Serenade in violet

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

A physics teacher from Warsaw is approached by two unfamiliar men asking him to go to Cracow. His further voyages also include Swiss and French Alps. All-expenses paid luxury vacation, but expected price seems too high.

Serenade in violet

by Jan Supronowicz

© Jan Supronowicz 2021

 All Rights Reserved

 


Mr. Stefan Karnicki[1], a Warsaw high school physics teacher, had about 8 years left till the retirement age. As a confirmed bachelor, he lived his life quietly and systematically. His material aspirations were rather modest with teacher’s salary being barely sufficient to make the ends meet. The luxury of 2-month paid vacation compensated to some extent the mediocre income. Still, he was usually able to spend it just in the country, staying with his distant cousins, berry- and mushroom-picking, fishing in the nearby creek, as well as sometimes helping with the farm work. The only other indulgence he allowed himself once a month during the school year, was a visit to one of the few upscale – in his view – Warsaw restaurants, and his favorite was wiener schnitzel with fresh butter and a lemon wedge. On such a day, he would take a stroll from his apartment building to the eatery and return home on foot, too, watching mostly well-dressed people of the Polish capital. Call it mundane existence, but he did not feel unhappy.

 

One warm April afternoon, our hero was leaving the restaurant and planning on, as usual, walking back home. But this time, things were to turn out a little different. Two men dressed in dark business suits approached him and asked very politely:

  • Professor Karnicki?
  • Yes?!
  • Professor, we need to talk to you urgently… oh, please do not be alarmed, we mean you no harm.
  • Well, all right, gentlemen, what is it all about? Perhaps one of my students complained about my teaching methods being too strict?
  • Not at all, our reasons have nothing to do with your job.
  • OK, then?
  • You see, professor, you may not realize it; in fact, we believe you don’t – began a longer discourse one of the men - but you were found to be a very special, unique person. On a universe scale, I may add.
  • Are you putting me on? What can be so special about late middle-age high school teacher?
  • We will explain it in due time. For now, we are about to make you an important proposition. Your concurrence is fully voluntary; however, we beseech you to say ‘yes’.

  The professor, somewhat intrigued, asked for a moment to collect his thoughts, and then said:

  • Very well, I do not see any problem with at least hearing that proposition.
  • All right then, to begin with, we would like you to take the afternoon express train to Cracow.
  • Today???
  • Yes, today!
  • But, my clothes, luggage…
  • Do not worry. In Cracow, you will be placed for 1 night in a very good hotel, and you will find there all you need, including money. We will also see to it that everything in your apartment here in Warsaw, stays in order.
  • And then?
  • The next morning, we will drive you to Zakopane and from there you will take a ride on the cable car to Mount Kasprowy (Kasprowy Wierch). There you will learn what next.
  • Aah, Zakopane. Haven’t been there for ages.
  • So, what’s your answer?

  The professor kept quiet for a while and then replied:

  • Well, gentlemen, I do not know exactly who you are and what entity you represent. But I must say that I believe that, first, you do not have any foul intentions towards me and second, such adventure would bring a tremendous variety to my everyday life. I agree.

  One of the men handed Mr. Karnicki a first-class ticket to Cracow, adding: “the train leaves in 1 hour and 15 minutes. Don’t be late. Upon arrival, take a taxi to the White Eagle hotel. A suite is prepared for your arrival. We know that you just finished your dinner, but please feel free to avail yourself on the train of all the conveniences of the dining car, if you so desire.”

  At around 8 pm, the Warsaw-Cracow express slowly pulled into the Kraków G?ówny train station and came to full stop with the screech of brakes. The professor got to the taxi stand and opened the door of the first available cab. “Mr. Karnicki to the White Eagle” said the cabbie without even the passenger uttering one word.

  • Yes, indeed, you’re very well organized.
  • We’ve been expecting you!
  • And who is “we”, may I ask?
  • I am sorry, professor, I am not at liberty to answer that.
  • Let’s go, then.

The teacher found the 4-star, stylish hotel quite impressive upon arrival. In his suite, there were two suitcases filled with clothes and shoes, all new and perfectly fitting his figure. The butler asked if he would care for a drink before retiring. And why not – I’d like kir royal, was the response. The guest turned off lights and laid himself on the big bed, contemplating just what all those events of the last few hours could possibly mean…

  In the morning, he was awaken by a phone ring and invited for breakfast. After that, a uniformed chauffer led him to an elegant Citroën DS-21 sedan in which they drove off towards Zakopane.

  “Hmmm, this is getting more and more mysterious,” thought the professor. “I wonder who can afford even the luxuries I was treated to so far. And who knows what comes next.” But he did not have too much time for thinking and the driver did not seem to be interested in any conversation.

  A fast car can cover the Cracow-Zakopane route in less than 90 minutes, and the Citroën was already on its way to Ku?nice, where the lower terminal of the Kasprowy teleferic, is located, 4 km south-east of downtown Zakopane. Karnicki was ushered through a special entrance for VIPs, bypassing the usual long line. And, after about 20 minutes ride including changing cars in the mid-station of My?lenickie Turnie, there he was, at the upper station at precisely 1959 meters above the sea level. The time was 12:30 pm.

  The professor stepped out to an open terrace affording magnificent view of the Polish High Tatra Mountains to the south-east, and the Podhale region to the north. For several minutes it seemed like nobody was interested in his presence. “Well,” he thought to himself, “if nothing else, I lived through several hours of luxury for free”. But there was plenty of “else”…

  “Professor Karnicki?” These words were spoken behind his back in a female voice and, when he turned around, he saw a very attractive woman in the type of Raquel Welch. ”Yes, indeed,” he replied. “So nice to meet you, whoever you are. Perhaps you’ll be able to explain to me what is the meaning of all that and what is expected of me. I think that I have gone far enough along your wishes to deserve some straight explanation.”

  • Let’s have a lunch in the cafeteria and we’ll talk.

After ordering their food, the lady began her talk. “You see, professor, the reasons we brought you here are very profound. Their importance for the whole universe cannot be overestimated. You, as a physicist, can perhaps appreciate even more the seriousness of the situation. We require of you that you stay on Mount Kasprowy overnight and, after sunset, we will be meeting some… well… visitors…”

  • OK, even if I go along with the idea that some extraordinary meeting is going to take place here at Kasprowy, meeting that may determine the fate of the universe, I still don’t understand, why me? Don’t you have some infinitely more qualified experts to manage that stuff? A physics teacher with 31 years of practice does not exactly work “on the frontier”. In plain language – what do I know?
  • My dear sir, it is not what you know, but what you are, that matters here. Even though you were not aware of that, our, well, organization, has been gently invigilating you for quite some time… no evil intentions, mind you. It turns out that your organism possesses some very unique properties that we and our “friends” need very badly right now. You are exactly the person we’ve been looking for. If things work out, ours will be the first alliance between the Earth and the… well, you can only guess, who. This is like symbiosis of sorts. If they do not – I’d rather not even think about it.
  • And why here? Why Kasprowy Wierch?
  • Well, we thought since you are Polish, the meeting should take place in Polish territory, but not easily accessible to everybody…
  • Last question: can you trust “them”? What if “they” have some hidden, malevolent agenda?
  • Actually, I myself do not know exactly who or what it is you will be meeting. They may be some beings from outer space, or maybe even from another dimension. But whoever “they” are, for some unknown reason they are particularly keen on you! And they insisted that if you do participate in this endeavor, it must be fully voluntary on your part.
  • All right… I must say that all that you are saying sounds to me a little far-fetched, but I do not see in it any danger to me. So what do I do until the evening?
  • You may rest in a hotel room that this station has. It has been reserved for you. We’ll see each other at 7, ok?

  Karnicki had then a few hours to collect his thoughts. Wow, this is something else; can it be happening for real? But, on the other hand, he saw the whole situation as a welcome change; break so to speak, in his rather dull life. Let’s go along with it! We’ll see what happens. I can certainly feel an air of something extraordinary.

  As said, the upper terminal of the “Kasprowy” cable car has a few modest guest rooms and one of them was made available to the professor. He freshened up and by late afternoon, dressed in some new, finely tailored clothes that were presented to him back in Cracow.

At 6:55, “Raquel Welch” knocked on his door.

  • Ready, professor?
  • Yes.
  • Let’s go. We are expected to present ourselves at “Sucha Pass” (Sucha Prze??cz). It’s only about 150 meters from here.

