Rivers have many eddies, slower portions and faster portions as well.
Rivers may even reverse, given sufficient tides to push them back from their mouths. And what if time moved more slowly on one world, only to be speeded up on another world quite like it whose day was shorter?
That would produce an effect. Would every person in each corresponding era keep to their allotted niches? Perhaps not.
Like fishes, some might dart ahead of themselves, so to speak, if given the chance. We all know of individuals who live and act quite in advance of their contemporaries. Such was Talleyrand, who appeared in successive ages in European society and apparently never aged appreciably.
Another may have been an Irish genius. “Oscar Wilde,” the nom de plume for the flamboyant Anglo-Irish wit and chief Aesthete of the day, who, on one Earth, died rather prematurely in November 1900, but on the other was still entertaining and scandalizing society into the 1920s, while looking just as young and ageless as ever.
His “running ahead” of his Earth I twin need not change any significant events, and if he had behaved himself with the Marquis of Queensbury’s dissolute son he would have lived into the 1920s on Earth I, there can be little doubt.
As it was, if this can be believed, Earth II was more tolerant of the wicked than its twin.
Wilde did not have to sue for libel and lose on Earth II to the enraged father.
And he never had to suffer prison and hard labor for two years as a consequence of losing a civil trial that ensued, which had proved he was a secret predator, a corrupter of aristocratic youth-—namely, young Lord Douglas, who may or may not have been an innocent victim.
What carried Wilde off in ripe old age, in 1956, was a surfeit of raspberry-laced chocolate eclairs, not an ear infection leading to a brain infection that proved the nemesis of his broken, impoverished twin on Earth I.
But, Wilde's career career of fortune and misfortune aside, what was the significance of the drama in which he played a part? What was so important about the venture in which the guests participated that took place in the back yard of a country manorhouse in the Cotswolds? And what kind of mind, or intelligence, could call up "Alpha Point," the infinitesimal birthing place of the Universe.
Was it sheer imagination, or something bred of good wine and maybe too much brandy tossed down on top? Or just maybe H.G. Wells, the Virgillian guide for the venture, had stumbled upon the three-brain paradigm? Had he also discovered a means to not only activate antique machines left behind by the Atlanteans but to link up mankind's gigantic, triple brain with their incalculable, interstellar powers?
The ninety minute drive west from London made everyone glad to get out and stretch a leg, and after greetings by the hostess Lady Elcho, the guests soon passed by the Audit Room’s circular, revolving table for collecting rents from estate farmers, its drawered accounts marked alphabetically A to Z.
Most-- political figures such as Arthur Balfour, George Nathaniel Curzon, H. H. Asquith and his tradition-smashing wife Margo, H.G. Wells the noted popularizer of science fiction after the manner of Jules Verne, Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, Lord Alfred Douglas, Oscar Wilde the raconteur, social rebel, and celebrated playwright, Henry James the renowned author and literary lion--gathered in the blue and gold Great Hall, which let in the light and a view of the Black Mountains of Wales through a great oriel window of 1,056 panes of glass, as well showcased an array of ancient tapestries and full suits of armor (one designed in one piece for the 7th Earl of Wemyss and his horse, a contraption so heavy it dragged both mount and rider down to the ground during a disastrous trial run) belonging to the Elchos for centuries.
Mary Caroline Wyndham, Lady Elcho, graciously offered her guests one of the most charming country houses in western England, and those who came to her weekend gatherings were “habituals”--regulars, who liked to call themselves “The Souls,” because they treated themselves at Stanway House to spirited rounds of self-analysis, enlivened, whenever that lapsed and became too heavy, with witty word-games at which Oscar Wilde, a wickedly clever playwright, whenever he was present, always proved the consummate master.
H.G.--as everyone called the creator of the still popular and much discussed “The Time Machine,” and other extremely popular science fiction pieces—several of which had already proven prophetic of real event--though he was a creditable writer on ancient cultures and civilizations too--pointed to the suits of armor with his cigar, as he was needing an illustration.
