Day 71. 70 pages, 33,036 words.
I staggered back a little as the vision passed.
“Whoa,” I said, because it seemed like the thing to say when you’d just experienced a perception-altering trip through time, even if it was all in your head. Probably.
“Heavy stuff,” the Saint agreed perfunctorily, as though he didn’t really care about the topic at hand but was too polite to dismiss how blown away I was by it.
“And that was the – the first time this stuff showed up? The beginning of the Wasteland?”
Even as I asked it, I knew it wasn’t right. On a conceptual level, there was more to it than that. A lot more.
The Saint was shaking his head. “You’re not grasping it,” he said.
“I’m trying. Give me another chance,” I frowned, then pulled out the jar of grit and scowled at it. “It doesn’t appear,” I went on slowly, “it doesn’t start, or spread. It was there – it was there all along, waiting. Everything else just ends up there. It’s just a matter of where and when everything is when that happens.”
“Closer,” the Saint said grudgingly. “But you don’t want to get the wrong idea, like the Wasteland doesn’t have a chronological component.”
“It’s entirely a chronological component,” I said. “It’s a function of duration. It’s everything after the full-stop at the end of reality’s sentence.”
The Saint raised his eyebrows. “Not bad.”
“I dabble in hyperbolic and florid overexpression,” I said modestly.
“So what are you going to do?” he asked. “Get yourself a soap box and stand in your garden?”
“If I did that, I’d worry about doing it until the Wasteland stretched as far as the eye could see, at which point a confused super-sidekick with a jam jar full of grit turns up and we start having this conversation all over again.”
“That’s not entirely impossible,” the Saint allowed, “although it does imply a certain holding-pattern stability to the end of reality that I’d hesitate to put much faith in.”
“What do you think I should do?” I asked.
“You could scoop up the sand as it appears, bring it out here and dump it,” the Saint suggested.
“Wait, would that actually work?”
The Saint shrugged. “Nothing will work,” he said. “The Wasteland is inevitability in solid form. But you might delay it, by active interference.”
“The Wasteland is a state of mind,” I mused.
“‘Active’ isn’t really something I do,” I confessed.
“I know. There’s probably a reason this stuff appeared on your lawn.”
“Last time, it was our couch that became a non-event horiz-” I stopped, abruptly remembering why the term – nongularity – struck such a chord. Sure, it had been the Saint who had thought it, in the vision or whatever it had been, but it had resonated with me for reasons that had nothing to do with his recognition.
“Looks like you’ve reached your answer,” the Saint remarked.
“More like the right question,” I replied. “The answer, like the Wasteland, was always there. Waiting,” I turned to go, then turned back. “Thank you.”
“I didn’t do anything,” the Saint demurred.
“Didn’t you?” I asked with a knowing smile. “Didn’t you?”
It was only when I was halfway home that I realised he really hadn’t. He’d shown me some things I’d already suspected, and let me make up my own conclusions. He’d even let me carry the majority of the Didn’t Help … Or Did He? trope dialogue.
He was good.