was I in water? I don’t know even now. I had the sensation of floating, around some distant center. Sometimes I’d be pushed. I had feelings but no way to gauge the passage of time. I was swirling in no-time and no-space. And then I learned to sense you, a warmth. I want to call you Athena. Are you God?” I asked.

“I am no god”, she informed me.

“But am I alive? I can’t see, I can’t hear. What happened to my five senses?”

“You have left those behind. You can recreate your senses, but in a different way, using what you would call “new physics”. You have already learned how to understand me.”

“I’ll never see or hear again?”

“Not like before,” she replied. “You are impervious to electricity, magnetism, and to the light that comes when they interconvert. But gravity still defines the geometry of your world.”

I wondered, “Gravity but not electromagnetism? This can only be dark matter. From its gravitational pull we know there is more dark matter than normal matter in the universe, but we don’t know anything else or how it fits into the grand scheme. Am I a dark-matter being then?”

“That was always a part of you, but you didn’t recognize it. You have new potentials to explore. If you need my help I can return. I will always be reachable.”

“Are there others like me?” I asked.

“Many others, and many varieties. You can find some, and some will find you.”

“I can sense you are leaving me. The warmth is fading.”

“You are adapting already. You don’t need me.”

“Then hear me, other Dark-Matter Beings out there!” I called into the void. “If not hear, then whatever you call hearing. Can any of you sense me?”

#

One answered almost immediately, “I can. My name is Hagen. Captain Copen Hagen.”

I asked, “Copen? Are you Danish? I don’t know how to interpret you — you are not solid.”

He answered, “I was a suicide warrior in my past life. Now I and those I wronged are together in a common essence, though as we can switch identities as the situations change.”

“Does it depend on how you are approached?”

“Yes, though it’s unpredictable”, he responded.

“But could you slip through your bonds and be yourself?”

He answered, “My former victims and I are bound, but there is no barrier between us or confining us. We have found that our freedom comes asymptomatically as we get closer.”

I asked, “If you learn repentance while they learn forgiveness, does that mean you did a good thing and so you have nothing to repent for?”

He replied, “It means much more than that. I shall dissolve back to them now …”

“Farewell Copen … If there are other beings that can sense me, then I am where I am.”

#

One approached, “Feel me. I’m Bose, with the border patrol. I’ve been waiting for you to learn enough to understand me. I can protect you.”

“Why do I want to be protected?”

He responded, “Your world is different now, and I can help you and you can help me.”

“What is my new world?”

“I can’t reveal all yet,” he replied. “But we must cling together. You must bind to me or else you will be sucked away, beyond the branes.”

“How do we bind?” I asked.

He answered, “I will guide you, if you let me. Do not resist.”

“What happens if I don’t want to bind?”

He replied, “No matter how noble your intentions, you would fall prey to those who come across the branes. They seek only to dominate us. Sometimes they come with anti-matter bombs. Get near one and you are gone. We can survive only if we act coherently to push them out.”

“I’m sorry but I know nothing of intruders, or branes. Let me know of what I can understand. Why do I swirl?”

He answered, “You are bound by gravity. But I can show you how to cut the strings, and truly be free.”

“How can I be free if I follow you?”

He replied, “Because we will radiate away our excess energy and condense into the same state, which gives us power. The brane-travelers are dangerous because they introduce contrary realities. This is what we must guard against.”

“I do not fear new realities.”

He replied, “You must assimilate now and learn to superconduct. Together we can expel the non-dark through their alien fields. We can’t risk having you here otherwise. It would break our symmetry, and it would mean the end of both you and us.”

“Am I not already dead?”

“You are not what you were before,” he answered. “But I can show you how to find your proper state. Otherwise, the vector sum of our efforts would push you out. You would travel, faster and faster, towards an edge that does not exist. You would always be vulnerable to a dimensional stumble that would spill you across the branes, carrying information to a region from which no one has ever been known to return.”

