I was walking through the woods near JPL, during my lunch hour on a brisk autumn day. The weather was kind of chilly, so I shoved both hands into the pockets of my leather jacket; trying to keep warm. And then, as I descended the path from the parking lot bridge, I saw this tall gaunt man who appeared to be slowly rising up out of the ground about fifty away. When he was fully visible, he introduced himself as Doctor Himmel, and said, “Hello there, want to take a ride on one of my elevator rocks? They only go down about one-hundred and ten feet; it’s a very slow and safe ride. And there are glowing walls at the bottom, and you will see some strange symbols all around you.”
As I swept my arm backward toward the science laboratories, I said, “Hi, I’m Bill, and I work at JPL, on our Mars colony resupply project. The numerous planning meetings were dragging me down to the point of distraction, so I decided to take a walk and get some air. What’s your name, and do you work at JPL?”
“You’ll really enjoy the ride.” The Doctor was quick to divert my question, “And it’s very safe and interesting down there.”
As I listened to him speak his words in a matter-of-fact tone, it seemed more fantasy than fact. I was stunned that anyone could or would be descending into and then rising up out of a deep pit in the middle of nowhere. Carefully checking him out to see if he had threatening weapons or even an umbrella, which under the right circumstances could be a pretty dangerous weapon. After assuring myself that he posed no threat, I walked up to the pit, checked out its dimensions, which was about fifty-foot square. Then I examined the two-by-two-foot square block, on which he was standing. Just below his foot in the middle of the rock a small button looked like a control of some sort. Gesturing toward an empty rock next to him, he offered it to me. The rock was right near the edge of what appeared to be a very deep and menacing hole in the ground.
Edging closer but trying to keep a reasonable distance from this person, who I thought might be a lunatic, I glanced down into the darkness. The hole appeared to go straight down, looked deep and I thought, something’s really wacky here, people just don’t go floating around in air on rocks in the middle of nowhere, then descend and ascend into and out of a hole in the earth. “You’re telling me, you can stand on a small rock and float up and down in what appears to be a tremendously deep hole? This is not science fiction, Doctor Himmel, this is Southern California, where reality hits you hard in the face if you walk off the end of an uncompleted freeway construction or start thinking you can drop into a bottomless pit, and still come out alive.”
“Nice analogy Bill, but this nothing like what you are imagining. Come closer, and step on one of those stone pedestals, you won’t fall, I guarantee it and if you did trip or something, you could grab one of these other rocks along the edge and you’d be supported as if you are on solid ground; just like I’m doing.”
I was not sure of what I was looking at, but six feet away from the edge of this fifty-foot-wide hole to nowhere, three other similarly sized rocks were jiggling as they floated just a few feet beyond the rock platform that supported this mysterious person.
“Take a step, Bill; it’s perfectly safe.”
Being familiar with the lubrication pit in our local garage, I was not terribly fearful of a dark hole in the ground, but this place was a little bit too much. Taking a chance, I bravely stepped off solid ground and on to that floating and jiggling platform. It felt solid enough, so I bravely jumped up and down just a bit to see what would happen. The rock platform was as solid as Mother Earth.
Doctor Himmel moved his rock platform toward me by pressing his forward foot on the control button. His gliding toward seemed to be an easy smooth motion. There we stood, two strangers engaging in what could only be described be the weirdest conversation two people in the woods could ever have.
“Wait a minute Doctor, could you explain that gliding maneuver you just performed in simple Reader's Digest terms?”
“Bill, trust me; I was just as surprised as you were when I discovered this place. Like you, I was walking by this hole in the ground surrounded by a low fence. I was on a walking tour of these hills, and after coming down the Gabrielino Trail from visiting a lovely forest park. I saw this hole just inside the fence with these stones floating in midair. I squeezed through an unlocked gate, walked over to the pit edge and gave one of the floating stones a tap with my shoe. I thought it might be a mirage or something. They seemed supportive enough so I bent down and tried to push one with my hand to see if it would go tumbling down into the abyss. No such luck. They just wiggled a little bit and were very hard to move out of their stationary position.”
“Let’s not the kind of behavior that you’d expect from a couple of flat two-by- two foot rocks; floating like that, it’s just not natural, Dr. Himmel.”
“I assure you, Bill, it’s natural as a stepping stone where I come from. We use these all the time traveling from place to place.”
“Yes, good Dr. speaking of which, where do you come from?”
