State Of Unknowing

Entry by: Mr Golightly

15th November 2017
"Aren’t you going to ask me why I’m doing this? Aren’t you going to question my audacity? My sanity perhaps?"

He regards me through his fine, silver framed glasses with a look of absolute neutrality. He makes no attempt to speak. It disarms me.

"It’s just... I’ve gotten used to a more hostile reception."

I reach for my drink and I’m almost reluctant to touch it. The glass, the pitcher, everything is too perfect. Almost unnaturally clean. Not even a fingerprint from the hand that deposited it. I take a sip and steady myself for a more measured approach.

"I mean, that is why there’s no audience for this correct? And I’m certain your studio isn’t usually located in... Well, in here."

He takes a quick look around the studio. It is an exact replica of his usual workplace, identical in every aspect but location. He adjusts his tie minutely, correcting an imperceptible flaw in it’s symmetry and, in a calm, measured voice, he speaks.

"It is fair to say your presence arouses passions within some people Professor Myers, but I have no interest in eliciting a scandal. What concerns me are the facts, and, for all the commotion your discovery has caused, the facts, it seems, are few and far between."

"That’s because the facts are inconvenient."

"Then this your opportunity to set the record straight. Let’s start with the expedition. Can you give us an explanation of your field and what brought you to the Antarctic?"

I take a final look at the unmanned camera and steel myself for what's to come. Here it is. People are listening.

"I’m an associate professor at UCL and I study the climate and man’s effect on it. Much like yourself I have no interest in being an alarmist. I am interested in facts."

"What was the purpose of that particular expedition?"

"The Antarctic glaciers offer us a unique opportunity to look at the Earth’s past. By drilling down into the ice and extracting the cores we can obtain samples that contain tiny bubbles of atmosphere from as many as 800,000 years ago. By analysing these we can look at the exact makeup of the Earth’s atmosphere from way before mankind became a factor."

"And it was within one of these cores that you made the discovery?"

"That’s right. I had the privilege of working on a brand new rig. A truly staggering piece of machinery capable of drilling at a larger bore and a greater depth than ever before. We were pulling cores dating back almost a million years, almost three miles in depth. It was an exciting thing to be a part of."

"Did you find it in the first core?"

"No. We had pulled 7 prior to that point. It was in core number 8, almost at the very bottom."

"And what did you find?"

I take a deep breath and exhale slowly. There’s no point in skirting around the absurdity of it.

"A red, electric kettle, manufactured by Delonghi with a European plug. It has a product number but it doesn’t match anything on record, and Delonghi themselves don’t recognise the model."

"And how would you describe it? How old would you estimate it to be?"

"Contemporary. It looked modern. It’s been examined pretty carefully and, as far as we can tell, you could plug it in right now and it would work just fine."

His face remains placid. He coughs gently to clear his throat.

"So you claim to have discovered a contemporary, electric kettle in the heart of a million year old glacier?"

I feel the urge to get defensive at this. It's usually at this point in the conversation that people have a tendency to devolve into hysterical disbelief. My suitability as an educator would be called into question, as would my general character. One interviewer had told me, live on daytime television, to 'fuck off'. Things had changed now though, and this interview was different.

"That is correct."

For the first time I see his guard slip, just a fraction, and he sits forward in his chair.

"You can see how that would be hard to believe?"

I smile.

"Of course I can. It’s impossible."

"But still you maintain-"

"That’s the inconvenient part. Just because it’s impossible, it doesn’t change the fact that it happened."

"And how do you prove that?"

I sigh deeply. It had been a long road to get this far.

"At first I was just grasping for anything that would prove I wasn’t a liar. I had seen the thing pulled out of the Earth, I didn’t have the luxury of disbelief. I wanted answers as much as anybody, but who could take the questions seriously? I thought I could defend myself by pointing out the unknown model of the kettle. Nobody had ever seen one before, where could I have possibly gotten it from? Of course that just made it look like I had gone to extreme lengths to fabricate it."

"So what did you do?"

"After I was suspended from UCL I was forced to smuggle the kettle out of the labs. I knew that this seemingly innocuous object might be the most important artefact ever discovered, and the likelihood was that they would throw it in a skip. I contacted hundreds of academic institutions and laboratories, anybody with the equipment to try to date this thing. It was well over a year before I had a positive response. I don’t know whether it was out of pity or if they were just sick of the hassle."

"And the result?"

"Hah. They wouldn’t tell me. They handed it back and said that they didn’t want to have anything to do with it."

he leans forward with his elbows on his knees. His tie sits an inch to the left.

"What did you do?"

"Actually it seemed to help. When I told people about their evasive behaviour I think it piqued their curiosity. Soon I had a handful of offers. I was feeling pretty frantic by then. I didn’t know what the result would be either and I needed answers more than anyone. It had cost me too much to let it be."

"Such as?"

"My job. Maybe my family. They didn’t believe me either, didn’t like what it did to me. The worse thing is that I can’t even blame them. It was the rational response. All they could see was the hurt that my ‘lie' had caused them. That I had caused them. Now? I don’t know where we are now."

I see the pity in his eyes, and I feel the emotion well up inside of me. I fight the urge to cry. Not for my pain, not for my loss. I want to cry because for the first time I can see he believes me. This is why I'm here. He's done his research. He asks softly:

"So, what did you find?"

"It was 980,000 years old. Confirmed. Confirmed again and again. A lot of these places, these institutions, they didn’t know how to say it at first you know? They were feeling what I felt. Staring impossibility right in the face."

He pauses for an eternity before falling back into his chair. He removes the silver glasses and places them into his jacket pocket.

"Can you pinpoint the moment when this first entered the public consciousness?"

"I honestly don’t know... The first time I heard of it outside of an academic context was Brampton."

"Can you explain to us what happened there?"

"A group of people, 12 of them I think. They had caught wind of it somewhere. They had been cultivating this idea that life was some kind of simulation, an artificial fabrication, and to them the kettle was proof of that. An impossible object that could only be explained by a glitch.”

The memory makes me feel numb.

“Anyway, it was a suicide pact. They thought they could wake up from it all. Hell, I don’t know, maybe they did."

"That’s when it hit the news?"

"Yeah, in a big way... a very big way. You know the fallout. More suicides, a riot in Bordeaux, endless public meltdowns... just... just the understandable response of billions of people grasping the magnitude of the impossible and trying anything to reason with it. Aliens, magic, a trick of the Devil, a test from God, time travel, conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory. It's the Government trying to distract us. It's a shady cabal of scientists trying to secure the funding jackpot. It's a marketing ploy by Big Kettle. Hell, the thing itself is basically locked in Fort Knox right know. People have literally died trying to get it, or destroy it or whatever. Yesterday I had to run from a man in the street who was clawing at me like a lunatic. He called me a ‘prophet’... Jesus."

"Could it be Jesus?"

He stares at me from his slouched position on the chair and laughs. He scratches his scalp, ruining his perfectly set hair.

“It's an extraordinary reaction to a kettle.”

“Believe me I know... but it's not the kettle, it's the mystery it represents. People go to extreme lengths to explain what they can't understand. Philosophy. Religion. Science. I guess when something challenges everything you thought you had figured out...”

“No kidding.”

He gives up on the tie entirely and takes it off. He loosens his collar. He notices my reaction to his changed demeanour and gives an exasperated smile. I can relate.

"So... How do you think it got there?"