By Virginia Carraway Stark
It’s happening again. For a few days, I thought it had stopped. Everyone has been told I’m on sick leave– stress leave to be specific. That’s put in my file special because of what I’m doing right now. I’m writing down what I know and I’m going to drive until I am in France and put copies of five envelopes. I have addresses to send it to and maybe you’ll listen to me. I only pray that someone will hear me. The walls are thin now. The lights have gone out. They flicker on and off but it won’t take me long to say what I need to say, my battery on my laptop will have to hold out long enough because I don’t dare travel at night. Everyone else who has tried that has had a fatal accident. I have no desire to die. Please, I don’t want to die. I’m scared that wherever you go when you die, that’s where they are coming from.
Let me try to start at the start, if I can figure out where the start is. The shipments stopped in August of 2015, nobody knows why. Nobody I know, at any rate. Apparently, they don’t tell us these things, not even at the highest levels. My name is Dr. Jim Payton and I worked the the world’s largest Hadron Collider, and I’ve seen things.
I am a Physicist, a scientist. I have a PhD in Physics and Biochemistry. I have studied sub-atomic particle theory and Quantum Physics extensively. All my life I have been an Atheist and a believer in rational explanations, all of that’s fallen apart for me now. My eyes have been opened and while I might not believe in a god or a higher power, I no longer believe in rational explanations.
Everyone who has worked with the colliders, busting up atoms on race tracks amped up with magnets has seen things. I worked at Harvard University as an Associate Professor before being offered a job at CERN. The job description that was given to me had nothing to do with the actual operation of the colider. I was supposed to analyze data in a lab.
The data lab is magnificent. One of the largest super computers of the world is operated from CERN and you will always be sure to get internet service if you live in the city or surrounding area. The Wi-fi blankets the entire area but that’s not all, it’s a computer that routes information from all over the world into the enormous data banks. The amount of memory it can store can’t be put into terms that are easily expressed, lets just say that compared to the human brain it’s infinite.
CERN Switzerland is one of the most dangerous places to fly into and out of. I was unaware of that at the time I was employed, I was told that I would be flown to Paris and disembark there. I spent the night at a hotel not far from the airport and was picked up the next morning in a slick black Mercedes. I wasn’t accustomed to having a driver and made the Swiss man uncomfortable by insisting on sitting in the front seat. It would take me awhile to get used to being chauffeured around and to learn not to talk to the drivers, it just wasn’t done. Talking about anything when you work at CERN becomes a contaminant. It’s hard to explain, but it’s the way it is, I’ll come back to that.
The driver spoke fluent French and German but his English was hit or miss, which is better than you could say about my French or German at the time.
“How long is the drive?” I asked, we had reached the outskirts of Paris. In America the traffic would have had anyone I knew cursing and swearing but my driver was impassive, perhaps he was being paid by the hour.
“It is in the mountains, we must cross the Swiss border,” He replied awkwardly.
“How many hours?” I tried again.
He shrugged and pointed around at the congested traffic, “You see how it is, how can I say how long?”
At the time his explanation made sense. Traffic was bad, who could predict how long a traffic jam could take unless you had a traffic report with an eye in the sky? I quickly learned after getting to CERN that nobody could ever say how long anything would take with accuracy. We tried to say but we couldn’t. One day it took me three hours to walk the two blocks from my housing complex to the data center. I had no explanation for why I was late and no one asked me for one.
“Did you sleep in, Jim?” Bernie asked me, he was the only one who mentioned my lateness. Everyone else studiously ignored it.
“No, I should have been here early. My clock must be off,” I was confounded. My clock was in my cell phone and even with the intermittent cell service the Wi-fi keeps us all constantly updated and tapped in.
Bernie had only been working a few months longer than I had been. He was from Britain and was the closest thing I had to a friend since he spoke English, had spent time at Harvard as a visiting lecturer and was nearly as bewildered as I was.
“The clocks get off a lot here.”
“Am I going to get into trouble for being late?” I asked him in a whisper.
He shook his head and looked down at his report, his bald head reflected the overhead lights at me, “No one gets in trouble for being late,” He muttered.
“That’s nice,” I commented, a whole world of sleeping in in the morning opening up in front of me.
His brown eyes peered out from behind coke-bottle lenses and he blinked owlishly at me, “Don’t get the wrong idea, they’ll know if you do it on purpose. Even if they aren’t watching you, they’ll get upset if it happens by accident too often. It could mean you aren’t suited for working here.”
“But you just said no one gets into trouble.”
“Yes, no one gets into trouble, but it’s not good. It’s not a good sign at all.”
