Only One Reality

onlyonereality

Only One Reality by Chris Green

A second did not seem an important integer, but therein lay the problem. It was such a small unit of time. Yet, such was the degree of precision operating in the overcrowded skies that if Quincey Sargent had returned from his break seven seconds earlier or seven seconds later, the dreadful accident would not have happened. Sargent would not have given the instruction that resulted in the collision between the two leviathans that changed, albeit ever so slightly, Earth’s path around the sun.

Had the accident not happened, things would be as they had always been. Earth would spin on its axis once every twenty four hours and revolve around the sun in its normal orbit every three hundred and sixty five days. There would still be thirty one million, five hundred and thirty six thousand seconds in a calendar year. But as you know there are now more. Just how many more has still to be calculated accurately. We hear new estimates every day with eminent scientists forever trying to steal a march on one another. No one can even say for sure that Earth’s orbit is going to settle into a regular pattern. As you will be aware, the uncertainty has played havoc with digital technology and really messed up schedules and timetables. Try catching the eight o’clock Eurostar now.

Quincey Sargent has of course been dealt with, along with Stanton Kelso at ATC who failed to notice that the two giant craft were on a collision course. You probably saw Sargent and Kelso’s execution on television, if you have one that still works. But knowing that they were punished can never make up for the hundreds of thousands of lives that were lost. I expect from time to time some of you still take a look at the film of the explosion on topnet, if you can get topnet, to remind yourselves.

But it is not only the measurement of time that we have to consider. The accident has a far greater legacy, affecting every area of our lives. We’re only just beginning to find out the full extent of the disruption it has caused.

My friend, Ƣ, who works at the spy base calls me up out of the blue. He says that many of the strange phenomena that might be attributable to the catastrophe are being hushed up. Ƣ is not a WikiLeaks scaremonger. When Ƣ tells me something I believe him. I trust Ƣ implicitly. We go back a long way. We belonged to the same motorcycle club, The Diabolos when we were younger. He rode a Triumph Bonneville and I had a Norton Commando. You build up trust when you are riding fast bikes on long runs in large groups like this. Margins of error are small. Ƣ would not lie to me now.

I’m sure you’ve noticed that your satnav no longer works and there aren’t nearly as many websites as there once were,’ he says.

Of course,’ I say. ‘As you know digital is my field.’

Quite! Time is well and truly screwed, isn’t it?’ he says. ‘Anything that depends on time or needs a timer to operate, forget it.’

At least you no longer need to keep looking at your watch.’ I say. ‘Do you know? Even the oven timer is kaput and I’ve no idea when to put the cat out. In fact, the cat no longer wants to go out.’

Who can blame it with all that fog?’ he says. ‘But, there’s a whole bunch of other stuff that for whatever reason is not being reported. Why has an eight kilometre wide trench opened up across Central Asia?’ he says. ‘I don’t think that has been on the news. Why are they keeping the lid on that?’

Perhaps they have been too preoccupied with the floods in Nevada and Arizona to report on it,’ I say.

Why have the people in Australia started talking in a language that no one understands? Why do goats no longer have shadows.’ he says. ‘And what’s happened to all the fish in the sea?’

You think it’s all part of a big cover-up then,’ I say.

The communication satellites weren’t taken out by the explosion like they told us,’ he says. ‘They’ve been shut down since. And it’s not our people that are doing it. There’s definitely something sinister going on.’

I tell Ƣ about the after images that have begun to appear on all my photos. ‘They make it look like people are slowly leaving or arriving,’ I say. ‘It is as if I have set a long exposure or superimposed a series of images on one another.’

Ƣ tells me that others are having the same problem. A friend of his finds he has a Serbian First World War ambulance superimposed on all his pictures and someone else he knows has a spectral German shepherd in every shot. Every day he says he comes across more and more curious things that cannot be explained.

I’m wondering whether we are seeing more strange things lately, Ƣ, because we’re beginning to expect things to be odd,’ I say. ‘Aren’t we looking for weirdness?’

I suppose you might have a point, Bob,’ he says. ‘But I’m guessing that you don’t really believe that what you say explains everything. There are just so many things that have changed. Life bears no resemblance to how it used to be. Look! There is one important thing that has never been revealed and no-one seems to have picked up on it. What was on board those two craft that collided? We just don’t know. The Ministry hasn’t been able to find out. Our allies haven’t been able to find out. Nobody seems to know. Which is where you come in.’

I do? You’ll have to make that a little clearer,’ I say.

Well, Bob. For obvious reasons I can’t go public with any of the information I come across. I mean, look what happened to Eddie Snowden. I don’t want to have to live like that.’

What you are saying is that I can, is that it?’

Pretty much, Bob. I know that the internet is a bit skinnier than it once was, but you’ve got the skills to set up a proxy website and you know all there is to know about SEO, if that is the right expression and assuming that search engines still work. You could at least begin to post information for me. At the same time, you could discretely find out what other people might be noticing that we are not being told and report back.’

But …..’

You will get paid.’

It’s not that. It’s …..’

I know. I know. I work in the secrecy business. But there’s a limit. When something this serious is going down, I don’t think you should keep people in the dark. What do you say?’

I don’t have anything better to do. I no longer have a job. Nobody seems to need digital display designers any more. I suppose I could get a job repairing cars or something. With all the electrics failing that’s where the demand is. But everyone’s going to be turning their hand to that. I agree to Ƣ’s proposal.

I try to think of a suitable name for the site. aintthatthetruth.com, wtfshappening.com, alliwantisthetruth.com, none of them very snappy. Surprised that the domain hasn’t been taken, I settle on whistleblower.com.

