Project: #Novel365 2018 – Week 17

Untitled design

#Novel365 2018 Week Sixteen

I was suddenly in the train car again, snapped back like a stretched rubber band returning to its original state, my every thought in high definition. My eyes were taking in every detail trying to make sense of my surroundings as if I had been asleep too long and woke in unfamiliar surroundings. I heard the noises of the train car, the hum of the lighting, breathing bot mine and others, sounds I had not been aware of previously.

I stumbled backward only a step or two because Madi caught me by the arms to steady me. “What happened to you?” she asked. “One moment you were staring at the reader, frozen, the next you looked like you were about to faint.”

Had it only been a moment? It felt like I was away for longer. I suddenly did not like being able to sense the passage of time. “I-I was in a private library, in a room larger than this, and I found a book, Madi, about us, about our company, about our cases, even the one we are working now. It told me everything up to the point where I was reading the book but when I turned the page to see what would happen next…I was thrown back here.”

“A parental lock,” said Boerum. “To prevent you from knowing things that could affect the future. I should have warned you, I apologize if the experience unsettled you.”

“But it felt so real, all of it. I could actually smell the books.”

“The reader comes equipped with a total immersion option which I forget to disable. Again, my apologies,” Boerum plucked the reader from my grasp, gave it a quick sharp shake and returned it to its membranous state before placing it back on the table. “The best part of the option is the solitude and silence it offers. Have you ever been in a library or place of study that was so perfectly quiet?”

“Never. And there were so many books, thousands of them. Has your father read each of them?”

“His library contains roughly two point five million research items. A little over a million of them are books, while the rest are microforms, microfiches, photographs, music sheets, maps, programs, prints and the like. Knowing my father, he has reviewed all the materials contained within at least twice over.”

“But the book I was holding, it was about the exploits of my company, private matters that I am certain neither Madison or myself or our clients would divulge—”

“Your records were made public as part of the Open Secrets Act which will be passed long after you and your clients have slipped the mortal coil, so to speak. The remainder of the book, that part you were unable to read not only contained future cases you will be involved in but also cataloged the date, time and nature of both your death and Ms. Wasonofski’s, something no person should know.”

“I hate to admit it, Darius, but she’s right. I don’t want to know how and when I’m going to die,” Madi said as she pulled away from me.

“I have shown you how to operate the reader and it is at your service to make use of freely, though some will be written in languages I doubt you will understand. If you encounter such a tome the reader offers an array of accurate translation services, both written and verbal. You will have access to everything except articles on science, technology and history past the point you came to us,” Boerum said.

“Thank you,” I nodded my understanding for the restrictions, “for placing this library at my disposal.” I stared at the reader and a thought struck me, if the book I was holding detailed all my cases, why couldn’t Boerum simply read through The Pneuma Paradox entry and locate the answer she needed, the solution I was to deliver in two years time? From that moment I made it my mission to find a way to remove the parental lock. I promised if that were to happen, I would not look further than this case for clues on how to solve it. And I was almost certain I was telling the truth.

***

Boerum stepped to the train door opposite the one we entered this dining car that had been modified into a space where her team, as she called them, conducted their research and we followed her through the door and into the next car.

The first car we entered had been stripped bare, the second car served as a base of operations and the third car should have simply looked like an old-fashioned passenger car with rows of wooden seats lining both sides of the cabin, which it did but there was another interior more technologically advanced overlaid on top of it.

“Hologram,” Boerum said, once again before the question passed my lips. “A replica of our main control stations.”

The overlap image winked in and out in a manner that reminded me of the subway shroud. One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi. The overlay was visible for approximately three seconds. And one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi, four Mississippi, five Mississippi, six Mississippi, it disappeared for six seconds. There was a device in the center of the cabin on the floor with a flashing light that matched the appearance of the overlay. Obviously the holographic projector.

“Is it defective? The projector?” I asked.

Boerum shook her head, “No, it is synchronized with an anomaly.” And said no more. It was here that the five members of her team were assembled, positioned between seat rows on either side of the cabin, manning stations for three seconds at a time when the overlay appeared. She was lost in their calculated and timed movements. I studied her with great interest, silently analyzing the strange expression on her face. Leaning forward on her elbows against the back of a wooden seat, she no longer saw Madi, McKissick or me. She had forgotten our presence.

At three second intervals, the cabin was filled with various types of advanced instruments and equipment. Signal lights and display panels flickered in repetitive patterns. And each man hunched over their assigned station, hands hovering above where the overlaid panels would appear, fingers at the ready. The tall, wiry man barked out a series of operational orders and the rest of the team shouted responses in time with the actions performed at their stations. They performed this ritual over and over and over again, so many times I lost count and was beginning to lose interest. Finally, the wiry man turned to Boerum and said, “We’re ready as we’ll ever be, Dr. Boerum.”

Boerum nodded and asked, “Will one of you be so kind as to fetch the harnesses and rope our visitors so kindly supplied us with?” The bald man hopped to and raced past us into the car we just left.

I shot Boerum a questioning glance to which she responded, “Mr. Quaice, I understand your confusion. I hope that you and your party will excuse the unceremonious way in which you were received and ask you to bear with what must appear to you to be madness and place your trust in a total stranger that there is a method to it.”

The bald man returned with the items and Boerum ordered both he and the man who wore his hair in a top knot to fit us with the harnesses but we elected to suit up ourselves.

“I am assuming the rope as well,” I held up one end of the rope and was prepared to thread it through the harness when Boerum said:

“I must insist you allow my team to handle this. They know the requirements.”

Top Knot tied a knot at one end of the rope then measured a length of approximately five feet before threading it through McKissick’s harness. Bald Man measured out the same length for Madi’s harness and Top Knot did the same for mine.

