Winston Belcross cried before he laughed. Crying always preceded wild, hysterical laughter. He could never laugh without crying. His behavior had nothing to do with humor or joy or anything that might induce laughter. The laugh always followed the tears and tears had nothing to do with any particular sadness. They flowed and laughter followed no matter what. Of course there were times in his life when he was able to connect tears and laughter to particular events and emotions… like now, looking in the mirror and watching his life reflected in the glass like a movie. He just turned seventy and his life flickered like a carnival of errors. His promising career as an engineer petered out when he decided to follow his dream and become an inventor. His inventions were called innovative, but not practical — and certainly not marketable. He struggled working at odd jobs and depending on his wife’s income to raise two boys. He failed at family planning and the boys were too much for him to handle with Wilma working full time. They were teenagers when they disappeared from his life — they were preoccupied with school, meeting friends, and playing online games. Winston never had time for his sons and one morning he realized he knew nothing about them. It was the same with Wilma. He never gave her the attention and love she deserved. One day she just left. The boys disappeared long before Wilma. It was as if they knew Winston was crazy.
He worked feverishly on new ideas and inventions — his work became an addiction. His health suffered. His ideas blew up in his face. He tried to create more efficient energy cells using water as an energy source (the chemistry just didn’t work). Winston’s main interest was Transference Technology: moving objects from place to place instantaneously. The experiments never produced results. He came so close yet nothing quite connected. He had no money. He lived in a shack in Stewbben Town, a rundown suburb.
Winston stared at this reflection. He was shrinking. He ate very little, depending on a government program that delivered one meal a day. He was old. The house was falling down around him and he didn’t care. The lines and wrinkles on his face were a map of failed attempts. “I came so close so many times,” he mumbled through his tears; then he laughed hysterically realizing his life was a joke, a ludicrous jest.
The reflection in the mirror changed. Winston’s gray visage faded like a ghost and the glass glazed over, turning black. He saw a small spark deep within the black hole where the mirror was hung. Winston began to laugh and this time there were no tears. He laughed and bobbed from foot to foot because he knew what the spark meant. He began to dance. In his mind he was dancing with Mr. Death. The spark in the mirror grew like a swirling red cloud, red on black, dancing and churning, screaming and pleading, “Help — help me!” The spark resolved into the image of a hooded man in a red robe holding a crosier. It looked like the man was writhing in pain, torn apart by elemental forces. As soon as the image arrived, it flashed out like a broken bulb. At first Winston was disappointed — he was hoping Mr. Death had come calling, but it was something else entirely. Then, Winston realized it was a true scientific phenomenon related to his own Transference Technology. It was eerily similar to an event that was detected by the Arecibo Observatory. The media never reported the event, but word spread on short-wave radio (Winston still kept his radio in good working order). Something was trying to get through, to enter this dimension. Winston’s device was on the work table in the living room. It never really functioned, but sometimes small diodes would blink in a weak attempt to start up. Now, however, something was definitely happening and Winston was determined to rescue the man from another dimension with his machine — the contraption was finally coming to life, vibrating and fuming with sparks.
Jupiter Fogg was trying to cross over, from one world to another. It was all part of his plan to awaken the Philosopher’s Stone (part of the human brain), the key to immortality and increased mental abilities. The plan would allow him to escape from a crumbling Red City. His gigantic Brain Machine was almost complete — it combined Stolemock’s Transference Device with mechanisms designed to trigger the Philosopher’s Stone. Fogg was almost ready to insert the victim into the Machine. The victim’s death was key to reviving the slumbering powers within the brain. Fogg would be attached to the victim electronically so he could experience the shock of death. The shock would wake the Philosopher’s Stone and allow Jupiter Fogg to escape to another dimension far away from a dying Red City.
(to be continued)