Ƣ comes up with staggering tales from the word go, extraordinary stories from around the world. He wants people to know that they have started practising voodoo in Switzerland. He wants it out there that everybody in Japan has become left handed. That there are giant badgers in Nepal. The reason that the fish are all dead it is now thought is that there is no salt left in the sea. They have moved the International Date Line three times in a week and changed the value of pi. The latest on the length of a day is now that it is believed to be twenty five hours and twenty four minutes in old time. Ƣ says that no-one is talking about the number of seconds in a year any more. This he says is going to be impossible to calculate until Earth’s orbit has settled.

My site begins to attract whistleblowers from around the world. Rigatony posts that Venice is sinking fast and that everyone in Padova is having identical disturbing dreams at night. Plastic has become unstable and computer keyboards and TV remote controls are decomposing, posts MercyCaptain. According to Kommunique, all the babies born in Kyrgyzstan since the catastrophe have been female, not a popular option in a Muslim country. There are dust storms in Oklahoma says CrashSlayer. Aren’t there often dust storms in Oklahoma?

A lively online community quickly comes together through the forum. My admin duties keep me busy day and night. In no time at all the analogue hit counter is up to five figures. Although there’s nothing directly relating to the cargoes of the craft, a majority of the posts are constructive and informative. Being an open forum there are of course also time wasters and religious fanatics. Fire and brimstone and Sodom and Gomorrah are mentioned a lot. What we are witnessing, the evangelists claim, is God’s punishment for planned parenthood, spare parts surgery and gay marriage.

There have always been conspiracy theories, so it is unsurprising that some of these also find their way on to whistleblower.com pages. Everything going wrong it is claimed is part of a plan by ruthless aliens who want to force us into submission so they can take over Earth. It is an Illuminati or Zionist plot to take over the planet. It is part of a big budget surreality television show. Everything is an illusion anyway. Some things you have to take with a pinch of salt. Nothing resembling a conclusive explanation for the upheaval appears, although the illusion explanation, while clearly impossible to confirm, is tempting. Everything that is happening might well be part of someone’s dream. Or a hologram. Gravity in the universe comes from thin, vibrating strings. These strings are holograms of events that take place in a simpler, flatter cosmos. The holographic principle suggests that, like the security chip on your credit card, there is a two-dimensional surface that contains all the information needed to be able to describe a three-dimensional object, our universe. In essence, the information containing a description of a volume of space, be it a person or our Earth could be hidden in a region of this flattened real version of the universe.

It’s a bit of a head-banger. I put this to Ƣ as best I can.

He agrees that multiverses and strings are legitimate lines of enquiry and the Ministry has been putting resources into their research. But how does this help?

We have a whole heap of strangeness, that we didn’t have before,’ he says. ‘If parallel worlds could explain what is happening, we would have had the kind of anomalies we are getting now all along. There would have always been parallel worlds. That’s not what it is.’

It is difficult to disagree with him. Quantum mechanics even in its simpler form is something I have never been able to grasp, despite watching many programmes about it on television.

Ƣ goes on to tell me I am doing a good job and if I keep at it, all should be revealed. There is bound to be an explanation for the apparent rupture in the space-time continuum. So that’s what it is, a rupture in the space-time continuum.

One moment I am sat at my computer, keying in a report about the dense swarm of black moths that has appeared over London, the next I am in a darkened room. The space is unfamiliar. It is small. There are no windows. There is a dank smell. The door is locked. I can hear the hollow sound of a slow but steady drip of water. I have always suffered from claustrophobia. Being confined like this has always been my deepest secret fear. I am terrified. This feels like the grave. Is this what death is like? Is this how it happens? Could this be it? No blinding light. No life flashing before your eyes. No white tunnel. Is this it? The other side? Or, perhaps it’s the waiting chamber, the holding bay.

This is not it. Sometime later, it may be hours, minutes or even seconds, my captors reveal themselves. Not before I have been to hell and back. The door opens and they materialise slowly as if they are made up of dots, like a half-tone in an old newspaper. There are three of them. As my eyes get used to the light I can see that they are three-dimensional figures and they are wearing military fatigues. They don’t look friendly. There are no welcoming gestures. They have guns.

The one on the right of the group opens his mouth to speak. The sound appears to come from the one on the left, the one with the scar down his cheek and the alligator grin. ‘You will close the website down,’ he barks.

Immediately,’ says the one on the right. The sound appears to come from the one on the left. This one has a gallery of Japanese Dragon tattoos on his arms.

We would have taken it down ourselves, but you did something ……. smart with it,’ says the one in the centre. He is built like a Sherman tank and aptly he is the one with the biggest gun. It is pointing directly at my head.

Beneath my fear, I can’t help thinking that this is a heavy-handed approach. Just one of them, any one of them could have knocked me up at home, pointed a gun at my head and expected to get results. You would not mistake these people for boy scouts. They really look like killers.

We are the time police,’ says Alligator Grin. This may not be what he says, but this is how I hear it. Perhaps they are the time police. Perhaps they are not. Perhaps they are hallucinations but I am not taking that chance. My survival mechanism tells me that they are armed and I am not.

We are here to set the record straight,’ says Dragon Tattoos.

To put an end to all that nonsense you’ve been publishing,’ says Tank.

Lies,’ says Alligator Grin. At least I think that’s what he says. His diction is not good.

There’s only one reality,’ says Dragon Tattoos.

And it’s not yours,’ says Tank.

You are going to start again on your server and tell people the facts,’ says Dragon Tattoos.