We questioned it. We questioned the need for harnesses and the rope, questioned her insistence for the order in which we positioned ourselves, questioned if we were about to be placed in harm’s way, and the doctor took the questions with a strained patience and answered simply:

“Indulge me just a bit further. I promise all is about to become clear.”

We did as instructed and made certain the rope was fastened securely between the three of us before I turned to Boerum and asked, “And why is all this necessary? Why just us three and not you and your men?”

“Experience, sir,” Boerum answered. “We have done this many times before. The first time can be a bit tricky and we need to ensure your safety.”

“Safety for what?” Madi asked.

“Before I answer that,” Boerum turned to McKissick, “may I ask you a question, Mr. McKissick? You are a physicist, are you not?”

“My degree is in theoretical physics, yes. What’s your question?”

“Can more than one object occupy the same space at the same time?”

“The popular answer is no; however, it isn’t necessarily the correct answer. According to Pauli’s exclusion principle more than one identical fermion, particles with half-integer spin, cannot occupy the same quantum state simultaneously. This, of course, applies to normal matter, which is made out of only a few kinds of fermions tightly bonded together. However, electromagnetic waves are bosons; particles of integer spin. Thus, they can and often do share quantum state, as with the photons in a laser.”

“Then allow me to rephrase the question, sir: can two solid man-made objects can occupy the same space?” Boerum reiterated the question more forcefully this time.

“No, they cannot,” McKissick sighed.

Boerum made her way over to the door leading to the next car and yanked it open. “Then how do you explain this?”

And for the second time this day, if this could still be considered a day in a place where time did not seem to exist, Dr. Cariad Boerum exposed me to a sight that left me slack-jawed. My brain formulated no thoughts other than to register that it was in shock. I closed my mouth, then looked at Madi and McKissick who wore similar expressions before glancing back to catch Boerum’s eye. “What are we looking at?” was all I could manage.

“That, Mr. Quaice, is what you so quaintly called my time vessel.”

Beyond the door, it looked as if someone had placed three slides into a projector, each containing a different machine but at the same angle and clicked between the three in rapid succession over and over again. One machine was what I assumed to be the steam engine of the Zanetti, one seemed familiar but was unknown to me and the last matched the image implanted in my mind of Alfred Ely Beach’s pneumatic transit car.

“This is the final destination of our tour and it is also the reason for your tether,” Boerum said, scooping up the knotted end of the rope and handing it to Wiry Man, who walked through the open doorway and stood on the lip of the train car that rested above the coupling.

Boerum’s team chanted nine words repeatedly as they stared at the shifting images of machines before Wiry Man. It was in whatever language they spoke but I knew they were doing the same thing I had done when watching with the holographic overlay. They were counting. Timing the shifts. And on the ninth beat, Wiry Man leaped off the platform lip and disappeared into the shifting machines. The rope went slack for a moment but soon pulled taut, forcing McKissick to step toward the train door.

Bald Man sidled up beside McKissick, right arm around the physicist’s shoulder, then other clutching his arm above the elbow. “Bend your legs. Good, just like that. You’ll feel a quick double tug on the rope,” Bald Man said, “that’s the signal for you to jump forward as far as you can. When you’re in the air, go limp. Don’t worry, I’m jumping with you so I’ll catch your fall.”

McKissick was about to say something, ask a question, argue the matter, but the double tug came and Bald Man pushed him forward which would have been sufficient to cover the distance had the rope not yanked hard. Both men vanished and the rope pulled Madi to the door.

“Darius,” Madi turned to me, we were both thinking the same thing.

“Don’t think about, Madi. Thinking leads to fear and fear is the mind killer. Just do it,” I said.

Top Knot griped Madi and issued the same instructions given to McKissick and when the signal tug came they leaped into the shifting mechanisms and the rope now pulled me to the door.

“I will accompany you, Mr. Quaice,” Boerum said as she put an arm around me to brace me for the jump and as nervous as I was to be leaping into the unknown I found that I was far more nervous about the nearness of her.

“Ready?” she asked and I nodded. She gave a quick jerk and when the double tug came I held my breath and leaped. As I approached the machines I instinctively closed my eyes fearing impact and I did make an impact but with the floor of the first car in the train’s chain. Boerum helped me to my feet and moved me forward as the remaining members of her team leaped in behind us.

We were standing in a demarcated area on the floor while our surroundings were in a constant state of flux. It was a steam engine locomotive car, Beach’s pneumatic car and what I presumed to be Boerum’s time vessel at equal three-second intervals.

“Welcome aboard the Pneuma,” Boerum said. “Now, I suppose, an explanation is in order.”

To be continued…

‘Til next week,

☮️  💗

©2018 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Creative Commons License

Advertisements

Project: #Novel365 2018 – Week 16

Untitled design

#Novel365 2018 Week Fifteen

Madi, McKissick and I looked to one another but before we could respond, Dr. Boerum let out a sharp short whistle, something that seemed out of character for my initial impression of her. Shortly after, a wiry man appeared and Boerum conversed with him in their bizarre, possibly native, tongue that was still unrecognizable to me.

“Everything is ready for your arrival,” said Boerum. “Permit me to lead the way.”

“After you, Doctor,” I said.

We followed Boerum; and as soon as we had stepped through the door, we found the space between the cars had been surrounded by some sort of material that resembled a carbon fiber wrap, presumably to shield the doctor and her crew from the effects of unfiltered time as they passed from car to car. As I stepped over the train car coupling and moved to the door of the next car it opened automatically.