Overhearing, Henry James, the internationist and aesthetics-minded writer who had chosen Art above national birth and given up his “unesthetical” American citizenship for British, shook his head. “May I interject, sir? I daresay that’s making far too broad a generalization hang on one small tittle of evidence like this old suit of armor, isn’t it, H.G.? We really must, to be fair, look at a great many more instances before we should draw up a summary conclusion such as you just put forth on this question of hypothetical ‘Roman rail systems’. That silly horse-and-rider suit wasn’t thought silly to the designer until it was tried out. It only needed practical demonstration to show it wasn’t going to work. And there was only this one prototype made, that we know of. So you can’t base your Roman rail system hypothesis on an anomaly, if you wish to speak seriously and sensibly to men of reason.”
“--And, which is infinitely more demanding, to women of reason!” Margo Tennant broke in.
“--’women of reason’, do I hear right? If so, that’s a shameless oxymoron!” interjected Oscar Wilde with a wicked gleam in his eye. “You might as well trot out “government unaminity” and--”
It was a good time to serve sandwiches, Parisian biscuits, coffee, and tea before dressing for dinner, and these were then brought in, the hostess scrutinizing each tray as it passed on the hand of a retainer. Since it was 1929, however, the men mostly overlooked the offered refreshments and took their own out from suit pockets, sterling silver flasks of brandy and whiskey. This, of course, happened not in the Great Hall, which was reserved for temperance-minded Lady Echo, but in adjacent rooms where she diplomatically turned a blind eye.
The Old Library (all the libraries were old, but this one dated back to the estate’s beginning), the haunt of the late Lord Elcho, full of stag antlers, a Bengali tiger rug, Athabaskan Moose heads (these were a century old, because "Athabaska" was completely under ice these days and there were no moose roaming about there), stuffed kangeroos and glass-eyed emus, and the like, not to mention an extensive book collection of rarities no longer read, was H.G.’s favorite refuge for refreshing himself. You would never get the refined Henry James up there, for he wasn’t a committed drinker and didn’t like so-called “gentlemen’s vices,” and several other gentlemen of good taste would have looked askance at the setting--it was just a degree too seedy and imperialistic, even smacking of Rudyard Kipling in his younger days before he wrote his shocking hymn for the TIMES of London Diamond Jubilee celebration, “God of our Fathers, Known of Old.”
The door opened on H.G. as he was nursing a brandy in a walrus-tusk hollowed out to make a drinking cup, and he turned and looked surprised, though he wasn’t particularly, knowing Lady Asquith’s ways well by now. She was smoking too--holding the cigarette like a man.
“Thought I’d catch a reprobate Soul or two up here!” Margo Tennant laughed, a gleam in her eye.
“It’s nice and quiet, and gives me time to settle my thoughts before dinner,” he commented, taking another leisurely swallow.
She went to the books, and pulled at several. One came apart in her hand, and she stuffed it back. “Oh, these country houses! So charming, but everything here is so old, it’s crumbling right to my touch!”
“No doubt hundreds of years old, and even books can’t last forever--it’s just too bloody damp a climate here in the Cotswolds anyway to preserve them. Now in Africa or the Levant--”
Margo Tennant’s eyes narrowed,and she blew smoke his direction. “Now don’t you get started on dusty, old Africa and the Mysteries of the Levant, you’ll keep me past dinner! Besides, I have a new Chanel gown for daring, Clara Bow-eyed little flappers I am dying to try out on Oscar tonight. They say he won’t bat an eye, but I’m going to disprove them all! Ha! I’ll give him a run for his money! My gown’s absolutely the Fall of Babylon--a really wicked little blood-red thing designed exclusively for vampires!”
H.G. smiled faintly. “It must be cut rather low then, so not to inhibit movement of the vampire’s wings and her fangs.”
“Yes, how did you guess? In fact, it dips to the harbor of Shanghai in front and back, with slits up the sides to top it off!!”
“Doesn’t seem to fit your style, Margo. You’re not the oriental, dragon lady sort. Officially, you’re married, and out of the running for victims and their blood. So what put you up to it?”
Lady Asquith turned away sharply, and shrugged. “Oh, a modern, enlightened marriage is whatever kind of arrangement I choose to define it as. And, for a change, I thought I’d like to play with men in an area where they are weakest, maybe, instead of always playing with ideas. But I like ideas more, I think, only--”
“--Only you’re still a woman, and can’t help a relapse into the lower nature now and then?”
She darted a glance at him that said he was treading where he ought not to tread. But he wasn’t noticing it, his manner seemed to say.
“--And,” he continued bravely, “you think you can have it both ways, isn’t that it?”
“Why not?” she challenged him, going right up and striking his belly with her fist.
