I met a charming man today – something I can honestly say is a rare occasion in my work/sleep schedule. About my only time away from the lab is spent with Vasi, or occasionally Jane (Stephen’s mother), with whom I meet for tea once in a while.
I’m quite sure this fellow named Charles thinks that I bumped into him on purpose – after all, it was quite ridiculous. I have a rather bad habit of reading as I walk to work, and this morning had my head buried in a rather good book (‘The Nature of the Physical World’, by Arthur Stanley Eddington) and didn’t notice Charles coming out of the bakery. I knocked his bread rolls for six! He was most apologetic – isn’t it funny how we English apologise for other people. Anyway, I digress.
Along with Stephen’s theories of infinite parallel universes, he also had an advanced concept of time. On a basic level, imagine drawing two crosses on a piece of paper and a line through them and beyond. One of the crosses could be say, last Sunday and the other next Wednesday. Now, if you simply curve or fold the paper you can quite simply see how easy it would be to move last Sunday along the line past next Wednesday.
Stephen taught us that curving dimensions works in exactly the same way as curving the paper. Furthermore, if we agree with the principle that every possible event has, is, or will occur in one of our infinite dimensions, then anything we do when travelling through time cannot affect the future – as every possible future already exists.
As part of my Master’s degree course, we had a series of guest lectures – most of them by insufferably boring old men whose concept of physics hadn’t advanced past Newton. As you can imagine, when we heard Stephen was coming to lecture there was much anticipation. Truthfully, I think half of the attendees were there to hear the bizarre theories from the horse’s mouth and the other half was to see if the horse was as odd as his reputation suggested. Stories of Stephen’s mental collapse when he was a student were a commonplace warning in the department – the strain he placed on himself led to him crashing out of his second year of studies and spending several months in an institution. He never returned to his formal studies, but did of course continue to follow his own path with Conrad’s help and support.
I was first struck by the thought that he was actually a rather handsome man. Not in Herculean manner, by any stretch of the imagination, but he had a charm and, dare I say it, ‘boyish good looks’. He was incredibly nervous until he actually started to speak about his work – it makes me laugh even now to think of it. When he spoke of his theories all traces of discomfort left him, he seemed to grow in stature, to fill the room. I think the oddest part of that first experience with him was how quickly and succinctly he could make the class understand and even begin to see an inkling of merit in his outlandish concepts, and I for one was absolutely fascinated. I waited for him after class and, rather forwardly of me, asked him if he would join me in a cup of tea and explain further some of the mathematics behind his theories.
I was entranced with this man’s mind.
Vasi and I ran into a spot of trouble today – we managed to burn our way through our entire stock of vacuum tubes. It’s an absolute nightmare as they’re a bugger to get hold of (and the university is little help in such matters). The sensible solution seemed to open a bottle of sherry to drown our sorrows and now I’ve an awful headache. You would think that I should have learnt by my age that drinking during the day is a folly. Still, I suppose there is a tea-total version of myself in another universe.
The only real bright spot today was that I ran into Charles again on the way home and he gave me a lift (it poured down all day). He seems rather familiar and is very easy to talk to – I rather like him. He is an accountant though, but I suppose nobody’s perfect. If things were different, I might even consider pursuing him. Quell your outrage that a woman can pursue a man – we should be long past the days of sexual inequality.
I am occasionally going to have to make entries in cypher to this diary. There are certain things that I dare not write down, in case this is read while I am still around. It’s nothing sinister – I don’t have a gambling addiction or a string of student lovers. The current political climate, however, dictates that there are certain things that one must not do.
K vmzf auual Ohem bb vcgaexb ykz ‘pofxwh’ kr bdc nfl cotleb dzue idyyqu efdej. Olm Kufweoa’s blkr bhz ubzivxgk aynif mw rrj mqm wear, dnp eu ayphcf Z jwui klgkx dmlw ns s iwwtk hh iel bn ii rt isg s fmzcnrvq gf ahb agrvr. I aiml pglokiva – nr qf zpq tbvfy bh wkvxuge.
