A Haven Hallowe’en Offering
Part The First
(In which a most unexpected invitation is received)
i scarce know how to relate the noteworthy events of last night to your goodselves. Why, when i reflect upon the most remarkable things to which i have been privy, i am quite beside myself with my own disbelief and you, gentle reader, i would ask to humour me, at least until my tale is told and thereafter you may judge both me, and my tale, as you see fit.
My account begins with a most provocative and intriguing invitation, presented to me by my housekeeper at breakfast – hardly a fitting accompaniment to kedgeree and the morning edition of The Daily Chronicle – nevertheless, she felt compelled to bring it to my attention in view of the manner in which it had been received that morning. When questioned as to its origin, Mrs Pettigrew became somewhat agitated; “‘Twas a gentleman at the door, sir – well-dressed, he was, and rather severe in his manner. He said to make certain to deliver that invitation to yourself, immediately sir, as a matter of the greatest import”.
i dismissed her with a wave of my hand – such agitation is not conducive to a gentleman’s well-being at such an early hour – and mused upon the envelope that lay before me on my breakfast tray, most elegantly inscribed with my name thereon: S. Haven Esq. i neither recognised the script, nor had the i slightest idea from whence it might issue. Never mind – it would wait.
Having broken my fast in a leisurely fashion, i turned my attention to The Chronicle, taking several cuttings relating to matters of interest, as is my habit. Thereafter, having made my toilet and dressed myself, i retired to my study to attend to the day’s correspondence and, with some forty minutes or thereabouts remaining before my departure for luncheon at The Pickwick Club, i finally brought my attention to bear upon the strange invitation.
Well! Such an impertinent missive i have rarely set eyes upon! ‘Sir,’ it commanded in most peremptory manner, ‘You will see to it that you present yourself, without fail, on the morrow at six of the clock in the afternoon, at the sender’s residence, whereupon you are invited to partake of dinner, following which will be revealed to you a most enlightening and wondrous thing, the like of which has ne’er been seen before. Yours etc. Prof. Josiah Moriarty.’
Had i not been immediately committed to attending for luncheon at the the Club, i should have hastened to rebuff such rudeness with a summary reply, no doubt in language of equal terseness. However, casting the invitation aside, i resolved to deal with such matters on my return and it was thus, mellowed by a most enjoyable repast and witty company, over a rather excellent cigar and fine brandy that i resolved to see for myself what sort of scoundrel this Professor Moriarty might be.
In fine fettle, i returned home and, on my return, summoned the house boy, whom i bade hasten to the address provided with my most grateful acceptance.
Part The Second
(In which, an highly unlikely assemblage make each other’s acquaintance)
My carriage drew up at the appointed hour, whereupon i alighted, and proceeded to make my way to the front door. The professor’s residence was a somewhat ramshackle affair – the sort much beloved of romantic poets and artists. It was not to my taste, although it must be said that i was more than a little impressed by the faded grandeur of the place – whoever this professor might be, if not himself, then his family must have been well-appointed at one time and not without influence. Even so, wealth cannot compensate for bad manners and i was not about to change my view of the man, simply on the basis of the professor’s monetary position. On closer inspection i noted that the fabric of the house was in a less than satisfactory state of repair and i wondered to myself whether my host had fallen upon hard times and had duped me into attending this place as a potential sponsor of a lifestyle he was in no position to afford. Even so, i was not one to turn down dinner – such rudeness is not becoming of a gentleman. i rapped upon the door which, to my surprise, was attended to by a well-turned out and immaculate butler – i had expected the professor to answer in person – perhaps i had misjudged the gentleman’s pecuniary position after all.
Having relieved me of my cloak, hat and cane, the butler – a most excellent fellow – escorted me to a large drawing room where, to my surprise i found myself to be the last of a number of guests. Within their midst, was a face or two with whom i was familiar – to these i nodded my greetings – however, those remaining were strangers to me and, in the absence of a host to effect our introductions, it was left to ourselves to make ourselves known to each other – a highly unsatisfactory state of affairs.
i will not describe to you the rather embarrassing exchange of handshakes and cards that ensued, a simple summary of those present will suffice: Of those with whom i was familiar, the Rev’d. Harrowsmith, a portly soul, resplendent in dog collar and ruddy of cheek – no doubt from an excessive interest in the communion wine, and; Sir Ian Tinsley Esquire – the local magistrate and landlord of much of the land in these parts. The others, to whom i had no choice than to make my own introductions were as follows – a thin weasel of a man, bespectacled and hunched, whom it seems was none other than Timothy Throgmorton, the Master at the village school; Captain Theodore Hawk (“please, dear chap, call me Theo, I absolutely insist upon it”), whom it seems is an accomplished swordsman, although now retired from active service having contracted malaria in the Siam campaigns. Finally, holding forth in the centre of the room, with tales of his own bravado and daring, we have Mr George Appledore – a self-styled adventurer and explorer, for whom, apparently, there is no challenge that cannot be overcome – a singularly distasteful fellow!
