Now that he knew what the Professor had meant for him to do and the reasons why, Leo was no longer sure if a life of penury would be so bad after all. But then Judith and Harriet saw the Professor’s house and they fell in love with it straight away. And that was that; he was to continue working on the Professor’s schemes, no matter how crack-pot they seemed to him.
The Professor owned a cottage five miles outside of Stourmouth, on the road to Salisbury. The cottage was set back behind a clump of trees and was rumoured to be nearly six-hundred years old. The timbers certainly looked like they could be that ancient. What was of greater interest to Judith was the large enclosed garden which would make an excellent place for the ever curious Harriet to explore in safety. Judith still kept her job at the hostel, but could afford to cut down her hours now that she was no longer having to pay the rent. All in all she felt they had landed on their feet; especially after the nightmare of the last year.
Rosy as everything seemed to her, she was no fool and she sensed the unease within Leo, however much he tried to keep it to himself.
Eventually it all came to the surface one night after they had got Harriet to bed. Leo came into the living room in a state of agitation and paced up and down on the circular rug in front of the fire muttering to himself darkly.
“Whatever is the matter?” she asked, taking her eyes from the magazine she was reading.
“I feel such a fraud!” exclaimed Leo. “Such a bloody fraud!”
“But why? What’s wrong?”
Leo paused from his circling and looked at Judith with wild eyes. “I didn’t tell you much about why it was the Professor left us all this, did I?” he asked, indicating he was talking about the cottage.
“You said it was something about continuing his work, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” said Leo with a worrying smile. “And what work that is!” He disappeared from the room, leaving Judith none the wiser. He returned a moment later carrying a big cardboard box from the spare room downstairs that they used as a study. Judith anxiety about her husband’s state of mind wasn’t helped by the frantic look in his eyes. The box seemed to be full of papers and computer disks as well as graphs and rolls of paper tied together with elastic bands.
“This is how I always understood the world to be,” he said unrolling a large sheet of paper that had a diagram printed out on it in black ink with white lines. One line represented by a vertical axis was for time, the other line, the horizontal axis was marked ‘space’. Both axes had arrows attached to them, although for the vertical axis the arrow was pointing in only one direction. “In my universe time has always gone forward,” he said, tapping the vertical axis where it said ‘permitted’. “Travelling backward in time or into other dimensions was always out of the question,” he continued, pointing to the areas where diagram had the word ‘forbidden’ printed. Judith had only ever caught minor glimpses of the world that her husband worked in before, enough to know it was beyond her much of the time. Now, as she looked at this graph, she finally understood how much it drove his life.
“That seems, fairly straight forward,” she said carefully.
“Yes, perhaps a little too straight forward, because physicists have been aware for many years that there are certain circumstances where you could bend or break those rules.”
“And they are?”
“In a black hole, beneath the event horizon, where the normal rules cease to apply, and at the quantum level where the basic stuff the universe is made out of is in a constant state of flux.”
“Wow!” she said holding her hand out. “Back up a little- could you tell me what they are and why the rules as you call them cease to apply?”
“Not without a crash course in astrophysics,” he said moodily. “It is enough for you to know that up to now these have been mostly armchair exercises, theory driven and with no actual practical consequence on anybody else.”
“But, your saying things have changed now?”
Leo paused to retrieve one more object from the box. It was a black memo machine that the Professor used to keep track of the ever flowing river of ideas that tumbled from his mind. Judith gave a start as Enrico’s voice crackled from the tiny speaker.
“-and in essence I arrived at the conclusion that the only explanation for my experiences at Distant Star lay within the quantum foam.”
“What’s he talking about?”
“The mind was some how able to stir up the quantum foam in such a way as to cause ripples in the fabric of space-time, to perceive events through the transmission of quanta of energy/information through minute wormholes in the matrix. This would mean therefore, if my theory is correct, that the mind itself is a kind of singularity. A point of infinite mass in zero volume, a pinch in the space-time matrix. A very queer place to be sure.”
