“When will he return?” Atticus asked, speaking much more quickly than usual. His question was addressed to the scientists up on the platform, but they only stared at him momentarily before Miranda provided an answer.
“The tank must be readied for reception. The standard is set for one hour, although we can make that time shorter if we…”
“So he will return in one hour?” Atticus never interrupted, and Miranda was momentarily stunned by his uncharacteristic rudeness.
The next hour was spent answering Atticus’ questions, some of which seemed to come out of nowhere, but filled in key points they had been studying for years.
When it was time, Atticus stationed himself as close to the chamber as he dared. He paced in a tiny one meter space, performing a kind of nervous shuffle as he waited for the chrononaut to return.
The level of transitional fluid began to rise; something was forming in the core. Atticus was struck by the same music he’d heard in his dream, yet no-one else seemed to hear it. With a sploosh, the man’s form appeared in the tank. He thrashed just a moment before shooting to the surface and beginning to climb out.
Atticus took a good look, and a flood of other memories from the past twelve hours invaded his senses. Calling them senses seemed wrong somehow. They didn’t make sense. Seeing the distinct muscles along the chrononaut’s spine reminded him of how much he disliked the new way the cafeteria was making their French Toast. The veins standing out on his arms were the touch of spiderwebs. And the tattoos…
He recognized the tattoos, but whatever so-called sense they were supposedly attached or related to seemed to be a sense he did not know how to use.
Humans have five senses. But could there be more? Humans who were hooked up to a belt that sent subtle electronic impulses related to their relative orientation to magnetic north developed the ability to orient themselves in a similar way to migrating birds. They claimed they didn’t feel or see the cues, it just seemed like some other sense. Were those senses something that humans had, but didn’t use? Or did humans possess the ability to develop new senses?
Kennealy paused at the top of the ladder as the transitional fluid sloughed off his skin. His head was turned to one side, as if listening for something he couldn’t quite hear. Atticus drew in a sharp gasp of air, and the chrononaut turned to face him. A huge grin lit his face, and he called out “You are a platform!”
Baffled, Atticus watched as Kennealy, three meters above him, took a step towards him as if to shake hands, but his forward movement included too much lateral momentum and he toppled over sideways. Fortunately there were several strong researchers ready for that exact occurrence, and they eased him away from the platform and through a door.
Now Atticus laughed. He was remembering more and more from the last twelve hours, small instances of synchronicity that had seemed like nothing in the moment, but suddenly made sense. At least, he hoped they could make sense if he could just take time to talk to the man, to view the data, to do a few more tests…
His old bones protested but his heart was buoyant as he quickly scaled the ladder to the upper level. The two men laughed again as they set eyes on each other. The young chrononaut was sitting on the edge of a med bed, doctors fluttering around him like butterflies. “It’s the platform!”
“Platform?” Atticus leaned in, wanting to get as close as he could, yet respectful of the needs of the researchers in whose lab he was a visitor.
“Platform. Yes…” he tried to gesture, and the young technician placing probes on his arm paused a moment to let him. “The thing we dive off of. The place we use as a base. The framework on which all applications work.” He lowered his voice, as if telling a secret. “I’m an application.”
Atticus and Kennealy shot questions at each other, commiserating over the overwhelming sense of déjà vu they shared. Miranda recorded it all, trying to make sense of what they were saying to each other. But the two men kept doing things like glancing at a researcher’s wedding ring and proclaiming “The bacon!” in unison.
It was hours before Miranda finally got Atticus to calm down enough to process and share some of the information. They left the chrononaut to his doctor-ordered bed-rest and found Dr. Knapp in his wife’s lab, helping her check on the animals before handing their care over to her lab tech for the night.
Atticus watched the baby sloth yawn, and could not resist the urge to do so himself. It was long past time to go home. If it hadn’t been for Miranda’s urging, he would have completely forgotten to call his wife and tell her he was going to be late.
“We knew we would uncover new mysteries in this research, but we had no idea…”
“…it’s like trying to figure out how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and discovering you have no idea how to make bread. Like you don’t even know what wheat is.” Miranda and Atticus had been interrupting each other all afternoon.
“So my hunch was right?” Dr. Knapp asked, holding the baby sloth while his wife, the other Dr. Knapp, said goodnight to her furry subjects.
It was Miranda, not Atticus who brought the conversation to a standstill with one seemingly out of context word.
I wrote the first chapter of Synaesthesia as a stand-alone, but I liked it, and decided to continue it. Besides, it gives me an excuse to use more pictures of John Quinlan! I know this one sort-of cliffhangs, but the next chapter will be called Ruby and you will get to see another model friend of mine, Riva Gijanto-Burris. (You’ll also see her on The Eyes Have It, which is not related to Synaesthesia.)
One last thing… I wrote most of this chapter during a #1k1hr with Tiffany Reisz Monday night, and she was hashtagging everything #BabySloth. So, of course, I had to figure out how to include one in this story lol!
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