Read Immortal at the Edge of the World Online
Authors: Gene Doucette
Immortal at the Edge of the World
First published by The Writer’s Coffee Shop, 2014
Copyright © Gene Doucette, 2014
The right of Gene Doucette to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him under the
Copyright Amendment (Moral Rights) Act 2000
This work is copyright. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced, copied, scanned, stored in a retrieval system, recorded or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
All characters and events in this Book – even those sharing the same name as (or based on) real people – are entirely fictional. No person, brand, or corporation mentioned in this Book should be taken to have endorsed this Book nor should the events surrounding them be considered in any way factual.
This Book is a work of fiction and should be read as such.
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Cover Images - © depositphotos.com / a40757, © depositphotos.com / Binkski
Cover Artist - Megan Dooley
HIC SVNT LEONES
“Here are lions”
-Legend on the edge of Roman world maps
It took me a lot longer to meet with the physicist than I felt it really should have, possibly because I failed to appreciate how busy a physicist could be. I’m still under the impression that we’ve discovered almost everything there is to discover, and from my perspective this is kind of true. I was around back when we thought the stars were pinholes in a solid firmament, and when people thought the universe revolved around us rather than the other way around. I can remember heated arguments regarding whether a comet meant we had to kill the king, and if it was possible to turn base metals into gold. I’ve seen science explain a lot of things, is my point, to the extent that every advance nowadays seems like an inconsequential bump. That’s provided I even understand the advance, which is iffy.
I was never interested in
science, only in the consequences of what had been discovered, especially if the discovery made my life more convenient. This describes basically everything invented in the 20
century that wasn’t designed to kill people, and a couple of the things that were.
I had to go to Switzerland to meet with him. There are plenty of physicists hanging out in the United States I probably could have found that were slightly less busy, but this one in particular had written a book. In that book was something that made me think he might be helpful to me, so he was the one I felt I should talk to. The book was on pocket dimensions and parallel universes. If I was lucky, he was busy looking for them in Switzerland, when he wasn’t ramming particles together at high speeds.
This did not turn out to be the case.
“I’m sorry I kept you waiting,” he said, upon arriving at his amazingly unkempt office, which he appeared to share with six other people.
I shook his hand. “It’s fine. I’m sure you’re busy.”
“Always, but I can find time to speak to a donor, certainly. How can I help?”
He was an American in his midthirties, with the kind of engaging smile one expects to see on a successful author—as he was—more so than on a successful scientist. Scientists, in my experience, are most often looking either down at their feet or at something going on inside their heads, and can make little time for human eye contact. But I knew Newton, and I thought he was a jerk. That has probably colored my opinion on scientists since.
In the eyes of this particular scientist I was a wealthy donor to one of his pet side projects, which might have been why he was inclined to be personable.
“Well, I’ve read your books,” I said.
“Ah! All of them?”
“I think probably, yes. And I wanted to talk to you about other dimensions.”
“Of course. You mean, something that didn’t get covered in the book?”
“I guess that’s true, yes. I was wondering how one might travel between them.”
He laughed gently, in a way that managed to not make me feel stupid, which I appreciated. “Well no, you see these are bubble universes. We may live in one, and there may be another one beside ours, but there would be no way to travel between them.”
“No way at all?”
“You . . . understand that this book we’re talking about is largely speculative, yes? I’m putting forward a theory based on some ideas I had about entropy, and while the
are all supported by what we know, we are talking about, at best, a fanciful hypothesis right now. Proving it would be extremely difficult.”
“Because there’s no way to travel between the universes, and you can’t prove the existence of something you can’t find a way to experience.”
He nodded, but in a way that looked almost like he was saying I was wrong. “That’s more or less it, yes. It’s a great deal more complicated only because what we’re doing here right now in this building is testing for things we can’t directly encounter. What we can test for is the predictive consequences of the thing. In principle what you’ve said is accurate, but in practice we spend a lot of time proving things indirectly. My point here is only that we aren’t even at the stage where an indirect proof is possible when it comes to bubble universes.”