The tape would have carried on in this way if Judith hadn’t made it very clear she had heard enough.
“Christ Leo!” she said with uncharacteristic exasperation. “It sounds like he may have gone completely mad!”
“But that is not all of it,” said Leo. “Listen to what else he has to say on the matter,” the tape squealed angrily has he fast forwarded to the relevant bit. Once more the Professor’s voice articulated on the nature of the universe.
“And it has occurred to me that if I’m right in my assumption that the mind itself is a kind of singularity than it goes to follow that maybe our own limited minds are but part of one universal mind that holds all creation together. This would be the cosmic singularity, the original ‘I’ from which all creation emerged. The evolution of consciousness could therefore be the emerging of the universe’s awareness of itself.”
Leo stopped the tape there. “Madman or genius, eh? Never thought how much truth that old cliché had before. Now we know, eh?”
Judith reached out and tentatively touched her husband’s estranged hand. Surprised by her gesture he turned to face her with a look of lost agony. She drew his tired face into her arms and held onto him for dear life.
“You do whatever you have to Leo,” she said tearfully. “I’ll support you either way, I wouldn’t have wanted to move here if I knew it was going to bring you such misery.”
“I-I just wanted to do my best for you and Harriet.”
“I know, but it’s alright. I know we can manage, we’ll always have each other.”
“I just don’t know what to do!” he sobbed into her shoulder.
“Sh! It’s alright, we’ll sleep on it.”
Later that night Leo lay awake contemplating the ceiling while his wife slept. He knew that whatever else he’d said today he couldn’t run away from this legacy. For there was something else he hadn’t told his wife, which stemmed from the video recording he’d watched at Vole’s office. The Professor had explained the result of his forays into the future with his remote viewing abilities.
“What I saw Leo was my own death at your hands. I knew that this was a great irony, because you were the most likely person to be able to carry on my researches. I therefore tried to see if there was anyway I could avoid this, but whenever I translated my consciousness forward I would only ever come across different ways in which my life would end because of you. And all the time you were never really intending to kill me. I concluded that it must be some form of predestination. I therefor beg you, if my observations turn out to be true, to continue my work to the best of your abilities and to realise the dream of reconciling the paradox of being I have found myself in.”
The madness of the reasoning behind this statement did not detract from the moral truth that Leo perceived there. Moral truths that may well have stemmed from his own guilt about the Professor’s death and the way he had unintentionally profited from it. He felt he had no other alternative but to try and finish what his dead, possibly insane mentor had started.
Over the next three years Leo threw himself into Professor’s work with all the fervour of a guilty disciple. Now as he stared at the diagrams of the quantum foam and tried to imagine what these grotesque shapes actually portrayed. Minute disturbances in the space-time continuum that Professor Enrico had said could be manoeuvred by telekinesis, widened so that information or objects could be transported through them. Worm-holes, telekinesis- the stuff of science-fiction. Then there was the time-travel and the cosmic singularity. At which point Occam’s razor should have cut the conversation off. However the Professor was no respecter of silence and had dug on, deeper into the very foundation blocks of matter and energy.
“The human consciousness is I believe, a manifestation of that original consciousness from which all the universe sprang. I am referring of course to the original, cosmic singularity that existed at the dawn of time.”
Leo found it hard to resist the mixture of intellectual challenge and moral responsibility he felt for the project the Professor left him with. So he had stuck to it, had forced himself to keep an open mind. There had been no further evenings like the one where he had poured out his soul for Judith to see.
She had often thought about that evening, over the last couple of years since it took place. She had been surprised by the way in which everything seemed to fall into place for Leo once he had got it all off his chest. She felt that maybe it was just Leo off loading and nothing to concern herself with too much really. Nevertheless she couldn’t help but wonder, it had seemed all so scary at the time.
