Something’s not right. Again. But it’s not with Ostium. It’s . . . It’s with me. I’m not right. Somethings wrong. With me. And I’m . . . I’m really fucking scared. I’m . . . I’m recording this while Monica is out. She said she wanted to take a walk downtown, clear her head or something, and look at some of the doors. I said sure, it gives me time to do a recording. A private recording. About what’s happening to me. Or at least what I think is happening to me.
Today began like it has for the last couple of days. With me waking up in Monica’s bed, next to Monica. And she’s usually naked, as I ma, which is totally awesome. Sorry, definitely still enjoying this honeymoon period of great sex that I hope never ends. But it’s weird. I feel different in the mornings, now, when I wake up. I don’t want to talk to Monica about it, at least not yet. Maybe down the road a bit, when I can make more sense of it, I might. It just seems . . . Superficial right now, like it’s not really something to get all worked up about. Even though that’s exactly what I’m doing. Because I just don’t feel right . . Right in my mind . . . In my right mind. Things are hazy and fuzzy like a bunch of pink cotton candy got stuffed into my skull. And then, as things start to clear, I find I can’t remember things exactly, or as well as I did the day before. All the important stuff is there just fine. My history, memories of my life before Ostium, my family, my work, all the thousands of books I’ve read, even the bad ones, unfortunately.
There goes that photographic memory again.
Hey, come on, I haven’t mentioned it in a . . . while.
It’s the more recent stuff that’s iffy. The really recent stuff. About Ostium. I remember all the doors and all the important stuff about Ostium, except . . . [COUGH] What I need to remember that I can’t anymore. It’s to do with how Ostium was making me feel. I’m not sure. What effect Ostium was having on me. Something about what I thought of Ostium. Going through those doors. Finding the artifact. Bringing it back. Putting it in the map table. Like there’s a price that’s exacted on something or someone to be doing this. I know I’ve thought of it recently through the laws of nature. You knows those, right? The one about every action having an equal and opposite reaction. And the other one about energy, and how you can’t ever destroy energy, just transform it into something else. Well, I feel like I’ve thought about this in relation to Ostium on a number of occasions. I even feel like I’ve talked with Monica about it. But it’s like it’s not there anymore. I can’t remember the details or salient points or what I was trying to say about it. They’re just blurs now, hazy intuitions that tell me nothing.
And the real reason this has got me so freaked out is because even though I can’t remember this stuff, I can remember something else that’s way more scary. I can remember that yesterday I didn’t remember this stuff at first, but then I worked at it, to try to jog my memory, and then I did remember it. And now, on this new day, it’s all gone again. I don’t know why. And I’ve been trying since I woke up – so for like two hours – to remember it, and it’s just not there anymore, or I can’t access it.
So yesterday I couldn’t remember but then I made myself remember.
Today, I can’t even do that.
And . . . I’m fucking terrified about it. I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t . . . I don’t know what’s happening to me.
Okay . . . [BREATH] I think I’ve made my point, for now. Oh, and I hear Monica coming back, so I need to pull it together and go find where our next door is.
~ ~ ~
I’ve got a moment while Monica takes a quick shower and then we’re going to head out for the next door. When she got back I had a quick chat about me doing some live recordings. Her immediate reaction was a big fucking no. She wants to keep out of all that stuff and focus on getting the artifacts and getting the hell out of there before the blackness starts coming in like a racing San Francisco Fog (he’s called Carl by the way, the fog of the City by the Bay), and find Steve. I cooled her down a bit and explained myself. I said it’s hard at the end of the day to remember every single detail and thing that happened, especially if there’s a lot of shit going on. And how talking and narrating it as it’s happening might help me figure out why Ostium is doing this to me and constantly putting me in pieces of my past. This pretty much convinced her but I added some icing about how I always end up doing my spiel in front of her once I recognize where we are, and what’s the harm in recording it as it happens. It’ll save me having to repeat myself later and try to remember what I said. Plus, doing it then and there always makes me remember and monologue it way better. I reminded her about the guided tour of the Catalina Casino Building courtesy of yours truly. This got me a smile.
