Short Fiction: The End of the Long, Winding Road: Happy Endings

A short story first published in the December 2010 issue of The Banyan Trees, a monthly online literary magazine.

“…the original, the one and only World Wide Web. The Real thing. The rest will remain simply virtual.”

– Umberto Eco

“I want a clean cup,” interrupted the Hatter: “let’s all move one place on.”

– Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

 

He was an Oxford don accustomed to the hedonistic accoutrements of the life of an academic. With a wee bit of creative license, one can vividly picture the professor at his desk, smoking his great pipe, bringing his epic tale to a close. And what does he see at the end of the long, winding road? A round, green door. One with a golden door knob right at the centre.

*****

The young Indian Astrophysicist, with mild trepidation, turned the door knob, opened the door and entered the room. Behind him was a clean black board. Sitting behind the desk, facing him were Professors Fowler and Eddington. They constituted his doctoral committee. He looked at Eddington and a series of images flitted through his mind: a flash of insight during the voyage from India; days and nights of feverish calculations; the unexpected confrontation; the bitter feud; disappointment. He looked at Fowler and his disappointment melted away. He realised how fruitful his long, hard journey had been, except for the fallout with Arthur Stanley Eddington.

An hour passed. Chandra stepped out, a happy young man. Yet, a long road and a quiet battle lay ahead of him. At the centre of the storm was a weird entity. One that was so dense that even light was incapable of escaping its gravitational grasp.

*****

“Without light you can’t see,” said Professor Wheeler: “if you can’t see, it’s dark. Let’s call it a Black Hole.”

*****

The Devil felt time come to a standstill and space shrink to a point as he fell through a black hole into Signor Tartini’s dream. As the ever active neurons of the composer orchestrated a violin sonata, The Devil found himself playing it. 

Tartini called it Le Trille du Diable: The Devil’s Trill* and writing it down, by translating as much of his aural memory as he could into notes, was the first thing the composer did on waking up. He swore that it was the strangest and most beautiful piece of music he had ever heard.

*****

In the cramped confines of his temporary office, Professor Jones’s thoughts lingered wistfully on his just concluded adventure. Coronado’s cross was finally safe in Marcus’s museum. He could hear someone playing the violin, probably a member of the college’s amateur chamber orchestra, in the make-shift music room across the corridor. Jones recognised the third movement of The Devil’s Trill, as the tragic strains of the violin drifted in. Just as he was about to close his eyes and let the music work its magic, a knocking at the door came as a rude awakening. By now the mysterious violin player had moved on to the staccato passages.

It was raining knocks on the door as distraught students gathered in droves outside the office. Professor Jones looked at his desk and the cause of the commotion was immediately apparent. Piled on it were ungraded exam papers; exam papers that should have been graded several weeks back. Great adventures, glorious excavations and amazing escapes and escapades notwithstanding, Jones had never quite come to terms with grading papers. And he was not about to. As the staccato passages from the violin gave way to the fluid, energetic notes that the Trill was known for, Henry Jones Jr., picked up his diary, pushed open the only window in his office and jumped out onto the manicured lawn. Time to go on a new adventure.

*****

On a blustery summer afternoon, Professor John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was at his desk grading examination papers. He was bored out of his mind. Just as he was toying with the idea of abandoning the task for the day, he felt a door open in his mind. A round, green door. One with a golden door knob right at the centre. And he could see a long, winding road leading out of it, over the hill, into the meadows, under the hill and out into unknown lands. Time for a new adventure he thought and finding a blank space in one of the papers, wrote “In a hole in the ground…”

***** *****

*Giuseppe Tartini, the composer, was Italian and therefore the trill should more accurately be called Il Trillo del Diavolo. In an instance of oversight on my part, I directly copied out the name of the violin sonata from my iPod without noticing that it was in French!
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