“You’re not a fool, yet I take it you don’t think God was wrong?”
He adjusted the angle of the Beretta so the barrel pointed directly at the scientist’s chest. Before he took his hand away from the gun he looked at the other man’s face. Sure enough, the eyes were fixed on the desk, at precisely where the weapon lay. He’d noticed many times over the years the irresistible, almost magnetic, attraction a gun exerted for those not confronted by a weapon before. It also served as a test. If the scientist had kept his eyes on the man’s eyes the Beretta would not be laying casually on the wooden desk top. No, that would present quite a different scenario.
But he hadn’t.
“I don’t consider it a matter of right or wrong as I don’t believe in God.” The slide-in metal name stand on the desk said ‘Arnold Benoit – Chief Scientist’.
“I find that odd,” said the man. “But then you don’t know the context in which he was wrong, of course. So I can be magnanimous on that point. After all, with your Particle Collider, you are on the cusp of finding sub-atomic particles that have so far existed only in theory. This will be a commendable accomplishment. You,” he glanced at the name stand, “Arnold Benoit, control it, or more accurately, you are in charge of it. Whether you find the particle or not, significant portions of theoretical physics will need to be recast as a result of this work. Surely, this will be a seminal moment in your career. There is every chance the work will lead to a revision of general relativity theory which will point man in the direction of inter-stellar movement, and, to a better understanding of parallel realities.”
“You are a physicist aren’t you?” Benoit asked.
“Yes … from the university.”
“Then why come here with a gun? Why not as a fellow scientist?”
“It was the only way I could be certain of seeing you today. If I had telephoned to make an appointment, you wouldn’t have agreed, certainly not immediately, and not for today,” he said.
“When did you arrive at the Collider?”
“About an hour ago.”
“An hour! How did you get in here so quickly?” asked Benoit, genuinely concerned and more than a little puzzled. Almost as an afterthought, he said, “Our security people should have stopped you.”
“They did. They told me to wait. I explained to them I had limited time and could not. I said ‘God was wrong, and it is important I tell your Chief Scientist,’” he said.
“And they let you in?” Benoit sounded incredulous. The man on the other side of his desk was obviously mentally unstable. That would have been obvious even to security. He stared at the gun. Suddenly, he felt sick. He knew what the man was going to tell him, if he asked the question. He couldn’t bring himself to ask it. He simply looked at the man, at his face, and at the Beretta. The man remained silent, staring back at Benoit with cold, unblinking eyes. Benoit did not know what to do, or say. He had no hidden alarm button to press. So he waited.
“You see the short piece of thicker tubing at the end of the Beretta barrel,” Benoit nodded, not wanting to offend the man, “that is a suppressor, or silencer to most people.”
He no longer needed to ask the question.
When Benoit stayed silent, the man resumed talking.
“I assume that as a senior scientist, you agree the concept of God most commonly used, offers nothing more than a means to explain the unexplainable. For example, primitive tribesmen blame it on God when floods or pestilence come. Modern believers blame God when a son dies prematurely in an accident. Others ask God to exercise his will as he thinks fit in their daily life, such as the common exhortation, ‘as God pleases’. The same people then make pleas in order to pre-empt bad outcomes, or solicit good ones.
“Again, I assume you disagree with these concepts. In every instance a rational explanation can be found, even down to molecular levels, if necessary.”
Benoit nodded once more, before gathering sufficient courage to ask something he could not face not knowing. If he had been following the argument about God, his question did not show it.
“In one of the offices on your way here there is a young woman,” said Benoit, fearful to take the query any further.
“Yes, there was,” said the man. After a pause, during which Benoit’s palms began to sweat, the man went on, “I told her to go into a back room and strip naked, to throw her clothes out the door. She did. Before continuing on my way here, I went to the room to check on her. Very attractive. If I’d had more time … but I don’t. So, I took and hid her garments so she would remain in the room.”
“Why are you in such a hurry?” Benoit asked, relieved the girl was only embarrassed.
“I estimate I have less than twelve hours,” said the man, “before conditions deteriorate sufficiently to prevent my return.”
“What do you mean?” asked Benoit.
