Sunday August 10th, 2014

The exercise:

The 10th of the month already? Quick, let us return to Vancouver Irrealis then, before it's too late!

Oh, and for those of you who would like to write today but are finding myself, Greg, and Morganna are too far along our tale for you to join in... how about this prompt instead? It's the most recent one that has yet to be bestowed with a comment. Well, the last post that actually has a writing prompt.

Either way, that took me way too long to find, so please feel welcome to give it some love.

Day off went well, other than the migraine in the middle. Morning and evening featured beach and family time, with a pancake breakfast and our usual Sunday night BBQ at the beach bookending things nicely.


Within minutes cushions, pillows, and blankets had been distributed among the three hideaways and a reasonable level of comfort had been achieved. With fatigue trying to squeeze his eyelids together, Tristam decided to voice his question once more. At worst, he figured, the answer would be so boring it would lull him to sleep.

"There are two ways for an overcross to go home," Rewand replied as he settled into his cushion fortress. "The first is simply time. Eventually the two cities lapover again and take back their own. The second... as I said before... is more complicated."

"Try me." Tristam had to repeat himself, as a jaw-cracking yawn garbled his first attempt beyond comprehension.

"A device is required." Rewand paused, considering how in-depth his explanation needed to be. A glance at Tristam's face let him know a perfunctory version would do for the moment. "It's used when a specific exchange is needed."

"As in a particular person on our side wants to replace a particular person on yours," Anne-Marie said.

"Right. But in order for that to happen, the two persons need to be in the same location at the same time when a lapover occurs." Rewand frowned, and Tristam realized it pained the old man to leave the lesser details out of his answer. "Within arm's reach of each other, really."

"So... it's like a kidnapping?" Tristam asked.

"I suppose that's as close a comparison as you can get. But you can imagine the difficulty involved. These are not small cities. They spread, they are filled with more streets and houses and open spaces than any of us can really grasp."

"Some sort of knowledge of the target's schedule would be required," Anne-Marie said, thinking aloud. "The agent would have to mirror the target's moves, just waiting for a lapover to happen and then..."

"Boom. Bag over the head." Tristam rubbed his palms against his legs, trying to control his emotions. "And then suddenly everything is... changed."

"It must be very hard," Anne-Marie said. "I can only imagine."

"There is one aspect of the exchange that gives me hope," Rewand said. "The device cannot possibly be brought over. Nkare had to leave hers behind when she took you."

"What are you saying?" Tristam was suddenly wide awake. "That if we can find it I could use it on her?"

"If?" Rewand asked with a laugh. "I think it's about time you had a look inside that bag of yours... or hers... or... oh, just open it up already."


Greg said...

Tristam looked at the bag he'd been carrying with him since this had all started, realising with a start that he'd been hanging on to it tightly without really thinking about it. It was a link back to... well, what he couldn't help but think of as the real world. He hurriedly reminded himself that Rewand and Anne-Marie were definitely real people, and even Terpe when it came down to it. Just less so. He hefted the bag, feeling oddly reluctant to open it. What if he did and there was nothing inside that looked like a device? What if all these people were just lunatics, and seeing that there was no device would force him to acknowledge that he was trapped here with them, playing silly, dangerous games?
"Go on," said Anne-Marie. "I've never seen the device either."
Were they trying too hard? He hesitated still, and then he remembered the strange trees where he'd spent an afternoon waiting for Anne-Marie to finish work, and the equally strange child that had taunted him there. This had to be another world.
He opened the bag, which fastened with two buckles at either edges of the front panel, satchel-like. At first glance it looked like his; he could see a sheaf of papers that were probably the financial report for August that he'd been reviewing, and there was the cover of his iPad peeking out as well. He sorted through, pulling things out one at a time and feeling his heart-rate slow as the familiar objects and papers brought back a sense of reality. As he laid things down Anne-Marie and Rewand picked them up and glanced at them, which seemed intrusive at first, but then he thought about where they were and why, and it seemed more normal then.
He took his sunglasses out last and set them on the floor, and Anne-Marie immediately tried them on. Rewand laughed at her, and Tristam smiled tightly. There was no device in the bag.
"Have you checked the pocket?" asked Rewand, his voice quiet.
"My bag doesn't have a pock--" said Tristam, but he stopped speaking as he followed Rewand's pointing finger and saw that there was a zip pocket at the back that he'd never seen before. He unzipped it, wondering if maybe he'd just been so blind that he'd ignored it all this time, and pulled out something that looked like a Rubik's cube unfolded to lay flat. It was cross-shaped, consisting of six hinged panels, and each panel was subdivided into 16 coloured squares. As he watched, the colours gradually changed as though washing over the surface of it.
"What the...?" he said. Anne-Marie gasped, very quietly.
"I don't know everything about it," said Rewand, and Tristam couldn't help but wonder how modest he was being, "but I know that those colours are essentially a topography of how close together the cities are. The more the colours shade towards blue the closer together things are, and as they shade towards red the further apart they are."
They all looked at it, noting that the device was primarily blue-green, with only a faint blush of pink at the furthest corners.
"That can't be right," said Anne-Marie. "It's the wrong time of day for the cities to be this close together."

