There Are No Words
I’d got it. After all these years, after everyone’s efforts. Where others had failed, I’d got it.
Cracked it. Nailed it.
The answer. The truth, the reality.
This was going to change everything. For the greater good. For everyone.
I’d only bloody well gone and solved it.
I’d awoken early with a start as it hit me. Scribbled down my thoughts in a notepad that I kept by my bed, in case I should ever have that revelatory thought in my sleep. This time. Against all odds it was precisely what had happened, and there was no going back to sleep for the last hour or so before my alarm.
I remember feeling like I should rush straight out of the door. Not waste a single second. Scramble into my clothes and burst out of the house, briefcase akimbo, hair awry and the tails of my suit jacket billowing behind me as I struggled to stay upright down the steps. Just like I’d seen in so many films.
But I didn’t. Instead I took my time. I was going to do this properly. I showered, and while I showered I shaved. Dried myself carefully, air-patting my freshly scraped face with a fresh, fluffy lemon-yellow towel. The musky sting of aftershave splashed about my neck and cheeks. I made sure my hair was on point; blow-dried first, then the faintest coating of wax before combing it though.
My smartest work suit, shirt and tie. Leaving the jacket to hang from the back of a kitchen chair, I made coffee and grabbed two slices of buttered toast. Golden, the way Mum used to make it under the grill when I was a boy. We didn’t have a toaster back then. I pictured her smile, the one that she warmed me with when I’d done something to make her proud. If only she were here so I could share the good news with her! At some point I’d put the radio on, but there was something wrong with it. For some reason it was playing a different station to the preset, one I didn’t recognise.
It didn’t matter. As I pulled on my jacket and ran my tongue over my teeth to check for any toast crumbs, I flicked off the radio and left the house. Taking my time. Savouring the feeling as I walked into the morning sunshine. This. Was. It.
Heading down the short path to the kerbside, I spotted Mr Timms gently ambling back and forth across his front lawn, pushing his lawnmower. I waved.
He didn’t see me at first, but had clearly heard me. He looked up, a moment of puzzlement creasing his face, before smiling in recognition. He waved back.
“Morning!” I said again. “Lovely day.” It really was!
His hand hung in the air, but he shook his head, the confused look returning once again.
By now I was looking at him from the driver’s seat of my car, and had shut the door.
Starting the engine, and feeling suddenly a tad awkward, I’d flashed him another smile.
As I pulled away, I’d wound the passenger window down and called to him:
“Lovely day! Enjoy it!”
Looking in the rearview mirror, I saw him regarding me as I went. He looked utterly baffled.
The short drive down the motorway was accompanied by a CD of classical music loaned to me by my sister. Classical music had never really been my bag. I’d felt excluded from it growing up, I didn’t really know enough about it and couldn’t read music well enough to study or play it. But lately Susan swore by it. It had done wonders for her anxiety and helped her to get in the zone when meditating. I reached across to quickly look at the CD case, but the name on the front cover meant nothing to me whatsoever. Still, the music was good. The current piece was exciting, triumphant brass intermingled with rousing strings and the growing rumble of kettle drums. Dramatic. I couldn’t quite imagine my sister balancing her chakras to this one, but you never quite knew with Susan.
The sun was glowing white-hot from where it slowly ascended the lapis lazuli sky as I turned into the driveway of the old, converted manor house that was home to the research facility I’d worked at for nearly ten years now. I pulled to a halt beneath a plane tree, one of many that crowded together in the grounds to provide a canopy which I knew would keep my car coolly in the shade during the afternoon. Handbrake on. Engine off. Feet off the pedals.
Breathe, Martin. Breathe.
What I was about to say was going to astonish everybody, and would radically change the day -to-day of their working lives, not to mention mine. Soon the world would know. We’d finally got there, finally done it, and it was all because I’d answered the centuries-old riddle.
It was for us. For everybody, everywhere.
Nothing would ever be the same again.
I jumped in shock as a knuckle rapped against my window. The grinning and bearded face of Derek Oakes, my research partner, loomed large. An excitable lad at the best of times, he was clearly in a buoyant mood, and pointed frantically to his watch. He was saying something, frenetically gabbling it, but I struggled to just quite make it out. I was about to wind down my window, but he was off, bounding down to the drive towards the reception. By the time I’d opened my door and my shoes had crunched out onto the gravel, Derek was inside the building.
There was a hubbub of chatter coming from the main hall, where the usual morning briefing was due to take place. People stood in small groups throughout the large, cavernous room, filling out the space like a crowd before a concert. I diverted away from them all and quickly secured another coffee, loaded with a couple of sugars this time from the machine in the canteen, taking a moment away from everyone to steady myself. The music from my sister’s CD was still doing the rounds in my head, serving only to heighten the excitement I was feeling. This was destiny. There was no holding this back. I had to tell everyone, and now.
Without really thinking about it, I downed my drink, left the canteen and strode emphatically to the lectern at the front of the hall. People were still chattering, there was still a collective murmur of voices and as I took my place I saw that one or two individuals near the front of the crowd had noticed my arrival and were eyeing me suspiciously.
Madelaine Arch, the CEO who normally gave the briefing, had turned from the small group she was talking to and was giving me an understandably stern look. Madelaine and I were on very good terms. She knew how hard I’d been working on the project, especially lately. She’d seen me working late, still at my computer or in the laboratory as she left in the evenings. It had been an amazing feeling to finally impress her, to have her acutely aware of who I was after so long. I’d shared my findings with her only as recently as last Wednesday and, if I’m honest, I had a thrillingly strange and unconfirmed suspicion she fancied me. I liked it. Granted, she was too old for me, and it would never have worked. We moved in different circles, lived different lives, spoke a different language. Way above my station. But, I’d been intending on asking around in regards to her current marital status. The right time just hadn’t arisen yet.
