Sunday, February 21, 2021

Glimpses of the Dark Side

 

A new take on "It's a Wonderful Life"

 The aerodrome was playing nothing but celebration music observing the centennial of the Global Accords. John Powell mostly ignored the music and just sat quietly at his small table outside cafe sipping his coffee. His attention directed at all his fellow travelers. The sun had just risen above the crest of the large east-facing windows casting a warm, golden glow on the several hundred people all waiting in the airship departure lounge. Powell was most taken with the family groups as different children played with each other as parents watched.

Everyone seemed content, if not actually happy, which Powell guessed came largely from one-hundred years of a growing world peace. John Powell, being a psychiatrist instead of a historian or politician, didn't really think all that much about how the Accords hadn't reached their final form until 1977. And while the Federal League was celebrating one-hundred years of peace, most people understood that war didn't really end in 1921. The “conflicts” that erupted in Africa and Asia in the intervening years weren't as big or bloody as the 1914-1919 Last War, but the deaths were just as real. Being American, he refused to think about the Backlash Uprisings in the southern states that had occurred in the 1980s. After one of their radical groups assassinated President Kennedy, those neoconfederates got what they deserved.

Giant screens mounted opposite of the eastern windows showed the departure times of airships heading out to Europe or west to the provinces of Canada or the western states. Powell's airship to San Francisco wasn't scheduled for another three hours. As much as he hated reading patient files outside his office, it was better to do it now instead of on the flight when he could take advantage of all the airship amenities.

Powell loosen the buttons on his left sleeve pulling it back exposing his wrist computer. The all purpose computer was attached to his arm by two straps, one at the wrist and the other mid-forearm. Similar devices had existed since the early 1960s taking the place of wrist watches and small radios. The addition of wireless communication and access to the global library network had finally made them ubiquitous to daily life. As the technology advanced, the devices came to host thousands of different applications from entertainment to business and health.

Most young people had long since developed the habit of shoving their wrist computers in the pockets of their clothes. Not Powell, his was a Rolex wrist comp and the idea of losing it, like a lot of youngsters do with their cheaper models, was a nightmare he didn't want to realize. Wearing it on his wrist was cumbersome, and it made using the camera difficult but the alternative was worse given how many times a day he had the access the network to review and update patient files.

That morning there was one patient John Powell was concerned with, and it was the reason he was going to San Francisco.

***

“Good morning, Dr. Powell,” his cabin steward said up entering after knocking on the door to make sure he was awake. Powell had been up since his courtesan for the night had departed and was again on his wrist comp reviewing his files.

“Hello Ernest,” Powell replied trying not to frown in reaction to the steward's southern accent. Powell had no reason to believe Ernest or any of his family members might have taken part in the Uprisings. But it was hard to forget the videos of southern radicals screaming they wanted to Make America Great Again as they committed terrorism.

“What would you like for breakfast this morning?” Ernest asked as he straightened up the cabin.

“Just bacon and eggs with juice and coffee. Are we still scheduled to land in Frisco on time?”

"Yes, sir on both,” Ernest said imputing the food order on his own wrist comp before leaving.

Powell could tell Ernest was holding some sort of resentment, whether it was related to the now defeated and disorganized neoconfederate cause was impossible to tell. Most neoconfederates had fled the country and moved down into the Central American Federation territory. To them the area from Guatemala to Colombia was one of the last bastions of real freedom in the world.

To the rest of the civilized world the Central American Federation was a huge shit hole of violence, corruption, and oppression. And neither the United States government nor the Federal League had the will or resources to tackle that area right now.

But all things considered Powell realized that even though most of the world was now peaceful with the vast majority of humans no longer worried about food or homelessness or oppression there were still some who felt shorted. Maybe for the time being it was best to leave the radicals down there alone until other areas like central Africa and south Asia were more stable.

