"Listen up!" The tour guide at the space museum announced with practiced authority. "Our friend, Burt, here has kindly tuned this telescope beside me on to the constellation of Sagittarius. The exciting thing about that is, Pluto is currently residing around the same location." A few groups of curious listeners began to wade over and take their turn.
Will Beaumont was interested. He had been admiring the enormous Planet Earth replica that took up most of the first floor lobby and was peaking up here into the second floor through the large opening in the center like a giant blue baby peering out over it's crib. Will loves it here. He loves the somehow audible but silent hum of the large air unit constantly recycling clean air. He loves the space shuttle replica hanging above the gigantic Earth. He loves that the second floor was almost all windows, with telescopes set up in intervals. He loves the feeling of endless exploration.
He really loves it here now because the love of his life, Lori Hollins was here. He was eyeing Lori from the second floor. His hands on the icy cold metal of the railing and soft blue carpeting under his tennis shoes. Her hair was standing on end from just recently palming a plasma ball and she was making her way up to the second floor.
Just at that time, Will heard the announcement and began making his way to the telescope to catch a view. He had a telescope at home and brought it out on occasions but it was nothing compared to the ones here at the museum.
The line for the telescope was thinning out. The tour guide was talking to his friend Burt, ignoring the ever growing number of tourist waiting to be toured. Will stepped up behind two other people and was there for a whole second when he was shoved from his right side. Hitching to the left, but not falling, Will turned his head in surprise but when his eyes landed on Toby Erickson he understood the transgression.
"After me, Loser!" Toby's voice was deep for a seventh grader but incredibly nasally. His curly red hair was so oily it had almost straightened out. He was wearing the same overalls he had wore everyday that year of school. Will imagined that they were two sizes up from the ones he had worn all year the year before. He poked one of his chubby fingers into Will's chest and sneered.
Will got his fair share of Toby all week at school, so here at his favorite place in the world he just raised his hands, shrugged and said, "Sorry, Toby." Smiled and took a half step back.
"That's what I thought." Toby looked like he had a chew in his lip but Will knew it was only his tongue.
Toby had his go with the telescope for a lot longer than Will thought reasonable but patience was the key to winning this battle. After a couple of minutes, beleaguered and bored, Toby stood up straight and turned his head toward Will. "This is stupid." He snorted a weird laugh. "It's just a stupid little white ball." He looked down at the telescope and then back at Will. Will's heart sank when he realized what was about to happen.
"Come on, Toby. Don't do.." That was all Will could get out before Toby grabbed the end of the telescope like he was opening a soda and moved it about six inches to the right. He stepped by Will, slapping him hard on the back, "Nerd." The tour guide and Burt were already gliding away with the huddled mass of people.
Will stood staring out the window onto the busy city street and smarting from his slap on the back. Disillusioned, he wondered why Toby was so mean all the time and felt a little bad for him. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Lori approaching but he could almost smell her intensely sweet perfume first.
"What's up, Willy?" She smiled.
"Just hanging out. They just had Pluto lined up here on the telescope but Toby messed.."
Her giggle was almost a laugh. "I saw that. He can be a real jerk most times but you can hold your own pretty well if I do say so myself."
He felt a warm wave sizzle over his entire body when he heard the compliment.
"Well, thanks but I have been holding myself my whole life." She was full on laughing now. This made him feel really good. "Well, maybe since I was like oneish." They were both laughing.
Will, already forgetting about the troubles of the past, had an idea.
"I bet I could find Pluto myself with just a bit of time."
"That would be so cool." She sounded genuinely interested.
He bent over and peered into the lens after first trying to move it as close as it was before Toby had been Toby. Naturally, the lens was a little out of focus. After a little fine tuning, like the knobs of a radio, the picture started to clear.
At first, Will couldn't believe what he was seeing. No, wouldn't believe it. He had the passing thought that maybe the telescopes here didn't actually work. Maybe they were small televisions and the entire thing had been faked. But he knew that wasn't true. He knew these were real telescopes because he's been coming here his entire life. He leaned up and looked up to the tip of the telescope to make sure that it was pointing toward the sky. It was.
"What is it?" Lori looked a little concerned.
Will didn't hear her at all. He bent back down and looked back through the lens. What he was seeing sent it's electric message to his brain but it just didn't compute. It was like seeing an old three story home, tall and narrow, tucked into a busy part of a modern city. It was amiss.
