Emend by Eclipse
Chapter 21

Copyright© 2020 by Lazlo Zalezac

September 14, 1975

“Where’s Benny?”

“He’s around,” Tim answered.

Cathy was genuinely concerned about Benny. She wondered if his absence had anything to do with the sudden sale of the lawn mowing company. She was convinced that Tim and Benny had a fight, and that Benny had left.

“You keep saying that.”

“He wanted alone time. I’m giving it to him,” Tim said.

“I need to know what happened to him.”

Tim replied, “You and Sandra wanted alone time, I gave it to you. Benny wanted alone time, I gave it to him. Back off and let him be.”

Sandra blushed at the reminder of the previous Saturday when she and Cathy had spent the entire day in bed. It had been wonderful, and long overdue. She figured that what Benny meant by alone time was far different than what she and Cathy had meant.

“I’m worried about him.”

“I told you he’s okay.”

“Look. He trusts me and I’m not going to fail him. He’s been gone a week. I have to know that he’s okay. You’re going to take me to him or else.”

Stunned by what he was hearing, Tim started at Cathy. He was speechless. He sputtered, “Are you suggesting that I did something to him?”

“I’m saying that you’re going to take me to him, or else.”

“Or else what?”

Cathy didn’t have an answer. She retorted, “Whatever.”

Sandra said, “Tim. Please.”

“Benny wants alone time. I’m going to make sure he gets it. That means I don’t bring a bunch people by to see him,” Tim said.

“So you do know where he is!”

“Of course, I know. Who do you think has been caring for him?”

Cathy stood up and screamed, “I can care for him, too!”

Tim stood and was about to shout that he had been caring for Benny for decades, and then caught himself. He couldn’t say that since there hadn’t been decades in this time line. Then he realized he didn’t have to be alone in caring for Benny. In way, that thought made him feel uneasy. It was like he was losing his importance in the universe.

“Yes, I guess you can. You’re the first person he’s ever trusted besides me.”

“So take me to him.”

The backdoor opened. Cathy and Sandra turned to see who was entering the office through the backdoor.

Tim said, “Hello, Benny.”

“Hi, Tim. Hi, Cathy. Hi, Sandra.”

Benny was standing there with a stack of papers in his hands. He was scruffy, not having shaved for an entire week. Although it wasn’t that noticeable from a distance, there was an aroma of unwashed human about him. His clothes were rumpled and stained.

Cathy shouted, “Where have you been?”

“In the garage.”

“Where?”

“In the garage. I needed to be alone.”

Cathy looked at Tim incredulous. Learning that he had been nearby like that made her angry. She could have checked up on him. “You could have told us.”

“He wanted to be alone.”

“That’s right, I wanted to be alone.”

“I can’t believe this,” Cathy said staring at the disheveled man standing in front of her. “You were a hundred feet away all of this time?”

“I was in the back half of the building.”

Tim said, “There’s a razor, a toothbrush, and a change of clothes for you in the bathroom. You need to shower.”

“You really know how to take care of me, Tim.”

“I’ve had lots of practice.”

“I appreciated the food and drinks you brought. I didn’t even know you came in.”

“I didn’t want to disturb you.”

“Thank you.”

“What were you working on?”

“A draft of a text book on generalized functions.”

“That’s interesting. Are you going to publish it?”

“I don’t think it will be that easy to publish. I don’t have the degree to give me credibility.”

“I guess that could be a problem, although you would think that the math would speak for itself.”

“I know, but we’re talking about the world of academia where credentials are everything. I think I’ll wait and publish it anonymously as an eBook.”

Sandra leaned over to Cathy and asked, “What is an eBook?”

“No clue.”

The two women were looking at Benny and Tim like they were from Mars. They kept bringing in words that neither of them had ever heard of. This was one of the things they were going to have to get explained to them if things were to continue on like they had.

“That will be twenty-five or thirty years from now.”

“So what? The math won’t change between now and then.”

“You’re right.”

“Besides, I won’t be able to typeset it on a computer for another decade at least. It’ll be that long before I have access to a computer with LaTex.”

“PCs will be out in a couple years. Surely you could do it in Word.”

“Are you kidding? That’s like trying to fill a cavity in your own back tooth all by yourself and without a mirror.”

This exchange went beyond weird. Cathy looked at Benny and then sighed. He trusted her. That meant more to her than she was willing to admit. She was going to have to trust him. She had no idea what Lay Tech meant, what Pee Cees were, and what it meant to do it in Word.

Benny handed her the stack of papers. “Would you watch over these for now?”

“Sure,” she answered. She looked down at the first page. There were equations with symbols that she didn’t recognize. “It looks complicated.”

