The original, 6-page short story version of

"The Sphere"

Copyright © 1981 by Roger M. Wilcox. All rights reserved.
(writing on this story began 30-November-1981)

The original draft was written on a mechanical typewriter. It was a rewrite of a creative writing assignment I wrote for my tenth grade English class. Unfortunately, English teachers aren't very big on geometry. All spellings, punctuation, capitalizations, unlikely parallels between alien species and modern humans, etc. are as in the original.

You have been warned.

Their technology had finally begun to show. The oddly-formed dominant species of the planet was showing the first signs of space science and physical laws to account for most everything that went on in their universe. They were far behind with regard to hyper-theoretical laws and theories, but they had begun considering the existence of universes other than their own. If they had only known how soon those considerations would be supported with hard evidence.

Zirflak was a member of the lower-middle class, too poor and too ecology-conscious to own any transportation vehicle. Because of this, he was walking to his place of employment on that particular day. No, the society had not done away with the monetary system as of then. But it would happen sooner or later, nevertheless.

This day was no different from many he had experienced so far, as he was simply going about his usual, unconscious bit of walking, using his real thinking power to plan out the day ahead. Suddenly, he was stopped in mid-step by a sharp pain in his chest. No, the pain wasn't so much in his chest as it was on his chest, or the equivalent body part. He tried to walk a a little more forward, but found that impossible; as he moved forward even the slightest bit, the pain increased by megafold. And that wasn't the strangest part of it; when he took a single step back, the pain ceased altogether, and all at once.

He put forth an extremity to where he remembered the pain to be, since he was following a very wild hunch. Sure enough, there was that sharp pain again, but this time on his hand and slightly more blunt than before. He moved the rest of his body forward, and looked at where the pain was located on what could only be called his hand because of the position it occupied on his body. Right there, at the barest limit of visible size, was a tiny lump of dark metal.

He pulled his hand back slightly, and curled his fingers around the little lump. Now, it felt more smooth and less lumplike than before. In fact, it felt almost like a small, polished ball — a ball bearing. When he looked at it again, he could see beyond question that it was a ball bearing. And as he looked more closely, he could see the thing actually growing while suspended in mid-air.

Then, as if spurned by the energy of its discovery by him, the ball bearing practically quintupled its growth rate, easily seen changing in size. And now that it was so large (about two centimeters in diameter), Zirflak was rewarded to find that the analogy with a ball bearing was more accurate than he had supposed; the ball was a polished, perfect, silver sphere.

It was at this time that another man, walking in the opposite direction from where Zirflak had been walking, came across the current situation with the sphere. They both knew that they were going to be late if they stood around watching a little silver sphere, but Zirflak was already too fascinated and the man too interested to be simply able to walk away.

What is that?" the man asked, but of course not in our language of English.

"That's what I'm trying to find out," stated Zirflak absentmindedly as he toyed with the now six-centimeter diameter ball.

"How long's that thing been hanging there?"

"Oh, only a few minutes, but it's been growing ever since I found it by accidentally running into it, since it was only a tiny point at the time. I shudder to think what would've happened to me if that thing had decided to materialize inside of me! After all, the thing's adamant; it just won't move."

"Now, that I know is impossible. Nothing in this whole universe is completely unmovable. Let me help you push it."

He began pushing on the opposite size from Zirflak, yet Zirflak still liked pushing in his old direction. "Hey, mister," Zirflak said, "Don't you think it'd be easier to push it if we were on the same side of the thing?"

"No, I don't think it'll ever move," the man said, which was true enough.

Im the universe they were in, gravity was not nearly so big a part of their lives as in ours. It's used to hold planets and stars together, and various objects to planets, but after that it stops. Nothing really "orbits" around anything else in their universe; moons don't orbit planets, planets don't orbit stars, stars don't orbit galaxies, and galaxies don't circumnavigate closed universes. Because of this, a truly adamant item could appear in their universe and not seem to move at all. If the same situation had occurred in our universe, the sphere would seem to sweep through our atmosphere and head out to space again due to the orbits of planets, stars, and galaxies.

