A woman inherits a watch that takes her to other worlds – or does it?
Status: First draft completed, but needs to be re-plotted and re-written.
A young man stood hunched over a long utilitarian work bench. He delicately gripped a small, silver colored device in his hands. He frantically jiggled a toggle on the side of the small metallic device. He waited, but nothing happened. He jiggled another button, then waited. Nothing. He turned it over and perched magnifying lens glasses on the tip of his nose. He peered at the depressions and etchings on the device, squinting at the small symbols imprinted on it. He glanced at the detailed diagram in the notebook to his left and flipped a page. He studied it, compared the device to the faded diagram, and pressed a tiny screwdriver into another depression. He waited a few seconds.
"Kazbat!" he swore. Wiping his brow, he closed his eyes, slowed his breathing, and looked at the diagram again, comparing it again to the device. He counted the depressions from the side, or at least, what he thought was the side.
"Ah. It is possible. Hmm. Yes, yes, I think I see . . ."
He depressed another indentation and the device swung open, revealing the inner workings of the device. "Fantastic. And. . . Ah, yes."
He flicked a switch on the side of his magnifying glasses and the device was bathed in green light. He could see some features inside the device much more clearly now, highlighted as they were. He looked carefully, memorizing which features emitted the radiation. "Omega radiation," he said. No one believed him yet that it existed, but he knew. He knew. And he had invented the only machine in his world that could detect it.
Omega radiation caused by omega waves. Omega waves that also did not exist according to those other scientists. The ones who called themselves the foremost experts. The ones who laughed at him from their ivory towers and called him a wash-up, a has-been, a pretender. Omega waves – now that was a marvel! Completely different from the other electromagnet waves, he had conjectured. Caused by the interaction between two subatomic particles that exist only in two specific elements, as far as he knew. Elements that haven’t yet been found in nature. Elements which only he, thus far, had managed to create under laboratory conditions. Elements which no one else in the world had yet been able to recreate using his methods. Shoddy work went into those experiments, he knew. The cartel, with all their power, made sure of that. Ah, well, even if the cartel were willing, the other scientists surely were not. These were elements which, he supposed, no one really wanted to create. Or believe could be or had been created. All narrow minds steeped in the belief that further scientific advances would only serve to harm us. As if we could do worse than we already have, he surmised. Kasbat! But this, this radiation. It was something altogether different. Not harmful. Didn’t destroy anything, he thought. But it created. Yes! It created!
Omega radiation was special by its very definition. A radiation caused by two subatomic particles which existed only in two unnatural elements. Elements that could only exist if those specific subatomic particles were there.
Subatomic particles which were affected by thought. Intention.
It helped, he knew, that he’d believed in these particles since he was a small boy. It helped, he knew, that he’d been exposed to those ancient writings so very long ago by his heretical parents. It helped, he knew, that he’d seen other things. Miracles, they might be called, as a result of those ancient writings.
It made sense to him that they couldn’t recreate the experiment. They didn’t want to. It was that simple.
The intention itself would have made the experiment unsuccessful, even if they had the right equipment and the right men following his methods. But they didn’t follow his methods. Didn’t believe him that they were all necessary.
Who ever heard of a scientist insisting that clearing the mind of negative energy, no less, was necessary for a scientific experiment to succeed? Or that positive affirmations could make a difference? That believing was the key? Believing it could be done. And they didn’t believe. That was the bottom line, he thought. They didn’t want to believe. They got the outcome they wanted simply by wanting it.
He presented the theory – fact, he thought – at the national symposium after the last vernal equinox. "It should have brought me recognition. It should have brought me the funding I needed," he thought, "to complete this with proper tools and equipment. I could have been done months ago." He muttered, "damn them all to Hasbah!"
He drank out of the mug at his elbow, the drink long since gone cold and stale, a thick scum layer floating on top. "It would have turned the physics community up on its ears. If they only had the foresight to recognize . . . ah, those damn fools. They’ll never learn. They’ll forever be old men living old lives with old ideas." He broke the tip of his pencil off. He flung it at the garbage can and watched as it joined the other pencils, torn papers, and other debris that littered the floor beside it.
He cleared his mind of anger. He took a few long, deep breaths and calmed himself. Feeling centered, he turned back to his work.
He flipped a few pages back and compared his device to yet another diagram in the notebook. He filled in a few details on the page with the strange symbols from the device. "If they could only see the big picture. Too bad for them. They aren’t going to benefit from my discoveries. Not now. Let them think of me as washed up, finished. They’ll never know. They won’t have a clue." Noting one symbol in particular, he raised his eyebrows in surprise.
Carefully, he put the device down, got up, and went to the large, overstuffed bookshelf behind him. Books of all shapes, sizes, and colors were crammed in every which way. Fingering book after book, he finally found the ones he was looking for – one notebook, grayed from use and age, and another, newer, barely faded red with stains on the front cover.
