The Page

A tale of intimacy and loss

Tag: Spacetime

Mirror on the Wall

Lilya CorneliAs they walk through the entrance of the apartment, the wide mirror on the left of the doorway reflects their image: Julian and his elegant wife Sarah, coming home from a late evening in town. On the opposite side he recognises the Toulouse Lautrec, as Sarah walks in and drops her cape on the back of a leather chair. He touches a switch and the side lighting comes to life, so soft it reveals the features of the apartment only slowly, as if reluctantly.

Everything is so familiar, shrouded in the comfort of an intimate space: their space. A thought filters through his mind: he knows this place, he knows where everything is, the furniture they chose, the art they collected, and yet it is not their home. He walks to the bar, next to the long balcony, and mixes two martinis. Sarah is at the concert piano, facing the large bay window, and has started playing. To his left he sees their bedroom door, and he knows what the room looks like, the queen-size bed, the portrait above it.

He walks to the piano and sets Sarah’s glass on a low table next to her seat. She offers a radiant smile back at him: she’s never been so striking, and he so much in love. A melody of Schubert fills the air. Now, he opens the balcony double door: it is late and the city’s sounds reach him, muffled. The Berlin night is cool and full of the promises of youth. But he, Julian, feels ancient, as ancient as the steps to the Dom. There are few revellers left on the square but the lights are still on. The Deutscher Dom seems to shine in the moonlight, as a reminder of past glories. Clouds briefly mask the moon. But can it be be right: the geometry is improbable, the Dom is at the other end of Gendarmenmarkt…

He walks out to the balcony: mementoes of their lives are everywhere, photographs, paintings they bought all over the world. “They”? Julian feels now deeply troubled, as if he had intruded into someone’s life, someone he may have known, perhaps intimately, in another time. There is a photo of two women, one, older, wearing a pair of old-fashion spectacles, a teacher sort of character, with a benevolent look on her peaceful face. He should remember their names, the names of the two women on the picture. The younger woman is red-haired with sensual lips, and she seems to be looking straight at him. Her sight feels painful to Julian. Julian looks down to the street: Jägerstraße runs past the Französicher Dom, and across Friedrichstraße. He knows the geography of the city so well.

Through the bay window, he sees his wife playing, her face now partly hidden by a statue that stands in front of the piano: a replica of the wounded gladiator. Slowly, he walks along the balcony to the other end. On a low table stand more pictures, and a vase full of fresh carnations. He sees a photo of two women dancing: here on this balcony, where he stands. This time he recognises them: Sarah and his sister Jane. A younger Jane, perhaps even before she became a fashion star.

His unease grows, and as he turns round to walk back to the lounge, he senses a figure standing near the door: a tall hooded shape. He can no longer hear Schubert, but instead, the low murmur of small waves running ashore.  The shape fades into nothingness, he walks back through the door. Although he cannot hear the notes, his wife is still playing. The lights in the lounge appear dimmer. Sarah turns round towards him: she’s not Sarah. Julian sees a woman face with features he thinks he recognises: the jet-black hair, the blue on blue pupils. Helga is looking at him, unsmiling, perhaps even a little threatening.

Julian feels a small tremor. The image dissolves.

Melissa is sitting on the floor of the studio, looking at old pictures. The notes of Schubert float through the calm air of the Eylauer straße. He is lying on the couch, and must have fallen asleep. Melissa looks at him, and blows a kiss. “Now you’re awake, I’ll start cooking,” she says with a teasing smile.

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He came back to me…

Sisters Teacher, I do not know how to express the joy and happiness I feel in myself, for Julian has come back to me, he loves me, he is mine. I know how important this man is to you and your cause, Teacher, but at this instant he is mine, my lover, the one I sought for all these years, the one I was desperate to find again.

He is as he always were: a young knight, with now the experience and strength of a grown man. He gave me everything I always wanted from him, and I have already forgotten the bad dreams, the pain, the torture of not reaching him, the solitude I had to endure in life and death, until you saved me. In that quiet street, in the little room with sunlight filtering through the thin white lace curtain he took what has been his all that time: the woman in me, my heart, my mind, my soul, for I belong to him in ways that I cannot explain. All I can say is that he loved what he found, and he knows how to please me, to the depth of me.

