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Brendan Carroll

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A Dark Matter
By Brendan Carroll
Sunday, August 14, 2011

Rated "PG" by the Author.

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The Knight of Death contemplates "Dark Matter"

A Dark Matter
Brendan Carroll

This was indeed a dark matter as were most assignments that the Chevalier du Morte received from the Grand Master of the Red Cross of Gold, Edgard d’Brouchart. As one of the surviving members of the semi-immortal Council of Twelve, Mark Andrew Ramsay had received uncounted requests from his Master aside from his usual duties as assassin and alchemist for the poor Knights of Solomon’s Temple, but this one was surprising indeed.
Mark turned the paper over, half expecting the other shoe to drop, but there was nothing written on the back. Just a simple question front and center of the expensive parchment stationery written in d’Brouchart’s almost illegible, archaic script:
What is the nature of this dark matter that has the scientific world in such a dither, du Morte?
The brooding Scot’s brow creased and then he smiled. The mention of the word ‘dark’ was probably the initiating factor in the Grand Master’s mind. He often called his Knight of Death a ‘dark bastard’ among other things. Certainly he had sent the Scot on enough foreboding missions over the years. Mark had found himself in Eastern Europe searching for revenants and vampires, in Germany seeking out Nazi holdouts, in Russia stalking serial killers and even in America spying on the activities of a number of spurious secret societies. Of course, his normal occupation as assassin for the Order took him even deeper into the darker shadow realms of the human psyche. Then there was his title: Chevalier du Morte, Knight of Death, which had nothing to do with his work as an assassin, but rather dealt with his Divine Mystery that involved the ability to literally cut his Brothers’ souls loose from their earthbound bodies should the need arise with a single blow of the Golden Sword of the Cherubim. This distasteful task had fallen to him a number of times over the centuries whenever one of them had fallen in battle or succumbed to some accident that left their material bodies unsuitable vessels for soul repositories on earth. These were his most distasteful missions, killing his own Brothers.
But this particular assignment seemed almost jovial in comparison, like being asked to eat a smoked salmon or being asked to paint the barn door red. It seemed strange that the Master had not given the assignment to another of the Council Members. Perhaps the Historian or the Knight of the Golden Eagle? But it made no matter; he would do his best to answer the question. It should be simple enough.
A few days later, found the Chevalier du Morte sitting in his favorite chair in his library with two or three dozen scientific journals, textbooks and periodicals scattered about on the floor around him, a small decorative pillow from the settee was in his lap serving as a writing desk. He folded back the leather cover of a worn journal with lined leaves and smoothed out the yellowed page. The journal was just one of a number of notebooks he used to record his alchemical notes in his basement laboratory. In his hand, he held his favorite refillable fountain pen, a smooth gold antique of some considerable value dating from the 1930’s.
He had soaked in everything available on the subject of Dark Matter, the latest fad, fashion and topic of enormous debate in the fields of astrophysics, cosmology and nuclear physics. It seemed that everyone of any note in the scientific community had an opinion of the nature of Dark Matter, its purpose, its existence and its relevance to basic understanding of the Universe, its size, its construction and its future. Currently, the race to capture a ‘picture’ of it was underway with a possible Nobel Prize in the offing for the winner.
Mark now sat in a deep state of meditative contemplation with the library doors closed and bolted, the wolfhounds safely off in the meadow chasing rabbits and the household servants under strict orders not to disturb him. A half empty tumbler of Glendronach Scotch sat on the table at his right elbow in front of the half full bottle of the same. His eyes were open, but his mind wandered the heavens between the stars, beyond the planets and the farthest reaches of known space where the Hounds of the Barrier could be heard barking furiously in the distant caverns of time. After an indeterminate sojourn that could have been hours or mere seconds depending on the point of view, he blinked.
He carefully removed the cap on the pen and checked the ink level in the barrel before putting the tip to the paper.
His thoughts ran ahead of his writing and he found his brain waiting impatiently for his pen to catch up.
