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Resonance: Chapter Twenty Five

       Last updated: Sunday, November 20, 2005 16:08 EST



    “That is so cool!” said Annalise, staring wide-eyed at the screen.

    Graham wasn’t so sure. “What does it actually mean?”

    “It means we don’t need VR worlds any more. The girls are real. We all are. It explains everything - Rosie’s bar, the six Sergios, the different versions of the De Santos kidnapping.”

    “The resonance wave?”

    Annalise stopped. “Okay, so it doesn’t explain everything. But it explains enough. I’ve gotta tell the girls.”

    She closed her eyes and leaned back in her chair. Graham watched, fascinated as her face seemed to drain of all emotion. Her muscles relaxed, her breathing slowed. And then she smiled, a warm smile which came and went, as though she was listening to a play inside her head, a play that only she could hear. One minute, she was laughing to herself - excited, bubbling - the next she was quiet, her head tilted to one side, listening intently to a hidden voice that played somewhere deep inside her head.

    Graham looked nervously around the room to see if anyone else was watching. No one was. Every head was buried in a screen or a paper.

    Annalise giggled to herself. Graham watched the way her face lit up and wondered why he couldn’t feel the same elation. It was his life in danger, shouldn’t he feel something now that they’d made such a major discovery?

    Or wasn’t it such a major discovery? Why should this theory last any longer than VR or Annalise One’s astral plane? And what was wrong with his theory of an unravelling world? Wasn’t that just as likely as a universe made up of two hundred parallel worlds?

    He ruminated for several minutes. Wondering which was preferable - to have your life fragmented over two hundred parallel worlds or disrupted by the one, very unstable, unravelling world?

    And was there a way of determining which was true?

    “We’ve gotta go,” said Annalise, bursting into life. “Best not give Kevin a reason to bail on us. Not now we’ve got some real questions to ask him.”



    “Where are we meeting him?” asked Graham as they crossed the road.

    “Here,” said Annalise, handing Graham a piece of paper with a roughly drawn map on it. “It’s ParaDim’s new offices. Don’t panic - they haven’t moved in yet. It’s still being refurbished. Kevin said all the doors are unlocked and workmen are wandering about all the time so it’s an ideal place to meet. No one’ll notice a couple of extra people walk in unannounced. And if anyone asks who we are, we’re with ParaDim - checking office accommodation.”

    “You’ve been there before?”

    “No, we met at his office the first time. After he’d calmed down. I had to call him twice before he’d agree to meet. He slammed the phone down on me the first time.”

    “You know ParaDim scan all calls?”

    Annalise tilted her head to one side. “Do they?“

    “That’s why I had to take a disk to the trade talks. ParaDim were scanning all electronic traffic.”

    Annalise nodded her head. “Which explains why all the Kevins insist we talk in code over the phone. Neat, huh? This is the day when everything begins to make sense.”

    They zigzagged across Victoria, running out between the gaps in the traffic, waiting on windswept islands, buffeted by the wash from passing lorries, the swirl of dust and the stench of diesel. Gradually the roads became smaller and quieter and the pavements less busy. The two of them fell into step, walking side by side, avoiding the cracks and stretching to the cadence of the street.

    “This is so cool,” beamed Annalise. “I’ve been practising at home. You know, the walk thing? And here I am doing it with the man.”

    Graham smiled back. It did feel good. But then it always had.

    “Why does Kevin Alexander suddenly want to see me?” he asked. “I thought he wasn’t supposed to know that you talked to me?”

    “Who said he knows you’re coming?”



    ParaDim’s new offices were in an old Georgian grey-bricked terrace - four storeys high, black railings, a columned entrance with steps up to an ornately panelled door. Part of Graham hoped that the door would be locked. He dwelt on the lower steps, looking down into the basement windows, while Annalise turned the door-knob.

    It opened. The sound of an electric drill rang through the hallway.

    Annalise led the way inside. The hallway was cluttered with boxes and paint tins. An electric wire trailed down the stairwell like a vine. The smell of fresh paint hung on the air. And from upstairs came the sound of hammering and drilling and the occasional shout.

    “We’re meeting in the basement,” whispered Annalise. “Room four.”

    They followed the stairs down, stepping over the wires at the bottom and squeezing past the tables and chairs stacked in the lower corridor. The door to room four was open. They went inside.

    The room had been freshly redecorated, a faint smell of paint could still be discerned. Some of the furniture had been positioned - a desk, a table, a pair of filing cabinets - others were still stacked in the corner - the chairs, another table, a bookcase. Packing crates and boxes filled another corner - some had been opened and pieces of white polystyrene jutted out from inside.

    But no Kevin Alexander.

    Graham checked his watch -11:29 - they were early. Annalise tried to open one of the filing cabinets. It was locked. She moved over to the desk and opened one draw after another.

    “What are you doing?” hissed Graham. He glanced towards the door, what if Kevin Alexander suddenly walked in?

    “Looking for a key to those cabinets. Might as well make full use of our time. Why don’t you try those boxes over there? See what you can find.”

