As written by the users of GweepNets I &II.
Proofed and LaTeXified by John Trussell. All relevant typographical errors preserved.
Once, there was a man named Turkles.
He and his friend, Dr. Whiplash, were walking through the woods one day when suddenly ...
... there was a bright flash of light (as there often are in this type of story), and a young woman appeared, standing before them.
``I say, Turkles,'' huffed the good Doctor Whiplash, in his endearing Victorian fashion, ``she's got no clothes on.'' He moved to offer her his tweed suit jacket, but was stopped by Turkles.
``Wait, Doctor. See if she says something.''
The woman was surrounded by a shimmmering halo of light that rather nicely set off the silvery highlights in her hair. Her eyes glistened with an intelligent, humorous light, and her body was of the type that makes adolescents forsake ``those'' magazines.
``Turkles!'' she began, pointing a finger at him. Tiny sparkes sizzled in the air around her perfectly-manicured nail. ``Turkles!'' she said again.
``Yes?'' asked Turkles, completely mystified, for it was not every day that an attractive, nude woman appeared before him.
``You have been chosen,'' she said forcefully, ``to go on a quest.''
``Oh joy,'' muttered Whiplash, ``another quest.''
``Quiet, third nipple on the chest of humanity,'' the fluorescent female ordered. ``You're going with him.''
``Oh my. I never would have guessed that I'd be going with him.'' Sarcasm dripped from every word like pus from a badly-lanced boil. ``Where are we going this time? The slave-pens of Ziarno? The Demon-Caves of Charos? Why not make this quest really appealing, and send us to the depths of the Drahlakson Spittle Pits?''
``Silence!'' Sparks ionized the air between the annoyed Victorian and the transcendental trollop. ``This is a quest far more dangerous and mind-numbingly awful than anything that you have ever done before, or will ever do again!''
``They usually-'' Whiplash began to mutter. He stopped when a bolt of lightning toppled a small tree a few feet to his left.
``Um, Doctor, maybe we should listen to her?'' Turkles murmered calmingly. ``As long as we're going on another quest, we might as well get the whole story beforehand.''
``Right - listen to your friend,'' the woman said. ``Now, as I was saying,'' she began again, ``this quest will take you to the depths of the Earth, and far into the farthest reaches of space. You will face great danger, and great and horrible beings will strive to keep you from achieving your goal. You will be horribly brutalized by women even more tantalizing than myself, and with much nicer breasts!'' She paused here to send another lightning bolt at Whiplash, who was spending much too much time staring at the protrusions in question.
``Your quest, should you choose to accept it, and you will choose to accept it,'' she grinned threateningly at Whiplash, who was trying to control his wandering eyes, ``is to ...''
We would, at this point, like to interrupt this story for a moment in order to point out some of the finer points of literary legerdemain that are being purveyed in this story, for those of you who may not have noticed it on your own. The previous paragraph, wherein the mysterious naked woman from beyond wherever it is that she is beyond from engaged in a rather lengthy dissertation of what horrible perils will be facing our friends, Turkles and Dr. Whiplash, is an example of what we in the intelligentsia like to call foreshadowing. Foreshadowing is widely recognized as one of the finer bits of story craft and is usually a good sign that what you, the reader, is reading is quality literature. Examples of this age old literary device can be seen in such varied and myriad forms as the plays of William Shakespeare, the films of deLaurentis, and the cartoon `Bloom County' by Berke Breathed. We hope that you recognize great literature when you see it.
We know return you to your story, already in progress.
Dr. Whiplash caught his breath in a gasp as he suddenly found himself suddenly pinned to the chair by inertial forces. To his right, he could see Turkles, his face writhing in the exquisite agony that only comes from subjection to tremendous G-forces. With another gasp, he wrenched his head to the left, and saw that there were two more chairs there. Sitting in one was the famous Detective Cartwright. Lydia had stumbled into several of Turkles' quests and had the annoying habit of getting into trouble at the last moment of a mission. Dr. Whiplash remembered with a sneer that usually, Turkles insisted on saving the stupid gnat, and usually, it was up to him to figure out a way to do it without getting them all alternately killed or blown up. Whiplash would grudgingly admit that Lydia Cartwright did have a singular wit, and a remarkable tendency to notice the obscure. It was just that she had a headstrong knack of rushing in and creating cliff-hanger episodes. Whiplash suspected it was a lack of originality on the writer's part.
Whiplash didn't recognize the ... um ... I guess the term would be person ... yeah, person, in the farthest chair over. He? was kind of ... well ...
Interruption: in response to previous interruption.
Great literature does, indeed, often contain foreshadowing. But foreshadowing does not great literature make. Notice, in the previous installments, the quest thrown in as a plot device. How cliche and hackneyed can one get, I ask you? If one must include a quest, at least make it a metaphorical one! Now that, I tell you, is a sign of great literature.
``Turkles!!'' screams Whiplash, staring at the baboon sitting in the chair. The oblivious animal munches on a banana.
``It seems we have found that which we are questing after, my man.''
What, that banana?'' asks Lydia, with hungry eyes.
``It cannot be, Whiplash!'' shouts a distressed Turkles, ``It would mean the end of the story!''
