And when you walk around the world, babe,
You said you’d try to look for the end of the road,
You might find out later that the road’ll end in Detroit,
Honey, the road’ll even end in Kathmandu.
You can go all around the world
Trying to find something to do with your life, baby,
When you only gotta do one thing well,
You only gotta do one thing well to make it in this world, babe.
You got a woman waiting for you there,
All you ever gotta do is be a good man one time to one woman
And that’ll be the end of the road, babe,
I know you got more tears to share, babe,
So come on, come on, come on, come on, come on,
And cry, cry baby, cry baby, cry baby.
-from Cry Baby
written by Bert Berns and Jerry Ragovoy (1963)
covered by Janis Joplin (1971)
He never thought he’d fall in love again. After all, he had died who knows how long ago subjectively? He was a spark in the process of returning to the Creator, but having become disconnected from timespace, he could go anywhere, to any point in history, to other quantum realities, so he could correct what Raven called “anomalies.”
The multiverse was created by the all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful being most people call God. However, God chose to make human beings both sentient and possessing free will, while maintaining His sovereignty over all existence. In other words, only people have the ability to say “no” to God.
That’s not the contradiction is seems to be, since all timelines ultimately come from the Source and return back to the Source in the end, regardless of how they “stray.”
However, sometimes free will decisions create inconsistencies in the paths of the infinite number of timespace strings, and someone needs to “fix” them. It’s what Raven, who may be the closest thing to an angel he’ll ever meet, calls “Tikkun Olam.” It literally means “repairing the world.”
So Jonathan Cypher steps from one quantum reality to the next, entering people’s lives, making decisions about events and existence only he can make, and then moves on. It’s why he is also called “The Never Man.” He’s a person who can’t exist and as far as all of those quantum realities are concerned, has never existed.
But even a Divine spark needs some down time, and he has all of existence to choose from.
He met Carrie Gardner on a staircase at Olive View Hospital in L.A. on Tuesday, February 9, 1971 at 6:01 a.m. Jonathan knew the exact time because that’s when the devastating San Fernando Earthquake occurred, killing 64 people and injuring 2,000. She would have been number 65, but in the instant the staircase began to collapse, he stepped through a doorway that doesn’t exist, grabbed her, and stepped back out again.
She was a maternity ward nurse. She loves children, which was especially tragic since she couldn’t have any of her own.
Thirty-two years old, divorced, devoted to her work, favorite singer is Janis Joplin, and favorite group is Jim Morrison and the Doors. She rides a motorcycle, visits her mother in Bakersfield once every couple of weeks, and loves boxing. Her hair is honeysuckle blond.
She woke up outside not remembering how she got there. But since she was a nurse, she spent the next twelve hours helping first responders and then rescuers get as many victims as possible out of danger and into recovery.
“Who are you?”
Carrie had just finished her shift and was taking the stairs down to the lobby rather than the elevator because she enjoyed the exercise. Then the world tried to tear itself apart, and as she saw steel and concrete, bend, twist, and disintegrate around her, she thought she was going to die. Then he was suddenly there.
“Who are you?”
It was all she had time to say before she blacked out.
No one saw them appear around a corner in space that didn’t exist. He laid her down on the grass in an open area and waited a moment.
Then he looked down on her and smiled tenderly. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
“I’m surprised you remember me. You only saw me for a couple of seconds.”
“How could I forget the man who saved my life?”
He told himself he just wanted to make sure she was alright. Of course, he could have just watched her. Jonathan can visit a quantum reality by walking through a metaphysical doorway no one else in the universe can access, but he can also watch the same realities through a window. It’s not like looking exactly, more like being an invisible, intangible hologram. Eat your heart out, H.G. Wells.
Raven knew he was lying to himself, but she didn’t say anything. He was a little surprised at that, because he was becoming personally involved. He’d never done that before and he thought it would probably be against the rules.
Their first date was watching Evel Knievel set the world record by jumping his motorcycle over 19 cars in Ontario, California. It wasn’t the sort of thing he really cared about, but she loved it.
“How did we get out of the stairwell?”
They’d stopped off at a little ice cream shop after the show. He was wondering if she’d ever ask him that question.
“It was a miracle.”
“I saw the damage afterward. I can’t see how we made it, especially with you carrying me all the way.”
“I’m stronger than I look.”
“You’d have to be the Incredible Hulk to do what you did.”
“Are you complaining?”
“No, I’m asking.”
“Does it matter?”
