R. W. Warwick, The Dial
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services LLC
Date: May 8, 2017
File Size: 1168 KB
Micah Reznik watched the dirt envelop his wife’s coffin. His grief was absolute. A gentle hand touched his shoulder and he turned to see who it was. Donald Bell stood beside his friend and smiled. It was strangely appropriate.
“Got a cigarette?” Micah asked.
Bell took two from a packet and handed one to him. The two of them smoked until the coffin was gone. Micah looked away and gazed up at the horizon. The grey sky was clearing, and the weather looked promising.
“You coming to the wake?” he asked Bell.
“Yeah,” Bell replied “But I’m heading back to Borden in the morning, early flight. The mission is leaving in a few weeks and I’m briefing the committee”. They walked back to Micah’s car.
“I wish…” Bell hesitated “…she was the best woman I ever knew. I’m so sorry old friend”.
“I’ll see you at the house” Micah replied solemnly.
As the car rolled through the cemetery gates, Micah thought about Bell taking his place on the Apophis mission. It had consumed so much of his life in the months before Alison’s death, too much. He glanced in the rear view mirror. Bell was still in the road where he had left him.
Micah returned to work shortly after the funeral. It was a welcome distraction regardless of the advice he was given. He would grieve in his own way.
His colleagues somehow made him feel worse. There was an air of awkward isolation at work, which displaced him. Only Bell understood, because he had lost Alison too.
Alison’s friendship with Donald Bell started long before Micah had met her, and it was one which Micah had always felt on the outside of. Whatever their connection, Micah was glad to have someone with whom to share his loss.
Only a week after the funeral, Micah received an invitation from Bell to return to the mission team. He knew that Micah would throw himself back into his work, and assured him that the Apophis mission still needed him.
The night before the launch, Micah couldn’t sleep. The insomnia was worse than any night since Alison’s death. In the small hours, Micah wandered over to the cafeteria, and found Donald reading alone. Micah didn’t say anything as he sat down opposite his friend. Bell looked up and closed his book.
“It’s not our first rodeo,” began Bell “but it sure is the most exciting. How are you feeling?”
“To be honest,” Micah sighed “I’m terrified. But I can’t wait to get up there. An archaeological survey on an asteroid is the stuff of history”.
Bell nodded with a half-smile.
“I think I’m going to make this my last mission Don,” Micah said wistfully “I’m going to look for something more down-to-Earth afterwards, something closer to the kids”.
Bell leaned forward, opened his book, and read a passage;
“I remember that which came long before, that which has been long forgotten. The thoughts and memories, I decided best left behind, are alive and fierce and vivid in my mind’s eye.
Perhaps, when I lay to sleep tonight, I will be swept away to the place where she is waiting. And when the howling wind no longer wakes me, I will wait there, in the dark, until the winter nights have passed, before I return to her, or at least try.’
Micah smiled “Yorke,” he said “She always loved his work”.
“‘Unending’ was a favourite of hers in college,” Bell added “It was how we met”.
There was a long silence as Micah tried to think of an appropriate response, but nothing came. “I’m going to bed” he replied.
“Sleep well old friend” Bell replied, and then Micah disappeared back down the hall.
They locked the hatch from the outside and the countdown had begun. As the shuttle started to shake, Micah stared at the photo of Alison he had stuck on the headrest of the seat in front.
The Flight Commander counted down from ten. Then the shuttle shot along the runway, and lifted gracefully into the air like a bird. It was over in minutes, and they would reach the Apophis asteroid in just a few hours.
The shuttle shook violently as they approached the edge of Earth’s atmosphere. Micah glanced at Bell.
“Once more unto the breach, dear friend” Bell quipped.
“One to tell the grandkids about” Micah added.
Micah smiled and looked outside. He watched the brilliant blue sky fade into the darkness of space.
Once they were beyond Earth’s gravity, the journey was much smoother. The Flight Commander unclipped himself from his seat and turned to the scientists.