He gasped to get his breath, then laughed. “And you laugh at that suit of armor downstairs, when actually you’re attempting something more ludicrous and impossible!”
She looked angry now, but H.G. wasn’t fooled. “Really? What am I attempting, sir?”
“You are manufacturing a composite, a hybrid species that has never evolved on earth until this time--a woman who thinks and a woman who is attractive to men. They’re antitheses. It’s never been done, and it certainly isn’t a product of natural selection, which has placed intellect in men and beauty and graceful deportment in women, so that the race might be propagated and expedited with the greatest dispatch.”
“Ah, I detect a fatal flaw,” Lady Asquith said, wagging a finger. “Who can claim that intellect has the slightest whatsoever to do with love and marriage? If men really thought about it, they’d never marry, and if women really loved men, they’d never marry them, since marriage always spoils true love.”
The door opened and H.G.’s rebuttal was cut off as Oscar Wilde peered in, considered very quickly if he wished to interrupt, and then decided he did, indeed.
H.G. held out his beaker. “Come in, dear boy, Margo and I are enjoying my brandy and her cigarette, two reprobate, sinful, lapsed Souls doing what comes naturally to them!”
“Then my invisible companion Soul is in good company,” Wilde laughed. “After all, he always does what is natural to himself, regardless of what society thinks. That way he always knows what is appropriate to his soul’s development, and, by deduction, what is not.”
“I daresay he does know,” replied H.G., quick to play anyone’s verbal game. “Now would he like a drink of my brandy, it’s top-drawer--I can vouch for it!” He picked up another walrus tusk beaker from a rack and blew out the dust.
Wilde smiled. “No thanks. The gentleman-spirit with me prefers wine. Brandy, he finds, tends to thicken the tongue, which being one of the tools of his trade, is his opponent’s friend.”
“Does he tend to have opponents, your bosom friend the wine-conoisseur?” Margo Tennant Asquith said, giving Wilde her gimlet eye. “And would these opponents tend to be mostly male in sex, with the she’s, on the other hand, preferring hard liquors and the Falstaffian gentlemen who imbibe them?”
The seasons’s most fashionable and popular playwright seemed to pause a moment longer than normal, and then took up the lance she had thrown, flinging out the words at a rapid clip. “‘Yea’ to the first question, ‘Yea’ again to the second, but only with the qualifier that his friends also are mostly male by both free and easy choice, and as for the third query, perhaps you could speak for them, being a she, I take it--or are appearances deceiving me utterly?”
Lady Asquith bristled visibly, staring at Wilde. H.G. , who could recognize a full-fledged jousting match when he saw one, wouldn’t have missed this one for the world, and he kept his mouth shut and simply watched.
Her eyes seemed to spout fire as she launched forth with her famous,cutting tongue. “She will speak for her sex, the sisterhood of universal slavery to men! She will speak to him, if he will speak for--but we haven’t quite decided what constituency he represents, have we? What does he claim, sir, for his constituency, if half, as you said, were opposed to him, and half not. A house divided shall not stand, it is said. What does he say to that?”
“But he hastens to inform her, that he doesn’t live in a divided house, he only lives in his half of it, which to him is as good as the whole, since he doesn’t need the other half, the half he has already holding enough friends for anyone of his taste and intellect. After all, why should he bore himself do death wirth the conventions?”
H.G. ‘s eyebrows lifted, as he thought Lady Asquith would have a hard time now coming back with anything to top Wilde’s repartee.
But Margo wasn’t finished just yet. She walked to the door, then turned slowly around. “It’s time for a lady to dress for dinner, so she will leave you two gentlemen. And if he as he says is all that satisfied with only half the men, she would consider him generous, since then he would leave the other half to her by default, the half that are genuine men, with genuine abilities to act as men can act in certain situations, as far as she is concerned!”
She went out, giving Wilde no chance to parry, and H.G. turned with a laugh, “She winged you that time, dear boy! “Genuine abilities to act as men can act--’--that is truly rich, that is!”
Wilde shrugged, and refolded the handkerchief in his pocket. “Women never play fair by the rules, you know that! Everything they say or do is ad hominem, since nature rendered their sex so deficient intellectually.”
