(The story starts here: http://joel-rees-economics.blogspot.jp/2016/06/econ101-novel-ch000-excuses.html.)
In the previous chapter, Bobbie and Karel start examining and changing their priorities: http://joel-rees-economics.blogspot.jp/2016/06/econ101-novel-ch100-bobbie-karel-priorities.html.
This chapter does not sound like an economic discussion, but it's necessary background. Otherwise, when we start trying to understand the value system in this story for real, we'll get bogged down in details.
Wycliffe grinned wickedly as he put the island behind him.
"Leave them together all by themselves for three days, and let's just see if they haven't gotten together."
Then he turned his attention to the engine. In the process of playing with the mixture, he knew he would have left a lot of unburned carbon on the spark plugs. So after he had cruise speed and altitude, he had to feather the engine a bit, then restart it and run it at high RPM for a few minutes to burn off what he could. The distances involved were close to the plane's limits, and he needed all the fuel efficiency he could get.
If he left the plugs as they were, the engine's fuel efficiency would drop and leave him dangerously low on fuel getting the plane back to the island in the main shipping lanes where he had his cache of fuel.
His cache was on the island where he had told Zedidiah they had set down to work on the engine. It was an island near the main shipping routes which was often used as a picnic spot for travelers with time to spare, and was also used by several of the charter pilots in the islands as a supply cache.
He briefly considered going back and picking them up, and then suggesting they take a picnic on the cache island while they refueled. He could let the engine cool and clean the plugs while they explored the island they were on, and then they could take it slow to the cache island, to improve fuel efficiency.
His grin softened to a smile as he thought of the food he'd left with them. He'd packed some extra candles for a little mood, as well as for light. Then he frowned as a thought that had been nagging him forced its way to the surface.
"No salad. I forgot to pack greens and other vegetables in their food box. Shoot. Another reason to go back and get them now."
It had cost him as much as he would have profited from the trip to set them up with the food and to get the extra fuel for the extra trips, but he thought it would be worth it. Having been jilted by the woman he had thought was the love of his life, he had some hangups about romantic relationships.
He'd been watching Karel and Bobbie for the last four months, and thinking of the woman who had left him. Sure, he had made a casual bet with Zedidiah, but it wasn't really the bet that concerned him. It hadn't been a serious bet, anyway, no money involved, just the deep wish to be able to help someone achieve the happiness he thought he had missed.
They already had something he had never had with Tessa. They trusted each other. They worked together. They had referred to not wanting to have arguments at home, but he had never seen them argue at all. And he know they liked each other.
They must have been planning the research project for at least a year before they came, and he couldn't imagine why they would have kept running away from each other for so long. Being a former Mormon, he thought he understood about eternity, too. Denying each other the happiness he had never been able to obtain was just a crime.
After a minute of running the engine at excessive RPM to heat the plugs, he brought the engine back to a high cruise speed, and the engine's rhythm was feeling good. So he radioed Zedidiah and told him the same story he was planning to tell their professor -- That, having set down on the cache island to look at the engine, they had decided they wanted to take a few days' vacation. And they had enough food in the emergency kit.
Then he set the autopilot, set his alarm, and took a nap.
When the alarm woke him up two hours later, he found that a strong crosswind had been blowing steadily for some time, and had blown him significantly off course. When he got the plane directed back towards his cache island, the wind had shifted more, and he was pushing into a headwind.
Feeling a tightness in his throat, he cut his engine speed back to its most efficient and hoped that the headwind would ease, and that he had cleared the plugs well enough.
With less than an hour remaining to the cache island, he was watching the fuel gauge rather anxiously. The trip really had been too close to the edge of the plane's fuel range.
In reasonably good conditions, it would have been safe enough, but he apparently hadn't been able to get the plugs completely cleared. Combined with the extra distance from being off course, and the headwind he hadn't accounted for, he was in danger of running out of fuel.
Rushing the return trip at first had also been a mistake.
He kept trying to raise Zedidiah on the radio, but for some reason he wasn't getting through.
Then the engine's rhythm became a bit too smooth, and he knew he was running on fumes.
