Saturday, January 15, 2005

Fiction Entry: Meet Joshua Wander, Part Eleven

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 Part Seven for the story up to that point. Links to earlier installments are at the bottom of each entry.

Part Seven: Joshua (a.k.a. Chris Stein) introduces Harry (a.k.a. the wizard Onclemac) to his friend Jerry, and explains his current predicament.  Jerry tells them that Professor Grayson has accused Chris of killing Rachel.  Unable to touch anything in the world of his birth, Josh asks Harry and Jerry to collect some of his clothes.  First, however, Josh must distract the police who are searching his dorm room.

Part Eight: Josh freaks out the cops, explains why he can't ride in a police car, and leads the two officers into a nearby stairwell. As they try to get a straight answer from him about whether he killed Rachel, a new voice enters the discussion: Rachel's, coming from Josh's mouth.

Part Nine:  Rachel's ghost (spirit, whatever) reveals that she had an unreported family history of epilepsy. She figures she died of a stroke, and blames no one else for her death. Knowing the police can't rely on her or Chris for evidence, Rachel suggests alternatives. Chris corroborates Rachel's story, and then walks away through a wall.

Part Ten: After a short, private conversation with Rachel, Chris/Josh makes his way back to the dorm room, where Jerry and Harry have just about finished collecting some clothes for Josh. Armed with change from the dorm room, they call Chris's father from a pay phone in the hall.  Dr. Stein is worried, and  understandably skeptical about his son's explanation.  Josh drops the human shape of his incorporeal existence in his home reality, and launches himself through the phone lines toward his father in Maryland.

Part Eleven: My Son, a Bundle of Energy

Less than a second later, I emerged from the Ericafon (the modern-looking one-piece phone, dial on the bottom, a relic of my childhood) into  my dad’s sparsely furnished apartment, and resumed my prior status as a Christopher Stein-shaped bundle of light and other energies. Briefly, I wondered whether I had a material body at all anymore, and if so, where it was. (And if not, how could my mind function without matter? How could Rachel’s?)

Some ride, Josh, Rachel commented. Apparently she preferred my adopted name to the original, at least when I’d just done something weird.

My dad stared at me with dropped jaw and fear in his eyes. As an electrical engineer, he probably knew for a fact that I was impossible. Yet here I was.

“Hi, Dad,” I said. “Please tell Jerry that I’m here, and to hang on the line until I return.”

“But…” my dad began. He didn’t find any words to finish his objection, but trailed off to stare at me some more.

“Please. Just do it.”

My dad obeyed. This struck me as an interesting role reversal. Being, well, whatever I was now had made me bolder than before, and more bossy. I wasn’t sure whether that was a good thing or not.

When he finished the message to Jerry, my dad stared at the phone for a moment, and then back at me. Then he reached out to me, much as Jerry had done, and touched nothing but colored air. “What are you?” he managed to say.

“Your son,” I said firmly. “Beyond that, I can hardly begin to tell you. I don’t understand it yet myself. I think I still have a real body, but not in this version of the world. I’m alive, and apparently well, but I can’t live here any more. So I’m going away. Just know that I’m not dead, I’m not a murderer, and I’m not a fugitive. I’m a freak of physics and magic.”

“Magic?” Dad said sharply. Even with what he was seeing, he still sounded skeptical.

“Well, not so much here, but elsewhere in the multiverse, yes.”

“Where will you go?”

I shrugged. “A place called Angland to start. After that, I have no idea where I’ll be. I probably won’t have much control where I go, at least for a while, over which versions of reality I inhabit.” I didn’t mention that I was already feeling more disconnected from the world I was in than I had been up to now. Reality was starting to look a little vague and unreal to me.

Dad shook his head. “I don’t know how you expect me to accept all this, or even understand completely what you’re talking about. What about your education?”

“It’s about to become much less formal,” I said. “I already have more practical knowledge of physics than most college graduates, and I’ll learn more as I go along. Besides, it can’t be helped. There probably won’t be any good curricula available in most of the places I’ll be going. But at least you’ll be saving a bundle in tuition.”

“Chris…” my father began, only to trail off again.


“Are you all right? You seem very different, and I don’t just mean physically.”