“There will be those among you who will understand in years to come. If the Collider experiments continue to be successful in future years, we expect new dimensions will be discovered. Dimensions that today are only theory. By then we will be ready for you.”
“What is your name? You’ve been in my office for half an hour and not introduced yourself. At the very least, that is discourteous,” said Benoit, trying to regain some measure of control in this absurd interview.
“You don’t know God’s name,” the man said, as if Benoit cared, “so mine is irrelevant. Even if I told you my name it would mean nothing. But, if it helps, call me Beretta.”
“Do I take it that you know God’s name?” Benoit said in a tone half amused, half incredulous, as if he had finally heard confirmation that this man, ‘Beretta’, was certifiable. All he had to do was to get word to the police and they’ll come and take him away. Of course the small matter of the actual Beretta, the barrel of which continued to point directly at his chest, complicated matters. Benoit had done a lot of pistol shooting and belonged to the local Gun Club. He was certain he could tell a real pistol from a replica. He glanced at it again. It was the real deal, and for the first time, he saw the safety had been switched off. As he lifted his gaze he again saw ‘Beretta’ staring at him.
“Whether I know God’s name, or not, has no bearing on our conversation,” Beretta said.
“Then perhaps you can tell me what this conversation is about.” Now that he knew he was dealing with a madman, Benoit felt confidence slowly returning.
“In the very near future your Collider will succeed in getting two sub-atomic particles to collide at the correct speed.”
“That is so, and once we have achieved that goal we will have replicated the conditions of the Big Bang, the moment of creation of the Universe,” said Benoit, more confident now he was speaking about his speciality.
“Is it true that you are the most knowledgeable scientist in this field?”
“No, there are several astro-physicists who have developed the theory …” the man cut him off.
“I will rephrase the question. You are the leader in the race to demonstrate the theory in practice.”
“Yes,” said Benoit.
“Thank you. Without you the Collider would have problems. Not insurmountable ones, but overcoming them would take time. In other words, it would be delayed.”
“Where are you from?” Benoit was unpleasantly unsure where the conversation seemed to be heading.
“A dimension beyond,” said the man. He made no further amplification, no embellishment, nothing, apart from maintaining his unblinking stare at Benoit.
“Before I leave I will tell you a little about God. His real name is much longer than three letters. It is a normal name, and irrelevant. In one guise or another he has been into this world on several occasions. Unfortunately, ego has often overcome reality and he couldn’t stay. That was not his only mistake. One could argue, however, as I have done in the past, that it was his biggest.”
Before the man named ‘Beretta’ could go on, Benoit stood up behind his desk. The program of the facility had been meticulously developed over months and he would not let a crank interfere with its execution.
“I have meetings to attend. If you wish, you can stay here until I return, or you can leave now,” Benoit said, intending to call the police as soon as he was near an outside phone.
As he began his first step from behind the desk the Beretta jumped off the desktop in a fluid blur. He heard a faint ‘whump’ from the suppressor a micro-second before blackness and silence enveloped him.
The man watched as Benoit folded like a sack, his eyes blank. He stuck the gun in an underarm holster and walked around the desk. As he expected, no pool of blood had formed around Benoit’s head. It would not. The bullet, along with the man, came from a different place. The carpet would remain unmarked and no bullet would be recoverable.
He closed the office door as he left, walking back the way he had entered. He passed one of the security offices, checking that the security guard still lay on the floor behind the desk. Like Benoit, he had a neat hole in the centre of his forehead. The legs could not be seen unless one went in and looked. It simply appeared that the station was unattended. He walked on. The next security station was the same. He went past the desk to the back room. The girl still stood in the room, naked. He looked in, drew the Beretta and told her to stand with her hands on her head. After several minutes observation he tapped his watch, pointed the gun meaningfully, and exited.
Outside the entrance to the Collider he stopped and turned to face it. He did not have far to walk for the return, and more than enough time. When they found the bodies consternation, confusion and fear would take control. Work at the Collider would be suspended long enough. The moment of convergence would pass, harmlessly.
“God was wrong, on more than one instance. In particular, he forgot precisely where it all began, the point from which expansion of the universe started, and what was there before it happened. And he didn’t tell anyone.”
No one heard him, but that did not concern the man. He turned his back on the Collider and walked away.
The Australian Literature Review