In progress. I started this several years ago, and I think it is even more relevant now. I will be rolling this out in chapters each week, alongside other stories, essays and personal narratives. Please send me feedback if you get the chance. Thank you so much. Sincerely, Robin
Braxton walked outside. He rarely went out in the summer heat, only running from the car to the building and back again, but finally, the heat broke. It was a cool, windy evening with large cumulonimbus clouds backlit by a half moon. Feeling the wind sweep across his arms, his face, and his chest felt like angels brushing past him, their feathery wings tickling him lightly. Lightning flashed occasionally, without sound, illuminating the firmament like a theater, but only for seconds.
He leaned back on his chair, sipping on Grand Marnier which he drank from a bulbous snifter so that he could breathe in the aroma before tasting it. Braxton liked the subtlety of flavors. If he closed his eyes, he could detect the orange, and hints of the mahogany barrel the brandy was aged in.
Braxton leaned back on his chair and luxuriated in the cool air, mesmerized by the sound of the fountain behind him. He stared into the darkness and recalled an evening when he had the opportunity to wear night vision goggles. It was the oddest sensation – staring out into darkness, because suddenly, all the things he couldn’t see appeared to him, as if by magic –satellites, shooting stars, mountains in the distance, cities, and more stars than he had ever seen. Experimenting with the goggles, he kept looking through them, then looking away, and back again, until his eyes went haywire from the contrast.
That’s when he got an idea; a Eureka moment. What if he could figure out a way to invent goggles that would enable humans to see into other dimensions? What if these other dimensions existed simultaneously, all around us, but we just didn’t have the proper equipment to see them, or hear them? But how? And how would he know if it really was another dimension and not some interpretation of the mind? What kind of technology would he have to create? Was it possible?
Braxton was an aerospace design engineer, so he thought about new inventions all the time. He thought about space travel, and time travel and the possibility that other sentient, intelligent life forms existed somewhere. He realized that there were many things humans hadn’t been able to see or hear or understand until they invented instruments to measure them. Certainly, if someone from the past experienced some of the things we now take for granted, like electricity or invisible waveforms, they would think we were gods, or could perform magic. So, it was just a matter of time before even more phantasmagorical inventions came about; scientists and engineers were already on the verge of something akin to the transporter from Star Trek, a space elevator, and nano-technologies that boggled the imagination.
20 years later: Braxton had devoted his life to creating goggles that saw into other dimensions. Of course, he had to eat, and subsidize his obsession with a real job, so he had to figure things out on his own time. Luckily, he had access to all sorts of equipment in his lab at work. Sometimes he collaborated with a colleague when he couldn’t quite figure out the algorithms he needed. At first, he didn’t want to tell anyone about his idea, should some greedy scientist want to steal the glory for himself, but eventually Braxton realized that he couldn’t go it alone; he needed help.
For a time, when Braxton worked on the design with Trevor, a physicist he had known and trusted for years, Trevor attempted to steal Braxton’s design and claim it for his own. It wasn’t that Braxton minded sharing the wealth, but this was his idea; it was like a child, or any other creation – a book, a song, a painting – it was a creative spark that Braxton had gestated and raised and created; it was personal, and he wasn’t going to have someone else take that away. He hadn’t needed the money; this was a labor of love, of curiosity. This was blood, sweat, and tears.
When it first happened, Braxton couldn’t believe it. Trevor and Braxton spent hours after work many days of the week. They got so involved that they sometimes forgot they had a family at home. Their wives accused them of seeing other women, and in a way, this project was their other women. Eventually, Trevor got tired of the struggle and left the project, and Braxton’s wife left Braxton.
A few months later, when Braxton was about to have a breakthrough, and went in search of funding, Trevor suddenly reappeared, claiming that the majority of the project was his work, and that Braxton only had the initial spark. This was entirely untrue, and much time was lost arguing these points to the interested parties so that funding was forgotten in the wake of the ensuing argument.
Braxton was left alone and deflated. Yes, he continued to work, but his spirits were broken and he took to the drink, even though he had never really been interested in drinking before, except for a brief time in college or an occasional glass of wine at a social event.
He found solace in the company of strangers, as Blanche DuBois used to say. It began one blisteringly hot summer evening after work, instead of getting into his car and driving, he decided to walk home, hoping in some odd way that the heat would distract him from his misery. Needless to say, it only made him more miserable so he wandered into a bar between work and home. It was one of those seedy, neighborhood taverns where people go to drown their sorrows or find camaraderie because there’s nothing at home pulling them in. Occasionally, when the customers got exceedingly drunk, they would start singing Irish ballads, swaying together in a drunken swagger, often singing off-key, not that anyone would notice. But most of the time, they just talked to the bartender, or talked to each other, telling each other the same stories over and over, often wallowing in their sorrows. Every now and then, someone would ask Braxton to play a game of pool. He’d been quite the sharp shooter in college and became somewhat famous in his new abode. Oftentimes, he thought he was hustling the locals, but they just humored him, and when he was drunk enough, they hustled him right back and got him to buy drinks for the house.
And so it was that Braxton forgot about his project, until one day, a serendipitous event took place. Sitting at the bar one evening, Braxton finally was drunk enough to expound upon his idea, the creative brain-child he had worked on for 18 years, on and off. It just so happened that he was talking to Lyle, supposedly a retired scientist who had worked half his career on a secret project for NASA the military-industrial complex. At first Braxton thought Lyle was a schizophrenic who had delusions of grandeur and was spouting off at the mouth. Then, Braxton realized that he probably sounded like a looney to Lyle, so he started listening with a more discerning ear.
