‘It looks like a dodgem car,’ said Agnes. ‘It looks like a bobsleigh,’ said her husband. ‘No, it’s a dodgem’. Ulick donned his protective goggles and helmet and climbed into the cockpit. ‘Whatever,’ he said to his wife, ‘I’ll be back before you know I left’. He turned some dials and pulled some levers and was indeed back before Agnes knew he left because, as far as she was concerned, he never went anywhere. He just sat back and his expression changed. It was odd though, from Agnes’ perspective, because she never actually noticed him sitting back, he just suddenly was. Likewise, Agnes did not see Ulick’s expression change, it just had. It was as if she were watching a reel of film and a few frames had been removed. Very odd. Ulick’s new facial expression was hardly an endorsement of whatever had caused it. He looked shocked. He looked like he’d seen something awful.
Ulick had been secretly working on the Cosmo-Velocitor for some months and it was only when Agnes went into the garage to shoo an errant cat that she discovered the dodgem like contraption. ‘What’s it for?’ she asked Ulick and he told her. ‘I have found a way to travel faster than light love,’ he said. ‘They say it’s not possible but it is and I’m going to do it. I will travel so fast I will leave time itself behind me and catch up on it again as I return. It’s quite a simple trick once you get the gist of it but I’m afraid it takes too long to explain and I plan to depart at once.’ And depart he did. And then, return.
‘I went right through that,’ said a stunned Ulick of the wall opposite him. ‘But there’s no hole in it,’ pointed out Agnes. ‘That’s because I got back before I left,’ replied Ulick. Agnes became worried. Ulick continued to explain how he had burst through the opposite wall and zoomed out into the suburbs beyond it at such speed as to make the world around him seem to be in slow motion. His speed increased even more so and soon everything but Ulick and his vehicle seemed to be totally static. So rapid was his movement, no one or thing could see him. He was like an invisible ghost whizzing through the streets. People and animals stood like stuffed museum pieces. Insects and birds were suspended in the air. There was no sign of wind or even the slightest breeze. All sound merged into a kind of low hum. The world stood like a frozen monument to itself. Ulick found himself racing from county to county and then beyond the borders of his country and across seas to other nations. ‘I saw all sorts,’ he confided to his wife. Asians, Africans, Eskimos and Australians went about their lives as he shot past. Atrocities stood before him like Goyas at an exhibition he once attended with Agnes as they holidayed in Madrid. ‘It was awful and lovely all at once, it was almost too much for me,’ he said.
The sights seen were not the cause of Ulick’s visibly perturbed demeanour though. That came later, after the next acceleration, after the accidental shifting of gear into a new speed, a new realm. Ulick could tell things were to get even stranger when he realised he could actually see light travelling to Earth from the sun. Then the sun, its light, the Earth and everything upon it seemed to dissolve. Ulick found himself travelling through a vibrating molecular soup. Looking as if what he was about to describe was so heavy it took effort to force the words from his mouth, Ulick turned to Agnes and said, ‘I was part of it too, just particles, indivisible, subatomic’. He went on, ‘I was part of it but alone in that I was the only thing conscious of this state, or, so I thought.’ ‘Or so you thought,’ repeated Agnes. ‘There was someone else there,’ an increasingly disturbed Ulick croaked. ‘Who?’ inquired Agnes, gently. ‘He didn’t have a name. He said he didn’t need one as there was no one else moving at his velocity to call him by it. He was so fast he was everywhere at once but he was alone.’ ‘So you spoke to him?’ ‘Not really, it was more like he spoke to me. His thoughts came into my head quicker than my own did.’
Ulick described how this other person was unseeable. How he was more like an idea, or the shadow of an idea. A shadow of an idea that consolidated in Ulick’s mind, leaving him with the definite impression that he had made someone’s acquaintance. Ulick explained that the communication he shared with this man, this thing, was not really a dialogue but a pre-emptive monologue imposed in Ulick’s mind. ‘He was thinking for me love,’ he told his wife and then he shuddered. ‘He thinks for all of us. Moving from person to person, animal to animal, whispering our thoughts into our ears before we’ve had the chance to think them. He tells us what to say and feel. He tells us to eat, to love, to hate. He’s like a little boy and we’re his toys.’ There were tears in Ulick’s eyes, ‘we’re just toys love’.
Ulick saw the incredulous pity upon his wife’s face. ‘He’s telling me to tell you about him,’ he said, ‘and he’s telling you not to believe me. It’s a strange game he’s playing, letting one of his toys know that it’s only a toy’. ‘Oh Ulick,’ said Agnes, ‘I think you must be very tired. Come out of that thingy and let’s forget all about it’. ‘You’re going to tell Doctor Lawler about this aren’t you?’ ‘No love, I’m going to ask you to tell him.’ Ulick realised, or realised that he had been instructed to realise, that Doctor Lawler would be instructed to think that he should have another stay in hospital. Such a strange game the thing was playing. Like a little joke. The thing was making a little joke to himself and Ulick was the punch line. The thing told Ulick to feel very sad about this. What a cruel sense of humour.
‘Lie down and rest in your room, I’ll try and get you seen today,’ instructed Agnes as she had been instructed to instruct. She was made to feel concern, not just for her husband but about those few frames of reality that went missing between his departure and arrival. A little part of Agnes was encouraged to wonder if her husband was speaking the truth. Is there someone there, everywhere, behind her maybe, whispering into her ear as he whispers into your ear, telling you to read this tale just as he told me to write it?