Science vs. the Mysterious Forces of the Unknown
by Rosey Collins
"What do you think happens to you after you die?" This was a question Foxglove had been wanting to ask Dale for some time, for whatever reasons. She was now loitering by the sink where the aforementioned Dale was washing dishes (under protest, of course), and the others all seemed to be hanging around in the kitchen as well - now seemed a good time to ask.
"I've never really thought about it," Dale replied.
"Of course you have. Everybody thinks about it. Do you believe in Heaven?"
Dale shrugged. "Maybe. Nothing's impossible."
"Except Heaven," Gadget interrupted. "The whole concept of Heaven is physically impossible. If there is such a place, where the heck is it?"
"It's a spiritual place, Gadget, hence ones inability to gain entry unless one has passed on," Foxglove retorted (she was still wary of Gadget's influence over Dale).
"There is no such thing as a spiritual place," Gadget insisted. "Heaven is something made up by depressed philosophers with too much time on their hands."
"People who have been dead for a short period of time claim to have seen a white light and heard heavenly voices," Monty put in.
"Yeah, explain that," Foxglove said.
"Well, obviously they weren't quite dead"
"So what, you don't think anything happens?"
"What about reincarnation?" Chip asked.
"That's impossible too," Gadget replied. "Once you're dead, you're dead."
"And what happens to your soul?" Dale asked.
"Souls are made up too."
"You know, Winifred hypnotised me once," Foxglove said, "and I went back to a previous life. I was a Bengal tiger."
"Hypnosis proves nothing. You weren't remembering being a Bengal tiger, you were just thinking about what it might have been like."
"You don't even think it's a possibility?"
"But people don't just disappear after they're dead. If you get no reward at the end, what's the point in life?"
"There is no point in life. Nobody made the world the way it is, it's all an accident."
"You know," Monty broke in, before the debate got too heated, "there is one religion - Hinduism, I think - that believes in both Heaven and reincarnation."
"Oh, how does that work?" Foxglove asked.
"Well, you live so many lives, and as you go along you pick up brownie points for living a good one. When you've got enough, then you spend the rest of eternity in Heaven. It's usually illustrated with a ladder."
"That's actually really interesting," Foxglove said. "Is there any limit to the number of lives you can live?"
"I don't think so, but there probably should be, shouldn't there."
"But it's just not true," Gadget insisted.
"You don't know that," Foxglove returned.
"Yes I do. Stuff like that was made up centuries ago when nobody could come up with any scientific explanations, but now everything has one."
"Ok, so how did Winifred turn Dale into a frog?"
"She didn't really turn him into a frog."
"What?" Dale was most indignant.
"It was an illusion," Gadget went on. "There's no such thing as real magic."
"Are you saying that none of Winifred's spells were genuine?" Foxglove asked.
"That's exactly what I'm saying."
"Hold on, luv," Monty piped up. "What about Cassie? She could predict the future, all right."
"Ooh, tell me about Cassie," Foxglove said.
"She's a moth," Chip told her. "Monty knows her from somewhere or other. She told our fortunes one time."
"And was she right?"
"Most of the time, if you twisted her words a little bit, she was more or less right," Gadget admitted grudgingly, "but there must be an explanation for that as well. She probably guessed using statistics or something and hoped for the best. Besides, there was one thing she got wrong."
"She told us Chip was going to die."
"She told you what?" Foxglove seemed suddenly shocked. "She shouldn't have told you that!"
"She shouldn't?" Dale said, puzzled.
"No! That's like, the first rule of fortune telling! In fact it's the law that if a fortune thinks somebody's going to die, it's not allowed to tell them! And look at him, he's not even dead!" She turned to Chip, who was somewhat intimidated by the fierce look in her eyes. "You should sue."
"The point is she was wrong," Gadget said, suddenly forgetting all of Cassandra's predictions that had in fact proved correct. "It's not possible to predict the future."
"So you don't believe in magic at all." For some reason Foxglove found this very hard to believe.
"Ok..." Foxglove sought for something to change Gadget's mind. "Ah! Let me show you something." She left the room, and returned moments later brandishing a pendant. "This," she said triumphantly, "is a charm from Ancient Britain. I was told it would lead me to love, and look what happened." Here she grabbed Dale by the waist, dragged him from the sink and pushed him towards Gadget in an effort to get her point across. Their relationship (such as it was) was still a little shaky, but to Foxglove at least it was most certainly true love.
"Coincidence," was the curt reply.
"Actually, coincidences are sometimes considered a paranormal phenomenon as well," piped up Chip. "I once heard this story about a man who was going to visit his grandmother's grave, and then go shopping, and the items that he wanted to buy were on his grandmother's grave."
