A Science-Fiction Story


“The world that we see and feel is just an illusion. It really doesn’t exist at all, at least not in the way we think it does.”

Copyright © 2014 by Isidore Doroski

Existence Wave Media

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

Disclaimer: This book is a fictional book. Any fictional depictions are not meant to represent any person living or dead. The characters, activities, and events that take place in the book are an artifact of my imagination and are not to be taken as factual in any way. Any physical location in the book is merely a pretended creation that was produced to enhance the overall story and texture of the narrative. Any references to scientific activities, products, or building structures are fictional and have no association to actual locations.

ISBN 978-0-9908045-0-5 (pbk.)

ISBN 978-0-9908045-1-2 (ebk.)

Developmental editor: Denise Schnittman

Book editor: Lourdes Venard

Cover designer: Gabrielle Prendergast

Book designer: Jennifer Zaczek

To my wife Jeanne, who helped me in every way possible in creating this book.

Visit the official website for the book at:


For information, updates, preview, reviews, where to purchase, contact the author, blog and media

This book is dedicated to Hugh Everett III

Hugh Everett was an American physicist who first proposed the many-worlds interpretation of quantum physics in 1954. Everett’s remarkable insight and research into the realm of quantum mechanics provided modern physics with the radical viewpoint that we live in a universe where parallel worlds exist outside of our own. This theory has now become an increasingly accepted premise in the modern physics community. Hugh Everett passed away in 1982 at the age of 51.


It’s a complex and time-consuming process writing a book, a labor of love, from the initial step of thinking up an interesting story to the process of getting it down on paper and refining it into a beautifully designed novel. All this would not have been possible without the help and services of several people who assisted me along the way. Some of these people deserve to be noted.

Early on in my project I realized I needed someone to help me refine my ideas and verbiage into the best that it could be. Denise Schnittman fulfilled that task as my writing consultant, proofreader, and developmental editor. Denise and I had a fantastic push-pull relationship throughout the book development and she helped me get my story skillfully designed and laid out. I am totally in gratitude for Denise’s assistance.

As good as the manuscript was, I knew I had to find a great final review editor to look over the completed draft and see what then needed to be done with the document at that point. Luckily, I found Lourdes Venard. Lourdes has been employed by a major newspaper for nearly two decades and came highly recommended by a friend who had also written a recent sci-fi novel. Lourdes went right to work editing the manuscript and I was amazed at how skillful and proficient her work was. Of course, after spending two years writing and refining a manuscript you are worried about any changes to your document. But after I saw what Lourdes recognized and recommended I was totally astonished. She truly helped me refine and sculpt the document into a professionally laid out sci-fi novel that everyone would enjoy reading. Lourdes was also helpful in assisting me in finding a cover designer and a book formatter.

I wanted the cover design to reflect the abstract and surreal texture that was projected throughout the story and even a little romance, too. Luckily, I discovered graphics designer Gabrielle Prendergast. Gabrielle and I worked together back and forth with possible designs and we settled on two designs that totally reflected the feel and aura I sought. She also designed my website and assisted me in developing designs for other book promotional materials.

When you open a book it should give an appearance that stimulates your interest and looks great too. I was glad to have signed on Jennifer Zaczek as my book formatter. Jennifer did a great job in designing the book interior and helped get special graphics laid out in some sections. Jennifer also assisted tremendously in getting my manuscript formatted into the publishing company’s required setup.

There are always unforeseen issues that can develop when trying to publish a book. One of these is possible legal issues. I was lucky to have found Thomas O’Rourke, attorney at law, who assisted me in resolving any potential legal conflicts. Tom was totally professional and immensely knowledgeable in the field of copyrights and related matters. I sincerely thank Tom for contributing his time to my book.

Lastly, I would like to thank the family members and friends who encouraged me during the entire process of the book development. That always helped me continue on the long adventure of actually getting a book published. Thanks to you all!


For thousands of years, philosophers and scientists have pondered the nature of our existence. Some have questioned whether the reality we all experience and share is real or an illusion. Most have settled on the conviction that our lives are real and that they are part of a fundamentally predictable universe.

Reality has actually kept her secrets from us, her innermost mysteries unrevealed. The realities within our being and consciousness are actually not so certain or predictable as we might have thought. Mother Nature, after all, has her own direction to flow and follow within her own formation and being.

At the most distant outer edges of our universe in every direction, unrealized by humanity, there lies a magnificent structure of information and formation. A shimmering enigma that flows and coalesces with unity and purpose—ever-reaching with influence, and flowing dynamically with infinite force. In this timeless fluid domain, various images are revealed to a consciousness with awareness. A mass of ethereal fabric is perceived and accreted throughout the infinity there—the realm of that entity. Multitudes of brilliant light are formed with movement toward inner regions so large that human perception has no valid comparison. This meta-structure is glimmering with motion—broadcast ever so far into the infinitude—radiating the formation of thoughts.


The Devil’s Path

I had always felt a deep connection into the future. Ever since I was a small boy I could feel it from time to time.

My mother sensed too there was something different about me. I knew that there was more to life than just what seemed to be in front of us.

I cannot fathom infinity. I cannot comprehend forever… and I am certainly not capable of understanding the mind of God! What is it out there that we see in our experiments? Why is it so dammed intrinsic to this abstract construct and everything it reaches? So that’s it… we continue to live on, don’t we, not comprehending our own thoughts? The world is just a damn dream. It doesn’t exist at all, at least the way we think it does.

“Jon? Jon! Wake up! You’re daydreaming again, aren’t you?” Marta shook Jon by the shoulder as she sat next to him on the huge boulder. “Come on! We’re not too far from the top, just a little more to go! I knew you stayed up too late last night. No wonder you’re so tired today. Maybe next time you’ll listen to me when I tell you to get to bed instead of staying up half the night to obsess over your work.”

