The Photon Man

21 Sep

Metrotown had never before had such incomprehensible police calls.

Magnetic communications were full of reports of an unnatural figure, brilliantly illuminated with blinding white light, making its way along alleys and side streets in the decrepit ancient center of the city. What was it? No One was able to tell. Policemen in patrol cars and those on walking beats were unable to identify the source of the moving brightness, only that it moved like a human being. No one dared or was able to approach the unnerving sight, because of its speed and self-assurance. The light was bold and brazen.

Citizens who happened to catch sight of the late-night phenomenon reported it to the newspapers and electron press of Metrotown. The media worked up a sensation in the public mind about the unworldly “photon man” who stalked the streets after midnight. What or who was it? Wild conjectures and guesses canceled each other out.

The Chief of Police assigned a skilled, veteran detective named Carl Trenton to uncovering what might lie behind so many strange sightings. The short, fat plainclothesman was at a loss as to how to begin an investigation.

One person who avoided saying a single word about this sensation was Dwight Graham, a man without friends, whose neighbors had no idea what he was up to in the storage basement he lived and did things in.

“Now that you are no longer a student at Metrotown University, it is advisable that you find a practical job in your field of energy physics,” his father had told Dwight two years ago, when he all of a sudden quit all his courses and withdrew from further education.

“I have saved sufficient funds to allow me to live by myself for a long while,” the tall, willowy young man had replied. “My expenses will be small and I can take my time before settling into an employment routine.”

Dwight, an only child, had always had something of the hermit about him.

No one who knew him was surprised at his preference for limited socializing and staying alone as much as possible.

“We must not bother him,” his mother said to the worried father. “The boy has a good character and will keep out of trouble. He needs time to think and find out what he wants to do.”

Dwight had long been consumed by one unusual idea he dared not explain to anyone he knew. Only in his secret personal journal did he dare describe the dream that had seized hold of him. Here was the place he outlined what had become an obsession that had captured him completely.

“There are creatures composed of various material substances. Plants consist of chlorophyll, while animals contain protoplasmic flesh. But can liquids or gases be the basis of living entities? An even deeper question is this: can light rays be the foundation of something with thought and movement in it? Is a photonic mode of existence possible in our universe?

“That is what I must prove to science. Light was obviously the first, the most basic form of existent in a this-worldly sense. Our religion teaches us that the earliest creation was that of light. All living objects are later products. Light must therefore contain the seeds of what we see around us every day.

“I believe that life can be given to and projected onto light, which was its original ancestor. Why cannot that be accomplished? Photonic physics has advanced far enough to allow the construction of what up to now has been only speculated about.

“I shall become the person who makes a living, moving, thinking creature purely out of rays of light.”

Detective Carl Trenton made a street-by-street, alley-by-alley search and survey wherever any person had sighted the ghost-like apparition that had terrified the old central area of Metrotown.

He began conversations with local inhabitants, but these provided no leads for him to exploit. With only a few more minutes of daylight left, he entered a narrow side street that appeared to be a dead end.

Carl noticed lights being turned on inside small, cheap apartments on both sides of the empty cement location as evening approached. No humans or vehicles were visible outside the dilapidated buildings.

The detective stopped to take his bearings and catch some breaths of city air.

How was he ever to find clues to solving the riddle of what the walking light that had been seen was. There had never been any similar case in all his years of service, nor had he heard or read of anything similar to this.

His mind was wandering as he reflected and it took him several seconds to focus his thoughts on what seemed to occur in a very brief flash.

Was it some sort of light that flared then disappeared? He had not been looking in that particular direction and had seen it only from out of the corner of his eye. What was it? Carl suddenly concentrated his mind on finding out. He scanned both sides of the cul-de-sac, up and down.

All of a sudden, a tall figure in a long black coat appeared at the front of one of the huge apartment buildings. It briskly walked along the narrow sidewalk in the darkening twilight, moving directly toward the startled police detective. Carl stared as if mesmerized at the dark shape advancing toward the entrance to the blind alley. An old intuition told the veteran investigator that this was a person who had valuable information in his head.

“Pardon me,” said Carl as the unidentified one came near. “Could you help me, sir? I am looking for the site of the nearest newspaper stand, but I don’t see it anywhere around here.”

The stranger stopped. His dark eyes seemed to have an unnatural glow to them.

“You are on the wrong street,” he told Carl in a gravely voice. “Go south two streets if you want to buy a newspaper.”