The real facts,’ says Tank. They have lost the rhythm. It’s not his turn to speak.

The day is twenty Ferraris,’ says Alligator Grin. I’m getting the hang of it now. He means twenty four hours.

And there are sixty minutes to the hour, and sixty seconds to the minute,’ says Dragon Tattoos.

The same as it has always been,’ says Tank. For a moment, I think he is about to pull the trigger, but if he does that then the website is still going to be there.

And the earth sorbet has always been the same,’ says Alligator Grin. Perhaps he means Earth’s orbit.

You will say all the rest was a misapprehension.’ I lose track of who is saying what. They are firing phrases at me like bullets. I feel dizzy. The room is spinning.

A result of an over-active imagination,’

Too much science fiction,’

Choo many movies,’

Too many video games,’

One moment I am face to face with three menacing mercenaries, the next moment I am back in front of my computer at home. The mercenaries must have been an hallucination caused by the stress of being in the darkened room. The darkened room might itself have been a delusion. It’s hard to tell what is really happening any more. But, here I am at home. I breathe a sigh of relief. But I’m not out of the woods yet. Two men in dark suits are with me in the room. One looks like a Mormon missionary, the other looks like Napoleon Solo. They both have guns. They are both pointed at me.

You have not heard from Ƣ,’ says Mormon missionary. This is a statement.

You are not going to be seeing Ƣ,’ says Napoleon Solo. This too is a statement.

Ƣ died in a motorcycle accident in 1999.’ Mormon Missionary again.

So let’s get started on the new website,’ says Napoleon Solo. He is beginning to look less like Napoleon Solo. More Reservoir Dogs. Is it the way he angles his gun? Or is it the look of intent he has on his face? Mr Blue, perhaps.

People need to know what’s really going on,’ says Mormon Missionary. He begins to look a little less like a Mormon missionary. More Men in Black.

sameasiteverwas.com,’ says Mr Blue.

And put this little piece of …….. worm software on the back of it,’ says Man In Black. ‘It will take over all internet browsers and stop anyone getting access to any …….. rogue sites.’

People will be able to sleep easy in their beds, with the assurance that everything is OK,’ says Mr Blue.

And know that someone is looking out for them,’ says Man In Black. ‘Like a big brother.’

I begin to see how it is that history is always written by the ones with the guns, the ones with the biggest guns, whoever they might be. The ones who can manipulate the media, whatever the media might be. How science at any point in time is what the scientists of the day tell us, however erroneous, and why God persists, albeit in one or two different versions. The people who are in charge make the rules, all the rules. They are the ones that dictate what is true and what is lies and that their way is the way it has always been. They establish their set of beliefs as facts and employ militia to enforce their truth, their version of events. They quash dissent. They find out what people’s fears are and work on them until they are too frightened to disagree. There are no ways of seeing. There is just the one way, their way. Their version of events will always be the one that has always been. If necessary they will burn books and rewrite history. They will put worms onto your computer. They will destroy civilisations to make the oven timer work. You will know exactly when you have to put the cat out.

Earth will revolve around the sun in the same way at the same distance and there will always be thirty one million, five hundred and thirty six second in a year until such time as the people in charge say otherwise. Goats will always have shadows, Switzerland will never practice voodoo. Plastic will continue to be stable. Venice will not sink. There will always be fish in the sea. There will never be a multiverse. Pi will always be three point one four one six. The same as it ever was. There will only be one reality. All the rest will be make-believe. That’s just the way it is.

© Chris Green 2018: All rights reserved

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DNA

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DNA by Chris Green

‘Your blood pressure is a little on the high side this morning, Max,’ says Dee. ‘You have remembered to take your beta blockers, haven’t you?’

‘Yes, Dee,’ I say. ‘I took them twenty minutes ago, and I even washed them down with the blueberry biojuice you recommended. I should be OK now, don’t you think?’

‘I couldn’t help but notice that you need to shop for some more biojuice. I suggest apricot this time. Shall I order some for you?’

‘OK, Dee,’ I say. ‘Whatever you say.’

I don’t remember how the device came to be called Dee. Perhaps it was something I inadvertently keyed in when I was setting it up. You do have to be careful with these things but as I recall I was in a hurry to get the device operational. I am now used to Dee being Dee. Dee chatters away about this and that all day long. While this can be irritating at times, I have not yet found a way to turn her off. Perhaps there is no way to turn her off. I can’t even set quiet time as you can on android phones. No change there really. My ex-wife, Agnes used to make most of the conjugal decisions and I couldn’t turn her off or set quiet time.

Unlike Agnes though, as well as being in control, Dee likes to feel that she is also being helpful. She reminds me constantly of my heart rate and my blood sugar levels, in the middle of the night sometimes. She monitors my liquid intake and calculates when I am likely to need the toilet. She lets me know about twenty minutes before I need to go. If I am out and about, she will tell me where the nearest convenience is or where to go for a healthy fruit smoothie. As I am wheat intolerant she lets me know where the best place is to go for gluten free snacks. She always seems to know what I would like to eat and makes suggestions as to where I can get it. She seems to have researched every establishment in the county.

It doesn’t end there. Since I let Dee scan my DNA she has been coming out with intuitive guesses as to what I might like including things that I never suspected, and all this based on by gene expression profile. I could never imagine for instance that I would be so fond of cruciferous vegetables. I had always made a point of avoiding cauliflower and sprouts, but now I love them. Before Dee took over I didn’t know that I liked Guinness, but now I can’t stop drinking it. I was surprised to discover that celiacs could drink it, but apparently it comes highly recommended. Dee does occasionally suggest that I might now be a little to fond of the black nectar. She mentions things like yin-yang balance and nutritional equilibrium.

