Prose Header

Wormhole Monologue

by Saurabh Bhatia

The headache was splitting. I felt as if an axe had been run through my skull. It was worse than a hangover after two bottles of whiskey. I had been getting these headaches far too often.

Wormholes are a difficult means of travel. They make life easy and fast, but they do have their side effects, especially for frequent fliers like me. I have been doing frequent intergalactic travels on business lately and have been using cheaper teleporter services. It was high time I switched to a premium one.

My little finger went missing during the integration in my last trip. I couldn’t sleep. My head was filled with the thoughts of my recent trip. Wormholes are dark beings, and the state of disintegration doesn’t leave you with much of a memory.

Somehow I could remember a few things this time. Maybe my temporal lobe had been in a full state during the travel and registered a few things along the route. The Einstein-Rosen Bridge is what it is technically known as, but from what I remember it is a just an infinite dark space. I was trying to recollect what my brain’s black box had recorded. The sleep was already gone.

I helped myself out of the bed and started towards the balcony. I spread the folding chair across my loft and reclined on it. On the way, I picked up a glass of lemon juice with a dash of raspberry extract and lots of ice. I loved the way excessive ice shot to my head producing a “brain freeze.” This pain negated the pain due to my wormhole hangover.

Suddenly, I saw my watch and realized there was something odd about it. The time was not what I thought it should be. I was in the year 2541. As far as I remembered, the year I started in was 2539. Where did the two years go? Suddenly my head stopped thumping! Had I lost two years of my life?

I went to the television. “On,” I said. The television cracked to life. “We have just received some breaking news, a certain Hollywood actress has denied her relationship with her butler...” I saw the date at the end of the ticker, it said 2nd March 2541. I froze!

Had I been stuck in the wormhole for two years? How was it that I had landed back here and everything just seemed to be the same? Had I been just sucked into a wrong time plane?

* * *

Waking up from a dream is not as bad as remembering it, and even worse is when you find the world around you is changed and unrecognizable compared to the world before sleeping. Had I really been away? Where was I? Why does this place seem so familiar? Is it even my home?

Too many questions, time for some answers.

I am sure I have a faint memory of my travel. I don’t know why I bought a memory browser during my last visit to Japan. A memory browser had simply caught my eye when I was in a “Nouzui Gijutsu Kaigi.” You wear it like a helmet and it had a head mounted display to show memories of your past 20 years. It downloads your memory on a memory disk and gives you an option of keeping a copy of it or wiping it off your brain. Okay, enough, let me go and fetch it.

My memory browser was there, just as I had left it, in the cupboard. It was sealed, absolutely brand new. I opened the instruction manual. It was in Japanese. Damn, I didn’t know how to read Japanese. I calmed myself down and started relating to the pictures in the manual. I loaded the memory, which seemed new as well. The device booted.

“Kotoba Saitaku?” it asked.

“English, United Kingdom,” I replied. The next screens followed in English. I connected it to my TV. I set the date to 25th August 2539 and started the machine. I thought, Start streaming, and the machine came to life. The pictures started flickering. I could see my house, I was running around in haste, I saw the broken table leg and thought about replacing it.

A voice commanded: “Thirty minutes to the flight.” Then I ran out and on my way said, “Taxi to the airport.” The tube ran through the middle of my building. I was at an intersection that connected it to the mainstream tube. My pod arrived 15 minutes before time and was waiting for me to command. As I went near it, an eye opened and scanned my body. The door slid open and I sat it.

While on the way to the TransWorm, Inc. flight station, I was looking out of the window. I could see the new OpenRobot Advertisement playing: “Open Robot, Runs on Linux Kernel and is entirely customizable, if you’re good.” I felt like buying one. Sounded like fun, hacking a robot.

My cell phone rang. I raised my right hand and clicked on my watch. It expanded into a larger screen. Robin Calling. What is Robin doing on Neo-Earth? Wasn’t he supposed to be back home?

“Hey Robin, I thought you were on Earth Major? What brings you to Neo?”

“I came here to make a settlement with my customers. Wanna catch up over a coffee?”

“Not today, I am rushing to TransWorm Flight Center.”

“Transworm? Why?”

I saw Transworm Flight Center approaching. “Hey Buddy, I’m here. I will call you later.”

Strange, I don’t remember talking to Robin. We had been out of touch for a while. Is it because of my condition that I am not able to remember, but this machine is extracting it out of my brain?

My flight looks normal. I can hear the wormhole back-counter counting down.

Darkness, absolute darkness.

Maybe that’s my flight time, just waiting for the blurred memory patch to show up, and for any unusual events.

There are lights and stars, and everything is moving at a speed I can’t define or name. I can identify some cosmic bodies, at least the ones that my science text taught in the school. Sudden shake, like an earthquake. A cloud of dust and light.

Body fragments? What was that? Whose? They don’t seem to be mine. The cloud shake is still on. The wormhole seems to be bending now as a result of the earthquake. A lot of dust and light again.

