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“The more information contained in a symbol, the more vague it becomes.”
After an eternity he heard someone call out his name.
But he wasn’t ready he to leave the peace he felt or the silence he drifted in.
Ignorance was bliss.  He didn’t want to know who called his name.  He was tired.  He didn’t want to think anymore.  He just wanted to be.
Carl wanted to cry out for the voice to stop.  To leave him alone.  To let his soul rest.
“If that’s what you wish, Carl...”
Yes that’s what he wanted!  Why would he go back to hardship and pain and...
“But what about...”
Tom!  The thought caught him off guard and was enough to jolt him back to consciousness.
He opened his eyes...
And for a moment thought he was blind. 
But instead of darkness, all he saw was Light.
Until he turned around...
There was a shadow approaching him, blurry at first but getting sharper with each step. 
And as it got closer the features became visible and familiar...
            Jacob, who had finally come into focus, nodded.
            “Congratulations Carl, once again you have eluded Death.”  Jacob shook his head. “Though you did have me worried—for a moment there, I thought you had given up.”
“I almost did,” Carl realized.  “But...”
“But Tom needs you,” Jacob finished for him.  
 There was a time in which neither of them said anything.  Then Jacob went on, “This Universe has always underestimated you two.  Let’s see if you can do it again... or rather, for the last time.”
“What’s that suppose to mean?”  Carl demanded, more than a little shaken from his recent “ordeal.”
“It’s time you learned that...”
“Wait,” Carl broke in, staring at Jacob in disbelief.  “That’s all?  I just died and left behind a family who are probably grieving over me this very second!  Am I supposed to forget?  Pretend that didn’t happen?” 
Jacob’s expression was neutral.  “The only way to cheat Death, Carl, is to die.”  Then he sighed.  “You made a choice.  You had your chance to stay in that world but you refused.  Are you having second thoughts?  I hope not.  I thought you understood, there’s no turning back.”
Carl forced himself to calm down.
“What do I have to do?” he asked finally, after his own personal struggle was over.
“Regain your memories,” Jacob replied simply.  “Over a thousand years of history...”
“A thousand years!”  Carl exclaimed.  “That’ll take forever!” 
Jacob gave him a look.  “What do you think we have?”
“But... but...”
“Relax Carl,” Jacob broke through.  “Time is different here.  This won’t be easy but it is doable.  And after that...” 
Jacob shook his head.  “First, you need to remember why saving Tom is so important to you.”
Carl fell silent.    
There had to be a reason, he thought. 
Was it... love?
Was this what love was?
Or was there more to it than that?
“Come, let’s find out...”  And the expression on Jacob’s face was kinder than any Carl had seen so far.
Carl reached for Jacob and was surprised—and more than a little disoriented—when he fell through him instead.
His confusion must have shown on his face because Jacob just shook his head again.
“Consider us ghosts, Carl.  You have left behind your mortal shell.  And with it you have broken every tie to that realm as well.  It’s time to move on.” 
“But how can we revisit the past between Tom and me?”  Carl asks, a bit uneasy.
“Who says we’re limiting our search to the past?”  Jacob says lightly.
Carl was more lost than ever.  “What?!  But...the future... how?”
“I already told you that time here is different.  In fact, as far as we’re concerned, it’s nonexistent.” 
“So what do we have to do?”  Carl blinked, it sounded different from the first time he said it because... 
“Yes, there is a ‘we.’  I won’t make you do this alone.  That’s what I’m here for.  That’s my reason for existence.” 
“But how did you...”
“...come to be?”  Jacob finished for him. 
He looked thoughtful for a moment.  Then...  “Both you and Tom have been here at one time or another...more than that actually.  Much more.  And it shouldn’t be possible that you are here, Carl.”  
Jacob sighed after that, not looking at Carl for a moment.  But when he finally glanced up, he met Carl’s eyes with an expression Carl couldn’t place.  “Humans are not allowed here, cannot survive here—that’s an understatement actually—even you, Carl, will fade away forever if you let so.  That’s why I was created—a being that could survive here.  You made me for this purpose.”
“But...how?”  Carl asked incredulously.
  Jacob seemed thoughtful, as if he himself didn’t know the answer.  “I’m not sure who started it,” he began slowly.  “If it was Tom or you or both—just like I cannot pinpoint the beginning of time—all I remember is this: I was needed.  And that Will took on a Life of Its own...”
Jacob cleared his throat.  “With me at your side you have access to any timeline or dimension.  Any event—past, present, or future—is within reach.”