“Okay gentlemen, you’re up soon. We’ll be limited to thirty six hours on the asteroid surface before we have to depart for the lunar colony. If you find anything on the surface which merits further study, let my team know and we’ll pack it up for transport. No time to stop and smell the local flora gentlemen”.
Micah and Bell nodded.
“After that, we’ll remain at the lunar colony for another twelve hours before we depart for Earth. I was briefed on your mission, and I understand that one or both of you might choose to remain behind depending on what you find out there. Just let us know as soon as possible. One more thing gentlemen, our mission is to get you there and back again safely. I have no idea what you’re looking for, but any sign of trouble and we’re packing up, understood?”
Micah and Bell nodded again.
“Okay. We’ll begin our descent onto the asteroid’s surface in a couple of hours, so be ready”.
As the landing craft descended to the asteroid surface, solar winds bombarded it with rock and dust. They had landed in a harsh and violent storm. It was an extremely inhospitable environment for human beings.
Micah stepped out onto the surface and instantly noticed the odd shape of the landing area. It was smooth and deep, perfectly shaped, like it had been carved out artificially.
He started to set up the scanning equipment to map the surrounding area, and Bell came over, excited.
“Micah, you’ve got to see this,” he showed Micah a layout of the satellite image they had taken months before. “See that darker carved-out area over there, I think it’s some kind of artificial structure?”
“It looks like it’s about three or four hundred yards that way” Micah replied, gesturing towards a nearby clearing.
“We should begin there,” Shouted Bell “If we’re going to discover this asteroid’s source, it’ll be our best bet. I’m starting to believe your theory about Apophis being part of another planet”.
Micah grinned and they hiked towards the clearing. The closer they got, the clearer the structure became.
It was unlike anything they had ever seen. The outer walls were adorned with strange, jagged and curved lines carved into the rock. Bell studied the carvings carefully, and Micah wandered deeper into the structure.
The entrance was narrow, and the stone walls reached high into the darkness above. Further down, the path widened and the ceiling lowered as he descended into a large underground chamber. Hundreds more of the symbols adorned the walls in each direction, and thick stone pillars, scattered throughout the chamber, were adorned with the same jagged and curved lines.
It was the greatest archaeological discovery of all time. Micah was consumed with the wonder of a child. The path led to a long passage at the far side of the chamber. He ignored the lavish carvings all around him and ventured deeper.
The harsh environment of the asteroid surface was little more than an echo this far underground. A dim glow crept along the walls of the narrow passage and drew Micah deeper inside. Bell’s distant voice suddenly broke over the comm system, but Micah chose not to respond.
He eventually reached a dead end, but found the source of the light. It radiated from a large stone sphere atop a small pillar.
Its design was magnificent. It was a perfect, smooth sphere but for the intricate network of jagged lines which ran across its surface. As Micah approached the sphere, strips of light began to glow through the lines on the artefact, and it lit up the dark passageway with a brilliant blue-white glow.
Micah was mesmerized by its hypnotic beauty. He reached out to touch the artefact. Suddenly he noticed that he couldn’t hear a thing. He slammed his fists against the wall, but there was no sound. He was thrilled and terrified. His heart hammered and hands shook uncontrollably. He reached out again and touched the artefact with both hands. The passageway filled with a deafening whistle as the light became brighter until he blacked out.
Micah slapped the folder shut and slid it back across the table. He slammed his fists on the table in frustration.
“That isn’t me!” he demanded.
“I don’t believe you Professor”.
Agent Erica Bryant opened the file again and slid it back to Micah. She pointed at the photo.
“Who does this look like? You’re a smart man professor; what would you think in my position?” She paused “You say that you are Micah Reznik, an employee of Deep Space Mining Industries. If that’s true then why can’t you tell me what you were doing on a restricted lunar facility?”
Micah stared at the photo. It looked a lot like him, but he knew it couldn’t be. He lifted his hands as high as the chains would allow, and he rubbed his face. He was tired and confused. Six hours of interrogation had worn him down.
