A Most Peculiar Tale… Re-visited

A Haven Hallowe’en Offering

[Find the first instalment from last October, here]

Part The Sixth
(In which a profound apology is offered and an engineering feat of no small endeavour is achieved)

My dear, assiduous readers, it was not my intention to abandon your good selves whilst attending to the matters at hand, nevertheless, such circumstances arose wherein, to all intents and purposes i was indeed incapacitated, with not the wherewithal to continue my narrative of the strange events that i have been a party to. It is regrettable that such a time has past since my last utterances, i fear you may have despaired of hearing from me further, for which i offer my unreserved and most humble apologies – i could not have anticipated so great an indisposition, neither if i had, could i have avoided such a thing, as my resumption of my tale should provide ample explanation.

When last i set ink to paper, i detailed how i found myself once more at my home, bearing a list of materials required for the repair of Moriarty’s Parallelitismological Engine. Although a mere writer by profession, i possess a certain interest in the sciences, which has fortuitously equipped me with the means of procuring particular items required by the Professor. It was doubly unfortunate that the Reverend Harrowsmith’s misfortune in the cellar had not only destroyed certain essential elements vital to the working of the Proffessor’s machine but his fall wrought the demise of several glass carboys and jars containing a variety of chemical concoctions – hence my return home to seek suitable replacements. Those items i was unable to procure, the Schoolmaster, Throgmorton would attempt to secure from the chemical stores within the school’s science laboratory.

Feverishly, i gathered together the items i sought – Alum salts, tincture of antimony, a quantity of zinc compound and a phial of mercury. The houseboy was summarily roused from his slumbers and adjured to scour the kitchens and scullery for every glass jar and bottle he might lay his hands upon. Whilst the boy went downstairs to complete his task, i was driven almost to distraction by my utter failure to locate even a grain of bismuth – i hoped in earnest that Throgmorton might have greater success.

Thus equipped, i repaired with some haste to the Professor’s estate

My arrival was met by Moriarty’s manservant, Brewster, accompanied by the stout Appledore, whom with great alacrity set to unburdoning my carriage of its contents. Within a matter of moments we were reunited with the Rev’d, Tinlsey and Hawk in the cellar, the schoolmaster, Throgmorton, it seemed had been detained longer than had been expected at the schoolhouse.

In my absence, those remaining had set to with a good will, clearing away the broken vessels and glass shards, whilst the good Reverend himself, perhaps seeking to make recompense for his earlier misdeeds, had been at pains to transcribe the Professor’s glowing inscriptions appearing upon the viewing portal and relaying Moriarty’s instructions to those assembled.

It was thus, with all good intent and not without the expenditure of much effort that we worked throughout the night. Throgmorton duly returned, bearing with him sufficient quantities of bismuth to make good my own deficiency and as dawn approached, we wearily secured the last of the makeshift glass receptacles, mixed solutions of the required chemicals, and carefully introduced them into the mechanism in accordance with Moriarty’s prescription.

We had done it! Now it remained to be seen whether our singular efforts had been in vain.

Part The Seventh
(In which our efforts appear to have come to naught and lots are drawn upon which hinges a great adventure)

A sorry sight we must have presented – myself, crumpled and weary, with jacket and cravat discarded and shirt sleeves rolled to my elbows; the Captain would certainly have failed muster in barracks, let alone on the parade ground and both Schoolmaster and Magistrate were in a similar state of disarray and – it has to be said, very much the worse for wear. It was my personal opinion that neither had the wherewithal to continue labouring for much longer. As for Harrowsmith: his countenance still gave me cause for concern – alternating throughout the night from deathly pallor to sanguine and beaded with sweat – even so, the good man continued to do as he was able, assisted with draughts of brandy, and would hear nothing of taking his ease. Appledore – of all the assembled company – seemed most at ease with his exertions, although the gusto with which he had entered into our endeavours was amply demonstrated by the various chemical stains upon his clothing and a torn sleeve flapping at his shoulder.

It was Appledore who roused us to further action, and following Moriarty’s, (that is, his figurine), instructions painstakingly relayed to us by Harrowsmith, we laboured to prime the various pumps, cylinders and mechanisms of the Engine and make ready for its return to working order. At last, the machine was ready – dials, rods and levers set to the Professor’s specifications then, on Moriarty’s command, Appledore grasped the lever located beneath the disc gantry and swung it downwards. As the disc began to rotate – its welcome hum filling the room – the assemblage burst into spontaneous applause. “Bravo Gentlemen!”, exclaimed Captain Hawk, “We are successful! Now let us welcome back Moriarty and put an end to this madness!”

