Chapter 8 - A Diversion

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richardal...@googlemail.com

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Apr 6, 2007, 4:30:42 PM4/6/07
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"Wealth brings its privileges" he had said.

One of those privileges is owning several homes. There was the house
in London, the country retreat in Kent. "Down House", they called it,
a modest, comfortable place which, according to the popular press,
reflected the character of its owner. It was there that he kept his
wife and family. It was there that he met with politician and
churchmen, where his honeyed tongue allayed their fears and lulled
their suspicions.

But what is a home? Is it the place where you put your life on show to
the public, where you act the part you wish the world to see, where
you present an idealised version of yourself? Or is it the place
which reflects your true character, your true self?

On the northern outskirts of the great city of London, on a hill
overlooking the endlessly growing suburbs, it's turrets and towers
visible for miles around, stands a huge, rambling edifice. Gothic
arches, Romanesque doorways, Corinthian columns and other
architectural monstrosities offend the eye in their discordant
conflict of styles. The grounds are a mass of outhouses, storage
buildings, manufacturies and yards. There is hardly a blade of grass
to be seen except where some forgotten and abandoned shed has decayed
into ruin.

The interior is no better. Every sense is offended by the conflicts of
style. Long, featureless corridors stretch into dimly perceived
distance, their walls a monotonous dull green, yet they open into
great halls decorated with fine marble and alabaster, or private
apartments of such sumptuous luxury that the heart is crushed by their
promiscuous opulence.

And to those who know the ways of that place, there are dark
labyrinths of cellars, attics and libraries, and the places where
clerks sit, their desks in serried ranks. Here run the veins and
arteries of a great enterprise, the sheets of paper passing from desk
to desk controlling the work - nay, the very lives - of countless
workers of every kind all over the globe itself.

It was in this place that the black coaches were kept, where they
stabled the horses which drew them at unparalleled speeds across the
landscape of England, where they made those coaches with their secrets
of stealth. But in this modern age, the age of steam, the age of the
railway, that aspect of the enterprise had shrunk. Where once stood
numerous coaches had stood, where once great herds of horses had
roamed, there were now only a few coaches, used only for missions
around London. To those with money, private steam trains were quicker.
And in this enterprise, speed mattered.

It was in this place, in a room on top of one of the towers, that
Darwin sat. This was the place that bore the stamp of his personality.
This was the place where he dreamed his dreams, this the place where
he brooded, constructing the plots and deceptions which drove the vast
machine of his great conspiracy.

This was not just a place where he conducted his business. This was
his true home.

The name of this place?

Colney Hatch.

You can find it in the history books. But you won't find out it's true
history written there. History calls the building a lunatic asylum. A
place where men and women are locked away against their will. A place
where men in white coats conducted experiments on their patients. A
place from which the screams which rang out at night were treated as
normal. The cries of the inmates. The cries of the lunatics.

A convenient fiction.

Those cries. The screams of young women driven mad by fear.

Beneath the wards, the offices, factories, the apartments, the
kitchens, the storerooms ran the cellars. A great labyrinth of vaulted
rooms and corridors, dark and damp, and the place where vile pleasures
were taken.

Sometimes the hunger grew strong.

Darwin watched him, or had him watched. Useful, even essential to the
operation, his energy and anger drove him to spread the message, the
gospel of the new religion some called Darwinism. Public debates are
easy to win when you control the press, and even easier when you are
ruthless in pursuit of victory.

Wilberforce. How could he win a debate when he knew that his opponent
held his children hostage? No wonder he stammered, mumbled, lost track
of his thoughts, and trembled like a frightened child. And the dark,
penetrating eyes of his opponent, ruthless, vindictive, cold and
unfeeling crushed any thoughts before they reached his consciousness.

Huxley.

The bruiser. The strong man. The enforcer.

And when the hunger grew strong, Darwin would feed him. A young woman
plucked from some dark alley. A prostitute from the slums.
Occasionally a girl from a nice, middle class family abducted in the
dead of night and offered as a victim in a terrible game of hide and
seek in the labyrinth.

It was to this place that at short, dapper man wearing spectacles
arrived.

"I've come to see Mr Darwin," he told the attendants at the doors. "I
have matters of great importance to communicate to him, and to him
alone."

And they let him in. Why? They were not sure, but something about his
manner, his quiet confidence suggested that this was someone of
significance.

Darwin was sitting in his office, Huxley, looking bored stood leaning
against one of the walls. The little man entered.

"Mr Darwin. How pleasant to meet you at last."

"What is your business here. I am a busy man."

"I have a book here which may interest you. I have just completed it,
and it will shortly be available in the shops."

"What sort of a book?"

"It is a book of history. The history of the world."

Huxley snorted.

"And why should a book on old history be of any interest to us?"

"Because it is not just any history. It is a rather special book of
history. One could call it your history."

"How so?"

"May I sit down?" Darwin gestured wordlessly. He took a chair, and sat
down carefully, his hands clasped on his knee.

"I am a firm believer in free love, and wish to throw off the shackles
of morality. I have been watching the progress of your great
enterprise with great interest. I have a personal interest in its
success, and have provided you with far greater assistance than you
may suspect."

"You have helped us? How?"

"Let us talk of religion."

"Religion? What has that to do with us? We reject all religion."

"The Christian religion in particular."

"The Christians are a thorn in our side, but we shall defeat them."

"And of the Christian religion, its history in particular."

"Are you telling us that you have written a history of the Christian
religion? I'll throw you out of this window if that's all you have to
offer."

Huxley advanced, a threatening figure, but he remained seated an
unconcerned.

"Let me tell you something of the history of that religion."

"I am aware of that history" Darwin growled "I studied divinity in my
youth."