We entered what appeared to be a dining car decorated and furnished in a style that might have been considered elegant at one point in time when extravagances were in short supply. Despite its minimalism, the car still echoed the natural world of Italy in 1911. Booths dominated the space, rectangles of oak with polished tapered edges with chairs that looked as if they had come from the same tree, each one beautiful in its simplicity, all clean straight lines and high backs. The floor beneath it all was carpeted, not a runner rug like in the last car but a full coverage that ran the entirety of the floor. The walls were papered in an old-fashioned floral design which would have given the room a pleasant feel if not juxtaposed against the ugly metal plates welded over the windows.

One of the booth tables was richly laid out with foodstuffs that looked familiar then I realized it was from our rations, the meals packed by our administrative professional, Penny.

“Help yourselves,” Boerum gestured at the spread. “It is all yours, all the food you brought with you and I assure you it has not been tampered with in any way, but you will find that you do not need it.”

Though we said nothing, Dr. Boerum looked at us, guessing our thoughts and answered of her own accord the question which entered our minds simultaneously.

“Do any of you feel hungry?” she had not waited for the answer. “No? How long have you been here, on the train, locked in the caboose? You cannot rightfully say, can you? That is because time does not pass here, not for us, or if it does it creeps at such a petty pace as to seem like it is standing still. We have chronometers that mark how time should move and they have not budged since our arrival. I cannot tell you how long we have been here for my perception of space/time has been interrupted but I would hazard a guess that it has been months if not years and neither myself or my team has felt the slightest hunger pang or the need to relieve ourselves.”

“If what you say is correct, if time is frozen here, how are we able to move, able to breathe, able to communicate?” asked McKissick.

It was a solid question. According to my limited knowledge of the laws of physics, if time stopped and we were somehow immune to the effects of the stoppage, we would be unable to maneuver around the frozen air molecules and could not very well take motionless air into our lungs. Nor could we use the atmosphere to transmit sound waves making speech impossible.

“And wouldn’t we freeze to death?” Madi added. “There’d be no way to generate heat.”

“Yes, yes, and sight would also be affected as well as gravity,” Boerum said impatiently. “We have considered all this and the only logical explanation is that here, within the vein of God, the laws of physics either do not apply or operate differently from our Earth-based understanding of them.”

“In other words, you have no clue,” I said.

“There is no shame, Mr. Quaice, when standing in the face of the unknown to admit you do not know the answer. In your line of work, surely you have found yourself in this position at least once, no?”

I sensed her annoyance at having to admit the simple truth that she was just as much in the dark as we were and I could have apologized, could have explained how no harm was meant, but at the moment I was not overly concerned with her feelings. Instead, I moved on to the next booth. On this table lay our phones, each one field stripped with the individual components carefully placed around the phone casings. Again, Boerum anticipated my question and answered:

“Before engaging with you directly, we dismantled your devices to determine what time period you originated from. Have no worries, I will have one of my team reassemble them in working order and returned to you.”

Our personal effects were also situated on the table. “You have no objections, I am sure,” I said after I plucked my wallet and belongings off the table and began arranging them in my pockets. Madi and McKissick gathered their things as well.

“Of course not,” Boerum waved the notion away as if it was foolish. “They belong to you.”

“So, you are a historian, Dr. Boerum,” I said.

“Historian? What would lead you to believe that?”

“You told us you were conducting a historical research experiment.”

“Ah, yes, so I did,” Boerum nodded, “and we were but if I am honest it was more a time travel experiment than a historical one. You see, I shared my father’s fascination with time and how could I not? It is everything and everywhere. It gave birth to the universe and will serve as a marker when all we know as existence dies a natural death. It is the stuff of life, the foundation on which reality is built, always of the essence, on our side and running out simultaneously. It is the beautiful thing that awaits us all, embraces us all and leaves us all in its eternal wake. Do you not concur, Mr. Quaice?”

“I have to admit that I have never given it much thought, doctor. I strive to live in the present and not worry about what the future holds or waste my waking hours with how much time I frivolously squandered in my youth in my attempts to find myself,” I answered but what I had not said was:

Now that I had met Dr. Boerum and she presumably existed in a time after my death—why else would she be seeking me in 2020 if I was still alive in her time?—I could not help but worry about the future, could not help but contemplate the infinitesimal speck my life inhabited in the Earth’s timeline. I foolishly believed I had time enough to accomplish all my goals, so much time that I failed to notice how much of it I let slip through my fingers like quicksilver, all the possibilities that no longer lay ahead of me as I stand here on this impossible horizon in a time-frozen moment that may very well be my last yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Dr. Boerum remained silent for a long moment after my reply, seeming slightly agitated but then she regained her accustomed cold expression and turned to me.

“Mr. Quaice,” she said, “would you care to press on?”

The table in the next booth was littered with the contents of our backpacks and the one after that held assorted items, odd items, apparently future items belonging to Dr. Boerum and her team. One such item caught my attention. I thought it was a sheet of black paper until I saw an image dart across it, not on top of it but within it. I instinctively reached for it but caught myself and turned to Boerum.

“May I?” I asked.

Boerum considered the request for a moment before gesturing to the item. “Be my guest,” she said.

It took me several attempts to lift the paper that was not a paper. It was gossamer thin and I was afraid it might rip during my clumsy attempt to lift it from the tabletop.

“You needn’t be so gentle, it is more durable than it looks,” Boerum said, showing me how to hold the sheet. Left forefinger and thumb holding the upper left corner, right forefinger and thumb pinching the right lower corner and when pulled tautly, a ripple ran across the sheet and when it subsided it became as rigid as plastic.

“What type of material is this?” I asked.

