Mystery of Everyman’s Way (1)
The clouds opened up over London hours ago. The cafés consisted of pensioners, students, and artist types. The bars would be picking up in a few hours. The audience had long since quieted down.
Actors walked upon the stage and faced a half-filled theatre. Someone even said a British royal had arrived with a member of the House of Lords. This would explain the lateness of such a theatre company and the sex scandal yet to come. Each actor had a line, a purpose, and came together as a mythology of not only England, but literature itself. In the year 2010, the Globe Theatre was never empty. It had a play going on every day. Today, Hamlet, and the next month Macbeth, followed by The Tempest.
A shadowy figure, who had arrived alone, sat in the third row, sunken in his seat and awestruck with the performance. I’m in my happy place, he thought. Gregory Henry Case, a thirty-three-year-old American, now resided in England and had completed his physics degree at Oxford University. Case soon would finish a report for the class he taught on Quantum physics and wormholes. He loved plays, and he had a long-time, live-in girlfriend named Carolyn. The couple had planned to marry following his graduation, but they hadn’t quite made it to the altar.
Case possessed a square jaw, was average size, and usually behaved in a quiet, businesslike manner. The youngest son of an American diplomat, Gregory had lived in various countries before he had reached the age of sixteen. Israel, Syria, Greece, and Great Britain had been his homes. He had always had a fascination with the stars, the galaxies, and was an avid collector of electronic equipment, both old and new. “Just give me a telescope,” he would ask. “And I’ll leave the rest to you.”
Gregory was shy, private, and extremely modest and much more focused than his father. Case was the type to sort through the bargain bins for socks, pushing a cart up and down the aisles, checking the cost of produce in his local grocery store. He seemed unwilling to spend money on himself, his suits serviceable rather than elegant.
The evening proved uneventful. He knew the morning would bring him to the same routine. A cathedral-sized ceiling, freshly painted walls, and the gathering of the best minds of Britain said it all. Gregory stood in the University of Oxford’s newest state-of-the- art lecture hall, which had been funded by the country’s most successful manufacturing companies. Case used his fingers to comb his brown hair back and held the laser pointer, which fixated on a chart that beamed onto the white wall. Yet another power point presentation. At the top of it stated: GREG HENRY CASE — MAN, THE MYTH, and THE LEGACY.
“Imagine the world with no borders—one large, land masse stretching out into the seven seas.” A digital slide of Planet Earth appeared. “Now imagine the Earth and the Sun are mere neurons and protons for highly evolved life forms.” A slide of the cosmos manifested. “There are the laws for the road, the human court systems, and for mother nature.” More images became visible. “And then there is a thing called Universal Law.” A series of charts materialized and went. “We now have supernovas, galaxies crashing into each other, and black holes. “ He stopped on one digital photo. “This led to the Big Bang theory.” E=mc² blazed before the small gathering in the lecture theatre. “In his time, he was seen as the successor to Sir Isaac Newton, just as Stephan Hawking is so in recent times. “ More images manifested, followed by a series of charts. “Even our mythologies from ancient civilizations speak of other planets. “ Satellite photos of the planet Mars came into sight. “We know more about the sun, the moon, the stars, and yet the Earth itself remains a mystery.” The pyramids shone before the bobbing heads, followed by a digital photo of the Lockness Monster. “There has to be more to man than this.” Then came pulsars, and some actual satellite photos of black holes. More charts and images supported the lecturer’s arguments. A formation of flying saucers then illuminated before the audience members. “Man, his myths, and his legacy given to you, our future physicists. “ He felt successful and elated in his teachings, as he did every day.
After a day of classes, Case rested behind his mahogany desk. His office resembled a family room. It consisted of forest green upholstery, and an area rug and draperies that possessed all the same color— green. His girlfriend, Carolyn, wanted an environmentally friendly color, and she certainly got it. A dab of orange and violet added a blend to the scenery.
Gregory loved to collect gadgets, which led to his office being cluttered with all sorts of electronics. Cell phones, TV’s, portable band radios, and DVD players, both old and new. If one looked closely enough, one would find a vintage film projector. He had just finished doing more research when he took a sip of vodka. “I got to take my medicine, Doctor,” he cackled quietly to himself, then gulped down a mouthful of the stuff. He usually mixed it with orange juice, but it had been a long day, and he had to go home soon. Greg had promised Carolyn that he would be home early. If I did otherwise, there would be hell to pay, and I never like to see her mad.
Out of the blue, a light flashed outside, causing the building to shake. What was that? A meteorite? he thought. The building felt like it moved off its foundation. “That looked like lightening,” he muttered, his head moving with energy.
Gregory Case, doomed with an inquisitive mind, had the patience that went with it. He was also too safety conscious, for every night he checked the oven to see that it was cold with his own eyes. “I don’t plan on cooking in my bed tonight,” he would often remark to Carolyn. The same went for the doors, the windows, and the leaky faucets. He just had to know immediately if anything was amiss. Case had no patience otherwise. Suddenly, students and faculty members quickly fled, but Gregory remained, wondering what the hubbub was about. In a jiffy, he raced toward the sounds that boomed in the hallways. His eyes shifted about.