Our good humour was to be short-lived: Moriarty remained, arms and legs outstretched, motionless before the machine, whilst glowing words appeared upon the viewing portal… “What is happening? Is all well? Am I saved?”

Our efforts, it seemed had been in vain.

With alacrity, our attention returned to the Professor’s figurine. “My dear sir”, ventured Throgmorton, “much as it grieves me to relate, to all appearances you are still confined within that infernal contraption, whilst your corporeal body stands amongst us, oblivious to the world.”

There was a pause, during which those assembled held their tongue, lest we intrude upon the Professor’s thoughts, then in due course, the figurine responded, the words rapidly appearing upon the portal before us: “My friends! Do not despair, pray tell me, do my hands still grasp the Orb of Connection? For unless my physical body maintains close contact with the Orb, then my link to the real world is severed – it is but a simple matter of re-introducing my hands to the Orb and, once more, I shall be fully present in both worlds.”

The relief that fell upon our little company on reading these words was palpable, albeit tempered somewhat by the physical challenge now faced. Hawk tentatively took Moriarty’s outstretched right arm in a firm grip – “He is like a statue!”, he exclaimed, “I am fearful that should we apply any great force we may well cause the fellow some mischief!”

“Nonsense!”, interjected Throgmorton, “It is but a simple matter of applying our knowledge of levers and fulcrum – we need not cause injury if we employ but a smattering of schoolboy science.”

Looking suitably chastened, Hawk stood aside, whilst the Schoolmaster demonstrated, through judicious use of some nearby laboratory instruments, a means by which Moriarty’s body might first be supported, then pivoted to bring his hand into contact with the Orb, using only a chair and a short length of timber to brace his body. “Unfortunately, we cannot bring both hands into contact, however there is little can be done about that, nevertheless I am certain we can achieve our purpose”.

Tinsley, speaking with a certain degree of frustration, interrupted: “My dear fellow, your method is not without its merits and is certainly an excellent demonstration of the physical sciences, but why do we not simply take Moriarty between ourselves and move him to such a position as will achieve our aims?”

Throgmorton looked with disdain at the Magistrate;“Sir, we know not what effect our own contact with Moriarty’s body may predicate! Why, who is to say that we too may be afflicted with some dire consequence by dint of our own proximity – we have no idea what forces operate within this machine… what if a charge akin to an electrical current, or worse, should pass through the Professor and into those holding him?”

“A good point, sir, and well made”, opined Appledore, “I say we should err on the side of caution, for we deal with forces beyond our knowledge!”

So it was that we laboured anew to put into action the Schoolmaster’s plan and, with some effort, contrived to bring his hand into contact with the Orb. The Professor’s body twitched, but nothing more – he remained immobile and unresponsive to our ministrations. When this was communicated to the Professor’s miniature, his response was somewhat distressing.

“Hmm… then it seems I am in considerably more trouble than we might have expected. It is my feeling that contact from one hand alone is insufficient to develop the necessary potential. I fear that you may be required to wreak physical damage to my body in order to achieve our ends, however it is not my wish to put either your goodselves or myself to such extremes, and yet I find myself faltering when it comes to asking of you the alternative…”

“And, what might that alternative be?”, queried Harrowsmith.

The response was a challenge indeed: “My good sirs, since we have failed to develop the necessary potential to restore my being from your side of the Engine, there is only one other possible alternative – one or more of you must join me in this world… our second existence, wherein our combined energies may provide my means of escape!”

i hesitate to report back to you the ensuing debate, in which voices were raised and, at one point, i feared blows would be traded. Appledore immediately announced that he would grasp the mettle, however whilst it was generally agreed in principle, that one other should accompany the Adventurer, a heated debate erupted as to whom his companion should be. Whilst it was plain that few wished to partake of the adventure, it was equally plain that none wished to be seen as cowardly and, after a rousing discussion the only conclusion that had been decided was that either the entire assembly should go – an impossible suggestion, since only two Orbs of Connection remained to be grasped, or that none should go, since to select a representative from those present was fraught with difficulty. Finally, Appledore slammed his hand down upon a workbench, bringing us all sharply to attention.

“Gentlemen, please! None of this rancour is assisting the Professor in his plight. I have a simple solution – it is already agreed that I shall go and I am sure there will be no opposition should I suggest that the Reverend gentleman is in no fit state to go gallivanting in a strange and unique world. Therefore, it is my contention that those of you remaining should draw straws to decide whom shall accompany me; is that not a fair solution to our difficulties?”