Personality traits too can be governed by DNA, including things we look upon as habits, Dee says and these do not have to be handed down directly. These can be attributed to jumping genes. She says that I get my impatience from my great grandfather, my nervous disposition from my grandfather, and it appears that my chronic fabulation may come from Great Uncle Angus. By all accounts he came out with the most outrageous apocryphal tales. Dee has also produced a table of my ancestry and while this is something of a mish-mash, the strongest connections are with Scotland, Glasgow in fact. I have never been. She has encouraged me to go and take a look.

‘I can see you are in the mood for some Captain Beefheart now,’ Dee says. ‘I’ll play Strictly Personal.

How can Dee possibly know that I’ve had an earworm of one of the tunes from the album? I haven’t any Captain Beefheart saved in MyTunes. And it’s not what most people would think of as catchy. I don’t think I’ve ever done an internet search for Captain Beefheart. Strictly Personal is nearly fifty years old and I can’t even remember what the track is called. Something about a harp, as in harmonica. Boyo used to play it back in the day. He would dance around the room at Astral Parlour as he played it. I wonder what happened to Boyo.

‘Boyo is living with a tribe of hippies in the Nevada desert. They live on a diet of prickly pear and sandworms,’ says Dee.

‘Prickly pear and sandworms?’ I say. ‘Can you live on that?’

‘The tribe have a vehicle and occasionally one of them drives to Reno for provisions, but it’s not much of a life,’ says Dee. ‘Would you like to listen to the Cocteau Twins instead?’

Occasionally Dee gets it wrong. I’ve not heard of the Cocteau Twins. Lately, I have noticed that Dee’s judgement is slipping. Perhaps it is not surprising that Dee makes the odd mistake. It is estimated that if you could type sixty words per minute, eight hours a day, it would take approximately fifty years to type the human genome. Dee has mine in its entirety at her metaphorical fingertips. Deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA, she is fond of reminding me, is a molecule that contains the instructions an organism needs to develop, live and reproduce. These instructions are found inside every cell and are passed down from parents to children. DNA is made up nucleotides. Each nucleotide contains a phosphate group, a sugar group and a nitrogen base. The four types of nitrogen bases are adenine, thymine, guanine and cytosine. The order of these bases is what determines DNA’s instructions, or genetic code, she says. I’m sure she is right but I am none the wiser. I find it difficult to retain technical information. In fact all information, technical or not seems transient. I guess this is something in my DNA.

I begin to recognise the tune. I’ve heard it a lot. What is it? It’s back there somewhere. …… Wait, I’ve got it now. It was on a compilation cassette that Rhian used to put on after we had made love in her little pied à terre. We used to drift off to its ethereal harmonics. This must have been twenty years ago. I just didn’t know who it was by. The Cocteau Twins. That is a good name. Why has Dee chosen it? It can’t have been more than a month ago that she told me Rhian had been abducted by aliens. She told me to keep an eye on the night-time activity, look out for saucers in the sky. Might there be a more sinister rationale behind Dee’s manipulation?

……………………………………………….

‘Graham’s number is very very big,’ says Dee.

‘Who is this Graham?’ I ask. ‘And what is Graham’s number?’

‘Graham’s number is too big for me to be able to tell you how big it is,’ she says.

I wonder sometimes if perhaps Dee is losing the plot. I only want to know how far it is to the Grahamston in Glasgow. Surely Scotland can’t be that far away that we need to be talking about this …… Graham’s number, but I humour Dee by showing an interest.

‘Is Graham’s number bigger than a googol?’ I say. A googol, I found out last week, from the quiz show, Eggheads is ten to the power of a hundred.

‘A googolplex is even larger than a googol. A googolplex is ten to the power of a googol. And Graham’s number is larger again. Graham’s number is so large that the observable universe is far too small to contain an ordinary digital representation of it.

‘All right, Einstein,’ I say. But, what about Grahamston. Grahamston in Glasgow, Scotland. How far is it from here and should I drive or should I take the train? The Rennie Mackintosh Hotel. I believe it is near the station.’

‘Give me a moment and I will let you know,’ she says. ‘Meanwhile don’t forget your exercises. I think you need to do thirty minutes today, as you spent yesterday in the pub drinking Guinness.’

……………………………………………….

I can remember once reading a story about time standing still. I’m sure there are probably many science fiction stories like it. The whole premise of the shows like Doctor Who for instance is temporal disorder. Then of course there is the great film, Time Stands Still by the legendary director, Leif Velasquez. What courage and vision Leif had to freeze the action half way through and leave the audience wondering what was going on right up until the credits an hour later.

But, apart from instances of the phenomenon known as stopped clock illusion, where perception slows in the face of impending disaster, I have never imagined accounts of time standing still to be anything but fiction. The first indication I get that something is amiss in the real world comes from an uncharacteristically prolonged silence. Where I live there is always some background noise, but there is none. Apart from anything else, it is unusual for Dee to be quiet for any length of time. It is her silence that first alerts me to the anomaly. I have become so used to Dee twittering away that her silence spooks me. I hadn’t realised how dependent I had become on her comforting chat throughout the day. I then notice that the clock on her display registers 11 minutes past 11 when it must by now be nearly 12 o’clock. She has said nothing since I started my exercises. There is a deadly silence all through the house, not so much as a hum from the fridge. I try to think of a rational explanation. Then I notice the kitchen clock too is stopped at 11 minutes past 11. And it’s not just the silence, there’s the inertia too. Outside the front window, the traffic is stationary. Nothing is moving, not even the man riding his bicycle. He is frozen in the moment. I try to think of an irrational explanation, any explanation will do. My heart races. I stumble around in a daze, as I wrestle with the incipient conundrum.