Every day after work, for several weeks, Braxton met Lyle at the bar and discussed the project. Eventually, Lyle had Braxton convinced that he had, indeed, been a scientist for NASA and knew what he was talking about. That’s when Braxton got all fired up again. He asked Lyle to work with him – sober – if Lyle could do it. “I’ll give it the old college try,” Lyle said, and the two of them, just like that, quit drinking and worked every evening at Braxton’s house. Of course, Braxton had Lyle sign a non-disclosure agreement, and several other legal documents before they began.
2 years later. Braxton sat in the old barber chair they had picked up at an antique shop. He strapped on the goggles that he and Lyle had worked so hard to create. They looked like something from a steam-punk costume. It was a long shot, but this was the day, or rather, evening, when they would discover if the goggles worked, or not. After 100s of attempts over the years, Braxton felt that the technology had finally caught up to his ideas. This was the 11th hour.
“Fire it up, Lyle,” Braxton said, agitated by anticipation, yet slipping into an odd calm (before the storm). Braxton gripped the arms of the chair in preparation. He had spent umpteen hours thinking about what it might be like in the other dimensions, although he was pretty sure he had visited them in a few LSD trips, but if this worked, a whole new world could open up for millions of people. The possibilities were mind-boggling.
Lyle turned on the machines that were connected to the goggles so he could monitor Braxton’s heart rate, brain waves, and about 20 other functions. “Ready, set, go,” Lyle replied as he pushed the last switch.
Amelia glanced at the message that flashed via a holographic pattern in the air above her wrist. Why her friend, Barb, wrote to her old school was beyond her comprehension. After all, it was 2033 and people rarely wrote messages to each other anymore; they either voice pressed or sent them via mind meld, but Barb, who was 20 years older than Amelia, loved to write. She wrote in longhand, which meant that she spelled all the words out completely, the way one still would for a book or an article. The message read “Amie, meet me at the corner café on Wine Street and Love Blvd. I’ve got something amazing to share with you.”
Amelia spoke to her proxy, her wrist computer, which came out in written form on Barb’s proxy as “B – hav mtng wth Grdn ltr – wat is so imprtnt?”
“Amie, what is happening to the world? Do you even know how to spell anymore?”
Amelia put her Voice press on and her image floated above Barb’s wrist. “Barb, this archaic writing is killing me. Just talk to me.”
Barb was too excited to continue writing anyway. “OK, OK. This is just so exciting!”
“Why can’t you just tell me now? Can’t we just have a Mind meld or a voice press conversation? It’s so much more efficient. You can see me and I can see you. Not a prob.” Amelia asked, impatient as most people in her generation.
“I need to see you in person, in the flesh, not in some holographic expression of yourself. I hate those. I feel like I’m talking to a ghost. This is too good. I need you to be in the present moment with me.” She would have gone on, but Amelia had heard this speech before.
“Got it,” Amelia conceded. How about around 7ish tonight. I’m uber busy today.”
“Done,” Barb agreed.
The blackness was suddenly filled with softly glowing lights everywhere. It took several moments for Braxton to get accustomed to the scenario inside the goggles.
“I can’t decide if this is another dimension, or the goggles are just malfunctioning,” Braxton exclaimed. It was difficult to believe that he had actually arrived at another dimension, even though this was what he had worked towards for almost 20 years.
“What do you see?” Lyle asked. “just try to remain calm and objective. Remember, you’re a scientist who is making observations. No interpretations yet.”
Braxton took a few deep, calming breaths. His eyes adjusted to the new landscape and he looked around. “It’s dark in here, but not really. There’s light from all the lights that are floating around like…like stars. Like configurations of stars or something. Maybe…maybe…constellations. Maybe I’m out in space somewhere. YES!! That’s it!! I’m out in space! Holy cow! That’s what this is! Not another dimension after all! I’ve just jumped through space and time to another place in space. Yes, I’m sure of it!!”
Lyle monitored Braxton’s brainwaves. Everything else was in fine working order – heart rate and pulse, skin and internal temperatures, blood counts, etc. But Braxton’s brainwaves were doing something he had never seen before. Was the DMT molecule being released? They hadn’t thought of monitoring that. Perhaps on the next run. They would need more equipment, and more money, so they could measure the other body chemicals. He needed to keep Braxton on the straight and narrow. “Brax, remember, no interpretations yet.”
“Screw you,” Braxton shrieked. “It’s impossible. You should be here with me. You’d probably come to the same conclusions.”
Lyle decided to give up and just let Braxton run with it. Afterall, they were holo-videoing the entire session. Hopefully, Braxton’s brainwaves would create a visual for them and they would both be able to view it together after the session. “You’re right, Brax. Just let ‘er rip. What’s happening now?”
Braxton continued without reservation. “This is totally incredible! I think the lights are moving. Yeah, wow! They look like those jellyfish at the bottom of the ocean where they don’t have light. You know, with long, wavy tentacles. And then…” Braxton moved his arms around in the air. He looked rather ridiculous, sitting there with a strange contraption on his head, frantically waving his arms about, but he didn’t even realize that he was in the room anymore. He was completely immersed in this other… dimension.