"Just what is autism?" Nick asked, as he looked over at Tom Dowling. Jenna could tell he was struggling to regain his composure.
"Well, the symptoms of autism vary from child to child," Tom told him.
"I've heard that they sometimes have special gifts," Nick said.
Tom Dowling nodded. "Yes, some of them do. Nicky was a savant. He had unusual abilities for a boy his age, but he couldn't really concentrate for very long on his studies. He couldn't sit still for more than five minutes. One of the only people he ever spoke to directly was his friend, Robbie. Nicky was always a very nervous child, very hyperactive. He bonded with Robbie Nichols, which can be an unusual attachment for autistic children. But Robbie was a good kid, always paid Nicky a lot of attention."
Jenna made a conscious attempt to smile at Nancy Dowling. She felt sorry for the woman, and more than a bit guilty for dredging up painful memories.
Tom Dowling lit a cigarette and sat back. "Nicky told us he had solved the mysteries of the world, even the mystery of time, space and God." Tom blew the smoke out into the room with an exaggerated sweep of his hand, proudly remembering his son. "And death, too," he added.
"Mysteries of God? Death? Pretty heavy stuff for a child." Nick reached for his coffee and looked into Tom Dowling's eyes over the rim of his cup.
Nancy Dowling leaned in and offered Nick a refill.
"A fancy vanilla brew I picked up in Woodstock this morning," she said.
"Very good brew." Nick extended his cup for more.
"He was just a kid, but the effects of autism probably gave him a different perception on things," Tom continued. "It happens, sometimes. Nicky knew all about formulas and equations. He'd spew this stuff out like he was a professor. Of course, I don't know how accurate he was, but he'd get this glazed look in his eyes and start talking about space and time. He told us that God was a logical entity."
"Yes, because God contained all opposites, such as life and death," Nancy added.
"And those opposites had to be contained somewhere," Tom said. "Nicky told us that the universe is an ongoing spontaneous occurrence of opposites."
Tom seemed lost in the recollection for a moment, but then, he seemed to shrug the memory off. "Oh, he said so many things of that nature."
"How did he explain the mysteries of death?" Laurie eagerly asked.
Jenna wanted to laugh, as if the child really had those answers.
"Well, he defined death as an alternate reality, one that exists in an alternate world. Nicky insisted there were many alternate realities. He explained it as illogical to believe anything that had ever lived could cease to be. He said when you die, you also contain life. All of us are an imprint in time. It has something to do with life containing death and death containing life. It wasn't either – or, it was the same. He tried to explain what he was talking about by using the analogy of turning a light off and on...how the effect of the light remains. He used to tell us that what you see with illumination doesn't alter what you've witnessed when the light is switched off: it's just hidden from your view, momentarily. He said that is and isn't couldn't exist without the other. They both contain the same amount of truth."
"So then, an alternate reality is something we can't see but that makes it no less real, is that what he meant?" Nick asked.
"I suppose so. Nicky told us any one of us could alter what we experience as real. He said people's perceptions change according to revelations." Tom Dowling put a teaspoon of sugar into his cup and stirred it. "Nicky said there were little people behind Robbie's house who came from space. Their spaceship was inhabited by people who were from an alternate reality. They could manipulate perception. Nicky said they were of a different time than ours."
"Really?" Nick said and reached for Jenna's hand. She wanted to squeeze his hand but didn't. She could tell he was actually taking the ramblings of an autistic child as seriously as Einstein's theory of relativity, and it angered her.
"According to our son, the people from this spaceship wanted to take him away with them because he had an ability to understand the perception of time. He could perceive things that were not yet known," Tom said.
"Well, I guess that makes sense." Nick looked at Tom earnestly.
"Oh, really, Nick," Jenna quipped and dropped his hand.
"Nicky told us he could alter a person's experience of what they perceive as fact. He said even death was another form of perception. When a person dies, the body simply sheds itself of some outer layer, and continues on in another form. This form can be seen by others...like the light bulb...existing, but hidden behind the concept of death. He explained God's time as eternally present. For Nicky, anything that is, or once was, is imprinted and captured forever. He said it was illogical to think the light from a bulb isn't hidden behind darkness. He compared death to the invention of electricity, how it was always there, just waiting to be discovered. Nicky said the definition of death is also waiting to be defined and altered. Even God will be understood one day...as a spontaneous occurrence, created in a moment of all things past and present. Nicky said God contains the power of a timeless perception," Tom slowly shook his head. "It's amazing I still remember all that stuff he'd come up with."
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