Yorkshire, England 1173 A.D.
The squat, elderly woman and her slender daughter waited nervously in the foyer of the drafty castle. "We'll be fine, Agnes -- this Sir William fellow only wishes to hear your story. One can't blame him for that, you know."
The tall, willowy girl in her thirties smiled down upon her companion. "What happened to me seems normal in my eyes, but I know that others may see my circumstances as odd. I grow impatient to get back to King's Lynn, however, back to Richard."
"We came this far at the Duke's request, Agnes. We can wait a little longer." The women drew their shawls up about them, attempting to keep out the cold.
A door opened on the left of the wide hall, and a short man with a balding head began briskly walking towards them. "I am so pleased you accepted my invitation. I trust the trip wasn't too strenuous. I told my coachmen to be particularly attentive to your comfort."
The ladies curtsied, smiling as they looked up to face their host. "Your servants were most hospitable, I assure you," said Gwynn. "We are wearied, to be sure, and a little cold -- but none the worse for wear."
"Forgive me, ladies, for keeping you waiting so long. My servants have prepared a room by the fireplace in this first room -- if you'll follow me."
The wooden walls of the room they entered displayed engravings of shields and suits of armor and men on horseback. They quickly crossed the space to three chairs set in front of a stone fireplace, piled high with crackling wood. To the left of the chairs sat a desk and seat -- with parchment and quill at the ready.
After the three were seated, a younger man entered the room and sat at the desk, obviously by the Duke's demand. As the scribe settled in, the gentleman began the conversation in earnest. "As you probably are aware, I fancy myself a historian of our times, and am currently compiling facts for my newest book, which I'm considering calling Historia Rerum Anglicarum. I heard about your unusual meeting, and wanted to include it in my writings -- with your approval, of course."
"You are most kind," replied Agnes, placing her frail hands in her lap.
"If I may be direct, madam -- are you one of the pair of children who appeared some miles distant from the Abbey of Bury St. Edmunds, nearly twenty years ago?"
"I am that person," she answered quietly.
"I heard this story first from a man named Ralph who is the Abbot of a Cistercian monastery at Coggeshall, about 26 miles from Woolspitt. Please -- tell me the story, in your own words," said William, "and my scribe will take down your testimony."
Agnes took a deep breath before beginning. "When I was a child, my brother and I lived in a land where the sun was merely a bright smudge in sky -- a land that was always cloudy. We were out herding a small animal -- similar to what you call a sheep -- when I heard the sound of bells coming from a cavern. I wanted to ignore it, but my brother -- Bonje -- insisted upon finding the source. As we entered the cave we noticed a bright light which, as we stood before it, grew larger and larger until it enveloped us. My brother and I were not used to the brightness of that light, so we were blinded by it. And then we were here, in your world -- wandering about in the pits, confused."
"Did you attempt to go back into the caves?" asked William, leaning closer to the woman.
"Most certainly -- but the opening had closed -- so we began to cry together."
"Which was when we found them," Gwynn interjected. "That is -- my husband and me -- found them wandering about the foothills of Wolfpittes. There and then we took the children in as our own."
"Were there any abnormalities to their bodies? She looks as normal as you or I by now."
The elderly woman nodded rapidly. "Oh, yes, sir. The children's skin was a light-green color and they wouldn't eat, which is why we lost the boy -- Bonje, her brother, starved I'm sad to say. They tried to open the stalks of the beans set before them, and wept when there was nothing inside. Eventually Agnes began to eat some potatoes, and she was saved."
"Fascinating story," observed their host, warming his hands by the fire. "You're both welcome to spend the night here, if you'd like, and begin your travels in the morning."
"That would be most kind of you, sir. We are indeed famished and weary from our trip."
"Allow me to have my servant show you to your lodgings."
As the women left the great room, Gwynn noticed the historian coaching the scribe, who was frantically scribbling away on his papers.
