Genre: Science-Fiction, Ⓒ Chris Briscoe
My name is James Sapphire and when I was at an age old enough to attend school, I was persuaded by my parents to attend a boarding school which, of course, is one of those schools that, after school you don't go home like other kids but you go back to your boarding house; so one day, my mother gave me a short-list of three boarding schools which were all in the same county and I just chose the one which sounded better than the others: the boarding school I chose was Hampton Court Public Comprehensive School, an all-boys place of learning, from age seven to seventeen. But I wasn't to know what life was like really in Hampton, namely the regime of discipline, which was prescribed as punishment rather than as discipline.
Boarding Food Compared with Tuck-shop Nosh
For me, school-food didn't leave a lasting impression on me as much as the much beloved "Tuck Shop" which was actually the boarding school's in-house candy-shop, or as us Brits say, "sweet”-shop; such a place was always a magnet for us boys where we could find all kinds of goodies to indulge our spare time, or even for passing the odd, boring lesson with our secret “time-sucker” as we called it.
In any boarding school in the U.K., before the new legislation of 1983, that outlawed corporal punishment, there was the terror of the dreaded cane being metered out.
Our teachers were not referred to indirectly as “teachers” but “masters”, and of course, the principal as the “headmaster”. But among that den of masters, there were some terrifying men who wielded that wooden cane with no mercy.
One such aptly named Mr. Yikes was a ferocious fellow who took the crown in that department. He always carried his cane and he spent his day looking for a reason to use it. It was long and thin, which meant when he struck the air or our "behinds" it made the ferocious whipping noise. But to Mr. Yikes it was like music to his ears.
Just like many masters of his generation in Britain, he was partial to cricket, rugby, and of course, beer, or in his case, wine, along with his pipe.
His personality and little quirks matched him. He was thin and lanky and he had a head of red hair which matched his fiery character. Whenever he opened his mouth to speak his entire facial expressions would come to life - he would animate all the four corners of his mouth and eyes; his cheeks would come to life and all the lines of his forehead and both his eye-brows would become animated; and his most animated feature was his hugely long mustache, which he would regularly apply his own spittle to the ends to make them curl up in a circle. Otherwise, his mustache would be so long, it protruded off his face, slightly. Looking at his face, was like watching one of those Saturday morning cartoons, it was so animated. Along with his head of red which, although it was evident he was balding, he let it grow so that it grew in a heap and took on the proportions of a nest of a robin redbreast; as I said, he sported the most longest red moustache you have ever seen because one day my friend measured it using an invisible laser beam. It was all of seven centimeters. His moustache was redder than the rest of him – even his face which reflected a distinct colour of red. Which was also a barometer for showing us boys when he had indulged in the wed wine too much the night before, because his face ended up looking like a cooked-beetroot.
He had this continual twitch, and us boys could use that twitch as a barometer to know what was going on inside him. When he became agitated, anger was beginning to brew inside, and you knew it because that twitch got quicker and quicker; usually his twitches would occur once every seven to ten seconds, but when something annoyed him, that twitch became once every three seconds. The highest warning was when he became so angry he was ready to lash out, as the twitches were occurring every second. For us boys, that was like Defcon 5, signaling imminent pain, when he shouted those ominous words, "BEND OVER, TOUCH YOUR TOES,......... With our own names attached to that sentence, it was like receiving a near death sentence for we knew then that we would have to nurse our behinds for at least six weeks. I mean, after he gave what was in the boarding school vernacular, "six of the best" or what us boys called, "six of the worst", from henceforth we were forced to stand for lessons the rest of the day and bring a cushion to class for at least six weeks.
And woe betide any of us boys if we crossed him. Then, Mr. Yikes would administer his cane with such enthusiasm and passion. And what is more he found the most petty reasons to meter it out. If a boy even had inadvertently placed his foot outside from under his desk and onto the walkway of the route Mr. Yikes took when he strutted around the classroom, looking for a reason to lash out. He would then touche his cane upon the offending boy's leg which meant the boy had a scratch on the lower part of his leg for the rest of the week.
And if any of us boys' voices came within hearing distance to Mr. Yike's red pygmy ears, then he would call out the offender's surname and summon him to his desk, where he would ask him the question, "You were talking, weren't you,.....?" Then that twitch in his mustache would flash every three seconds. And when he attached any of our names to the end of his sentence, it put the “fear of God into us poor souls”. If the answer was, "Yes." He would tell the guilty person "Report to my study at three-thirty-five after lessons today." If the answer was, "No!" then you knew you were in for it when his twitching became once every second. And he would usually say something like, "YOU INSOLENT BOY," because his motto throughout his career was, "Never believe a pupil, especially the male kind." Thank God he was never let loose on the female kind. And thus he would meter out his prescription there and then.