I shrugged again. “I probably should expect some kind of a nervous breakdown or something at some point, but I’m fine for now. I know I’m acting differently, but I think that’s to be expected. It’s even been suggested,” I added with a sudden grin, “that I’ve gone a little nuts, but I’m not going to worry about it. You shouldn’t, either.”

“But I do. I wish you well, Chris.”

“I appreciate that. Thanks. You too.” Again I noticed that the world around me was looking less real. Colors seemed a little washed out, shapes a little blurry. “Dad, I’m sorry, but I’ve got to go. Jerry’s waiting, and I’d like to see Mom if possible before I slip from this world completely.”

Dad looked frightened again, but all he said was, “I understand. Will I ever see you again?”

“I hope so. Bye, Dad.”


I could feel my Chris-shape dissolving again as the world tried to reject me.  Rather than let that happen, I channeled myself back into the telephone lines.  Jerry and Onclemac stared as I reconstituted myself in visible form as best I could.

“My God, Chris, what did you do?” Jerry said. “You don’t even look real now.”

“In what way?” I asked.

“You’re all pale and blurry, like a bad photograph.”

“Yeah, well, so is the world.  Call my mom next, will you?”

“Are you sure that’s wise?” Harry asked.  “The way you look now, I’m not at all sure you can get away with that trick a second time.”

“I’ll be all right,” I said.  “I’m going to be with you for three weeks, remember?”

“Yeah, but what if you spend two weeks of that as a small blob of blue light or something?  Just be careful.  That’s all I’m saying.”

“I’ll try,” I said.

Despite Harry’s misgivings, I had Jerry dial my mom in Satellite Beach. I won’t go into details, even now, but it wasn’t a pleasant experience. She had no trouble believing me, but she was angry--about what I'd allowed to happen to Rachel, about what I'd allowed to happen to myself, about what she saw as my "relationship" with a married woman, about my general irresponsibility, and about my having contacted my dad before going to see her. Even Rachel, hidden away inside me, was shocked by my mom's words. I was very glad that I couldn’t stay long.

This time when I returned, Jerry and Harry looked even more worried than before.  “I knew this  was a mistake,” Harry said.  “You don’t even have feet now.”

My first inclination was to shrug, but I wasn’t sure I could still do it.  “I guess I’ve been losing my illusions,” I said.  My voice sounded hollow and whispery.  “Good thing I don’t really need feet.  Not here, anyway.”

“You’ve been expending too much energy,” Harry said.  “If you exist here as nothing but energy, that can’t be a good thing.”

I was a little annoyed that he hadn’t mentioned this before. “What do you suggest?” I asked.  “I’m not quite done here.”

“What more do you need to do?” Jerry asked.  “What more can you do, without a body?”

“I want to see Dr. John.  Maybe not want, but I need to see him.”

If you do, he’ll probably try to kill you, Rachel warned.

“I really don’t think that’s a good idea,” Jerry said.

“I know, but I’m going to do it anyway,” I said to them both.  “Let’s go find him.”

The Real Joshua Wander
Joshua Wander: Two Fragments
Joshua Wander Lives (the history of the character)

Joshua Wander on BlogSpot:
Part One   Part Two   Part Three   Part Four   Part Five   Part Six   Part Seven   Part Eight  Part Nine  Part Ten

Joshua Wander in Musings:
Part One   Part Two   Part Three   Part Four   Part Five   Part Six   Part Seven   Part Eight  Part Nine  Part Ten


ryanagi said...

Excellent! But I wish you had fleshed out the confrontation with his mom. I am picturing her as a religious fanatic who thinks her son has been corrupted by satan and condemned by God as a result....or she is one of those kooks (like my mom) who thinks she has ESP and is communicating with the dead. She refuses to believe Josh is anything but a spirit and her son is really dead. Or...she just gets really angry with him for allowing himself to be experimented on and she gets all litigious and wants to sue the school, etc. LMAO the possibilities are endless.

kbwon9 said...

Humans seem to be the only sentients that do not pass generational knowledge to their offspring.  Which leads to a continuation of the same old stories being written with each generation.  When its been said, written, acted, sung, or done in some form six gillion times, where is the creativity or new knowledge.