“Yeah, you’re right, Marta. I did stay up too late looking over the data… that and a few glasses of wine. VG sent me some more of those images from our latest QUEST run, and I just had to check them out.”

Marta put her arms around Jon’s waist and pulled him toward her. “Maybe I’ll have to think of some way to get you to bed earlier tonight,” she whispered.

“Uh… Oh, that sounds like fun! I can’t wait, Doctor.”

Suddenly, they heard the faint noise of an approaching hiker coming up the trail. They released each other, and turned to look in the direction of the oncoming trekker. Through the balsam firs and small spruces that lined the trail they watched an older man approach.

“Hello, there. Nice day, isn’t it?” called the hiker.

“Yeah, it really is. How is your hike going today?” answered Jon.

“Great. Just another beautiful day here in the Catskills today, isn’t it?”

“It sure is. Have you ever been to Slide Mountain before?” Jon asked.

“I come here quite a bit. I’ve been to the top of just about every mountain here in the Catskills.”

“Wow, that’s quite an accomplishment.”

“I’m semi-retired now, so I have a lot of time, and the Catskills are a very special place to me.”

“Where are you from?” asked Marta.

“About twenty miles from here, so I guess you could say I’m a local.”

“We’d love to have a place up here. I’m Jon, and this is my fiancée, Marta. We love coming up here. So, what did you do for a living?”

“Well, I worked as a scientist some years ago.”

“Really? I’m a scientist, too. What field were you in? Where’d you work?”

“I worked at several places. I just did basic scientific research. What about you?”

“I’m a physicist. I work at Ridgewood National Laboratory—on Long Island.”


“Yup, Ridgewood. Have you ever been there, or did you know someone there? You seem familiar with it.”

The man stared at Jon for a moment, and then said slowly, “Yeah, I did know someone from there, but that was a long time ago.”

“So, what’s your name?” Jon asked.

The hiker held out his hand, “My name is Evan. It’s nice to meet you both.”

“The pleasure is ours,” Marta said.

“There is something about you… have we ever met before? Somehow you seem familiar to me and I don’t know why.” Jon looked at the older man’s timeworn features and deep blue eyes. The man looked to be in his seventies, but was in fit shape.

“Funny, I’ve experienced that feeling myself several times. It’s the way our minds work. Our perceptions aren’t what they seem.”

“Now that’s an interesting thought. What do you mean by that?”

“Well, maybe it could be that what we perceive as the past, that which is in our memory, is actually something that’s a little different than what really happened in the past. We’re locked into our memories but we live in the present. Our minds kind of trick us sometimes.”

Jon stood quietly, contemplating Evan’s deeply lined face, and considered his words for several seconds. “I think about exactly that quite a bit. It’s really amazing that we’re thinking some of the same things. What a coincidence!”

Jon looked out beyond, to the forest, and then back to Evan, and said, “So Evan, what are you doing these days? Are you still working?”

“Yeah, I’m still working, but only part time now. My son’s running an electronics firm and I work for him some days. I stay busy by helping him out, but I like to take it easy these days. I get in a lot of hiking throughout the Catskills. It’s my passion. There’s nothing that I’d rather do, and it keeps me active, especially at my age. Just being here in these mountains, hiking and thinking about this beautiful world and the universe, that’s what inspires me and makes life so wonderful.”

“Wow. That’s something else we have in common. I love these mountains, and can’t imagine a better way to spend my days,” Jon said.

Their conversation was interrupted by the clamor of more hikers approaching down the trail.

“Well, it was very nice meeting both of you,” the older man said. He looked deeply into Jon’s eyes and, with a slight smile, he patted Jon’s shoulder. “Good luck with your research project, Jon. I know it will all work out fine for you. Oh, and one other thing.”

“What’s that, Evan?”

“Ridgewood’s always had a reputation for tragic incidents. Be careful there.”

Jon noticed the awkward focus that Evan projected and the serious tone he conveyed. For a moment, he thought over those last words Evan had spoken and their intended meaning. Then Evan shook Marta’s hand and continued on his way to the mountain peak.

Jon called after him, “Very nice meeting you, Evan! Maybe we’ll see each other again at the top.”

“Enjoy your hike!” shouted Marta, as Evan marched on toward the top of the mountain.

They watched Evan continue on up the rugged rocky trail. For a short while they could hear the noise of the loose stones he dislodged, and the soft sounds he made brushing up against the dense firs and spruces lining the trail. They watched until he disappeared from view.

A cool gust of wind swept by them. “What an interesting guy!” Jon said.

“He seemed like a really nice soul,” Marta added.

“When we retire, we should try to hike up all the mountain trails here in the Catskills.”

“I would so love to do that. Let’s put that on our list of things to do in retirement,” said Marta, with a smile.

Just then, the group of hikers they had heard approaching passed by on their way to the top. Marta and Jon greeted them, and nodded hello to a few of them as the group quickly passed them by. A few minutes later Jon and Marta picked up their hiking poles and continued back up the mountain trail toward the summit.

“We have this last steep part, then it levels out for a while, and then we’ll be on the summit.”

“Good! I feel like we’ve been hiking all day! I’m getting a bit tired. It’s quite a long trail,” Marta said.

“This is the longer of the trails going up Slide Mountain. We usually go up the old Burroughs Range Trail from the west, which is easier and shorter. This is the Curtis-Ormsbee Trail. It’s about seven miles long. I haven’t been on this trail in about ten years.”

“It certainly had some great views along the way up. I can’t wait to see the view from the top.”

“This is one of my favorites. Slide is the first mountain that I ever climbed in the Catskills with my college buddies. When I got to the top I fell in love with the views and the Catskills.”

