Bewildering Stories

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Grandfather's Trip

by Sergio Bayona

Translated by Adriana Alarco de Zadra

Grandfather has always been interested in science. In his library, full of real books, he keeps a great variety of themes and authors. But by reading the titles carefully, anyone can realize that the content is ever the same: science.

He lives in a great house, another anachronism, and has at his disposal the biggest open ground in the city: 33 square feet of grass plot! Sometimes my school friends insist on coming to visit my grandfather so they can look at his books and at his grass plot. Don't touch anything, I use to tell them, just watch.

On these occasions my grandfather reminisces, recalling many anecdotes from his life and amusing us by recollecting stories of great heroes. His favorite one is about Newton's apple. It takes a while for the boys to stop laughing when they hear his memories; they can't believe that trees grew in the ground and that anybody could own them. Trees were also planted in the streets to have a better view, says my grandfather. All of my friends burst with laughter. Trees are now permitted only as ornaments in official buildings and are not allowed to grow higher than a couple of feet.

Sometimes I go to visit him alone. In these occasions he walks with me down to the cellar. Most of the earth for his personal garden has been extracted from this place. He usually works down there on certain things which he alone understands but wishes me to comprehend. He keeps his most beloved books in the cellar. He used them to teach in a school, as he told me once, but that is a family secret. Now, we can only learn from television screens. Certainly, it must have been fun to speak to a teacher and tell jokes in class so that everybody would laugh. A few of the schools still exist because children need to socialize, explains my grandfather, but the teaching machines wish to eradicate them also.

My grandfather is now working on a personal project. He lectures me about quadridimensional tensors and vectors and the direction of entropy. As he continues babbling, I take a look at his secret books. They inspire him, he says, and guide him, too. He is putting together the clues, left behind by people who knew that it could be done, for his experiment.

One day I glanced at the oldest and most crumpled book. A design, or an etching as explained my grandfather, illustrated a sled with a strange disc on top which seemed to rotate. As it was a flat object I couldn't understand what I was looking at. Later, when I saw a scale model on one of his shelves, judged it to be a ship for some kind of voyage. When my grandfather realized I was observing it with interest, he told me H. G. Wells gave him the idea. Wells was one of his secret authors.

One afternoon he took me on a surprise ride. The surprise really was that he didn't call a taxi to go to the train station. He took his bag, carried it over his shoulder and led me towards his cellar. There, he made me sit on an armchair under a mirrored screen.

Now, we will see if the specifications of the quantic tensor have the adequate orientation, he told me, taking the remote control in hand and sitting on the other armchair at my side.

Before I could speak a word, the shining screen fell over us, but the only thing that hit me was the wind in my face. I was paralyzed with fear and couldn't reach and put my arms up to protect myself. And I didn't run away because I couldn't decide which way to go. The cellar had disappeared and, looking around, I began to understand that the ethereal green globes with brown columns under them were trees. So much open space and trees and grass. I could have gone many places, but I went nowhere. My grandfather, instead, knew where he was going and, taking me by the hand, lead me towards a boy, somewhat older than I, sitting under one of the trees. He had different papers in his hands and was clothed in a way that would have made me laugh if I weren't so scared.

My grandparent, emotionally touched, approached the boy and immediately engaged in a lively conversation with him. Standing up, both moved along and left me in charge of the papers. I heard a sudden stroke behind me and turning around, only saw a lonely apple rolling beneath the tree.

My grandfather and the boy talked and strolled about for a few hours. Grandfather came back alone, and we both sat on the armchairs again. The return trip was as instantaneous as the one before. I felt seasick going up to the living room. My grandparent told me it was normal to feel bothered after traveling through the temporal tensor membrane, and he continued on speaking until I fell asleep.

When I woke up, the house was silent. I walked outside, to my grandfather's garden and saw him taking care of his trees.

Grandfather has always been interested in gardening. He owns the biggest garden in the city, three hundred and fifty square feet and the finest personal woods I have ever seen.

Copyright © 2005 by Sergio Bayona
The original Spanish text can be found here.

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