Then there were all the people who came to see Leo after he made up his mind to continue the Professor’s “Great Work”. Never had she seen such an unlikely group of obsessives and fakers as these. Psychics, mystics, healers, alien abductees, physicists- her home was like Piccadilly Circus much of the time. Then there were the strange men in the sharp expensive suits who were just leaving as she came in one day.
“Who on Earth were they?” she asked Leo, a little sharply.
Taken aback by her irritability Leo told her. “They were from the M.o.D. They’ve finally allowed me to have access to records and equipment left over from the Distant Star project.”
“Hmm,” she said. “Anything interesting?”
“Oh yes,” he said with delight. “I’ll finally get to play with the Professor’s time-machine.”
“It had been known for many years that electromagnetic waves could have profound influences on the human brain. Experiments in the United States had shown it could cause dramatic changes in mood and cause subjects to have inexplicable feelings of terror and helplessness. Such raw primitive emotion emanates from the primeval part of brain-the Limbic System. I knew from my work with Distant Star that this was also an area most commonly active during psychic experiences. I suspected that a strong electromagnet could be used to boost the mind’s ability to view distant events.”
(excerpt from Professor Enrico’s audio records)
Leo couldn’t help but feel somewhat disappointed when he saw the final fruit of the Professor’s last work at Distant Star. He had travelled hundreds of miles up to this remote laboratory in North Wales to see this contraption. The ‘time machine’ consisted of a black leather couch wired up to a crudely constructed electromagnet that fitted around the skull like an oversized American Footballer’s helmet.
Alongside this were an host of monitors, sensors and machines that made noises- to measure heart beat, blood pressure, EEG, galvanic response, and so on.
“Has all of this been risk assessed?” he asked his assistant nervously.
“Oh yeah, health and safety were in yesterday,” said Brian cheerfully. “They said it was basically okay but thought you’d be best to do a couple of animal experiments first.”
Leo turned pale at the thought; he was a theorist not a vivisector: “There’s no need for that in my view, as those kind of tests were completed during this machine’s initial development, I see no reason to repeat them now.”
Brian, a young man with dark curly hair and a goatee beard, looked at him quizzically.
“Does that mean you’re going straight to human testing?”
“Yep,” said Leo, looking at the machine warily. “I’ll be testing the machine myself.”
Brian smiled broadly: “Bit of an adventurous type than?”
“No, not really,” said Leo. “I’m just very curious to see if I’ve been wasting my time all these years, that’s all.”
As his assistant strapped him into the couch, Leo concentrated on his breathing. This served the function of helping him to stay calm and opened his mind up to the flood of images that formed the basis of distant viewing. Leo had learnt these techniques whilst he had been working on the Professor’s legacy.
“Got anywhere in particular you’re thinking of going?” asked Brian, wryly.
“Hmm, there’s an episode of Dr Who I remember watching when I was little that I wouldn’t mind seeing again,” said Leo, half-jokingly.
“Sounds appropriate,” sniggered Brian.
Leo went back to emptying his mind.
“EEG and heart monitor are working fine, galvanic responses are normal,” said Brian, distracting him again. “Let us know when you want to start the Electro-magnet.”
“Any time now would be fine,” said Leo curtly.
“Okay then,” said Brian as he clicked open the window on the computer screen that controlled the electromagnet. He double clicked to activate and immediately got up a caution screen to let him know the device was working. “Switching on at 14.55 hours, Monday 9th August.”
The machine hummed into life and Leo continued to focus on his breathing, screening out any influence from the world around him as much as possible. After a short while he began to experience inexplicably powerful feelings of dread and paranoia. He felt strangely disconnected from his body, alone and afraid. Then, just as suddenly, the negative feelings would give way to heady feelings of ecstatic joy. All the while he rode these peaks and troughs of emotion, observing the feelings as they convulsed through him from some distant bubble of the self that floated through time and space.
Then came the unbidden images, voices, smells and textures of distant places. At first it was just a chaos of sensations- a warm breeze here, a smell of cooking there, the sound of a dog barking and children’s voices.