"My history may be rather different from yours. Let me tell you about
the crusades."

"The crusades? What has that ancient story to do with the modern age?"

"In my younger days I was told the story of the crusades. It was a
story of how noble kings of France and England journeyed to the Holy
Land to meet with the leaders of the Moslems."

"And wage war against them. I know that story."

"Ah, but that is not the story I was told in my youth. The story I
knew was that they held a great convocation at which their differences
were discussed, and their conflicts were resolved in a spirit of
courtesy and consideration, in accordance with the Christian principle
to love ones neighbour."

"That is not the history I learned. It is the conflicts, the
massacres, the brutality of those crusaders which helps us to
undermine the integrity of the Christian faith."

"I know. And you should thank me for that."

There was a stunned silence.

"I have something to show you which will persuade and explain. If you
accompany me to my workshop you will understand."

"If this is some sort of joke..." Huxley began.

"I do not joke."

Darwin pondered for a while.

"Very well," he said at last. "we will accompany you."

He turned his dark eyes on him.

"But if this is a waste of my time, I'll turn you over to Huxley."

Huxley grinned. A savage grin. He was hungry.

They sat in the carriage as it bowled silently through the network of
narrow streets. No word was spoken except for the directions to the
coachman. A back street somewhere in the docklands area in the
eastern part of the city.

"I purchased this workshop because of its seclusion, and it's
proximity to the docks. Some of the components I use in my work need
to come from overseas, and the ability to collect them as soon as they
arrive both speeds up the process of construction and helps to
maintain secrecy. Secrecy is important to me, as it is to you."

He opened a smaller door set into one of the pair of large goods
doors, and ducked through them to enter the building.

"Come on" he called "there is nothing to fear."

Huxley entered first, looking around suspiciously, but the workshop
was dark. Darwin followed.

"Gentlemen" came a voice from the darkness "behold!"

A light sprung into life. A great radiance filled the room, brighter
than candles, brighter than the gas-lights which were coming into use.

"The light is a device of my own invention. They are powered by
electricity."

But it was not the lights that caught their attention. The floor of
the workshop was covered with orderly lines of machines, benches and
presses, materials and components.

The centre of all the attention, the focus of every eye, the product
of all this activity. A device of wheels and gears, of crystal rods,
of dials and levers, and in the middle of this apparently wild jumble
of devices a padded seat.

"My device!"

"What is it?"

"It is a vehicle. A device which allows one to move not through space,
not through the conventional dimensions of space, the three dimensions
with which you are no doubt familiar, but through the fourth
dimension."

He paused for dramatic effect.

"Time!"

Darwin and Huxley stood in stunned silence.

"You see, I went back in time. I changed history. I hated the history
I knew, and determined to change it. I studied long and hard, carried
out many experiments, constructed many devices which failed, but
achieved success at last. I went back in time, and I changed history."

He laughed, his voice ringing shrill.

"Do you have any idea of the value of one hundred pounds of modern
money in the middle ages? How easy it is to make money when one can
know the outcome of a race before it starts? How easy it is to bribe,
to corrupt, to subvert if one has great wealth?"

"This is madness!" Huxley cried.

"I'll show you," he responded, "then you'll believe."

He scrambled into the seat of the device, pulled a lever here,
adjusted a dial there.

"It will take a few minutes to set up. But what do a few minutes
matter? I have all the time in the world!"

He fussed over his device, watching the dials. Wheels began to turn.
Lights sparked along crystals. A humming noise grew, imposing itself
on the attention.

"Almost ready," he muttered to himself, "just a bit longer."

Then there was a flash, and they were plunged into darkness.

There was a long silence.

A light appeared, the light of a flame, dim and red after the
brightness of the electrical lights. Flames flickered along the frame
of the machine, and they could see its inventor lying on the floor
beside it, not moving. They dragged him clear. His body was stiff, his
eyes open.

Flames caught and spread.

"We'd better get of here," Huxley "shall I bring him?"

"Yes," Darwin replied, "he may offer us some amusement."

Huxley slung the unyielding body across his shoulder, and they stepped
out into the street. Flames showed through the open door.

"The whole place is going up."

"No matter." Darwin's voice was quiet, but thoughtful.

They sat in silence for most of the journey.

"Is he mad?" Huxley asked.

"I don't know. That machine had the appearance of a real purpose."

"But time travel?"

"Who knows?"

"Perhaps when he recovers we may find out more."

"If he recovers."

He picked up the book which he had carried with him.

"A Short History of the World." Darwin read "by H G Wells."

He looked at the stiff figure.

"I would prefer it if his device remained destroyed. The concept that
history can be changed is new to me, but I fear that it may be used
against us as easily as for us. It can only be an uncertain science."

"I agree with you," Huxley spoke thoughtfully. "It is a dangerous
tool, even if it is not simply the fantasy of his derangement."

"It is most probably simple madness. Though when I consider the
difference between the teachings of Christ and the morality of the
Church, I wonder if there is some truth in his story. If not, he shows
great promise as a writer of imaginative fiction."

It was late, near midnight. Darwin sat in his chair, looking out over
the lights of the metropolis. He sipped his brandy. In the distance a
great conflagration lit up the sky.

"He's mad, of course" he spoke aloud. "Quite mad."

Perplexed in Peoria

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Apr 7, 2007, 6:59:16 PM4/7/07
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<richardal...@googlemail.com> wrote in message news:1175891442....@p77g2000hsh.googlegroups.com...
> ... lunatic asylum ...
> ... I went back in time, and I changed history." ...
> ... "A Short History of the World." Darwin read "by H G Wells." ...

Well, someone has to be the first.

Booooh! Bad Chapter! Time machine in what purports to be a Christian account.
Bad, bad, idea.

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