Foundling Hospital, London 1923
"He hasn't moved from that spot for over two hours," Margaret said looking at the little boy who was drawing on the paper before him. "I tried to get him to go outside but he starts crying."
"Did you try talking to him?" Jane asked her friend.
"He won't speak to me or anyone else," Margaret replied giving the boy a concerned look. "I have to clean the clothes. Won't you tend to him Jane?"
"I have work to do," Jane sighed. "Can't anyone else help him?"
"They are all busy," Margaret said quickly leaving before Jane could get another word in. "Besides he will only talk to you."
Jane just shook her head and resigned herself to her new responsibility. She approached the five-year-old boy who hadn't noticed their presence or if he did didn't indicate it.
"Arthur what exactly you are drawing?"
"I'm not Arthur, I'm Aang. And right now I'm drawing Appa," Arthur said not looking at Jane as he danced his pencil back and forth across the paper. This place needs a brush up Jane thought. The children didn't seem to mind the messiness of the common room, but she couldn't stand a room as dirty as this one. The brown cracked walls and the stained carpet certainly didn't help. But even with the mess anyone who walked in the room could tell that it was a loving place.
"Ok Aang and what is Appa?" Jane asked bemused by the boy's equal concentration and imagination. Never in all her years as a caretaker had she seen a boy as young as him stay in one place for so long.
"He's my flying bison," Arthur said as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.
"Flying bison? Bison don't fly." Where did he see a bison? Jane thought. She looked at the paper to see a rough sketch of some animal with four legs. Its eyes were narrow and angry and the jagged edges that made up the creature seemed to indicate it was more of a wild monster than a pet.
"Yes, they do," the boy said adamantly.
"Hmmm," Jane said pretending to be in thought. "Why does Appa look so scary?"
"Appa isn't scary," the boy said looking up for the first time.
"Then why does he look so angry and rough?"
"Appa is fluffy. I just didn't draw his…," the boy said trying to think of the right word, "fluffiness."
"Right," Jane said again looking at his drawings. "And who is that?" She pointed towards a small figure on top of Appa.
"That's me. When I want to go meet my friends I just ride on Appa," Arthur said smiling.
"How wonderful," she sighed. If there were one thing the boy had plenty of it was his imagination. "Do your friends also ride on Appa?"
"Some of them do but airbenders have their own bison."
"Airbenders?" Jane asked picking up a relatively thick stack of drawings and sitting on a chair. While the other boys played football or cricket Arthur would stay inside and continue drawing. No matter how hard she pushed the boy to go outside he wouldn't budge. Surprisingly Arthur, who was usually shy, had an amazing amount of stubbornness.
"They can move the air," he said in excitement. "They can jump really high and run really fast. And…and they live in temples and we play all the time!"
"Really now? Are you an airbender?"
"Yes," he said starting to frown. He stopped drawing and decided to stare instead; almost as if he were in a trance "I am an airbender," Arthur muttered under his breath.
"Arthur what's wrong?" Jane asked after a minute had passed. She had never seen such a quick change in mood especially in a boy so young.
"I can't airbend," Arthur said tears streaming down his eyes. He punched his fist into the air, but nothing happened. "I can't jump really high anymore. What's wrong with me?"
"Oh Arthur," Jane said picking up the boy and putting him on her lap. "It is alright."
"It's not alright," he said between sobs, "I'm not an airbender anymore."
"Arthur," Jane said drying his tears. "Just because you aren't an airbender doesn't mean it is the end. It's just a new beginning. Why don't you learn something new?"
"New? Like what?"
"Well why don't we read some books and learn how to do arithmetic?"
"But those aren't fun things," Arthur replied pouting.
"True but maybe they can help you," Jane said a plan forming in her mind. "Maybe even get your airbending back."
It can do that?" Arthur asked as a ray of hope shined through his eyes.
"Oh yes Arthur," Jane said as she practiced her manipulation on him. "With enough knowledge anything is possible."
"Really? Can we start now?" he asked squirming in Jane's lap.
"Well Arthur," Jane said. "We can always study later. Why don't you play with the boys outside?"
"I don't want to play with them. I want to be an airbender now," Arthur said as he tried to get out of Jane's hold.
"Arthur? Aren't airbenders strong?"
"They can jump really high right?" Jane asked to which Arthur nodded. "Then how can you be an airbender if you don't go outside and play? If you go outside and run and jump maybe you can become an airbender again."
"Really?" he asked literally jumping out of the caretaker's lap. He was half way out the door when he remembered his drawings. "Thank you, Ms. Chapin. Can you put my drawings somewhere safe?"
"Of course, Arthur," Jane said flashing a smile. "Now go play outside. I don't want you back unless you're all tuckered out."
"Yes Ms. Chapin. And my name is Aang!" he yelled running outside. Ah simple youth Jane thought to herself as she watched the boy join his new friends. Except he immediately started jumping up and down and running in circles instead of playing football. Well it's a start, Jane sighed.
Later that night as the other boys soundly slept Arthur was thrashing his bed. It usually was the same nightmare he had for the past two weeks. He was riding Appa, there was a storm, he fell into the ocean, and then just pure brightness. That's how it often went.
But tonight, was different. After the bright blinding light there was a brown door. It was the same brown door as the closet in the common room. He opened the door to find a completely blank white space. Arthur tried to see if there were an end to the room, but it seemed to just stretch forever.
He was about to close the door when he heard a sound. It was barely a whisper but in this space, it was deafening. He looked around and saw a boy, like one of the older ones in his orphanage, sitting in a meditative pose. He was floating two feet off the ground and didn't seem to mind that Arthur was staring at him. But perhaps the strangest part was that the boy was glowing a solid light blue while the arrow tattoos on his arms and head were glowing with silver-white light.
As Arthur approached the boy the whispers were getting louder and louder until it became so deafening that he tried to cover his ears, but it didn't help. It was only when he was a foot away from him did the whispering stop.
The boy suddenly opened his eyes to reveal a bright silver glow and yelled two words.
King's College, London 1936
"And why exactly do you want to pursue your physics degree here at Kings College Mr. Shepherd?" Dr. Bedford asked sitting completely straight in his leather chair. The office was, suffice to say, completely cluttered. There were books all over the place with stacks reaching as almost as high as five feet. One might suggest putting these books on the shelves but the bookcases themselves seemed close to bursting. There were three of them one at each wall encompassing the area and only serving to further to intimidate the young man who sat across the physicist.
"By reputation, of course, I heard King's College was the best introduction to become a physicist," Arthur meekly said trying not to look into Dr. Bedford's eyes. It was those pitch-black pupils in those eyes of his that scared him the most. He believed himself to be a confident man but before the doctor's stern gaze he was hesitant to do anything. It was as if those eyes were examining the depths of his very soul.
"Why do you want to become a physicist?" Dr. Bedford said.
"I always wanted to understand the world sir,"
"Yes that is the answer that they all give," Dr. Bedford sighed, "but why do you specifically want to be a physicist?"
"And by why," Dr. Bedford said, not noticing that he interrupted Arthur. "I mean what inspired you to become a physicist?"
"I, uh…" Arthur said trying to think. Should I just say the truth? Would he laugh? he thought. Hopefully I don't shoot myself in the foot here. "When I was ten I found a most wonderful book."
"A book?" Dr. Bedford said his eyebrow raised in interest. "What book was it?"
"It was more of a novella really," Arthur said.
"Well lad? Get on with it. There are more applicants after you."
"Yes sir—I mean doctor," Arthur said chiding himself. "The story was H.G. Well's The Time Machine. Ever since I read it I always wanted to make my own time machine one day."
"For what purpose?" Dr. Bedford asked as his gaze became even stronger.
"Why do you want to make a time machine?"
"Why do we make space machines?" Arthur retorted, a little fire starting in his eyes.