He hurried away from me and I saw that there were many eyes in the office who had watched our brief interchange. There are always eyes on you here and when there aren’t, that’s when you wish that there were.
I started to get data reports and some of the were from Large Hadron Colliders around the globe, but some of the reports I got were random, often personal emails. They had no bearing that I could understand on the data of splitting atoms.
One of the read: Hey, did you notice the robot on Star Wars has a silver leg here? What’s up with that? Have you got any others?
That was a common one, I asked my boss what I was expected to do with it. Lena, a beautiful blonde Swiss woman with white streaks gracing the waves of hair that fell below her shoulders looked at me blankly. Her English was impeccable and yet she apologized, “Perhaps my English isn’t as good as I thought, what are you asking?”
Her piercing, intelligent blue eyes regarding me didn’t hide that this was a test of some sort. I fumbled, “I thought I was analyzing data for the collider, this doesn’t seem to have anything to do with it. How am I supposed to enter this as data?”
She got up from her desk and walked over to my computer. The data reports were all given to us via hard copies, another oddity. She typed at my computer, her long nails clacking on my keyboard, “Ah, I see your confusion, there was file created on your operating system yet for bogies.”
She smiled with her wide, red painted smile, “Yes, Jim, Bogies. It’s a word we picked up for these sorts of files. Just enter the email address, the IP address on the sending and receiving side and enter anything that is remarked on.”
“Anything about Star Wars?” I was incredulous, this must be a joke. An office hazing.
Her response was stern and serious and I forgot the idea that it was a joke in her reply, “Sometimes Star Wars, sometimes other movies, television, historical facts. Anything that someone remarks on as being different than they remember. Enter it into the computer and then,” She paused and unlocked the bottom drawer of my desk, a drawer I had not been given a key to.
“Write down the co-ordinates and the reference numbers that come up when you enter it into the computer log. You must manually write down each reference number. The reference numbers will identify what category of Bogey something is from, if it’s a previously unknown one it will alert you to that,” She took out a second, less used book.
“This book is for manual referencing of codes. It’s unlikely that you’ll have to use it except for writing down new Bogey codes.”
“What else would I use it for?”
She swiveled back and forth in my chair as she faced me, “Lets say you’ve entered fifty different Bogies, each one to do with the robot having a silver leg in Star Wars. You will quickly learn that that is a code R-591A23, correct?”
“Yes,” I agreed, still bemused but doing by best to hide it. I felt like I had walked into an episode of The Twilight Zone and none of what I took to be serious or real mattered. All laws were suspended, you see, it was here that I started in the root of my brain where we first learn survival the true nature of CERN.
“What would you do if the computer suddenly told you that the code for that entry was B-591A23?”
“I’d be even more confused,” I replied honestly.
She smiled again, “Yes, it will seem confusing at first, you’ll get used to it, or perhaps you’ll decide you were happier teaching in America?”
“No, I don’t think that will happen,” I said automatically.
“Good. Then if you should remember a code differently from what the computer tells you it is you should double check in the manual code book and see if you mis-remembered or if you have identified a new Bogey.”
My mind reeled at her implications, “You’re saying that if the computer has an error that it’s classed as one of these Bogies? Couldn’t it just be an error?”
“That’s all any Bogey is, just an error.”
“Then why am I sorting through emails from Utah and Australia where a couple of geeks are talking about Star Wars or Field of Dreams? Look at this, this one says, “What’s up with Field of Dreams, in the corn the voice whispers, ‘if you build it he will come’. Am I crazy or what? Wasn’t it always, ‘if you build it they will come?’.
“I believe that’s an F-785J45, it’s been awhile since I have worked Bogies but that sounds right. She flipped through the large book, each page had lines of carefully handwritten notations on it.
I stared at her, “It was, ‘if you build it they will come’,” I said, pulling on my earlobe in thought. That one bothered me. Those famous words echoed in my mind. I knew I remembered them right. I found the movie on line and watched it and the eerie voice now said, ‘if you build it, he will come’. It had freaked me out and it wasn’t easy to hide.
“Hmmm, you remember it as ‘they’ will come?” She asked.
“Yes, how do you remember it?”
“I don’t watch movies,” She replied. “Now, you understand how to enter Bogies, if you have any more questions, please, feel free to ask. The bottom drawer is unlocked and I’ve opened the file on your server that gives you access to entering Bogies, there shouldn’t be any more problems, I hope.”
Two days later I was send to talk to the psychiatrist Dr. Bertram who was in charge of employee mental health at the Data Plant. I was alarmed by the summons and more alarmed by the questions and he asked me about pop culture and historical events. The list was seemingly endless and I was so confused by the end of his questions that I didn’t know what I remembered myself anymore.
