The Deep of Space
Lacking the relevant qualifications to be recruited by NASA as a professional astronaut, I knew that if I was ever going to land on the moon I would have to build my own spaceship.
It wasn’t until I finally met Doctor Kensler that the opportunity to bring about a lifelong dream came into my hands.
I myself knew Doctor Kensler from old, from his lectures at Mastow University. He had acquired fame locally, and he was a great speaker renowned for his precise diction and economy of language.
It was said that he was to one day to be the globes next leading physicist, and that he would be remembered as one of our greatest thinkers, and I believed this myself, until I finally met him in person.
In the end it turned out that he was little more than a clever actor. Having said this, he had my respect on one subject, the only thing that made my interest in our friendship hold, that he was an inventor of singular brilliance.
By drawing upon his vast pool of knowledge in thermodynamics, he was able to make miniature rockets fly as far as the earth’s atmosphere using as their fuel only refined quantities of water and air. His first rocket, which all scientists recognised as the earthbound – was created wholly out of a plastic bottle filled with enough air to propel it into space itself! And it would have entered space, finally, had the bottle not melted in the earth’s atmosphere…
But his latest project had me thrilled to core, for now it was his intention to construct a much larger model, ten times the scale of his original constructions – a rocket that would be large enough to propel even human beings into the very bowels of space!
After studying the diagrams, the annotated plans, and seeing the actual model in its early construction stages itself, I could easily see with my own eyes the precise method and succinct orderliness the Doctor Kennsler had placed into his brilliant invention.
His work held me in complete awe.
I decided I would work with him, and aid him in the completion of the noble and great project. Yet the more I worked with him, the more I began to know him; the more I began to fear him.
It seemed that his brilliant mechanical knowledge was counterbalanced, badly, by fatal fits of madness; for as sad as it may sound, he was indeed quite mad. There were occasions, which appeared to occur quite randomly - at least from my perspective so it seemed, when this usually passive and genial man was overtaken by passionate fits of unwarranted aggression. This was attributed to his belief that he was himself loosely descended from Greek Legend “Alexander the Great,” and on various unfortunate occasions he could be seen, marching up and down the roads, in full public view, holding a wooden stick aloft (his sword) and demanded support for the invasion of Persia.
Then at other times he thought himself to be Captain Blackbeard. All it took was for it to rain, and at the sight of the falling water he was away, charging out of the door, roaring wildly, flaying about like some wild thing, and it took all my efforts to restrain him; on one occasion, were it not for my hasty interference, he would have attacked and possibly beaten up a passing pedestrian…
Other than that he was just a perfectly ordinary person.
We donated weeks of our life in the building of the rocket. The actual frame of the rocket was based on the earlier designs, and made of hundreds of compressed plastic bottles. Then we covered the plastic frame with paper; the little gaps and creases we filled in with mud; the doctor told me that mud would turn into a strong glue when the rocket made its journey through the atmosphere – the raw soil would turn into a type of tough cement and stop the rocket from falling to pieces. Because he was in charge, and a man of superior intellect, it took his word for it.
Our rocket was fitted with one large room, with two chairs, for the both of us, and the window, which we forgot about to begin with, we cut out of the plastic frame and covered in several layers of good thick tracing paper.
After about a week of solid work, the doctor started to load the rocket with large glass jars, each one sealed tight, and all containing the air we would need as part of the fuel source.
The next day we loaded aboard the water, which we kept in large see-through containers. Later we attached the water and the air to a machine we called, The Power, where all the power of the rocket would come from. The air and water we connected to this machine using an intricate series of pipes. With little valves we could enter certain quantities of water and air, and if we used the right amounts in combination with the helium, gas and fire we also kept on board, we would have the combustion we needed to lift off the ground and beginning our space bound voyage.