“Something that will not be available in your lifetime, therefore I am not at liberty to discuss it or its properties. I should not allow you to interact with it but I am afraid I need to speed your assimilation along. Now concentrate on the screen and think the word, wake,” Boerum instructed.

I did and nothing happened. Taking a deep breath, I concentrated hard on the word wake and felt my brow knotting with the effort. As I was about to abandon the effort, the sheet flickered. I called it a sheet because I still thought of it as a paper-like substance although technically it could be called a sheet of plastic or whatever material it was. Then the image of a door appeared on the sheet.

“Is this a computer?”

Boerum laughed and it was an intriguing thing to experience. It was not simply a noise that issued from her mouth. The laughter was in her eyes, in the way her face changed into a surprising vision of relaxed joy and unrestrained mirth.

“Mr. Quaice, we have not had a computer model that large in ages. This is merely a reader, an ancient one, the newer models are smaller as well. This one belongs to my father. He is attached to it as it was a gift from my mother.” Boerum’s expression returned to its stoicism at the mention of her mother. “Focus on the door and just as you did to activate the reader, concentrate on the word open.”

No sooner than I knitted my brow, was I transported away from the train car. My eyes went out of focus for a moment and when they adjusted, I scanned the new room as fast as I could, trying to take it all in. I was now standing in the middle of an old library, stacks of books towered towards the tall ceiling in every direction I looked at in the round room. The bookshelves themselves were crafted of solid burl wood in a rich finish, with black trim and inlaid floral designs. The lower part of one of the shelves contained a recessed compartment for a settee, intricately carved detailing on the wooden base and rolled arms with tan upholstered seat and back that was luxuriously soft to the touch. In the center of the room was a distressed finish Mappa burl reading table set on caster wheels.

I ran my fingers along the spines of a row of books at eye level, breathing in the woody aroma of the library. It was the smell of a congregation of books of varying ages that was part smoky and earthy with just a hint of vanilla. I knew this place was an illusion but the smell, the smell was real.

The books were hardcover bound to have the same appearance and only by touching a book’s spine was I able to read the book’s title as it appeared in glowing letters beneath my fingertips. I mindlessly touched books and let my eyes absorb the titles, some of them known to me but most not, until I came upon a book that froze me to the spot. The glowing letters read, Qui Dubitat, the name of my company.

I open the book slowly, cautiously, afraid of what I might find and my suspicions were warranted for in this book there was a record of my company and the cases that we handled. The covert cases. All of them. The Sign of The Cosmic Chimera. The Mystery of The Hallowed Boudoir. The Ethereal Empire. The Case of The Griffon Biographer. The Quest of The Frantic Spider Silk Collector. The Riddle of The Dangerous Stained-Glass Sawmill. The Wailing Sand Conundrum. All the codenames I had given the cases and the pseudonyms to protect the identities of my clients, each marked with asterisks associated with an addendum to each case revealing the secrets of the coded information. They were documented in chronological order and were mostly accurate save minor details here and there and after my most recent case, one that I had not had time to sit and commit to the case log, the one I had thought to name The Three Courtesan Solution which was written here in full detail as if I had written it myself, after that was a case named The Pneuma Paradox. It described my meeting with Duffy and Thompson, both names asterisked, the discovery of Beach’s train station, the encounter with the subway shroud, the meeting with Cariad Boerum, my immersion into the library and finding the book I was currently reading and though I knew better, though my every urge was to shut the book in order to prevent me knowing the future, I turned the page.

To be continued…

‘Til next week,

☮️  💗

©2018 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Creative Commons License

Project: #Novel365 2018 – Week 15

Untitled design

#Novel365 2018 Week Fourteen

I finally managed to get my legs under me, to straighten them to a standing position but my personal sense of time was still off so I wasn’t sure how long it took for me to accomplish the feat. I gave Madi, who was equally as drained as I, a hand up and held on until she could steady herself and then we saw to McKissick.

“You’re telling us that maelstrom out there, that was time?” I asked.

“The entirety of time,” the woman nodded. “Unfiltered.”

“Unfiltered?”

“Time, like many vast things—though nothing is quite as vast as time—consists of layers and we experience these layers separately through our limited perceptions of space/time. There is a popular theory that we are all made of stardust, which I subscribe to, but we are also made of time particles that pass through us from the moment of our conception long past the day we die. Being exposed to time in its raw state can be quite maddening as it overloads our personal capacity for time retention.”

“Why weren’t you affected?”

“I stood to the side of the door and shielded myself.”

“You didn’t stare into the abyss.”

“The only effective method of avoiding its gaze upon you,” the woman said. “Now, I have been civil toward your party, Mr. Quaice, distant but civil and this was done out of respect for you and the aid you may eventually bring. Understand that I do not need them.”

“If it’s gratitude you want,” I answered, “you’re looking at the wrong person.”

“Gratitude is a capricious creature that I have no interest in,” replied the woman, quickly. “Understanding is what I seek. I am not what you would call a patient woman. In my historical research experiment, I have made certain calculations that I believed to be accurate and foolproof though the results have been less than desirable causing fracture points in time and now I find I must further splinter the timeline in order to rectify the original error which should then undo each of my missteps thereafter.”

Although her tone was level there was a flash of pain in her eyes, perhaps anger, perhaps something else. Had she done something terrible in the past to the past, to my past as well as her own and in a blatant disregard for protecting and maintaining the past was willing to unravel all of history to correct her original sin that might very well be uncorrectable, leaving none of us with a familiar present to return home to?

If this vehicle had the capability to pierce the barrier of time, past, present and future, what force would exist that could stop her, what authority could hold her accountable for her actions and if her conscience was not to be her guide whom would she fear answering to for any and all damages done in her name, by her hand, for her own selfish ends?