Actually, engines don't run on fumes. The last few ounces of fuel remaining in the fuel lines is not enough to maintain fuel pressure, and engine noise drops as power output drops. Saying "running on fumes" evokes the feeling of the engine's reduced output as it uses the last of the fuel.
When the engine lost power completely, he feathered it, letting the blades turn free to reduce drag. He trimmed flaps and ailerons for all the distance he could get in the last glide and wished for the island to appear on the horizon.
He tried the radio one last time. No answer. So he focused on maintaining his glide for as long as possible and thought about the danger he had put Karel and Bobbie in. It even (finally) occurred to him that making the decision without asking them was, in fact, kidnapping, and might possibly end up contributing to rape.
At twenty feet above the water and no island in sight, he pulled the nose up a bit to slow down before contact. He considered putting the landing gear down for drag, but just concentrated on getting into the water smoothly.
The belly of the plane dipped in the water, and then he was thinking about the dinghy he had left for them to maybe take a joyride in. It would not be enough to get them to to an inhabited island, and that fact worried him. As the plane slowed down and started to sink, he opened the door and jumped out and swam away from it.
He put the plane behind him, thinking that would be the best way to target the island that should be up ahead, removed most of his clothes, and started swimming with a conservative side stroke. (Why did he forget all his emergency training here?)
If he could make the island, there would be supplies, and he would have a chance to contact someone to send after Karel and Bobbie. He'd probably do jail time, but at this point getting them back safely was his first goal.
After the plane sank, he tried to keep track of direction by the sun. It was low in the sky, so he kept it where it had been when he put the plane in the water, just to his left, and kept swimming, shifting from one side, then to his back and then to the other side regularly, to conserve his strength.
While he swam, he worked out the distance in his head. Even with the most hopeful estimates, he was looking at swimming more than twenty hours. But he had no choice.
Finally, he started to pray.
"God, I hope you're out there. It's been a while since I talked to you last."
Stroke, stroke, conserving his energy.
"I've done some bad things. But this time I've really screwed up. Without help, I'm going to die before I can tell anyone where Karel and Bobbie are. I thought I was doing something good for them, but I was wrong."
Breathe even, stroke easy.
"It's my fault that they're in danger, but if I don't get back, who will find them? Please help me make it to the cache."
Face the sky, mouth out of water, stroke, breathe, rest.
When the sun set, he started looking for stars to get his bearings. It took about a half hour for him to find the stars he was looking for, but he did, and he kept swimming.
After about ten hours, he was wishing he had somehow kept a life-preserver vest from the emergency supplies. He wouldn't have been able to swim very well, but maybe he could have been found by a boat or plane within a few days instead. The sky started getting light again, and he checked the sun's position and kept swimming.
About noon, he started losing strength. Thoughts of Bobbie and Karel kept him swimming for maybe an hour longer. Then he just lost consciousness.
Light graying to dark.
There shouldn't be light. He was underwater. He was dead, anyway. There shouldn't be anything.
The light grew, and he looked toward it. He sensed a Presence he did not want to face. There was an invitation in the light, but he knew he could not stand before that Presence.
It was hard to describe the direction of the light in any way but up and ahead.
It was also hard to describe the sweetness in the light, but to a soul embittered by the consciousness of guilt, sweet is too much to take.
In the opposite direction there was a blackness, and a presence he really wanted to avoid. Not so much an invitation from that direction as an imperious command, a seducing influence. "Give it up. You are mine." He tried to shut his mind to it.
Then that seducing, lying voice said, "Your past!"
And he let himself become filled with a desire to go back in time and tell Karel not to trust him, not to get on the plane. Somewhere, he had heard that time in the afterlife was not like time for mortals. Maybe he could do it.
Suddenly, he was on the dirt airstrip on Karel and Bobbie's last island, watching himself load fuel. He ran towards himself, shouting, "No! Don't do it."
Against all reason, he tried getting himself into his own body, but of course that didn't work. His body already had a lower entropy level version of himself in it.
Bobbie and Karel came out onto the strip, pushing their luggage on a cart. He tried to block their way, but, naturally, they just walked right through him as if he weren't there. Shouting, screaming, crying, nothing could got through to the land of the living.