We didn’t have the resources for a test flight, because if it went wrong, and the ship was to implode, we would have to build it again…and we just didn’t have the material for that. So it was to be a one way trip, as it were. If the experiment was to fail, and we all died, that is destiny. ‘And what is life without risks?’ I said to the doctor, and he smiled, chuckled briefly, and replied, ‘If there were no risks, there would be no life!’
I agreed with him when he said this – though later I didn’t know why.
The 17 sept was set to be our lift-off day.
We lit the rocket with my old cigarette lighter, which I kept on me always to remind me of how I succeeded in giving up smoking a month ago.
The computer began to count us down – five – four – three –
And upon three there was a huge explosion, which we were indeed lucky to have survived, and then, just a little short of two seconds, we were going up in the sky!
So far the experiment had been a success. We were off the ground, and within only a few minutes we were within reach of the earths rim.
The skies were getting closer, closer – and soon would be behind us…
At last, I thought with great excitement, I was on the verge of mounting the greatest pinnacle of my adult career. I was finally going to enter space.
Then finally we entered the atmosphere.
…And good grief did we ever know it. Thankfully, we obeyed the doctors precautions, adding extra layers of pure mud to seal in the ships creases – and just as he predicted, the soil hardened and the ship held, and we finally arrived in space seconds later – all in one piece.
I, personally, felt such great relief with our success that I sighed, deeply, and mopped the perspiration on my forehead; but as I did so I looked on my companion, doctor kennsler, who was the perfect model of calm and tranquillity. It looked like he had done this before, and to see him there, calmly looking out of the window, with his ease of mind, whistling a tune, just made me laugh!
‘Ease some water into the engines will you Walker?’ he said.
Taking one of the tubes a released a cylinder and allowed just a few drops of water into the power engines. ‘Not too much there,’ said the doctor, though he could plainly see I had hardly used any. ‘Every now and then the rocket will slow down, and to give it a boost we must release the water.’
‘How does this work?’ I asked him, with genuine interest.
‘Some of the water evacuates the ship and as it does so, space freezes it, our engines then explode it, and as the ice shatters into shards, it pushes us forward, offering a rocket a tremendous boost!’
‘Why have scientists of old not thought about travelling through space in the economical fashion as we do?’ was my next question.
‘They never thought to use the right values,’ he told me, simply.
I never understood this answer, but then I don’t think he intended me to.
The man may have been a quack, who didn’t really understand science – but still, he managed to get us safely into space, so he was obviously good at doing something.
‘More water! Water! Let it flow!’ he would shout at me every now and then, and moments afterwards admonish me for using too much of it. ‘You are far too liberal with the water, my son,’ he would say, afterwards. And then he would add, sarcastically, ‘Leave some for the return journey, wont you?’
The moon became an ever growing phenomenon on our screen. It was a glorious sight. Indeed, I was surprised how quick we reached it. I was expecting a few days of travel but it seemed that only in a few minutes and the moon was there, right in front of us!
‘How did we reach the moon so quickly?’ I asked the doctor, and as I waited a response, my friend began to emit strange, bird-like clucking sounds.
I was in true fear that a madness had seized him again, here, now, in space. Which would it be, Alexander, Blackbeard? Or something new, perhaps more terrible?
Thankfully the man held his reserve, and replied, ‘Our fine precise mixture of air and water helps keep the rocket in line with relativity. We are presently travelling at light speed, my boy, light speed!’
‘But that’s impossible?’ said I, but he only laughed at me when I said this.
‘Improbable,’ said he, ‘but never impossible! Now then,’ he said, speaking of something completely different, ‘pay attention to my words, and ease off with the water there on the engines. We want the ship to slow down before we literally collide with the moon! And I say again with vigour, collide! For we shall do that, unless we cool off the engines!’
So I eased off the supply of water and looked out of the window. And there, sure enough, was the ugly fungous like body of the moon below us. I felt the desire to get out of the rocket and walk across the moons’ surface – to fulfil that old dream of mine…
…When I realised the great mistake we had made.
We had no space suits.