Over the course of several glasses of sherry, the assembled company took to discussion of the nature of the evening’s purpose – not one of us was acquainted to any great degree with the professor and all were equally bemused as to why we had been brought together. “I’ve heard say, he’s a bit of a bounder”, opined Hawk, “squandered the family fortune on a string of ridiculous science experiments, whilst running this place into the ground, by all accounts”.
“They do say”, ventured Throgmorton in a voice that matched his stature, “that he cares not for conventional science, but has developed his own line of thinking, in much the same manner as that Darwin fellow”, he shook his head sadly.
“Damn Darwin!”, exclaimed the Reverend, “those who meddle with the Almighty will find they meddle with a power that far surpasses their scientific tomfoolery”. He paused to drain his glass then, with a wink, “let them hang themselves, I say – all I’m interested in is dinner!”.
At that, as if on cue, the butler appeared in the doorway, “Dinner is served. If you would please accompany me to the dining room, gentlemen?”
Once seated at table, discussion subsided as all eyes turned upon the one remaining empty chair at the head of the table. Then, without so much as a by-your-leave, in strode a be-whiskered and dapper gentleman, with greying hair, attired in a plum smoking jacket. Taking the vacant chair, he smiled benevolently around at us, “Welcome!”, he said, crisply and expansively. Our host had arrived!
Part The Third
(In which a sumptuous and most enjoyable meal is soured by a somewhat disturbing debate)
My first impression was that i had misjudged Moriarty, who was a most charming and effusive host, although it was plain that he would have no truck with any of our questions that might relate to the purpose of our gathering. “My dear guests”, he invariably responded, with a smile, to such enquiries, “please attend to your meal, there is time enough for more serious matters later”. So it was that we set to dinner with gusto – and what a feast it was! A hearty beef broth, followed by cold meats and vegetables, quails eggs in aspic and game pie. The main course; a handsome serving of duckling, with a piquant sauce, served with potatoes of distinction and the very best savoy cabbage; this followed by a rich casserole of pig’s liver, lark’s tongues and well-hung pheasant. Fearing we might succumb under the sheer gastronomic munificence of our host, we were grateful indeed to find the final course was a simple, yet delicious French dessert – a blancmange, flowing with fresh-churned cream.
Our appetites for sustenance now sated, we looked to our host to satisfy our appetite for knowledge – and in this we were not to be disappointed! As the servants moved among us, with a healthy board of fine English cheeses and fresh breads, dispensing copious measures of aged port and brandy, Moriarty looked at us with a sparkle in his eye:
“Gentlemen! I am well aware that you have not the slightest idea as to the purpose of your visit here this night, particularly since not one of you has but a passing knowledge of myself, or the nature of my work – although, I daresay that you may have had cause to dismiss certain slanderous rumours that may have crossed your path”. With this, he glanced fixedly at Hawk, who sought diversion in the selection of cheeses on the plate beside him. “Perhaps, it is true, that my reputation precedes me – and I must say that I do nothing to dissuade such rumours, I may even be said to encourage them from time to time, such as it pleases me. Indeed, I am certain that there are those gathered among you who responded to my invitation, solely to berate me upon me upon my insulting manner! Dear guests, I trust you will forgive me my forwardness – I did what was necessary to assure your attendance – and you will find your time has not been given in vain”. Now it was the turn of myself and the magistrate to seek diversion amongst the cheeses – it seems this fellow had the measure of us!
“As to why I have chosen such esteemed company, my reasoning is simple – you are all educated and enlightened men of standing in the community – who, for instance, would question the judgment of a magistrate, the clergy or the schoolmaster? Who would question the integrity and valour in the face of the unknown of an adventurer or a war hero? And who would seek to decry the questioning mind and insight of an author of repute” – this last remark addressed to myself – “someone, I might also venture to suggest is ideally placed to make my discoveries known to the world at large!”
“Gentlemen, for some years I have pursued my belief that we need not be tied to this corporeal world of flesh and blood and that, under some unique circumstances, and with the appliance of a wholly new branch of scientific discovery, which I have christened, ‘Parallelitismology’, is is possible for us to step out of this world and into another, whereupon we can re-create ourselves and assume any identity we may wish, whilst still retaining our own physical identity in this world. In effect, gentlemen, we can live out two distinct and separate lives in parallel – without doubt, the greatest discovery since magnetism!”
“Balderdash!”, stuttered Sir Ian, “Utter, contemptible, hogwash! Why, man, if you were to come before me in court with such a story, I’d have you in irons for contempt! – Do you dare, sir, to insult our intelligence by bringing us here, only to lambast us with fairy stories and drivel? Why man, I should call the constable and have you arraigned!”
“Oh, I wouldn’t dismiss him so lightly,” interposed the adventurer, Appledore, “there are stranger things in heaven and earth, and so on. Why, some of the things I’ve come across in the course of my travels would curl your hair… great bears, with claws like sickles; fiendish bats that suck the very blood from you whilst you sleep – why, if such a thing were possible then I’m your man for leading the expedition – how about it Theo, old man, what do you say to adventuring in a parallel world?”
