A Most Peculiar Tale… Resumed

A Haven Hallowe’en Offering

[Find the first instalment from October 2011, here and the second instalment from last year, here]

Part The Tenth
(In which our adventurers encounter marvels beyond their ken, and learn they are not the only persons to partake of a second existence)

Uantitled-2The great city, towards which our path now took us, fairly took our breath at every step and each new sight upon which our gaze fell. My feeble attempts to express to you its wonder can but barely hint upon the marvels we beheld – i have never before encountered such a place as to defy description: i have neither the words, nor the understanding. Consider, if you will, a savage from the subcontinent summarily appropriated from his natural state and, in an instant, transported into the midst of a magic lantern show, or perhaps the vaudeville theatre… you may perceive the difficulty with which our fortunate savage might relate the details of his adventure upon returning to his peers – they having no terms of reference from within their worldy experience to which he may allude. Such is the difficulty which faces your humble servant in retelling his own tale to your goodselves.

Nevertheless, i shall employ my best endeavours to avail you of the sights that lay before us.

If you would picture in your minds’ eye a great shining city, resplendent in many and varied hues – a place of pinnacles and spires, as if all the great cathedrals and palaces of the world had been transported to a single location. The buildings, in seeming defiance of gravity itself, rose to tremendous and lofty heights and, high above the passageways of the ground far below, insubstantial walkways passed from tower to turret. Great chains and looped cables hung, suspended between rooftops, whilst great sparks of electrical energy discharged and crackled in the air.

A steady, but muted, droning emanated from the direction of the city and, between the closely-packed edifices, scintillating vessels – for that is how they struck me, and as we were to discover, that is indeed a fitting description for them – streaked like meteors through the air and shimmering, passed along the streets like quicksilver, poured from a beaker.

i beg your forgiveness for the inadequacies of my narrative, it is fair to say that much of what we saw is beyond description. Perhaps you will indulge me in a comparison that may assist – those familiar with the works of M. Jules Verne and his contemporaries may draw upon the fantastical creations of his imaginings and thereby gain some comprehension of the vista presented before us. Were i an artist, i should paint the spectacle that met our eyes… sadly, i am not, and i fear that – although it be my profession – i can scarcely illuminate the scene for your goodselves by way of the written word, to my extreme discredit.

After some moments of contemplation, as we proceeded onwards, the Professor cleared his throat and, slowing our step he voiced the thought that each of us had entertained in silence, but had not yet spoken.

“Gentlemen, I am sure it has occurred to you that such a remarkable city as the one we see before us must surely have creators and, no doubt, will be home to many citizens. We must pray they are as enlightened as their works would suggest and will welcome strangers with equanimity!”

Untitled-5These were sentiments that i – and despite his bravado – i am sure Appledore also shared. Whoever had constructed such a remarkable place as that which stood before us were, without doubt, party to knowledge to which we could only guess. Displaying abilities far beyond any of those of the world from which we had journeyed – we could only hope that such knowledge and power was equally balanced by virtue. Should the architects of this wondrous place feel ill will towards visitors then we were surely doomed. It was with this sobering thought that we continued on our journey – each of us largely silent: lost in awe and admiration of the scintillating edifices that beckoned us onwards, and not without a little discomfort, for the reasons i have described.

Thus it was that some ten minutes into our quest we were roused to consternation as we beheld one of the quicksilver vessels leave the confines of the city to race in our direction. The remarkable craft covered the distance to us in mere seconds, drawing near to reveal itself to resemble the shape of a somewhat bulbous Havana cigar, some ten yards in length and perhaps three yards across – however, there any resemblance to anything familiar abruptly ended. The odd machine – for it was obvious that it was of mechanical construction, although the precise nature of its mechanics were lost on us, (the Professor later surmised its workings to be of clockwork of some kind, since a complete absence of escaping steam would argue against propulsion of the latter kind) – had the appearance of burnished copper, brass and tin, surmounted by a large glass or crystal dome, through which we spied – as the vessel bore down upon us at an incredible pace – the indisputable, and very welcome form of a fellow human being. The contraption appeared to our uneducated minds to be some form of airborne craft, for it appeared to fly

Although i hesitate to say it, all three of our party experienced a degree of dismay at this new development. The craft approached with such rapidity, accompanied by a deep and sonorous rumble of quite some magnitude, that we were fearful for our very lives, and being certain that a vessel of such size and power would be upon us within a moment, almost certainly, unable to arrest its progress in sufficient time to avoid disaster! We threw ourselves to the ground in a most ungentlemanly fashion, expecting the contraption to pass clear over us.