  Mount Kasprowy, as popular as it may be with tourists, becomes considerably less crowded by the evening. The view towards the west still comprised some thin ribbons of bright skies in colors of setting sun; from the east, the navy blue hues of night were approaching. Professor and his lady escort got to “Sucha” in no time. As soon as they stopped, they were surrounded by a very gentle mist in a beautiful violet. Karnicki suddenly realized that he was completely alone there…

  • Greetings to you, Stefan… I am so glad you accepted the invitation.

  This line was conveyed to the professor without any sound and he couldn’t even tell in what earthly language. Nevertheless, he was absolutely certain he perceived it properly. It was almost like direct mind-to-mind communication.

  • Well, I am glad, too… sort of – he responded in similar way – although…
  • Yes?
  • There seems to be a rather profound asymmetry here; you seem to know perfectly well who I am, but I have no idea who or what I am having this conversation with.
  • I understand. Do not worry, you will know much more very shortly. You see, my dear Stefan, not to sound condescending, but I represent a civilization that is much more advanced than yours. We mastered time travel, wormholes between parallel quasi-universes, extracting energy from matter and so on. One might think we “’ve got it made” as your earthly expression goes. However, having said all that, I must concede that we are not omnipotent. Our advanced research teams have recently established beyond a doubt, that the cosmos, our cosmos, has become – for the lack of a better word – unstable. The consequences of that fact can be cataclysmic for all civilizations. It is conceivable, that all the cosmic structures can fall apart into something that would resemble a shapeless primordial “soup”. We and you, and everybody else, would cease to exist.
  • How do you mean “unstable”?
  • I will present you with an analogy. As a physicist, you heard, I am sure, of certain fundamental constants in physics: Planck’s constant h, speed of light c, the electron charge e and so on. But there is a silent assumption, that those constants are really constants with respect to time – perhaps they do change with time but so minutely that empirical observations are not able to detect those changes. For instance, the very existence of atoms hinges on a certain specific value of h. If it was only a few percent different, there could be no atoms. Similarly, certain constants governing the evolution of cosmos do indeed change and, according to our researches, they are slowly approaching values that might lead to the demise of our reality. Not that it will happen right now, but we believe that an action must be taken to reset those cosmic constants, so that everything in the universe might continue to evolve in a manner friendly, rather than detrimental, to its structure. And that’s where you come in… I hope you appreciate now why “commissioning” you to this project had to be carried out in a very secretive manner. We don’t want any unnecessary panic.
  • So, how would my modest self could help here?

 

The last question remained unanswered… the violet mist disappeared as unexpectedly as it appeared and our prof again felt alone. Ah, well, he thought, it seems like I have to return to my room and after a good night sleep, get down back to Zakopane, then take the 9:50 pm overnight train back to Warsaw. And see, what happens next, if anything. With the money they left me, I can even afford a sleeping compartment.

  Karnicki went to bed but of course it was not easy to fall asleep as he could not help thinking about the last 24 hours of his life. Suddenly he realized, that his information regarding the departure time of the Warsaw train, was something he had no previous knowledge of, just as if it was injected into his mind externally, but all the same he was absolutely certain of it. “Mhm, another bizarre little aberration”, he thought, but at that very moment a short flash of violet hit his eyes and, in the same manner as on the Sucha Pass, he perceived a short communication:

  • No worry, Stefan, from now on, some info that you may need, will be conveyed to you by similar means as it has happened just now. Simply trying to make things a bit easier for you, perhaps a bit bewildered from the recent experiences which, we’re sure can be somewhat disconcerting. The next few days – just take it easy and return to your teaching duties.
  • Well, let’s hope the universe will not come apart at seams during that time… just kidding, but maybe I shouldn’t?
  • Oh, no, no, we always appreciate a good sense of humor!

 

Two mornings later, Karnicki, straight from the Warsaw train station, rendered himself to his place of work and requested a brief meeting with the principal to justify his recent absence from work. It turned out that the school was already notified by the Ministry of Education about the special assignment for Mr. Karnicki, and no justification was necessary. The next few weeks passed without anything out of ordinary, but one night, just before mid-May, the teacher had a vivid dream. In it he was asked to go to Switzerland and meet with a renowned scientist who worked for CERN in Geneva. The scientist name was Marcel Michaud, and, in spite of his country of employment, he was said to be not Swiss but half-French and half-American.

A phone call woke him up. “Good morning, professor Karnicki, this is consular section of the Swiss embassy calling. Your application for a 5-week stay in our country has been approved; however, as we understand you are planning the trip during your vacation period, feel free to drop in the embassy anytime before June 20th to get your visa stamped.”

Well, my, are “they” admirably organized or what? I don’t remember filing for any visa, either to Switzerland or anywhere else for that matter. But given the recent events, the application most certainly must have been filed on my behalf. The only thing is, I do hope “they” don’t make me go there by plane. I hate flying.

On June 11th, Mr. Karnicki visited the Swiss embassy to pick up his visa. While there, he was also presented with the Warsaw-Lucerne railway ticket that involved an overnight stopover in Vienna and then a train change in Zurich. “>>They<< must already know I wouldn’t go for a plane flight… eh, nothing surprises me anymore.” The next day, he received in the mail a confirmation reservation for a magnificent hotel in Lucerne called Château Helvetia, with stay beginning on June 23rd, situated close to the shore of the famous Vierwaldstättersee, or Lake of Lucerne as it is known in English.  An attached note said “Enjoy yourself in the city for a few days and in due time you will be contacted by appropriate individual. An interpreter fluent in Polish, English, French and German, will be at hand.”

Upon check-in into Helvetia, another piece of information along with an envelope awaited him: “All expenses within the hotel, including meals, are covered; however, please find enclosed in the attached envelope an additional sum of 5,000 Swiss francs, should you fancy any activity on the town.” “Am I in heaven, or what?” was the professor’s thought… “If not, then at least it can be said that the organization I am dealing with, does not know the meaning of the word >>bureaucracy<<.”

Few days later, during which Mr. Karnicki was making the best of his stay in Lucerne, a phone rang in his suite:

- Good morning sir, this is the front desk calling; there are a couple of visitors to see you. Should I send them in?

- Yes, please do!

 

In a few moments, there was a knock on the door. Karnicki opened the entrance and saw two gentlemen. One of them spoke in Polish: “Dzie? dobry, panie profesorze” (Good day, professor, sir).

  • Oh, it’s OK to speak English, mine is a bit rusty but understandable, I hope…
  • Very well then, I am just an interpreter, Carl Schneider; the man you are really expected to have conversation with, is Dr Michaud here. His French and English are impeccable, German also rather good, but very little Polish I am afraid…
  • Delighted to make your acquaintance, professor. I understand you teach physics in one of the schools á Varsovie?
  • That I do, indeed. Job not nearly as illustrious as yours, I am sure…
  • Oh, you’d be surprised how mundane scientific work can sometime get. Besides, it is my vague assumption, your knowledge of the issue we are about to discuss, is much broader than mine.
  • That may be, indeed.
  • You see, few days ago I was instructed by my superiors (yes, even I have those) to meet you here in Lucerne and hear you out on some supposedly extraordinary events that you have recently been exposed to. Well, I am “all ears” so to speak. Let’s keep Mr. Schneider present, too, in case we need precise formulation of our statements.
  • Dr Michaud, please be prepared to hear some rather bizarre stories. First of all, let me tell you, that you very existence and field of expertise was revealed to me in a dream…
  • Well, that in itself does not scare me – chuckled the scientist – what else, though? I am sure you’re not here just to discuss your dreams with me!