I was skeptical. “How could you know this? And if the brane-travelers that do come bring anti-matter, wouldn’t they be the first to be annihilated? You may be an extraterrestrial of the future, but you denizens of the dark matter can’t be the wisdom-filled entities I imagined. So go ahead, and do what you must do. I will not bond with you or follow you.”

He replied, “You’re not listening – but here comes a brane-traveler now. I’m outta here.”

#

I called, “Hey, brane-traveler, I want to learn of your world. What’s it like out there? What’s your name?”

He answered, “I’m known as Steve Hawkin whenever I return to the Earth-plane. Please keep away for now. Just as I was crossing, a tachyon beam from an evaporating black hole disabled my shields, and it could have induced a symmetry reflection.”

I answered, “You need not fear me. Unfortunately, I have only learned enough about mobility to start heading your way. I don’t yet know how to stop myself. But don’t worry, I’m okay. I won’t harm you or try to bond.”

He replied, “It’s bursting that I fear, not bonding. Until I know if I have returned as matter or anti-matter, you must keep your distance. You are getting too close. Oh no, my gauge-gauge says I was converted to anti-matter! Stop! Get ba…”

!!****** @#!!#@ ******!!

“What a blast!!” I gawked, as my sensations went off-line.

#

“And now, where am I?” I wondered as I regained my inputs. I didn’t swirl anymore but I felt I was either being pulled by a mighty gravity or accelerating wildly. As I zoomed faster and faster I became aware of another mind, and called out “Tell me, you yonder who keeps pace with me, is your name Tompkins?”

He answered, “Yes, I do have memories of being a Mr. Tompkins. Welcome to the world of dark energy, Ulysses. I have your memories too. Everybody here does. It’s good we aren’t diverging as we speed up. You’ll make a fine fellow traveler – my memories tell me that in our past existences we both traveled as far and as fast as our technologies would permit.”

I replied, “I am learning to sense the world of others as well. It is surprising how interesting I am beginning to find the collective thoughts of beings. Meanwhile the stars and galaxies are getting increasingly repulsive to me as I distance myself from them, to the extent that I sense them at all.”

He agreed, “The best part of travel was always selective interaction, be it with books or companions.”

“Returning was nice too. It kept us young.”

He rejoined, “I used to fall asleep in physics classes. I remember something about relativity, but I’m not sure if the speed of light is really a limit for us after all. I get stretched more and more, yet I hold together. I can’t even tell if we are traveling faster than light.”

I asked, “Does it matter since we can’t even see light? Connectivity seems to be what really counts, and that has growth but not speed. Information transfer wouldn’t be limited by Einstein’s laws. I always wondered if they only applied to electromagnetic effects like light anyway.”

He wondered, “If new space is being made for us, then maybe that’s how our new forces emerge?”

I disagreed. “But the fabric is so intricate. I sense being pushed ever faster as it’s being created. Those edge-like things must be the brane boundaries. When I slither up to them, I’m pushed back. I wonder why.”

He replied, “I think it’s the power of our will. I’d rather zoom and surf along them. I don’t want to be sucked away.”

I asked, “Is our will that powerful? Maybe the other dimensions have no time, or two different kinds of time, and that’s why we can’t cross over?”

He answered, “I don’t care. It might be dangerous to experiment.”

“What — do you come from Flatland or something? We have nothing to lose. Let’s try it!”

He faded, “You go. I’ll just keep to my mediocre beaming on this side of the tracks.”

“I really don’t understand your fears,” I let him know. “I’m going to try changing my orientation and curling into the barrier. Like this …”

#

Then suddenly everything was different, though I was the same. I sensed Athena too. “I have found you again! Have I crossed a brane-barrier?”

She replied, “You have found me, but remember that you are only perceiving things in your own terms, terms that have less and less reality now that you have left the continuum.“

“Was it unusual for me to transform so fast?”

“No,” she answered. ”Scientists like you don’t usually last long in the other worlds – they are too curious. Artists too, because they always want to be innovative, and the dark energy is inherently unstable. But none of that matters for you. You are beyond that.”

“Will I someday be able to see like before?”

