Tuesday 11 May 2021

The Hounds Of Elsewhere

 Note to Reader:

You may want to read The Hounds Of Tindalos by Frank Belknap Long before you read this. It's not absolutely necessary, but it'll save you from spoilers if you subsequently decide to read that 1929-published story.



So he called you, too?” I asked. “I didn’t know you were on my flight.”


Yash Agarwal blinked at me like the tortoise he rather resembled. “I got a call from him the day before yesterday. He did not tell me you were coming.”


“...or I wouldn’t have come,” his tone of voice clearly indicated, but I ignored it.  Yash Agarwal had never liked me, but didn’t ever express it openly. We walked together to the luggage carousel and stood waiting for the suitcases to come tumbling out. “Did he tell you how long we’d be expected to stay?”


“Just tonight, wasn’t it? I got a ticket for the first flight out tomorrow morning.”

He blinked at me a little more. “I’m leaving tomorrow as well. Do you know what he wants to see us for?”


“He didn’t tell me, except that it was essential that we came.” A very fat woman in pastel green pushed between us to pull a bag nearly as large as she was off the conveyor belt. “He just said it was essential,” I repeated, once she had withdrawn, with more shoving and pushing. “I think that’s my suitcase there.”


Yash Agarwal had already collected his while the obese woman had been elbowing her way out. “It has been years since I last saw him,” he said, as we got into a taxi and I gave the driver the address I’d been given. “I wasn’t sure he was still alive.”


I didn’t say anything. Outside the window the open fields around the airport sped by, giving way to low brick housing. The area had become a lot more built up since I was here last. Far in the distance, the skyscrapers of the business districts and the residences of the ultra rich poked skywards like triumphant fingers.


I grew aware that Yash Agarwal was saying something. “So, why did you agree to come at short notice when you don’t even know what he’s calling us for?”


 I shrugged. “Why did you?”


He stared at me for a long moment. “Just curiosity,” he said at last. “I wanted to know what the old man is doing these days.”


“Well, you could say the same about me,” I said. The taxi was slowing down as the traffic thickened. A motorcycle, driving at extreme speed, roared past so close that I felt the wind of its passing right through the window. “That character will end up under a bus.”


“Hopefully. They don’t care for anyone except themselves.” The motorcycle had derailed the question about why I’d come, which was fine, because I didn’t really have an answer. I suspected that Yash Agarwal didn’t either, unless it was to make sure that nobody else Dr Singh had summoned got exclusive access to whatever he’d called about.


Dr Singh; I leaned back against the seat and watched the city grow as I thought about him. It had been many years since we’d been students at his class in mathematics. He’d picked three or four of us out – Yash Agarwal had been one of them, and I – for additional instruction at his home after class hours. And somehow afterwards we used to sit and read fiction, especially Lovecraftian fiction, of which Dr Singh had turned out to be surprisingly fond.


Afterwards, Yash Agarwal and I had met Dr Singh several times over the years; and, as he’d grown older, he’d begun talking more and more about plans he had after retirement. “This is just marking time,” he’d told me the last time we’d met. “I’ve done my research, and I’m just waiting for when I’m a free man. And then I can do what I want!”


“What are you planning, Doctor?” I’d asked, not very hopeful of an answer. Though he was a professor as well as a PhD, Singh always disliked the “professor” appellation. “I worked for the PhD,” he’d been wont to say, “but just had to hang around in my teaching job long enough to become a professor. One might as well call me a Doddering Ancient.”


“You’ll find out when I’m ready.” He’d grinned in answer to my question and clapped me on the shoulder. “Until then, not another word.”


I had no idea whether Yash Agarwal had had a similar meeting with the old man, not that I would ask him. The taxi  had slowed down further and now turned off the main street on to one side street, and then another, between large houses which were, by the standards of this growing city, quite old and definitely extremely expensive.


“Have you been in this part of town before?” I asked Yash Agarwal.


He shook his head. “I just got his address over the phone, the same as you, I imagine.”


The taxi coasted to a stop outside a blocky pinkish-brown two storey building with a strip of heavily overgrown garden around it. I was about to check the house number on the gate with that on my scrap of paper, when I saw Dr Singh himself watching from a ground floor window. He waved and disappeared, and a moment later the front door opened.


“Well, here you are,” he called to us. “Come in, you both look as though you need a cold drink.”