"We made automobiles to get to places faster, made planes to reach areas unreachable before," Arthur said in what seemed to be a well-rehearsed speech. "Steamships, blimps, and submarines, all examples of our obsession with reaching our destinations faster. Should we not make time machines as well? Besides it would solve many of our problems."
"The first problem humanity has ever had to dealt with is time," Arthur said. "All our lives we are constrained by time, leashed by its chains. There isn't enough time to work, to play, to live. We are always running ourselves haggard fighting the clock. Time is the only master Dr. Bedford and I seek to escape its bondage."
"And what of the paradoxes? The bootstrap? The grandfather?" Dr. Bedford asked reclining in his chair. Arthur noticed it was the first time he had relaxed and continued his line of attack.
"If I discover the universe doesn't permit me to make such a machine then I shall be satisfied," Arthur said. "For the journey to create such a machine will bring forth many new inventions and theories."
"And if I were to tell you that your pursuit of such a device was comical at best would you abandon such notions?"
"I…" Arthur said as he tried to think for the best answer. The best answer or the right one? he thought. "I probably wouldn't," Dr. Bedford. "I could lie to you say I would, but I don't want to gain admission under any false pretenses. I will either make the time machine, prove that it is impossible, or most likely, die trying."
"So, you base your entire interest in physics on a fantastical story about a machine that most likely can never exist?" Dr. Bedford laughed as he picked up a piece of paper and put a mark on it.
"Yes sir," Arthur said getting up from his chair. "But I will not stand here and be ridiculed. I understand I am disqualified and I wont waste any more of your time."
"Hold on," Dr. Bedford said before Arthur got to the door. "I was merely stating a fact not insulting you." He stood up and started to search from his maze that was the library. All the while Arthur stood there shocked that someone actually took him seriously.
"Aha! Found it," Bedford said holding a small book in his hand. "This was the story that inspired me."
"20,000 Leagues Under the Sea?" Arthur asked in wonderment. It was hard to find a fellow science fiction fan much less a physicist who was one.
"I have studied astronomy for two decades but the depths below? That has always remained a passion of mine." Dr. Bedford smiled. "When I was a boy, not much younger than yourself, my father was a captain. I would often ride along on his ship and sail across the channel. It had been my dream to travel the seas and perhaps one day explore beneath it."
"Sir, if you don't mind me asking," Arthur said hesitantly, "Why didn't you?" Dr. Bedford didn't respond but simply looked outside the only window in his office to see a storm front approaching. The gray clouds were moving rapidly toward London and the heavy gusts were the vanguard.
"There was a storm much like the one we'll have this afternoon," Dr. Bedford simply stated.
"Oh," Arthur said. "My condolences."
"Do not worry yourself on these matters," Dr. Bedford said taking off his glasses and wiping them. "Besides not all storms are bad. In fact, storms are a great omen when a ship, or anyone really, begins their journey."
"Your journey Arthur Shepherd," Dr Bedford said offering a handshake, "Welcome to Kings College."
Chelsea Greater London 1942
"Don't go Arthur," Cynthia pleaded, "Please don't go." There was almost no sound in the London streets at this hour in the morning. The clouds in the sky foretold a heavy storm was to come later in the day which was a welcome sight for many of the Londoners who had survived the Blitz.
"I must Cynthia," Arthur said, "I can't ignore a draft."
"You very well know you can," Cynthia replied as hot tears streamed down her face.
"They will put me in jail!"
"Better to be safe in jail than to be dead in a battlefield."
"No Cynthia," Arthur said tearing up, "I must go. How can we afford to put food on the table if I am in jail?"
"We can run away to the United States."
"And leave your parents behind?"
"Aren't you leaving us behind?" Cynthia yelled.
"Cynthia, please," Arthur said sitting down beside her. Her blond hair was a mess, but it still didn't hide her beauty. "I would never leave you or Emily behind. But if I am to protect our family I must go."
"Alright Arthur," Cynthia said calming herself down. They sat silently together for a few minutes staring into the scenery outside their second-floor apartment. Half-ruined buildings and small fires were now commonplace but there was still a certain beauty that the city communicated to its people. That after all the bombings London would stand its ground no matter the cost.
"Let me say goodbye to Emily," Arthur said as Cynthia quietly followed. Arthur opened the door to see a small girl soundly sleep in her bed. He slowly bent down cherishing the moment and kissed her forehead. "I'll be back my angel." Arthur took one last look at her before he walked out the door and closed it behind him.
"You better come back Arthur," Cynthia said grabbing his hand.
"Make sure you get to your parents as quickly as you can," Arthur said doing last minute checks to make sure everything was packed.
"We'll head for the train on Friday," Cynthia said. How nice it would be, Cynthia thought, to head for the countryside and escape any notice of a war. "Arthur we can escape for the countryside together. No one will catch us," she said in a last gamble.
"No I must go," Arthur said giving her a tight hug. "I will be back soon." He walked out the door into the breezy twilight streets of London. Perhaps it will be a good day, he was strange seeing the city so barren and devoid of life. Before the war, even at 2 AM there would be some friends walking about, some shops opening for the new day.
He had made it two blocks from their apartment when he grew hesitant. Should I stay? Arthur thought. He turned around and looked back to see Cynthia waving back. Even from here he could make out her teary face. No I must protect them. For King and country. He turned around and continued his march.
Battle of Bure (sub-battle of the Battle of the Bulge) January 5th,1945
"So the Nazis evacuated?" Arthur asked as he reloaded his M1 Garand rifle.
"Doesn't mean there won't be any stragglers left," Charlie McMillian, a fellow private, said. "The rest of Company A and B are clearing the west side. We're on east so we've got more houses after this one."
"True but this is the fourth house we're searching. Don't think we'll find anyone here."
"Arthur stop being an idiot," Charlie said. "We can't take the chance there isn't someone in there."
"Right," Arthur said swiftly walking through the once locked door of the abandoned house. He made his way toward the kitchen only to find it in complete disarray. Cabinets were ripped off the walls, the table had been split in two, and the chairs were reduced to splinters. The once white walls were now covered in large black marks and even the ceiling had large dents in it as well.
"Cl- Clear!" Arthur said shaking his head out of bewilderment. The enemy could still be here, hiding anywhere.
"All clear here." Charlie McMillian responded after inspecting the living room. He rejoined Arthur at the bottom of the staircase. "Living room is a complete mess."
"Kitchen too," Arthur said as he made his way up the stairs.
It had been three straight days of hell for the 13th Lancashire Parachute Battalion and neither side had given an inch. Between the hail of shells and the storm of bullets the village was left in ruins. It was an unfortunate mix of soldiers and villagers who couldn't escape in time. Their bodies were strewn all over Bure, all in different kinds of shape. Some were barely touched, as if they were sleeping. But their death had been a violent one as the concussive shockwaves from the shells had ripped apart their innards. Others were completely torn apart. Their body parts lined the streets in the direction of the shelling forming a violent gradient of human violence.
But perhaps the most unfortunate were the ones who had survived their initial injuries only to watch hopelessly as they bled out in the streets. It got so bad that the military had brought in an ambulance and set up a makeshift medical center the day before, but it wasn't enough. It was never enough.
"You go left," Charlie said as he entered a room.
"Clear!" Arthur yelled after quickly inspecting the closet he had just opened.
The second room happened to be a small brown bedroom that contained a single child-sized bed. The lack of dust and the clean linen bed sheets indicated that they had just left probably yesterday. It was strange seeing something so familiar feel so foreign. Does Emily have something like this? He was about to leave when a certain glint caught his eye.
He looked underneath the bed and found a golden chalice or was it a cup? He never really learned the difference. It was a dull yellow and bore no symbols or trademark anywhere. Gold plated silverware... Kind of tacky isn't it? Arthur thought. But money was money and so Arthur guiltily pocketed the chalice. He needed all he could get to support Cynthia and Emily. Wait where's Charlie? It had been a minute since he last heard him yell "clear".
"Arthur get in here!" Charlie yelled.