1959 A. D. New Haven, Connecticut
"Water loving mammal -- five letters." The nanny chewed on the end of the pencil, trying to concentrate on her puzzle-book. "Second letter 'T'. 24 down -- needle opening." Her voice trailed off as she glanced over at Lana Claire, the four-year-old she was babysitting. The child had her back to the TV, and seemed to be studying the nanny's heart-shaped, brown face. "Did you enjoy our trip to the museum today?" she asked, laying her book of "EZ Crosswords" on the coffee table.
Lana smiled broadly, but said nothing, as usual. Although the child was five-years-old, Lana Claire had never uttered a word.
There was the slamming of the back door. "I'm home," shouted Cheryl Lambert, a sack of groceries hitting the table. "Supper smells good!"
The nanny went into the kitchen to help her employer put away the food.
"Lana Claire and I went to the Beinecke museum again today. She seems so happy there."
"What does she look at?" asked the mother, flipping off her low heeled shoes.
"She really likes this one old book there -- the small plaque in front says Voynich -- but it's opened to a center page, so I don't know if that's the title or the author." The nanny handed Cheryl a can of spaghetti sauce.
"Did she say anything?" asked the mom hopefully.
"Not a word, I'm afraid."
"She'll talk when she's ready, I guess," replied the mom, reluctantly. Cheryl then shouted in a sing-song tone: "Lana, honey, you need to wash your hands." The mom glanced through the door and was surprised to see her daughter drawing on Rachel's crossword puzzles. The girl saw her mother looking at her, stood up, and quickly headed into the bathroom.
The mother picked up the book and handed it to her nanny. "I'm sorry if she drew on your book..."
"No, no, look at this! She worked out the puzzle I had started and half of the next one as well!"
As the tiny girl reappeared, it was the women's turn to be totally silent, not knowing what to say.
The man in the white lab coat approached Cheryl with a broad smile. They both began to watch Lana as she joyously solved one puzzle after another. "She's amazing, really. We've had her working on crosswords since she took the WBIS. She seems to start with a clue in the middle, then works outward, as if she's just using how the words are connected, and the number of letters required, to solve the word puzzles."
"She's always been so quiet and withdrawn."
"Einstein didn't speak until he was four."
"Did the tests show anything?"
The doctor took Cheryl aside, leaving the delighted child to her puzzle books. "Are you familiar with the Wechsler-Bellevue tests at all?" Cheryl shook her head no. "Well, David Wechsler put out a series of tests in February of 1955 with the understanding that intelligence is the global capacity of a person to act purposefully, to think rationally, and to deal effectively with his environment. Lana does all that in spades, basically. According to the initial test result, your daughter may have a rare condition known as Deux Cerveaux -- literally 'two minds'."
"You mean like two personalities?"
"No, no -- much more than that. She has two completely different minds living inside one brain ?- both of them within the genius range on the Wechsler-Bellevue scale. Imagine two Einsteins in one skull. Fantastic! Has she shown any interest in books before?"
Cheryl thought for a moment. "There was a book at the museum at Yale -- Maybe Voyner...or Voy.."
"Voynich? The Voynich Manuscript?" He stepped over to a counter and picked up a pad of paper. He drew an image and took it over to the child who grabbed the drawing, quickly turning the page, as though looking for other drawings to follow. "Would you like to see the rest of this document, Lana?"
The child nodded vigorously, her eyes wide with excitement.
"I believe the Beinhecke has the book on microfilm. Perhaps we can show Lana how to use the machine, and we'll go from there."
Over the next five months, it would appear to Cheryl that she had lost her daughter, as she withdrew into the document on the screen, studying it for hours, only looking away from it long enough to eat and sleep.
Cheryl Lambert had arranged the seats in her front room facing one wall, as if a child were performing a simple play she had made up over the course of an afternoon. The guests who occupied those dozen seats, however, were anything but ordinary. The scientific world had come knocking on her door -- waiting eagerly to see what conclusions this wonder-kid would draw about the Voynich manuscript.
There was a definite hush in the room as the six-year-old girl took her place beside Dr. Haralovich in the front. "I have been asked in writing by Lana Claire to read to this assembly her assessment of the medieval document known as the Voynich Manuscript. The following are her words. I am acting solely as her reader."
