This story was first serialized in 30 daily parts during June 2021 via the @InternetofWords Twitter feeds [9am and 5pm GMT respectively.] It is now reproduced in a complete form, a number of small edits and corrections made to improve narrative flow and maintain correct continuity.

I produce fiction bi-weekly on Ko-Fi: this includes flash fiction (250 words) which is being put together to form a long-form narrative, plus a bi-weekly full novel presented in episodic format.

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Reality Bytes

I’ve never seen this part of Essex before: liminal space between where the Thames begins, and the North Sea ends… or is that the other way around? It’s surprisingly choppy too, a tiny River Police dinghy struggling to remain level. Our destination’s close, land near the Fort. In the distance, as the sun sets, there’s that glow that everybody in the area is talking about… except that’s not the right word. It’s more like a throb of light, almost as if the group of tents hastily erected near the aggregate processing works is breathing: I feel uncomfortable.

That’s not the right word, either: this is disturbing. What began as a dead body on the foreshore has become an Eyes Only situation: what I read on paper only now begins to make proper sense. This guy isn’t the whole problem either, it’s his lover and lab partner who’s the focus. Emily Forrester has disappeared, her research is missing; what was her lab is now under armed guard. It is proving incredibly difficult to find anyone who knows her, despite what’s been at least a decade’s worth of credible investigation into reanimating frozen botanical samples.

At some point in the last 18 months she became virtually a recluse: all groceries were delivered to her home, she was never seen in public. Despite the gated community being extensively CCTV covered, we have absolutely no evidence she even left her house during that time-frame… Only now does that fact register as relevant: when what remained of Daniel West was discovered, it wasn’t because of him. All that could be seen was an indentation, no corpse itself… but it existed, simply invisible to the naked eye, registering when a UV light source was added.

However, it was what we also found under UV that is now causing considerable concern, plus the throb which, I am now told, is very much more than simply a regular pattern of light. Today’s briefing was called at extremely short notice, and there will be only one reason for this.

What was initially assumed to be benign has now become dangerous.

The Journalist sits, high-power binoculars trained on the boat as it comes to a stop by the perimeter of the military’s operation. The tip off had been correct, and this is far more than just a chemical spill. Switching from binoculars to camera, all it needs is a shutter depress: 30 shots of a man she knows better than her boss, or indeed most people his age. A Career Fixer, sent to places where the normal ‘hit and hope’ approach will do more harm than good: the perennial firefighter.

He’s here because of the death of an invisible man.

Don’t let anyone tell you the Internet’s taken any hard work out of finding a story: this journey began at her sister’s wedding, a snatch of conversation that set every journalistic instinct alight; an admission craving citation. Had a botanist really discovered a plant that that couldn’t be seen in permafrost until a UV light exposed proliferation, entirely by accident? Was she the ex-partner of a high profile Oxford professor, trying to claim that the same plant was able to grant that ability in humans?

Turns out the serial liar and cheat actually struck gold from his estranged lover, but at the cost of his own life… and that the consequences of this are already a lot more serious than was at first apparent. This has become a joint military operation, and now MI6 have arrived… She can’t break the story without proof. All there is right now are people at places, suggestions in documents, the possibility of something unbelievable made real: history combined with advances in modern science. There’s no video or photographic evidence until she can make her own.

No way will she gain entry here either, so placing The Fixer at the scene is all that can be reasonably expected… except… there’s a sound… like gas escaping, or a squeak… almost outside hearing range. If she can hear it, it can be recorded and the phone can do that without issue. Scrabbling to launch an audio recording app, the group of small tents and containers across the river has begun to pulse, random beats that are also definitely not what you’d expect to find on the Essex shoreline. Camera switches from stills to video, and all she can do is watch.

If proof were needed this is out of the ordinary, then here are two tiers of evidence.

Video plays out on screen, and I’m acutely aware of the tension in this confined space. These scientists already know something I don’t, are expecting me to work out what they’ve discovered. Watching a recording from yesterday, there should be incomprehension at what’s on-screen: nothing like this has ever been seen before… except, in my brain, letters are appearing. From instinct, I pick up a notepad and paper and begin to transcribe: dot, dash, dot, dash, dot dot.

The elder scientist’s already relieved, he worked it out without a prompt, this isn’t some random event. Whatever is driving the phenomena has roots in something we both were taught as cadets. If the Throb communicates with Morse Code? We have a fighting chance of understanding.

The journalist double-checks her translation, before having to run for the toilet. In the tiny bathroom, dinner looks much the same coming up as it did when hastily eaten an hour before. No time to digest, no way she can escape knowledge which will never be able to be unlearned. Sitting on cold lino, the computer is beeping at her: a desire to just sit and leave the results untouched is overwhelming. She opened Pandora’s box, needed to know what it was that ears could detect, above what remains normal range of hearing. This is not her problem to solve…

This phenomenon is in the best hands: if she can translate the Morse code, then they’ll have done so too. They’ll be staring at the same thirteen words; unlucky indeed. Better minds have worked out what the site is transmitting, she doesn’t need to know… except, that’s not true. Dragging herself upright, the computer’s insistent beep needs to be silenced: sitting back down at a desk that resembles a conspiracy theorist’s wet dream, the Journalist prepares herself for more horror… but within seconds she is scrabbling for her laptop, then typing furiously.

This is something practical to work with. Now this is her problem, it’s time to look at a realistic means to solve it…

Staring at what I’ve written, things have become considerably more complicated. Add that to the constant audio transmissions and… where do we go from here?

The science team haven’t done with the presentation either: what I thought was just a throb of light is anything but: multiple levels of audiovisual data is being transmitted, and this is the most disturbing development of all. If I believe, what is being presented here as fact? This isn’t just the present we’re hearing. Both past and crucially future exist in the exact same spot. I always thought time travel meant some fancy machine and more power than mankind could ever generate, but it appears all of that really is science fiction. The facts are here.

All it needs is time to slow, which it does, within a 2.637 second deviation and suddenly pretty much every conventional law of Physics becomes irrelevant. They are yet to actually locate the man responsible for this either; corpse is quite literally lost within a cycle of Hell. He is undoubtedly visible to the team in UV light, but there is no substance to the body. The scientists are now postulating that to retrieve him will require the creation of an identical interdimensional tear, because the one his corpse inhabits cannot successfully be breached.

Our only solid lead right now are these garbled audio transmissions: until we can locate Dr Forrester we’re really not sure what it is we are listening to in the first place.

The Journalist remains hidden from security cameras in a blind spot on the airport’s outer perimeter.

In that hanger is not a living organism, but a perfectly formed splinter world; parallel Earth. The gateway between both cannot continue to exist in its current form without a significant power input: an organization is haplessly fuelling just that, with no thought of consequence. The fear in the Journalist’s heart is palpable, but cannot be given in to. She knows what needs to be done, message sent through Throb, becoming increasingly unstable.

A very personal warning, from herself.

‘All futures are in danger. Close the loop, save them all. Destroy us.

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