I realized I had not enough information to form a rational opinion and as much as I hated wild speculate, these questions ran through my mind immediately nonetheless while the woman remained silent, apparently lost in thought. She gave no notice to us as if we were insects, things beneath her notice which made me despise her but that was mixed with a healthy dose of fear, interest and something that might have been the beginnings of admiration which was to be expected, especially if her claims were true for I had never encountered a person from the future before.

I could see Madi chomping at the bit to break the silence but I shook my head and inconspicuously waved her down. Shortly after, the woman continued speaking.

“Perhaps my comments might have appeared threatening,” said the woman, “but that is not my intent. Your party has committed no crime against me and therefore will not be treated as a hostile. Fate has brought us together so perhaps you all have a part to play that may be of service us. You are welcomed aboard, free to travel beyond this area with the stipulation that you do not touch anything unless so directed and will not inquire about or note future events. I have enough mess to clean up on my own doing and would not care to add additional troubles to the task ahead. What say you all, are we in agreement?”

“And you would take us at our word?” I answered.

“Yes, I would. As I see it, I am your only means of returning home safely so it would be foolish of you to break your oath if given. You will not be granted full access and may sometimes be consigned to what we deem to be a holding area at times as that would be to our mutual benefit. I am not violent by nature and my initial assessment of your party is that we share this in common. Behave civilly and you will be treated civilly. If you accept and obey my condition regarding your non-interference of my research, I will endeavor to deliver you home to your time safely. Do you accept?”

I was not so arrogant as to be blinded to the reality that there were things about the future which I shouldn’t know, things about my future or society’s which might affect my actions in a way as to thwart the direction of my destiny and the woman had a point for none of us knew how to return to our own time and so must therefore put our trust in her hands and hope for the best.

“Do we have a choice in the matter?” I asked although I knew I would accept still I felt the need to test the waters if nothing more than to gauge the type of person we were dealing with.

“Certainly. You may remain in this car if you wish. I will even leave the rear door unlocked which means you are free to take your chances outside.”

“And if we accept, we would be allowed to wander through the rest of your time vessel?”

“You would be free to travel between these train cars and observe as you see fit as long as you remain out of the way and leave an area if instructed by myself or my team. And for clarification’s sake, these cars are not my time vessel.”

“I don’t understand.”

“All will be made clear.”

“So, we are granted limited access to your mysterious prison?”

“We occupy the same space so if this is indeed a prison then we are cellmates. I am not your jailor and you are free to leave at any time. There are reasons governing our inability to return you to your point of origin that you will learn if you are patient with our distribution method of knowledge. Remember, you came here to me, you are essentially guests in my home and will be treated accordingly but being my guest does not grant you full access to all my and the future’s secrets. At this point in your lives, my existence should unknown to all of you, as I’ve said before Mr. Quaice, we are meeting two of your years ahead of time. I need to protect my research, my mission and myself from the unknown and you three have brought that unknown to my doorstep.”

It was apparent from her tone that her feet were firmly planted in the soil of her resolution and she would not be budged.

“So, we must voluntarily offer up our obedience and possible assistance in your mission which you refuse to divulge even if that mission goes against our own principles in exchange for your promise to attempt our return home?”

“Simply put, yes. But I am fairly certain that none of you will have much to complain about once you have seen what lies beyond this car. You will encounter technology and theories that will astound you and may even find yourselves impressed against your will by what we have accomplished and if you are truly open-minded you will come to see that despite all you think you know, you actually know nothing at all. Can I marvel you, Mr. Quaice?” the woman smiled.

I was not sure if it was her words or her smile or the temptation to view the unknown that lured me in but I was hooked. I forgot for a moment of the potential danger we were in the potential danger we could cause and all I wanted to do was follow this woman into her casual world which for me was the undiscovered country. So, I answered, without consulting Madi or McKissick, I answered for all of us:

“We accept your terms, Ms.—”

“Ah, we have not been formally introduced, have we?” replied the woman. “My apologies. First, allow me to welcome you on board as passengers of the Pneuma; and I am Dr. Boerum, Cariad Boerum, the daughter of Professor Rupert Boerum, the creator of time travel.”

To be continued…

‘Til next week,

☮️  💗

©2018 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Creative Commons License

Project: #Novel365 2018 – Week 14

Untitled design

#Novel365 2018 Week Thirteen

In my line of work, I encountered many a bizarre situation that at first glance defied both logic and understanding. Examining beneath to odd surfaces, more than I felt comfortable admitting had been legitimate occurrences that existed outside the definitions of normal phenomenon, however, most of the cases I was brought on to investigate had been well-staged hoaxes, lies I had been able to unravel thread by thread until the truth was exposed but this, what I was looking at now, this, only fragments of which were identifiable, I was having a difficult time piecing those fragments into a cohesive whole that made sense.

When you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

The famous quote by Friedrich Nietzsche turned over and over in my mind but I was not gazing into what existed beyond the door, it was surging into my eyes, forcing me to take it in, blinding me to all else save its presence. The thickness of it bled into all my senses, pouring on layer after layer, taxing my ability to absorb it all. My limited comprehension was immediately overwhelmed with abstract concepts and nightmarish visions but the images invading my body were also infused with texture and weight and a vibration that created a high pitch sound I should not have had the capacity to hear, a sound that drove icepicks into my head, piercing the membrane of my middle ear.

