Sunday, March 27, 2005

Mall of Mâvarin, Part Two

Art by Sherlock

I'm a little worried about what will happen to this new serial when I reach the point at which I have to know the cause of Cathy and Carl's problem, and how to fix it. I'm also concerned that only a few of you know the backstory for this. Oh, well! I'll do my best to keep it accessible to people who haven't read the books.

Part One (below): Cathy and Carl Salazar are on their way to high school in Dewitt, NY when their uncle and guardian, Jamie Barrett, suddenly starts behaving strangely. After referring to the twins by odd names and promising to pick them up later in the carriage, Uncle Jamie looks confused--but denies that there's anything wrong.

Part Two: What Does Randy Know?

As they made their way from the parking lot to their lockers, Cathy and Carl discussed their uncle
s strange words. “I don’t get it,” Carl said. “He didn’t look like he was kidding or anything. Why would he say something like that?”

Cathy shook her head. “I don’t think he was kidding.”

“Well, what other reason could there be? Hypnosis? Drugs? Insanity? He’s always been so normal up ’til now. Positively boring.”

“You just don’t like that he doesn’t let you get away with stuff,” Cathy said. “But I agree. This isn’t like him at all.”

“Yeah, well, if it’s not like him,” Carl said, “then who is it like?”

Carl’s question sounded absurd, but somehow it wasn’t. Somewhere in the back of Cathy’s mind, Uncle Jamie’s talk of royalty and carriages sounded very familiar. Why? She didn’t remember anything like that in Tolkien or Lewis, or any other fantasy she’d read. Not specifically. And why would Uncle Jamie talk like that, even as a joke? He mostly read John D. MacDonald, not Patricia C. Wrede.

“I don’t know,” Cathy said.

But their friend Randy, when they told him about it, seemed to have at least one idea about Jamie Barrett’s odd behavior. “And he called you Your Majesty?” he asked.

Cathy shook her head. “He called Carl ‘Your Majesty.’ He called me Cathma.”

Randy reached into his locker, and pulled out the blue spiral notebook he always carried with him to lunch, study hall and English class. Cathy was pretty sure that Randy's first class of the day was math, but Randy grabbed his notebook anyway, and clutched it protectively. “Are you sure nobody’s ever called you Cathma?" he asked. “I mean, your name is Catherine Maria Salazar. Cathma is at least a possible nickname.”

“Who ever heard of anyone being called Cathma?” Cathy protested. “I’ve been called Cathy, Cath, and even Cate a couple of times, but never Cathma.”

“What do you think it means, Randy?” Carl asked.

Randy looked at each twin in turn, and seemed to come to a decision. “I’ll tell you at lunch.”

“What can you tell us then, that you can’t tell us now?” Carl said. “If you have something to say, just say it.”

Randy shook his head. “I’m not sure yet what I know,” he admitted. “Maybe nothing helpful. Maybe a lot. The bell’s going to ring in a minute, so there’s no time to explain, even if I knew what to say. Just trrust me, okay?”

Carl frowned. “What did you just say?”

“I said ‘trust me.’”

“That’s not exactly what you said,” Cathy told him. “You rolled the r in ‘trust.’ You aren’t taking French this term, are you?”

Randy looked suddenly frightened. “No. No, I-I’m not.” He grabbed the rest of his books and dashed away down the hall, just as the bell rang..

Part One

Welcome to Mâvarin (info on the books and characters)

Joshua Wander and other past fiction (use sidebar to get to the individual installments)

Last call: the next part of Joshua Wander's story is available by email only, to a limited number of readers. Please email me if you want to be on that list.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Mall of Mâvarin, Part One

Art by SherlockOops! I forgot to post this here on Saturday night!

This is the beginning of a new serial. I'm hoping that when we reach the point at which I originally got stuck a couple of years ago, the weekly schedule will help me keep on going. If it doesn't, well, I'll try something else, I guess!

A reminder: the next part of Joshua Wander's story is available by email only, to a limited number of readers. Please email me if you want to be on that list.

Part One: Slip of the Brain

By the time Carl and Catherine Salazar finished their morning chores, they had missed the bus again; so their Uncle Jamie took them to school in the Saturn. Carl spent the ten minute drive in the back seat, working on the last page of his homework. Cathy, of course, had finished her homework. She spent the time looking out the window at the gray streets of Dewitt, at cookie cutter houses and boring businesses, and dirty snow choked with fallen leaves.

