Summary: There is no true measure of time.
Fandom: Chronicles of Narnia
Characters: Lucy, Edmund, Susan, and Peter Pevensie
Original story: Sea Change by twoskeletons and zempasuchil
Notes: With thanks to the betas who shall not be named! See notas bene at the bottom for further thoughts. ETA: My bad, this story actually had two authors, which I didn't realize when I grabbed the pinch. Sorry to the pair of you, and thank you for being into it anyway.
time is like a flow of water, occasionally displaced by a bit of debris
It is not that Lucy does not miss Narnia. Rather, she finds herself drawing two paths in her life, divided as if a fork in a stream: her waking life, where she writes in blue-covered paper books and is quiet and polite and eats her vegetables and smiles at her mother; and her sleeping life, the hours when she is sent to bed, earlier than the others, unable to sleep until Susan is curled soundlessly in the bed beside her, until Edmund has tapped softly on the wall to reassure her that he is there. In her sleeping life, she sinks into memory, the recollection of fifteen years of life lived in a place elsewhere from here. In that life, roused the moment her eyes fall closed, she is exuberant and joyful and filled with passion. In that life, she is everything she is not otherwise.
The days carry on, and she takes little notice of them. It is an easy life she leads, even in the slow-moving revitalization of a country struck bare. She does not worry for food, or water, or things to pass the time. She does not worry for her people, for the nation she helped to build and had only begun to foster. She does not worry for anyone, except herself, and her siblings, and her parents, and that is what makes her waking life so simple and unhindered.
When she closes her eyes, a hundred faces flash before her, names she knows as well as those of her schoolmates, better even. She pulls every bit of worry and every bit of fear into a tiny ball inside her mind, there under the flower-patterned duvet in her father's house in England, and sends it all to Narnia, to the people she has lost forever, to Tumnus, whom she has lost to time.
It is too easy to live in her waking life, and too hard to live in her sleeping life, but she does not know how else to move through what lies ahead. Time betrays her when she closes her eyes, catching on things that have since passed but have never truly gone away.
suppose time is a circle, bending back on itself
"Time is not a line," Edmund insists.
"Then what is it?" asks the professor, and the words choke in Edmund's mouth. It is not that he doesn't have an answer. He has an answer born of knowledge, and experience, the arc of time bending back upon itself to meet in the same place his young feet once trod a thousand years before, in the space of a moment. Edmund has spent hours puzzling over black holes and maths and the curious turn of gravity trying to find a way to say, in the language of these scientific men, what he himself knows with an utter intimacy. It is not to be found.
Perhaps the time of Narnia is not the time of England. Perhaps the paradox is that time does not remain a constant across two worlds. There are more worlds, too, more things in heaven and earth and Narnia, knowledge Edmund sought as he sank himself into the archives of Cair Paravel. He consulted with every learned hermit and every wizened centaur who would speak with him. There are more worlds than grains in a handful of sand, so many that will remain forever unknown to one such as him.
Time cannot be a line. It is infinite, bending, with no true end. It must be possible for time to curve backwards upon itself, for how else could four children return to the very place their adventure had begun as if no time had passed at all? Even his lord Aslan was constrained by the rules of the worlds as they were made. If he bent time, pulled it back to a train platform in London from its original point, it must be in accordance with the very makings of the worlds themselves.
It occurs to Edmund one day, buried in a book his brother had suggested to him, that perhaps he will never be able to reckon these things here, in a place he lives but does not call home. He is still a philosopher-king, he realizes with painful clarity, but he lives in a world where such occupations have disappeared as city fog in tepid sunshine.
if time is an arrow, that arrow points towards order: the future is pattern, organisation, union, intensification
Susan has never been a romantic girl, no matter that she likes pretty things and lovely frocks and pleasant company. She is capable, practical, and can adapt to any situation; she is not romantic.
Of course she misses Narnia, but as she is no longer there it is silly and wasteful to bemoan a life once-lived when there is so much still stretching out before her. It is a second chance, an opportunity to try anew all those things her awkward girl-queen self had been made to learn in front of an eager, watchful kingdom.
She does not begrudge her siblings their grief, and she has shed not a few tears herself. But if she can be plucked from one life (any two boys and any two girls) and tumbled into another, and then again when her fifteen years of sunlight have been granted her; if she has so little control over her own fate, then it serves only to put one foot in front of the other and carry on.
She is a practical girl, Susan, and she will not let the dream-life that once existed on the shores of another world hold her back from experiencing all the joys of this one. Whether she has a bow in hand or not, she nocks an arrow and shoots unerringly straight.
time is visible in all places; it paces forward with exquisite regularity; time is absolute
Peter often wishes for a sword.
It is a silly thing to desire, walking along the green campus of his college with his leather case, a gift from his proud father, dangling idly from his hand. It is filled with books and papers and half-written thoughts, nothing like the heft and weight and certainty of the sword that was once as much a part of him as the scarred tips of his calloused fingers.
But even a sword that was not made for him--made for his strength and his skill and his life royal, even a sword that was a pale shadow of that which slew the wolf-man who would have taken his brother's life--even a sword that glinted dull and lifeless in his hands would be better than none at all.
Peter has no sword, and were he to ask for one it would come to far too many questions. He leads a life that does not require the sweat of his temples, the grip of his hands; only the endless answering of questions, and a certain future shuffling paper from one location to another. It could perhaps be called misery, what he feels when he wishes for his sword, but it has been his companion for so long that he does not even think to name it any longer.
He does well in his classes; a boy such as he was made to succeed. He did not need to work hard, in England, in this college, to fashion of himself someone who would do well in this world. He sees the end result of his efforts here as clearly as he can see the field of battle, green with life soon to become red with blood. The end point is as absolute as the beginning was. But he takes no joy in his lessons, no joy in his work, as he once did as a man nearly in his thirtieth year; a man who had built a kingdom stone by stone, ice-touched mountain by snowy hamlet, into something worthy of his kingship, and his life.
He did not live in Narnia long enough to ensure its survival, and when he wishes for his sword, he couples that desire with the lion-checked hope that his land, his Narnia, carried on to greatness. Once, he thrust his sword into the tall green grass of a meadow unmarked by the blood of his people, and knew the land would be there evermore. He never once considered that one day, he would leave the land.
imagine a world in which there is no time, at all
nb1. The original author referenced Weber and Durkheim's conceptions of time; this remix references the fictional, brilliant novella "Einstein's Dreams" by Alan Lightman. All italicized headers are from that book.
nb2. "But doth suffer a sea-change,/into something rich and strange,", from The Tempest.
nb3. It doesn't matter how many times I read these books, they still break my heart right and left. This is the timeline I use.