As for recording, I can set my phone to record and I’ve noticed before that it picks up sound really well, even when it’s in my pocket. Impressively well. Like there’s something helping it record that clearly, or there’s something . . . Perhaps supernatural about the recording app I use. Maybe it’s those Ostium waves buzzing around us all the time. Who knows.
The other big reason I want to start doing this is because of the stuff I talked about earlier, with my memory issues. Some weird shit has been going on with me, and I don’t know what’s causing it, but I do know recording everything as it happens like this can only help me try to figure it out and ultimately help get my memory back.
There’s also one point I have to make real quick before I run out of time and let my subconscious slap me for even thinking or saying this, but: what if Monica has something to do with it? What if she’s causing this to happen to me?
I know, I know. It sounds crazy. What with all the sex and how great we are together and how it really seems like I make her happy. I know she makes me happy. And we’re a team. So, it’s a couple hundred miles beyond far-fetched . . . And yet. I just don’t know. It’s a big if.
But it’s still an if.
~ ~ ~
On our way to the door I let Monica know my prediction: that this door will lead us to somewhere in the future.
“And how do you know that?” she asks.
I tell her about the pattern Ostium has been following so far: a door into the past, followed by another door into the past, then a door into the future, and then a door from my own past.
“So now we’re due for a door from the future?”
“Yep,” I say.
“And tomorrow, if all goes well, we’ll be taking a trip down your memory lane?”
“Er, yeah. As you say: if all goes well.”
“I’ll call your bluff. Let’s see.”
I lead us to a door in the east wall of Ostium. It’s number 201. I grab her hard, open the door, and we go in together.
It closes behind us and there’s just darkness. I swear it lasts a second or two longer than usual, testing us. Or as Monica would say: “It’s just Ostium fucking with us.”
Then there’s a whooshing sound and the door in front of us splits open into two doors, each side receding into the wall. Before us is a whole lot of metal: metal walls, metal ceiling, metal floor. I hear a humming. There’s some sort of indirect lighting that you can’t really see, and yet you can see the hall in front of us just fine. I step out, not wanting the doors to close on us and somehow trap us in some sort of Ostium limbo.
I actually shiver at this thought.
“Yeah, let’s not get stuck in there,” Monica says, joining me.
Within a single look we both know the same thing: the hallway we’re standing in is awesomely futuristic.
“I should’ve made you place a bet on my prediction.”
She just gives me a look. Too soon I guess.
It’s a hallway of doors, as hallways tend to be. Though these doors are all cool Star Trek looking ones that whoosh open as you approach them, but it all feels kind of overwhelming here. Our door has remained open for a bit and now closes once we move away from it. OSTIUM is imprinted across it in big red letters. So we’ll be able to see it from pretty far away.
I walk up to another door, it opens and gives me a view of another hallway with lots of other doors. I try a few more, Monica tagging along, and we find more of the same. This is starting to tell me either we’re in a really big spaceship – like that George R. R. Martin short story series, no, not the one about knights and dragons and Westeros; it was about this crazy spaceman called Tuf and his travels across the galaxy in a ship that was literally multiple kilometers long. Alternatively, we could be on something like a space station, or a settled planet with future tech, or something else entirely. My mind is flipping through science fiction ideas and possibilities I’ve read like John Cusack flipping through his vinyl in the High Fidelity movie. I’m also very excited about being here and the possibilities of what we’re actually standing on.
“Why’s you’re hand so sweaty?”
“Er . . .” And then I tell her where we could be.
“So basically this is a scifi wet dream for you.”
“Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.”
Then I see a box-like shape on the right wall ahead. I jog up to it. It has a small viewer panel in the front, like you’re supposed to lean in and look at it, or look through it maybe, to see what’s on the other side. Maybe I’ll be able to get an idea where we are, or at least see what space looks like on the other side of this wall.
I put my face to the viewer panel and a frame extends out to block out light and allows me to focus better. I rest my face against the frame, which is supportive and comfortable. What I see on the other side defies my logic at first. I just can’t wrap my mind around what I’m seeing. Because it takes time. I pull away and look at Monica with a dry lake-bed of frown lines on my forehead.
“Lemme take a look, braniac.”