Then Yikes would ask you to go to the back of the class; where he would follow soon afterwards, and while walking, he would practice his aim with that terrifying sound of the crack of his whipping weapon - and then joining you, he would say that terrifying sentencing, "BEND OVER, TOUCH YOUR KNEES ...!"
Then he would dish out his punishment, in front, or rather, at the back of the class, behind everyone, although some brave or stupid boys turned around to have a peep.
SIX WHIPPING NOISES OR CRACKS OF THE AIR WOULD BE HEARD BY ALL OF US, AND WITH EACH, EVERYONE IN THE ROOM WOULD BLINK, AND NOD THEIR HEADS.
So sooner or later, it was my turn to experience the end of Mr. Yikes much aimed cane. One Monday morning, our boarding house master, Mr. Gently, had been called away for a distant family member's funeral; and guess who was assigned to supervise our house boy's emergence from our beds and completion of our ablutions?
Yes, it was Yikes who stormed into our dormitory-room at six-thirty, like a sergeant major.
He shouted, "RIGHT, YOU ‘ORRIBLE LITTLE PARASITES, GET OUT OF YOUR FEA-PITS, NOW! I AM WARNING YOU – IF YOU STAY THERE ANY MORE TIME, I WILL ADMINISTER MY SIX OF THE BEST!
For us boys, who were enjoying feeling not like parasites but rather the proverbial “snug as a bug in a rug”, it felt like the end of the world had descended. He marched up to our long purple curtains and pulled the strings - the morning sun streamed into every nook and cranny of our eight-bed dormitory.
Every boy was startled out of their slumber and rose like Lazarus. We jumped to the end of our beds and stood upright for inspection.
"RIGHT, LISTEN UP! Since Mr. Gently has been called away for a funeral, it is left to me to supervise you bunch of loafers. So I am telling you: if any of you are not down sitting at the dining room by exactly seven a’clock., then.." He double-twitched his moustache which was now actually a signal of his pure delight rather than distain because he smiled like a long, ginger Cheshire-cat with a long, ginger whiskers, "..I think you know what lies in store for you, after lessons today. So, since it's now six-thirty-three, you have twenty-seven minutes to improve your ugly mutts!" He blurted out.
But thank God, I had hope because whenever I was in trouble I would summon the forces of nature's laws of science. What had transpired was, after Mr. Yikes' warning about the seven warning, us boys all grabbed our towels and ran to the shower-rooms - to the sinks to do our ablutions at record speed. But in all the excitement, I had left my towel behind, and it was Yikes who found it.
"James Sapphire" He snarled, as he picked up the towel using his sharp cane.
So during our breakfast Mr. Yikes banged on the table and announced: "LISTEN UP!" After laying down our utensils and opening our ears and closing our food-ful mouths, then Mr. Yikes continued, "..Right, you greedy face-fillers, I have an important announcement to make: this morning I need to meet with the following boys.” To which he read from a prepared list he had prepared.
"James Sapphire." Mr. Yikes called out my name, first. Hearing that, I gasped under my voice, "Oh, good Lord!" And I gulped. And so did the other boy sitting on the next long-table, whose name was on that list, too - even though he was sitting two long-tables away. Along with him, another three other "offenders" were added.
"Report to my study after lessons, today!" Mr. Yikes shouted across the room. He ended his announcement with, "That's all, you can return to feeding your ugly faces, now." Which was the way he always ended his dining-room announcements or rather pronouncements.
But actually being something of a dab-hand at science I tried to save myself from the hell of a prolonged and unnecessarily pain. This is what happened:
I found the subject of science much more fascinating than every other subject because it had the adventure of curiosity along with discovering the most potent, explosive forces of nature; there was, to me, no greater excitement than mixing and untapping the forces of nature; so that's why from a young age, I relished science. Actually, it was the first subject I had ever studied which I enjoyed.
As it happens, after Yikes announced my after-school meeting, I couldn't gulp down another piece of food all day before the event of reporting to Mr. Yikes' study. All morning, I couldn't concentrate on my studies because my mind just constantly returned to the most important question, "What am I going to do about my meeting with Yikes at three-thirty-five?"