``Oh shut up, you idiot! You know how much I despise those character-knows-he-is-in-a-piece-of-fiction lines!'' Whiplash has stopped staring at the baboon, and is peering into space through the viewport. Stars rush by, as he dreams of having a beer in a loud, crowded, smoky, perfumey dive watching the women flirt by and not wanting them anyway ...
``Ummm, Whiplash ...'' Lydia's small voice screams in the silence.
``What, girl?!'' spinning around in his chair to face her, as Turkles twitches at the sound of the loud rasp. ``Oh, yes. The object of our quest. Well, it's sitting right there, can't you see?!''
``You mean, that, that thing, that ape right there?!''
The baboon looks up from its meal and sticks its tongue out at Lydia. ``Phhphphphphtttt!''
``Whiplash,'' says Turkles, scraping at his nails, ``You have gone totally mad. Uhh, ummm, I mean Dr. Whiplash.''
``It is not an ape, you stupid woman! And Turkles, I have been mad for quite some time now. I enjoy it immensely.'' He walks over to the animal and pats it on the head. ``Say hello to Gloopy. Our Holy Grail, the frick and the frack, the yin and the yang, the yum yum, the whoo whoo!, the ace in the hole, the ding dong, mole on the pole, the ...''
``WHIPLASH!!!'' scream Turkles and Lydia simultaneously.
``What, huh ...?''
Turkles looked up at the ceiling. He wasn't sure quite why he chose the ceiling to look at, but it seemed appropriate.
``Now look here,'' he shouted, ``I'm getting pretty sick of this omnipotent narrator stuff! And what's with all these interruptions in my storyline? I missed a big chunk of plot development there, and now I'm suddenly almost at the end of this quest? And the object of my quest was a monkey? Sheesh! Why can't this just be in first person so I can tell it myself, using some reasonably interesting literary devices?''
A rumbling shook the room. Lydia and Whiplash cowered in terror as a flash of light coalesced around the surprisingly calm monkey, which disappeared back into whatever mind created it.
``Ahhh ... You wish to be an independent character, do you?'' A disembodied voice, rich with harmonics simply reeking of a mid-60's-Boy-Aren't-vocoders-neat-SF-deity-type speical effects setup. ``Well, I suppose I could back out for a while. Of course, if your narration isn't up to par, I just may have to drop you into a second-person Harlan Ellison speculative fiction short story.''
For a few seconds, I was surrounded by the now-overused glowing corona of luminescence (those special effects guys sure enjoy it, though-oops, sorry. -Omnipotent Narrator), and then, with a thumping sound that shook my brain about like a pebble in a maraca, I fell several feet and landed in a ...
... situation I had found myself in dozens of times before. The beautiful, naked, glowing woman hovered before me, almost as if I hadn't experienced that disjointed rocketship launch at all. Her luminescence glowed ever brighter, as she opened her mouth to speak one more time.
``Turkles, your quest is ...,'' she paused, almost as if in tremendous pain. Who was causing such agony to such an exquisite creature I could not guess, but she stopped mid-sentence and writhed in mid-air before me.
``Turkles, good God man, what's happening to her!'' Dr. Whiplash exclaimed.
``Shhhhh! I don't know, just shut up!'' I watched as the young woman before me emitted a scream of anguish the like of which I have never heard before. Her face worked itself into a hideous mockery of the beauty that had been there before. Her once creamy, smooth, white skin wrinkled and spotted as if it aged seventy years in that one moment while I watched. Her beautifully formed feet curled inward and became old and useless. Her once inviting breasts sagged as if the wear and tear of gravity were to much for them to bear. The young woman, while still mystifying my attentions by her very presence in a glowing sphere of light suspended just above the ground, no longer held my interest as a beauty. She appeared now as an old hag. She was naked, no longer the young nude she had been, except for a gnarled and bent old stick that she seemed to be holding herself up with. She leaned against the stick, appearing all the more unusual for the fact that she still hovered in the air.
``Turkles,'' she croaked, ``pay no attention to the young woman you witnessed here. She is a criminal and will be punished accordingly. You may go about your business.'' With another blinding flash of light, the old woman disappeared, and our way was no longer blocked.
``I don't believe it, a creature as beautiful as that a criminal. Even if she is, no one deserves the kind of punishment we saw witnessed upon that young thing.'' It was Dr. Whiplash. With his Victorian-bred manner he knew, in his heart of hearts, that beauty was truth, and truth, beauty. In any case, quest or no, I knew I must discover the truth behind this matter. Someone had gone to a great deal of trouble to contact me (after all, beautiful glowing women don't appear on the streets of London every day, and the fact that nobody else was around to witness the event was telling of the kind of careful planning they had done), and I was damned if they'd prevent me from finding out what was wished of me.
``Come, Doctor, we have work to do.'' I tugged at Whiplash's sleeve, urging him to follow me.
``To where, Turkles?''
``The Royal Observatory, of course, they must have recorded some kind of phenomenon just now, let us see if we can discover what it is that they found.''
When we arrived, the Observatory was, predictably, in a great turmoil. Men in white coats, apparently scientists, rushed back and forth holding photographic plates and lenses. We made our way down the darkened, astronomical-print-lined halls to the main telescopy chamber, where we found the esteemed astronomer Burtham Nethsmith Jones-Surtham peering into one of the many eyepieces that protruded from the great tube of the Royal Telescope.
