No-one would believe him but Albert Mockingbird had discovered the elusive Hawking Particles whilst visiting his great aunt at Scunthorpe. He’d spotted them next to her bed floating with her false teeth. He could recall the precise eureka moment with clarity as he’d picked up the glass, noticed the unusual weight to it, and swallowed the fluid – his aunt’s teeth bumping off his shoulder and falling onto the paisley carpet.
Of course he had known he couldn’t risk staying there a moment longer, the Bureau for Scientific Discoveries had been following him for months and wouldn’t hesitate to kill him in order to assign the discovery to one of their paying clients. Scribbling a note, he left without waking his aunt and headed for the airport intent on smuggling them through customs.
His boss at CERN had smiled when he confided in him the day after and he was retired off: a carriage clock the answer to his breakdown. So sad after a life-time’s work, they had said. Albert knew though. He could feel them buzzing around his body like fire flies.
That was two-hundred years ago.
Albert though didn’t look a day older since downing the sub-atomic particles.
What he hadn’t counted on was their sticky properties and despite laxatives and forty days and nights of living in the bathroom they refused to budge. What he had gained though was weight. He was now fifty-two stone. The Hawking Particles as predicted were super-dense. The volume his body took up was no more than all those years ago: his waist still 34 inches although his muscles had bulked up to cope with the extra weight.
The arctic circus was his escape. It travelled by an old steam powered boat between the arctic oil rigs near the North Pole. He grew a twiddly moustache, donned a red and white striped leotard and now each evening instead of pouring over reams of CERN collision data he performed his act as The Amazing Arctic Sinking Man. The circus would pitch up at each rig for a week and he’d be the main attraction. He loved standing at the edge of the platform with his ice hood and multiple drysuits: the sub atomic particles pulsating in his chest.
His was a double act with Debbie the daughter of the Amazing Oil Drinking Man. Both would suit up in exactly the same manner, although Debbie over her red and white striped stockings and polka dot bikini. Once ready they would attach themselves to a winch and then stand waving at the crowd – before them a 120 metre drop to the ice cold ocean.
They would jump together.
Debbie would hit the water, descend a few metres then bob back to the surface, the buoyancy in her dry suits and lack of added weights stopping her descent. Albert, weighing fifty-two stone, would hit the water and descend rapidly breaking all free diving records.
No-one could account for it. Everyone of course assumed the trick was in hidden weights, or that the suit itself was somehow weighted in the fabric. Hurrah for the Amazing Arctic Sinking Man the crowds would shout each time he disappeared into the depths, seemingly defying Archimedes and shooting past walruses and whales.
After a few years the technique and spectacle had been perfected and people would fly from the mainland to the rigs just to watch his act. He was famous, he had an agent, t-shirts with his images on, the BBC wanted to turn him into Jacques Cousteau: he could circumvent the oceans startling the sealife by suddenly appearing like an aquatic jack-in-the-box.
Today though was the highest jump and he lunged forward on his right leg, and stretched up working his muscles before the dive. He felt for Debbie’s hand beside him and squeezed it. Albert ran through his breathing technique readying himself for the deep. Debbie smiled, zipped herself up over her polka dots then checked Albert’s headcam. Albert looked at her and wondered, as he did every time, if the hundreds of years age difference between them would be a problem should he ever find the courage to ask her.
He slowed his heart rate and found a point of peace within him where he was floating above the platform, unaware of the cheering crowd and the noise of the biting arctic wind. In that bubble he mused about the power within him. The CERN particle accelerator running under the French-Swiss border still hadn’t found the Hawking Particle and many now doubted that it even existed. Albert smiled. Fools. One day he thought, one day I’ll prove it to them.
He looked at Debbie again as she leant forward to attach the winch to him.
She was beautiful.
He stepped back, besotted by her, preparing to pop the question.
Without the winch attachment.
He dropped untethered.
Debbie screamed. The audience clapped. The waves crashed against the rig.
Albert’s heart rate dropped as the cold water enveloped him. Blood pumped away from his limbs towards his brain, lungs, heart.
Of course there was no way back. No way of returning to his aunt’s bedroom and changing his mind about taking the cup, the chalice. No way that they’d ever get to him in time before he’d run out of air. He looked up at the stream of bubbles charting the way back to the surface. His ear drums burst and he started to black out. In his mind his body floated apart and swirled around in a cloud of matter around the CERN ring as the water pressure squeezed him like a pimple.
He landed on the sea floor with a bump sending up a shower of sand.
“Come on,” he thought as he span around with the rotation of the earth on the bottom of the ocean floor anchored by the Hawking Particles, “Check the collision data, find the little buggers.”