Gadget was not convinced. Agitated now, Foxglove came up with more and more examples of paranormal events she had witnessed during her time as Winifred's assistant, and the other four were inclined to argue her points with her, thinking that Gadget should at least keep her mind a crack open, but Gadget was stubborn and managed to explain away most of Foxglove's examples scientifically, if a little unconvincingly on occasion.
"I can't believe you're not even considering any of this," Foxglove said at last. "You're so cynical it's not funny."
"If I had some proof I might be inclined to change my mind," Gadget returned.
"Gadget, I've given you as much proof as is possible."
"No, no, no, that was not proof." Gadget was enjoying herself now - she loved to be right. "Before you can convince me of anything, I'd have to see actual solid physical evidence."
"So if I can show you something scientifically impossible, you'll keep an open mind."
"Yes, I suppose so."
"Now, there's a challenge."
Foxglove hugged Dale and then left, leaving her luncheon hosts somewhat intrigued.
"What do you think she'll do?" Monty asked, minutes after she had left.
"Bring back a magic eight ball?" Dale hazarded.
They speculated for some time, Gadget especially. They did not see Foxglove until the following evening. The time in between she spent puzzling over her bargain with Gadget. She had several trinkets which she had thought she had a right to after leaving Winifred, but most of them were either unreliable or could, at a pinch, be explained away scientifically by someone like Gadget. At last, however, she believed herself to have found the solution, and she flew to the Rescue Rangers' headquarters feeling immensely pleased with herself.
"Hi, cutie," she said when Dale opened the door to her. "Did you miss me?"
"Yes, actually," Dale admitted. "So, what's that all about?"
He was referring to a satchel Foxglove was carrying around her neck. She told him that it contained the ingredients for a spell she was going to perform. Dale was intrigued.
"Ok," Foxglove said, as she was putting the finishing touches to some brew or other she had been preparing on the kitchen surface, watched closely by all five Rescue Rangers. "I'm just about done now. Everybody sit where they can see the blue stuff." By "the blue stuff" Foxglove meant the concoction she had just prepared.
She sat at the head of the table, and everyone else obediently occupied the remaining seats. Zipper sat on Monty's shoulder, and so had perhaps the best view.
"So what are you going to do?" Gadget asked, sounding a tad disinterested. "A seance?"
"Certainly not. Contacting the dead is very difficult and very dangerous - unless you have 'the gift', of course."
"Of course," Dale murmured sarcastically under his breath.
"Ok," Foxglove went on, "nobody has to do anything except watch the liquid."
They all looked obediently at the liquid, and Foxglove took from her satchel a golden chain baring a small mirror.
"What's that for?" Dale asked as she looped it around her neck.
"It's to invoke the magic I need to do this," Foxglove explained patiently. "Without it there's nothing to provoke the liquid. Ok, everybody ready?"
Everybody said that they were ready, though they still knew not what for. They peered expectantly at the liquid on the table while Foxglove closed her eyes and began muttering, "As I will it, so it shall be seen. As I will it, so it shall be seen. As I will it, so it shall be seen..."
Soon enough the mirror on the chain began to glow, and in turn the liquid gradually began to display images to the fascinated spectators. They were unclear at first, but very soon they began to take quite distinct shapes. Foxglove was invoking them with her thoughts, so not surprisingly several images of Dale cropped up, though just to make the whole spectacle more implausible he was in the most unlikely places; Mount St. Helens was one. There were a few other images, including one of Winifred falling into a very deep hole.
After a few minutes Foxglove opened her eyes and stopped murmuring, and consequently the images abruptly disappeared. She looked smugly at Gadget, who was now leaning back in her chair and staring thoughtfully at the bowl of liquid.
"Wow!" Dale broke the silence. "That was incredible!"
"Thanks," Foxglove said modestly, "but anyone can do it if they have one of these," removing the chain from her neck. "So, Gadget... I told you so."
"Hold on, I'm still not convinced," Gadget said.
"That was just an illusion. There must be some scientific explanation."
"Gadget, are you accusing me of cheating?"
"No, no, of course not," Gadget put in hastily. "I'm accusing you of inadvertently invoking some rather unusual rules of science."
"Ok, so how was it done?" Foxglove challenged her.
"I don't know..."
"Ok, fine, I win the bet."
"No you don't! I'm not convinced that this wasn't just a trick of the light or something."
"You can't prove that."
"Bet I can. I'll tell you what, Foxglove: give me twenty four hours to try and work out how you did that, and if I can do it again, you abandon your faith in magic."
