Saturday, January 15, 2005

Meet Joshua Wander, Part Eleven

Art by Sherlock, adapted from an early draft of Rani's portrait.
Joshua Wander's story is now too long to summarize here. Please see Part Seven for the story up to that point, and Part Twelve for summaries of the later installments. Links to all installments are now in the sidebar.

Part Eleven: My Son, a Bundle of Energy

Less than a second later, I emerged from the Ericafon (the modern-looking one-piece phone, dial on the bottom, a relic of my childhood) into my dad’s sparsely furnished apartment, and resumed my prior status as a Christopher Stein-shaped bundle of light and other energies. Briefly, I wondered whether I had a material body at all anymore, and if so, where it was. (And if not, how could my mind function without matter? How could Rachel’s?)

Some ride, Josh, Rachel commented. Apparently she preferred my adopted name to the original, at least when I’d just done something weird.

My dad stared at me with dropped jaw and fear in his eyes. As an electrical engineer, he probably knew for a fact that I was impossible. Yet here I was.

“Hi, Dad,” I said. “Please tell Jerry that I’m here, and to hang on the line until I return.”

“But…” my dad began. He didn’t find any words to finish his objection, but trailed off to stare at me some more.

“Please. Just do it.”

My dad obeyed. This struck me as an interesting role reversal. Being, well, whatever I was now had made me bolder than before, and more bossy. I wasn’t sure whether that was a good thing or not.

When he finished the message to Jerry, my dad stared at the phone for a moment, and then back at me. Then he reached out to me, much as Jerry had done, and touched nothing but colored air. “What are you?” he managed to say.

“Your son,” I said firmly. “Beyond that, I can hardly begin to tell you. I don’t understand it yet myself. I think I still have a real body, but not in this version of the world. I’m alive, and apparently well, but I can’t live here any more. So I’m going away. Just know that I’m not dead, I’m not a murderer, and I’m not a fugitive. I’m just a freak of physics and magic.”

“Magic?” Dad said sharply. Even with what he was seeing, he still sounded skeptical.

“Well, not so much here, but elsewhere in the multiverse, yes.”

“Where will you go?”

I shrugged. “A place called Angland to start. After that, I have no idea where I’ll be. I probably won’t have much control where I go, at least for a while, over which versions of reality I inhabit.” I didn’t mention that I was already feeling more disconnected from the world I was in than I had been up to now. Reality was starting to look a little vague and unreal to me.

Dad shook his head. “I don’t know how you expect me to accept all this, or even understand completely what you’re talking about. What about your education?”

“It’s about to become much less formal,” I said. “I already have more practical knowledge of physics than most college graduates, and I’ll learn more as I go along. Besides, it can’t be helped. There probably won’t be any good curricula available in most of the places I’ll be going. But at least you’ll be saving a bundle in tuition.”

“Chris…” my father began, only to trail off again.


“Are you all right? You seem very different, and I don’t just mean physically.”

I shrugged again. “I probably should expect some kind of a nervous breakdown or something at some point, but I’m fine for now. I know I’m acting differently, but I think that’s to be expected. It’s even been suggested,” I added with a sudden grin, “that I’ve gone a little nuts, but I’m not going to worry about it. You shouldn’t, either.”

“But I do. I wish you well, Chris.”

“I appreciate that. Thanks. You too.” Again I noticed that the world around me was looking less real. Colors seemed a little washed out, shapes a little blurry. “Dad, I’m sorry, but I’ve got to go. Jerry’s waiting, and I’d like to see Mom if possible before I slip from this world completely.”

Dad looked frightened again, but all he said was, “I understand. Will I ever see you again?”

“I hope so. Bye, Dad.”


I could feel my Chris-shape dissolving again as the world tried to reject me. Rather than let that happen, I channeled myself back into the telephone lines. Jerry and Onclemac stared as I reconstituted myself in visible form as best I could.

“My God, Chris, what did you do?” Jerry said. “You don’t even look real now.”

“In what way?” I asked.

“You’re all pale and blurry, like a bad photograph.”

“Yeah, well, so is the world. Call my mom next, will you?”

“Are you sure that’s wise?” Harry asked. “The way you look now, I’m not at all sure you can get away with that trick a second time.”

“I’ll be all right,” I said. “I’m going to be with you for three weeks, remember?”

“Yeah, but what if you spend two weeks of that as a small blob of blue light or something? Just be careful. That’s all I’m saying.”

“I’ll try,” I said.

Despite Harry’s misgivings, I had Jerry dial my mom in Satellite Beach. I won’t go into details, even now, but it wasn’t a pleasant experience. She had no trouble believing me, but she was angry--about what I'd allowed to happen to Rachel, about what I'd allowed to happen to myself, about what she saw as my "relationship" with a married woman, about my general irresponsibility, and about my having contacted my dad before going to see her. Even Rachel, hidden away inside me, was shocked by my mom's words. I was very glad that I couldn’t stay long.

This time when I returned, Jerry and Harry looked even more worried than before. “I knew this was a mistake,” Harry said. “You don’t even have feet now.”

My first inclination was to shrug, but I wasn’t sure I could still do it. “I guess I’ve been losing my illusions,” I said. My voice sounded hollow and whispery. “Good thing I don’t really need feet. Not here, anyway.”

“You’ve been expending too much energy,” Harry said. “If you exist here as nothing but energy, that can’t be a good thing.”

I was a little annoyed that he hadn’t mentioned this before. “What do you suggest?” I asked. “I’m not quite done here.”

“What more do you need to do?” Jerry asked. “What more can you do, without a body?”

“I want to see Dr. John. Maybe not want, but I need to see him.”

If you do, he’ll probably try to kill you, Rachel warned.

“I really don’t think that’s a good idea,” Jerry said.

“I know, but I’m going to do it anyway,” I said to them both. “Let’s go find him.”

Joshua Wander in Musings:
Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four Part Five Part Six Part Seven Part Eight Part Nine Part Ten

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