When he arrived at the floor where the explosions had resonated, and he searched the rooms. He saw no smoke or fire. He didn’t even see debris, nor a soul about. That split second, he felt a pulling sensation ensnare him. What? Feels like a retractor beam of some kind! It guided him to the end of the hallway, where medical students conducted autopsies during normal classes. It looked deserted. He could smell the scent of disinfectant in the air. He scrunched his nose, inhaling the awful smell, as if he had arrived out in the country and smelled rancid horse manure. Gregory entered the room, seeing the sanitized floor, the sinks, and the makeshift morgue. He couldn’t believe he found himself alone at such an hour. This caused him to shiver. Where is everyone?
Before the students had fled, the end of the class approached, and they had been careful to scrub and wash everything clean. Even the air conditioning system blew a fresh wave of air into his face. Spotless, yet the surrounding area smelled of a chemical spray.
Instantaneously, the American noticed a pulsating light emanating in the last refrigerated compartment of the morgue. “What the…?” His eyes bulged. Slowly, Case approached the compartment. He touched the metal of the lever, which felt oddly cold, because the light appeared to be burning hot. Must be some kind of science experiment gone awry, he thought.
“There can’t be a fire,” he realized, for the metal would have burned him, and Gregory would have pulled the fire alarm and fled. The pulling sensations, the explosion, the earthquake, and the mysterious glowing all played upon his mind. “Must check this thingamabob,” Gregory said, half-mockingly imitating a robot he saw in a children’s cartoon.
As his face tightened, Case slowly pulled the lever, opening the compartment. As it slowly decompressed, his eyes widened with anticipation. He found himself staring at something strange. A corpse lay stretched out on a slab. It possessed indecipherable features, a shrunken body, a plump belly, and long gray hair. Its skin had sagged and yellowed. The cadaver was covered with dried blood, and its mouth and eyes wide with a look of horror or shock. The creature obviously died horribly and terribly.
Case examined it closely. The clothing it wore possessed strength unlike anything he had ever seen, but it weighed like paper. He spied an old manuscript, clutched by the dead creature, which almost dissolved in his hands. It actually looked like a map with strange designs.
“My God!” Gregory cried. “This is Sanskrit!” He almost whistled with excitement. He took one good look at the cadaver, which resembled a shrivelled tree trunk. Maybe I’m just imagining this, he thought. This rationalization immediately died because of the ground-shaking detonation. If an unexplainable blast occurred, he also thought, what about the fumes and blaze? Why haven’t the authorities arrived? Where is everyone? Where has everyone gone?
Case then carefully moved the cadaver onto a lab table and pushed it to a nearby phone. He picked up the receiver but detected no dial tone. He scratched his head, and then went to a security panel that shined on the wall. No signs of life anywhere, other than himself, and he knew something must be seriously wrong. He pushed down on the fire alarm on the wall. Silence ensued. Gregory then pushed the dead into the hallway. He couldn’t believe the place had the feel of an abandoned building. “Hello?” he called aloud, his voice echoing.
“Hello!” he called again, his anxiety rising. He felt alone in the building. He pushed the dead stranger into an open elevator. When he arrived on the main floor, he went to a security desk. One of the men, seemingly quite young, sat sketching an exaggerated cartoon that depicted their supervisor. The other man mechanically viewed a set of computer screens, periodically pressing a button, switching angles to monitor various parts of the building. “Can I help you, sir?” the younger-faced kid asked Case.
“Did you hear the explosions?”
“What explosions?” the older guard asked, quickly stifling a yawn and looking at the younger guard, as if asking if he’d heard it.
Case stretched to his full height, regardless of his average build. “The booming sounds that shook the building!” Greg fired back, perplexed at the indolence of the guards.
“What disturbance, sir?” the younger guard asked, his fingers intensifying his scan of the building. The artist closed his drawing book and got to his feet, but his comrade still fixed his eyes to the computer screen.
“I even pulled the alarm, for Christ’s sake!”
The guards studied the control panels, where the usual lights flickered. “According to our databases, sir, no fire alarms were pulled,” one said. “Even the smoke detectors haven’t picked up any anomalies,” the other added. When Case raged about the phones not being operational, the night staff again checked their system and found everything just fine.
After some thought, the professor jerked, and almost went into convulsions. “Then explain this!” he roared as he spun his heels, pointing at the now empty hallway behind him.
“What is it, sir?” the men asked in unison, each exchanging frowns.
