Crosscut

Crosscut By Chris Kneipp

“Liar!” She screamed as her hand lashed his face with painful fury, turning she stormed out of the room leaving Dave to stand alone in his humiliation.
His first impulse was to grab something, anything, and shatter it into a multitude of shards across the kitchen floor. It may not have been the most constructive thing he could have done but for want of a better alternative, it certainly seemed to be the most satisfying. It was at such moments, as he sent a plate sailing across the kitchen, that he wondered why he had married her. Frustration and high blood pressure seemed to be the most consistent gifts that she gave him. Then again, he thought as the plate exploded against the opposite wall, it was her best china.
Dave decided to do what any other self-respecting, Doctor of physics would have done in the same situation. He turned to the back door, hurled it open and walked out, slamming it hard enough to tear the lock from its mount. He was going to the pub.
The pub was quiet, as usual for a weekday, with a meagre handful of academics, slowly and certainly pickling their respective grey matter. Dave had travelled to quite a few of the universities in the country and they all had a pub that they claimed as their own. He mused briefly if this was a worldwide phenomena or just peculiar to Australia.
Dave was on his fifth beer when the urges of his bladder finally reached his sodden mind, and so, leaving his drink half finished, he headed for the lavatory.
Hotel toilets have a smell that defies description. It must be experienced to be understood. It is a noxious and sickly-sweet mixture of disinfectant, deodorising cakes, stale urine, stale beer and vomit. It was the same stench, Dave observed drunkenly, wherever you went. It is not a conducive atmosphere to constructive thought and it prompted him to dwell, instead, on the argument from which he had escaped. It seemed so petty in hindsight. Who cared what had or had not been said and by whom?
Dave was mildly surprised by how the beer had taken the edge from his anger and had mellowed him. Or, he pondered, had it just dulled his senses. In any event, he conceded, his mind was changed, and the proper thing to do was to go home and sort the whole thing out. Perhaps, he thought hopefully, he could just let the matter drop and the whole thing would just disappear like so much vapour.
“No.” He said aloud “It’s got to be sorted out… Maybe after one more beer.”
Dave washed his hands and held then under the dryer for a moment before impatiently drying them off on his trousers. He thought absently how old he looked, as he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror. Much too old for forty-two.
Back in the bar, the crowd seemed to have swollen remarkably in such a short time. The room had filled with young students, scattered, in small groups, sitting around the tables and benches.
Dave looked at his watch and thought cynically, “Bit early for the lectures to be finished. Or maybe there’s just enough time to be halfway gone before waddling off to the next one. First year students, I’d wager.” He scoffed, “It’s the same every year. They never change.”
Returning to his table, Dave found that four male and three female students now occupied it. However, the greater insult, by far, was the absence of his unfinished beer. On the verge of protesting, it occurred to him that the “Bar Useless ” had probably cleared his drink away, believing it to be abandoned.
“In that case…” He thought, and headed for the bar.
Dave attempted to saunter confidently up to the bar, but barely managed an unsteady tightrope walk.
Leaning heavily on the bar, he signalled the barman.
“Hello Doctor Kentwell. What can I get you?” The fresh faced barman greeted him cheerfully.
“Ahh?” He paused uncertainly. A new face was grinning v“Liar!” She screamed as her hand lashed his face with painful fury, turning she stormed out of the room leaving Dave to stand alone in his humiliation.
His first impulse was to grab something, anything, and shatter it into a multitude of shards across the kitchen floor. It may not have been the most constructive thing he could have done but for want of a better alternative, it certainly seemed to be the most satisfying. It was at such moments, as he sent a plate sailing across the kitchen, that he wondered why he had married her. Frustration and high blood pressure seemed to be the most consistent gifts that she gave him. Then again, he thought as the plate exploded against the opposite wall, it was her best china.
Dave decided to do what any other self-respecting, Doctor of physics would have done in the same situation. He turned to the back door, hurled it open and walked out, slamming it hard enough to tear the lock from its mount. He was going to the pub.
The pub was quiet, as usual for a weekday, with a meagre handful of academics, slowly and certainly pickling their respective grey matter. Dave had travelled to quite a few of the universities in the country and they all had a pub that they claimed as their own. He mused briefly if this was a worldwide phenomena or just peculiar to Australia.
Dave was on his fifth beer when the urges of his bladder finally reached his sodden mind, and so, leaving his drink half finished, he headed for the lavatory.
Hotel toilets have a smell that defies description. It must be experienced to be understood. It is a noxious and sickly-sweet mixture of disinfectant, deodorising cakes, stale urine, stale beer and vomit. It was the same stench, Dave observed drunkenly, wherever you went. It is not a conducive atmosphere to constructive thought and it prompted him to dwell, instead, on the argument from which he had escaped. It seemed so petty in hindsight. Who cared what had or had not been said and by whom?
Dave was mildly surprised by how the beer had taken the edge from his anger and had mellowed him. Or, he pondered, had it just dulled his senses. In any event, he conceded, his mind was changed, and the proper thing to do was to go home and sort the whole thing out. Perhaps, he thought hopefully, he could just let the matter drop and the whole thing would just disappear like so much vapour.
“No.” He said aloud “It’s got to be sorted out… Maybe after one more beer.”
Dave washed his hands and held then under the dryer for a moment before impatiently drying them off on his trousers. He thought absently how old he looked, as he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror. Much too old for forty-two.
Back in the bar, the crowd seemed to have swollen remarkably in such a short time. The room had filled with young students, scattered, in small groups, sitting around the tables and benches.
Dave looked at his watch and thought cynically, “Bit early for the lectures to be finished. Or maybe there’s just enough time to be halfway gone before waddling off to the next one. First year students, I’d wager.” He scoffed, “It’s the same every year. They never change.”
Returning to his table, Dave found that four male and three female students now occupied it. However, the greater insult, by far, was the absence of his unfinished beer. On the verge of protesting, it occurred to him that the “Bar Useless ” had probably cleared his drink away, believing it to be abandoned.
“In that case…” He thought, and headed for the bar.
Dave attempted to saunter confidently up to the bar, but barely managed an unsteady tightrope walk.
Leaning heavily on the bar, he signalled the barman.
“Hello Doctor Kentwell. What can I get you?” The fresh faced barman greeted him cheerfully.
“Ahh?” He paused uncertainly. A new face was grinning vacuously at him with such familiarity that he found it quite unsettling. The face of a stranger. A stranger’s face that seemed to know him. “The usual.” He ventured anyway.
As Dave struggled with the identity of the stranger behind the bar, the drink was poured and placed on the bar before him. A scotch. The barman had served him scotch. He hated scotch. This familiar stranger did not even know his usual.
“Uh huh! What’s this then?” Dave challenged.
“It’s a drink.” The barman answered bluntly.
I know it’s a bloody drink. But what is it?” Dave was becoming testy.
“Your usual, Doctor. A double malt scotch whiskey, no ice.” The barman’s tone was that of someone who was humouring a fool.
