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Brilliant scientist, Thomas Cormac learns an astounding truth about the Time-Space Continuum that makes up the universe and creates a special world to protect his beloved daughter from the growing baseness of humankind.
THE GARDEN ON THE EDGE OF TIME
By Francis Eaden
“Well, your holiday’s almost over and you’ll soon be back chasing that poor young man of yours all over the Oxford campus I suppose,” Cormac said.
“He’s wonderful; I’m sure you’ll like him,” Siobhan promised.
This was what Cormac had wanted for her but now found he had mixed emotions. He already disliked this male who planned on taking his daughter from him. He knew that his attitude was extremely illogical.
“I love him, father. He’s kind, and understanding, and sensitive.”
“They are rare qualities in a person,” Cormac said.
“He has a great sense of humor,” she said, trying to make sure that she had mentioned all of his qualities that might impress him. “He’s also very attractive,” she added almost apologetically.
“A sense of humor is a very reliable indicator of intelligence,” Cormac offered.
“He is intelligent, Father. In his undergraduate work, he majored in both math and physics. Now he’s going for his doctorate in physics. He says that he needed mathematics because that’s the language of God.”
“He’s right. By the way, that’s been said before, but I’m glad to hear he considers the possibility that he might, someday, have to speak to the Creator,” Cormac said benignly. He changed his tone when he saw the irritation on her face. “He does sound very nice, darling. Why don’t you invite him to come and visit this weekend, before you go back to school?”
“Come here?” Siobhan asked in surprise. “And see the garden and everything? And see everything, even the cottage?” This was the first time he had ever suggested such a thing.
“Well, we could blindfold him but that might make him suspicious about our intentions.” In for a penny, in for a pound, he thought. After all, he had practically ordered her to find herself a mate.
Siobhan laughed nervously. “I suppose it might,” she giggled, picturing her dear love, Sean, being led about the garden blindfolded. “It would be lovely though; we could fly back to London together on Sunday.”
Cormac took her hand, “Do you think this young man you love is truly worthy of your trust?”
“Oh, yes, Father, but I do think he’ll have questions. He knows a lot about your work at Perihelion and has read all of your publications, even those you wrote while you were teaching at M.I.T.”
“Ah, he found my work interesting then?” Cormac was genuinely pleased. “Then I will trust him too. Let’s show him what the world can really be like. I’m looking forward to meeting him. You don’t think that he’s pretending to like you just so he can meet me, do you?” he asked laughing.
“Oh, you do have a mean streak, Daddy.”
She hadn’t called him “Daddy” in a long time. He found that he still liked it.
* * *
Sean Lanahan was as physically impressive as Siobhan had described. After his initial amazement at the wonder of their garden, he was almost speechless when he walked into the large Victorian parlor of the seemingly small Irish cottage of much older vintage.
“Father likes to mix his times and spaces,” she said smiling, demurely, knowing that this was just the first of many surprises.
Siobhan led him to his room and left him with time to unpack. Back in the parlor, she smiled at Cormac. “He’s going to be asking you quite a few questions. It’s going to be interesting watching you try to pacify him with vague answers. I think he’s too smart for that.”
“Well, I hope so, if he’s going to be my son-in-law.”
Before dinner, Siobhan, Sean, and Cormac settled into the comfortable living room over a glass of excellent Chardonnay and began the time-honored ritual of getting to know each other. Cormac was impressed with the young man’s candid answers to his questions. The questions ranged from seemingly casual inquiries about Sean’s background to more trenchant queries about his knowledge of the fields in which he was going to practice. His intuitive understanding of quantum mechanics and cosmology amazed Cormac who became obviously more relaxed with this person who was going to take his daughter from him. Siobhan recognized his growing acceptance of Sean and smiled at him. After an hour and a half, Siobhan interrupted.
“Gentlemen, although I’m fascinated by your exciting discussion, I think we should break for dinner. I’m starved.”
Cormac agreed. He apologized to Sean and said, “It’s rare that I find such interesting company in my living room.”
Sean gracefully countered with a sincere expression of his respect for Cormac and his work.
Both Cormac and Siobhan loved to cook and had gathered recipes from all over the world. This particular dinner had been prepared by Cormac. It started with an appetizer of huge prawns with an exceptional Remoulade sauce. This was followed by a main course of Coquilles St. Jacques over rice, ending with a dessert of cinnamon peaches and raspberries served in a snifter of white wine.
After dinner, the three retired to a cozy sitting room, overlooking the garden. While they sipped their cognac, Sean spoke. “Dr. Cormac, with all due respect, I must confirm my conclusions about what I’m experiencing. I think this it what you expect me to do after showing me so many wonders.”
Cormac just smiled.