We did. It was a hot afternoon, and the glasses of orange juice Dr Singh pressed on us were almost as welcome as a bottle of chilled beer would have been. Between sips I looked around the room. It was well-furnished, but rather untidy. Dr Singh saw me looking and grinned ruefully.


“I know,” he said. “I’ve been too busy to bother about anything else recently.”


“Have you been too busy to take care of yourself?” I asked. Dr Singh had been a heavy man, once, but his paunch had all but disappeared. Under his sky blue turban, his rolled white beard didn’t conceal newly gaunt cheeks.


He waved an irritated hand in a long familiar gesture. “Oh, that. Once I’m done with my project I’ll have time for all that sort of thing again.”


“Your project?” Yash Agarwal asked.


“You’ll be finding out soon. After all, that’s why you’re here.”

“So you did it at last, did you?” I put the glass down. “What is it about, anyway?”


Dr Singh cocked his head and looked at me. “All in good time,” he said. “Let’s have lunch and I’ll tell you all about it.”




You remember (Dr Singh said) that we used to read Lovecraftian fiction together back when you were my students. Most of it was, of course, fantasy; I have extreme doubts that undiscovered cities built by barrel-shaped Elder Things lie in the Antarctic, or that a mountainous alien god lies sleeping under the South Pacific. But, like anything else, if you have enough speculation and freed imagination, something comes along that might have a nugget of truth in it, even if purely by accident.


One of the stories I thought might hold that nugget of truth was Frank Belknap Long’s The Hounds Of Tindalos. You probably remember that story, I think; the narrator is called by his friend Chalmers to his flat, where Chalmers talks about his hypothesis that time is a continuum, existing everywhere simultaneously. Chalmers – through a combination of Einsteinian mathematical formulae and an unnamed Chinese drug that the Daoists allegedly used to achieve universal consciousness – plans to travel this space-time continuum and experience everything simultaneously. He also has an idea that time is of two kinds, the familiar “curved” time that we know – what we’d today call spacetime – and something called “angular time”.


When I first read of this “angular time”, I hardly thought about it, taking it to be just part of the fictional background of the story. But later, that night, when I was lying awake, it crept into my mind and would not go away.


Think about us as a point moving along a graph paper. On one side we have the past, everything that has happened already, which we can see, as it were, by looking over our shoulder. On the other we have what will happen, in future, spreading out from where we are at a given moment into the distance, which we can’t see, but which we can speculate about, and which we will experience. From our perspective the past is a quadrant that narrows down to end at us at this given moment, while the future is a quadrant leading out and away from this moment. Correct?


But what about the rest of the graph paper? Behind us is one quadrant, twenty five percent of the paper. Ahead of us is another quadrant, twenty five percent of the paper. That leaves fully half of the paper unknown and unknowable. That fifty percent is at right angles to us. It’s called “elsewhere”.


I know the obvious objection, that spacetime isn’t two-dimensional like a graph paper. But that’s not an objection; I merely used the graph paper as an illustration. It’s more like two cones, touching at the tips.


You know all about the multiverse theories of spacetime. In an infinite number of parallel universes that arose at the moment of the Big Bang, a finite number, closer to this time, gave rise to life on earth. In a smaller number of those universes, coming closer to our present, humans evolved. In a still smaller number, even closer to our present, Frank Belknap Long wrote his story. Yet fewer, and more recent, universes had all three of us being born, and still fewer and more recent of those had us taking the same study and career paths as we did. And an even smaller number had me thinking about Long’s story and taking steps to do the research on it. And still fewer had me calling you two and both of you being willing and able to come.


You, of course, understand what I’m saying. If we look back towards the past, an infinite number of possible universes keeps narrowing into fewer and fewer ones as we come closer and closer to the time that we acknowledge to be our present. And all of those intersect at this precise moment when I’m saying these exact words to you. Everything behind us is a cone, widening out to the moment of the Big Bang.


And from this moment on, the intersected universes will immediately split and the time streams diverge again. In one universe, I’ll pick up this pencil, like so, and in others I won’t. And things will keep changing more and more as we move towards the future, with differences accumulating, both for us and humanity and the universe at large, so that the future will spread out into another cone, extending to the end of time as we know it.


Again, these two conical time streams limit our perception to one axis of the graph, the horizontal one, and make it impossible to know what will be happening on the vertical axis, moving at right angles to us. There again you have “elsewhere”.


