“I want a legacy. I want people to remember me forever.”
“Is this really the right way to go about it?”
“Can you tell me a better way? I am not an artist, or a purveyor of literature. I have no political skills, and you’ve heard my singing.”
Jeremy shuddered. He had indeed heard his boss singing. It was unpleasant to say the least.
“But, turning the sky red?”
“I know. It will be magnificent. Every time someone looks up they will say, ‘It was Kelvin the Magnificent who did this’.”
“Except the ones who think you’re called Kevin.”
Jeremy wondered. He’d worked as the assistant for Kelvin’s act for two years now. Most magicians had a scantily clad woman to help them, but Kelvin felt that was old fashioned. Jeremy suspected it was also because Kelvin had tremendous problems talking to women. All of them.
They’d been having a quiet drink when Kelvin had revealed his hobby. Or obsession. Anyway, it was the thing which kept him busy on the weekends. Jeremy had thought it was just a joke, but Kelvin’s eyes had lit up when he talked about it.
“You’ll see Jez my lad. Everyone will see!”
Jeremy hated being called Jez. It was also usually the signal that Kelvin had imbibed enough for the evening.
“Right then oh Kelvin the Magnificent, let’s get you home then.”
“Tomorrow Jeremy, tomorrow I shall change the colour of the sky!”
“Only if you can get through the hangover.”
This was followed by Kelvin tripping over and falling to the floor. Jeremy sighed and picked him up, then bundled him into a cab and headed home. He grabbed a kebab on the way and thought nothing more of Kelvin’s crazy talk.
The next morning was a Wednesday, a day off from being a magician’s assistant, and Jeremy luxuriated in a long lie-in. When he finally got out of bed he flicked the TV on and got his breakfast. Fairly quickly he was left staring at the screen with half a weetabix dangling forgotten from his mouth.
On the screen was his boss, handcuffed and being led away by the police. He flicked on the sound to hear the commentary.
“…the Magnificent being led away from the site of the recent explosion. It’s not clear what he will be charged with, but the police are taking him in for further questions.”
“For those just joining us, there has been a large explosion off the coast. There were no casualties, and the man believed to be responsible is in custody.”
The story cycled around a few times, interspersed with some gossip about an American singer and a boy band. Jeremy didn’t hear any of it, and it was a while before he even finished his Weetabix. When he finished he realised he had no choice but to go and see if he could help Kelvin. The man had no family as far as Jeremy knew.
“Oh Jeremy, you should have seen it! It was wonderful.”
“Kelvin, look, just be quiet until we get into the car.”
Kelvin gave him a reproachful look, but subsided while they walked out of the police station. He’d been released on police bail, but they were clear they’d want him back for more questions. At the very least they’d want to know how his machine had operated.
Once they were in the car, Kelvin couldn’t hold silent any longer.
“It was amazing. She hove, hove! Out to sea. The generator started running and I could see the gas coming off. Then.”
“Well, then it blew up. I made a slight miscalculation. It turns out that producing lots of hydrogen and oxygen near an engine can sometimes go wrong.”
“What? Wait. Stop, why were you producing lots of oxygen and hydrogen? Do I even want to know?”
“I told you last night. To turn the sky red. I ran the numbers and if I could convert much of the world’s oceans into oxygen and hydrogen then the additional gases would increase the size of our atmosphere, and therefore the impact of Rayleigh scattering.”
“That’s what makes the sky blue? Do they not teach anything at school these days?”
“Well, not in my school.”
“So the sky is red in the evening because the light has to go through twelve times the atmosphere to reach your eyes, so there’s much more scattering. Therefore, if I could increase our atmosphere by twelve times, then the sky would always be red!”
“We’d have no oceans!”
“But the sky would be red, people would know my name…”
“They’d know your name as the nutter who converted all the oceans into gas and as a result probably wiped out most of life on the planet!”
“Ah, yes. A side effect. I see what you mean.”
“That’s a pretty serious side effect Kelvin. One might even say a show stopper.”
“Hmm, yes. I need to think on this more.”
It was then that Jeremy realised that Kelvin might actually be properly crazy.