Later we walked the streets till early morning: every ten steps I had to kiss him – did I tell you how much I want his mouth, his lips, his tongue? My body, my arms, my hands did not leave him a second. We walked along the river, across the bridges full of light and history. Other couples smiled at us… In Saint-Germain we went to Café de Flore – you remember how keen on literature he’s always been… I, who never drinks, shared a bottle of cool Loire wine with him. We walked back through the Arénes but the little park was closed when we got there, it was already morning… Back to our room we made love till sleep overwhelmed us, enlaced, exhausted, belonging.

I want to say, Teacher, I know he is the Path, the human being you need. And I have promised to help you. I will be loyal to my promise, but I want to say this: I will die defending him if he is in danger – whoever wants his death will have to kill this woman first. One last thing, for I want nothing to be hidden from you, Teacher: I told Sarah everything, and she said she was more than happy that Julian had at long last found me. She also said she was prepared for me to go and live with them two. As you know she and I are already very close. As I write, he is asleep next to me, it will be soon the end of our second day. Then he will go back to London, and when we meet again we will be on our way to you, and to Berlin…

Immersed in the myriads of  combinations and second order equations, and woven in the fabric of the Coven, Gabrielle is thinking, all the time observing the young woman who’s writing to her, next to her lover asleep. How beautiful she is, her Melissa. Yes she, Gabrielle, will continue to protect her. But Julian, of course, is another matter. Melissa led them to him, and he’s proven a little tough, not as pliable as she was. But was Melissa pliable? Or did she understand that her way back to humanity and her man was through them? “We don’t know”, reflects Gabrielle, “if a human being can survive this ordeal. When we tried with specimens of other species we failed: they all died.” And she adds to herself: “And this why we are so cautious here…”

This sombre thought annoys her. Gabrielle has invested so much in this, she and Elga. Their voice was heard, they got what they wanted, the wheels are turning. They are about to change the course of history on this world, and on theirs. And the path to these futures, the renewal of the Coven itself, is dependent on Julian, and for now, on Melissa. What irony, she thinks, remembering the young woman, dying in a pool of her blood, her dress soiled, hideous wounds in her chest and throat, the dying green eyes…

Longing

Longing She misses him: since coming back from New-York Melissa is longing for Julian, more so than ever – and she’s been longing for him for ever. She’s no longer sure of his thoughts, of how he sees her now, of his feelings towards her. In Brooklyn she must have appeared to him as part of the gigantic plot that he now knows involves the Pentagon and the Coven, and probably others. She read the terror in his eyes, she saw him gripping Sarah’s hands as they both understood the implications of what the general was saying. Has she lost him?

She ought to call Sarah, cool and loving Sarah, but she dares not. What would happen to her if Sarah rejected her? For Melissa knows that Sarah’s her friend, maybe more than just a friend, for as long as she does not see Melissa as part of the threat. Being a threat to Julian: that would turn Sarah into a formidable enemy. And Melissa knows that, for the Coven, Sarah’s role is essential: she is the key to Julian, and Julian is the path. On that Melissa knows the truth: she was chosen because of Julian, her ancient friendship with Julian. Gabrielle seized the opportunity, and so Melissa survived, did better than survive.

Gabrielle and Elga are now in deep consultation with the collective. The Coven is preparing the Berlin conference, one thread among millions, in a whirl of deliberations and mathematical – Melissa wonders: mathic? – computations that even her could not follow. Elga… How strange that she – but she’s no “she” of course, but a conglomerate of particles that long left their living anima, always asexual, far behind – that “she” tried her charm on Julian, after all that Melissa had explained.

“They” have their own blind corners, things they don’t appear to really understand. They have their weaknesses, otherwise they would not need that association with the Great Power, and the Power to Be, perhaps other darker powers that Melissa does not know about. They need the path to conquer this world, Melissa’s world, and for now, the path is one individual in the entire universe: her college sweetheart, Julian. Melissa relaxes a little. She sees several futures, in one of them, Sarah, Julian and herself overcomes the fear, and clear the way for the Coven to exit from their lives, without pain. But there are others, other futures. She knows, and shudders a little. She thinks of Tosca, of the mock execution at dawn, which turns out to be real. She thinks of  Berlin…

