The Holodeck, a Tardis, a dream, or just my mind. However I got there, it just happened. Back and forth, to and fro. The greatest authors, at least in my mind. There they were, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle among them.
“My Dear Watson. How do you do?” he asked, pipe in mouth and donning a brown, checkered hat and thick, tweed jacket.
How do I answer that question? I thought. “Not Watson, and it’s a strange time indeed. Now, and in the future.”
His eyes widened. “The future?” he replied. “Have you taken to the opium? A strike in the head perhaps?”
I inhaled deeply. The question brought me back to the present. I’d been so lucky, we’d been so lucky. For all its failings, the world hadn’t nearly seen the trying times it had in the past. Certainly not by the standards of World War II, The Great Depression, or the Black Death. But still, the weight of the world had finally come crashing down on even the most well-adjusted. It was just a taste, but it was bitter–the flavor of despair, the promise of uncertainty.
I shook it off, embracing the present, or should I say, the past, moment.
“Not opium. A dream perhaps, Something else maybe. But yes. It is a strange time–the future.”
Doyle squinted his eyes and puffed. The sweet-smelling smoke condensed into a cloud in the nippy, London air. I expected him to tell me something about the possible and improbable. But then Doyle stepped back. The space transformed into a cobblestone, Paris street set high on a hilltop overlooking the city. He sat down by a nearby table situated at a few-decades-old coffee shop, stone Gargoyles perched high above the church-spires next to it.
The venerable C.S. Lewis stood up, who was sitting next to his old friend, J.R.R. Tolkien, both aged and similar in appearance and stature.
I smiled. I couldn’t help it. The weight of the present finally lifted. Whatever time it was, it was my time, at least for the moment.
“What took you there–to Narnia?” I asked. Tolkien laughed then sipped on his tea as he anticipated what Lewis would say.
“Life my friend. Life… and death,” he added, “or at least the promise of death.”
I hardly heard his reply, imagining Tolkien enjoying tea-time with Frodo Baggins in some New Zealand inspired Hobbit-house.
“How can I get there?”
A grin exploded onto his face. “In a book. In a world in a book. In the vast caverns of your mind. In a dream. In a poem. In a vision,” he continued.
“And in a wood,” Robert Frost said, interrupting. “The best way out is always through,” he added.
“Indeed,” Doyle replied. “Speaking of which, isn’t it time for you to be getting back?” he asked.
Something tugged my neck from above, disorienting me. In an instant, the day transformed into night. My spirit floated above my body. Its ethereal form rotated three-hundred-and-sixty-degrees.
Next to me floated Jacob Marley’s soul, weighed down by the long rusty chains he forged in the furnaces of Hell.
“Don’t do what I did,” he said. His leathery, translucent face shifted back between that of Marley’s apparition and his bearded creator, Charles Dickens.
“I made it link by link, and of my own free will I wore it,” Marley said.
It was a message. I understood it clear as day. And then I saw one of my favorite poets: Maya Angelou.
And when she spoke, my spirit rose. The recent pains became a single stone, one that could be moved, if we all pushed hard enough.
“But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
Come, you may stand upon my
Back and face your distant destiny,
But seek no haven in my shadow,
I will give you no hiding place down here.”
I floated above my body, ready to wake up from the dream. And before I did, she whispered, “But do not hide your face.”