We decided Edgar Allen Poe would be the first and best candidate to come through the ether, because I had done my master’s thesis on him. Also, the mystery of his death still haunted those who knew about it. Through the years, certain people had become obsessed with knowing the details of his death. They traveled to places leading up to the final event. Most came away shaking their heads, stumped.
Gloria helped me fit the Connector upon my head as I sat in front of the machine and attempting to memorize the photo of Poe sitting on the console in front of me.
She brought a digital recorder. “I’m going to record this just in case.” In case what, I had no idea. Perhaps she thought she could release the interview and everyone would believe it was actually Poe speaking to us. I would not challenge her. Someone had once told me to choose my battles wisely and I did not want this to turn into a battle.
The Thought Connector was awkward upon my head; too heavy, and as if it would fall off. I had to make a concerted effort to keep it balanced. Using one hand to hold the Connector steady, I hit the red button. The machine sprang to life with the familiar whirring and I turned the black knob up to six. Only a minute passed before the wall of the barn gave way to the tunnel and despite using this for the third time, a shudder of anticipation passed through me. I glanced at Gloria and noticed she had a smile almost as wide as my own.
I must mention now, that during this process right before a figure appears, a type of haze appears inside the tunnel. It could be mistaken as a light fog, but it’s thicker and there is some gray to it, like the color of a forming storm cloud.
Gloria squeezed my shoulder as I concentrated on the photo in front of me. Silently, I said his name. “Poe. Come on Edgar, you can do it,” I coaxed.
Gloria’s grip on my shoulder tightened and I glanced up. A figure had appeared, a bit hazy. Smaller than I expected Poe to be. For some reason I had thought he would be tall and lanky, but this individual was not much taller than me.
He stepped through the haze slowly, hesitating. A brief squeal of fear escaped from him and Gloria hissed next to me, “Say something to him!”
I removed the head gear and stood behind the console. “Mr. Poe.” I held up my hand in greeting and to show him we were friendly. “Hello. Welcome back.”
Looking out at us, he came no closer. He seemed almost transfixed, unsmiling, as if attempting to determine the reality of the situation. “Mr. Poe, we’re real. You can come out of the tunnel.”
His voice was weak, almost a whisper. “Where is this?”
Gloria spoke up then, “We’ve called you from the dead Mr. Poe. We need to speak with you.”
I nudged her, knowing immediately this was a mistake. His face twisted as if in agony. He bent over, holding his stomach. “Oohhhhh… Ohhhhh… What have you done to me? What kind of business is this?”
Gloria began to respond, but I intervened. “No sir! No magic. I promise. Nothing like that. This is technology from the future.”
He glanced up at me shaking his head. “I doubt anything you say is true,” he spat. “I am in the ether. In the Neverwhere. In the afterlife and you are some kind of… some kind of… Aggghhhhhh….Aggghhhhh!”
He began screaming, clutched his head, shaking it back and forth as if to tear his hair out and Gloria began crying. “Mom do something! Stop him! My God!”
I reached out, hit the red button and he was gone. The tunnel along with him.