“I am Micah Reznik, but I‘m a Doctor of archaeology, not a Professor. I’m an archaeological contractor. Along with Professor Donald Bell, I was part of an expedition to asteroid 99942 Apophis. Deep space radar discovered something on the asteroid which we went to investigate. I discovered an artefact inside a structure on the asteroid surface. We were supposed to report anything of interest to be shipped off to the lunar colony for further study. After I touched it, I blacked out. When I woke up, I returned to the shuttle and was arrested. Then they brought me here, to the lunar colony”.
Agent Bryant grew tired of the encore.
“We’ve checked your story Doctor. The problem is that Professor Micah Reznik is a university lecturer back on Earth. So you see why we’re having trouble believing you”.
Micah was stunned. Bryant sighed and then left the room. The door slammed shut behind her. She returned a few minutes later with coffee for herself and Micah.
“Someone’s here to speak to you,” she said “I’m hoping he’ll be able to clear a few things up”.
“Who?” he asked
The door opened and Donald Bell entered. Micah stood as far as the chains would allow.
“Donald, thank god” he gasped “you’ve got to help me”.
Bell regarded Micah with caution. He slowly sat down opposite him, and Bryant loomed over the table between them.
“Professor Bell is head of the Research Institute here on the lunar colony,” she turned to Bell. “Professor, I assume you were briefed on your way over. Have you ever seen this man before?”
Professor Bell sat back and folded his arms. He looked Micah up and down and shook his head.
“No, never” he replied.
“Then how do you explain his detailed knowledge of you?” Bryant asked.
“It’s incorrect. He says that we went to university together, but there’s no record of him there. He says that I am a close friend of his late wife, that’s partly true. I did know Alison Turner a long time ago, but I haven’t seen her in years”.
“No, no you’re lying, it’s not true”. Micah rattled his chains “Why are you lying?”
Professor Bell shook his head “I just don’t know what to say Mister Reznik”.
“What’s your field Professor?” Bryant asked.
“Physics” he replied.
“Genetically, this man is Micah Reznik; can physics explain why there seems to be two of the same man?”
“Twins?” The Professor jested.
“Professor, I’m serious. If you have a theory, it would do you well to share it”.
“Well, I would be laughed out of a room of my peers for saying such a thing, but it’s possible that Doctor Reznik is from a universe parallel to our own”.
Bryant looked confused, but Micah rattled his chains in excitement.
“Yes, yes I’ve heard of this before Donald, go on”.
“Well, there’s a theory that for every possible eventuality, every choice you make, there’s a separate universe. Anything that can happen; has happened in one universe or another, you can imagine the possibilities. It would explain this man’s intimate knowledge of things which an impostor couldn’t possibly have known. It’s beyond our understanding really, but it’s the best explanation I can give”.
Bryant circled the table.
“So this artefact he touched before he blacked out, do you think that it could have been responsible?”
“It’s possible. Theoretically, in order to travel between universes, you would need a conduit, a point in space-time to pass through”.
“Then this artefact, if it exists, could send him back?” Bryant was sceptical.
“Like I said, only in theory, but yes” Bell replied.
“So where is it now?” she asked Micah.
“I brought it back with me,” he replied “It would have been taken straight to the research labs. It should still be there”.
“So we’ll bring it back here and try it out. This all sounds absurd, but I honestly don’t know what else to try. I’ll speak to the base Commander. Come on Professor”.
“Donald” Micah uttered as Bryant guided the Professor through the door. He stopped and turned back.
“Yes?” he replied.
“Why don’t you see Alison anymore?” he asked.
Bell stared at Micah for a moment and hesitated. Then he left without saying a word.
Professor Bell led Bryant and Micah into the main hangar of the lunar colony where they were joined by a security team. Bell led them further down to the sub-levels where they finally reached the Research Institute. The facility was Spartan and cold; and lit by bright, glaring lights. They passed scientists who were busy studying artefacts, and paid no attention to the group as they marched through. The vault was marked by a large round door. Professor Bell swiped his key card, and it rolled open.