“Well, for the moment were staying in Altadena, there is a friend up there who has a large ranch and is very accommodating for visitors.”
“I suspect Dr. Himmel that that’s just half answer, but will it go at that for now.”
I was beginning to be less apprehensive about this person; he seemed like a nice sort of chap. So, in a similar manner to what he was doing, I took a chance on stumbling into the abyss and stood on the floating rock with my right foot using half of my full weight. I figured, if it sinks out of sight, I could quickly jump back onto the ground near me. But unbelievably, it didn't move or sink; it just sat there jiggling a little bit. The rock looked large enough, so I stood on it with both feet. There was some room to spare, so, bravely I moved around on it a little bit. Oddly, the rock felt stable enough to not send me tumbling into panic mode.
“You’re doing excellently, Bill, try moving around a little bit.”
As I stood there, my legs shaking as much as the rock was vibrating, I said, “Not knowing anything about this situation, except what you’ve told me so far. I won't be throwing caution to the wind and making any wild maneuverers with my elevator rocks any time soon, but I will try to maneuverer this thing.”
“Be brave, Bill. If you are ready for an afternoon adventure? Just press your foot forward and backwards. You might feel a bit uneasy when the platform moves backward. If you feel uncomfortable doing that, then press your foot forward on the front edge of the rock to go forward. Touch that button in the middle of the slab and you will start to descend slowly and steadily. Then punch the button again to rise up. Don’t worry, everything about this process is safe. I've done what you are concerned about many times.”
Overcoming some apprehensiveness, I tried the up-down button in the middle of the rock to descend a bit it and hit it again to rise back up the same amount. Then I pressed the button a few more times to run the thing through a few validation cycles. Amazingly it worked just as described. Bravely, I tried to descend once more, but going the full way down. The rock kept going downward at a slow even pace. Gradually, as the light from the hole became dimmer, I guessed I was about 50 feet down with the opening above continuously retreating. Then, as my eyes got adjusted to the dark, the walls started to emit a blue-pink glow, I wondered, what am I getting into?
And then down came Doctor Himmel on his descending slab of rock. “What do think of this, Bill?”
“So far it's okay, the walls are getting brighter as we go deeper.”
“That's the idea, when we get to the bottom, you will see some exciting stuff.”
“Hope there is a solid surface down there. No pool of well water. I'm not good at floating until someone comes along to rescue me.”
“Take a chance. You might be intrigued by what you find down there. Such as a super-gravity suit as well as an anti-grav suit and many other remarkable surprises. I'm sure you will find that the anti-grav suit is great for hiking and mountain climbing.”
“I could see from all this paraphernalia to reduce gravity, but why would you want a super-gravity suit?”
“Some of your people have been to the moon, Bill, and you know how little gravity is available on the moon?”
“Yes, I understand gravity’s pretty low because of the smaller mass: about 83.3% lower than that of the Earth. So, we would weigh about one-seventeenth of our weight here on earth.”
“So that’s where the students come depending on what planet you’re living on. You make a choice super or anti. Whatever floats your boat.”
“Now you’re making a droll joke. Dr. Himmel.”
“Why thank you, Bill.” And then he ascended again to the top of the pit.
Left alone down there and not taking too much heed in what he said was feasible or even possible, I stepped off the stone, and it just sat there on the ground, one-hundred and ten feet below street-level quivering like a jelly on a plate. I figured it would start moving again and have to grab it to take a ride up to the top of that hole, but it stayed there in the position just where I left it.
So, in that somewhat pink-blue light of that room, cave or pit; whatever it was, as my eyes became more accustomed to the semi darkness, I looked around see to the extent the place. My mind raced along with questions. Could those stones actually be a sort of personal elevator that one could ride anywhere? The questions just came tumbling into my mind like an avalanche.
There were some very strange drawings around me on the walls, such as triangles, pyramids and lines of some sort. Then a picture of all the planets in our solar system became visible. The planets looked as if they were in a grand conjunction some sort. That drawing was probably more of a convenience than reality, but it was an inter-planetary map. One planet, a very small and green, stood out between two long bands of stony asteroids. There it was, standing alone and aloof, a small but an actual planet amongst thousands of small bits of junk asteroids.
