“I’ve been able to do this for one hundred years. I’ve been waiting for the rest of you to join me. Kiera has, won’t you two at least try? You’re going to have to deal with eternity at some point anyway. Why not just try now?”

Jim spoke carefully. “Jeb, you are, in some ways, still a child. These powers you are developing, they could be your undoing if you think you are changing, fundamentally. You’re Jeb Barton, no matter what happens. You can’t change who you are.”

Jeb looked at his father with interest, as if surprised to hear this. “You have learned something on your long journey then,” Jeb said, as if to himself. “I’ve wondered if you were getting any of this. I’m still me. I’m just becoming more of me, realizing more of my true potential. Join us, please. Please don’t fear this. How lucky we are, to be able to fulfill our destinies among each other, as a family.”

Rita looked at her son, as if playing her last card. “Jeb, would you please put these tools down? All these objects flying around are beginning to frighten me.”

After a moment, the tools fell with a clatter. Jeb looked disappointed. Finally, he spoke, almost cheerfully. “You’ve had a quite a day, Mother. I will leave you to your rest. You have a lot to think about.” He nodded at his parents. “I’ll be off then. I have some computations to mull over.”

For several hundred years after this, parents and children watched each other. It would be unfair to use words like suspicion or mistrust to describe the atmosphere. They merely watched each other. Jim did sometimes feel poised on the edge of some revelation, but the only revelation he really clung to was the conviction schedule was all, and if he didn’t cling to it, in the ensuing madness he would lose himself and by extension, his family.

 

At the ten thousand second mark, or year mark, the family did not observe the clock ticking, as an act of will. After that it became easier to ignore.

The ship drifted through the nothing, for all intents changing not at all, as did neither the physical appearance of the inhabitants.

For a few thousand years, the family meditated for much of the day. They had learned almost everything the ship had to offer, but still the ship moved seamlessly through the galaxy of nothing.

They would have periodic bursts of energy and enthusiasm, sometimes lasting as long as a thousand years. At one point, for several hundred years, the four of them tried to focus their thoughts across the nothingness in the hopes of trying to contact some entity, but this proved to be an exercise in futility, apparently, so they gave up.

The years rolled by until years felt like minutes, seconds even, and nothing mattered but being. By year one hundred and fifty thousand, all four could do all the various parlor tricks associated with telekinesis, levitating, ESP etc. it didn’t even raise their eyebrows anymore. Contrary to what one might think, after so much time together, reading each other’s thoughts was not as intrusive as might be expected.

Jim was siting and staring into the only real window their spaceship offered, a small two foot by two foot square of heavily shielded material through which The Nothing could be contemplated when Jeb spoke to him.

“What will we do when we no longer need this ship? I mean, the day will come when we transcend this reality.”

Jim smiled. “So the next step is becoming God, then?”

Jeb didn’t smile. “Is it possible, Father, God is just a whole lot older and a whole lot smarter than us? True, He would be divine, by a strict definition, but what would it even mean? How long have we been here? A couple of thousand years? This is child’s play compared to God. God’s been dealing in billions of years, even longer.”

Jim shook his head. “It’s got to be more than just putting the time in.”

“I’m starting to think that’s all it is, the only real difference between Him and us,” Jeb responded.

Jeb mentally hit a button, and the sound of Kiera playing the piano with her mind filled the small chamber. Only occasionally now did Kiera actually play, and it was mainly from nostalgia when she did. Her mind, however, was filled with music and lights, and when she was in full flight, her family would tune in some times to listen to her fantastical musical journeys. Her mind had become fully fused with music. Form was no longer a concern. Her music was the fulfillment of form.

“Kiera was like us, a fairly average person. She wasn’t a musical prodigy, but look at what a hundred and fifty thousand years of practice has accomplished. Could the music in paradise be better than this?” Jeb spoke slowly, as if trying to make Jim understand. “We need each other. We will outgrow this ship, but we will never outgrow each other.”

“I hope so,” Jim said, listening to the music. He didn’t sound certain. “I know I’ll always need you three. I would have died inside by now, time elongation or not. Knowing everything doesn’t satisfy me the way it does you.” Jim phrased this statement carefully, but Jeb still seemed slightly stung.

“I suppose I deserve that. By now, at least, I understand how little we had to learn,” Jeb responded in a measured tone. “I could have saved myself a lot of time if I had understood this from the beginning.”

Jim laughed abruptly. “Saving time is the least of our worries.

Jeb smiled. Actual conversations on board were becoming rarer. Like Kiera occasionally still physically sitting down at her piano, verbalizing their thoughts was becoming an exercise in nostalgia.

It was about two thousand years later when Jeb started taking spirit journeys.

TO BE CONTINUED.172

 

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