She peers in and watches for about ten seconds, then she pulls away.
“I don’t get it. It’s a big bright ball. Really bright. Really big. Is it like the opposite of the Death Star or something?”
I just shake my head, my brain working in overdrive, going through those science fiction ideas now like a flip-book, and then I suddenly find what I’m looking for.
“No, it’s much more than that. Though one hundred points to Gryffindor for the Star Trek reference.”
“I believe that’s Star Wars!”
“Another hundred points! I was testing you. No, it’s not just a big bright ball. It’s a fucking star. We’re in a Dyson Sphere.”
~ ~ ~
The Dyson Sphere is one of those distant future science fiction ideas, you know, along with teleporters and FTL drives (that’s faster than light for you Luddites). The kind we’re not going to see in our lifetimes, but then neither will our grandchildren, or our great great grandchildren. It’s named after the physicist and mathematician, Freeman Dyson. He formalized the concept in 1960 in a paper for the journal Science, entitled “Search for Artificial Stellar Sources of Infra-Red Radiation.” But let’s keep it simple and straightforward.
“For us idiot tourists?” Monica says.
I just not gonna touch that. Not with a ten-foot pole. Not even to try and make a joke out of it.
It’s the concept about a distant, future civilization. If we’re talking about Earth and humanity, we’re looking at least a few thousand years in the future. It’s basically an extremely technologically advanced civilization that’s also like super massive. A population in the trillions probably, and they’ve conquered the galaxy. If we look at our planet again, we’re talking about expanding beyond our solar system and we’ve colonized and live on every planet, moon, meteor and asteroid that we can safely inhabit. We’re talking more advanced than Star Trek and more advanced than Star Wars. It’s all about power and energy. When you’re running a galactic empire, you need a lot of juice to keep it going. And what has more energy in the universe than a star? Dyson’s idea was to create some sort of containment . . . Er, contraption around the star. So we’re talking massive size. And this Dyson Sphere would somehow harness the energy of the star.
“That sounds . . .”
“Yeah,” is my terse reply.
Imagine a humongous solar panel that’s big enough to encircle a star. You’re talking about a beaucoup amount of wattage.
“And that’s where we are: inside a Dyson Sphere?”
“Yeah. I’m pretty sure from what I can see through the viewer. It’s always been a theoretical concept. Some science fiction authors have used it, like Larry Niven, Frederik Pohl, and Robert J. Sawyer. In TV, there was actually an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation that featured a Dyson Sphere from an alien civilization, I think it was called ‘Relics.”
I can’t help smiling. “No. I know it was called that. Actually Dyson himself said he was partly inspired by the works of Olaf Stapledon and Edgar Rice Burroughs, to name a few, before he came up with his eponymous sphere. Come on.”
I lead the way up the corridor, wanting to see as much of this place as I can before we run out of time. It actually feels like being on an episode of Star Trek, except those were all sets and this is the real deal. But this means we’re surrounded by technology that’s millennia into our future. At the same time, this place is huge. Massive. We have to be constructive in how we look around. As usual, the most important thing is to locate and collect the artifact. So that’s what I’m focusing on.
I take a deep breath, clear my mind, and concentrate on where I’m being drawn.
Monica knows what I’m doing and now she’s frowning at me as I narrate this. I’m peaking at her. It’s kind of cute. And now I’ve got a smile.
Back to honing in. I can feel it, that gentle pull I’ve become so familiar and comfortable with, drawing me along. We pass through a door as it whooshes open, then another, and then another. We go through five doors, and it feels like each successive room we enter I can see more details of this incredible advanced civilization and want to spend valuable time studying it, but can’t. Plus Monica’s ready to drag me along if I start to dawdle. And then we’re in a hangar-sized room. It’s just overwhelmingly huge. And I’m immediately reminded of that exhibit room in the base on Mars with pieces of Earth’s past in its exploration of the red planet. Here there are displays and tables and glass cases like little glass houses showcasing this civilization’s history. We’re passing between them and I’m just catching snippets. Objects of history I can’t quite recognize. Datapads and screens displaying information. I think I catch sight of what might be ancient, brittle paper. That’s when I start wondering. What if? Could it be?