Here, Karnicki began the narration, starting from that memorable afternoon in April when he was offered a trip to Cracow, with a particular emphasis on what happened at Sucha Pass, and ending with the moment few minutes ago when he met Michaud. The doctor listened quietly, without interruption, and, when Karnicki finished, spoke:

  • Hmm, most interesting tale, and involving some physics, too. I certainly do not doubt that you firmly believe those things happened to you in earnest. Please don’t take it in wrong spirit, but I’d like to consider all possibilities.
  • But of course. I am open to any reasonable interpretation of this whole uncanny predicament, including hallucinations. Sometimes I myself cannot believe it is really happening.
  • Well, let’s stick to physics first, though. Two points stand out in your narrative. One is that suggestion by that violet “entity” (for lack of the better word) that the constants of physics are not really constant, but very slowly evolving variables. That idea was entertained by some prominent physicists of the past, especially after it has been established beyond the reasonable doubt that the universe has not always existed as a static structure, but rather was born in a violent event that most call “The Big Bang”, and is evolving dynamically. Perhaps, they said, h, c, e and so on, are slow-varying functions of the universe age? As modern quantitative physics is not much older than about 300 years, their possible variation with time might be too minute to measure over that span of time. Of course, at this time such ideas are just speculations; nobody so far has produced evidence that those constants are anything but…  The second point is the corruption, or deterioration, of the very fabrics of space. Such idea is also not so new, although usually it has been associated with some external factor inducing something of the sort. For instance, not that long ago, when at CERN they were trying out a new, very powerful atom collider, some experts have voiced their concern that very intense electromagnetic fields resulting from such interactions could actually give rise to some sort of tearing apart the space-time, after which there would be no telling what’s going to happen next. In actuality nothing of the sort did happen, but if the energies involved were, say, 50% larger, who knows what would transpire? Nobody for sure. Currently known equations of physics may not adequately predict it. And another example, from a bit less recent past. In 1945, Oppenheimer & Co. tested the atom bomb in the New Mexico desert. Some of his associates were worried that the powerful explosion might ignite the atmosphere and propagate as a devastation wave, around the globe. Again, nothing of the sort did happen, but the idea of a doomsday machine popped out there already. Although, one more time, I must stress, nobody ever has so far observed anything similar in reality.
  • Dr Michaud, thank you very much for the most educational lecture, even if some of it went well above my head. Nevertheless, I remember from my childhood and experience that may be slightly related to the ideas you presented. You see, back then, the everyday life in Poland was quite austere and even the smallest pieces of Western material culture were considered very exciting. For children, one of such pieces was American chewing gum; its refreshing, minty flavor had an air of something almost otherworldly, or at least coming from the better world, about it. The kids were going nuts to get some and once they did, they would chew it for as long as possible, including the somewhat gross strategy of leaving the chewed piece overnight in a small cup of water and returning to it in the morning! Sounds yucky now, but in those times… I myself remember that once, on a third day of chewing, my piece, in the matter of a second or so, from elastic and minty suddenly become mushy and foul-tasting, forcing me to spit it out immediately. From then on, I never chewed the same mouthful of gum for more than a couple of hours. Talk about deterioration of good substance into something very bad…
  • Quite an apt if unexpected analogy. But let’s take a break from these heavy discussions. I propose a dinner at 6:30 and after that we’ll talk some more.
  • Agreed.

“Hmmm, this fellow certainly knows his physics”, thought Karnicki, “but I doubt it that even he understands what the violet visitor on Kasprowy meant by >>resetting the cosmic constants<< and how to do it. At any rate, I do believe that my somehow arranged meeting with him has some deeper purpose. Time and our further conversations should tell.” He decided to take a relaxing bath in the magnificent tub of his luxurious marble-clad bathroom. Soaking in warm water usually inspired him to some breakneck, otherwise unattainable ideas. “Wow, resetting the constants and me being the only intelligent being in the Universe capable of doing it…What the heck does it really imply???”

At 6:30 that afternoon the scientist, the teacher and the interpreter convened again in the marvelously appointed dining room of the “Helvetia” and enjoyed several refined dishes of the Swiss cuisine as well as some potent potables. The professor, however, began, for the first time, having an uneasy feeling of slight apprehension: “such luxury… who is really picking up the tab for it? As the old adage proclaims – nothing is free in this world. I am sure that goes for the universe; too… will there be a price of some sort to pay for all that later?”

After coffee and brandy were served, Dr Michaud seemed eager to continue his monologue that he had paused at noon in Karnicki’s suite.

  • Well, professor, assuming that we can take most of what was conveyed to you in the Tatras at face value, next two questions seem to follow logically. First – why it is you “they” wish to be the main player here. And second – how this supposed “fixing” of Universe constants is to be realized?

Karnicki could not help noting that those questions were very similar to the ones he was asking himself during his warm bath earlier that day, but he decided to keep this observation to himself.

  • It appears that the entity we are allegedly dealing with – carried on Michaud – on one hand wants you to know the answers to those questions, but on the other hand kind of insists that you arrive at them on your own. Ah, and, by the way, let’s drop that entire “doctor” and “professor” parlance. I am Marcel and you are Stefan, ok?
  • Will make things easier, for sure!
  • Actually, though, I am not really an expert on space-time structure; my specialty is elementary particles – well, as “elementary” as they are perceived to be nowadays. So I think for the time being, my dear Stefan, there is not much left for you to do but take a wait-and-see approach. I am sure you have been brought here to Luzern for a reason. Here is my business card, feel free to contact me anytime you think it’s necessary. In the meantime -adieu!

  Karnicki returned to his suite and began pondering what he should do next. As in the response to his thoughts, the phone rang.

  • Good afternoon, sir. I have the pleasure to invite you for the aerial gondola trip to Mount Titlis. The weather is expected to be fine. A car will be awaiting you in front of the hotel tomorrow morning. We would prefer you to leave not later than 9:45; hopefully that affords you enough time for breakfast.
  • How far is it from Luzern?
  • Not far, about 40 kilometers to the lower station of the gondola, called Engelberg Titlis. The upper station is actually situated at the Klein Titlis peak; if you want to get to Titlis proper, there’s a bit of a walk.
  • Sounds interesting, I will gladly avail myself of your offer. Any hints as to specific clothes or footwear?
  • A sweater and a windbreaker would make sense, as well as a pair of hiking shoes. And certainly some good quality sunglasses; the sun may be pretty strong up there at times. Why don’t you visit our tourist shop downstairs where, I am sure, you will find some attractive attire and other paraphernalia.

  The next morning, after a sumptuous breakfast, the professor stepped out of the hotel, and noticed a stunning, pearl turquoise Bentley limousine parked in front of the main entrance. An opulent, light orange leather interior fittingly complemented the dazzling exterior finish. A driver holding “MR. KARNICKI” sign, invited him inside the vehicle and off they drove. The 600-HP car effortlessly negotiated the alpine slopes and uphill serpentines, and by 10:30 they made it to the Engelberg station. The trip to Klein Titlis comprises three stages and thus two changes of the gondolas along the way. Stefan found the views afforded en route absolutely spectacular; he had to admit to himself that he had never in his life seen so magnificent landscapes before. Upon arrival at the summit, he stepped out into the open air. The weather was fantastic: sunny, crisp, dry, blue skies contrasting with plenty of white snow covering the neighboring peaks of the Uri Alps around. Having admired the panorama for a long while, he found himself a free deck chair in the main terrace, asked an attendant for a blanket and, almost unwillingly, dozed off.

Some time later he was gently awakened by a female hand. He could hardly believe his eyes when he opened them. It was the “Raquel Welch” lady from Kasprowy Wierch!

  “Hello, Mr. Karnicki, how are we doing today?” she asked in a rather melancholic voice.

  • Puzzled, as always when I am dealing with you and your collaborators. But even though you know my name, I don’t know yours… however, I must tell you that in my thoughts I call you Raquel Welch. Because of the resemblance.
  • Why, thank you, that’s quite flattering. As to my name – well, it’s not important to the issue at hand. Speaking of which, would you like to take a stroll towards the track leading to the main summit of Titlis?
  • Sure, why not? Maybe something else will clarify for me!

  “Raquel” and Stefan began to walk in the direction of the path. When they reached the suspension footbridge called Titlis Cliff Walk, the teacher suddenly realized that he was completely alone. Violet reflexes began to dance on the snow-coved surfaces below. And, as on Mount Kasprowy, he again experienced a mind-to-mind communication with apparently the same entity:

  • Greetings, Stefan. I do apologize for breaking our conversation on Kasprowy so abruptly but, as unpalatable as it might have been for you, it was necessary. We have some more information for you right now.