He shook his head.  “But that’s enough for now.  Now we have work to do...”
 “I thought you said we had all of time,” Carl pointed out. 
Jacob smiled indulgently, “All the same, let’s get started.  Shall we?”
Carl nodded once slowly, then again with more enthusiasm.  “All right, how do we save Tom?” 
“We need to find out where in Time his essence currently resides.”  Jacob stated simply.
Carl blinked.  “Excuse me?”
“Well, that’s not quite accurate.  We need to find where most of his essence is...  You see,” Jacob went on, “We all exist at the same ‘Time,’ all of the Time, because that’s all there is.  The One is everything and everything is the One.  And we are most certainly part of the One.  Do you understand?”
Carl shook his head, “no.”
Jacob looked thoughtful for a moment then, “Ok... how about we focus in on Time itself.  First, let’s think of Time as a rope.  A rope is made up of many different and smaller strands, am I correct?”
Carl nodded, “So far...”
“Okay, well, if each person is a string, then think of a knot holding the rope together as an interaction between two or more people.  Now, the bigger the knots are, the more people involved and the stronger the rope is bound together.  So is life.  It could be a sad or happy event, but ultimately it always brings the strands— the people—closer to unity.”
Carl blinked, “But what does this have to do with me and Tom?” 
“You two seem to bind together more so than many.”  Jacob shrugged, “I’m not sure if this is by divine design or if you’re both just stubborn.”
Carl smiled a bit at that. 
“Anyhow,” Jacob resumed, “Continuing with the rope analogy, this cosmic rope of humanity has no start and no finish.  It only has knots.  So how can we look into the future?   Simply climb up the rope.   And for the past, climb back down.  And look for the knots between you and Tom.  Where the knot is the biggest, that’s where Tom will be.” 
“To tell you the truth,” Carl confessed slowly, “I was never very good at climbing ropes.” 
Jacob nodded indulgently.  “Then it’s a good thing we’re not climbing, we’re creating.  Here,” And in his hands appeared a small strand of rope, which only had one knot that he could tell... and that was in the middle.
“Take this,” and he held out the coil of rope to Carl.
Carl hesitated at first, but a look from Jacob and he hastily complied.
The moment the rope touched his hand, however, it unraveled.  Not only that, there was... sensation.
He could feel it.
“Jacob what’s happening?”  He nearly dropped it in shock.
But Jacob’s hands appeared at the last minute and, even though he was unable to touch him, the gesture of the motion itself was enough to steady him.
“Ever heard of the ‘red string of fate’ before?”  Jacob asked Carl lightly, taking a step back. 
Carl, still holding the thread carefully, shook his head, “No.”
“It’s a concept similar to ‘soul mates.’  You two are divinely connected by this thread.  It may twist or pull but will never snap or break... unless you will it to.”
Jacob’s voice had dropped and his entire demeanor had changed as he held onto that last line.
Taking a deep breath, he began anew.  “This is your second chance to end this here and now.  Should you desire to be free of Tom, we have the means of cutting your tie.” 
And he waved his hand again and with that a pair of scissors materialized.
“No!”  Carl cried and took a step back, bodily protecting that precious string, though he still didn’t understand just why Tom was so important to him.    
He hears Jacob sigh in relief.  He looks up and the scissors are gone. 
“Thank goodness,” Jacob said.  He eyed Carl critically.  “You have three chances to renounce yours and Tom’s fate.  You’ve already conquered two but be wary, the third is a temptation much harder to resist.”
Carl looked up from where he was huddled around the cord and nodded.
“So what do we have to do?” he asked again.
“Hold the rope in the middle, where the knot is.” Jacob instructed.  “And release the rest of it.”
Carl quickly did as he was told.
“Now,” Jacob rubbed his hands together and began.  “You are going to twist the two strands of the rope together, then tie a knot with them.  Whenever you make a knot it will transport your essence into a time when you and Tom coexisted.”
            “But how will I find him?  How will I know it’s him?”  Carl asks hastily, flummoxed and, having finished the first knot, feeling reality shift and change around him.
            “You’ll know, I have faith...”  Jacob started to walk away from Carl.  But then he stopped and looked back at him, face mysteriously blank.  “Oh, and one last thing.  You’ll need help.  So I encourage you to make a stop along the way.” 
“Wha—”   Carl tried, but those were Jacob’s final parting words.   He was gone.
Then the Light was extinguished and Carl was plunged back into the darkness.