What's Past Is Epilogue (word count: 2532)

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    Margaret J Evans
    Participant

    I recently completed a Creative Writing module for the Open University. It’s been a few months since the course finished, and I thought I would share the last of the assessed pieces I wrote for said module.

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    What’s Past is Epilogue

    Dr Victor Brundle had been working on his teleportation technology for sixteen hours straight. He knew this because the digital clock that stretched across his laboratory wall kept reminding him of exactly how long it had been. Each one of the luminous green digits on that screen served to make Victor aware of the tiredness which was creeping up from his legs and into his back. Even his calendar, with its picture of a cat dangling from a tree, seemed to be mocking him.

    Victor glanced over at the machines he had been working on. They were oval shaped, and grey. Both pods had a single window each to allow him to look inside. The interior of the devices was bare, one light for any inhabitants was all the decor he had felt important enough to include. The pods were based on the same template, but Victor had made them by hand, so there were differences between the two. One was slightly rounder, and the grey on the other was more noticeably dull. It was covered in scratches from an accident that had occurred when Victor was installing the window.

    Thick power cables met their end at unique mechanisms which Victor had designed himself. The cables felt into metal sockets and held in place by clasps that looked like larger versions of something you might find on the cover of an old book. These clasps in turn were held in place by heavy duty bolts and a cap was screwed over them.

    Detailed readings from the pods were sent directly to Victor’s tablet, and he was not happy with what they were telling him.

    “That doesn’t make sense” he frowned and tried adjusting a couple of the parameters, but it didn’t make any difference.

    “STO…T” a voice rang out. Victor’s head jerked back and he looked around the room for what could have made the noise. He couldn’t see any obvious culprit and assumed he had been imagining it.

    “.OU….AVE….O…ISTEN TO ME!” that time Victor definitely knew he heard a voice. It was distorted, like a radio which wasn’t tuned in properly, but it was there.

    “Hello?” he called out “who’s there?” he was about to panic when he felt a lump in his pocket. It was his phone. Some video was playing on the screen and it was just loud enough for him to hear it now.

    “I must be more tired than I thought” he chuckled to himself “I should probably go to bed” that would have been the smart thing to do but Victor didn’t actually make any effort to leave.

    “Both pods should be functioning” Victor was alone in his lab. When he spoke out loud it was for the benefit of a camera which he had set up in lieu of speaking his notes into a recorder. He had never got on with handheld recording devices anyway; he kept losing them.

    “As far as I can tell the receptor pod is completely operational. The problem is the transmitter pod”. He looked over the readings that were being fed to his tablet “there seems to be some unknown signal causing interference with its projection stream”. He tried increasing power to the shielding that blocked out signal pollution, but that worked as well as it had the last five times (it didn’t). Instead the interference got worse. If he didn’t know better, he would think that it was actively resisting his attempts to get his inventions working.

    Victor was startled out of concentration, this time by the sound of metal hitting the floor. Victor looked towards the direction of the noise, and saw the power cables had been disconnected from the teleportation pods. He was sure he had secured them properly before he had started his tests that morning, but there were lying on the ground right in front of him.

    Victor examined the locking mechanism for any sign that it was broken somehow, but it was fully intact, and the cable fit back into place perfectly. The only way it could have come loose like that was if someone had removed it.

    “If I have a ghost in the building the leas it can do is contribute to the rent”. Satisfied that the power supply was locked into place again, Victor walked back to his previous position. The exact same clanging noise reverberated throughout the room, and once again it was because the power supplies had somehow freed themselves from the mechanisms specifically designed to stop this exact thing from happening.

    “Where teleporter pods are concerned. A steady power supply can be the difference between life and death” Victor snapped “that’s why I have designed these machines with locking mechanisms in place that will prevent the power supplies from disconnecting at an unfortunate moment” the complications that the power supply was causing would have been frustrating when Victor wasn’t at a crucial moment in his work, while having had very little sleep, but when all that was added he was downright seething. He was grinding his teeth, and the lids of his right eye were flicking uncontrollably, that always happened when he was stressed.

    “The only way I’m going to get to the bottom of this is by seeing what happens” Victor had never been more grateful that he had been recording every step of his inventions’ development.

    He opened the video feed on his computer, and skipped to the moment the cables had become unattached. When he saw what had happened, his face dropped.

    “That’s not possible”. He replayed the scene, then he replayed it again. After that he played it for a fourth time. Each time he watched the footage, the same scene played out before him, but he kept replaying it because what he saw defied belief. The power cable was moving itself. As if by magic the locking mechanism was being slowly unscrewed, the clamp then removed, and finally the cable pulled out of place. There was something deliberate to the pace at which it moved. It didn’t just fall to the ground. It pulled itself out, and slowly moved towards the floor as if it was being placed there by someone. The whole process looked how it probably did when Victor was disconnecting it himself.

    Once again, Victor attempted to re-connect the power, but this time there was resistance. Some invisible force was fighting him. It felt like something was trying to pull the cable away from its socket with just as much force as he was using to put it back to where he needed it.

    Victor put all of his weight behind the power connector in a last-ditch effort, and in response it pushed back against him with such force that he was pushed against one of the walls. The impact was soft enough that Victor wasn’t seriously injured, but it still hurt. His head was throbbing.

    Victor rubbed his eyes, trying to regain his focus. In his dazed state he thought he could see someone standing over him. His vision began to clear but the apparition didn’t vanish. It was like a silhouette of a person, only broken up like static. Its body kept shifting. One moment it would be short, the next tall. It was thinner, then somehow wider. It had what looked like skin, but it was black, and constantly shifting. Looking at it was akin to seeing a swarm of flies collect into a human shaped mass.