Karnicki decided not to be overly polite anymore with the being anymore, so somewhat abruptly he asked:

  • And what is that additional information?
  • Well, remember that we talked about deteriorating of the physical constants that determine the character of the Universe we live in. We can tell you that the direct reason for that deterioration is… your DNA.
  • What?!...
  • Oh, please, you mustn’t feel bad about it…
  • But…, but I did not do anything!
  • Nobody is saying you did. Nevertheless, this is a fact we need to deal with.
  • What do you mean “deal”? Do you intend to kill me? Or want me to die?
  • Absolutely not! This would be the last thing we’d want to happen.
  • Then what?
  • First, let me explain in a bit more detail the situation. The Universe has its own frequency of vacuum oscillation. Everybody’s DNA also has its own frequency. Those frequencies are extremely well defined.  The chances of their overlap are smaller than chances of two pieces of human hair randomly placed between your Earth and Sun, touching each other. But if they do overlap – well – bad things can happen. There would be some interaction between those two oscillations, which may knock the Universe “off its track” so to speak. You probably remember from your physics classes, the problem of forced harmonic oscillator and the phenomenon of resonance. Even though the analogy here would be oversimplification, the proximity of your DNA natural frequency to that of the Universe makes things dangerous.
  • How so? I am not a Nobel-prize caliber physicist, but I fail to understand how a relatively small structure like my humble body, can have an impact on the fate of the whole cosmos.
  • All I can tell you is that it has to do with what Earth physicists understand under the idea of Bell’s theorem stating that predictions of quantum mechanics may sometimes differ from those prompted by classical intuition, even when it comes to macroscopic objects.
  • All right, assuming that I believe in what I am being told; what do you predict is going to happen to us and the Universe?
  • Well, as long as you are alive – nothing noticeable without employing precise measuring instruments. But… our data indicates that the resonance between your DNA and the vacuum oscillation frequencies, is effectively shifting the values of c, the speed of light, h, the Planck constant, as well as values of some other amounts that are crucial for the universe to evolve as expected. Sadly, it also indicates that it begun around the time you were born… Our experts were able to pinpoint it starting from the Milky Way galaxy to your place of residence in Warsaw. As already stated, as long as you are alive, the situation is under control – so to speak. However, within several seconds of your clinical death – and that is assuming our body will be left alone for at least that amount of time – there will occur a random fluctuation in your DNA frequency akin to chaotic wobbling, and that may, and probably will…
  • Will what? – Karnicki could no longer put up with the suspense.
  • Will lead to the values of those “constants” migrating outside of the intervals where they guarantee the stability of the cosmos, which means that its whole structure will collapse to some kind of celestial ashes… what we already said during our contact on Kasprowy, a sort of “soup” of unspecified micro-objects whose properties and behavior we cannot possibly predict. All in all, it would be ugly and for an outside observer, would appear as a ”big bang in reverse” – a three-dimensional wave of irreparable destruction, propagating through space with tremendous speed, maybe even larger than currently known speed of light… The origin of that wave would be your body, Stefan.
  • But…but – the teacher stuttered – how come it’s only me? After all, there must be bazillions of organisms with DNA even on this Earth alone, not to mention the rest of the universe…
  • We do not really know why. It has never happened before, as far as we know. Perhaps it has to do with miniscule probability of such an effect. But as far as you are concerned, we are fully confident in our conclusions.
  • One more question: with all your technological prowess that was revealed to me on Mount Kasprowy, can’t your civilization do something about it?
  • Well (…)
  • Is there something I myself could do to ease this predicament?
  • We are so glad that you are asking that question…

  After that line, however, the dialog broke up. The violet flashes were gone, too. Karnicki realized, that, when he asked similar question in the Tatras, the effect was identical – end of communication with the entity! “Hmmm,” said he to himself, “it is beginning to appear obvious, that >>they<< want something from me. Just as Marcel Michaud predicted. But what?”

  Actually, at this point Karnicki began to feel very bad and low-spirited about the whole affair. “Am I getting into something that is way over my head?” The extraordinary drama of his situation hit him almost as hard as a speeding freight train. Here he was, on a suspension footbridge in the middle of Swiss Alps, a place in its own right accessible only to a relatively few wealthy tourists and, on a top of that, being told in a sort of mind-to-mind interaction that his body may be a potential contribution to the end of the world. Talk about preposterous… Almost mechanically, he turned around and started walking back towards the station of the gondola. During the ride down, he found it impossible to enjoy marvelous views and fine weather anymore; mental depression took over completely – what was left for him to do? “Is somebody trying to con me or do me in? But why? I wonder if even the car will still be there to take me back to my hotel.”

  A glimmer of violet light appeared again in front of his eyes. “Don’t worry, Stefan”, he “heard” the message conveyed to him in the usual way, “the auto is waiting for you where you left it, please bear with us for a little longer.”

  Sure enough, in Engelberg, the turquoise Bentley was parked in front of the lower terminal exit. The time was exactly 15:23. The chauffer invited the teacher inside with a gesture, but was not very talkative. Karnicki felt a bit better: “perhaps my mood up there was partly due to oxygen starvation?”  he thought. “After all, I have never been so high above the sea level in my life before.” As he travelled back to Lucerne, a thought popped up in his mind, concerning the notion of God and religion, and how those ideas could be related to his current experience. As most Poles he was raised Roman Catholic, but never very pious by nature. While a rebellious teenager, he once engaged in a fairly sharp quarrel with his parents on the issue of existence of deities and need for faith in one’s life. But then, few years later, he matured enough to realize that those were very sensitive topics to talk with people about, and tried to be more conciliatory, even if not fully agreeing sometimes with his interlocutors’ arguments. The first association with a reference from the Scriptures was the line: Beware of false prophets. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Was he dealing with a false prophet here? Surely there did not seem to be any bad fruit so far…

As they approached the city, Karnicki asked his driver to drop him off at the Bahnhofplatz, rather than in front of the hotel. “Certainly, sir” was the answer. “Have good rest of the day”.

After he stepped out of the car, the prof directed his steps towards the Jesuit church – a stately catholic temple on the bank of the Reuss river, featuring a beautiful, baroque interior. He sat in a bench and immersed himself in a prayer – sort of – although it was more of a deep meditation. What was he to do? Seek some help – police, psychiatrist, clergy? If he told the truth about his experiences, the cops would probably think that he is lying, a quack would deem him crazy and a priest – that he is possessed by some demon or something… As he kept considering his options, a priest actually stopped by his bench and spoke in French:

  • Bon après midi, monsieur. Est-ce que je peux vous aider?

  Karnicki looked at him blankly for a moment.

  • Eeh, aah… I… I am sorry, father, I do not understand much French.
  • What language are you comfortable in?
  • English to some extent, although first and foremost Polish. But I don’t suppose…
  • Polish? Excellent – interrupted him the priest – we happen to have here a resident missionary straight from Poland. I will have him speak to you right away. Just wait here.

  The churchman left, but in a few moments a second priest appeared and began a conversation in Polish:

  • God be with you my son. The pastor of this church asked me to talk to you. He has a feeling that you may be in some kind of distress?
  • Yes, I suppose you could say that.
  • Would you like to talk about it?
  • Well, maybe eventually, but not right now. I am still in the process of figuring things out myself. Anyway, what you would hear from me is extremely bizarre.
  • Would you like to confess your sins? We could do it here and now!
  • Not yet, perhaps later
  • As you wish, my son. Your very presence in this sanctuary attests to the fact that you are not under  a spell of anything evil. For now, accept my blessing and remember that God loves you and will not let you down. That I can promise you. If you feel any more need for spiritual support, do not hesitate to come back here.
  • Thank you very much for your time, father. It’s been comforting to talk to you.

  After those words, Karnicki left the church and walked down die Kapellbrücke towards his hotel. “Well” – he thought – “the priest says God loves me. That may be so, but priests always say stuff like that”.  When he entered his suite, he noticed meticulously calligraphed in green ink letter, lying on a shelf above the fireplace, and a blue capsule next to it. “Hmm, at least it is not violet”, he thought with a hint of sarcasm… The letter was in Polish:

Drogi Stefanie,

Zrozumia?ym jest, ?e mo?esz si? czu? wstrz??ni?ty tym, co us?ysza?e? na szczycie Titlisu. Na tyle, na ile tylko by?o to mo?liwe, starali?my si? z?agodzi? ten szok. Niestety, dla dobra przysz?o?ci musimy spróbowa? przej?? przez to razem. Podkre?lamy, ?e wspó?praca z nami musi by? z Twojej strony ca?kowicie dobrowolna. Na razie, prosimy, za?yj kapsu?k?, która le?y obok tego listu. Powinno Ci to pomóc odzyska? równowag?. W ci?gu najbli?szych kilkunastu dni staraj si? zwiedzi? nieco Szwajcarii: Genew?, Lozann?, Zurich, St. Moritz, Berno, Gstaad, Neuchâtel, Interlaken. Odnowimy kontakt z Tob? we w?a?ciwym czasie.

P.S. Gdyby? si? zastanawia?, czy mo?emy czyta? w Twoich my?lach: w zasadzie jeste?my w stanie to robi? ale nie robimy, aby uszanowa? Twoj? prywatno??. Z jednym ma?ym wyj?tkiem: kiedy pragniesz wiedzie? co? na temat dost?pno?ci ?rodka transportu, z którego w najbli?szym czasie zamierzasz skorzysta?, nasz system przekazuje Ci niejako telepatyczn? sugesti?.[2]

That was all… no signature, nor anything else. But he decided to take the pill. After all, if “they” wanted to kill him, “they” could have done it a hundred times already. Apparently, “they” were after something entirely different.