***

Gracie Hensley was in her room laying on her bed asleep. A small camera mounted in the corner of the ceiling relayed video to her caregivers sitting in a nearby room. Gracie wasn't in restraints, mainly because there was nothing in her room that she could easily use to harm herself. But nonetheless, orderlies were just seconds away if she showed signs of trying to commit suicide.

Powell had read her case file dozens of times. A normal teenager from a middle class family with no discernible psychological or physical issues. Until a couple of months ago when she started having dreams of an assailant coming into a school with military assault weapons and killing anyone they encounter. From her files, the dreams are incredibly detailed with Gracie able to name off the people being killed. She can also describe the location with exacting detail as well as the surrounding area.

The dreams always resulted in her screaming in terror and unable to leave her room. Needless to say, they were taking a heavy toll on her emotional well being and that of her family's.

One of the many problems with Gracie's dreams was that the school the shootings take place isn't the one she actually attends. The school in her dreams exists, down to every detail she described, but in Colorado. The other problem with Gracie's dreams is that in reality civilians cannot own those types of weapons. The idea that a civilian could purchase anything than a normal handgun or bolt-action rifle or shotgun is ridiculous. Owning such weapons was difficult even before the Backlash Uprisings, afterwards the only way the average American would even touch one was to join the military.

But somehow, the assailant in Gracie's dreams owned such weapons, as well as an ungodly amount of ammunition.

“Dr. Powell, you've reviewed Ms. Hensley's condition.” Dr. Linda Banks said after turning away from the row of screens showing the inside of patients' rooms. “I'm very interested in what you might have to add, especially since you've flown across the country.”

“Truthfully Dr. Banks, Ms. Hensley isn't the first time I've seen a case very much like this. In fact I have personally encountered seven such individuals. Five of them were of a similar age to Ms. Hensly but the other two were adults in their thirties.”

“The violent encounters,” Powell continued, “their dreams all took place in locations they never actually visited but gave incredibly accurate descriptions. Also, these homicidal assailants all possessed military grade weapons used with the dreamers somehow certain they owned them.”

“That's all well and good, Dr. Powell. But were you able to help these earlier patients? The stress and fear Gracie is going through is getting worse. Gracie already can't function outside this facility and I fear she might have a total and permanent break with reality if it continues for much longer.”

Powell grabbed a small tablet from a table and began writing down a list of psychotropic drugs and their dosage. “There medications have dampen the dreams in the other patients.” He said to the other doctor. “But they never completely ended the dreams, about all we can hope is that she outgrows them in time.”

“Dr. Powell,” Banks said eyeing the man intently, “I can read people just as well as you and I know you're not telling me something. And I'll be damned if you'll leave this facility before I know what you're not telling me.”

“Just how open is your mind to out of the box thinking, Dr. Banks?” Was Powell's response.

Dr. Bank's office was a testament to 1950s extravagance. The décor and artwork were relics of that era and was looked down upon for the most part now. Powell was even surprised to see an ancient tabletop computer sitting on the desk. Just for a second he wondered if the tabletop was real or if she used a holographic interface like everyone else when working in the office.

“Now Dr. Powell, please tell me your secrets.” Dr. Banks said after she took her seat behind the desk and he in the chair in front.

“Dr. Banks, how much do you know about quantum mechanics and hyper-gravity theory?”

Powell realized it was a risk to tell her everything but his team was almost done with the first of their papers to be published and who knows, she might sign on to the study.

Powell began by telling her how just ten years ago one of the particle accelerator labs in the asteroid belt had confirmed that the force of gravity does bleed over into other universes. That the data clearly suggests gravity isn't something from anyone one universe but affects the entire multiverse.

“Here's where things move into the metaphysical realm, Dr. Banks.” Powell said in a deadly serious tone. “What if the multiverse does contain a near infinity number of parallel universes where history can play out almost exactly to ours or go the opposite way? And lets say that since gravity permeates through the multiverse why can't other forces?”

