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The Fourth Side

by Robert A. Lawler

Table of Contents
Table of Contents
parts: 1, 2, 3-4, 5-6


“John,” asked Dr. Seelöwe, “have you ever seen a fourth side?”

Henderson looked at her, startled. “Ah... no, Fran. I never have, and the shopkeeper never said anything about one.”

“There should be one. There must be one.” The speaker was Dr. Robert Kilroy, a particle physicist whose research was looking for extensions beyond the Standard Model. “Look here,” he gestured toward a drawing he had made on a blackboard. “This is a representation of a three-dimensional figure, a cube, projected onto a two-dimensional surface by a light source. The two-dimensional view of the three-dimensional cube is then...” He quickly drew another figure.

The second figure showed two squares, one within the other, with their respective four corners connected.

“In like manner,” Dr. Kilroy continued. “we can construct the three-dimensional representation of a four-dimensional hypercube, which is...” He quickly drew a final figure.

The figure showed two cubes, one within the other, again with their respective corners, eight this time, connected. “Following this model,” he continued, “we can find three-dimensional projections of many four-dimensional geometric figures. A four-dimensional sphere would appear in our three-dimensional world as two ordinary spheres, attached at their surfaces but not sharing their volumes.”

“That’s hard to visualize,” John admitted.

“But,” Fran joined in, “it can be mathematically described.”

“Now, here’s the interesting thing: the three-dimensional projection of a four-dimensional disk,” — Dr. Kilroy picked up the coin — “would be a four-sided disk.”

“Then you think the coin has some weird link to Time, the fourth dimension?” Henderson asked. “Or would this be one of those compacted dimensions of super-symmetry?”

Fran smiled. “Bob’s not a big fan of super-symmetry.”

Dr. Kilroy smiled back at her. “You don’t need super-symmetry to postulate extra dimensions of space, and I think this is more space than time.”

“Then how,” John asked, “do you explain the almost magical way it works?”

Dr. Seelöwe answered, “Well, it has made me think there must be something to that mind over matter business. But magical? Heavens, no. Believe me, it’s nothing that can’t be described in a purely quantitative manner.”

Henderson left the coin with the scientists, reminding them that he’d be back to take the coin to the anthropologist at three-thirty. The grad student Sally Jackson would make the coin perform when required. Sally had been present during the conversation between Fran and Dr. Kilroy but had said nothing except a curt “Good morning” to John.

“I think she’s out of sorts, the poor dear,” Fran told him, “I don’t believe she slept well last night.”

When Henderson returned later that day, the scientists had completed their initial tests and were excitedly talking amongst themselves. Dr. Seelöwe handed John the coin but declined to say anything. “We want to try to make sense of our results and plan the next round of tests. It is fantastic...”

“I’ll return the coin before going home,” he told her. “I really think we need to find out how the ancient Persians ever got this thing.” So saying, Henderson left for the museum.

* * *

“You say the shopkeeper only asked for a hundred dollars?” The man who spoke was Professor Raymond Fowler, the University’s expert on Mesopotamian and Persian Archeology. Born in Britain, professor Fowler had a love of his subject that he could not resist showing off. He tried to pass on his passion for the old and forgotten to everyone he met.

To Henderson, Fowler spoke of the engineering feats of the ancients, from the ruins of Nineveh to the puzzle of Silbury Hill near his own birthplace.

“Seems like quite a bargain doesn’t it?” Henderson responded.

“Indeed,” said the Professor. “The museum would have paid ten times as much for such a relic. Where did you say he found it?”

“Shahr-e Sukhteh,” Henderson told him, “If I’m pronouncing that right.”

“That doesn’t make sense.” Fowler bit his lip. “Shahr-e Sukhteh is a Bronze Age site in eastern Iran. The name means ‘the burnt city’. But it was last occupied maybe a thousand years before the time of Cambyses II.”

“You haven’t seen the really interesting part yet.” Henderson saw a bewildered look come over Fowler’s face but he was getting used to that. One more time, he thought to himself as he took the coin and made the third side appear.

Fowler was stunned. “Are you serious?” he asked at last.

“Believe me, I am,” Henderson answered. “The whole Physics \ over at Drexel spent the entire day making preliminary measurements in both states.”

“We have a very good Physics Department here at Penn.” Fowler stood up for his University.

“Yeah, but I was a student at Drexel. Anyway, that symbol, that’s what I wanted you to look at.”

Fowler took out a magnifier and gave the third side a long look. “Definitely Persian, The bearded figure with wings could be any god, but with that serpent coiled at his feet, that’s Ahriman!”