“You seem agitated,” He remarked between making copious notes on my responses.
“I am, I haven’t even seen half the movies and TV shows you’re asking me about and I don’t know what they have to do with my mental health.”
“Just a few left and you can go back to work,” He soothed. “What year did Nelson Mandela die?”
“I don’t know, sometime in the 80’s, I’m not a history major.”
“Alright, I think we’re done here,” He replied. His smile was false, I had failed some test.
“Did I do alright?”
“It’s not a test, I should have clarified at the start, I ask all employees this question. I’m writing a dissertation on how human memory works. I’m sorry to have worried you, it’s sheerly for my own purposes and I assure you that your name and any identifying information will not be used in my report. I appreciate you humoring me,” He closed the folder he had been writing in.
“Can I see the report?” I asked.
“No, you can’t,” He replied with a greasy smile.
I got up and went back to my desk. The coincidence of Lena asking me about The Field of Dreams and Bertram asking about that and many other discrepancies wasn’t lost on me. I didn’t believe in his dissertation and I didn’t believe that my information would be used for his own private studies. I also believed that I had answered wrong.
I Googled Nelson Mandela when I got back to my computer, using my phone which I foolishly believed would be free of surveillance rather than my computer.
‘Nelson Mandela, died December 5, 2013.’
I shut my phone down and went back to entering data. 2013? That was less than two years before. How could this be?
Entering Bogies became part of my daily life and so did the leapings and trailings of time and space. I began to keep a journal that I have copied and will include along with this letter. You will quickly see that losing hours of time or being suddenly in another office or building became acceptable to me. It was so irrational that I couldn’t imagine any reason for it and so I chose to simply not think about it at all. But a part of my mind obviously held onto it as you can see by the hundreds of entries attached. I have estimated time and distance in most of them and included illicitly attained blueprints to indicate how far between rooms it was that I was mysteriously transported to.
Dr. Bertram left and was replaced by a friendly young man named Dr. Roger Hendricks. Unlike Dr. Bertram he asked to be called simply Roger, and his honesty with me frightened me. I began to wish for the good old days with Dr. Bertram and letting at least part of my brain believe his song and dance about the dissertation he was writing about how memory worked.
Roger called everyone into his office one by one for a meet and greet. Some of these meetings were minutes and some were hours. Mine took the entire day.
He greeted me with a hearty handshake and his honest eyes were a relief after Bertram’s dead, nearly snake-like gaze, “Come on in, have a seat, call me Roger, I’m not used to ‘Dr. Hendricks’ and I don’t really want to be.”
“Why did you become a doctor if you didn’t want people to identify you as one?” I asked curiously. It was rare to meet someone who denounced their credentials on any level.
“Well, you see, I thought when I went to school to be a doctor that I’d be doing something much different than I ended up doing.”
“But you’re a doctor, a Psychiatrist,” I felt as though I was reminding a wayward child.
“Yes, well, Jim, did you think you’d ever be sitting at a computer entering mistaken facts about Star Wars in a handwritten ledger when you took your doctorate in Physics?”
“No, no I didn’t,” I was surprised to have the matter addressed so forthrightly. Everyone else hedged around the subject or refused to talk about it altogether.
“Don’t look surprised, and by the way, everything you say anywhere in CERN is recorded, that includes this office. Someone is watching you every minute. We know that you aren’t from here originally, your answers to Bertram proved it. Hell, you comment to Lena about Field of Dreams proved it, they just wanted to check on it for consistency sake. Some people are jumbled together, that’s a good indicator of whether or not they’ve been moved back and forth more than once and of when they got here. Your answers indicate that you’re a very recent arrival.”
“No,” He laughed and the sound was boyish in Bertram’s former office. “To this Universe.”
He had a set of accordion folders on his desk, they were labeled with my name in black sharpie across the side. He took out a folder and opened it up, see here, 3:03, Payton is asked year Nelson Mandela died, subject reports, ‘sometime in the 80’s’, no hesitation in answer. Then a few lines down it shows that you checked on Google and found that Mandela died in December of 2013. It’s written down that you didn’t confide your discovery or your confusion to anyone.”
“I was mistaken, that’s all,” I answered. I felt defensive of my wrong answer and deeply concerned about his comment about being new to this Universe. I wondered if Roger was insane.
“You weren’t mistaken, in your universe Mandela died in the 80’s. I know, because that’s what I remember too. It’s only one in a long line of minor inconsistencies that differentiate here from there. The one that got me was the line, ‘Luke, I am your Father.’. Remember that line?”
