Alex The Inventor - Chapter 13
Book 2 of an Illustrated Sci-Fi Trilogy
Books 1 & 2 (to date) can be read at: Deep Sky Stories
Chapter 13 - Revelations From The Map
Jim Cash and Elliot Jansen walked the few paces up the gravel driveway to the front door of Wallace Chater's home in thoughtful silence. What their next steps were to be after they confirmed their suspicions was not yet clear but then, most ventures where lives are concerned are not without uncertainty. Knowing Alex's Faraway's age had been accomplished instantly via the Delta Courthouse internet registry which showed Alex's date of birth to be only twelve years before. It had then been just as simple a matter for Jim to do another online search of the staff members in the registries of the three elementary schools in Delta-Town. Sure enough, after only the second school, the name Wallace Chater appeared on the secure webpage displayed on Jim's in-car computer. These two minor investigations had been accomplished while enroute to have their cup of coffee at Rosie's Diner.
Although Jim hadn't planned on coming across Mrs. Faraway and her son there, he found it to be a happy coincidence when they entered the diner to find them there. The boy must have only just come from his overnight stay at the hospital because he was wolfing down the biggest cheeseburger that Elliot had ever seen. He even remarked to Jim how much the boy looked like his missing father. Strange how Alex stared at them though. They both felt a little uncomfortable when he stopped and stared at them through the window after he and his mother left the diner; it was almost as if Alex could read their minds the way he reacted to them. Jim always figured that anyone who grew up further away from the main-stream of society turned out rather odd in their behavior.
He mused only for a moment more about such issues though as he and Elliot climbed the steps up to the porch of Wallace Chater's house. Daylight was only just waning but already the two men could feel a slight chill in the air.
"It's going to be a cold, cold winter...I can feel it in my bones", Elliot said with a certainty born from many years of living outdoors and at the mercy of the weather. Jim said nothing, he was too pre-occupied with what to say first or how to explain the whole bizarre situation regarding Harold Strikt and Alex Faraway to the school teacher. Heck, he still had trouble grasping all that Elliot had told him following their encounter with that over-large insect a few hours earlier.
Hopefully Mr. Chater would not need too much convincing to show them the so-called map he possessed. What kind of map it was, was still not certain but it was obviously something important enough for a dying man to mention with his last breaths. Well, here goes, Sgt. Cash thought as he knock-knocked on the fine wood door and waited while a hallway light came on behind it.
"D' you think this will take long", Elliot asked, echoing Jim's thoughts. But the surprise was theirs as Wallace Chater seemed to half-read their intentions the moment he opened the door.
"Mr. Wallace Chater…", Jim Cash began as Wallace peeked out of the half-opened door.
"Yes...what is it", he said, eyeing the oddly miss-matched duo; one a uniformed police officer, the other a slightly tidied up and bearded hobo. Jim decided to proceed carefully.
"I have some important information regarding a possible acquaintance of yours - ”
"It's Harold isn't it", Wallace blurted out suddenly, "I knew it, I knew I made a mistake when I sent that email and called him. What's happened?" His pent-up nervousness and worrying nearly overwhelmed him as Mr. Chater opened the door wider and stumbled back into the hallway. Jim took this as implied permission to enter and so he did, with Elliot in tow.
"This is going better than I thought", he whispered to his partner as they stepped over the threshold. Wallace Chater was clearly a man shaken, but before taking a seat on his easy-chair to try getting a hold of his emotions, he asked another startling question. "Alex, Alex Faraway...is the boy okay?"
"What do you know about him?" Jim asked keenly, but he knew, even as he spoke, what the connection was. Sure enough, Wallace got up and hurried into a small study off of the living room and came back almost immediately, clutching a familiar sheaf of paper; except, this one was the original map that Alex had drawn in class the week before. Both men breathed a sigh of satisfaction at how easily all the pieces to this puzzle were starting to fall into place. "So...it's definitely true...", Jim Cash said, looking side-long at Old Elliot, (the now not-so-crazy town hobo). "May I have a look at that please", he said quietly. Cash gazed, fascinated at the back of Alex Faraway's geography test paper and let out a low whistle as the perfect illusion of three dimensions fairly leapt off the page. The copy they had didn't do justice to the detail that the original map had. "Well, you were right, Elliot", he said with conviction, handing it over to the old astronomer.
Wallace Chater was sitting slumped in his chair again, half-anxious yet also half-relieved as well that he now had someone else to explain his worries to. For the next few minutes, the teacher told the two men what he had seen happen in his classroom the day Alex wrote the geography test and what he witnessed at the farmhouse, when he visited Mrs. Faraway with the map that Alex drew.
Hearing Wallace describe the attack by the Flies served to confirm even more, the convictions of the other two that a definite threat was near at hand. What could be done about it though, was anyone's guess. Jim was musing quietly about their dilemma when, from behind him Elliot made a small questioning sound from where he stood in a corner of the living room.
"Wait a minute, what's this now", he said with a new, mystified tone in his voice. The other two turned to see him standing before a lamp and looking at the map in his hands with renewed fascination. Motioning the others to come over, Elliot held the map up so they could see it better. "Look at this", he said with a small chuckle of amazement. He had the test paper turned so that the men could see what looked like a small doodle of some sort that was drawn on the same side as the test questions. It was in the exact center of the page, in an empty space between two different groups of questions. To all appearances, the little pencil-drawn design was simply a piece of doodle-art that any child would idly draw while daydreaming during a boring moment in class. There was a fineness to it though which seemed to elevate the drawing to something else more interesting.