She answered, “There will be no ‘somedays’, for we are now outside of time. You know this as the ultimate quintessence, the inevitable result of the dark energy’s expansion, which cast you across the branes. Of course we are anything but dark here, though we are without light.”

“I do feel an undeniable lightness in my being. But how can I be outside of time?”

“Time is just a framework – you are beyond it.”

“Well, I can feel myself right now at play, and with a mate. It will be.”

“If it will be, it has already been. Even if you are alone, your feeling holds reality.”

“I see. I do see now.”

She replied, “Yes, you can see. But it is not light you see with.”

“If I am really seeing, I can’t understand what I am seeing. There isn’t form. There is length, but it dissipates. And I can sense there are others.”

She answered, “Some of those others are you, and some you have only the potential of knowing.”

“Is this the quantum foam on a super-large scale?”

She replied, “Forget what you thought you knew. Have you learned what you need to learn?”

“And what must I learn?”

She immediately answered, “Do you think you didn’t insult Copen, or even Bose? Did Mr. Tompkins enjoy being called a Flatlander? What would Dr. Hawkin say about you?”

“Well, Dr. Hawkin was an accident and Bose had it coming. He was too confining. Yet, even if I did hurt some of their feelings, should they be so sensitive? But I guess there must be some truth to this – all my life I have been accused of such things. Is empathy what I don’t understand? Whatever it is, all I know is that I have always learned things only when it is too late. Maybe I did travel too quickly. I have failed in the future to find my children, and my parents too.”

She replied, ”And have you not also succeeded?”

I asked, “How do I know you are real, and that what you are telling me is true?”

“How do you know I’m not your child that was never born?”

“If so, then everything could be me, superpositioning over all possibilities. All I’m doing is interacting with myself and interfering with myself. If you’re my child, then you are still me. If you’re my deity, then you are even more me. Is it possible to get the “me” out of this?”

She answered, “Perhaps. You have advanced rapidly through a few of the many realities, but you are not trapped.”

I asked, “Not trapped? Can I leave this reality like I have left the others? What comes after this? Maybe I should go back.”

She replied, “To leave, you must detach. Feel your wave nature. Oscillate simultaneously throughout time and space. The less you feel of this world, the stronger your oscillations will become. But you can’t overcome the barrier by wave duality alone. To leave you must, in the end, tunnel across. You will with high probability arrive back into the continuum at the time and place where you really belong.”

I understood. “I will try to cleanse myself of all personal thoughts. I will cease to exist in this reality. Yes, I feel something and it is growing, growing, throbbing. And now I know where I need to be …”

#

My daughter exclaimed, “Father, they saved you! They said you had died. But then they fibrillated your heart, and you’re back!”

“If I told you I have seen God, would you believe me?”

My son smiled, “Father, you always said those out-of-body stories were just the brain hallucinating under stress.”

“Yes, that might be so. But more importantly, after they discharge me, let us sail to an island. With the whole family, and I’ll tell you my story.”

They nodded, “That would be nice.”

“It must be when the night sky is clear.”

#

And I told them, and only them, what I experienced. Since then, my life has been entirely different. Not because of anything I said or did, but because of what I wondered.


Author’s Note

The author is an astrophysicist who holds the position of Chief Scientist for Time Services at the U.S. Naval Observatory. This story was inspired by a talk Dr. Jocelyn Bell Burnell made in Beijing, at a General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union. Herself famous for the discovery of pulsars, she reviewed what astronomers knew 100 years ago and predicted that 100 years from now astronomers will have a similar view of today’s understanding – that it is partly true, but very much primitive. She also predicted that long before the century has passed astronomers will have discovered extraterrestrial life, understand what dark matter is, and understand dark energy too.

Although some of the character names and many of the allusions in this story may not be understood by all, they are easy to google. The Wikipedia provides explanations for asymptotic (not asymptomatic) freedom, branes, coherency, the Copenhagen interpretation, Flatland, gauges, superconductivity, Mr. Tompkins, wave duality, and the Bose-Einstein condensations. But the most important resource would be Homer’s Odyssey.

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