The experiment was a success, and I was split into two men the man I had been, and the man I would be. My younger self was brash, impulsive, headstrong, brilliant. My older self was cultured, refined, thoughtful, wise. I was fascinated by this dichotomy and eager to learn more about each of my selves, but it would have to wait. I still had a ship to command.
It was decided beforehand that my older self would be in overall command and would remain aboard ship at all times, while my younger self would command all missions away from the ship and would be the voice through which we first established contact with many foreign lands.
We sailed all through the night, through a starless void, and emerged at the break of dawn upon the shores of a land dressed in colors unimaginable. My older self wept at the sight of it. Such transcendent beauty. Towers reaching heavenward out of sight. Mazes of passages carved in and out of the rolling hillsides. It was an island levitating and rotating. As we rode the current into the sky a beautiful misty reverse waterfall each man aboard my ship held fast to the nearest railing, spellbound, in love with paradise.
My younger self was eager to know the inhabitants of such wonder. He wore his sword nonetheless, prepared always, should a serpent emerge, expecting one, perhaps, because in his mind a place such as this truly was too good to be true. He would be on guard. Cautious, yet open. He would listen to himself, and be guided by instinct, without even understanding the process.
We sailed into a pool curiously undisturbed by our passage. The ripples, we later learned, were displaced through time, lapping upon the shores in some distant future, when perhaps two lovers would sit upon a blanket and wonder at the sight of them.
My older self tried to observe through the tears in his eyes. It was a true marvel carved out of eternity that we all beheld. There was grace, like the softest breeze, touching all of our hearts. It was like coming home to all you had forgotten. But there were no inhabitants to greet us.
I was in command. It was my decision how to proceed.
We waited a full hour for someone to greet us, but we soon learned that time was meaningless here. The only continuity was that of self. In discussing what we beheld, we were all quite startled to discover that each man's vision differed in the subtlest ways. We all saw beauty, no doubt, but each to his own level of comprehension. Some were impressed by the size of the kingdom. Others by the suppleness of its curves.
My younger self was the first to set foot upon the beach. Crystal-clear sand reflected, in a thousand directions, the light that came not from above, but from everywhere, it seemed; from some inner place that radiated calm.
His senses as his guide, my younger self moved with his men toward the heart of this sensation. The buildings around them were soft, with walls that shifted into different shapes as they passed. Some passages showed pictures. Some were arrayed with frequencies of color that spoke directly to the soul geometric shapes that put a body at ease. Somehow my younger self could sense the power of these beings. He knew they might just as well have used these creative abilities to hurt others, rather than help them. It took a special people, he surmised, to wield such breathtaking power wisely.
As they continued on, one of his men reminded my younger self of an old folk tale the walls that drove men mad and he laughed to hear it. He was brave, this earlier me, and I envied his wild spirit. To walk with him, he had chosen the men he trusted the most: men whose vision was true, and whose hearts were stout and individual. Even at this age I had preferred companions with their own minds those who could challenge me in ways both intellectual and emotional. We were all together on this mission, but each for a different reason.
A door opened of its own accord, and my younger self stared at it. It stood in the center of a meadow, just a door and its frame. And through this open door, he could see nothing, save the continuation of the meadow on the other side. It seemed it would lead him nowhere; yet, he approached apprehensively nonetheless. He gripped the handle of his sword and ordered his men to either side of him. The mystery beckoned, and he had never been able to resist.
Back aboard the ship, my older self waited and contemplated. There was a sparkling dew hanging in the air, and if he waved his hand, he could catch it in his palm like powder, like starshine. He thought of playing with it, drawing shapes in the air, then reprimanded himself for such foolishness. Perhaps if there was any treachery to be found in this place, it was in the childishness that these surroundings engendered. Again he envied his younger self, masked in a facade of duty, but still able to express certain boyhood impulses to chase dragons when they came, and not be ashamed of his passion.
The glitter was thicker now, falling like snow, gathering all upon his ship, dissipating after a moment, leaving a residue of serenity. The older me prowled the deck and scowled. Some port, he knew, someday would be his last. And he knew that with serenity came surrender. If paradise was inevitable, what would he do, he had always wondered, when he got there?
Now he knew. He would clench his fists and wish for a hell to struggle in. Was this the wisdom that time brought to be forever in pursuit of an inner peace that was disastrous once achieved? His tears were bitter now, and the echoes returning to him from every crevice told him that he had not lived enough, not nearly enough, nor as well as he should have.
Just then his younger self was reaching a hand through the open door, investigating. It was warm, and just as pleasant there in the meadow beyond. Disregarding the warnings of his men, he stepped through and laughed to see that nothing was changed. He waved to his men on the other side, but they ignored him. They acted as if they could not see him at all. He waved again, and still nothing. He attempted to reach with his hand back through the doorway, but something repelled him. It was an invisible, elastic barrier, which gave ever so slightly, then tightened.
My younger self did not panic. To his mind, this new dilemma only made
things interesting. He decided to explore the meadow, walking away from
the doorway in the direction opposite of his initial approach.