Dave was not humoured.
“I hate scotch.” Dave announced curtly.
“Well, that’s news to me sir.” The barman retorted in a calm but annoyed tone. “I’ve watched you come in here every day for eighteen months and order a double malt scotch first drink, followed by a fifty. Half old and half new, with a dash of stout. You then go and sit in that corner,” he indicated the place where he had bean seated before going to the toilet. Strangely, the table was empty once more, “and for the next two hours you sit on it before going home.”
Dave started to object, but there was something in the stranger’s eyes that marked him as unreasonable. He stared at the bar tender for a few incredulous seconds, before turning on his heel and storming out of the pub, uncertain whether he was angry or simply confused.
“Typical Psych.” The barman muttered. “Too much time in other people’s heads and not enough time in their own.”
It was probably just as well, that Dave did not hear the parting shot or he would have continued the argument, on the basis that he had nothing to do with Psychiatry. Instead, he was totally consumed by the oddness of the afternoon, as he left the hotel grounds. First, there was the argument with Jill, and then the barman. It was all most strange.
Dave was so filled with confusion at that moment he completely failed to notice something else that was awry. The pub had become completely empty. Of course, it had been closed for six months.
As Dave approached his house, he saw that the grevilleas were flowering, their red, spidery flowers, glistening in the sun. He had not noticed them on his way out, but he passed the oversight off as a product of his anger. He thought to himself that he really should be more observant around the place, as it might help keep him from fighting so much with Jill.
Dave reached down to unlatch the gate and realised that it was gone. Not only the latch, but also the whole gate was missing. There were no tell-tale marks where the hinges had been. No sign remained of the steel and wire mesh gate that he had so proudly hung there. He was not much of a handyman, and it had always been a little skew-whiff, but that was not the point. He had done it. It was testimony to his multi-talented nature, not to mention justification in arguments about him not doing enough around the place. Only now, it was gone. Perhaps his only domestic triumph and it was no longer there.
Stumbling up the path, unsteady as much from the shock as from the alcohol, he tripped on the top step and fell face first and spread eagle at the door, making a dead thud on the wooden veranda.
The fall knocked the breath out of him, and, as he heard the door open above his head, he felt humiliation mix with the pain. This was not a good way to begin resolving their earlier argument. Jill would not understand that he was not all that drunk, really. Smelling of beer, lying flat on his face before her as he was, did not present a good case for his sobriety.
Before he could speak, attempting to worm his way out of the situation, a loud, deep, and distinctly unfeminine voice bellowed from above him. “What in God’s name do you think you’re doing on our veranda?”
Dave rolled onto his back to look squarely up the nose of the stranger who confronted him. With an expression of deep, unfathomed befuddlement on his face, Dave extended an index finger in the air and grunted from his struggling lungs. “Who the hell are you? Where’s Jill?”
“I should ask you the same question buddy, because there’s nobody here named Jill. Now what are you doing on my veranda?” The baritone insisted.
Dave considered the options he had and decided that, firstly he should attempt a vertical stance. Staggering to his knees and then to his feet, he looked the intruder up and down. What was this middle aged and singleted, yobo doing in his house. ” Your veranda? ” Dave started indignantly. ” What do you mean, your veranda? This is my… ” He faltered in the midst of his retort. The house looked like his, but the colour was all wrong. He would never live in a crème and green house. Suddenly the realization that this was not his house after all, and that he was the intruder, fell upon his mind like a wave.
All at once, he realised just how unlike his house, the place was. Dave would never tolerate garden gnomes and fish ponds in his yard.
” I’m sorry… ” Dave faltered as he realised that the fish pond was where the grevilleas had been, just moments before. ” I didn’t think I was that drunk. ” He muttered to himself.
The singleted stranger chided him as he lead him to the gate, that was now back in place, opening it for him and directing him down the street. Dave had gone no more than ten paces and looked back, but the stranger was gone. Also, noticeably absent were the fence, the pond and the house. In its place was a vacant lot, occupied only by tall grass and a faded ‘ For Sale ‘ sign. After a few seconds, he turned and shuffled down the road, too dumbstruck to do anything but continue in the direction that the phantom in a singlet had sent him.
Shambling along the footpath, Dave passed places, no longer familiar to him, to a park that had not been there before and sat heavily on a bench seat. Slowly, he lay down on it.
” What an extraordinary day? ” He muttered to himself as his eyes closed. ” extraordinary… ‘” and just like that, he drifted into a heavy, “extraord… ” drunken, ” ZZZ ” sleep.
Dave awoke with a start and bolted upright, his eyes remaining firmly shut. Now he was not without experience of hangovers, but this one was quite exceptional. It was unlike anything that. he had ever felt. He likened it to being squeezed between two large speakers, both attached to a thousand watt amplifier, with microphone feedback screaming from one and a heavy metal version of the eighteen twelve overture, complete with canons, playing through the other.
The screeching, the howling, and the pounding in his head, they all left him with only one real option. He threw up.
Strangely, Dave found that he felt a little better for it, his hangover began to give a little leeway for other sensations to reach his brain.
The sounds had been real, if not amplified by the dehydration of alcoholic poisoning. There were hisses and metallic clattering noises, and a bell. Then a tinny voice, heavily accented announced loudly, ” All stations to the city on platform one, now departing Please stand clear. “
” A train station? ‘” He thought incredulously and he opened his eyes. ” How did I
manage to get to a train station? “
It had become quite cold and dark and Dave shivered. He wondered how long he had been sleeping? He guessed at least five hours had passed as he snoozed on that park bench, or train bench, or whatever it was.
The train departed with a great clattering and squealing that seemed quite unnecessary to his sozzled brain. It was unnecessary, unwelcome and only served to remind him, of just how unwell he really felt.
Then Dave realised that, on the seat would be the name of the station, and for a second his hopes were raised by the prospect of getting his bearings and heading home.
” For goodness sake. ” He thought aloud, ” even arguing with Jill was better than this. “
But when Dave turned to read the name on the seat he was stunned. Written clearly in
white, it read ” Tetnjnful. “
He rubbed his eyes and looked again, taking a deep gulp of the cool night air, but the gibberish remained. ” Tetnjnful. “
Above the seat, on the wall, a sign repeated the mash of letters as did all the signs in his immediate line of vision.
” What the. . . ? ” Dave wondered out loud.
For several seconds he was transfixed, unable to master the confusion that clouded his
mind. Then movement caught his eye, breaking the trance and he turned to look.
With hair a lurid purple and silver, and leaning heavily on her walking stick, a hunched old woman hobbled her way down the platform towards him.
Dave watched the woman as she approached, until she came within earshot, and he asked.
” Excuse me, but could you please tell me what is it with the signs around here? “
The woman seemed so frail as she stopped for a moment and looked up, considering Dave from underneath her colourful fringe. After a few seconds pause, she spoke. Unfortunately for Dave, he could not understand a word of the strange language that she spoke.
