What happens when an assassinated president, a world-renowned scientist, and a brilliant writer meet over a card game in the afterlife? How have the actions of these complex, talented men determined where they are now, and what will they talk about now that they're together?
Love and joy fill the highest region of the afterworld, while suffering and a sense of nothingness engulf the lowest. Between the two is Nowhere, a place of uncertainty where one may stay a long time, but no one stays forever. Inhabitants of Nowhere have done both extreme good and extreme evil in their lives on Earth. Many have also played important roles in world events. This novel tells a story of how John F. Kennedy, Albert Einstein, and Ernest Hemingway come together in the middle region of the afterworld. Maybe one day they will be forgiven for all their misdeeds and shortcomings. In the meantime, the three discuss everything from the investigation into Kennedy's assassination to Hemingway's religious views.
Then Salvatore arrives. Sal is not famous or admired around the world for anything; he is a violent Italian criminal who loves the Virgin Mary. Will he lead the group to the region of joy and love or the region of emptiness and despair? Join these four around the card table as they challenge one another's thinking with humor and insight about such historic events as the Vietnam War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and more, while undergoing the process determining their own ultimate fate.
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.37(d)|
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Nowhere ... a region of uncertainty in the afterworld
By Art Marsicano
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Art Marsicano
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTo every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven; a time to be born and a time to die ... ECCLESIASTES 3
Along with his family, many friends, and people throughout the world who loved and admired him, the greatest scientist who ever lived knew he was dying. The cause was known for some time and the inevitable could be delayed but not prevented. His pre-eminence in science and his place in history were secure, so he gladly accepted the end fearing only the pain that could accompany his moving on to the unknown.
One evening, while he worked on a scientific problem that had defied his genius for decades, the woman who was assigned to clean his hospital room hesitantly approached the great man. "May I briefly speak with you?" she asked softly.
"Briefly, yes," he replied with a weak voice and kindness in his eyes. "The doctors have told me I'll be leaving soon, so do not think me rude if I do not finish our conversation," he quipped.
"I know, but my son wrote a short poem for you and he asked me to read it to you."
"What a wonderful surprise. A creative gift from a young man is something I shall cherish to the end of my time," he replied with a smile. "Read it without delay."
Tears were in her eyes because his attention given with so little time left for him confirmed what she had heard. He was incredibly kind and treated the humble and less fortunate in the same manner as the rich, powerful, and influential who clamored for his attention. Haltingly, she read her son's poem.
For all of God's creatures there is a beginning and an end. Even those who have a good heart and have done wonderful things will one day know death for it is part of the natural order of things and cannot be avoided. Move without fear into the endless time and become part of all that was and all that will be.
"Your son has a gift and I extend my thanks to both of you for sharing it with an old man."
She nodded and left. He returned to the pages of complex interlocking equations that described light, gravity, electro-magnetism, and quantum mechanics. Three months earlier, he added new equations that reflected the recent discoveries of atomic particles that were totally unknown when he won the Nobel Prize in Physics decades earlier. "The new equations appear not to simplify or unify the concepts involved," he said softly. "The Old Man has created a natural world that is incredibly beautiful and orderly. Knowing this gives me hope that a simple set of equations exists that can bring science together into one unified explanation." He laughed a bit before adding, "Perhaps the equations are not quite so simple, at least not for me. Still, I think it is there. The Old Man may have hidden it well, but I believe it is there."
His body was without pain so he knew sleep would come quickly. The poem the cleaning lady read to the scientist gave him a reason to smile as he thought, An endless time. The young man who wrote it is like most people. He doesn't realize that time is not infinite. Time only has meaning if it is considered in concert with the universe. When the universe began, time began. When the universe ends, as it must, time ends.
Yet why should I trouble the young man with the time-space continuum? The universe will be around for billions of years before it comes to an end. I suppose he will have time to find a young woman, have children, and grow old with a loving family. Yes, he will have time. Time is not endless; it is relative, not absolute, and according to my friend, Werner Heisenberg, it is also uncertain. The Heisenberg uncertainty principle has been verified time and time again, so I cannot ignore it. But I do not like it, for it implies that the Old Man is uncertain, which makes little sense. The universe is a marvelous place that is complex, yet well organized. How then can it have an overriding layer of uncertainty?
The scientist slept thinking about the beginning of time and the greater presence, the Old Man, who created time, space, and all the wonderful mysteries that science tries to unravel.
It had happened suddenly. Yet he wasn't certain it had happened at all. It could have been a dream or perhaps he was in a coma. He awoke slowly and was thankful for the absence of pain. Suddenly his senses were overwhelmed. He blinked several times and tried to refocus his eyes believing that the prairie stretching out in front of him could not be real. Yet there was the smell of grass in the soft breeze that greeted him and he was seated at the base of an enormous oak tree. Am I dreaming, he thought, or perhaps I have fallen into an unconscious state? In either case I am fortunate, for this is quite a nice place.
