You are seeing fragments, some of which are not consistent with others. But slight progress is being made.
“I checked. Your world and mine have the same essay. Yours is hard to find. Ours is the most read book in the world. Cloud and Comet and all the guys, they’ve already memorized bits in second and fourth and sixth grade; they’ll read it in ninth and twelfth grade, and likely twice again in college. My mom made me read it in Latin, well, she said I should. And I’ve always trusted her completely. So I did. After I learned Latin. I read it a month before we left each other. So I have a community. It’s only Cicero is dead, so he can’t answer my questions, so I have to figure out myself what he meant.” She turned her attention to the meal.
Far later, main courses having been followed by apple pie and ice cream, Pickering began a fresh question. “That leads me to my other inquiry, the one I’d hesitated to ask before, hesitating until the opportunity seemed lost. You once mentioned the Great Maze, where past and future may be woven and rewoven. Where is it?”
“You want to see the Great Maze? It’s not far at all, allowing it’s where it belongs, here in your world. But why?”she asked.
“Eclipse, I don’t want to see the Great Maze. Comet explained its rules. I want to walk the Maze, understanding that failure and death are one and the same there.” Pickering sounded totally serious.
“Walk the Great Maze? You? It tests people relative to their limits. I guess with its rules you’d have the same chance as anyone else. Not very good. I wouldn’t dare try it,”she said.
“I do not ask you to go for me. I’m asking you where it is, so I can get there myself. There’s something I need to correct,”he explained. “Something I can’t correct here, for all my genius, my scientific pre-eminence, my untold millions, Telzey’s computational skills. Something in the past, done forever, locked away by the passage of time.”
“It’s not quite suicide to try the Maze. It’s been done. Not by a human being, not that I know. If you really want to go, I’ll take you. Tomorrow morning. It’s not much out of my way. And that Maze lets people back out, if they want to turn and run. So if you find it’s insoluble, I’ll just bring you home again.”
“Agreed. What should I wear? Armor? A space-suit?”inquired Pickering.
“Its puzzles are mental, not physical. Whatever gives you confidence. But why?”she asked.
“Let us say that Telzey’s image is that of a real person. One who kept to her original course.”
“Oh. Got it” Grownup romantic silliness, she thought. But what was wrong with Telzey, whatever her name really was, that she didn’t like Pickering? He had to be one of the nicest people she had ever met. Perhaps her guess was completely misplaced. Perhaps Telzey had met someone else first. Or was his judgement that bad?
He looked wistfully into the trees, no longer seeing his own breakfast room. Eclipse decided that she did not want to see a sad Pickering face to face.
“I’ll take you. I owe you more than that. I wish you wouldn’t. I’ll, I’ll be sad to remember you, if you fail. One thing: it lets you back away. You can quit and turn around,”she repeated.
“Eclipse, there is no more wonderful thing that you can ever do for me. Unless I mistake what I see, though, it is far past your bedtime.”