No, this was not an abyss, not some dark immeasurable chasmal region of hell but within it existed abysses dwarfed by greater horrors and wonders. I had the inexplicable notion that it forced itself on all my senses because it realized mere sight was not enough to take in its enormity and words would not have been enough to describe it for how does one describe the smell of an extremely hot, small, and dense superforce of a singularity? The texture of the rapid expansion of existence? The sound of an atom being born, of the formation of galaxies? The taste of the sentient spark that would launch civilizations?

This thing that was so much more than anything I had ever encountered in life also snaked its way into my sixth sense, my power of perception, and taunted it with the concepts of everything, everything that ever was, everything that ever will be, everything known and unknowable. And with that came what could only have been called the stench of humanity, putrescent corpses marinated in human excrement, seasoned with sulfur and a sickly sweet, overripe fruity overtone, all of which I tasted on my tongue.

In order to prevent myself from gagging, I forced myself to adjust to it, to adapt and not die, but it was altering itself at such an ultraliminal pace that my eyes kept sliding off certain places I tried to focus on as if it was coated in a visual oil slick, while refracting my vision in other spots. It was an ever-expanding vista that occasionally folded in on itself and exploded into brand new structures that expanded and folded and exploded in a never-ending yet not quite repetitive cycle. It was like watching the Big Bang occur, race through a twenty-billion-year lifespan until its gravity eventually stopped its expansion and it began contracting until all its matter collapsed to a final singularity, only to explode into life again like a phoenix rising from its own ashes. But even this comparison was not totally accurate, it was simply my mind’s attempt at filling in the numerous blanks.

Between its expansion and collapse, figures appeared within it and faded away, not detailed humans or even humanoid but impressions of ambulatory flesh and behind them—ever present in the background and sometimes pushing its way through to the forefront of an instant here, a moment there—was a dark shadowy thing that seemed to billow like fog but left a visual echo like a living stop-motion entity that flattened each reality it pushed through and crumbled them like so many dry leaves to be carried off by the invisible winds of entropy.

As reality whirled just beyond the doorway, the once solid train floor turned to quicksand and the car seemed to rock and sway, threatening to rob me of my balance, to send me falling ever deeper until I cracked my skull and let slip the tiny remnants of sanity I somehow managed to hold on to by the tips of my fingers.

The longer I stared through the doorway—where the air bled realities that not only overlapped but intermingled other realities before it burned the bottom layer realities away—the less comprehensible the realities became. They became something alien to me, and I had a sense that I knew nothing at all about reality, about existence, about myself. I was finally able to see through all the lies I unconsciously told myself to distract me from the truth that I had ignored my biological imperative and would remain alone and this acknowledgment of the futility of my existence, of filling my life with busy work and would continue doing so until the day I eventually died made me want to leap. The most frightening part was if that managed to happen, if I managed to be sucked into the swirling madness that was terrifying and somewhat familiar in places, I did not think I would have minded experiencing the miracle within it firsthand.

I was drunk on existence. I had only been truly intoxicated two times in my life when I was foolish enough to keep company with experienced drinkers and had not thought to fortify my body with food beforehand and this made those head-pounding, gut-wrenching experiences seem nothing more severe than a bad after-taste. Within this inebriation there lurked an awful formless panic. I was in the middle of nowhere and everywhere simultaneously and I felt vulnerable and lonely but also at one with a slippery existence in which I could not maintain balance. I was falling, always falling, falling within falling, struggling against the fall, though I realized I was still standing upright. All the individual bits of me, my mind, personality and soul had been separated into layers by year then by month, by day, by hour, by minute, by second and my core self was falling through each of those layers.

Suddenly I was a child again, helping my father repair the roof of our house and against his instructions I climbed above the rung he told me to stay on. Spotting me, he shouted a warning that shook me and made me lose grip. My fingers slipped from the top rung and I fell backward off the ladder. Throughout the years, the pain associated with making contact with the ground was gone and all I remembered was falling in slow motion which felt a bit like flying followed by the sparks and stars that filled my eyes and the blood that filled my mouth. This time as I tumbled within myself my eyes were filled with blinding futures and my mouth filled with bitter pasts.

Then civilizations crashed down on me, civilizations inhabited by people, by beings, by creatures, hundreds of them, thousands, millions, piling on me, pressing their way into my skin, melting into my muscles, my organs and my bones and I could not remain separate from them because the pressure increased as their descendants and their descendants’ descendants buried me under an avalanche of flesh that would not stop and I could smell them and taste them and hear the noises they made and feel the sensations they experienced and I screamed against the agony, so wide I felt my jaw unhinge, which only allowed them to fill my mouth and choke the life from me. Soon there would be no room left in my own body for me.

I tried to pull my self back into myself, to turn my overcrowded head away from the mouth of madness. But I couldn’t. At this point, I was not quite sure that I wanted to as if it was an action I would not be able to take unless the entirety of my being was totally committed to it. Just how long had I been standing there, how long would I have continued standing there, if the train car door had not suddenly closed?

The weight of the universe was lifting from me and my bones creaked in relief. My arm was still resting on the riveted metal plates of the car walls and I made the slow returning climb to the physical world.

It was being extracted from me, everything that had previously invaded my body was being expelled. It ran as tears from my eyes, mucus my nose, bile from my mouth and sweat from the pores of my skin. It left me aching and weak, my insides grew soft and I melted like wax. My body crumpled into messy folds on the train floor and as the experience of what existed outside the train car left me, when there was nothing else inside my body but me I realized just how empty a shell I was, how incomplete, how hollow and I would have become lost in this realization forever if not for the burning sensation in my throat. I gasped and shuddered as a single breath of air traced its way into my lungs. I savored it and wondered had I been holding my breath the entire time? How long had it been since my last breath for me to be gulping any oxygen that may enter? I remained on the floor until my breathing normalized.