Now it was John’s turn to look startled. “I’ve heard that name. Isn’t he the Persian version of the devil? Satan?”

Fowler replied, “I know plenty of people who would call Satan the Judeo-Christian version of Ahriman. It was the prophet Zoroaster who first conceived the duality of Good versus Evil. In the Zoroastern faith, Ahriman, the destructive spirit, is the exact counterpart of Ormazd, the creative spirit.

“The cosmic battle between Good and Evil is even; mankind will tip the scales one way or the other. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, Satan was created by God, is inferior to God, and will inevitably be defeated by God. So the duality is not exact.”

Fowler went back to examining the coin. “There’s lettering around the figures. There’s a real microscope in the lab down the hall, with a camera. The lettering is probably Avestan. We’ll need someone better versed in ancient Persian script than I am. Like you I prefer architecture.”

Henderson smiled at the remark.

“Paul Villers, up at Yale, would be the man,” Fowler continued. “I’ll get a few pictures and E-mail them to him.”

Ten minutes later, the E-mail sent, Fowler handed the coin back to Henderson.

“I’ll take this damn thing back to Drexel and get rid of it,” swore Henderson. “Please let me know when you hear from Dr. Villers.”


Henderson’s father woke him the next afternoon. He had begun to worry when John had slept past noon. He only smiled and told his father nothing was wrong. Indeed, the long sleep had done him a lot of good, the more so since it had been dreamless. John felt well rested and less inclined towards his fears of the previous day.

After eating breakfast, the first thing he did was to call Professor Fowler to see if he’d heard from Villers. Fowler told him that Villers had not yet responded. No sooner had he hung up on Fowler than his phone rang again. It was Fran Seelöwe calling to urge him to come down to her office at once. The physicists had reviewed the results and were eager to proceed with the next stage of tests. Reluctantly, Henderson agreed, and was soon driving down route I-95 toward Drexel.

When Henderson arrived at Disque Hall, he found himself surrounded by reporters and cameramen. The story of the strange coin seemed to have leaked to the press. Henderson was wondering what to tell them when he was rescued by Dr. Kilroy. Telling the reporters they’d get the full story later, Kilroy took John up to Fran’s office.

When he saw Fran, she was in a highly animated state. “The test results were almost — repeat, almost — completely negative. Mass, chemistry, everything the same in both the normal and... abnormal state. The coin is ordinary gold. Radiation counts and X-rays show the same; no differences.

“In fact the coin checks out as perfectly normal in both states, except for one thing.” She paused for effect and, despite himself, Henderson found himself keenly interested. “We took a reading of the magnetic field intensity and found the abnormal third side possesses a magnetic field of some ten gauss.”

“That’s not much of a field,” John countered.

“For a non-ferric material like gold, it’s huge,” Fran told him. “But that’s not the important thing; that’s not anything at all. The coin’s magnetic field consists of only a north magnetic pole.”

Henderson was stunned. “But that’s impossible. Every magnetic field must contain both a north and south pole. That’s one of the basic laws of physics.”

“Yes, indeed; it happens to be Maxwell’s Second Law of Electromagnetism. The total magnetic flux through any closed surface must be zero. In plain speech, every magnet must possess both a north and south pole. There’s no doubt however: we’ve performed the measurement a dozen times. What we have here,” she concluded, “is a magnetic monopole.”

Dr. Kilroy now joined in. “Particle physicists have been searching for a magnetic monopole ever since Paul Dirac showed that, if a single monopole existed anywhere in the universe, its electric charge would have to be quantized. Well, the charge is quantized, and we’ve been searching for the monopole. It’s a central part of every theory beyond the standard model.”

“Where does this get us?” John asked.

“We have an idea,” Fran said. “Dr. Kilroy and I have been working on it since yesterday. We believe that, in the higher dimensions we talked about, the coin possesses only a south magnetic pole. Therefore, in all dimensions, we have a magnet with both a north and south pole.” She paused for a moment. “This leads to some interesting conclusions. If the coin were placed in a strong magnetic field, several Tesla, it might show its fourth side!”

Dr. Seelöwe now told him that a large number of physicists were coming to a colloquium about the coin the next day, and afterward the experiment would be performed.

Henderson was tempted to speak to Fran about what he’d learned and hoped to learn from Professor Fowler. However, he decided to wait until he’d heard from Dr. Villers.

