Friday, October 19, 2012
I love reading books where the setting is as important as the characters or the storyline. Books like Harry Potter, The Hobbit, even StarTrek give me worlds I want to stay in long after the characters solve their problems. I wanted to open every door in Hogwarts. I wanted to live in Middle Earth and on the Enterprise or at least on the Earth where poverty, war, and hunger had been eliminated.
That's the type of book I want to write someday.
From the author's I've spoke with world-building is almost more fun than the writing part, but where to start? I have a few ideas, so I'll be doing some exercises with settings over the next few weeks. Dipping my toes into the role of the gods and building new worlds.
Wish me luck!
Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Here's a fun little story I hope you enjoy. It was a study in character development using well-known characters and a lot of fun to write.
by Anna Questerly
Aw, man! I bet I shouldn’t have touched that, Travis thought as Atlas, the control room of the particle accelerator at Cern, whirled and twisted around him.
Colors streamed past his eyes; the brilliant orange of the safety hats they all had to wear, the soft blue of the walls, the wobbly green of the many monitors, the playful purple jacket of their guide, Professor Jorgenson, all stretched into a ribbon of rainbow that coiled and looped over the heads of the eighth-grade tour group. Sounds too, flowed and churned into a chaotic river that danced across the room as cries of surprise and terror dopplered past his ears.
The angles of the room stretched and warped unnaturally, making his head hurt and his stomach lurch, sending a sickening bitter taste into the back of his throat, as the confined maelstrom spun faster and faster. Travis squeezed his eyes shut and clapped his hands over his ears. In the relative quiet, he struggled to remember the way out. He pictured the layout of Atlas, the control room and brain of Cern’s Large Hadron Collider, certain the exit was just a few feet to his left.
He shuffled his feet in that direction, not daring to open his eyes. Either the door was there or it wasn’t; if he was wrong, then he’d risk a peek. His elbow tapped against something firm and solid.
It has to be the wall or maybe the door.
Travis skimmed his elbow along the smooth vertical plane until he felt the sharp corner of the doorjamb. He turned slightly and shoved his hip against the door and stumbled into the wall on the opposite side of the hallway. He caught himself with his hands and his eyes flew open.
The motionless muted blue of the walls welcomed him back to a sense of normality. Klaxons screamed their alarm, but compared to the storm in the control room, the hallway seemed almost peaceful.
Where is everyone?
No sooner had the thought entered his mind, then a river of uniformed guards poured into the hall. Relief coursed through his body and his legs turned to rubber as he slid down the wall and pointed towards the control room.
He wanted to close his eyes before they opened that door, but he had to see; had to be sure everyone made it out. Everybody had to be okay; things like this didn’t happen on a school trip. If anyone was hurt, it would be his fault. His stupid habit of fidgeting and tapping and having to touch things constantly. He should have kept his hands in his pockets as his mother insisted he do each time they walked into a store.
“Please, let everybody be okay,” he prayed to any god listening.
He braced himself as the guard swung open the door.
Silence spilled into the hall from the empty control room.
Travis leveraged himself against the wall to stand. He followed the guard, certain they’d find everyone hiding under the curved rows of desks. The room couldn’t be empty. There had been over thirty people inside only a moment ago.
The guard turned an accusing scowl towards him and spoke into his radio. “False alarm. It looks to be a prank.”
The klaxons stopped shrieking.
“No. Wait! It’s not a prank. Where did everyone go?”
“What are you talking about? No one should be here. This facility has been abandoned for years. What I want to know is, how you gained entry into a secured area.”
“I…with the tour group. It’s not abandoned. There were workers and a guide –”
The guard locked Travis’s arm in a steel grip and bent it behind his back. “We’re going to detain you until we get some answers that make sense.”
“I’m telling you, there were people in here. We have to find them!”
“Sure. Sure.” The guard pushed him back into the hall, grumbling under his breath, “Damn kids always causing some sort of trouble.”
Travis’s mind spun, inventing then discarding implausible theories and weaving bizarre speculations as the guard led him to a small, windowless room, pushed him into a hard metal chair, and then left, locking the door behind him.
Travis screamed at the ceiling. “Please, can anyone tell me what’s going on?”
His head snapped left to right. He’d distinctly heard a voice, yet he was alone. He noticed a speaker set high into the corner. “Who are you?” he asked.
“Great, like I really need sarcasm right now. Okay, Anyone, what’s going on around here?”
“First, lemme ask you a question. Where do you think you are?”
“I’m in a locked room inside the Large Hadron Collider in Cern, Switzerland.”
“What do you mean, almost?”
“You’re in a ’maginary construct of the Large Hadron Collider in Cern, Switzerland.” The voice was that of a boy with a slight southern draw and seemed oddly familiar, but Travis couldn’t quite place where he’d heard it before.
“Stop playing games and tell me where everyone disappeared to.”
“You’re the only one doin’ any disappearin’.”
Travis jumped up and began pacing. “I did not. I’m right here. What about everyone else? Are they okay?”
“I dunno know. I’m here. They’re there.”
“Would you please stop talking in riddles and just tell me what happened?” Travis slumped back into the chair.
