Arnab closed his eyes and shook his head trying to wake up again, “this must be a dream”, he thought. His mind screamed that this is not possible but the evidence in front of him didn’t leave much scope for argument. The pictures were a wide angle shot and the girl with the medal in the picture was wearing a full body Speedo swimming suit covering everything except her face, it was really difficult to tell if she could be his mother 25 years back.
He tried to find out more things from the pictures and the artifacts but after a while it was not possible to know more. In a rage he went up to his mother’s room and started pounding her door, after 5 minutes of beating the door she opened the door sleepy-eyed and asked “What happened Arnab ? Is everything ok?” “No” replied Arnab, “Can you explain this?” he raised the photo frame to her mother’s face. She was horrified and snatched it away from him “this is nothing and where did you find this? Stop meddling with my stuff!” she screamed. “Is that you in the picture? Were you a swimmer? And who is the guy with you? Is he my dad?” Arnab screamed back. “He is no one, forget about the pictures, they are not mine and go to sleep. They mean nothing to me!” saying this she pushed Arnab back and closed the door on his face. Now Arnab knew where he got his hard-headedness from, furious he stormed out of his home and started walking, sub consciously his steps turned towards his lab, when he was almost there at the Applied Physics department he realized that he had unknowingly walked towards his ‘alone’ place, his lab. Not knowing what to do he walked up to his familiar security guard who always used to be there in the night and said he had forgot his ID card at home and asked him to open the lab from his security card. He happily obliged him by swiping his card at the entry and unlocking all modules of the facility for him. He smiled and asked him to enter “Go in Babu, I think today you will discover something very big”. Arnab looked up at him in bewilderment and said thanks and entered the lab. He went in to his module and tried to do some work to get his mind off the events that just unfolded but it was futile, the same questions kept coming back to him again and again.
“Was my father in the picture? Who was he, what was he like? Why did he leave my mother? Was my mother a star swimmer? The same woman who never even entered a bath tub and never let me in too.” He had no answer, he felt cheated, let down, abandoned, like the whole universe had conspired against him, today he felt like an insignificant tiny speck in this universe whose powers influenced him but he had no influence over the Universe. Frustrated he put his face on the table and muttered to himself “The only way to find out anything for me is to go back in the past”. And then it hit him like a ton of bricks!
He sprang up and from his table and ran towards the Taurine vending machine, he needed to sober up fast and think straight. What he thought could be done, thanks to his colleagues’ recent discovery of tachyons and ability to accelerate particles to superluminal speeds through use of low energy particle accelerators and his work on teleportation.
If matter could be moved along the three Euclidean Dimensions, that is through space and It could be very well be moved along the fourth dimension as well, that is time. All he needed to do was accelerate the constituent molecules beyond the speed of light at which they started moving backwards in time, along with the information as electricity in the wires which were also accelerated superluminally to carry that information back in time too, all he needed was to hook up his teleportation equipments with the particle accelerator team’s Tachyon producing machine and use both their computing powers to map the process, of course the calculations would take up a lot of time, but for what he was doing ‘time’ was not an issue at all. The final ingredient in this recipe was stupidity, there was no other word for what he was doing, for the subject of the first ever time travel experiment was he himself.
He ran back and forth between the two laboratories and used the resources seamlessly thanks to the ‘All Access’ security clearance given to him by the security guard for tonight. Thankfully there was no one in the whole facility as everyone was tired of the celebrations and the work earlier in the day. There were two major difficulties in his plan, he could only travel back to the time when the first working Teleporter was invented as he needed a working Teleporter to teleport out, also he had no way of coming back as the technology to make a time jump did not exist back then. The first thing he was overcoming by going back to the very next day the Teleporter was invented in this very lab and he had mixed feeling about the second, the knowledge that he had now would surely make him win a Nobel Prize back then. But all in all he wasn’t bothered about all that too much, he wanted to go back find out answers to his questions, and why his life was like this. Trembling but fixated he went into the Teleporter after making all the necessary arrangements and then everything went black.
He regained consciousness and walked out of a box which had lot of wires and tubes coming into it. He looked around, it was surely not his lab so his experiment had succeeded, but whether he was in 2013 or not he needed to find out. But currently he needed to get out of the lab fast as he could be easily be mistaken to be an intruder, he had no ID or papers of the current time to prove his identity. Luckily he slipped out without raising an alarm. Everything around was different, like set of some period movie, it was night and it was difficult to make out if this was the same MIT campus, thankfully the lay out was same and he knew which way was out. He took the same way as he usually took and thought about searching for something familiar after he got out.
He was walking by the MIT swimming pool lost in his thoughts when suddenly he heard a scream, a woman’s scream. He looked around to see a woman splashing in the pool violently, maybe she was drowning. He ran over to the edge of the pool and saw a woman splashing hysterically, holding one edge of the pool with one hand and trying to reach something. He realized what was ‘the something’, there was no time to think and he jumped in the pool to save it, ‘the something’ was a 4 year old boy drowning. He took hold of the boy and swam to the side, he put out the kid to the side and got out panting, the woman limped to the boy. The boy was alright whereas the woman was crying as she hugged the boy and kissed him hysterically. Arnab was surprised he could swim, that too effortlessly, he was reeling in this discovery when the woman came up and spoke to him.
