“What in the heck…” thought Tomberlin as she peered through the crack in the wall. This wall, old and decrepit like most of the buildings in their world, separated the flat she shared with her mother from their neighbor. One Dr. Manicle, oddly close to both the words maniacal, which he was, and monocle, which he wore slung over his right eye and fastened in the back with a sort of belt buckle.
Tomberlin’s room was filled to the brim with books. She had but one piece of furniture, an old leather armchair, in which she slept. Her mother had once offered to buy her a bed but she was refused. Tomberlin had reasoned that a bed took up too much space and that would mean less space for her books, and that simply would not do. There were pathways through the stacks that wound around different features, a reading lamp, a table fastened from an entire encyclopedic collection of World Arts, which she had yet to find a use for, and most importantly, the crack in the wall. Even though an outsider would say Tomberlin was a book hoarder, there was an order to her chaos and she was quite sure she could quickly locate any book she might need offhand. She would not go as far as to call herself a scholar, but she knew things, a lot of things, about a lot of things.
In the back corner of her room, Tomberlin had made a sort of book archway to accommodate the crack through which she peered. She had been watching Dr. M work. Her mother insisted she call him Dr. but allowed her to drop his full last name on account of their “familiarity” with their neighbor, though they had no interaction with him and it was merely their proximity that allowed for this. The crack conveniently peered right through a bookcase and into Dr. M’s laboratory. Tomberlin had no clue what kind of doctor her Dr. M claimed to be to the world, but she knew him for what he was. Over the past few months, and with increasing fervor for his work, Dr. M was coming very close to understanding gravitational time dilation within the theory of general relativity and the theory of special relativity with the phenomenon of time dilation, which when combined would give him control of his movement between different points in time. Yes, time travel. It sounds crazy, of course it sounds crazy, and Tomberlin would have never believed such a thing possible if she hadn’t seen it with her own two eyes, under her book arch, through the crack in the wall of her bedroom. And he had done it. She had witnessed Dr. M successfully move 4 rats, 2 canaries, and his English bulldog called Kitty, from the present time, back to the past and then forward to present time again. She dared not think of his failed attempts and the lives it had cost.
Tomberlin knew what propelled her neighbor to try and harness this power of time manipulation. Only love would cause a person to completely abandon the world they exist in and shut themselves away for so long. Love and an equal part Loss. It had only been two months since Tomberlin had found the crack and been watching Dr. M, but she knew he had not left his flat in many, many years. Dr. Manicle had loved someone, and he had lost this someone long ago. And though he had lost this someone, he would never let go of her. It was his obsession that drove his actions and his experiments and his sense away from his mind as he spent the greater part of the day and night, tinkering away with his cogs and gears and clock pieces, centrifuges, and glowing glass decanters. She had admired his determination, but she was disgusted with his great misuse of knowledge. And so she had decided to kill him.
It was almost too easy. She had noticed the glass jar labeled “Coniine” just overhead of Dr. M’s work table on a shelf along with other handwritten labeled jars. She had seen Dr. M use the substance before and knew how it worked. From her research she found that Coniine is a neurotoxin, distilled from hemlock, which disrupts the workings of the central nervous system. Ingestion, in any quantity, will result in respiratory collapse and death. After she calculated all of the physics, the angles and the weight of the small stone, and taking into consideration the noise and the scene of her crime, she understood that her plan was both completely mad and completely achievable.
And so, sitting there in the corner of her bedroom, she took her first aim, and shot. The small pebble whipped from the crack, through the bookcase in Dr. M’s room, across the air and into the wall on the other side, directly above the jar. Dr. M had been bent over a Bunsen burner, extracting some sort of liquid from a beaker into a pipette. He heard the noise, and started. He extracted himself from his work and standing with his head tilted back while he looked up, the doctor unknowingly positioned himself directly under the jar. His mouth was slackened and slightly agape as he craned his neck and searched for the source of the noise. Right away Tomberlin let the second small stone, same size and weight as the first, fly. Dead on. Her stone crashed into the jar, and the jar’s contents spilled over the edge and smack onto the doctor’s face. It was almost instantaneous. Dr. M writhed, wiping the substance from his face with his bare hands. One swipe took it from his eyes. A second more strategic wipe cleared his monocle of the sludge. By the third attempt to lift his hand to his face, the doctor faltered and grabbed for the edge of the work table. And with his fourth move, he accidentally grabbed the hose to his Bunsen burner and tugged, knocking over the flame and setting his desk on fire.
As he fell to the floor, his eyes turned straight to Tomberlin’s crack in the wall. Tomberlin let out a small gasp. One last word, two syllables, escaped his lips as a kind of whisper. Her name. Just her name. And though she could justify her actions, that knowledge and power was not for any one man, she knew this to be true, she was unsettled. It was in her contemplation of this obscure exchange that she realized the heat coming from her crack. Terrible heat it was and she knew right away that the wall was no match for this fire’s revenge. She stood from her place and looked around for the first time in quite some time. She was dumbfounded, after all, and she found herself thinking the silliest thought, which was quite unlike her, silliness. The only thing she could think when she realized the wall would not hold was “What is to happen to my books?”