Melissa brushes the sinister vision away. At heart she is a positive person, at heart she is not afraid of demons. But Julian may be, always was, even at school, he had that irrational fear of the hidden fiends, of ancient secrets, of bewitched objects… Oh… how protective she felt towards him then, him: her young street fighter, he with the clinched fists… Melissa’s in a dream, she’s moved back in time, to the small town where they both lived, where it all started. She stands in front of the gate, she’s waiting for him, she sees him, joking with other boys – he sees her, waves to his friends and walks towards her, that triumphant smile on the thin lips – a young god… He always knew how to kiss her, and of course she wanted more…

The phone rings and pulls Melissa out of her dream. It’s Sarah. They chat politely, then Sarah says: “My husband is away for a few days and said he will join you in Paris, and please let him know when you want to meet, that’s the message he asked me to give you…” Melissa tries to think quickly, Julian’s away? “Sarah, could you come too?” She could almost hear Sarah smiles: “Mel, the two of you deserve a bit of intimacy, you have to give Julian time with you, just the two of you. I trust you both, and you can understand why I would be a bit of an obstacle – he needs to find you again…” Sarah’s voice trails off. “When he’s back please come to us as soon as you can: then we’ll have a party, I’ll invite Jane too.”

So it is, Sarah has given her the go-ahead, in the city where Julian was born, his city. A thought hits Melissa, a twist she had not thought of before this instant: has Sarah been “recruited”?  Has the Coven enrolled beautiful Sarah? She scans her memory of the meeting in Brooklyn, Gabrielle and Elga, and herself, and then Sarah and Julian, Sarah looking as if she is sheltering her husband. But she also sees Elga and Sarah exchanging a smile, more than once. But why should Sarah be tempted? What does she have to gain? Security for her husband and herself? And if this happened where does that leave her, Melissa, the go-between?

Soon she shrugs off that thought. Sarah’s has one mission: protecting her husband. Melissa knows she would not stop at anything for Julian’s sake, but there is no value in enlisting now, when she knows too little. Later perhaps, after Berlin, when they know. For now Sarah thinks Melissa’s good for Julian, it is simple.

Alone in the little house in East London Melissa’s planning the Paris meeting. She wants to chose the location of their meeting carefully: a public place but not one where Julian would feel crowded. Maybe the old arena, the roman amphitheater? Then they can walk rive gauche, perhaps aim for the Luxembourg? Of course he knows the city inside out, he lived there, and met Sarah there first. Melissa’s troubled by another thought: they did not stay, they moved to London almost immediately, indeed, they got married in London. Was there a reason for Julian to leave the city he loved, so soon after meeting the woman about to become his wife?

She’s soon distracted by the familiar tremor of air and sounds in the house: one of them, may be both – or more – have arrived. Soon she’s faced with a smiling Gabrielle who is still adjusting her human appearance. The fluid contours materialise, the face still indistinct… It takes no more than twenty seconds. “So, Gabrielle says calmly, you and Julian are going to meet one to one?” Melissa smiles, she knows “they” know everything, they hear everything, and her teacher, wise Gabrielle, is a master at sieving through all that their sensors capture, particularly if it involves Julian or his wife.

The two of them update each other, silently. Soon Melissa’s appraised of the Coven’s current state of play for Berlin. She also learns that Elga is in Moscow. The wheels are turning.

Voyager

Voyager 1: message I am reconciled: what Melissa told me is the plain truth, and those facts I cannot comprehend will be, one day, clarified.  Sarah is very apt at clarifying the mysteries of life for me, and so is my beloved sister, Jane.  So it is that I won’t go back to the little town soon, unless Sarah insists, rather we will wait for beautiful Elga to contact us.  As she said herself, Melissa is our “mediator”, the one who knows how to communicate with them, and the coven.

There is another change, and I am aware of being happier about it: Sarah appears to be less “into” the other two women in my life, and closer again to me.  Not that she went away, far from it.  Simply I notice Jane’s scent a little less often in our house, and, well, my wife is now friendlier than ever.  It’s not that I don’t like my sister’s visits: I never have enough of Jane… I hear you smile: but this is true, I felt for a while neglected, or at least not loved as I deserved!   Sarah said it was all in my mind, there had been no change, and Jane and her have always been close.  I accept that.  So last Saturday we went to Coven Garden and watched Tosca.  We both love Puccini, and for me he is the absolute artist, the essence of Italian opera, the successor of Verdi.  For a few hours we forgot about the stars and doomed mankind, and worried only for Tosca.