The Captain looked somewhat embarrassed at being apprehended in such a manner, “Now hang on a bally moment, old chap – we don’t want to go putting the horse before the carriage now, do we? Have to have a proper plan of battle before we go marching in gung-ho and being ambushed by a bunch of bally savages, I say. I do think it all sounds a tad far fetched – but then I’m no scientist, I’m a fighting man don’t you know?”
“Well,” – the schoolmaster frowned, steepling his fingers beneath his chin, his eyes flitting around the assembled company, “speaking as both a scientist and one for whom knowledge is a fundamental tenet of all things, both in war and peace, for fighting man and adventurer alike, I have but one question – a question the professor may choose whether or not he wishes to respond to. I warn you though, sir, the answer to my question may either condemn you or exonerate you!”
“Ask away, my good sir”, replied Moriarty, who until now, had remained silent, although entirely engrossed with the debate.
“Very well – my question is one of proof. Where is your proof, sir? If such a thing is possible, then let us see the evidence for it – otherwise your talk of parallelistomagy, or whatever you call it, is no more than supposition and a contrived story. Proof sir, is everything!”
At this, the Reverend Harrowsmith slammed down his jug of port, which liberally decorated the table with it’s ruby contents. “Proof!”, he hissed; “What is so desirable about proof? All of my life I have dedicated myself to the cloth and never once have I demanded proof of that greater power whom I serve. Proof is for the weak and ignoble, it is a sign of weakness and unwillingness to accept the fate that has been decided for us. I want nothing of your proof – I live by faith alone – what does proof achieve? Take your man, Darwin,” he sneered at Throgmorton, “he wishes to prove that God does not exist… he also seeks to prove his own theory – and how does he do this? By bringing back tales of a distant land where birds have taken it upon themselves to alter their own bodies, without the creative power of God, and what proof does he offer? A few sorry specimens: Feathers and fakery. Don’t talk to me about proof!” The minister, now alarmingly red of countenance, almost indistinguishable in colour from the spilt port staining the table, turned to address Moriarty.
“As for you, ‘professor’, you are damned either way – if what you speak is true, it is nothing but witchcraft, and any proof you may offer is evidence against your vile machinations. If a lie, then you are cursed and a felon! Do what you will, I want nothing to do with it!”
Silence filled the room. Moriarty, still with that sparkle in his eye, remained smiling; “If it is truth you wish, then you shall have it”, he said, “but first, I wish to hear our writer’s views on the matter.”
All eyes turned upon me. i had, until this point, made every effort to avoid any contribution to the debate, however now, my hand forced, i felt obliged to offer up my thoughts. “My fellow guests, professor, i am a writer, unqualified to offer opinion on scientific discovery or the veracity of any line of enquiry. My business lies with potentialities and possibilities – if what we have been told tonight is the truth but is without proof, then it is still a remarkable thing indeed and a fascinating and intriguing concept, which would bear further investigation. If the professor does indeed have proof of his contention, then i for one, would dearly love to see such a thing. Gentlemen, if at the end of this night, we have all been taken for fools and this whole evening has been one of folly, then for myself, i am happy to be taken for a fool – for i have enjoyed good company, excellent food and a rattling good tale to accompany it – and i thank the professor for his generosity. As for faith and witchcraft, i am certain that both have their place, however, that does not lie within the dominion of our debate tonight – the one need not be exercised, and the other bears nothing to be exorcised – calm yourself, Reverend, for i fear for your wellbeing!”
“Hear, hear – well said, old chap”, said Appledore, raising his glass to me, and the professor nodded in my direction.
“I thank you for your candid and most welcome observation, Mr Haven, now it is time to put flesh on the bones of my theory. Gentlemen, if you would be so kind as to accompany me to my laboratory, I think you shall have all the proof that you require!”
Part The Fourth
(In which, the assembled company find themselves perplexed by the utterly inexplicable)
Somewhat dazed by the turn of events that had occurred at dinner, we allowed ourselves – including the unfortunate Rev’d. Harrowsmith, whose protestations were somewhat ameliorated by a generous draught of brandy – to be led, by means of a winding stone staircase, into the bowels of the house. Within the coolness of the basement cellar, where one would more usually expect to behold casks of fine wine, stood a most unusual and intriguing contraption, for all the world in appearance akin to a Punch and Judy booth, although rather more rough and rustic than the candy-striped tents one might come upon along a seaside promenade.
The similarity was further pronounced by a small pair of red velvet curtains, which purposed to cover what would ordinarily be the ‘stage’ upon which the puppets would frolic and sport their antics, however there any similarity ended. i shall describe, as best i can, the remaining attributes of the contraption – although i fear that my description will, at best, be rudimentary, requiring a finer engineering mind than my own to discern the intricacies of the professor’s work.