``Ah! Turkles! Should have known you'd turn up now! Why is it that astronomical events of great consequence are always followed up by you rushing in and telling me of some odd thing that's happened to you somewhere?'' He seemed a bit annoyed to see me. It could have had something to do with the giant worm that hatched out of his telescope the last time Whiplash and I had borrowed it.
``Don't worry, Nethsmith, old friend, I won't be getting your telescope impregnated this time! I just thought I'd drop by and tell you about some off thing that happened to me today on the streets, or perhaps in the forest - it's sometimes hard to tell.''
``Could it have had something to do with a glowing, naked, young woman?'' Nethsmith asked, eyebrows raised.
``Why, yes, it did,'' I replied.
``And she was a right pretty young thing, too,'' mused Whiplash behind me.
``How did you know?'' I asked.
``Well, we photographed her flying past the face of the moon!'' the aging telescopicist ejaculated. (Love those descriptive Victorian verbs! -Omni. Narr.) from a drawer near at hand, he pulled a sheaf of surprisingly clear photographs of the woman, still nude, still glowing, definitely flying across the face of the moon!
We interrupt the story at this point for a brief insert of symbolic context.
Enter and Be Damned.
The way in is easy - to exit, however, ahh - that is work; that is labor.
Here be Goblyns and Ogres.
Now back to our regularly scheduled program.
It was bad enough having to endure those stupid editorial comments by themselves, but now a horrible thought struck me. Being in the first person meant that simply being annoyed by them could lead to more inane tangential self-reference. Not only was I powerless to get rid of them, now I was bringing them into being simply by thinking about them.
```Symbolic context,' what rubbish ...''
``Don't let the narration get to you, old boy,'' Nethsmith sympathized. ``It'll go away if you just ignore it. Actually, it's rather amusing if you look at it the right way.''
``Yes, yes, but about the young lady.'' At least Whiplash hadn't gotten sidetracked.
``Yes, of course. We were doing a routine lunar mapping survey when she just flew by. Needless to say we were shocked. I brought the main 'scope around to follow her path. It wasn't even close to ballistic, you know.''
``But how could you tell that from just one set of observations?'' asked Whiplash.
``Well, we had more than one set ... Almost every instrument at the observatory followed her right down to the horizon. With that many readings there's no doubt about her course. There's no way to know where she went, but it seems she came from Wickhamshire. I've marked it on this map.'' The scientist led us to a table with a large detailed map of Wickhamshire laid out on it. An incredible number of lines and circles had been penciled onto it, but they all converged at one spot.
``From the zoological garden?'' Whiplash seemed surprised.
``Frankly I don't know what to make of it all,'' Nethsmith added. ``I don't suppose you know who she is, Turkles?''
``I don't know who she is, but the matter has aroused my curiosity. I daresay Dr. Whiplash and I shall have to pay a visit to the Wickhamshire Zoo.''
It was a short trip by motorcar to Wickhamshire, and within thirty minutes, Whiplash and I found ourselves at the zoological gardens. Unfortunately, the map provided us by Nethsmith at the Royal Observatory wasn't detailed enough to pinpoint the exact location within the zoo, so we prepared ourselves for a long day's search for the ``scene of the incident.''
As it turned out, we needn't have worried ourselves over the matter as it seems that there had been several eyewitnesses to the appearance of our mysterious lady friend, and the area was already cordoned off by the local constabulary. Whiplash and I spent some time arguing with the local officer in charge about whether we should be allowed access to the area. We were rescued when Lydia Cartwright, from Scotland Yard, arrived and personally vouched for the two of us. I will say that I was of mixed feelings about this arrival, as Miss Cartwright did manage to get us access to the site, but still, her appearance has on more than one occasion been an indicator of trouble on the way.
The three of us entered into the cave just below the aviary, where several witnesses claimed to have seen the beautiful naked woman appear from. According to local reports, there had been some sort of loud noise, as if an electrical discharge were going off inside, and then the cave had glowed a bright yellow, and the woman had appeared like a shot. She took off in a direction towards London, flying as high as many of the local birds. Taking three small torches from the police van nearby, Lydia, the good Doctor Whiplash, and I entered the cave.
Deep within its recesses, we did indeed find evidence of a fire of some kind, possibly electrical in nature. The scorch marks seemed to emanate from the back of the cave, and the largest portion of charred rock was in that area. I bent to examine the lines, while Dr. Whiplash and Lydia looked over the area just beyond. Something struck me about these scorch marks, and while they were occupied, I pulled a small device of my own design out of my back pocket. The small ovoid was designed to measure particle wave transmissions on a local scale. I plugged the ovoid into another monitor I had with me, and the needle immediately went off the scale. Recalibrating, I tried it again, and again it went off the scale. I adjusted it three more times before I got a readable register, by this time I was registering on an amplification scale of five powers of ten. This was an amount of energy unheard of without any visible means of generation. Fresh from my discovery, I went to find out what Whiplash and Detective Cartwright had found. They had located the epicenter of the original disturbance, and were in the process of trying to find any opening, or hidden door, which could account for the mysterious amounts of energy. I informed them of my discovery, and what it had to mean ...
``Whiplash!'' I cried in amazement and joy, ``Lydia! You remember when I first came here ... You two found me lying near Cynnwgghhwwn, in Wales?''
They nodded, slightly confused looks on their faces.