Do you see, therefore, what struck me? Angular time might be real, only it’s moving at right angles to us, just like each dimension of spacetime is at right angles to the next. We could actually access it, if only we could move at right angles to the direction in which curved spacetime is carrying us. Do you understand?


The more I thought about this idea, the more it made sense to me. All that needed to be done was to work out how.


The first thing I did was, of course, to discard any notion of using any drug, Daoist or otherwise. Frank Belknap Long’s Chalmers didn’t mention, of course, the name of the drug, but even if he had, and in the unlikely event that it even existed, the last thing that scientific research needs is mind-altering chemicals thrown into the mix. So I concentrated on the mathematics, which, of course, luckily happened to be my own field of expertise.


In that I was immeasurably aided by the fact that we aren’t in the 1920s like Chalmers. Here, in the 21st century, we have computer programmes that can scan through millions of models, apply them to a problem, and check for solutions. In fact I had programmes specifically created to help me in this, and my computer kept running through the various permutations and combinations day and night, even while I was teaching in class, even when I – most reluctantly, I can tell you – went to sleep.


It was only a few months before my retirement that – after years of trying various approaches, and more mathematical models than I care to think about – that I hit on a solution. At first I could scarcely believe it, but the more I checked, the more certain I became. But it required a great deal of preparation – a very great deal – and I decided that it would have to wait until after I retired.


Fortunately, as you know, I am a bachelor and so have had no expenses on a family; I took no holidays, made no extravagant expenses, and I could afford to accumulate enough money to indulge myself in the practical minutiae of my research. I knew I wouldn’t be getting any grants, even if any institute took me seriously. Only actual and verifiable results would be acceptable.


All these days, after retirement, I have been carrying out experiments and modifying my parameters. I’ve had years of setbacks, but each merely showed me where I was going wrong so I could correct my approach. And at last I’ve got it. Multiple dry runs have been successful; only the final experiment remains.


Tonight, I intend to perform it, with myself as the subject. I will be sending myself into “elsewhere”. And you two will be my witnesses and controls.


That is why I called you here.




You can’t mean to say,” I exploded, when Dr Singh had finished, “that you actually found a way to access this angular time!”


“Not only have I, my boy, you’ll see it for yourselves.” Dr Singh got up from his chair and chuckled. “You’re looking at me as though I were a mad scientist from one of those dreadful pulp science fiction stories from the nineteen-fifties. One would almost think I was stitching together body parts to create a Frankenstein’s monster.” He gestured. “Let’s go upstairs. I converted the entire first floor into my workspace and laboratory.”


We climbed the stairs, to be confronted by a heavy door. Dr Singh produced a long key from his pocket and unlocked it. “I had this fitted so that the laboratory is a fully contained space,” he said. “I don’t know if you noticed when you drove up, but I had all the windows on this floor bricked up as well.”


Inside was a large room, illuminated by brilliant white lights hanging in the ceiling. There was something subtly off about its shape, which bothered me. The more I looked around the room the more it seemed strange. Dr Singh saw what I was doing and smiled.


“The walls aren’t precisely at right angles,” he said. “Nor is the ceiling a flat plane. I found that a cube didn’t work, but a slightly different shape did.”


We followed him to the centre of the room. There was a workstation of sorts there, with computer monitors set on a horseshoe-shaped wooden desk with three wheeled office chairs parked behind it. On the open side of the horseshoe was a couch that looked rather like a reclining dentist’s chair, with an attachment at one end that resembled oversized headphones on a hinged arm. There was other equipment, including a video camera on a tripod, what looked like professional sound recording apparatus, and a large box that resembled an outsize computer CPU but whose purpose I could not imagine. Thin wires spilled from it, coiled on the floor, and rose again to plug into the headphones.


“Singh’s Monster,” Yash Agarwal said. “It has a certain ring to it. You can almost see it lying there on that thing while you work on it, Doctor.”


We both ignored him. “So your subject, I mean, you, lie on the couch, I assume? And then what happens? Surely you don’t physically slide over into a parallel universe?”


“It would be perpendicular universe,” Dr Singh said reprovingly, “and, no, of course I can’t physically enter it. Nor would I want to, since there’s no way of predicting the effects it would have on my body. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be a physical transference. What I’m doing is to try and intercept the time flow from ‘elsewhere’ and converting it into a form which I can experience and understand.”


“You mean,” I said, “that you’ll be mentally experiencing it, like a dream. Like Frank Belknap Long’s Chalmers.”