Our assumptions, i fear – as with so many we had made regarding this strange second world – were incorrect: with an ear-splitting rumble, like thunder, the machine glided gently to a halt before us, then with a sigh reminiscent of escaping air from a bellows, sank gracefully to the ground. Feeling somewhat embarrassed and rather dishevelled from our hasty reaction, we stood, dusting down our jackets, as we attempted to restore a semblance of dignity to our situation.

As we stood in some trepidation watching the craft that now stood silently no more than six feet from us, we were surprised by a metallic grinding and clanging, as a large door swung open from its side, through which stepped a dapper gentleman, dressed in tweed jacket and breetches.

“What ho chaps!”, he called out to us, “Terribly sorry, did I give you a start? Could I possibly offer you a lift into town?”

Part The Eleventh
(In which we are introduced, in rapid succession, to Dr Aitken, the miracle of flight and Aditi City, and we learn there is more to parallelitismology than we should ever have imagined.)

watch1The singular gentleman, whose turn of phrase was somewhat alien to ourselves, although readily understandable, waved us aboard his craft, which proved to be sufficiently capacious on the interior as to permit us all to take our ease to a degree of comfort seldom afforded by even the most luxurious coach and four. Introductions were dispensed with in summary manner, our host dismissing any great need to indulge in formalities, making himself known to us as Doctor Heironymous Aitken: entrepeneur, dilletante and ‘seeker of mysteries’, “But you good fellows”, he smiled, “may address me simply as ‘Doctor’!”

The Doctor proved to be an effulgent and outgoing host, anxious to ensure our comfort, and most apologetic at the dismay his sudden arrival had wrought upon our sensibilities. To Moriarty, who pumped the good fellow for information mercilessly, he was most indulgent and it was clear to both Appledore and myself that here were two gentlemen with much in common.

Once settled, the Doctor announced that his conveyance was ready for departure and that we should ensure we were comfortably seated and pay no heed to any unusual forces to which our bodies might be subjected – these, he assured us, were a perfectly natural and harmless consequence of travelling at speed, and nothing for us to be concerned about. “You must trust me on this matter!” – his warning was by no means overstated… the craft lurched forward and within moments the view outside the glass dome was blurred, at such a rate were we progressing. The forward movement was accompanied by the most peculiar sensation that we were being pushed into the fabric of our seats, at once both unpleasantly discomforting, yet intriguing in its novelty, however this was to be the least of the unexpected and unfamiliar sensations we were about to experience.

With a deep rumble, the craft yawed steeply to the left, as it turned smoothly through some one hundred and eighty degrees, until facing the direction from which it had originally originated – the great city. As the infernal thing described its enormous arc, we were thrown to the right by some invisible force, as if an enormous and powerful hand had thrust our bodies from it. i heard Moriarty exclaim, “Gentlemen, we are experiencing true centripetal force!”, before i was once again pressed into the back of my chair as we thundered towards the city ahead. Within a heartbeat the city was upon us and, when it seemed we were to be thrown headlong to our demise within the tangle of its streets our craft veered skyward, paused at the apex of its flight, then plummeted like a meteor falling from the sky! My friends, i cannot adequately describe to you the unpleasantness of that horrendous drop – for a brief moment, we hung suspended in the air, all sensation of weight became an illusion, then with a sickening sensation – which i can only describe as my entrails lifting within me – we fell.

It pains me now to say it, but i may at that point have given issue to a most disgraceful profanity. As for the Professor and our host, the Doctor, these worthy gentlemen seemed remarkably unperplexed; serenading our descent with a lusty caterwauling of cheers and ‘Bravos’; as for Appledore, it seemed to me the man – being made of sterner stuff than i – had determined to remain grimly stoic, although the tight grip upon his seat arms, and white knuckled fists were testament to his own inner tensions. In consideration of our impending deaths, i closed my eyes, gritted my teeth and prayed silently for a quick and painless release.

Untitled-3A gentle concussion, followed by the silencing of the craft’s motors, heralded our journey’s end. Gingerly, i opened my eyes – we had stopped and the Doctor was already beckoning us through the now open doorway. My body felt weak and, as i rose from my seat, i was distrustful of my balance – i looked towards Appledore, who appeared quite grey of complexion: he nodded briefly to me and made his way unsteadily to the doorway. Moriarty seemed wholly unaffected by the experience, beaming broadly and rubbing his hands in expectation of what lay ahead – and well he might, for the sight that met us as we climbed from the vessel fair took our breath away.

We were perched atop one of the enormous buildings we had spied from afar: before us stretched a silvery sky walkway suspended like spider silk between our own platform and a similar platform some twenty yards further. Below us, an enormous chasm, between edifices like cliff faces, plunged to the roadways so far below they might well be lines drawn upon a beach, so small did they appear to us. The city spread out before us in all directions, not only to every point of the compass, but similarly both below and above – and what a sight it was! Our senses were assaulted by colours of every hue, flashes of light coruscated from building to building and through the skies between them; whistles, crashes and rumbles thundered about us and constant movement was everywhere.