“I understand,” I said, somewhat aggravated either with myself or with him, I couldn’t tell for certain. The thing was, his book did say something very much like this but I wasn’t convinced I had understood it well enough. I could have sent an e-mail or a letter or placed a phone call to hear what I had just heard from him directly, but when you have a lot of money and a way to get into the same room with someone it is often hard to resist the urge to do so.
“Let me ask you something else,” I said. “Let’s say I once saw a person disappear.”
“A magic trick?”
“No, it wasn’t a trick. This person was standing in an open field, and then she wasn’t.”
His cheerfully helpful expression was starting to deteriorate into something akin to pity. “I would be entertaining a number of questions before coming to me, if I were in your situation.”
“Yes, I appreciate that perspective. Let’s say I entertained those questions already and after having done so I arrived in this office and told you, a scientist, that it is legitimately possible for a human being to exit this plane of existence materially and to reappear later. You—instead of telling me that I am hallucinating or suffering from a psychotic break or overdosing on sleep medication—believed me and then told me how such a thing could be possible. Can you do that?”
He smiled genuinely, and said, “Branes, perhaps.” Then he spelled it for me so I didn’t confuse it with
. For about a half a second I thought I was in for a zombie joke. “Brane is from the word membrane, and it’s theoretically possible we live within one.”
“Like the pocket universe.”
“Different than that. Forget the universe thing for a minute.”
“All right, how would this work, then? The disappearing.”
we live in a brane that is bounded by three physical dimensions, it’s
, in theory, that this brane is attached to another brane that is
bounded by three physical dimensions. And between them is another dimensional space called the bulk. Mind you, that is an extraordinary simplification of a highly complicated idea. I can certainly recommend additional reading for you if you are interested.”
“I’m interested, but this sounds roughly as made up as your pocket universes.”
“Branes are slightly less speculative. The theory was developed to resolve some experimental problems with elementary forces. If some of the particles that make up matter are allowed to travel outside a theoretical brane, the math works much better. Gravity works much better as well. It’s a little like connecting dots on a page by drawing a line that extends off the page. But I can’t even imagine what kind of science would be involved to make an actual
off the page. The energy required . . .”
“What if a person just did it on her own, with no equipment?”
He laughed again. “Well no. I’m sorry, I can speculate only so much but that just isn’t possible.”
I nodded, and smiled. I knew he was wrong, because I’d seen it done more than once and there was no machinery involved. But even if the answer to my question was in this brane
theory he’d just given me, the rest of what I was looking for would have to be found elsewhere. Knowing it was something within the realm of the possible from a scientific standpoint was comforting, but I needed more than that.
“All right, well, thanks anyway,” I said, standing.
He stood as well and took my extended hand. “I hope you find whatever it is you’re looking for,” he said pleasantly.
“It’s not a what, it’s a who. And thank you. I have a couple of ideas I haven’t tried yet.”
Along the Silk Road
I was surprised he would work with an elf, and told him so. “It’s not that I have anything particular against elves,” I told him. “It’s only that they are pathologically boring.”
Juergen Heintz was a pale, skinny man of uncertain age. If forced to guess I’d have put him in his fifties, but it was difficult to tell because his hair, while being mostly white, appeared to have begun as a sunny light blond, and also because it was not very bright in the room. He didn’t seem to be notably wrinkly, but that could have been as much a consequence of his staying out of the sun coupled with a good moisturizer.
I was meeting Heintz face-to-face for the first time despite a business relationship that went back at least ten years. His relationship with my money went back even further, although not as far as the bank’s relationship with it, which spanned at least one hundred thirty years. Heintz is my banker because the first time I contacted the bank in more than thirty years he was the one I was transferred to. When I gave him the necessary information to positively identify myself as the account-holder he didn’t hang up, call the police or the bank president, or any of the other things one does when confronted by someone who can’t possibly be alive. This is the kind of flexibility of thought I look for in people.