“How so? Nature seems to be playing favorites here, giving brains and sex to the male, and just sex to the female. Why not give them brains, maybe even three one in the head, one in the gut, and one in the heart, so that they would be thrice the woman in one? Why limit them just to the reproductive utility of the species? It seems a terrible waste of a potentially valuable creature.”
“Why, no man can tell nature what to do! What's done is done. They can't be changed. What a thought! Despite what vogue the captains of industry enjoy in this blasted society Britain has, we still have the natural world as it has come down to us--and we are the products of the process, not the shapers of it! Now as for women, since they haven’t the political power as yet to make the rules, they have no respect for them, and only seek to tear them down and erect their own. So, a typical specimen of her oppressed class, she affects to rebel against society, then uses it against me--hardly fair in my book! She rebels against womanhood, seeking parity with men intellectually, but falls back on her womanhood to attack my own ‘lack’ of ‘true manhood.’”
H.G. took another deep swallow. “Yes, yes. All true. But she’s using all the weapons at her command to win an argument. Can she be blamed for that? For wanting to win, regardless of her unfair tactics? After all, you yourself said she’s a member of an oppressed class, in this case, the female gender. And who can reasonably expected the oppressed to play fair if the oppressed has nothing to gain by it? On the other hand, if she once suspected that she wasn't limited to this one supposed center of intellectualism--”
H.G. tapped his head significantly, though the hint did not seem to make any impression on Wilde's already formulated chain of thought--as his comments soon revealed.
Wilde, his eyes darkening to the jade green of his single earring. “Yes, she can be blamed!” he said heatedly. “She must be held accountable, even if she doesn’t and isn’t able to acknowledge her culpability! It’s sheer, unblushing egotism on her part. She makes mincemeat of intellectual grounds, then poses to stand on them, so that we can all draw round and admire her, as if we were looking at Venus de Milo, when actually it’s just her absurd, modern version of the armor for the 7th Earl of Wemyss and his old nag! I--”
H.G. smiled. “Ah, but you’re still young, my boy! A bit too hot in your Irish heart, and too cool in your Anglo head! Let the heat and the coolness settle a bit, and it won’t quite matter as much as you now think. When in the 1880s I finally learned what women were really about, I decided--”
But Wilde’s usually brilliant, darting eyes were glazing over, he had no desire to hear an ageing philanderer’s experience with fat, over-dressed, now long-dead Victorian Age beauties. He escaped from the library as soon as he could, going in search of some other Soul who might have better topics to discuss than women’s flesh and temperament.
“But my dear Fingal O’Flahertie Wells, you aren’t leaving—“
Behind him, H.G. chuckled over Wilde’s quick egress (for he knew how to get rid of Wilde whenever he wished), and poured another brandy, enjoying the library all to himself.
Lady Elcho was not at all happy about the dinner. Everything was arranged perfectly, and the food was perfect, with perfect service by her people, but something was missing. What could it have been? There was no excitement--the kind generated by expectancy, by a touch of mystery, by even sheer whimsicality? Everything was just too organized, too well executed--that was the problem, she decided. But how was she to change that without creating chaos, a mess, out of her clockwork-like efficiency?
Shaking her head, she turned to her duties to relieve her mind and just hoped against hope that something yet unplanned might happen after all that would provide the missing element that decided whether her guests were truly delighted or not to be her guests.
After the dinner, as usual the ladies went off to do whatever ladies do when the men “retired” to the “gentlemen’s smoking room” for “men talk.”
But this lingering Edwardian custom was fast disappearing. Lady Elcho liked to follow tradition, but the ladies could seldom be led off so that the men could be alone. Margo, of course, hated the tradition, and here again she insisted on following the men, despite the atrocious gown that had caught every eye and kept the atmosphere strained all through the failed dinner.
Then the ladies, finding themselves abandoned by Margo, stood on their “rights” to be emancipated women of the century, and trooped out of the place where they had retired, and the men found themselves forced to share talk about politics and various, esoteric, number-laden manipulations of the market, with some advice on which horse might best take the prize money at the next Ascot races.
An anxious hostess found, on entering the Old Library, that Margo was holding the floor, in fact, giving the best odds for particular horses to a silent, impressed company of men.
“Really, Margo!” Lady Elcho murmured. “I didn’t know you knew so much about the subject! I go every year, and didn’t know you were in the stands too, or I would have gone over to talk with you and compare hats! Where did you learn so much?”