I was about to raise this setback in our plans when the doctor suddenly, and rather aggressively as well, ordered me to be quiet.
‘We must reach the shadowy part of the moon,’ he said to me. It looked like he was trying to bring us about on the opposite side of the moon, for reasons that lay far beyond my mind. I had no idea that unlike myself, it was not the moon he wanted to see.
That was when I began to see the true foolhardiness of our whole expedition. In the weeks we worked on the rocket, we never once discussed what it was we wanted to do when we got into space – that it was my dream to see the moon, and his to go somewhere far grander… far more unimaginable.
‘This is what I want to see,’ and he pointed and I looked at the window, and saw before me what I could only guess to be a black hole.
‘I observed it in my telescope a month ago,’ said the doctor. ‘This is the reason why I built the rocket. It was to be here, to see this!’
‘But what is it?’
‘A jump bridge,’ he told me.
‘Never heard of one?’
‘What about a wormhole then?’
‘Sounds vaguely familiar…I think…’
‘This is what it is, basically.’
‘And what is a wormhole?’
‘They are doors, my friend. Ways of quickly moving around vast distances of space. Why, this one right here before us could lead anywhere in the universe! Why, it might even lead to another universe altogether! Ha! Think of it!’
‘I prefer not to,’ said I. ‘We should turn around now. Can’t you see, you have aimed the rocket right at it!’
‘And of course! That is my plan!’
‘What?’ I exclaimed, and now true fear had gripped me. What was this madman planning? What had I fallen into?
‘I am going to go through it, and travel to the other side!’
‘Not while I am on board,’ I replied. ‘This was meant to be a simple mission to the moon, but I didn’t sign up for this. Turn around now or I will take over. Don’t try to stop me, doctor, I’m sure in a fight I would best you.’
By the time I realised the fantastic danger I was in the doctor had emptied the last of the water supplies into the engines. Now there was no way of pulling back or turning the rocket round.
‘What have you done?’ I cried. ‘You have killed us both!’
‘Surely I have,’ he said, and then laughed (for madness had obviously taken him), and then he shouted, ‘but at least we shall be famous!’
There isn’t much I have seen that is darker than space, but that black hole, or whatever it was, was darker than dark itself, like the vastness of our universe was some unfathomable beast and here then was its huge ugly mouth; and there we were heading right into it. There was now no way back. ‘How long do you think it will tale for us to die?’ I asked the doctor.
A sense of calm suddenly settled between us. It was a strange time for calm, I know, but things were very calm at that moment, and around us there was right sort of atmosphere for a question.
But the doctor did not reply. He was sleeping…
I braced myself. Now we were in the hole itself. The blackness that was not part of space but part of something else which was all around us.
In fact, at the time, I remember thinking there not being much difference at all, at least visually, between space and the inside of the black hole; the only thing being that there were no stars here.
‘We are in the black hole now,’ I said allowed, and my saying this seemed to force the sleeping doctor to suddenly arise in an eruption of anger. ‘It’s not a black hole! I told you. A wormhole! Philistine! It is a doorway – between our universe and another! Where it will lead I do not know- it might not lead at all! We may be destroyed. ’
‘Then there is a chance that we might survive this journey?’ said I; and I was still surprised that we hadn’t died yet.
‘The odds, put simply, are a million to one, but yes, we might yet survive!’
And that was when it happened! The rocket jerked violently, and then began to spin around, and to say that I felt sick then was an understatement, but my British reserve prevented me from unleashing the stuffing of my unsettled stomach.
Then, at the edge of the blackness, a great thing, as I can only describe it as a thing, made of light, shimmering, made of lots of strands, came floating forward, moving strangely through the space like a jellyfish in the sea.
It came closer, and closer. I was so horrified I could not speak, the doctor seemed to have fainted, so he didn’t see any of this. A shame really, as i imagine this sight would have boggled even his wild imaginative mind.
Then the rocket, all of it, seemed to melt away, vanishing into nothing, leaving us stranded and floating in the darkness.