When they had finished discussing Dr. Seelöwe’s plans, Henderson agreed to speak to the reporters. Throughout the interviews, Henderson minimized his own part in the story. He told the reporters that it was just luck that had caused the shopkeeper to sell him the coin. He consistently praised Dr. Seelöwe and the other scientists, telling the reporters to be prepared for some spectacular results.

After hearing the story of the coin’s purchase, one of the reporters brought up the subject of magic. Henderson replied he’d never had any interest in that sort of thing. In his life he’d never had any strange experiences, premonition, déjà vu, or anything similar. He didn’t even know what his astrological sign was. The coin would, hopefully, lead to a better understanding of the universe, and wasn’t that the real kind of magic?

* * *

Throughout the evening at home, Henderson was constantly answering the phone. It wasn’t just reporters, there were several offers from people wanting to buy the coin, not just museums but private collectors, exhibitions, even the Hard Rock Cafe. Some offered very handsome prices. Worse still, it seemed he had become the center of attention for mystics and cranks as well, each claiming they alone had all the answers.

One call especially disturbed him. A man, who refused to give his name, said that the coin must be destroyed; otherwise it would cost him his life. At other times he would have laughed off such a threat; now he shuddered.

He resisted simply turning off his phone however, since he was hoping to hear from Professor Fowler. Towards 10:00 pm, though, he’d had enough and decided to just go out and drive, regardless of direction. Heading north on 95, then route 32, he drove to Washington Crossing Park and found a quiet and deserted place to sit and think.

Alone as he was, the feeling of being watched had returned. He thought that such a feeling was to be expected, since the reporters had him under a microscope. Still, he couldn’t get the idea out of his head that the coin was evil. There, he’d said it, but there had been too many coincidences, especially the coin being sold to him in the first place.

He was sure he’d been given the coin for some purpose. What if there were a group of devil worshippers — Ahriman worshippers — in Arabia who hoped he would bring the coin to America, where members of the cult here could obtain it? Already several people had tried to buy it. What if someone tried to steal it?

Dr. Seelöwe had told him that the coin would be locked in a safe with a guard at all times. Even so, he made a mental note to ask if security could be made any tighter.

* * *

Perhaps it was his meditations of the day that caused it, perhaps not. That night, after an absence of two days, his dreams returned. At first, the dream seemed totally different: he was not in space, but neither was he on Earth, for the ground was pitch black, so black that it swallowed all the light that fell upon it. Henderson looked for his shadow but there was none. However, that may have been due to a lack of light, anyway.

It was not the sun of Earth in the sky but a small, cool, red globe. The sky also was strange, being a pale milky whiteness that seemed like an overcast day.

Walking about on his dream world, Henderson suddenly realized that, unlike the other dreams, he had his body here. He began to take note of other details. This must be a large, featureless world, for he could see right down to the horizon, which seemed an infinite distance away, yet there was no difference in gravity. Also, the surface seemed perfectly flat, nothing to mar its uniformity.

There was nothing to link this dream to the others until he appeared. John had not seen or heard him come; he merely turned and saw he was no longer alone. The newcomer was a tall, black figure, as black as the planet beneath him, and he appeared to be naked, although Henderson could not see any genitals. Although John could not be sure, it seemed that the figure was bearded as well.

Henderson wanted to back away from the figure, though he did not know why. His legs would not move however, and now he noticed that the music had started. It was the same horrible music of his other dreams only now louder and clearer as if from much closer.

He recognized several of the words from his other dreams: “Agra Manu”, “Devas” and “Dahaka.” Now there seemed to be something moving around the legs of the black man, something difficult to see as it was also as black as the ground, as black as the man. Peering closer John thought it was a serpent-like creature coiled lovingly around and between the man’s legs.

As the music continued, the black man lifted his arms, as if receiving the adoration of the universe. As the ritual went on, Henderson began to wonder if the figure was Ahriman himself. He wanted to run, to hide, to get away from the hateful figure but his legs would not move. The black figure took no notice of him, being content to drink in the glorious worship.

Finally the black figure lowered his arms, the chanting became subdued, and he gazed at Henderson. If he could, John would rather have died than accept that gaze. Ahriman stepped forward and Henderson realized that the figure was more than a head taller than he was. As the figure came closer, John saw with a shock greater than any previous horror that its face and features were those of the Arab shopkeeper who had sold him the coin.

He awoke in the middle of the night, screaming with such violence that his father quickly rushed in. It took several minutes, his father said, for him to stop screaming and thrashing about, and even longer for his speech to become rational. Henderson did not ask his father what he might have said during his delirium. He knew only too well what it might have been.

Proceed to parts V-VI...

Copyright © 2015 by Robert A. Lawler

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