The tradition smasher glanced at her husband, who diplomatically avoided her glance and its meaning. “A wife has to keep up with her husband’s interests these days, or risk losing him to either his bloody clubs or --should I phrase it?--various male amusements! To keep in the game, I’ve learned to cultivate certain sources of information.”
Several men had been scribbling down horses’ names and odds given as quickly as she had rattled them off, and now H.G. rose up from his chair.
He glanced toward the garden, which lay down the hall outside the windows at the eastern end. “I feel I could use a breath of air! It’s grown rather close in here, don’t you all agree?”
He started off before anyone could comment, and the whole group rose and began to troop after him.
“I wonder what the old fox is thinking about doing,” Lady Elcho whispered to Lady Asquith. “He wouldn’t change the subject so abruptly unless he had something up his sleeve to amaze us! That’s why he’s here--to stupify and amaze us with his learning and imagination! I was counting on this, after that horridly dull dinner last night!”
With no clew herself, Lady Asquith shook her head, and they walked on out with the men and the remaining ladies to the gardens, and instead of stopping in the formal French portion H.G. continued on toward the “Avenue of the Hoary Ancients,” which was a winding lane of patterned mosaic that was supposed to be Roman, tessarae from the ruins of some villas on the property as it was first being developed, and it led to various “Ruines” constructed in the far end of the domesticated garden. The globe of the Earth attached to another, a twin, by a crystal bridge, then a broken bridge, then an iceberg , a ship, and a flaming red star, then the Sun shown flying to pieces, then an ARGO and Argonauts...the strange mosaics led the guests to the estate’s primary spectacles. An obelisk, a sphinx, even a pyramid, had been erected by some forebear of the present Elchos--though some guests suggested they were authentic, and had been transported from the East. This was a good theory, until a language expert examined the carved writings on them and said there was no chance of that, for the writing was all wrong--and it was a specimen of altogether a mystery language, which as yet had no Rosetta Stone and Champollion for deciphering it. So the artifacts remained Mysteries, which made the “Back Gardens” interesting and somewhat dramatic in appearance. At one time Roman, Greek, and Gothic “Ruines” were considered very fashionable in English gardens, but later generations tended to laugh at them as tasteless frauds. This particular set, however, was coming back in favor due to the great scientific interest generated by archeologists in the Eastern countries, from Wooley to Davis.
Finally, with the house nearly vanished in the trees, H.G. stopped. Ahead rose the pyramid, and to either side rose the obelisk and the the sphinx--the so-called “Elcho Triad.”
He lifted his double chin, and his hands were outstretched on the knob of his cane. It was his favorite pose whenever he proposed to launch a discussion upon some exceptional topic he had framed in advanced.
The murmurs of doubt and expectation died down immediately around him, and H.G. began to expound his latest brainstorm.
“Thank you, kindred Souls, for accompanying this seeking spirit of mine to the origin of all wisdom--this sacred sanctuary of Ancient Intellectualism--which I would like to see us consecrate now with all solemnity and propriety, before beginning my explanation of the universal star-transport mechanisms that these artifacts embody!”
Wilde’s eyes glazed over, and he sighed. “Good Lord! The old Roman rail system wasn’t good enough transport to occupy us--now this! Poor man, he has lost his Elgin marbles utterly!” he said, unmindful that his remark could carry to H.G.
Lady Elcho cast him a disapproving glance, but he kept up his complaint as if he didn’t care she might not invite him back. “Pompous, old windbag! He’s boring me to death! I think I’ll go back to the house and read a book! something truly profound!”
Several scandalized Souls hushed Wilde, and H.G. continued. From his beaker he poured out some brandy as an oblation on the sacrificial altar, and then took the remains with a noisy sip. Thus fortified, he faced the expectant group and one desperately bored playwright.
“I should like to call, at this point, for a volunteer from nature’s most daring sex!”
Everyone gasped. Whom could he mean? “But we first need to know who you think is most daring, male or female?” someone called out.
“We shall see by which sex steps forth first!” H.G. returned, and everyone laughed.
Margo Tennant gave a smart little hop that put her beyond the others.
“Aha! Just as I thought!” H.G. roared, and everyone clapped. “Not an atom of hesitation in her whole body!”
“She’s such a sport for trying new things, I knew she wouldn’t fail him!” Lady Elcho said to the stoical Mr. Asquith at her side. “With that gown of hers, she’s the bravest Soul I have ever invited down here!”