“I guess it is complicated as far as most people are concerned, but I find this kind of stuff easy. Sometimes, I need to immerse myself in it ... you know ... get lost in the beauty of it. It’s the greatest thing I can experience.”

“The beauty of it,” Cathy echoed numbly.

That was an odd phrase to use about math. She’d never heard anyone talk about math as beautiful. Math was some horrible homework that you had to wade through to graduate high school. Where did beauty come into it?

“Yes, the beauty of it.”

Tim said, “Benny, why don’t you go get cleaned up? I’ll explain it to her.”

“Okay, Tim.”

Tim watched Benny go into the bathroom. He gestured to a chair and said, “Have a seat, Cathy. Let me see if I can explain things to you.”

Cathy took a seat at her desk. Sandra sat at her desk. Tim rubbed his chin thinking about what he was going to say while knowing that he’d never be able to explain it fully. Both of the women looked at him expectantly. He turned to face Cathy directly.

“I see the world from where I’m standing. Cathy, you see the world from where you sit. I see you at your desk. I see the wall behind you. I can see the wall, but you can’t see it because you’re facing the wrong direction. So what’s happening is that we are seeing two different worlds. One from where you sit and one from where I’m standing.

“We both know that the worlds we see are almost identical. Physically, we’re observing almost all of the same things. There are minor differences, but they are just that – minor because of where we are relative to each other. For all intents and purposes, we live in and experience the same world. You, me, and Sandra ... it’s the same physical world for all of us.

“Benny doesn’t live in our world. His body is rooted in this world, but not his mind. He experiences an entirely different reality than we do. His world is magical. It’s filled with thoughts, ideas, and concepts. In the midst of all that is mathematics. You’ve got to understand one thing, math is the matter of which his world is built. Benny sees mathematics like we experience trees, or rivers, or flowers.

“He once showed me a picture of the Mandelbrot set. It’s not a graph like you would think of a mathematical picture but a real image. It’s amazing. It’s art. Then there are fractals. I don’t even know what they are or how to describe them, but Benny knows. As far as I can tell from what Benny says, they are the mathematical building blocks of trees, plants, and mountains. I’ve seen an image portraying a whole forest that was generated mathematically on a computer with fractals.

“He can generate a whole world that looks like ours, just from math. Benny doesn’t need to draw, plot, or graph it, to see it. It’s alive in his mind, and it is just as real to him as this table is to me and you.

“What makes his world so magical is that there’s no pain, hunger, thirst, poverty, or discomfort in it. Just imagine being able to live in a world that is free of misery. Occasionally, Benny will show you a glimpse of that world and it will blow your mind. It’s like nothing you can imagine.

“For Benny, everything unpleasant comes from our physical world. Hunger, thirst, heat, and cold from this world pulls him from the serenity of his world. That’s why I provide food, drink, and a comfortable environment when he escapes into his world. I do my best to make sure there’s nothing here to yank him back. I allow him a chance to experience his heaven for just a little while.”

Tim sat down at the conference table to watch their reaction.

Cathy and Sandra were stunned by what he had told them. In part, what he said was incredible. Almost more compelling, though, was the passion in his voice when he talked about Benny’s reality. It was as if he was trying to grasp a treasure that was just out of reach.

Sandra was the first to recover. “Is it healthy for him to live in his mind like that?”

Tim slouched down in his seat thinking that he had failed to convey the magic and mystery of what Benny experienced. Nobody understood it but him. It spoke volumes about everyone else in the world.

“I don’t think healthy enters into it. I think it’s amazing that he even tries to live in our world as much as he does,” Cathy said. “Benny does seem to live just a little apart from everyone else. I think Tim explained it quite well.”

“But, isn’t there just one reality?” Sandra asked.

Tim answered, “I don’t think so. Artists, musicians, mathematicians, scientists, and others all have different realities from what most people have. I mean, you hear some great symphony and then you ask yourself, ‘Where on Earth did that come from?’ Then you realize, it came from nowhere on Earth. That person heard it first in his or her mind and then brought it into our world to share it with us.

“I think too many people have tied their minds to a very ugly reality. They find it is so unbearable that they need others to share the misery with them. They will punish anyone who turns their back on such ugliness. Why should you be so happy when I’m so miserable?

“We hear about the tortured artist. The torture isn’t the world they see in their minds, it is the constant yanking back into the ‘real’ world they have to experience. They know that just over there is a beautiful serene world and they are constantly being tortured by coming back here.

“Some of those souls want to share it with us. For most people, this reality doesn’t support the beauty they see. It’s nearly impossible to bring some of their world to ours. I think it’s got to be the most frustrating thing one can imagine to know something so awesome that it takes your breath away and to not know how to share it.”

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