The Doctor turned to us – a smile filling his face: “My friends, welcome to Aditi City… and to my humble abode!”

It transpired that the Doctor’s ‘humble abode’ was, in point of fact, an elaborately furnished and appointed suite of rooms a short distance from the point at which we had been deposited, affording quite remarkable views over the city through impossibly large windows, almost fully the length of two walls of the drawing room. We were encouraged to make ourselves as comfortable as we wished, in which both myself and Appledore – whose countenance had now resumed its more usual vitality – were most happy to oblige our host, meanwhile the Professor and Aitken discoursed at length, although as to the nature of their discussion i was quite at a loss, other that to say it concerned much that was scientific and beyond your humble chronicler’s limited understanding.

Appledore was similarly baffled and confided to me: “Well, whatever it is those two are prattling on about, I sincerely hope that it is more than a simple meeting of minds! It strikes me that if anyone may have an inkling of how we may extricate ourselves from this damnable position, it is that Aitken fellow.” His shook his head in bemusement; “That flying contraption of his – I don’t mind telling you, it had me going for a moment, and I must say, my stalwart friend”, and here he winked conspiratorily, “you seemed somewhat taken aback too! Positively green at the gills as we dropped!”, he laughed good naturedly.

“Still, it was quite a machine, eh? And I daresay the Professor and Doctor between them should be able to muster up some contrivance to get us out of this fix and back to the land of the living.”

Before i could respond, the two gentlemen in question joined us – Moriarty, seated himself, whilst Doctor Aitken took the floor, hands clasped behind his back, and addressed us, as one might impart wisdom to an eager group of university students:

“Gentlemen, Professor Moriarty has availed me of the intricacies of your story at some length, and a remarkable story it is too, I might add! If I understand your circumstances correctly, the Professor here has run into a spot of bother regarding the means by which you have travelled here – and, please be assured I shall return to where precisely ‘here’ is, in due course. More importantly, the sequence of events that led you here have also contrived to leave you somewhat stranded – a most unfortunate situation indeed. It is a good thing that our paths should have crossed, since although I am certain you would come to no harm here, and indeed I am equally certain that had we not met, at some point in the future you would certainly have discovered your own method by which you might return home – or, as occasionally happens – circumstances would have been such that you would have been involuntarily returned, through no endeavours of your own – although such things are notoriously unpredictable.”

“Those things aside, we cannot overlook the rather more dismaying state in which your earthly bodies have been unfortunately left. That, my friends is the weakest link in this particular chain and, whilst there is no reason why you should not stay, from our current perspective, there is certainly a compelling and urgent need for you to return as soon as is practical, so that your real selves may be restored to a normal state.”

“Now, in order for you to fully appreciate the circumstances under which we have to labour, I think it important to provide you with some understanding of where exactly you are, and how we may conspire to return to where you wish to be. I ask you, gentlemen to keep an open mind and – although much of what I have to say may be beyond the realms of the believable, believe it you must, or we shall not succeed!”

dsc03395It seemed appropriate that I should respond at this juncture: “Sir, whilst it is true that Professor Moriarty has greater familiarity with the arcane and fantastic, i feel i speak truly, both for myself and the good Mr Appledore, when i say that the occurrences of the past twenty-four hours have most assuredly far exceeded what we once might have considered as unbelievable. Our minds have been somewhat educated in such matters as events have progressed and – whatever further revelations you have for us – we shall accept them at face value, until proven otherwise unreliable.”

“Hear, hear”, grunted Appledore in agreement.

“Then I shall proceed”, came the Doctor’s response, “and, trust me, every word I say is the truth.”

“Professor Moriarty is a remarkable fellow – what he has discovered for himself has taken considerable effort from many others working in concert, to draw the same conclusions.  This world he has discovered through the scientific principle he has named Parallelitismology is indeed a parallel world, into which we are able to call at will – a place where the more usual laws of physics and biology no longer hold sway – it might rightly be called a second existence, for – under normal circumstances – we can live out entirely different and separate lives in both worlds independently, yet concurrently. The means by which this world may be entered are diverse, of which the Parallelitismological Engine is but one, however – whatever the means by which one may be transported here – it is essential that a connection is maintained between both worlds. If the connection should fail… well, you are already familiar with such a scenario!”

“Clever fellow that he is, Moriarty has failed to discover a singular truth of this world that you may struggle to believe, no matter how open your minds. You see, my friends, not only are there many, many Parallelitismological Engines, or their equivalents, located in many and varied locations around the globe, but such machines are also scattered throughout time itself!”

He held up a hand in anticipation of the questions that burned within us.

