Name: Heather Chisholm
Era: 21st Century
The University of Edinburgh had been established in 1582 expanding over the centuries to encompass different buildings across Edinburgh and beyond. It also expanded its repertoire of courses and in 1998 opened the doors to its new School of Informatics building.
The building it was housed in was, 80 South Bridge, a tall tenement building that extended between Cowgate in the streets below to the light and vitality of South Bridge above. The building itself was a warren of corridors and rooms that had been created over time as the gaps between the surrounding buildings were joined and the closes incorporated into the building itself.
Heather Chisolm had excelled in Mathematics at Culloden Academy in Inverness and had been ‘over the moon’ to be offered a place in the University’s Artificial Intelligence Institute.
In August 2002 she took the train from Inverness to Edinburgh bags bulging with books, stationary and clothes, well she was a student and was going to make the most of the Edinburgh night life with her new friends at the University.
Being an attractive Freshman she soon caught the eye of a few of the students around town and it was not long until she had a list of invites as long as her arm.
Her professors were happy with her work but would tell her that she needed to concentrate more on her study to ‘stay ahead of the game’ and not slip behind.
Heather tried to do as her instructors suggested, but like many in their first year in the city was distracted by the bright lights and party atmosphere.
August quickly became September and the months up to December passed in a blur, along with them the time to study for the first set of exams.
“Monday 9th December we shall start reviewing your Final Work Papers” declared one of Heather’s professors “you will be expected to give a 30 minute presentation with supporting paperwork to a panel of 5 members.”
There had been a mixture of responses through the class, those that had spent time preparing, sat back knowing that they had done the groundwork, while some had looks of panic on their faces.
Heather could see the professor looking at her as if to say “are you sure your ready young lady?”
She wasn’t sure, not as sure as some in the class and she knew she should have been, if only she had listened.
She took to her rooms and the university library in an attempt to complete her paper in time, turning down many offers of meals and parties.
Her friends would check in on her, telling her the latest gossip and how she ‘should have been there’.
“Look Heather it’s Friday night! Your paper is due on Monday, if your not prepared by now then….” Margaret left the sentence open they both knew that Heather had to go with what she had. “It’s the Christmas party tomorrow night in Belle’s and we are all going as Buxom Barmaids, even the boys” she chuckled “you need to get out and switch off, finish the paper off tomorrow and join us for the party.”
Heather had agreed letting Margaret arrange her outfit and ticket while she got on with finalising her work.
Heather spent the Saturday putting her presentation in order and practicing the key points, taking a quick break to try on the outfit that Margaret delivered.
Margaret had got her size perfect and it certainly lived up to it’s name of the “Busty Barmaid” outfit. How much easier would life be pulling pints and serving food she wondered.
The short winters day grew darker outside her halls of residence, and she could hear other students making their way out into the night.
The Final Work Paper sat on her desk, bound and ready to be handed in.
“Oh Crap!” she thought.
She had forgotten to add the criteria page at the front. Every paper had to have the criteria page at the front declaring what key points had to be covered in the presentation.
She knew where it was, she could see it in her minds eye, sat on her desk in the AI lab.
Looking at her watch she could see she only had an hour before she was due at the party in Belle’s.
An idea came to her, Belle’s was in lower part of the building next to 80 South Bridge, she could get dressed for the party, nip into the AI lab and complete the Final Work Paper, leaving it on the professors desk ready for Monday, then join her friends at the party downstairs.
Heather had drawn a few admiring glances as she had made her way to the university, even the bus driver had shown some festive spirit by wishing her a fun evening.
The bus had deposited her outside of the institute building, its grey stone façade looming over South Bridge, dark windows like eyes glaring at the passers by.
The main doors were firmly shut, the porters having closed up for the weekends, but Heather knew that the students entrance would be open.
She headed down the steps at the side of the building that led to the Cowgate, into the gloom under the bridges.
The steps opened straight onto the narrow alleyway between the buildings, only a faint orange glow penetrated to the bottom of the steps, so when Heather stepped into the alley she did not see the Coach and Horses bearing down on her.
She almost screamed in shock as a leather gloved hand grabbed her shoulder and pulled her out of the path of the coach, she felt the draught of the horses breath, strangely cold, as they passed mere inches away from her, a strange blue glow surrounding it all.
“You want to watch out lassie, or you’ll be joining thon passengers on their journey”
Said the figure behind Heather as it removed its hand from her shoulder.
It had started to turn away as Heather looked round, a long cloak and cowl was all she could see, “Thank…… thank you” she stammered after the figure as it faded into the dark of the alley.
Heather thought of following the figure to thank him properly, but the gloom of the alley was not welcoming and she didn’t know just what lay down there.
Turning the opposite way she almost ran around the corner to the student entrance, swiping her ID card against the card lock she pushed the door open and headed up the stairs to the lab.
Heather reached her desk and started frantically searching for the criteria page, ‘where was it?’ she was sure it had been there, on top of her research stack.
“Bugger”, she was going to have to print out a fresh page!
It took time for the computer to boot up and the printer to run its warm up cycle, eventually her desktop appeared on the screen just as her phone started to vibrate.
“Where are you?” was the message on the screen from Margaret.
“5 minutes I’m in the lab” she sent back.
The printer whirred into life as Heather clicked on the print button, then gave a long beep. “What now?”
‘Paper Jam’ declared the indicators.
“Oh for…..” fumed Heather pulling open the paper drawer and dragging out the crinkled mass of paper that was blocking the printer.
She slammed the lid shut and the rooms lights went out, plunging the lab into darkness.
“Crap!” she turned to the doorway to try and find some light.
Under the door, shafts of flickering orange light could be seen and wisps of smoke starting to creep into the room.
Shafts of blue light now joined swept through the window, her phone vibrated again “GET OUT” screamed the message “THE BUILDING’S ON FIRE”.
On the street far below the lab window Heather could see a crowd of revelers being held back by police as firemen worked around their appliances.
At the back of the crowd she could see Margaret frantically trying to type something on her phone.
The smoke hung still where it had squeezed its way around the door, the orange light had stopped flickering and a beam of blue light now shone straight through the window from the beacon on top of the fire engine to the wall at the back of the lab.
“Time for that journey now lass” said the cloaked figure, silhouetted in the middle of the blue light that now seemed to shine straight through the wall and into a passage that had not been there before.
A leather gloved hand was proffered for Heather to take.
She did not seem to have much choice, if she stayed the smoke would soon suffocate her and the lab was too high up for her to jump out the window.
Outside the scene was frozen Margaret, was just looking up from her phone as if she had just sent a message.
Turning to the figure Heather took the proffered hand, putting her phone down on top of her work paper.
The door blew inwards as the pressure wave from the gas main exploding sent the hot gasses into the room, the blue light moved on its path no longer highlighting the two figures.
On the desk the edges of Heathers ‘Final’ Work Paper started to char and the phone vibrated “PLEASE DON’T BE DEAD” flashed up on the screen.