``When you found me, lying in that grotto unconscious, weren't there similar charred spots there?''
They nodded again, still unsure.
``When you found me that day, I had just been pulled, from my lab, through a dimensional wormhole and into this world! This disturbance here, in fact, is almost identical to the one that deposited me here! This is another dimensional wormhole! I could go home!'' I was nearly bursting with excitement, and clapped Lydia and Whiplash on the shoulders as they slowly realized what I was saying.
``Turkles,'' Whiplash began, ``you don't mean ...''
``Yes!'' I interrupted. ``I could go home!''
The torrential flood of thoughts that ran through my mind at that moment are too numerous to describe in the amount of time it took to have them. I thought back to the day that Lydia and I had found Turkles in the grotto. I had been gardening when I saw a most unusual light up in the hillsides. As I was making ready to go have a look at it, Lydia came by and decided to join me.
We found Turkles in a truly horrible state. His clothes, what were left of them anyway, were clearly much too thin for the chill weather we were having. There were a few small scars on his arms, and he was unconscious. Lydia helped me bundle him into the car and bring him back to my office.
In my office, we put him on one of the larger examination tables. With my veterinarian's training, I knew enough of the basics to help him out, and of course, I was familiar with rudimentary first aid. Lydia helped as well, and we soon had him dressed in warm clothes, and resting comfortably in the guest bed of my home. He remained unconscious throughout the affair.
Over the next several weeks, I nursed Turkles constantly. I kept a careful watch over him, making several trips to see him during my work day. At lunches, and during the evening, I fed him a warm broth that seemed to be the only thing he could keep down.
Much as she wanted to, Lydia couldn't stay by his side. Being a constable in the local police department, as well as ambitious enough to want to make inspector at Scotland Yard, took a large portion of her time. Yet, somehow, she still managed to visit every night. Usually, she read to Turkles from her Inspector's exam books. We did not realize how much good that did for him until several weeks later.
Nearly six months after finding him in that grotto, Turkles awoke. Lydia was visiting at the time, but neither of us was in the room. Our first indication was when he walked into the kitchen where we were and complained about being hungry. Lydia and I nearly tripped over each other running to get him all manner of food from every corner of the kitchen. After we got him fed, Turkles explained to us what had happened, at least as far as he was able to recall.
He told us that he was working in his lab on some kind of new power source, when suddenly there was an explosion and he lost consciousness. Next he knew, he was awake in my guest bed, and very hungry. There were other glimpses between there, of myself taking care of him in his convalescence, Lydia reading to him from her exam books (he claimed to have somehow picked up the english language this way), and also a very bizarre sensation which he could not really adequately describe, but which he interpreted as crossing a dimensional barrier.
A week later, on Turkles' insistence, I took him to the grotto where we had found him. It was mostly unchanged, being an unused portion of the tiny Welsh village. Searching through his own clothes, which I had saved for him, he took out a small ovoid device, and connected it to a meter of some sort. He had to readjust it several times before he finally got it right. I must admit that I had never seen anything similar to those devices before, and I took it as the first evidence of Turkles' extradimensional origins.
Over the next several years, I came to respect Turkles, not only for his keen intellect and higly developed mind, but also for his sense of honor and justice. Despite being from another dimension, obviously far in advance of our own, he never used his knowledge of technological advances for greed or power. Many men in his place would have misused such an advantage, but it was a mark of distinction in Turkles that he refused to stoop so low. Unfortunately, his own world had no dimensional transmission technology, and he had no idea how to get back home from Earth. His search for a way brought him in contact with some of the finest minds of our age, and yet, there seemed to be no way for him to go home.
Now, it looked like his lifelong dream was about to come true. I felt glad for Turkles, but inside, I also knew that what had once been the best part of myself would soon be gone. For Turkles, however, I kept a stiff upper lip, and never let on how I felt inside.
I could not allow the excitement of the moment allow me to forget that I was, first and foremost, a scientist. I showed the meter readings to Whiplash and Lydia, and immediately set them about searching the area for any more clues as to what could have caused the disturbance. Meanwhile, I started going over the entire cave with a fine tooth comb. Searching for even the tiniest rise in transmissions, or for that matter, for anything else that might be telling. For the first time in seven long years, I felt that getting home was not an impossible dream after all.
As I turned to get to work, I thought I saw a flicker of sadness cross Whiplash's face, but as I turned to look again, he was the same cheerful doctor that I'd grown to depend on. Lydia seemed a bit more dour than usual, but she was, after all, officially on duty, and inclined to be a bit more serious than in her off-duty hours. I turned to begin my inspection of the cave. I was still on my hands and knees when I heard a booming voice summoning me to my feet ...
``ON YOUR KNEES, PITIFUL SCUM!'' it cried.
I looked around nervously, dazed by the sheer volume of the unseen assailant. I looked back at Lydia and the good Doctor and shrugged. They appeared to be sans clue as well.
``DID YOU HEAR ME? ON YOUR KNEES!''
``With all due respect, I already am on my knees.'' After all, I was.
``OH. RIGHT. THANK YOU.''
``Excuse me, sir, but why did you want me on my knees?''
``HM? OH. JUST TRYING OUT MY BOOMING VOICE! DO YOU LIKE IT, WORM?''
``It's really very nice. Really.''