William Beaumont was staring at, with the power of a 20X magnification telescope, a man in a scuba suit. Just floating there, in open space, seemingly trying to swim. Will felt him looking directly at him. Will's eye started to blur from the force of which he was looking through the lens.
"Will, is everything okay?" Lorie was getting upset.
He stood back up, disoriented. "I, uh... I don't really know." He went back down for another view of the obscene and the man in the scuba suit was still there. Feeling like his brain couldn't make any thought comprehensible he stood up and took a step back, his mind reeling like a roll of blank film. Curious as to what could be causing this strange change in Will's behavior, Lori leaned in to take a gander herself. What she saw was a dead man. A dead man wearing a scuba suit. Large clumps of blood floated around the man's head like the inside of a lava lamp. Revulsion flooded her senses. She understood why Will had been freaked out.
Then she started shrieking. Shrieking and pointing to the telescope as she back away from it. The screams were finally muffled out by deep labored sobs as Lori's mother rushed to her side. Will was watching the entire scene unfold there his own lens now, like a dream. The guide rushed back toward the commotion but Lori couldn't catch her breath to form words. The guide grabbed Will by the shoulders and asked him something but he didn't hear what he said.
Then again, "Hey, kid. What is happening?" The guides face was accusing. Will solemnly pointed to the telescope and the guide looked at it doubtfully. Will told him to look for himself.
The guide leaned over and gasped. "Jesus Christ." He muttered at almost a whisper. After the fog of pure confusion fell off of him he quickly radioed to security to get upstairs and to call the police. The police arrived 5 minutes later and after looking through the telescope themselves they opted to call the Captain. The Captain contacted the Mayor who just so happened to have friends in the Senate.
With the speed that only the internet can provide, the news of the scuba diver in space went internationally viral. Conspiracy Theories ran amuck. Who he was, was the only thing people could talk about. Twitter had quickly dubbed him, "Scuba Steve." Amateur astronomers across the globe tuned in with their own telescopes on the dead floating diver. Telescope sales skyrocketed.
Politicians made the ordeal a partisan issue but NASA's only goal was to recover the forlorn diver from his dive into deep space. After some collaboration with other countries, NASA changed the course of the ISS and made a recovery attempt. They missed on the first pass but successfully recovered the body on the second. The identity of the diver was soon discovered but the mystery surrounding his transplant into celestial spaces would never be known to anyone except the diver himself.
Forty-three minutes before Will Beaumont saw the most incredible thing he would ever see, Dr. Scott Cooke and three of his colleagues were sitting on the edge of a small boat, in rough waters, off the coast of South Africa. The sun's brightness carried a weight with it. They had been working, weather willing, ceaselessly for almost two years, attempting to map all of the newly discovered underwater caverns here just off the coast. Kelp Gulls were making their annoying squalls while Dr. Cooke and friends struggled to get their oxygen tanks on in the side to side tossing of the waves. They had all already been layered in a salty brine. The ocean water was icy cold.
The dark waters in these parts were loaded with Great White's and Tiger Sharks, looking to make a quick meal out of a seal. Just a couple of miles around the coast, a small group was shooting a documentary and filming the sharks explode out of the choppy water and attack fake seals. Like crocodiles lashing up suddenly out of a river, sharks were perfect killing machines.
Here in the shallower water, Dr. Cooke wasn't too worried. The odds of a shark attack happening were 1 and 5 million. The odds of being struck by lightening were 1 and 500,000, and lightening never detoured him that much.
The water is dark. You can get a good sense of where you are after you have been under for weeks at a time but even the slightest loss in focus can be disorienting. Leaning back over the edge of the boat, Dr. Cooke is immersed in the chilly waters. His breath caught in his throat for a moment.
At the surface, the sun aided in making the water clearer, but just six feet below it becomes almost black. Dr. Cooke knew instinctively not to think about what couldn't been seen in that darkness. You don't want to open that door in your mind. Not when you need to focus. All three of the men in the water had a neon green glow stick tied around their waist.
Dr. Cooke lead the way down. The deeper they swam the colder the water around their bodies became. The pressure in their ears mounted. Three bright green globes glided down into the dark with long yellow beams coning out in front of them. Just fifteen feet from the surface, a rift in the sediment exposes a large black opening. The opening and the surrounding sediment only visible in the disc of the divers flashlights. Dr. Cooke, feeling the unfriendly cool water flow over his entire body, darted in first. The crisp oxygen filling his lungs from the tanks.