  15 minutes later he indeed began to feel much better and realized that he has worked a huge appetite for something good to eat. He went through a room service menu, and ordered bouillabaisse, grilled rack of lamb with a demi-carafe of claret, and birnenweggen mousse for dessert. After dinner, he recalled the conversation with Marcel Michaud and decided to get in touch with him again. They agreed to meet next day in the afternoon at the “Helvetia”.

  Having set the appointment, however, Karnicki experienced some hesitation regarding the scientist. Who was that Michaud character, anyway? He appeared in a dream first, and then, when they met face-to-face, said that his superior expressed the wish for them to get acquainted. All that seemed somewhat superficial to the teacher. The fellow certainly comes across as a knowledgeable physicist, but does he know something more about this whole affair with the violet entity? After all, there must have been some factor that compelled him to get involved. Karnicki now realized, that Marcel, ever so gently, tried to guide him to make some decisions and to influence his behavior. “Eh, well”, he thought “whatever the case might be, it’s beyond my control. On a positive side, my life has never been so interesting before!”  He took a hot bath, asked for  some cognac to be brought to his room and watched a soccer game on TV.

  The next day, dr Michaud showed up at the “Helvetia” as expected. They sat in a private coffee room and Karnicki related to him everything that he went through the day before. After finishing his story, the teacher asked:

  • So, what’s your take on it?
  • Hmmm, most extraordinary… a mixture of fantasy and science fiction. I’ll tell you what, though: I am inclined to believe you but, referring to your own contemplation in the church, you need to be careful when telling this story to other people so they do not dismiss you as simply crazy!
  • Well, you are really the only person in the world in whom I confided so far. But my question is not so much whether you believe me but, assuming that you do, whether you accept as plausible what I was told: that my body can be a cause for demise of the Universe?
  • Now, that’s a trillion dollars question… But yes, in principle I believe it’s not totally implausible. I do not wish to get into any more physical technicalities similar to those that I speculated on a few days ago; I do not know enough to be sure that I’d not be saying some hogwash. However, as Shakespeare wrote in one of his plays ”There are more things in heaven and Earth (…) than are dreamt of in your philosophy…”

Suddenly, looking straight in the scientist’s eyes, Karnicki asked bluntly, shooting ”from the hip”:

  • Do you believe in God, Marcel?
  • In God?... No, not really, I am more of an atheist. Although I do not think there are any 100% believers nor non-believers in this world. Even the staunchest atheists sometimes wonder about existence of deities while hardcore believers and candidates for saints have their moments of doubt. Do you?
  • Fifty-fifty, if I were to be honest with you. On some days, yes, on others, no. Sounds a bit schizophrenic, doesn’t it?
  • Not at all. I am pretty sure many people feel that way. My problem with faith is just that: why do we have to believe? Why can’t we KNOW that God exists (if He really does)? Nobody I spoke with in my life about it, was able to answer that question to my satisfaction. But then, perhaps I am looking at it too much through the eyes of a scientist. After all, scientific explanation of nature must not rely on the concept of God or anything supernatural…
  • Agreed to a large extent, but…
  • But what?
  • That’s for “everyday” science, so to speak. However, does it work for the very act of creation? I am not operating “at the frontier” of physics, far from it, but I know that even some luminaries of cosmology are of the opinion that we, humans, will never fully understand that act, simply because our brains are too weak as tools to comprehend it. As you have a problem with faith, I also have a problem. With Big Bang. If it is true that everything, the whole structure of this universe of ours, came from a point, as this theory declares, then what kind of point must it have been??? This is almost akin to the question that some theologians might deem impudent, yet I consider it a legitimate one: where did God come from? Logically, we are at a kind of dead end here, aren’t we? So, wondering about involvement of some supernatural power in creating the reality, becomes almost inescapable… That reflection came again to my mind especially when I heard from my violet “friend” about universe going into some “Big Bang in reverse” mode due to, or after, my death…
  • Yes, well, I never thought about it that way. But coming back down to Earth,  did you consider running that green-handwriting letter through some forensic? Fingerprints, analysis of paper, ink, etc.?
  • No, I did not. Mostly because I would have to tell about its origin; if I told the truth, people would think that I was crazy, and if I made up some story, I might get entangled in a web of lies and come across as even less trustworthy. I myself still at times cannot believe this is happening. Everything here flies in the face of common sense, but on the other hand, I am unable to dismiss it as hallucinations
  • All right, I’ll tell you what. I don’t think you are lying or you’re crazy. That entity you’re dealing with is handling you with kid gloves. They respect you and do not have any foul intentions towards you. Having said that, though, I must add that they need you and they are going to want something from you. Something even as big as life-changing. That’s what it seems to me.
  • So what do you think I do now?
  • As “they” suggested: wait and enjoy Switzerland. In your present situation you can easily afford it and, besides, you do not know everything yet. If you decide to include Geneva in your sightseeing itinerary, do not hesitate to call on me - you are invited. By the way – I enjoyed talking with you today very much.
  • Good-bye for now, then?
  • Yes! Au revoir!

...

  Well, let’s have a look at the map of Switzerland… Money is no object, right? How many people used to dream of such an opportunity?  Zürich, Davos, St. Moritz, Lugano, Locarno, then Zermatt, Gstaad, Lausanne, Geneva, Neuchâtel, Interlaken and back to Lucerne. Not the whole country, mind you, but pretty darn close… Now I do believe the violet ones really want something from me; things like that don’t come free. I probably should expect an offer I can’t refuse. And I probably won’t be able to refuse it for all practical purposes. Everything is settled already, only I don’t know what it is. Anyhow, I might as well make the most of it.

  Karnicki decided to travel by train. Given his hitherto experience, he was not surprised at all when in a few moments he received a phone call from the hotel reception:

  -  Good day, Mr. Karnicki, sir. This is Emilia from the front desk. I have the pleasure to inform you that you have been presented with a three-week unlimited ticket for travel by train, first class, within the country, courtesy of Schweizerische Bundesbahnen. You may pick it up at your convenience. We have some additional information for you as well.

  - I’ll be right down.

  The female receptionist handed him the ticket adding: the period of validity commences on the day of your first trip. You are obliged to present it to the train conductor. Moreover, the Swiss State Railways secured for you hotel rooms in major cities en route. Here is the list of the hotels with guaranteed reservation. By the way, we will hold the room for you here in the “Helvetia”, should you decide to cut your trip short.

- Thank you very much. But how much do I owe you for all that?

  - Everything has been taken care of, sir – replied the clerk politely yet rather indifferently.

  The teacher returned to his suite and prepared a few personal items to take along for his trip. Next

day, he rendered himself to the Luzern Hauptbanhof and set off for Swiss sceneries.

  He found all of the country very impressive, but three spots stole his heart: the first was Locarno, a

charming town on Lake Maggiore in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland, with its fairytale architecture and balmy Mediterranean-type weather. Second – terraced vineyards of the Lavaux region, rolling down towards the shores of Lac Leman, also known under its less romantic English name Lake of Geneva. And the third spot was Täsch, a small town a few kilometers north-east of Zermatt in Pennine Alps. What particularly amazed him there, was the view of the night sky. Täsch, situated nearly 1500 m above sea level, with its minimal light pollution for European standards, constitutes an excellent location for naked-eye astronomical observations. The color of the firmament, rather than usual dark navy blue, was jet black, making the sight of myriads of stars, brighter and dimmer, almost a textbook example of the study of stellar magnitude. Karnicki could not help but reflecting on whether somewhere up there exists any tangible evidence for the entity that has been dealing with him for the last couple of months or so. But this time around he did not feel that anybody or anything was trying to establish contact with him, telepathically or otherwise.

  All in all, he enjoyed immensely this opportunity to see the beautiful Swiss Alps, especially that “money was no object”, which rarely is the case. Not accustomed to luxury, he had an inexplicit yearning for better life that – almost for sure – existed somewhere but was unattainable to him so far. And now – he was not missing on it anymore! He availed himself of the excellent Swiss railway system, stayed in good hotels, ate in best restaurants, gave generous tips to cab drivers… Yet, at the bottom of his soul, a little splinter of sorts bothered him slightly; is it my “swan song”? Who is paying for all that? How will I be able to reimburse them and in what form? Will I be able to return to my everyday life, work, routines after all is said and done? I have a feeling a lot will change…Will it be for the better?