“You may, for an example, have noticed subtle nuances in my form of speech and dress, and you have no doubt marvelled at the great city of Aditi which surrounds us, let alone the conveyance that brought us here, which I am certain bears little resemblance to any mode of transport with which you are familiar. The plain fact of the matter, gentlemen, is simply this – I myself hale from the early part of the twentieth century and many of the creators of Aditi and the sights you have seen are visitors from not only my present day, but even from many years into our future… yes, even as far as the twenty-first century!”

“Good Lord, man! What are you saying?”, interjected Appledore, rising to his feet, a look of indignation arresting his features. The Professor was quick to intervene, also standing to face Appledore with a friendly hand upon his shoulder.

“Calm yourself, George. Is it all so unbelievable in the face of your recent adventures? As a scientist, I am bound to surmise that it must stand to reason that if there be parallel existences we may pursue, why should they not transcend the bounds of both geography and chronometry? Such things are as equally possible as the reality of a second existance, surely?”

Although no scientist, i found myself in agreement with Moriarty’s reasoning – impossible though it might sound. Appledore too, surrendered to the Professor’s logic and, apologising to all, regained his seat.

“Thank you, Professor”, continued Aitken, “I certainly won’t blame you for your scepticism – it is quite a leap of the imagination to accept such things. Suffice it to say, that the world in which you now find yourselves is a melting pot of cultures, sciences and beliefs and a veritable Aladdin’s Cave of scientific, artistic and social nuances and achievements.”

He paused to offer us a long, appraising look, behind which a degree of absolute seriousness could be ascertained.

“And that, my friends underlines the very nub of your problem… it would be a simple matter indeed to provide you access to a portal back to the real world – for such things do indeed exist in abundance – however, not one of them is a portal to your own real world. You may find yourselves transported far across the oceans from your point of origin, and almost certainly to a time perhaps many years in the future. You would be just as lost and separated from your friends and families as you are at this moment and there is no telling what ill may befall your physical bodies should such a paradox occur.”

“Then what are we to do?”, came my involuntary retort. “Are we to remain here forever and our earthly bodies starve and fail?”

“Not at all, by any means!”, came the robust reply. “The Professor and I have discussed a solution that should return you with absolute surety to both the time and place from which you entered this world.” At this he looked towards Moriarty, who nodded slightly.

“Now, I fear that the Professor may not have wholly grasped the technicalities of our intentions – his understanding of this world is, of course, somewhat limited – however, I have every confidence that he is in full command of the salient points and both he and I have no doubt that we will be successful.”

At this, he beckoned to Moriarty, who took his place in front of us, folded his arms across his chest, frowned and proceeded to enlighten us:

“Young Aitken is absolutely correct in his assumption that I am still somewhat befuddled by some of the more unusual aspects of this world, however I believe I have understood the basic tenets that lie behind its existence. Doctor Aitken has explained to me that it is necessary for the various devices that facilitate the world’s existence to be properly maintained, and in order for such to happen it is necessary to er… well, close down whole swathes of the world – if I have understood correctly – to allow such maintaining activities to take place. It is much like my Parallelitismological Engine in that regard, which must from time-to-time be re-charged with chemical solutions and so forth – such routine activities can only be attended to whilst the Engine is idle and therein lies the similarity to this world.”

Appledore was frowning… “I understand the simile, Sir, but not how this benefits us – surely if the world we are now in ceases to exist, then so too will we?”

“No”, smiled the Professor, “Aitken tells me that such events are expected with surprising regularity every Tuesday and that it is perfectly possible to ensure that oneself is safely ensconced well out of harm’s way in another part of the world when these things occur. However, should one be caught unawares or fail to absent oneself when maintaining activities are to take place, you will be instantly and painlessly thrown out from this world and return unharmed to that which you came from… And that, my friends, is precisely our intention!”

“Bravo, sirs! Bravo!”, came Appledore’s rousing response, however i had spotted a fatal flaw in the daring plan.

“But, Professor… today is Wednesday! It will be a full week before we can effect our escape, and how can our mortal bodies possibly survive without sustenance whilst we wait.”

Here, Doctor Aitken stepped forward, raising his hands placatingly.

“Never fear, Mr Haven, all is not lost. Since we cannot afford to wait for the world to end, then we must encourage it to do so ourselves!”

“Pray how do you intend to undertake such a thing, Aitken?”, questioned Appledore.

“That, Mr Appledore, will require some exertion of effort, but we shall achieve our aim and the means by which we shall do so may be summed up in one simple word…

Grief, Mr Appledore… Grief!”

S. Haven Esq.
Oct 31, AD 1859

And he said, “Behold what I have done
I’ve made a better world for everyone
Nobody laughs, nobody cries
World without end, forever and ever”
Amen, amen, amen
Hazel O’Connor – The Eighth Day

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