The lower part of the booth – where one would expect the puppeteer to hide himself away – was open to view; the space thereto occupied by a large, polished copper cylinder or boiler, from this, a multiplicity of pipes and tubing issued, to snake across the floor, walls and ceiling of the cellar, connecting in various places to other strange devices of unknown purpose. Several calibrated dials and valves were prominently arrayed at various points, and steam hissed from various apertures and openings. To one side, a large disc sat within a cradle of ironwork, suspended at its centre, as a wheel might be mounted upon an axle… i surmised, correctly as i was to discover, that this was designed to rotate at some speed, a fact i deduced from the arrary of pulleys, gearings and belts attached thereon. Along one side of the room stood numerous glass tubes, whose purpose i was at a loss to comprehend – a long glass rod connected each of these and, in circular fashion, wound several times around the room at ceiling height to terminate in a large pear-shaped, frosted glass bead above and to the front of the booth. In turn, from this bead descended three further glass rods, themselves terminated with a globe of dull metal – about the size of a large orange: these hung in front of the booth at the height of my hip.
Moriarty stood proudly in front of his creation, “Gentlemen; behold the Parallelitismological Engine!”
“Bravo, sir”, uttered Hawk, “it is indeed an admirable contraption, but what in heaven’s name does it do?”
“What does it do?”, repeated Moriarty, in feigned surprise, “My dear sir, permit me to demonstrate!” With that, he bent to examine the boiler beneath the booth, making several adjustments to the valves upon it, then crossing to the gantry containing the rotating disc, he grasped a lever, swinging it downwards, causing the disc to start to spin with a loud humming noise.
The professor turned to address his audience: “What you see before you is the culmination of my lifetime’s work. The Engine is powered by steam and rotary momentum and, through various complex and revolutionary processes, based on my studies in the fields of magnetism, gravity and rare earth elements, the Engine enables the harmonising of the flow of our own world with that of a parralel and concurrent world – a world that it is possible for us to enter into and conduct a second existence, whilst never leaving the world we inhabit in our daily lives.”
As he spoke, a glowing vapour of shifting colours began to fill each of the glass tubes arrayed against the wall, as these reached their full capacity, the vapour passed along the glass connecting rod and began to flow through the spiral around the ceiling, to collect within the pear-shaped object above the booth. Eagerly, the prof. followed the progress of the vapour, fixing his eyes upon the peardrop which began to glow, at first faintly but within a brief space of time, was as bright as Venus in the evening sky. There was a loud crackle of power, followed by a quiet chime, at which Moriarty turned his attention back to us with a joyful look upon his face.
“My friends – I bring you our second existence…”
He turned a small wheel on the side of the booth and the velvet curtains drew aside to reveal a glass window. Through the glass a faint glow emanated and we perceived the twinkling of sunlight from the surface of a bright blue sea. This was no mere painting – the sea rippled and flowed as if it were real, although it was obvious to all that there was no trickery afoot here; it was quite plain that the booth contained no water, yet i would have sworn i was stood upon a beach, gazing out over a limitless ocean. A haze in the centre of the – for the want of a better description, i shall call it a screen – began to take form and solidify before our eyes, until a grey mass filled a large part of the view; as we watched, the grey shimmered and took on colour and, in a short time we beheld an island – the browns and greens of its undergrowth, now plain to our sight.
It was some moments before any one of us found our voices. The first to speak was the Schoolmaster, Throgmorton: “Mirrors and subterfuge”, he muttered under his breath. Then, in a louder tone, laden with heavy sarcasm; “Well, Moriarty, this is most impressive – you have contrived to show us a box containing a magic lantern show! I am sure this is the discovery of the century – however, it is my considered scientific opinion that this whole demonstration is but utter nonsense!”
“On the contrary, my dear fellow”, Moriarty responded with alacrity, “this is nothing compared to the wonders I am about to demonstrate”, he turned from Throgmorton to address the assembled group. “Please watch the viewing portal carefully – what you are about to see will cause you the greatest wonder and consternation…”
He stepped towards the booth and reached to grasp the nearest of the metal globes in his hand: For a brief moment, his form shimmered and blurred, then returned to normality. He looked around to us and smiled – i smiled back, bemused – he shook his head and laughed at us: “Gentlemen, did I not adjure you to watch the viewing portal carefully?… And yet you appear to be fixated upon myself – I beseech you to take notice of what is occuring behind the glass.” His head turned to face the booth once more and the eyes of those present followed suit. i heard a gasp beside me, then i myself caught my breath as i took in the vista now appearing behind the screen.
There, no more than a hand’s-breadth tall, stood in the centre of the island was a figure – a figure bearing the most uncanny resemblance to Moriarty, only reproduced in miniature. As if to confirm the identity of the figure, the legend ‘Prof. J.P. Moriarty’, hovered above the figurine’s head in glowing letters. As i watched, in silent wonder, the tiny figure raised a hand in greeting and bowed to the assembled company. More glowing script began to appear, as if written by an invisible hand… ‘Messrs, Harrowsmith, Haven, Tinsley, Appledore, Throgmorton and Hawk… are you not yet convinced of my great achievement? What more must I do to convince you? – Why, Throgmorton, you’ve gone quite pale; should I summon Brewster to bring you reviving salts?’