“That’s right,” Dr Singh nodded his heavy blue-turbaned head. “That’s another point at which Long was prescient.”


“There’s just a little problem,” Yash Agarwal said. “If you’re going to base your research on Long’s tale, you should remember that his character Chalmers faced, uh, hazards.”


Dr Singh snorted. “You mean Long’s Hounds of Tindalos, who tracked his Chalmers through angular time, and who entered our curved time universe through the angles between walls? Even in the story’s universe, one can safely put that down to the drug Chalmers had chosen to poison himself with.”


“He’s got a point, though,” I said. “Just suppose there’s...something...that might follow your consciousness back. How can you guard against it?”


“Right,” Yash Agarwal added. “We wouldn’t want you to have your head torn off like Chalmers, your blood drained from your body, and left smeared with blue protoplasm and a triangle made of rubble arranged around your corpse.”


Dr Singh gave us a pitying look. “I actually have thought of that, you know.” He pointed. “Look over there.”


We looked. On the far side of the room there was another door set in the wall. And this was perfectly round, like one of the hatchways in submarine movies.


“Inside that,” Dr Singh said, “is an egg-shaped room, without any angles. If I have to, I’ll take shelter there until any danger blows over.” He walked across and opened the door. Both Yash Agarwal and I followed him and looked over his shoulder. Neither of us had ever seen a room like that before. White painted and oval, it was like being inside an egg. There was a large bean bag on the floor, a rolled sleeping bag, sealed packets of bread, a basket of fruit, bottles of water, and piles of books.


“I see you’ve provided for a longish stay,” Yash Agarwal observed.


“Chalmers had the same idea,” I objected. “He plastered the corners of his room. But there was an earthquake, and...”


“...and the Hounds of Tindalos entered through the jagged edges of the broken plaster,” Dr Singh finished, closing the round door and leading us back to the horseshoe desk. “Well, this isn’t an earthquake prone city; there hasn’t been an earthquake here since records began.”


“I always thought the earthquake was the doing of the Hounds,” Yash Agarwal put in, inconsequentially. “It was extremely convenient, wasn’t it?”


“Plastering the corners of a room and making a room that’s designed without angles are different things entirely.” Dr Singh gave us a look as though he was regretting his decision to call us in. “Anyway, sit down, and I’ll show you the mathematics of the project.”


Suiting himself to his words, he switched on one of the computer monitors, brought up a screen full of graphics, and began.




I can’t find any flaws in it,” I admitted reluctantly.


We’d been over the diagrams and equations again and again, listened to Dr Singh point out where he’d gone wrong and had had to backtrack, checked the equipment, and then gone over the mathematical models again. I had found myself hoping for a flaw, a mistake of some kind, but there was none.


“I think it’ll work,” Yash Agarwal said, equally unhappily.


Dr Singh stood and stretched. “Good! We can go down for dinner and you two can rest a while. We’ll start at midnight, which is...” he looked at the clock on one wall. “Three hours from now,” he finished.


“Have we been at it that long?” Yash Agarwal and I glanced at each other in surprise. “It didn’t seem like it.”


“Well, it shouldn’t have, if I managed to keep it interesting.” Dr Singh rubbed his white beard cheerfully. “Now down to dinner, and after that, we come right back up again.”


We didn’t talk much during dinner; everyone was lost in his own thoughts. Afterwards, Dr Singh instructed us over again in what our roles were to be.


“I’ll set up the video camera and start the sound recording,” he said, “and then begin the procedure. You two will keep a close watch on the apparatus, and also listen carefully to everything I say. Remember to take individual notes, and that you’re only to terminate the experiment if I ask you to, not before.”


“And if, like Chalmers, you show signs of extreme physical distress?” Yash Agarwal asked.


“I don’t see any reason why I should,” Dr Singh responded tranquilly. “The couch is quite comfortable.”


We made our way upstairs again. Though we were deep inside the city, not a sound penetrated from outside, testament to the thickness of the walls. Dr Singh looked around the room and shrugged.


“Well, this is it,” he said. “Twenty years of thinking and planning and experimenting and working, and now at last I’m about to do it. Well.”


“Are you nervous?” I asked.


“Hardly,” he said. “Nervousness is for those who aren’t sure of themselves. Are you two ready with everything you need? Pads, pens, everything?”


“Yes,” I said. “By the way, what made you choose midnight?”


