When Gerald Fotesque died, it was not discovered for many months. He always paid the rent on his apartment on an annual basis and was known to be absent for months at a time.
He was normally quite punctual with his payments and when I still hadn’t heard from him, some three months after it was due, I used my master key, to see if I could find out where he might be.
I didn’t have far to look, there was Gerald, or should I say the remains of Gerald, sitting at his study desk. It was obvious that he was dead and had been for quite some time. He looked like a well preserved Egyptian Mummy, his flesh had wasted away and his skin looked dry and stretched. Looking more closely, it seemed as though he was smiling, a peaceful, contented smile.
It was then that I noticed the device. Right in front of him, on the desk it sat, looking like something from inside an old radio. It was glowing softly in the darkened room and seemed to be making a faint humming sound.
Looking at it more closely, I could seem some slight movement of the pointers on the two dials, they were hovering not far from what I guessed to be the lower end of the dial. It was hard to tell, as although there were markings, there were no numbers or other indications of what they might be showing.
When I put my hands on the case, I noticed it was quite warm and could now feel the faintest of vibrations. Picking it up from the desk, it seemed much lighter than its size would have suggested, I would guess, not more than about 100 grammes.
As I carried it out into the light for a closer look, I realised that there were no cables attached to it. By the appearance of Gerald’s corpse, it had been a number of months since his demise and the device was still switched on and was functioning in some manner. What was powering it? I wondered.
As I carried the device towards Gerald’s kitchen, it seemed to grow warmer, the low pitched hum and vibration increase, not alarmingly so, but increase nonetheless. Then when I stepped through the doorway, it went silent, its glow and vibrations also disappearing. At that very same instant, on the floor in front of me, a second device, turned itself on. Much brighter than the now dead one in my hands, this larger device was almost too bright to look at directly.
Although different in layout and controls, it was obvious that this new device had been made by the same hand as the one I still held.
As I stood there staring at it, I had the strangest feeling. I don’t know how to explain it, it was like the feeling of a sound, the feeling of a voice. It was like it was talking to me.
I knelt down on the floor placing the first device down to my side, my focus never once leaving the intense light of the second device
I could almost discern words, it really did seem to be trying to communicate with me, I just couldn’t quite understand what it was saying.
Without any conscious thought my hand reached out and slid the left had slider towards me, stopping just two markings from the bottom. Then, once again without thinking, pushing the right hand slider three divisions towards the rear. The light changed colour but nothing else seemed to happen.
Still kneeling in front of the device, time seemed to stand still. It seemed that I was thinking of nothing while thinking of everything simultaneously.
Then, once again, my hand reached out, this time with far more surety. I moved the left side rotary switch two positions clockwise, the middle one five and the right hand one but a single position in the opposite direction.
I sat back and looked, feeling extremely satisfied for some unknown reason.
The light, now a calming blue, seemed less intense but far, far deeper.
I felt content.
The words seemed to come clearer now, I was being asked a question.
I was asked whether I was prepared to take a journey, a journey from which there was no guarantee of return.
It was no contest, I had always been game to try anything, no matter what the risks might be. This was a both an invitation and a challenge, one I could not refuse.
My hand reached out again, moving through the eight switches, one after another.
As I flicked the last switch, the light instantly brightened, like an intense camera flash and for a brief instant I was blinded
When my eyes cleared from the flash of light, I saw immediately that I was no longer in Gerald’s kitchen, in fact I had no idea at all where I was. I was kneeling on an immense plane of some highly reflective material. It was almost midnight black, with intricate, ever repeating patterns. The sky above me was open with just a few, normal looking clouds. I looked down at the device, only to find that it was yet another device, this one looked more complex again. In the very centre was a large gold symbol with a single glowing crystal in the middle. The symbol looked similar to those in the device I had only recently been looking at in Gerald’s kitchen. Either side of the symbol, were what appeared to be two video screens, showing a moving pattern of coloured light.
Once again, I had the sensation of sound, of a voice in my mind. It was now a lot clearer and sounded familiar. Then it dawned on me, it was Gerald.
‘Of course it’s me, who did you think it was?’
‘But you’re dead, I saw your body in the study.’
‘You saw my body, yes but that doesn’t mean I’m dead; however, if I don’t get back to it soon, I might as well be. I’ve been stuck here for months waiting for you.’
‘Waiting for me?’
‘Yes, waiting for you. I knew that sooner or later you’d come looking for the rent and that your curiosity would eventually lead you here. Look Hugh, I need your help, if I am ever going to get back to my body, only you can help it happen. I cannot do what is needed, I have no body here. I won’t lie to you, what I need you to do is risky, you could end up as I am now, a disembodied mind. Never to rest, never to die. The choice is yours, if you do not wish to help, I fully understand and will instruct you how to program this device to take you back again.’
‘Before I make that decision Gerald, you had better tell me what it is that you need me to do.’
To be continued . . .
The story of Gerald’s Devices