After several more minutes of hiking several steep rises through thick boreal forest filled with plush balsam firs, and dotted by the occasional sugar maple, they finally reached a flatter area. They followed the last remaining yards of the trail, taking in all the rich aromatic scents of the mountain ridge. Then suddenly, directly in front of them, the woods opened up, offering them the magnificent sight of a raised rock base, highlighting a sweeping view of the eastern and northern Catskills.

They walked out onto the rocks, took in that panoramic view before them, and were both overwhelmed with emotion. The eastern vista revealed a striking array of mountain peaks.

“Oh, my God. What beautiful views we have here today. This is totally breathtaking!” Marta said.

“They are magnificent. And all the fall colors are just tremendous. So vivid and brilliant, they seem to be bursting out today in their full glory—just the way the sun is.”

“Jon, let’s sit and eat. I’m hungry, and I could use a rest. How about you?”

“Sounds great!”

They sat down and enjoyed their lunch while taking in the beautiful sight of the Catskill ridgelines in the distant background.

“Jon, what mountain ranges are those in front of us?”

Jon gestured with his peanut butter sandwich in hand. “Over to the left, we are looking out north toward the Devil’s Path ridgeline of the Central Catskills. That area includes Plateau, Sugarloaf, and Indian Head Mountains. Over to our center here, closest to us, we can see Wittenberg and Cornell Mountains to the northeast. And over to the east, you can make out Kaaterskill High Peak. That’s quite a ways back, along with several others.”

“Wow. They all look so beautiful and majestic. They’re almost like gigantic green living statues.”

“Actually, from here we can see thirty-three of the thirty-four high peaks that are part of the Catskill Forest Preserve. The only high peak that is not visible from here is Thomas Cole Mountain.”

“Amazing! What’s that large body of water that’s in back of that mountain there in front of us?”

“That’s the Ashokan Reservoir, which is one of New York City’s reservoirs. When it was constructed in 1910 it was the largest reservoir in the world.”

“It looks like a large lake,” Marta said.

“How are you feeling now that you got some rest and some food?” Jon asked.

“Great. My legs are a bit tired, but since we’re heading down after this rest, it’ll be easy and I’ll be fine. Where is the mountain we’ve climbed several times, Giant Ledge Mountain, from here?”

“Oh, Giant Ledge is just over to the west of Slide. We can’t see it from here, but it’s not too far away. It’s right next to Panther Mountain. Did I ever tell you that Panther Mountain is the site of an ancient asteroid impact?”


“Yeah. Years ago some geologists realized that the creeks that flow around the entire mountain base form a circular structure. They’re pretty sure that only a massive asteroid strike could have caused that to happen.”

“How long ago?”

“About three hundred seventy-five million years ago during the Devonian Period, when this was all a large shallow sea.”

“It’s incredible. Maybe that is why these mountains are so enchanting.”

“Maybe so, Marta. They certainly are special, aren’t they?”

They stood up and embraced warmly while looking into the beautiful views of the glorious mountains in front of them. As they enjoyed that moment and contemplated the dreamlike panorama, a frigid breeze blew by, forcing Marta to put on her sweatshirt.

As Marta turned she noticed Jon staring down toward the bottom of the rocky base area they were on.

“Jon, what do you see down there? What are you looking at?”

“I could have sworn that I saw Evan down the trail leaving this side of the mountain, looking back at me.”

“I don’t see anyone there. There’s no one around here now but us.”

Shaking his head slightly, Jon muttered, “I guess I’m a little worn out from the hike we did today.”

“I’d say you’re a bit tired. Come on, let’s get going down. We’re going to have a great time at the inn tonight.”

“Yeah… let’s get going. It’ll be a great hike down and I can’t wait to have a cold draft when we get to the inn!”

They packed up their provisions, drank in the magnificent mountainous landscape once more, and then started their trek down Slide Mountain. As Marta turned to leave, she called out, “Good-bye, Old Friend!” Her salutation was answered by the sounds of birds chirping in the dense balsam firs.

The energetic ramble down the mountain was as beautiful and peaceful as it was on the way up. Much to their delight, they did not pass anyone on the way down, and had the mountain and its spirits all to themselves. By midafternoon they arrived back at the car. Happy, satisfied, and exhausted from their forty-two-hundred-foot climb to the top of Slide Mountain, they threw their packs into the back seat and rested for a little while, each silently reflecting on the majestic wilderness they had witnessed.


Unusual Clouds

Jon and Marta passed the small hamlet of Oliverea as they drove down Slide Mountain Road toward the main highway that traversed the southern Catskills. They drove alongside a creek bed swollen with rainwater.

“Boy, this creek looks like it’s close to flooding. Sometimes they are so dry up here,” Marta said.

“There’s been a decent amount of rain these past few months. You can see some erosion at the creek’s edges. I heard that a few of the houses alongside of the creek have even flooded this year.”

“I noticed that. I’m glad that the road is leveling out here in Oliverea. That last part of Slide Mountain Road was really steep! It’s a little nerve-wracking.”

“It’s definitely a steep, rugged road. Many of the back roads here are pretty rugged, and the rain and snow do a number on them.”

“It’s all very beautiful here. I love traveling on these back mountain roads, even when they’re a little intense. There’s a special boundlessness in this mountain forest. The shapes of the mountains, the colors of the trees and rock faces… it’s hard to describe, but it feels like they cast a spell on me.”

“They are beautiful. There’s something mystical here, too. I noticed it the first time I ever came up here, when I was in college. I know this might sound odd, but I’ve felt called back here ever since.”

Jon navigated onto Route 28 and pulled into the post office parking lot. “I’m just going to stop at the Big Indian Post Office to mail something out,” he said. “I’ll be right back.”

“What do you have to mail?”