That small planet could have been an aggregate rock system that somehow or another grabbed enough of other rocks to eventually gathered more material together maintain its own gravity, which gave it some stability in a system of jumbling and tumbling loose rock. This planetary map was definitely a puzzle. I had to ask Dr. Himmel about it later. Then, looking around the perimeter of the room. I spotted some strange triangular shapes. I guess you’d call them tetrahedrons because they had only three sides, and a base like a somewhat like a pyramid.
I walked over and tried to pick one up and noticed the edges of the solid felt very sharp. It was as if you touched an edge too hard, you might get cut by putting too much pressure on your skin ¾ another question for Dr. Himmel. In the back of my mind, I hoped he would have some definitive answers for me. Again, trying to pick up the tetrahedron by getting my fingers underneath it, this time it seemed more cooperative.
It was impossible to pick it up any other way. The ground beneath the shape was soft and loose, but any time I got my fingers under it or touched it in the wrong way, it hurt my fingers. This place is getting stranger by the minute, I thought. Finally, I was actually able to grasp the thing by shoving my leather coat under it and then wrapping the coat around it. I don’t know what it did to the coat's lining but at least I was able to carry it.
I quickly carried the object over to the 'elevator stone,' that’s what I called it for a lack of any other way to describe it. Then, I dutifully pressed the center button twice, and slowly the stone rose up with me and the wrapped tetrahedron in tow. It seemed like in no time at all, I was back at the surface in less than five seconds, at least it felt quicker going up than the trip down. At the surface, there he was, I quickly walked over toward him, the ten feet between us just melted away, and I noticed he had a knowing grin on his face, like he knew what I had under my coat.
“So, it looks like you found one of our little toys, Bill.”
“What was that you said, Dr. Himmel?”
“Don’t kid around Bill; I know what you have under that leather jacket. The briskness of your walk gives you away.”
I opened my leather jacket to almost shamefully reveal the tetrahedron, like a kid with a confiscated toy, and I then said to him, “It’s just a rock that I found down there. It has a strange shape; do you know anything about this sort of thing?”
“Well, that shape you are holding is one of our anti-gravity stones; even under that leather jacket, it's recognizable. And I’d say you are walking a little livelier than the last time I saw you.”
“Yes, I noticed that it was very light once I got a hold of it. The stone seem to lift itself up without my help, and walking seems quicker than ever before. What’s going on here Dr. Himmel?”
“Be that as it may, you have discovered one of our anti-gravity tetrahedrons, Bill. It can actually change gravity in a local environment. We plan to bring down millions of these to make your planet a little bit more like ours. They are supposed to be buried in the ground so they’re not noticeable. If anyone ever comes across one in the ground, picking one up would be kind of difficult. There is no firm horizontal surface, with which a person or even a tractor plow can grab them. They are made to just sit beneath the surface six inches to a foot down and change the local gravity around it for a distance of about ten feet.”
“It all sounds very clever Dr. Himmel, but why would anyone coming from another planet want to change our gravity? 'Wait a minute,' as Huell Howser would say when he was stumped, as if anyone in LA would stop what they're doing for even a second to let him catch up with the show. This tells me your planet so small and has such a small amount of gravity that it would be difficult for your people to move around on our high-gravity planet?”
“I like you Bill, you’re clever, you figured it out, but I never thought you’d be able to hold one of our anti-gravity-tetrahedrons in your hands. I'd hate to see what its sharp edges have done to the liner of your jacket. Those sharp edges are designed so that it can never be touched. But somehow, you’ve been able to wrap it up. Why don’t you dump it out on the ground so that we can see what does.”
I opened my coat and dumped the object on the ground, then I remarked to Dr. Himmel, “This one strange hunk of metal; it does’t matter which end is up; it is completely symmetrical, and those edges; Mr. Gillette would be jealous.”
“You have in front of you, Bill, a genuine gravity transformer, we have transported thousands of them down to your planet during the last month. Did you notice it has a unique up-lifting effect when you hold it?”
“Yes, I noticed, Dr. Himmel, if that really is your name. What is up with all this anti-gravity tetrahedrons malarkey if you pardon the expression? By the way you lied to me a while ago.”
“Pardon me, it was convenient at the time. And concerning the anti-gravity tetrahedron name, why shouldn't be; it sounded like a perfectly good name to me when we arrived last week.”
“Since I haven’t been down this way for a couple weeks. I probably missed your arrival, and that brings up the question, how did you arrive? And furthermore, from where did you travel? I saw a star chart down in the pit and wondered, does your small planet have low gravity? The one I saw standing, probably alone in the space between asteroids belt five and six?”
