TO BE STANDING HERE, staring through this window, after all the impossibly hard times—after all the pain, and depression, and loss—to be standing here, looking past his own reflection, at his newborn daughter, Pam's daughter, was reason enough.
Junior allowed himself another deep sigh, felt the tears on his face, running down past his grin. It was all so perfectly...
He broadened his focus again, even broader than before.
He was life, now: at least all the life on Earth. Gaia, some humans called it. A single, living, system: as unified in its way as a human body.
Human cells lived and died, but the person lived on. It was no different for a species as a whole. Even species lived and died, but the entire system lived on without them.
He dipped downward again, flexing a finger, and focused on a beaver, chewing at the base of a sapling.
He flicked his attention back and forth, becoming first the beaver chewing, then the sapling, being chewed—just as he had alternated between his thumb and finger.
He moved into the sapling's roots, out to the end, making his focus narrower and narrower, until he was part of a root cell, a single molecule, reacting to another in the surrounding soil.
He flicked his attention again, between the two molecules, one a part of a living sapling, the other completely lifeless by human standards.
The difference was not so great between them—a matter of relationship, really, or kind of relationship, to a larger whole.
He expanded his consciousness again, starting with the molecule in the soil, until he was all of earth, not just the living system.
He was rocks and volcanoes and oceans and glaciers, as well as trees and ducks and farmers and cats. Clouds as well as viruses.
He was molecules and mountains, wind and whales.
He was Earth.
And immediately he sensed that he could focus smaller or larger than any of these, infinitely in either direction.
He could be a photon or a solar system, a quark or a galaxy, he could be a string or a universe—and that was only the beginning.
He could focus backwards before the big bang, or forwards after the collapse of this universe, or he could simply expand, until he included it all, until he was...
But something held him back.
A sense of something undone—unfinished.
He hadn't completed Norm's story. He hadn't yet finished being Norm.
He focused downward again. Narrowing his attention to that part of him which was life.
To the part of life that was mammalian.
To the part that was human.
To Norm's family and friends.
To Norm's family.
To the moment he had broadened his focus before. To the flashing lights, the cold night air, the smell of the oxygen mask.
The paramedic looked almost as worried as Daniel and Janine.