“Best I can reckon, you stepped through some kinda doorway into this world.”
“Yep. Your friends didn’t come with ya though. I guess they’re fine and dandy back in their own world.”
Travis began to pace again as he tried to process this new information. “Then, they’re okay?”
“Weren’t you listenin’? I said, I can only guess. I don’t have an inklin’ what goes on in other worlds no more’n you do. I’m here. They’re there. Lordy!”
“Okay. Okay. Can you at least let me out of here?”
“Yeah. Yeah. Hold your horses, will ya?”
The lock clicked and the door swung open.
Sunlight streamed through the narrow opening, which shouldn’t have been possible since it opened into the hallway. Travis hesitantly pushed the door open further and blinked. Before him he found not the institutional blue walls he’d walked past earlier, but a gray, wooden fence and a boy holding a paintbrush and dripping white paint down his arm. A boy Travis would know anywhere, even without the straw hat and pants that were too short. “Tom Sawyer?”
The boy grinned. “Lookyhere! I knew you’d remember.”
Tom Sawyer was a boy Travis was never likely to forget. Ever since his father had first read the story to him, years ago, Travis ran most of his decisions past his imaginary buddy, Tom. Although most of the time, he’d find out what Tom would do and then do the exact opposite. Tom was a clever kid alright, the cleverest, but Travis had no need of the trouble that usually followed one of Tom’s solutions. He hadn’t spoken to his imaginary friend in over a year.
“But what are you doing here?”
Tom coated one of the boards with the white paint and dipped his brush back into the bucket. “I live here, that’s what.”
“You live in Switzerland?” Travis asked, now certain he had cracked his head at some point and was in a coma. This had to be a dream or some kind of trick. I can’t actually be talking with Tom Sawyer, right?
“I done told you, Trav. You’re not in Switzerland. Dontcha listen anymore?” Tom plunked the dripping paintbrush down into the bucket. “Well, don’t just stand there. Let’s go.”
“We gotta git you somewhere safe. You’re in my world now and you’re my friend, so I came to help. Trust me, will ya?”
Travis shrugged, it wasn’t that he didn’t trust Tom, it was more that he knew without meaning to do so, Tom was more than likely going to lead him somewhere much less safe than where he was now. Wherever this was. “How did you know where to find me, anyway?”
“You called me.”
“I did not.”
“Tom, I most definitely did not call you. I didn’t even know you were here. Stop fooling around, huh?”
“Listen, Trav. I’m not foolin’. You called me and I came to help. In this world, it ’pears if you just think of someone, it’s more’n likely they’re gonna show up, like the guards and like me. That’s why we gotta git you somewhere safe. In the meantime, don’t think about nothin’.”
“You mean if I think of – ”
Tom tore off his hat and swatted Travis with it. “Don’t think a nothin’! Now, come on.”
Travis followed Tom into town. Hundreds of questions whirled through his mind, but on Tom’s advice he avoided thinking too hard on any one of them. He did reconsider that maybe he had called for Tom to help him. He’d done it enough times when he was younger, and maybe because he’d been scared, he’d summoned him subconsciously. That made a strange sort of sense. What made no sense, whatsoever, was that Tom came. Not an imaginary Tom, like when he was a kid. The real Tom Sawyer, not a figment, the sting of the straw hat was proof of that.
“Look here, Trav, this is the safest place I know of. We’ll just stay in here ’til we figger out what to do.”
“Yessir.” Tom grinned. “Nothin’ evil can git in a church. The Good Book says so. I don’t much like it myself, bein’ in a church. Every time I come in, I tend to get an itchy feelin’ all over, but I’ll do it for you.”
Travis scratched his head, he knew Tom was doing what he thought best, but he couldn’t see how a church would be any safer than the LHC. Then again, this was Tom’s world and he knew the way things worked here and he certainly didn’t want to be alone. “I appreciate it, Tom.”
Tom pulled the door shut behind them and the boys settled themselves behind the altar. “Look here, Trav. I’m a bit hungry. What say you ’magine up some of Aunt Polly’s fried chicken and apple pie?”
“Why don’t you do it?”
Tom shrugged. “Won’t work for me.”
“How come I can do it and you can’t?”
“Blast if I know. Just do it will ya?”
“I can try, but I’ve never tasted Aunt Polly’s cooking.”
“You just think of the juiciest, crispiest, fried chicken you ever tasted and the sweetest apple pie, with cinnamon, sugar sprinkled on top with a crust that’s just a tad too salty and melts right on your tongue, and you’ll be close enough.”
At Tom’s words, Travis’ mouth watered and in an instant, a red and white striped bucket stuffed with chicken and an aluminum pan of steaming apple pie appeared in front of the boys.
“Mmmmm.” Tom said around a drumstick.
Travis agreed, reaching for a piece. He couldn’t even remember the last time he’d eaten.
“Hey, order us up some sarsaparilla too, will ya?”
“Never tried it; how about a root beer?”
Tom shrugged and reached for another drumstick just as two cans appeared.