“Yes, Bill, that is our home micro-planet, such as it is. We are just a few thousand people who have survived traveling from another solar system, which is slowly heading toward our sun. We temporarily picked that asteroid, which you here on earth call Vesta rather than what you call Mars because Mars has such terrific winds and dust storms that it makes living unbearable. We needed a less traumatic area that we can control ourselves and it needed to be a place where we could capture enough sunlight to keep our civilization alive.”
“It sounds like you’ve chosen well. You have survived long enough to spread throughout our solar system looking for a better place to make a home. But there’s always the question of the changing gravity situation between earth and Vesta. It must be like floating in space, working and playing on Vesta since it’s such a small asteroid with possibly very little gravity.”
“Yes, Bill, with our advanced technology provided us by thousands of years of scientific research and experimentation, we were able to develop inventions for better living. We also can control our surroundings by making them heavier or lighter depending on requirements. We temporarily live in Vesta's equatorial region down inside what you call Divalia Fossa, it is bigger than your Grand Canyon. Our area gets sun radiation for a minimum amount of time so we use crystal solar panels to provide more electricity than we’ll ever need. While we lived aboard our spaceship Galaxy Explorer One, our astronauts scoured locations in the Divalia Canyon to find maximum solar radiation during Vesta's five-hour daily rotation. Additionally, the astronauts tried to pick a canyon wall with maximum solar light. The reflected light off one canyon wall illuminates our living-space caves."
"Your people are quite the creative explorers with turning a canyon into a home for many of your citizens."
"Yes we have learned to adapt our lifestyles; using large lasers, our astronauts cut huge caverns out of the Vesta bedrock and sealed them off. We use a transparent plastic, which is similar to your Plexiglas. These caverns were large enough to support thousands of people on a temporary basis. So, until we find another location, Vesta will be our home. I’m hoping your people on earth can help us find a place to live. We have some interesting ideas you might be interested to learn about. We'd be willing to trade those ideas and processes for a nice home on your planet, because living in those caves on an asteroid after hundreds of years is very stressful. Having barely enough food, grown by hydroponics and solar generated electricity to power our lighting system is only a survival mode. By the way those stones with that special button in the center allows us to travel to anyplace we want to go.”
“You want to try it?”
“Sure, I'm game for anything new.”
As Dr. Himmel showed me exactly where to place my foot, he said, “Stand firmly on the stone surface, then slide your right foot over to touch the button's right edge. Then, pressing the edge, and think of someplace you'd like to go, and instantly you will be there with the stone in tow under your feet; it follows you on your travels. To return here, do the same maneuver again, except place your left foot near the left edge of the button and then slide your foot over to press that edge to come back.”
“If that's all there is to it, Dr. Himmel; the airline companies are going grumble when they find out about this one. I tried it by thinking of my Mom's living room in Encino, and ZAP.”
It worked, just like the good doctor said it would. Continuing to tell Dr. Himmel my mini adventure, I then said, “I picked up the stone, I figured it might be required it for a quick getaway, walked out to the kitchen, quietly set it on the throw rug behind where she was having lunch, bent over and kissed her on the back of her head so she couldn't see me, and then quickly did the left-foot slide-over-and-touch maneuver. ZAP.” I returned to where Dr. Himmel was standing!
When he saw me return, he said, “Isn't that great.”
“Yes, indeed it is; worked just as you described. Now I must call my Mom on the mobile phone and see if she was thinking of me, 'cause I don't know if she's ready for all of this.”
“Wise choice, Bill. The first time our scientists showed us that transportation method seven-hundred years ago nobody would believe it. Give her a call; I'd love to hear her reaction.”
As I tapped my parent's home number, I said, “We should break it to her gently. A bit of Deja vous would be a good start. And then into the mobile phone, 'Hi, Mom, were you thinking of me a moment ago?' She said that her thoughts were that I was there with her. She smelled my cologne. 'Don't worry Mom; I'm alright, I'll be over tonight with some wonderful news. Bye for now.' That was truly amazing, Dr. Himmel”
“This arrangement of your group coming to Southern California is going to work out just fine! With only a few thousand inhabitants, Dr. Himmel, that shouldn't’t be too much of a problem. I know we have some wide-open spaces available. Here's hoping we can accommodate you.”
© 2023, Ronald L. Lyons, all rights reserved.