"What happened?" he yelled running to another bedroom opposite the hallway. "Jesus Christ! What the bloody hell happened here?"
"God damn Nazis. They aren't even human anymore."
"I can't believe this," Arthur said covering his nose in a vain attempt to stop the stench from invading. "How the hell did they get in the wall?"
The whole bedroom had been literally decorated in blood. Walls, ceiling, floor, everything was covered in blood. There were actual bones, some with flesh dripping to the floor, stuck in the walls. Right next to the door was a large man-sized hole in the wall that exposed the bedroom to the light snowfall that had started an hour ago.
"Holy shit Arthur look at the floor," Charlie yelled trying to dance around the blood but it was useless. The whole floor was awash with blood.
"Jesus," Arthur said as he was about to jump on the bed when he saw that it too was completely soaked in blood,
"Look," Charlie said pointing to the corner in horror, his face starting to turn ghost-white. "There are three bodies over there. All women."
"Those are women? How can you tell?" Arthur gasped running out of the room. He saw that his boot was covered in what seemed to be brain matter and almost vomited.
"Lord help us," Charlie said following Arthur out of the room except he had actually vomited. It was only a few minutes later after he had somewhat regained his composure that he could talk again. "Look at what they're wearing."
Arthur walked back into the room and saw that the mostly skeletal remains were indeed of three women, but it was hard to tell. The skeletal part of the bodies were separate and distinct but somehow whatever flesh they had remaining had fused together into one melted mess. And that is when he saw the remains of what once was clothing stuck into the flesh itself. The was even a little small yellow dress. Little yellow dress… Arthur thought and proceeded to actually throw up. "Christ, I think there's a little girl in that mess."
"You can't be fucking serious." Charlie ran back, his anger repelling his disgust, to closely inspect the horror. "Oh my god. Her face, where is her face?" The other two corpses at the very least still had their faces even though they were… dripping off.
"Charlie… I think you're stepping in it," Arthur stuttered pointing toward the puddle of skin, blood, and pus around Charlie's boot.
"Bloody fucking hell. What kind of weapon even does this?"
That poor girl Arthur thought, his eyes tearing up. It was only after a minute that he remembered the actual mission. "Did you clear the second floor?"
"Yeah," Charlie said. He didn't know whether it was morbid curiosity or sheer shock, but he couldn't stop gawking at everything inside.
"Look at this," Arthur pointed toward a picture frame. "I think it's them."
"Really? Let me see?" Charlie looked at the picture to see it was a family of five. A man, a woman, and three daughters, the oldest no more than twenty and the youngest no more than six.
"God fucking dammit," Arthur yelled. "Fuck these godless Nazis."
"Where are the mother and father?"
"I think they're the body parts stuck in the wall."
"What are you talking about?"
"Over there," Arthur said pointing towards a corner of the wall. "There's a hairy arm over there."
The private followed the direction to an arm hanging by its fingers stuck to the wall. "And I'm guessing that's the mother?" Charlie asked nudging him towards the hairless feminine foot beside the bed.
"So, they killed them all," Arthur said in anger and disbelief. "What do you think they wanted?"
"What should we do?"
"Report it the Lieutenant," he said sitting outside the nightmarish room. Charlie tried lighting a cigarette but gave up when he realized his hands were shaking too much to get a spark. The one time he did get a flame going a freezing gust came through the hole in the wall and snuffed it out. "He'll probably burn this house down. Can't let the Nazis get whatever they wanted."
"What will the others say?"
"Nothing. They'll burn it down too."
"So how do you think it happened?" Arthur said sitting beside Charlie holding his head in his hands. It was too much. War had taken the little hope that he had that man was not fundamentally evil. Some were too twisted, too depraved to be saved. There was irredeemable evil, and this room was the proof.
"Don't know. Maybe they entered through the door, did whatever they did, and left through the hole in the room," Charlie said despondently. "Or it could have been a bomb and a chemical attack. A shell was shot through the bedroom, it exploded, and some kind of gas melted their skin off…"
"You think they'll use that on us?"
"Maybe?" Charlie said. The two men stayed silently outside the room for what seemed like an eternity before getting up. They paid their respects and made their way out of the second floor.
It was only when Arthur exited the house that he remembered the chalice in his jacket pocket. God damn I'm an asshole Arthur thought. To think that he had even entertained such a notion as selling the chalice for money was quite shameful. Right now there was nothing in the world he would trade it for.
Kings College, December 8 th , 1948
"What are you working on?" Dr. Bedford asked of the newly appointed professor.
"What I've always been working on," Arthur said scribbling notes from various open books.
"Ah yes the time machine," Dr. Bedford said in disappointment as he sat down in a chair by the desk.
"It's the only thing that matters now," Arthur added. "The only thing that ever really mattered."
"Are you alright?"
"As anyone can be I suppose."
Minutes passed as Dr. Bedford continued watching his former student delve into the world of theoretical physics. His pencil danced and jotted down any ideas that came to his head. It was a marvel seeing Arthur go to his work especially with the office so dark. For the past year, the curtains in the office were fully closed. It was to help produce ideas Dr. Bedford remembered Arthur once saying but right now it was just another sign he needed help.
"Arthur the staff is worried about you," Dr. Bedford sighed. "They believe you have gone mad."
"Really now? And I suppose they sent you to check upon me," Arthur laughed.
"Guilty as charged."
"Well? Have I passed?"
"Your test. I think you will find me extremely sane, much more so than the others."
"Arthur, we really are worried about you," Dr. Bedford said. "You have stuck yourself in here for months. We only ever see you when you come out to teach."
"I am far too busy to consider what others think James."
On that note Arthur went back to his research ignoring his friend's stare. Dr. Bedford was almost frightened as he watched Arthur's obsession with his crackpot theory. Even though it was quite chilly in the halls of the university, Dr. Bedford literally saw Arthur produce sweat from sheer concentration. It was time for his trump card.
"How many days has it been?" Arthur didn't respond but simply slid a paper across the desk toward him never taking his eyes off his work.
"485?" Dr. Bedford sighed reading the number written in huge red letterings on top of the page. It had been irritable at the start, but Dr. Bedford had gotten used to Arthur's newfound habit of numbering his days instead of placing the current date on his papers.
"Arthur don't you think they want you to be happy? You can't keep living like this."
"I'll be happy when I resurrect them. Wouldn't they be happy being alive?"
"You have to move on Arthur. They have found peace and so must you. A time machine won't save them," Dr. Bedford said.
"Bollocks!" Arthur slammed his hand on the desk and got up. "A time machine is the solution to any problem. Time is the only problem, the first problem to ever exist."
"Shhh!" Dr. Bedford said putting a finger over his mouth, "You can't be heard saying that. If the others find out they will have you committed."
"Me? Committed? I'm the only sane one around here! You people spend your lives compromising every day until life pushes you into a corner you can't get out of." Arthur said pacing the room back and forth. "Well no more! We don't have to compromise. Come help me James. Don't you want to see your father again?"
'Don't you dare—" Dr. Bedford interrupted himself. His friend was troubled. He didn't know what he was saying.
"Sorry," Arthur said. "I did not mean to mention your father." He sighed and sat back down in his chair.
Dr. Bedford didn't respond immediately. He simply looked at his former student before him. His baggy eyes, brown unkempt hair, and ragged clothes all clearly indicated the level of his obsession. What avenue could he take to dissuade him from his delusion? Perhaps he was going about this the wrong way? What if he played into it? Just for a little while.
"Do you truly want to make a time machine?"
"Yes. More than anything yes," Arthur said, his eyes twinkling.
"And you know more than likely, that you will not succeed."
"Yes. That is most likely the case," Arthur answered.
"Then why attempt it?" Dr. Bedford asked surprised by his student's rationale. "Why try to make something which is nearly impossible."