How I managed to endure being one with everything than stripped back down to a singular self, I’ll never know. Through sheer will, I managed to crawl over to Madi who lay on her back groaning and rubbing her eyes with the heel of her palms. I wanted to collapse beside her, I wanted to fall asleep to wake up in my bed to find this had been nothing more than a dream but I couldn’t. There was a mystery to be solved and my mind wouldn’t let me rest until I peered behind the curtain and exposed the truth.

“You still with us?” I asked. I wanted to say more, I wanted to make sure she hadn’t been harmed, I wanted to hold her, to feel the reassurance of her presences, but we were under the observation of the mysterious woman and any affection I displayed might have been interpreted as weakness.

“What the hell was that, Darius? Hypnosis?” Madi raised herself on her elbows.

“A distinct possibility. They could have planted a post-hypnotic suggestion when we first arrived.”

“Not hypnosis,” the woman said. “What you experienced is very real and the reason we sealed off all the windows in here.”

“What is that?” McKissick asked. Just beyond Madi he managed to get up on his knees and shook his head to clear the cobwebs.

“What is it? Where is it? When is it? Any of these questions are applicable, Mr. McKissick. I call it the vein of God. We are sitting within time itself.”

To be continued…

‘Til next week,

☮️  💗

©2018 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Creative Commons License

Project: #Novel365 2018 – Week 13

#Novel365 2018 Week Twelve

Their outfits were of a similar fashion, not to say they were identical as in a uniform but cut from the same material, a peculiar fish-scaled texture that leisurely cycled through a series of patterns from leopard spots and tiger stripes to snakeskin and peacock plumes. The various leg cuffs either tapered into or covered to the ankle, boots of very thick fur, almost like a sea otter’s which actually consisted of two layers, an undercoat and longer guard hairs.

The woman replied with words I didn’t understand in a husky voice that caught me off guard. I have heard some men say they found the trait alluring in women and I hadn’t agreed until this moment. I wondered if I had spoken my thoughts aloud for the woman’s eyes fell upon me in a questioning manner.

Since eye contact had been established, I attempted to explain that we did not understand what they were saying. I spoke slowly and carefully ensuring that my movements and gestures could not be misconstrued as aggressive. She looked at me as if I was a fool and she had every right to because I felt like one.

Madi came to my rescue by explaining how we came to be here, starting with the strange occurrences on the subways, being visited by Duffy and Thompson, visiting Beach’s pneumatic tunnel and accidentally landing here.

The woman’s manner and stance were hard, but her eyes were soft, she listened to Madi’s retelling of our adventures quietly and politely, but those eyes never left my face. When Madi had finished, she simply stood there not saying a word. Had she understood any of it? Did she know we were not a threat to her? I could not tell.

The woman opened her mouth to ask, “When are you from?” articulating each word in a precise manner. It was English. She had understood us after all.

“We’re from New York,” I gestured to Madi and myself. “McKissick?”

“Same,” McKissick said. “By way of Arizona.”

“When. Are. You. From?” she asked again more forcefully this time.

It was a bizarre thing. I heard her say when the first time and thought she misspoke. I replied, “2018, of course. What does that have to do–”

The woman made a curt hand signal and the short, roundish man on the end nearest the door opened it and they filed out of the room quickly and efficiently. We chased after them and yelled for them to wait, not to lock us in again, but it was too late. The door slammed shut and the sound of metal bolts sliding into place echoed throughout the car. We pounded on the door and shouted until the futility of the action set in. We could not hear any sounds outside our prison; all was as silent as the grave, which made us suspect they were deaf to our noises.

If there was a positive to be found, in their haste our captors had left the domed lights, I wasn’t sure if it was their intention or not, but at least we were no longer in the dark and finally able to take in the room.

“It looks like an old-fashioned train car,” Madi said.

“I was thinking the same thing,” said McKissick.

Madi’s eyes went wide, “You don’t think-”

“The Zanetti?” McKissick shrugged. “No stranger than anything else we’ve encountered so far.”

“True,” I added, “but if the subway shroud is a doorway that leads on board the Zanetti and recorded sightings are far and few between, where does a railway bound Flying Dutchmen go when it doesn’t appear anywhere on the planet? We don’t seem to be moving.”

“And who are our captors?” asked McKissick. “Whatever language they were speaking it wasn’t Italian. And what about their clothes shifting patterns, forget the fashion, that isn’t even any current technology that I’m aware of.”

The car was equipped with eight windows, four to each side but they had been boarded up which was to say that bands of metal had been welded entirely across the frame, same as the windows on the doors at both ends of the car.

“And what don’t they want us to see?” Madi walked to a window and rapped one of the bands with the knuckle of her index finger.

Along the floor near the windows were broken bits of wood presumably from wooden seats that had been removed, so besides the runner rug and ourselves, there was nothing else in the car. We took turns individually trying to open the doors. There were no indications of locking mechanisms nor a keyhole so we were unable to make out just how they were fastened so securely, but they refused to budge even under the combined might of all three of us.

Going over the car with as fine-toothed a comb as we could manage, we each came to the conclusion we were trapped here and would have to wait our captors out. We sat on the runner rug in the center of the car.

“So… plan, anyone?” Madi asked.

“The only offensive strategy would be to rush the door when they open it again but there are too many unknowns to factor in,” McKissick said. “We don’t know what types of weapons they possess if any and how many more of them there are beside the six we’ve seen.”

“Even if we were successful, we don’t know the rules, how things operate and what our limitations are, so the best play is a defensive play,” I said. “If we can build their trust and gain some freedom we’ll each go on reconnaissance and gather as much information we can then regroup to form an offensive plan.”