“That's quite a lot to think about, Dr. Powell,” Banks said wearily. “But what about proof, that's where science begins.”

Powell went to explain that these murderous dreams were not a new phenomenon. That back in the 1940s there were numerous reports from Germany of Jews having dreams that a totalitarian regime was systematically murdering them. That this regime was being lead by a megalomaniac with dreams of world domination.

“Well that's ridiculous, Dr. Powell. The Germans have a checkered history with antisemitism in the past but they would never systematically try to murder whole populations.”

“That's the whole point. In our reality history and events played out differently.” Powell explained preparing to explaining his theory. “In our world the Spanish Flu forced and end to the Last War. So many people were dying from the flu that both sides were forced to help each other. All talks of victory and revenge gave way to tolerance and negotiation. Yes, it helped that certain leaders fell victim to the Flu allowing new voices to emerge.”

“I've pieced together a history of this darker world from reading the journals of individuals that suffered from these dreams,” Powell said. “Their Spanish Flu wasn't as bad and their Last War had already ended. This allowed the Allies to impose a harsh peace of Germany that bred a sense of revenge among the population. So instead of the first treaties that form the Accords, their peace set the stage for yet another, more horrible war.”

Powell cued up his wrist computer to transfer hundreds of files to Bank's computer.

“I still don't understand, Dr. Powell. How are just certain individuals having these dreams and not the entire human race?”

“I don't know,” he replied. “But I've cross referenced hundreds of different locations where these dreams took place and the vast majority of individuals had no idea they existed in real life. But I've conferred with a several physicists and we're rehashing an old theory that events can echo from one universe to another. How the actual mechanics of this echo works is something we're working on.”

I've talked with both Ms. Hensley and her parents,” Banks said while looking off into the distance while unconsciously shivering. “This alternate United States where Gracie's dreams take place is a violent, paranoid place and it's getting worse. Gracie has related to me insane ideas about corrupt and incompetent politicians, corporations running roughshod over individual rights, and a growing global environmental disaster.”

“I know,” Powell said. If this theory is correct that world is a nightmare. Our world and nations are far from perfect but it seems like a paradise compared to the stories I've read and heard.”

The two doctors discussed Ms. Hensley treatment for a few further minutes and then went their separate ways. Dr. Banks was still doubtful on the outlandish theory of echos of despair crossing realities. But she was thankful that she existed on this side of that divide.

7 comments:

Marja said...

Love this A very intriguing story of parallel universes affected by quantum mechanics and hyper-gravity theory. Great fantasy Although the dream of the girl seems to be based on the reality world we live in Aarrgh where world peace is unthinkable

The Bug said...

Excellent story! Although it's disturbing that our world is leaking into this much better one. Let's just taint all the timelines! Ugh.

Jeff said...

Interesting. It took me a while to understand the parallel universe. At first, I thought it was more of an alternate history where things changed after WW1, and in a way, it is that. I think others who look at our world would certainly think a lot of it is a nightmare. We have so much potential and yet ruin it all.

Beach Bum said...

Marja: Yes, the girl was dreaming of her counterpart in our universe.

The Bug: There is a theory, with no basis in science that universes do affect each other. Frankly, the idea is too far out for me but I wanted to construct a story where our reality was the one where Tiny Tim died and George Bailey didn't save the Building and Loan.

Jeff: My beliefs and emotional views cloud my rational judgement but yes, I think our "timeline" has slipped into dystopia. It wasn't the existence of Trump that brought me to this conclusion. He's just a symptom of an accumulation of errors that probably can be traced back to never solving the issue of race in this country.

You know the old saying: that nothings succeeds like success. In our case, it appears that failing breeds further failure.

The Armchair Squid said...

Nice work.

Man, it would be great if some of this were just a bad dream.

SpacerGuy said...

What if Gracies dreams turn out to be true? what then? Is this despair crossing realities going to infect the timeline? You've got a flair for technojargon which makes futurism seem so realistic.

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