Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: TRAVELER (01/28/16)
TITLE: The Traveler
By Zacharia Fox
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Gravel pops under my Jeep as I cruise past a sign labeled, 'Death Valley National Park'. Here, the traveler found the fissure.
I glance at the gravimeter. Gravity's increasing - I'm close. Pulling alongside a depression, I get out of the Jeep. The terrain is eroded to a series of ankle-deep valleys. My legs wobble with each downward step, until my knees buckle and I tumble head-over-heels.
A jagged gash under my eye paints my fingers red, and I grin. Then I spy a fissure in the depression. "My times are in thy hand..."
Kate and I fell in love with physics at Berkley, the same cool autumn we fell for each other. A more substantial bond than our mutual obsession with physics, was the lack of parents in our lives.
"We'll never be alone again," she used to whisper. "We're peanut butter and jelly." Her favorite.
I'd never gone to church, but there was something spiritual about Kate, so I had no problem going when she asked me. Just being with her made me believe; in God, in grace and in us. She was Eden before the fall.
One Sunday, Pastor motioned me forward. "Ian, I'd like you to meet Richard Grassley." I shook hands with a man about seventy, a jagged scar beneath his eye. "He's a physicist, like you and Kate."
We had him over, and he dazzled Kate and I with his grasp of time's relativity. "The further from a gravitational mass, the faster the atomic clock moves. The closer to a source of gravitation, the slower it moves. Supposing there's no ceiling on gravity's potential, time can stand still."
Conversations like these grew commonplace as the months wore on. Sometimes, though, I'd catch him staring at Kate. It made me wonder: did we really know him?
"Richard, where are you from?"
He looked away from Kate, and stared as if I'd tossed him a riddle. "I'm just a traveler." He thanked us for dinner and limped out.
We didn't see him for several months, but on Kate's birthday we found a present from Richard on our porch. Inside was Skippy peanut butter and blackberry jelly, her favorites.
The following Sunday I asked Richard how he knew, and he smiled softly. "Ian, you have questions about me, and I get why. There are things you won't understand. But you can know this for certain: I'm no danger to you and Kate."
I'm not the best judge of character, but I was certain, there was no lie in him.
For the next year Richard had dinner with us every Wednesday. He was at our house when the doctor called Kate. She had cancer.
Why God lets some things happen, I'll never know. Kate didn't last a year. Exiled from Eden, I'm sure I would've ended it if Richard hadn't moved in.
When I wept at night, he'd hold me like I suppose a father would. "It's okay, son. We'll get through this." Mostly, he'd just weep with me.
Eventually, the ache became bearable.
Richard was all that tethered me to this life. That tether unraveled with Richard's health, and like everyone who loses their life's treasures, I wondered at questions I'd forgotten.
I needed answers.
"Richard, who are you?"
He breathed shallow, studying me through blinking eyes. "I told you once that if gravity was great enough, time would stand still. What if gravity increases?"
"Gravity's effect on time is nominal; nanoseconds. Time travel's impossible."
"The effect isn't gradient, it's exponential. When time is standing still, the slightest increase in gravity can retrogress you hundreds of years. I'm you, Ian."
"No... You can't be." But I was staring at eyes that had stared back at me from the mirror all my life. "How'd you know you'd land in this time?"
He grinned. "Because once, I lost my Eden, and a traveler held me through the long, dark night. He came through a fissure in Death Valley. I did. And when I die, you will."
Tears rolled from my eyes as he whispered, "God has the exact times for men. Your time isn't over."
I limp toward the fissure. "Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me."
I fall into the shadows of Death Valley, redeeming that most valuable thing. Time.
I am the traveler.
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Gravitational Time Dilation: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravitational_time_dilation
Theophrastus quote: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/t/theophrast378786.html
Psalms 31:15 KJV; Acts 17:26 NIV; Psalms 23:4 KJV; Ephesians 5:16 KJV
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