Since I met Melissa at Foyles I have been busy, going back to my writing, more engaged now with my publisher who was about to despair. The book is doing well, and I hope to have a first draft for my editor next month.  Sarah has commented positively, in marked difference from her view a year ago when she said she disliked both the plot and the way I had set the characters.  Jane has promised to comment too. I have also returned to my routine, gym and running, that was interrupted that day when I walked in the Apple store.  Only six months have gone, but what events!

The three of us have agreed to wait until we can talk with Elga again before taking any initiative.  Nonetheless we know what our roles may be: Jane has access to the fashion channels and some of the magazines in her business with influence here and the US, but also Japan, Russia, India and China.  Sarah has the market contacts to push some articles in the financial press.  As a reasonably successful writer, I will probably be in a position to talk to the “intelligent” press and TV.  Today we heard the news of Voyager 1 leaving the edge of the solar system.  We were moved by the news: the small spacecraft may never get much further, but it is a historical moment.

Return to Earth

Black Hole We remain silent for long minutes, as Gabrielle’s words continue their journey through our minds. Sarah’s holding my hand: suddenly I am aware that we have a very physical presence here: is it the power of illusion, or have we in some way “borrowed” bodies? And what do Gabrielle and Elga look like in their native forms? I decide to ignore that latter thought.

Elga speaks: “In our coven, there are some who believe you humans do not deserve to be protected, and that, at best, you should be quarantined and ignored. We cannot be sure that this view may not become a majority. So we wish to prove them wrong. It is our belief that if you do not receive any help from outside, which means from us, your civilisation’s chances of survival may be slim. Even assuming you see reason and stop destroying your planet, asteroids or other galactic incidents will finish you off, in due time. We are convinced you will need some help, and probably sooner than we thought a few centuries back. The four of you – Julian, Sarah, Jane and of course Melissa – can do a lot to strengthen our case.”

We are stunned. It is Sarah who finally replies for us: “I can say for at least three of us, and I am sure Melissa agrees, that we are willing. But what can we do?” There is another pause then Gabrielle speaks. “It is a long-haul project. Remember that we have been observing you for millennia. We rely on Melissa to explain to you – and she has started with you Sarah – how you can communicate with us more easily. We have invited you here, not to show off, but to facilitate your understanding of what we have undertaken. For us your main task will be to communicate back to your people, through your writing, your friends, whatever influence you may already have or develop in the future, and slowly begin to suggest that you are not alone. This will be difficult. It will take time. We decided to work with individuals like yourselves rather than institutions, because we do not want to panic you: our experience elsewhere has taught us to be patient. You will have to be cautious too, since a healthy skepticism will meet any affirmation that we – “beings from Andromeda” – are close to your world.  In fact we believe that this may not be the most helpful starting point. It will be up to you. Our own experience is that an appreciation of the possibility – a finite probability – of close-by intelligent life and friendly civilisations maybe the way to prime consciousness. Many of your mainstream scientists will deny the practicality of communication – the Fermi paradox. Others may be more questioning of the received wisdom.” We are now silent, reflecting, as we retrace our steps along the beach. The moons are bright in the dark sky.

Elga wishes us well and promises to be in touch. We thank her for talking to us, and assure her of our willingness to help her to help us. The little sphere is back, and Gabrielle says that she will accompany us back to the cloister. The return journey appears to take a little longer but when we stand, close to the medieval column and the statue of the saint, Jane says that we have been away only for fifteen minutes at most. We agree with Gabrielle and Melissa to meet at their house in a week time. The three of us then walk back through the sleepy streets to our car, parked near the library. Sarah and Jane are chatting amiably. I am deep in thoughts, Sarah will drive. We, the space and time travellers, will need seven hours to go back home…

So vast is the Universe

Elga There is a bright wood fire on the beach with low seats around it. We make ourselves comfortable and listen to Elga. We can hear the sound of the waves and the crackling of the fire: I feel time moving extremely slowly and wonder once again at the science who brought us together here. Elga says:

“Let me explain first some of the things you need to know about us beyond what Gabrielle has already told you. Like you we are individuals organised in societies. Since we have been science-based – I think this is the right description –  for much longer than you have, we started contributing – perhaps the right word is influencing – our evolution a long time ago, say, back several tens of thousands of your millennia. We now live in collectives, what you would possibly call covens, although as individuals we still have autonomy. For example Gabrielle – not one but a cluster of us – is nearly on her own in your world, but all of us can follow and are aware of her actions and interactions on Earth. This way of life has led us early to take an interest in other societies and other intelligent species.” As Elga speaks I observe my companions: Sarah and Jane are listening intensely, Melissa’s looking at Sarah, smiling. Gabrielle appears deep in thought, eyes closed behind her thick glasses, and I guess she may be communicating with others in the coven.