Dark Matter. Physicists are searching for it with every technically advanced piece of equipment in the world, spending enormous sums of money on research and basically beating their heads against the proverbial wall, trying to get a glimpse of it, trying to understand its nature. So far, they have managed to prove its existence and have even managed to map its location or density dispersal throughout the universe by the mathematical extrapolation of observable data. The scientists say that without Dark Matter, the Universe would fly apart. All very fascinating, but not much by way of description. They know what it is not. It carries no mass, no electrical charge and does not react with matter. In light of those three mysterious facts, the very thought of proving its existence has been very difficult and is, indeed, not proven at all by positive means, but rather by negative inference, i.e. by what could not exist without it, namely the Universe. Describing something that seems to defy Newton’s laws at every turn appears to be impossible. At least, it seems materially impossible, but perhaps not virtually impossible.
The real questions might rather be: How can something without mass, without weight, without some sort of nuclear charge, so profoundly affect the entire Universe, permeate it, surround it, even fill the space between the individual sub-atomic particles and affect it so completely? And how could this ephemeral substance possibly exert enough gravitational influence to keep the trillions of galaxies in the Universe swirling about at such high rates of speed without flying apart?
Mark stopped writing and shivered slightly as the thought of what the Universe might be if the Dark Matter were to carry a charge and become reactive with matter. If the dispersal rates were accurate, then the very air would be clogged with Dark Matter. Eyes, ears, noses, tactile senses… all useless. What a very different Universe that would be! People, if they existed at all, would be deaf, dumb and blind and about as cognizant of life as the one-celled animals living under the rocks in a stagnant pond.
Rising stiffly from the chair, he laid aside the journal and pen before stoking the fire in the hearth. The fire popped and crackled comfortably, sending up a curtain of embers into the flue. The smell of the fire and its warmth on his face dispelled the chill that had crept into his soul during his silent musings and he suddenly understood why Master d’Brouchart had sent the question to him. He picked up the glass, drained the Scotch and poured another glass from the bottle. The wind rattled the panes in the windows on either side of the fireplace as he sat down and picked up the journal once more.
He drummed his fingers on the paper and took another burning sip of the liquor before continuing to write.
The scientists are digging in the wrong place with the wrong tool.
The Scotch called to him once more and he put aside his pen and paper and picked up the glass. A half hour later, his chin touched his chest, his long, black hair fell around his face as his eyes closed and sleep took him where no scientific journal could.
He stood below the mouth of dark cavern in the side of a sheer rock face some ten to twelve feet above his head. A hot breeze blew his hair in his face and sweat trickled down his face and his back under the weight of his chain mail. Looking about in astonishment, he saw a pale destrier, saddled and covered with the trappings of battle armaments tied to the blasted stump of a gnarled tree a few yards away. The horse rolled his eyes and snorted, raising first one and then the other front hoof nervously, sensing some danger nearby. Mark raised his eyes to the cave and was startled to see the head, shoulders and front feet of a tremendous black beast protruding from the opening. The legs were crossed and the clawed feet hung over the ledge almost casually.
The Knight stumbled back a few feet and gasped for breath as his heart rate kicked into high gear. He clutched the hilt of his golden sword in his gloved right hand. Such an instrument would be useless against such a beast of power. The horse was too far away to reach before the thing could fall on him and rip him to shreds.
The dragon snorted and snuffled the air above his head before lowering its neck and head down far enough to peruse him closely. Its eyes were deep emerald green and its head was covered with elegantly sculpted horns and iridescent scales. A wondrous beauty to behold, mesmerizing and deadly.
“Ah, methinks you have returned with some question burned into your head so sweet. Of your hale and hearty beast, I could make a lovely feast and together we might eat.” The dragon turned its gaze on the warhorse tied nearby causing it to whinny in fright.
Though the voice was loud, it was not harsh, but rather shockingly pleasant to Mark’s ear. His legs shook in his boots and his stomach fluttered, but he knew that showing fear at this point would most likely prove fatal.
“Hale and hearty?” He laughed and lowered the point of his sword to the ground, placing both hands on the hilt to steady himself. “He is naught but stringy tough and I daresay not enough for such a Lord as thee.”