According to the numbers, the odds of a diving accident are set at 1 and 200,000. That didn't worry Dr. Cooke much. However, the odds of a cave diving accident was 1 and 3,826. That worried him quite a lot. By now he had racked up quite a bit of diving time and the cave diving time was mounting quicker than ever. You can only play the odds for so long, but he did this because he loved it.
They had estimated that they've mapped about 85% of the current cave formation. Today they were diving into a new maw in the caverns corridor. The deeper they went the more Dr. Cooke could feel the pressure from the surrounding water in his chest. He could also feel the mental pressure bearing down from the walls of the caves growing tighter by the foot.
At last they arrived at the new entrance they intended to map that day. Dr. Cooke looked back and at first was blinded by the flashlight behind him. Once his eyes refocused, the two other men were floating beside him. Their flashlights pointed at the ground. The only other lights was the radiance of the glow sticks and the small light that shined in their goggles, showing their dilated eyes.
Dr. Cooke gave an okay sign and the other two responded in turn. Pointing his light at a crevasse he hadn't seen before, Dr. Cooke motioned that he was going to give it a quick look and for them to dive on into the cave. They gave another "okay" and went to work. Dr. Cooke kicked his way over to the new bend in the cave to try and resolve the immediate bout of curiosity.
When Dr. Cooke was still several yards away he noticed a faint glow coming from around the bend. He stopped dead in his flippers and considered the possibilities. He wondered if there were Angler fish around here. He knew there wasn't because they would be in much deeper open water. What could it be? Treasure? Surely not. The odds of finding a gold coin were 1 and 100,000. Plus, gold was shiny but it didn't give off light. A giant pearl? The odds of finding a pearl were 1 and 10,000. Not terrible odds but pearls also don't give off light.
Absolutely bewildered, he concluded that he had to see what it was. Surely some self illuminating deep sea creature had gotten very lost. Looking back he could make out the strobes of a flashlight being worked while swimming. Closer to the bend, the light didn't brighten but maintained the same dull white luminosity. Gripping the rock wall with his free hand he looked around the turn with illuminated eyes.
He didn't know what he was looking at. It was a somber sphere of white light just levitating there. There wasn't much of a body to it, it was just sort of there floating in the water just as he was.
Perplexed, he slowly hovered a little closer and reached his free hand out toward the nearly translucent sphere when he began to fell a small tug on the tip of his gloved fingers. He brought it back. A chill ran down the length of his spine and he shivered.
He slowly raised his hand again completely befuddled by the entire thing. The slight tug on the tips of his fingers became a pull. The force now that had fully grabbed his fingers frightened him. Whatever this was, it was strong. He tried to pull his hand back but couldn't. The tips of his gloves began to stretch off the end of his hand, as if several invisible men were pulling it off at the same time by the fingers.
In an instant he realized it wasn't his gloves stretching out but it was his fingers too. He could feel them elongating. He let out a scream and his mouth piece came out with a foray of bubbles. Dropping the flashlight, he secured the mouth piece back into it's rightful place but now his entire hand was pulled almost to the max and the pain was incredible. He could still see the tips of his fingers but they had to be at least 15 feet away and on the inside of the sphere.
What were odds of this happening? Whatever this was. Now his arm was being pulled into oblivion and moments later his torso began to follow the path his arm had already trodden. All of this happened in seconds but to Dr. Scott Cooke it was hours. The pain was immense but had a numbing affect. When Dr. Cooke's entire body had been strained through the sphere a snapped happened. Dr. Cooke heard an audible snap, a blinding flash of light that made him hold his eyes shut as hard has he could, and felt his entire body crash back into it's normal size. The translucent sphere and Dr. Cooke vanished from the caves. His flashlight was left on and his green glow stick lay beside it making a halo on the ground in the black cave.
Just before curiosity got him to open his eyes he was aware that his tongue was on fire. Not literally but it was hot enough he thought so. Opening his eyes he seen he was looking at an entirely new view. It was glorious. He was looking down at Planet Earth. Absolute silence engulfed him. He was in total wonder. His tongue was boiling and the pain was unbearable. The shock of the pickle he found himself in just wouldn't let him fade.
The last few thoughts before he lost consciousness from the liquid and all his air being forced out of him went by in a flutter. He wondered what would his colleagues back down on his planet would think happened when he vanished. The passing thought that he was utterly alone came over him in his final moments. The knowledge that people have died must worst deaths comforted him and a smile spread across his blackening face.
He wondered what in the world the odds were of being sucked through a wormhole?