Then I see a display about twenty feet away in a glass care. It’s a photo, a big photo. I recognize it. All too well.
My legs turn cold, then to jelly and I collapse to the floor. I haven’t felt like this since I went through the infinity door, back in the office where I worked. Because I’ve just witnessed an impossibility. Something that simply should not be.
Monica didn’t see it, but like before, she’s there by my side, helping me.
“What was it?”
I raise a shaking arm and try to lift a finger, but can’t. I point my chin in the general direction, and Monica helps me walk over. The closer we get, the clearer it is to me. After a few steps, Monica recognizes who’s in the photo, slows down. She looks at me, but doesn’t understanding. I don’t either. But I keep going, pulling her along more now that she’s helping me.
We reach it and I stare in both confusion and awe at a giant-sized photo of me, one of my old Facebook profile pics. I think Brandon took it. Maybe it was a selfie? Holy shit. It was. Like one of the first and only one’s I ever took of myself.
What the fuck is it doing in a museum thousands of years in the future?
~ ~ ~
Fortunately there’s a screen below the photo of me with a big block of text. Even more fortunately it’s in English. I don’t need to start reading it to know that the star this Dyson Sphere is encircling is ours. The sun. Sol. The one belonging to our solar system. And then Monica and I start reading.
~ ~ ~
Jake Matthew Fisher. A savior of humanity? In a time of strife and suffering, where the number of dead was an everyday mounting number, there was purportedly one who changed that, who helped those in need, who rescued those who were lost. It is a period now deep in our history, millennia ago, where much of the history and knowledge has been lost. But this is one story that has survived across the ages, carried through time and across space by word of mouth, by text, by subsonic message, who knows? We no longer know the when, or the how, or even the why. All we know is the what.
The What: What records we have are vague and their accuracy is in question, but sometime during the earlier part of the twenty-first century Planet Earth was hit with a bizarre series of catastrophic events that seemed to come out of nowhere. They occurred unexpectedly and at random across the globe. It is not known exactly how many people died from each horrific event, but that number was at the minimum in the thousands and likely reached into the tens and potentially hundreds of thousands.
The Events: While this is not thought to be a complete list of the catastrophic events experienced by our home planet during these troublesome times, this list is as complete as possible (any further events or details discovered will be added to this list as needed). Original terminology has been used for these events; you can research further using your datapad and the museum application.
Radiation: Due to a nuclear plant malfunction, a radioactive cloud spread across the continent of Europe.
Virus: A devastating new strain of the Ebola virus erupted in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Earthquake: A tectonic tremor of a level never seen before occurred in the western Pacific Ocean, generating a record-sized tsunami or tidal wave that swept across Japan and the east coast of China.
Tanker: A ship carrying crude oil ran aground along the south coast of Britain and the polluting oil reached the coasts of France and Spain.
United States: A series of mass disappearances struck the United States of America during this time, specifically the state of California, where it is thought Jake lived. The concept of people or groups of people going missing has a deep and disturbing history throughout the world. Some notable ones include the Lost Colony of Roanoke in the United States; a sailing vessel called the Mary Celeste in the Atlantic Ocean. An island off the coast of California called Catalina had its entire population suddenly disappear. The great city of San Francisco had a mass of its people in the center suddenly vanish. The Northern California coastal town of Fort Bragg somehow suffered a similar fate when all the people simply vanished.
While these strange disappearances don’t seem to relate to the aforementioned catastrophic events, according to the literature, they are always mentioned together.
The Legend: As with all stories that had their genesis moment long ago and have been passed down through time via various means, the question of their veracity always comes into consideration. But what can perhaps be considered a tenant of these tales, these legends and fables, is at the heart there is an important kernel of truth. With the story of Jake Matthew Fisher, it is perhaps impossible to separate the fact from fiction, so here we give you the whole story as we have been able to deduce from the research. Again, if you research yourself, you will find a multitude of alternate, parallel, and conflicting theories on this enigmatic and mysterious person. We seek here to present you with the simplest and most concrete version of thes tale.
