The Quantum Minyan
Copyright © 2001, David A. Epstein.
All Rights Reserved.
“It’s incredible. A great miracle just occurred!” In my high spirits, undoubtedly everyone in earshot heard me. I had just made a successful connection with this URL: http://www5.neshama.org/cgi-zohar9058/superstring133596. We spent several months trying to make it work. Sure, we created a few quantum computers. They provided us with all types of useful data. But nothing could compare to our latest feat: we had made contact with a superstring.
For the last five years, I have been working in a private research center in Herzlia, Israel, as the chief physicist on this quantum computing network prototype known as the ‘quantum web’. Initially, it was conceived to be a subatomic communications research project. We were quite surprised that it opened the doors to string worlds previously thought to merely be the constructs of theoretical physics.
“What is all the excitement about, Miriam?” asked Stanley. Dr. Stanley L. Goldberg was the chief architect of the quantum web. While I did not directly report to him, he relied upon my expertise in superstring theory.
“Great news. We’ve received a response back from the string. We’ve verified that it exists in eleven dimensions and is connected to vibrating d-branes.”
“Make sure that the results are captured in the log file.” His nonchalant response made me cringe. We just made a significant breakthrough and all he could think about was saving the results. He would not rejoice in the moment. It’s like being out in space, taking a picture, and then convincing yourself that you will best enjoy the experience by viewing the photo in the comfort of your own home.
“No need to mention that,” I replied. “It’s automatically being entered into the database.”
“Well, double check it anyway.” He did not even acknowledge my success, and then he had the audacity to doubt me. Sometimes, I wanted to strangle that man.
The setup in our lab was relatively simple. Several computers were connected to a server computer. Some cables hooked the server to a laser device mounted on a nearby table. Lasers sent data requests from the server to a host computer in the quantum web. This web existed in a color print of a beautiful coastline setting, on the table. The lasers scanned the web and relayed responses back to the server for processing.
We found a way to communicate with superstrings that did not require high levels of energy or any signal propagation. This method was known as topological connectivity. It involved the dynamic creation of spaces called manifolds and how data freely passes through them. The uncertainties encountered in quantum mechanics were bypassed. We induced these spaces to adopt self-organizing principles to create complex pathways leading to our desired destinations. Even Stanley was excited by these developments.
For the next six months, I continued exploring these connections. The initial excitement had waned to some degree, but I still was encouraged by our findings. Many of my colleagues spent their time enhancing web sites and performing other menial tasks. A couple of physicists were conducting experimental research. Nobody knew what those two were doing, or so I thought.
It was Friday afternoon. While I was logging results, I wondered where everyone had gone. We had a couple more hours to work. I asked Stanley if he had seen the others.
“No.” He shrugged his shoulders.
“Maybe they left early for Shabbes.”
I resumed work at my computer and launched an imaging software program. For a few minutes, I was viewing graphical displays of quantum information flow. Then, something strange happened. A vivid picture of a closed eye appeared on the screen.
The eye was surrounded by some type of tree. As the eye opened, revealing a dim redness around the pupil, I became mesmorized. My thoughts became fuzzy as the tree started growing and branching out. More visuals rapidly flashed on the screen, accompanied by sparkly, celestial sounds. It was a montage of phantasmagoric images: historical people, events, art work, numbers and equations. I remember seeing glimpses of the Shabbes Queen, Moses, Einstein, an atom, the star of David, E = mc^2, the moon, and “The Persistence of Memory”. My mind melted into the environmental stimuli.
“What’s happening to me?” I put my hands over my forehead and started shaking. I didn’t know how to deal with these bizarre sensations.
Although I don’t recall everything that occurred, I remember this strange feeling of my consciousness being pulled in front of my body. As I zoomed ahead, I could not move my arms and legs. Images of melting clocks flashed passed me. A vast ocean was below me. I desperately tried to resist the rapid motion, but to no avail. I screamed, I know I did, but I don’t remember hearing myself. Flashes of different tragic endings rushed through my fragile mind.
