It seemed unlikely we’d reach Kamchatka that evening: the vehicle was a battered aluminum four-seat motorboat lined with untidy tangles of nylon rope. Maquinna untied the boat and we powered out at moderate speed to the mouth of the fjord. The air was damp and chilly, and I closed the collar of my coat to keep warm. Leaving for the open ocean, there was more human activity than I imagined. There were fish farms, and a hangar for floatplanes. Helicopters were working after dark, snatching logs from the mountains and dropping them in the water.
As we approached the Broken Islands group, Maquinna powered down, and we sailed cautiously through jagged islets whose visible outlines were softened by mist. One of the more substantial outcroppings had adequate surface to maintain grass and an emaciated, windswept pine. The tree was like a bonsai. The island was scattered with driftwood. Maquinna shone a spotlight and gestured to a log.
“Do you see it?”
“No you don’t. I want you to really look.”
It was then I noticed it was not a log, but the elegant bow of a dugout canoe, snapped off and bleached by the sun.
“That was carved more than a hundred and twenty years ago, in a country you and I will never know, by someone who talked to someone I knew, and now I’m talking to you. The past, present, and future occur simultaneously. Yet when we reach out to another time, it’s like touching through a curtain. So now we must end linear consciousness.”
He then said a few words in a language I didn’t recognize, and in an instant there was absolute silence, as if we had entered a vacuum. Then an unnatural sound rose gradually, like the recording of a cymbal played backward, slowed down hundreds of times. For a moment it felt as if I might locate my mind in a place distinct from my brain. When I regained equilibrium, the stars seemed to streak across the sky, and I looked at Maquinna.
“Do you know the day on which you will die?” he asked.
“If you did, you would be immortal.”
“I brought some tea in my thermos. Will you have any?”
“No, thank you.”
“How are you feeling?”
“I’m fine. When do we leave?”
“We have already left.”