Still. I mouthed “I’m sorry” at her from where I stood. She shook her head, as if clearing away an annoying wasp, either confused or affronted and most likely both. I nearly backed out there and then, but instead swallowed and gave her a look that I hoped conveyed something along the lines of “please bear with me.”
“Excuse me, everybody,” I said, and immediately realised I wasn’t projecting nearly well enough.
“Excuse me, thank you everybody, thank you.”
The noise in the room gradually began to recede, and, one by one, all eyes turned my way.
I looked again to Madelaine. She looked furious.
“Er, thank you everyone. Sorry, I hope you don’t mind Madelaine, but I need to tell you all something. Something really important.”
I drew a deep breath. Steady yourself, Martin. Steady yourself. It was deathly silent now. Not a single voice.
“You’re probably not going to believe this, but I’ve done it. I’ve found the answer, and this time it’s the right answer. It’s the key to everything we, and all the similar organisations around the world have been working towards. In the end, it was right under our noses, believe it or not. But it makes sense. It checks out. I have the proof, and if you’ll allow me to, I’ll share it with you.”
Somebody called out. It was Madelaine. She was talking calmly at me, giving me a steady “step away from the lectern” look, but I couldn’t quite make out what she was saying.
“I’m sorry, Madelaine – what did you say? I didn’t quite get that?”
She stared at me again, looked to the audience, and then said something else.
She had to be taking the piss. Surely. Nothing she said made any sense whatsoever.
A collection of sounds were coming out of her mouth, and she was making me feel stupid.
Somewhere among the synapses, a voice told me that she and I were not going to be an item.
I turned to the rest of the workers, who had to be every bit as confused as I was.
They were dead silent. I caught the eye of Talia Rashid, one of my closest friends at work.
I wished I hadn’t. Her pretty face was contorting into a mix of both confusion and horror. As I looked from her face to those of the others stood around and about, I saw echoes of it everywhere. All looking at me.
“I’m sorry… I don’t understand,” I spluttered, attempting to recapture the impetus I’d felt only moments before, “but if you’ll listen to me, I can prove that I have the answer and that we, all of us,” I added, desperately indicating everyone in the hall, “are going to change the world!”
There was another noise. Again, it came from Madelaine.
She was clapping slowly. Mockingly. From her group a couple of members of senior management moved towards me. There was a strange look of pity in their eyes.
“No! Seriously. Just give me a moment. I know this is a big thing to comprehend on a Tuesday morning – at any time really, ahaha, but please –“
Madelaine interrupted again, just as the two men coming forward took hold of me by my arms.
She wasn’t addressing me; I’d been bypassed and she was talking directly to the congregation in the hall. Again, what she said made no sense to me whatsoever.
“Please, let go, I can explain –“ I said, quietly but forcefully to one of the men, who was by now gripping me far too hard. He said something back to me, equally as quiet and with just as much tension, but I couldn’t understand a word of it. As they led me out of the hall I had time to look back and notice that everyone in the room was listening with rapt attention to the gibberish Madelaine Arch was speaking.
That was nine months ago.
From the hall I was taken to a small office, where I was given a cup of tea I didn’t touch, and was spoken to by the senior management members whose names escape me now. They spoke the same odd language as Madelaine Arch, who joined us soon afterwards. No matter what I did or said, I couldn’t get them to understand a word of what I was saying to them. Not a single one.
Eventually, I managed to find the presence of mind to show them my bedside notebook, into which I had scribbled the answer and accompanying formulas I’d realised only hours previously. They studied it closely, passed it between one another, scouring and turning the pages. Then they each looked back at me with genuine sadness.
I looked at what they had read. It was clear as daylight, made total sense. There. Right in front of them. But they couldn’t read it.
Later, Talia came into the office to see me. It only served to make me feel worse. She spoke something to me, her voice taught with emotion and incomprehension. She was in tears, but as I answered her, with increasing desperation, she became afraid, then angry. She’d hugged me close at first, but by the time she ran from the room she had pushed me away, edging backwards to the door with every word I spoke.
I have no idea what happened while I slept the night before.
What I do know however, or what I have learned since, is that it’s not the rest of the world that doesn’t make sense anymore. It’s me.
So many things are still the same. People still go to work, planes still fly from place to place, children still laugh and play. The taste of jam and buttercream in a Victoria sponge cake is exactly as it was. Music still plays through the radio. Footballers still chase the ball, and celebrate wildly when they score. Politicians are still in charge, still looking at the wrong things, occasionally the right ones. Making speeches which don’t mean a thing to me. I recognise the faces. The activity. The world. I see it all from the television they’ve allowed me in my room, but I may as well watch it all with the sound off. Sometimes I do.
Every word spoken makes no sense to me whatsoever. I listen. I listened with a desperate closeness at first. I’ve looked at books and magazines. Scoured the internet. I’ve searched for patterns, for repeated words or phrases.
I spent my whole working life looking for patterns, after all.
But there are none. None at all.
All I know is that when I awoke that morning, the answer was there in my mind and it was frighteningly clear. I have no doubt that it is the correct solution, and that it would change everything. It still could. Time is fast running out now, but there is still enough of it left to completely turn things around. Just.
But nobody understands a single word of what I’m saying to them.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons