Something Happened

Charlie Jones attended a party of friends and acquaintances in one of the trendy studio apartments near Washington Square on the lower east side of Manhattan. Charlie brought some beer, one of the girls brought wine. Someone brought some hash and someone else brought some acid to get high on the music. One of the guys rolled a mixture of Cherry Blend pipe tobacco and hashish into a clumsy fat cigarette held together by spit, and passed it around during the good part of Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings. Yeah. Wow. Cool. Awesome. Did you hear that? Yeah. Wow. Cool.

This wasn’t Charlie’s first time. When the girl sitting next to him passed him the joint, he took a drag deep into his lungs so that they were filled almost to the bursting point, and let it out slowly without coughing. Then he handed the joint to the guy sitting on the other side of him.

Charlie was beginning to feel pretty mellow when he saw the air in front of him waver. No, it was more like shimmer, and then a small dark point appeared in the middle of the shimmering. Another point appeared and then another point. At first Charlie thought they might have been flies or gnats or mosquitos or something like that, but they seemed to be locked into their positions, in the middle of the air, unmoving. It was the strangest thing he’d ever seen. One of the points started to grow into a small ball, like a balloon inflating. The poles were dark violet and the surface went through a rainbow progression, with a bright yellow line around the equator, and then deepening back to dark violet at the opposite pole. Other points were doing the same thing at the same time seemingly in complete synch with each other. The balls formed a straight line in the air that quickly rotated 45 degrees back and forth, like a pendulum or maybe like watching just one leg walking. The round balls joined each other becoming an oblong object in the air. Then it became a thin line suddenly, blinked into a vertical shimmering, and then disappeared.

Charlie asked the girl sitting next to him whether she had seen that. Seen what? she asked. Charlie turned to the guy on the other side of him and asked whether he’d seen it. The guy looked blankly at Charlie, who tried to describe what he had seen, but it wasn’t like anything he’d ever seen before. The guy said like wow … cool … man. You been droppin’ acid or somethin’? Charlie said no, he didn’t think so, but maybe the hash had been laced with something. Yeah, wow, awesome, cool, the girl sitting next to him said. She took his hand. They stood up unsteadily and walked to the bedroom.

***

Adam Yerushalmi sat in the reception area of Professor Freindlischer’s office. Professor Freindlischer was a hypnotist who specialized in helping people quit smoking. He had a fairly good success rate, or so they said, and seemed well thought of in the Tel Aviv area. In Israel, in spite of the fact that socialized medicine was considered pretty high up the scale compared to other countries around the world, even America, everybody who could afford it only went to the professors and heads of medical departments, instead of going to younger doctors and inexperienced interns.

The professor called Adam into his consulting room. He looked over Adam’s paperwork mainly making sure that all the waiver clauses were signed. Adam was skeptical of this whole hypnosis thing. He’d tried a number of different treatments but none of them ever made a dent in his nicotine habit. He doubted he was suggestible (or gullible) enough to be hypnotized. He was his own man.

The professor came around from behind his desk to sit down in a chair next to Adam. He told Adam to relax. While the professor was talking to him, Adam could see the professor indistinctly out of the corner of his eye but he was mostly conscious of the professor’s voice. The voice slowly faded into the background of Adam’s consciousness which remained crystal clear. The last thing Adam remembered being conscious of was wondering when this hypnotic trance state was supposed to kick in.

A siren started to sound, building up like a pianist stubbing all the keys with his thumb nail from the bass notes of the left side of the keyboard all the way up to the highest notes of the right side. The receptionist turned up the radio full volume and opened the door to the professor’s consulting room, which was something she had been explicitly instructed never to do under any circumstances. The siren continued its insistent blaring.

The professor hurriedly attempted to snap Adam out of his trance state. “I will count backwards, from three to one, and when I say one you will wake up … Three, two, one. Wake up, man!” he implored but Adam had not responded. The professor slapped Adam on the back of his shoulder and shouted, “Wake up, damn you!” The receptionist stood nervously in the doorway and shouted at the professor, “Carl, for God’s sake! We’ve got to get to the shelter!”

Adam seemed to snap out of his trance state but he didn’t seem to know what was going on around him. The professor shouted at him to listen to the siren, there were incoming missiles from Gaza, and they all had to go down to the bomb shelter as quickly as possible.