“What devilry is this?”, thundered Harrowsmith – now quite purple of countenance – “have you sold your soul man?”
“Come now Reverend”, chided Moriarty – the ‘real’ one, whom i shall refer to henceforth as simply ‘Moriarty’; the representation of the professor on the screen, i shall call ‘the figurine’, for ease of reference – “this is the work of science not the devil and, as for our friend, the Schoolmaster, are you sufficiently chastened sir to admit defeat, or is there some further proof you require, still?”
The Schoolmaster’s face was not the prettiest of sights but, to give him his due, he rallied well: “Sir, I would have you caned for your impertinence! I am neither chastened, nor convinced”, he snarled, “why, this is nothing more than common puppetry… if you would convince me, then I would ask my companions to assure themselves there are no hidden wires or other contrivances, or persons hidden about this room and then sir, we will see if your doppelganger is still able to perform!”
Moriarty guffawed at this and, as if to add insult to injury, the words ‘I too, am laughing out loud’ appeared on the screen beneath the figurine!
Throgmorton issued us with instructions to thoroughly search the room and to investigate the possibility of hidden devices by which the figurine might be controlled and, when we had done so to his satisfaction and were all convinced that no trickery was afoot, he applied himself to testing the figurine: “Jump three times”, he commanded, and figurine duly obliged; “Walk into the water, then return to the centre of the island and place your left hand upon the crown of your head” – once more, the figurine complied faultlessly.“Scratch yourself like a babboon!”, Hawk blurted out, to be met by a terse laugh from Moriarty and and the following response from the figurine: ‘For shame, Captain Hawk! I am no performing monkey for your entertainment – I am a distinguished scientist and I will not do as you suggest – for certain, sir, you are the babboon!’
Hawk laughed in good humour, “Well Moriarty, you have convinced me – jolly good show.”
Tinsley, who until this point, had remained remarkably silent, now gave vent to a loud snort of derision; “Captain, you may be convinced but I remain unimpressed, I am of the opinion that all of us are being mocked and I, for one, do not appreciate such things – the good Schoolmaster has required proof of the veracity of your claims, Moriarty; I too demand strict evidence for what you argue, not mere party games and trickery”.
Moriarty appeared to be about to speak but held his tongue, in his stead the figurine responded; ‘Fair enough, gentlemen; why then, Mr Tinsley and Mr Throgmorton too, do you not join me in this adventure and partake of this alternative world at first hand?’
At this, Tinsley spluttered and made much of fiddling with his monocle, whilst Throgmorton looked visibly shaken, “Really, Moriarty – that is quite preposterous! Neither of us are remotely qualified to consider such a venture; the very thought is ridiculous!”, retorted Tinsley, anger on his face.
“Then it falls to me” – the voice of Appledore rang out in the cellar – a bold and confident statement of intent; “tell me, my good man, how do I engage with your miraculous engine?”
“It is quite simple”, responded Moriarty, “all that is required is for you to step forward and grasp an Orb of Connection, in the fashion that I am currently demonstrating”.
The adventurer stepped forward boldly and, without pausing and with a rousing cry of: “To the unknown!”, enveloped the globe in both hands – as with Moriarty, a moment of shimmering uncertainty appeared to enfold his body, then he exclaimed; “Well, I’ll be damned!”
On the screen before us there now stood two figurines – above the second, in glowing script, hung the words ‘Appledore the Brave’.
Part the Fifth
(In which disaster strikes unexpectedly and the pursuit of science leads to a unique and deadly conundrum)
It is to my discredit that i must report that from here my narrative is somewhat less reliable than of previous. You must consider that to contend with two Moriartys and two Appledores, both of whom are conversing in two separate worlds, and indeed between those of us in the one world and themselves in the other, is no simple matter. Were i to attempt to narrate the conversation as it proceeded, if indeed i was able to recall such, would require the studious application of both myself and the reader at such a depth i venture we could not sustain. i will therefore endeavour to relate the bare gist of the conversation that transpired subsequently.
Both Magistrate and Schoolmaster wore resolute grimaces of dissatisfaction upon their countenance – i fear that no amount of persuasion would have caused them to change their tune. Rev’d. Harrowsmith, who had been voluably huffing and puffing like a veritable steam locomotive since our search of the cellar, wore a grey pallor and leaned awkwardly against a workbench – more concerned with capturing his breath than engaging in further debate. With these three venerable gentlemen exercising their right to remain silent, it was left to myself and the Captain to converse with the intrepid explorers.
Appledore – in both his incarnations – confirmed the truth of what our eyes were telling us; he was indeed now existing on two planes, although the true state of affairs was illuminated for us by his assertion that the corporeal Appledore, and by dint of the same process, the flesh and blood Moriarty, were in full control of their miniature counterparts. These figurines, although giving the appearance of rational thought and action, were merely extensions of the real person, having no ability to think or act without the controlling influence of their peers. Moriarty explained that the Globes clasped in their hands were a means of communicating their will to the figurines – a point he offered to demonstrate in a practical manner.
