At what point is it wise to tell your wife that you have created a black hole? Not a full-size, planet-consuming black hole, but a rather stable swirling vortex around three feet in diameter. And, that said black hole now hovered in the middle of your dining room. It was an accident, of course, but it was becoming harder to keep a secret now. It was one of those things that should be said immediately and with every day that goes by the secret grows a little more. Like an astronomical snowball. If Frank had told his wife the day it had happened, then maybe they could have dealt with it together, or run away together. In truth, he didn’t know how to unmake the black hole and his wife’s inevitable hysteria and anger at his creation was the sole reason he had kept quiet. Susan was renowned for losing her temper with Frank. According to her, none of his inventions were good enough, or creative enough, or ever made them enough money. Secrecy was often the best policy, regardless of the work Frank was undertaking; it avoided any naysaying and unnecessary abuse. He could only imagine the shitstorm he would face if his wife discovered the dark, swirling funnel of chaos that hovered in the middle of what was once their dining room. Frank would often use the dining room as his workshop; soldering away on the dinner table. But now the dinner table was gone, along with all six chairs, the antique dresser which had held their wedding china, and the gaudy brass chandelier, he had always hated, which had hung in the centre of the room. The black hole had sucked in each item one at a time with consummate ease: It seemed to gather strength which ease piece of furniture devoured. There was a moment when it seemed as though the large oak table wouldn’t fit, but then it snapped in half and disappeared into the darkness in a mist of splintered wood. Frank had stood in the corner, white as a sheet, witnessing with a morbid fascination the room’s steady excavation. What is Susan going to say? He thought as their wedding china could be heard shattering inside the vanishing dresser. The room was now empty, except for the black hole and its whimpering creator, who remained a safe distance away, his back firmly against the wall. Frank wondered what was going to happen next, would it gather energy and consume the house? Or had he already seen the worst? The hole quivered gently now and emitted a low hum. It seemed relatively stable.
Frank’s plan was to tell Susan, pack a suitcase for them both, jump in the car and head for the border. He was hoping to get her out of the house without telling her the truth, but the bloody cat had ruined that plan. He could get away with the lost furniture, that was easily replaced. Even the wedding china could be bought online for not too much. Hell, they had only used it once since they got married ten years ago, she may not even notice it gone! But the cat was a different issue entirely. Flapjack was a rescue cat and he had always hated Frank. The toffee-coloured bastard was out to ruin him from the start. Always getting in the way of his work, scratching Frank’s ankles when he was deep in inventive thought or taking a crap on the floor of the workshop/dining room whenever Frank was close to a breakthrough. Frank would then get in trouble with Susan for throwing the cat outside by the scruff of the neck and calling it all the names under the sun. Susan could never see this side of the cat and Frank was sure his wife loved the cat more than she loved him. Whenever the purring sod was curled up on her lap it would just stare at him with beady eyes. Flapjack hated Frank and wanted to destroy him. And now, he may well have done just that: the nonchalance with which the cat strolled over to the black hole and hopped inside was testament to the fact. Frank could only watch as the fluffy tail retreated into the swirling blackness. The cat had run in-between his legs when Frank returned from the toilet. He stood aghast for several minutes, contemplating throwing himself in after the cat, not in an attempted rescue, just as a way of removing himself from this situation and getting as far away from his wife and her inevitable rage.
Susan had no idea what Frank was up to in this room; he had kept the door locked shut for a week now. He had been leaving periodically to get food or to use the toilet but, after the cat’s suicidal leap, that was simply too dangerous a risk. He had reduced himself to urinating into the black hole (from a safe distance) and had given up on any food and drink for the foreseeable. Susan would occasionally knock on the door to enquire what he was up to, or whether he was able to come out for some food, or if he was done ‘mucking about with whatever it was he was up to in there.’ “I’m busy, darling.” He would reply. “I’ll be out tomorrow, sweetie.” Frank had taken to weeping uncontrollably as he sat staring at the monster he had created. He needed a plan and he needed one soon. His wife would be trying to kick down the door in a matter of hours, and she was as strong as her thick-set build suggested. One firm shove is all it would take for her to reveal his dirty secret and murder him with her bare hands.
“Have you seen Flapjack?” Susan shrieked through the door, “I think he’s run away, Frankie!”
“Errr, no, darling. I haven’t.” Frank replied with the quivering voice of a child. “I’m sure he’s fine.”
“I am so worried for him! Please come out, Frankie.” He could hear the tears in her voice and felt so guilty. He couldn’t keep it from her any longer.
“Darling, I’m going to open the door now. But, I need you not to panic and not to get upset. And please do not throw anything at me. It was an accident.” Frank had a shaking hand on the door’s lock, and already regretted what he was saying.