” Of all the people, ” he thought, ” I have to get a foreigner.” The irony made him laugh.
He laughed loudly recounting his recent history. Just when you think. things can’t get any worse, they will.
Regrettably, laughing was not his only mistake. His first mistake was overestimating the frailty of the old woman, and his second was standing in such proximity to her.
The purple haired harridan’s face twisted into a snarl and she began waving her arms about and brandishing her walking stick like a sabre. Ranting and raving and screaming words that could only be obscenities, the elderly wild-woman began striking Dave with her cane.
Dave was momentarily frozen by the shock of what was happening and the stunning ferocity of the blows, but he quickly got the idea and retreated, leaving the banshee to spit and curse unintelligibly after him. He ran as far away from the old woman as he could.
Dave’s chest hurt, his breath rasping in his lungs, and he cursed himself for being so unfit. As he fought to regain his wind, he had time to notice his surroundings, and the, now obvious, idiosyncracies.
The streets were narrower than they should have been and there was not a car in sight, either moving or parked. The streets were lit by the old fashioned gas lamps, yet across the street was a storefront which, anachronistically seemed to be selling computers.
Dave crossed the road to take a closer look in the store window. Some tables lined the walls, with rows of computers displayed on them, all with blank screens. In the window was the only operational model, displaying a series of pictures and demonstrations on a continual loop.
Although the window display seemed normal enough, there was one disturbing aspect to the whole picture. The computer was plugged into, what could only be a generator. A steam powered generator.
Dave turned around, completely bemused by the total insanity of it all, and stepped carelessly onto the road. What he failed to realise was that the traffic lights had changed from violet to blue, and he stepped straight into the path of an oncoming hover car. The driver pulled to a halt and jumped out, babbling in a strange guttural tone. But Dave did not hear him. As he blacked out he notice one last thing. One thing that was instantly familiar to him, and he took a strange comfort from it.
At last, just as unconsciousness was taking him, Dave saw a word that was recognisable to him. On the grill of the hover car was a single name. “Volvo. ” If he was still conscious, he would have laughed.
When Dave finally awoke, he wished that. he felt as good as he had when he was hungover. His head pounded, his body ached and breathing was difficult in the extreme. He recalled the impact of the hover car, and the strangeness of his day, and so, with caution, he opened his eyes slowly, awaiting the latest mental assault.
Luck was momentarily on his side, as tall trees and the sound of birds greeted him back from unconsciousness. The air smelled sweet, laden with the scent of nectar and the morning sun felt warm on his aching, battered body.
Dave lay there on the grass and just soaked up the morning’s glory. He felt, at least mentally, restored and decided he would try sitting up, but it turned out to be a mistake. He decided it was better just to lay there for a while and gather his senses together, focussing instead on how he could possibly have ended up in such an insane predicament.
As Dave took a mental inventory of his recent history recalled a disregarded memory that suddenly took on new significance. Despite the pain he bolted upright, understanding what had happened. The realisation drove him to his feet.
Only two days ago, the day before a11 this had begun, he had be working in the university lab, testing the Physic’s departments latest project, a particle generator designed to focus Tachions into a carbon containment pellet. The apparatus had been, up until that point, producing disappointingly, unpredictable results in the production of the faster-than-light particles. His task was to run some tests to ensure that it was, at least functional, to determine whether the fault was design or operationally based. What he had discovered, as he ran it through its paces, was that a small crack in the housing of the main accelerator, was leaking small levels of radiation. Sure enough, when the housing was repaired, and new shielding put in place, the generator worked like a charm.
Dave had been quite chuffed at the time and had kept the first pellet as a souvenir. Reaching into his jacket pocket, he removed the glass vial containing the rice-grain sized black carbon crystal. It now occurred to him that his exposure to the faster than light particles, was greater than anyo“Liar!” She screamed as her hand lashed his face with painful fury, turning she stormed out of the room leaving Dave to stand alone in his humiliation.
His first impulse was to grab something, anything, and shatter it into a multitude of shards across the kitchen floor. It may not have been the most constructive thing he could have done but for want of a better alternative, it certainly seemed to be the most satisfying. It was at such moments, as he sent a plate sailing across the kitchen, that he wondered why he had married her. Frustration and high blood pressure seemed to be the most consistent gifts that she gave him. Then again, he thought as the plate exploded against the opposite wall, it was her best china.
Dave decided to do what any other self-respecting, Doctor of physics would have done in the same situation. He turned to the back door, hurled it open and walked out, slamming it hard enough to tear the lock from its mount. He was going to the pub.
The pub was quiet, as usual for a weekday, with a meagre handful of academics, slowly and certainly pickling their respective grey matter. Dave had travelled to quite a few of the universities in the country and they all had a pub that they claimed as their own. He mused briefly if this was a worldwide phenomena or just peculiar to Australia.
Dave was on his fifth beer when the urges of his bladder finally reached his sodden mind, and so, leaving his drink half finished, he headed for the lavatory.
Hotel toilets have a smell that defies description. It must be experienced to be understood. It is a noxious and sickly-sweet mixture of disinfectant, deodorising cakes, stale urine, stale beer and vomit. It was the same stench, Dave observed drunkenly, wherever you went. It is not a conducive atmosphere to constructive thought and it prompted him to dwell, instead, on the argument from which he had escaped. It seemed so petty in hindsight. Who cared what had or had not been said and by whom?
Dave was mildly surprised by how the beer had taken the edge from his anger and had mellowed him. Or, he pondered, had it just dulled his senses. In any event, he conceded, his mind was changed, and the proper thing to do was to go home and sort the whole thing out. Perhaps, he thought hopefully, he could just let the matter drop and the whole thing would just disappear like so much vapour.
“No.” He said aloud “It’s got to be sorted out… Maybe after one more beer.”
Dave washed his hands and held then under the dryer for a moment before impatiently drying them off on his trousers. He thought absently how old he looked, as he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror. Much too old for forty-two.
Back in the bar, the crowd seemed to have swollen remarkably in such a short time. The room had filled with young students, scattered, in small groups, sitting around the tables and benches.
Dave looked at his watch and thought cynically, “Bit early for the lectures to be finished. Or maybe there’s just enough time to be halfway gone before waddling off to the next one. First year students, I’d wager.” He scoffed, “It’s the same every year. They never change.”
Returning to his table, Dave found that four male and three female students now occupied it. However, the greater insult, by far, was the absence of his unfinished beer. On the verge of protesting, it occurred to him that the “Bar Useless ” had probably cleared his drink away, believing it to be abandoned.
“In that case…” He thought, and headed for the bar.
Dave attempted to saunter confidently up to the bar, but barely managed an unsteady tightrope walk.
Leaning heavily on the bar, he signalled the barman.
“Hello Doctor Kentwell. What can I get you?” The fresh faced barman greeted him cheerfully.