Lana nodded to the researcher and he picked up a notebook in front of him. "I believe this book was written by one person who was hardwired as I am -- with two minds. That is why it has taken all these centuries for the document to be correctly translated. I first examined the Herbal portion of the manuscripts, in order to get an overall picture of the document. Some of these plants were indeed grown in Europe during the Middle Ages. However, the majority of these drawings were details of plants grown on this world certainly -- but not on this world's time-space: in a separate dimension."
There were shocked expressions throughout the room as the reader made time for the outburst before continuing with the presentation. "The Voynich Manuscript was written between 1403 and 1417, but the question has remained: how did the author see the spiral Andromeda Galaxy two centuries before the invention of the telescope? I believe Newbold was correct in his interpretation: 'In a concave mirror I saw a star in the form of a snail.'
"The author was actually, I believe, from a land where the normal is what you call Deux Cerveaux -- where everyone has two minds. This condition has the advantage of seeing all things from at least two perspectives -- which lessens conflict. In a world that had never known war when the author was transported here, their science was much further advanced than we were. It leaves the question: in this other world, what advancements have been made during the last 600 years!
"There are pages in this document which provide a description of how this earlier Deux Cerveaux travelled into this other world. The doorway is only open periodically and open only to we of a similar mental make-up, which is why I chose to give my farewell speech tonight. I will return, but I know not when." At this, the child began to fade before anyone could reach her, disappearing completely before just before the words, "I love you mama -- I'll see you soon," tumbled out of empty space.
Lana noticed a bright light before her and began walking towards it. Beyond it there was a dimness that frightened the girl a bit, with shadows of dark landscapes on the horizon. From out of the abyss came a dark figure, tall, bearded, walking slowly but steadily, who smiled broadly as he got closer to the tiny child. "Walk through the light, Lana," he shouted.
The young girl did as she was told, noting a slight ringing in her ears. Lana now stood before the man.
"Welcome," he said, bending down to see her face to face. The next sound Lana heard was a vibrating inside her head, almost a pleasant buzz. "Can you hear me, Lana?"
The girl gratefully thought back, "Yes I can."
The man took the girl by the hand and began to lead her from the bright light into a vague, shadowy landscape. "We have a lot to talk about, you and I. Do you know about electricity? Yeah, I did that."
"Spot on, Lana. You can call me 'sir'."
"Why is it so dim? -- is this death?" she asked as they walked.
"No, no -- this Earth, your new home, is still encapsulated by the canopy, a water shell that screens out the harmful rays of the Sun, so cells don't mutate. There is death, but many over here live a millennium instead of decades."
"Why did the other canopy collapse, Tesla?" asked Lana with an innocence only a child could have.
"Excellent question, Lana! We're going to have many intriguing discussions -- I can tell..."
2025 A.D. Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscripts collection, Yale University
The tour guide continued spouting her pre-approved spiel to the small group who followed her. They quickly walked up the steps and around the honey-combed walls of the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscripts collection's museum, going from one glass encased book to the next.
"In the late 19th century the rarer and more valuable books of the Library of Yale College were placed on special shelving at the Old Library (now Dwight Hall). These were moved to the Rare Book Room collection of Sterling Memorial Library when it opened in 1930. When the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library opened its doors on October 14, 1963, it had become the home of the volumes from the Sterling Memorial Library Rare Book Room, and three special collections--the Collection of American Literature, the Collection of Western Americana, and the Collection of German Literature. Shortly afterward, they were joined by the James Marshall and Marie-Louise Osborn Collection.
"The Beinecke Library became the repository for books in the Yale collection printed anywhere before 1601, books printed in Latin America before 1751, books printed in North America before 1821, newspapers and broadsides printed in the United States before 1851, European tracts and pamphlets printed before 1801, and Slavic, East European, Near and Middle Eastern books through the eighteenth century, as well as special books outside these categories."