He was in full panic. But when they boarded the plane, he stayed with them, still trying to find a way to communicate.
He stayed with them to the uninhabited island, trying to get their attention and stop them, fighting the fear that he wouldn't be able to.
When he took the plane up for testing, he stayed with himself, first trying to reinforce the second thoughts he knew he was having, trying to get himself to take the plane back to where he had put Karel and Bobbie down, then trying to get himself to work harder at clearing the spark plugs, trying to get himself to set the plane's speed to a more conservative speed, and trying to keep himself awake to deal with the crosswind early.
None of that was any good. There was an entropic wall he couldn't breach.
He suppressed his terror and stayed with himself as the plane went down, watching himself swim, whispering the directions as he watched himself lose them, hopefully watching himself find his bearings again, trying to encourage himself to stay the distance, listening to himself pray, wondering when the angels would show up.
In blackest agony, he watched himself drown. And he watched as his own spirit at the lower entropy level separated from his body, hesitated, and left to try to stop himself.
And he heard a Voice say,
This is not the way to repent.Somewhat surprised that he still existed, he went back to the island in despair and listened to Karel and Bobbie talking in the dark about their plans after they got back to civilization. Bobbie was in the tent and Karel was under a makeshift lean-to formed by lining their luggage up near the tent.
And he felt the irony as he realized, that they were, indeed, talking about getting together. The realization that it was an on-going discussion was bittersweet. He thought he probably could have saved himself a lot of plotting, and avoided the dangers, by just suggesting once more on the flight back that they take a vacation together before they left the islands.
Trying to think of other ways to undo the damage, he thought about trying to contact Zedidiah. And found himself in their office several days before, watching Zedidiah and himself as they mocked how Karel and Bobbie respected each other.
Now he could recognize the irony under the jokes. The regret was bitter, but the new understanding of the mutual respect Bobbie and Karel had was a sweetness he decided he wanted to get used to, if only he weren't dead.
And still, talking, shouting, screaming, whispering, jumping, dancing, nothing he could do got their attention. There seemed to be no way to get Zedidiah to suspect his plans for real, or to get himself to recognize that his plans were so seriously wrong.
Again, he stayed with himself. He stuck with himself all the way to the island where he picked them up to bring them back. He stayed there until he saw a lower entropy version of his own spirit come to try to get their attention and then join them in the return flight that wasn't.
And he heard, again,
There is no way that this is helping anything.Then he went back to the office again, to focus, this time, on getting Zedidiah's attention, with no results. His desperation helped him focus away from the lower entropy version of himself that was focusing on himself.
And again, he heard the Voice.
This is not how you make amends.Trying to contact other friends did not work.
But he kept hearing that Voice.
So he worked backward in time until he found the point where he had consciously given up believing that other people could choose happiness for themselves. It was during his relationship with Tessa, and he saw that his own choice to return to cynicism after being baptized was a major part of the reason she had left him.
And he couldn't contact himself to get himself to give up on cynicism, either.
And then he started repeating his course, trying again where he had already failed, creating an entropic loop because he had tracked onto his own path through the entropic field.
Talk about vicious cycles.
Temporal, or entropic loops are hard to get out of. They tend to amplify the distress, terrors, and passions, and attenuate faith and rationality. Because they involve going back in time, there's no way to count your number of times through the loop. It's recursion with no exit strategy.
The primary effect is a sideways increase in personal entropy, bringing you closer to second death.
Fortunately, that Voice also stays with each person who goes into the cycles of hell. And it stayed with Wycliffe repeating things like --
Trying to change the past is not the way to repent.At some point, having gained significant entropy, equivalent to being through the loop thousands of times, his thought processes lost focus and started becoming random. As he lost the spiritual strength to maintain his mind, he also lost the strength to keep himself tied to the assumptions that had kept the loops closed.
And he tried something different. He went to Australia again, to find a certain police station and try to inform the police there of some petty crimes he had committed. He thought, if he had gone to jail, maybe he wouldn't end up flying charter in the islands, and then he could never have done these terrible things.
It was not a rational thought, and he was in a very dangerous state, but it partially broke the cycle.
And there he saw many other dead people trying to tell the police things. None of them were having any success.
