Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sudden Short Story 43

"So what did that guy have," asked Steve, as they left the market stall.
"Some string for my bow.  So did you find anything?"
"Maybe.  There's this guy back at the tavern who might have something."
"The tavern?  Really?"
"Well, he didn't start out there.  He was ranting in the town square, before, but he wasn't getting very far.  I managed to coax him down off of his box, though, but I promised that you'd hear him out."
"So, let me see if I have this straight," said John.  "A giant monster attacked your village."
"Town-upon-the-Lake, yes."
"And you came through the mountains to recruit adventurers and explorers."
"And you want us to slay this giant monster."
"You and whomever else we recruit, yes."
"So, if we survive this, then we're splitting the glory - which is fine, if it's as big as you say - but our only material reward is replacements for our worn-out arms and armor."
"Oh, no, you'll be getting those before challenging the monster."
"Oh.  Well, that's nice and all, and I'm not unsympathetic to the plight of your villagers, but it still doesn't seem worth risking our necks for that - and, if your pitch is anything like that of your fellows, I suspect that we'd be the only ones to show up, anyway.  You've managed to hide from and even escape this strange beast, so perhaps you could find somewhere else to go.  It's not an easy choice, but it's better than the alternative."
"There's nowhere else to go, though.  You see, the beast is nesting.  It has already laid an egg sac, bigger than a house.  Eventually, the eggs will hatch, and these creatures will spread throughout the land.  No place will be safe."
John thought for a moment, then turned to Steve.  "He makes a fair point.  Let's do it."

Sudden Short Story 42

"Do you know what I've noticed, Professor Callahan?"
"Is it that you've stopped using my first name?"
"Nothing.  What have you noticed?"
"People seem to be acting... differently.  I can't quite place it, but something seems amiss."
"They only act differently when you're around."
"Well, that seems a bit inconsistent.  Why would they do that?"
"Because-- ... It's a bit of a delicate matter to broach, methinks."
"What is?"
"Stop walking for a moment."  They stopped.  "Do you see that tower that we're approaching?"
This was met with a quisitive look.  "Is this a rhetorical question?"
"Yes, it's a rhetorical question. Do you know when that tower was built?"
"I don't recall.  It never really concerned me all that much."
"Well, if I wanted to find out when it was built, what would I do?"
"I suppose that you'd have to track down the records for when the contract work happened.  It's probably on record at the university library or something."
"Well, it's not, and it's not on record at the city, either, and there's really quite an interesting reason behind that."
"Well, it sounds like you're about to tell me what it is."
"Yes.  It just appeared one day."
"That is unusual.  ...  Oh, wait, I remember now.  I had to put it there, since it hasn't been built yet."
"Doesn't that seem a bit unusual?"
"Well, it's not that commonly done, but I do like the peace and quiet that it provides."
"I-- No, I mean the whole 'doing magic' thing."
"What magic?"
"You!  You've been doing magic and it's really weird because magic isn't supposed to be real and also you're a physicist."
"I don't know what you mean.  I wouldn't have time for it, anyway:  I've been too busy with my research."
"Then what's with the robes?"
"They're traditional professorial garb."
"And the book?"
"These are my notes.  I use them for reference in case I forget a detail.  Wouldn't I feel silly if I needed to get somewhere and forgot how?"
"So, there are maps in there?"
"Don't be silly.  Maps are for travelling, which, I've discovered, is no longer necessary."
"Wait....  Is this how you get up into the tower with no doors?"
"Well, 'up' isn't really the right way to put it, but yes."
"And you're sure that it's not magic, then?"
"It's not magic; it's just science.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I must be getting to the early medieval period."  And with that, he vanished.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Sudden Short Story 41

It was a cool, spring day, and the playground was domed by an overcast sky when the boy saw the old man.  The old man went around a corner, and the boy used a game of freeze tag to distract the girl, while he went around the corner with no one looking.  There, the old man sat upon an old bench.
"You can't be here," said the boy.
"You're right," said the old man.  "That's why I'm not actually here.  What you see before you is an isomorphic projection from another timeline - a future that you won't experience."
"That sounds made-up."
"And yet, here I am.  You recognize me, sitting here, as well as I recognize you, standing there."
The boy raised an eyebrow and asked, "Why isomorphic?"
"It's as much to provide clipping as anything else."
"So, why are you here at all?  What's wrong with the future?"
The old man stared past the boy, into the distance.  "In the future, I realized that there's no going back.  I wasted this life.  I failed to do the one thing that was most important, the one reason why I went back in the first place."  Here, he paused, for his words were difficult to say, though he knew that he must say them.  "You don't really love Jamie, you know."
The boy looked down to the ground, the guilt heavy on his heart.  "I know."
The gasp caught the boy off guard.  He turned to see what he already knew was there.  Seeing her tears only made it worse.  He reached, and he stepped, but she turned and she ran.  He turned back to the old man, then back to where she had been, then back again, at a loss for a correct course of action.
"You have to go back," said the old man.  "There's nothing for us here."  Without a sight or a sound, the old man disappeared.
The boy hesitated for a moment, wishing only that there had been another way - not that he hadn't appeared to himself to tell himself what he already knew, but that things had just been different, somehow.  ...  He closed his eyes, and the world disappeared.
The young man awoke, and, for a time, all that he could do was cry.