He shrugged. “It’s just that by then most people have gone to sleep, so there’s less electronic noise. I’ve shielded this floor from as much as possible of that, of course – you’ll find you have no mobile phone reception here – but it’s hard to eliminate it completely.”


“Does electronic noise matter?” I asked, as he moved a microphone on a swivel over the couch and tapped it. “I shouldn’t have thought it, from your models.”


“It shouldn’t, but why take a chance?” Dr Singh moved the video camera on the tripod so that the lens was pointed at the head end of the couch. Now, remember, don’t say a word once we begin.” From a drawer in the desk he took what looked like a large pair of very dark wraparound sunglasses, but which I decided couldn’t possibly be. “Hold that a moment, will you?”


I took it and examined it. It was a pair of very dark wraparound sunglasses.


“That’s so I minimise extraneous visual stimuli,” he explained, climbing on the couch and lying down. Pulling the apparatus that looked like oversized headphones over his head, he poised them over his ears. “When these are on, I can still hear you, but they will be playing back the equations we talked about in the form of electronic impulses, through my ears to my brain, just as I explained to you. And I’ll be describing everything I experience, so take it down, in case the recording fails.”


“Don’t you think you’ll remember what you experience when you, uh, wake up?” Yash Agarwal asked.


“How should I know? I haven’t tried this before, and there’s no point in taking chances.” Dr Singh took the sunglasses from me, slipped them over his eyes, and began clamping the headphones over his ears.


“Just a minute,” I said. “Assuming any of this works at all, just how far are you planning to go? I mean, into this...angular time stream?”


I couldn’t see his eyes, but I saw his brow contract in the familiar annoyed frown that said, I am disappointed in you. “As far as I can, of course. If I’m to go at all, I’ll go the whole way. All right, we’ll begin.”


Slipping the headphones into place, he lay down.


I don’t know what Yash Agarwal had expected. For myself, I had thought we’d maybe have something like the clock stopping like in Long’s story, or the lights growing dim. But the second hand of the clock on the wall went sweeping round in its unhurried way, and the bright white lights remained as bright and white as ever.


Suddenly, Dr Singh’s lips twitched, and he began to speak.


“It’s starting,” he said.




I’m beginning to feel a strange sensation (Dr Singh said). It started around my midsection but is spreading throughout my body. It feels rather as though I were being turned inside out and back again; painless, but not pleasant. It’s not too much to tolerate, though.


My eyes are open inside the sunglasses, but all I can see is darkness. I can’t hear anything either, not even the sound of my own voice, though I know I’m talking because I can hear the vibration of my voice in my throat. I hope I’m speaking loudly enough for the recording, and for you to take down.


The sensation has enveloped my entire body now. My skin feels a though it’s inside my body and everything else is outside, but I have no pain. I’m also beginning to feel as though I’m slowly spinning round and round.


I think it’s less dark. Maybe I’m imagining it, or perhaps it’s just the ceiling lights shining through the sunglasses...no, it really is getting less dark. The blackness is less black, and I can make out lines, like those of walls, only they don’t seem like walls we know. They look like they’re leaning at angles that walls normally should not be able to.


There is movement there too. The lines seem to be moving, but they can’t be because they’re just lines. No, of course not, it’s I who am moving. I’m slowly being swept past the lines, and more lines are appearing, at more and more impossible angles, like jagged teeth in many jaws set in one mouth. It’s getting lighter, the darkness turning slowly to a greyish-green colour with a blue tinge.


 I feel as though I’m moving towards a great net, spread as far as I can see, made of lines that cross and recross each other at acute angles, rather like a pile of needles. Glowing points move along those lines, meet, merge, and move apart again. The light is changing to a translucent blue that is impossible to describe, but which seems to be everywhere, including inside me. I can’t feel any part of my body anymore. I think that those lines are what stars are like in “elsewhere”, and the glowing points may be their movements through time.


There are more lines appearing around me. They are closer, jagged and meet at angles that should be sharp as stiletto knives if they were to touch., but I can’t feel them touch. Maybe I’m a thing of lines and angles here too. Maybe everything in our universe is here as well, only represented in angles instead of curves. Are you listening to this? Maybe there are two of you here too, made of angles, and I can’t recognise you even though I can see you, because you look like nothing I can understand.


Now I am moving further. The net is no closer, it’s still an immense distance away, but the lines around me are changing. I have no idea whether I’m moving towards the past or the future, of course, but it’s probably immaterial. I never thought it would be like this.