“Ahh?” He paused uncertainly. A new face was grinning vacuously at him with such familiarity that he found it quite unsettling. The face of a stranger. A stranger’s face that seemed to know him. “The usual.” He ventured anyway.
As Dave struggled with the identity of the stranger behind the bar, the drink was poured and placed on the bar before him. A scotch. The barman had served him scotch. He hated scotch. This familiar stranger did not even know his usual.
“Uh huh! What’s this then?” Dave challenged.
“It’s a drink.” The barman answered bluntly.
I know it’s a bloody drink. But what is it?” Dave was becoming testy.
“Your usual, Doctor. A double malt scotch whiskey, no ice.” The barman’s tone was that of someone who was humouring a fool.
Dave was not humoured.
“I hate scotch.” Dave announced curtly.
“Well, that’s news to me sir.” The barman retorted in a calm but annoyed tone. “I’ve watched you come in here every day for eighteen months and order a double malt scotch first drink, followed by a fifty. Half old and half new, with a dash of stout. You then go and sit in that corner,” he indicated the place where he had bean seated before going to the toilet. Strangely, the table was empty once more, “and for the next two hours you sit on it before going home.”
Dave started to object, but there was something in the stranger’s eyes that marked him as unreasonable. He stared at the bar tender for a few incredulous seconds, before turning on his heel and storming out of the pub, uncertain whether he was angry or simply confused.
“Typical Psych.” The barman muttered. “Too much time in other people’s heads and not enough time in their own.”
It was probably just as well, that Dave did not hear the parting shot or he would have continued the argument, on the basis that he had nothing to do with Psychiatry. Instead, he was totally consumed by the oddness of the afternoon, as he left the hotel grounds. First, there was the argument with Jill, and then the barman. It was all most strange.
Dave was so filled with confusion at that moment he completely failed to notice something else that was awry. The pub had become completely empty. Of course, it had been closed for six months.
As Dave approached his house, he saw that the grevilleas were flowering, their red, spidery flowers, glistening in the sun. He had not noticed them on his way out, but he passed the oversight off as a product of his anger. He thought to himself that he really should be more observant around the place, as it might help keep him from fighting so much with Jill.
Dave reached down to unlatch the gate and realised that it was gone. Not only the latch, but also the whole gate was missing. There were no tell-tale marks where the hinges had been. No sign remained of the steel and wire mesh gate that he had so proudly hung there. He was not much of a handyman, and it had always been a little skew-whiff, but that was not the point. He had done it. It was testimony to his multi-talented nature, not to mention justification in arguments about him not doing enough around the place. Only now, it was gone. Perhaps his only domestic triumph and it was no longer there.
Stumbling up the path, unsteady as much from the shock as from the alcohol, he tripped on the top step and fell face first and spread eagle at the door, making a dead thud on the wooden veranda.
The fall knocked the breath out of him, and, as he heard the door open above his head, he felt humiliation mix with the pain. This was not a good way to begin resolving their earlier argument. Jill would not understand that he was not all that drunk, really. Smelling of beer, lying flat on his face before her as he was, did not present a good case for his sobriety.
Before he could speak, attempting to worm his way out of the situation, a loud, deep, and distinctly unfeminine voice bellowed from above him. “What in God’s name do you think you’re doing on our veranda?”
Dave rolled onto his back to look squarely up the nose of the stranger who confronted him. With an expression of deep, unfathomed befuddlement on his face, Dave extended an index finger in the air and grunted from his struggling lungs. “Who the hell are you? Where’s Jill?”
“I should ask you the same question buddy, because there’s nobody here named Jill. Now what are you doing on my veranda?” The baritone insisted.
Dave considered the options he had and decided that, firstly he should attempt a vertical stance. Staggering to his knees and then to his feet, he looked the intruder up and down. What was this middle aged and singleted, yobo doing in his house. ” Your veranda? ” Dave started indignantly. ” What do you mean, your veranda? This is my… ” He faltered in the midst of his retort. The house looked like his, but the colour was all wrong. He would never live in a crème and green house. Suddenly the realization that this was not his house after all, and that he was the intruder, fell upon his mind like a wave.
All at once, he realised just how unlike his house, the place was. Dave would never tolerate garden gnomes and fish ponds in his yard.
” I’m sorry… ” Dave faltered as he realised that the fish pond was where the grevilleas had been, just moments before. ” I didn’t think I was that drunk. ” He muttered to himself.
The singleted stranger chided him as he lead him to the gate, that was now back in place, opening it for him and directing him down the street. Dave had gone no more than ten paces and looked back, but the stranger was gone. Also, noticeably absent were the fence, the pond and the house. In its place was a vacant lot, occupied only by tall grass and a faded ‘ For Sale ‘ sign. After a few seconds, he turned and shuffled down the road, too dumbstruck to do anything but continue in the direction that the phantom in a singlet had sent him.
Shambling along the footpath, Dave passed places, no longer familiar to him, to a park that had not been there before and sat heavily on a bench seat. Slowly, he lay down on it.
” What an extraordinary day? ” He muttered to himself as his eyes closed. ” extraordinary… ‘” and just like that, he drifted into a heavy, “extraord… ” drunken, ” ZZZ ” sleep.
Dave awoke with a start and bolted upright, his eyes remaining firmly shut. Now he was not without experience of hangovers, but this one was quite exceptional. It was unlike anything that. he had ever felt. He likened it to being squeezed between two large speakers, both attached to a thousand watt amplifier, with microphone feedback screaming from one and a heavy metal version of the eighteen twelve overture, complete with canons, playing through the other.
The screeching, the howling, and the pounding in his head, they all left him with only one real option. He threw up.
Strangely, Dave found that he felt a little better for it, his hangover began to give a little leeway for other sensations to reach his brain.
The sounds had been real, if not amplified by the dehydration of alcoholic poisoning. There were hisses and metallic clattering noises, and a bell. Then a tinny voice, heavily accented announced loudly, ” All stations to the city on platform one, now departing Please stand clear. “
” A train station? ‘” He thought incredulously and he opened his eyes. ” How did I
manage to get to a train station? “
It had become quite cold and dark and Dave shivered. He wondered how long he had been sleeping? He guessed at least five hours had passed as he snoozed on that park bench, or train bench, or whatever it was.
The train departed with a great clattering and squealing that seemed quite unnecessary to his sozzled brain. It was unnecessary, unwelcome and only served to remind him, of just how unwell he really felt.
Then Dave realised that, on the seat would be the name of the station, and for a second his hopes were raised by the prospect of getting his bearings and heading home.
” For goodness sake. ” He thought aloud, ” even arguing with Jill was better than this. “
But when Dave turned to read the name on the seat he was stunned. Written clearly in
white, it read ” Tetnjnful. “
He rubbed his eyes and looked again, taking a deep gulp of the cool night air, but the gibberish remained. ” Tetnjnful. “
Above the seat, on the wall, a sign repeated the mash of letters as did all the signs in his immediate line of vision.
” What the. . . ? ” Dave wondered out loud.