The speaker then proceeded forward onto the connecting street without uttering anything more. The plainclothesman watched him disappear around a corner.

Carl waited long enough not to alarm the man who had drawn his curiosity, then began to track him as best he could. The glow in the eyes and the unusual way that he moved held some significance that attracted the attention of the one who had happened to see it.

The first stars overhead were visible by the time that Carl emerged out of the cul-de-sac. There was no difficulty in following the suspicious stranger, for he was illuminated by a strong whitish light emanating from inside his tall body. This was the glowing man of light reported to the police. His place of residence was an apartment where the first flash of rays had appeared to the detective.

What should be the next step? There was no specific law-breaking involved in this eerie phenomenon. Carl decided he would follow the suspect a little farther, then return to the vicinity of his haunts the following morning and learn the identity of the shining man of mystery.

A night of placid sleep allowed the investigator to arise the following morning with a mind full of fresh vigor. I shall go back and find the enigmatic figure, confronting him face-to-face, he decided. I must find out how this inner lighting occurs and what the man’s intentions are. Does he possess dangerous or criminal plans of any sort?

Workers of Metrotown were hurrying to their jobs on trams and by foot as he made his way back to the blind alley where he had located his suspect.

A green-grocer had opened his shop at the corner. Loud noises came from the cellar where a shoemaker plied his trade. A mother pushed a baby carriage along on an early shopping excursion. Normal life followed its customary patterns on the short street with a single entrance and outlet.

Carl walked along the sidewalk slowly, making certain that he could locate the building where he had spotted the flash of brilliant lighting the previous evening. He halted when he reached where he remembered he had then stood.

This is it, his memory told him. Did he dare make an attempt to confront the object of his interest? There is no alternative now, he knew as he walked to the below-ground steps that led to the basement floor of the tenement.

When Carl reached the bottom step, he began to rap on the solid wooden door.

It took him half a minute before the tall, skinny man he had followed appeared in an old-fashioned sleeping gown, rubbing sleep out of his eyes.

“What are you raising a racket about?” said the irate resident, looking the detective up-and-down. “Who are you? I certainly don’t know you. What do you want? Why are you bothering me at such an hour? I only went to bed a little while ago and you disturbed my slumbering with your knocking on the door.”

“Could I come in, sir, and speak to you about something important to both of us?”

The man of light made way for Carl to enter, then closed the door. He led his unwelcome visitor into the huge, darkened chamber where he made his home.

Without being invited, Carl sat down at one end of a derelict old sofa. The mystery man took the other end. “So?” inquired the latter.

The policeman groped in his mind for how to begin, while he surveyed the dark interior of the basement hall they were in. He decided to ask his host about the meaning of the boxes and mechanisms he saw in the background.

“I see that you have a lot of containers and devices about in this hall of yours. That is interesting to me. I also have a deep interest in things I can experiment with. My own apartment is also cluttered with many different objects like yours here,” lied the veteran investigator.

“What do you want to obtain from me, then?” demanded Dwight, a shade of anger in his voice. “I am not in the business of selling anything to a stranger.”

“But I am interested in the propagation of new forms of light. That is a passion with me. I have been informed that you are also involved with that photonic phenomenon.”

“Who told you that?” cried out the man of light. “What is your game? I think that you have a hidden purpose in coming to me with talk like that.”

“My purpose here is to find out if you are like me in being fascinated by the science of light and the many applications of visible rays. That is my greatest interest in life, more than just a hobby. People say that it is my primary passion.

“I have been told that you share such an interest in that area. My reason for visiting you is to become acquainted with you and learning as much as I can about your particular studies and activities.”

The face of Dwight Graham grew redder and redder as he boiled with rage.

“Get out of here, please,” he muttered. “I am not feeling well this morning and was about to go to bed for some rest. There is nothing more for the two of us to say. I ask you to leave me alone and not come back to my apartment.”

The eyes of Dwight seemed burning with unrestrained fury. His breathing grew strained and heavy.

Without a word, Carl turned around and made his way out of the basement as quickly as he could.

The investigator was in a quandary. How was he going to proceed with this suspicious fellow who, as far as he could tell, was breaking no law by his extraordinary success in illuminating his body and walking about at night.

There was no justification for any arrest. The legal risk was that of violating this man’s personal rights as a citizen.

He had seen no signs of anything wrong beyond the strange capability of turning himself into a brilliantly shining human lamp.

How was it done? What did this individual have in all those boxes, what was he involved in with so much technical equipment that appeared very advanced?