She turned back towards the staircase leading downwards before saying, "Questions?" -- after which she quickly exited the display area, leading her flock back towards the downstairs.
Towards the far wall, a man, who seemed to be in his early thirties, pushed his dark bangs to the side, allowing them to fall over his dark-rimmed glasses. John Drew leaned forward to better view a small book in a glass case, one of several in a semi-circle around the edge of the carpeted floor. The rectangular document was less than a foot tall, its text and illustrations faded on vellum paper, and sealed inside a black-edged glass cube.
"Hello," he heard someone say suddenly. He looked up, scanning the room, but no one was near him. A tall, thin man in the corner smiled at him and he nodded back politely. John was surprised when he began to cross the room, but he waited, returning his attention to the manuscript before him.
"Si tratta di un documento straordinario, non e' vero?" the man said quietly.
John stuttered a little, shyly, not being bold enough to look the stranger straight on. "I am sorry, but my principle language is English. I'm a physicist by trade, not a linguist, unfortunately," he stammered.
"If you only speak one language well, you must be an American," he replied effortlessly in English, and they shared a discrete laugh together.
"You have me pegged, I'm afraid. My name is John -- John Drew."
"You may call me De Comte." He extended a leather-gloved hand and John shook it gently. "Is this your first time viewing the book?"
"No, no. I've been a fan for quite some time. I've seen it mostly online, of course."
"The Voynich manuscript, purchased by Rudolf II in 1552 from the son of John Francis Paggins, who was secretary to eight successive popes from 1415 to 1455. The complete document has never been translated -- except by one small girl, who then vanished into thin air, leaving no translation behind."
"Yes, in 1959, if we are to believe the impossible. I think I've been able to interpret some of the pages," whispered John, as if telling a secret, and allowing the other man into his confidence.
"Go on, please."
"Some of the biological drawings are actually machines -- at least that's my theory. Page 88 seems to be a microscope, and some of the illustrations might be single-celled organisms."
"Also, the text beside the astrological drawings seems to talk about the different shapes of the galaxies as seen through a telescope. So it was easy to decipher portions of the text from there."
"Easy? People and governments have been trying to translate this document for six centuries. Perhaps, mi amico, you have a gift."
Even the hair hanging over his glasses couldn't hide the red blush that filled his face. "I believe the 'recipe' section in the back is actually predictions of 302 events in the six centuries following its writing. That discovery helped me to decipher it as well -- to find names of the famous and infamous among its pages."
"You said only 302 -- do you believe there are twenty-two additional prophecies then, left unfilled."
"You've caught me once again -- I believe exactly this, and I plan to release my predictions and my findings shortly."
"Perhaps I know something which will interest you, then...for your book. Do you know that the manuscript was traded by the author for the woman he loved? It's true, it's true. Her uncle was unwilling to let his niece leave with Arschi Delmingo, so he gave her uncle this manuscript. The uncle believed he would be able to sell it for huge amounts of money -- but his greed cost him his left hand when it was untranslatable. Really, Arschi was never a very good illustrator -- so it's no wonder humanity has been so confused about it over all these centuries."
"I hadn't read that before -- about the author I mean. Did you find that online somewhere?"
"No, no. I counted the author as one of my best friends, so long ago."
John instinctually took a step backwards, away from the stranger -- certain the fellow was too odd to continue the conversation further. He noticed for the first time that the tall stranger still had his black winter coat pulled tightly around him, his hat nearly eclipsing his face.
"Sir, as it is difficult to speak because I have a sort of stammer, I must ask to withdraw from the conversation. Perhaps another time..."
The man who introduced himself as De Comte allowed one side of his mouth to lift into a grin. Is this better? he thought towards the young man. He was delighted to see he had been heard clearly by the bookish man, who now appeared a little weak in the knees.
John Drew had found the thought delivered whole into his mind, as if it were an email completely formed and thus sent.
The tall man thought again: Is this better? You can answer me, just try.
John Drew closed his eyes and was surprised at how easily he was able to answer mentally -- first seeing the answer in written form before his eyes and then shooting it through the front of his forehead to the man opposite him. Yes, I can hear you.