For several seconds he was transfixed, unable to master the confusion that clouded his
mind. Then movement caught his eye, breaking the trance and he turned to look.
With hair a lurid purple and silver, and leaning heavily on her walking stick, a hunched old woman hobbled her way down the platform towards him.
Dave watched the woman as she approached, until she came within earshot, and he asked.
” Excuse me, but could you please tell me what is it with the signs around here? “
The woman seemed so frail as she stopped for a moment and looked up, considering Dave from underneath her colourful fringe. After a few seconds pause, she spoke. Unfortunately for Dave, he could not understand a word of the strange language that she spoke.
” Of all the people, ” he thought, ” I have to get a foreigner.” The irony made him laugh.
He laughed loudly recounting his recent history. Just when you think. things can’t get any worse, they will.
Regrettably, laughing was not his only mistake. His first mistake was overestimating the frailty of the old woman, and his second was standing in such proximity to her.
The purple haired harridan’s face twisted into a snarl and she began waving her arms about and brandishing her walking stick like a sabre. Ranting and raving and screaming words that could only be obscenities, the elderly wild-woman began striking Dave with her cane.
Dave was momentarily frozen by the shock of what was happening and the stunning ferocity of the blows, but he quickly got the idea and retreated, leaving the banshee to spit and curse unintelligibly after him. He ran as far away from the old woman as he could.
Dave’s chest hurt, his breath rasping in his lungs, and he cursed himself for being so unfit. As he fought to regain his wind, he had time to notice his surroundings, and the, now obvious, idiosyncracies.
The streets were narrower than they should have been and there was not a car in sight, either moving or parked. The streets were lit by the old fashioned gas lamps, yet across the street was a storefront which, anachronistically seemed to be selling computers.
Dave crossed the road to take a closer look in the store window. Some tables lined the walls, with rows of computers displayed on them, all with blank screens. In the window was the only operational model, displaying a series of pictures and demonstrations on a continual loop.
Although the window display seemed normal enough, there was one disturbing aspect to the whole picture. The computer was plugged into, what could only be a generator. A steam powered generator.
Dave turned around, completely bemused by the total insanity of it all, and stepped carelessly onto the road. What he failed to realise was that the traffic lights had changed from violet to blue, and he stepped straight into the path of an oncoming hover car. The driver pulled to a halt and jumped out, babbling in a strange guttural tone. But Dave did not hear him. As he blacked out he notice one last thing. One thing that was instantly familiar to him, and he took a strange comfort from it.
At last, just as unconsciousness was taking him, Dave saw a word that was recognisable to him. On the grill of the hover car was a single name. “Volvo. ” If he was still conscious, he would have laughed.
When Dave finally awoke, he wished that. he felt as good as he had when he was hungover. His head pounded, his body ached and breathing was difficult in the extreme. He recalled the impact of the hover car, and the strangeness of his day, and so, with caution, he opened his eyes slowly, awaiting the latest mental assault.
Luck was momentarily on his side, as tall trees and the sound of birds greeted him back from unconsciousness. The air smelled sweet, laden with the scent of nectar and the morning sun felt warm on his aching, battered body.
Dave lay there on the grass and just soaked up the morning’s glory. He felt, at least mentally, restored and decided he would try sitting up, but it turned out to be a mistake. He decided it was better just to lay there for a while and gather his senses together, focussing instead on how he could possibly have ended up in such an insane predicament.
As Dave took a mental inventory of his recent history recalled a disregarded memory that suddenly took on new significance. Despite the pain he bolted upright, understanding what had happened. The realisation drove him to his feet.
Only two days ago, the day before a11 this had begun, he had be working in the university lab, testing the Physic’s departments latest project, a particle generator designed to focus Tachions into a carbon containment pellet. The apparatus had been, up until that point, producing disappointingly, unpredictable results in the production of the faster-than-light particles. His task was to run some tests to ensure that it was, at least functional, to determine whether the fault was design or operationally based. What he had discovered, as he ran it through its paces, was that a small crack in the housing of the main accelerator, was leaking small levels of radiation. Sure enough, when the housing was repaired, and new shielding put in place, the generator worked like a charm.
Dave had been quite chuffed at the time and had kept the first pellet as a souvenir. Reaching into his jacket pocket, he removed the glass vial containing the rice-grain sized black carbon crystal. It now occurred to him that his exposure to the faster than light particles, was greater than anyone had ever experienced before. ” Who knows what that might do to your body? ” He thought aloud. ” 0r your place in the fabric of time and space?.”
Dave took stock or’ his surroundings. He was standing in a large park, with tended gardens and eucalypts everywhere around him, and not a road or hovering Volvo in sight. He breathed a deep sigh, only to feel a sharp pain shoot through his abdomen. After some tentative probing with his fingers, he realised that he had obviously fractured one or two ribs in his encounter with the vanishing Volvo. But he appeared to he otherwise in better condition than he might have been, all things considered.
There was something about the park that seemed more than a little familiar and after a few
more seconds of consideration, it finally dawned on him. It was the large botanical gardens that ran, parallel to the university grounds, and, idiosyncrasy’s permitting, he may be able to get to his lab and sort out what was happening to him.
As fast as his cracked ribs would permit, Dave headed across the gardens, in the direction
that the university should have been, his mind racing with the possible permutations that could explain the madness of his ever changing world.
It seemed, Dave hypothesised, that he had either fallen into, or created around himself, a rift in the realms of time and space. His anchor had been cast and he was adrift, not so much through time, as across it. Drifting slowly across the realms of possible and parallel universes. It was an amazing discovery. He had accidentally found a doorway across those infinite pathways between the possibilities. If he could find a way of quantifying the effect, he could become the most famous physicist since Einstein, perhaps even more famous than the great man himself. The prospect of fame and fortune became, even stronger than his need for his own temporal stability.
He walked over a berm and was much relieved to see the old university clock tower above the trees. Dave kept the tower firmly in his sights, as if he could will himself and his present time stream to remain linked. Thankfully it did, all the way up to the entrance of G block, and on, up to his lab.
Cautiously, Dave opened the door only to find that the lab was deserted, but there in the centre of the room was the tachyon generator in all its glory. It occurred to him that he had perhaps been returned to his own place in time, and so he decided it would be prudent to check his desk for evidence of his existence in that time and place.
Opening the top draw, he saw that everything was just as he had left it, in a state of ordered chaos, just as he liked it. He moved to the the generator itself and where the crack in the housing had been. For a moment his heart fell as he saw that the offending fault was not there, but a closer inspection revealed signs of the recent repairs.
Quickly he took the vial and the pellet and placed them in a lead lined container.
He was home, he thought cheerfully to himself, and with a monumental discovery under his belt he could get funding for his project increased and extended for who knew how long? It was a great day for science. Not to mention a mighty fine day for Doctor David Kentwell. He smiled as he left the lab and headed towards the physics department lunch room. Just wait until he told all his colleagues of his discovery. Why, they’d turn green with envy, especially Maxwell, his long time rival and peer.
