Sunday, December 26, 2004

Fiction Entry: Meet Joshua Wander, Part Eight

Art by Sherlock, adapted from an early draft of Rani's portrait.
Joshua Wander's story is now too long to summarize here.  Please see last week's entry for the story so far. Links to earlier installments are at the bottom of this week's entry.

Last week: Joshua (a.k.a. Chris Stein) introduces Harry (a.k.a. the wizard Onclemac) to his friend Jerry, another Syracuse University student, and explains his current predicament.  Jerry informs him that Professor Grayson has accused Chris of killing Rachel before disappearing into thin air.  Unable to touch anything in the world of his birth, Josh asks Harry and Jerry to collect some of this clothes from his dorm room.  First, however, Josh must distract the police who have been searching his room--and who currently are pointing guns at Joshua/Chris's head.

Part Eight: Ghosts

“Listen,” I said.  “You can shoot me if you want to, but it won’t do anyone any good.  “You can’t hurt me.  You’ll only damage the wall behind me, and cost the University some money.”

“We have no intention of shooting you if you cooperate,” the female cop said.  “Are you Christopher Joel Stein?”

“I was,” I said.  It wasn’t a terribly honest or helpful thing to say, but it was partly true. The name belonged to another life, the one in which I studied physics and didn’t walk through walls or start fires with my fingertips.  Syracuse didn’t seem real to me any more. It was a place to be observed and manipulated, like the mental playground of a lucid dream.  Part of the game I meant to play involved keeping the cops off balance, and getting them out of the room so that Harry and Jerry could get into it.

The male cop stared at me, probably noticing, as Jerry had earlier, that I was more translucent than solid. “What do you mean, you were?” he asked. “You’re not a ghost or something, are you?”  The female cop looked startled by her partner’s question.  Then she, too, stared at me.

“Not exactly,” I told them, “but close enough. I’ll tell you what you want to know, but there are things I want in return.”

“You’re in no position to make demands,” the female cop said.  “I think you need to come with us downtown.”

I shook my head.  “Can’t,” I said. “Not unless we go on foot.  The physics of my situation won’t allow me to ride in a police car.”  It occurred to me that I hadn't made adequate arrangements to meet my friends later, in case my interaction with the police proved to be more than a brief diversion.  Oh, well.

“Why can't you ride in a police car?” the male cop asked.

“It can’t carry what it can’t touch,” I explained.  “Besides, I’d rather go to the lab.  Are you coming?”  With that, I walked right past the dumbfounded police officers and out the door, into the 11th floor corridor of  Brewster Hall.  Not knowing what else to do, they followed me. As I'd hoped, they didn't take the time to lock the door behind them.

Oh, yeah, that was fun. It didn’t occur to me until later that I’d come down with a slight case of insanity.

Jerry and Harry were just coming up the hall.  “You know what I’m going to miss about this place?” I said loudly, ostensibly to the cops. “Rock and roll. I can live without the Stones if I have too, and even the early Beatles and ex-Beatles. But I’d hate to think that I’ll never hear Revolver or Abbey Road again.”

Harry shook his head and rolled his eyes at me as I walked past him.

“This is absurd,” the female cop said ruefully, as she and her partner hurried after me.  “Nothing about this guy makes sense!”

“Well, it makes a kind of sense, but only in context,” I told her, “and you don’t know the context yet.”

“There is no context that could explain all this,” the male cop said.

“Maybe not to you,” I said, “but it makes sense to me.”  We had reached the end of the hall.  Fire doors stood between me and the stairs.  “Listen, I can’t use elevators, either. But you can follow me down the stairs if you like.  Or you can take the elevator, and I’ll meet you in the first floor student lounge.  Your choice.”  Not waiting for an answer, I walked through the metal door, which clanged open behind me. Good. I set myself at a downward angle and started walking again. My trajectory mostly had me walking on empty air over each step.

“How are you doing that?” the female cop asked.  I paused and looked back. She was perhaps eight steps behind me.  The male cop was two steps ahead of her.

“I’m not sure, but it works.  Don’t worry about it.  Look, I don’t know how long I’ll be here before I disappear again, and I have things to do in the meantime.  You  want to know what happened to Rachel, and an explanation about what happened to me that doesn’t sound completely insane.  Am I right?”

“For starters, yes,” the female cop said.

“And I want to tell you these things. I’d like to hold a press conference, or at least issue a statement.  Do you think you can arrange that?”

“We want a police statement,” the male cop said.  “We are not your publicists.”

“Fine.  I’ll do it without you.  Where’s Grayson?” I said.

“What do you want with Grayson?” the male cop asked suspiciously.

“Are you planning to kill him, the way you killed his wife?” the female cop asked.

An angry voice replied.  “What is wrong with you people?  Haven’t you ever heard of epilepsy?  Or waiting for autopsy results?”

I heard those three questions, the same as those cops evidently did.  I thought they were great questions, but I didn’t say them. Nevertheless, the words come out of my mouth.

The voice that said them was Rachel’s.

Blogspot page (the easiest way to read the story; scroll down for part one):

The Real Joshua Wander
Joshua Wander: Two Fragments
Joshua Wander Lives (the history of the character)
Meet Joshua Wander, Part One
Meet Joshua Wander, Part Two
Meet Joshua Wander, Part Three
Meet Joshua Wander, Part Four
Meet Joshua Wander, Part Five
Meet Joshua Wander, Part Six
Meet Joshua Wander, Part Seven

1 comment:

ryanagi said...

Love it! But I think the cops are being entirely too accommodating. In my experience, they are far less flexible and rational when faced with a suspected murderer. ;-) I think they should have tried to make a grab for him as he blithely walked past them in his room. Once they realized their hands pass right through him, then they have no choice but to just follow him.