“It shouldn’t, but I can’t let it go. I’m sorry. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, and it’s not like we know each other very well, but there’s something about you; about the whole thing. Why can’t you just answer me.”
“Because you wouldn’t believe me.”
“I don’t think I should.”
From her point of view, he was an ordinary man. He chose to look somewhere between thirty and thirty-five years old, a little over average height, medium complexion, brown hair, hazel eyes, reasonably fit but not Mr. Muscle Beach. He decided to drive a 1970 yellow Ford Mustang just because. He could appear in a reality as anyone, and could probably do anything, including conjuring up a car, and editing various records so he had a valid drivers license and auto registration. Cash came from a number of sources including bank fires and caches set up by drug lords. The money was either assumed lost or would never be reported missing.
“You’re already a mystery man. Traveling consultant for an international auditing firm I’ve never heard of, you rent because you’re never in one place long enough to make buying a home feasible, widowed, no children, no family, no attachments. Why did you even ask me out, I mean besides the obvious?”
“Why did you say yes?”
“First of all, I was surprised when you looked me up. Then I realized everything about my still being alive made no sense. I wasn’t injured the quake, so how come I was found unconscious fifteen minutes after the stairwell collapsed and hundreds of yards from the hospital? How come you didn’t stay to make sure I was okay?”
“I knew you would be.”
“How? Are you a doctor?”
“You know I’m not.”
“Then who are you?”
He wanted to answer her, but it wouldn’t make any sense to her. He was who Raven said he was. His original identity was irrelevant. His name was Jonathan David Cypher, and he was no longer a man. He walked the corridors between space and time, entering each quantum universe one life at a time, saving a woman from dying in an earthquake, whispering words of encouragement in the ear of a little boy who would then grow up to lead his nation to freedom, being whoever he needed to be in some place, some world, in some small or great way, that would then have a profound or anonymous effect on everything that happened afterward.
He’d lost count of the times he’d heard his legend whispered by the thousands upon thousands across the long centuries in uncounted worlds, the legend of The Never Man.
“If what you know about me so far isn’t enough, then maybe we should just part ways.”
“I didn’t mean it like that, Jonathan. It’s not like we’re getting married, so you don’t owe me your life story.”
“That’s not how it feels.”
“I just want to know about that part of my life story where you saved me.”
“You’re right. Answering that question means telling you who I am.”
“Are you going to?”
“Maybe on our second date.”
She laughed so hard, she smeared ripple fudge all over her lips.
He showed up at her little canyon bungalow just before noon. It was a Friday and she said she’d go out with him on their second date.
“Where’s your car?”
“We won’t need it.”
“Hey, I said date, not hop in bed.”
“I didn’t mean that either.”
“Am I driving then? Wait. How did you get here if you don’t have your car?”
“Can I come in?”
Carrie stepped back and opened the door wide.
“I didn’t know how to dress since you didn’t tell me where we’re going.”
“What you have on is fine, but you might want to bring a jacket.”
“It’s supposed to be 70 degrees today.”
“Not where we’re going.”
“I’ve got two tickets to the Led Zeppelin concert.”
“I didn’t know they were playing here, but aren’t you a little early?”
“You wanted to know who I am. I’m going to show you.”
“And taking me to a concert will do that.”
“The concert is in Belfast and it starts in an hour.”
“Ireland? Even if we took a Concorde, we’d never get there in time.”
“It won’t take any time at all, but you have to trust me.”
“I don’t even know you.”
“Do you want to? If you do, there’s no turning back.”
“But it’s impossible.”
“So was saving your life.”
She regarded at him. If it were anyone else, she’d think he was playing some sort of stupid joke. There was something about him, though, a haunted look in his eyes as if he’d seen things no one else ever had. He hadn’t kissed her after their last date; hadn’t even tried to hold her hand. He just enjoyed her company.
“Okay. I trust you.”
“Put on your jacket.”
Three minutes later he took her by her hand. “This will seem a little weird.”
He walked around a corner that didn’t exist and pulled her with him. The concert was fabulous. It was Zeppelin’s first public performance of “Stairway to Heaven.”
“I never thought it would get old, but I can’t live like this.”
“I know. It was unfair of me to ask so much of you.”
He’d never taken her into the future, but there was so much about the past to explore and enjoy together. Of course, even in her present, there was the Frazier-Ali fight in Madison Square Garden, and being in the audience for the final live episode of “The Ed Sullivan Show,” but then there were the other times. They attended the dedication of Mount Rushmore on October 1, 1925 on their fifth date, and for the sixth, they watched the San Francisco Giants beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 8–0 at San Francisco’s Seals Stadium, in the first Major League Baseball regular season game ever played in California. That was on April 15, 1958.