“When Siobhan and I entered your property, I passed through a force field, cleverly disguised as a fog bank, then drove through an impossible garden in full bloom with every plant that I’ve ever seen or even heard about. Siobhan parked in front of a small cottage with a genuine thatched roof that expanded into a large Victorian home, at least five times as large as the cottage that housed it. I kept quiet, because I sensed that she didn’t want me to ask her any questions. I concluded that you wanted to discuss these phenomena with me after you determined my ability to understand what I saw. I presume that was the reason for the depth of our previous dialogue.”
“Exactly right, Sean. Now what do you think might be a logical explanation for these phenomena?” I think my beautiful daughter has made a fine choice, Cormac thought.
Sean looked at Siobhan and then back at her father. “Based upon your previous work, combined with my own speculations, and our talk before dinner, I think that you’ve found a way to move out of the space-time continuum of our Universe. This place doesn’t seem to be governed by any of our natural laws. I don’t understand how this could be. These are the speculations of mathematicians and cosmologists who think that we might be able to enter into a Black Hole without having it collapse on us. They propose that this might allow a traveler to escape the space-time continuum and even enter into an alternate universe.”
Cormac smiled broadly. “Excellent, Mr. Lanahan,” then he added, “Sean.”
Siobhan also smiled and clapped her hands. Sean Lanahan had passed the test.
“Let me push you a little further, Sean,” Cormac continued. “Of all the theoretical concepts in this arena, which do you think might be the most accurate theory of how a Black Hole might be kept open?”
Sean sat quietly, obviously in deep thought, then he spoke; “I think the theoretical physicist’s idea of an undiscovered exotic matter, which has a tremendous negative energy that could prevent a Black Hole from collapsing on itself, is the most viable according to Einstein’s equations.”
“I’m taking a real liking to you, young man,” Cormac thought. “I’ve discovered that theory to be correct,” he answered.
Sean Lanahan was so overwhelmed he could hardly speak. He wanted to ask hundreds of questions, but he finally settled on what he knew was the most important: “How did you determine this?”
“I guess the simplest way to put it is that it came as a sudden understanding that we are but figments of our own imagination, to limited degree of course. This was echoed over the years by poets and philosophers without any real knowledge of natural science. I suddenly realized that the true nature of our Universe might be hiding in the minds and souls of our poets rather than in the books of the scientists. In Shakespeare’s Tempest, Prospero says ‘We are such stuff as dreams are made on . . .’ and the poet Wordsworth indicated his belief that humans are basically made of the same stuff as the rest of creation and would eventually return to those basic elements when he predicted that a love who died would be ‘Rolled round in earth’s diurnal course with rocks, and stones, and trees.’ But, without doubt, there is a master plan to this creation. There’s too much intelligence here to write this off as an accident.
“Now we suspect that all things are constructed from the same energy and particles generated about fifteen billion years ago in that singularity called The Big Bang. About 300,000 years later, the subatomic particles we call Quarks appeared and, like children playing with blocks, began to construct the protons and neutrons that make up the physical matter of our world. Ah, but I digress; It’s one of the weaknesses of an old teacher.
“Back in 1935, Einstein, and an associate Nathan Rosen, realized that the theory of general relativity allows the existence of shortcuts that could connect different, distant areas of the space-time continuum. Using these shortcuts one would be able to jump out of space-time, so to speak, and return to it in a different place or a different time.”
“Einstein-Rosen bridges,” Sean said, excitedly. “The scientific community called them Wormholes.”
“Right, Sean,” Cormac continued, “Wormholes. Einstein had trouble accepting this even though the possibility was suggested by his own equations.
“As you mentioned, cosmologists believed that Black Holes could only exist for an instant, and anyone or anything passing through would run into an area of infinite density and be crushed. After years of work, using the same equations they applied to the speculation about Black Holes, many scientists concluded that the same thing would happen if one tried to traverse a Wormhole. Extending that premise, a Wormhole might also be kept open by the same negative energy that could allow passage into a Black Hole.”
“The exotic matter again,” Sean interrupted. “At least that’s what the physicists are calling it, but they really don’t know what it is do they?”
“My father does,” Siobhan said from her seat in the corner of the couch, with more than a hint of pride.
Sean looked at Siobhan in disbelief.
“Yes, It’s true , Sean. I really just stumbled across it. Finding and producing energy has been one of my primary research interests. But, while looking for an accessible Wormhole through a telescope, I discovered that, with this so-called exotic matter, I might punch a hole into the space-time continuum any place I wished. I, theoretically, could create my own personal Wormhole without ever leaving my house.”
Sean opened his mouth to speak.
“Before you ask, and I hope you respect my judgment on this, I won’t disclose the secret of my discovery yet. I haven’t even told Siobhan. There’s still a lot of testing to do.”
* * *
The rest of the weekend was lovely. Cormac controlled the weather. They played games, and laughed, and ate Siobhan’s fantastic cooking. Nothing was said that was any way related to Black Holes or to exotic matter.