    Graham did as he was told, glancing up at the window from time to time, in case anyone was looking in from outside. The sky stared back through a line of black railings. Only the top quarter of the window was above ground, the rest looked out on a dingy concrete well.

    A man’s voice boomed from the doorway. “What are you doing? Who’s he?”

    Graham jumped. He hadn’t heard the man’s approach. He swivelled round. Kevin Alexander filled the doorway. He was enormous, thick set, huge hands.

    “You don’t recognise him?” Annalise asked the newcomer, sounding surprised. “This is Graham Smith.”

    Kevin Alexander seemed to crumple in the doorway, his face whitened. “What’s he doing here?“ He took one step back, glanced left, right, up the stairs. “Has anyone seen you? You’ve got to get him out now!”

    “Why?” said Annalise.

    “Because it’s dangerous.” He slipped back inside the room and carefully closed the door. 

    “Dangerous to who?”

    “All of us. Just leave. I’ll see if it’s clear.” He moved towards the window and peered across the street. Graham stayed in the corner out of the way.

    “We’re not leaving until you tell us what’s going on,” said Annalise. “We can help.”

    “You can’t help,” he said without turning his face from the window. “You don’t understand. Now leave. Someone could be here any minute.”

    “No one followed us, if that’s what you’re worried about. Everyone thinks Graham’s at work. No one saw him slip out the back.”

    “It’s too risky.” He pressed his face against the window pane and peered as far as he could up and down the street.

    “We know about the parallel worlds.”

    He stopped looking out the window and turned towards her. He didn’t say a word. He just stood there, an uncertain look in his eye.

    “ParaDim scans all calls, right?” said Annalise, pulling out her mobile phone. “So what would they do if I start dropping your name into conversations - like, Kevin Alexander’s meeting Graham Smith tonight or Kevin Alexander’s found a way to stop the resonance wave? Or maybe I should just call Adam Sylvestrus.”

    “You wouldn’t do that! You’d put yourself in danger.”

    She walked right up to him. He towered above her. A full head taller and twice as broad. She stood on tip toe and looked him in the eye.

    “Do I look like a girl who thinks things through?” She tilted her head to one side and rolled her eyes, playing the tortured psychic for all it was worth.

      “Now tell me,” she said. “Why is everyone so interested in Graham? Is it because he can move between worlds.”

    Kevin Alexander’s mouth dropped open. His head turned, he looked at Graham. “You can move between worlds?”

    Graham nodded.

    “We never imagined…” Kevin shook his head. “How?”

    “We’re asking the questions. Why is everyone so interested in Graham?”

    “What? Sorry.” He couldn’t take his eyes off Graham. “Because … because he’s everywhere. Every world we’ve looked at we’ve found him.”

    Annalise frowned. “Is that all? Graham exists across two hundred worlds and you think that’s amazing?”

    “Two hundred?” He laughed and shook his head. “More like two hundred billion. And that’s just the ones we’ve found so far. The number could be infinite.”

    “Two hundred billion worlds?” It was Annalise’s turn to be amazed.

    “And every one of them has a Graham Smith born on the exact same date - the sixteenth of October, 1966. We thought it was just a crazy anomaly until … until other people started taking an interest.“ He glanced back towards Graham. “How do you move between worlds?”

    “I’m calling,” Annalise warned, waving the phone in Kevin’s face.

    He held up his hands. “Ok, ok.”

    “So what’s weird about all the Grahams having the same birthday?” 

    “Because it just doesn’t happen. Think about it. People have accidents, they die, they’re never born. There’s infinite variety across the parallel worlds.”

    He paused and stared at Graham.

    “Except for you. You never change. You’re everywhere. Every world we’ve discovered, there’s a Graham Smith born on the same day of the same year in practically the same place. Harrow or Stanmore or Wembley or Edgware. Always somewhere in North London. Even when London isn’t called London, even when it’s been destroyed or never evolved beyond a village. You’re there. Living in the same geographic location.”

    He talked with a sense of wonder, his eyes never straying from Graham’s.

    “How? It makes no sense. People just don’t exist on every parallel world. Think about it. Think of the pattern of events necessary to bring a child into the world - then factor in the uncertainty of thousands of years of social evolution, migration, wars. And then try to bring two people together at the same time in the same place to create the same child. It just doesn’t happen. Parents never meet, they meet late, they meet someone else, they go to war, they move towns.”

    “So Graham’s parents existed across all the worlds as well?”

    He turned his head slowly around and looked down at Annalise. “That’s where it really gets weird.”




    “Graham doesn’t always have the same parents.”

    Graham’s eyes widened. His other mother - Eileen Smith - the woman he’d never seen before. Had she been one of those other parents?

    “You mean he has different mothers?” asked Annalise.

    “I mean he has different parents. We can’t explain it. Which is why we’ve been collecting DNA samples. From Graham and every close relative we can find. It’s,” he shrugged, “unfathomable. Somehow, and for some reason, a Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and in some cases a Miss Smith, had a child on October 16th, 1966. And every one of them named that child Graham.”

    He glanced back towards Graham.

    “And then there’s your job. You’re always a messenger, even in the high tech worlds you’re a courier or a delivery man. In the low tech worlds you’re probably a carter. How? Do you carry a messenger gene?”