He pinched his arm and felt it although he couldn't remember if that meant he was or was not dreaming. He then searched for a pulse in his neck and couldn't find it. Next, he looked at the clothing he was wearing and laughed. He was wearing a sweatshirt, baggy slacks, and his feet were bare. Whoever dressed me recognized the bohemian that is in my soul. This is fitting attire in a place that seems to have everything I need: solitude.
The tablet and pencil were still at his side. He stared at the equations for the longest time before realizing, once again, that they did not come together into a single unified description of the fields—electric, magnetic, and gravitational. The pieces of the puzzle mocked him. I have no idea how to accomplish this after more than thirty years of trying. Perhaps there is no answer. The Old Man may have intentionally placed one element of illogical chaos into an otherwise orderly universe knowing science could never reconcile chaos with their well-ordered equations and models. If divine chaos exists, there is no doubt that the Deity is a trickster and I have been a fool.
He smiled broadly at his joke and took a deep breath. Still not sure if he was alive or dead, and needing time away from the equations, he stood and began to carefully consider his surroundings. A single, majestic, snowcapped mountain loomed before him, with a lush forest extending to the left and right of it as far as his eyes could see. He walked a short distance toward it, away from the oak tree, and carefully scanned the area as he slowly turned. "Nothing but a flat surface covered by grass," he said softly. He again looked at the mountain and noted the constant flow of white billowy clouds that seemed to emerge from behind it. Against the deep blue sky, the clouds moved slowly away from the mountain and then passed directly above him.
The beauty of the sky captivated the scientist until he was seized by a sudden realization. There is no sun, yet the sky and everything I see is uniformly illuminated! Even under the oak tree, with its thick covering of leaves, there is not the slightest hint of a shadow. His heart sank when he discovered another reality that was inconsistent with all that he knew. "My body does not cast a shadow," he said softly. He then tried desperately to create darkness by tightly cupping his hands together in such a way that they should have blocked light from the volume they enclosed. He peered between his thumbs and was shocked because the light was the same within his cupped hands as it was outside of them. "Light behaves like water in this place, filling every void, eliminating all darkness, however slight." It was a discovery that troubled him as few had before. It was his thought experiments about light and the related scientific writings that earned him a Nobel Prize in Physics, although the world's great scientists initially rejected his work. Yet in this place he did not understand the very basic nature of light. Once again, he cupped his hands together and peered into the enclosed volume. "This is madness," he shouted. Then he intentionally dropped his tablet and pencil. "At least gravity functions correctly in this world of the impossible."
He looked for his pocket watch and frowned when he realized it was missing. This can't be, he thought. A place with no sun where light behaves illogically, and I have no idea what time it is. And without the sun, the stars, or knowledge regarding the time of day, it is not possible to determine direction. So many things I once took for granted will not be possible in this place.
Hoping to establish a framework of reality, he recognized the need to have a system of measurements. If I am to do any experimentation at all, distance must be known, even if it is only an approximation. Looking at his bare feet, he assumed they were 25 centimeters long. He then marked the distance he traveled in ten steps and using his feet as the measuring device, followed by a simple calculation, he soon concluded that in a typical step he traveled 54 centimeters.
"Now if I wish to know the distance between two points, I simply count the number of steps from point A to point B and multiply that value by 54 centimeters to arrive at the distance." He smiled and then said, "A short time ago I was considering the most difficult scientific problem of all time and now I am using my feet as measurement devices. Only the Deity could have possibly created this wonderful comedic irony. Whether I am alive or dead, it does not matter. The Old Man is laughing at me."
With only distance and gravity at his disposal, even a great scientist could accomplish little, and he soon realized it. "I need time!" he yelled at the sky. Then, hoping the rhythm of his own heart could provide some insight into time measurements, he again searched for his pulse, first to his neck and then his wrist. Once he thought he felt the beat of his heart and waited and then searched for it. If it was truly his heart, he didn't feel it again. "I must have time!" he suddenly shouted, and for the first time in years he was angry.
Gathering his thoughts, he gazed at the great mountain and watched clouds rise up slowly from behind it. He then turned and looked in the opposite direction. Except for the oak tree, there was nothing but a flat prairie with tall grass moving in a soft wind. The view was hypnotic. The grass, and blue sky with soft white clouds, reached out until they touched.
As he slowly turned, he carefully examined the sky and the horizon. Except for the distant mountain, which seemed to give birth to the clouds that passed slowly across the sky, everything else was unremarkable. It would take hours, days, maybe even weeks to walk to the mountain, but what did it matter? He had no way to measure or estimate time so he would never be able to determine how long it would take to reach the mountain, if he decided to walk to it. In desperation, he suddenly grasped his left wrist with his right hand. For the third time he searched for his pulse. My pulse rate is approximately 80, he thought. The time it takes for my heart to beat 80 times would equal approximately one minute. Unable to find the pulse in his wrist, he probed his neck with his index finger as his incredible mind simultaneously considered ways to measure an object's weight: a handful of earth would be approximately 250 grams and the heaviest object I can lift should be about 15 kilograms.