An unfamiliar object now surrounded my head and some contraption covered my eyes. It seemed like a dense exterior was growing over my skin. I felt like I was being mummified. Was I being buried alive while in constant motion?
While I tried to avoid oncoming objects that were getting larger, I wondered whether I was traveling faster or becoming smaller. Lights were rapidly flashing by me. Some blurry images appeared before my eyes. At the same time, I was being whisked above unfamiliar landscapes revealing all types of textures, colors and shapes.
Finally, the chilling journey came to a sudden halt. I was spit out of that terrifying space. As confused and scared as I was during the journey, I will never forget that experience of being liberated.
I clearly was floating in a spacesuit, although wobbling slightly. I don’t know how I arrived here or how I ended up wearing this crazy suit. God only knows. I only remember that it was an incredible moment. There was no fear or apprehension to distract me. The glory of drifting in space, the awe it instilled in me, made me realize that I was truely entering an exotic, unknown reality.
“Moses to Miriam. Welcome to Microspace. Quite different from Sinai, huh?”
My moment of solitude was shattered. I heard a deep male voice in my ear, but I had no idea who was speaking. I thought I was hallucinating, but when I heard the voice again, I knew that someone was nearby. At that point, I realized that I was wearing an ear piece. I looked around to see who was there. Behind me was a figure in a spacesuit. I quickly glanced away and tried fleeing. The only problem was there was nothing to run on.
“Quite disorienting, huh? I also felt that way when I arrived here.”
“Who are you? What is all this?” I asked. I looked at the man wearing a spacesuit.
“Don’t you recognize me? It’s Moshe, your brother …”
“Moshe? What? Some type of weird dream.” Upon closer viewing, I saw the man’s face behind his protective helmet.
“Ah, come on Miriam. What would I be doing in your dreams?” he asked, as he spoke in a different speaking voice.
“What? Wait a minute ... Avi, is that you?” Avi was a whiz scientific programmer from Haifa. He joined the project about a year before I did. He’s a real prankster, so it occurred to me this could be one crazy practical joke.
“You really thought I was the old guy, didn’t you?” he said. I had a flashback to those strange figures on the computer screen.
“Oh yeah, Moses,” I mumbled.
“Ah, snap out of it Miriam. Come on, I will take you to the others.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Just hang on while we jet over to the floating port. We’ll travel at a reasonable speed. Look through your optical viewer and enjoy the scenery.”
I realized what
was covering my eyes. It appeared to be securely fastened inside my
helmet. I instinctively fidgeted with the helmet to adjust the viewer.
“It auto-adjusts,” said Avi. “You’ll see all sorts of interesting things in this subatomic world. Strings, manifolds, maybe even a ghost or two.” He reached into his suit and pressed some buttons. I could not get a complete view of the device.
“Now, how ...” I stopped in mid sentence and collected my thoughts. I was still quite puzzled about where I was. While I was breathing, I was beginning to wonder about that too. “As I was saying, how do you know all of this?”
“I was reading through some online materials back at the port.”
A clear bubble was forming around us. He explained that it was some type of energy field formed by creating disturbances in space. It had a diameter roughly equal to twice my height. “Pretty nifty quantum biosphere, huh?” I wasn’t certain why he said this.
There were a few control panels in the front of the dome. Avi worked the controls, keeping us relatively stable; but there were some bumpy moments. “I’m still getting adjusted to this place,” he said. We started to accelerate into what he called Microspace. “It’s contracted, dynamic space, you see.”
For what appeared to be the next few minutes, our vehicle manoevered through some scenic topologies. We cruised over a stunning landscape that featured all types of curves and projective spaces. The surface was riddled with holes bubbling with a vapor-like substance along their rims. Arch-shaped handles protruded from the surface; it was breathtaking as we passed through one of them. The colors were simply incredible. Other than the blues, greens and reds, there were unfamiliar hues for my viewing pleasure.