  With those thoughts, Karnicki returned from his objectively delightful voyage with somewhat heavy heart, to the Lucerne hotel. Over there, he found things pretty much to be business-as-usual: the housekeeping impeccable, the meals delicious and the staff complaisant. Yet, he felt that he was beginning to miss his ordinary, no-nonsense vacation: help with the harvest, mushroom picking in the forest, fishing… Eh - he thought - the trip was fantastic, on the other hand though… luxury is delicious in smaller doses, but too much of it can be, well, he was slowly grasping the sense of the French term blasé. At any rate, it started to appear that his further stay in the city served no purpose. He decided to wait three more days for something eventful to transpire, but if nothing does – to return to Warsaw. It was uncertain whether this whole experience was real, or due to a certain drug he was secretly given, or some kind of hypnotic trans, or spell, or something else yet.. Whatever the case might be, the violet entity has, after all, always insisted that his co-operation must be fully voluntary and never suggested any consequences should he choose not to cooperate. In fact, he was hoping “they” would never get back to him again.

  The next day was as uneventful as it can get in Switzerland. Karnicki did not intend to contact dr Michaud anymore as he instinctively felt that the scientist was not completely impartial in this whole affair. However, during the night sleep, he had a striking dream once more, like back in May in Warsaw: it was revealed to him that he is expected to head to Chamonix, a famous skiing resort in the Auvergne-Rhône region of the French Alps. The transportation would be arranged in a couple of days. He made a decision that yes, he will comply with it, but this is going to be the last time he does, no matter what.

  Even though powerful distraction was definitely taking the best of him, Karnicki made a commitment to take up on the Jesuit priest offer to hear out his confession before the planned departure to France. However, he did not mention anything concerning his apparent contact with the “supernatural”. That was partly due to fear that the confessor might doubt his sanity, but also since he did not believe he broke any commandment from the Decalogue; if anything, he was a rather passive side in that interaction so he did not perceived this concealment as anything sacrilegious thus rendering the sacrament invalid. The clergyman chastised him mildly for not having been to confession for such a long time but, on the other hand, commanded his change of heart in a forgiving way, which made the teacher feel a little like a prodigious son from the Gospel. Still, before giving absolution, the missionary commented to the confessing:

  • Son, my instincts are telling me that you have some anguish on your shoulders. Now, if you in your own conscience do not consider it anything sinful, you do not have to tell me about it. But do pray for God’s help, whatever your problem is.
  • Father – replied Karnicki somewhat evasively – I am going to Chamonix shortly. Do you know of any catholic parish over there?
  • As a matter of fact, I do. Parish of St. Bernard and associated with it catholic church of St. Michael. It’s in the center of town. Dominus noster Jesus Christus te absolvat; et ego auctoritate etc…- the priest pronounced the traditional Latin absolution formula – I would suggest you take the holy communion soon. The mass is at 7 o’clock this evening.
  • Very well, I intend to. Thank you very much, father.

  The teacher did indeed attend the evening service in the church and celebrated the Eucharist. Upon return to his hotel, he was handed a note by the receptionist. It said:

“Dear Stefan, please be ready for departure to France tomorrow at 11 o’clock before noon. The car will be waiting for you in front of the hotel main entrance.”

  The next morning, following breakfast and somewhat emotional good-bye to the hotel staff, Karnicki stepped out of the “Helvetia” and saw a majestic Mercedes 600 Pullman stretched limo finished in impeccable burgundy metallic with buttercream leather interior and polished walnut panels inside. Stefan knew enough about cars to realize that this excessively extravagant model was not being manufactured anymore, and yet the specimen in front of his eyes looked as if it has just rolled out of the assembly line in Sindelfingen.

  • This automobile must be for me to take my humble self to Chamonix – thought Karnicki.
  • But of course, my dear Stefan – he heard a voiceless response in his mind – take your place and avail yourself of the bar and the music center inside.
  • Good morning sir, – said the chauffer – I trust the car is to your satisfaction.
  • Why, yes, certainly, but isn’t is a bit too flashy? – asked the prof, settling in the back seat.
  • Oh, no, not really. There are quite a few wealthy people in this part of Europe, you know; nothing particularly unusual about it around here, then. This specific vehicle has an individually tuned engine for alpine driving. It should take us about 3½ hours to get to Chamonix. Enjoy the ride and the views.

  The last words of the driver sort-of signaled to Karnicki that no more questions are expected from him and none will be answered. But that suited the teacher just fine. Comfortably stretched in the limousine, he sipped Scotch whisky, listened to Strauss and Offenbach music, and admired the landscapes the car was passing by. They drove through numerous towns, largest of which was the capital city of Bern, then Fribourg, Montreux, after stroking the eastern tip of Lac Leman, Villeneuve and along the upper Rhône river valley trough Saint-Maurice to Martigny, a town resembling Zakopane a bit, thought Karnicki. From there, the route took them uphill, culminating at over 1500 meters above the sea level before arriving at Trient. The Mercedes performed admirably but the teacher pleaded with the driver a couple of times to stop at vista points so that he could get out of the car for a short while and feast his eyes even more on the alpine panoramas. A few kilometers past Trient they crossed the Swiss-French border and in the matter of minutes reached a tiny municipality of Vallorcine situated on a little stream called l’Eau Noire. After that they got into Argentière, a quaint, picturesque village in the Haute-Savoie department of the French Alps region. About 9 kilometers further down the road, there was the legendary Chamonix!

  The limo delivered Karnicki to an elegant 4½-star lodge called Chalet des Aiguilles, and left. The guest, however, was fully expected in the hotel, where  a cozy yet spacious suite was prepared for his arrival. The “Chalet” also boasted an excellent French restaurant that the chief receptionist suggested to the professor. As he was getting rather hungry after the ride, Stefan eagerly agreed to take advantage of the offer, provided he’d be given a little time to freshen up and change. The restaurant was situated in a large lounge with country-style, alpine décor, featuring bulky wooden tables, a huge fireplace as well as pieces of old-time mountain-climbing and skiing equipment on the walls. A few stuffed wild animals completed the furnishings. He dined on classical French fare, beginning with escargots à l'ail followed by soupe a l'oignon, coq au vin with a glass of burgundy, and then a piece of fromage de chèvre. After dinner, the maître d’ asked him to move to a smaller room, where, stretched on an opulent Chesterfield-style leather sofa, he could enjoy his coffee, a sweet dish of ile flottante and a shot of Armagnac. A waiter also offered a Cuban cigar, which Karnicki decided to accept not without some hesitation as he was almost a non-smoker. Aaah, the old-time elegance – was his thought – who would have ever imagined that I will experience it, especially under those circumstances. When the smoke was finished, the teacher returned to his quarters, stretched on comfortable bed and nolens volens began to ponder what next. Nothing else happened that evening. Yet the teacher felt in his bones that something will soon…

  The next day, he played a regular tourist, browsing around Chamonix and figuring out where to go and what to see before he possibly gets “commissioned” to the operation of saving the universe. What appeared particularly attractive was a trip to Mer de Glace including getting inside the Ice Cave of Montenvers. As a physics teacher, he found the visit to the glacier extremely interesting and educational. By the mid-afternoon, however, he was back in the lodge to take a bit of a break from sightseeing. As he entered the lobby, a receptionist called his name”

  • Bonjour, Monsieur Karnicki! Are you enjoying the visit to our town so far?
  • I am, indeed, very much so. Quite an extraordinary place by any standard.
  • Oh, that’s lovely, I am glad to hear it. What specifically have you seen today?
  • La Mer de Glace.
  • Yes, many tourist go to see that wonder. Unfortunately, the glacier is shrinking; who knows how many more years we have before it disappears…

  Karnicki smiled to himself for a brief moment: lady, if you only knew how much more trouble we may potentially be in…But he did not say anything and the mademoiselle continued:

  • …but, I would suggest you also go up to Aiguille du Midi.
  • And where is that exactly?
  • Well, it must be your first time in French Alps if you have not heard about it!
  • That it is, indeed. You see, we, Polish people usually cannot afford to travel to such exclusive destinations. Mine is a specific case.
  • Well, anyway, Aiguille du Midi is a mountain near our town, where you can get by a famous cable car; one of the highest places in Europe accessible in that way. You do not have fear of heights, I hope?
  • No, not that. However,  about three weeks ago I was up to 3300 meters above sea level in Switzerland and I wasn’t feeling very well for  a while. I thought that maybe it was oxygen starvation. But then again, what do I know? I am not a physician. Besides, there were some psychological reasons for my anxiety.
  • I’d suggest then, that you talk to a doctor, but by all means do not give up he trip to the Aiguille without a good reason. The experience is simply out of this world!
  • Nie z tego ?wiata… tak, ostatnio troch? tego do?wiadczam[3]” – murmured to himself in Polish Karnicki.
  • I beg your pardon?
  • Oh, no, nothing, I was talking to myself a little. You know, we physicists are sometimes considered a bit on a crazy side by general population.
  • Not in your case, I am sure. I think you are an exceptionally nice middle-age gentleman.
  • Well, thank you. It’s very kind of you. But going back to the cable car trip, yes, I think it’s an excellent idea to have a word with a person of medical profession.
  • Certainly. Once you have made up your mind, let us know and we’ll arrange the tickets. On some days,  reservations are necessary.

