Aphelion Issue 275, Volume 26
August 2022
 
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Timeloop

by Tony Coles


The largest, noisiest mosquito I had ever seen circled above my bed. It sounded like a small buzz saw cutting through timber. As I watched, it suddenly seemed to make up its mind to attack me and dived straight at my face. I flinched and, throwing my arm up to protect myself, woke up. The mosquito was gone, but the buzz saw remained, not as loud as in my dream, but nevertheless loud enough to startle me from my post dream state to reality. At first, the sound seemed to surround me and the timbre was such that it got right inside my head, making my teeth tingle. As it slowly got louder and the pitch began to drop down the scale, I was able to place the source at the wall beyond the foot of my bed. As much as my senses told me that the sound was emanating from behind, or maybe inside the wall, my mind refused to accept that this was possible, because the spare room was on the other side and nobody was occupying it, nor was there anything inside it that could possibly make any noise whatsoever.

As I focussed on the wall, it began to glow faintly with a soft blue light, which, in synch with the increasing volume of the buzzing, gradually grew brighter. I was now convinced that I was still asleep and pinched myself to waken from this dream, which was fast developing into a nightmare. To my horror, I felt the pinch and nothing changed! "Oh God!" I gasped, "I’m not asleep, what the hell is going on?"

My whole body froze with fright and, as I lay, rigid as a corpse, the hair on my arms and legs began to stand up and then, the hair on my scalp literally began to rise, not out of fear, but because of what felt like a low voltage electric current passing through me. Maybe it was caused by the now deep, base pitch, of the ever increasing volume of sound, which seemed to vibrate the very air in the room.

The wall grew slowly brighter and bluer and began to present an appearance of depth, as though it was forming itself into a passage, or tunnel with a faint white light at its far end. A cold sweat began to form on my brow as I lay mesmerised, still unable to move and watched as a small fuzzy dot entered the far end.

Looking down that tunnel made me feel slightly disorientated, because the dimension of depth was somehow wrong. The far end appeared to be just on the other side of the wall but, at the same time, at the other end of the universe.

As the object in the tunnel approached, it began to take on the appearance of a shapeless mirage approaching at tremendous speed, at the same time nearing my side of the tunnel very slowly. The nearer it got, the larger it appeared to become, until it almost filled the tunnel completely. Every time I was on the verge of identifying its shape, it changed again, like the forming and dispersing of a thunder cloud in fast motion, as sometimes depicted on television and all the time the sound got louder and lower and the sonic vibration increased, until I was convinced the walls of the house would come tumbling down, like those of Jericho.

Just as it seemed to be about to explode from the mouth of the tunnel right into my face, the object appeared to solidify. I screamed in horror, expecting to be converted instantaneously into a bloody mess of bone and tissue, landing somewhere in my neighbour’s yard or, more likely, incinerated in a fiery explosion. I must have passed out for a second or two, because the next thing I remember is that the room had again become dark. The wall was no longer visible and that awful noise had stopped. From all appearances the terrifying events I have just described, had never happened! I lay in a pool of sweat, listening to my racing heart-beat slowly returning to normal. I was aware that my body was aching from tension as I tried to relax my petrified muscles.

My brain was in a whirl, trying to make some sense of what had happened. Just as I was starting to convince myself that it must have been a dream within a dream, that I had not actually woken from the mosquito dream, I heard a small sound in the room. At first, I thought I had imagined it, but, there it was again, a soft ticking, like hot metal contracting as it cools. I froze again as I listened and the ticking continued. Terror rose in my throat like a fountain and this time, instead of being paralysed with fear, I jumped out of bed and charged into the passage with one thought and one thought only in my mind, namely, to get as far away from the bedroom, as quickly as I could. By the time I got to the front door, I think my mind had decided to reject what it thought it had experienced, as impossible and therefore, there was no reason to continue to be afraid.

I turned and hesitantly walked back to my bedroom, turning on the light as I entered. The first thing I became aware of was the smell of hot metal; then, as I entered the room, I looked to the right and there it stood, on the floor between my bed and the wall. I suppose my mind was, at this stage, still too numbed to react emotionally and so the discovery of an object in the bedroom, which couldn’t logically be there at all and the shock of realising, that what I thought could not have happened, must, in fact actually have happened, was somewhat of an anti-climax. I collapsed onto the bed and stared at a four legged table, on which stood a small box with a catch, which appeared to hold a lid in place. The box was about 30 centimetres long by 25 centimetres wide with a height of about 20 centimetres. It seemed to be made of a smooth shiny metal or hard plastic and was a blue-grey in colour. The stand was made of the same material and the whole contraption stood about a metre high.