The next few weeks were tough. Obviously they lost their gigs, and Kelvin had to go court, and in the end received a suspended custodial sentence. He’d been quiet in the dock and hadn’t mentioned anything about turning the sky red. He revealed to Jeremy that it was because he’d wanted it to be a surprise.
After the case Jeremy had to get a new job, while Kelvin seemed to be staying at home. Kelvin had once mentioned to Jeremy that he had a lot of family money, so perhaps he was just enjoying it. Eventually Jeremy moved away and lost track of Kelvin.
Several years later Jeremy woke up one morning, and went for his regular run. He’d been keeping fit for a while, something which seemed to make his recently betrothed happy. He was half asleep when he started, and the sun had only just begun to rise. By the time he finished his run it was full daylight, and that’s when he noticed it. The sky was purple. Well, violet. No matter how he squinted it refused to be blue.
He thought to himself that maybe it was a result of too much running? Or perhaps an atmospheric effect? However it didn’t change. Pretty soon all the news channels were full of it. What had happened, why was the sky violet?
Jeremy dismissed it when he got to work, and was happily tapping away at his keyboard when an awful thought occurred to him. What if it had been Kelvin? What had he done, and more importantly, what were the side effects. After all the last time the man had tried something similar he’d been planning on evaporating the oceans.
A quick internet search found Kelvin’s latest locale. Jeremy rushed there. Panic gripping him.
He knocked on the door, and Kelvin answered. His face lit up when he saw Jeremy and he invited him in.
“It’s so good to see you Jeremy, how are you?”
“Is it you?”
“Is what me?”
“Ah, well, yes. In a sense. I’ve submitted my explanation to a number of channels. They rejected me as a crank initially, but I’ve had a call back from some eminent professors. Soon my name will be known!”
“Oh my god. What have you done? What else is going to happen? Have you destroyed the oceans?”
“Jez, Jez. Calm down. It’s fine. Nothing like that. You see, your lecture last time helped me understand. So I came up with a different way.”
Jeremy had started to calm, or perhaps it was the unreal nature of the conversation which seemed to give him strength.
“It’s simple really. I looked at the problem a different way. I realised that red was the wrong way to go, so I looked at the other end of the visible spectrum. You see, the sky has always contained violet, we just don’t have enough sensors in our eyes to see it that way.”
He held up his hand to forestall further questions. Jeremy held his tongue.
“Rayleigh scattering actually produces a lot of violet, but humans, until now, have only limited ability to see it. I’ve just fixed that.”
He paused, and then continued, “I released a virus which makes some minor genetic changes, which causes human eyes to develop additional violet receptors.”
He saw Jeremy’s face and said quickly, “Don’t worry, I tested it thoroughly, there are no other side effects. Well, except it’s irreversible. It is completely targeted, and very narrow. I released it two weeks ago. The change takes a while, but by my calculations, everyone in the country will be seeing violet by the end of the day…”
“How did you do it? I thought you were just a magician…”
“Oh, well I built a lab. I told you I had family money? Would you like to come and see it…”
Just then there was a loud crash and suddenly the room was filled with hulking men with guns all shouting. They both had hoods put over their heads as they were bundled into some form of vehicle which sped off.
Some while later Jeremy was released. His interrogators soon realised he knew nothing of use to them. The last admonishment was still ringing in his head as he stumbled home.
“Nothing happened. You didn’t see us. You have forgotten all about Kelvin. If we find out you’ve been opening your mouth we’ll have you back here so fast your head will spin. We could have you in prison for a million years as an accessory to a terrorist attack. That’s what this was. You understand?”
Jeremy had nodded mutely.
It took Jeremy a while to get his life back together. He kept worrying he was being followed, but he slowly relaxed. The news was full of reports of biological terrorists, and the government claimed that the original intention of the virus was deadly, but that a lucky mutation had caused it to turn into the violet producing variant. They managed to supress any mention of Kelvin’s name. This caused a lot of debate and very quickly buried discussions of what had actually happened.
After a while Jeremy could even smile when he looked up and saw the violet sky, Kelvin had left a legacy, even if no one knew he was responsible.