“Where is it?” Case demanded and his face went crimson with rage, quite certain he was being tricked in some kind of practical joke. No corpse, no table, but the smell of vodka came from his breath. In the twinkling of an eye, he wondered if he had been hallucinating. The two officials, one suppressing a grin, and the other seemingly quite serious, came from around their workstation and faced the dimly lit hallway. Gregory began to shake and wrung his hands in apprehension. “There’s nothing there!” he shrieked aloud. “What the fuck just happened! It was there a second ago!”
“What was there?” the older guard queried, as the other gestured with finger in a circle around the side the head, questioning the mental soundness of Mr. Case. “A body! It just was there a second ago!”
As one staff member got picture identification from Gregory, the Bill-Gates-wanna-be returned to his throne, where he resumed watching the monitors. A third official arrived and looked on, raising his eyebrows as he watched Case’s facial expressions and body movement.
A red-nosed supervisor came upon the scene. The night watchmen informed him of the incident. Two of the personnel then accompanied Gregory to the floor where he had found the corpse. They found no dead body of an alien. They also checked the fire alarm and telephone systems. Everything seemed to be in working order.
They warned Gregory about calling a false alarm. He repeatedly argued to the fact that he possessed a sound mind and character. Case vehemently denied that he had a drinking or drug problem. Nothing he said seemed to convince them of what he’d witnessed.
An hour later, he took the bus to the city central, all the while knowing what awaited him. Case didn’t care because he had one helluva excuse! “Fucking British,” he muttered, as he severely frowned. “Everyone has an attitude!”
That night, he went to his favourite pub in London and found it closed. Gregory then directly entered another drinking establishment which had a gorgeous, Romanesque facade. Musicians had just finished a live concert and joined a great mix of people for drinks. The bar had cheap pints, seemed to be a great place to unwind, and have a few laughs. Case hated the trendy cafés and dance clubs that popped up here and there. After several drinks and funny stories exchanged with a stranger, Gregory went home.
Midnight came and the rain increased when Case left the school. In no time, he walked on Main Street. He then headed west towards Victoria Park. At the juncture he bore witness to a phalanx of policemen in riot fatigues. He saw a cluster of police, some of whom were on horseback. Looks like a war is breaking out, observed Gregory as he lurched homewards. Case swiftly ducked into a doorway. As the gutters filled with rainwater, lights and firecrackers popped, lighting up the air. Frenzied and frantic figures levelled bottles at the android type guardsmen, who confronted them. The teaming masses of humanity charged at the storm troopers, who levelled their shields at the multitude of arms, legs, hands, and faces that grimaced. Some cried, roared, and raged at the injustice. Some batons were mechanically swung at the protesters, sending bodies crashing, falling backwards, or bulldozing onward. Hisses, screams, and gun shots filled the air. All this chaos soon came to pass, as the rain came down in torrents.
Case stumbled and stared, his face ashen, as a mounted officer raised his baton in an extremely threatening manner.
“What is wrong with you!” Gregory cried, as he hobbled off. In a skip of a beat, the crowd erupted in anger and disgust, but the police refused to waiver. The officers lost control; some actually found themselves in precarious situations, where their forces were surrounded on all sides by throngs of people who could easily have overwhelmed them, batons and all. In a few moments the Chief of Police was on the television, calling for peace. The authorities managed to provoke a cheerful crowd of people into unnecessary violence. The crowd had no access to water, shelter, or toilets. Tourists missed their flight home, despite showing the police their passports and airline tickets.
Case shook his head at such a scene and waved a dismissive gesture at the chaos. The rain soaked man then glided through the turnstile and stumbled into the lube, where the train soon sped him off home. In less than an hour, he shared his ride home with every strange creature of humanity, but that didn’t matter to him. “Take me to your leader,” raved Case to the oblivion, his thoughts on the dead alien, as the night fled by outside the train windows. In no time, the east side of London loomed in the distance, where Gregory rented a loft. Home sweet home! In postwar days, the former munitions company was converted into a warehouse. In the 1990’s, developers transformed factories, warehouses and wharf buildings into light, bright, open-plan apartments. Case loved that their home were carved from the interior of a once imposing industrial edifice. Artists, writers, and other creative types lived in the building. Case loved his spacious apartment.
At a very late hour he arrived at his loft, as a shield of some kind seemed to envelope everything. Darkness blanketed his dwelling. Case quickly removed his shoes and coat and walked on the balls of his feet, trying not to make a sound.
On the kitchen table sat a set of two plates, one of which the food had been scavenged; the other was left untouched. Quite certain he’d catch hell for drinking way too much, he headed to the bedroom He grabbed the knob, eased the latch so it barely clicked, and then pushed the bedroom door open. He tried to adjust his eyes to the darkness.
Silently crossing to the bed, Case moved his hands around, searching for the blanket. For a moment, it looked uninhabited, but his girlfriend waited. When he finally pulled the edge of the blanket over him, her body sprang up and a lamp came on. How was he to get out of the pickle he’d gotten himself into? Explaining why he was so late, why he was tipsy, and suddenly, he knew she would never believe him about the dead alien and the ordeal he’d gone through over it.