""Beneath the pressure of torments such as these, the feeble remnant of the good within me succumbed. Evil thoughts became my sole intimates-the darkest and most evil of thoughts.""
-Edgar Allan Poe, The Black Cat

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Message From Beyond

Based on Vamplit Publishing's Friday Flash Theme: Antique Scientific Oddities

Professor Dane slid his left hand across the top of his unkept mountain of white hair and opened his lesson plan book.  He then scribbled the words Crab Nebula at the top of the page and drew a giant circle around the red letters.  “This week I’m going to talk about the mother of all supernova’s, and my theory of what lives inside the mass of the Crab.” 

Thoughts swirled inside his head and without hesitation he randomly jotted them around the page; supernova remnant in the constellation of Taurus, 6,500 light-years from Earth, at the center lies the Crab Pulsar, first observed in 1731 . . . a knock on the opened office door startled him. 
 “Sorry to interrupt, but do you have a second?”  
Professor Dane smiled in spite of his pounding heart.  “Why I think I can find a millisecond for you.”  
He stood and greeted Sherrie in the middle of the room with a tight bear hug and a peck on the cheek.  “So what brings my missing in action daughter all the way across campus during an afternoon rain storm?” 
Sherrie tucked a wet strand of hair behind her right ear.  “I wanted to be the first to tell you in person.” 

“Oh my constellations, you’re pregnant!”
She rolled her eyes.  “Dad, please.”  The relief in his eyes surprisingly diminished her excitement.  “We’ve received a message from Crab Nebula.”
Professor Dane struggled to keep the umbrella from turning inside out from the swirling winds as he sloshed his way across the parking lot.  “Are you positive it’s a message!”  
Sherri kept her rapid pace toward the observatory and entered the building with her father left in the distance. “It’s no wonder it took a message from space to get me to drag him over here, all he ever thinks about is how much of a disappointment I am.”
Professor Dane entered the office and shook the droplets of rain from his overcoat and placed the twisted umbrella in a corner.  The room was teeming with energy as people bumped into one another on their way to a twinkling machine or a beeping radio device.  
“Okay, zip it up people!”  Sherri held her right hand up in the air, snapping.  The room turned silent and she motioned for her father to come closer.  “See for yourself.” 
He walked up next to her and stood looking up at the lifeless tower, holding his breath.  The heat rose from the heels of his feet, through the tips of his fingers and out through the release of his breath.  
“I am a very busy man, Sherrie, and I shall see that the Dean hears about this little prank you and your band of soon to be expelled idiots played!”  He stormed his way through the room and out the door, leaving his mangled umbrella behind. 
Sherri refused to let him get the best of her.  Not this time, not in front of her team.  “It’s okay everybody, let’s get back to work.  Nobody’s getting expelled.”  Her gut wrenching pain soon found solace in the tower’s blinking message from Crab Nebula.      
Professor Dane always found walking through the small campus town a stress reliever and after the day he had he found it extra comforting to finally see the flashing “Open” sign in the front window of Chester’s Antique Scientific Oddities.  
He pushed on the newly painted red door and made his way past the tinkling bell.  Vials of strange floating animal heads lined a table on the right and rows of trinkets, brass coated contraptions and medical devices filled the rest of the tiny shop.  
“Are you looking for something in particular?”  Chester brushed his right hand through his wild mass of hair.  
Professor Dane spun around and  smiled at the mirror image.  “Yes, a telescope.”  
“I have only one.”  He walked to a table and picked up a telescope that had seen it share of time.  “Story goes, it belonged to The Earl of Rosse.”  
Professor Dane’s heart jumped.  “The Earl of Rosse!  He observed the Crab Nebula at Birr Castle in 1848 and named it such because it looked like a crab and after that he was never seen again.”  
Chester smiled.  “So the story goes.”

Professor Dane reached into his pocket.   “I have to have it, no matter the cost.”   
As far back as he could remember, Professor Dane had been fascinated with the planets and stars and often found himself fantasizing about exploring the many mysteries of outer space, firsthand.  He stepped out onto his deck and stared up at the night sky. “Perfect!” 
He pulled the telescope from the bag and held it close to his right eye and searched the vastness of stars until he spotted the constellation of Taurus.  Slowly, he twisted and turned the magnifying lens until a blinking orange light in the center of Taurus captured his attention.   
“Would you look at that!”  The pulsar’s equatorial winds slammed into the bulk of the nebula, forming an octopus-like feature that steepened, brightened and then slowly faded away.  “No come back!”  
Suddenly, tentacles stretched out from the sides of the telescope and suctioned across his face.  “I warned you to stay away from my universe, for you are nothing but tiny spectacles blowing through the winds of time!”
Professor Dane gasped for air.  “I hate always being right.”

After eight hours of decoding the mathematical codes she and her team received from Crab Nebula, Sherri delighted in the fact that her father was always right.  
Total word count: 942

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