He finally began to doubt the rationality of trying to stop himself after the fact, but he also began to yield to the despair that there was nothing he could do to save himself.
Then something he had learned while studying with the Mormons, about a young man named Alma crying for help from within the pains of hell, moved him to ask God to save him from his own despair. And he found a glimmer of hope.
He recognized one of the dead at the police station as a friend he hadn't talked with in a long time, so he tried to talk to him.
Kevin turned away from the police officer he was trying to hound into re-reading a police report.
"Huh? Wha? Wyck! What are you doing here?"
"I really screwed up. But I was going to ask you."
"Killed my gf."
"That's not good."
"Had an argument while we were out joyriding in the outback."
"We shouldn't have been there. We'd left the baby in the house. And we were arguing about money and other things that don't matter."
"You have a baby?"
"Turned the jeep over, and we didn't have our seatbelts on. She ended up under the rollbar. The girlfriend. Somehow, I rolled the jeep back over and off her, but I couldn't get her back to the hospital in time. Had to call my neighbor from the hospital to go keep an eye on the baby at the house."
"That really sucks."
"So how did you end up dead?"
"Driving trucks on long hauls with no breaks. Had to make money to support my daughter. Bad accident on an empty stretch of dirt highway, load of fruit all over the road. I'm not sure how long I was hanging upside down in the rolled-over cab before I died."
"What are you doing now?"
"I'm trying to get the police to take the wife abuse reports more seriously, so I'll be in jail before we have that last argument."
"Do you ever hear a voice telling you that time travel is not a substitute for repentance or something like that? I have, and I've been ignoring it, but I think I'm beginning to understand."
Kevin thought for several moments, or it might have been an eternity.
"Uh, huh? Now that you mention it, yeah. I've been ignoring that voice, so I haven't really heard it, but the voice has been there. What does it mean?"
"Maybe it means we should quit trying to change the past."
"But it's not really past is it?" There was a pleading in the thought.
Now Wycliffe had to think. "Well, maybe, but we'd have to rewind the whole world. So, once the future is chosen, it's chosen, really."
"No, we have a choice, once. Jut once. That once moves forward, and if we don't move forward with it, then we have no more choice. How do I understand this now?"
We're telling you."Who are you?" Kevin asked, as Wycliffe looked towards the voices, astonished.
"I'm Wycliffe's grandfather, and also your grandfather's friend. My name is Greg."
"I'm Georgianna, Wycliffe's grandmother. We've accepted the good news, and we're your angels on call right at the moment."
"Are you the ones that keep telling me to repent?" Wycliffe asked.
"No, that's the voice of the Master, Himself."
"That's right. God Is Your Help." Georgianna smiled. "So, Wycliffe, you know why Kevin is here, why don't you tell him why you are here?"
"Well, I've been sort of not getting over breaking up with Tessa."
Kevin look startled.
"Tessa was a girl I used to date. I thought she was going to agree to marry me, but then she ran away. Said I wasn't passionate enough for her or something."
"Oh, ... really?"
"Since then, I've been, well, had been doing charter flights on some islands with a Zealander named Zedidiah, and I met this couple that I thought needed a little push to get romantic."
"They liked each other. But they weren't into romance. So I thought I should make sure they had an opportunity to get romantic. I effectively kidnapped them and left them on a desert island to seduce each other."
"Yep. For all I know, they're dead now, too. So I'm a rapist by proxy, and a murderer."
"I thought my case was bad. But, you said, 'Tessa'?"
"That's my girlfriend's name."
Greg spoke up. "We know where she is. Would you two care to visit her? She needs some cheering up."
Kevin shook himself negatively. "No way could I see her."
It was Wycliffe who asked, "Why? I'd say you should ask her to forgive you. And I'd like to clear some things up, too."
"I can't face that."
"It's hard. I know I'm going to have to ask Bobbie and Karel to forgive me."
"Bobbie and Karel are okay. Let's take care of first things first," said Georgianna.
"I'm with you," said Wycliffe to his grandparents.
And Kevin thought for a moment and said, "I guess I should come, too."
