by David Adès
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3
Locus 3, Segment 2, Iteration 1
I didn’t see Josh Lentin’s fist until it was about to strike my jaw. Even then, I only saw it as a blur, with his angry face in the background.
Ordinarily I would have been shocked to see Josh Lentin, but things had veered rapidly away from the ordinary.
The speed and intent of Josh Lentin’s fist certainly caught me off guard. I couldn’t believe that he could use his fist with such force and that he so desperately wanted to strike my face. The Josh Lentin I knew so very well had a great aversion to violence. He would never have struck me, but this was clearly not the Josh Lentin I knew.
There was just time for surprise and amazement to register before I lost consciousness.
When consciousness returned it came with a sore and tender jaw, a sharp stone in my back, a ringing in my ears, and a grim-faced Josh Lentin leaning over me.
I could see trees around and above him. I was lying on my back on a forest floor. That was no surprise.
“Where is she?” he snarled.
I tried to answer, but my mouth and jaw felt thick. I didn’t appear to have lost any teeth, but my jaw clicked when I opened it. Eventually I managed to say something, but it sounded indistinct and distant, barely intelligible. “I don’t know.”
“I’m not in the mood for games. Where is she?”
I sat up slowly, feeling my head throb. I wasn’t in the mood for games either. I didn’t pretend that I didn’t know who she was or that I had no idea why he had struck me. I didn’t actually know, but I could guess well enough. “I really don’t know.”
Josh Lentin must have believed me, because the anger drained from his face. He looked deflated. After a few moments, in a hollow voice without menace, he tried another question. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m trying to find my way back home.”
“How did you get here?”
“I’m not sure. It’s a strange story.”
Josh Lentin and I were unlikely enemies. We were unlikely colleagues too. It seemed to me that he needed me and I needed him.
Locus 5, Segment 2, Iteration 1
My name is Josh Lentin. This story is about me, Josh Lentin. I suppose it is about me, Josh Lentin, and me, Josh Lentin, and me, Josh Lentin and about how I changed the course of history.
We’ve all heard the metaphor about how the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in one part of the world can cause a hurricane in another part of the world, how small events can fundamentally alter the course of things. Changing the course of history is perhaps no real achievement; we are all constantly doing it.
We know too that history changes course as a result of mistakes and accidents: how, for example, research scientists trying to unlock some mystery stumble across something else altogether, and sometimes garner a Nobel Prize as a result.
What several incarnations of Josh Lentin did is a bit like that, in a kind of multiplied way. Josh Lentin didn’t alter history so much as alter histories, a long line of them just like a long line of dominoes. And as far as I know, Josh Lentin didn’t do it once. Josh Lentin did it three times: three lines of multiple altered histories. If that wasn’t enough, the lines intersected — once, twice, how many times I really don’t know.
Locus 1, Segment 1, Iteration 1
It started innocuously enough.
It was a couple of months after Cassie had left me. She hadn’t left me for another man — or for a woman for that matter. She’d just left me. It wasn’t working out, she said. I wasn’t who she was looking for.
I was forty and loving like I’d never loved before. I hadn’t seen the end of our relationship coming and couldn’t get a grip on it at all. I wondered if it was better to be left for someone than to be left for no one. Though I knew and respected and thought I understood Cassie’s love of solitude, it was hard to accept that she preferred to be alone than to be with me.
So there I was, on my own again and miserable.
I was miserable, but I wasn’t afraid of my own solitude. I needed it to try and work things out, to understand what had happened, why a good love wasn’t enough for Cassie.
I took to driving a few miles up to Horsnell Gully, leaving the car by the side of the road and heading off into the bush. It was summer and although the days were often scorching, there was enough shade given by those old eucalypts to make walking comfortable. Sometimes I would hear the rustle of a koala in the upper limbs of the trees. There were always birds flitting about and, in the right season, I could come out with forearms and hands scratched and bleeding and a bucket of blackberries.
In places, the undergrowth was too thick to walk through, and I needed to keep to the walking trail, but elsewhere I could venture off the trail on my own little forays. I loved to do this and came to know my way around the gully well. In mid-week, when I preferred to go, I often didn’t encounter anyone else and the solitude could settle over me like an old shirt.
Locus 1, Segment 2, Iteration 1 / Locus 2, Segment 1, Iteration 1
One particularly hot day I left work early. I thought of going to West Beach but I knew there would be people there, and I wanted to be alone, so I headed up to Horsnell Gully, where I knew it would be too hot for most people and I was likely to have the whole gully to myself.
I wandered off the trail and clambered up one side of the gully to see if I could find a log to sit on with a bit of a view of the Adelaide Hills and perhaps a trace of a breeze. I was thinking about the distance between people and not really paying attention to where I was going.
How often do things happen when we’re not paying attention?
I didn’t see a gnarled old tree root, half-hidden in a tangle of thickets, and tripped. I fell heavily and awkwardly through the thickets and landed on my right wrist in a hollowed-out old tree trunk.
The base of the trunk was in a dip in the ground, and the hollow was not visible from where I was walking, but I was glad of it because I might have injured myself quite badly if I had hit the tree on my way down. As it was I had grazes on my forearm, and my wrist was sore and bruised and made a bit of a clicking sound when I tried to rotate it.
As I dusted myself off, somewhat shakily, I discovered that the watch on my right wrist had come off and gouged some of the skin. The watch had been a gift from my father, and I had a strong sentimental attachment to it. I looked for it in the scuffed dirt and the thickets of undergrowth for maybe fifteen or twenty minutes before giving up despondently.
Copyright © 2016 by David Adès