A silence descended. Pause. Pause. Pick nit from hair. Shrug.
[ The management wishes to apologize for the previous line. The obvious thievery of Samuel Beckett's style is not at all appropriate for this forum. The fool who lifted it has been shot. We apologize for any distress caused by this discrepancy and we now return you to our story, already in progress. - The Management ]
``Ah. Thank you. Ths is much easier.'' I looked at the frumpy figure that had materialized in front of me. His shortness astounded me. He couldn't have been more than half a meter tall. He looked around for a bit and then proceeded to brush himself off. After preening his clothing, he set to work on untangling his stringy grey beard.
``Well, now you can see me. Am I everything you expected?''
``I'm not surprised.'' His head swivels and takes in the rest of the chamber. ``Not exactly the best place in the multiverse for a wormhole. I'll have to move this one when I have time.'' He gives a brief whistle, summoning a small, red humanoid with wings. ``Jeezak! Remind me to move this wormhole.''
The red humanoid whips out a small notebook and makes a note in it. ``Will that be all, sir?''
``Yes. Thank you. You may go.'' The red humanoid evaporates in a dew-soaked rainbow. ``Now, then. On to you.'' His gaze settles on me like an old, well-worn overcoat.
``But we've not even been introduced!'' The thought of this short being moving ``on to me'' tended to turn my stomach.
``My identity is not important. The fact that you are on this plane, however, is important. You are upsetting the balance of everything. And when I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING. You're mucking up my powers, even.'' He looks flustered as he pauses. It's almost as if he's physically keeping himself from flipping all of my atoms inside out and returning them to the ether. ``It's not nice to muck with me.''
Looking at the fear in Lydia and Dr. Whiplash's eyes made me think. And then Dr. Whiplash opened the eye in the middle of his forehead. I am mucking up EVERYTHING. Shit.
``It's time to go, Turkles.'' He turned his back and started rustling around in his personal extradimensional space. I turned to look at my two friends.
``Well, I suppose this is it.'' I extend a hand to each one of them. ``One last handshake and I'll say goodbye.''
``Turkles, I'm going to miss you.'' Tears well up in Dr. Whiplash's three eyes.
Lydia looks somehow different. ``Turkles,'' she says, ``I'm pregnant with your three-headed love child.''
I looked at her and said, ``Goodbye.''
And then the short bearded humanoid sneezes.
Wait a minute. Something really fast happened there. We're still in a cave, but the old dwarf is gone. And that door wasn't there before.
``What happened, Turkles?'' Whiplash looks around in three directions at once.
``I'm not sure, Doc. But maybe that door holds a few answers. Shall we?''
The three of us walked over to the door and opened it.
The sight which confronted us scared us almost witless.
A large man sits on a rock, wearing a three-piece tailored suit, watching TV. He picks up his club and confronts us, grunting incoherently. A man is laughing on the screen. The cave mouth overlooks a rolling field with wooly mammoths wandering around.
``Turkles, I think that man is a Cro-Magnon,'' Dr. Whiplash whispers.
``Turkles, the baby is kicking,'' Lydia says out loud, holding her stomach.
``Guys, things are very wrong here. This is the Stone Age and not home at all.'' I sigh and look at the well-dressed cave man ...
He seemed rather annoyed at our presence. We'd probably walked in at a climactic moment in his television programme. He leered at us, and growled a bit, and waved the club about ferociously. I, for one, was nearly frightened out of my wits. Fortunately, I managed to hold onto them for a second longer.
``Ummm, no need to be violent or anything,'' I said, quickly backing out the way we had come, ``We'll just be leaving. Come along Whiplash, Lydia.'' I reached back for the doorknob and my hand closed on ... nothing. It wasn't there. I groped around for a bit, hoping I'd just misplaced it in my mind. Perhaps a little to the left. Nothing. The Cro-Magnon did not seem eased by my assurance that we would soon be leaving.
``Oh ... the pain!'' Lydia cried, nearly collapsing on the floor. Whiplash helped her to her feet.
``Turkles,'' he exclaimed, ``my God, I think her water's broke!'' He blinked his third eye in a most disturbing way, the most disturbing point of which being that he wasn't supposed to have a third eye in the first place. I risked a look behind me, and this is the point where my wits left me. Behind us, where the door had been, there was nothing but blank cave. We were trapped in pre-historic times, and worse than that we were trapped with a only very recently 9-months pregnant woman, and a man with three eyes. I wondered why nothing had happened to me yet, when I realized that it was impossible for nothing to have happened to me. I then began to worry about what horrible, insidious, disgusting, nasty, down-right not nice thing could have happened that I hadn't noticed yet. I was on the verge of degenerating into a gibbering mound of goo and protoplasm with fear and worry, when I had a vision.
It was beautiful. It was intense. There is no way now to describe the intense beauty of it. The beautiful intensity of the vision nearly overwhelmed me. It was probably the most single-most beautiful, intense moment of my life. I was overwhelmed to the point where beautiful and intense were the only two adjectives that would enter my head. I heard an intense voice echoing beautifully in my aural complex. I know I wasn't really hearing it, because later Whiplash and Lydia claimed not to have heard it at all, and they are honest forthright people whom I would trust to the ends of the Earth.