“What do you mean?! Open this door now, Frankie! What the bloody hell have you done?”
“You are both panicking and getting upset.” Frank jumped back from the door as a shoe was thrown at it from the other side. “And now you’re throwing something at me, sweetness.”
“What do you expect me to do?” Her voice softened as she continued, “I haven’t seen you for a week and I’m worried about you. And the cat. Have you seen Flapjack?”
Frank opened the door slowly and his wife pushed past him into the nearly empty room. Susan made a sound somewhere between a yelp and screech as she surveyed the minimalist redecoration of her dining room. The swirling disc in the middle stared back like a single black eye. Frank had a moment or two to prepare for the reaction. He knew what was coming as she slowly turned back around to face him.
“What have you done?” Susan said through set teeth.
“It was an accident.” Frank wanted his reply to sound controlled and masculine, but it came out with a child’s confusion, sounding more like a question than an answer.
“What is it?”
“I-I d-don’t quite know. I think think it’s a black hole, darling.”
“Don’t ‘darling’ me! I can see it’s a bloody black hole!” Susan poked a finger at her husband’s chest, her broad figure looming over him.
“No. I mean, I know. But, it’s actually a black hole. It’s a thing. From space.” Frank was scratching his head, trying to find a way of explaining something so powerful and wonderful to this woman who had no interest whatsoever in what it was that had eaten the entire content of her dining room.
“From space?!” Susan was suddenly afraid of the thing and backed away from it to stand beside her husband. “It’s an alien?”
“No, darl… dear. It just something that belongs in space. It’s quite amazing really.” Frank couldn’t help but grin at the realisation of what he had actually done. This is bloody marvellous, he thought. Susan reeled around to face him with a look of hatred in her eyes.
“‘Amazing?!’ You think this is amazing? You think destroying our house from the inside out and disappearing for a week is ‘amazing’? I find it amazing that I haven’t murdered you where you stand yet!” Her face had become a swollen, purple, shouting mass and Frank was terrified again. “You’ve locked yourself in here and watched as this thing has eaten all of our furniture! All of our lovely furniture, Frank! The table, the chairs, the dresser and all of the wedd… OUR WEDDING CHINA?! I’ve been out there worried sick about you, and now about Flapjack! And you…” She stopped short and turned to look at the hole again, and then back to Frank. He tried to look away but there was no avoiding her when she moved her face within an inch of his own. He could feel her hot breath on his face and smell the tang of Wotsits. “Where is flapjack, Frank?” Her voice had softened but still there was an undercurrent of simmering rage, with which he was all too familiar. She twisted her face a few degrees clockwise, like a dog trying to hear something, a trademark move that declared he was in a world of trouble.
“I.. I.. I..” Frank began.
“What, Frank? You have something to say about Flapjack?” Her teeth were locked so tightly together he was surprised any words could force their way past at all.
Frank gave up, closed his eyes, and simply pointed at the vortex in the middle of the room.
Susan didn’t know whether to cry, or scream or punch her husband first, so she immediately did all three at once. After the attack was over, the pair of them slumped against the wall watching the blackness spin with a dull hum.
“Flapjack is in there?” Susan said through gasps for breath.
“He ran in when I went to the toilet and just jumped straight for it. I couldn’t stop him.”
“Go and get him then.” Susan fixed him squarely with an unblinking stare.
“You heard me, go in there and bring back Flapjack.”
“I have no idea what is on the other side. Or if I’d be able to come back at all!” Frank was exasperated but knew this was only going to end one way, “I may die in there.”
“You built it, you have to fix this. Go and bring Flapjack back. Now.”
Resigned, Frank stood up and took a step towards his accidental creation. He could immediately feel the suction tugging at his unkempt hair and baggy clothing. He was already regretting everything; his decision to try and build a time machine, his decision to tell his wife, and now the fact that he allowed her to bully him into thinking about climbing through the vortex. He turned back to fight his corner and get out of this job but before he could open his mouth Susan was upon him.
“You will bring back my Flapjack!” She roared as she pushed him across the room toward the hole. He couldn’t resist her strength and for a moment it felt as though their momentum would send them both careering into the unknown. Susan caught her balance and planted her feet, using her weight to anchor them in place.
“Okay, I’ll take a look.” Realising that there was no way out of this, Frank began to edge his way over to the vortex with his wife hanging onto the back of his waistband. The skin on his face stretched and rattled as the force of the pull from within the hole sucked off and consumed his reading glasses. His feet began to slip on the floor and he scrambled for balance. He stared forward into the deepest black centre of the hole and believed that he would die inside that emptiness. I could drown, if the other end of that wormhole is underwater, or suffocate if it’s in space somewhere… he thought, but all the while the satisfaction of creating this amazing entity in his own house was lingering in his mind. I have done something wonderful.
