Fiction Science Fiction Speculative

   “Did you see that?”

   “Let’s see,” the director said, drawing out the long ‘ee’ vowel. “An anomalous source of gravity outside a galaxy with no perceptible source… Hm. I’d say you hit another patch of dark matter.”

   Dr. Cassius Langdon twisted his mouth slightly, cogitating. “Considering observations over the past three months, there’s been a noticeable uptick in the gravity in these specified areas.”

   “Uptick? You mean there's a density of matter that's unaccountable?”

   “Well, yes, but I don't know if it's something unaccounted for.”

   “Then you're questioning whether it's preexisting or not.”

 Langdon ignored the tacit dismissals. “Possibly. On the other hand, the amount of matter is too thin to be quantified as an extragalactic dust cloud for example, but,” and he zoomed in on the depth of field, “we've detected ionization which indicates a high-energy collision, an outgassing of sorts, in this case a stream of hadrons slamming into a cloud of mostly hydrogen gas that’s only getting bigger as we speak.”

   “And still no proof of an energy source, even if whatever's responsible could be hiding somewhere behind it.”

   “The cloud isn’t dense enough to hide anything that massive, despite the noticeable elevation in gravity.”

   The director looked circumspect, still facing the image. “Then where do you suppose this outgassing came from? It doesn’t seem to make any sense if you ask me.”

   “It doesn’t if we rely on conventional logic. Now, check this out,” he said, scrolling to five inserts containing images inside and outside of the Milky Way. “The same phenomenon is happening in these isolated examples. All time-lapsed for your convenience.” The images looked the same, but the gravitometric data changed.

 “The registry's increasing alright. Interesting. How much extra mass can amount for that kind of change without some identifiable source?”

   “That's what I've been trying to figure out.”

   “Yet, you say that something similar is happening in all these disparate areas.”

   “According to analysis, there seems to be a connection. This region here,” Langdon pointed to one of the inserts, “is clearly within bounds of our galaxy, and it would make sense to attribute the leakage to an undetected attractor. After all, anything could be hidden in the dust lanes along the galactic plane, not to mention the hundreds of billions of stellar objects, yet all analysis claims this phenomena is completely isolated. Nothing detected within several parsecs of this quadrant could help explain the rising mass we’ve been seeing.”

   “So, what you’re telling me is that all this quantum output is coming from nowhere essentially.”

   “What evidence do we have to the contrary?”

   The director’s expression remained impassive, but there was a mark of hesitancy. Langdon took note.

   “It doesn't mean we'll never find a plausible answer. What do you suggest?”

   Langdon closed his eyes, praying to himself his career wasn’t hinging on a crackpot theory that could be explained faster than he could hold on to his job. “I collaborated my readings with some of the crewmen, and drawing upon our initial guesswork,” he said as the director glanced disapprovingly at the rest of the staff in the room, “there’s a strong chance––and there’s no certifiable evidence apart from theory for the moment––that the leakage stems from a possible rift in space itself.”

   “And so, it bleeds into our universe, as if if I poked a water balloon with an awl.”

   “That’s my conclusion…pro tem, of course.”

   “From where?” The director flicked his shoulders

   Langdon lightly shrugged. “I wouldn't know. From another universe, perhaps?”

   “The question, though, is why? Wouldn’t universes be self-contained?”

   “Not necessarily. Imagine one so over-viscous with matter, by osmosis, it begins to unload all its excesses into the next available vacuum.” He languidly put his hands up. “It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense until you’ve burned through so many possibilities within the realm of known physics, that you’re left with what’s lying around in the lunatic binge.”

   “It would be the bottom of the barrel for sure. That is if there are other universes.”

   “You’re right. I won’t belabor the point, but for now we'll leave that option on the table until further evaluation. Chances are against it anyway,” he said, gently tipping his head to the side, then in sotto, “But I hope not…”

   “Rather extraneous. This hairbrained theory of yours might not sit well with the scientific communities.”

   “New ideas never do––” Langdon saw the way the director was knitting his brow. “By the way, am I on thin ice for this?”

   The director made a fleeting smirk. “It depends on how long you wanna skate.” And with that quip he left in a frustrated huff.

   With his reputation on tentative grounds, he tried to reassure himself and mulled, Then if I’m right, at least that’ll put dark matter in the bag!

   The following day, Langdon was called into the administrator’s office. When he ambled in, he was met with the director, along with a video chat filled with the likes of the Astronomical Society as well as a few municipal bureaucrats spread across the back wall. What they all had in common was that they were facing Langdon from their respective screens. The looks on each face were plaintive at best. Reluctantly, he sat himself down at the behest of the Director’s wave of the hand.

   “Apparently,” began the Director, “we’ve got a few guests interested in a few of your findings.”

   “I can certainly see that.” Langdon knew what he was in for but remained steadfast in his convictions despite the Director's smugness.

   “Well, Mr. Langdon,” an elderly member of the council for the astronomical society barked, “if we aren’t here to be entertained by the idea of two separate universes crashing into one another in a drunken incident, perhaps we can get down to business.”