"I plan to make sure my ideas inspire further generations who may one day succeed." Arthur smiled. A smile which Dr. Bedford had not seen in over a year. "My theories, my work, all my ideas all serve to light a torch. A torch which will be held by those after me. If they successfully make a time machine hopefully they will save Cynthia and Emily."
"Then wouldn't they be saved already?" Dr. Bedford said trying to work out the logic.
"Who knows how time travel works? Multiple theories have already been proposed. For all we know the time travelers are already here."
"Yes, but it is far more likely that you and those after you have failed," Dr. Bedford said. "After all it is the simplest explanation."
"Perhaps. Perhaps not. There is a theory that once someone makes a time machine that they are only permitted to travel into the past up to the creation of the machine."
"Then your plan to save your family—"
"Will fail or is it has failed," Arthur said giving a sad smile. "But at the very least death after the creation of the machine will not be as permanent as it is today."
"Is there no alternative goal that you can choose to pursue? Perhaps a cure for tuberculosis?" Dr. Bedford asked.
"No," Arthur shook his head, "Tuberculosis is one of the many paths to death. If it weren't tuberculosis, then it easily could have been influenza or polio."
"If you want your plan to succeed then you have to be more presentable, more sociable," Dr. Bedford said.
"How do you plan on influencing the next generation if you're cooped up in your office?" He's in the trap now to finish it off. "It is a sad state of affairs, but academia is considerably political. Just publishing in journals won't be enough to win over other physicists. Even publishing requires certain formalities and political acumen. Think of all the scientific progress that has been delayed because of politics and grudges."
"I find it ridiculous that I have to stall my research just so I can have a chance of communicating it to someone else. My work should speak for itself."
"And yet history has many examples of work gone unrecognized, of fame not justly rewarded. Look at Archimedes, he laid the foundations for calculus. If he had shared his ideas, made his work more accessible, then it would have become more prevalent. Can you imagine what would have happened if calculus were studied a thousand or even three hundred years before Leibniz and Newton?" Dr. Bedford said smiling. His plan had succeeded.
"Yes, perhaps being more sociable will have its advantages," Arthur said as he thought about Dr. Bedford's advice. "It will allow me to influence more people."
"And don't forget you can always collaborate with others."
"Yes, I suppose so," Arthur said. He looked toward to his grandfather clock to see it was an hour past noon. "I might as well start now. Perhaps join the others for lunch." Arthur got up and headed for the door.
"You're not going out dressed like that, are you?" Dr. Bedford was bemused at his former student's obliviousness.
"I suppose you are correct," Arthur smirked.
"I always am," Dr. Bedford retorted.
Kings College August 13 th , 1992
"Dr. Shephard, what would it exactly take to open a wormhole?" Ethan asked. The lecture hall, as large as it was, was almost completely full. The introductory modern physics class was already a popular elective before Arthur had started teaching it. While the other researchers found it tedious to teach such an easy class Arthur welcomed the opportunity. There was something exhilarating about seeing people learn that he couldn't resist.
"Ethan, you have to be more specific in your question. You need to tell me what parameters you want," Arthur said.
Ethan didn't immediately respond. He took a moment to carefully consider the question, a technique that Arthur had insisted that the students hone. "Do you mean the size of the wormhole professor?"
"Exactly," Arthur gave an approving nod. "But not just that. We would need many more parameters. How long do you want the wormhole opened for? Where should it be opened? What does it connect to?" Arthur said counting with his fingers. "And then there are myriad more technical ones."
"Ah sir?" Sarah, who sat in the front row, asked. "Then what is the minimum energy needed to open a wormhole of any size?"
"If you wanted a usable one, then let's just say it would take a lot of negative energy. And by a lot I mean the amount of energy in the sun."
"And negative energy is?" Sarah asked.
An incredibly abstract and theoretical concept that is highly unlikely to actually exist. But don't let that discourage you," Arthur smirked while some students laughed.
"So how come—" Ethan said.
"Ah no more questions for now, Ethan. Save them for the end. I have to continue on," Arthur said. Just as he was about to return to the lecture about the Michaelson-Morley experiment the door at the back of the lecture hall swiftly opened.
A woman and two men entered the lecture hall and without any ceremony or introduction promptly sat in the last row. The men seemed to be middle-aged, possibly in their forties or fifties. The woman herself, however, seemed to be in her early twenties or perhaps even younger.
"Excuse me, who are you?" Arthur asked inspecting their out of place attire. It was the middle of August but the three were wearing formal suits. The men wore solid black, but the woman wore pure white. Doesn't it get dirty really easily? he thought.
"Just observers doctor. We are quite interested in this lecture," the woman smiled taking her top hat off and revealing her red hair. The students started to murmur and secretly glanced at the trio.
"I see," Arthur said reasoning that they were probably patrons or VIPs of the university. It didn't matter to him much as long as they remained quiet. "Well then thank you for joining us today. On with the lesson then."
The students soon lost their interest in the group and returned their attention toward the physics lecture. An hour into the lecture and Arthur could tell that the three had no interest in his lecture at all. Earlier the two men had taken out fairly thick books and soon had become engrossed in them as if they were in their own little world. The woman on the other hand was a completely different story.
Over the course of the lecture she had been staring at him. At first Arthur had thought that she must have been really interested in relativity. But later on he could feel her stare as if she were boring down into his soul. Even worse was the voice in his head. It started off as a small whisper but grew larger and larger until it was as loud as a bullhorn. RUN AWAY! STAY AS FAR AS POSSIBLE FROM THAT WOMAN! the voice kept saying. But he did his best to ignore the voice and carry on with his lesson.
"Alright students what's the dilation factor in the third problem?" Arthur asked his students who were completing example problems in class. As soon as he had asked the question the Strange Trio, the nickname Arthur had given them, got up from the back row and left the hall.
"Goodbye," Arthur called out too late.
"Well that was rude of them," Ethan said. The other students murmured in agreement. "They didn't even thank you."
"Who were they professor?" Stephanie asked.
"Who knows?" Arthur wondered checking his watch. There were only five minutes left in class but how did they know that? And if they were so bored why didn't they leave earlier? "Okay class let's pack it up for today."
"Professor what about the third problem?" someone in the back asked,
"Add it to your homework, which I expect for Monday." Some students groaned but most were enthusiastic for the weekend and Arthur was one of them.
It had been a tiring week and he really could use the weekend to sleep late into Saturday. First thing he was doing when he got home was take a relaxing bath and jump right into bed. He rushed to his office to drop off students' exams from another class all the while ignoring the somewhat strange looks others gave him. After all it wasn't often one saw a speedy septuagenarian.
He walked down the hallway to his office, which was located at the end of the long hall lined by the offices of his colleagues. It was right when he was about to enter his office did he notice that the door was slightly ajar. Arthur shivered as a literal chill went down his spine. Maybe I left it unlocked, Arthur thought.
He had half a mind to run right now as far as possible, but his curiosity overwhelmed him. Who exactly would even bother breaking into his office anyway? "Whoever's in here, you have three seconds to show yourself before I call security," Arthur said in a plain but commanding tone and entered the office.
"Hmmm… we didn't expect you so soon," a voice said. Arthur turned his attention toward his brown office chair that had its back toward him.
"You can't just break in here," Arthur said in shock. It was the two men who had interrupted his lecture. They were sitting in their respective chairs and were completely absorbed in reading through the same stack of papers they had started on in the lecture hall. So much so that they hadn't even flinched at Arthur's outburst. Then if they are here the woman is in my chair he thought to himself.
"We just did," the woman said as she spun the chair around, or at least tried to. "What the hell? This chair is stuck!"
"Are you alright?" one of the men asked getting up.
"No, no sit-down Dr. Scala," the woman said dismissively. She pulled against the chair forcefully and spun it quickly enough to face Arthur. "I'm just a little peeved that my dramatic reveal has been ruined."
Did she break my chair? Arthur thought. He heard a snap when she had spun the chair. "Who are you people? Why are you here?"