The walls inside the vault were lined with hundreds of storage boxes. Bell removed one of the boxes and placed it carefully on a table in the centre of the vault. He slid the lid off, and there inside was the artefact, a stone sphere, just as Micah had described.
The security officers brought Micah to the front and removed his cuffs. He gazed at the artefact.
“Well,” Bryant asked “Is this it?”
“What happens next?” she asked.
Micah hesitated. He wasn’t ready to go back yet. On their way over, it had occurred to him, that if Alison really was still alive in this reality, he had to see her.
The artefact seemed different somehow. Previously, it had glowed before he even touched it. Now, it was lifeless.
“Well?” Bryant snapped.
“I’m trying to remember,” he paused “Okay, right before I blacked out, I was in the passageway with Donald-”.
“-Bell was there with you? You didn’t mention that before”. Bryant interjected.
“I did, I must have” He insisted.
Bryrant cast Bell a side glance “Well, what happened next?” she asked Micah.
“We were in the passageway of the structure and Donald and I approached the artefact. He touched it and the lines on it started to glow. Suddenly there was a brilliant flash of light which must have knocked me out. The next thing I remember, I woke up on the ground beside it. I assumed that Donald had gone back for help, so I carefully put the artefact in a container and returned to the landing craft”.
“So you’re saying that Professor Bell touched the device?” Bryant asked.
“That’s right” Micah replied.
“Not you” she added.
“Correct” he said.
“And then what, you both disappeared?” her scepticism was palpable.
“Not exactly,” Micah began “As Donald said; the device must have pushed me into your reality, but I have no idea what happened to the Donald Bell of my reality”.
Bryant looked to Professor Bell for an explanation.
“Do you understand any of this Professor?” she asked.
“I think so,” he replied “If the artefact sends out some kind of energy field; it would explain why Doctor Reznik was pushed without physically touching it. Anyone inside the field might be affected. To put it plainly, if we touch it, we can’t say for sure what will happen”.
“Okay. We don’t go any further until the device is moved to a safer location;” Bryant insisted “Perhaps the lunar surface would be safer”.
Micah glanced at Donald from the corner of his eye. He wondered if his lie had been recognized. He seemed curiously supportive.
Micah suddenly grabbed Bryant’s wrists. The security guards reached for their weapons, but Bell slammed his body into them, knocking them over. Then Micah planted Agent Bryant’s hands firmly down on the artefact.
As the device glowed, Micah turned his face away and closed his eyes. Bell saw and did the same. A moment later, Bryant disappeared from his grasp, and the security team fell to the ground unconscious.
Micah opened his eyes. His gamble had paid off.
“Why did you help me?” he asked Bell.
“I saw it back in the interrogation room when you asked me about Alison, and I knew. I knew who you were”.
“What do you mean?” Micah replied.
“Alison and I were together a long time ago but we separated because of my work. It has always been my first love. I saw her again a few years later, she’d met someone and she was happy. She’s married now; her name is Alison Reznik”.
“Thank you” Micah said. He helped Bell to his feet.
“Here,” Bell handed Micah his key card “go to your wife”.
Micah took the card and nodded. He made it to the shuttle bay unnoticed and used Bell’s ID to commandeer a shuttle. As he left the moon’s orbit and headed for Earth, he realised that he would never make it through Earth’s Border Control unnoticed. His best chance at getting through would be to head straight to her.
The shuttle descended through the atmosphere and rapidly approached the field near the Reznik home. As he descended into the quiet suburban neighbourhood, Micah was hit by an intense headache. For a moment, Micah thought that he would pass out from the blinding pain, but he managed to land the shuttle, and gradually, the pain subsided.
The shuttle door slid open and Micah stepped out. A crowd had gathered and Micah searched their faces, but Alison’s wasn’t among them.
He pushed past the congregation and ran straight to the house. As he glided across the field, another bolt of pain sent him crashing to the ground. Again, the pain was fierce but brief, and he was able to get back to his feet.
When he reached the door, he slammed his hand frantically against it. There was a brief and intense silence before the door opened, and then there she was, looking back at him.
Copyright © 2017 by R. W. Warwick