Carl thought about the situation from many directions and angles.

His final decision was to break into the basement apartment at night, when he would be sure that the man sending forth photons was out roaming about the empty streets of central Metrotown.

Carl waited till long after midnight before walking out into the cool night air. He took a circular path toward the cul-de-sac where he had visited that day. It would be vexing to see or encounter the man of light by chance at this late hour.

The stillness of the now familiar dead end street was intimidating, yet he darted rapidly past the apartment buildings and ducked down the steps to the door he had entered earlier. Years of experience had taught him how to penetrate barriers, especially those made of wood. From the inside pocket of his overcoat Carl pulled out a battery-powered drill that was handy for the removal of lock assemblies. Within three minutes of using the tool on the door, he won entry into the apartment interior. The large hall was nearly in complete darkness. Only one small security lamp provided any illumination.

The policeman took only a half dozen steps and then was startled by the ceiling lights going on. “Stop where you are,” shouted the now familiar voice of the tall resident, who proved not to be absent. “I have you covered with my gatgun and I can legally shoot you as a burglar.”

What could Carl do? He halted and turned to where the voice appeared to be coming.

Dwight Graham moved toward him from the side of a cement wall, a metallic shooter in his right hand. He suddenly began to glow with bright light as he came face-to-face with the detective.

“Do you mean to kill me now?” said the detective with rising trepidation. He stared at the man who might become his executioner.

Radiant with white light that covered all his facial skin, Dwight stopped only a foot away from the one who had found him.

All at once, he raised the shooter in his right hand above the taller Carl, then brought the butt of the weapon down, striking the police officer a powerful blow on the back of his skull.

The one hit then fell to the wooden floor, no longer conscious of where he was and who had overpowered him.

Carl awoke and found himself lying in the aggressor’s bed, the only one in the gigantic basement apartment.

From a distance came a voice that spoke to him with unexpected solicitude.

“How are you feeling? I hope that the blow I gave you caused no permanent damage. You have no visible wounds, as far as I can see.”

Carl raised his head, allowing him to see the other, who began to step toward the bed and the man lying on it.

“What do you plan to do with me?” asked the desperate investigator.

All at once, something that resembled a grimace crossed the narrow face of Dwight Graham.

“What I am going to do depends to a great degree on my own experiences and how it was that I came to be as illuminated as I can make myself when I wish it.

“My graduate education at Metrotown University concentrated on the physics of light and photonic technology. This area became my personal passion. A form of madness about development of new forms of lighting came to dominate my thought every day and night.

“I began to experiment on my own with new forms of photonic lattices and energy frameworks. My interest grew so large that I was impelled to quit my attendance of University classes. This basement we are in became my private laboratory.

“I succeeded in stealing many advanced devices and light projectors from the research facilities across our city. My objective became to make myself into what I call a photonic manifester, one able to glow intensely when that was desired. I carry a nano-battery that can turn on the lattice system that now covers much of the skin of my face and hands. My goal is to make my entire body luminescent in time.

“Every evening I walk all around the core area of Metrotown, testing the latest constructions of light webs and lattices that I have managed to put together. Last night, I was using an entire new grid system and it lit up and gave off light in an excellent, wider and brighter way. This progress gives me encouragement. I am quite confident that I will one day soon change the way that we illuminate our nights.

“Each one of us will turn into a lighter of the darkness outside. Just wait and see whether what I predict becomes true.”

The detective had no opportunity to respond to this, for he soon fell unconscious when Dwight moved close and placed a towel soaked with a soporific compound over his nose and mouth.

It was several days later as the first signs of night fell over Metrotown.

Two figures, one of them tall and willowy, the other short and fat, walked through the deserted streets side-by-side.

“We will be doing this every evening from now on,” whispered Dwight to his fearful companion.

Carl spoke nervously to the man of light who had planted photonic lattices composed of nano-crystals over most of his body skin. “I am starting to glow. There is a tingling sensation on my face and both hands. Am I soon going to be illuminated just like you?”

“You have nothing to fear, Carl. This will be as safe for you as it has been for me. It took me several nights to become used to the sensation of being a photonic being. You have nothing to worry about, believe me.”

“You say that I can learn to brighten or dim my lighting through my own willpower?”

“That becomes easy to accomplish after a few excursions like what we will be taking tonight,” said Dwight. “You shall from now on qualify as a genuine photonic man similar to myself. The two of us are positive proof that human beings can exist as fully self-illuminated individuals.”

The two white-faced persons continued through the streets on foot.

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