Sunday, November 14, 2004

Non-Mâvarin Fiction Entry: Meet Joshua Wander, Part Two

The following except from JW's autobiography is unrelated to the Mâvarin books, except tangentially through an unfinished short story.

Last Week: Syracuse University student Christopher Stein (the future Joshua Wander) found his relationship to the physical universe changing in response to a series of experiments conducted by two of his professors. The last of these resulted in Chris disappearing from the lab entirely into another world, with one of his professors dead or dying at his feet and two small medieval armies advancing on him from opposite directions.

Art by Sherlock, adapted from an early draft of Rani's portrait.Traces of the lab's psychedelic lightshow swirled around me as I stood up properly, my feet straddling Rachel's right leg. I spread my arms wide, palms outward in a stop gesture directed at each group of would-be combatants. The colors red and orange lit my fingers and spread out, dissipating in the late afternoon sun. "Help me!" I shouted. "Please!"

The two groups of medieval fighters paused to stare at me. The better-equipped ones hesitated, looked at each other, and started forward again. The ill-equipped peasants of the other group huddled together, muttering. I could not hear what they said, but it wasn't in English as I knew it. Clearly, I wasn't going to get any help from either group. There was nothing they could do for Rachel, anyway, not if they were as they appeared to be, people from a time before science or medicine.

I knelt quickly, and felt for Rachel's pulse. She didn't have one. I tried to apply CPR, and even managed to create an electric shock from the ions in the air. Her heart didn't start again. And now both groups of fighters were advancing on me. Some of them were shouting. From the way they glared at me, I got the impression they were now more angry with me than with each other.

The group in chain mail were within fifty yards of me as I stood up again. The peasant group had more ground to make up. They were perhaps seventy-five yards away. I figured I had three choices. I could try to reason with them, frighten them, or find a way to leave this place, fast.

"Please! You don't understand!" I shouted. "I was trying to save her life!" There was no reaction. I don't think they knew what my words meant. They only knew I was desperate and afraid, and probably a murderer. So much for reason or explanations. Tactic number two, then. I raised my arms again, drawing to myself the local fields of electromagnetic force. A lightning bolt flashed from my hand toward the sky, startling me as much as everyone else. Either my ability to manipulate the electromagnetic spectrum had increased geometrically over the past half hour, or there was something about this place, wherever it was, that was especially susceptible to manipulation. Or both. Probably both. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but that didn’t stop me from feeling the forces around me and manipulating them experimentally.

The two groups stopped again to stare at me as a second lightning bolt shot from my hand into the sky, accompanied by a crack of thunder. In the excited babble that followed I heard a word that sounded like "magus," but nothing else intelligible. Playing with lines of force as if they were a cat’s cradle string, I next managed a burst of color and a small sonic boom. The ill-equipped group turned and ran away, shouting. The group in chain mail held their ground, watching.

If I was going to make another attempt to save Rachel, now was the moment to try. I directed my arms downward. A small flash of white light leaped from my fingers to caress her skin, but there was no reaction, no convulsion, no sign of life or hope. Then a pale blue crackle of electricity arced up from Rachel's dead eyes to my lowered hand, and made its way up and down my spine. More electricity pulsed through the coated wires that still hung from my forehead like dreadlocks. I shuddered and staggered, but did not fall. Rachel's body still did not move.

And now the men in chain mail were starting to encircle me. One of them, taller and better dressed than the others, pointed a long and shiny sword at my waist, and shouted a command I did not understand. These people might be wary of my demonstration of static electricity, but it wouldn't stop them from trying to capture or kill me. Time to go, I thought.

If I merely ran away, these people would probably catch me, and be even less intimidated than they were now. Besides, I could not leave Rachel's body behind. Nor did I want to stay in such a dangerous and savage place. But how was I to get home? The only way I could think of to do that was to recreate the strobing lights and colors that had brought me here. I wiggled my fingers. A ball of light formed between me and the guy with the sword, eight feet off the ground and nine inches across. It pulsed and it spun. Bands of color like Saturn's rings encircled it, throwing off sparks that flashed down the sword blade, causing the sword's owner to drop it with a shout, shaking his fingers in startled pain.

I spread my arms again, fingers wide. "Back off, if you don't want to be hurt," I shouted. My would-be attackers seemed to grasp the concept, if not the words. They backed away, but only a hundred feet or so as they continued to watch my fumbling attempts to do what I needed to do. Soon I had the light and the colors looking as they had before, just before the world went away. I grabbed Rachel's hand and concentrated on the lab, praying that my improvised lightshow would get me there.

When the lab reappeared around me, I found myself standing with a table through my waist. I could no longer feel Rachel's fingers as her arm fell to the floor beside her. John Grayson stared at me in horror.

"What did you do?" he asked, his voice shaking. "What the hell did you do to my wife?"

"I'm sorry, Professor! I didn't mean..." I began, but now the lab was fading away again, and the Graysons with it. John Grayson yelled "Stein!" just as the last of the flourescent light winked out, leaving me in darkness.

1 comment:

ryanagi said...

Excellent! Do I have to wait until next Saturday for more? LOL