tagRomanceThe DReAMers Pt. 03

The DReAMers Pt. 03

byIan56©

The Northern night sky slowly rotated above us inside the great astronomical dome of the Magellan Planetarium as the audience sat listening to the Astronomer in residence as he talked about all things Universal and our place in it.

The auditorium was packed for his monthly lecture and I had been lucky enough to get a seat to the rear and I sat there listening intently as he turned to the particular themes and subject which had come to interest me the most.

The Astronomer came to the front of the platform with his microphone. "We all know the three dimensions in which everything exists but, for me, things get really interesting when we consider the fourth dimension and add that to the mix. And the fourth dimension is?" he asked the audience who responded with various people shouting back at him.

"That's right. Time. Time is the fourth dimension. If you want to turn your brain to mush, there are other theories that suggest more dimensions beyond even these four but that discussion is for another day when we've all had a few too many!" he laughed.

"We can observe the first three by simply moving forward or back, left or right, and up and down. Time you can't see but we know it's there because we've created a system to measure it."

He took a swig from his bottle of water and continued on the same theme. "Through seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades, centuries, millennia, epochs, periods, era, and eons, we know that time is passing for us. Just look at a watch or a clock. Now wouldn't it be the most amazing thing to be able to move in the fourth dimension in the same way we can move in the first three. This is where theory comes in. In physics, it is theoretically possible to be able to do that. The trick is to invent something that allows us to do it. A machine. A machine that can move in time."

I sat forward in my chair and listened intently.

"Now, if I asked you who you thought my heroes were, you'd probably say it would be some famous Astronomer or Physicist like a Copernicus, Kepler, Herschel, or Newton, someone like that. Though those men have influenced the course of my life and the career I've decided to pursue you'd be wrong. My hero is someone you may or may not have heard of. My hero is Doctor Who."

There was a light murmur of amusement from the audience and the Astronomer laughed and gave a thumbs up.

"Aha, I see we have a few old school PBS fans in here tonight. People with good taste," He grabbed a stool and sat on it, "Yes, my hero is Doctor Who. Now for those of you who don't know who I'm talking about, Doctor Who is a British science-fiction tv show that first aired way back in 1963 and is still on the air here today in 1990.

That's nearly twenty-seven years it's been going. Amazing, huh? Doctor Who is an alien time traveler who comes from the planet Gallifrey. He looks just like us but he has two hearts and the ability to become someone else when his old body wears out even though he remains, essentially, the Doctor. Now on that planet are a special group of people called Time Lords who have the ability to travel anywhere in time and space using a machine called a TARDIS. Anyone know what that stands for?" he asked looking around.

A woman near the front put up her hand and answered.

"That's right," he nodded, "Time and Relative Dimensions in Space. A TARDIS is a special kind of time machine because it can not only move forward and back in time, it can also move in space as well. Unlike, say, the time machine in H.G Wells famous book which could also move back and forth in time but not in space. That machine would have to be physically moved from its fixed point. Which is what happened when the Morlocks discovered it and dragged it into the Great Sphinx.

But the interesting thing about Doctor Who is the way it handles the nature of time itself. Its premise is simple. That the past, present, and future are already there for the Doctor to visit and explore. Think of time being like a great big book with billions upon billions of pages with each page describing a moment in time and you can go there in the blink of an eye no matter where or when it is. Past or future.

Think how far the human race has progressed since the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution. The great technological strides we've taken as a species. Now extrapolate that relatively short period of time a thousandfold into the far future. Imagine what the world will be like a hundred, two hundred, five hundred or even a thousand years from now.

Now consider that sometime in that future, someone or something could have invented a machine which a person or persons could sit in and go explore time and space. A future where science-fiction becomes science-reality.

But that raises another interesting question. If it is possible and has been theoretically done, then that means there could be people from the future traveling throughout time and space right now. For all I know, there may be a time traveler sitting in this auditorium listening to me right now. Which is kind of scary because to them we've just crawled out of the swamp intellectually wise," he laughed.