“Well said, well said, my beautiful one,” the dragon seemed pleased with Mark’s summation. “There are tastier things under the sun. Then tell me true , what can I do for the likes of you? Might I sing, for that lovely ring? Take you far from here for a sturdy keg of beer? Ask your question and then we’ll barter for the answer, for I take you to be naught but a mighty Necromancer of whom I may ask a favor and information is what you savor.”
Mark wondered how the beast knew that he had a question, but realized that he had little to barter with. The horse was out of the question. The sword? Never! But the ring? He looked down at the rings he wore on a chain around his neck whilst in full battle armor. A smooth gold ring bearing a white stone with a blood red cross patee inlaid in the center, the ring of the Templar and a smaller silver ring engraved with the letters ‘IAAT’, the sign of the alchemist. He could make new rings, but if she… he wondered if the beast was female and why he assumed so… demanded more, he might have a problem.
“That sounds amenable,” he said carefully.
“Then speak.” The beast drew its head back and up, taking on the appearance of a stone sculpture in gleaming black.
“I am curious about Dark Matter.”
“Dark Matter,” the dragon repeated and it seemed her facial expression changed. "This Dark Matter I presume is not the dark side of the moon, nor is it what lies behind the eyelids in an evil mind, nor could it be what we do not see when deep within the earth we be."
"That is very astute, my terrible friend," said Mark. "You have named what it is not and this is no more than men have done. I'm afraid that I must be moving on for light is burning and I must be about my Master's business."
"Ahhhhh," the dragon snorted again and suddenly slid out of the cave into the space between the Knight and the horse.
Mark drew in a sharp breath and thought that the end had surely come as he raised the twisted golden blade instinctively between them.
"Put away that puny blade," the dragon said, blinking at him slowly. There was definite amusement in her great eyes. "Though by the angels it is made, for I shall not fight with thee, if thou might have discourse with me. Away we'll soar into the blue until eternal black envelops you and there will be the answer clear. You have nothing more to fear."
With that, the enormous claws closed around his waist and he was lifted, breathlessly, but gently into the air, her enormous wings beating up a whirlwind of dust below them. Daring a glance down, he saw his horse and the barren, rocky landscape receding at an alarming rate. He held tight to his sword with one hand and pressed on his helmet with the other as they rose through the clouds into the coldness of space. When nothing remained to fill his lungs, he ceased to breathe and his head felt light and though he knew it was impossible for speech in the relative vacuum of space, he could hear the dragon speaking in his head. The language she spoke was of a primitive time long before man had come of age, yet he could understand it. As she spoke he felt something envelope him and he could no longer see, no longer feel, no longer smell, taste or even think. Only darkness pressed around him and all the Universe was his.
A loud snap from the fireplace indicated the end of some beetle or bug inhabiting the logs burning there and brought the Knight from his slumber with a start. He opened his eyes, drew a deep breath and looked around quickly, finding nothing amiss in the library. The sun had gone and the windows were dark. A chilling moan shook the old house, the window panes rattled in the casement and the distant sound of thunder heralded the approach of a gathering storm.
He picked up the paper and began to write again.
Dark Matter.
1.) Dark Matter does not interact with mundane matter.
2.) Dark Matter is odorless, tasteless, invisible and intangible.
3.) Dark Matter fills the entire Universe, permeating every atom.
4.) Dark Matter completely contains the entire Universe within it.
5.) Dark Matter is affected by nothing in human experience.
6.) Dark Matter affects everything in the Universe.
7.) Dark Matter makes the Universe possible.
There are seven known facts about Dark Matter. Seven is the Holy Number of God.
Conclusion: Dark Matter is God. Simple.
The Chevalier du Morte got up, tossed the notebook on the footstool, recapped the fountain pen and rubbed his hands together. He finished off the bottle of Glendronach, drinking from the bottle and walked across the room to the window left of the fireplace where he pulled aside the heavy drapes and gazed out toward the meadow unable to see anything under the thick cloud cover. A brilliant flash of purplish lightning lit the rolling landscape momentarily and he thought he saw the dark shape of a winged creature swooping low over the ground. He squinted into the window pane and waited. When the next flash came, he saw only rain-soaked grassland.
Chuckling softly at his own imagination he turned from the window and then jumped as the matched pair of wolfhounds set to howling in the foyer outside the library doors. Crossing the room, he laid his left hand on the doorknob and then stopped.
The golden Templar ring was missing from his left ring finger…


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