As he gloated mentally he failed to judge the stairs and fell heavily down the first three steps, a sickening crack announcing the breaking of his ankle. Dave screamed in agony as he caught himself on the railing, his ribs sharply responding to the new pounding that they received.
His cry brought the immediate attention of a security guard, who came to his assistance from the floor below him.
” Doctor Kentwell hold on I’m here. ” Frank the security guard called reassuringly as he approached. Catching Dave and helping him to the bottom step, Frank sat him gently
down. ” I’d better have a look at that leg. “
” Frank, you don’t understand. I’ve just made the most amazing discovery. I can worry about the break later. I’ve got to tell the others what I’ve found. “
But Frank ignored him, as he examined the ankle and foot, twisted at an absurd angle.
” Look, Frank. Get me someone from the Physics department first, then you can call an ambulance, and we’ll deal with this. ” The importance of his discovery was greater than his pain at that moment, and he had to tell someone before he got dragged off somewhere else.
Frank looked at Doctor Kentwell with a strange saddness in his eyes, unclipping his holster. ” I’m sorry Doctor, but its badly broken. ” Dave’s eyes widened as Frank removed his service revolver.
” There’s only one humane thing to do. ” He lined up the barrel with Dave’s forehead and added,
” Seems such a waste too. “
At that moment, Dave realised that he had not quite made it home after all.ne had ever experienced before. ” Who knows what that might do to your body? ” He thought aloud. ” 0r your place in the fabric of time and space?.”
Dave took stock or’ his surroundings. He was standing in a large park, with tended gardens and eucalypts everywhere around him, and not a road or hovering Volvo in sight. He breathed a deep sigh, only to feel a sharp pain shoot through his abdomen. After some tentative probing with his fingers, he realised that he had obviously fractured one or two ribs in his encounter with the vanishing Volvo. But he appeared to he otherwise in better condition than he might have been, all things considered.
There was something about the park that seemed more than a little familiar and after a few
more seconds of consideration, it finally dawned on him. It was the large botanical gardens that ran, parallel to the university grounds, and, idiosyncrasy’s permitting, he may be able to get to his lab and sort out what was happening to him.
As fast as his cracked ribs would permit, Dave headed across the gardens, in the direction
that the university should have been, his mind racing with the possible permutations that could explain the madness of his ever changing world.
It seemed, Dave hypothesised, that he had either fallen into, or created around himself, a rift in the realms of time and space. His anchor had been cast and he was adrift, not so much through time, as across it. Drifting slowly across the realms of possible and parallel universes. It was an amazing discovery. He had accidentally found a doorway across those infinite pathways between the possibilities. If he could find a way of quantifying the effect, he could become the most famous physicist since Einstein, perhaps even more famous than the great man himself. The prospect of fame and fortune became, even stronger than his need for his own temporal stability.
He walked over a berm and was much relieved to see the old university clock tower above the trees. Dave kept the tower firmly in his sights, as if he could will himself and his present time stream to remain linked. Thankfully it did, all the way up to the entrance of G block, and on, up to his lab.
Cautiously, Dave opened the door only to find that the lab was deserted, but there in the centre of the room was the tachyon generator in all its glory. It occurred to him that he had perhaps been returned to his own place in time, and so he decided it would be prudent to check his desk for evidence of his existence in that time and place.
Opening the top draw, he saw that everything was just as he had left it, in a state of ordered chaos, just as he liked it. He moved to the the generator itself and where the crack in the housing had been. For a moment his heart fell as he saw that the offending fault was not there, but a closer inspection revealed signs of the recent repairs.
Quickly he took the vial and the pellet and placed them in a lead lined container.
He was home, he thought cheerfully to himself, and with a monumental discovery under his belt he could get funding for his project increased and extended for who knew how long? It was a great day for science. Not to mention a mighty fine day for Doctor David Kentwell. He smiled as he left the lab and headed towards the physics department lunch room. Just wait until he told all his colleagues of his discovery. Why, they’d turn green with envy, especially Maxwell, his long time rival and peer.
As he gloated mentally he failed to judge the stairs and fell heavily down the first three steps, a sickening crack announcing the breaking of his ankle. Dave screamed in agony as he caught himself on the railing, his ribs sharply responding to the new pounding that they received.
His cry brought the immediate attention of a security guard, who came to his assistance from the floor below him.
” Doctor Kentwell hold on I’m here. ” Frank the security guard called reassuringly as he approached. Catching Dave and helping him to the bottom step, Frank sat him gently
down. ” I’d better have a look at that leg. “
” Frank, you don’t understand. I’ve just made the most amazing discovery. I can worry about the break later. I’ve got to tell the others what I’ve found. “
But Frank ignored him, as he examined the ankle and foot, twisted at an absurd angle.
” Look, Frank. Get me someone from the Physics department first, then you can call an ambulance, and we’ll deal with this. ” The importance of his discovery was greater than his pain at that moment, and he had to tell someone before he got dragged off somewhere else.
Frank looked at Doctor Kentwell with a strange saddness in his eyes, unclipping his holster. ” I’m sorry Doctor, but its badly broken. ” Dave’s eyes widened as Frank removed his service revolver.
” There’s only one humane thing to do. ” He lined up the barrel with Dave’s forehead and added,
” Seems such a waste too. “
At that moment, Dave realised that he had not quite made it home after all.acuously at him with such familiarity that he found it quite unsettling. The face of a stranger. A stranger’s face that seemed to know him. “The usual.” He ventured anyway.
As Dave struggled with the identity of the stranger behind the bar, the drink was poured and placed on the bar before him. A scotch. The barman had served him scotch. He hated scotch. This familiar stranger did not even know his usual.
“Uh huh! What’s this then?” Dave challenged.
“It’s a drink.” The barman answered bluntly.
I know it’s a bloody drink. But what is it?” Dave was becoming testy.
“Your usual, Doctor. A double malt scotch whiskey, no ice.” The barman’s tone was that of someone who was humouring a fool.
Dave was not humoured.
“I hate scotch.” Dave announced curtly.
“Well, that’s news to me sir.” The barman retorted in a calm but annoyed tone. “I’ve watched you come in here every day for eighteen months and order a double malt scotch first drink, followed by a fifty. Half old and half new, with a dash of stout. You then go and sit in that corner,” he indicated the place where he had bean seated before going to the toilet. Strangely, the table was empty once more, “and for the next two hours you sit on it before going home.”
Dave started to object, but there was something in the stranger’s eyes that marked him as unreasonable. He stared at the bar tender for a few incredulous seconds, before turning on his heel and storming out of the pub, uncertain whether he was angry or simply confused.
“Typical Psych.” The barman muttered. “Too much time in other people’s heads and not enough time in their own.”
It was probably just as well, that Dave did not hear the parting shot or he would have continued the argument, on the basis that he had nothing to do with Psychiatry. Instead, he was totally consumed by the oddness of the afternoon, as he left the hotel grounds. First, there was the argument with Jill, and then the barman. It was all most strange.