    Graham didn’t answer, he looked down at the floor instead.

    “Me,” Kevin continued. “I’m a carpenter on one world, on others I’m an accountant, a soldier, a scientist, a teacher. I have many birthdays. I have different sets of brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles. On the worlds that branched away earlier it’s impossible to find my counterpart. There are people with the same name, some with similar professions, but our lineage is so different.”

    He began to bring his hands into the conversation - the huge lobster hands that Annalise One had first noticed. One trait that obviously had no problem crossing the dimensions.

    “I can’t prove that the Kevin Alexander on 015 214 363 544 is me. The link is too tenuous. But the Graham Smith on that world is a courier for His Majesty’s Ministry for Trade and lives in New Wealdstone. Most of North London was levelled during the Great War, millions were killed. But he survived and moved back during the rebuilding.

    “And you don’t do anything. None of you. You don’t belong to any clubs or societies. You don’t vote, you don’t drive, you don’t marry. The only place we find any mention of you is on census returns, tax returns, medical and employee lists. Otherwise, you’re invisible.

    “Which again is strange. Most people have at least one famous counterpart across the billions of parallel worlds. Even if it’s only a lottery winner. But you…”

    Annalise cut him off in mid-sentence. “Why are you so interested in lottery numbers?”

    He looked confused. “I don’t understand.”

    “Your counterpart on one of the other worlds - he wanted to know all the winning lottery numbers. Why?”

    “I have no idea.”

    “I’ve got the phone,” Annalise warned, waving her mobile at him for the second time. He held up his hands, showing Annalise two huge palms.

    “I still have no idea. Didn’t he say?”

    ”He said it was a test. But what kind of test? Why would he want the winning lottery numbers from one hundred and ninety worlds?”

    “One hundred and ninety? I thought there were two hundred of you?”

    “There are, but ten were in London.”

    He was silent for a while, thinking.

    “What did he say the next time he contacted you?”

    “Nothing. He just gave us a contact name and address. That’s how I found you.”

    “And he did that for all one hundred and ninety of you? Gave you a contact name and address?”


    “But the ten in London already had contacts?”

    “That’s right.”

    He shook his head. “It shouldn’t be enough.”

    “What shouldn’t be enough?”

    “Six numbers. There are only six numbers in a lottery, aren’t there?”

    She nodded.

    “You’d need more. Did he ask for…”

    “He wanted the results from thirty-seven states. Would that be enough?”

    He grinned. “More than enough. I never realised I was that clever.”

    Annalise rolled her eyes. “So the whole numbers thing was just a way to find out who our contacts should be?”

    “Exactly. Thirty-seven sets of six two-digit numbers would easily guarantee a unique match. He could download the lottery information from the ParaDim database and match your world against it. Then he’d know where you were and who your contact should be.”

    He smiled to himself and then stopped. Something must have caught his eye for he suddenly glanced to his left, towards the window. Graham followed his gaze. There were two men on the steps, deep in conversation. They didn’t look like workmen, both wore suits, both looked important.

    “Nobody move,” hissed Kevin.

    Graham froze by the stack of boxes, watching the two men, their eyes thankfully locked on each other’s faces. One movement from inside the room and all that could change.

    One man clapped the other on the shoulder and they moved forward. They were coming inside.

    “Quick! Follow me!” hissed Kevin as he bounded for the door. Graham and Annalise followed. Kevin opened the door, swift and silent, gliding through on tip toe, his head turned towards the stairwell.

    Graham heard the front door close and footsteps from the lobby above, a man’s voice, a laugh. Kevin took off. Graham and Annalise snaked after him, turning right and right again, weaving around the crates and obstacles, along a narrow corridor at the back of the building.

    He led them through a labyrinth - the corridor dark, no electric light or windows, a grey light feeding in from in front and behind. The corridor turned left. There was a light up ahead, bleeding through the gaps left between Kevin and the wall.

    They reached an old panelled door - half glass, half wood. Kevin opened it, waved them through. There was a yard - roses, cobbled paths, high brick walls, a small gate.

    “The gate opens out onto a mews at the back. Take it and keep going.”

    Kevin stayed in the doorway, his back to the corridor.

    “What about you? asked Annalise.

    “I’ve got to get back.”


    “Because I have to. Just go!”

    “No, not until you tell us what a resonance wave is.”

    Kevin glanced back inside. Graham thought he could hear someone calling.

    “There’s not enough time,” Kevin whispered.

    “Then make the time. We’re not leaving.”

    Annalise grabbed Graham and pulled him towards her on the step. Graham looked longingly over his shoulder towards the gate.

    Kevin clenched his huge fists and glanced once more into the corridor.

    “Schenck’s Law,” he said. Just the two words. “That’s all you need to know.” He grabbed the door handle with one hand and pushed Annalise with the other, propelling the two of them into the yard. The door closed. A lock turned.

    Graham looked up at the back of the Georgian terrace. There were windows everywhere. Someone could look out any second. A thought shared by Annalise. They turned together and ran for the gate, pulling it open and forcing themselves through.

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