Just then we heard a noise. The locks were turned, the door opened, and the woman appeared.

“Your plan won’t be necessary, we will cooperate with you and share as much information as is considered safe,” she said. “We have been anticipating your arrival, Mr. Quaice. Unfortunately, we seem to have met at the wrong time of your life.”

CHAPTER SIX

We rose from the floor when the woman entered the car, this time without her companions.

“How do you know what we were discussing before you opened that door?” asked Madi.

The woman gestured at the dome lights. “Each one has a listening device installed within it. Consider it a precautionary measure,” she said with an air of confidence that was unmistakable and palpable.

“Digerati, I presume?” the words flew out before I realized what I was saying. It wasn’t due to anything we had discussed or something that I actively contemplated while examining our current situation and with all the confusion surrounding the commotion of our arrival in this place, I hadn’t spared a moment of thought on the mysterious Morse code message we received on the antiquated telegraph machine in Beach’s renovated transit tunnel. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my statement was as much a surprise to Madi and McKissick as it was to me.

“Pardon me?” the woman furrowed her brow and somehow I was convinced that she had no idea what I was referring to. Not knowing her, it was indeed possible that she was either an accomplished actress or liar. I was then confronted with the choice of pushing my subconscious and spontaneous wild stab in the dark and pressing her for answers or try a subtler approach to see what information she might volunteer. My choice was clear,

“You act as if you know me, but I’m certain we’ve never met because I doubt that I would have forgotten you.”

“No, we haven’t met before and we weren’t supposed to meet now, not your now, at least,” she shook her head and I thought I detected a hint of disappointment in her expression but it vanished so quickly I could not be sure I wasn’t mistaken.

“Not my now,” I repeated the phrase back to her, not as a question or a statement, I merely wanted her to hear what it sounded like from my point of view.

“Yes, I suppose explanations are in order. I do not know you personally, sir, but I know of you. You are Darius Quaice, founder of Qui Dubitat, Latin for Those Who Doubt, a professional skeptic, or more accurately a scientific skeptic, formally an investigator of modern miracles for the Catholic Church, before leaving the church behind to start a non-secular private organization that investigates and catalogs unexplainable phenomena. Your organization is famous in certain circles for challenging paranormal, occult, supernatural and pseudoscientific claims,” the woman said, leaning against the door frame with her arms folded. “I do not know your companions, though.”

“My name is Madison Wasonofski-”

“I know your names,” the woman waved Madi off, “I’ve gone through your effects. I simply wasn’t expecting yourself and Mr. McKissick.”

“But you were expecting me?” I asked.

The woman scanned me with profound attention, “Yes, Mr. Quaice, we are merely out of sequence.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You and I were destined, are destined, the tense becomes confusing sometimes, to meet. It seems that chance has outweighed fate for some bizarre reason because this encounter was supposed to occur two years in your future.”

“And our meeting now causes a problem?”

“I should say so for you currently do not possess the information we require to rectify matters.”

“What information is that?”

“How to get us home, sir, and fix the shambles we’ve made of time.”

Had we not been visited by Duffy and Thompson, had they not used a strange device to implant knowledge directly into my head, had that knowledge not lead us to discovering a hidden transit station thought destroyed and had clues from the station not led us to an encounter with the subway shroud, I would have thought the woman either insane or a fantastic liar. Instead, I nodded and accepted what she said at face value. I had questions, but they could wait until I properly digested the situation. Also, I was preoccupied with trying to locate the woman’s country of origin. She spoke perfect English, fluently as if it was her native tongue but her accent, though slight, was bizarre.

“You must accept my apologies for the rather shabby treatment and for the delay in making ourselves known to you,” she continued. “We have had previous visits by unexpected passengers, so to speak, which have resulted in major disruptions in our plans. Once your identity and time period had been established, I made the decision to delay this discussion to weigh the inconvenience of this annoying circumstance of seeking a man with solutions only to find that he does not have answers and his very presence may now trouble our existence.”

“Trouble your existence?” I replied and heard the restrained irritation in my voice. “Isolated in whatever this is you are probably unaware of what has been taking place in my now as you so casually put it. Unaware of the civilian injuries and train accidents caused by whatever it is you’re doing here and if our theories are correct, what you have been doing throughout time. Surely you can understand that my being here, of being hired to solve the mystery of the occurrences that you have been and are causing is bigger trouble to our existence than it is to yours.”

“Are we to be enemies, Mr. Quaice?” a slight smile curled the edges of her lips, but it contained no mirth. “Instead of aiding my endeavors to cease my disruptions in time and possibly repair the damage I have done, will you choose to stand in my way?”

I said nothing for I could not commit either way without a proper assessment of the situation. She spoke of the possibility of repairing damage, did that mean altering the timeline? If so, how much of it had she affected, how far back did it go and what would be the alterations to what I was accustomed to? Surely I would stop her from further damage if I was able but would I prevent her from undoing what was already history to me?

The woman took steps toward me and I was unsure of her intent. I braced myself for a possible confrontation but relaxed when she strode past and made her way to the door at the opposite end of the car, unlocking the magnetic mechanism. “For reasons neither of us understands, Mr. Quaice, you will become an important man in my life, so I need you. There is no record of my encountering your friends which means I do not need them. Their presence here might even prove to be a hindrance to your aiding me in my cause. It would have been quite simple, while you were unconscious, to cast them out into this…”

The woman let the door swing wide and I was drawn, we all were drawn, to what lay beyond the antiquated train car like moths to a lit candle, oblivious to the dangers of being burned alive or trapped within the wax of a vista that defied comprehension let alone description.

To be continued…

‘Til next week,

☮️  💗

©2018 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Creative Commons License