“Does either of you have anything after school today?” Uncle Jamie asked as they pulled onto Edinger Drive.

“I’ve got an article due for the paper, but I shouldn’t have to stay after to get it done,” Cathy said.

“And I have nothing until basketball season starts, if I even make the team,” Carl said. “Can we go to Shoppingtown?”

Uncle Jamie looked both annoyed and amused. “On a weekday? Is there something you need from the mall that can’t wait until Saturday?”

“Well, no,” Carl admitted. “But we got most of our chores done already today, and we need to shop for each other’s birthday. Please, Uncle Jamie?”

“How will you get there?” Uncle Jamie asked. He pulled into the school driveway, coming to a stop in the student parking lot.

“You can drop us off, or we can take the bus,” Cathy said. It hadn’t been her idea to go to the mall, but if Carl managed to get permission, she would take advantage of the opportunity.

Uncle Jamie nodded as he put the Saturn in park. “All right,” he said. “I’ll bring the carriage around later this afternoon.”

Cathy was startled, not just by Uncle Jamie’s strange choice of words but by a change in the man’s voice. For a moment he sounded more deferential than parental. But Carl laughed. “The carriage?” he asked. “You’ve never called it that before.”

“Yes, the royal carriage. What else would I drive you in, Your Majesty?”

Cathy stared at her guardian. There was no hint on his face that he was joking.

“Well, you could just take us in this car,” Carl said.

Uncle Jamie looked deeply confused. He looked around wildly, tried to rise from the driver’s seat, failed because of the seat belt, twisted around to look at the twins, and finally turned back to stare at the dashboard, his hands gripping the steering wheel like a sailor in a hurricane. “This…car?” He shuddered. “Oh, this car.” He said this last sentence casually, as if whatever panic had gripped him a moment before had never happened. “All right. I’ll pick you up after school. But only for an hour. Then it’s home to finish your chores and do your schoolwork.”

“Okay, fine. Thanks,” Carl said. He climbed out of the Saturn. Cathy did the same. Then she turned back to look at her guardian. “Are you all right, Uncle Jamie?”

“Of course I’m all right,” Uncle Jamie said irritably. “I’ll see you later, Cathma—Cathy.” He shook his head, and pulled away in the Saturn before Cathy could say another word.

Welcome to Mâvarin (info on the books and characters)
Check the sidebar for links to more Mâvarin fiction, and the Joshua Wander serial.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Meet Joshua Wander, Part Nineteen

Art by Sherlock, adapted from an early draft of Rani's portrait.

Joshua Wander's story is too long to summarize here. Please see Part Seven, Part Twelve, and Part Eighteen for episode summaries. Links to each installment are on the sidebar of this blog.

Part Eighteen: Harry questions some of Josh's behavior since returning to Syracuse, while Jerry questions how John could possibly have faked Rachel's appearance. To satisfy him, Josh uses a broadcast signal to make Jimmy Carter's image appear on the sidewalk. Jerry asks to go to Angland with Onclemac and Josh.

Part Nineteen: Quick Trip

Harry looked at him. “Do you really want to do that? Have you no family or friends to miss you and mourn for you, no education or career plans that matter enough to keep you here?”

Jerry nodded. “I have all those things. But I’m not talking about leaving Syracuse and this world forever. I just want a quick visit, to reassure myself that it’s all real, and that you both made it back to Angland okay.”

“And what if you’re the one who doesn’t make it back okay?” Harry asked.

Jerry smiled. “I’ll take my chances.”

“Can you do it, Harry?” I asked. “Can you get all three of us to Angland?”

Four of us, Rachel remarked.

“Of course I can do it,” Onclemac said crossly.

“And can you get Jerry home safely afterward?”

“Almost certainly.”

“Then why try to scare or discourage him?”

“I’m not. I just want him to realize the possible consequences. This multiversal travel can be dangerous. It shouldn’t be done as a lark.”

“Except by the two of us, you mean,” I teased.

Harry shook his head. “I’ve had five years to learn the right spells and develop protocols to minimize the danger,” he said. “And you—you have no choice. You’re going to be a multidimensional Billy Pilgrim for the rest of your life. But Jerry still has a choice.”

“And I’ve made it,” Jerry said. “If you’ll take me, I definitely want to go. To visit.”