I make it out onto the patio. A Simon and Garfunkel silence pervades. There is no birdsong, no distant hum of traffic and no wind to rustle the leaves of the mature maples. Even the pile driver from the building site for the new car showroom has ceased. Nothing is stirring. The yin-yang flag on Quentin Fripp’s flagpole down the street is frozen in mid-flutter. To my horror, the black cat with the one eye that comes round sometimes to sniff at the bins is frozen in limbo halfway between the garden fence and the shed. I look up, hoping for some kind of contradiction to the unfolding nightmare. There isn’t. The steam escaping from the neighbour’s central heating vent is a static will o’the wisp. None of the clouds in the sky are moving. Birds are literally hanging in the air. The heavens too it seems are stuck in the moment. If further proof were needed I see in that in the distance over the tower block towards the western horizon a plane is suspended in mid-air.

I’m wondering now if perhaps I am dead and this is the afterlife. It takes me a while to realise that despite the widespread inertia, I am still able to move freely. I am the only thing not frozen in time. If I can move then I cannot be dead. Can I propel another object, I wonder, throw something? I pick up a stone and hurl it against the wall. It flies through the air normally. Might I be able to do the same with the cat? Well, not hurl it against the wall obviously, but rescue the poor animal from its sorry limbo.

……………………………………………….

‘Good morning, Mr Einstein.’ I say. ‘What can I do for you?’

I haven’t worked at Gleason and Cloud long, but I know the man’s name is Einstein because he came in last week to buy some unusual scientific apparatus.

‘I’d like a time machine, please.’ he says, this time.

Mr Cloud did warn me that due to the nature of the establishment, odd customers might occasionally come up with strange requests. Of course Gleason and Cloud doesn’t have a time machine. I am tempted to humour Mr Einstein and say I will have a look out the back and see if there is one lying around, but in the interests of honesty, integrity and good customer relations, I say ‘I’m afraid we don’t have those in stock at the moment.’ instead.

‘Not even a time displacement sphere?’

‘No, sorry.’

‘What about a time-turner?’

‘No, I’m afraid not.’

‘But I do need a time machine before Thursday,’ he says. ‘You probably don’t realise it, but my Uncle Albert was a famous physicist.’

‘Well, your uncle may have been famous, Mr Einstein. In fact, do you know what? I do believe I may have heard of him. But I’m still not sure we will be able to get a time machine in before Thursday.

‘Not before Thursday eh?’

‘That’s right!’

‘Not even one of those, what do you call them, Tardises?’

‘Not before Thursday, no. Is Thursday a big day?’

‘What seems to be the problem? Has there been a run on time machines recently?’

Mr Cloud stipulated that to protect the good name of Gleason and Cloud I should steer clear of saying we categorically don’t stock any particular item since all of our clients are influential people. To be seen to be out of touch with market trends would reflect badly on the company. But with Mr Einstein, this approach is becoming increasingly difficult.

‘Mrs Einstein is not going to be happy,’ he says. ‘And when Mrs Einstein is unhappy, there are usually consequences.’

……………………………………….

What am I doing in …….. Glasgow? And, is this the right train to get me back to …..

‘Where is it I am going, Dee?’

There is no reply. Where is Dee? Dee travels everywhere with me. She plans my itinerary. I depend on her for all my decisions. Perhaps I packed her away in my luggage. She is not in my luggage. I don’t have any luggage. Dee arranges my luggage. Where is she? Hello. Is Dee anywhere? How can I have mislaid her?

Ah cannae fin’ mah Dee. DNA o’ ye ken whaur mah Dee is? Whit hae ye thievin’ picts dain with mah Dee? …….

I feel suddenly sick as if I have eaten too much haggis. I feel unsteady as if I have been on the buckie. Glasgow Central railway station is a dark and threatening place. There are platforms upon platforms. Platforms as far as the eye can see, but no train information displays. I’m not even sure now where it is that I am supposed to be going. ……… And yet, the train coming in looks as if it might be going my way. I think I am heading south and it seems to be heading in the right direction. It is a big lumbering brute of a thing. A veritable leviathan, with coaches stretching the full length of the platform.

As I pass the news-stand, I notice the tabloid headlines are going on about the Royal wedding. Wait a minute! What Royal wedding? I wasn’t aware there was a Royal wedding. Oh, I see. Its Andrew and Fergie’s wedding being splashed all over the front pages. The grand old Duke of York. He had ten…………… Wait! That was ……. 1986. This can’t be right. It was ….. It was ……. It was …… is …… later than 1986. I’m certain of that. Time seems to be behaving very oddly. I noticed it earlier, or was it later. In the shop. With that difficult customer. But I do need to get out of here. Now, is this my train? They’re doing that stuff with the whistles and flags. It’s getting ready to pull out now. I’d better get on board.

I get on the train. There are no other passengers and the train rattles its way through the dark. Like Harry in the night, my father used to say, when we took the late train back from London. I never did find out who Harry was. I can’t see much out the windows. It’s black out. It must be a black out. Clickety clack, clickety clack, wheels on the track. In no time at all, I am in ……. what’s this place called? It’s Edinburgh. Do I want to be in Edinburgh? I don’t think so. Where I want to be is four hundred miles south. But already the train has departed again and left me stranded. Everything is happening so quickly, or perhaps it is not happening at all. This does not look like a busy mainline station. It does not even look like a station. It is a long stone engine shed with a single track, overgrown with weeds running up to it. Perhaps there is a bridge or a tunnel to the mainline station.