At some point after all these strange and terrible events, it is unclear how much time, whether months or years or decades or perhaps even centuries, all the people were somehow, suddenly and irrevocably returned to life and restored to where they lived. One moment they were gone, nonexistent; and the next they were brought back. The catastrophic events, the damage; all was undone as if it had never happened. And all those many, many people were hale and healthy again. What Jake Matthew Fisher had to do with this, that remains unknown and mysterious, but for every single one of these people that came back, his name was the first word on their lips.
~ ~ ~
I was dumbstruck and awestruck and numbstruck, and any other kind of -struck you can think of. I just didn’t know how to take it. I felt like Harry Potter finding out it was up to him to defeat Voldemort (yeah, I said his name!); or Frodo learning that he would have to travel to Mordor to destroy the One Ring (My precious); or Luke (or Leia) finding out he (or she) was the one (there is another) hope. I fucking felt like King Ralph finding out he was next in line to become King of England. It was impossible, inconceivable and overwhelming and . . . And . . . Not me. Not me. NOT ME! I can’t do it. It’s too much. It’s too fucking much!
“Jake. Jake! You need to calm down!”
I mean. If it’s me. All me. ALL ME! I . . . I . . . I have to make the right decision. The exact right decision. To be precise. Infinitesimally perfect, to make it so all the events slot perfectly into play. The ultimate fucking domino fall across time and space. But . . . But . . . But! If I don’t get it right. If I don’t get it right. Exactly right. Then history will be different. History will be changed. All those people won’t somehow . . . Miraculously . . . come back to life. They’ll be dead. Forever. And it’ll be my fault. All my fault. All on me . . . And . . . And . . . And that means the present will be changed. Because if you change the past then the present gets changed. And that means it affects us. Here and right fucking now. And if that happens then maybe we just . . . Completely . . . Fucking . . . Cease . . . To . . . Exist.
~ ~ ~
That’s when a part of me comes back to reality. The part of me that’s able to speak in complete sentences right now. And sees Monica watching me lose it. Watching me completely break down. And that’s when I watch her reach into her pockets and take out these silverly-looking gloves. She slips them on with ease, like she’s done it a thousand times before. She holds her hands a foot apart and this bright, white beam of electricity passes between them, sparking and snapping like the ultimate bug zapper.
She looks at me and I can’t hear what she says because it’s so noisy and I’m simultaneously losing my mind, but I’m able to read her lips: I’m sorry, Jake.
And then she comes at me fast and everything g . . .
~ ~ ~
Man. I’m fuzzy again. Extra fuzzy. What the fuck happened to me? I pulling myself into a sitting up position. The world spins for a second and then settles, like it suddenly remembered the fundamental law of gravity.
I’m in bed, in the clock tower, in Ostium.
What . . . Happened?
And then I see Monica come in with a glass of water and a drink and she explained it all to me.
“We went through one of the doors. 201 I think. And you said we were in a thing called a Dyson Sphere. You were nerding out pretty hard. Giving me the full tour. You were honing in on the artifact. Said you knew it was in this room. And you found it. This little metal ball. Looked like a ping-pong ball sized Death Star. And then you turned white. White as fucking milk. I ran to you, but you collapsed before I could reach you. Smacked your head on the ground something hard. It made my head ache just hearing it. You were out cold. And then I heard the blackness. Coming fast. Because you weren’t doing your magic trick with it. So I didn’t waste time. Threw you over my shoulder like the combat soldier I am, and hoofed it back through the door to here. You’ve been out for about two hours. But you still look like shit.”
“Thanks. I feel like it.” I look at my pale arms. My skin feels clammy; I’m sweaty; hot and cold.
“I’m gonna let you rest now. Catch some shut eye. If you sleep through the night. Good.”
“Thanks,” I say again, laying my head back down on the pillow.
There’s a strange look in her eyes, it’s like she’s happy to see me, but not completely. She also looks scared. I don’t get it.
She leaves, closing the door quietly.
As I feel sleep taking its hold over me again, I think. I think about how everything Monica just told me means nothing. Absolutely nothing. Because I can’t remember a single thing. And this feels like it’s not the first time it’s happened . . .
I’m so fucking scared . . .