Greg said...

"It might need resetting," said Rewand, but he sounded uncertain.
"How do I do that?" asked Tristam.
"I'll show you," said Rewand, holding his hand out. Tristam thought about refusing, but then thought that he knew nothing about this and might just break it if he tried. Then how would he get home? He passed it over, and immediately that Rewand touched it the colours swirled around as though reacting to his touch.
"What...?" said Anne-Marie, but then there was a blur in the air as though something large had flashed past at great speed, and a moment later there was a crack as the device fell to the concrete floor. Tristam snatched it up, hearing Anne-Marie's cry of dismay, and only then looked up.
Rewand was gone, and the child from the trees was bundled up in blankets in his place.

[Sorry about the two posts, Blogger only accepts 4096 characters apparantly!]

morganna said...

The child smiled mischievously. "Not expecting me, were you? But then, you don't know who I am."

Terpe leaned in ominously. "Well, why don't you tell us, you little pewter?"

The child didn't flinch. "I am the wizard, the magician, the one behind the curtain. Listen carefully and hear me well: Those who think they are in charge know nothing, the colored cubes are child's play, and space and time are within my reach."

The device's colors flared in Tristam's hands. He dropped it as the sudden heat burned his skin. It cracked again against the concrete floor. The child disappeared, and Rewand appeared in his place again, breathing heavily and looking stunned.

Marc said...

Greg - there's no need to apologize for such a fantastic continuation! Love your choice (and description) of the device, and that ending was delightfully unexpected :D

Morganna - other than Terpe no longer being in the scene (I'm just going to pretend that you wrote Anne-Marie there), that's an intriguing continuation. Really like that Rewand appears to be out of sorts upon his return, that's a very nice touch.

Now to think of where we go from here...

morganna said...

Wait -- where did Terpe go? I thought he was still in the room, just not talking lately. I can't find anything in the July or August continuations that says he left the room. He last spoke (and he was in the hidey-hole then) in Greg's July contribution, but I didn't think that not speaking meant he left the room. It was Rewand that got pushed out by the device.

Marc said...

Morganna - in Greg's July contribution Terpe says it is time for him to slip out before the force realizes he's missing. I suppose it is never explicitly stated that he leaves, but that was the assumption I was going with.

Doesn't really matter, we can make it work either way.

morganna said...

Oh. When Rewand argued with Terpe, and Terpe said they had a couple days, I thought he changed his mind about leaving, since it never was explicit about his leaving. Oops.

Marc said...

No worries. In my mind Terpe left in between Greg's ending last month and my continuing this month, but I probably should have made that clear.

Either way, I'll just go with whichever option works better for whatever I come up with next month. Though I feel like maybe three characters would keep things a little less cluttered than four.

We'll see.