A few spinning spheres populated the surface. I figured we were hovering over what quantum physicists call a spinor field. Witnessing this phenomenon and further surveying the surface led me to conclude that we were traveling along a manifold. A beautiful mathematical construct had revealed its inner works with intricate detail.
“A very stunning environment,” I commented, feeling somewhat calmer.
“Absolutely. And you would never know we’re traveling in eleven dimensions. Your optical viewer transforms it into 3D. Otherwise, your senses would be overwhelmed.”
For an instant, I wanted to remove my helmet and the viewer. I wanted to directly view abstract mathematics and physics; however, I knew this would probably cause me great harm. Tempting as it was, I did not remove my helmet.
“Check those out over there.” Avi pointed to some vibrating, rubbery loops. They looked like stretched out tires. Some were merging together to form larger loops, others were splitting into smaller ones. He started mentioning something about supersymmetry, but I didn’t even need to hear this. I knew that I had seen my first group of superstrings.
Their vibrations rocked our clear domed cruiser. I fell backwards; he fell to his knees. I noticed that the bubble transformed into a peculiar shape. It become a composite of hexagonal lattices and smaller bubbles clinging to the surface.
“What’s happening?” I asked.
“The dome geomorphed to absorb the vibrations of the strings. It changed its shape and form to protect us. In a few seconds, it will return to its original shape.”
“So why did we feel their impact and fall down?”
“Must be a defective product!”
Despite being shaken, I was overwhelmed with joy similar to the first time I saw my son. Thinking about Nathan, now a five-year old who absorbs everything in sight, made me wonder how long I would be away from my children. I was beginning to miss them.
As we passed by the strings, I was caught somewhere between observing their glorious movements and thinking about my daughter Rebecca. I remembered taking her to the zoo and seeing her eyes light up as she was mimicking the kangaroos.
My situation with Stanley was quite different. After our divorce, our relationship became even more strained. It was so painful facing him every day. I serious considered leaving the company. It was ironic how such a brilliant, kind, and loving husband could transform into such a smug, arrogant and uncaring stranger.
“You see that long pad over there? Notice the small dots moving on it?” asked Avi.
“Yes, I see it.”
“That’s the floating port. We’re going to land in a minute or two.”
Approaching the port was uneventful for me. It was flat and hovering in space. There were a few small buildings located on its surface. When we were close enough to notice some of its features, in detail, a small patch of the clear dome surrounding it had opened. We cruised through the opening and landed on the port.
I was curious about what kept us on the ground. Perhaps it was a quantum gravity coupled to the surrounding superstrings. As their vibrations bombarded the dome, I clearly saw this outer dome pass through a series of geomorphs. I also wondered about how the place was lit up. The light must had somehow been artificially generated.
By scale, I thought that the port was roughly about a mile long. Its surface was covered by a burgundy substance. When our quantum biosphere collapsed, my first action was to reach down and feel the ground. It was some type of synthetic material that felt similar to a shag rug. I was going to walk upon it some more, but then our spacesuits and helmets mysteriously disappeared from our bodies.
“My God. How did that happened?” I felt my heart palpitating intensely. I became frightened that we would not survive without our suits.
“No seriously, Avi. Don’t we need those suits?”
“Not inside the dome.”
I took a couple of breaths. “Whew, at least we can breathe.”
“Yes, go figure how they pumped air into this place.”
We walked by a few structures covered by mini domes. Avi pointed to one of the buildings and mentioned that it was the computer center. After what seemed like a ten minute walk, we approached a group of people who were standing in a courtyard near a small building made of stones. It was so strange. They were putting on tallit and yarmulkes. I recognized a few of them from work, but the others were strangers to me.
“Tov, she’s arrived. Glad you made it in one piece, Miriam. We were getting a little concerned about you,” said Zvika, one of the chief physicists working on the secret project. Standing next to him was Deborah, one of the lab technicians.
“Concerned? Do tell what happened to me,” I demanded, raising my voice.
“Now relax,” said Deborah. “We’re all a bit confused here.”
