The Mists of Time

The ship – well, it was far more than that of course, but as we are telling the story today let us use words you can relate too – approached with great apprehension.   Its many sensors had warned it of the peculiar behaviour of this particular unexplored region of far far outer space.  Here, where the Universe was still rapidly expanding, and where according to all the computer models there should be next to nothing – the very occasional small rocks or dust – was what appeared to be a rather large planet.  Though, of course – how could there be a planet without a Star for it to be orbiting.  But there it was just ahead.  A few billion kilometres ahead obviously, but quite observable from the ships’ incredibly powerful telescopes.  Instructed by Starbase Sol71 to reduce speed to almost nothing – a few hundred k. per minute, the ship proceeded with absolute caution; bristling with sensors and armaments and ready to take whatever evasive action might be considered necessary, without endangering the sanctity of this supposedly unexplored part of the known, or we should actually say – unknown, Universe.

This may all seem strange to you Twenty-first readers.  Let me explain.  We are sending this back in time to you from many millennia in the future; we have tried to use a version of English you might still understand.  We realise that there is little you can do but maybe somewhere this document will be saved and re-read occasionally to possibly prepare you.  Or it may simply be lost in the mists of time.  Who can tell?  But for what it is worth we felt you should at the very least be made aware, though what you will make of it we cannot tell.

Let us go back a few millennia.  After the 24th century (your Earth time) the Big Bang Theory had been largely discredited.  Or, we should more correctly say, revised.  There had always been the seemingly impossible problem, the contradiction at the very heart, that all that matter, all those zillion atoms must have existed before the Big Bang.  Or something must have existed – because the most basic law of physics is that nothing can be created or destroyed, the particles at least must remain.  In other words, we could plainly see what had happened since Big Bang, but no-one had any real evidence of anything before it.   This had simply re-enforced the Religionists in their Creation beliefs.  But around the turn of the 23rd Century space explorers begun to discover discrepancies; whole Galaxies which though millions of light years away seemed to be moving in the wrong direction; the occasional spectrum analysis which showed small particles of dust older than Big Bang itself.  ‘Impossible’ the scientists all said, but slowly revisions became necessary.  By the 30th Century it became obvious that there must have been a Universe, possibly many, before the current one.  Could there be a seventh physical force?  An ‘Entrophy’ maybe, where, as the universe began to age and decay, the Galaxies themselves would start their long journey back to a single starting point.

Whatever the truth, which some Astro-Physicists were beginning to believe we would never know completely – this ‘Planet’ was simply impossible.  From Spectrum analysis it appeared to be a Gas Giant about the size of the old Neptune back in your Sol1 System.  But how could it possibly exist out here in this trillion cubic kilometre nothingness – with no Star to orbit.  But this was exactly the conundrum – this Planet, which was already being nicknamed ‘Dumbo’ was not moving at all.  This was too impossible to believe; everything in the Cosmos was moving, often at bewildering speeds.  There was no friction out here so once something was moved by any force at all, it simply kept on going until affected by another force.   So how on Sol71 could this, ‘Planet’, be apparently still.   It just hung there, as if suspended on an invisible string while everything else in the universe was spinning around.  Although, even stranger, as the Ship slowly approached ‘Dumbo’ appeared to be moving again, though now, if the measurements could be relied upon -and of course they had to be right – Dumbo was moving towards them.   The ship automatically, even though it was still a million kilometres away, stopped.  And Dumbo stopped too.

This was simply not credible, planets could not move of their own volition, something or some force must have moved it – but the ship was the only object for billions of kilometres around.  So, the ship slowly advanced a few thousand kilometres.  Dumbo did too.  The ship stopped.  Dumbo stopped.  The ship reversed slowly; Dumbo reversed just as slowly.  The ship veered off sharply to the left; Dumbo to the right.

Orders came straight from Sol71.   Reverse one million kilometres and wait until we have processed all this information.

But this time Dumbo simply stayed still, not retreating or pursuing the ship – just like a dog waiting for it’ master to throw the ball again, there it remained, seemingly at peace but the truth was that all the computers on board and even the few humans back at base were completely flummoxed.  Nothing had ever been observed with this apparently sentient behavour ever before.  It was if the planet, if indeed it was a planet, had a mind of its own.  It had mirrored the motions of the ship; there had to be some intelligence there deep in the gas giant’s swirling mass.

The decision when it came, after a wait of a few minutes – a lifetime for the computer’s on Sol71 –  was to launch a mini-ship, a mere hundred kilometres long, at crawl speed of a thousand kilometres an hour in an elliptical flight path to by-pass, if that were at all possible, the gas giant known as Dumbo.  A hundred-thousand kilometres in, and so far, no reaction from the planet.  Except….was it a trick of the light, some sort of optical (though optics were abandoned centuries ago) illusion – but was the planet changing shape?  Dumbo appeared to be dissolving, thinning out at the edges, getting larger if anything but less solid (if a gas can ever be considered to have any real density).  And slowly like a lump of sugar on a spoon in a cup of tea it seemed to dissolve.  What was once a bright orangey-yellow sphere faded to a creamy white and then just as slowly to a faint mist and then even that was gone.

The ship advanced to exactly where Dumbo had been, covering the million kilometres in a matter of minutes, and tried to collect samples; but samples of what exactly?  There was simply nothing there at all, not a single molecule, not even an an electron or particle.  Simply nothing-ness.  And yet the ship had seen it, the scientists back at Sol71 had seen it; the telescopes could not have lied.  Besides they had it all recorded on hi-res images and replayed it time and again.  It was the strangest event and there was no precedent for it.  They simply could not believe their own reconstructed image ‘eyes’.

For centuries students of Astro-physics, both machine and human puzzled over the ‘Dumbo’ illusion, as it became known.  And just as back in the 20th Century nobody had believed that an elephant could really fly – there was no denying what one saw.  Dumbo had reacted precisely, mimicking the movements of the ship and then had disappeared as mysteriously as it had arrived.

The best answer anyone could come up with was that this was some sort of intelligent Universe memory, a half-consciousness, left over from a previous Universe, that had somehow time-warped into this one. It should have imploded just before the Big Bang like everything else, but had somehow got lost in the mists of time itself and maybe, just a shadow, just a half-forgotten memory had survived out here in the bleakest emptiest part of the Universe.

But of course, the fly in the ointment was that word ‘intelligent’.  Despite millennia of searching and pursuing radio waves no intelligent life had ever been observed anywhere in the entire Universe.  A few fossils of what might have been simple one-cell bacteria might have been found in the occasional meteor – but even that was debateable.   There seemed no explanation for Dumbo at all.  Maybe there had been ‘intelligence’ in a previous Universe.  Maybe Dumbo’s apparent mirroring was not intelligence at all, but a new Physics pertaining to a time long before our own Universe.  Whatever….it is now many Millenia since Dumbo’s appearance and disappearance.  It isn’t even discussed much now at all.  Just like the Earth itself the planet Dumbo now appears to be lost in the mists of time.

This message has been sent in the maybe forlorn hope that you will not reject it as some sort of a joke.  We have sent several messages back to different times and obviously, because we have had no fore-warning about ‘Dumbo’, they have been ignored – or they themselves may have also been lost in the mists of time.