“It’s just a postcard to an old friend. It shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.”

Marta’s gaze followed Jon into the lonely, little post office, and then wandered to the surrounding mountain ridges. A strong gust of wind rattled the car. She grabbed her sweatshirt, wrapped it around her shoulders, and stepped out of the car, noting the chill in the air; she reflected that it would soon be Thanksgiving.

The cool, clean air was refreshing, and it helped her relax. She stretched out her muscles, tired after the day’s activities. Scanning the horizon, she noticed some very peculiar cloud shapes just over a mountain ridge to the southwest. The odd, murky, fast-moving clouds were thickening quickly. An eerie feeling swept over her. She shivered and climbed back into the car, slamming the door shut. She rested her head on the headrest, reclined her seat back, and closed her eyes. Tired from the day’s exertions, her mind drifted. In a sort of dream, she saw a strange object off in the distance. It was familiar to her… something she had recently come across while researching certain test subjects who were participating in a psychiatric study. In her reverie, the image of the unusual object drifted toward her, until it was within a few feet. The object seemed to be somehow distorted and grotesque. Shocked out of her drowsy daydream, Marta came fully awake, gasping in terror at the evil apparition.

Jon jerked open the car door, pausing to notice the unusual darkening cloud formation in the sky to the southwest. He stared at it for several seconds, thinking he’d never seen anything like it before.

“Nice people here, very friendly. Are you okay? You look a bit flustered.”

“I dozed off for a minute. I had a bizarre mini-dream with a sort of flashback from work. I guess I’m just tired and worn out from the great hike we did today. I’m fine now.”

They stared quietly at each other, each sensing something strange in the moment that had just passed by. Something they had felt before.

Jon smiled. “Well, darling, a few glasses of wine and a great dinner at the inn tonight will definitely be good therapy for your hiking ailments.”

“That sounds like just what I need,” Marta said, smiling brightly.

“It’s starting to get cold. There’s a real chill in the air,” he said.

“I noticed that when I got out to stretch my legs.”

Jon swung the car onto Route 28. At that exact moment in time, a huge tractor-trailer truck was also barreling down Route 28 a few miles further to the east. Ahead of Jon and Marta’s car, it was traveling in the opposite direction. The truck was traveling very fast, and the driver of the truck was very tired, finding it hard to concentrate on the road.

“Marta, could you put on the radio and try and get us a weather report?”

“Sure, just a minute,” said Marta, fumbling with the controls to the car radio.

“You can try News 77 out of Kingston. They give a weather report on the sevens, so one should be coming up soon.”

As Marta searched for the station, a brief musical jingle caught their attention. It was followed by a commercial, and then the very clear voice of a female radio anchor announced, “This is the Weather Watch Forecast now with 77 Radio chief forecaster Mike Thomas. Mike, what do we have coming up this afternoon? Can you give us a picture of what’s going on out there?”

“Right now, Stacy, it’s about forty-six in our eastern suburbs, forty-four in Kingston, and around forty-one degrees in the central sections of the Catskills. These temperatures are a bit cooler than normal for this time of the year. This afternoon we will have a continuation of the nice cool, dry conditions. Some increasing clouds come into the picture later in the evening, along with a few possible stray showers. Tonight, expect continued colder-than-normal conditions, along with a bit of a breeze and lows dipping down near the freezing mark. It’s going to be a chilly Sunday, with some clouds and sunshine in the forecast. Monday looks to be a mix of sun and clouds along with cooler weather. We’ll see increasing clouds over here on Tuesday as a weather disturbance tries to move in and we may even get some of the first snow showers of the season in the mountains to our west. There you have it, Stacy. We’ll have more about the coming week’s weather later in the broadcast. Now go on everyone, get out there and enjoy the cool brisk weather for the rest of the day!”

“Thank you, Mike. Now in other news around Kingston today, there’s a murder mystery in Ulster County concerning a forty-seven-year-old woman who was found dead in her home in Kingston.”

Marta turned down the broadcast. “It looks like it’s going to be cold tonight with a possible shower.”

“Yeah. It’s a little nippy, but it feels good. Maybe after dinner we’ll bundle up and go for a little walk around Pine Hill. We can check out the stars if it’s not too cloudy tonight.”

“That sounds good, but let’s not stay up too late after that hike we did today! It’s amazing how much clearer the stars are up here in the mountains than what we can see on Long Island.”

The massive tractor-trailer truck was fast approaching Jon’s car, picking up speed, heading downhill as it neared them. The truck wandered into the oncoming lane slightly, and was now less than a mile away, rounding a curve in the highway and coming on fast.

With a sultry gaze, Marta said, “Oh, Jon, I forgot to tell you that I packed something very special that you are going to love. You’d better not fall asleep until I put it on later. I picked it out especially for you, and I do know that you love to—”

Suddenly, without warning, the massive tractor-trailer appeared in front of them. It was traveling remarkably fast, and mostly in their lane—oncoming.

Marta screamed. “Oh, my God! Jon!”

Jon had no time to react.

Even from far above and away, the view of the crash was both surrealistic and horrifying. All of the birds in the nearby trees instantly flew away from the immense noise and reverberation of the crash. The mountain peaks echoed the ghostly sounds of the catastrophe.

Moments passed by with no movement or activity except for the thrown pieces of metal and glass that had shattered and were flung out onto the roadway, finally releasing their energy from the immense crash and coming to a rest.

Shortly, a family traveling east came upon the horrific scene. The driver pulled over. For a few seconds they were all stunned into silence. The driver suddenly vaulted into action. He yelled, “Call 911 and stay in the car!” He flung his door open, and ran toward the crash, looking to help in any way possible. He surveyed the carnage of the disaster. His head dropped, and he returned to his car. The faces of his wife and child mirrored his own despair. He got in and rested his head on the steering wheel. They remained there in utter stillness, until the sounds of emergency vehicles broke the silence.


