(Author's Note: This story was written under the pseudonym Marygold Gupta, a female character (she is my wife actually). The story deals with the weird consequences of being present in a four-dimensional universe. According to Einsteinian physics, we live in a 4-dimensional universe; we perceive 3 dimensions as belonging to space, and the remaining dimension as time. Theoretically the space-time dimensions are interchangeable, although in ordinary day-to-day experiences these dimensions remain "fixed" and do not appear to interchange. This story deals with the hypothetical situation when these dimensions interchange frequently. There is no technical flaw in the story, except for the fact that the story assumes that these dimensions interchange very frequently. The consequences are interesting and serve to strengthen the concepts of space-time in people's minds.)
I should have known I was asking for trouble when I asked Gujral to build a four-dimensional house for me.
Well, it all happened like this. I was reading the classic science fiction by Heinlein called "And He Built a Crooked House" in which one Quintus Teal makes a four dimensional house for his rich oilman friend Homer Bailey. Many bizarre incidents occur in this house because of its weird topological properties, which really baffle the mind, till finally one severe earthquake makes it disappear. The incident seemed so interestingly bizarre to me that I myself wanted such a house so I reached Gujral and asked him to built me one such house.
"Sure, I can do that but do you know what it means in the first place?" he asked me.
"A lot more money than the three dimensional house", I replied naively.
"No, no that. I mean the concept of a four-dimensional house."
"Sure. Perhaps I can explain you the concept with the help of a diagram. Look, there can be six cardboard squares joined along edges to make a cube. You can cut along seven edges and unfold the cube to make a flat Latin cross".
Saying this, I reached out for a paper and a pen and made out a digram explaining him that I did know what I was talking about. The diagram was like this:-
He gaped at me in admiration. I continued,
"In a similar way, one could join eight cubes at their faces to make a four-dimensional tesseract. Of course lots of engineering skill would go into it to keep some of the cubes getting distorted. If you cut certain of these faces, the tesseract will unfold to make a solid three-dimensional cross of eight attached cubes. In such a house when you pass from one cube - or room to be more precise - to another, lots of weird things happen, because of the peculiar connections of these rooms."
While I was saying this, I quickly doodled out the diagram of a three dimensional projection of a four dimensional house. Such a projection is essentially a solid three-dimensional cross of eight attached cubes, much in the same way a two dimensional unfolding of a three dimensional cube shows up as a Latin cross. This diagram appeared like the one appearing to the right.
He studied the diagram and then looked at me in admiration. Finally, to my relief, he said that he would do the job. He warned me though that it was his first job. He had indeed learnt the art of four-dimensional architecture from his visit abroad to Betelguese last year, but lot more could be learnt from actual experience.
In a year the house was ready. When I moved in it, I found it really funny. Just the type of house Teal had built. I thanked Gujral and paid him the money.
But within a day I found a strange things happening in the house. No clock would move in the house. Watches, clocks, metronomes, all time measuring devices would work alright outside the house but once brought inside the house they would go kaput. When brought out they would start moving again. I immediately rang Gujral. He came over immediately and after examining the house (and all clocks and watches in it) for some time scratched his head and began mumbling something.
"What is it?" I snapped.
"Rather logical, I would say. Look, we made a four dimensional house and in the process converted the temporal dimension to spatial dimension. Now here we have four spatial dimensions instead of three spatial and one temporal, so you see clocks can't move in this house. You can't eat your cake and have it too."
"Keep that to yourself," I broke in angrily,"nothing of that sort happened to Teal's house. You have erred somewhere."
"That was fiction madam. This house is for real. Anything can go in fiction. We are talking about the real thing now." he replied.
I swallowed that and decided to try the house anyway. But it was hellish without the clocks. I would have to rely on guesswork. Sometimes I would reach office two hours late or sometimes had to wait endlessly for the peon to come and open the office. I got tired finally and asked Gujral to make repairs.
"Do something Gujral, but make the clocks move again. I don't mind losing one dimension but do something."
"Okay, I will try.", he scratched his head,"Meanwhile what about moving to your original house?"
I did that and kept hearing sounds of hammers, chisels and drills working inside the house for a whole month. I didn't have even the faintest idea as to how he was demolishing one dimension. But demolishing he was. That was for sure.
Finally I received a call from him informing me that the house was ready and I cold move in. To my great relief the clocks were moving. But another problem seemed to have arisen! When I moved in, I found I was in a circus. Everything seemed flattened like a cardboard. Tables, chairs, almirahs, my books, everything. I looked in a mirror. A cardboard-like figure stared back at me. Even I had been compressed like a cardboard! I was horrified. I rushed to the 'phone and rang Gujral. No need to tell you the phone was compressed like a cardboard.
"I will come over", he sounded anxious. I prayed to God he hadn't demolished one spatial dimension in error and made us two dimensional creatures. However, when he came he confirmed my fears.
"But what the hell did you do with the temporal dimension?", I asked, after I had heard him.
He shuffled his feet nervously.
"I don't know what really happened. Let us see what we started with. We had four dimensions, which all appeared as spatial dimensions to us. This is what you wanted, right! One of these was the temporal dimension, which I converted into the Spatial dimension. Now since you wanted your clocks to run, I had to recreate the temporal dimension, which had earlier been converted to the spatial dimension. Since all dimensions looked the same, I couldn't really locate the temporal dimension. It seems I demolished a spatial dimension by mistake and converted it into the temporal one."
But that still left us with one unaccounted dimension. One dimension can not just evaporate in thin air. I was wondering what had happened to it. I asked Gujral about it, but he appeared as confused as ever. After he had left I looked at my watch. It was 6.00 pm and it was moving. That was some solace. I went to the kitchen as it was my tea time.
When I looked at the kitchen clock I had the shock of my life. It was showing 12.00 noon. It was an automatic clock hung at a considerable height. Nobody could have tampered with it. How could two different watches in my house show two different times? Utterly confused, I rang Gujral again. After a moment's confusion, he blurted out.
"Oh, now I get it madam. I probably smashed two dimensions and converted them to two temporal dimensions. That brings back your lost dimension as well. You are now living in a space comprising of two spatial and two temporal dimensions. That's why everything is appearing to you like a cardboard, and the clocks are showing two different times."
Oh, go to hell." I said and hung up.
(MaryGold Gupta, S-299 Greater Kailash-1, New Delhi-110048, INDIA, Ph: 91-11-6465460; FAX:91-11-5759476)
***IMPORTANT NOTE: THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED BY THE AUTHOR AND MAY NOT BE REPOSTED, REPRINTED OR OTHERWISE USED IN ANY MANNER WITHOUT THE WRITTEN PERMISSION OF THE AUTHOR