I glanced around at the people sitting near me as they sat listening to the Astronomer continue on his lecture. I eased back in my chair and looked up at the projected heavens above me. From magic comes wonder that leads to an understanding that gives life to reality. I closed my eyes and let my mind wander wherever it wanted to go.

It had been seven years since the last encounter.

Seven long years since I had seen her.

Back when I was eighteen.

Maybe I would never see her again.

That possibility was something I didn't even want to think about.

At least I still had the photo.

***

"Sweetie Pie!!"

The woman grabbed me in a bear hug as she tried to squeeze the pips out of me. I stood there on the doorstep as Mom got her Mother's suitcase and bags from the boot of the car.

"Hey, Gran," I winced as she grabbed my face and gave me a big juicy smacker on my right cheek, "How goes it?"

She held me at arm's length and looked me up and down. "My, how big you've grown!" she gasped, "I still can't believe you've just turned eighteen. Rugged and handsome too!"

I stood there letting her get over her sugar rush as Mom came up the driveway rolling her eyes to the blue sky heavens. "Mom.."

Her Mother looked over her shoulder and waved a hand dismissively. "Oh shush you," she said, "It's been nearly three years since you moved away and you're always too busy to come pay a visit. Not even to see Grandpa."

"Grandpa is six feet under," muttered Mom as she pushed between us and hauled the luggage into the kitchen.

Grandma snorted. "That's no excuse, Helen. No excuse at all!"

Sticking out her chin, she marched past me with a loud "Humph!"

This was definitely going to be one of those weeks.

***

For the first couple of days of her vacation, Gran and Mom did the Mother-Daughter thing where they caught up on all the gossip and how each of their lives was going.

I sort of let them get on with it. Only really being around for dinner and late evening chats before we all headed off to bed. Gran was the sort of woman you could tell a secret one minute and by the next, it would be on the front page of the local newspaper or TV news. Since the passing of Grandpa four years ago, she had grabbed life by the short and curlies and was definitely making the most of her new found freedom. Anyway, it had been pretty much an open secret that whatever spark had been between Gran and Gramps had long since gone out years before he died.

Still, Mom was making the most of her time off from work and taking Gran for shopping trips and longer drives so she could see the local landmarks and do a bit of sightseeing.

It was on the third evening of her trip when I came home late from College and found the pair of them in the sitting room with a whole bunch of old photo albums open on the coffee table.

"Where are these from?" I asked as I dropped my bag at the side of the sofa and flopped down in the chair next to it.

Gran looked up at me. "Oh, these are mine. They're the old stuff I found in a box in the attic after your Grandpa passed on. You know what he was like. He never went anywhere without his camera. Some of these I haven't seen in ages and I thought I'd bring them with me to show you them."

"Sure," I smiled, "I'd love to."

So for the next hour or so I sat there listening to them reminisce about the good old days and tell their stories to go with each photo in the album. Most of the photos were stuck down but there were also some in their original packets along with the negatives.

I had gone to the fridge and grabbed myself a beer and came back to find Mom going through a bunch of pictures. She laughed suddenly and held up a faded color photo of a little boy splashing around in the shallow end of a paddling pool.

Mom read the inscription on the back. "Harry. Back yard. Aged 5"

Aged 5, huh. I was such a serious looking little thing back then as I took it from her and looked at it. I couldn't remember that happening at all as I handed it back and she put it on the pile.

"I hear you're starting a new job next week," Gran said suddenly.

I nodded. "Yeah. Looking forward to it."

"George always said it was a good thing to get a trade as soon as possible," she said, nudging Mom, "Enough of the school stuff. Get out there in the real world and do something you like doing."

"Well," I smiled at her, "I guess that's what I'm about to do. It's with the County Electricity grid working as a grunt to start with. Qualify in about six months and hopefully get kept on so I can work my way up from there to be a Linesman."

"Isn't that a dangerous job and all?" she asked with a frown as she reached for another packet of old photos.

I shrugged. "It's only dangerous if you're stupid, Gran."

Mom laughed. "Harry has more common sense than the whole family put together."

Which was true enough. I never was one to push the boat out.