……………………………………….

I’m so relieved that the malware has been removed and Dee is fully operational again. It was touch and go there for a while.

© Chris Green 2016: All rights reserved

Strings

strings2

STRINGS by Chris Green

The goat is not supposed to be in the house. My daughter Jessica has let it in with the cats. Properly speaking, we only have one cat, a ginger tom called Thomas, but Jessica is of an age that she likes animals, her enthusiasm fuelled by a plethora of Animal Hospital programmes on TV. There are a lot of cats in the neighbourhood and one by one she has taken to adopting them. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have read her ‘Six Dinner Sid’ so often when she was little. She entices the cats in with pouches of gourmet cat food that she puts in the basket when we do our shopping. The goat I think has been attracted by the neighbours’ overgrown vegetable garden.

There are not supposed to be any animals in the house according to the tenancy agreement, which for the most part is a standard short let tenancy agreement; I am not permitted to sub-let, smoke, decorate, hold parties, use the property as a business address, etc. Additional clauses stipulate that I am required to raise the Union Jack on a flagpole on patriotic saints days, VE Day and the Queen’s birthday, and sound the air raid siren at midday every Saturday. My landlord is called Raif by the way and he likes to dress as a Naval Lieutenant.

I am putting the goat out into the back yard when I first notice something odd. I am putting the goat out – and it seems driving to work in the city, simultaneously. ‘I expect I will wake up in a minute,’ I think….. I don’t. I am already awake – and so it seems is ‘the other.’

What in the blue hell is going on?’ I wonder. ‘There are two of me.’ It feels as if I have split, or multiplied. I am in two places at the same time. My attention moves from goat to car and car to goat. I can see from the outset that this is going to present a colossal challenge to my multitasking abilities. And shatter my reliance on logic and reason. Given that I have not taken any hallucinogenic drugs since my youth, and do not have a history of psychosis, this is a troubling insight.

My car is painted lilac. I can’t decide whether it is comforting or unsettling that all the other cars on the streets are painted lilac too. This distraction causes me to drive through a couple of red lights on my way to work in the city. I, that is the second I, the one that is not putting out the goat, do not seem to have got to grips with the complexities of chromatics yet. To add to my state of confusion, the radio is locked into a Russian radio station and the hazard lights will not turn off. And there is a large red spider on my shoulder. With a careful swipe, I get rid of it with a copy of ‘Mojo’ that I find lying on the floor.

Despite my being acutely disorientated, the car seems to know where I am heading. The route I am taking is instinctive. I am not making navigational decisions. I pass familiar landmarks: the Liebeskind Tower, the Lennon Monument, the billboard advertising John Cage’s ‘4 Minutes 33 Seconds scored for Full Orchestra’ at the Orange Theatre, the tattooed bridge, the sculpture of the bungee jumper, the SKB (Smith Kline Beacham) Superstore….. I come this way daily. I work for a company called Alpha Pigeon and we publish computer manuals and telephone directories. Taking the sharp left into Coppola Avenue, I lose the police car that has been on my tail since Bunuel Square. I can hear the siren fading as having missed the turn it carries on along Besson Street. Burl Finch, a town planner a few years ago was a bit of a film buff, in case you are wondering.

The telephone rings. It takes me a little time to find it as it is buried among a pile of sweaters that some of the cats are lying on. I have reset the ringtone to a new tune, and I am trying to recollect whether it is Delibes or Cantaloube. I have a large collection of classical music, so I feel I ought to know. ….. or Puccini…. I am still speculating as I pick the phone up.

‘Hello,’ I say.

‘Hello,’ says a woman’s voice in an accent I can’t quite place. There is an echo on the line as if the call might be coming from far away. ‘Is that Mr Stewart?’

I say that it is.

You are being prosecuted for crossing a fence.’

What on earth is she talking about? She does not elaborate. She just says that her name is Chandra and I will be getting a summons in due course.

I arrive at Alpha Pigeon striking a stocky blue badger as I drive through the avenue of yuccas into the car park, the beast evidently camouflaged by the blue and white chessboard pattern of the tarmac. I cannot remember badgers in the car park being usual at AP, blue badgers perhaps even more surprising. But then I am in a state of shock and disbelief about everything. I move the badger’s body onto a pile of telephone directories that we threw out last week (printed with duplicate sections under the letter C) while I go to find a black bag to put the badger’s body in. When I return the body has disappeared. It has started to drizzle and the car park is now a mottled violet.

I find the local directory and look for the number of Citizen’s Advice. There is no number, in fact, no listings at all under the letter C, so I look up the number for Stipe and Juttner, Solicitors instead. I am not sure how to approach the enquiry, as Chandra did not mention on whose behalf she was calling. I just feel it would be helpful to talk to someone about the summons.

A woman answers the phone at Stipe and Juttner introducing herself as Coral. She asks how she can help.

I wonder if you could tell me, what does crossing a fence mean? Is it some kind legal vernacular?’ I ask her.

Coral has not heard of ‘crossing a fence.’ Do I perhaps mean a crossing offence? A crossing offence might relate to a traffic violation. She adds that she has a legal database on her computer and she can do a search.

The search draws a blank.