"Sorry we didn't mean to be so rude," the woman smiled and got up to extend her hand. "My name is Angelia Versewy," she said. When she saw that Arthur hadn't immediately returned the gesture she proceeded to grab his hand and shake it. And he just let it happen, too shocked to respond. "Here's my business card," she said.
"Business card?" Arthur asked looking at what was a plain card that just contained her name in blue lettering. There was no logo or any other kind of information just her name.
"These two are my companions, Dr. Grus Scala," Angelia pointed toward a man on her right. He had an unkept beard and his face was a mix between a scowl and a frown.
"Thank you for meeting us today," he said shaking Arthur's limp hand.
"Meeting you? But you broke into my—"
"And this," Angelia continued in stride interrupting Arthur, "is Dr. Anstice Snow."
"How do you do today?" Dr. Snow asked with a smile. He was a somewhat thirty-year-old man who sported brown hair and a 5'o clock shadow.
"I'm sorry you have me at a bit of a disadvantage," Arthur said inching toward the door. Perhaps he could make a break for it. "What exactly do you want?"
"Ah yes. Straight to the point," Angelia said. "First let me make you a chair."
Make? Arthur thought. He turned toward the two gentlemen to see that they were sitting in solid, but rudimentary chairs. Where did the two even get their chairs from?
At first there was no sound. Angelia simply motioned her hand toward the floor in front of Arthur. Suddenly patches of dirt sprung up through the carpet, twisting and moving in weird shapes. It was only after a minute that a large chair made of solid earth was formed.
"What the hell?" Arthur said shocked. "How did you do that?"
"Come sit," Angelia said. "We have much to discuss."
"No, but seriously, how did you that?" Arthur started inspecting the chair, looking for any tricks, any sort of optical illusions that could make what he just saw possible.
"All will be explained," Angelia said wearing a bemused smile. "But first take a seat."
"Not until I'm done inspecting," Arthur said continuing his audit of reality. He first lifted the chair to see how heavy it was. Maybe it's foldable he thought trying to bend it in all sorts of ways. Arthur then tried to break it striking it against the walls of the office all the while the three watched his antics. Occasionally the two men would whisper as they observed him.
"Why won't this break?" Arthur yelled unleashing one final strike before he sat down breathing heavily, covered in sweat from his fifteen minute exertion.
"Satisfied?" Angelia asked.
"Well either I have been drugged, I'm in a dream, or that really just happened," Arthur shrugged. "So I might as well go along with it."
"That's the spirit," Angelia chuckled along with the two men.
"So what exactly do you want?"
"Well we've been reading your papers on theoretical physics," Angelia said. "They're quite interesting indeed."
"Oh well if it was an interview you wanted for my publication in Nature you could have scheduled a time. You didn't have to break in," Arthur said with of bit of bitterness in his tone. "I'm always happy to entertain fellow physicists."
"Yes, well you didn't make it very easy to find you Dr. Shepherd," Angelia said. "Publishing under pseudonyms really didn't help matters."
"Pseudonyms? What are you talking about?" Arthur asked raising an eyebrow. Could it be…
"Really Dr. Shepherd you're going to make me spell it out?" she said imitating Arthur's raised eyebrow. "For forty years you have been publishing your theories on time travel and temporal engines in third rate obscure journals. Most of it is garbage but there are some elements of truth that we find quite remarkable that you have discovered on your own."
"Ms. Versewy, I think you're mistaken," Arthur said defensively. "I don't know anything about publishing theories."
"Really then," Angelia leaned forward on the table, "I guess those RSA encrypted messages you left on your papers were talking about a different Arthur Shepherd of Kings College."
"Wha—" Arthur said as he gasped. "How did you? No computer can break that encryption; it's impossible."
"Mr. Shepherd, you just saw me a create a chair in seconds. I think it's time to redefine your definition of impossible."
"Who are you people?" Arthur asked after a minute of silence. The two men who had been reading before had stopped before and started to pay attention; not that Arthur had noticed.
"You tell me, Dr. Shepherd. Who do you think we are?"
"You're time travelers, aren't you? That's the only way you could have broken the encryption!"
"Time travelers?" Angelia laughed. "No, we're nothing of the sort. Not yet anyway."
"But then how did you break the encryption?" Arthur asked, his expectations deflating like a balloon.
"It's just prime factorization Dr. Shepherd. We just found a faster method." Angelia said as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.
"But I don't understand if you're not from the future what do you want from me?" Dr. Shepherd asked. "You read the entire message right?"
"That you want your wife and daughter to be resurrected?"
"Yes! Can you do it?" Arthur asked some of his hope being rekindled.
"Not yet I'm afraid," Angelia frowned.
"Oh I see." Arthur sank back into his chair his eyes going a little misty. "So then why are you here?"
"We're just here to ask you a few questions Dr. Shepherd."
"Well," Angelia said as Dr. Snow took out a small notebook and started to transcribe their conversation. "How exactly did you formulate your theories on time travel? Your ideas alone, misguided though they may be, are worthy of a scientific revolution."
"Misguided, how exactly are my ideas misguided?" Arthur said defensively.
"More on that later," Angelia said growing a little impatient. "Can you please answer the question?"
"It was nothing more than forty years of research," Arthur shrugged.. He remembered how often he would stay into the night trying to make progress into his theories. There were countless days where he made no progress at all and even more days where every step he took forward would result in two steps back. "Though if I may toot my own own horn a little I must admit my greatest achievements were earlier this year."
"Earlier this year? What did you discover?" Angelia asked nervously.
"I think it was my own miracle year," Arthur gave a proud smile. "One day I was cleaning my office when I had the most miraculous insight. It just popped right out of nowhere into my brain, like a second voice, guiding me. I found the right equations to make sense of how it would all work."
"Make what work? Time travel?" Angelia asked.
"Of course time travel!" Arthur laughed. "Right after I figured out the correct equations I started to work into the night and it was amazing. I don't know where I got the energy from but I felt like a graduate student again."
"Really? Can we—"
"But do you know what the Holy Grail of any investigation in theoretical physics is?" Arthur asked interrupting Angelia.
"No?" Angelia sighed answering his rhetorical question. Doesn't like to toot his own horn indeed...
"An experiment Ms. Versewy," Arthur said with stars in his eyes. "I have conducted three experiments that verify my hypotheses to be correct!"
He's this far along! Angelia thought. Dr. Snow and Dr. Scala were staring while eyed at the man before them. "Congratulations Dr. Shepherd! When are you going to publish you results?"
"It will be ready as early as next month," Arthur said. "Would you like to see some rough drafts?"
"Yes please," Angelia said sharing a glance with the other two who nodded in response. Arthur got up to rummage through a small brown trunk along the corner of the wall directly opposite the desk. The trunk was old, at least fifty years Angelia estimated. The brown leather was patchy and the lock had many scratches on it but there were signs an effort was made to keep the trunk in good condition. After a minute or so of rustling through his trunk he came out with three copies of his magnum opus.
"Thank you," Angelia said taking her index finger and giving a "come here" gesture. The three copies immediately fled from Arthur's grasp and moved toward each of the three.
"But how—" Arthur gaped. "How did you do that?"
Angelia simply gave a wink and placed a finger over her mouth. She motioned toward the two men who were completely absorbed into his thesis.
How did she do that? Simplicio said.
She's either an alien or a person with some telekinetic abilities Salviati responded. It had been a habit of Arthur's even since the beginning of the year to split his thought process into a dialogue between two people. It was amazing what you could accomplish if you just talked to yourself. Simplicio was light and friendly sounding while Salviati was gruff and serious. If Simplicio were summer Salviati would be winter, Simplicio water, Salviati fire, two polar opposites. Then there was the second voice. In times of need the second voice would give some hints. He tried asking it questions, asking where it came from, but it never seemed to respond. Currently the voice was practically screaming to run away as far as possible. Better to shoot them and go to jail then stay here one minute longer. Start with the woman first, the voice said. But Arthur had simply ignored it and chalked his disturbing thoughts to the call of the void. Still it would do no harm be warier of the more powerful.