    “That was you. That sound, that wasn’t my phone, that was you” Victor felt stuck in place. He wanted to run away from the specter that was haunting him, but his body wouldn’t co-operate. It was only when the horrifying being before him thrust its, well it looked like an arm, towards him that Victor found it in himself to get off the ground and dart out of its way.

    “I don’t know if the camera can even see what I’m seeing” in truth, this wasn’t really the time to be talking to the camera as if he were collecting data, but Victor found that doing so helped focus his mind “it is currently between me and the door. What will happen if I attempt to go through it is uncertain, and I don’t wish to find out”.

    For all intents and purposes, Victor was trapped. He was going to have to think of something clever if he wanted any hope of getting out of this predicament.

    “Whatever it is, it’s currently standing still” Victor moved slowly across to his work bench, when he moved past his teleporters the thing let out a terrifying screech. The sound it made was fragmented, and somewhat metallic. It Victor’s ears. The obvious comparison to make was nails on a blackboard, but that would have been preferable to that horrible noise. It only ceased when Victor was no longer standing next to the teleporters.

    “So, it doesn’t like my teleporters” an idea came to Victor “Okay, okay I’ll dismantle it” he might have been imagining it but the beings’ body seemed to shift when he said that. It was still changing but it was doing so more slowly now, it was easily to get a sense of what it looked like. Victor moved slowly towards the pod, and using his tools, he pulled out one of the panels, twisting it so that it faced the other way. The being started to get restless again.

    “NO!” It had ‘seen’ what panel he was adjusting, and somehow it knew what he was up to. It lunged towards him. Victor hurriedly threw himself at the power cable and held it in place. Power surged through into the machine, lighting up the panel Victor had rearranged. It sent out a wave that hit the creature. It screamed and thrashed as its body slowly broke up into the air, like ink diluted in water. Burst of energy shot out of it. Hitting the wall and leaving angry, black marks all over the lab.

    “I D..T W… .O DIE” that last scream was chilling, and there was something odd about it. Victor could have sworn he had heard that voice somewhere before. Even after the apparition vanished, Victor didn’t feel entirely safe. He stayed still on the ground long after he was obviously safe, just in case his ordeal wasn’t really over. When at least he felt secure in the belief that his plan had worked, he turned wearily to face the camera.

    “The panel I adjusted was part of the system to keep block out interference from other signals. Since the interference spiked when that thing spoke, I hoped that the panel would get rid of it”. Victor was interrupted by the smell of fire. His calendar had caught fire”

    “One of the bursts of energy probably hit it” Victor muttered to himself as he extinguished it. “Considering what happened, only losing a calendar is probably a good result”. That whole experience was enough to convince him he needed to go to bed.

    “It may be a cliche to admit this” he said to his camera “but a good night’s sleep really does do wonders” Work on his teleportation devices went much more smoothly now. It was almost like that apparition, whatever it was, had been the only thing preventing them from working. The tests he performed were all extremely positive.

    “I think it’s time to become the first man to teleport” he spoke with a childlike glee as he stepped into the first pod. He couldn’t believe that this moment had finally arrived. As his invention came to life around him, he was lost in his fantasy of the moment; of what it meant to be the man who invented teleportation.

    He was so entranced by this fantasy that he didn’t notice the sound the machines were making, the flickering of the lights, or the strange crackling noise coming from the second pod.

    It was quite an angry crackling; the sound was followed by smoke seeping into the pod

    “Wait wha” he had finally noticed what was going on, but at this point it was too late. Not only was Victor’s body dispersed into energy, but he felt it too. He could feel himself being ripped apart from the inside. He felt the instinct to curl into a ball and found that he no longer had a body to curl with, and relief only came when he blacked out.

    Victor awoke on the floor

    “How did I get out of the pod?” Groggily he stood up and looked around. Considering what had happened the lab was in surprisingly good shape. He couldn’t even see where the smoke came from, though he was sure he would figure it out when he checked the pods over later. There was a strange sound ringing in his ears. It was like the sound of broken radio.

    “The laboratory seems to be fine” He looked around to see if anything had burned, but his laboratory was in the same condition it always was. From the recording equipment to the giant clock. Even the calendar was unburnt.

    “Didn’t that burn?” Victor was confused. He took another look at the calendar, but there it was. With all its notes and creases intact “I’m sure this burned. Maybe I need to have a lie down”

    Victor turned to walk to the door, only for it to open before he got there. Someone walked in, and Victor was going to demand this unannounced guest who they were and what they were doing there, but the person who entered the room was Victor.

    Victor couldn’t believe what he saw. It shouldn’t have been possible, but there, standing directly in front of him, was himself. He looked terrible. His eyes were glazed over, his posture was crooked, and he kept blinking. It looked like he did when he had been up all night.

    Since waking up Victor had felt a strange pain, but had been too afraid to check what it was. He looked down at his hands and saw that his skin was black, and constantly shifting. His body kept contorting. He now resembled a swarm of flies which had collected into a human shaped mass.

    Victor wanted to be sick, but he wasn’t sure if he actually had a stomach anymore, let alone the capacity to vomit. He felt like himself, but his body looked wrong. His vision blurred in and out of focus, and he had to fight to stop himself from passing out. He was in so much pain. It was as if his very atoms were being pulled apart.

    “It’s okay” he told himself, even though he didn’t really believe it “this doesn’t have to be over. I just need to get him, or me, younger me, to hear me”. Victor attempted to pull himself together, and yelled a warning.

    “STOP IT” his younger self’s head jerked to one side, and for a moment Victor thought it had worked, but then his younger self blamed the sound on his phone. Everything was happening just as it had before. Despite the attempts that Victor would make to save his life, his failure had already happened.

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