Eliby Bill Myers
In this techno-thriller from the best-selling author of the Fire of Heaven Trilogy, a successful TV newscaster is hurled into a parallel world exactly like ours except for one minor detail: Christ didn’t come there 2,000 years ago, but today.See more details below
In this techno-thriller from the best-selling author of the Fire of Heaven Trilogy, a successful TV newscaster is hurled into a parallel world exactly like ours except for one minor detail: Christ didn’t come there 2,000 years ago, but today.
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By Bill Myers
ZondervanCopyright © 2003 Zondervan
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMonday was an inconvenient time to die. Come to think of it, Tuesday through Sunday weren't all that agreeable either. Conrad Davis had too many important things to do. Too many fires to put out. Too many producers to plead with, cajole, and, if necessary, circumvent.
Not interesting? Too cerebral? What were they talking about? Did they honestly think TV audiences were that stupid?
"Give us another multibirth story," they'd said. "Those McCaughey septuplets, don't they have a birthday coming up? Or how about another psychic piece-some mother visited by her dead daughter; those always work."
"Guys ..." Conrad glanced around the table in the smoke-filled war room. He could already feel the back of his neck beginning to tighten. "We're talking about a major scientific breakthrough here."
But the other producers of the prime time news magazine, Up Front, continued without hearing. "Or how 'bout another cripple story," suggested Peggy Martin, one of the few females on staff. "Some guy in a wheelchair climbing Mount Everest or something."
"We did that last November."
"Listen, Connie." It was Phil Harrison, the show's exec. He took a drag off his cigarette and motioned to the monitor where they'd just viewed a rough cut of Conrad's segment. "All we're saying is that this piece is too cerebral. I mean, 'Parallel Universes'? Come on, who cares?"
Leo Singer, a rival producer, snickered. "Next time he'll be doing a piece on quantum physics."
The rest of the room chuckled. It was supposed to be good-natured, but Conrad knew that nothing in this dog-eat-dog world of TV journalism was good-natured. One or two missteps, like producing a worthless segment that no one cared about, could spell disaster-especially with five thousand kids half his age waiting in the wings for his job.
"Is that what you would have said about the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk?" Conrad argued. "Or the moon landing, or the invention of the light bulb-that it's too cerebral? What we're talking about is the existence of other realities right here beside our own, worlds identical to ours but with minor, or sometimes major, differences."
"Worlds we can't even see," another producer pointed out.
"How convenient," Singer sighed.
Peggy Martin added, "And worlds that have no effect upon the lives of our viewers."
Conrad glanced at the faces around the table. He was going down for the count, and his colleagues, better known as competitors, were doing their best to keep him there. But he'd been in this position a hundred times before, refusing to dish out pabulum for the masses, insisting upon truth and relevancy. That's how he'd earned the two Emmys and those countless other awards.
"Connie." It was Harrison again. "This professor that you interviewed ... what's his name?"
"All this Professor Endo has is theory, right?"
"Plus support from top world physicists," Conrad corrected, "not to mention some staggering mathematical formulas."
"Oh, mathematics, that'll kick up the ratings," Singer scoffed. Others around the table agreed. The tension from Conrad's neck crept into the base of his skull.
Harrison continued. "If there was something tangible, something you could show on tape, then you'd have a story. But this ..." Harrison shook his head and dropped his cigarette into the half-empty can of Diet Coke. It hissed quietly as he turned to the next producer. "Wolff, how's that toxic-waste segment coming?"
The meeting had been less than two hours ago, and Conrad was already back on the 101 heading north out of Los Angeles. Professor Endo lived an hour outside the city in the town of Camarillo. If they wanted something tangible, he'd get something tangible. Not because this story was a great passion of his, but because he needed it. Despite his twenty-five years in news, despite past accolades, a setback like this could seriously cripple a career. That's how the business was. There was no resting on your laurels. You were only as good as your last segment. And if your last segment was a failure ...