I racked my brains as I sat in lessons, oblivious to what was going on around me. Just then, at eleven forty-five precisely I had a lightning shot of inspiration from on-high. Thus, when the twelve a’clock bell went off to tell us our morning lessons were over, instead of heading over to the dining room, I went straight to the school's laboratory, where I had the only cherished space I could call my own; because in the science department, there was a desk with the letter "S" for "Sapphire" where I kept my science equipment and where I had my locked desk which held my notes containing my recorded discoveries on quantum physics; it even held my most precious possessions. I began dismantling all my laser-guns and placed them in my large boarding school trunk – maybe you are not acquainted with boarding school trunks but they are huge. Finally, I unlocked my drawer and took out a velvet bag and checked the inside - that my single diamond was still in one piece. I held it up to the midday sun – it was in pristine condition, ready for my experiment to miniaturise myself using laser-guns shooting protons at electrons and manipulating their quantum superpowers.
I had been working on a most fascinating and useful application of quantum-penetration which had the chance of changing one's atomic metabolism to shrink into the size of a centimeter.
I had found in my investigation that scientists had kept insisting that it was impossible to miniaturise an atom - the only chance, they said, was that if the space between an atom and its nucleus was reduced, but this would render it without an electrical charge and also cause its nucleus with its proton – that other positive-charged proton - and its negatively charged neutron to lose its power and nuclear effect.
But I knew better because I remembered that, according to Einstein's special relativity, when anything is shrunk at light-speed, everything else shrinks in the atom's contents; this is called time-mass dilation, which describes how time runs more and more slower as you speed up towards the speed of light, and how some of that extra energy which would normally take you over the speed-limit of the universe - the speed of light - gets transferred into your mass to stop you from going at that speed; thus all your perceived mass and space gets bigger. Also, if you flew on a rocket traveling 90 percent of light-speed, the passage of time, for you, would also be halved. Your watch would advance only ten minutes, while more than twenty minutes would pass for an Earthbound observer.
You would also experience some strange visual consequences. One such consequence is called “aberration”, and it refers to how your whole field of view would shrink down to a tiny, tunnel-shaped "window" out in front of your spacecraft. Anyway, I carted back the trunk to my classes that afternoon. Whenever a “nosey-parker” asked me about it, I just replied, “Oh, it’s for my extended book research. Which caused them either to be impressed, at best, or jealous, at worst. So when our usual bell rang at three-thirty, I packed up my papers and headed over to the building where the masters’ studies were.
The master's own studies were located in the oldest part of the school; I entered the main entrance and was greeted by a red-carpeted hall where I climbed the twin staircase and ascended three floors - until I smelled the distinctive smell of tobacco from some of the master's vices of pipe smoking.
At the very end of the corridor - the one marked, "Mr.Yikes, Head of English.” I could feel my heart beating until when I had arrived outside his door, it was pounding. I listened in and smelled the air to see if my nostrils could smell fresh poisoned tobacco smoke. I felt relieved because evidently Mr. Yikes had not yet returned from his lesson. So I turned around and walked over to another room - an adjacent room which had the words, "Waiting Room"; and once inside, I began setting up my equipment. I took my big trunk and placed it on the magazine-table in the center of the waiting room. I opened it and started taking out my laser-guns and setting them up, after which I gently placed them on their tripods. I didn't have much time because Yikes would be returning any minute.
So I tried to miniaturise myself by way of using three photon laser-guns - one was for firing the photons which would entangle the electrons within my diamond, while the other two would be used to levitate my diamond in the air to keep the entangled electrons from becoming quantumless, when it felt any outside radiation. I set up my first photon laser-gun, and then I set up the other two lasers at the right distance on each side - one higher than the other. I turned the dial on the two laser-guns first, which were on each side and placed my diamond between the two beams of light – sitting on top of them, levitating, and watched that diamond being picked up and begin levitating in the air.
Then I returned to my single laser and shot a beam of photons at my single levitating diamond which contains thousands of electrons and when that photon knocked against the electrons, some of that electron’s energy in just one or two would cause some of the electrons power to jump out and entangle with a single photon on that diamond, and when that happened, I could achieve what is one "superpower" of quantum atom's contents called "entanglement"; then all I needed to do was take hold of that diamond using a special heat-proof liquid, and spin it around so that one of those entangled electrons would penetrate my skin, and then I hoped that miniaturisation process would begin.
I watched for a few minutes as that diamond kept levitating and was struck by all three laser-beams - of course, the first laser being the strongest which needed to knock out the quantum material inside the diamond.
And then using my hands, I grabbed hold of that diamond and pressed my hand into it, so some of that entangled quantum electrons would penetrate my atomic metabolism.
Suddenly, I noticed all my surroundings were moving away from me and getting bigger – I noticed my chair became huge and my height was just one millimeter off the ground. Wow, I had untapped the forces of quantum physics - the foundations of space called subspace.