They rushed out of the office without bothering to lock the doors and ran down two flights of stairs to the bomb shelter in the basement of the building. Just as the professor pushed Adam into the reinforced concrete shelter, a surface-to-air missile defense missile intercepted the incoming rocket high above the office building exploding less than ten meters away from the rocket. Twisted shards and grapefruit sized pieces of metal picked up speed in their fall to earth causing minor damage to some rooftops and the outer walls of buildings in the vicinity.

Adam thought he heard a heavy silence a few meters away from him as though all the sound had been sucked out of the space. Then he heard a small high-pitched “tink” noise, followed by a deeply rolling discordant blat that seemed to widen until he felt it viscerally buzz-saw through his mid-section. Just as quickly the sound contracted, becoming more harmonic, soft, and plucky like the short strings of a harp. Again he heard the “tink” noise and then silence.

Adam asked the professor and the receptionist whether they had also heard the strange noises he had heard. They both looked at Adam oddly. Adam tried to tell the professor what he had heard but he had no words in Hebrew or in English to describe the shapes of the sounds, let alone the sounds themselves. The professor thought Adam might have suffered some sort of post-traumatic stress from the indelicate way the professor had had to wake Adam out of his trance. He’d seen it before in the Army. He suggested to Adam that he visit a doctor. Professor Freindlischer thanked God Adam had signed all the waiver clauses. The Hamas missile attack did not qualify as an act of God, but at least nobody could claim the professor had been negligent.

Adam went to see his family doctor and tried to explain to him what he had heard that day, still fumbling for words. Adam asked the doctor for a pen and piece of paper, and proceeded to draw pictures of the sounds. The doctor typed in “synesthesia” in the symptoms box of Adam’s Patient’s Record and printed out a referral for an MRI.

Adam’s MRI appointment was scheduled three months later for 3:00 in the morning. The technician was courteous and rather attractive, to tell the truth. He had to wait an hour for the resident doctor to review the results and type up her professional opinion: no indications of pathology in any of the layers of the patient’s brain that were imaged. No findings. Adam was instructed to return to the referring doctor for an interpretation of the results of the MRI scan.

Adam understood the MRI results and he knew what he heard.

***

Ibrahim bin Amin heard the roar of rockets launched from the open lot between his building and the neighboring building. He dropped the newspaper he’d been reading on the carpet and yelled to his wife, Jamilah, to grab their little daughter, Dalal, to run down the stairs to the tunnel entry the Hamas had recently built under their building. Dalal insisted they take her teddy bear, Kasim, too. Ibrahim scooped up Kasim in his hand and they rushed out of their apartment. Jamilah held Dalal in one arm and the hem of her chador with her other hand so as not to trip going down the stairs.

When they reached the ground floor Ibrahim tried to lift the heavy iron door covering the entrance to the tunnel but it didn’t budge a millimeter. Ibrahim grabbed Jamilah’s arm and ran with her and Dalal frantically to the next building hoping there might be an open entrance to a tunnel.

There was but it was guarded by a hooded Hamas freedom fighter pointing his Kalashnikov at them. They froze in the entrance to the building. The freedom fighter pulled off his face mask and told Ibrahim it’s him, Abdul bin Ali, they were at madras together when they were kids. Abdul opened the heavy iron door and motioned Ibrahim and his wife and daughter over to the ladder going down into the tunnel. Ibrahim hugged Abdul gratefully and helped Jamilah find her footing on the top rung of the ladder. When she reached the tunnel floor below Ibrahim handed down Dalal into Jamilah’s extended arms.

High above Gaza, hidden in the clouds, an Israeli jet pilot released a missile and guided it through his crosshairs and the precise coordinates his onboard system had received from the Central Command’s integrated defense system calculated from the trajectory of one of the incoming Gazan rockets. The men who had launched the rocket were long gone but the cumbersome rocket launcher was still there in the pilot’s sights. A yellow-red light suddenly filled the pilot’s grid display and then cleared to reveal a crater where the rocket launcher had stood and two hills of rubble where the buildings had been.

There was a deafening blast that Ibrahim had felt before he heard it. He heard Jamilah and Dalal screaming below and saw Abdul’s bare feet under a section of an upper floor that had collapsed on them. Then he lost consciousness.