By this time, a small crowd of people had gathered around the newly-discovered marvel which was currently about half a meter in diameter. Zirflak was excited not only in the fact that he was witnessing a once-in-a-life happening, but that he had discovered it — it was he who had run into it about ten or fifteen minutes ago. Maybe it would be named after him.

It was at about this time that a male hired protector (commonly known by us as a policeman) was across the street and saw the incident. He quickly took a running broad jump across the strip of road in the low gravity and thin atmosphere, and came through the crowd. "Okay, what's going on here?" he asked, or rather, demanded.

Everyone in the crowd turned around silently, left a gap for the protector to see through, and pointed to the sphere almos simultaneously, which by then was about three-quarters of a meter in diameter. He puzzled for a few seconds, then came over to it and tried to push.

"That's no good," commented Zirflak, "I've tried that already. But there's one thing I haven't tried...," he said as his forehead crinkled up.

He leaned over and placed one sound receptor (an ear) on the surface of the sphere, and whacked it a couple of times with one hand. He quickly removed himself from it and stood upright.

"It's partially hollow inside," he stated.

Zirflak felt a subtle settling of the sphere in his land hand that was still on its surface.

"It's also stopped growing."

The protector had seen practically enough. He wanted to test the thing, to find out its strengths and weaknesses, along with its physical limits. He took out a projectile weapon (a gun) from its holder, took careful aim at the dead center of the thing, and shouted, "Take cover, I don't know if or where the shot'll rickochet!"

He squeezed the activator tab. In a concussion of sound, a single hole was produced in the sphere's surface. The protector smiled with the fact that his experiment worked, and walked around to the other side of it. In exactly the place where it should have been, there was a hole where the shot left the sphere.

"Well, at least now we know that it's penetrable," commented Zirflak. "Now, if we can —"

His "eyes" opened wide with astonishment. The holes the shot had made were not there any more! He had't heard or seen anything; they simply ceased existing.

The reason for this soon became apparent. The sphere was shrinking at the same rate it had grown. The crowd became ecstatic, for now the thing might leave altogether. The members of the crowd all tried frantically to touch it for what could be their last time.

The protector, just as frantic as the rest of the crowd, removed his gun from its holder once more. He took careful aim at the center of the sphere, and squeezed the tab. the shot seemed to melt through the sphere at its near-sonic speed, making its mark on the ground about a meter-and-a-half behind the sphere and leaving no marks to mar the shrinking silver ball whatsoever.

In a few minutes it was back down to the size of a ball bearing. Zirflak was the only one who still had a hand on it, pushing on it as he did when it first appeared, thinking only, "Don't leave, don't leave. I've discovered you, and now you have to leave? We need you — I need you. Stay, just a little longer!"

But there was no use in calling it back. In a matter of seconds, it turned into the sharp pain he had originally felt, and then got progressively stronger, sharper, and more painful. Yet Zirflak hardly noticed the physical pain when he compared it to what was going on inside his brain.

And then, his hand fell forward. He was panicked and shocked for a split-second, then frantically began waving his hand through the air, hoping to find some trace of the sphere's remains. But nothing was there.

"It's gone," was all that came out of his vocal center. There was no need to say anything more. The entire crowd, the protector and Zirflak included, turned and walked away, sadder than some of them had ever been before.

Zirflak tried to hide his emotions from himself by casting himself into a state of deep thought; which was exactly what he needed. Suddenly, his expression changed to one of complete awe as he whacked himself over the brain (so to speak). He had seen this before, but only with two-dimensional models! The growing and shrinking, the disappearing shots, the adamant quality — it all tied in now.

It was the first time that any of them had witnessed a fourth-dimensional "hypersphere" pass through their universe.

Author's notes from 2013:
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