Dave was so filled with confusion at that moment he completely failed to notice something else that was awry. The pub had become completely empty. Of course, it had been closed for six months.
As Dave approached his house, he saw that the grevilleas were flowering, their red, spidery flowers, glistening in the sun. He had not noticed them on his way out, but he passed the oversight off as a product of his anger. He thought to himself that he really should be more observant around the place, as it might help keep him from fighting so much with Jill.
Dave reached down to unlatch the gate and realised that it was gone. Not only the latch, but also the whole gate was missing. There were no tell-tale marks where the hinges had been. No sign remained of the steel and wire mesh gate that he had so proudly hung there. He was not much of a handyman, and it had always been a little skew-whiff, but that was not the point. He had done it. It was testimony to his multi-talented nature, not to mention justification in arguments about him not doing enough around the place. Only now, it was gone. Perhaps his only domestic triumph and it was no longer there.
Stumbling up the path, unsteady as much from the shock as from the alcohol, he tripped on the top step and fell face first and spread eagle at the door, making a dead thud on the wooden veranda.
The fall knocked the breath out of him, and, as he heard the door open above his head, he felt humiliation mix with the pain. This was not a good way to begin resolving their earlier argument. Jill would not understand that he was not all that drunk, really. Smelling of beer, lying flat on his face before her as he was, did not present a good case for his sobriety.
Before he could speak, attempting to worm his way out of the situation, a loud, deep, and distinctly unfeminine voice bellowed from above him. “What in God’s name do you think you’re doing on our veranda?”
Dave rolled onto his back to look squarely up the nose of the stranger who confronted him. With an expression of deep, unfathomed befuddlement on his face, Dave extended an index finger in the air and grunted from his struggling lungs. “Who the hell are you? Where’s Jill?”
“I should ask you the same question buddy, because there’s nobody here named Jill. Now what are you doing on my veranda?” The baritone insisted.
Dave considered the options he had and decided that, firstly he should attempt a vertical stance. Staggering to his knees and then to his feet, he looked the intruder up and down. What was this middle aged and singleted, yobo doing in his house. ” Your veranda? ” Dave started indignantly. ” What do you mean, your veranda? This is my… ” He faltered in the midst of his retort. The house looked like his, but the colour was all wrong. He would never live in a crème and green house. Suddenly the realization that this was not his house after all, and that he was the intruder, fell upon his mind like a wave.
All at once, he realised just how unlike his house, the place was. Dave would never tolerate garden gnomes and fish ponds in his yard.
” I’m sorry… ” Dave faltered as he realised that the fish pond was where the grevilleas had been, just moments before. ” I didn’t think I was that drunk. ” He muttered to himself.
The singleted stranger chided him as he lead him to the gate, that was now back in place, opening it for him and directing him down the street. Dave had gone no more than ten paces and looked back, but the stranger was gone. Also, noticeably absent were the fence, the pond and the house. In its place was a vacant lot, occupied only by tall grass and a faded ‘ For Sale ‘ sign. After a few seconds, he turned and shuffled down the road, too dumbstruck to do anything but continue in the direction that the phantom in a singlet had sent him.
Shambling along the footpath, Dave passed places, no longer familiar to him, to a park that had not been there before and sat heavily on a bench seat. Slowly, he lay down on it.
” What an extraordinary day? ” He muttered to himself as his eyes closed. ” extraordinary… ‘” and just like that, he drifted into a heavy, “extraord… ” drunken, ” ZZZ ” sleep.
Dave awoke with a start and bolted upright, his eyes remaining firmly shut. Now he was not without experience of hangovers, but this one was quite exceptional. It was unlike anything that. he had ever felt. He likened it to being squeezed between two large speakers, both attached to a thousand watt amplifier, with microphone feedback screaming from one and a heavy metal version of the eighteen twelve overture, complete with canons, playing through the other.
The screeching, the howling, and the pounding in his head, they all left him with only one real option. He threw up.
Strangely, Dave found that he felt a little better for it, his hangover began to give a little leeway for other sensations to reach his brain.
The sounds had been real, if not amplified by the dehydration of alcoholic poisoning. There were hisses and metallic clattering noises, and a bell. Then a tinny voice, heavily accented announced loudly, ” All stations to the city on platform one, now departing Please stand clear. “
” A train station? ‘” He thought incredulously and he opened his eyes. ” How did I
manage to get to a train station? “
It had become quite cold and dark and Dave shivered. He wondered how long he had been sleeping? He guessed at least five hours had passed as he snoozed on that park bench, or train bench, or whatever it was.
The train departed with a great clattering and squealing that seemed quite unnecessary to his sozzled brain. It was unnecessary, unwelcome and only served to remind him, of just how unwell he really felt.
Then Dave realised that, on the seat would be the name of the station, and for a second his hopes were raised by the prospect of getting his bearings and heading home.
” For goodness sake. ” He thought aloud, ” even arguing with Jill was better than this. “
But when Dave turned to read the name on the seat he was stunned. Written clearly in
white, it read ” Tetnjnful. “
He rubbed his eyes and looked again, taking a deep gulp of the cool night air, but the gibberish remained. ” Tetnjnful. “
Above the seat, on the wall, a sign repeated the mash of letters as did all the signs in his immediate line of vision.
” What the. . . ? ” Dave wondered out loud.
For several seconds he was transfixed, unable to master the confusion that clouded his
mind. Then movement caught his eye, breaking the trance and he turned to look.
With hair a lurid purple and silver, and leaning heavily on her walking stick, a hunched old woman hobbled her way down the platform towards him.
Dave watched the woman as she approached, until she came within earshot, and he asked.
” Excuse me, but could you please tell me what is it with the signs around here? “
The woman seemed so frail as she stopped for a moment and looked up, considering Dave from underneath her colourful fringe. After a few seconds pause, she spoke. Unfortunately for Dave, he could not understand a word of the strange language that she spoke.
” Of all the people, ” he thought, ” I have to get a foreigner.” The irony made him laugh.
He laughed loudly recounting his recent history. Just when you think. things can’t get any worse, they will.
Regrettably, laughing was not his only mistake. His first mistake was overestimating the frailty of the old woman, and his second was standing in such proximity to her.
The purple haired harridan’s face twisted into a snarl and she began waving her arms about and brandishing her walking stick like a sabre. Ranting and raving and screaming words that could only be obscenities, the elderly wild-woman began striking Dave with her cane.
Dave was momentarily frozen by the shock of what was happening and the stunning ferocity of the blows, but he quickly got the idea and retreated, leaving the banshee to spit and curse unintelligibly after him. He ran as far away from the old woman as he could.
Dave’s chest hurt, his breath rasping in his lungs, and he cursed himself for being so unfit. As he fought to regain his wind, he had time to notice his surroundings, and the, now obvious, idiosyncracies.