It was plain that Appledore’s suggestion was as unpopular as any other, but in the absence of alternatives, none would speak up. Appledore gathered together a quantity of wax spills, counted out four into his closed fist and turned, first to Hawk and thereafter to Throgmorton. Each took one of the proffered spills, drew it forth and breathed an audible sigh as their full length was revealed – then it was my turn to draw. As i placed my fingers around my chosen spill, Appledore gave me a wink, his fingers tightened momentarily, and i felt a slight give in the spill within his hand – i drew it forth, to the gasps of those around me… the foreshortened wax taper was easily half the length of those previously drawn.

“It is settled”, exclaimed Appledore, “Our friend, the author, shall accompany me and I am sure that there will be a remarkable tale to be published upon our return!” He winked at me again and stepped in front of the machine. “Come, Mr. Haven, let us see what adventures await us”. 

Not without a degree of trepidation, i stepped up to the remaining Orb. Together, Appledore and i brought our palms to bear upon the spheres before us…

The world around me bucked and yawed and i experienced a discomfort akin to that experienced following an evening imbibing too great a quantity of strong wine – the effect ceased momentarily and my mind was overwhelmed as i took in my surroundings. No longer was i stood within Moriarty’s cellar, surrounded by the paraphernalia of his experiments and the gentlemen with whom i had laboured all night, instead, the sound of the sea was in my ears and sand shifted underfoot. Ahead of me stood the professor – or should i say his manikin – although he had now assumed the same dimensions as myself, or rather, i had assumed the same dimensions as he! To my right stood Appledore, ‘The Brave’ and in glowing letters just above my head burned the legend, ‘S. Haven Esq., Chronicler Extraordinaire’.

i had arrived!

Part The Eighth
(In which the Professor’s hopes of rescue turn to dismay)

There are occasions faced by any chronicler that defy narrative description – occurrences for which words alone are an inadequate means for the conveyance of what is being experienced. This is certainly my dilemma: For being in the fortunate position of experiencing such things as only my two colleagues could possibly comprehend, i find myself fully unable to recount to you my first-hand experience of our circumstance. Therefore, in the interests of scientific accuracy, i find it necessary to merely relay the facts  as they appeared to me and permit the reader to consider how such novelty may have seemed to us.

As i have recounted, the situation i now found myself in was essentially that which we had perceived upon the viewing portal – although, now having attained proportions more akin to reality and sufficient form for us to experience the ground beneath our feet and the sounds surrounding us as being wholly real. My own new ‘form’ felt no different to my more usual body and, of that other, corporeal body, i perceived nothing. Whereas, the Professor’s Parallelitismological Engine permitted the viewing of this second existence from without, by virtue of the viewing portal, within this strange alternative land there was no such contrivance to permit us intercourse with the world ‘outside’, from which it seemed we were entirely separated – an assumption that i soon found to be misinformed.

Having greeted Moriarty, not without some relief, and heartily congratulated ourselves upon our success at joining our host, both myself and Appledore took to questioning the man with a will as to the nature and mechanics of our surroundings. In due course, Moriarty explained that any contrivance of the same nature as his Engine was unnecessary upon this side of the portal – indeed he doubted that such a thing could exist, since to do so would mayhap create a scientific and philosophical conundrum: is it possible for an object permitting entry to another world to exist within that world to which it has provided a doorway?

On further questioning, Moriarty assured us that we need simply consciously disassociate our minds from this world, in order to connect once more with our real world and, provided our physical contact with our respective Orb remained unbroken, we would travel back as simply as we had arrived. As for the matter of communication between worlds, the professor explained that anything we might speak out loud would appear upon the viewing portal in the glowing letters we had previously become familiar with. Similarly, anything spoken, repeated within the immediate environs of the Engine, would appear in similar fashion to ourselves… at which point, a glowing sequence of words appeared to hang in the air before us:

‘The Rev’d Harrowsmith: “Gentlemen, you need not fear that you are alone, for your conversation has been admirably relayed to me!”‘

“Excellent”, said Moriarty, “then all is well – now, my friends, it is my conjecture that my own thoughts alone are of insufficient potency to sever the link to this world as a consequence of my imperfect contact with the Orb. Therefore, it would seem that in the circumstances, we must join our thoughts together and, in doing so, the greater amplification that results shall surely be sufficient to return me to reality! Once i have returned, neither one of you most excellent gentlemen need remain any longer and, by simply turning your thoughts to home, will instantly return also.”