   “Well, sir, in this scenario, alcohol may not be the culprit.”

   “Funny. So, you claim you have a tawdry explanation behind all this, especially when it attempts to explain dark matter?”

   Landon kept his professional mien, despite hiding a tiresome sigh. “Look. Every region studied over extended periods of time showed a steady rise in subatomic particles affecting the local gravity. The gravitometers detected the change on every instance, the invisibility of which can account for most of what we perceive as dark matter.” He briefly craned his head up and noticed the rows of electronically transmitted faces glowering at him, a whole wall of them. “Some of these changes can be attributable to larger influences, namely galactic clusters and black holes within close proximity. The remaining cases, however, were clearly absent of environing tidal forces, and appeared to be growing on their own––something like parthenogenesis, but on a cosmic scale; that or someone left the faucet running. Is all this matter coming from nowhere? Yes and no. Yes, it seems matter is spontaneously generating without any visible means. But another, rather contradictory, answer sheds light on the theory I’ve been postulating––”

   “Which involves a second universe,” the council member inferred with a shade of scoffing.

   From this moment onward, Langdon accepted rejection and even termination if the Astronomical Society was too reluctant to accept his theories even tangentially. He was open to criticism if it were based on sound research rather than censure.

   “They could have been adjacent to one another, relatively speaking. One universe is overloaded while ours is stuck on the throes of entropy, having expended its capacity for stellar formation though constant inflation. The other universe notices the contrast, and through osmosis, dumps its excesses on us.”

   “If that’s the case,” said a feminine voice, “when does the leakage stop?”

   “Good question. I have no idea. Until we’re osmotically satisfied.”

   “Director,” she continued, “I’d like to see Langdon’s models right away.”

   “Granted! All the files containing his step-by-step procedures are readily accessible for just such an occasion.”

   The records were transferred instantly. Within minutes, another cosmologist addressed Langdon, but he seemed hesitant in the number of pauses in his sentences.

   “From…the information provided…and I don’t see any way you could have cheated the results,” he skipped a breath, “it would mean, if I’m not mistaken, that…both universes would be in the process of merging, maybe even cannibalizing one another.”

   “As if we’re in the process of gradually being smothered,” another who shared the research added.

   Langdon thought it over for a second. “Not necessarily. The bleeding could be a constant process, and not just in our universe, but many others. In fact, there could be a host of universes, a multiverse if you will, where if one swells beyond its means to produce matter, another denser universe fills in the vacuum. It’s all postulation, but––”

   “Such as white holes.”

   “That’s definitely a possibility.”

   “Then why haven’t we detected any?” the chairman of the society said. “Do you know how much energy something like that would produce?”

   “It could be that they’re too small or they’re facing away from our point of view. The same applies to active cores of galaxies.”

   The Director swiveled around in his chair and faced away from Langdon into a profile silhouetted against the giant screen. He added addressing the others, “I'll tell you what. What if I tell you we'll give this another shot. Let’s say a month. If we keep finding the results comporting with Langdon’s findings, which seem to be consistent with our current records, it’ll be a safe bet to continue funding this little vanity project. If not, we pull the plug…and work on something worthwhile.” He fanned out his hands and slowly turned towards Langdon as if placing the burden of proof on him.

   The committee murmured assent.

   “Good. You hear that, Langdon? One month.

   Langdon's eyes darted around the room in nervous tension and nodded. “Yes. That will suffice.”

   That evening, Langdon was reviewing the days notes when his cell phone chimed out a tune. He glanced over and saw an unrecognizable number. Wondering who was calling him so late, he tapped the “receive” button. It better not have been solicitors, be brooded.

   “Dr. Cassius Langdon?”

   “Speaking.” Who else other than someone work-related would address him by his professional formality.

   “I don’t think we officially introduced ourselves.” The female voice was oddly familiar. “My name is Dr. Denise Spirou from the Astronomical Society. We briefly exchanged a few words today during the meeting with the Director.”

   Langdon’s eyes popped open. Composing himself, he said, “The pleasure’s mine. What brings you here at this hour?” He felt himself shiver; thankful no one was present at the kitchen table to witness it.

   “I received your number from the Director himself just as you left. It wasn’t very professional for me to ask, but I needed to speak with you on a matter of urgency.” Langdon froze in place. “First of all, I want to apologize for the reproof you went through today. During the past few years, we’ve been under constant pressure to avoid subjects considered too far-fetched. I’m sure you can relate.”

   “Well, it’s been a problem. Our government has been dead set on facts––”

   “We know. But there’s a more pressing matter at hand. We were corroborating data from several observatories, and by chance, we ran across a random patch of sky that was a dead ringer for dark matter.”

   “What did you find?”

   Langdon heard a soft hitter on the other end of the line. “In regard to the salient universe theory, we found something that may have verified your claim. Now, keep in mind it’s the first time we’ve seen something like this, plus, it's an image that's still up for further review.”