Gran suddenly looked up. "Ohhhhh," she exclaimed as she looked at the photo she had just taken out from the envelope, "I remember this one. It's when Grandpa and I took Harry to the seaside for the day. He must have been about six when it was taken. Do you remember, Harry?" she asked as she handed me it, "There was that strange girl who said hello."

It was like everything happened in slow motion as I turned the photo over and my heart jumped into my throat when I saw what it was and who was on it.

My mouth dropped open in surprise as I stared at the girl who was kneeling beside a six-year-old me and looking directly into the camera with those deep blue eyes.

Holy shit.

It was her.

The girl.

I looked up to find Gran and Mom looking at me curiously.

"Are you alright, hon?" asked Mom, "You look like you've seen a ghost."

There was no doubt now. There in my shaking hand was proof she was real.

"Gran," I muttered, "Do you have the negative for this one?"

Gran emptied the envelope on the coffee table in front of us and rummaged around looking for the matching strip of negatives.

"Here we go," she said as she pointed to the third image on the length of film she was holding.

I took it from her and held it up to the light. I could see three white silhouettes standing there together on the beach. Me, Grandma, and the girl. "Is it okay if I go into town tomorrow and get a copy of this?" I asked her.

"Sure, sweetie," she replied, "Do whatever you want with it."

My gaze returned to the six by four photo in my hand and I felt the most incredible sense of euphoria mixed with shock wash over me.

The girl was looking at me from my distant past. It must have been about twelve years ago when it had been taken. And she looked exactly the same as when I last saw her less than a week ago when I had chased her into that alley and she had disappeared.

The image had slightly faded and some of the detail had been lost but it was good enough for me. I had so many questions and I realized that I might not find the answers no matter how hard I looked for them.

The most important question of all was why was she in my life?

Was something going to happen to me?

***

"Are you ready?"

The girl stood next to her ship as it powered up.

"No."

The man smiled.

"No one ever is or ever will be," he nodded.

The girl looked at him.

"But nothing is going to stop me doing what I have to do."

"Then he's a very lucky man."

The girl stepped into her machine and prepared for the trip of a lifetime.

***

The galaxies, stars and gases that made up the center of the Milky Way curved majestically across the December night sky as the station wagon rolled from side to side with the engine gunning hard as the tyres fought to find any grip in the ice and snow as we made our way up route 33 towards Hobart and the main station there.

"Sonofabitch," muttered Mitch as we hit a rut that bounced us both off our seats as he wrestled with the wheel, "I can't see Jack Shit in this crap," he muttered, "How far?" he asked as he chewed on his stubbed unlit cigar.

I turned my attention to the map I was holding and made sure I knew exactly where the hell we were in this storm. It was really blowing hard with sheets of fresh snow blasting against the windscreen with the wipers working overtime so that we could at least see something in front of us. The last two days had seen whiteout conditions as two cold fronts came down from the North as Winter finally woke up.

"Keep going where you're going," I told my crew partner, "Another mile or so. Park up next to block one and I'll go unlock the security gate."

"Roger that," the older man said. Mitch Wade was as gruff and surly as they came but when push came to shove, he was a stand-up guy who knew the job inside out and someone you could rely on. He was a big dude. At thirty-five, he was over six feet tall with an unkempt red shagpile on his head that was matched by his thick beard and mustache. The guys called him "Chewie" for obvious reasons.

"Alright," he said as he glanced at me, "There it is. Let's hope this one is just a bypass sucker, huh kid!" he grunted as he pulled to a stop.

He always called me "kid" when we were together on a shift even though I was his immediate superior in the food chain. I guess to him I was a kid at twenty-five but there had always been that mutual respect between us in the two years I'd been in charge of a work crew.

Opening the wagon door, I jumped out to find myself up to my yellow weatherproofs in about ten inches of packed snow with the stuff still coming down. Pulling the thickly padded jacket closer around me and zipping up the neck to just under my chin, I grabbed my hard hat and strapped it on as I slammed the door shut and made my way to the chain link security fence and padlocked gate.

