The world shimmered back into existence. Around them were people standing at desks, in meetings carrying papers, and talking on the phone, except they were barely moving at all. Though Arthur could could sense the motion of people walking around him and hear people talking, at the same time none of it was happening. The scene in front of him was as frozen as it was alive.
“What’s going on?” he asked his companion. “Why is everybody frozen like that?”
“They aren’t really. You can see that they’re moving too, right? It’s because we’re just moving, in a way, much faster than they are that we see them as standing still, while they can’t see us at all.”
In front of them he saw his mother just as he had glimpsed her before through the multicolour web they had just left behind. She was standing with his dad’s arm around her, clutching to her face his little red toque—Arthur realised now that it must have come off when they were speeding down the hill—and in front of them stood a man in a blue suit. Yes, the picture was clearer now, but he was as sure as before that she was in tears.
Though they seemed to be looking at a still photograph, just as Arthur could sense the people moving he could catch vague echos of what the suited man was saying.
“… saw him… homeless… sign of… own… any chances… looking for… now…”
“What’s wrong?” Arthur asked again. “Why is she crying?”
The man spoke slowly, choosing his words carefully. “This is a police station, Artie. I think the police are looking for you. They think you’ve run away, or… been kidnapped, maybe.”
“I… I should go back, shouldn’t I?”
“I think that, yes, that it would make your mom happy to be able to see you again. She loves you.”
“How do I stop this? How do I go back?”
“The same way we started.”
“And… can I do it again, and come back? Can I show her where I was?”
“You know we never really went anywhere. We are all connected to this same space, in deeper ways than most people realise. You just learned to see that. You can tell you mom about it, but I think that she won’t be able to see it very easily. Some people either don’t know how anymore, or just don’t want to. Some people refuse to believe it. Even those who do know about it will forget over time.”
“I won’t forget.”
“I hope not. You can come back and find me sometime, if you want.”
“Why? Where are you going?”
“Anywhere I want, of course.” He smiled. “But as long as we both exist in this universe we have something in common, and that’s enough connection that you’ll always be able to find me.”
“Good bye,” said Arthur. As he focused more on his family and the room they were in, it started to move more fluidly and look more solid. The strange shimmering quality around him disappeared, taking the man he had spent the afternoon with along with it. Before he knew it he felt his mothers arms around him, standing in the real world once again.