It seemed an eternity but I knew nothing more for a very long time!
How I survived these cataclysmic events is a topic of debate that would be far too extensive to elucidate here in this rabble of notes I have kept as a journal. Let us just say, in the interest of brief and clear narrative, that I just survived.
There were flashes of vision, and when I think back on them now they seem more like dreams, though very real dreams at the time. I can only guess that my companion and I had been taken prisoner, and were for some time in thrall of the jelly fish creature I described earlier.…
We were inside it, floating along through the universe. We must have made it through the black hole – or wormhole whatever it was.
But I could see no stars, but the blackness was not so black, and all across one point of my view was a vast sheet of pink-red, which I guessed was a nebular of some sort – but then what do I know? I have seen photos of nebulas, but what do they look like up close, or when you are in them? Do they really have colour like this, as I was seeing?
Then it all went black – we were moving to a blank rock like object, a type of floating rock – I suppose I must have thought I was an asteroid at the time. We were put onto it, the doctor and I, and that was when I slept, for a very long time.
When I opened my eyes again things had changed very much.
It looked like I was inside a prison cell. All around me, four stern steel walls – and on one a great door, which would be, no doubt, locked against me. There was no window, but there was light, but I could see no place for it to flow from.
Too tired to think too much I just sat and lay there, with my back against one of the walls, and dozed, and dozed – till the realisation flushed through my ears, around my brain and out of my eyes and nostrils!
I was a prisoner in a strange room! I had been abducted!
It actually turned out that I was not, and I hadn’t been, but at the time, my imagination ran in circles. We must have been taken by aliens, I thought. We were their prisoners! Now in their power, they would embark on a series of diabolical experiments upon us. The horror of it all was too much.
Finally, when I tried the door, it actually opened, and I entered upon a great polished corridor. I don’t know why but I felt like was in a hospital, for there were lots of other little wards, as it were, branching off on either side, and there were beds, with curtains, and above, a dull horrible light, flickering. It all looked very earthly – human almost – in fact I would have thought my whole experiences so far, the rocket and the wormhole, just part of some mad dream; but the wards were so quiet, and there was nobody about. No, this wasn’t Earth, I knew that. There was a strange feeling. The air was humid, but there was a cold chill in my spine.
And there was writing on the wall, just little signs and notices as we have, but the writing was all outlandish, written in no alphabet I had ever seen.
My first plan was to set out in search for doctor kennsler, my erstwhile companion, the only human I knew that must be here, and perhaps, with our company joined again, we might make a sensible plan of action. At the moment I just felt such a sense of loss I just didn’t know what to do.
Then, just like that, while I whirled in desolation, someone stepped out of one of thenearby wards and stepped right up to me. ‘Best be leading you back to your room, good sir!’ he said. He I say, for it was in fact a human, at least it looked like a human, who stood before me. A small aged man, with glasses. He was very thin and had strange long arms with knuckles that almost brushed the floor. He aimed a broom at me and with it shoved me backwards.
‘Wait my good man!’ I started. ‘Tell me first, where am I?’
‘Welll…er…’ and then the stranger laughed, ‘I don’t really know meself,’ he said. ‘Now let’s stop this talking and be getting you back to your room! It’s more comfortable there. Don’t know why it is you wanted to leave!’
I was too weak to resist even this old figure of a man. He shoved me back into the cell where I began, vigorously poking me with his broom, and when I was back inside he put good strong cuffs around me feet and hands. ‘That will do,’ he said and brushed his hands on his coat. ‘I’ll fetch my old mate, Wretch, along. He’ll get some food for ya. Can’t have you been ‘ungry now can we? Ha! Can’t have that. And this place could do with a polish!’ he spat into a clothe and began wiping the walls with it.
As he worked he whistled, and shouted, ‘Wretch! Where are you? Wretch! This man wants feeding!’