I nodded tiredly, I had run across this Bogey several times.
“Your file said that you remembered that line, but the movie says, ‘No, I’m your Father.” It’s totally different. Plus, Luke was right beside Dark Vader in the one you and I saw, but here Luke’s all the way at the far end of the scaffolding. Weird, no?”
I confessed that it was, indeed, weird. He rattled off several more facts that I had gotten wrong before I interrupted him, “Look, where are you going with all this?”
“It’s CERN, don’t you know what they’re doing here, Jim?”
“They’re smashing atoms,” I answered.
“No, they’re using dark matter to open doorways. Anti-matter. Come one, Jim, I’ve never met a scientist who didn’t love science fiction when they were a kid. It’s in every movie, every comic book, what happens when anti-matter and matter collide?”
“Things explode,” I replied.
“Right! That’s what’s supposed to happen, but what if it didn’t explode so much as it reacted with matter. Like a nuclear reactor that’s gone China Syndrome, a chain reaction that once started no one can stop.”
“I don’t understand, I’ve been here nearly a year and there’s never been an explosion.”
“No, there’s other weird things though, aren’t there? Why do you think they’ve got you recording Bogies?”
“I don’t know, I’ve never understood it, I just do it because I was told to do it.”
“Smart man, following orders, I’m on the same wave length with you there. Don’t get me wrong, I want to be your friend and we’re from the same Universe so there’s this pull to each other, but don’t ever tell me anything you don’t want in an official report because I’m following orders too and I have a lot more riding on this than you do.”
“What do you mean?”
Roger waved away my question, “No, don’t ask me that, just trust me. I’m a lifer, you could still go home to Harvard. Mind you, it might not be the Harvard you remember. Flight is one of the prime times people hop between dimensions, that’s why we don’t fly anyone who matters in or out of CERN. If anyone offers you a flight out of here they’re either an idiot or trying to kill you, remember that, one compadre to another.”
“Why are you telling me all this?”
“Because I want to establish a few things. I want to let you know how honest it’s safe to be with me and within those parameters, it would be best if you tell me everything.”
“Why should I trust you when you tell me not to tell you things or ask you questions?”
“I’m being honest with you and I was brought in with permission to be honest with you. There’s too much confusion with Bertram’s approach, we need some transparency. Lets face it, if you start telling people any of the things you’re just starting to suspect, who would believe you?”
“No one. I still can’t believe it.”
Roger nodded sympathetically before asking abruptly, “Have they started to visit you yet?”
“The people who come through the walls, through the television screens, out Ethernet ports. They are tall, long people with long thin fingers. More shadow than people and old fashioned television snow flickers on them. You see any of those, yet, Jim? Maybe have a nightmare or two? Something you dismissed as a nightmare because you’re a rational man and you don’t believe in people coming out of the walls.”
I was silent in response. I hadn’t spoken to anyone about those nightmares. It was impossible for him to know about them.
He continued, “Have they started to talk to you yet? They talk to me, they say horrible things, Jim. Horrible. Things people from our universe were never meant to hear. They’ll tell you to do things too, if they haven’t already.”
“How do you know about them?” My shout echoed in his office.
“Easy there, tiger. I told you. They’re opening doorways. You and I aren’t the only things to come out of those doorways, other things come out too. This is a bad universe, horrible things happen here and there isn’t justice like you imagine there is. No, this is a bad place, Jim. Awful by our standards. Your privileged life has kept you from being exposed to it, but that protection can disintegrate and those shadow people would love nothing more than to take you out of here and put themselves in your place. That’s what good shadow people do,” He laughed again. I decided that he was more than a little crazy but that he also knew far too much of what I had been going through to be wrong. Someone can be insane and still be correct.
“How did you and I get here? Where’s our universe?”
“We were transported here, our consciousnesses were, not our bodies. Didn’t you notice at some point that your body was different? Did your height change? Your proportions?”
“Not insane enough, I still know enough to wish I was completely mad,” He paused in reflection. “God it would be good to be completely mad.”
“Lets say I did notice some changes in my body, what are you saying happened to my old body?”
“Good question. The answer is: I don’t know. There’s controversy on that one. Some people say that the transports just stopped last year, other people say our universe did explode from being exposed to the anti-matter maybe, or maybe it was aliens.”
“There’s a strong chance our universe, our planet earth was invaded by aliens and destroyed. I’m hoping that there’s another reason that the transports stopped. Maybe some sort of truce? You know, even at the highest levels, no one tells earthlings a damn thing in any universe.”