The streets were narrower than they should have been and there was not a car in sight, either moving or parked. The streets were lit by the old fashioned gas lamps, yet across the street was a storefront which, anachronistically seemed to be selling computers.
Dave crossed the road to take a closer look in the store window. Some tables lined the walls, with rows of computers displayed on them, all with blank screens. In the window was the only operational model, displaying a series of pictures and demonstrations on a continual loop.
Although the window display seemed normal enough, there was one disturbing aspect to the whole picture. The computer was plugged into, what could only be a generator. A steam powered generator.
Dave turned around, completely bemused by the total insanity of it all, and stepped carelessly onto the road. What he failed to realise was that the traffic lights had changed from violet to blue, and he stepped straight into the path of an oncoming hover car. The driver pulled to a halt and jumped out, babbling in a strange guttural tone. But Dave did not hear him. As he blacked out he notice one last thing. One thing that was instantly familiar to him, and he took a strange comfort from it.
At last, just as unconsciousness was taking him, Dave saw a word that was recognisable to him. On the grill of the hover car was a single name. “Volvo. ” If he was still conscious, he would have laughed.
When Dave finally awoke, he wished that. he felt as good as he had when he was hungover. His head pounded, his body ached and breathing was difficult in the extreme. He recalled the impact of the hover car, and the strangeness of his day, and so, with caution, he opened his eyes slowly, awaiting the latest mental assault.
Luck was momentarily on his side, as tall trees and the sound of birds greeted him back from unconsciousness. The air smelled sweet, laden with the scent of nectar and the morning sun felt warm on his aching, battered body.
Dave lay there on the grass and just soaked up the morning’s glory. He felt, at least mentally, restored and decided he would try sitting up, but it turned out to be a mistake. He decided it was better just to lay there for a while and gather his senses together, focussing instead on how he could possibly have ended up in such an insane predicament.
As Dave took a mental inventory of his recent history recalled a disregarded memory that suddenly took on new significance. Despite the pain he bolted upright, understanding what had happened. The realisation drove him to his feet.
Only two days ago, the day before a11 this had begun, he had be working in the university lab, testing the Physic’s departments latest project, a particle generator designed to focus Tachions into a carbon containment pellet. The apparatus had been, up until that point, producing disappointingly, unpredictable results in the production of the faster-than-light particles. His task was to run some tests to ensure that it was, at least functional, to determine whether the fault was design or operationally based. What he had discovered, as he ran it through its paces, was that a small crack in the housing of the main accelerator, was leaking small levels of radiation. Sure enough, when the housing was repaired, and new shielding put in place, the generator worked like a charm.
Dave had been quite chuffed at the time and had kept the first pellet as a souvenir. Reaching into his jacket pocket, he removed the glass vial containing the rice-grain sized black carbon crystal. It now occurred to him that his exposure to the faster than light particles, was greater than anyone had ever experienced before. ” Who knows what that might do to your body? ” He thought aloud. ” 0r your place in the fabric of time and space?.”
Dave took stock or’ his surroundings. He was standing in a large park, with tended gardens and eucalypts everywhere around him, and not a road or hovering Volvo in sight. He breathed a deep sigh, only to feel a sharp pain shoot through his abdomen. After some tentative probing with his fingers, he realised that he had obviously fractured one or two ribs in his encounter with the vanishing Volvo. But he appeared to he otherwise in better condition than he might have been, all things considered.
There was something about the park that seemed more than a little familiar and after a few
more seconds of consideration, it finally dawned on him. It was the large botanical gardens that ran, parallel to the university grounds, and, idiosyncrasy’s permitting, he may be able to get to his lab and sort out what was happening to him.
As fast as his cracked ribs would permit, Dave headed across the gardens, in the direction
that the university should have been, his mind racing with the possible permutations that could explain the madness of his ever changing world.
It seemed, Dave hypothesised, that he had either fallen into, or created around himself, a rift in the realms of time and space. His anchor had been cast and he was adrift, not so much through time, as across it. Drifting slowly across the realms of possible and parallel universes. It was an amazing discovery. He had accidentally found a doorway across those infinite pathways between the possibilities. If he could find a way of quantifying the effect, he could become the most famous physicist since Einstein, perhaps even more famous than the great man himself. The prospect of fame and fortune became, even stronger than his need for his own temporal stability.
He walked over a berm and was much relieved to see the old university clock tower above the trees. Dave kept the tower firmly in his sights, as if he could will himself and his present time stream to remain linked. Thankfully it did, all the way up to the entrance of G block, and on, up to his lab.
Cautiously, Dave opened the door only to find that the lab was deserted, but there in the centre of the room was the tachyon generator in all its glory. It occurred to him that he had perhaps been returned to his own place in time, and so he decided it would be prudent to check his desk for evidence of his existence in that time and place.
Opening the top draw, he saw that everything was just as he had left it, in a state of ordered chaos, just as he liked it. He moved to the the generator itself and where the crack in the housing had been. For a moment his heart fell as he saw that the offending fault was not there, but a closer inspection revealed signs of the recent repairs.
Quickly he took the vial and the pellet and placed them in a lead lined container.
He was home, he thought cheerfully to himself, and with a monumental discovery under his belt he could get funding for his project increased and extended for who knew how long? It was a great day for science. Not to mention a mighty fine day for Doctor David Kentwell. He smiled as he left the lab and headed towards the physics department lunch room. Just wait until he told all his colleagues of his discovery. Why, they’d turn green with envy, especially Maxwell, his long time rival and peer.
As he gloated mentally he failed to judge the stairs and fell heavily down the first three steps, a sickening crack announcing the breaking of his ankle. Dave screamed in agony as he caught himself on the railing, his ribs sharply responding to the new pounding that they received.
His cry brought the immediate attention of a security guard, who came to his assistance from the floor below him.
” Doctor Kentwell hold on I’m here. ” Frank the security guard called reassuringly as he approached. Catching Dave and helping him to the bottom step, Frank sat him gently
down. ” I’d better have a look at that leg. “
” Frank, you don’t understand. I’ve just made the most amazing discovery. I can worry about the break later. I’ve got to tell the others what I’ve found. “
But Frank ignored him, as he examined the ankle and foot, twisted at an absurd angle.
” Look, Frank. Get me someone from the Physics department first, then you can call an ambulance, and we’ll deal with this. ” The importance of his discovery was greater than his pain at that moment, and he had to tell someone before he got dragged off somewhere else.
Frank looked at Doctor Kentwell with a strange saddness in his eyes, unclipping his holster. ” I’m sorry Doctor, but its badly broken. ” Dave’s eyes widened as Frank removed his service revolver.
” There’s only one humane thing to do. ” He lined up the barrel with Dave’s forehead and added,
” Seems such a waste too. “
At that moment, Dave realised that he had not quite made it home after all.

 

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One response to “Crosscut

  1. Chris just read it You are doing my head in I liked it a lot once I understood what the hell was going on.
    Ed

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