Book 2, Chapter 8

Caine was waiting for Rabbit and passing the time reading when the tremors hit him. They started in his hands first, and he had enough time to set his book aside and lay down before the convulsions gripped his whole body.

As the shaking sets into his bones, he feels himself--not his whole self but some vital part of it--lift up through space that isn’t space until he hangs outside of time itself looking in. For that instant, he sees the whole and he understands (as he has understood for only an instant many, many times before) that time has no perfect form. He is not seeing a cycle or a line but a mass of globules held together by tenuous connections that loops back on itself and intersects itself and is like a tangled string beads. For that instant, he can make sense of it, and then he is falling--or more precisely, he is experiencing the sensation of falling--into a moment in time.

Passing through the thin barrier of the moment, he catches a fleeting glance down a long stretch of time and make out a looming figure ahead of him. Then he is totally immersed in the moment, standing behind and outside of a him who exists in this time that he has not seen yet. This him is not facing him, but a woman he knows and loves and child he hasn’t seen but who he knows without knowing that he also loves. They are teaching the child to walk, the woman behind him holding his up-stretched hands, and the later him kneeling and coaxing the child, who giggles and stamps his feet in pleasure, forward.

Then he is ripped back and up and out of that moment before he has the time to absorb and enjoy the warmth of it and he is rocketing down time, skimming the tops of other moments, catching glimpses of them. He sees a flash of a young man writhing in pain on a laboratory table, glimpses a mass of darkness both terrible and exquisitely beautiful, which he can not look at directly or tear his mind away from. A dozen faces he knows he will come to know flash past him, and he has enough presence of mind to realize that this is wrong. He has never skimmed through visions like this, has never spent this much time outside of time, and he’s scared until he finally settles into another moment.

But the fear comes back again, stops his heart, or would if he had physical form. This moment is fragmented--he can’t see the whole thing and the incompleteness makes him nauseous. There is a frenzied, bleached man, and he’s covered in blood that makes his lack of pigmentation ghostly. His eyes are wild and his face insane, and he’s screaming something but the sound isn’t there. It and the victim are gone and he’s filled with dread.

Then he’s jettisoned from the time fragment and a premature terror and urgency that he doesn’t understand are setting into his bones as he wheels upward and suddenly, terrifyingly confronts the looming form he had only seen from a distance. It is a disruption, he knows, not a natural form along this chain of time, and it writhes and fights itself as though it can not decide whether it even wants to exist.

Before he can enter it or even glimpse its contents through its translucent shell, some hand that he cannot see hits him about where he imagines his midriff is and sweeps him away away and he sails back through time and space that is not space and jolts back into his own body.

Caine lay still for several moments while his heart and lungs and diaphragm caught up with one another, then eased himself upright despite the giant ache his body had become. He managed to move gingerly for all of a minute before the nausea he’d vaguely imagined before hit him full force. He barely had time to stumble out of bed and to his tiny bathroom before he started vomiting.

When he was done, he stayed sitting limply on the bathroom floor for a long time. His mind was still reeling, and the nausea was somehow in his head and eyes and nose, and not just his stomach. There had been something wholly unnatural about the way he’d come back into reality, and it bothered him that he didn’t know why it had happened or even exactly what had happened. It scared him.

The sound of his phone ringing didn’t register immediately, but when it did finally pierce the fear and sickness fogging his mind, he pulled himself to his feet and teetered out of the bathroom. He sank back down onto his bed reluctantly and reached for the receiver to answer.

“Hello?” His voice was thick as he answered.

“It’s Rabbit,” came the reply. “I’m going to be a little late; damned fog is making the trams run slow.”

Caine forced a weary smile. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll wait.”

Rabbit thanked him and hung up. He lay back and stared at the ceiling in silence. At least he had answers for Rabbit, even if there weren’t any for him.

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