His skin was taught and the ends of his greying hair were disappearing into the hole; Frank thought that his face would tear straight off before he reached it. A vision of the large, solid-wood table snapping in half like a piece of card turned his bowels to water. He took a deep breath just as his wife’s feet slipped and plunged his head, up to his shoulders, into his creation.
Without his glasses, it took a moment for his eyes to adjust to what was in front of him. Fragments of wood, glass and other materials that made up his ex-dining room furniture sat in a pile of chaos, atop which sat Flapjack, nonchalantly licking his paw.
“Flapjack, you little bastard!” Frank spat without hesitation, “Get back in here now!”
“No, Frank. I’ve had enough.” Flapjack replied, “I’ve had enough of you and that damned woman you call your ‘darling’” He continued mockingly.
“You can talk?” Frank replied after several seconds of dumbfounded, open mouthed staring.
“Here I can. For some reason. So thanks for that. It appears you have some use.” The cat spoke eloquently while watching his paw as he turned it over and over, surveying his handiwork, “But that’s not all.” The cat purred and raised himself on his hind-legs with his front paws aloft. “I can also do MAGIC!” Flames erupted from the out-stretched paws and formed a wide arc over Flapjack’s head as he laughed a maniacal laugh. As the flames faded into wisps of black smoke and the cat returned to a seated position he cleared his throat and continued, “I am happier here, old man. Go back to that useless world in which you kept me prisoner and don’t either of you even think of trying to bring me back there.”
“Okay.” Frank replied in a child’s voice and slowly backed away from the, now chuckling, cat. The black hole sent him and wife flying back against the wall when he returned and they lay in a stunned heap on the floor.
“Well?” Susan said as she pulled herself to her feet.
“I saw him.”
“Why didn’t you go and get him then?”
“It’s not as simple as that. I don’t think he wants to come back, darling.” Frank scratched his head as he tried to manoeuvre his words into a coherent answer.
“Have you completely lost your marbles?!” Susan spat, “Go and get Flapjack back and then get rid of this ‘dark ring’, or whatever it is you claim to have created!”
“No.” Frank held his ground and stared his wife in the eye. He was terrified.
“What did you say, Frankie?” Susan’s voice was falsely sweet and this scared Frank even more.
“I am sorry, genuinely I am, but that cat has always hated me, and, to be perfectly honest, I am proud of what I have created here,” Frank turned to stare at the black hole lovingly, “I mean, look at it. It’s beautiful. It’s magnificent.”
“It’s a cat eating death trap and I want it gone! But not before you retrieve Flapjack!” Susan was the angriest Frank had ever seen her. Even before, when he had blown up the washing machine trying to split an atom, or when he had blown a hole in their bedroom ceiling those malfunctioning hover-boots, she had not come close to this.
“You go. That cat hates me and I hate it back, so you go and get it.” Frank knew what he was saying, and felt the beginnings of guilt brewing within him, but these were quickly vanquished when Susan pushed him out of the way and stormed from the room in a flurry of exasperation. He thought she may have given up and left the house entirely, but she soon returned with ten feet of rope, one end tied around her generous waist. Without looking at him she thrust the other end into Frank’s hand and sidled over the black hole.
“Hold it tightly, you useless man. We have some serious talking about your career to do when we get back. You are a pathetic inventor.” We? We?! Frank thought, What use is that bloody cat going to be in that discussion?! I just created a black hole with an old microwave and an analogue radio, will somebody please give me just a smidgen on credit?! Susan stood two foot from the black hole, her hair was hovering toward the source of suction and the round curves of her torso rippled, as though with trepidation. Frank held on tightly as he watched his wife, with ponderously feline dexterity, take a step and launch herself into the hole. The rope was pulled taut as she disappeared and Frank was yanked forward. He composed himself and waited.
There was complete quiet for a few minutes and Frank grew anxious. He was contemplating sticking his head in again to see what was happening before the rope back to quiver. He gave it a light pull and it pulled back harder, so he gave it a big tug. He flew back off his feet as the rope came pouring back through the hole, landing in a coiled pile in front of him. The end which had been tied to Susan was charred, smoking and slightly aflame. Frank held it in his hands and began to giggle hysterically. You silly woman, he thought, what have you got to say about my inventions now?
Frank left the dining room and locked the door behind him. Within an hour he had showered, dressed and eaten breakfast, after which he walked outside and climbed into his old, blue Ford Mondeo. In his satnav he typed simply ‘Scotland’ and then he drove off, following the robotic directions. He smiled as he turned onto the M6, singing along to Queen’s ‘I Want It All’ as it blasted from his cassette player.