  Finding a physician in Chamonix is not a difficult task. After interviewing with one, Karnicki learned, that generally the symptoms of oxygen starvation or hypoxia as it is more professionally known, are much more physical than what he had experienced on Mount Titlis. While it is always prudent to exercise common sense, the doctor declared, one should not be advised against a reasonable physical and touristic activity unless significant circumstances recommend otherwise. To relieve professor’s concern even more, the medic informed him, that in both upper and intermediate stations of the téléphérique de l'aiguille du Midi there are special stands meant to provide oxygen for people who feel dizzy or lightheaded.

  In view of the above, Karnicki did not hesitate any more but decided to take the trip. Besides, he had a hunch that his peculiar friends will try to get in touch with him again, and unveil the rest of their “story”. And although he wasn’t really looking forward to it, he knew that it will happen sooner or later. Upon returning from the doctor’s office, the teacher stopped by the reception and asked for arranging the trip to the Aiguille.

  • Very well, sir. How does tomorrow sound? The weather forecast couldn’t be better: sunny, excellent visibility, very light wind…
  • Sounds good to me. What time?

  The receptionist made a quick call during which she spoke French, then switched back to English while addressing him:

  • Please present yourself tomorrow at 10:15 inside the lower station building. It is not far from our lodge. Your last name will be enough to obtain the ride reservation tab. Bear in mind that most are standing places; a few rather small seats in the cabin are meant mainly for the elderly and handicapped.
  • I still can stand for a while, no problem. Merci beaucoup – tried Karnicki his French.
  • Je vous en prie. Remember about warm clothing and a pair of good sunglasses. Bon voyage!

And so came the next day. In the lower terminus, he heard complaints from a couple of Australian tourists about price of tickets. “Unfortunately, Western Europe is expensive,” was his answer, “I myself am here for the first and probably the last time.”

  The two-stage trip, with the stopover at Plan de l'Aiguille was exhilarating. Especially the upper part, where no support pillars are used. He thought that while the Titlis ride yielded more beautiful panoramas, here the views were more breathtaking, almost in the sense of scary, given very dramatic, sharp, soaring rock formations. And what you could see from the top, simply exceeded expectations – it was absolutely superb. The scenery is dominated by imposing, snow-covered dome of Mont Blanc itself, about 6 km away and almost 1 km above the top of the Aiguille , but a lot of other peaks can be seen as well, including parts of the Italian Alps with its own cable gondola line, Skyway Monte Bianco. Stefan was feeling fine, without any symptoms of oxygen insufficiency or other discomforts. After drinking a cup of coffee (it’s amazing how good coffee can taste at that height and outside temperature, he observed), Karnicki decided that his eyes have experienced enough feasting for one day and it was time to head back down to Chamonix.

  Upon boarding the gondola, he noticed that, oddly enough, he was the sole passenger; the only other person inside being the operating engineer or perhaps technician. After the car travelled perhaps ¾ of the distance between the upper and middle station, the movement suddenly stopped and they were dangling over a deep gorge. In several seconds, the audio system croaked and then he could hear an announcement in French:

Mesdames et Messieurs,

On subit une coupure de courant temporaire.

S'il ne disparaît pas dans les 20 minutes, nous activerons le système d'urgence pour amener la cabine à la station. Veuillez rester calme.

  The communique about power outage was subsequently repeated in English. Karnicki looked at the operator but the latter seemed to be completely indifferent to the situation. “Well, perhaps that sort of thing happens from time to time around here” – thought the teacher.

  Then, slowly, a delicate violet mist began to surround the cabin. Oho – was Karnicki’s next thought – dramatic circumstances as usual. This is most likely the ‘grande finale’, culmination point, resolution of this whole saga. We’ll know soon…

  • Good afternoon, Stefan – began again the soundless dialog.  The time has come to explain fully the situation. I will make the presentation and then answer any questions you might have.

  Karnicki did not try to convey any response. After all what was there for him to do?

  • You see, what must happen to save the Universe is the death of your body. Sudden, violent. But don’t worry, we have prepared a replica of your organism with minimal amount of, well, a sort of very advanced electronics – for the lack of better word – in it. With your permission and consent, we are planning to transfer , or “pump” your whole consciousness, self, ego into that replica. Your original will have to be artificially kept alive until the moment it will be turned into non-organic ashes with the aid of a very powerful burst of energy. The new “you” will be almost exactly as the old “you”: same feelings, same memories, same skills, same appearance, habits and so on. The only difference we haven’t mastered yet would be that your tastes, likes and dislikes, may be somewhat different. After the operation, we will provide for you so you may quit working. However, the transformation must be as inconspicuous to the outside world as possible. In fact, it should be a secret. Any questions from you up to this point?

  Following a short pause, the teacher declared:

  • To begin with, let me say that it is still very difficult for me to take what you are telling me, at face value. However, I have seen ample evidence of  you being a very powerful entity. Regarding your offer of providing for me – well, even if I do go along with your, ehm, “request” I would want no more change in my life than absolutely necessary. And thus I’d like to continue my job as a schoolteacher till the day I retire by my own choice.
  • Understood and agreed.
  • Second question: what about the issue of my death; that second body, I mean? Is it determined somehow? Will I continue to age?
  • First of all, we do not promise immortality. Technically, we could specify the exact time of your passing. But we know that people of Earth generally don’t want to know that time. So what we can do is to add into rules governing your new body a certain element of randomness. That is, that you will live x more years, where (x + your current age) is mean life expectancy for a man of your age in your country, ­±?x, some standard deviation unknown to anybody in each specific case, but plausible from the point of view of what your physicists call “normal distribution”. We hope this answer is not too technical, considering your education. And yes, you still will visibly age.
  • And, maybe it is blunt, but what if I refuse?
  • It would be very regrettable if you did, but in a nutshell, the answer is – nothing. We cannot force you to agree to our proposition and we cannot make you bear the consequences, punish you in any way or try to take revenge. However, “nothing” here means nothing from your personal standpoint. You could return to your hitherto life, but the realization that the universe will collapse at the moment of your death, is going to stay with you.

  Karnicki again kept his interlocutor waiting for a while and then continued:

  • Well, I need to think it over.
  • By all means, please do. We know it is a very difficult decision. But do be aware, that you have time only till the day after tomorrow. On that day, in the morning, there will be a special car awaiting you in front of the hotel. A violet-colored car. Now, this is very important. If you decide to enter the vehicle, it will be like crossing the Rubicon from your ancient history, a point of no return. You will place your present body completely in our control. On the other hand, if you ignore the auto, it will be a signal that you are not interested in our proposition; we will see to it that you are returned to your apartment in Warsaw, safe and sound. And we shall never contact you again.

  At this time, the violet mist receded and the dialog broke off. Karnicki at first was astonished how easily, without any hesitation he was able to come up with the questions that he asked. Apparently, he figured, he was under some sort of external influence…

  • Excuse me, monsieur – the cabin operator broke his chain of thinking, speaking in English but with a heavy French accent – are you all right? You seem lost in your thoughts. And a bit pale.
  • Aah.., yes, I am fine – replied the professor absent-mindedly.
  • We should be on our way down soon. Perhaps I should arrange for a doctor in the lower terminus, to quickly check you over?
  • No, thank you. It is not necessary.

  The cabin indeed resumed its motion downward towards the Plan de l'Aiguille station. But beginning with that moment, Karnicki sort of “blacked out”. When he come round, he found that he was back in his hotel suite, but he had no recollection how he got there and what happened since the conversation with the cable car operator. The memory of the last encounter with the violet entity, on the other hand, was very vivid in his mind. And only now he grasped what they needed from him. It put him in the state of shock. “So that was the reason for all that luxury… they want to buy my body…make some kind of zombie or chimera out of me”. He reverted to the idea entertained back in Switzerland, that he was possibly dealing with a false prophet… perhaps the devil himself or at least something very sinister! A resolution popped up in his soul to visit the church in Chamonix, referred to him by the Polish priest in Lucerne.