"Fine," Foxglove replied coolly, "but if you can't, you'll have to admit that magic does exist." She stood up and handed Gadget the golden chain. "You'll be needing this. Come on, Dale, you're taking me to a movie."
Gadget did not sleep that night. Instead she spent the time in her workshop trying to work out how on earth Foxglove's trick had worked. At about one o'clock in the morning Chip decided that he just could not sleep with all of that noise going on, so he went to ask her to keep it down - or so he told himself.
"How's it going?" was the first thing he said.
"Not great," Gadget replied, "but this mirror has obviously got something to do with it. She must have been reflecting those images from - I don't know - under the table or something, and this chain linked to the blue stuff. I'm about to separate that into its fractions to see exactly what she put in there."
"Gadget, aren't you tired?" Chip asked sleepily.
"No. Hey, I wonder what's the pH of this stuff."
So Gadget continued until morning. Chip felt inclined to offer his help, but he was just too tired. As he was making his way back to his room he met Dale coming back from his date with Foxglove.
"You're back late," he observed.
"I thought you'd be asleep by now," Dale replied. "What were you doing in there, anyway?"
"Well, I was going to ask Gadget to keep it down, but I... didn't," he finished weakly.
"So how's she doing in there?"
"Not great, apparently. Do you think there is a scientific explanation?"
"Well, I hope not, for Foxy's sake. Still, I don't suppose Gadget can force her to give up her belief."
"Of course she can't. Anyway, it's looking good for Foxglove at the moment. Um... Dale, I can't sleep through all of that noise."
"I don't understand why they're doing it," Dale said, seemingly heedless of this last comment. "Why can't they just respect each other's beliefs and be done with it?"
"You're absolutely right, for once, but in fairness to Foxglove it would be good for Gadget to open her mind a little bit. Hey, but do you think...?"
"Oh, nothing." Chip rebuked himself for almost voicing this last thought in Dale's presence. "Let's at least try and get some shut-eye."
Contrary to his previous statement, Chip did eventually manage to sleep through the noise. The next morning he found Gadget asleep on the kitchen table with a bowl of cereal by her head. He did not look to wake her, but she soon woke up of her own accord and started work again, with either Chip, Dale, Monty or Zipper popping in every half hour. The day grew progressively older, but still Gadget seemed to be getting nowhere.
"You're going to have to hurry up, luv," Monty said to her, as dusk approached. "You've only got half an hour left."
"It's impossible!" Gadget cried despairingly. "I've tried everything! Nothing works!"
"Well, maybe, Gadget, that was actual magic Foxglove was using yesterday."
"No, no, no, no, no. I don't believe in magic for another half hour," Gadget persisted, "and not even then if I have my way. There must be something I've missed."
Foxglove turned up on their doorstep seconds before Gadget gave up the ghost.
"All right, you win," the latter said, emerging from her workshop. "I just cannot figure that thing out."
"There's nothing to figure out," Foxglove insisted. "So, Gadget, what do you think happens to you after you die?"
"However," Gadget went on grudgingly, "I am prepared to accept that alternative answers such as Heaven and reincarnation are not beyond the realms of possibility."
"Are you really?" Foxglove found herself asking.
"Yes, I am," Gadget found herself replying. "I'm not convinced that there was something more to that little magic trick you did, but I guess it's possible, and if that's possible anything's possible - but I still think nothing happens to you after you die," she added.
They smiled at each other by way of a truce, and then Foxglove went in search of Dale, who seemed to have vanished since seeing her in. She did not find him in the kitchen, but instead found Chip.
"You're looking mighty smug," he said. "I can't think why, it was just a highly insignificant bet."
"Yeah, but I won," Foxglove replied.
"Foxglove, if I..." he sought for the right words, "...say something to you, will you promise not to get upset?"
"Um... I promise I'll try."
"I think you saw that wager as something a little bit more than that."
"I think you saw it as a way of bettering Gadget, and therefore as a way of competing for Dale's affection."
"You know, Chip, you may be right," and she smiled mischievously at him. "Good news for you, though, huh."
"How do you mean?"
"Well, now Dale has fallen head over heels in love with me, that leaves the coast clear for you to make your move with Gadget."
"I'm not stupid, Chip. I know you both like her, and I think you've been holding back all this time because you knew it would upset Dale. I'm right, aren't I," Foxglove said, noting with satisfaction the expression on Chip's face.
"Knew it. You know, if you're really serious about this, you're going to have to do something about it eventually." She flashed him an encouraging smile. "Just make it soon."
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