The world disolved around them, and Arthur found himself without anything solid around him. He still felt as though he were flying along at a breakneck pace, but through what and over where he couldn’t say. His eyes couldn’t begin to interpret what was before him now.
“woohoooo!” came a shout from behind him. “We did it! Good job kid, you really did it.”
“What’s going on? Where are we!?”
“We’re everywhere, we’re anywhere we want to be. Just like I told you.”
In one moment Arthur thought the man was still sitting behind him on the sled, at the next they were flying side by side like superheroes. The space around them was just as he said—it was everything, everywhere, the whole world within grasp.
“This is it, Artie, this is what’s beyond the realm of science and physics. They have it at their grasp but they don’t see it. Everything is right here, at right angles to reality. Just think about it, Artie, and we’ll be there.”
Artie didn’t understand most of what the man said, but he closed his eyes tight and thought about where he wanted to be. When he opened them again, the whole of the universe that had been around him had collapsed to become the black sky filled with stars, the grey landscape of the moon, and above them both the Earth. It was tiny, a blue and white globe completely alone in the black sea around it.
“Puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?”
“Yeah,” said Arthur, “I told you I wanted to be an astronaut. Some day I’ll go to the moon. I’ll go away as far as anybody’s ever gone.”
“This is just the start, you know. Look at it. Everybody you’ve ever known, everywhere you’ve been and everything you’ve seen on TV, is all in that little blue circle.” He held up his hand, covering it completely from view.
Things started changing around them. The land receeded beneath them and before long their footprints were tiny specks. The horizon started to curve down and in what seemed like an instant the moon was as small as the Earth and shrinking still. The sun grew more distant and more stars passed them. The entire galaxy was a whirlpool of fire beneath them until it too disappeared in a group of other galaxies.
“Someone once wrote that if someone could see how small they were compared to the rest of the universe he would go insane,” said the man.
“Stop it, I want to go back,” said Arthur, almost frightened now.
He laughed. “You might be in just as much trouble if you saw how big you were compared to the smallest things in the universe too. But don’t worry, it’s all in how you interpret things.”
The scene changed again. The countless lonely galaxies disappeared around them and were replaced with bright strings connected in an infinite web. Suddenly the world was bright and full of colour again.
“Where are we?” asked Arthur, his eyes alight.
“Same place, we just put on a different pair of glasses.”
“I like it.”
“Good,” and the man smiled. “All the same galaxies are there, but with a little imagination we can see all the connections between them. Even two things that have nothing else in common are connected just by existing.”
“What things? The galaxies?”
“And everything inside them too. Our galaxy is connected to all the others, just like all the stars are connected, and the stars to the galaxies and us to the stars. Even you and I are connected.”
As he said it, Arthur saw the connections emerge. He saw a line going from himself to the man, and from both of them to all the other points in the web. Each one of these began to resolve itself into different galaxies, the sun, the moon, into the animals on Earth and into his friends and family. He saw connections even between—
“This isn’t real. you said this is just looking at things with our imagination. It doesn’t make any difference…” He grew quiet, his excitement drawn out of him.
The man looked at him. “What did you see?”
Arthur didn’t say anything. He seemed to move away, but the man drew him closer again and hugged him.
“There are lots of ugly things in the world,” he said. “There is pain and suffering and some people do terrible things to each other. That’s why—”
“No, it’s not that. It’s my mom… why is my mom crying?”
He thought for a moment before speaking. “I don’t know, Arthur… but look, can you concentrate, and see her point in the web?”
Arthur squinted his eyes and turned back to look at all the connections. Amongst all the fibers and intersections he focused on one, bringing it closer into view.
“Yes,” he said, “I can see it.”
The man held Arthur’s hand and said, “Raise your hand. Reach out to that spot. Make contact.” And as his hand came into contact with the mass of fibers it disappeared, and everything around them changed again.