I was surprised when his, mate, Wretch finally arrived, that he was in fact a great shaggy dog. The food, which looked to me like green slime, was on a dish the dog carried on string around its throat. The dog dropped the dish on my lap, dunked its nose in it, and walked away.
‘You’ll find you get treated well here,’ said the old man, wistfully and half to himself. ‘Better than most other hospitals you’ll find.’ When he said better, he looked at me precisely in the eyes with so fearsome a consternation I shrunk in on myself – trying everything I could to just disappear.
‘So I am in a hospital?’ I asked him, but he seemed to ignore me.
‘There may only be me and old Wretch working here, but that’s all this place needs. The best hospital, we have. I mean, just look at this place. You have good food to eat, you’ve got a clean room, and your comfortable as well.’
He got down to his knees, and tightened the cuffs around me feet. ‘There,’ he said. ‘Nice an’ comfortable. You’ll find you get looked after here.’
What sort of a hospital was this? I was so scared that I found the strength to try at the iron cuffs that locked onto my arms and feet. When the old man sucttled off somewhere, I crawled out into the corridor, and shouted, at the top of my voice, ‘Help!’ and I cried this twice, as loud as my voice-box would allow me. When my strength gave out, I collapsed in a heap, and lay there.
Moments later I heard footsteps in the corridor. To my horror, the old man was returning, the dog at his side. He was carrying his broom again, and was pointing it at me. ‘What’s this then, hey?’
‘Please!’ I cried, hoping my cries would force the man to take my prediciment seriously, ‘I just want to know where I am!’
‘Do you, aye?’ said he, in a very gruff and grim way. It seemed I had caught him at a bad time. ‘Well I can tell you where you ain’t,’ he said, and began to growl – i thought it was the dog at his side, initially; but no, it was the man. ‘I don’t run a hair saloon, my friend, or a cocktail bar. We don’t do manicures here. Oh no, sir. This is my hospital, my little place, and i run it my own way. You go along with the rules and you are treated well. Go against them, however, and, well, things get a little bit messy.’
That was when he grabbed me, with strange strength, and pulled me down the corridor, where i was led to a strange dark cupboard, strapped onto what had to be a type of pull down bed, which he then closed up and shoved me into the side of the wall.
Was this to be my fate then? To have managed the unimaginable – to have travelled through space - to another dimension...to be locked in a cupboard...?
The initial shock of my predicament was exchanged with the ancient biologically inbred human will to survive. I kicked and pushed and strained against my constraints, and when that failed I yelled as loud as I could for help.
And it worked! Moments later I was released from my confinements.
To my vast relief I did not see that mad old man and his dog standing before me, as I feared it was him who had released me at first. That he had returned merely to offer me more of his outlandish brand of torture.
My cooped up conditions had stifled me, and it wasn’t until I had regained full consciousness that I looked at last upon the face of my rescuer, to find, indeed, that it was no human stood before me – but an alien!
…I look upon the face of an alien…
Yes. It had to be an alien. It couldn’t be anything else. I know the old man and his dog I just met could easily have passed for aliens, at least, in their behaviour – but this new fellow, well, in his appearance he visually was alien.
He was of average size, I record him not being much taller than myself, and he was sapient in form. But his skin was silver and glittered; and his eyes were just small bright sparks! His hair had been cropped, and he had no ears, just holes; and in the middle of his chest, where his heart was, stretched a sheet of translucent material and behind it, a series of glowing wires, engulfed by a strange yellow jelly.
‘I will thank you for your help, now that I have my breath back,’ said I, to it. ‘I do not know what is going on, but maybe you can help me.’
‘You may call me Brill,’ said the alien, speaking in a piping, musical voice. ‘Brill-I-Aint, in full, and I was born to a shoemaker, apparently. My father was a brilliant craftsman! I never met him, of course, he was one thousand five hundred and five years dead when they cloned me from one of his eyelashes. But still, that ancient particle buried away in my sympathetic biological frame brings on old urges; my love of shoes, for example. I love shoes so much, you wouldn’t believe it. You are a very lucky person to wear shoes yourself,’ he finally said to me.