Target Practice

Jon was enjoying his morning jog out by the bay near the county park. He energetically ran over a small sand dune and brushed by some of the lovely cedar trees that decorated the barrier beach of the Peconic Bay shoreline. He kept up his jogging pace as he trudged over the thick sand mixed with stones, but his mind started to drift toward his work and his to-do list. After all, as leader of the world-renowned QUEST research project, he really couldn’t drop the ball. He remembered that he should call VG, his assistant and friend, concerning the insertion of a new dipole magnet section that was to be installed in the near future. The installation itself would be no small task, since the magnet weighed several tons. He glanced at his watch and started to head back to his Aquebogue beach house. His cell phone rang with its distinctive space echo ringtone.


“Jon, is that you?”

Catching his breath, he answered, “Yes, this is Jon.”

“Good morning, Jon! This is Marta!”

“Hello, Sweetie! I couldn’t make out your voice too well with all that noise in the background. Where are you?”

“I’m at the North Hampton shooting range right now with Lois. We’re taking our shooting practice here with our ladies’ shooting team.”

“Oh, I was wondering what all those loud noises were. It sounds like you’re in the middle of a war zone.”

“We like to come to the shooting range early because it’s not crowded, and we can set up our targets without too much interference.”

“I guess that makes sense.”

“So, the reason I called this early is to remind you that you’re giving a talk to my Cognitive Psych class about your QUEST project today. It’s at Bowers Hall at ten. You didn’t forget, did you?”

“What me? Forget? Of course not! I’ll be there, don’t worry.”

“Good, because my students are really looking forward to your presentation. I already filled them in about who you are, and I told them all about your work at QUEST. I told them that you’re a big shot in the field of theoretical physics.”

“I can’t wait to meet them. It will be fun.”

“Great! I’m so glad you don’t mind doing this for me. I know they’ll love your presentation. Oh, one other thing. I stopped by your house yesterday to get something, and when I brought in your mail I saw that you got a postcard from someone that had something really strange written on it. I don’t know if you saw it already but I put it on your kitchen counter by your phone.”

“No, I didn’t see it yet, but I’ll check it out. Thanks for bringing in the mail.”

“I’ve got to go now. We’re ready to start our shooting practice. Lois is signaling to me to get off the phone. I’ll see you at about ten.”

“You’ve got it, Marta. I’ll try to get to your class early to see some of your presentation.”

“Good! Remember this class will be attended by other groups here at Ridgewood so it may be crowded when you come.”

“No problem. I’ll be there. Oh, wait, just one more question.”

“What’s that, Jon?”

“Are you moving in with me?”

“Yes. I’m moving in with you for good now. We’ll be together from now on. Just you try and get out of it!”

“Great! See you later then. Bye!”


At the shooting range, Lois Aldmann saw Marta pocket her cell phone. She walked over to her, holding her rifle up in the air with both hands.

“Hey, Marta! How’s Jon doing?” she yelled. Lois Aldmann was Marta’s friend and work associate.

“He’s doing well. He’s coming to my Cognitive Psych class later today to give my students a talk about QUEST.”

“Sounds cool. I’d love to hear about that.”

“Why don’t you come? It will be at Bowers Hall at ten.”

“I’ll try to get there!”

Their conversation was interrupted by the loud sounds of rapid repeating shots. They turned quickly and saw several men in dark blue uniforms shooting an assortment of guns at the general targets set up at the range.

“Oh, no!” exclaimed Marta, visibly dismayed.

“Great. The Ridgewood cops are doing their handgun training. Just great!” complained Lois, frowning.

“I hate it when they come here to shoot. They disrupt everything.”

“Egotistical assholes. They couldn’t shoot the side of a barn from ten feet away!”

Marta chuckled. “Let’s get started with our target practice. I have to be out of here by nine.”

They headed over to the group of women who were already starting their target shooting practice. They put on their specialized shooting vests and eyewear, grabbed their professional rifles, and began to practice hitting their targets, which were placed fifty yards away.

Lois banged away at her target using her competition-style .22-caliber Ruger 22, a weapon which was elegantly designed in a custom aqua blue color.

Marta used a similar Ruger professional quality rifle. After they discharged several clips of bullets, they took a break and used binoculars to see how well they had come to the bull’s-eye.

“Wow, Lois, you blew me away with these last rounds. You have all bull’s-eyes except for two shots in the number eight ring. Very well done!”

“Thanks, Marta! Yeah, I beat you now, but you keep improving your accuracy as we keep shooting, and I seem to go down in accuracy the longer the session goes on.”

All of a sudden, Lois and Marta were mystified to see that someone else was shooting at their targets! Looking around for the source of the shots they spotted one of the Ridgewood cops intentionally aiming at their targets.

“It looks like Reynolds, that idiot Ridgewood cop, is shooting at our targets. He must be trying to piss us off.”

“What do you think we should do?” asked Marta.

“I know how to handle this. Just watch and see!”

Lois walked over to her stock of guns and chose a large, imposing black rifle. Holding her M-16 semi-automatic upright, she walked back to Marta.

“I think this will get his attention,” she said.

“Hey, Lois! Don’t do anything crazy!”

Lois stared Reynolds down, positioned the M-16 slightly toward the group of Ridgewood cops, and then redirected her weapon to aim at the target that Reynolds had been using over on the right side of the shooting range. The shots from her semi-automatic rang out in such a rapid fashion that everyone at the shooting range stopped to take note. Reynolds and his fellow officers had frozen, and were watching Lois shoot.

One of the officers smirked, yelling, “Christ, Reynolds, she’s shooting that M-16 so fast it sounds like a fully automatic rifle!”

