You can find part one here.
Where before there were just pillars, there was now everything. Everywhere Paul looked there was just more stuff, stretching forever. Somehow there was no horizon or vanishing point, there was no perspective. He tried to look away but there was no where it wasn’t. He managed to remember that he could close his eyes, and blessed darkness was brought to him.
“Oh, sorry about that. Best to keep your eyes closed for now.”
Even with his eyes closed, Paul could feel the fabric of reality, or time, or whatever, shift around him. He was being stretched and compressed at the same time, without actually being moved at all. Then it stopped.
“That should do it, you can open them now. Forgot to calibrate it for a human mind, you can’t really comprehend infinity. Can do bad things to the psyche.”
When Paul opened his eyes there was still… a lot. It was a view as though they were in space, like from some cheesy science show, except in a lot more detail, and everything was too spread out. There were other differences too. Left to right, up and down everything was pretty normal, but front to back was something else. Everything was superimposed onto itself in way that should have turned them into blurs, but somehow they stayed distinct. Paul could see the star in front of him pulse and move as he looked further forward. It was surprisingly easy to comprehend.
“Where are we?”
“In the past. Specifically about an hour. That’s your Sun.”
“And that’s…“ Paul pointed generally in the direction of the infinite Suns.
“That’s time. That was is the past, and behind us is… well it’s also the past, but it’s closer to the present than the other direction.”
“And the other two, what are those?”
“Well, they are roughly what you expect them to be, moving through space. But this is a three-dimensional projection of a four-dimensional space, so not everything will work exactly how you’re used to. I’ll try to smooth it out as we go.”
“So I could just keep walking and see all of it? The whole universe?”
“Well, you wouldn’t exactly be walking, but no. Not you.”
“What do you mean?”
“The problem is that, while the universe is infinite, and time is infinite, you are not. And no matter how many moments you spent looking, those moment would always add to be finite. And of course you would die.”
“How? I thought you had stopped time.”
“Oh no, not stopped, just slowed down. There’s only one constant in the universe, Paul: time marches on. And the speed of light, and various other, boring things. Although there are a few pretty interesting futures where those constants change. Those are quite the doozy, believe me.”
“So there’s a clock ticking somewhere? What can I do here?”
“Well you could certainly see much of the universe before you died. But you can see any of the past that you like. I could show you the creation of the universe, or the birth of your Sun, the dawn of Humanity. That last one is difficult to pin down, when exactly did you become human. There’s no wrong answer really. Or at least, there are many right ones. Ah, but that’s not why you’re here, I know. Might as well get on with it.”
The whole of space expanded while, at the same time, they moved through space and time. The effect was… disorienting. Paul decided it was best to close his eyes again. He opened them when he felt them stop. They were in Paul’s old apartment, the one with the ugly green couch and the weird, blue stripey wallpaper. It was strange looking, even discounting the poor furnishings. One dimension was still time, so the whole house was flattened to allow for that. Things were not really the shape he was expecting. Because of that, it took Paul a few moments to orient himself, and then find himself.
He was sitting in the kitchen with Lydia, his past self. It was the night he proposed, so the whole place was lit by candlelight. They were eating steak. Paul couldn’t really afford it, but you only get one shot at a proposal. He could see versions of her and himself stretching out on either side. One in the future, which he didn’t need to go to, to remember. And one in the past. He walked through the past, watched them eat backwards, watched himself bring her into the kitchen, watched himself put her coat back on her and greet her at the door.
He stepped forward through it slowly, taking his time. He remembered how nervous he felt, but only now did he realize how nervous he looked, how small and inadequate. He stopped right when he had turned off the lights, and Lydia had noticed all the preparations. She had the most wonderful smile, her front two teeth just slightly crooked which made the whole thing slightly lopsided and endearing. She used to smile so much. But it was wrong, flattened out in this weird space.
“Can you fix this?”
“I can’t change the past Paul.”
“No.” Paul gestured around himself. “Fix this. The space. I want to see her face for real, the way it was.”
“Oh, of course.”
The extra copies of them disappeared, and the room wrapped around him. He ignored himself standing triumphantly at the light switch. How foolish he was. He had eyes only for Lydia, in any time. He wanted to hold her. Wanted to kiss her.
“Can you play it forward?”
“For the whole thing?”
“No. Just ten seconds or so.”
Lydia’s smile widened a little bit more. “All this for my birthday?”
“It’s a special day.” He sounded so confident there. And he was right, it was a special day. All change is special in a way.
Lydia moved toward the table and froze. Paul’s old self was in the middle of hurrying over so that he could pull out her chair. She was going to laugh, because he’d never done that before.
“Okay. Take me to the future.”
“You know, you’re not actually in charge here.”