Moriarty, assuring Appledore that he might return whenever he felt apposite, instructed him to remove his hands from about the Globe – doing so, he explained would sever the bond between the two worlds and return the adventurer to his normal state. Appledore, complying with Moriarty’s instruction, removed his hands and instantly his figurine self vanished into a cloud of smoke.
Much back-slapping and handshaking from myself and the Captain followed – welcoming Appledore back as if he had returned from a sojourn overseas. Tinsley and Throgmorton looked on in disdain, foregoing their own contribution to the melee. It was at this unfortunate moment that disaster struck!
Harrowsmith, poor fellow, who had been labouring to catch wind for some minutes, gasped mightily and pitched forward, clutching at his chest. We watched in horror as his ample frame crashed heavily into the wall of glass cylinders, shattering several of the vessels in the process and releasing copious quantities of their vaporous contents into the room. Too late to arrest his fall, the more nimble amongst us were quickly at his side, helping the prone minister into a chair and loosening the dog collar from around his neck. Long minutes passed before we were assured that he was a candidate for the land of the living, rather than the afterlife and it was only then we turned to survey the havoc his fall had wreaked.
Rather unfairly, in my opinion, both Throgmorton and Tinsley were sniggering like naughty schoolboys who had just pulled off a jolly jape. “I do believe old Moriarty is going to have to undertake some considerable re-building!”, snorted Tinsley; “Let us hope he makes a better job of it that he has of maintaining his home!”, stuttered Throgmorton in response.
i was about to show both these ‘learned’ gentlemen the sharp end of my tongue but was distracted by a sharp intake of breath from Appledore, whom it must be said, i was developing a sneaking admiration for, despite my earlier judgement of the man. The reason for his dismay was immediately apparent – with a strange fixated expression upon his face, Moriarty stood in front of his machine – arms outstretched stiffly at a level with his shoulders, he appeared to parody the famous Leonardo da Vinci drawing of the Vitruvian Man. He stood there, silently, all attempts to rouse him coming to naught.
“Look!”, whispered Hawk, and pointed at the screen.
There, in agitated state was the figurine: Beneath him, in increasingly urgent terms, words glowed fiercely… “What is happening?… What has gone awry?… Why does no-one answer me?… Help!… GET ME OUT OF HERE!”
It seems that the Reverend’s fall had further reaching consequences than a few mere shattered vessels – by some strange quirk of the professor’s newly discovered science, Moriarty now found himself fully incorporated into his other world, whilst the husk of his mortal body remained, empty and unresponsive. We discussed at length what might be done; the professor was certain that if we could effect repairs of his equipment and bring his lifeless body back into contact with the Orb, normality would be restored. It should pose us few problems to undertake such a task – the professor himself would guide us from the screen and provide all the necessary knowledge we might require… There was, however, a subtle, yet horrifying twist – ‘I have no sustenance within this world… no food, no drink… nothing of any kind – it is well that we have feasted tonight, for otherwise I might starve in short shrift. My friends: My life is in your hands; work as quickly as you are able; rescue me from this horror. Without you and your most urgent attention, I shall surely die!’
So it is that i have returned home, provisions and certain necessary materials to procure. We have worked feverishly through the night, but there is still much that remains to be done, and we are weary to the bone. Even Throgmorton and Tinsley have put aside their differences in this humanitarian endeavour and have entered into our rescue mission with good humour and great energy. Poor Harrowsmith is beside himself and counts himself responsible for the professor’s misfortune – his condition still causes concern, but he will not attend to himself until Moriarty is set free – unable to offer any form of practical assistance, he spends much of his time on his knees, in prayer; as it is, we would welcome any assistance, divine or diabolical, if only it would help
In due course, i shall return with the supplies i have been sent to retrieve and, once again, set to work with hope in my heart, however one cannot deny the thought that lurks at the back of all of our minds…
If Moriarty should perish in this, his second life, then what will become of him here, in real life?
S. Haven Esq.
Oct 31, AD 1859
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…
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)
The 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!”
These 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.)
The 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.
A 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!”
It 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!”
Part The Twelfth
(In which Dr Aitken urges the adventurers to put decorum aside and posits a most ungentlemanly means by which their freedom may be purchased)
“i’m not sure that I entirely understand your premise, Doctor”, i opined: “whereas it might well be argued that we are somewhat distressed by the situation at hand – although the knowledge that we may well be saved nevertheless is heartening – i would hesitate to describe our state as one of grief. Your choice of words intrigues and perplexes me somewhat.”
“My dear fellow!”, the Doctor laughed heartily, “You misunderstand me – my use of the term ‘grief’ was not meant to imply any disconsolation on your part. In this world, grief is considered as a verb – an activity, if you will – and those who undertake such practices are known by a most derogatory term – ‘grievers.”
The good Doctor then proceeded at some length – with, I might add, many and various interruptions from those assembled – to describe the most unsavoury practices adopted by those who revelled in the name ‘griever’. Such fellows, it would appear, derived great pleasure from undertaking nefarious and often scandalous activities designed primarily to inconvenience and indispose the good citizens of this second world, for no reason other than that of plain mischief.
