This story is a sequel: read the first part here.
Mary’s consciousness was stripped from her bodily shell. She was forcibly reminiscing the memories that kept flowing into her. But all she saw was — nothing. She could see no light. All was dark. She couldn’t feel anything either. How odd. She could tell, by a mystic understanding, that those were indeed memories. However, they seemed devoid of any meaningful content.
No sense of touch. No smell. No taste. No noise. Nothing. Just pure emptiness.
Mary waited. She didn’t know what to expect, but she kept waiting.
First, for an event. Maybe something was going to happen. Something great, something incredible. Mary knew she wasn’t the most patient person in the world, but she was quite able to delay gratification when she put her mind to it. She did stop watching her favorite show for one whole year in order to study and get accepted in her dream university. She could wait for whatever she was bound to witness.
But it never happened.
Mary didn’t know anymore how long she had been waiting. Years? Centuries? Even more? With nothing to measure it, her sense of time was left in the dark, much like herself. She waited for an interaction. An object to see, a noise to hear.
But it never happened.
Then, for anything.
Rays of light shooting in all directions.
Particles appearing, colliding with each other, and vanishing.
“What did you see?” Jake asked, his face right in front of Mary’s.
Mary’s head suddenly hurt. She closed her eyes and tried to cope with it, and after a few minutes she was able to focus enough to mitigate the pain.
“Jake? What happened?”
“To us, nothing. You stared at the symbol about two minutes ago. Then, I called you but you didn’t react, so I called you again, and here we are now,” he said as he stood back up from his crouching position.
“Two… minutes?” Mary said.
“I understand why you’re surprised. We were, too,” Oliver said.
“So, what did you see?” Jake asked again.
“I think… that was the birth of the universe. I think I witnessed the Big Bang itself, and everything up to now. Does it sound crazy?” Mary said.
“Then we’re all crazy in this room, Mary. We saw the same thing,” Oliver said.
“I feel… weird. Now I’m kinda fine, but it’s as if I… lived through it all.”
“You’ll get used to it. Somewhat.”
“Well, not exactly. I can tell you how I’ve been feeling ever since,” Jake said. “As long as I keep focusing on my environment, I’m mostly fine. But as soon as I lose it, everything seems… distant. As if I’m looking from a far away place. The more I wait, the harder it is to come back.”
“I concur,” Oliver said. “I’ve been trying to find the middle ground. If I focus too much, I get tired too fast and lose it sooner. Now, I’m just focusing enough to feel present, but my emotions are damped as a result. I’m capable of rational thought, but I mostly feel indifferent.”
“So you’re the same as usual,” Jake said.
“Very funny. But I guess it suits me better than you. You look like someone else with those dead eyes of yours.”
“Damn, I still have those? But it’s a torture to remain more alert for an extended period of time…”
With the conversation unfolding before her, Mary realized two things. First, Jake and Oliver were speaking in a very monotonous fashion. Not exactly like robots, more like unconcerned people. Second, that didn’t bother her at all. She was already fighting her hardest not to lose focus, but she felt as if her emotions were detached from her thinking process too. She closed her eyes again, to have fewer stimuli to process.
“Why do you think this is happening to us? We shouldn’t be feeling anything strange just because of memories…” Mary asked.
“I can only surmise it, but I think we’ve lost our sense of time,” Oliver said. “You’ve just experienced several billion years of conscious existence, Mary. And I’m not even counting the time lost in the void before the Big Bang, because God knows how much it lasted too. As a result, what is happening right now might feel trifling.”
“I came up with a similar conclusion,” Jake said. “The most unsettling thing, though, is how similar to each other we’ve both become…”
“I would like to disagree but I can’t,” Oliver said, sighing.
“Keep your love stories for later, guys. Thanks to your explanations, I more or less understand what’s going on, but don’t you feel something else? Now that the pain has subsided, I can sense it. A faint, but definite, prescience-like feeling… There, you’ll touch your right ear!”
As Mary said that, she opened her eyes. Jake was moving his hand, and it indeed went right on his right ear’s lobe. Both Jake and Oliver stood flabbergasted. It didn’t show on their faces, but their silence was more eloquent than any facial expression.
“As much as I would like to ask for the trick, our current circumstances and the fact that you have kept your eyes closed for a few minutes already lead me to believe you. Nevertheless, I haven’t felt anything like it,” Oliver said.
“Neither have I,” Jake said, his hand still glued to his ear from his astonishment.
“I… see,” Mary said, disappointed and puzzled.
“You never cease to amaze me, Mary,” Jake said. “Well, I think we all should get some sleep. It’s almost dawn already. I’ll try to feel that as I wait for sleep to come, and I’ll tell you tomorrow.”
“Fair enough,” Oliver said, as he went back to his room.
Mary was left alone in her room, and she tried to reassess her foresight-like ability. As she launched a few simulations again to try and guess their results, she suddenly realized it wasn’t exactly a prediction, but rather a remembrance of a future event. It felt the same way as a past memory. Why could she recall things that had not yet happened? If Jake and Oliver weren’t able to, there was only one possible conclusion: she restored a different symbol than the one they had seen. And she now had one way to check it.
By remembering the past.