H.G. , kissing Margo’s hand, then turned to the company. “Lady Asquith here is about to embark, as your ambassadoress, on a voyage to the Alpha Point! She is taking a quantum leap, as it were, from the modern earth-grounded rail system to star-travel where the rails are laid invisibly from star to star! That deserves more applause, does it not?”
The hubbub that broke out overwhelmed H.G.’s remarks for a few moments. Then puzzled voices called out. What was Alpha Point? Everyone wanted to know.
H.G. was in his best form. He ignored the questions, and after a few private words to his astral mind traveller, instructing her specifically on how to unlock some of the vast potentialities of her "triple brain," he next pointed toward the apex of the pyramid with his gold-tipped cane. “Now that aperture there is not missing a few marbles--[he gave a sly wink toward Wilde]--as one might suppose fallen away due to age or the effects of bad weather. It is the way it ought to be, since it was intended as a point of ingress and egress by the makers!”
At this point, the visibly languishing Wilde came alive, and he bounded to the front of the excited, everyone-talking-at-once Souls. “Really, H.G.! What nonsense is this? Haven’t you had too much brandy? This is a quite ordinary pyramid, or a copy of one, dear fellow, not a railway station! You can’t make it into something so absurd. Reason and the evidence of the senses defy you!”
H.G. paused to consider Oscar Wilde’s charge. He wagged his head slowly, as if confronted by an impertinent child. “Not at all! It is exactly what you have said it is not--a railway station, though of a rather different kind, since the rails were laid in the invisible air, and the rolling stock was of an entirely different kind and propulsion than ours!”
The volunteer, seeing Wilde taking too much of center stage, stepped in. “How different, H.G.? I am rather excited, to say the least, about what you shared with me just now in private, but what what exactly was their mode of transport, these ancients you are claiming to know? And where and what is ‘Alpha Point’? I ought to have a right to know that, since I’m the only Soul gutsy and brain-y enough here to take berth in your visionary time rocket!”
H.G. smiled broadly. “Yes, you do have the right to know, my dear Margo!” He pointed his cane again at the pyramid. “This edifice is really a transport center. It is maybe not the actual one, but it is a reasonable copy. The Ancients, whom I identify as the highly advanced Atlantean Races that predated the Stone Age Neanderthals, were extremely adept in science and civilisation, as well as being knowledgeable about the utility of multiple brain systems--a utility that we moderns have not even imagined as yet! So admirably equipped, they commonly employed the astral mode of transport that you see here, or rather I shall picture to you, since I haven’t any of their rolling stock, the same that took them to the stars and back, as quickly as you go from London to Birmingham nowadays.”
Margo Tennant’s face fell, and she pouted. “What? You mean I’m flying on the wings of your mere imagination, and not really going anywhere? This isn’t what I volunteered for! When I put myself forward, I did so because I really wanted to go someplace unusual, someplace, in fact, where no man has ever ventured!”
H.G. wagged a thick finger at her that sported a five carat diamond ringed by emeralds. “Now don't jump ahead to unwarranted conclusions, Volunteer Argonautess! If the experiment succeeds in your case, and I have high hopes it will, you will indeed travel--and it won't be via human imagination, yours or mine! You can complain after the journey, if it isn’t up to your greatest expectation. However, I doubt you will be disappointed then, if you will only hear me out!”
“Yes, hear our Honorable Helmsman out!” a voice called. The others assented, eager to get the gist of what H.G. was going to reveal.
“Now Alpha Point--you so kindly inquired about, and I shall tell you exactly, Fellow Souls. It is the beginning of Primordial Time and Space--the exact genesis-point of Creation--when the Almighty, with the fiat of His Word, sent forth all existing things that we call the Universe.”
The Bentham materialists and Russelite atheists in the group smiled. “Hear!” one cried. “What’s your proof for a Supreme Being, H.G.? And you hold yourself to be a natural scientist! Come, come! You’ve backslid into evangelical pieties and platitudes!”
