The story so far:
and now read on:
“The question I have”, I said, “is whether I can go home, and if I can, whether a hundred years will have passed while I was here; my family all gone and only unknown great-grandchildren to return to. No one to know who I am.”
Wayland looked concerned. ” I am so sorry”, he said. “It never occurred to me that you might be worrying about that. Of course you have heard the stories. It is true that it’s quite possible for that to happen if you use the wrong portal. But I promise you, not this time. Quite the opposite in fact. You can spend a good while here and still be home in time for tea, so to speak. To understand how that can be, you need to understand a bit about the nature of the universe”.
“Oh dear” I thought.
“Imagine the universe as a seven dimensional ball of string”. he said.
I tried to, but all I could envisage was a ball of string. I told him so.
“Good enough”. said he. “Now imagine it glowing, swirling around so that it leaves a trail like a sparkler in the dark. Imagine that as a ball of light composed of a swirling ball of string”.
I began to get the idea, and nodded. “I see what you are trying to describe. I think”.
“Good. That is the universe. Or the universes. Now imagine that sometimes, where the strings touch, there is a portal”.
“Is this the string or the whirl of light we are talking about?”
“Now you are getting it. It is an analogy after all. Remember, we are talking about universes, not a single universe, or even a pair. Many universes that are contiguous, and separate. touching and remote. He paused, thinking, then shrugged. Analogies can only go so far. I could show you the math, but I don’t even understand it myself. I could introduce you to someone who does, if it helps…”
“No need. I have read enough science fiction, and Hawkins, to get the concept even if I don’t understand it. I am thinking of Heinlein’s four-dimensional tesseract house now. I don’t need to understand it anyway. I can just accept it. After all, the evidence is here before me.”
“Good lad. Moving on then. Next important point. The laws that govern the universes – each length of seven dimensional string – are not all the same in each. The so-called laws of physics that is. The speed of light, for example, may be different. E does not always equal emsee squared. Actions and reactions may appear unequal. Time does not always behave in the same way. This world stretches in a different direction and time flows differently. The only word I can use is ‘different’ to describe this. It means that you can travel a certain distance in space, and find that you have also travelled in time compared to the world we have just left. Gravity may not be a constant. Biological and chemical processes can be mutable.
“I’m not even sure what that means, but I’ll take your word for it”.
“From your point of view it means that electronics don’t work, time is not a straight line, some chemical reactions behave differently, and – in a way – it means that magic exists”.
I considered this revelation. The portal had pretty well already opened me to the possibility.
Wayland continued “But it’s just a different technology really. It has rules just as any technology does. It’s like – driving a car. You can learn it yourself.”
He looked at me for a moment, as if considering what to say next.
“In fact, you must”.