It had started to rain, the first time since early April. Conrad reached over and turned on his wipers. The blades had rotted from last summer's sun, and their first few passes left dirty smears. How ironic. Here he was driving a $72,000 Jaguar but couldn't find the time to replace its wiper blades. But that's how it was with everything in his life-too busy winning the prizes to enjoy them. And he had won them, won them all, everything he'd ever wanted and more: great job, great pay, esteem from his peers, plenty of toys, beautiful wives (although a few more than he'd intended), and the list went on. Yet over the past several years, the list had begun to grow more and more meaningless. And, though he tried his best to ignore it, an empty hollowness had begun gnawing and eating away at him. He'd won the game, all right; the only problem was that neither the victory nor the prizes meant anything.
He pumped the washer fluid a few times and the smearing on the windshield thinned. Glancing at his speedometer, he eased back to 70. Besides the oil that had accumulated on the pavement these many rainless weeks, there was also the recurring amnesia Southern Californians suffer whenever it comes to remembering how to drive on wet roads. He'd been in several fender benders since moving to L.A., many of them thanks to the rain.
He rolled his head, trying to work out the tension in his neck. He pulled a bottle of Motrin from his coat pocket, popped another handful into his mouth, and glanced around for something to wash them down. Nothing. Just a couple empty Taco Bell bags, some wadded up Big Mac wrappers, and a stale bag of corn chips. Ah, the glamorous life of a TV reporter. He held the pills on his tongue until he accumulated enough saliva to swallow one. Then he repeated the process for the next, and the next, and the next-each one going down a little harder than the last.
A sign read 23 Freeway North. Good. Just a couple more miles, then down the steep grade into Camarillo. He'd already put in a call to his favorite cameraman, Ned Burton, as well as to the lighting and sound guys, to meet him there. And, before that, to Professor Endo, who was only too happy to oblige with another interview.
"Something tangible?" the doctor had asked in his faint Japanese accent.
"Exactly," Conrad said. "Your theories and formulas, they're all very interesting, but we need something we can show on tape, something the audience can grasp."
"Certainly, that will be no problem."
"Really? Like what? Eyewitnesses? People who have seen these-"
The old man chuckled. "I am afraid that if there are eyewitnesses to such universes, you would find them locked up in insane asylums, or involved in drug rehab programs."
"Then what?" Conrad asked. "How can you physically prove the existence of parallel universes if no one has seen them?"
"It is an old experiment, really. I am sorry I did not mention it to you before."
"What do you need to set it up?"
"I have all that is necessary at the lab. Just a board with two small slits cut into it and a low-powered laser."
"That is all. We shine the laser onto the two slits and record how many slits of light appear on the wall behind it."
"I don't understand. Two slits in the board will cast two slits on the wall."
"Actually, they will cast several more than two."
"Several? That's impossible."
"You will see for yourself. And if we cut two more slits in the board how many will appear on the wall?"
Conrad frowned. "I'd say four, but you're going to tell me twice as many as whatever the two slits were."
"Actually, with four slits there will be half as many bands of light as if there were only two slits."
"Yes, if you are thinking in terms of a single universe. But ask today's best scientific minds, Stephen Hawking and others, and they will say invisible light beams from other worlds similar to ours that are involved in the very same experiment at the very same time are actually interfering with some of our beams."
"And you can prove this?"
"I shall be waiting for you in the lab."
Even as he thought over the conversation, Conrad shook his head. To think that there was another one of him traveling to another Camarillo to meet with another professor at this exact same moment-it was incomprehensible. And not just one of him, but millions, all identical. Well, not exactly identical, because according to Endo, each of his counterparts still had a free will to make different decisions along the way. One Conrad Davis could have waited to ride with his crew. Another could have agreed with his boss to cancel the segment. Or another could have decided to pursue philosophy in college instead of journalism. And on and on it went, the possibilities infinite.
Then there was the matter of time ...
"It is my personal belief," Endo had said, "that these various realities may also be traveling at different velocities. For some, an entire lifetime of seventy to eighty years may be lived in just a few of our hours. For others, it may be just the opposite."
"You're telling me that there's someone exactly like me in another reality who's only living a few hours?"