In truth, some such activities might be attributed to the wantonness of youth, and unchecked high spirits – such acts might include the unwelcome pushing and jostling of one’s compatriots; perhaps the playful – albeit annoying – dislodging of another’s hat, the calling of names or other such juvenile pursuits. Other grievings were somewhat less acceptable in polite, or general company. It seemed, if you will forgive me, that some incumbents of this world – and it was at this juncture that the Doctor introduced to us the term ‘avatar’, a word of Sanskrit origin, preferred by those more familiar with these otherworldly circumstances than ourselves, as nomenclature for their representative figurine. However, i digress… again, i ask your forgiveness and i will attempt to put this as delicately as i might – it was, according to Aitken, not unknown for those who wished to grieve others to divest themselves of their clothing and wander the streets in a state of undress – a practice we could barely comprehend! Even so, Aitken assured us that such things were perhaps not so scandalous in more enlightened centuries than our own – an assertion that caused us much discomfort.
The Doctor continued for some time longer and i will admit that – caught somewhat at a loss by his divulgence of the loose morals of future generations, and the complexity of the discussion – much of his discourse quite passed me by. So it was that i found myself surprised some time later when he appeared to have come to the conclusion of his explanation.
“And so, my good sirs, it will no doubt have occurred to you precisely what route I propose you pursue to secure your freedom… you are to assume the guise of grievers of the most heinous sort!”
You may well imagine that at this juncture i almost choked on my outrage!
“How dare you sir! To suggest we should parade about in nothing but what God has seen fit to clothe us in – it’s preposterous! And i, for one, refuse to be party to this scheme!”
“Oh, Haven, my dear fellow”, spluttered Appledore, wiping his eyes, running with tears of mirth; “you buffoon! I do believe you have been dozing during the salient points of the Doctor’s plan!”
And indeed, gentle reader, it appears that is precisely what had transpired: The labours of the previous night, combined with the uncertainties of our position and the singular comfort of the chaise upon which i had taken my ease had contrived to usher in a gentle slumber, thereby causing me entirely to miss that portion of Doctor Aitken’s discourse most pertinent to our situation! Perhaps fearing i might once again fall prey to fatigue should the Doctor have cause to rehearse the missed portion of his speech once more, Moriarty took me to one side to explain that part which had eluded me.
So it was that the Professor described a further form of grievance, about which i was unaware, causing me to jump wrongly to the conclusion i had recently formed. Such grieving being of a nature that, although plainly unsocial, was – to my mind – somewhat less distasteful than that to which i have previously alluded. These undesirables – by some means that i will admit, i failed to entirely grasp, were disposed to announce their presence in heavily populated areas by various methods that were both distracting and calculated to to disrupt normal activities. In doing so, these ruffians would – almost certainly – run foul of those in authority, who having the power to summarily evict miscreants of this sort, would do so with alacrity. However, those most determined to cause mischief might launch such an onslaught of disruptive behaviour as to overwhelm the mechanics underpinning the alternative world well before they might be called to account, thereby contriving to engineer a failure of the mechanism, replicating the ‘shutting down’ of the second world, of which the Doctor had informed us would be expected on a Tuesday in the normal course of events.
The Doctor’s plan was simplicity itself when couched in these terms – the intention was that we should adopt the guise of this latter type of griever, assault a suitably populated area, using such means as the Doctor would contrive to procure for our use, in order to act in as disreputable manner as may be imagined. Our task: to overwhelm the engines powering that region of this second world, thereby inducing a mechanical failure that would propel us, in but an instant, back to our own time and locality within the real world from whence we had come.
“Then, if there is no other option”, i remarked, having been thoroughly apprised of the Doctor’s intent, “that is surely what our undertaking shall be.”
Part The Thirteenth
(In which the Doctor’s plan comes to fruition, much aggravation ensues and a resolution to our tale is achieved)
It will not have escaped the assiduous reader’s attention that your narrator is foremost a student of the creative arts, vis a vis the written word, and displays little prowess in the engineering and scientific persuasions. You will excuse me therefore if i should somewhat summarily pass over the rather arcane and befuddling activity of the hours that were to immediately follow, since much of it, i will freely admit, caused my mind to flounder. Appledore similarly fared little better, although it is fair to say the tasks that were set before him were attacked with some vigour – despite which, he made little progress and was, on numerous occasions, moved to admit defeat when faced with the problems posed by the Professor and Aitken.
As for myself, it is no untruth to say i tried my utmost – however, though it pains me to say it, my utmost frequently fell far short of the mark. My interest was briefly kindled when it came to light that much of our intended mischief was to be governed – according to the Doctor – by way of scripts, a task that i surmised would surely commend itself to my own, (though i say so myself), expertise. Sadly, even here, i was misguided – the scripts to which Aitken referred bore little resemblance to poetry, prose or indeed even scientific reporting, being more akin to formulæ and equations than any form of written dissertation i have had cause to embark upon. So it was that myself and the Captain were to find ourselves reduced to mere bystanders as the learned gentlemen prepared their scientific arsenal.