The voice began in beautiful tones, ``Turkles, you are in great danger. I am sorry that I have caused this, but there is nothing I can do to alter the past events that have shaped your life. I will do everything I can to save you, however.'' In my peripheral vision, everything went dark. However, the beautiful intensity remained, and the aural hallucination continued with it. ``You must do exactly as I say if you are to survive. Beware, Turkles, for in the next few days, danger will await your every misstep. Now, go toward the light. Go, Turkles.''
I suddenly found my voice. ``But, what about my friends?''
``Take them with you. Go now, Turkles, go toward the light.'' The vision ended. It was suddenly very dark in the cave. Reaching back for Whiplash and Lydia, I stepped toward the light. The only light in the cave was coming from the television set. I went toward it, as it grew to fill my field of vision. I don't know what happened to the Cro-Magnon, but I knew what I had to do. Taking Lydia and Whiplash by the hands, I stepped into the television set. There was a strange warping sensation that nearly knocked me unconscious, however, I remained, so that I would be fully aware of my surroundings when we landed ...
We stepped into the light . . . stepped into the light . . . into the light . . . the light . . . light . . . . . . . . . and emerged into nothing.
Nothings. The grey static-blur of the television swirled around us. Lydia swept past, whirling in an eddy of void, her face wracked with unimaginable pain. I turned, twisted by the flow of thought, winds of emotion stripping the flesh from my mind. The grey continued forever as I turned inward, Whiplash spinning through my noncorporeal chest. I expanded, shreds of personality flung widely, everything that made up the being that was me, that was more than the flesh, shrieking from cracks in my skull, spurting forth from eyes, nose, mouth as the sounds of my screams echoed in my ears, piercing, twisting, shards of void impaling the sheets of my self, the blackened shards of vacuum, piercing, spinning, helpless to stop myself, as, around me, Whiplash and Lydia spun, expanding, contracting, glowing, and then black, gone and then nowhere again, the who sublimated within the nil, the future gone, the past less than ever, memories twisted from the mind of none. Then, Lydia was there, before me, both of us caught in the same underflow, the same channel of nothing within nothing, and her hands reached out she was there real corporeal alive something to have grasp hold and she reached out and was there and was something someone and I was and she was and I was
and she was and I was and I was I was was falling through cold air,
raucous cries, like birds or bats, sounding around me. I cracked open my eyes, and saw where I was. Or wasn't, for that matter, and where I wasn't was on the ground, and where I was, was in the arms of Lydia, looking past her at what appeared to be the inside wall of an immense cylinder at least several hundred feet away. Gliding forms were silhouetted against a bright light above, and below, past our feet, farther down the immense cylinder, was nothing ... The cylinder faded into the distance, disappearing at the distant vanishing point ...
Lydia stifled a whimper, clutching me closer to her as the wind whistled through our hair and the cries from the distant circling specs grew louder ...
My initial reaction of abject terror quickly gave way to a most peculiar sense of deja vu. I didn't actually feel that what was happening now had happened before; more like something different had happened and I'd been given the chance to do it over. I shivered at the thought of how badly I must've mucked things up the first time ... or maybe it was just the cold.
``What in Heaven's name just happened?'' cried Lydia. ``And where are we?''
I had to shout to be heard over the wind. ``We must have fallen through the dimensional wormhole! I haven't the foggiest idea of where we are now! I see you're no longer pregnant!''
``And you're not a baboon anymore! Where's Doctor Whiplash?'' Lydia looked a bit worried. ``Err ... Turkles, we have company!''
What had been specks in the distance now revealed themselves to be sort of anorexic gargoyles. Spindly humanoids with batlike wings dove past us in all directions, chattering wildly to one another. Although Lydia and I were in free fall, they could fall past us by folding up their wings and diving head first, or slow down by spreading their wings out to catch the wind. We seemed to be gathering quite a crowd of them.
A female with bright blue wings squawked what was obviously a command. The winged people circled out to a greater distance, except for the female who had given the command, and three others with blue wings. The four matched our speed and formed a tight circle around us. Then they just hovered there, as if expecting something from us.
Lydia and I exchanged puzzled looks. I turned to the one who had spoken before. ``Excuse us, we seem to be lost.'' The gargoyle seemed to consider this for a moment, then replied with a voice like nails on a chalkboard. ``Fear not, wingless ones. You are welcome here. We will bring you to our city.'' The four took hold of us and spread out their wings like a parachute.
After a time we saw the city - an immense shape above us, also in free fall. As it approached we could see that it was dotted with entrances. We continued up to the top of the city. Unlike the bottom, it was dominated by a single massive structure with no openings, which sprouted a gigantic parachute from its pinnacle. As we circled around to land I realized the building had a familiar shape ...
The whole building reminded me of the ancient pyramid of Cheops that I'd seen on my last trip to Egypt. It was an amazing piece of evidence to support the alien visitor theory of its construction. Perhaps these gargoyle-beings had once broken through the dimension barrier to arrive at Earth, or perhaps the same grandfather race of aliens had visited this universe, too. A myriad of theories began sorting themselves out in my head as I began to think along the lines of parallel development of cultures, and the reverse transmission wave of Hodgson's Archaeology Theorems. I was jerked out of my scientific reverie by Lydia's fingernails digging into my arm.
``What's going on?'' she whispered into my ear. ``Can we trust these people?''