“No one really knows,” said Zvika. “We all had our strange, unexplainable travels to this abandoned place. Must have been some anomalistic field phenomenon in the lab. I’ve been here a few hours and ...”
“And what? Getting comfortable? Maybe we should try to return.”
Zvika put his arm around me. “Don’t worry, we’ll be safe here. And besides, look at the beautiful scenery we have for Shabbat. Speaking of which, we’re going to start the service shortly.” On Friday evenings, we often attended minyan services in each others homes.
“Service? You can’t be serious.”
Zvika pointed to the building. “Would you believe this is a synagogue? We traveled a half-kilometer or so to get here, well, I mean a few hundred string lengths apparently. And we find this lovely place.”
“It looks like we’re not the first Jews to pioneer this Zionspace,” said Deborah, somewhat sarcastically.
Mysteriously, the light started to fade. This occurred about the same time the group headed inside the building. As we walked in, I was amazed to see that it really was a synagogue. In the back, there was an ark that undoubtedly housed the Torah. Old chandeliers were suspended from the ceiling. People filing into the room sat down on stained wooden benches. Deborah, and a man whom I did not know, both wearing a yarmulke and tallis, walked up to a podium situated in front of the benches. They rested their elbows comfortably on it.
The man started to speak: “B’rucheem haba’eem b’shem Adonai ... I’d like to welcome everyone to our first service in Microspace. How we came here, why are we here, only God knows. But it’s a mitzvah that we’re sharing this occassion together.” He explained that he was a Rabbi from New York who recently immigrated to Israel. I looked around the room and counted the people. There were exactly thirteen of us. We were a Minyan.
Then Deborah lit the candles; the candle holders were resting on a nearby table. She sang the traditional prayer for the Candlelighting. “Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu melech haolam.” Several people joined in. I was still in a state of disbelief, yet I found myself singing as well: “Asher kidishanu b’mitzvotav, v’tzivanu, l’hadlik ner shel Shabbat.”
The candles were mildly flickering. I wondered how they were burning in this artificial environment. I still was curious about how we were able to breathe. Before my head became clogged with other thoughts, we were singing L’chad Dodi. I simply love this piece. Hearing the others sing made it really feel like Shabbes. I even put my arm around Avi’s shoulder and gave him a half smile. He, in turn, placed his arm around my waist. I felt very comfortable snuggled next to him.
In time, the Rabbi led us in the Readers Kaddish. Then onto the Sh’ma and Baruch Shem. It was very similar to the services we had at home, but it felt more sanctified. We all sang the Mi chamocha. “Mi chamocha ba’elim Adonai? Mi chamocha nedar bakodesh, nora t’hilot, osei feleh ...”
A few minutes later, Deborah spoke again at the podium. “Let us now chant the T’filah together. This is our praises to our fathers and mothers, to God, and all the love that God has brought unto us.” This Minyan was comprised of people from different backgrounds; many, like me, came from the States and immigrated to Israel. Some of us came from Reform synagogues, others from Conservative ones, a couple were affiliated with the Modern Orthodox movement. Avi grew up in an Orthodox household, but became Reform. Amid this diversity, we joined in singing together about Avraham and Sarah.
At this moment, I felt the building slightly shake. “What was that?” I asked Avi, nervously.
“Probably just a modulated string tremor. Some type of mishegas in their wave functions. I read about it online. Don’t worry about it.”
“A message from God perhaps,” I mumbled to myself. That’s what came to my mind anyway. I was not in a mood for scientific explanations.
There were a few moments for the Silent Prayer. I prayed for my family. I wished they could join me here in this different world. The pain of our separation dampened the joy I was experiencing. These conflicting feelings led right into the Torah Service.
I thought it would have been simply magnificent if the portion for this week was the first passages in Genesis. How appropriate it would have been to hear “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.” This was certainly a new beginning for us, and no doubt in my mind that God created it. It was simply too beautiful to be a mere accident of nature.
Instead, we were treated to a story from the book of Exodus. It was about the Jews wandering in the Sinai desert. That too seemed to be an appropriate symbol of what we were currently encountering.