At this juncture, i am bound to admit that my curiosity had been somewhat awakened as to our surroundings and the secrets of this strange alternative existence – the same is true of Appledore, whose demeanour was very much that of the schoolboy denied an adventure, however i soon came to my senses and realised the folly of such thoughts.

“My dear Appledore”, i ventured, “i see that, like myself, you are somewhat perturbed by  the all-too-brief nature of our visit, however i would adjure you to recall the rather temporary nature of  the repairs we have effected to Professor Moriarty’s machine! i fear that if we do not hasten to return with all due speed, we may find ourselves in yet greater difficulty than yet we have encountered. Besides, have you not forgotten that the good Professor has been without food since yesterday’s repast? Would you deny him a hearty meal any longer?” 

i looked towards Moriarty, “Sir, we will gladly effect your return home at once, but i myself, as i am sure is true for Appledore, would relish a further opportunity to explore this land once a more permanent repair to your Engine has been completed.”

Moriarty smiled. “Gentlemen, of course you shall return in due course! However, young Haven is correct – outstanding though your overnight endeavours have been, I would feel greater confidence in remaining here when a more thorough restoration of the Machine has been undertaken. Then, by all means, you shall stand here once more!” The Professor turned to address me directly: “I should point out, Mr Haven, one small misapprehension on your part – our representations in the second existence require neither sustenance, nor fluids, neither do they need air to breathe… but you are quite right, it is essential that I return to the real world, failing which my mortal body shall surely waste away!”

‘The Rev’d Harrowsmith: “Then, with all haste, you should forthwith execute your plan to return! Gentlemen, we await you!”‘, appeared in glowing letters before us.

Appledore strode across the sandy beach towards us, “It is agreed! Let us first return you to safety and thereafter make plans for our eventual return. Professor, your directions, please?”

Moriarty beckoned us to stand in the form of a rude circle, each clasping the other’s wrists. He instructed us to first clear our minds, then to imagine his likeness, as we had last seen him in the flesh – the Professor would count slowly to ten and, as he reached the number ‘ten’, we were all to imagine his earthly body restored fully to life. We closed our eyes – the better to aid our imagination – and the Professor began to count: “One… two… three…”

In my mind’s eye, i imagined Moriarty’s frame, lying across the chair, arms outstretched; “six… seven…”, as the Professor continued counting, i felt our arms tensing and our grips tightening: “nine… ten!”

In the silence that followed, i imagined Moriarty’s lifeless body coming back to life, limbs relaxing and a broad smile upon his face. i opened my eyes.

All three of us remained standing as if nothing had changed, then glowing letters appeared before us… ‘The Rev’d Harrowsmith: “Gentlemen, the plan has failed – Moriarty has not returned.”‘

We stared at one another, not knowing what might be said, until the Professor himself gave a broad smile: “Well, it seems i need to consider another plan, although I am a little concerned that we may have under-estimated our problems! You see, my friends, if I have not returned to the real world, then the fault may not lie with my connection, but with the Parallelitismological Engine itself. Perhaps you would both aid me in a further experiment? Would you be so kind as to picture yourselves away from this place and returned to my cellar?”

The shock i saw in Appledore’s face must surely have been replicated in my own. i closed my eyes, visualised myself as the Professor has adjured, yet – no matter how hard i might try – the sound of sea did not fade… i remained stubbornly within the world within the Professor’s machine.

“Gentlemen”, Moriarty’s voice was apologetic, “it seems that I am more in your debt than I first thought. My apologies, sirs, however it appears that our little adventure may have only just begun!”

Part The Ninth
(In which hope is rekindled and we begin our exploration of the world of our second existence – an exercise which yields a quite remarkable conclusion)

You may well surmise the profound dismay that crossed both my own and Appledore’s countenance upon learning of our misfortune, and it was not without some alacrity that several more attempts were made by ourselves to return to the corporeal world we had previously exited – all, i am afraid, with no success whatsoever.

As for Moriarty, he had retired some yards along the beach and was now perched, deep in thought, upon a convenient rocky outcrop. After some minutes – now utterly convinced of the futility of our efforts to return homewards, we wearily trudged along the sand to join him.

“What is to be done now, sir?”, i enquired quietly.

Moriarty looked up at us from his rocky seat, shielding his eyes against the bright sun; “Well might you enquire, Mr Haven, for I find myself somewhat at a loss!”

