The experiment that was destined to destroy the world as we know it had begun, in one of the unlikeliest places for such an event, a sleepy, lush town in deepest Devon.
Gateway is a lovely place for an academic exile, nestling lushly in the Erme valley, presumably named because when the Anglo-Saxons first arrived they couldn’t think what else to call it so they went with their first thought ‘Erm…’. A green and pleasant place, not renowned for scientific advance as yet, but little did the town’s people know they were just about to become a gateway to the whole universe.
The ‘gateway’ was being constructed in the dark brick-walled cellar of a house halfway up Upcombe Down, and this name was almost as bizarre as the machine being made. In the cellar was a wooden table upon which was a power supply and next to it a couple of parallel circles made out of arrays of gold-plated cubes held together by thin wires. Fret, thin and nervous was there with his son, aged six, who we shall call Henry. Fret was pondering, tinkering, procrastinating. His son sat on the floor nearby building a rough facsimile out of Lego.
Presently, all activity ceased and the boy said excitedly
‘Do it Dad.’
Fret flicked a switch on the power supply and peered intently through the two hoops. The part of the room visible through them subtly changed, almost as if a lens had formed within the hoops, but not quite a lens, in fact another thing entirely in that the property we call ‘space’ had just been deleted for a distance of a metre behind the loops. Fret now picked up a pole with a net on the end, from one of their many excursions to the beach, and pushed it through the loops.
‘Dad, the pole is sticking out of mid-air!’
Fret withdrew the pole and net, looked at it, shook his head and burst into tears at this point and hugged his son, which was quite a difficult thing to do since Henry was jumping up and down with glee as if propelled by a pneumatic road drill. The man sat down.
‘Ten years work.. Go get your Mum.’
Mum came down then to see the effect. She was small and dark, and one of the most organised people Fret had ever known. She was understandably sceptical about it but was impressed when she was able to put her hand into the empty space that had opened up along the length of the pole. She nodded with interest and asked
‘It really is separated. How does it work again?’
‘What the loops do is delete the space just behind them so the pole jumps over that gap and reappears beyond it.’
‘So it’s not an optical illusion?’
‘No, it’s real in a way that Mach and the early Einstein would understand.. I’ll explain later, but, I tell you, we’re going to have some fun with this!’