It was never always one or the other. That's what he found. Things were too weird, too open-ended, as it were.
He never knew when it would start, when it would happen, when what he was used to wasn't that way, anymore, and there was no sign that it ever had been.
He called it, "side-slipping", his drift between neighboring time-tracks, experienced as mysterious shifts from one world to another similar, but different.
He wasn't a time-traveler. He wasn't even a space traveler, in the usual sense. He was an "across-time traveler" -- and sometimes that looked like space travel, in the usual sense. But it wasn't.
"He" wasn't traveling. It was as if the entire universe of worlds was suddenly a different one, one that felt reminiscent of something he had known before, but which, he had learned, was likely to contain quirky differences. He was always where he was. Things changed around him. The differences were sometimes dream-like, to him, and he kept his sense of humor and his wits about him.
There is a section of universe-space called, The Jewel Belt. Seen from interstellar space, it is extraordinarily beautiful. Stars of many many sizes and colors float, there, but at the great distances of separation, they all look like points of light of varying brilliance suspended in curtains of space dust, so that the stars illuminated them faintly with a nebula-like effect and they glowed behind and around them. The stars looked like gems strewn on dark, dark-grey silk seen in twilight.
Of course, he had seen it. On one of his side-slipping occasions, he had been dreaming he was enjoying a fantastic meal at an overladen table, when suddenly, he had detected in the dream-space to his left and behind him, a disturbance like the shaking of a tree -- but, of course, no tree, just the shaking.
He turned his attention, there, to view it, and suddenly dream-space itself started quivering and shaking and fragmenting with pieces getting smaller and spinning out of sight into an awesome, dense, enclosing blackness populated with stars. A great swirl of numinous light could be seen across the face of the forever night. He had almost lost his lunch, and now he was there, feeling a bit dizzy as space seemed to rotate around him. He gazed at the field of stars in the blanket of the always night and he knew that he could perceive only light coming directly at his eyes, and he felt seen.
The silence was absorbing. He felt as if his mind was being pulled out of his head in all directions, except he had no head, into an incomprehensibility in which all he could make sense of was the feel of his shoulders or something like them.
Soon, he fell silent and peaceful, and it was then that he heard the singing of the night, as if voices that surrounded his heart exulted in the beauty of the place in an anthem of joy. And he understood.
It was the peace of space, one with The Eternal.
All of this, side-slipping in a dream.
When he woke, the world was different. Again.
He was different.
He had been absorbed out until all that was left was the anthem of joy in the stars. When he awoke, what he took of the anthem of joy was a trace of seductive memory, but what he brought to life was different: he no longer saw his home world as his native familiar; he now saw it from a kind of outside perspective. They say that travel broadens one. He was broadened.
After that, the side-slippings became more frequent. Each one tugged at his insides in a different way. Each one required a new letting go.
He found that he was becoming more and more like the space between worlds, that undefined space, that Zone of Incomprehensibility. He did not fear it. He found it as himself, his natural state, more and more. He was falling out of self, just as he had side-slipped between worlds.
One time, he was invited to a party. People were there that he knew and that he knew not. But, as he approached the doorway to the room, he leaned in and took it all in and found himself wondering, "Which one am I?" When an enthusiastic couple pushed their way past him, he came to himself.
The side-slipping most often occurred during his mental practices contemplating the four-fold nature of reality taught to him by his mentor to exercise his intelligence. A peculiar dissolution of self and mind would occur during the practices during which he would find it difficult to remember which step of the practice came next or even what the focus of the session was. He would "come back" realizing that he had been gone without realizing it.
It seemed altogether different from having dozed off. There was always an enhanced clarity, afterwards, a sense of ready refreshment unlike the heavy dopiness of rising from sleep.
Eventually, he realized that his mentor hadn't told him all. His mentor had referred to them as, "mental exercises". What they really were were training exercises for the manipulation of the reality matrix. Side-slipping was just a sign of being a novice. Synchronicities were another sign.
So, he was still side-slipping -- a bit of a rickety bridge between the worlds. He'd get better.
His mentor had recently taught him an exercise for "stabilizing intelligence". That's what his mentor had called it, with a quiet, sly smile on his face.
Now, he knew better.