Black. I was wondering what I had just seen. Confused by the visuals, trying to collate the pieces of my memory, I didn’t know what to do. I allowed the Memory Browser to compile the film and generate gap-suggestions for me. Meanwhile I thought I should go to the wormhole company and make some inquiries.

I picked up my phone and said, “TransPod to TransWorm Flight Center.” Transworm, Inc. was the biggest transport company in the world. They pioneered the technology behind Pods and Wormholes that facilitated for most of the transportation on Earth Major, Neo-Earth and Proto-Earth.

Pods were the local transport, the only one form of transport that remained. Cars had been abolished more than 200 years ago now. They were now only studied as a historical reference.

I quickly dressed. My clothes seemed fresh and were ironed. I wondered who had kept them that way during the years I had been gone? I called up TransWorm, Inc.’s office.

A female voice responded to my query, “Welcome to TransWorm Neo-Mumbai, how I may help you?” The voice seemed oddly familiar.

“I wanted to inquire about my travel that happened two years back. I made a travel from Proto-Earth Tokyo to Neo-Earth Mumbai on December 12, 2539 and I have no memory of what happened after that. Is it possible? My name is Surya Malhotra.”

“Let me check, sir. TransBot, please find Surya Malhotra 2539, December 12, PETOK-NEMUM, landing record.

“No records found, sir, no landing records here. I think you are mistaken.”

“This can’t be. I remember I boarded the flight on the same date from Proto-Earth Tokyo. Can you please check the Tokyo Records, it’s extremely important for me.”

“Okay, sir, just a minute. TransBot: Please find Surya Malhotra 2539, December 12, PETOK-NEMUM, boarding record.” There was a paused silence.

“Sir, the boarding record is there,” said the executive. “I am sorry, sir, but this situation is beyond my control. I will need to ask my manager to take action on this.”

There was a call transfer which played the advertisement of latest features in wormhole technology. Perfection in integration and restoration, faster wormholes and all the latest accident insurance. What? I had not heard of that before. A Wormhole accident?

“Hello, sir, this is Rajender Rane, manager at TransWorm Flight center. Sophia has just explained your situation to me. I remember your name and I am glad you are back. I thought we had lost you for good.”

I was extremely puzzled as to what he was talking about. I had no idea, but that was the reason I had called: I needed to understand what had happened. “I think I don’t have any memory of what you are talking about. Can you please explain it to me.”

“Just a second, sir.” Turning to the receptionist, he asked, “Sophia, is he the one?” I could hear him faintly.

“Face, voice, and mental metabolism suggest he is, sir.”

“Okay.” Turning to me he started talking. “Sir, two years back, while traveling, you experienced some turbulence during your wormhole travel.”

I remembered the video on my memory browser that showed some of it.

He continued, “Sir, you were a part of the first-ever wormhole accident. The accident was first of its kind, as we had never heard of wormhole collisions before. Hence we were not sure what the result would be.

“However, the Proto-Earth Tokyo team has the entire report on the accident and the possible solutions to this. They have been working ever since the accident to bring you back. Your accident raised a lot of questions on safety of wormhole travel and we had to take steps to prevent this situation from occurring again. It was a worldwide rage.

“I can make an assurance from my side at this time: you can go to Proto-Earth Tokyo and learn the details of your accident. We, on our part, can sponsor your trip to Proto-Earth Tokyo and back.”

“Let me think,” I replied. I thought for a while. If I can go and see what happened to me, would I be able to get my life back. I didn’t know for sure, but I didn’t see any other possibility of solving this mystery. Getting into that dreaded wormhole was the only way I could find out what happened to me. “Okay,” I said in a half-hearted tone and agreed to take a final trip to Proto-Earth.

My pod arrived and parked outside my room. I picked up my bag, went to the door and said, “Ultra lock; long travel.” The pod started. I had a sense of déjà vu as I looked out of the window. I saw an OponRobot and TransWorm Advertisement.

My phone rang, it was Robin. I was confused. I picked up the phone, wondering what he was doing here. “Hey Robin, I thought you were on Earth Major? What brings you to Neo?”

“I came here to make a settlement with my customers. Wanna catch up over a coffee?”

“Not today, I am rushing to TransWorm Flight Center.”

“Transworm? Why?”

I saw Transworm Flight Center approaching. “Hey, Buddy, I’ve arrived, I will call you later.”

I went to the reception and told them, “Surya Malhotra, going to PETOK.”

“Sir, your flight is ready, please take a seat and we will have your documentation finished by then.”

I looked around the room. It seemed as if I had never been here before, but the whole ride was a replay of my memory browser.

In a few minutes I was called to the flight room. A shining new wormhole teleporter was waiting for me. I started to have butterflies in my stomach and started feeling sick. I went to my seat and strapped in. The machine closed and started with a hum.

The counter in front of me started counting back from 20. 5... 4... 3... 2... 1. Black.

* * *

I woke up with a headache in my home. I was not able to fall asleep. I saw the clock. The year was 2543? How did I end up in this time? I needed to know.

Copyright © 2012 by Saurabh Bhatia

Proceed to Challenge 488...

Home Page