The only distressing factor occurred when Siobhan mentioned that she had seen his ex-partner, Emile Cadron, four or five times around Oxford over the past month.
“Wherever we went, he seemed to show up. I wonder what he was doing there? He seemed very friendly.”
Cormac also wondered.
The guests left on Sunday afternoon. Cormac was sorry to see them go but was happy for his daughter. Her new life seemed to have an auspicious start.
Cormac knew by their faces that they wanted to know more about his discovery, but he couldn’t take this chance with their lives. He had almost lost his own in this exploration. He let them down as gently as possible.
* * *
He stood at the sitting-room window and watched the sun go down over his garden. He felt a curious blend of melancholy and contentment. His mood quickly changed when he heard a familiar voice.
“You’ve really done it this time, Tom. This is some accomplishment even though I have no idea what the hell it is,” Emile Cadron said. “I bet you wonder how I got in here.”
Thomas Cormac just looked at him coldly. “That’s easy, Emile. You followed my daughter and her friend through the force field, just far enough behind so you couldn’t be seen in the fog.” He shook his head thoughtfully. “What tenacity of purpose; what patience. You must have slept in your car for two days.”
“Right, Thomas. You always had answers for everything. That’s why I became your partner. You’re right. I did sleep in the car even though it got a little chilly at night. I brought some sandwiches and curled up in my car hating you for what you did to me.”
“That was a long time ago, Emile. What is it you want?”
“Just my fair share. When you crashed our business at Perihelion, you left me with nothing. That really pissed me off. I wanted to get even with you, but you disappeared. I want a share of whatever you’ve got here.”
“Certainly, Emile. You may pick any of the flowers in the garden. Fill up your car. If you see any furniture you like, you’re welcome to it. Victorian is in these days, I hear.”
“Don’t talk down to me you son-of-a-bitch. I know you’ve discovered some energy source that’s really big. That foggy force field alone uses enough energy in an hour to light London for a month.”
“Why are you so interested in where I get my energy, Emile? Of what possible value could this information be to you? If I did develop a way to tap into some subterranean energy source, I certainly would have a patent on it. You wouldn’t be able to steal it from me like you did at Perihelion. Why did you betray me?”
“Betray you? I became your partner to get rich. You were too much of a do-gooder to even know what you had: a way to supply cheap energy to every country in the world. We could have been the richest men on earth, but you wanted to give it away to them for peanuts. Okay, that was your choice, but I wanted to make some money.”
“So you secretly charged exorbitant fees for licenses to use my method and put the money into your own private bank account.”
“Hey! What can I say? You were too dumb to notice and my philosophy is everybody’s got to look out for himself. Now let’s stop this good old times stuff and talk about now. I may not be as smart as you, but I can recognize a good thing when I see it. You’ve got all the flowers in the world growing here in the garden of a little stone cottage that’s a full fledged twelve-room B&B inside.”
“I’ve been trying to get in here for the last three months; I kept getting lost in that goddamn fog. I rented a helicopter and flew over where this place should have been, but it wasn’t here. The bloody fog bank wasn’t even here. I had the pilot land, and there was the fog again. This is no simple energy mining site.
“I was trying to figure out what you were doing here. I work for a big energy consortium, but I didn’t want to tell them about this if I didn’t have to. If I discover anything on their time, it’s automatically theirs. Finally, I borrowed one of their planes equipped with energy-sensing equipment and infrared scanners. There was nothing in this location but a mountain valley inhabited by grazing sheep. I’m telling you this, because I want you to understand how much I know about your little operation. What kind of magic do you have here? This garden bullshit is just a cover for something a lot bigger.”
Cadron reached into his jacket and pulled out a lethal looking automatic. “Does this convince you how serious I am?”
“How did you manage to follow my daughter all the way from Cork without her seeing you?”
“I didn’t. I’ve been spying on her for the last month, eating in the same restaurants, listening to her talk to her mates, bugging her phone calls. I knew she was bringing her boyfriend here to introduce him to you. I even heard them planning a wedding. Any chance of getting invited.” Cadron laughed humorlessly.
Cormac felt his muscles stiffen.
“I caught an earlier plane into Cork and hid my car, off-the-road, about a mile from here. When they went by, I just eased out behind them as they entered the fog. It was easy to follow close behind them. I had rented a white car, just for this purpose, and left the lights off. They were so busy with each other, they didn’t notice me.”
“Emile,” Cormac said quietly. “Don’t ever involve my daughter in any business between us.”
“Or what?” Cadron asked gruffly. “You notice that I have the gun here? Now stop all these questions. I want you to explain what the hell you have going on here. If you don’t, I swear I’ll kill you and then just explore this place on my own. In time, I’ll be able to figure out what you’re doing. It’s poetic, don’t you think? You were always the one who liked poetry. I could kill you right here and nobody would ever find out, because this place doesn’t really exist. This property that you bought is just a front.”