"A few hours by our standards, yes. But by his, it will be the full eighty years."
No wonder Harrison and the others thought the story was over everyone's head. But if this sort of thing could be proven in the lab and actually captured on videotape ...
The rain came down harder, and he turned the wiper speed to high. Conrad was nearly fifty years old, but the methodic swish-swish, swish-swish of the wiper blades still brought warm memories of his childhood in Washington State, where the sound of windshield wipers was a part of many a car trip.
He crested the ridge and started down the steep grade into Camarillo. Even shrouded by clouds, it was a beautiful sight. The coastal mountains rose on either side, giving one last burst of rock and cliff before dropping suddenly to the flat coastal plain seven hundred feet below. In the distance, the furrowed fields of onions and strawberries stretched all the way to the ocean, or at least as far as the newest housing development that encroached upon them.
Swish-swish, swish-swish ...
The left lanes of traffic had slowed, so he threw a look over his shoulder and pulled into the far right where there was less congestion. He glanced up through the windshield. It was still there. Up to the left. The jagged rock formation that looked like the profile of a noble Indian surveying the valley. Being the first to spot it was a favorite pastime of Suzanne and little Julia whenever they took their Sunday drives up the coast.
Swish-swish, swish-swish ...
Sunday drives up the coast-one of the few bribes that had actually worked in luring Suzanne away from church. She'd been a good woman. The best he'd had. Committed to her family at any cost. Granted, she may have been a little fanatical in the faith department, but her beliefs in God posed no real threat for them. He gave her her space, and she gave him his. And, truth be told, the older he got, the more wisdom he saw in some of her God talk.
God ... if all this multi-world business was true, it would be interesting to see how the theologians would try and squeeze him into the picture. And what about the great religious leaders? What about Jesus Christ? If, as Suzanne had always insisted, this world needed to be "saved," then didn't all these similar worlds need to be saved as well? Again Conrad shook his head. The implications were staggering.
Swish-swish, swish-swish ...
He could smell the mixture of dust and water that came with the first rain. Under that, the faint aroma of onions wafting up from the valley. He smiled, almost sadly, as he remembered little Julia holding her nose, complaining about the smell. Those had been good times. Some of the best. In fact, if he could pick one season in his life to freeze and forever live in, it would be-
The blast of an air horn jarred Conrad from his thoughts. He glanced up at his mirror and saw a big rig approaching from behind, flashing its high beams. Come on, he thought, no one's in that big of a hurry. Sure, he'd moved into the truck lane, but he was already exceeding the speed limit. Besides there was traffic directly ahead, so what was the big-
The horn blasted again. Longer, closer.
Conrad looked back into the mirror. The truck was rapidly approaching. In a matter of moments it would be on Conrad's tail, trying to intimidate him. But Conrad Davis was not so easy to intimidate.
"What's your problem?" Conrad mouthed the words into the mirror, raising his hands, motioning to the traffic around them. "What do you want me to do?"
And then he saw the driver. A kid. He wasn't looking at Conrad. Instead, he was fighting something in the cab. Perhaps stomping on foot pedals or wrestling with the gearshift-Conrad couldn't tell for certain. He didn't have to. Because when the young driver finally looked up, Conrad saw the terror in the boy's eyes.
Conrad quickly looked to the left, searching for a way to slip into the adjoining lane and out of the truck's path. There was none. All three lanes were packed.
The horn continued to blast. The truck was nearly on top of him-so close Conrad could no longer see the boy, only the big rig's aluminum grill.
Up ahead, about thirty feet, a cement truck lumbered its way down the grade. Conrad pushed back his panic, looking for some way out. He glanced to the right, to the emergency lane. Suddenly, the Jaguar shuddered and lunged forward. The rig had hit him, hard, throwing his head forward, then back. Instantly, the car began picking up speed.
Conrad hit the brakes. They did no good, only threw him into a screaming skid, making it harder to steer.
The cement truck lay twenty-five feet ahead now, rapidly drawing closer.
Excerpted from Eli by Bill Myers Copyright © 2003 by Zondervan
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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