I gently tapped her fingers where they touched my elbow. She didn't get the hint, and I resigned myself to a minor painful irritation for the next few hours. At least she hadn't drawn blood yet, I thought. ``Well, they seem friendly enough,'' I reassured her, ``they haven't tried to eat us, yet.'' I instantly regretted the last word, as it made her tense even more, digging her fingernails into my arm.
The female gargoyle, who appeared to be the leader of the group, motioned toward the door at the base of the pyramid. Outside, two red-winged gargoyles were standing guard, displaying devices that, while they were obviously weapons, were of a design that I was unfamiliar with. They tensed a bit as we walked by, as if they didn't really trust us, but the blue-winged gargoyles with us seemed to give us a little leeway. We were escorted to an elevator deep within the heart of the building. At least, I assume it was an elevator, it being similar to other elevators I've been familiar with. Lydia and I, and the blue-winged troop leader got in, and the doors closed behind us. She squawked a command in her own language, and there was a distinct rising sensation.
It was funny, once we were inside the building, it was easy to forget that all of us were falling at what was certainly terminal velocity. But, without the outside clues to tell you, it was easy to forget. I suppose, this elevator was really just slowing down in relation to teh rest of the building. Funny how some things seemed to work easier in a lack of gravity environment. I was again reminded of some rather bizarre scientific theories that I'd heard in my lifetime. This time, it was the Cosmic Elevator argument about understanding the nature of the universe. Was everything here working by gravity, or was it inertia? This universe brought all these memories back to me. I was lost in a reverie of scientific thought, and so I wasn't really aware of our trip until we arrived at the top of the pyramid.
Lydia gripped my arm a little tighter, and I finally just jerked it away from her. The door opened and we walked into what must have been the reception room of their leader. A huge golden throne was on the back wall, and looking up I could see the folds of the parachute through a giant skylight. Sitting on the throne was another of the gargoyle-beings, but this one had some of the most beautiful wings I had ever seen on any creature. Encompassing all shades of the rainbow in a glorious pattern that was almost mesmerizing. I stared for long moments at the exquisite beauty of this creature. Lydia, too, must have been taken by him, because both of us seemed equally surprised at what happened next.
``My God, Turkles, what happened. You and Lydia look like you've been through Hell!'' I looked up to see Dr. Whiplash smiling at me from the other side of the room.
``Whiplash!'' Lydia and I screamed in unison. ``Where have you been?'' I asked. ``The last time I saw you, you were floating through my chest!''
``Well,'' he began, smiling, ``after our little jaunt through the wormhole, I found myself in a huge cylinder; the very one, in fact, that we are falling through at this very second. I spread my coat out to catch the wind and slow my fall, and, to my surprise, discovered that something about me had changed. Not only had that third eye vanished,'' he said, rubbing his forehead in a distracted way, ``but, during the dimensional transition, I had grown these.''
There was a rustling from behind him, and, flexing his shoulders, unfolded a pair of magnificent, feathered wings, stretching a full twenty-five feet from tip to tip.
``Whiplash,'' Lydia breathed, loosening her steel-taloned grip on my arm, ``They're beautiful ...''
``Yes,'' he replied, ``I rather thought so myself. And so, it turned out, did our bat-winged friends here.'' He turned to the gargoyle monarch, who had been listening to our exchange with obvious interest.
``Ahhhh ...'' sighed the creature, ``this one has a knack for understatement, it would seem.'' He swivelled his glistening-pupilled eyes toward Whiplash, who suddenly had a sheepish look on his face.
``Hm. It would seem so, yes. It appears that I have returned at a particularly interesting time in their history, a time which the scholars and prophets of the Gith-Zarai, our kind hosts, have found to be an age in which one of their deities, a differently-winged being from another world, will return to rule over them.''
``Whiplash ...'' I said in sudden realization. ``You don't mean-''
``Yes, Turkles.'' He nodded, more sheepish still. ``I appear to be the incarnation of Teraz-Ad-n'Choston, the Gith-Zarai God of Light and Wind.''
``Well, um, Whiplash, I'm not sure, um, what to say?'' I stammered.
``I'm not completely sure that I know what to do either, Turkles. This God-stuff is new to me, I'm not really sure that I'm ready for it. I've been doing the best I can, however, mending broken wings and such.''
``Doctor, um, not to be troublesome or anything, but, it there someplace we can get cleaned up?'' It was Lydia, being her usual practical self.
``Oh, dear me, yes; Lydia, you and Turkles follow me,'' Whiplash injected. ``Chief, I'll take them to the rooms we set aside for them.''
The beautiful-winged gargoyle spoke, ``As you wish, Teraz-Ad n'Choston, we await only your convenience.'' The leader bowed his head, and Whiplash turned to lead us to ``our rooms.'' He walked down a corridor and led us to a wicker cage gondola on a balcony overlooking the city. ``Get in, Lydia, Turkles, I'll take you to your rooms.''
``But, Whiplash, aren't our rooms in this building?'' I asked.
``Well, yes, but on the other side, and this mode of transport is much quicker, and besides ... I need to exercise with these wings, and the practice.''
With that, Lydia and I sat in the cage, and closed the door behind us. Whiplash verified that the door was secure, and then flapped up to grasp the very top of the cage. Then, with a whoosh of his powerful wings, lifted us in the air, and carried us over the city.
