But first he has a most important business trip that will not wait. He packs the book to read it on the plane. Once in the air, he settles down and gets as far as a familiar birthday party and a blonde on a white horse, when a strong call of nature causes him put it down. When he returns to take it up again, the book has gone. He asks passengers in the adjoining seats. No one has seen the going of it. With their permission,s the stewards search for it, examining the travel bags of those sitting nearby. It can't be found. He spends the next week or so in a forlorn attempt to track down another copy. He visits shops and libraries, but no one has heard of the book, so he decides to place an advert in a local paper.
At first he thinks they've printed his text twice over. But not so, he soon comes to realise that a man from a near-by town has placed an advert much the same as his. This other man also was visited by a blonde equestrienne at his twenty-fifth birthday party, was given a book - the same book - and he too, was tempted into reading the final pages early on; he also read to the same point of the book, only to discover that the book had gone missing; he too, came to the same views and found himself asking the same questions as our hero. It follows, thinks the first reader, that until now our lives have run on identical lines, not just mine and the author, but, it seems, mine and his and this other reader also. Probably our two deaths will be as his - in an industrial micro-wave oven. But what I - we, probably - need to know more than anything, is how our lives will run from now until then. Oh, to find another copy of that book!
He feels himself paralyzed, unable to make life decisions until he knows what comes next in the book. Just one idea he has: he'll ring the man who placed the other advert... he'll say he's found the man's book, and would he like to come to lunch to pick it up? This other man, he thinks, might be the key that will unlock the mystery. The conversation does not go as he had planned and he does not use his I've-got-your-book ruse, but never-the-less they chat for ages on the 'phone, exchanging confidences such as ordinarily he would never have exchanged with anyone, never mind a stranger. But then the thought occurs: are they, in fact strangers? It would seem that not only is he, our hero, one and the same person as the book's author, but that so is this second reader of the book. Furthermore, the author having written of his own death, must be someone other than the author. Logically, he cannot be himself. Can one person in some way be two people? Three? Four?
Our hero begins to reason with himself: this is a situation which is clearly impossible - and yet it just as clearly is so. How should the intelligent human being - which I am - deal with such a logical absurdity? Let us call it a singularity, like one of those that exist in black holes in which the normal laws are in abeyance. How does a man's intelligence deal with that? Obviously, he cannot invoke the supernatural... but even as he says that to himself, he finds himself asking: why not? However, before he can begin to answer that last question, he is struck by an even more beautiful idea: the world is a fabulous place in which everything imaginable - and much that is not - is potentially possible. Correction: anything is possible, but not everything. Not all at once. The world is limited only by what the size of the human intellect can allow. So, there was a time when magic and when miracles were possible. Were part of the fabric of the place, in fact. They could strut their stuff with no one saying no. But then it would have been impossible to think the world had four - or more - dimensions. But we can say that now. The brain says yes to all that it can process and says no to all the rest.
That being so, there must come times when we are living on the cusp, when other things are breaking through, but are not quite in place. If not, from where does poetry and music come? All learning, for that matter? And on the cusp are possibilities of slips, of outlaws getting through the brains defenses. There must come times when an event, though banned, gets through and happens out of time. The brain, once having given permission for a photon or an electron to exist in two places at the same time, fails to stop the likes of me from doing the same thing. So let's suppose that I have bi-located. I can exist in one place as this Reader 1 and somewhere else as Reader 2. The problem now is that I am not aware of my other self. Why not? That surely could only happen if we lived identical existences.