Soulmates: A Very Short Introduction, by Simone B. Wallace-Alvarez
Oxford University Press, 2007
Excerpt from Preface:
The biological cause of soulmates—the condition, affecting an estimated 25% of the world’s population, of forming a link of empathic communication with another person—remains a pressing question in nearly all fields of human inquiry. Some people, scholars and laymen alike, claim that soulmates indicate the existence of a god or gods. Others believe that there is a non-spiritual explanation for soulmates, although that explanation may be beyond the reach of modern science. What is certain, however, is that soulmates span the full course of human history. Cave paintings thought to depict soulmates have been found in France, South Africa, and Mongolia. Greek drama made ample use of soulmates and the limits of their connections. Carl Jung spent the bulk of his career studying the impact of soulmates on the individual mind. These are only a few examples of the impact soulmates have had on culture through the ages.
This book seeks to introduce readers to the cultural history of soulmates, along with current soulmate scholarship across the disciplines. I should begin, perhaps, with the story of how I, one of the unlucky 75%, became interested in soulmate studies as a field….
Excerpt from Chapter 1, “What Is a Soulmate?”
The term “soulmate” is itself part of the debates surrounding the phenomenon. The name is a form of circular reasoning, since to use the word “soul” is to presuppose the existence of a human soul. Scholars who object to the religious and spiritual connotations have coined many alternatives (see Glossary), but none has ever surpassed “soulmate” in popular usage.
The soulmate bond, also simply called a “soul bond,” forms the moment the younger soulmate is born. Throughout their lives, soulmates maintain a link that allows them to send and receive emotional sensations with their partner or, in some cases, partners. The strength of the sensations increases with physical proximity.
It is unusual for soulmates to meet in person, although the rates of soulmate encounters are much higher than simple probability would suggest. Perhaps this is because the soul bond leads partners to similar interests and careers, thus increasing their chances of crossing paths. Failure to meet one’s soulmate, however, does not lessen the importance of the soul bond in a person’s life. Soulmates who never meet can still offer mutual comfort and support through their bond. One notable study (Zhang, et al., 1998; see Bibliography) even found that sending positive or calming emotions through the soul bond may alleviate the symptoms of some mental illnesses, although this effect was greatest when combined with talk therapy and/or medication.
Soulmates who do manage to meet do not necessarily begin a romantic relationship. The soul bond does not take into account gender, sexual orientation, or even familial relation, rendering some partnerships romantically incompatible from the outset. Despite the popular culture image of soulmates as a match quite literally made in heaven, romance between soulmates is not a guaranteed success. Although the small sample size available makes it unwise to draw firm conclusions, the divorce rate of married soulmates is estimated to be similar to rates among the general population….
Excerpt from Chapter 5, “Time Travel”
If the existence of soulmates poses difficult questions, the phenomenon of so-called time travel between soulmates is downright inexplicable. There is no discernable causal event for travel incidents, and few scholars have ventured a guess as to why time travel happens. Many of the variables appear to be random. The shortest known case was approximately ten minutes (Rifat Nasr, Jerusalem, 1782), while the longest is recorded in the Icelandic Landnámabók (Book of Settlements): Herdís Bolladóttir, a teenage girl, was replaced by an elderly version of herself for three full years. Likewise, travel may be directed to any point of time in the traveler’s past or future.
Time travel is exceedingly rare since it seems only soulmates who have met in person experience it. The University of Toronto Center for Soulmate Research has tracked time travel incidents since 1948, finding an average of .7 occurrences per year. The year with the highest amount of time travel activity was 1979, with three cases recorded. Many other years featured no reported incidents at all.
Opinions vary as to where the “Alternate” (there is some controversy over this word—see Glossary for a list of other proposed options—but it remains generally accepted alongside its companion term, “Original”) comes from during a time travel incident and where they go afterwards. The arrival of a 50-year-old Alternate does not mean that the 20-year-old Original will appear for a few hours in thirty years’ time, nor do the parents of a young Alternate remember the week that their child became middle-aged. This fact makes the idea of parallel universes seem quite appealing, but it is not the only possible explanation. Another popular theory is that Alternates do not have lives of their own at all, but are rather constructs who exist only for the duration of the time travel. The same, this theory holds, is true of the world which the Original visits, meaning that no real time travel takes place….