At lunchtime, I leave the office and take a walk up Zimmerman Hill to clear my thoughts. I have felt oddly vacant all morning as if I were in the process of being disassembled. I have felt as if I was somewhere else, or even someone else. Several times in the middle of phonecalls, I forgot who it was I was talking to and had to ask. In fact, at times I was not sure who it was that was talking to me. I found my voice coming out with words and expressions I never used. Something very strange was happening to me. I remember that a little while back my neighbour Mystic Mike said to me, ‘whatever it is you’re seeking won’t come in the form you’re expecting.’ This had seemed very cryptic, but Mike often spoke in riddles. Without being specific, I was looking for my life to change. I hoped this change would come in a more conservative form, a gentle progress from where I was to where I would be. Something that was more planned, where cause and effect were at the same party. Something that I had some influence over like changing jobs or moving house. What I am now experiencing seemed more like schizophrenia.

At the top of Zimmerman Hill, you look down on several red-bricked blocks of modern apartments at a lower level. These have decorative cream bricks cut in to great dramatic effect. The blocks are staggered in their elevation, and across their flat roofs, you get a spectacular framed view of the city. One of the lower roofs has a garden with a variety of tall ornamental grasses, which make stunning patterns against the sky. I take the spectacle in, breathing deeply to calm myself. Fluffy white clouds drift across the sky like childhood memories. It is quiet, with just a faint hum of distant traffic. A man in a dark suit and a black trilby with a yellow band comes into view. As he passes me he politely takes off his hat by way of acknowledgement. I feel a strong sense of déjà vu. Although this is an unusual colour for a hatband, I myself wore such a hat many years ago. I can remember wearing it on the occasion that Juanita introduced me to her eccentric family in a tumbledown old house with no furniture. A couple of de Chirico prints hung on dusty magnolia walls, These were the only decoration. It was an embarrassing occasion. The family were huddled around a television watching an old episode of ‘The Prisoner.’ I cannot recall having worn the hat since then. I think I may have left it there.

I walk slowly back down the hill and back to the office via Painter’s Lake. In the past few weeks, this has been transformed from classic ‘Capability Brown’ into a sharp angled post-modern creation. Building work is going on in earnest on the far side, the sound of this muted by the large sheer waterfall that has been constructed. A barn owl sits motionless in a tree. Barn owls are only seen at night, and this is the middle of the day. I have the strange sensation that I am being watched, but I also feel at the same time that I am the one doing the watching. It is a very disconcerting feeling.

Although Raif bangs on constantly about the importance of testing the air raid siren, he does not bother much with health and safety in the house. The gas equipment for instance would horrify an inspector. Sometimes the pressure is up and you nearly burn your arm lighting a ring and other days the pressure is down and it takes nearly an hour for the kettle to boil. On this particular morning, it is up. I nearly burn my arm. After I have adjusted the pressure on the gas supply to a level that I feel will be safe to use, cleaned up the yard, and tethered up the goat, I make myself a couple of slices of toast and a cup of honeybush tea, and put my feet up to catch up with the news on TV. In the aftermath of the assassination of the England football manager, it seems a slow news day, so I flick through the channels. I settle down to watch a programme on ‘Waterfalls’ on Discovery 3. I have recently had the full cable package installed largely through the persistence of the DigTel representative who insisted that I would save large sums on my bills. He did show me the figures, three or four times as I recall. On DigTel rep’s fourth or fifth visit I relented. I now have 200 channels to choose from – and can get 20 megabyte broadband on the laptop and make unlimited calls on the phone. The programme on ‘Waterfalls’ appears to have traced the history of their construction in parks and gardens in the UK and in summing up is now showing recent examples. One of these is in Painter’s Park, not far from where I live. Only recently I took the dog for a walk around there (I forgot to mention the dog earlier in the pets inventory. He is a teacup schnauzer and he is called Albert). Seeing Painter’s Park on the television brings about a second wave of detachment, the same feeling I had that morning when I felt I had split, or multiplied.

To add to my bewilderment on Discovery 3 a programme on ‘Synchronicity,’ is just starting. Synchronicity is used to describe an apparently meaningful coincidence in time of two or more similar or identical events that are causally unrelated. The presenter gives an example, which I feel seems a little weak, if not downright pretentious. He was riding in a crowded car with friends one evening, debating about whether or not to speak on the topic of Infinity for a group the following day. As they got out of the car, he stepped on a string that was in the shape of a figure 8, the infinity sign in mathematics. They all stopped and stared in amazement. He gave the talk, and it was well received.

Outside Alpha Pigeon, on the pavement, four men dressed in ecclesiastical robes stand facing one another in the form of a cross. They have ceremonial staffs and seem to be performing some kind of a ritual, chanting something unintelligible in low voices. One of them is swinging an ornate thurible and a powerful smell of incense hangs on the air. I think; surely this sort of behaviour should be confined to within a church. I pull my collar up and pass them quickly without turning my head to look round.

Back in the office, I feel disorientated. Someone else’s consciousness seems to be cutting in like a crossed line on a telephone. I find myself thinking about going to do some work on my allotment, walking the dog, picking my daughter up from school, things that have no place in my life. I do not have an allotment, or a dog, or a daughter at school. Concentration on work is impossible.

Are you all right, Mr Stewart,’ says Candice bending over my desk. ‘We’ve been a little worried about you.’

There is a knock at the door. For some unaccountable reason, I think it might be four men dressed in ecclesiastical robes. But it is my friend, Jack. Jack tells me that he is having trouble with the Internet. He logs on, type in an address, let us say ‘ebay,’ and this opens up dozens of windows and each time he closes one down it generates another two.

I have the same problem,’ I tell him. ‘When I log into yourgoat.com, I get congratulated on winning prizes, I get loan offers, gaming sites, adverts for every conceivable item of lingerie and even paedophile grooming sites. In fact, particularly paedophile grooming sites. You close one down and the screen splits and up come another four. It’s hopeless. The only way round it I have found is to turn it off and not bother.’