And they found themselves in a white place with many people dressed in white. And they looked at themselves and realized they were still clothed in the unclean thoughts they had brought with them. The angels suggested they change their thoughts, which they did, setting aside the negatives and the terrors, and then they were also dressed in white.
Greg spoke to one of those spirits there, and he called out to someone who called out to someone, and soon they saw Tessa looking at them. Tessa would not join them, so Georgianna asked if she'd let them go there so they could talk. She concurred without speaking.
Wycliffe said, "Hi, Tessa."
She turned away.
"Tessa, look. I forgive you now, even if I hadn't before now."
"How dare you?"
"People do stupid things, like admitting they've been offended. Can you forgive me?"
"Emotionally hanging on too long, I think. Are you offended that I kidnapped Bobbie and Karel?"
"I don't know about that."
So Wycliffe rehearsed the events that had lead him out of the mortal world.
"And I thought you weren't passionate enough. It sounds so romantic!"
"I don't think it's romantic for them any more."
"Okay. So I was blind to your romantic side for too long. I guess you can forgive me for that." And she thought for a few eternal moments more. "And I guess I forgive you for not being able to make me see you as you are until I had gone too far away."
At this point, Kevin said, "Man, now, I feel like a third wheel."
And Tessa, turning her attention to him, said, "No. You and I have a child. We have to be her angels now. I've been trying to understand how we could do that, but now I see. And I forgive you, too, if you can forgive me for the emotional abuse I put on you."
"Uhm, killing you is worse than emotional abuse?"
"Sure, but I assume you've been through your hell. I've been through mine. We've lost a lot, and we have much more to do, but God is able to save us. Sin is sin. It's time to move on."
They were all silent for another moment in eternity, thinking how words could give one hope in the impossible, and then Greg said, "Kevin, Tessa, Someone would like to talk with the two of you." And Kevin and Tessa went to talk with God.
Georgianna said, "I think you were saying, ..."
"Bobbie and Karel."
"You've done part of your recompense, but it isn't quite time for talking with them, yet. Are you ready to talk with your Savior?"
"I guess, maybe."
Greg said, "Let's let Tessa and Kevin finish their interview. In the meantime, I think you need a review about the meaning of eternity."
And Wycliffe listened carefully as they helped him recall his lessons from before he was born, about the nature of spirits and the nature of the mortal world, and the nature of the post-mortal existence. Then it was his turn to talk with the Master.
And then Georgianna and Greg took him back to the island where Bob and Karel were waking up from the first night alone.
"I'm on my own here?" Wycliffe had received certain instructions during his interview, and was still not completely comfortable with his understanding of them.
"Do you have a partner?" asked Georgianna.
"I guess not. But I just watch them?"
Greg reassured him: "You'll know how to help them without taking away their right to choose now."
"And when things are going okay here, I go help the searchers to not look here?"
"Among other things."
"And this is part of how I make amends?"
"That's right." Greg answered. "You started things the wrong way. But if you had started things the right way, God still intended to give them an opportunity to be on this island by themselves."
Georgianna added, "It'll be their choice to forgive you, but I think they'll see their way to that."
"Just out of curiosity," Wycliffe hesitated and then continued, "Does anyone ever do something like this deliberately, so they can take on the job of watching over someone?"
Georgianna sighed. "Yes, sometimes people try such things, but it does not end well at all. Leaves a real mess for all the angels to clean up. You did not do this knowing what you were doing, so you don't face that mess."
"Okay. So I'm on the job. And if I need help, ...?"
"Pray, of course." Georgianna nodded.
And they were gone.
Wycliffe took a tour of the island while Bobbie and Karel got up and tried to figure out how to start a day without any of the things they usually used to start their days. He found there were lots of things about the island he had not known.
Fortunately, time in the post-mortal world flows differently from time in the mortal world, and he was finished with his tour before they had started putting breakfast together.
Then he settled down to watching over them.
And it's time for us to return to their story, too: http://joel-rees-economics.blogspot.jp/2016/06/econ101-novel-ch120-tentative-exploration.html.
The table of contents can be found here:
[JMR20160614: The initial (rough) draft of this chapter is here: http://free-is-not-free.blogspot.com/2016/03/economics-101-novel-ch11-wycliffe.html.]