Knowing

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[8:07 p.m. The dark sedan hurdles down the parkway. The driver is unaware of the aneurysm he carries in his brain.]

I’m late again, I’ll have to make it up to Vanessa and to River, again. But it couldn’t be helped. I’d had the seminar today, the NPR interview on CERN’s latest, two students to advise and the committee meeting to chair. If Nayan expects me to take on the retrofit of the damned lab, he’d—pain is a spike driven into the base of skull and the world is red agony, exploding red, unbearable red, like blood thrown across the night sky—

Thank you for joining us today, Dr. Connant.
It’s always my pleasure, Jack.
So let’s start you off with an easy one. Will we ever know everything?
I sure hope so!

—I’m lifted out of the pain, and the relief after is so profound for a moment all is blank and then…gleaming, light on water that sorts itself into shimmering, shivering strands of light, all around, dancing, humming and chiming. The air is lavender shading to violet shading to midnight blue, and back again, and carries scents of clean laundry and freshly mown hay. The filaments bend, frolic, laugh, wind blown across a field of grass, no, across the surface of water, ripples out and out—

Robbie, are you getting in the pool, son?
Where do they go, Dad? The ripples, where do they go?
I don’t know, Robbie. Just jump in and let’s go for a swim.

—Was this the multiverse? Oh, yes, please. I was right; it was string theory. I knew it! So beautiful, they’d all said and yet so fatally flawed: eleven dimensions, mind-boggling equations, ludicrous…the multiverse! So many universes where I’d gotten things right. Where I didn’t always chose Dr. Connant, was Robbie, was Dad. Where Mom never died too young and Nora stayed, and my children don’t hate me. So many universes where love was never sacrificed to knowledge—

No, no something is wrong, Robert.
Nora, what is it?
Oh god, something’s wrong with the baby.

—Sorrow is pale, crystalline blue, tastes like honey, and the strands sing sonorous oboe tones, come up to comfort and their touch sends tingles down limbs, but they cannot hold me, cannot hold Nora as she doubles over; they cannot keep her as the baby dies, as she—I cannot keep her as she—

Thank you for joining us today, Dr. Connant.
It’s always my pleasure, Jack.
So let’s start you off with an easy one. Will we ever know everything?
I sure hope so!

—Strands of light curl and dance, and the sky shifts from yellow to gold, and smells of ozone and rain. Some of the strands lift free, shape into wings, and weave violin flights with the oboe. Do you want to know, Robert? I’m asked. It’s a voice I’ve never heard before, yet one I so clearly remember. Yes, but…the question is not do you want to go back, not do you want to live or die, but do you want to know? There is no promise there either, no this will send you back, not even this will make you peaceful, ease that forever need-to-know ache. Do you want to know? I’m asked again, and reminded: There are only two possibilities: yes or no—

Daddy, don’t forget.
Don’t forget what, kiddo?
Saturday is Kite Day. You promised you’d take me to fly the pirate ship kite.
And we will, River. As high up as we can make it go.

—Filaments and threads and strands, braiding and quivering, twining around me, and the pink bleeds to scarlet across the sky, ruby, garnet, and copper coats my nose and throat, and the strands hold too tight, and deep rumbling drumbeats fill the sky, fill me…Robert, do you want to know?—

Yes

—Yes—

[8:09 p.m. The dark sedan careens off the side of the parkway and into an old oak.]

—I know