‘Why?’ I asked him.
‘Well, it’s just one of the problems of being biologically enhanced. I must be at least a thousand years ahead of you, in terms of my human artificial development. While you grew, I was made – in a tube. My skin on my feet is made of iron, so I don’t wear shoes; but I think of it, and always think of those quaint old ancient days, when people wore such things as shoes. Your life must be so exciting! All those wars and catastrophes you had – so very little ever happens these days.’
‘You are – human?’ I said to it, but it did not reply, and continued its reverie.
‘I wish I could have met my father, my real father, that is. But you never know; some paradox might bring us together sometime in the unforeseeable future or past as it were. One can never quite tell in this particular universe – which ways front to back.’
Though it was interesting to be able to speak to an alien, but the topic of conversation so baffled me I was eager to change it. So I said, ‘Where am I, and why was I imprisoned?’
‘It seems you’ve met Rhubarb Friddler?’
‘Who’s that?’ I said.
‘The old man that put you in here. Yes, his name is Rhubarb Friddler, and he is a stupid person. So stupid he has won a medal for it, you know? But don’t you worry about him. Thinks his in charge of the place, but he isn’t really. The rest of us find it wise to ignore him.’
‘I need your help,’ I said. ‘I had a friend, Doctor Kennsler. He and I built a rocket, and we were travelling through space, when we encountered something I think my friend called, a Black Hole. When we entered it, I think we must have been taken to another dimension. You must help me find my friend. He could be in desperate danger.’
‘Was he like you?’ said the alien. ‘What I mean is; was he sort of short and fat and very unimpressive looking, as you are, as are most of the people living in your age of history?’
‘He had a beard, so that might have made him look different to me, I suppose,’ I said to it.
The alien observed me, than, with his curious blue specks, and he said, ‘A beard? Is that some sort of apparel?’
‘It’s like hair, on the head, but on the face instead.’
‘Hair? ON the head? Oh that! Sorry I thought that was your hat. We don’t have hair, my people. Must of us don’t even know such a thing exits. I only do because I’m an historian.’
‘So have you seen him?’ I said, losing my patience with this strange, and as I thought at the time, slow creature. ‘Have you seen doctor kennsler?’
‘No. But I have read of him in a book.’
Good grief! I was at loss. The alien seemed intent on talking nonsense, and I could not drag even an inch of sense from it, so I tried some other question instead, with the hope that I might eventually prise some intelligence from this odd and slow creature. ‘Where am I? I mean, what planet am I on? Please, I just want to know where I am, and I would also like to know what year it is.’
The alien seemed to be totally overjoyed with being given the chance to answer my questions. ‘Well, there are no years, for starters,’ it replied cheerfully, ‘and where we are, as you just asked, as far as I am concerned where is wherever it wants to be. I mean, if there was such a thing as where, we would all get lost all the time wouldn’t we?’
I could have seriously cursed that creature, with its irksome riddles. The alien could obviously speak English, I could understand what it was saying and everything, but why it ever insisted on talking so unintelligibly left me utterly baffled. But then, I reminded myself; it was an alien after all and probably only in the early stages of learning a human language.
I decided to rephrase my questions, to simplify them, as it were; I would streamline my speech; synchronise our oratory, with the hopeful result that I might be able to eventually weld a common understanding between us. So I began by simply asking: ‘We, inside A Hospital?’
Studying my expression it laughed, and said, ‘Jokes are not my forte. There were never allowed to be. In fact, by my time, they had all gone out of fashion.’
I obviously wasn’t going to get anywhere with this dumb animal, so I decided to ignore the creature and plan my method of escape. There had to be some sane person nearby, with whom I could communicate, and learn something about my surroundings. I presumed I wasn’t on earth any more; so where as I? I had to find out – before I went mad.
=======to be continued=====