The lines and angles are all around me now. They crowd and overhang, they are so close to me that I should not be able to move, but I’m moving anyway. Things flicker among them, that I can’t make out, not because they move so fast but because they’re of angles and shapes that I can’t reconcile with anything I am familiar with.


(Long pause)


The lines and angles are slowly becoming fewer, and spreading further apart. I have a feeling as though I am on an immense plain. Even the net is no longer so tightly meshed, the lines are fewer, the glowing points further apart. I feel as though I am approaching either the beginning of this universe, or the end.


The translucent bluish light is no longer so translucent. It’s becoming cloudy, with tinges of yellowish-brown and black. This gives me a chance to examine it more clearly. Yes, the light itself seems broken up into angles, each angle at a slightly different shade and, I daresay, at a different wavelength. That would be logical if everything is constructed from angles. Even waves wouldn’t follow curves, but an angular course. I wonder what a black hole would look like in this place.


I am beginning to have a feeling of being accompanied by something unseen. There seems to be something on this plain with me. The pinkish-yellow light is stronger and more opaque, and the black is clotting into angular shapes that look almost familiar. I’m getting closer to them, and if I could strain for a better look I would. In any case I’ll soon be able to see them more closely.


The net is almost gone now, only a few lines scratched across the far distance, the glowing points so slow that they are almost stationary. I must be at an extreme point of time. The pink and yellow are filling up the gaps, and the black things are taking shape. They are jagged and moving, and I am beginning to feel a reluctance to get any closer. But I can’t turn back or away, because I am being swept closer to them at every moment.


They are angular and big, and they move around in a way that is like no movement I have yet seen in this universe. They seem to be moving across the plane, at right angles to the way I am going, while everything else I have seen was moving either in my direction of movement or back the way I came.


It is almost as though they’re blocking the way so that nothing can get by them. It is as though they are border guards, determined sentries that will let nothing past.


They...they see me. They’re aware of me! They’re turning towards me! I see them. I see their faces!


Quick! Terminate the procedure! For god’s sake bring me back! Bring me back before they get me!


(Inarticulate screaming)




What happened, Doctor?” I asked, supporting the old man with an arm around his shoulders.


“Here, drink this,” Yash Agarwal said, handing Dr Singh a glass of brandy. I have no idea where he found the brandy.


Dr Singh shook off my arm and waved away the brandy. “I don’t need that,” he said. He got off the couch and began stowing away the recording apparatus and sunglasses. His movements were abrupt and slightly uncoordinated, and it was easy to see that he was struggling through a shock.


“Can you tell us what happened?” I asked, glancing from him down to my notes. “You said they saw you.”


“Yes, well.” Dr Singh licked his lips. “It was probably nothing but my imagination. Old Long and his Hounds of Tindalos, which follow a man back through angular time. Rubbish. Just a load of metaphysical claptrap. Yes, well,” he repeated, “I’ll need a few days to analyse all the data and check what exactly happened. Yes.”


Yash Agarwal and I exchanged glances. “And then what do you plan to do? Publish your findings? Go on another trip? When?”


Dr Singh shrugged his shoulders in a quick, angry gesture. “How should I know? I have to analyse the data.” He wouldn’t look at us. “It’s almost four in the morning. You should call a taxi. Your flight will be leaving in a few hours.”


“At least take some precautions,” I said, after we’d called for a taxi to the airport and gathered the suitcases we hadn’t even unpacked. “Don’t leave yourself vulnerable.”


“Don’t worry about me. As soon as you leave, I’m going right to the round room I showed you and staying there until I’m sure it’s safe. No walls with angles, remember?” He still wouldn’t look us in the eye.  “I think that’s your taxi. Have a good trip!”   


He practically pushed us out of the house and slammed shut the door.




We were in the air, and the Fasten Seat Belts sign had gone off, when Yash Agarwal leaned across to me. By mutual unspoken consent we'd asked for seats together; neither of us wanted to be alone right then. 


“I’ve just thought of something,” he said.


“Yeah?” I looked up from the notes I’d made. “What?”


“Dr Singh,” Yash Agarwal said. His face was pale, his voice a hoarse whisper. “He’s locked himself in the round room.”


“Yes,” I said. “So?”


“We both saw that room. He had books in there.”


“Obviously. He needs to have some way of passing the time. What’s your point?”


Yash Agarwal’s face was beaded with sweat. He rubbed at it with his sleeve.


“Books have angles,” he said.


Copyright B Purkayastha 2021

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