He became frantic and then dropped to a sitting position and removed his clothing. Without time, there is no basis for evaluation, he thought, as he continued searching his body: legs, chest, arms, neck, and head for a pulse, and didn't find one. If I have died, it would explain the lack of a heartbeat. But where am I; and what is the nature of my body; and why is there no sun; and why ...? He suddenly felt foolish as he looked at his flabby body. Then he examined himself again, not for a pulse, but because he wanted to know the condition of his body. He was happy to discover that he had some stiffness and pain, especially in his joints, yet it was far less then he remembered. This gave him a connection to the past without distracting his mind, so he welcomed the mild discomfort. He then dressed slowly, deliberately, hoping that each experience in this new place would bring him a better understanding of it.
When he next considered the sky, he quickly realized he was seeing it without the benefit of his eyeglasses. He looked at the palm of his hands and could see every familiar line, scar, and age mark, without the eyeglasses that were once essential to see things near and far. He smiled and shrugged slightly in spite of still not knowing if he was dead, asleep, unconscious, or merely wandering around within his complex mind.
Something floating on a breeze appeared and for a moment he was happy, believing it was a bird or a butterfly. He walked quickly toward it as it found its way to the ground. It was only a tree leaf. He took hold of it and concluded it was from an oak tree. It gave him some hope. It was dark brown and dried, suggesting the possibility that there was a cycle associated with the passing of time. Perhaps there is a spring, summer, fall, winter cycle that will allow for the measurement of years. There is time, there must be time. I must know time or I can do nothing.
As a scientist, he had consistently rejected arriving at a conclusion by eliminating possibilities until only one remained. Proving a scientific principle or concept by the process of elimination is dishonest unless you can prove that all possibilities were considered, and that is rarely possible. When exploring the unknown it is by definition impossible to know, with certainty, all possibilities, he recalled telling other scientists who practiced corrupt science based on the elimination of possibilities. To the dismay of many scientists, he used the same logic to argue against other scientists, most of whom were atheists, when they pronounced that, "There is no God," with great certainty because they had disproved an article of faith put forth by one or more religions. "A worldwide flood never took place; hence Noah and the ark is nothing but a fairy tale used to support the existence of God." Also, "Darwin's evidence in support of the evolution of the species, including humans, means that Adam and Eve, and the Garden of Eden, are falsehoods." Scientists who recited a long litany of such religious beliefs that science proved false, followed by the conclusion, "Hence God does not exist!" would be reminded by him that proof by elimination cannot be used to establish a scientific principle. So it was inappropriate for anyone, especially a scientist, to use scientific findings coupled with proof by elimination to conclude that there is no God.
Although he found proof by the process of elimination distasteful, he had no other means at his disposal to answer the most basic of questions—am I dead? "If I am not dead, then I'm dreaming or in an unconscious state. There have been a few times in my life when I knew I was dreaming—and I was able to do wonderful, passionate things with women." He sat on the grassy plain, placed the palms of his hands on the grass, and thought of the first time he made love with Elsa, his first cousin who later became his second wife: initial hesitations, soft kisses, touching each other, followed by a period of unrestrained lovemaking. Afterward, they experienced guilt. It passed very quickly and never again came between them. It wasn't the first time for either of them although he often thought of it because it was truly remarkable. Elsa felt the same way and after they married, they never tired of recalling it. "Elsa," he said loudly, hoping to summon her for a time of love making such as they enjoyed the first time. Neither Elsa nor her image appeared, so he shouted her name as loudly as he could. A faint echo surprised and disappointed him. It was all he received for his efforts.
He was not a handsome man. Many openly declared that he looked like a clown. A few said he acted like one. Yet few men and none of his colleagues in the scientific community had made love to as many desirable women as he had. His brilliant mind, clever wit, historic scientific accomplishments, and worldwide fame resulted in an endless procession of women who offered themselves to him. So many that he couldn't satisfy all of them, though it appeared to many that he tried to.
Having failed to call forth Elsa's image, he tried to create that of Mileva, his first wife. In some respects their divorce was bitter although he had many fond memories of her. She was also a scientist although not his equal. No one was. Still, to settle their divorce and in recognition of the assistance she had given him, he gave her every penny he received when he won the Nobel Prize in Physics. His memories of her were pleasant, so he was terribly disappointed when his best efforts failed to create her likeness. "I am surely dead," he said softly, with mixed emotions and a rapid series of random ideas, memories, and regrets.
Excerpted from Nowhere ... a region of uncertainty in the afterworld by Art Marsicano Copyright © 2012 by Art Marsicano. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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