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The Space-Time Continuum as Seen Through the Windows of a 2005 Lincoln Town Car by Lawrence Buentello

My car travels through dimensions.

My car is not a car at all, but a strange machine that maneuvers through the electromagnetic fabric of time and space.

My car doesn’t move; when I sit behind the steering wheel and close the door, the universe adheres to its substance and begins to shift and alter the state of the world. When I turn the key in the ignition some highly advanced mechanism fills the car with a strange energy that vibrates through my body where I sit. I think of the place I wish to go; the car understands my mental command, and immediately begins its journey through dimensional space. The world I see passing by is an illusion; perhaps the car knows that if I perceived the true structure of the electromagnetic universe I might lose my sanity. I play along with the illusion; I turn the wheel when the car pretends to turn, I activate the headlights when the car casts the illusion of night all around me; I curse the imaginary drivers that cut in front of me, just as I would in an ordinary car. I’ve come to realize that if I don’t go through the motions of the typical driver the car won’t smoothly convey me through space and time to the destination I desire. It will leave me somewhere short of it, and I would have to begin the process again.

My wife doesn’t believe me.

Jim, Jim, she says, I’m tired of your overactive imagination. Stop playing games with me, please.

It’s no game, Letta, I say, you’ve driven in the car yourself, can’t you tell the difference?

But she maintains that I’m delusional, or intentionally lying to her for some perverse enjoyment. But I’m not lying. She quotes past examples of my lying to her; but in twenty years of marriage, twenty long years, how could a man not accumulate a few lies? These are domestic problems, of course, and have nothing to do with the space-time continuum.

After trying several times to make her understand the incredible circumstances surrounding the car, I’m ready to surrender the effort. I understand her viewpoint; why should I, an ordinary businessman from Bloomington, one morning find himself the owner of a trans-dimensional vehicle instead of the Lincoln sedan I thought I’d purchased earlier in the year? The thought defies rational arguments, certainly. And yet, that is the reality of it.

It is a subtle difference, of course. Playing along with the illusion only complicates the matter. For some reason those who see me enter the car also see me drive away in it; my wife insisted this was the case, against my protests to the contrary, and it took me a while to understand the system at work in these circumstances. Of course the people who see me getting into to the car also see me driving away in it! The car itself is casting that illusion into their minds. Another clever electromagnetic trick, no doubt, a manipulation of brain waves. If people saw the car disappear every time I sat behind the wheel, pretty soon the government would come knocking on my door looking for the keys. No, the car obviously has certain safety features to prevent others from realizing exactly what kind of conveyance it actually is.

Once I discovered the true nature of the vehicle—once I understood that I wasn’t actually moving from one place to another in the world, but was being transported from one point in space-time to another—I began to wonder why I’d been chosen, if I was chosen at all, to become the owner of such a marvelous invention. Governments would surely pay millions of dollars for such a vehicle, perhaps billions, and there I was traveling in it to work every day, leaving it carelessly in the parking garage in the morning, only to find it waiting for me every evening at six. The difficulty of the situation, and one I haven’t yet been able to resolve, is how to explore the full potential of the vehicle without jeopardizing the illusion it so carefully wishes to maintain.

I’ve since stopped trying to understand why it’s now in my possession. In a way, it doesn’t really matter. The car itself chose me, I’m certain, and for that I’m grateful, but not overly curious. Perhaps an advanced alien species delivered it to this world to experiment on the perceptions of the human brain; perhaps I was lucky enough to be chosen as a prime test subject for their studies. Or perhaps the car is itself a living entity, existing in our dimension through this clever disguise. Certainly Letta wasn’t wrong to chastise my imagination; my mind has run wild with these suppositions, though I know I may be no closer to the truth than I was the first day I realized the true nature of the sedan.

Every day, though, as I drive to work, I try to analyze the subtle perceptual variations that are mine to notice; I see the illusion of the landscape pass by ‘through’ the window glass, the windshield, the rearview mirrors—and I do notice, from time to time, things I’ve never noticed before on the familiar route, a garbage can I hadn’t noticed the previous morning, or a sign in a window that couldn’t have been there the day before; errors in the subroutine of the vehicle? Or errors of perception on my part? Certainly the car knows that the typical human mind would simply dismiss these observations as the consequence of inattention. But I try not to dismiss them too lightly. The realization that I have the ability to find flaw in the vehicle’s design helps me to live out the parameters of the ‘experiment’.

Sometimes I let my hands slide loosely on the wheel, testing the device’s resolve in perpetuating the illusion. These subtle manipulations are always caught by the mechanism, though, and the gravitational forces within the car react accordingly. Perhaps the vehicle is connected directly to my brain, so that no subtle manipulation on my part will ever escape its notice. It’s a fun game to play at times, especially at night; so far I’ve yet to catch it functioning outside the restrictions of the illusion.

But I definitely know that the sensation of moving down the road is an illusion; I could tell the difference at once between forward physical movement and the static motions of the car, and so was not deceived. I could feel these differences in my skin, my bones, my nerves. No amount of electromagnetic distortion could mask the sensation completely. I know I’m sitting still in the car, even as the ‘world’ passes by me on the window glass. But if I concentrate well enough; if I focus my senses on the entire experience, the white leather interior of the car, the dials and gauges, the asphalt ribbon sliding toward me like the two-dimensional highway on a movie screen, I realize, I feel deep down in my soul that I’m not moving at all, but being transported
through the space-time continuum from one point in the universe to another. And when I’m fully entranced, fully aware of the entire scope of my environment, my hands sliding thoughtlessly on the steering wheel, only then do I feel the boundaries of something else beyond the doors and windows, another reality that would expose itself to me if only, through some unlearned mental ability, I could rip away the thin veneer of the car’s illusion to expose the unincorporated beauty of the universe beyond the one in which we are all imprisoned—

That’s the thought that keeps me traveling in the car day after day, the hope, the dream of seeing just a glimpse, damn it, of something so ethereal, something so beautiful that I’ll forget this world completely and discover the geography of another dimension.

And I know that one day I may wake up to find my old Lincoln town car waiting for me in the driveway; that the car will have concluded its experiment, or the alien species their studies, and I’ll be left to travel the world in the usual way. Then I’ll continue down the road just like every other human being in this morbid world, forced to endure the indignities of life in common three dimensional space; forced to face the commonality of a twenty-year old marriage, a stalled career, ungrateful children spending every dime on frivolous items that have nothing whatsoever to do with the eternity of creation.

But before that day happens, before they take away my special vehicle and leave me locked in local space-time again, I think I may call their bluff; I think I may force the issue, and pull my hands from the steering wheel before that sharp turn on the freeway on my ‘drive’ to work. I’ll simply fold my arms against myself and watch the world unfolding as the car creates it. Then I’ll know the limits of the mechanism, then I’ll know whether or not the car will surrender its illusion of motion and let me see, once and for all, damn it, damn, damn, damn it, the hidden face of God—

———————

Lawrence Buentello lives in San Antonio, Texas. His work has appeared in a variety of publications, including Zahir, Silver Blade, Andromeda Spaceways In-Flight Magazine, Kasma SF, and many others.

The inspiration for “The Space-Time Continuum…” struck me one night while driving home from work; abruptly it seemed as if the car I was driving was no longer actually moving, but standing completely still. The world around me seemed to be sliding by, the road falling toward the windshield, curving around me without my needing to steer the car, streetlights passing, buildings, stars. I finally broke my mind free from this bizarre hypnosis, but the perception of a very real dimensional shift remained, leading to this story–

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