Background: Writing group assignment. Write a short story starting with Kathy had just arrived home to find the front door ajar. Words required 1200, used 1129
There was only enough time for two bars of the Nokia tune to ring out in the night before Kathy stabbed it to silence by hitting the answer button. This was the second call. She was terrified but she knew she had to answer. ‘What to say’? thoughts racing… ‘Say what’?
“I was about to phone you. Honestly I was. I had the phone…”
“The door is closing Kathy” – ‘God the gravel in that voice’ “You must go through that door before it closes – forever”. The words that cut her short were uttered, brusque and clipped – but not unkind. Disembodied perhaps? Somehow fully in charge. Kathy did not understand where it came from but instinctively she knew this was the collective voice of, everybody.
“The light coming through the door crack is weird she heard herself saying. It changes colour all the time”.
“The fabric has become unstable Kathy. You must walk down the drive and enter the house – immediately” Gravel-voice again – in total command.
“I – I’m afraid” ‘God – how can my heart pound like this’? “I’m scared”
“You should be Kathy. You caused this to happen”.
“I can’t do it”
“You hold the past and the future of all of us in your hands Kathy”
The driveway seemed to stretch and twist as she walked it. Bushes danced around. Distances were changing. The light from the door was amber, then suddenly red then amber again then purple. But it was not just the colour of the light – the texture of the light was changing too. it was mellow and soft then all of a sudden it stabbed out at her eyes. She was shaking by the time she reached the door. This was not something Kathy wanted to do but she knew she had no option. She could feel the air pressure buffeting her about and the ground under the house seemed to heave a bit. She knew the gap was closing. Closing for her, closing for everybody, closing for the whole world – closing for reality as everybody understood it. She steeled herself and stepped forward, pushing the door open and walking into the maelstrom.
There were forces – sensed not understood. She was being physically tossed about like in an aeroplane in serious turbulence. The light was intense, flashing, pulsing cycling through the rainbow. There were dark moments too but when it was dark it was burning hot, or freezing and then the light would come again. She could vaguely discern the shapes of a room beyond the experience but the shapes were vague, pulsating, changing. Objects twanged apart from each other then rushed together again. There were sounds too. Harsh grating sounds, then incredibly beautiful music, and voices that echoed and came and went in intensity. They all seemed to be calling out her name. Kathy could make out a clock on the wall. She could see the hand on the clock spinning then dragging then spinning backwards. The edges of everything were jagged and changed constantly. And it all seemed to be accelerating. The shock was enormous and Kathy almost gave up. She almost allowed the madness to overwhelm her. She thought it would be easier just to let it take over her mind and destroy her. But the voice from earlier came to her again. The gravel voice. The voice that instructed. This time it did not come through the cell phone. It came from all around her. “Kathy – you must go on. The door is closing. The fabric is being stretched. Reality will soon be destroyed.”
Kathy’s mind was slipping away. It was in total overload but when the gravel voice commanded, she mustered the last of her strength and pushed forward through the cacophony.
Things around here seemed to stabilize. The sounds and lights were still there, still pulsing and changing, but they were somehow less intense now. She could see the room ahead of her. It was still swelling and shrinking but it was more stable and she could recognize it as her laboratory. She could recognize the orderly experiments in various corners and the methodical graphs and calculations on the walls. But most importantly she could see herself in front of her own eyes. Her body rigid, frozen in its seat. Immobilized. Possibly dead? And in front of the Kathy body in the room she could see the Gravity-wave experiment. The enormous glass sealed box which contained no air. The box was mounted on a complex suspension system that she had designed to cancel out any movement inside the box induced by external vibrations or interference. She could see the Magnetically floating steel balls inside the glass box and she knew they should be hovering in perfect suspension without a shake or a shudder. But the balls were not hanging still. They were vibrating wildly. Her gravity wave experiment, set up to detect minute disturbances in the cosmos, was causing the vibration. But the vibration was much, much stronger than her mathematical predictions had forecast. And the amplifiers were picking up the exaggerated movements and magnifying them further. And Kathy understood, with absolute clarity, that it was these magnified gravity waves that were shaking the very fabric of space-time itself. That’s why distances were varying. That’s why time itself was oscillating and making the clocks spin. And Kathy realized with terror in her heart that the process was escalating. It was out of control and in only a few more moments it would be beyond reversal. Space-time would be destroyed. Reality would be destroyed. The big bang would never have happened. There would be – no universe. Her brain was reeling. She was spinning in and out of consciousness. With one last, superhuman effort, Kathy covered the distance to the machine, and hit the red emergency button to switch it off.
Instantly, there was only one Kathy, standing in her laboratory. Everything was normal. Everything was stable again. It was as if nothing had ever happened. She walked out into the passage and looked towards the front door. It was shut tight. She unlocked it and opened it and outside the birds were singing and the trees were green. How wonderful thought Kathy. Everything will be OK now.
To this day though the world talks of the miracle town of san Chico, somewhere down South on the American mainland. No-one has ever been able to understand how nothing seemed to happen but one morning in Wayland street, outside the house of the mad scientist woman, the street lights that had always marched in a line down the right hand side of the road, were now on the left.