Behind me, Mitch grabbed the gear from the rear and made his way over holding on to his hat. "Holy shit, it's like fucking Hoth!" he shouted as we both laughed.

"Yeah," I shouted back, "Watch out for them AT-AT's."

I took out my set of master keys and, after a couple of tries, undid the padlock so we could make our way into the installation and check the circuits. Mitch entered first and I could hear him switching on the generator to power up the lights.

The snow was relentless as I looked up into the slate grey skies wishing I was back home with my feet up in front of a roaring fire.

There was just something so primeval about a forest at night as I stared out into the snow covered trees which surrounded us on all sides. Above me, the cables were frosty white and slung low because of the extra weight on them as they disappeared into the mist to take power to wherever it was needed.

Looking around, I suddenly had the strangest feeling that we weren't alone out here in this desolate place. It almost felt like we were being watched. I gave my head a shake. Over the years, I had experienced that same odd feeling now and then but nothing ever came of it. It had been nearly eight years since the incident and time had done little to dull and lessen the memory of it.

It had been six months since the lecture but the words from the Astronomer would always stay with me.

"The most important thing to a traveler in time is to merely observe and the number one rule is never ever be caught."

I pressed a gloved hand on the left side of my padded jacket where I kept my wallet with a copy of that photo inside. The image was burned into my mind. God knows how many hours I had lain in bed just staring at it. I knew, in my heart, it was not a matter of where she was but when.

"C'mon, asshole," I muttered to myself, "Just do the damned job and go home."

In the distance, there was the first rumble of thunder.

***

"Fuck." muttered my co-worker.

Yeah. Absolutely.

"Looks like fifteen, twenty-three, and thirty are down. All the rest are showing juice in the green with thirty-six under strain and blinking," sighed Mitch as he checked the main switch box, "Relay is down upstairs. Iced up probably. I'll get the wagon and head up country to get the lines running again. Weather report says it's going to be clear until tomorrow when another front comes in."

I shook my head. "No," I said, patting him on the shoulder, "You take care of the station and relay and I'll do the line repair. That thing weighs a ton and you're bigger than me, dude. Fifteen feeds Wiltsberg. As long as that one gets done, we should be okay until the sun comes up."

Mitch started to object but I held my hand up. "That's an order."

He took off his hard hat and ran his gloved hand through his thick hair. "Okay, Boss. Whatever you say," he nodded as I grabbed the gear and slung it over my shoulder as he handed me a walkie-talkie.

"Don't forget this," he grunted, "Keep me posted and don't do anything stupid. You got that, Boss?"

I grinned at him. "You're giving me shit?" I laughed as he slapped me on the back, "I'll be back before you realize I'm gone," I looked at him, "I'll be fine. You're buying the beers when we get back."

With a last check of my outfit, I stepped out into the snow and made for the wagon.

***

The yellow wagon turned off the highway and headed into the interior with its rotating amber lights on the roof flashing in the darkness.

I gripped the wheel with the sound of radio chatter filling the cab as I glanced at the map which lay open on the passenger seat. Alright. Where the hell was I? Route fourteen. Fifteen. Here we go. The first pole should be just up ahead.

I pulled to a stop and grabbed the detailed schematics for the area trying to read them in the orange glow of the cab light. I hoped to fuck the line had simply been yanked from its couplings inside the junction box and hadn't snapped further along its length.

At least the snow had stopped as I jumped out and stumbled around to the rear and pulled open the boot to grab the gear to do the job. Slinging the heavy bag over my right shoulder, I reached up and switched on my headlamp and took an industrial flashlight for good measure. Making sure the wagon was secure, I turned and began to walk the thirty yards or so where the pole loomed in the misty dark.

The line had come away from the junction box so it would only be a matter of reconnecting the clamps back onto new bolts that would replace those that had sheered and radioing Mitch to feed a stream of juice through it to make sure it could handle the load. Checking that the line was dead, I looped the end over my right shoulder and secured it to the clips on my harness. A few minutes later, I had strapped the spikes onto my boots and wrapped the climbing strap around the thick wooden pole.

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