Maybe we're dreaming? Simplicio asked.
No way to prove that Salviati said. Besides no dream can be this vivid.
"Is that the temporal differential equation?" Dr. Scala whispered, his turned to be awed.
"The one-dimensional version yes," Dr. Snow replied betraying no emotion but secretly as astonished.
"How long did it take us?"
"Fifteen years," Dr. Snow said, "Now be quiet that was just the end of section four."
Is she even reading it? Simplicio asked.
I…don't think so Salviati said.
The two men conversed with each other every three minutes or so which gave Arthur some comfort. At the very least his work was interesting enough to generate discussion between these strange men. But Angelia kept turning the pages, one right after the other, only giving the briefest of glances to each page.
The sun had now started to shine its light through the windows lighting up the dusty room. "Do you want me to close the blinds?" Arthur offered. None of the three gave any response and just continued their studying. "Ok then," he said fidgeting slightly in his chair.
After what felt like an eternity, but actually had been fifteen minutes, Angelia closed the bounded book and softly placed it upon Arthur's already crowded desk. She closed her eyes and sat in her chair completely still deep in thought.
"So what did you think of it?" Arthur asked. But Angelia said nothing and simply placed her finger once again over her lips.
Five minutes later and the two had also completed their reading or at the very least scanned through it. "Dr. Shephard to put it simply we are impressed," Angelia smiled. "What took us at least a century you completed in less than half the time. Your advances in temporal engines are indeed ingenious."
"Thank you," Arthur smiled beaming with pride. But the smile vanished as quickly as it had come. "Wait did you say century?"
"Yes century Dr. Shepherd. You asked us before who we were right?"
"Uh… yes," he said. To be honest he himself had forgotten about the question.
"You can consider us a think tank for the betterment of humanity," Angelia said. "We mostly spend our time researching and advancing the sciences."
"Really?" Arthur asked. "How come I've never heard of you?"
"We like to remain discrete. It…gives us more leeway."
"Leeway?" Arthur said. It was his experience that only the more suspicious organizations would ever need leeway. First telekinesis, and now an ancient order? What did I get myself into? he thought. "But I don't understand. Why are you here?"
"Well to be frank your publications while oft derided have started to draw unwanted attention. Your discoveries will transform the world at a rapid pace, a pace I'm not sure humanity could bear without self-destruction," Angelia said.
"I'm sorry but if my results are half as good as you say they are then I must publish them," Arthur said a little incensed. "And I'm pretty sure a 'think tank' that has had hundreds of years of resources can push away this unwanted attention."
"Why?" Angelia asked getting up from her, or rather Arthur's, chair. "Why do you seek to make a time machine so desperately?"
"You read my message; you know why," he responded.
"Hmm… If we offered you your wife and daughter would you cease your research?" Angelia asked.
The world had become completely still, or at least still to Arthur. There was no sound, no light, no air, no color, there was nothing but Arthur and that question. He was completely frozen and as seconds passed, seconds that felt like eternities, he started to thaw. "Can you really do that?"
"In twenty to thirty years or so," Angelia smiled. "As I said Dr. Shepherd we're not time travelers yet."
"Twenty to thirty years," Arthur said. "I'm afraid it is far too long and there are too many variables. I could be dead by then. I can't just leave it up to you. Can't I just join your organization?"
"No. Not yet anyways. There are certain perquisites you must meet before you can join."
"But can't you make an exception?" Arthur pleaded. "You can keep tabs on me and we can double our efforts on the time machine."
"I'm sorry there are no exceptions. But wait a little longer and you will be rewarded," Angelia said. "In the mean time we can't have you publishing anymore."
"What are you talking about? I'm free to publish as I please and you can be damn well sure I'll have my new research published and it will be read," Arthur said bitterly.
"You fool!" Dr. Snow exclaimed as he rushed his way toward Arthur. "Don't you know the dangers your theories could cause? If any country even acts on one of your ideas it could spell disaster for the world."
"Disaster? This world is already headed for disaster in more ways than one," Arthur countered. "And now that we finally have a way to reverse our mistakes you want to bury it?"
"We're not saying stop working on it, just stop publishing it. Would you at least consider that your research is dangerous?" Dr. Snow pleaded.
"Of course, it is dangerous. That's why I'm going to need all the help I can get," Arthur said as if he were constructing a logical argument. "The only way I can get help is if I publish. Ergo, I must publish."
"Enough of this," Angelia interrupted as she pointed her hand at Arthur. He in turn instinctively went toward the gun he had hidden in his pocket, but it was too late. Arthur thought he saw a hint of sadness in her eyes before he crumpled to the floor in deep sleep.
"What should we do now?" Dr. Snow asked looking at Arthur. "It's not going to be long before he wakes up."
"It will be long enough," Angelia said. She picked up Arthur and placed him back on his chair. "You two search the room while I deal with him."
"By deal with him you…" Dr. Snow said.
"Don't worry Dr. Snow I'm only erasing his memories of our conversation. He won't be harmed."
"Then what was the whole point of having the conversation? We could have just gone in and out," Dr. Snow asked incredulously. In fact, he realized, there were a lot of things that they could have done differently to be more efficient.
"Just find it Dr. Snow," Angelia chided. He sighed as he murmured to himself about 'stupid fake names', but Angelia was too busy inspecting the sleeping doctor to hear him. She definitely felt the connection between them, a sort of echo that got louder and louder the closer they were to each other
"This must be a new experience for you," Dr. Scala said pulling up his chair beside her. He would have offered her a seat but he knew she was too excited to bother sitting. "Was it worth it then?"
"Yes Dr. Scala, I believe it was," she said as she searching Arthur giving him a preliminary check. "Look what I found." She took out a revolver from his left pant pocket. How she hadn't noticed it before was a surprise even to her.
"He didn't have that before we talked to him," Dr. Scala said, a little shocked. "When do you suppose he got it?"
"He probably pocketed it from that chest of his when he was getting the manuscripts," Angelia said feeling a little proud that he shared her high level of paranoia.
"Amazing," Dr. Scala said. "I guess he really does take after you."
"Yes I suppose he does," she said. She placed her palm on top of his forehead as she began the process to delete memories. It took a great deal of experience to configure memories accurately but fortunately, or for some unfortunately, she had become a practiced hand when it came to matters of the mind.
"How many what?" Angelia said raising her eyebrow. It took a bit more effort to maintain a conversation while configuring someone's mind, but she was up for the challenge.
"I know that you know what I'm talking about Ms. Versewy," Dr. Scala rolled his eyes. "So why bother with the pretense?"
"Pretension is sometimes all we have," she smiled. "Besides I've seen enough catastrophes based on dual misunderstanding of assumptions."
"I don't quite follow. What do you mean by dual misunderstanding of assumptions?"
Look it's like this," Angelia said exasperated, "You assume I'm talking about one thing and I assume you're talking about something else and one thing leads to another and now there's an invisible city on the verge of war."
"What in the world are you talking about?" Dr. Scala asked.
"Never mind it's a long story," Angelia said. She was in the last stages of her memory altercation and didn't want to leave anything to chance. A few more minutes passed before the procedure had been completed. "All done," she said rubbing her head. Memory altercation always left her with a small headache. "By the way I believe there were about one-hundred eight-seven give or take five."
"Pardon?" Dr. Scala said as he had been lost in thought. It was a hard habit to break as he often tackled stubborn mathematical conjectures.
"The answer to your question," Angelia said, "There were one-hundred eight-seven of them."
"A hundred—", Dr. Scala said intaking a sharp breath. "There is no way there could be that many. How did that even happen? What exactly were the steps that led to that?" He looked at her incredulously. "If I understand correctly then did you…"
"Let's just say," Angelia remarked tactfully interrupting his sentence, "I had a very eventful childhood."
