Time passes faster on a full stomach. That was Hal von Ende’s opinion. He’d spent the time after dinner digging around inside MEDS with a screwdriver and vice grips. When he withdrew, he checked his watch.
“I think I have it,” he called. Julianne sat at the other end of the lab, gritting through reams of data. She came over. “There wasn’t enough power to initiate the cerebral projection. There was for the rat because of the diminished brain capacity. But for a human, MEDS sucks more juice.”
“Congratulations, Dr. Frankenstein,” Julianne said, smiling. She hesitated, then said, “Hal, I still don’t think—”
“Trust me. I’ve been researching time travel twenty-two years. It’s my life’s work.”
Julianne sighed. “But the dangers. You have no idea what could await you. Or even if you’ll be able to make it back.”
“You’ll know something’s wrong instantly. For you, no time will have passed whereas I may have witnessed millennia.”
“That’s my point. What effect will that have on you?”
“My body won’t age because it won’t leave this precise instant.”
“I’m not worried about your body,” Julianne said.
“The rat came back fine,” Hal argued. “No observable mental or emotional trauma. It was as if he’d never been gone. And technically, he hadn’t. In real time, he’d only left his body for a nanosecond. But I’d programmed MEDS to send him to the time period of April 1, 1965 to May 1, 1995. In theory, that rat lived over thirty years outside his body, solely as an intangible observer. He never aged a minute. This could mean so many things, Jules.” It could mean immortality, he thought but did not say.
Julianne conceded. “Have it your way. I knew there’d be no talking you out of it.” She crossed her arms and watched as Hal dropped his robe and once again entered MEDS.
Excerpt from InviroTech Laboratory Report dated 09 Mar 2014.
Time travel in physical form is theoretically improbable and ultimately too dangerous to attempt. Chaos Theory dictates that any matter, however insignificant, traveling to any given point in Earth’s history has the potential to drastically alter our know timeline. The alternative: to formulate a method of travel that excludes the body. The only viable possibility: to induce a cerebral projection from the body and use this out-of-body energy for travel. Of course, the subject would be unable to interact with the physical world. Rather, he would act as an observer and would be able to use these observations to confirm the accuracy of historic occurrences.
Green Light blinked on.
Hal gripped the rubber handles.
Julianne was speaking into the recorder: “Twenty-one hundred hours. Mental/Epochal Displacement System primed and prepared for initial human testing. Subject, Dr. Harold von Ende, prepped for induced cerebral projection.”
She flicked a switch.
The vibration on the back of his neck and at his temples.
A small push.
Green Light, dead.
Red Light, flaring.
He’d brewed a pot of coffee as soon as he’d climbed out. He had not even bothered to replace his robe or his watch. Now he sat naked, sipping.
“It just needs a few more adjustments,” Julianne said, in an attempt to comfort him.
“I know,” he whispered.
“Do you want me to order a snack?”
“No,” Hal sighed. “I have to use the restroom.” He left the lab, still naked. No big deal. Like Leonard had said, no one was above the twentieth floor. Probably wouldn’t be all weekend. The first twenty floors were the development area of InviroTech and usually someone was poking around late somewhere down there. But above that, the building was dead.
He stepped down the corridor, following the orange floor lights to the men’s room. Hal paused outside the door, listening. It had sounded as if someone were following him, a soft pad of footsteps. He didn’t hear it now. Probably just an echo.
Christ, Hal, he thought. You really are losing your mind. He pushed through the door and flicked on the lights. Hal blinked as they buzzed to life. The door closed behind him with a sigh from the pneumatic arm.
Hal stepped to the nearest urinal and began, one hand pressed against the wall.
It was as he was finishing that he heard the tapping begin on the restroom door. It started abruptly, a small rhythmic staccato like a drumbeat. A chill ran through him and his body popped into gooseflesh. A fresh jet of urine issued from him, uncontrolled.
“Julianne?” he shouted. The tapping stopped. “Jules?” It’s just water running through pipes, he told himself. But since when did plumbing run through restroom doors? Hal stepped away from the toilet. He reached out suddenly, grabbed the door handle, and yanked it open. The corridor was empty.
“Getting old,” he told himself. He started back to the lab but paused at the lounge, three rooms up from the men’s room.
The light inside was on. It hadn’t been when he’d passed it before.
“What the hell?” he muttered, pushing through the door.
The lounge was empty. The sofas and table were vacant. The coffee pot sat empty and sparkling in the corner by the microwave, and an orange Sanka can perched atop it like a gaudy hat. The Pepsi machine buzzed. Frowning, Hal hit the light switch and backed out of the lounge.
When he returned, Julianne had her nose in a book and was absently popping the remaining potato chips from their meal into her mouth. She looked up when her husband entered.
“Not exactly,” Hal replied. “Did you come down to the lounge while I was gone?”
“The light was on when I came out of the men’s room.”
“It’s probably nothing, dear,” his wife said, picking up her book again. It was entitled Scientific Investigations into the Spirit Realm, 2nd Ed. “Probably a bug in the system or something.”
“Well, anyway, are you going to worry about the lounge light or are you going to work on MEDS? We have—” she checked her watch “—two hours and twenty minutes before the next attempt.”
“You’re right,” Hal conceded. “I should stop worrying about poltergeists.”
“That’s the spirit,” Julianne said. They chuckled and Hal got busy.
“By the way, the phone rang when you were gone,” she said.
“Oh yeah? Who was it?” Hal said absently. He was trying to lever a panel off the machine’s lower quadrant.
“Line was dead.”
“Wrong number,” Hal said and then cursed under his breath when he jammed his thumb with the wrench.