Ignoring the jibes, H.G. went closer to the pyramid, pointing upwards. “There the citizens of the wondrous Lost Atlantis, their giant minds linked with their marvelous machines, travelled forth to and fro, on various errands between this old Earth and their colonies located amidst the stars of Orion and other such constellations. Of course, they might have crystalized their minds to an extent as well, and spared themselves having to think through the equations and other mathematics necessary for star voyages, but that is speculation on my part”
He beckoned to Margo to come over closer. He drew her attention upwards, by pointing. “You are an Atlantean, let us imagine. Now that isn’t so difficult is it? Forget who you are presently. You’re a princess, so naturally you have a sleek ship of all polished metal, and you are being served wine and biscuits in the chief cabin of your vessel, and it is poised at the top of the transport tube, which is the opening of the pyramid where the propulsion-fires egress, and once it receives sufficient energies in its storage batteries, your vessel will shoot off like a rocket to whatever stars you have chosen to visit. Do you see that much? If you do, we can proceed from there.”
Margo, holding back a smile, nodded. “Go on! And don’t forget Alpha Point? I’m not about to detour to something else, if I must submit to you as chief navigator!”
H.G. continued. “Well, having examined that clever German fellow, Einstein, and his theories, I can tell you all that we will be going back in time, since we will be going so fast that we can return to the origin of the universe, which, as you view the stars in our heavens that are really only figments since they were formed so long ago that they have probably all died out in the time it took their light to reach our little world. Well, as I was saying, you are in your fine ship, Your Royal Highness, and it has left the transport center and is speeding toward the earliest stars, which are rapidly receding from us, since they were formed so terribly long ago. Never fear, we won’t come up empty of prospects. If we go fast enough, we’ll pass the barriers of time, and the clock will be ticking backwards, like a tidal river reversing its current.”
“My wrinkles will disappear, you are trying to tell us!” Margo quipped, and everyone laughed.
“Yes, and much more--you will see the generative nurseries of the stars and galaxies, which have long since expired, though we see their ghost-images filling our skies today as our present constellations. And now--”
He paused. “Now we are passing a second Great Barrier. We passed Time’s. Now we shall pass over the bar of Space itself.”
Everyone fell silent. “What could lie beyond Material Space? beyond Time?” H.G. asked for them. “Our princess of Atlantis will be able to tell us. She shall soon see with her own eyes, ladies and gentlemen!”
He gestured upwards, including the sky. “What do you see, my dear? Tell us, for an old man’s eyes are fading, and we need your sensory equipment to lead us onward to Alpha Point. Let's see if your name, removing the 'M', is truly cosmic in significance and can launch you beyond this limited spot of Cotswoldian space and time that we happen to inhabit!”
Prompted, but following H.G. private insructions on how she might access her "potential three intelligence centres," Margo’s eyes were bright, as bright as they ever got, as she found herself put on the spot, with every eye riveted on her.
Then, with more than half those present noticing it, her face seemed to shine with a preternatural light as her intelligence, apparently, increased threefold. She stepped away from H.G., since her mentor and navigator had deserted her. She ran hands through her hair, and she looked very strangely and soberly at them. The old, flippant, iconoclastic Margo seem to have vanished. Drawing the most attention, her eyes glowed like flaming coals in their sockets.
“I am--I am there already! And I can see! I do see something! But what are the words to say it?”
Whatever it was, it must have drawn closer to her, for light blazed through her limbs and face, she cried something and fainted, and everyone rushed forward.
At that point, H.G. must have droped his cane, or thrown it in a fit of excitement, for something vital was struck in the Ruine of the Pyramid, perhaps the writing on the pyramid, touching a certain letter, and the whole mount of masonry shuddered, a hum breaking out from its bowels, as if a hidden dynamo of immense power had ignited. Frightened, guests began to flee, and the men were hard put not to join the ladies who forgot poor Margo lying outstetched on the grass and were running back toward the house.
The pyramid shook, and dust and fine sand rolled down its sides, and then something blue and blinding in intensity shot forth from the apex, waving back and forth like a snake charmer’s cobra before it straightened, and then flung off, with unfathomable speed, into space among the stars.
Minutes after the blue lightning bolt, for such it appeared, had utterly vanished did they regain their startled senses and remember the Volunteer Argonautess lying on the ground.
Quickly, they got her from the back garden to the house, a doctor was fetched from the neighborhood, and Lady Elcho called the ill-starred party to an end, her badly rattled guests departing with scarcely a polite word to her at the door.
