Anil Aggrawal's Forensic Science Fiction: Story 2: The Freak



-Dr. Anil Aggrawal

I was surprised. Extremely surprised. Never before had a patient come to me with such a complaint. I asked him again.

"Are you sure, you keep moving back and forth in time? Just how do you know?"

Rajiv coughed nervously.

"All of a sudden sometimes, I feel dizzy. Then I feel as if I am falling in ordinary three dimensions. In an abyss. Rapidly. But it's not the height I loose. I find I have gone back in time. I see all sorts of things. Mughal splendor. Coming of the English people. Freedom struggle. Everything."

"Are you sure you are not hallucinating? I am asking this because people of your species can control movement in time you see."

"Yes, we four-dimensionals are not like you. Sure enough we can control movements in time just as you can in space. But I just don't know what's the trouble with me. I just can't control it. Look at this ancient coin. I brought it yesterday, when I tipped back in time."

I looked carefully at the coin. A rare gold circlet from the reign of Akbar. There was no mistake about it. This four-dimensional sure enough meant business. He wasn't joking.

In the last twenty years of my practice, I must have treated thousands of people - both three dimensionals as well as four-dimensionals. But never before had I seen such a patient. There wasn't much of a difference in the anatomy and physiology of the two major human species currently living on earth. Just a little difference here and a little there - so that the four dimensionals could adapt to their special needs and requirements. Four dimensionals were so called mainly because they had a special ability to move back and forth in time at will. We three dimensionals could do so only in three ordinary dimensions.

How the four-dimensionals had come to live on earth is a long story. Centuries before, a space ship went from earth in search of intelligent life. After some years of departure, the radio contact between the space ship and the earth broke down and despite best efforts could not be re-established. God knows what happened to those humans, but when they came back some years ago, inhabitants on earth found they had acquired a new ability - to move back and forth in time at will. They couldn't tell anything as they didn't seem to know much. Exobiologists surmised that their forefathers- the ones that left the earth- must have been captured by a super intelligent race and they must have used them as guinea pigs for their genetic experiments. Most probably the ability to move back and forth in time had come as a result of massive genetic alteration by those super-intelligent beings. Anyway the fact was that their genetic makeup had been substantially altered - so much so that they couldn't interbreed with ordinary three-dimensionals.

In spite of my best efforts, I couldn't treat Rajiv. He kept falling back and forth in time. The best I could do was to administer antihistaminics like Avomine so he wouldn't feel dizzy. But that wasn't much help as everybody would agree.

Then one day I received the sad news that Rajiv had expired. I was shocked. Worst of all, I had to conduct a post-mortem examination and find the cause of death.

I opened the body and as expected found petechial hemorrhages in all internal organs-liver, spleen, heart, brain, everywhere. Hemorrhages of the shape of pin-point. The cause of death was clear. He had been falling continuously over long periods. Small Hemorrhages kept on accumulating everywhere and their effect on the brain was devastating. Tried hard as I did, I couldn't locate any other abnormality.

I started closing the body when suddenly I was gripped with a strange curiosity. Could I find the cause of his uncontrollable movements in time? I had more working space now. I had his entire dead body. I could examine all his organs in detail. I might hit upon some curious finding. Besieged with this strange curiosity, I ripped open the stitches and took out all the organs once again. Then I donned my researcher's hat and got down to work.

Till late night I had made sections of all his major body organs and examined them under the microscope in great detail. I could find nothing. Tired, I decided to call it a day. I asked my assistant to wrap up the body in formalin and keep it in the cold room. I would have a last go tomorrow. And then I went to sleep.

At 4 am I woke up with a start. My subconscious mind must have been working at the problem. That's why I had this ridiculous dream. I thought I had found out the cause of his strange abnormality. I couldn't contain my anxiety, and wanted to test the hypothesis right away. I took out my car and headed for the mortuary in the darkness.

The roads, drowned in darkness at that time of the night appeared unusually spooky. At the mortuary, as expected, I found everything closed. The assistant had locked up the main gate, mortuary doors, cold rooms, everything- and had gone away to his house. I took out my duplicate set of keys and opened the mortuary. In the cold room, I opened catacomb number 13, the one where Rajiv was resting. Needless to say, my hands were trembling; perhaps both from fear and from the anxiety of making an unknown discovery.

I took out the body myself and laid it out neatly at the table. The skull cap and brain matter were already removed. I looked at the base of skull- at the petrous part of the temporal bone. The one that forms the roof of the middle and inner ear.

The mystery could be lying there, I told myself.

Gradually and neatly I started chiselling away the temporal bone, so that none of the inner ear structures would be damaged. And then with great precision I took out the inner ear contents. The cochlea, the utricle, the saccule and the semicircular canals, along with vestibular nerves. I kept the whole complex under a simple hand lens and examined it - especially the semicircular canals.

Suddenly I found myself trembling in excitement. My conjecture was correct. There were only three semicircular canals in his body, while actually there should have been four.

The three semicircular canals are at right angles to each other, each representing a single dimension of space. Whenever someone tips in one or the other dimension, the otoliths inside the appropriate semicircular canal would start moving and activate the vestibular nerve which would send the information to the brain immediately. The brain would then send orders to proper muscles and joints to correct the body position. Those who had a disease of semicircular canals would not be able to stand erect properly. Since each semicircular canal represented one dimension, four dimensionals must have four canals, all perpendicular to each other. Three dimensionals like us, of course had only three canals.

My reasoning was this. If Rajiv tipped slightly in the fourth dimension and didn't have the fourth semicircular canal representing the fourth dimension of time, the brain wouldn't get the necessary information and he would keep on falling in that dimension. Of course when he started seeing ancient scenario, he realized he was falling and could thus consciously control the fall. But by that time he would have gone quite far back in time and had to come forward in time on his own. This was the reason for his constant trippings in time.

One last thing. How could one have four canals perpendicular to one another in ordinary three dimensions? One may wonder, where exactly I expected to see the fourth canal. Well, a four dimensional cube can be projected in three dimensions as a tesseract. What I expected to see was a tesseract of the semicircular canals, but there was none. There were just three semicircular canals. The finding has since been confirmed by dissection of other four-dimensionals. They all show their semicircular canals as a tesseract. They have four mutually perpendicular canals alright, but they show up as a tesseract, in ordinary three dimensions.

This unexpected discovery gave me much satisfaction in itself. But the thing that surprised me most was to find my name in the Padma Shree winners of next year.


This story was Published in July 1988 issue of 2001 (Science Today) on centerfold page under the title Time and Again



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