Harry sighed and shrugged. “We’ll all go. Take my left hand, Jerry. Josh, place your left hand next to my right hand as if they were touching. Ready?”

“Ready,” we both said.

Very ready, Rachel said.

Onclemac said the words of the “home” spell. The Syracuse University campus disappeared. We were in darkness. I nearly stumbled as I suddenly felt the weight and balance of my body again. Onclemac’s hand gripped mine as I steadied myself.

I smelled hay and animals.

Welcome home, wizards, the cow said.

I suppose that at this point, anyone who reads these memoirs will be wondering what adventures Jerry had during his visit to Angland. The truth is that he didn’t do anything very interesting, although of course Jerry himself was thrilled.

Jerry spent that night in Harry’s spare room, while I slept in the hayloft again. This was Rachel’s idea, but I didn’t mind. I liked Ed and Elsie, as did Rachel. They both promised to keep quiet about Rachel, so she and I were able to talk that night in relative privacy.

And no, I won’t tell you what we talked about. But it wasn’t a romantic conversation, if that’s what you're wondering.

In the morning, Harry—or Onclemac, as his spell soon forced me to call him, even as he was unable to call me Chris—showed Jerry his spell book, and demonstrated a few small, amusing spells. I countered by making the chair in the wizard’s study sing Love of Chair from the CTW show The Electric Company. After that, Onclemac took us into the nearby village of Riverton, where he graciously bought Jerry a pair of soft boots and a small silver knife, both calculated to impress Jerry’s D&D friends. Then Jerry saved the world when he—no, actually he didn’t. All he did was go safely home with his gifts and his memories, while I stayed behind in the hayloft and sulked a bit.

It wasn’t that I was jealous of Jerry for his new accessories, or his ability to go back to Syracuse. Not exactly. But I had just cut myself off from home, family and friends, made a potentially powerful enemy, and embarked on an unsettled and unsettling new phase of my life. I was depressed and irritable, and more than a little scared. It was Rachel, of course, who eventually coaxed me out of Onclemac’s barn and helped me get my new life back on track.

But that’s a memoir for another day.

The End

Next week: new serial--I think! Help me decide which project to tackle next in this space.

If you're one of the few people who are sorry to see this one end, don't despair! The next part of the JW novel will be available in weekly emailed installments to a limited number of beta readers. Drop me a line if you're interested. Beta readers will be expected to give feedback on what works and what doesn't, and any typos or errors. Okay? Okay!

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

Joshua Wander on BlogSpot (use sidebar to get to the individual installments)

Joshua Wander in Musings:
Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four Part Five Part Six
Part Seven Part Eight Part Nine Part Ten Part Eleven Part Twelve
Part Thirteen Part Fourteen Part Fifteen Part Sixteen Part Seventeen Part Eighteen Part Nineteen

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Meet Joshua Wander, Part Eighteen

Art by Sherlock, adapted from an early draft of Rani's portrait.

Joshua Wander's story is too long to summarize here. Please see Part Seven for the story up to that point, and Part Twelve for most of the rest. Links to earlier installments are on the sidebar.

Part Twelve: Chris/Josh insists on going to see Professor John Grayson. He and Rachel both think he's probably at the lab rather than the funeral home. Indeed he is. Josh and his friends find Officer Hennigan unconscious outside the lab. Leaving his friends behind, Josh goes through the door to confront Grayson.

Part Thirteen: Grayson has Officer Cindy Farrell tied in Rachel's chair in the lab. Grayson has been experimenting on himself as he experimented on Chris, and now he's trying to recreate the circumstances of Rachel's death, secretly recorded on videotape. Chris/Josh manages to interrupt the power to the lab, reducing Grayson's ability to use energy as a weapon. Just then, Hennigan, Onclemac and Jerry finally make it past the locked door and rush in.

Part Fourteen: Officer Farrell threatens to arrest Grayson, angering him further. Josh manages to deflect one bolt of electricity, and tries to block further attack by covering her with his own insubstantial form. Then he moves off again, leaving Rachel's spirit visible where Cindy Farrell stood a moment before.

Part Fifteen: Rachel tells Grayson that he's being irrational and unscientific, and that all three of them--John, Chris and Rachel herself--were responsible for her death. A pool of light then forms above her, and she ascends into it, leaving Farrell behind. Her telepathic parting words to Chris are "See you in Heaven--and don't dawdle."

