In my childhood I was fascinated by the dark worlds hidden under the earth’s surface. Back then, I used to spend long hours searching for caves in the mountains around my home. These caverns were spread over a relatively large area, few in number and small in size but their discovery and exploration made me feel like the heroes from my favorite adventure books. More often than not, I would have to climb almost vertical rocks, covered with moss and hidden by pines, until suddenly a new opening to the underworld would pop up in front of my eyes. I was already too old to believe in finding there treasures and trolls. My main purpose was simply to visit areas unseen previously by human eyes.
In one of these expeditions, while crawling through a narrow gallery, I reached a small chamber where my torch light was reflected by a shiny object on the floor. It was a beautiful, transparent cube, with its side measuring about six centimeters. It could easily be mistaken for a nicely cut block of glass, but a more careful look in the light reflexion would show small, regular dots, that displayed strange diffraction patterns. I could never explain how the cube got there, as nobody knew
about the grotto where it was found. The object could be from the War time but it could also be from a much earlier period, even from Antiquity. I remember playing with many types of lanterns and illuminating its interior. Every time I did this, the cube seemed to fill with light in the same way a vessel full of water is filled by a drop of ink. Bright filaments of different colors would begin to grow inside, until the crystal was uniformly lit. I knew it had something special, yet I had never shown it to anyone besides my family and a few close friends. It was my little secret.
Trying to understand the phenomenon, I spent many months reading all the books about optics I could find, but none of them gave me a satisfactory explanation. I could never understand how the crystal worked, but those lectures increased my interest in science and I ended up teaching physics at a small college and working in light-related research.
The years passed and I almost forgot about the cube. It was kept inside a small box, together with other memorabilia from my childhood. And probably it would have stayed there for the rest of my life, had I not started doing some new research into solid state lasers.
I had been living and working in the nearby city for several years, using my childhood home mainly during vacation. That summer began as usually and nothing, absolutely nothing, could predict the incredible events that were going to follow. Yet, they were already gathering around, like the threatening clouds of a hurricane.
I was working on a new project that consisted in designing and building an improved portable laser for low power devices with potential use in both research and industry. The new material employed for the stimulated photon emission released an unusual purple beam. I left the city and took the device with me, planning to do some of the work in the improvised laboratory set up in the attic during the previous year. A small window proved very convenient to test the beam focus at large distances, as it was opening into a large empty area, with the mountains on the background. Every night I would spend a couple of hours looking at the thin purple thread disappearing into the forest-covered peaks. And one evening, suddenly, I remembered about the crystal cube.
I am really surprised how this thought never crossed my mind. Having this object at home for such a long time and never probing its reaction to monochromatic light was certainly unusual. But tonight I shall find out what happens.
The crystal feels cold and hard in my hand when I take it to the attic. I need a few minutes to fix it on a small rotating platform in front of the laser. Then I set the beam to work in continuous regime and the light filaments begin to fill the crystal. It’s a slow process, yet the brightness within becomes more and more powerful with every second. The whole attic is wrapped up now in a diffuse, purple color, with small dots of higher intensity projected on the inside of the roof at regular intervals. I am rotating the cube slowly until its surface is perpendicular to the beam. The laser light crosses the crystal, becomes divergent and points to the window that opens towards the mountains.
It’s already dark outside. I look at the rectangular window glass. The beam is covering it almost completely. And, on the other side, a strange view is now visible. Incredulous, I come closer and find myself admiring a totally alien garden, with alleys placed in regular geometrical patterns and huge trees with white trunks and violet leaves. On the background I can see tall forest-covered mountains. A gray-violet sky and a few purple clouds are visible above. Far away, some unknown, snake-like creatures, are flying. The glass has become a looking-glass. But, unlike the one in Alice’s story, it looks totally different on the other side from the very beginning. And I can’t cross the boundary between these worlds.
I spent the whole night rotating the cube on all faces, yet every time I did it the same view appeared on the other side of my window. I placed other pieces of glass in front of the beam, but the light passed through them unhindered and nothing unusual happend. I tried other windows from my home with exactly the same setup. The unusual phenomenon did not occur. Only the attic window opened towards this incredible view. And when I used a lantern or a tiny laser pointer, the light beam crossed the glass border into the other world... At dawn, the light from outside my home became too bright and the view faded away.
My grandfather used to tell me about a house on the northern hill, not so far away from ours, built by a farmer more than one hundred years ago. The man bought the windows from a glass merchant who used to live in our town for a short time. One day, unexpectedly, he left his property and moved into a far away city. Nobody from our village heard about him anymore. The house was soon demolished, but not before the new owner sold its doors, windows and some of the furniture. My grandfather bought a small window and used it for the attic of our home. Everything took place a long time before I was born. Time flew by and the people today lost track of the glass merchant and the other sheets of glass. In the mean time, my grandfather has passed away, like everybody else from his generation. And now, very few even remember that there used to be a house on the other side of the village river. As for the names, they are already long forgotten...
I took a small sample of the window and analyzed its composition in the university’s lab. The results showed just a typical, triangulum ordinary glass. During the following years, I tried my experiment secretly on every type of transparent material I could think of and with every available laser wavelength. Nothing unusual ever happened. The amazing view opened only into my attic while using the purple light beam. I tried to track the other window sheets, or the glass merchant whereabouts after he left our village, but both glass and man had disappeared without a trace. There was nothing else to do but resign myself to the idea that my attic window was the only piece of glass with these amazing properties.
Every time I come back to my childhood home, I spend long nights looking into the alien world. I have installed another laser to send automatic light pulses, hoping that some intelligent creatures still live there and will answer back someday. I never tried to unmount the glass sheet from the window frame − I like it more this way, it gives me the feeling that my whole home is part of a different universe, that I could cross onto the other side only if I opened it. Sometimes it’s daytime, sometimes it’s night in the garden. Watching the movements of the white sun in the alien sky, I have estimated the planet day length to be about 27 hours and 17 minutes. The flying creatures never came close so far, so I can’t tell for sure what they are. I have taken photographs and recorded videos. Yet, for the time being I prefer to avoid telling others about my unusual discovery. Having my sheet of glass taken away by the government to a secret location surrounded by armed soldiers and used for dubious purposes is not what I want.
I believe that mankind is not ready yet for an official contact with an alien world. For the time being, only the light can cross the boundary of glass. But teleportation experiments that carried electrons and atoms from one place to another have been under way in several laboratories for quite a while. Someday, we might be able to use photons to even transport our bodies between different locations. And that could include passing through the glass boundary of my attic window into the alien world. But not now, not yet.
The garden might be a remote, little circulated area, perhaps the builders of its stargate left the planet long ago. Or maybe they still live nearby and might appear in front of the glass sheet at any moment. So, I continue to send them pulsed signals of light every time I come to my ancestral home.
There is a stargate in my attic. I don’t know where it opens, but, based on string theory, my calculations suggest that the mysterious garden visible on the other side is less than one hundred light years away. Someday, this planet will be discovered by our telescopes, and maybe in a distant future a man-made probe will cross the dark cosmic void to explore her strange landscapes. However, for the time being I’d rather keep it as my personal secret.