“Yes, you could kill me,” Cormac said, thinking how he might best resolve this crisis. He didn’t want to hurt Cadron if he could find another solution from the one that was most obvious.
Cadron’s next words nullified any concern Cormac had for him.
“If you won’t tell me what I want to know, I’ll kill you now, then I’ll round up your pretty daughter and bring her here. Hell, she must know what’s going on: She lives here. I suspect a young lady her age won’t have your resistance to cooperating. I’m sure a little pain, properly applied, will convince her pretty fast that it’s better to be a live coward.”
Comac stood very still with his head bowed. He could feel himself descending into that now familiar deep meditative state. He spoke, in a voice that sounded hollow and far away: “I’m sorry, Emile. I can’t let you do that. I’ll let you in on my secret. In fact, I’ll even make you part of it. I had just awakened from one of my meditation sessions . . . ”
“Yeah, I remember them. I always thought you were sleeping on the job. Cut to the chase, will you?”
“I had gone deeper than I had ever gone before and had the sudden realization, a conviction, that the Universe is a flowing sea of energy, endlessly organizing itself into matter, then decomposing back into energy. I looked down at my body; it was transparent in some areas and translucent in others. One of my hands was missing, but I felt no pain. I forced myself to begin the controlled breathing that would bring me back from the meditative state. I began to recover my physical form. My hand returned and my tissues began to take on solid form. Finally, my sense of feeling returned. It was then that I understood the simple truth that all matter is actually a temporary state of the space-time continuum itself and not just something embedded or floating in it. Everything that exists is the continuum, both matter and energy. All matter can be generated, molded, and controlled.” Cormac stopped for a breath.
“Holy God. That’s really scary. If it wasn’t you talking, I’d say you were on drugs.” Cadron thought a minute. “But what can it do? How can we sell it?”
“I’m getting to that,” Cormac said. “You must be patient with me; this isn’t easy to explain. Later, recalling that experience, I realized that, somehow, I had almost converted myself into pure energy and then was able to restore myself to human form. In both of these instances, it was my mind that controlled these events. From that day on, I worked on learning to control my mind. I practiced going deeply into meditation but consistently maintained focus on my own identity. I now understood that, if I lost that focus I would cease to exist.
“As I experimented, I discovered that I didn’t have just a passive relationship with the continuum. By carefully compartmentalizing my thoughts, I could control it and travel within it. I could use its energy to do anything that I was capable of imagining. I even learned how to open Wormholes wherever I wished and, in them, mined some of the exotic matter that I used to create this garden and this wonderful house. I also discovered that when I traveled through the Wormholes, time stopped for me. I could spend a year exploring and return home on the same date that I left. I could go back in time.’
“I’ve got a brilliant idea,” Cadron interrupted, excitedly: “This is what you need a guy like me for. We can set up a travel agency and send rich people back in time on vacations. They’d pay anything for that trip.”
Cormac looked at him sadly.
“This sounds too good to be true ,” Cadron continued. He waved the gun again “You got to show me some kind of proof, a demonstration.”
“As you wish, Emile,” Cormac said. “I wanted to do more testing anyway.”
Emile Cadron saw the figure in front of him first become translucent, then transparent. His hand gripping the gun went limp, and the weapon fell to the floor. “What the hell’s going on here?” he shouted at the fading apparition before him.
“Listen, Thomas, please stop this. I’ll leave peacefully. Forget my talk about your daughter. I wasn’t really going to hurt her,” Cadron cried. He looked around the room for some escape. The room and all its furnishings were becoming like melting glass. He looked toward the garden; it had vanished. All beyond the rapidly fading cottage was absolute darkness. Screaming, for as long as he was able, he was absorbed into the blackness.
* * *
Cormac sat on a curved marble bench on the edge of his garden. He was sorry about Emile Cadron. There might have been some other way, but his threat to Siobhan had been too much. He wondered if there could be a special Hell for doing what he did. He resolved to use more restraint in the future. His lips moved in silent prayer.
Site: Aphelion-Webzine, Issue 56, Vol. 6, Feb. 2002
Reader Reviews for
"The Garden on the Edge of Time"
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|Reviewed by S Cardin
|I thought this was a very intriguing story. I did how the human size of Cormac came across in his love for his daughter. The ending was good and I thought Cadron got what he deserved. My only suggestions would be to consider using a POV narration strictly from Cormac's perspective. I think that will heighten the suspense. Also, the sci-fi terms were a bit hard to grasp. I had to read it a couple of times to understand what you were driving. If anything, I might suggest you try to bring it down a bit. Mind you, these are only suggestions, nothing more.|
|Reviewed by m j hollingshead
|enjoyed the read|
|Reviewed by C. Dunne
|Hard science wrapped in a tender love story of a father for his daughter.|