Presently, Doctor Aitken announced that such preparation as was necessary had been undertaken and, with something of a flourish, produced a number of gilt-edged invitations – one for each member of our party – each bearing the following inscription:
≈≈≈≈ Doctor Heironymous Aitken ≈≈≈≈
extends to you a most cordial invitation
to join the Most Excellent Company of Griefmakers
Somewhat perplexed at how we should respond to such an invitation, the good Doctor counselled us that the simple expedient of presenting to him our calling cards would suffice as acceptance. This we did, and upon dispensing each of our cards, we were surprised to note the appearance of a further glowing legend above our heads:
We were then provisioned with a device reminiscent of a pocketbook, or cigar case, bearing several small levers, accompanied by a stern warning that we should refrain from operating same until we reached the destination at which the Doctor intended we should wreak whatever havoc we might entertain. Upon arrival, and his signal, we were to engage and disengage those levers in as random manner as we wished and were admonished to prepare ourselves for both the unexpected and the arcane.
Thus equipped, and without further ado, Aitken ushered us once more across the rooftops and aboard his vessel, which took to the skies in a manner that – in truth – brought tears to my eyes. As we passed above the great city and between the towering edifices of light, Moriarty entranced, leaned towards me: “Haven… I had never thought such wonders existed. Someday we must, God-willing, return to this place – but, if that should prove to be beyond the bounds of possibility, then if nothing else, I shall treasure the memories of our momentous journey”.
Some time passed, during which the scenes that passed by outside the vessel’s windows entranced and baffled us – our journey proceeded in silence, since our attention was fastened entirely upon the sights that fell before our eyes. Finally, the peace was broken by the Doctor’s announcement that we had arrived at our destination and the craft was brought to a somewhat less fraught and infinitely more tolerable landing than that to which we had previously been exposed.
“Now gentlemen”, Aitken addressed us, “listen to my instructions most carefully – when we leave our transport we shall proceed northwards for some hundred paces and enter the large building immediately to our right. Once safely inside, you will disperse and wait for my signal, which will be a loud cry of: ‘Let havoc commence’, at which enjoinder you shall operate your equipment as I have previously instructed. Do not be troubled by anything that shall thereafter occur, neither should you take heed of any protestation by those about us – merely continue as I have told you and all shall be well. Now, let us depart.”
Our small party made our way from the vessel to the building the Doctor had indicated; at its entrance, we paused. Again, Aitken turned to us:
“My friends, I shall say my goodbyes now – once our plan begins to unfold, all being well, there will be little chance of pleasantries or idle talk!”
“Sir”, Appledore responded, “we are in your debt.”
“Think nothing of it, chaps – it is adventures of this nature that I live for! All I ask is that if you should ever return this way, pray call upon me and we shall entertain far greater adventure once more!”
Solemnly, we shook hands before passing through the doorway and into the building.
Almost immediately, we were surrounded by a cacophony of noise – i hesitate to call it music, but that indeed is surely its intended purpose. The room was thronged with people, many of them arrayed in clothing of uncertain provenance, all of whom appeared to be in the possession of demons as their bodies gyrated and twisted to the steady drone and thump of the ‘music’ surrounding us. Appledore shouted to me above the noise, “They remind me of savages performing a war dance of sorts”, before disappearing amongst the tightly-packed bodies. It occurred to me that there was little chance of us hearing the Doctor’s command when – as clearly as if he were stood at my side, Aitken’s voice sounded loudly in my ear: “Gentlemen… Let havoc commence!”
Immediately, and with gusto, i worked the levers attached to my device – instantly the air was filled with a vast number of of large cubes, bedecked with images, the nature of which I will not discuss in polite company. Accompanying these cubes were varying sounds and great clouds of vapour, and those around us began to shout in dismay. As we continued our disruption, a strange trancelike feeling descended upon us: our movements became slow and measured, it became difficult to walk, or indeed move; the room itself flickered and jittered then – without warning – everything came to a sudden and profound halt!
i was thrust into blackness… a sensation of falling, and then, i found myself to truly be falling – collapsing into the ample form of the Reverend Harrowsmith. We had returned to our real lives!
(In which, all things being equal, we come to an end… for the time being, at least.)
It seems hard to believe that the events i have related occurred merely over the course of some twenty-four hours, and yet, that is indeed the truth.
Having returned to our corporeal forms, with no apparent lasting damage to our selves, we eventually returned to our homes, chastened and with much to dwell upon. As i write these final words, some several weeks later, i can scarce believe the adventure in which we participated, and yet it is the truth.
Moriarty, Appledore and myself have forged a firm friendship, and we meet frequently to discuss our travels in the Professor’s Parallelitismological world; to assist Moriarty in the rebuilding of his machine, and to consider the possibilities that may lie – should we choose to pursue them – in our future lives, or mayhap that should be: our second lives?
S. Haven Esq.
Dec 16, AD 1859
I got a silver machine.
It flies sideways thru’ time
It’s an electric line
It’s your Zodiac sign
Hawkwind – Silver Machine