The gunfire stopped. For a moment all was silent, and then one of the officers yelled out, “Goddamn, Reynolds Just checked out her shots at your target. She got nearly all bull’s-eyes. What a hell of a shooter!”

Frustrated, Reynolds shoved his rifle at his assistant officer, and stormed over toward Lois and Marta, looking both mean and agitated.

“It looks like we’ve got trouble,” said Marta, uncertainly.

Lois flashed a confident grin at Marta, and then turned to Reynolds, and said sweetly, “How can we help you, Lieutenant?”

“Where the hell did you learn to shoot like that?”

“Practice, practice, practice, Lieutenant! That’s what our ladies’ rifle team does here. We practice all the time. You know that.”

“You shoot better than most cops.”

“Yes. I do. My uncle taught me to shoot when I was a little girl. He’s a state trooper.” There was no doubt, from Lois’ tone, on how she felt about Ridgewood security cops compared to state troopers.

“You’re a good shot, but you have lousy judgment, acting like that. You ought to be more careful or something very bad could happen to you in the future.”

“Don’t worry, Lieutenant Reynolds, Lois and I know how to handle ourselves, and deal effectively with any trouble that comes our way!” said Marta. She looked quite valiant, and held her rifle boldly, clearly ready to use it when necessary.

Reynolds stepped toward them, leering at them and purposely challenging their personal space. “You ladies enjoy the rest of your shooting practice. I’m sure we’ll be seeing each other sometime in the future.”

As Lieutenant Reynolds walked away, Marta said, “What a jerk!”

“Yup. All of those Ridgewood cops have bad attitudes. They seem to specialize in hiring arrogant assholes with superiority complexes. I have a feeling that one day Reynolds is going to get what’s coming to him.”

“Well, let’s just hope that we don’t run into him too often.”

“Unfortunately, he works where we work. We’ll probably bump into him every now and then.”

Marta checked her watch. “It’s getting late! Let’s get on with our target practice. I have to get going pretty soon.”

“Yeah, hopefully those jerks will be leaving soon.”

Lois put the M-16 back in her car and grabbed her target practice gun. They continued their practice, and Marta continued to improve her aim. Lois looked at Marta through her tinted-yellow safety glasses, and yelled, “Good shooting, girl! Damned good shooting!”

* * *

A few hours later, out in the middle of a large grass field located west of the Ridgewood Police Headquarters building, Officer Donald Lutz patiently awaited the landing of a transport helicopter. Standing near his truck, he felt the wind of the rotor blades increase as the large modern sleek chopper slowly descended. The white chopper with blue stripes landed on a square paved landing area marked out by large white lines, and a tall black man stepped out. He slammed the door shut and waved at the pilot as the chopper ascended into the blue sky. The man was well-dressed and carried an expensive suitcase. Lutz opened the door for him as he approached the police vehicle.

“Hello, Dr. Kenyatta. It’s very nice to see you, sir. How was your trip?”

“Smooth traveling today, hardly any wind at all up there in the sky. Thank you for picking me up, Officer Lutz.”

“No problem at all. Where am I taking you, sir?”

“I need to be at Bowers Hall right now. It looks like I’m late. Dr. Padlo is teaching her class there today, and I’d like to see some of it. I also have to meet with a few people there after her lecture, so if you can get me there as fast as possible I’d appreciate it.”

“No problem at all. I can get you there in about three minutes.”

“Excellent, Officer Lutz. Thanks again.”

“Dr. Kenyatta, what will Dr. Padlo be lecturing on today?”

“I believe she will be exploring some new theories about human cognition—the way the mind works. There will be visiting students from Europe attending, too, so I’d like to be there to meet them.”

“Sounds very interesting, sir. I wish I could attend.”

“It really is fascinating. We know so little about how the mind actually works. The things we’re learning now about the brain are truly stunning!”

The midnight blue police cruiser soon pulled up to the front of the large, modern-looking, multi-angled, concrete building. Tabu Kenyatta rushed into the enormous lecture hall. He found the lecture hall packed to near capacity with students and professors. Making his way toward the front of the room, he found a seat next to Jon Sanborne. Jon nodded to Kenyatta, welcoming him silently, as he continued to listen to the lecture, already in progress.

Marta directed her laser pointer toward the screen, “Striving to unlock the secrets of the universe is a fundamental part of our human experience. Humans have evolved over millions of years, and we have survived, at least in part, because we are naturally curious. That process of evolution has produced a brain that is both complex and adaptable enough to help us survive in this challenging world. Here, in this next slide, you see a brain structure that contains thoughts, memories, and dreams. Over time, it processes the perceptions of reality, of what you feel, and what you see. Each time you listen to music, or observe a beautiful painting, those experiences are converted into information and that information is processed and stored by the brain for future use. There are more nerve cells in the brain than there are stars in our galaxy, and there are more connections within the brain cells than galaxies in the universe. That, my friends, is an amazingly powerful system. We are only now at the very beginning of trying to understand just how this consciousness system works.”

Jon loved listening to Marta. He was thrilled she would soon be moving in with him, and still somewhat bemused by her beauty. He couldn’t take his eyes off her shiny dark hair, her lovely figure, and her long legs, and, no matter how much time they spent together, he was still struck by how elegant and attractive she was in her tight black skirt. And then there was her voice, and the way she spoke. Smart as a whip, her words were clear and methodical, and he was still charmed by her mild Slavic accent. A shiver of pleasure ran down his spine as a memory of that voice whispering sweet nothings drifted through his mind.

“Now I am going to review the theory on how the brain system functions during the perception process, and then we will wrap up this discussion today,” Marta continued. “In this next slide, you can see that as our five senses take in the information, it is received by the brain and the neuron cells. The neurons take in the information that is correlated with the level of input. That information is assimilated and passed on to other neurons. Perception and learning is accomplished by the altering of the strengths of the connections between the neuron cells in the brain.