Stephen and I met several times at the University library (he wasn’t officially allowed inside the building any longer so I acted as his ‘sponsor’). We spent hours pouring over obscure texts – mathematics, physics, philosophy and religion. Stephen was a committed atheist, but claimed no snobbery when it came to exploring lines of thought.
I found our time together veered between intellectually fascinating and emotionally frustrating. Stephen would flip between being thoroughly engaged in conversation to being completely distant – almost as if he was no longer present. There were several occasions when I wasn’t even sure if he was aware of his surroundings – he would drift off into a trance like state, staring into space for hours and any attempt to interrupt his thoughts would be met with utter silence. Then, in a heartbeat, he would be back in the room, excitedly explaining a new thought or concept to me, like a child on Christmas day.
As I sit here now and look back on the events leading up to the accident, it is clear that Stephen’s erratic behaviour must have had an enormous effect on Conrad. Conrad the Adonis – the most perfectly beautiful, charming, witty man I have ever met. Stephen’s brilliance, however, cast a wide shadow and I know that Conrad felt trapped beneath it.
Ah, Vasi has arrived and is smiling. I suspect good news.
Vasi and I spent the morning refitting parts to the machine. It’s running at about 23% capacity and so far, the results look good. We are planning on running some inanimate object tests in the next week or so. The good news is I know we get at least as far as moving an inanimate object – this afternoon a tiny folded piece of paper appeared in the machine. It had a date written on it, in Vasi’s handwriting.
Although I have no reason to doubt Vasi, the scientist in me insists on at least considering lex parsimoniae. Vasi could simply have placed the folded paper in the machine for me to find, and I would favour that solution until further proof is available. I have a hunch, however, that in the next weeks we will see a successful test.
A lovely bunch of yellow lilies from Charles was delivered just now. How he found out where I work I don’t know, but I firmly believe accountants travel in packs and one of his colleagues probably does the University payroll. Handsome and inquisitive – quite a combination.
Vvq hbtg yj bal rstqxr ljvvx fl xnppw kuj Zmprrklol 13ts Iop.
I haven’t told Vasi of my discovery – news travels like wildfire on campus and although I trust Vasi completely, I need to be very careful. In the past, my research has had its fair share of negative press, which brings all sorts of unsavoury characters out of the woodwork.
Anyway, back to my story…
Conrad and I became very close extremely quickly – bonding over the trials and tribulations (there were, without doubt, more of the former). I had only been working with he and Stephen in the lab for only a few weeks before we had our first spectacular disaster. We ran a full power test of the latest machine and blew pretty much every circuit it contained – an enormous amount of costly damage. At that point, Stephen went into one of his ‘spirals’ (as his mother Jane used to call them) and spent his days staring at the river or wandering aimlessly around the garden.
Conrad, meanwhile, tirelessly picked up the pieces – a pattern that had often been repeated over the years. He and I stripped the machine back to its basic components, saved what we could and made an inventory of what replacements we would need. At this point, the boys had absolutely no money, so purchasing parts was out of the question. I agreed to talk to Dr. S_______ about the possibility of borrowing some of the university’s equipment and Conrad attempted to contact potential private investors.
He and I would often spend our evenings playing whist at the local pub and, before long, I realised that I could easily fall in love with him.
I realise that I need to take some responsibility for the events that followed, but affairs of the heart are complicated things and I was so very young. I felt myself drawn to Conrad – his solid dependable character felt comforting to me. However, I also found Stephen attractive. His intelligence and awkward charm were of course alluring, but in truth I have to admit his vulnerability also played a part.
It was at about this time that Conrad told me of Victoria – the driving force behind their research. Victoria was a childhood friend of Stephen and Conrad’s, and I think it is fair to say a first love for both of them. They spent idyllic summers together, by the river, and a return to those childhood memories were the absolute focal point of the research. Love and guilt are powerful manipulators. Stephen and Conrad’s understanding of their research so far meant they both believed that they couldn’t change the past. They claimed that ability to visit it was enough for them.
Neither of the boys would actually ever talk about what happened with Victoria and it was Jane who finally told me the story. Part of me wants to share it, but another part of me can’t face thinking about it after all of these years. Perhaps later.