Skipping between timelines

By Nicolo Nasol

“He believed in an infinite series of times, in a dizzily growing, ever spreading network of diverging, converging and parallel times.” — Jorge Luis Borges, “The Garden of Forking Paths”

Illustration by Geraldine Sypiecco
Illustration by Geraldine Sypiecco

1. Despite its mathematical terrors, the curiosities of quantum mechanics had drawn me in. Since last year, I had buried myself into reading its concepts, especially its framework of space, time, and reality. According to its theories, time does not run in a straight line; instead, timelines bifurcate infinitely: all moments, the theories supposed, exist simultaneously — the past, the present, the future — and are like branched-out threads weaved together into a singular rope, which, hypothetically, made up the whole universe.

A god sees the universe as a finished race — its beginning, middle, and end all perceived in a single flash of a moment. All this is indeed difficult, maybe even impossible, for us to grasp since the whole idea stands contrary to what our senses perceive. But a physicist’s inspection on how atoms behave on a quantum level tell us that what we see is not exactly what it is. Well, to us nonscientists, quantum mechanics is either a food for the imagination or a trigger to a headache.

2. In the university’s dormitory bed, weary from the day’s ridge and tunnel hike, I pondered about reality and quantum mechanics and came to realize the different timelines happening in the world within my skull. Then I entered the first layers of my dream.

3. The dream: I was asked to write a piece inspired by the hike: be it a short story, a poem, an essay, or a haiku. I could remember the first stanza of the poem I wrote titled The Test of Time is the Jest of God, “Time is God’s measure / Of how much a rock / Can take / Before it breaks.” The poem ended with the next stanza (the first line of which eluded my memory), “[…] / So the cracks remain silent/ And, without despair, accept / God’s eyes into their darkness.” Admittedly, I imagined during the hike that if I peaked into the cracks, my eyes would, by chance, meet God’s or someone else’s.

4. And during the hike, I walked behind a girl and took fancy of her impossibly supple and shapely waist, which, in each twists, turns, and bends, made my blood boil and undeniably inspired this haiku: “Let my fingers trace / That spine of yours that tempts me / Like a devil’s snake.” Reading the lines, one does not need to look far for an interpretation.

5. In the short story titled Limbo (apparently envisioned as we reached the ridge’s peak), the narrator, sensing the story’s coming end, refuses to continue lest he may disappear afterward. So he goes back narrating in reverse, risking the story to fall into a frightening absurdity:“The summit awaits all of us. But I fear we have nothing to see there afterward. Shall we continue? Shall we continue? But I fear we have nothing to see there afterward. The summit awaits all of us.” The story went on and back.

6. Oddly enough, I conceived of an essay, titled At the End of the Tunnel, stating that “the end is imminent, so even if one is alive here and now, one should consider himself dead and gone already, for the future is inevitable and as irrevocable as the past…. In the journey of life, the light at the end of the tunnel is the light of the end — that is, death — and the darkness inside the tunnel was that of life.” Unlike the narrator in Limbo, we had been nearing the end of our stories one line at a time, and “in the end, we are all nothing but words.”

7. So that’s all I’m able to retrieve from the dream. In another timeline’s future, I may have completely written all those pieces better or perfectly. And probably some future is now reading this article, since, to quote, Borges, “the future already exists now.”

8. I hope, in some future out there, I had read and written all the books I want before “getting out of the tunnel.”

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