Weeks later, a convalescent Margo Tennant had got her nerves restored sufficiently to open her diary and attempt a rational reconstruction of the event at Stanway House. Her husband and others had pressed her for an explanation, but she could only cry, her nerves shattered. Finally, she could think clearly again, with one thought following another in a more or less orderly fashion, though she was accessing only one brain now, having completely forgotten H.G.'s instructions in the fog that had nearly erased her memory. Pulling off her blindfold, grimacing in the pain of the much dimmer sunlight coming back to her eyes that was still strong enough to evoke a memory of the Fathering Light of lights, she wrote:
“When my trinity of minds flew me to the place I had chosen to visit, it was there at that spot I saw that dreadful Light of lights, which stood upright like a man, and Which I sensed was sentient and aware of my presence, I felt appalled, for its light penetrated me like drilling rays, and I was utterly exposed, my own appalling personal blackness showing openly on the surface of my body, so that I could not stand before the Light. My heart, my will, my very thoughts, were blasted, and I melted, literally melted away as if I had been thrown into a smelting furnace of an ironworks! That was Alpha-Point, the Creator and the emergent Creation! I know it, having been there, having somehow been exposed to a fraction of a second to "Godhead" and to "Genesis." And now I can’t tell anybody! Not a single Soul! There are simply no words for it--that Uncreated Presence and that devouring Light that composed it!”
Doing an volte-face in society, the post-Argonautess to Alpha-Point gradually emerged from seclusion as an attender at church services in a parish where the priest was one whom had gained her respect years before by confronting her on the steps of an opera house one evening with a word of her urgent need for her soul’s conversion. She had laughed in his face then, but it was to his ministry she now turned. Charities and simple acts of kindness consumed the rest of her time until her death.
His constitution fortified by brandy, H.G. Wells went back to Stanway House. He took careful sight of the scene of the near-disaster, and was rewarded by finding a photographic image burnt of Lady Asquith upon the grass where she had last lain. Having seen how her skeleton had been exposed to view during the flash of light that illuminated her entire person from within, he wasn’t surprised. After sketching it, he went back to the house, and Lord and Lady Elcho asked nothing of where he had been rambling, only commenting on his departure that they had decided to remove the Antiquities in order to landscape the entire back garden in neo-Italian Renaissance style. As he was leaving by car, quarry trucks and work gangs were arriving at the Caroline Gate, to begin the task of dismantling and carrying off the Antiquities to a private site in the Black Mountains.
Later, back in London at his club, he considered what to do with the sketch. Should he risk giving Lady Asquith another nervous breakdown? He tore it up and lit a cigar, choosing silence as the better part of a gentleman’s common sense.
And Oscar? To recap his career, the wittiest man in Europe and possibly the world was not, to repeat, not convicted in a libel suit gone bad, so that he was not exposed as a homosexual and sodomite praying on young noblemen and subsequently sentenced and imprisoned in Reading Gaol for two years. He was not put to hard labor in horrible condition meant to crush the human spirit, so that during his incarceration he would compose out his agony of soul and his conversion the “Ballad of Reading Gaol, that chronicled his own journey back to God, the Alpha-Point.
It was just as well. The public on Earth II was now wanting less sincere religion and soul-searching and more levity in manners and morals, and so was not in the mood for emotional, heartfelt confessions of sin, or anything so earnest about the soul’s progress from evil to sanctification.
That sort of thing would find instant smiles and scorn. On Earth I, discouraged by his poem’s reception, the consequences of his former life exacted a grim toll on Oscar Wilde, physically and financially.
His secret life exposed in a trial that was the scandal of the era and caused former friends to shun him like a leper, the crushed genius crept from one seedy hotel to another on the Continent, and died a tragically broken and forgotten man, attended by a few true friends and, surprising the hostile society round about, his former young friend and lover, Lord Douglass.
Instead, on Earth II, after living beyond his fame and the public no longer doting on his clever witticisms, Oscar Wilde II ate himself to death in a cheap, unfashionable hotel, the same where a former vaudeville star lay bedridden and utterly forgotten in her last years—-smothered finally in his own body fat.
Meanwhile, the Antiquities that had brought these lives into violent convergence at Alpha-Point rested in their new home, scattered helter-skelter in an abandoned quarry in Wales’ Black Mountains. No one knew their origin, and few knew their last resting place. When linked to the colossal intelligence resident in man due to the inchoate image of God which he possessed, they had served their purpose admirably even moreso than when they served their former masters, who did not share the divine image.