He showed her a world no one else could experience, and for a while, it was enough.
“You’ve been wonderful, incredible, and not because we just came back from the 1946 Turin Grand Prix. After I divorced Jeff, I never thought I’d fall in love again.”
“I know. I didn’t think I would either. I wasn’t sure I even could.”
“I’m the one who’s being unfair, but I can’t have just part of you.”
“I can’t be anyone or anything else than who I am.”
“You deserve someone who can make you the center of his universe.”
“I don’t think I’ll ever love a man like I love you, Jonny. Please don’t be mad at me. I don’t belong in your world.”
“You’ll get along fine without me. I promise.”
“If anyone else said that to me, I’d tell them they couldn’t possibly know that for sure, but you do, don’t you?”
“No. I deliberately haven’t looked.”
“I would have.”
“I don’t even know why I saved your life. I just know it was important.”
“To history and reality?”
They were standing in her living room again. It was a Thursday. It was over. Maybe it should never have begun, but the time they’d been together had been happy.
Jonathan and Carrie kissed one last time.
Then he turned and walked toward the front door. He didn’t bother opening it. The car, the money, the clothes, everything that belonged in her world was already gone, and in fact, it had never existed. Then he turned a corner that bent in an impossible direction and he was gone too.
She cried herself to sleep that night and on a few others. A year later, she’d save the life of a newborn little girl who would grow up to be an influential Gospel singer and civil rights activist. Because of her, thirty years later, a riot that would have killed 64, injured 1,500, and burned half of Los Angeles to the ground never occurred.
Carrie got married to Phil on April 24, 1976. They adopted three children, and then she gave birth to a son. They were all very happy together. Jonathan peeks into their reality from time to time but never says “Hello.” She named her little boy after him.
The last time I saw Richard was Detroit in ’68
And he told me all romantics meet the same fate someday
Cynical and drunk and boring someone in some dark café
You laugh he said you think you’re immune
Go look at your eyes they’re full of moon
You like roses and kisses and pretty men to tell you
All those pretty lies pretty lies
When you gonna realize they’re only pretty lies
Only pretty lies just pretty lies.
-from “The Last Time I Saw Richard”
written and performed by Joni Mitchell (1971)
I wrote this for Music Challenge #28: “Cry Pretty” by Carrie Underwood #musicchallenge #amwriting #MLMM hosted at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie. The idea today is to take Carrie Underwood’s song “Cry Pretty” and use it as the inspiration for crafting a poem, short story, or other creative work.
I cheated. I didn’t watch the YouTube video of her performance and only scanned the lyrics. I did however, start to think about “Cry Baby,” which has been covered by a number of performers, but never so wonderfully than by Janis Joplin.
For some reason, the lyrics reminded me of Mitchell’s “The Last Time I Saw Richard.” Both covers were recorded in 1971, so I decided to set my story in that year. That means time travel, and in this case, it means another Jonathan Cypher story. The best explanation of who and what Jonathan is can be found HERE.
I surprised myself by only mentioning Raven, but not actually putting her in this tale.
What would happen if an immortal soul, disconnected from time and space, fell in love with someone he was supposed to save? How would she feel if she knew the truth of his existence? In my imagination, they’d have a wonderful relationship for a time, but eventually, she’d long for a more “normal” life with someone who could be devoted to her rather than be scattered across the infinity of the multiverse.
Sorry if this story seems disjointed. I was literally making it up as I went along.
6 thoughts on “Walking to the End of My World”
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Fascinating story. The Never Man is an interesting concept. He plays a vital part in this woman’s life despite the relationship not being permanent. I enjoyed reading this a lot. Thanks for participating 🙂
You’re welcome. Jonathan Cypher is a concept that’s been running around in my brain for years, and I’ve finally started writing stories based on his and Raven’s characters (the links to two of them are in the postscript of this story). I’ve even submitted a variation to his story for possible publication, so we’ll see if anyone “bites”. So far of the ten or so stories I’ve submitted to various anthologies and periodicals, two have been rejected with none accepted yet.
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Yeah, it’s really hard competition with magazines etc. And sometimes these things are so subjective. Keep trying. I love your stories. Your details and writing are excellent 🙂 Best of luck, I hope one of your pieces does get published on this! 🤞
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