Excellent! Allow me to introduce myself properly. Count de Saint Germain at your service. He then removed his sunglasses to reveal his deeply blue eyes. His eye lids, however, had an odd green tint to them. I like to consider myself an ambassador of sorts -- sliding between multiverses when the opportunity arises.
Multiverses? John thought. Are you referring to the string theory?
The Count responded, Exactly. As a physicist you must be aware of the extreme probability of their existence mathematically.
John nodded, despite the fact that they were communicating telepathically. It's only a theory -- there hasn't been any solid evidence -- as of yet --
The Count smiled. Ah, but here I am, a traveler from a universe very similar to your own. It is not a coincidence that you are here as well, John Drew. Long ago I inserted a chip into the binding that acts as a homing device for those with two minds -- those with the condition called Deux Cerveaux, which is the norm on my Earth. Of course, during the next few days many portals will open over the surface of our worlds, which is why we have sentries guarding the openings -- to be sure those who don't fit, stay on their own side, in this universe. The ancient traveler took out what might have been a pocket watch, opened it, looked at it, and closed it again.
May I? asked John, extending his hand. I'd love to see an artifact from another universe.
Certainly, the Count replied. He passed the small instrument to John without hesitation.
When John opened it, a lovely hologram of a middle-aged woman appeared. She wore a metallic, form-fitting blouse and skirt. She is charming, John thought. Your wife?
No, my mother, the Count thought, smiling sadly. She was almost 400 years old when that image was recorded seven centuries ago. She's gone now, but missed.
The image started changing and it became a ruined city, wind-swept with dirt being blown around, almost obliterating the picture. Is that your home, sir? John asked.
No -- that is this city, in the future, within a hundred years, the Count answered. As you know, within the space-time continuum are ripples, due to the structure of the original big bang, and when those ripples line up, it is possible to see from the top of one to the summit of the next, ergo to view the future. Some creatures do this automatically; others of us need help from gadgets like this one.
But New Haven is a vibrant city, John protested. Just look around you.
Count St de Germain did exactly that as if committing the scene to memory -- as he was not only an ambassador but a historian as well. Global warming, still only a nuisance at this time, will result in a significant, enduring drought covering most of the traditional 'breadbasket' areas, he explained. Millions will starve. At the same time, rising sea levels will inundate low-lying islands and coastal areas. Those who are left will move elsewhere -- to lands currently rain-soaked but above the ever-rising tides. Then the remaining ones will move again, and again...
John Drew handed the man back his small device, noticing a bit of powder had rubbed off De Comte's fingertips, revealing a greenish tint to them.
Count de St. Germain looked at his companion straight in the eye and whispered insistently, "We only have a few hours before I'll need your answer." His words, spoken aloud, 'sounded' odd now that John had grown used to 'hearing' De Compte's mental voice.
"Answer about what?" John whispered back.
"Why, whether or not you'll be crossing back over with me, of course. Is there someplace we could go to have some tea, while we talk further?"
"Starbucks?" asked John, leading the tall man across the floor, down the steps and into the cloudy afternoon.
The portal was within one-half mile of the manuscript of course, and as the sound of bells grew louder in John Drew's ears the world around him seemed to lose significance. What appeared to be a cave entrance opened before the two men, with a bright light between them and a dim world just beyond that. Unexpectedly a figure of a woman stepped out from the light of the portal.
"Lana Claire," De Comte gushed in disbelief, "I had no idea you were coming over. You know what the future holds for this Earth during the coming cycle."
"I do indeed. I don't know if I can change any part of that grim future, but I know I need to try. Perhaps there is some small comfort I can offer." The pale woman with amazing green eyes looked upon John. "Perhaps in another sixty years we shall meet again."
"I will look forward to it," answered the studious man, obviously overtaken with her beauty and sense of presence.
"I know you'll find your mother doing well, Lana Claire, as I checked on her yesterday at your request," said De Comte.
"Thank you, my dear Cagliostro. You are always the thoughtful gentleman, to be certain. Your mother would be proud."
