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The Sound of Music

After raging for three days the storm crept out of the sky leaving behind a rainbow. The hazardous wind and rain had kept all students and faculty off the campus. When they returned, the whole area was in disarray. It was not until the Head of the Physics Department went in to survey the damage that anyone realised that things were missing.  

“It’s strange,” she said as she reviewed the inventory list at her desk. “Everything in the particle physics lab is gone.” 

“Everything must have been swept away by the storm,” her assistant replied.

“No, it’s underground and the room was sealed,” she said. “But when I looked in this morning it was completely empty.” 

The director of the lab and some of the scientists who worked there returned to investigate a few days later. 

 “The place has been stripped bare,” said one scientist. 

“All of our work, our experiments, gone,” said another. 

They scoured the room, searching for any trace of their belongings. Then one scientist called to the others. 

“Hey, there’s something over here,” she called from the back of the lab. 

As they got closer to her, they saw that she was standing by a large black hole in the floor. It was about seven feet in diameter. It was dark, pitch black. Though the room was well lit, the hole seemed to cancel out any light.  

The scientists observed the hole cautiously, from a distance, then one said, “It’s quite literally a black hole.” 

 “Let’s be careful with our terminology,” said another. “We’re scientists, we must observe and experiment before coming to a conclusion.” 

So, experiment they did. 

“Let’s try this,” said one scientist. 

She retrieved a marble from her pocket and gently threw it towards the hole. When it reached the hole, the marble hung in the middle, and then, like a stone breaching the surface of a river, it was swallowed up by the darkness and completely disappeared.  

“Let’s see how it responds to sound,” one of the scientists suggested. 

A pair of speakers were wheeled in from the acoustics department along with the echo metre. After tilting the speakers over the edge of the hole and securing them, one of the scientists found a playlist of old movie soundtracks into the hole, starting with Sprack Zaruthusa into the hole. The scientists gathered around the echo detector and the laptop displayed the readings.  

“It’s absorbing the sound,” said one of them. “I mean completely, no sound waves are bouncing back, no diminishing, they just stop at the hole’s event horizon.” 

News of the phenomenon spread across the university. Every branch of the sciences sought permission to run experiments on the hole. Even students in unrelated departments created reasons to visit the lab.  

Word spread outside the university’s campus and the local residents soon began showing up.With the arrival of the TV crews, things began to get out of hand. The reception of the science department had to get security to deal with the people angrily requesting everything from the chance to pray at the hole to demanding it’s immediate destruction to prevent the apocalypse.  

A team from the Geology department gained permission to conduct remote explorations in the hole. One morning they arrived with hiking ropes and subterranean detection equipment. They lowered their probe down. Five metres, ten metres, fifty metres, one hundred, two hundred, three hundred and fifty metres. At four hundred metres, the limit of the rope, they checked the camera feed. There was only static. After two hours testing the equipment, they attempted to wind the rope back. It was stuck. They pulled and pulled, but there was no movement. Eventually the rope snapped and the hole swallowed the loose end. Dejected and confused the Geology team packed up their remaining equipment & left the lab. 

In the days following the probe’s disappearance, the university received a visit from a man in a black suit claiming to be from the government. The phenomenon would have to be assessed as a potential national security risk. For a day the lab was closed out and a circus of people in either black suits or white hazmat suits paraded in and out. A week later, the government’s people disappeared, one of their number informing the dean that the phenomenon’s risk had been assessed as negligible. 

Months of probing continued. Whilst remaining mysterious, the phenomenon was at least consistent. It absorbed everything that was thrown at it and produced nothing in return. 

“It is a hole of indeterminate nature, indeterminate depth and indeterminate capacity,” the dean said in a news report on the one year anniversary of the hole’s appearance.  

Rumours began to circulate that the university was facing bankruptcy. Those rumours reached the ears of a local businessman who had made his fortune in waste disposal. 

“I know a lot about holes,” he said to the dean. “Admittedly I’ve never seen one quite like this, but there’s only one thing to be done with holes – you put things in them.”  

“But this is an unprecedented scientific phenomenon and you just want to turn it into a rubbish dump?” 

“No, no, no,” said the businessman. “This hole is a breakthrough. We now have a safe way to solve the global waste problem. We could end the climate crisis, we could save the planet!” 

“And you could continue your research, of course. It would just be a small matter of coordinating timetables.” 

“And of course, we’d pay handsomely.” 

The business man pulled out a piece of paper, wrote on it, folded it and pushed it towards the dean. As the dean opened the paper, his eyes bulged.  

“This,” he coughed. “This is very generous.” 

“Monthly,” the businessman said. 

It was agreed.  

The entire science block was demolished within weeks and over the next few months a facility was built in its place. 

The facility soon began processing local waste. Instead of dump trucks going to the local dump, they went to the hole. The university released a study showing that once the surface was breached, not even smells emanated from the hole. 

Soon all domestic waste in the country was transported to the hole. Business was booming. With the hole’s appetite seemingly insatiable, the company opened new lines of business including commercial waste. Protests erupted when it was revealed that nuclear waste was to be poured into the hole. After legal challenges to the move proved futile, the plan went ahead. Soon after, the science department released a study revealing that post disposal, radioactivity at the site was zero. 

The scientific analysis continued. There was plenty to observe in terms of what the hole was taking in, but year in and year out, no answers emerged as to exactly what was happening. Some hypothesised that the hole compressed matter. The hypothesis that the holes were transporting matter did gain favour for a while but no detection of relevant change could be found anywhere the scientists could observe. 

Both the company and the university grew rich. Whole countries were able to achieve carbon neutrality with the help of the hole. With the earnings from the hole, the university was able to grow into one of the leading scientific institutions in the world. The university, in partnership with the company, embarked upon many major scientific endeavours, including the first manned mission to Mars. 

Wearing the emblems of the university and the company on her suit, The astronaut took her first steps on the red planet. Her first survey required her to explore the valley around the landing spot to assess its suitability for the construction of a research station. As the day wore on, she looked up into the sky. A storm was brewing. She lifted her eyes, but instead of the normal grey swirling of earth storms, she saw colours. She stood for a while, allowing her built in cameras to take in the phenomenon. Suddenly, something fell from the sky onto the ground in front of her. It was a small marble. She picked it up and rolled it around in her gloved hand. Then, she heard something. The psychedelic storm was still rumbling, but it wasn’t that, it was music. She recognised. It was from an old film. She was trying to recall the name. Her German roommate had told her the name. Her tongue had struggled around the words, but she had got it after some patient repetition by her roommate, and it was so strange sounding that it had stuck with her.  

“Sprack Zaruthusa,” she said triumphantly pronouncing the word perfectly.  

That was it, she remembered, that was the name of the piece of music. 

“Are you getting this?” she said into her comms system to her colleague back at the landing pod.  

“Loud and clear,” came the response. “This is incredible.”

“Incredible, and so beautiful.”

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