I sat, staring at my hands. Every word I said was being recorded. I couldn’t confess about the shadow people who came through my walls. The hands that had reached out of the screen of my laptop and grabbed my wrists and tried to pull me through it.
I jumped when Roger’s hands covered my folded ones, “It’s OK, you know what, I get it. It’s hard to take in all at once. It’s the first time anyone’s told you anything except Bogies and your freaking out inside. Take a week and then we’ll talk again.”
I left Regor’s office to find that everyone had gone home for the day. I wasn’t even hungry yet, it felt like lunch was still a half hour or more away. The office lights were dim for now, the night shift would be coming in soon enough, we were discouraged from having contact with the night shift. Again, no explanation was given to us, it was just the ‘through the looking glass’ world of CERN and I accepted each new oddity with the will of someone who wants to keep their sanity. No questions, just follow orders. I quickly logged out of my work station and packed my brief case and left through the back door before the chatting voices caught a day shifter still at the office so late in the evening.
It was Bernie who ratted me out, Bernie who got me put on stress leave. I don’t know how much he told them but they know that I saw them in front of the great golden statue of Shiva. They know I saw them kill. Even if their cameras didn’t pick me up outside of the square, ducking behind a bench when I saw the robed figures emerge, I had said the words to Bernie. I couldn’t keep them inside. The words, that is. He told me it must have been a joke, his exact words were, “Half the people working inside there are Engineers, you’ve gotta know nobody loves a good joke like Engineers.”
But he was from this Universe. I knew because I asked Roger and he told me. There was only me, him and a handful of others during the day shift who were from the other earth, “They try to stick most of the ones of us who don’t belong here on the night shift. I think that we’re a bit further for the shadow people to reach out and grab.”
“I find that hard to believe,” I had been talking to Roger long enough to have confessed by this point about some of what I insisted on referring to as nightmares.
“I know! Imagine if it’s this easy for them to grab us how easy it is for them to pull people through who are natives to this earth! It’s closer here, to the side of the page where the shadows live on than our little dimension was, they have to reach further and pull harder to get us. One day your friend Bernie could be gone and a shadow person could be living in his body. Or Lena’s. Anyone’s really.”
He grew contemplative, I hazarded a question, “What happens if a shadow person takes someone’s place?”
“A few have returned from there, a very few. It’s hell. It’s chaos. It makes the world here look like wonderland of caring and peace. It’s as close to evil as we can understand and stay sane.”
“Have you been there?”
Roger’s voice grew hoarse, “Yes, briefly.”
He cleared his throat and shook off the images my question had evoked in him. That was when I wondered if there was a god after all. If there was a hell, it had to reason that something balanced it. I had come to believe the things Roger had told me. I had gone back through the Bogies and, watching the patterns of what people universally remembered and what they believed to be true was too profound for me to deny. I had watched Star Wars and seen the Bogies for myself. Field of Dreams, Nelson Mandela…
They had come to call the effect, ‘The Mandela Effect’, since Nelson Mandela’s death was one of the set features of people who suffered from the displacement. I had surfed through conspiracy boards as a lurking ghost and seen people trying to sort through the information by hand that the Data Plant spat out onto my desk on a daily basis. Crazy or not, like Roger, I may be losing my mind, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong.
The sun is starting to rise. I must end this now. I will drive on my own to Paris and fly back to America after I have sent these files to the five addresses I mentioned. My hope is that Roger is right about air flight frequently shifting people but wrong that the shipments between here and my own earth being over was wrong. I am hoping that I don’t get shifted into the shadow realm for this bold venture. I am terrified.
I need to get away from this place. I need to get away from the draft of the doorways they are constantly opening. It gets worse all the time and soon the collider under Rome will join CERN and another one to form a triangle and they will turn on all three at once. Why? To see what will happen, I suppose. I can’t be here when that happens. I’ve seen what happens when they turn on CERN and Rome at the same time. Planes fall out of the sky or go missing entirely. The world is thrown into chaos. The shadows grow closer and after I saw the Engineers ‘joke’ human sacrifice, I had the worst dream so far. I saw the shadow world, they pulled me through. I saw it.
I’m afraid it’s death. I’m afraid it’s hell. I’m afraid that I don’t know the face of god and I will one day, when this mortal coil fails me, wake up there no matter how fast I run. So I will speak my words in a vain attempt to redeem my part in things. I will sign my name to these papers and let them call me crazy. I will go back to America and try to find God. If I can’t, I fear there are only demons waiting to pull us all into hell while we open the doors for them to do so.
With all my credentials on the line I sign this,
Dr. James Payton.
May God save our souls.