Zvika recited the first section of the Torah portion. The Rabbi introduce another person who walked up to the podium. His name was Shimon. He read the second part of the portion. When he finished, the Rabbi gave a short sermon. I did not listen too intently to him. I was thinking about my children.
The final part of the service was simply beautiful. There was the Aleinu. The group started singing: “Aleinu l’shabeiyach la’adon hakol. Lahtet gdulah b’yoste b’reicheet ... Vaanachnu korim ...” At this point, we all bowed our heads and bodies in reverence to our blessed creator. Then came the kaddish. As we recited the prayer, I remembered my dear father and what a kind person he was. I yearned for him to be here with me. He would have been in awe of this place. As we sang the final song, Adon Olam, everyone put their arms around each other. It was a fitting ending to the service.
“And nobody knows how we really ended up here?” I asked. It was approaching Saturday night. We had spent our first day in Microspace. All around us, outside of our dome of course, strings were merging together, splitting apart, and perpetually vibrating. I clearly saw the strings were connected to these greenish, pulsating multidimensional membranes called d-branes. The dynamic interactions between them undoubtedly created a stable localized environment. The strings were the principle elements holding this micro world together.
“What I think happened involved this topological connectivity process you harnessed, only humans were used instead of data communications. Perhaps we were all subjected to some type of neurological stimulation, put in a trance of sorts, then somehow projected onto a corresponding human topological roadway.”
I gave Zvika an incredulous look. “Don’t you think that’s a bit far fetched?”
“Not really. After talking to most of the people here, we discovered that we all had one experience in common: the last thing we remember back at the lab was staring at some particular subject or object. Avi mentioned he was looking at his watch. Shimon looked into Deborah’s eyes, of course. So what else is new. Anyway, I was typing something on my keyboard when ...”
“I remember seeing all these crazy things on my monitor,” I interrupted.
“Same with me. There were these ten circles connected with lines on my computer. They looked like, well, the Sephirot.”
“And I saw Shechinah,” I mumbled. “OK, fine, but how do you explain travelling through space?”
“You see, if there was some type of transformation from ordinary human space to this quantum world, it would all make sense. We surmised that data signals transmitted into this quantum world has something to do with topology, right?”
“Yes, but ...”
“But nothing,” he continued. “There’s no reason to think that it wouldn’t explain human travel as well. Perhaps we somehow entered that quantum web you developed. What a wonderful creation that was, and we might now be directly experiencing it.” I was curious why he threw in that sycophancy in the midst of his explanation. He was not one to make compliments.
Avi approached us and joined the conversation. He must have been listening at a distance. “Yes, somehow you were mapped onto this human topological roadway, as our good friend referred to it. It unfolded to our current destination, but along the way, the roadway contracted and we became smaller as well. Preeettty cool, huh?”
“Knock it off, Avi. I’m still trying to figure it all out,” replied Zvika.
“Ah, but there’s nothing to figure. We’re all in this dream reality created by, well, you know who. Come on people, let’s get ready for Havdalah.”
I did not even look at Avi. “This is remarkable. And what about the spacesuit I was wearing?”
“Maybe when you were traveling along the manifolds to Microspace ...” Avi remarked theatrically as he extended his right hand outward and above his head.
“I explained it in terms of a topological roadway,” interrupted Zvika. “Anyway, it’s possible that our suits were created while we were traveling. Maybe we traveled in a field insulating us from environmental effects, but we still needed a protective suit to store oxygen, water, food, and regulate temperature. There probably was some type of auto-sanitation system. Some type of real-time nanotechnology.”
“The main question is who designed all of this without our knowledge.”
“Maybe Stanley was doing more than we all realized,” said Avi. I did not appreciate that remark.
“OK, I get the picture,” I remarked. I just did not want to hear any more explanations.
We had just finished Havdalah. Many in the group were dancing in an adjoining room in the synagogue. I decided to walk off by myself, away from the group. I needed some solitude for the time being.
