Reach

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The butler assured the gentleman that his employer rarely had anything to do with any sort of nature, whether of reality or otherwise--she was emphatically a house-mistress--but since he had come all this way, and it was bitterly cold, and the farmer who had transported him via cart from the train station was now a wee dot in the distance, the butler thought it only proper to invite the scruffy little fellow in for tea. The butler knew the man would try to inveigle his way down to his mistress’s study, but he also knew that anyone unfamiliar with the manor’s intricately knotted passageways would more than likely keep ending up in the aviary no matter how hard he tried. So, he took the man’s hat and coat and indicated for the man to take a seat in the velvet upholstered armchair next to the fire in the front parlor, barely bending his ample, rotund frame with a quick, stiff bow before heading off toward the kitchen.

The visitor, however, was no more inclined to sneak off into the grand old house than he was to sit in the armchair, seeing as how he had already gotten lost several times en route and had already been sitting for six or seven hours. His inclination was toward rumination, and he slipped his pipe out of his jacket pocket and took several unconscious, smokeless puffs as he stood and warmed his backside before the fire. By the time the butler returned carrying a tray laden with a pot, teacup, milk and sugar bowl, the visitor’s thoughts had lead him to a fresh offensive.

“My apologies again for barging in,” the scruffy little fellow said. “It’s just that, I write fact-based articles for a living, and if I don’t get the facts right, I don’t make that living. I’m trying to verify something, and I can’t do that if I don’t look. Sometimes I look in the wrong place.”

“It’s quite all right sir,” said the butler. “You’re only fortunate anyone was within earshot of the bell. If you like, I can ring for a car to ferry you back to the station.”

“That’d be very kind,” said the visitor. “I’m anxious to give this clearly intelligent soul a fair hearing. Nobody wants to be known as a crackpot.”

The butler nodded and turned to make the call, but then he paused for a moment to frown, considering something, after which he turned back to face the visitor.

“This person to whom you refer, sir,” said the butler, “I take it, then, they stated some facts that you wish to verify, in order to protect their reputation.”

“Someone at a journal I write for on occasion showed me a letter they were about to ridicule in print,” said the visitor, “and I convinced them I at least ought to hear said correspondent out.”

“But this had to do with, as you said earlier--“

“This person claims to have developed a way of observing something without it reacting to being observed,” said the visitor.

“But surely there are many methods of achieving that, with hidden cameras and such,” the butler said.

“Not if what you’re observing is very, very small--so small that the very minims of light you’re observing it with can actually affect it.”

The butler reflected on this for a moment, raising an index finger to his plump lips.

“Suppose . . .” the butler began. “Suppose, sir, you were to find a way to observe whatever it was without light.”

“You would still have to send something to whatever it is that will then report back to you,” said the visitor. “When whatever you send gets to whatever it is you’re observing, the two things will come into contact and affect each other. And, you can forget about leveraging any precision in the case of such small things--that’s been proven to be impossible.”

“No doubt you are right, sir,” the butler said. “Here. It occurs to me, though, that if one could open a window somehow from somewhere else and reach through at just the right moment with the--what would you call it--not-light from there . . .”

“I’m afraid I don’t follow,” said the visitor.

The butler shook his head. “Nor, do I, exactly. No. Well--I will call that car for you, sir.” And with another stiff bow, the butler left.

It now struck the visitor as he took a sip of tea that, despite having stood in front of the fire for some time and now imbibing the hot beverage, he suddenly felt quite cold. He scanned the room for any open windows. The two of lead glass at the far end of the parlor didn’t look capable of being opened, but, given their age, perhaps some of the panes were beginning to separate. And, through them--how had he not noticed that enormous oak before? As he stared at the tree, he noted he could now see his breath. Separating panes surely wouldn’t be responsible for that. His eyes then fell upon what clearly looked to be frost in one corner of the room, and, his curiosity getting the better of him, he chose to leave the warmth of his post to investigate. He had only taken a few steps in that direction when the butler returned.

“It seems you’re in luck, sir,” the butler said. “The groom needs to go to the ironmonger’s in the village--he will take you to the station.”

The visitor glanced back over at the corner of the room that had piqued his interest--the frost he had seen only moments before had vanished, and, for that matter, also the oak he had seen outside.

“Thank you,” he said. “But, I wonder, if I might call again tomorrow?”

The butler nodded. “If you can find us, sir. If you can find us . . .”

About the Author: 
Brian Howrey forges stories, using words, music, actors, images, electrons and/or whatever else is available.  His theatre work has been performed at a variety of venues in the U.S. and abroad. His novel ‘The Word Snatchers’ is out in beta.

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