It was very nearly a perfect circle and within it were other smaller circles, all evenly spaced and radiating out from the center with numerous interconnecting straight lines. The whole design stood out from everything else on the page because it had been drawn with heavier lines as well. "Now watch", Elliot said after Jim and Wallace had a moment to examine it. He flipped the paper over to the side that the dot-picture of Valles Marineris was drawn on and held it close to the lamplight for the other two to see.
"Well I'll be", Jim exclaimed in amazement. Where before, the dots which made up the picture seemed to be randomly placed just to create the picture, now there was a meaningful pattern to them. The circular pinwheel design was clearly visible through the paper and was superimposed in the middle of Valles Marineris.
This was where the strange optical illusion occurred because, radiating outward from the cris-crossed lines which formed the circular design were now barely visible fuzzy lines within the random dot pattern which, otherwise, would not have been noticed without using the circular design as a point-of-reference.
These lines in the map then made connections with four heavier dots at specific points on the map, but that wasn't all, because from those dots could then be seen other fuzzy branch-lines forking away from them to connect with even more of the distinctive dots. The branching off of these lines and sub-lines continued throughout the map of the valley from East and West until all the darker dots were connected.
It was all a secretive and complex connect-the-dots puzzle which, until now, had been invisible to the casual observer. Mr. Chater was stunned by this new revelation from the map of the Valles Merinaris but, just what it all meant was an unknown to the three men. Seeing that circular design though did help Wallace recall something else.
“Wait a minute”, he said, “I’ve seen something like that before.” opening the top drawer of his desk, he pulled out two sheets of paper with writing on them. “I kept these separate from the other test papers because they were so well done yet so different from the others too.”
From the handwriting, Old Elliot could tell that the papers were the rest of Alex Faraway’s geography exam. And like the last page which held the unusual map, the first two pages had something drawn on them as well. “I was so mystified by the drawing of that map that I forgot about these other, smaller drawings that Alex did.”
“What are those”, said Elliot, pointing to the same empty spaces on each of the first two pages. For those spaces were not empty at all but held their own circular designs too.
“These”, said Wallace, “are geometric patterns and, as you can see, they become progressively more complex one page to the next.” “I’ve studied geometry a bit over the years and how to draw certain abstract shapes. What you see on these first two pages are the steps for drawing a Fifth-Dimensional Hypercube or Pentacube.” The designs that Elliot saw began on the first page with a simple circular pattern with a smaller circle as its center point. Criss-crossing the center were ten lines which created the circle’s diameter and at the ends of which were smaller circles that touched the rim of the larger circle like bubbles. Those ten smaller circles at the ends of the diameter lines then completed a ten-sided pattern with lines that connected each bubble-circle to its neighbor, around the perimeter.
The result was much like a pie cut into ten equal sections. The pattern was repeated on the next page, except with the addition of ten more bubbles drawn on the diameter lines but arranged nearer to the center. The third and last page grew even more complex with yet another arrangement of circles on the diameter lines which were closest to the center than the others.
The entire geometric pattern was then finished to look like a gemstone with a profusion of cris-crossed facet lines which joined each and every bubble-circle to the other like a network, from the innermost to the outer perimeter of the whole design.
“This is amazing”, said Elliot as he held the last page up to the lamplight again and saw the vague branch-lines appear across the Martian Valley once more. What did they signify and what was their connection to the geometric pattern? How was a boy able to draw all this so perfectly (much less use such patterns to reveal what appeared to be directions to secret places on the map he drew?) Did the same pattern unlock any more secrets in much the same way? “You say this…pattern is called a Hypercube”, he asked Wallace, “why?”
“Well, because this is what some theoretical mathematicians imagine that a cube might look to someone living outside our space-time environment; someone living in a fifth-dimensional world outside our own.” “It’s all just theory though, of course…” Old Elliot’s eyes glazed over and, for a few moments, he was somewhere else; somewhere that could never be properly described because it was over and beyond anything that could be properly described with words or colors or sounds from our normal world. For a moment too, awful, grey dread crawled across Elliot’s face as recollections of a dark nightmare, a prowling creature, haunted his mind, only to fade away after a troubled shake of his head. The other two in his company missed it though, of course.
“We should drop by and visit Mrs. Faraway…tonight”, he said, trying to sound off-handed about it. Why show how worried he felt. “Her son was in the hospital last night and she may need some help with a few things, that’s all. You coming, Wally?” The teacher looked up at the two burly men who both eyed him up and down with an “I-dare-you” sort of look, like overgrown boys.
“Well…sure. Happy to...to help anyway I can…”, he answered back with an uncertain fluster.
“Good, let’s go”, said Jim with casual leadership taking over the group. Elliot curled up a small grin beneath his beard and his bright eyes crinkled wickedly. And as Wallace Chater hastily threw on a jacket and followed in their wake, he couldn’t help but recall a certain phone call he’d made to an old acquaintance, that Thursday, just four nights before. With that, all his previous worries returned to him on an icy breeze. With the door shut tight behind him, the teacher felt the cozy warmth of his quiet home suddenly give way to the damp coldness of the evening air and his secure little world vanished with an uncertain turn of his stomach. And he kept thinking...why didn’t I just keep my mouth shut?
Next: Chapter 13 (Part 2) - The Alien Remnant
Doctor Jessica Bradshaw is on her way home from Delta Hospital but her mind is elsewhere, pondering the strange physiological changes that she had discovered growing in young Alex Faraway. On a whim, she takes a sharp detour off the main road and heads towards a certain old farmhouse located beside dark, abandoned scrapyard. A house-call is in order, but Jessica will soon discover much more this night, and not much of it good; no, not at all.
As of December 19, 2019, Chapter 13 can be read at: Deepskystories.com
For those who haven't yet read Book 1,
read it here: Alex The Inventor (In the Fantastic Scrapyard)