“Thank you very much … You saved my son’s life, I …. I was teaching him to swim and then suddenly I had a cramp in my leg and I started drowning, I caught hold of the side but I lost him… If you wouldn’t have saved him then I don’t know what would have …..” And she turned and hugged the boy again.
She had a slight accent probably she was from the Indian Sub Continent as well; “You are welcome. I am glad I could help” he said feeling slightly nauseated. “I am sorry to ask this but what were you doing with a small kid alone at this time of the night?”
“I am a swimmer, I am in the MIT swimming team, I stay alone so I have to bring my son along too when I practice, he is just 4 years old. I was just teaching him for some time too, you see he is such a natural, he took to it like a fish to water” she said. “But today I suddenly got a cramp and I couldn’t move my leg and …. Thank god you were here. Are you a Grad Student here as well? You look like an Indian too, but I haven’t seen you in any of the Indian club meets”
“No I am a researcher here in the applied physics department; I was just getting out of my lab when I saw you people”
“Oh ok, my name is Jhoomur …. Jhoomur Ghosh.” She outstretched her hand saying this and Arnab took a step back stupefied as it sunk in who this woman really was. “Your nose is bleeding. Are you alright? What’s wrong?” she added. Arnab turned around and ran from there.
He kept running, his vision was becoming blurry and he was feeling more and more nauseated, he threw up in a trash can and then passed out. He woke up in the Infirmary with all kinds of vitals sensing equipment plugged into him. He looked around for the call bell and pressed it, within a minute a doctor appeared. “How are you feeling now… Mr Arnab , if that is indeed your name” he asked him.
“Yes I am a little better, what happened to me? And yes my name is Arnab, but how do you know that?”
“You were found passed out in the university campus yesterday, a group of students brought you here, we went through you driving license and other ID, but we couldn’t find any Arnab Ghosh either in the DMV or MIT’s database, officially you are still listed as a ‘John Doe’. And as to what happened to you, I think you would know, it is final stages of radiation poisoning”
“What ? Radiation poisoning? But I didn’t work with any hazardous material; I am just a teleportation researcher! I … I …” his voice trailed as he realized what might have happened.
“Yes radiation poisoning, you are a very severe case of ARS, acute radiation syndrome, I have never seen any case like that, it is like you got radiation inside of you, every cell in the body is affected, we thought you would know. Nobody this severely affected would have gone without symptoms, we thought you knew”
Arnab started feeling blurry again “Yes I knew, I just got confused, maybe it’s a symptom of radiation sickness. Is there anything which can be done?”
“Well yes, we can give you some pills which will ease your pain for some time, you can be admitted here or some other hospice and they will take care of you in your final hours. But apart from that you must know that there is no cure for this thing. Do you want me to call you family members?”
“Yes I know, thank you very much. I would like to have those pills. And yes I would like to see my mother, but I think I should go to her instead of calling her here”. He knew that there was no cure for this thing, and what he had heard in the HazMat training and from the doctor he realized he only had a few hours, a day at max. The tachyons and other radiation which might have been emitted when his molecules went superluminal had caused this poisoning, there was no Nobel Prize coming for him now. All he could do and wished to do was get the answers to his questions. He discharged himself from the hospital and went to where he thought he might see his mother.
She was there where he thought she would be, right beside the pool and staring at it but afraid of going in.
“Hi” he said “Scared of going in the water?”
“Yes” she replied “I don’t think I will be ever able to, nor will I let my son. Even the thought of it is giving me Goosebumps. This water almost snatched my son away from me, but only almost, thanks to you”
“Oh I merely played my part; it seems you love your son very much”
“Yes. He is the only thing which keeps me alive and gives me the strength to carry on. I shouldn’t have brought him inside water, but he likes it too much, he is such a water baby, it was all my fault” She tried to fight back bitter tears.
“Oh don’t worry about your son, I am sure he will be alright, and it wasn’t your fault, plus you made sure that there was someone to take care of your son”
“What … I am sorry I don’t understand”
“Aah never mind … But can I ask you a question. Where is his father? I know this is very personal and I hardly know you”
“It’s ok. You almost feel like family to me already. So you wanna know about his father? I am a single mother, we used to be in swimming team together, we were called the Ideal couple. And then I conceived him when we were not married, he wanted to give him up. But I couldn’t, he was a part of me, and will always be. It’s like killing a piece of you. Of course this wasn’t ok with him, he asked me to choose between him and my would be baby. I chose my son, and I have never regretted that decision for a second since then. “
“I am sorry I never knew this, I don’t know why I felt like asking”.
“It’s ok, no big deal, it’s good to let it out once in a while. Besides I owe you a lot more than the answers of few questions. I owe you my everything; I don’t know how will I repay you? I don’t know what would have happened if you weren’t here”.
Arnab popped in more pill, his eyes were burning and he knew he wouldn’t be able to hold this façade of being alright for long. “Oh don’t worry I will be there. I realized how much this kid means to you now. And I know this sounds strange, but make him learn physics, he will be good at it but make sure that he is the best. Push him hard, like, like his life depends on it”. And he got up to leave, he could barely stand now.
“You are leaving? Will I be ever seeing you again? I don’t even know your name”. She asked Arnab
“Oh yes, you will be seeing me, perhaps in some time, but you will be. The Universe is finite but it has no boundaries, you end up again from where you started Mom. And my name is Arnab, perhaps you can name your son after me” He smiled as he said that, waved, turned around and left.