Jamilah and Dalal were able to escape through another part of the tunnel. When she came outside, she ran back to the building where Ibrahim was buried under the rubble. Jamilah and Dalal screamed and keened for Allah or someone to help them. Finally some men came to try to dig through the rubble of the collapsed building to find Ibrahim and Abdul.

After several hours, it was late afternoon already, Jamilah remembered the muezzin’s call to Asr prayer, the men found Abdul and Ibrahim. Abdul was pronounced dead, a shahid. Ibrahim was bleeding profusely from a nasty gash on the side of his head but he was still breathing. They lifted him onto a door from the mound of rubble and carried him to a pickup truck they had flagged down, and rushed him, along with Jamilah and Dalal, to a UN field hospital nearby.

Two days later, when Ibrahim regained consciousness, Jamilah and Dalal were by his side praising Allah for his greatness and his mercy.

The day after Ibrahim came to, while one of the NGO nurses was entertaining Dalal, Ibrahim whispered to Jamilah that something strange had happed to him during the time he had been buried under the rubble. Jamilah leaned close to hear his words. “I felt something protect me,” he said softly.

“Allah be praised,” Jamilah answered.

“No,” Ibrahim said, “not Allah. Something else. I don’t know what but I felt it. It was like a large hand holding up a section of the roof that had fallen on me.”

“Ibrahim, my beloved, that must have been the hand of Allah,” Jamilah smiled at her husband.

“No, I don’t think so,” he said, “but who knows? Anyway there was something else. The doctors told me my heart had stopped.”

Jamilah turned pale.

Ibrahim took her hand and pressed it to his heart. He said, “I felt a young hand reach into my chest, without cutting it open, and take hold of my heart, squeezing it and releasing it, squeezing it and releasing it, until it began to pump my blood on its own.”

“Allah be praised. Inshallah,” Jamilah whispered.

***

Tink Blat sat on a bench in the park near his home watching his brother Zic play grzbll. The ptchr threw a slow bll toward a coordinate a meter above the plt next to Zic’s feet. Zic slammed the bll with his bt with such power that it stood still in midair but the sky expanded outward by a factor of 10,000 and everyone could see the stars winking in the night sky although it was the middle of the day.

Tink was eleven years old. He was in sixth grade. His older brother Zic was fourteen. He was in high school already and studying to be a mathematician.

Tink took his tesseract out of his pocket and expanded it so he could see the spheroid screen floating inside it. He loved watching it because there were an infinite (I josh you not) number of channels. Tink was supposed to be doing his homework on one of the educational channels, but he preferred to watch the hyposphere channels instead. His mother and father limited him to watching his favorite channels just two hours a day and only after completing his homework assignments. Besides, they didn’t like the amount of violence Tink was watching. What they didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him.

He was watching the flattened characters running down some stairs before a bomb fell on them.

“Hey Tink,” Zic said sneaking up on Tink from inside. “You’re supposed to be doing your homework. I wonder what Mom and Dad would say if they knew what channel you’re watching.”

Tink changed to his homework channel. “Don’t you dare tell on me,” he threatened, “or I’ll tell them about the window you broke playing grzbll last week.”

Tink looked at his assignment for today. Let’s see. The sum of the interior angles of any triangle on a plane surface is … 180 degrees, he said out loud. The sum of the interior angles of a triangle on a spherical surface is … 180 x (1 + 4f) … anything between 180 and 540 degrees. The sum of the interior angles of any tetrahedron on a plane surface is … between 180 and 720 degrees. The sum of the interior angles of any hypertetrahedron or pentatope is … 180 to 3600 degrees.

Tink looked around for his brother Zic to see whether he was watching him. Zic had gone back to play grzbll.

Tink flipped back to the hyposphere channel he’d been watching. One of the characters he had been interested in was buried in a building that had collapsed. Tink’s eyes began to fill with tears when he saw that the character’s heart had stopped beating. Tink couldn’t bear it and reached into the spheroid screen with his hand. His arm appeared to him to become elongated and small. His arm became longer and thinner until he touched the character’s dead heart, wrapped his fingers around it, squeezed it, and relaxed … squeezed it and relaxed.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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Filed under Prose, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Stories and Novels

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