“What is important is that the perception process in the brain is essentially an electro-biochemical molecular process that causes changes to the brain cells. These changes also affect the neurotransmitters and other biochemical entities that coexist in the brain structure. Okay. I think that we have gone over a lot of information today about human cognition, so I’ll end here. This is really important material, and it will be on the next test, so please make sure to study it well.

“I think most of you are eagerly awaiting our very special guest today. Dr. Jon Sanborne will be discussing research that he is conducting here at Ridgewood. For our visiting students from Sweden and Norway, you are welcome to stay for this next short discussion, and then Dr. Kenyatta will meet with you to arrange for your visit to see our cute little Komodo dragon friend, Ayu, who is now on display at our Science Museum. She is one of our research animals here at the Lab, and you should not miss it! Just don’t get too close, though. She’d loved to eat you all. But don’t worry too much, she’s in a cage.”

Marta’s words brought the expected laughter, during which Jon came up and got ready to speak.

“It is with great pleasure that I introduce our very special guest, Dr. Jon Sanborne. Dr. Sanborne is a theoretical physicist who has been conducting advanced physics research here at Ridgewood National Lab for the past eleven years. Dr. Sanborne previously spent some time at CERN, in Europe, and at Fermi Labs, near Chicago, studying particle wave fields. Dr. Sanborne has received numerous awards in physics. These include the Warwick Award for pioneering work in quantum mechanics. Over the past ten years, Dr. Sanborne and his team of scientists have designed and built the QUEST project, which is one of the largest physics research projects in the world. This massive experiment is located nine hundred feet below the ground here at Ridgewood, near another huge underground physics research experiment named HITS. Now I am going to turn your attention over to Dr. Jon Sanborne. Thank you for coming today!”

Slightly nervous, Jon moved into place and took in the full auditorium in front of him. “Good morning, everyone, and welcome to Ridgewood National Lab. I am going to give you all a brief overview of the unique experiment that my teams of physicists have constructed here below ground at Ridgewood. But before I begin, I want to thank Dr. Padlo for that gracious introduction. I hope you all realize how lucky you are to have a professor like Dr. Padlo. She is a leader in the field of cognitive science. We are good friends, and have many fascinating discussions about the places where our very different fields of study intersect. You see, since Dr. Padlo is a psychiatrist and I am a theoretical physicist, we have some very divergent perspectives in terms of making sense of our world. Of course, we often kid each other about which perspective is the more accurate one, and which branch of science is more relevant. I distinctly remember Dr. Padlo asking me a paradoxical question which had a significant impact on my way of thinking. She asked me to think of absolutely nothing. I sat there trying to think of nothing for a while. Finally, she smiled at me and said, ‘No matter how hard you try to think of nothing, you are actually thinking of something. You see in your mind you are always thinking of something even if that something is nothing.’

“And that thought was very much related to the research that we are doing in the field of quantum mechanics with our QUEST project. You see, she brought up an essential question that is of interest to both of our scientific studies. That question is ‘What is the nature of nothing or something?’ It’s not an easy thing to think about, even if you are a psychiatrist or a physicist. But we both crossed paths here on this fundamental concept of the nature of our reality.

“Now, the research that we are working on at our QUEST project is primarily in the field of science known as quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics is a very strange field of science that still confuses most scientists who have studied it. You see, it involves the study of what is really happening at the very small level of the universe inside the atom. At that very small level, scientists have found that the particles that compose the atom can do very weird things. Things like travel through walls, or seem to be waves. They can also stay strangely connected even over very large distances. For example, two particles seem to be able to communicate with each other over the entire length of the universe. But perhaps the strangest thing that particles seem to be able to do is to exist in many places at once. But there is even more to this story. We have even now found that this quantum weirdness in not just confined to the small particles inside the atom, but to larger entities like molecules and even larger items like baseballs, cars, or trees.

“Our QUEST research is focused primarily on the quantum weirdness at the larger scale. We focus on how large things in life are affected by these mysterious forces of nature. Incidentally, this field of study first got a boost by the pioneering work of a famous scientist who once worked right here at Ridgewood. He postulated many principles that are the foundation of our QUEST project. I only wish he could be here now to see how far we have come with his ideas into this field of research.”

A woman’s voice called out from the audience, “Is that scientist Dr. Emery Hilcraft?”

Jon walked up toward the front of the stage and scanned the audience, “Who is asking about Dr. Hilcraft?”

“I am, Dr. Sanborne.” A student waved from the front rows.

“You are correct. That scientist was Dr. Emery Hilcraft.”

Jon moved back and indicated the large screen. “I am going to show you some pictures of our QUEST research facility. In this first slide, you see an aerial photo of the site where our QUEST facility is located. Those buildings may seem too small to house the project. Well, that’s because our QUEST facility is located nine hundred feet below the ground. QUEST is also adjacent to HITS, the Heavy Ion Target Supercollider, which is the second-largest particle accelerator in the world. HITS provides a stream of protons which our QUEST facility requires for our research, so we always coordinate our work with the folks at HITS. The HITS accelerator was built prior to our QUEST facility, and the location of QUEST is no accident.

“In this next slide, you can see just what it looks like to be in the HITS facility, four hundred fifty feet below ground. Notice the long, blue, tube-like structure. That structure carries the stream of protons to QUEST. The proton beam is contained by a powerful magnetic field.

“And this is QUEST, nine hundred feet below the ground, twice the distance underground as the HITS facility. You’re probably wondering why we would want to devote so much time and money to constructing these two facilities hundreds of feet below the surface of the earth. The depth is necessary for two reasons. First of all, these experiments create tremendous amounts of radiation, so the depth is a safety measure. But we also need to shield the sensitive detectors inside the research facilities from the cosmic rays that bombard the Earth every second.