I walked to another building made out of white bricks, or so it appeared. When I approached it, I felt the exterior and pushed against it. Surprisingly, it was elastic. I was perplexed how it could withstand the forces of gravity and decay, yet still stand so valiantly. Then again, not too much seemed to make much sense in this new world.
As I entered the building, I saw an old man with a white beard sitting on a chair at a table. He was drinking from a kiddush cup, but he definitely was not at our Shabbat or Havdalah service. With some trepidation, I approached him and introduced myself. He started rapidly speaking in some foreign tongue.
“What’s the matter?” I asked him. I thought maybe he would understand a few words of English. As I continued to speak, it appeared that it was a futile effort.
He was quiet for a few seconds. I took a few steps backwards. As I turned around and headed to the door, he uttered something again. This time, ...
“Nuh, are you always that forward?”
I thought you didn’t speak English.”
“You assumed that I didn’t speak your blessed language because I didn’t answer you at your calling?”
As I replied to him, I felt a tremor beneath my feet.
“Don’t let that worry you. They’ll happen from time to time when you’re in the presence of greatness.”
“And how do you know that? Do you live here?”
“It’s too strange to call it living. Let’s just say that I’m a drifter in and out of this world, more or less.”
A few strings were merging and splitting above. One string appeared to be twisted and stretched out of shape. I saw it rip into several pieces. I spoke to Avi. “The strings look so much bigger than us, but if a string is the smallest known entity in the universe ...”
“I know what you’re getting at,” he replied. “It’s an optical effect. Your viewer is compressing a lot of multi-dimensional data into 3D. The strings appear larger than they actually look.”
“But those strings emit so much energy.”
“This community must be running off that energy. Somehow it’s being harnessed, but we seem to be insulated from its effects as long as we’re in this protective dome.” I was not satisfied with that explanation. As I was about to ask him a followup question, I felt another tremor beneath my feet. This one was strong enough to knock the champagne glasses off the table. Then, the table itself toppled over.
Zvika and Shimon looked at each other. A larger tremor rippled across the port. This one was much more violent and noisier than the previous one. Shimon let out a scream. Avi and I dived to the ground. I looked up and saw that the strings were moving in opposite directions; they were splitting apart. The d-branes attached to them started to fracture as well.
As more tremors occurred, I thought about my children again. I feared more for them than I did for myself. My hands were trembling as my feet collapsed beneath me. With sheer determination, I rose back to my feet.
I yelled to Zvika. “Maybe the space is compactifying.”
“It looked stable to me. I don’t know what’s happening.” he replied.
“Perhaps we disturbed the quantum eco-balance. It appeared we were in string-synchronous orbit, right?” There were a few more violent tremors.
“Who knows. Something crazy must be happening with the vibration modes of the strings,” said Avi, raising his voice.
“What?” yelled Zvika.
“It ... Looks like we’re ripping into two,” I replied.
A large quake occurred. It created a huge, thunderous continuous roar. I saw the outer dome starting to crack. Zvika and Avi fell to the ground. I tried to help them, but I was having problems myself. In the panic that ensued, Zvika inadvertantly knocked his optical viewer off his face. Judging from his reaction, he evidentally was flooded with the stimuli of a splitting multi-dimensional space. He shielded his eyes from the chaos that must have been bombarding his retinas.
“Help me. Help. What’s happening?” cried out Avi. I also heard Deborah scream, but I instinctively chose to help Avi.
I extended my right hand. He tried grabbing it. The quake intensified. The dome now had cracked wide open. As I came close to grasping his hand, he whirled away into the eddie of a curling space where the dome was previously located. I, on the other hand, started spinning on the surface. Perhaps this is what it feels like to be hit by a hurricane. It seemed like we were doomed.
Out of the flash of a flickering light emerged a figure I vaguely recognized. I tried focusing my sight in that direction. When I yelled out for help, the figure turned in my direction. It was the old man I met before. He laughed unexpectedly. His lips moved to the rhythms of some words I could not hear. I wanted to approach him, but the force tugging at me prevented me from moving freely.
