The Accidental Traveler


The breakthrough was not in physics itself, but in mathematics. The new insights led physicists to see physics in a new light, and it wasn’t long before they were experimenting with the equations, which seemed to indicate that it might be possible to instantly transport an object to anywhere in the universe.
It was a quarter century before a machine using the new understandings that actually did anything at all had any result, and the result was completely unexpected.
The apparatus was set up and turned on. A mouse seemed to come from nowhere, scurrying across the room as mice do. One of the participants shrieked, startled, but no one saw a connection between their experiment, which had seemingly failed yet again, and the unexpected intruder.
“Lets try it again,” a grad student suggested. Doctor Phillips laughed, and said “Doing the same thing the same way and expecting it to work is insane.”
“I’m not suggesting we do it exactly the same way. Let’s try a higher voltage.”
“Well, voltage is one part of the equation that’s a little fuzzy. Same wattage, or raise voltage and leave amperage alone?”
“We could try both.”
“Go ahead, but I’m not expecting any different results.”
The student set the experiment back up, doubled the input voltage, and turned the device on. A large wild boar appeared in the room close to the wall. They all ran in fright, closed the door, and called animal control. Animal control caught the hog, which was taken to the municipal zoo.
 
Gabriel Watkins had a different job to do today than yesterday; his mule would get a break from the plowing. There was a wild boar that was upsetting his animals and would be trampling his fields and eating his produce if he didn’t do anything. He had a pig to hunt, kill, butcher, and eat.
It was otherwise a normal morning like any other. He read The Spectator and drank coffee as his wife prepared breakfast. The newspaper was talking about the new president, James Monroe. It also spoke of the nation’s newest state, Maine. Everyone had expected that for weeks, since the Missouri Compromise had been signed. Missouri was sure to become a state soon.
After he finished his breakfast he loaded all three of his muskets and both of his pistols, told his wife he would be back before lunch and set off towards the woods.
The boar wasn’t hard to find. He raised his musket, aimed—and the animal disappeared before his eyes. He scratched his head, and the woods themselves disappeared, replaced with mowed grass and brick buildings.
 
Officer Oscar Jobs of the SIU campus police department was shocked. A heavily armed man was on the campus! He drew his weapon and ordered the man to drop his weapons and get on the ground. This was especially disturbing, since all of law enforcement was on high alert because the Twin Towers and part of the Pentagon had been destroyed that morning.
Oscar was greatly relieved when the suspect complied.
Because of the terrorism, the news of the armed man on campus didn’t even hit the Edwardsville Intelligencer, let alone the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
 
This is the strangest case I’ve ever seen,” Dr. Wilson said to Dr. Kent. “The man is obviously suffering from schizophrenia, and the type of schizophrenia isn’t that uncommon. What’s weird is that his whole persona, and not just the fantasy in his mind, all corroborate. He swears that he was born in 1790, that he’s a thirty one year old farmer and it’s spring of 1821. He was wearing antique clothing from the era and carrying antique firearms; front loading muskets. All of the antiques were in excellent shape for their age, almost two hundred years old. He claims to have owned the muzzle loading weapons for a decade.
“Really strange. Anyway, Haldol isn’t having any effect except to put him to sleep. I’ve hit a brick wall. Any suggestions?”
 
They didn’t repeat the experiment for another year to allow the theorists to scratch their heads and do calculations. It was, as it often is, one of the graduate students who was close to writing his doctoral thesis who found the answer, or what appeared to be the answer. Rather than sending objects away from the device, it brought them closer to it. They changed some circuitry and repeated it.
It failed spectacularly.
 
Dr. Wilson, your patient has escaped.”
“What? When? How?”
“We just discovered him missing and we’re faced with a mystery. Everything was properly secured, none of the guards saw anything, the cameras trained on the doors saw nothing. He just disappeared into thin air.”
“That poor man! I hope he’s okay until he gets picked up again.”
“There’s more, it gets even weirder. His clothing was laying on the bed, laid out like someone laying there but he hadn’t stuffed them with anything, and I just got a call that all of his antiques are missing, and nothing else from storage was gone. No sign of forced entry, the door was locked when they went to do inventory.”
 
It was two o’clock, and Emma was worried. Her husband was still gone, and fearing for him went in search. She was afraid that the boar, or perhaps some other animal, might have gotten the best of him.
She found him at the edge of the woods, naked and sleeping, with his clothing and other belongings scattered around him. She almost didn’t recognize him; his beard was gone and his hair was clipped short, but she saw the scar on his leg. He had thought he would lose that leg, but God had been good to them.
She touched his cheek and he woke up.
“Emma? Where am I? Where are my clothes? What am I doing here? Dear Jesus, I had the strangest dream!”
“Are you all right, Gabe?”
“I don’t know. The strangest thing... where is my clothing?”
“Scattered all around you. What happened to your beard and hair?”
He touched his face. “Dear sweet Jesus, Emma, it had to be that damned witch!”
“Alice?”
“Who else? You know that old crone hates me and it’s the only explanation. Emma, she somehow transported me to some sort of magical but evil place. I don’t know how I got back. I was in some sort of prison and went to sleep, and when you woke me up I was here, not far from where I was when... Oh, good Lord, this is terrible!” He started getting dressed and gathering his belongings. “We need to see the sheriff. That witch needs to hang!”
“What did you see?”
“Well, I had the hog in my sights and he flat out just disappeared without a trace. Then everything else was gone and I was somewhere else and a man with what looked like a weapon of some sort, although it wasn’t like any gun I ever saw ordered me to drop my guns and get on the ground, and I did.
“He tied my hands behind my back with some sort of metal thing and put me in a really strange thing, made of what looked like painted metal but really shiny, on four black wheels that didn’t look anything like any wheel I’ve ever seen. The thing had seats. He got in it in front of me, did some things, and it started moving! All by itself! And really fast, faster than I’ve seen anything go.
“And then he talked into a small black thing and it answered!
“They put ink on my fingers, rubbed them on paper, and flashed something in my face. Then they put me in a tiny stone room with a steel door.
“Then they took me, with their witchy magic things, to another place, some sort of jail where they pretended to be nice. There was lots more magic, a crystal ball that showed moving pictures and had sound, it was really weird.
“Then they filled me with magic potions that dulled my mind and made me sleep. Someone they called a doctor, some woman, kept asking me stupid questions almost every day.
“Then one night I went to sleep and you woke me up here. We need to talk to the preacher and the sheriff, that witch needs to die!
 
It took another century for the theorists to figure it out. The mistake they had made was not realizing that time and space are inseparable; that there is no difference, that time is just another dimension.
 
The sheriff said there was nothing he could legally do, but Alice Chalmers was hung by a lynch mob on May 12, 1821. No one was charged with or prosecuted for her murder.

 

 


 
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