"Eventful?" Dr. Scala snorted but took a few steps back out of fear. He knew there was nothing to fear from her, but it was instinctual. "That is an understatement if I ever heard of one."
"Relax, Dr. Scala," she laughed. "I just had a misguided youth. I've changed plenty since then. This is just another mistake from my past coming to haunt us again." At her last remark, she turned solemn. It was only now in their silence that they had noticed the pounding of the rain outside. The storm front had finally reached the university and began its torrential downpour. Angelia made her way over to the noisy window to see the effects of the rain. The once bustling street was now overrun with water as the few people who were remaining tried to find cover. Looks like we have a good omen Angelia smirked.
"Does Dr. Snow know?" Dr. Scala said interrupting her train of thoughts. The man was of course his junior, but he felt Dr. Snow had a right to know the kind of leader they were following.
"He figured it out before you," Angelia said looking around. "Speaking of Dr. Snow, where is he?"
"What do you mean? He's right he…" Dr. Scala said before realizing that he had clearly disappeared. "Where did he go? He was right here." The two started to look around the office, an office too small to lose a needle much less a man, and yet he was clearly gone.
"Ms. Versewy, Dr. Scala get in here," Dr. Snow yelled as if right on cue. "I'm behind the closet door."
"The closet door?" Angelia asked. They made their way to the closet to find that it was actually an entrance to another room. The room itself was similar to that of a classroom except there were chalkboards with equations scribbled on them on all four walls, only two chairs, and a large black desk. There were large stacks of paper and journals lining the back wall of the room. It seemed that the front office was just for show and that the real work happened around here.
"You have to see his work. It seems to be the most recent," Dr. Snow said. He had been sitting in one of the chairs reading from a manuscript and rough notes written on the page. "The ways he derives the equations are so original. I never thought to connect the ideas the way he has done before."
"First did you find it?" Angelia asked.
"Yes, it was hidden behind the books. It's secure now," Dr. Snow commented pointing to a black bag he had in his hands. "But that's not important, you have got to take a look at these notes."
She scanned through the pages Dr. Snow offered, her smile growing wider and wider. "It seems he really does take after me," she said with a sense of pride.
"I can't believe this," Dr. Scala said as he read the manuscript awestruck by its ingenuity. "This work is only twenty years behind ours. How can one man uncover so much in only one lifetime?"
"Dr. Scala it really isn't that surprising if you consider his condition," Angelia said as she studied the chalkboards.
"That… makes sense. He probably used all that processing power to come to his conclusions faster," Dr. Scala said realizing that she was quite right. That could be the only explanation of how centuries of work were finished in one lifetime.
"Are you sure we can't make an exception in his case and let him join our organization?" Dr. Scala asked.
"As much as I want to we can't make any exceptions, not even for him. He will have to wait just like everyone else," she sighed. "Besides if we leave him alone then imagine all the original work he would produce. He just needs a little nudge in the right direction." At that Angelia placed two large blue books (books that seemingly came out of nowhere) onto the black desk. "Let's see what he can do with these," she said. They made their way out of the secret room into the office where Arthur was still sleeping.
"How do we know he isn't going to publish his results?" Dr. Snow asked.
"Don't worry he won't," Angelia said. "He'll have a mad desperation to delve deeper into his research, but he will not publish his work."
"But at his age don't you think that's unreasonable? I checked his financials and he has barely enough money to take care of himself right now and that's with his tenure," Dr. Scala added.
"Yes, well it was quite fortunate that earlier today a bank account in his name worth ten million pounds was opened," Angelia said with a grin.
"No way… You didn't…" Dr. Scala said as his jaw and that of Dr. Snow dropped to the floor.
"Don't worry it was my own money. Think of it as an investment," she said as they made their way to the door. "In time, you will see that with the proper resources people can work miracles."
January 23 rd , 2018 Kings College Hospital
"What was the dream today?" Juliet asked of her charge. The nurse/caretaker sat beside Arthur who laid in his bed. The room, as small as it was, felt comfortable enough. There was a medium sized window that let in the occasional sunlight brightening the room and chasing away the dull green color of the walls. It was supposed to be a regular checkup but for some reason, he didn't know why or how, he just knew today was the day he would definitely die.
There was this impending sense of doom, a rope that was pulling him somewhere. The few times Arthur had fought it before he had always managed to resist but now the pull was stronger than ever, and he couldn't muster up the effort. Slowly but surely, he was going to lose the battle.
"There were these monks," Arthur said remembering his latest dream.
"Monks? That's a new one," Juliet said knitting him a red sweater completely oblivious of his imminent demise. Arthur had resigned to keep that secret to himself. After all it was just another day, another early-morning debate between himself and his friend and he wasn't going to let a little thing like death disrupt his day more so than it already had. Indeed, today would be a normal day and to treat it like any other would be to let Death win. And that was simply unacceptable.
"Flying monks, if you could believe that," he smiled.
"Really?" Juliet cracked an eyebrow.
"Yes really," Arthur swallowed, a cold chill running up his spine. The pull's getting stronger. "Imagine mountains so tall that they pierced clouds. Ancient skyscrapers if you will. The jagged edges, the deep chasms, and the high winds made climbing them pretty much impossible. And yet there were people living at the summit."
"I'm guessing these were the monks," Juliet offered.
"Not just monks, but women and children as well, all of them were living in this large temple on the summit of the tallest mountain."
"But how did they live on such dangerous mountains?" she asked picturing the scene in her mind. All she could think of were the dangerous precipices they would have had to navigate and the freezing air they would have had to withstand.
"That's the most miraculous part," Arthur said. "They could fly, or at the very least, leap into the air ten to twenty feet high. They jumped from one place to another around the mountains controlling the very air itself. And before you ask that wasn't an exaggeration. They literally could push and pull the wind creating these huge gusts that we could. Isn't that strange?"
"Well there is only so much sense in a dream before our imaginations take over."
"But that's the thing they didn't feel like dreams. They were so real, so vivid. They felt like memories," Arthur gulped. "I can remember the many lessons the monks taught about thinking, the many friends I had, and the games we played. It felt like… another life."
"You ever had those dreams before?" she asked without missing a beat in her knitting. Arthur thought it was amazing how she could always split her attention evenly between two different tasks. Of course, he had heard that women were better at multitasking, but this was on another level. It was literally as if there were two separate minds residing in her.
"I had them before when I was really young except I really thought they were memories," Arthur laughed. "Let me tell you it took a lot of convincing for me to realize what was real."
"Very interesting," Juliet smiled knitting the last stitch. "There how do you like it?" she said presenting the red sweater to Arthur.
"It looks wonderful," he said fitting the sweater on with Juliet's help. "It fits perfectly Juliet," Arthur said tearing up a little.
"Nothing," he said wiping his tears away. "I'm just really grateful for a friend. Don't really have too much of those left I'm afraid."
"Arthur I will always be here," Juliet said giving him a long hug. It was now her turn to cry as tears streamed down her cheeks. "Always. You can count on that."
After they had finished their hug, Arthur looked outside the window to see that the sky was bright and clear, and the people below were bustling about, all of them oblivious to his soon-to-be demise. He had wanted the world to stop, to take some time to remember not just him but his family. But life didn't work that way, after all people had things to do, places to be, loved ones to see. It was just another regular day in London and life would march on.
"Juliet I've had many regrets," Arthur said after a moment of silence. "I've led a life of seclusion all in the vain hope of resurrecting my wife and daughter. I knew that I was probably going to die before that was a reality, so I thought I could publish my research. Maybe I could ignite a spark and one day in the future someone could make a time machine. But there was something always holding me back from publishing it. A little imperfection here, a little more information there, suddenly one day I wake up to find myself to be a hundred."
"No more of that nonsense. I don't want to hear it."