Flipping through the older one, he searched for a symbol to match the one on the inside of the device. "Ah. now how did I miss that the previous fifty times? Hmm." He flipped through the red notebook as well, seeking an answer. In this notebook, however, the left column held symbols that were cursive, round, flowing, while the right hand column held linear symbols. In the margins were notes in yet another language. He flipped to the back third of the book and scanned the pages until he found what he was looking for. "Hmm. Could be. Could be." He looked back at the first notebook and made some notations in a rather messy script. "No, wait." He crossed off a few lines and rewrote the notes. "Yeah, that’s better." He shook his head. "Not that anyone will care. Not that anyone else will ever read this."
Picking up the device again, he peered through the magnifying lenses, picked up a small tool off his workbench, and carefully, gently, pressed a button in the device. The button changed color to a dark, vivid red – but only for a split second.
The man smiled with satisfaction.
He closed the device and, strapping it to his wrist, he turned to face the middle of the crowded room, the only part of the room without bookshelves, workbenches, or equipment. He depressed the knob at the very top of the device and waited, not so patiently, for a few seconds, until a bubble formed, barely there, in the middle of the empty space. It grew larger and larger until it was nearly large enough for the man to walk through in a stoop.
Looking at the bubble, he could see a skyline, a purple sky, and three moons. Flying craft darted about, one coming right at him. He ducked as the bubble hiccoughed and dissolved.
"Kazbat!" he swore, picking himself up off the floor. "Ah well, it could’a hit me. It didn’t, so I guess it was a good thing after all," he said under his breath. "So, what, insufficient power source? Short?" He picked up the first notebook again and flipped to the beginning. "Right. No discernable edges to the bubble, just a merging of images." He scanned the rest of the page, mumbling. "Tingling hair follicles and red shift in the visual cortex. Yep." Flipping to the next page, he said, "What’m I missing?" He checked over the notebooks, comparing the symbols in one notebook with notes in another. "Alright. I need a break. It’s probably right in front of my face."
He wandered over to the window and looked out over his back yard, eyes at just a few inches above eye level. He poured himself a hot drink in yet another mug. He had a dozen or so littered throughout his workroom, some weeks old and molding. One mug he’d placed on the top shelf of his bookcase was threatening to walk away under its own power. He spotted a bird flying overhead with an expansive wingspan. The bird dove for the ground suddenly and the man dropped his mug, spilling the hot contents. The mug landed on the floor and broke into a dozen pieces. He looked briefly at his soiled shirt, looked back at the bird again, and something gelled. He didn’t notice the shards underfoot as he walked back to his workbench. He didn’t notice the sound the shards made as they broke into smaller fragments and ground deeper into the rug.
He looked in his notebooks again, checked his translations, and jolted as he realized the mistake. "Of course. It was the wrong symbol. Tiny little curly cue on the upper right hand side. Small bitty thing. Tiny bit of difference, and it all makes so much more sense."
Excited, he picked up the device and one of his tools and opened the back of the device again. He made a small adjustment, then put his goggles back on. He checked the energy output levels in the device. He closed it again, put it back on his wrist, and depressed the switch.
Another bubble formed, but this time, with hazier edges, almost blending into the images from his basement work area. He looked into the bubble, seeing out over large open fields of wild blue grass almost as tall as he was. Wild animals roamed freely as they munched the grass. The sky was red, almost orange "Huh. That looks great. We haven’t had that much grass since, well, ever. And the sky. Is that from pollution? Or do they have an old sun?" The bubble again collapsed before reaching what his translation notes told him should have been the full height. "Still unstable. Okay, but we’re closer. Eliminated one more thing. So now what’s left?"
Muttering to himself in what he so proudly referred to as his most intelligent conversation of the day, he said, "What else can it be? Impurities in the power source? Too much shielding? Too little shielding? By krokey I wish I understood their technology better." He paced back and forth, back and forth, back and forth as he ran his fingers through his hair. Slamming his fist on his counter, he exclaimed, "But what if it isn’t that at all? What if . . ." His brain moved quickly, jumping from thought to seemingly unrelated thought. He stopped moving, appearing frozen in spot, then smoothed his hair in a nervous gesture.
Just then, the grimy white door at the top of the steps opened and a blonde girl, about fourteen, waltzed down the steps.
"Hi, daddy," she said, putting her arms around him.
"Hmm." He removed her arms, saying, "Maybe it’s in that other translation." He went back to the bookcase and, looking through all the books, grabbed another one, this time a dark blue, off the shelf. He went back to his workspace while he flipped through the notebooks. "Oh, Love, have you done your homework yet? You know you can’t get behind. Gotta keep your marks up."
