Without looking back, Lamar stepped through the rip in space-time, knowing well he might die. It didn’t bother him much. Treated like a mech-drone, abused by the whole star-lost community, if he died, he’d find peace sooner than later.

A strange pulling sensation gripped his body, as if he were being flattened to the width of an atom. Then, with a snap like the release of a rubber band, he reassembled. The sight before him was so unexpected it lifted him from his sullen thoughts.

The brains among the lost starship crew had hoped to create a wormhole back to Earth using alien tech. But even genius Alan admitted that his equations were guesses at best. Highly educated guesses, of course, but guesses just the same. Last night, Maggie had warned Lamar that if Alan’s equations were wrong, the rip might take him not through space, but through time. She cared for him; Lamar knew she did. Why, then, did she give her affections to that pompous, overstuffed scientist?

But Lamar saw that he had traveled neither through time nor space. He faced his fellow interstellar wanderers, having somehow turned about face, as if by stepping through the portal he had been reflected in a mirror.

“What happened?” he asked, a little frightened. Something was wrong. They were staring right past him. He looked over his shoulder, but there was nothing but the portal. “Was I gone long?”

They didn’t answer, and he saw now that they were motionless. He descended the raised platform. “Is this some kind of joke? It’s not funny.”

No response. Nothing at all. No, that wasn’t true. If he watched carefully, he saw infinitesimal movement. He waved his hand in front of Alan’s pointed nose, trying to get his attention somehow.

That’s when he saw it.

An aura surrounded Alan; Lamar could see it when he looked closely, but it disappeared when he concentrated on his immediate surroundings. It hung about Alan like a mist, and if Lamar focused, his vision could pierce various layers of the mist. And the longer he studied these layers, the more they formed into meaning, like words sparking images in his mind.

In a flash he caught a vivid picture/emotion of Alan’s contempt for him, a sneering multi-sensory experience. It passed.

Lamar looked around again. He had not traveled through space or time, but perhaps he had landed in some half-dimension between physical realms where thought took shape.

He turned to Maggie. Above her beautiful hazel eyes and brown curls, the same enigmatic fog hung. Lamar cautiously touched her hand where it rested on delicate controls. Though warm, it felt more like concrete than flesh. He gazed into the swirling mists, searching. Emotions and memories flitted across his consciousness. Like a man scanning for a word in the jumble of a word search, meaning appeared and became illusion. There it was—concern. Affection. Motherly pity.

Lamar soaked in the emotions, shame and pleasure intermingled in response. Then, seized by a wild idea, he reached into the nebulous formation and carefully, tentatively, began to shape it.

He wrote poetry sometimes to release his frustration and loneliness. When he wrote, feelings overpowered logic, the sound of a word overtook its sense. That was how he guided his hand now, by poetic rationalism. Pity bloomed into desire. Affection transmuted into passion.

Lamar returned through the portal.

“Did it work?” Alan demanded. He was obviously disturbed by Lamar’s return.

Lamar opened his eyes wide. “I just stepped through it a moment ago—has time passed?”

“Five minutes. The readouts registered nothing. What happened?”

Lamar couldn’t resist a glance at Maggie. A new light shone there, and she smiled at his attention. “Nothing. It didn’t work.”

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