It was one thing seeing Whiplash with giant wings attached to his shoulders, but to see him actually achieve flight and carry us around the city was something else again. The sight was amazing! ``These wings are incredibly powerful, Turkles, I'm having no trouble carrying all three of us aloft with them!'' Whiplash exclaimed. ``You wouldn't believe the incredible feeling of freedom you get when you're flying under your own power!'' We circled around the building and finally came to rest on a balcony a few floors down and on the opposite side from the previous one. Whiplash let us out of the cage, and led us to a small set of rooms just beyond.
``What happens to the cage, Whiplash?'' I inquired.
``Good heavens, it stays where it is. It's part of our own personal transport. I had the Gith-Zarai build it soon after I arrived. I knew you and Lydia would show up eventually, and in this world, you can't get anywhere without being able to fly.'' I slumped onto one of the couches that was in the room, and asked Whiplash what was going on.
``Well, you've heard most of it. They believe that I am their God of Wind and Light, and have arrived as prophecied. It's quite embarrassing, and also puts us in a bit of a bind.''
``How's that?'' Lydia asked.
``Well, the full prophecy says that the God of Light and Wind will arrive and save the Gith-Zarai from a great catastrophe. It is all very mysterious and foreboding, and the name of the catastrophe doesn't speak well of its nature.''
``What is it?'' I asked, on the edge of my seat for more information.
``The prophecy speaks of a great danger coming up from beneath the city and destroying everything it meets. Buildings will crumble, children will die, and people will be starved out of house and home. The catastrophe is named,'' he paused briefly, ```The Coming of the Ground.'''
I froze for a moment, realization slowly dawning, a chill slowly spreading through my body. ``You mean ...''
``Yes,'' Whiplash replied, nodding. ``They have never seen the ground. The closest to a permanent horizontal surface the have ever encountered is this city, and it is unique. The Gith-Zarai live their entire lives airborne, or did, until they found this city several generations ago.''
``But how do they survive like this?'' Lydia asked, clearly as worried as I was. ``They never touch the ground?''
``Never, as far as I can tell,'' replied Whiplash. ``They are born live, live hanging from the bodies of their mothers until they are strong enough to fly on their own, and then launch themselves into the air. At first, I couldn't believe it, but if you look closely at their legs and arms, it soon becomes obvious that they must have evolved for the sole purpose of navigation. Even the hands are more like flippers, or airfoils, than fingers, and their toes are long and flexible, with a leathery webbing between the toes.'' Lydia began staring at Whiplash's fingers and feet, and Whiplash, noticing, laughed. ``No, I did not have airfoils bestowed upon me when I received my wings, as my wings enable me to be more maneuverable. The feathers each act as little rudders, much like the birds of our Earth. For example ...''
Fearing a long lecture on avian aerodynamics, I held up a finger until he paused. ``But what are we to do about the Coming of the Ground? Is there anything we could do to save them?''
``Well,'' Whiplash began, ``That's where I was kind of hoping you could help. You see, the parachute that has been keeping the city falling somewhat slower has recently begun to show large patches of what I believe is mold. When I flew up to take a closer look, the cloth disintegrated at the touch of my hand. I have no idea how old it is. The Gith-Zarai say it has been there since they found the city, and the city is more ancient than anything they have ever seen. They haven't even explored it all themselves. In fact, all that they know about the ground comes from ancient writings deep within the catacombs beneath this pyramid.''
``Well, then, we have our work cut out for us.'' I stood, checking my pockets, which, it seemed, had been emptied sometime during our trip through the wormhole. ``If that's where the information is, that's the first place we go. Do you know how to get to the entrance, Whiplash?''
``Yes. It's not far. Shall we?'' He gestured invitingly toward the cage, and Lydia and I stepped in and prepared for another flight.
Before long, we were landing at a platform near the base of the pyramid. We stepped from the cage, wary of the wind near the edge, and found ourselves facing a huge round door.
It was shortly after this point that GweepNet II's hard drive finally died. When GweepNet III was created, the Saga board started from scratch. (That story became The Continuing Saga, Book Three of this compilation.) There were, however, a few more posts to The Original Saga which are not included here. They were, unfortunately, lost as a result of the crash. (The posts you see before you were manually retyped from the most recently printed hard copy.)
In the ``lost articles,'' Turkles, Whiplash, and Lydia continued their journey into the bowels of the city. There, they discovered what can only be called The Plot Device, an electronic anti-gravity gizmo which essentially displayed, in blue neon lettering, ``Press here to save universe.'' (In fact, it may have actually been labeled as such.) The author of the following post, however, decided that this was a little too contrived, even for the Saga, and blew it up. Soon afterward, the ``cylinder'' around the city was actually found to be a cone, and the city began scraping against the walls and disintegrating.
Faced with this dire situation, no Plot Device to save them, and an unimaginative author, our ``heroes'' found an exit at the bottom of the city and discovered a dimensional portal at the bottom of the cone.
They then heroically dove through, leaving the doomed city behind.
Eventually, they wound up having a direct conversation with ``The Author,'' a geeky guy in a Hollywood studio, who (in typical marketroid fashion) told them that their TV series had been cancelled.
And then, as previously mentioned, the hard drive crashed.
What happened to them after that?
TO BE CONTINUED...