  Thus he walked to the St. Michel church, sat in the bench and began deliberating his situation. A whole train of thoughts rushed through his head, but one motif was dominant – belief. People refrain from rotten deeds, he was thinking, partly because they believe in damnation in the life to come. They do not know for sure that such future life exists, but just in case… Here, in one sense, he was faced with a similar dilemma, but in another sense – the quandary was a mirror reflection of the “hell vs nothingness” question. It was expected of him to accept as true a ludicrous idea that he must give his consent to transfer his, well, his mental and spiritual “everything”, to a completely new physical frame in order to save the universe from demise. And, whether he agrees or not to do it, he will never know if that was actually true. Can anybody imagine something more ridiculous and crazy?

  The more Karnicki tried to find some solutions and answers, the more overwhelmed he felt. Finally, he began experiencing a strong headache and a sensation of distress. He felt completely helpless and there indeed was nobody nor nothing around that could help him. Uncontrollable sobbing shook his whole body and from his lips came a whisper – God almighty, why me, why me?

  Upon return to the lodge, the teacher partially regained his composure, ordered a shot of Remy Martin to his room and went to bed without supper. In spite of everything, he slept surprisingly well that night and woke up late. A bit towards noon that day he decided to call Marcel Michaud at the Geneva lab to tell him about what happened the previous day. But he was only able to get through to a secretary, who informed him that the scientist was away on a special assignment and would remain so for an extended period of time. He left no directives as to how to get in touch with him…

  Having considered all the pros and cons, Karnicki was slowly tilting towards rejecting the “body swap” deal in favor of simply returning to Warsaw. In fact, a sense of resentment was beginning to take him over. They want to hijack my body – he thought again – it’s everything I have. And who knows what they really want to do to me? Harvest my organs, perhaps, torture me? Or maybe something else yet, that I cannot possibly imagine?! Not on their life! As an act of mutiny, the teacher decided to arrange on his own the homecoming back to Warsaw. The travel agency in the vicinity of his hotel issued him a ticked for train travel commencing two days later, but this time he was requested to pay for it. Luckily, he still had some leftover funds from Lucerne.

  Thus the coming night seemed likely to be his last night but one in Chamonix, as he decided to ignore the narrative about a violet-colored auto to be waiting for him in front of the lodge next morning. He slept well having watched some TV in the evening, however, just before dawn, there appeared in his dream the “Raquel Welch” lady that he encountered on Kasprowy and Titlis summits. She did not say anything at first but was looking at him with a profound sadness in her eyes. Finally from her lips came a barely discernible whisper: […] is OK with it. Karnicki, unfortunately, was unable to catch the first word of that statement. But he did not pay any particular attention to that event. After he freshened up, he decided to stroll around the town for the last time; the next morning, he was due to depart for Poland. One thing, however, still dwelled in the back of his head – why was it that the entity needed his consent for this whole operation? And now, he ruminated on his dream and what the lady said to him in it… who or what was “OK with it”? What was the subject in that sentence? A weird thought came to his mind: could it be… God? Irrespective of that, however, he was determined to go ahead with the original plan of returning to Warsaw and dropping the whole affair once and for all. He felt that if he does not, he will soon lose his sanity.

  After breakfast, the teacher stepped out of the main entrance of his lodge. What he saw next, left him speechless: there it was – a 1958 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham, with stainless steel roof and shiny violet color of the rest of the body. One of the most significant cars in GM history, hand-built and, in its own time, equal if not higher in prestige to Rolls-Royce. His first emotion was panic - a “jelly-legs” feeling was so strong, that he had quickly to sit on an outside bench. He was not so much impressed by the vehicle itself, but by the fact that it was there, as announced in the Aiguille du Midi gondola. He felt as if some giant, invisible fist grabbed his innards and was jerking them in all directions. A concerned physician passing by, who noticed his unusual demeanor and pale face, suggested that he take a pill of Nikethamide, and even offered to run to a nearby pharmacy to get him some. And soon after the professor took the medication, he began to feel much better.

  About a week later, Karnicki was back in Warsaw. He seemed to be in good spirits as he headed in the direction of that favorite restaurant of his which he used to frequent monthly. Upon entering the premises, he was greeted by his regular waiter:

  • Well, professor, hello! We haven’t seen you for a while… vacation, I presume?
  • Yes, indeed. Superb, glorious, outstanding vacation. Imagine spending five weeks in Swiss and then French Alps, all expenses paid.
  • No kidding! You are not putting me on? And who treated you to all those luxuries, may I ask?
  • Well, that’s kind of a secret… I did not rob a Swiss bank, though, if that’s what you think. I have even been to the confession, you hear?
  • Cherchez la femme? – the waiter tried to impress Karnicki with his French.
  • No, not really. Although… are you familiar with the name Raquel Welch?
  • That famous American actress? Sure am. Noooo, don’t tell me – you and her???
  • You never know – said the teacher with a mischievous smile – what I enjoyed is mine and nobody will take it away from me. But anyway, that is all water under the bridge now. For the last month before getting back to work, I have planned a more down-to-earth escape to the country: hay raking, fishing, mushroom picking and such. I am leaving Warsaw again tomorrow, and won’t be back before schoolyear.
  • Good for you! Now, as far as your dinner is concerned, what are we having this afternoon?
  • Oh, yes, indeed. Give me a bottle of your best French champagne, well chilled. Some smoked salmon with plenty of lemon, tomato soup with rice, and a piece of good Warsaw-style cheesecake for dessert. Cappuccino with that.
  • Well, my, you are really going all the way! And for the main course? Wiener schnitzel, I take it?
  • Aaah…, no. I’ll have côtelette de volaille.[4]
  • Right away, sir.

  Having finished his dinner, Karnicki left the restaurant and was heading to his apartment. Two youths approached him and greeted friendly:

  • Hello prof! Fancy meeting you here in the middle of summer!

  The teacher recognized them quickly. They were Piotrek and Grzesio[5] from IIIb class.

  • Yes, indeed, I am in Warsaw just for a couple of days, between July and August parts of my vacation. Will be heading to the country soon. But what are you guys doing in the town at this time of the year?
  • Well, us too, only temporarily here. We were on the coast during most of July, and now we’re gonna go to the mountains.
  • Just don’t use too much of cable cars!
  • Why not?
  • I don't know. I must have just said it. Never mind.
  • You know, prof – Grzesio said in a loud whisper – Piotrek is in love with my sister Basia.
  • Oh, baloney, shut up. I ain’t in love with nobody.
  • Are, too! Why did you insist that she go with us?
  • I don’t care if she does or doesn’t
  • It’s all right, boys. Nothing wrong with being in love, especially at your age. Now, you have yourself a good stay in the mountains; split it evenly between rest and physical activity. But prepare for schoolyear; physics in fourth grade isn’t exactly easy. And don’t count on any slack on my part – added the teacher wagging his index finger at them semi-jokingly.
  • Sure thing, prof. See you in September.
  • Good-bye!

  After Karnicki walked away, one of the boys said to the other:

  • Wouldn’t you say that the old Kurnik[6] looked kind of…, I don’t know, robotic?
  • Him? Robotic? Not more than usual. You know, confirmed bachelor… what do you expect?

THE END

 

[1] Note: The Polish phonetic rendering of that name is Kar?itskii

[2] Dear Stefan,

 It is understandable that you may feel disturbed by what you heard at the top of  Titlis., We did our best to mitigate the shock. Unfortunately, for the sake of the future, we must try to get through this together. We emphasize that cooperation with us must be completely voluntary on your part. For now, please take the pill next to this letter. It should help you regain your composure. In the next several days, try to visit a bit of Switzerland: Geneva, Lausanne, Zurich, St. Moritz, Bern, Gstaad, Neuchâtel, Interlaken. We will renew contact with you in due course.

P.S. If you were wondering if we can read your mind: we could actually do it, but we don't, to respect your privacy. With one small exception: when you want to know something about the availability of the means of transport you intend to use in the near future, our system gives you a kind of telepathic suggestion.

[3] Out of this world… yeah, I've been getting a bit of that lately

[4] Dish also known as „chicken Kiev”

[5] Polish diminutive nicknames corresponding to English Pete and Greg

[6] The Polish word „kurnik” stands for chicken coop. However, in the above context, and capitalized, it is used as a nickname given to the teacher by his students, basing on the phonetic similarity of „kurnik” and „Karnicki”


Submitted: February 03, 2021

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