Part Sixteen: Farrell and Hennigan manage to arrest Grayson, and Josh and friends leave the lab. Onclemac wants to take Josh back to Angland immediately, but Josh insists on going upstairs first--alone. This is ostensibly to disrupt the power to the lab from above, depriving Grayson of electromagnetic power he could use to attack or escape. But when Josh enters the third floor classroom, Rachel is there, as he'd hoped she would be.

Part Seventeen: Rachel is a little depressed that she has not thus far seen a way to get to Heaven for real. She reenters Josh, and he goes into the space between the floors to disrupt the power. For a moment he is tempted to become part of the current, but Rachel stops him with a word. Josh sends the power looping back on itself, and "recharges" himself at the same time. The power goes out to the lab below. Josh goes outside to rejoin Harry and Jerry.

Part Eighteen: Illusions

“How did it go?” Jerry asked.

“Fine,” I said. “I think I shorted out the whole floor, and I personally have all the energy I need.”

“Now are you ready to leave?” Harry asked.

“Pretty much, yeah,” I said.

“We were talking about what we saw upstairs,” Jerry said. “Are you sure that wasn’t Dr. Rachel?”

“That was an image of Dr. Rachel,” I said, half-truthfully.

“But she—“

“—was the only person Dr. John would have listened to,” I said.

Too true, Rachel commented.

“I had to do something to deter him, with you two hanging around in the line of fire,” I continued defensively.

“We were only trying to help,” Harry said.

“How could you have helped, beyond reviving Officer Hennigan? Could you have protected yourself or Jerry if Grayson decided to attack you? Can you even do magic here?”

“If I have to, yes,” said Onclemac.

“That’s a relief," I said. “I was beginning to think you couldn’t.”

“Unlike you, I don’t like doing magic in a science-oriented reality,” Onclemac said. “It doesn’t work as well, and it attracts attention.”

“Are you saying I should have pretended to be normal? It wouldn’t have worked. I needed to do the things I’ve done here. Besides, I couldn’t look normal if I tried, much less ride in a police car—or die when Grayson tried to kill me.”

“Couldn’t you?” Harry said.

I frowned at him. “Couldn’t I what? Die?”

“You could have pretended to die. You could have pretended to be solid. If you can make Rachel Grayson appear before our eyes, you can almost certainly make yourself look normal.”

He’s probably right about that, Rachel remarked.

It hadn’t occurred to me to try such a thing. “To what end?” I said. “The illusion of being solid wouldn’t grant me the ability to handle objects. I think being what I am has worked out pretty well. Don’t you?”

“I think it doesn’t matter,” Jerry said, “because you’re constitutionally incapable of acting like a normal person.” He grinned. “That’s what I like about you.”

“Don’t encourage him,” Harry said, but I could see he was amused.

“Listen, about Dr. Rachel,” Jerry said. “I don’t get how you did that. She looked and sounded so real.”

I’d been afraid the subject of Rachel’s appearance would come up again. But I had a plan. “How about this?” I said. “Does this look real?”


“This. Watch.” Gathering what light I could from the cloudy afternoon Syracuse sky, I directed it to gather over a slab of sidewalk twenty feet away. Then I found a broadcast signal to shape the light’s behavior. President Jimmy Carter stood before us on the sidewalk, said something about the Middle East, and disappeared again.

“You got me there,” Jerry said. “He did look pretty real.”

“Who was that?” Harry asked.

“President Carter,” Jerry said.

“Huh. What happened to Nixon? Did he go to jail?”

“No. President Ford pardoned him,” I said.

“How do you do things like that?” Jerry asked. “The projection of Carter, the Heaven thing, riding phone lines…how do you even know you can do it?” He sounded envious.

I shrugged. “I just try stuff, and it works. It wouldn’t be any fun if I knew in advance what I could do or how to do it.”

“You’re a little crazy, do you know that?” Jerry said.

“It’s been mentioned,” I replied. It occurred to me that my consent to being experimented upon was evidence that I’d been a little unstable from the beginning. Oh, well. Grayson was worse. He’d clearly designed the experiments to do something drastic, even if the results he expected weren’t the ones he got.

“Are we done here, finally?” Harry said. “Can we go home now?”

“Home?” I asked.

“My home. Angland.”

“I guess so,” I said. “Bye, Jerry. Tell the D&D group that I’ll miss everyone. Including you.”

“Take me with you,” Jerry said.

One entry left, folks!

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

Use the sidebar to read it all in order!