"I said no more," Juliet said. "You lived a great life Arthur. Look at all the students you have taught. They wouldn't be who they are today if you weren't there to teach them. The lessons they learned from you they will carry on to their students."
"Thank you," Arthur said rubbing his tears away. "I really needed that. But you have to listen now." He proceeded to open the drawer next to him and took out a thick stack of papers to hand over to Juliet.
"What are these?" she said perusing through what seemed to be legal documents.
"I need you to go visit Mr. Kingsley after I pass. When he sees you he'll publish all of my research. For some reason, even when I try to tell him to publish it I always change my mind and I can't figure out why."
"Arthur I can't accept this," Juliet said after she had given them a glance, her hands starting to tremble.
"There are no ifs, ands, or buts about this," he said as forcefully as he could. "My house and my fortune are yours. I already had Kingsley go through the legal work. They're in your name now. I will not need them."
"Don't say that." Juliet wrapped his arms around as gently as she could and gave him the tightest hug possible for someone his age. "You're going to live for a long time. There are still so many adventures to be had."
"Juliet," Arthur said as he started to laugh, "I think you'll find people of my age don't really have a good track record of making it past one-hundred ten."
"Well I guess you're going to get to be one of the lucky ones."
At that Arthur started to give a warm laugh that filled the room but soon started to turn into coughing fits. "Arthur you alright?" Juliet asked as she placed her hand on his forehead. "You don't seem to have a fever."
"Yes, yes I am fine. I'm just—" Arthur said trying to speak as he was coughing. "Actually, could I get some water? My throat feels really dry."
"Of course," Juliet said quickly getting up and rushing out the door. Arthur stared longingly as she left in a hurry. She shouldn't be here for this, he thought. He started to feel cold, shivers running up and down throughout his body as that pull was now becoming unbearable.
The pristine hallway was bustling with activity as doctors and nurses moved about the floor. Beeps, buzzes, and overlapping conversations completely filled the hallway much to the displeasure of Juliet. After all, how was her charge to get any sleep with all this noise?
"Oh God damn it!" Juliet said when she saw the vending machine was out of order. Just as she was about to turn and look for another vending machine she found herself rudely interrupted.
"Hello Juliet," Angelia said placing her heard right above Juliet's left shoulder. "Where's Arthur?"
"Ahh!" Juliet said leaping backwards, or perhaps falling, into the vending machine. It was only after a few seconds, that she started to stare daggers into the young woman in the white suit and top hat. "What the hell are you doing here Ms.-"
"Remember Juliet," Angelia interrupted reading her thoughts before she could say them. "We're in public. We will use our pseudonyms. But that doesn't matter now, where's Arthur?"
"Why? What's wrong?" Juliet asked her fear replacing her anger.
"He's in that room over, there right?" Angelia asked, already sprinting toward Arthur's room.
"Wait! What do you want with him?"
"Think woman," Angelia said, "If I'm here and you have a hundred-year-old patient, what do you think is happening?"
Less than a second passed before Juliet's eyes lit up in horrible realization "Oh my God! He's dying?" Juliet asked but Angelia had already entered the room.
It started off as a dull pain in his chest, something that he thought was usual for a newly minted centenarian. But then the cold sweats and arm pain started simultaneously, and it was then he knew what it was. Arthur had seen it before in other soldiers but he never thought he would go out like that. It made sense though. It was far more statistically likely that he would die from a heart attack.
"Can you help him?" Juliet asked as she watched the white suited miracle worker get to work.
"Yeah. I should be able to," Angelia said as her hands started to glow a dark blue hue. "It's just a little massive heart attack. No big deal." The glow grew larger and larger until it encompassed Arthur's entire body. "Lock the door make sure no one comes in."
"Ri—Right," Juliet stuttered in awe of the glowing light that radiated off of Arthur's body. She moved to the door instinctively moving as far as she could from Angelia. "Now Juliet make sure no one interrupts me," Angelia said. "One wrong move and Arthur might die."
Juliet simply nodded her head in fear that saying something would cause all treat power Angelia had accumulated in her hands might explode. Brain damage minimal Angelia sighed in relief. The dark blue energy at first started to swirl back and forth in a circle slowly starting to condense.
Now for the hard part Angelia thought as she doubled her concentration. The blue glow grew brighter and brighter eventually outshining natural sunlight. The room now was colored blue as Angelia condensed the hue into an object the size of her hand. It was only after a few minutes that the clump of energy started to take form and that's when Juliet realized that the miracle worker was holding a beating blue heart.
"Juliet cover your eyes," Angelia said as her only warning.
"Got it," Juliet said hiding behind a curtain and covering her eyes without any hesitation.
Once she had confirmed her friend had taken cover Angelia took the newly formed heart and slipped it right through Arthur's chest. And then there was light. A blue light so bright that it threatened to blind anyone within a twenty-foot radius. And just as it had appeared it disappeared. "Come out now! Everything's fine,"
"Fine?" Juliet asked rubbing her eyes trying to get rid of the flashes of light she saw every time she blinked. "What do you mean fine?"
"Well let's just say his heart will keep on beating even if he dies," Angelia said smiling at her handiwork. "Now we wait."
"For what?" Juliet asked.
"Him to wake up of course," she replied. "I think it's high time he joined our organization."
"Oh," Juliet said crumpling to the floor in relief. "That's good." She looked at Arthur and was surprised to see how much younger he looked. He was still a hundred of course but it was as if the weight of the world had been lifted off his shoulders. Usually he would mumble in his sleep occasionally, sometimes even act out his dreams, but now there was nothing but peace.
"Wait how did you know he was dying?" Juliet asked once she had regained her composure.
"Today was his day," Angelia said sitting in the chair next to her bed. She proceeded to inspect Arthur's body for any other kind of damage and perhaps some clue of hidden talents.
"His day? How'd you know today was his day?"
"He told me," Angelia shrugged her shoulders.
"Right. Of course, he did," Juliet sighed rubbing her temples in confusion. Why does she always have to speak in riddles? "Do you know when he's going to wake up?"
"Celebrations are in order and I, unlike you, need time to prepare."
"Hmm," Angelia said furling her eyebrows in thought. "No clue. Suffering a massive heart attack usually does take a lot out of you. But he will wake up when it is time and not a moment before," Angelia said.
"I see we're speaking in tautologies now," Juliet said getting up. "I'm gonna get water. Do you want anything?"
"Apple juice, I suppose," Angelia said observing Arthur.
"Right," Juliet laughed as she exited the door. She couldn't imagine someone as old as her would still want apple juice.
She gave one last look at Arthur before closing her eyes. So it begins…
"Where am I?" Arthur asked himself. The last thing he remembered was that woman in the white suit leaning over him. Just that one look at her face and all the sealed memories came rushing back in. How the hell did she stay the same age? No better question: How can I make her pay? At first what was pure rage at how much time she had cost him turned into confusion and curiosity. As soon as he saw the white woman over him all the memories started to flood back in an instant like a dam finally breaking after years of build up.
Currently he was in a white space. There was no up, down, left, or right. It was just empty space and he was the only one in it. Is this another one of her tricks? he thought. No wait I've been here before. As soon as he turned around he knew it was a dream. Right in front of him was a bald blue boy floating in mid-air in a meditative pose. Haven't I seen him before?
Arthur, at first, wanted to avoid the boy at all costs. There was this a dangerous energy about him, a tension that was begging to be released. But a few seconds of hesitation was all it took for him to be enraptured by the boy. The pulling force that Arthur had felt before was nothing compared to what he was experiencing now. It had, at the very least, doubled in magnitude, and pulled Arthur effortlessly toward the center of its attraction.
So that's where it was coming from. Arthur reasoned getting up from the floor. There were loud whisperings that started to deafen Arthur in their intensity. He was only a few feet away from the boy when he suddenly opened his white glowing eyes and turned his head toward Arthur. The whispering stopped and there was everlasting silence.
"WAKE UP!" the blue boy yelled and so Arthur did.