In the Clarkwoods Literary Universe, to become “unstuck in time” (as Billy Pilgrim was in Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse Five) or to be “doing the unstuck” (as Robert Smith sang about in The Cure’s song of that name) is a condition caused by exposure to waters taken from The River Without End.
The waters of the River Without End have been flowing since the dawn of time. As such, exposure to them—either through one of the variations of Ada’s potion, or by direct contact with the river itself—will induce the condition.
Symptoms vary, depending on the nature of the exposure:
- Ada’s Potion, Variant 1: Ingested by one or more individuals, allows for travel backward in time and space. This travel is limited to the lifetime(s) of the travelers, or to the lifetimes of their direct ancestors. This has led to the saying that this potion can take you “anywhere your blood has been.”
- Ada’s Potion, Variant 2: Powered by an additional ingredient (a piece of genetic material taken from an outside party), this variant allows the traveler to travel backward in time and space through the lifetime of the outside party. In cases where the outside party is deceased, this variant of Ada’s potion allows the traveler to bring the outside party “back to life”—which, according to Ada’s journal, is different than “bringing them back from the dead.”
- Exposure to the River Itself: Exposure to the river itself allows for unlimited but uncontrolled travel through time and space. It is therefore avoided by those who understand the mechanics of the river and its magic.
- Exposure to the Veil of the World: Exposure to the Veil of the World, an invisible extension of the River Without End which travels the length of the alley behind The Strumpet’s Sister, allows for unlimited travel through time and space. But the mechanics of “pulling back the veil” to allow for this exposure—those are largely unknown.
The condition is temporary. Both of the variants of Ada’s potions wear off in approximately 8 hours. When exposed to the Veil of the World, the condition ends at the traveler’s discretion. And even exposure to the River itself, though seemingly inescapable due to the strength of its currents, is as temporary as the traveler’s physical and mental strength allows for—if/when they can make it to the shore, it will all be over.
The condition is mind-bending, especially for those who have not experienced it before. It is likely to cause—as with Veronica Silver in The Piano of Death or Michael and Tracy Silver in The Boot of Destiny—a re-evaluation of life and its priorities. But beyond that likely outcome, the long term prognosis is positive. Becoming unstuck is unlikely to kill anyone, though it might change them forever.