Then there was the music:
Dum-dum, Dum-dum, da-da, dum-dum! Dum-dum! Dum-dum! Dum-dum! Da-da! Da-da do-hoo!
“Dr Who’s on the telly Leo,” said his mother. He opened his eyes to find he was back in his living room when he was two. He looked at his mother in astonishment, she had been dead for five years. The woman who he saw now looked much younger then the mother he thought he remembered dying.
“So real,” he said in wonder.
“What’s that son?” asked his mother.
Surprised that she was able to hear him, Leo replied. “Nothing mum, can I stay here and watch Dr Who?”
“I thought you said it scared you?” asked his mother.
“I’ll be alright,” said Leo. “I like Dr Who.”
“Okay then, my brave little soldier,” she said, giving him a hug. Leo was forced to breath in her perfume as she held him close to her breast. He realised finally that he was still a toddler in this strange world where his mother had never grown old and died. “Here you are then,” she said helping him onto the couch. “You sit with the cushion on your lap, just in case there are any scary monsters!”
“I won’t need it!” he said determinedly. Leo was seeing life through the eyes of his toddler self. How strange it all seemed.
“My little love!” she exclaimed, giving him one final kiss. “I’ll just go and get some hot milk and biscuits for you.”
He settled down to watch the telly. The Doctor was standing before the gigantic Dalek Emperor on the planet Skaro. The Emperor’s metallic voice was issuing a sinister command.
‘You will take the “Dalek Factor.” You will spread it to the entire history of Earth!’
The Doctor looked suitably pained, Troughton’s skill as a character actor coming through.
“No. You can’t make me do it! You can’t!”
The Dalek emperor seemed unimpressed by this, it’s malevolent eye stalk focussing on the tiny figure in the dark frock coat.
“You will obey!”
As the Daleks led the Doctor away Leo felt a thrill of excitement he hadn’t experienced in years; here was vintage Dr Who- lost for over three decades, brought back to vivid life for his own personal consumption. It was all so wonderful and above all else it showed how right he had been all along. The body could be used as a time machine, just as the professor had said.
The Doctor and his companions had been taken to a cell, and the Doctor was characteristically playing the recorder whilst the others discussed how to escape. The infant side of Leo took over for a while and he wondered when his mum was going to return with the milk and biscuits she’d promised. Then the Doctor/Patrick Troughton looked up from his recorder and bizarrely his eyes seemed to be focussing on him. Suddenly Leo felt very cold.
“Who are you?” the Doctor asked him from the screen.
Chapter VII..“during my experiments with the Electro-magnet I discovered an area that I later called the reification zone. This was a region of intense ontological instability where ideas and objects could trade places as rapidly as partners in a square dance.
“In this region there are these entities which I call memeons, who are essentially unrealised concepts that draw negative energy from the reification zone in order to give themselves reality. They can be very dangerous.”
(From Professor Enrico’s Audio Log).
Judith was on the phone to Leo later that evening. “So when do you think you’ll be home,” Harriet heard her mummy say from up in her bedroom. It was early evening and Harriet was in her dressing gown after her bedtime bath. She was getting in some extra play before her mother came back upstairs and insisted she got into bed. To this end she had arranged a tea party for some of her toys. Mummy sounded cross.
“I can’t understand Leo, what are you trying to say?” now she sounded a little scared. Harriet kept a close ear on her mother’s conversation to keep a tag on whether she was about to come up and tell her to stop playing with her toys or not. Being a clever girl, cleverer than the average four year old, she could listen out for her mother whilst playing make-believe with the toys.
“You come and sit over here Daisy,” she said placing the rag-doll with the smiling face and the glowing red buttons down on a pink stool before her red plastic dolls table. “And you Pinchy you sit over here,” on a chair opposite the rag doll she balanced a stuffed toy crab in red felt. “And Wendy sits here,” she said, placing her Wendy™ pride of place at the head of the table. Wendy was a plastic blonde with long legs and a line in glittering outfits. There was one more visitor to the feast, who was last to arrive. “And Mr. Dalek can sit, erm, stand over here.”
