Part Four: Onclemac
I was awakened in the morning by the sound of the barn door being shoved open, followed by that of heavy boots on a wooden floor. A voice – male, human – said, “He’s here? What do you mean? Who’s here?” The accent was somewhere between American and British, like that of a Scots or Irish person too long in America or vice versa. It was a friendly voice, matched, as I peered down from the loft, by a friendly face. He was about sixty years old, overweight and balding, and dressed in a blue wool Inverness-style cape. In his rectangular, wire-rimmed spectacles he looked like a younger Ben Franklin.
“Hello,” I said. “I expect they mean me.”
The man looked up. “Well, hello there!” he said. “What are you talking about? Who means you?”
“Your horse and your cow.”
“Ed and Elsie talked to you? Remarkable!”
I was astonished. “Their names are Ed and Elsie?”
“How did you come to choose those names?”
The man shrugged and smiled. “Long story. I’m called Onclemac. What shall I call you?”
Something in the man’s twinkling eyes told me he was inviting me to make up a name rather than give my real one. “Uh, Robin Hood?”
Onclemac shook his head. “No, I’ve met him. Try again.”
“Joshua. Joshua Wander.” It was my uncle’s first name, and the surname of some distant relatives. Besides, I liked the associations. The way I’d started hopping from place to place, I’d truly become a wandering Jew. And hadn’t the original Joshua also used waveforms to dramatic effect?
Ontlemac nodded approvingly. “That’ll work, assuming it’s not your real name.”
“Good. If you’re who I think you are, you should keep your real name to yourself.”
“Okay,” I said. “Why?”
Onclemac’s eyes narrowed. “Have you ever read A Wizard of Earthsea?”
That settled it. This man was from the world I knew, or something like it. “Yes, I have.”
I digested this. In the Le Guin books, a character’s true name could be used against him magically. “You’re not from around here, are you?” I asked.
Onclemac grinned. “Neither are you.”
“How did you know?”
“Well, for one thing, you’re wearing an S.U. sweatshirt. For another, you’re speaking American English.”
“So are you.”
“Well, yes, but the people outside this barn do not.”
I nodded. “I was beginning to suspect that. Where am I?”
“Similar, but not quite the same. So where are you from, exactly?”
“Dewitt, New York, originally. Yesterday I was a student at Syracuse University.”
Onclemac laughed. “Figures. Have you ever been to Economy Books downtown?”
“Sure. Lots of times.”
“I disappeared out of the Economy Books basement, five years ago.”
“I read out loud from a spell book, just sounding out what seemed like nonsense words.” He shrugged. “Stupid thing to do, really. What about you? How did you get here?”
“I think I kind of did it to myself.” I explained about the experiments, and the electromagnetic lightshows that had sent me from lab to battlefield, from battlefield to lab to the caverns near Onclemac’s barn. It felt good to talk to someone who seemed to understand my situation. “I didn’t set out to leave the lab the second time, but I wasn’t quite in phase with it or something. Maybe I can’t really go back.”
Onclemac nodded. “Maybe not. Do you want to?”
I thought about this. “Well, I’d like my parents and friends to know I’m alive, but other than that, no, not really. I’d be in a terrible mess if I went back, because of Rachel.”
“Probably,” Onclemac agreed.
“What’s it like here? Did you manage to hang onto that spell book? Is magic real here?”
“It’s peaceful but interesting, yes I did, and yes it is. Are you hungry?”
I nodded. “Starved.”
“Come in to breakfast, then. After that I’ll show you the secret of my success.”
“Okay. Thanks.” I climbed down the ladder, adding silently, “And thanks again, Ed and Elsie.”
“Any time,” the cow answered silently. The horse just snorted.
I followed my human benefactor out of the barn.
Meet Joshua Wander, Part One
Meet Joshua Wander, Part Two
Meet Joshua Wander, Part Three
Meet Joshua Wander, Part Five