The young woman and the new recruit looked at each other a second time. "Soon," she spoke. "Soon."
"De Comte!" shouted a voice behind the portal. "The doorway is closing!"
"We must hurry on, John. I can see Tesla and Arschi waiting for us -- just there, beside the wellspring."
As Lana Claire walked into a world filled with museums and coffeehouses, John stepped into a second Earth and was welcomed by new friends that he could only have dreamed of just a few hours before.
A desert of North America 2135 AD
As the portal opened, Count de Saint Germain stepped forward, allowing his boots to sink deeply into the dust that suffocated what had once been a thriving city. He walked through the debris of buildings and rotting cars and machines, steadily progressing towards his goal. He pulled his hat closely over his head, making certain the fierceness of the afternoon Sun did not touch his skin. The large reddish-brown, stone building, once called 'The Castle', lay dead ahead, and he could clearly see the sign over the entrance. "Smithsonian Institute," he whispered to no one.
Just inside the massive doorway lay the remnants of a pile of books that had been thrown into a trash heap twice as tall as the Count himself. He held out his hand. "Come forth," he commanded and instantly a corner of the heap began to move, as though something was breaking its way through. After a few moments a luminous chip shot into the air, hovering over the pile, before flying into the man's grasp. Saint Germain put the glowing chip into his pocket, looked around at the destruction and began to walk back towards the passageway between worlds.
1416 AD Genoa Italy
The countryside a few miles outside the city was as lush and green as Arschi Delmingo had ever remembered. He waited on horseback for his lover to arrive and meet him in this shaded alcove. Even now he wondered if he had time to draw a few more of the plants around him, and he took out his notebook. After all, this would be the last time he would be able to record the flora of this strange land, at least for another cycle and perhaps forever. He had purchased the vellum paper two months earlier, and he flipped through the pictures and hand-written text about plants and places and machines, both from his own world and this other world as well.
Suddenly, behind him, he heard two horses rush into the cleared area.
"I will go with him," shouted the woman, dismounting quickly and rushing into the arms of Arschi.
"How dare you come into my land and steal my niece from me?" Bibiani shouted at Arschi.
"I have not stolen her, but she has stolen my heart. We will be leaving together."
"At least offer me some profit for all those years I spent feeding her after my brother's death."
"You have my horse and all the gold within its saddles."
The aristocrat glanced at the horse, knowing well there was a fortune inside those bags. More out of a need for vengeance than necessity, he looked Arschi over carefully. "Give me that little book you're always writing in. Perhaps I can sell the pictures to some fool with no taste."
"No please, these are of no use to you."
"My niece's hand for your horse, your treasure, and your little book. Hand it to me now, or she stays here with me," he demanded.
Arschi complied with only a brief pang of regret. His life's work -- so far -- was a high price to pay for the woman he loved, but he would have paid more. He handed the book to the man on horseback.
Behind them the shrubbery began to transform, growing blurry and darkening. The baron grabbed the reins of the pair of horses, stuffed the book into his jacket, and galloped away. As the portal opened wider, Arschi Delmingo grabbed the hand of the woman he could not hope to leave without. "Are you ready my love -- for the adventure of a lifetime?"
"I am -- as long as we share that adventure together."
And hand-in-hand they walked through the doorway and into a world of discoveries unimagined by the medieval Earth they were leaving behind
© 2011-2012 Michele Dutcher
Michele Dutcher lives in a carriage house in the Victorian Section of Louisville KY. She has been writing Sci-fi for eight years, and has been published multiple times in webzines which include: Aphelion, Orion’s Arm, Quantum Muse and Bewildering Stories. She has a BS and 3 minors, having made college the best decade of her life. She lives with one very good Border Collie, one evil cat, and a rather depressed ghost named Tom.
P.S. – I don’t do LinkedIn, and really I don’t do a lot of Facebook either, I’m in my 60s. However, I’d be happy to ‘friend’ you if you’d like to be a Facebook friend. My email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks again! Michele Dutcher