I must have sat staring at the box for at least ten minutes, my mind in turmoil. What the hell had happened? Why had it happened to me? What was I going to do? Eventually curiosity got the better of me and I got up, reached out, released the catch and, holding my breath, lifted the lid of the still warm box. What appeared to be some sort of helmet, took up most of the available space. A number of cables protruding from its top disappeared into a sort of metal ridge on the right inside of the container. Engraved into the surface of the ridge were three little graphics, showing a man picking up the helmet and placing it on his head.

The events of the night must have driven me a little insane because, without thinking, I lifted the helmet from its resting place and put it onto my head. At first nothing happened and I was just about to remove the headpiece, when my room dissolved into a thick mist. Instantly I found myself sitting at a desk made from what looked like the same material, as that of my nocturnal delivery. The room had no windows and all the walls, from floor to ceiling, consisted of what appeared to be banks of electronic equipment, covered in winking lights. My first thought was that I was on the bridge of a huge spaceship. Opposite me sat a man with grey hair, dressed in a flowing white robe which seemed to emit a faint blue glow. He smiled and began to speak, at least his lips moved, but his voice seemed to come from inside my head.

"Mr. Jones," he began, "Please accept my apologies for the ordeal you have been put through tonight. You cannot talk to me, because what you are seeing and hearing is a recording which is being fed directly into your brain. My language is not all that different to yours, but sufficiently so as to make this form of communication necessary. Please relax and I will explain everything. I know you are Christopher Jones, a brilliant scientist, who is doing research on lasers and sub- atomic particles and that you are very close to a breakthrough. How do I know? Well, you see, I live in your far distant future and our history records that your research will result in the invention of the ultimate weapon."

At this, I nearly ripped the helmet from my head. This was rubbish! My research had nothing to do with weapons, but curiosity kept me listening.

"Yes, I know you are shocked," he continued, "but please hear me out. Your research is being closely monitored by your government, who are poised to hijack it as soon as you have solved certain problems, which you are on the verge of doing. Thereafter, the data will be used to produce the most destructive weapon man has ever known. If this is allowed to happen, the earth will be destroyed in a war and the future of the human race will be non-existent. Over the centuries, man has developed and almost become what he was created to be. There is no more war or violence. Pollution, hatred and poverty are things of the past. Earth is now as near to Paradise, as it is possible to get without actually being there. As you must now realise, Christopher, you literally hold the future of all mankind in the palm of your hand. You alone can ensure that humankind survives, to reach its destiny. If you proceed with your present research, the earth will be destroyed."

"Please do not try to understand how it can be, that because the future already exists, you can, by your actions in the present, change what already is. We have only now begun to understand Time loops. Believe me, what I am going to ask you to do, is as vital to your future, as it is to ours. When this message finishes, please look at the bottom left of the container and you will see a small lid. Lift it and swallow the small white capsule you find there. All it will do is remove your ability to proceed with your current research. It will have absolutely no other affect on you, whatsoever. You must then go to your laboratory and destroy all your latest research data, so that it cannot be used by anybody else to produce a weapon. If you fail to do what I ask, we will have no option but to take other measures to preserve our existence which, regretfully, will be fatal to you. We beg you not to place on us, the awful burden of having to take this option."

Suddenly, I was back in my room and my hand automatically reached for the hidden pill. Immediately thereafter, the box and stand began to evaporate like a mirage.

####

Early the following morning I went to my laboratory and fudged critical data. A week later, I reported to my sponsors that my research had reached a dead end and resigned. I now teach Quantum Physics, at a University far removed from where I did my research. Six months have passed since that eventful night and no further strange things have happened.

The grey-haired man had said that they would kill me if I continued my research, and given the level of technology they demonstrated, I had to take the threat seriously. But I had no reason to believe that the pill would only affect my ability to work on a specific line of research. So long as I stay away from the application of lasers to particle physics, they should have no way to know whether I took the pill or not -- unless, of course, they are watching for reports of my death or incapacitation, if that is what the pill is really meant to accomplish.

Of course, with no research project to keep me occupied, I find myself thinking that there are other ways to manipulate subatomic particles...

THE END


© 2008 Tony Coles

Bio: Tony Coles is a senior citizen who has always wanted to write. He is hard at work on a short novel and has written about six short stories (only two of which are science fiction/fantasy). A friend who has been published by Aphelion persuaded him to submit this story -- his first attempt at breaking into print (or HTML, anyway).

E-mail: Tony Coles
Website: jaimie l. elliott

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