The next day was a Saturday, with just one more week of school before the Christmas holidays. Arthur’s parents where in the kitchen at the back of the house, talking about something. From the front door, where Arthur was putting on his snowsuit, he yelled out, “Mom! I’m going out to play!”
“Ok hun,” his Mom called back.
“Stay in the front yard, ok Arthur?” his dad added. “Did you hear that?”
“Yes dad,” Arthur yelled. He had put his jacket, toque, and mittens on and was ready to go. He knew that when his parents talked like they were now, they wouldn’t notice where he was going. It happened a lot, but he was used to it.
The school was close enough that it would only take him 10 minutes to walk there normally, but with the toboggan dragging behind him it took him a bit longer. He didn’t know if he’d be able to find the man that talked to him yesterday, but he hadn’t walked past more than three trees at the edge of the park before he came running up.
“Here, sit down,” he said, taking the reigns of the sled. “I’ll pull you the rest of the way.”
“Where are we going?”
“You know that big hill at the other side of the park? It’ll work just fine.”
“I’ve gone sledding there before. You can go pretty fast, but I thought you were going to show me how to go as fast as light.”
“I am. It’s about more than speed, though. Do you know anything about physics? Equations of motion, force, momentum, energy? Electricity, gravity? Things like that?”
“Um… no. I know that there’s gravity because the Earth is really big. And it’s what makes planets go around the sun. I read about it.”
“You read a lot of books, eh kiddo?”
“I guess. I like space stuff. I want to be an astronaut when I grow up.”
“You don’t have to be an astronaut to go into space, you know. The astronauts are missing out on the good stuff anyway.” The two were now entering into a wide open space, relatively free from trees. In the summer this is where people might come to sit in the sun or play with their dogs. In the winter it was cold, quiet. Ahead of them was the big hill, and below that the houses and streets began again. “Scientists can know a lot of things about how the universe works. They can calculate how fast something can go, how much energy it has, and all the forces there are. But they always say nothing can go faster than the speed of light. That it takes infinite energy to even get close.”
“So how are we going to go that fast?” asked Arthur.
“Do you know what imaginary numbers are?”
“How can a number be imaginary?”
“They aren’t like ‘one two three four’, they’re something different. If something could go faster than the speed of light, it’s energy would become imaginary. It’s momentum, which is like how fast it moves, is imaginary too. Scientists say that means you can’t ever go that fast, since it isn’t real. You can’t just push something hard enough, or build a rocket big enough, to give it an imaginary amount of energy.”
“Why not? My teacher tells us to use our imagination all the time. She asked us to write stories last week, and that’s what we had to do.”
“Exactly. Why not?” The man put his backpack down on the toboggan in front of Arthur. Opening it, he took out ski goggles and handed them to Arthur. “Put these on,” he said. “And pull your scarf up to cover your face, like this.” He did as he said, and pulled on a pair of goggles for himself. “Are you ready?” he asked, a big smile on his face.
“Stick your feet in the front here, and hold on tight to the backpack. Let’s go!”
Behind Arthur he started pushing the toboggan toward the hill. Before long he was running, faster and faster, the sled sliding easily across the snow.
“How do we go fast enough?” the boy asked, muffled by his scarf.
“I told you, we dont have to. You just need a bit of imagination and you can move faster than light. We can go anywhere.” The cold air was rushing past them now. “Just believe that we can.”
The sled came to the edge now, and the man jumped on board just as it flew over and started speeding down. Faster and faster they went, picking up speed with every meter. On the hillside there was a snowbank, piled up for the kids to slide off. They were headed straight for it.
“Do you believe we can do it?” the man shouted, as the ground dipped down suddenly, and just as quickly up again.
“Yes!” shouted Arthur, and they were airborn.