She flexed her fingers and picked up the pen, but didn’t write at once. She hadn’t thought further with her hypotheses and wanted them to be clear in her mind, at least. She had vague notions about how a time vortex might be explained in the context of a unified field theory, but if Einstein couldn’t do it, she didn’t think she was up to it right this minute.
“It has to be in there somewhere, though,” she said aloud, and reached for the wine. Einstein had been trying to form a theory that dealt both with relativity and electromagnetism, and plainly they were dealing with relativity here—but a sort in which it maybe wasn’t the speed of light that was limiting. What, then? The speed of time? The shape of time? Did electromagnetic fields crisscrossing in some places warp that shape?
What about the dates? Everything they thought they knew—precious little as it was—indicated that travel was easier, safer, on the sun feasts and fire feasts; the solstices and equinoxes… A little ripple ran up her back. A few things were known about standing stone circles, and one of the common things was that many had been built with astronomical prediction in mind. Was the light striking a specific stone the signal that the earth had reached some planetary alignment that affected the geomagnetism of that area?
“Huh,” she said, and sipped, flipping back over the pages she’d written. “What a hodgepodge.” This wouldn’t do anyone much good: nothing but disconnected thoughts and things that didn’t even qualify as decent speculation.
Still, her mind wouldn’t let go of the matter. Electromagnetism… Bodies had electric fields of their own, she knew that much. Was that maybe why you didn’t just disintegrate when you traveled? Did your own field keep you together, just long enough to pop out again? She supposed that might explain the gemstone thing: you could travel on the strength of your own field, if you were lucky, but the energy released from the molecular bonds in a crystal might well add to that field, so perhaps…?
“Bugger,” she said, her overworked mental processes creaking to a halt. She glanced guiltily at the hallway that led to the kids’ room. They both knew that word, but they oughtn’t to think their mother did.
She sank back to finish the wine and let her mind roam free, soothed by the sound of the distant surf. Her mind wasn’t interested in water, though; it seemed still concerned with electricity.
“I sing the Body Electric,” she said softly. “The armies of those I love engirth me.”
Now, there was a thought. Maybe Walt Whitman had been onto something… because if the electric attraction of the armies of those I love had an effect on time-traveling, it would explain the apparent effect of fixing your attention on a specific person, wouldn’t it?
She thought of standing in the stones of Craigh na Dun, thinking of Roger. Or of standing on Ocracoke, mind fixed fiercely on her parents—she’d read all the letters now; she knew exactly where they were… Would that make a difference? An instant’s panic, as she tried to visualize her father’s face, more as she groped for Roger’s…
The expression of the face balks account. The next line echoed soothingly in her head. But the expression of a well-made man appears not only in his face;
“It is in his limbs and joints also, it is curiously in the joints of his hips and wrists;
It is in his walk, the carriage of his neck, the flex of his waist and knees—dress does not hide him;
The strong, sweet supple quality he has, strikes through the cotton and flannel;
To see him pass conveys as much as the best poem, perhaps more;
You linger to see his back, and the back of his neck and shoulder-side.”
She didn’t remember any more, but didn’t need to; her mind had calmed.
“I’d know you anywhere,” she said softly to her husband, and lifted the remains of her glass. “Sláinte.”
Copyright © 2014 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share the link (URL) to this excerpt (“Daily Lines”), but please do not copy the text in whole or in part and post it yourself elsewhere, or share the text with others. Thank you.
Photo credit: “Sunrise Solstice Over Stonehenge,” the Astronomy Picture of the Day for June 20, 2016,” Copyright © by Max Alexander/STFC/SPL. Courtesy APOD-NASA.
This blog entry was also posted on my official Facebook page on June 22, 2019.