The Sinuous Corridors of Time
by Michael J. Hallowell
|As a schoolboy I was taught what time was. Time was a line. The first point on the line was the beginning, the other point was the end, and everything in between was all the stuff that had ever happened, was happening now or would happen in time to come. A third point could be placed on the line if one wished; this represented now, the divide between past and future.|
It was all very simple, and served a purpose. It helped we pupils to sort historical events into two categories – past and present – and allowed us to ignore the future because it hadn’t happened yet. The only flaw with this Theory of Time was that it wasn’t even remotely true. Time, we now know, is far more complex than we could ever have imagined.
Quantum physics demonstrates that time does not flow in a linear fashion. It is convenient for us to imagine that it does, in much the same way that it is convenient for us to imagine that the sun really does traverse the sky. This doesn’t make it real, though. Time is not so much a line, but rather a three-dimensional web which pervades the fabric of the cosmos. Past, present and future are all inextricably linked, emulsified together in a way which taxes even the greatest of intellects. Well has it been said that the person who claims to understand quantum physics cannot know very much about it. This may seem like bad news, but it isn’t. In fact, it opens up possibilities that, just decades ago, were solely the province of science fiction writers.
Years ago I remember avidly reading copies of The Eagle comic during school lunch break. The Trigan Empire and Dan Dare filled me with wonder. Not only could comic book heroes travel across space, but they could also traverse the centuries. In a sense the comic book itself was a time machine, for it could lift me from my mundane existence and place me in any time (or place) the writer wished.
The concept of time travel is not a new one, and oblique (or sometimes direct) references to it may be found in ancient literature.
In the Judaeo-Christian tradition, God is the Creator of everything. Everything doesn’t just include the physical universe, but also the laws by which it operates. This means that God Himself actually created time. Working on the assumption that this is true, believers are forced to acknowledge that God Himself must be outside of time, or above it, because, unlike humans, He was able to exist independently of it before it came into existence.
Now let us take this argument a stage further. If God is above time, or outside of it, He must be able to observe all aspects of it at once. He is able to observe the past and the future just as easily as we are able to observe the present. If this were the case, then no one could be “dead” to God, because they are still alive at at least one place in time that He is able to observe.
I once had a friend who went to the beautiful city of Venice for his vacation. One day, as he was standing in the hotel foyer, a dog walked in through the main entrance and stared at him. For some reason which, to this day, he is unable to articulate, he knew that he had to follow the dog. The rather scruffy-looking mongrel turned and left the hotel, and Malcolm duly followed it. The dog led him down various cobbled streets and alleys until, eventually, it sauntered through the door of a quaint café. Malcolm followed dutifully, and then sat down and ordered a coffee. The portly owner served my friend his beverage beside a roaring log fire which, Malcolm says, suffused the building with a wonderful atmosphere.
The point of this story is that there is no point to it. Malcolm finished his coffee and went back to the hotel, never to discover why he was compelled to leave it in the first place and follow that hoary old mongrel. Strangely, my wife and I had a similar experience some years ago...
Jackie and I needed to talk. I was putting the finishing touches to a book manuscript and needed to get her opinion on one or two things, but talking at home was impossible. We had three teenage sons who ... well, I don’t need to explain. Anyone with teenage sons knows the score. Teenage sons are experts at generating noise pollution.
We decided to go out, and at 11 am headed for Newcastle Upon Tyne. Our game plan was to find a quiet little public house somewhere and have a drink. Unfortunately, I had forgotten something of crucial importance. Newcastle United were playing at home to Bradford City, and the place was filled with thousands of United soccer fans, all bedecked in their legendary black-and-white striped shirts. Newcastle soccer fans are the most fanatical in the world, and finding a seat in a bar on match day is like looking for a needle in a haystack. No chance.
Determined to find a watering hole somewhere, we suddenly felt drawn to walk down to the historic quayside. Like Malcolm before us, we wandered through steep, cobbled streets in search of who-knows-what. And then we found it. Nestled in between two quaint shops was a rather picturesque old inn. I cannot mention its name for reasons which will become clear presently. To our amazement, it was empty.
Unable to believe our luck, Jackie and I went in and sat down. I ordered a pint of ice-cold lager, my wife a Martini and lemonade. Whilst standing at the bar ordering the drinks, I tried an old trick which I have used successfully in numerous establishments. Three times out of four it works, and it certainly did this time.
“They tell me this pub is haunted…is that right?”
No sooner had the words left my mouth than I knew I’d hit paydirt. The barmaid froze as if someone had slipped an ice cube down the back of her blouse.
“Who told you?”
“Uh, a friend.”
“Well, we don’t like to talk about it.” But she was going to, I could tell.
“Look – if you speak to the manager about this please don’t tell her I told you. It freaks her out”.
The barmaid then related an amazing tale. One day, she said, she’d gone down into the cellar to fetch something and almost bumped into a senior member of staff who was standing over a beer keg. A brief conversation ensued, after which the barmaid went back up stairs, leaving the other staff member still fiddling around with the beer kegs. To her astonishment, as she entered the bar at the top of the stairs, she was amazed to see the barman she’d just left in the cellar pouring drinks at the bar. She was stunned, she said, because the stairwell is the only entrance to and exit from the cellar. If she had left first, how could he now be standing in the bar?
When she confronted her colleague he at first thought she was joking. But then the look on her face told a different story, and he became deeply unsettled.
But this barmaid’s experience was not the only one. Another barmaid had exactly the same experience, convinced that she’s spoken to a barman in the cellar. When told that the barman in question was not at work that day she refused to believe it, until the manager telephoned him at home and allowed the barmaid to speak to him.
So what is happening here? As most researchers know, the percentage of apparitions of the living – as opposed to apparitions of the dead – is far higher than many people realise. The difficulty is that if you see an apparition of a living person you may very well be unaware that it’s an apparition at all. Its only when anomalies and inconsistencies present themselves that we realise that what we are observing is not a flesh and blood creature, but something far more ethereal. How many other members of staff have seen apparitions of their colleagues in that cellar without ever becoming aware of it?
According to the bar staff – who understandably want their anonymity protected – there have been other, similar instances during the past few years. Unfortunately, the staff who experienced them have all left now, and are untraceable.
Perhaps there is a space-time anomaly operating in that cellar, a minute tear in the fabric of the universe which distorts both the seriality and sequence of our experiences.
What drew us to this old inn I’ll never know, but I’ll be going back. Like Pavlov’s dogs I salivate uncontrollably when I sense a good story. And don’t worry; I’ll let you know what happens.
© Mike Hallowell, 2008
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