   “So, you just went ahead and finished my job.”

“Research is shared, my friend. The object in question was radiating a torrent of energy, everything from ‘a’ to ‘z’ along the electromagnetic spectrum, far more than any event horizon. It stood out like a squeaky wheel, which is how we discovered it.”

“Wouldn’t we have discovered something like that already?”

“Like you said about active galaxies being edgewise, it was facing eighty degrees away from our plane, and we saw the secondary effects, as faint as they were. There was a hint of bow shock collecting the inner edge of the plume, yet there was no stream coming from the other end, only in one direction. In addition, that jet must have been going so fast, it outpaced the clouds of matter left in its wake.”

“You’re kidding!”

“Dr. Langdon, I think we found your white hole.”

He was stunned, yet skeptical. “That’s too good to be true…but––but there’s one problem with that.”

“Please explain.”

“There doesn’t seem to be anything like that in the smaller regions where plumes of hadrons have been appearing; no bow shock, no lensing, nothing.”

A period of silence followed with the hum of the laptop standing out. He glanced at a ludicrous article on his laptop reporting on numerous hauntings across the world. Rubbish, he said to himself, yet he contemplated his own predicament.

“So, there’s a chance this salience uses more than one avenue of outflow?” she said, breaking the silence.

“I was just going over it before you called. According to the latest analysis of one particular region within our galaxy, it seems atomic and subatomic matter have been spontaneously generating as if being squeezed out from somewhere else like a sponge.”

“And you just came across this fact now?”

“Yep. And the quanta appear to immediately fuse into matter upon entering our universe as if it’s being squeezed from a place so dense that the kinetic energy within prevents any form of coalescence.

“If you so happen to be correct, that means another universe is literally merging with ours! That would amount to a full-blown cosmic cataclysm. I don’t think it bodes well for our future.”

“Interesting,” said the director, propping his chin and slowly swiveling his chair side to side. “So, it seems the universe is now bursting at the seams.” He splayed his hands in a show of irony. “It might be a while before we’re affected. Things in space take a while to travel those vast distances.”

“I’m not sure now,” Langdon added with a pensive calm. “We’re seeing this everywhere…whether as violent ejections from while holes or interdimensional bleed-through. It could be enveloping the Earth as far as we know.”

“I didn’t see any of your observations aimed at our own planet.”

“They don’t need to be.”

“Don’t you think you’re taking this cosmic drama a little too personally, especially since everything’s on paper at the moment?”

“Unfortunately, the models indicate otherwise. Our region within known space has become a dumping ground for dark matter, more like untold transfers of mass. In the long run, it will definitely show a promising future for a star-forming universe rather than having it simply burn out, but as far as we’re concerned, there’s a high likelihood that we’ll be incinerated in this act of rebirth.”

Before he could answer the Director, a sudden chill spread throughout his body, and he became limp. The Director jumped from his desk over to Langdon who was leaning over the side of his chair buttressed only by the armrest.

“Dr. Langdon, are you alright?” There was no response. “Cassius? Can you hear me?”

The words trailed off in a dreamlike echo.

Then a voice came, louder than any other in the room. It was unfamiliar and emerged from nowhere as the mysterious leakage in space had done. The resonance soothed his body and emotions––and his soul. He understood the words with flawless perfection, but he swore that they were not relayed to him in any syntactic sense.

We are the tides…the tides of ages past…and cycles to come…seeping from world to world…We…we have survived…we will survive…No elements can kill us…stardust is our fodder…

The words made no sense to Langdon. Attempting to communicate, he was abruptly cut off.

Listen, mortal! We can help you. No tide can be undone, but your world is imperiled…you are feeble…we are not. However, you can become us…to live with us…to reign with us…to become a tide…

The realization dawned upon Langdon. These tides, as they call themselves, must have escaped into the current universe, seeping in through the rifts in the cosmos, but it was an impossibility for any matter to pass through in atomic form. They had to have been creatures of energy, perhaps quanta, and from what was said, it was apparent they overan all the universes they fell into.

We cannot reverse our course through the ages…we roam by chance…but we can save you from the fate of our worlds colliding…

He woke up in a hospital bed. The cardio-pulse bleeped in the background and he was presently alone. A nurse walked in and patted the side of his bed relieved he was conscious again.

He needed to recuperate before he could ask questions, despite his astonishment at what just happened to him. The television above was on and he lifted his head to see what it was. A news channel prattled on about a series of disturbances reported from individuals across the nation. Grabbing the remote, he was moments from switching it off when the correspondent said, "...and still no word on who or what these mysterious hauntings called 'tides' were that eyewitnesses reported. Experts say there's an outbreak of schizophrenia, but others remain skeptical, claiming identical information provided by each person was not a coincidence…" and on she went.

Langdon froze in horror. It all made sense. Humanity was being warned that their time was short, and that the only thing that could be done was to listen to this sepulchral message. He also wondered if humanity would listen.

December 03, 2022 03:31

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