“Rouse yourself, man!”, interjected Appledore brusquely, “have you no spirit of adventure? Pray tell us, in your earlier excursions have you explored the length and the breadth of this land? Is is not possible that its extent is but small and mayhap, at some juncture we may find the edge of this world and some means thereby of returning to ours?”

The Professor gazed at Appledore, frowning. Then stood – “My dear fellow, you are absolutely right. Why, I have never explored further than this very beach and the possibility of an alternative means of return has never occurred to me! It is entirely possible that somewhere in this world there is a portal to our own and our task is merely to find such a place!”

Our spirits buoyed, we took to discussion – with several observations from those in our other world, relayed to us by the Reverend – as to the most efficacious means to pursue our expedition. In due course, it was decided to proceed inland, keeping the sun before us as our compass and to continue onwards until the light failed us. Not wishing to waste further time, we were soon headed away from the sea and discovered, to our pleasure, that the view afforded to those who watched us through the portal was such that they were able to guide us most excellently – a fortuitous and welcome circumstance, since the land we traversed was heavily forested, curtailing our own vision considerably. As we progressed, the sound of birdsong, rustling vegetation and the movements of small animals – or so we presumed – surrounded us, causing Appledore to surmise that if such creatures abounded in this world, it was not beyond the bounds of possibility that others of our own kind might also be abroad, a somewhat sobering thought should they be hostile to our presence in their world! Moriarty was less certain of such an eventuality, maintaining that it was highly unlikely that there might exist somewhere another Parallelitismological Engine affording entry to this strange land and that even if such a thing were to exist, any persons we might come across would be explorers, like ourselves. i remained to be convinced and considered it prudent to both keep an alert watch as we progressed into the forest and secured for myself a stout tree branch that served as both walking cane and makeshift weapon should we fall prey to antagonism!

We had walked but a short distance, perhaps for half of one mile, when Harrowsmith’s glowing words arrested our march:  ‘The Rev’d Harrowsmith: “Tread carefully, friends, for the way ahead is most peculiarly unsure!”‘

Our invisible guides had espied a disconcerting discontinuity ahead of us on our route – a shimmering curtain that most effectively denied from view any portion of its far side. Proceeding more carefully, we came upon this most intriguing spectacle within a few short minutes, but as to its purpose or provenance, we remained in ignorance.

The curtain, advised the Reverend gentleman, extended as far to either side of us as the portal permitted the eye to see and, although it seemed benign enough, we were loathe to simply pass through. Taking my staff, i experimentally prodded the curtain, which yielded and allowed free passage – on withdrawing the staff, it appeared unharmed.

Appledore needed no further encouragement and, stepping boldly forward, placed his hand through the shimmering haze. When no adverse occurrence resulted, he smiled grimly at us, nodded to each and stepped clean through! Moment’s later he returned, completely unharmed, but bright-eyed and full of excitement. “Gentlemen! Step through, for there are wonders beyond to behold which will exceed your wildest imaginings!”

In a trice, Appledore was back through the curtain – the Professor looked to me and i bade him go forward, then – inwardly in some state of unease – i too stepped through.

Before us lay a great, shining city of light, filled with life… movement was everywhere: in the skies, amongst the buildings and the pathways and roads in between. Great sparks and tendrils of electrical power appeared to flow from spire to spire and steam filled the air – it was a wondrous sight and one which quite took our breath away.

“Harrowsmith… my friends, do you behold this remarkable sight?”, breathed the Professor, but no answering words came… enquiring more loudly, the Professor repeated his question, but to no avail. Finally, excusing himself momentarily, Moriarty returned to the forest, through the great curtain, then returned, bearing a grim expression: “It seems that we are now truly adventuring on our own – for our companions can neither see nor hear us beyond the curtain, yet it is my feeling that our salvation must lie ahead of us, in that remarkable city.”

“Then forward we must go, reliant only upon ourselves”, uttered Appledore and, without further ado, the stout fellow strode ahead, with myself and Moriarty at his heels… to what fate, we knew not…

s. x

We gotta get out of this place
If it’s the last thing we ever do
Eric Burdon & The Animals – We Gotta Get Outta This Place

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2 Responses to A Most Peculiar Tale… Re-visited

  1. jellie says:

    Wow, what an excellent continuation of the story! Well done Seren! 🙂 I hope you enjoyed writing it and I look forward to the next installment if there is one 🙂

  2. Thank you! 😀

    (/me mumbles something about a possible ‘Christmas special’!)

    s. x

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