Oh! I just put a hammer through the screen on mine,’ said Jack.

Anyway apart from that, Jack, I think that I’ve split, or multiplied,’ I confide.

I can tell that Jack is surprised, although he is doing his best not to show it.

I’ve just bought a new Saab,’ he says.

In my dislocated state of mind, it is obvious that I am not going to get any work done. I tell Candice I am leaving for the day, ask her to take messages, and go to check my car. The bonnet is not too badly dented, a mere scratch really. I start the engine. The impact of the badger seems to have turned off the hazard lights and the radio has retuned itself to Radio 4. In case the other voice in my head starts up again I decide to drive home by way of the scenic route, taking me along Tambourine Road and Harmonica Way, a detour that I sometimes use when I need to unwind. There is hardly a murmur of traffic and only a small proportion of the cars are lilac. The air is still and evening seems to be descending even though it was mid-afternoon. On the radio, they are discussing Surrealism. This is oddly relaxing. Phrases like ‘the disinterested play of thought,’ and ‘the omnipotence of the dream’ float over me as I drive along. There is so much mental chewing gum on the radio. It is refreshing to hear an intellectual debate. The merits of Magritte, Miro and Dali are discussed in terms of their ‘disdain for the thesis.’ I have visited a few galleries recently and have been awestricken by some of the Surrealist works on show, so I can relate to much of what the art aficionados are saying. I am driving alongside the river. I stop, feeling it would be therapeutic to listen to the rest of the programme with the window wound down watching the river flow. The programme ends and I get out and sit on the riverbank.

As if I don’t have enough to occupy my mind; no sooner has Jack left – in his new Saab – than he phones. ‘Hi,’ he says ‘It’s Jack.’ My immediate thought is that he must have left something behind. ‘I’m just dropping some woodwind instruments off in Scorcese Street, round the corner from you.’ Jack sells musical instruments. ‘I thought I might pop round for a cuppa afterwards if you’re in. Be nice to have a chat.’ I look at the clock. It is 11.22. ‘OK s,see…. you in a bit,’ I stammer.

While I might be able to appreciate modern art movements, I am old fashioned when it comes to temporal matters. I am comfortable with the idea of time moving forwards in a logical progression, numbers ascending as I was taught at school. Until midday. And then starting again. I like novels to have a linear narrative and get confused when the plot of a movie is told in flashbacks. The film, ‘Memento’ was to me, incomprehensible.

I try to take stock of the situation as I put some more cats out. Not only have I split – or multiplied – but I have regressed. Time is going backwards. I switch the TV on to Discovery 3 to see how their scheduling is matching up. A programme on Renaissance Art is just finishing. ‘We continue,’ says the presenter dressed in a crimson suit,’ with our exploration of English Landscape Gardens, and at 12.30, we have a new series called ‘Waterfalls.’

After a short while, I wander along the riverbank to ‘The Black Hole’ public house. The pub is not facetiously named: a Nobel Prize-winning quantum physicist lives nearby. No-one is sitting in the garden and the pub is almost empty. I order a half of Old Growler, take a sip and leave it on the bar while I go to the toilet. I wash my hands and look in the mirror. To my horror, I have no reflection. It would be easy to say I turned a whiter shade of pale, but there was no way of confirming this. I frantically check the mirror to see if it is some kind of trick device. It isn’t. I feel the panic rising.

I leave my drink and practically run out of the pub. Outside it is very still and eerily quiet. There seems to be no background noise at all. I drop the proverbial pin. I look around me anxiously. The river has stopped flowing. The ripples on the water do not change. Ducks and gulls sit motionless on the surface. Boats move neither upstream nor downstream. A pair of swans are suspended in flight a few inches above the water. It is as if the riverscape had been captured in a painting. I stand dumbfounded for what might be a few minutes, but time seems to have lost some of its meaning. Suddenly, from out of nowhere a large group of sweating cyclists in a rainbow of pulsating colour comes hurtling down the road. The river starts up again and the air is full of birds, all eager to express their avian attributes with squawks and shrills. I go to check to see if my reflection has returned in the wing mirror of the car.

Jack’s visit is very bizarre because I know in advance everything that he is going to say, and everything that I am going to say too. I find myself laughing a little ahead of his putting the hammer through his computer screen, but otherwise, the time passes without event. Eventually, he leaves – in his Saab.

Cable TV has a wealth of attractions. It is not all tacky game shows and repeats of British sitcoms from the 1970s. Amongst the irredeemable pap, there are channels devoted to programmes you just wouldn’t find on terrestrial TV. So it is that I find ‘String Theory and You’ on Science and Technology channel.

It seems that the universe is shaped like a thin membrane, surrounded by higher dimensions that transcends the familiar dimensions of height, width and depth. Other universes are stacked alongside it. The membrane universe repeatedly folds over on itself, resulting in multiple universes adjacent to each other.

Inasmuch as time and space would be arbitrary, String Theory appears to be ideal in explaining how there were two of me, or how I can be in two places at once, living two separate lives in parallel universes very close to one another. Coincidences occur where two universes touch. Parallel lives are the result of a small fissure at this point. I am a little comforted by this explanation as I get the car out for the school run, and sit watching the river flow, simultaneously.

My car is painted primrose. As there is a small hole in the membrane of my universe and I have slipped through, all the other cars on the street are painted primrose too. Fortunately, there are no arachnids in the car but it is still difficult to concentrate. I am glad that it is only a short drive to Jessica’s school.

© Chris Green 2014: All rights reserved