“This next, strange-looking picture is taken from inside the heart of QUEST. This is the place where we generate tremendous magnetic forces and use them to manipulate the proton particles that are from HITS. It’s known as the Macro-STARR chamber, and it is the only one of its kind in the world ever constructed. This facility is very large, larger than two domed stadiums combined, as a matter of fact. It uses more electricity than a small city. Visitors who tour the place often tell me that it looks like something out of a science-fiction movie.

“Now this last slide was taken inside the QUEST control room. This is where the experimental data is processed. You can see that it is a very complex control room. You can see there are many high-resolution monitors and instruments that are staffed by a large team of scientists. We use the latest quantum computer technology in processing the data generated by our experiments. These computers are specially built for us by a pioneering computer company. Our work would not be possible without this latest quantum computer technology.

“I’ll be in the back handing out informational brochures about QUEST and HITS if anyone is interested. Also, if you have any questions, you can ask me them there. It was a pleasure meeting you all today. Good luck with your studies. And I just want to say that whatever you do in life, follow your passions. They’ll lead you to your destiny, and to success in life. And remember that life goes by fast, so work hard and enjoy the ride!”

Enthusiastic applause filled the room, and Jon headed back to a table near the exit, where he had set up a box of the informational packets he had brought with him. He handed out information and was greeted by several students as they left the room. Some students remained to ask questions before they left, packets in hand. The stream of students stopped, and Jon began to organize his materials and get ready to leave.

“Hello, Dr. Sanborne!”

Jon looked up, and recognized the attractive young woman from the audience who had asked about Hilcraft.

“You’re the one who asked about Dr. Hilcraft! How do you know about him?”

“I’ve heard a lot about him and his theories from my father.”

“Really? How does your father know about him?”

“My father worked with him when he was a research scientist here at Ridgewood. He told me that Hilcraft apparently just disappeared one day and they couldn’t find him anywhere.”

“Wow, that’s very interesting! He did disappear mysteriously. Who is your father?”

“My father is Ben Carson. He’s a physicist here at Ridgewood.”

“Ben Carson is your father! I know Ben well. We’re good friends. Your dad is working with us on our QUEST project now. I was able to get him on loan from the Accelerating Energy Synchrotron (AES). He’s helping us straighten out some problems that we’re having with our dipole magnets. I can’t believe he’s your dad. He’s a great guy, and he really knows his stuff.”

“Yeah. He’s a good guy, my dad. He told me all about QUEST, and about you. He said you’re very smart, and kind of weird, but he likes you, and he’s enjoying working with your staff, too.”

“What’s your name, Ben’s daughter?”

“I’m Brenda. Brenda Carson.”

“Well, it was nice to meet you, Brenda. I’ll mention it to Ben when I see him later today.”

As they shook hands, Marta called to Jon from the lobby, “Jon, Dr. Kenyatta wants to discuss something with you before he escorts the visiting students to the Science Museum.”

Jon called back, “Okay, Marta.” He saw Dr. Kenyatta approaching, and handed Brenda one of his info packets, saying, “Here you go, Brenda. Again, it was nice meeting you. Take care.”

“So long, Dr. Sanborne. I’ll tell my dad that I met you. Bye!”

Kenyatta hurried over from the side of the auditorium toward Jon and called out. “Hello, Jon!”

“Hello, Dr. Kenyatta! I hear you’re taking the visiting students to the Science Museum.”

“Yes, so I can’t talk long, but I just want to give you a heads-up. The environmental officials from the state and county will be here tomorrow to inspect the old graphite reactor with our environmental coordinators. Since you and Ben are on the Environmental Review Committee you will be needed to accompany them and assist them in their inspection. Ben can probably answer any questions that they may have. Is that alright with you? They’re meeting at nine tomorrow morning, at the north side of the reactor, near the old entrance. Make sure that you and Ben have your personal dosimeters with you when you go.”

“Okay, I’ll be there. I’ll talk to Ben, too.”

“Great, Jon! Just be there by nine, that’s when they’ll start the inspection.”

“No problem! Ben and I will be there. Oh, by the way, that girl I was just talking with was Ben’s daughter. She’s in Marta’s Cognitive Psychology class.”

“It’s a small world, isn’t it? Especially around here. I have to get back to our visitors now, but I’ll meet up with you, Ben, and the Environmental Review Committee after your joint inspection tomorrow. Maybe on Wednesday we’ll review the committee findings in my office. Oh, and Dr. Tonner’s going to be there, so be prepared for some questions about the unfortunate incident that occurred at QUEST.”

“Very well, Dr. Kenyatta.”

Kenyatta turned and headed off toward the visiting Scandinavian students.

Marta had walked up as Kenyatta left. “Jon,” she said, “if you’re going into that reactor tomorrow, you and Ben need to be extra careful. That old reactor had significant radioactive contamination inside.”

“Marta, it’s been totally decontaminated over the past decades and Health Physics has certified it as safe.”

“I’ve been told by someone in Health Physics that they found trace amounts of plutonium inside the containment area last year. You know that, theoretically, one atom of plutonium is enough to kill you.”

“Don’t worry, Marta, we won’t be in there long, and I promise you I’ll be careful.”

“Thanks for your talk today. The students really seemed interested.”

“They seemed like a nice bunch of students. Oh, my phone is going off. It’s probably VG. I better get going now. We got stuff going on at QUEST.”

“Okay, Jon, you be careful tomorrow. I’ll see you tomorrow night at your place.”

“Great, Marta! I’ll make a nice dinner for us.”

“Be careful down there!” she shouted after him.

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