From downstairs Harriet suddenly heard her mother raise her voice: “What? That is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard! Leo I think this work is really getting to you, too much now, just too much!”
Harriet froze, unsure of what to do with herself. She didn’t like shouting, she didn’t like it that her mum was shouting at her dad. She quickly decided she didn’t want to think about this too much. She listened a little more intently for a while, but she couldn’t make out what her mummy was saying. Thankfully the shouting had stopped.
She returned to her play: “What’s that Mr. Dalek? Not eating today?” She placed her hand on the tiny machine and turned its eye stalk to face her. Then in her best Dalek voice said-“ Daleks do not eat human food! Exterminate! Exterminate!” She pretended that the Dalek had destroyed the table with its short stubby exterminator arm. “Now look what you’ve done,” said Harriet, taking on Wendy’s role now. “You’ve messed up our dinner Mr. Dalek!”
“Yes, I think you should say sorry!” said Pinchy.
“Daleks do not say sorry!”
“Well I think you’re very rude!” put in Daisy for good measure. If a toy offended Daisy they needed to watch out. This Dalek however, just wouldn’t be told.
“I will exterminate you!”
“Oh no you won’t!” said Daisy sternly.
Before she could get any further the Dalek’s headlamps started flashing. “It’s never done that before!” said Harriet slipping out of role. Then before her eyes the machine began to glow and take on a life of its own. Harriet rubbed her eyes. The Dalek seemed to be getting bigger as she watched. Pretty soon it had crushed the dolls beneath its shiny metal fender and towered over Harriet.
‘I am a Dalek,’ said the machine, its headlamps flashing red. ‘You will come with me!’
Then its egg whisk like arm began to revolve rapidly and Harriet watched in wonder as the darkness in a corner of her room began to swirl and glow.
“Mummy! Mummy! The Dalek’s come to life and he wants me to come down a plug hole with him!”
“You see what I have to put up with!” Judith harangued her husband down the phone. “You see how much your crazy ideas are affecting your child!” She stormed upstairs leaving the phone off the hook. “What have I told you about making things up!”
“But mummy it’s real!”
Judith entered the bed room determined to sort out her errant daughter. “How many times have I told you!” she began. She stopped dead when she saw what was standing there.
“I told you it was real mummy! I told you it was real!”
The machine clicked and levelled its short stubby arm at Judith’s chest. “No! Leave her alone! She’s my daughter!” she screamed in bewildered horror. The Dalek’s headlamps flashed angrily as three metal prongs shot out of the gun.
WHIRR! Went the Dalek’s Exterminator gun. The room filled with a blinding blue flash and there was an acrid smell of burning flesh and ozone. Harriet screamed and banged on the machine’s metal carapace to get it to stop hurting her mummy.
‘All humans are to be exterminated!” screamed Mr. Dalek angrily.
“Mummy!” screamed Harriet as the Dalek nudged her through the waiting worm-hole.
Downstairs Leo’s voice crackled from the receiver. “Judith! Judith! Are you there? Pick up the phone please!” There was an ominous silence. After a while Leo’s voice returned. “Please, don’t do this to me! Please, I’ll come home as soon as I can. You know it is important I finish my work here. Judith?”
A pale hand in a black sleeve picked up the phone and brought it up to a set of terse, thin lips. A dry voice spoke down the line.
“I am afraid your wife cannot hear you Leo.”
“Who is that?”
“Let’s just say that I am an old friend of Professor Enrico,” said the voice coldly.
“Who are you?” demanded Leo. “What have you done with my family?”
“Your family,” said the voice slowly, “I’m afraid your family have entered the reification zone.”
Story © 2003 Andrew Panero/Visagraph Films International.
Seven’s Dalek photo by Robin Day at Space City – http://spacecity.tripod.com