I saw him float to a string that was violently shaking. It was twisted into a pretzel shape. He stretched his arms outwards and above his head. While he was doing this, something miraculous happened: everything ceased to move. All of the noise diminished into silence. I was equally mesmorized by the old man and seeing the others frozen in space. Somehow, the string parted into two. Both of these new strings were vibrating mildly.
Another flash occurred nearby. An ethereal, liquidy presence formed above him. It assumed the shape of a female figure, yet was semi-transparent. I know scientists are not prone to think in such terms, but she appeared to be some type of spirit. She had a beautiful profile and wore a long, dark robe and had a sparkling silver crown upon her head. The old man waved at her; she, in turn, returned a faint smile.
My vision was crystal clear at that moment. I could hear the slow pulsations from my heart. As I exhaled some air, she quickly descended towards me and extended her left hand. It stretched outwards with incredible elasticity. I was reluctant to grab her hand; instead, she grasped my waist and embraced me.
In the interim, the old man flew to another string. In contradistinction to the other one, this string was unraveling into several strands. Once again, he raised his hands above his head. This time, however, I heard him speak. He distinctly repeated the words “Tikkun Olam” a few times. “She came a bit later than usual tonight. What could I do?” The strands merged back together into one unified string. In turn, the nearby d-branes synchronized with the string. This appeared to help stabilize the surrounding environment.
The female phantom released me. She did not say a word. Rather, she took me to various locations in this frozen space. I noticed that in some unknown way, the fragmented space had mended back into a cohesive whole. Then, I looked at the outer dome, surveying it in all directions. Surprisingly, there were no more cracks to be found. In a matter of seconds, the frozen figures thawed out, so to speak. They gently descended down to the ground. I was greatly relieved.
I turned around to share my joy with her. But she was gone. The Shechinah, I was positive it was her, well it seemed that way anyway, had disappeared. I looked upward for the old man. I saw the strings that he had repaired and how that helped to bring calm to this strange little world. This wonderful man, however, also was nowhere to be seen.
Avi ran over to me and gave me a hug. Zvika, Deborah and Shimon were a few feet away from us. I did not see the others.
I was slightly disoriented, but I now realized that I was sitting in front of my computer screen. The imaging software programming was simulating particle movements. Stanley had just approached me.
“Pretty elaborate graphical simulations,” he said.
“I’m trying to figure out where I was.”
“Got lost in your work again, huh?” Stanley looked at me and smiled. I can’t remember the last time he did that.
“You don’t understand. I went somewhere.”
“We all do that from time to time.” As he walked away from my workstation, I continued entering data into the system. More graphical images appeared on the screen. As I watched the graphical movements, I thought I saw the old man’s face. I stood up and started walking out of the room. At that moment, Zvika came in.
“Pretty exhausted, aren’t you?” he asked.
“Disoriented is more like it,” I retorted.
“We all are somewhat. That was a wonderful Shabbat, one I’ll never forget.”
“Of course. The service was wonderful. It was all that craziness afterwards.”
“Well, that’s what happens when you hang out with our Israeli friends.”
“You’ll get used to this place one of these days. It takes time.”
I looked at him, especially his face. He did not appear to be injured, bruised, or in the least bit dishoveled. I could not understand how he could be so disconcerted. "Don’t you have anything more to say about our ordeal?”
“It wasn’t too different from most Shabbat experiences in Jerusalem.”
“Jerusalem?! Are you crazy. We were nowhere near Jerusalem. What are you ...”
Zvika walked away, laughing. He left the room. I went after him. I walked into the hallway, but I did not find him. Instead, I saw an old man staring at me. He smiled and extended his hand. “He looks like ... no, it can’t be”, I thought. I asked him his name. “Not important. Stanley hired me. I’m here to assist you in your research. I want to help you journey into your new worlds.” It was all so confusing at that moment. I didn’t know what to do. Something, however, gave me a sense of calm. At that point, I simply looked at him, took a deep breath, and shook his hand. My greeting was simple and to the point: “Welcome.”