Sports Champions Club. Saint Petersburg, Russia. June, 2021.
“I seem to recall telling you to mark the jumps this time, Yuuri!” Viktor called across the empty rink. Everyone else had already gone home, but Yuuri wanted an extra session alone on the ice to perfect his new free skate.
“And I told you to stop doubting my stamina!” said Yuuri, pausing at the start of his step sequence. He was grinning, but even if Viktor couldn’t see that, he would feel the cheerfulness flowing from Yuuri. “I’m not going to get a second Olympic gold by taking it easy.”
“You won’t get a second Olympic gold if you blow out your ankles, either.”
“Did either of us win all those medals by listening to our coaches all the time?” Yuuri skated over to the boards and leaned forward for a quick kiss.
“If your coach isn’t worth listening to, how about your concerned husband?”
As a coach, Viktor had learned to separate his persona at the rink from his off-ice friendships with his students, but that approach was pointless with Yuuri. They could never achieve that kind of emotional distance when an empathic connection gave their feelings away instantly. Even in the early days, when Yuuri had refused to so much as say the word “soulmate” and Viktor had played along despite his confusion, their best training sessions at Ice Castle Hasetsu happened when they let their bond do all the talking.
“My husband—” Another kiss. “—is a sweetheart, but he worries too much.”
“Indulge me, love.” Viktor reached up and fixed a stray lock of hair that clung to Yuuri’s forehead. Yuuri wrinkled his nose. He had grown impervious to distraction tactics in situations like this. His stubborn resolve was like a brick wall against Viktor’s cajoling.
“My quad loop landing was shaky on the last run-through. That’s not going to improve with marked jumps.”
Viktor sighed, somewhere between exasperated and adoring. “Fine. You can have the loop. But mark the rest.”
Yuuri skated back to center ice and took his opening pose. He counted off the intro beats, then began to move. The first jumping pass was a quad Salchow, triple toe combination—“You said doubles, babe!” Viktor complained—before a flying sit spin and the step sequence. Then it was on to the quad loop. Yuuri had worked up to it a few years ago to keep himself competitive with the other top skaters, but it wasn’t his favorite jump any more than it was Viktor’s. Viktor did the loop in competition once, just to get himself on the official record as having all five quads, and then refused to do it again. It didn’t hurt that he also made history as the first to land a quad-quad combo. Well, it did hurt. His knees. A lot. But he made it to the end of his program and almost kept his Worlds gold, so he never regretted the decision.
Yuuri’s footwork was never sloppy, but he did feel a bit tired in the entrance to the jump. Viktor made a mental note that they really must have a conversation (again) on the difference between Yuuri taking advantage of his stamina and pushing himself for no reason (again). Yuuri bent his knee under him and launched up into the rotations. One, two, three, four… The landing wasn’t going to be any better on this attempt. His air position was too open and losing momentum.
What Viktor didn’t expect was the thud of impact with the ice.
There was no pain when the soul bond vanished. It was as if half of Viktor’s mind had just winked out of existence. The pieces of him that remained seized control of his legs and drove him, faltering, still in his running shoes, out onto the rink surface toward the crumpled body near center ice. Yuuri couldn’t be dead, Viktor knew it even as his heart tried to pound free of his chest. It wasn’t that kind of fall, and Viktor would have felt it. There was no way death felt like this, painless and instantaneous. Still, something was seriously wrong if he couldn’t reach out to Yuuri through their bond.
“Yuuri, are you—?” The words died in his throat. The figure sprawled on the ice was all wrong. Those limbs were too long, the hair the wrong color. Silver, cropped short.
“Yakov, how on earth did I fall on a double lo-…” The younger Viktor looked up. “What the fuck.”