“So it was, continues Elga, that some of us became specialised in space exploration. By this I mean not only geographical space exploration, but also the physics of space time, and the complex engineering techniques that eventually led us to what we can now achieve: near instantaneous transportation. We made many mistakes at the beginning: we lost people in ill-planned premature adventures, we got frustrated at not meeting anyone “out-there”, a feeling that some of your own scientists know well. After several millennia we understood that time was the issue: intelligent life is plentiful in the universe, but synchronicity – the wide enough overlap between two civilisations to permit communication and meaningful exchange is only a small probability. Again some Earth scientists have come to that conclusion too, but the consequences have not been drawn yet. So the project was born, and we called it the Search… We had to acquire the ability to travel through the entire space time continuum in order to meet others. At that point we influenced our biology again, and this led us to virtual immortality, although we no longer see it that way. This allowed us to colonise our own galaxy over about three millions of your years, and took us to yours, the Milky Way. Relatively recently we came to your world, to Earth. Sol and her system was noted for its relative friendliness to intelligent life. So when you finally appeared, we were not that surprised.” Elga paused, as she and Gabrielle appeared to be both somewhat absent. Minutes passed. Then Gabrielle appears to wake up. And Elga resumes her story: “The project has several aims, the most important is to support and observe – as innocuously as possible – civilisations with good prospects for lifespan. By this we mean societies that are capable of technological and scientific development with low risks, or manageable risks, of ruining their environment or sinking in warfare, and thus are probable candidates for some synchronicity. Another is the protection of our own species and our allies’ against any malevolent species that could become a danger to advanced intelligence, the “high risks” cases. There is third one, which is to prospect for past civilisations that may have perished, and research the reasons for their disappearance, what you would call cosmic archeology.” I am looking at Elga and she is looking at me, a direct gaze that signals to me that she, or “they”, is searching my mind. “I understand, I say, what you meant by “special roles”… You meant that we are to help you, maybe provide evidence, for the Search to assess whether we are in that category of potential risk to you…” There is another pause. Sarah and Jane are now looking towards me, and so is Melissa. Elga appears to be thinking, her classical face suddenly showing a range of feelings. It is Gabrielle who answers me: “Yes, Julian, you are witnesses, and also part of the evidence we need”.

What I see

Forever It took me a long time, to understand who you were, and how it was that you came to us now, reminding me of a nearly all forgotten past. Sarah and you are one, even if herself did not see that when you first came in our lives. It is a complicated tale for us humans to fully apprehend – and yes, I know you are as human as us, only ahead of us, the being we will one day become. Sarah’s happy, for me and for herself. We are reconciled with you, Melissa, and I am reconciled with my lost youth.

Of course I cannot follow all the mathematics, and even less the physics, although Gabrielle’s spent a fair time explaining the transforms to us. Sarah is a much better mathematician, and she does understand quantum physics far more than I do. You and her had a good time discussing the reasons for Lagrangian logic, or we would say, mechanics. Old Newton must be turning round in his grave…

As you recall I am an incorrigible romantic: watching the two of you, in Gabrielle’s old house, laughing and juggling with those exquisite slides, I kept dreaming. How similar you two are, and how beautiful. Gabrielle said I had nothing to fear: neither she nor you are pretending to be extraordinary, merely living at a level of complexity slightly away from us, but still it leaves us plenty of space and time to enjoy ourselves, with you. Sarah has bought into the idea that I am now able to visit you, Melissa, in Gabrielle’s world, and that does not involve any risk to my body. Still it is a little difficult for me to accept that simple reality: what travels are quantum of information, to use our archaic description, and this avoids the quantum electrodynamics limits of old very gracefully. So, for now, I have given up deciphering the equations, I just enjoy listening to you, the sound of your voice, the warmth you and Sarah have brought to my life. As a writer I am very privileged.

But will I be able to tell our story? That is without betraying the sweet secret: Melissa is immortal.

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