He could have sworn there was a toaster in the break room as for the past fifteen years, Dr. Dave Wagner had used it to improve his barely edible homemade sandwiches. The absence of the device provided him with a flaccid lunch, devoid of any crunchy pleasantry.
Dr. Wagner looked past the recently incomplete break room out the window to the thousands of banks of vacuum tubes lining the walls. Each filament oscillating in their ever-persistent drive to solve questions already answered by the integrated circuit computers recently installed in the new research facility next door. Dr. Wagner had once been on the bleeding edge of computing but had fallen by the wayside as his graduate students surpassed him. This didn’t bother him much as now he could enjoy the peace and quiet left to him among the hum of his machines.
His mind had been wandering lately; just the other night he had dreams of spaceships and powers unknown. Maybe this room had dulled him a little bit. Dr. Solokov, his research partner, walked into the room. Her cashmere sweater draped over her shoulders in an attempt to fight away the late October winds. “Turkey again, Dave?” she asked. Dr. Wagner, ever the socialite, shrugged and wordlessly made his way to the door. He could do without the sandwich for today.
That night in sleep, Dr. Wagner had a vivid dream; a dream of the night sky filled with stars, each so brilliant it was as if viewed from the world’s most powerful telescope. As he swiveled about in amazement, his eyes drew down the blue mass hanging weightless in front of him. The Earth in all its magnificence floated in the sea of blackness surrounding it. All at once a flash of white and red seared across his face.
Dr. Wagner bolted upright, a sharp pain present in his head. He rubbed his aching forehead and tried to recall the frightening experience of the past night. In anguish, he hauled himself out of bed and washed up in the bathroom.
As he meandered about his house, dressing himself, preparing another turkey sandwich, and eventually grabbing the newspaper off his porch, his eyes landed on the front page.
“U.S. BEGINS BLOCKADE OF CUBA; GRIM WARNING ISSUED TO RUSSIA”
The headline burned into his eyes as the flashing white and red fire of last night once again licked at the insides of his corneas. Shaken as he was, Dr. Wagner grabbed his lunch and proceeded to the door. The thought of the calming hum of his flickering refuge was one he very much longed for right now.
He stopped in the doorway to the break room. The events of last night had smeared the thought of the evanescent toaster from his mind. He stood blankly staring at the toaster-less table as Dr. Solokov brushed past him and summoned her normal greeting, “turkey again, Dave?” Dr. Wagner, thrown akilter by his recent Deja Vu, once again let out a subdued murmur and retreated from the room to consult his thoughts.
What had he seen last night? Why was everything in flames? Where was the toaster? He dismissed these aberrant thoughts as leftover dreams from the night before, but the disquieting murmurs still remained packed tightly in a ball lodged deep in his brain.
It was here again. The great turquoise planet bore its presence into Dr. Wagner’s mind as the vertiginous darkness inundated his body. The impending desolation distended in his head, expanding and filling every crevice until exploding in a fiery cataclysm spread across the land and seas of the globe before him. Dr. Wagner had witnessed the prophecy of destruction for another night.
The timid enigmatic man was no longer; Dr. Wagner’s psychosis was developing at an alarming rate and he knew it. Steadily his mind was coming to the conclusion that the fires were not restrained to his dreams but a prophecy for reality. Dr. Wagner shakily prepared himself for work, the ever-present destruction of humanity in the forefront of his attention.
“Turkey again—,“ Dr. Solokov cut her sentence short at the sight of her colleague, who was sitting in the break room bathed in a small pool of sweat. Dr. Wagner had entered the room but once again was trapped in the peculiar absence of the toaster he had once so fondly used every lunch. “Solokov, w-where did the toaster go? I could’ve sworn—” Dr. Wagner paused as just as the words had touched the air, his eyes fell down on the small black box sitting on the table in front of him. “Are you alright doctor—,“ Dr. Solokov was cut short once again as Dr. Wagner hurriedly left the laboratory, drops of sweat trailing him.
Dr. Wagner rushed home, visions of fire had leapt towards him along his journey home. The trees bordering the street bore the semblance of the same perennial pyres fated to doom the planet.
Once more, hallucinations of armageddon penetrated every iota of every neuron within his brain. The veracity of the prophecy rocked him into a state between awake and asleep. A no man’s land where the dream world poured into the real and Dr. Wagner, no longer a viewer in the relative safety of space, was reeled into a front row seat to humanities’ death knell.
Dr. Wagner had traversed the gaps of reality and not come out unscathed. On the fourth day, as he entered his laboratory, Dr. Wagner collapsed on the floor. Dr. Solokov let out a shriek as he hit the ground. With the ambivalent vacuum tubes around him, the calming hum filled the silence once more.
Dr. Wagner was not alright. Inside his cranium lay a tumor two inches in diameter, nestled between the occipital and temporal lobes of the brain.
Within two weeks Dr. Wagner would suffer a brain hemorrhage and pass away.
In a few years, the United States would start the deployment of ground troops in Vietnam to press the Cold War further.
A few years after that, George Lucas will have the first inkling of a thought towards what will become Star Wars.
Back in the laboratory one of the vacuum tubes’ filaments burnt out.