"Yep. Didn’t have any." She wandered around the room and collected the dishes and obvious trash lying around. Some of the mugs she picked up with obvious distaste. "Finished most of my homework at school. Don’t'cha know it drives the teachers up the wall? They can’t keep me busy enough. They complain about me talking too much, but what can they do? Daddy, those classes are way too boring. Why can’t I help you?" She sighed, then added, "Or why not get me into a university class or two? Daddy, they’d let you do that." She put the dishes in the makeshift sink, stoppered it, and added soap and water. Looking at her hands, she said, sadly, "Daddy, you know I don’t have problems with my grades. I’ve been at the top of my class for years. It’s Grady you’re thinking about, daddy. You need to remember who you’re talking to."
When she finished washing up, she joined her father at the worktable and looked over his shoulder at the notebooks.
"What’s the problem, anyway, daddy? Gimped a translation?"
"Love," he said, his attention focused on the notebook, "it’s time for you to do your homework." He spotted another error and made some notes. The girl sighed. She’d hoped to get his attention, but when that failed, she picked up two of the notebooks her father had set aside and made herself comfortable in the large easy chair under the window. She curled her feet under her and studied them in earnest. "Daddy, where did you get these notes from anyway? I’ve never seen symbols like this anywhere else."
"Oh, the blue notebook’s from that Yark fellow. He went on a dig in Lhaazu and they uncovered some odd tablets in an antechamber. They originally thought the antechamber belonged to a trusted servant, or perhaps a lower wife, but turns out they were all wrong. Yark thinks it was the royal scientist, but couldn’t tell anyone. The cartel, you know? But he told me – I’d already been discredited, so who would believe me? The other’s from your grandparents. A dig in Rurutona. The reason they were discredited, by the way. A bit more to it than that, but yeah, basic reason." He put the soldering iron down and removed the magnifying spectacles off his head. "Turns out the royal scientist was thought of as evil, or so the records say. But they say that about anything they don’t understand, like most myths and legends do. Anyway, that’s where this device comes from. Smuggled out. They had quite a few, and Yark figured they wouldn’t notice if there were twelve or thirteen. He thought I could help him figure out what they were for." He opened another compartment within the device and made yet another adjustment, a mere eighth of a turn of a screw. "He had those tablets analyzed. Turned out they weren’t even made from any materials available at that time. Too far advanced. Really got his interest going. That was when he turned to me."
He grabbed one of his machines and rolled it over to his work area. He rigged up the electrodes to fit into the tiny device, no larger than the tip of his thumb. Double-checking to make sure everything was firmly connected, he turned the machine on, programmed in a command, and waited, fidgeting, for the results.
"So why doesn’t Yark help you get your status back, daddy? Surely he could stand up for you."
"No, dearie, he can’t. If he did, he’d be discredited, too, and we’re better off with him on our side exactly where he is. He can do more good for us this way. Those fools at the cartel would just disembowel him. No, not worth it, Love." He drank some of the old stale laffe from the mug sitting at his elbow.
"Oh, sorry, daddy, I missed that mug."
"Huh?" he said, not even noticing when she picked it up and replaced it with a clean mug filled with fresh laffe.
The man grabbed the test results from the impact printer and studied it. He circled a number here, another number there. Another number jumped out at him. "Gotcha!"
He grabbed the device, fumbled to open another compartment, and, failing, swore again. "Shupe!"
"Huh? What?" Turning around, he notices his daughter and the light shining on her hair, almost glowing. "Alysse." Tears formed on the girl’s face. "No, daddy, momma’s been gone for five years."
He blinked. "Oh, right. Of course. I’m sorry." He hid his embarrassment by turning back to the bench, opened the other compartment on the device, made another minute adjustment, closed the device, and then activated it.
A bubble formed. The image in the bubble melted into the scene in front of him. No discernable edges. It grew larger and larger and finally, it enveloped him. His skin tingled with freshness, coolness, as he was completely surrounded. He looked at the scene in front of him, a beach with shimmering blue sand and two suns overhead. He smiled, tears streaming down his face. "I did it," he said. A creature resembling a fish with legs walked out of the water and nuzzled his ankles as he dropped to his knees, petting it. "It has fur. How can that be? Fish don’t have fur." He stroked the animal and mumbled, barely audible, "but we’re not in Shasa anymore, are we. Anything’s possible now."
Love watched her father from the chair. She saw him walking towards her, only not towards her, but towards the beach scene between them. She watched him as his feet touched the sand, saw him noticing nothing else but the beach scene in front of him, the other world. She watched him as he ignored her and the house with all the painful memories. She was helpless to stop him.
She watched the bubble dissipate and knew that he knew it was dissipating as well, and she watched him, knowing full well that he didn’t look her way even once. She saw the bubble disappear into nothing and knew that she was alone. She’d been alone for five years since her mother and younger had died in an accident, but she at least had had the empty shell of her father. But now, she didn’t have even that.
Not knowing what else to do, she wiped the tears off her face, blew her nose on her hankie, and picked up the notebooks again, studying the ancient scripts and diagrams. "Maybe, just maybe," she said, quietly, "I can find him before he forgets about me completely. Maybe I can make him notice me again."
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