Travis opened one for each of them and handed Tom his. Tom grinned as he chugged it and let out a loud belch. “Mighty good.”
“Tom, tell me a bit more about your world. How’d you come to be here?”
“Well, here’s the way I reckon it; before old Sam Clemens thunk up my story, I was kinda in a dreamworld, just floatin’ along sleepin’. Then one day, I woke up here. I don’t even remember much about the other place. Best I can tell is that until someone writes about you, you’re stuck in that world, then once they do, you live in this one. It’s not so bad, but lemme tell you, it sure does get to be borin’ after a time.”
“So this dimension is where fictional characters live?”
“Aint no reason for you to be callin’ me no names.”
“I didn’t mean nothing, by it, Tom. I’m just trying to understand. Fictional just means something somebody thought up. Like Sam Clemens thought you up.”
“Oh, well, yeah then I reckon I’m a… whaddya call me again?”
“A fictional character.”
Tom licked his fingers clean and then reached for the pie. “Yeah, I’m one of them. Say, you couldn’t a thought up a knife or something?”
“Sorry.” A knife appeared next to the pie. “You know this is pretty cool. Just wishing for stuff and it appears.”
“Yeah, I reckon it is, but be careful. I’m tellin’ ya.”
The beginning of an idea tickled the edges of Travis’ mind. He thought about it for the few minutes it took him to finish a quarter of the pie. If this world was populated by fictional characters, he might be able to gain their help to get back home. He’d just have to be careful about who he thought of. If magic could send him back, was there any wizard more powerful than Gandalf the White?
Tom sprang to his feet. “Aw! Now you’ve done it.”
“Done wh – ?” Travis’ gaze traveled up the shimmering white robe and up further still to the long white beard and into a pair of blue eyes that looked as if they could penetrate solid steel. “Gandalf?”
The wizard’s eyes locked onto Travis, and scrutinized him as if her were an insect. “And you are?”
Travis pulled himself to his feet. “Yes, sir. Gandalf, sir, my name is Travis. I’m trapped in this world by accident and I was hoping you would help me get back home, sir.”
He stiffly turned to Tom. “And you?”
Tom puffed out his chest to make himself look bigger. A trick Travis often noticed him doing when he was particularly scared. “Name’s Tom. Tom Sawyer. I’m his friend.”
Travis began to think he’d made a huge mistake. Although Gandalf the White was more powerful, Gandalf the Grey was much friendlier. At least he had been in Lord of the Rings. Never having been face to face with a real wizard before, and not having a clue as to how to wish him away, Travis tried the slightly crooked smile he used on his parents and teachers when he really wanted something.
Gandalf’s deep laugh rumbled through the church. “You summoned me? Why you’re just a boy. How old are you, son?”
“I’m ten.” Tom answered, although he hadn’t been asked.
The wizard chuckled again and lowered himself into the first wooden pew. “As quick as I was whisked here, I thought for certain I would have to battle a powerful wizard or some such being. I must say, I’m relieved to find it to be only a couple of young boys who called for me.”
Travis released the breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. “Does that mean you’ll help me, sir?”
His gnarled hand stroked his long beard as his bushy brows furrowed. His nose twitched. “What is that I smell?”
Tom snatched up the bucket and passed it to the wizard. “Best fried chicken I ever tasted, but don’t tell Aunt Polly I said so.”
Gandalf pulled out a large piece. “Mmmm.”
Travis couldn’t stand it anymore. “So? Will you help me?”
“Patience, boy. Patience. First tell me how you ended up here.”
While Gandalf ate, Travis explained about his class visiting the LHC and all that had happened that day. Gandalf nodded between bites and reached for another piece of chicken.
“What’s so special about this LHC? Is it magical?”
“Not really. It’s scientific. The scientists use it to smash particles together to create smaller particles.”
“Sounds like fun. Some sort of game?”
“Oh no, sir. It’s very technical. They use it to study how the universe was formed and to learn about the nature of space, time, black holes and, well, just everything.”
Gandalf stood. “In that case, I think what you need is a scientist, not a wizard to help you get home. I wouldn’t begin to understand how that kind of magic works. So you can send me home now.”
“I don’t know how, sir.”
“How did you get me here?”
“I wished you to be here.”
“Then simply wish me home.”
Travis closed his eyes and wished Gandalf back where he’d been. He opened them and found himself staring into the slightly irritated blue eyes of a powerful wizard. “I’m sorry, sir.” He shrugged.
“Hmmm,” the wizard responded.
“What you said earlier, sir, about the scientist. I think I know just the one who could help.”
“Well, I’m sure he will be no happier than I at the interruption, but go ahead and bring him here so we’ll all have a chance to get home.”
Travis grinned. “Yes, sir.”
Tom screamed and scurried behind a pew. “You went and called the devil! Lordy, we’re all goners. Now I lay me down to sleep – ”
“It’s okay, Tom. It’s not the devil. It’s Mr. Spock.”
“Just lookit his ears and tell me that’s not the devil hisself. I pray the Lord –”
“I swear, Tom. Come on out. It’s not the devil.”
“Looks more like an elf to me.” Gandalf added.
Mr. Spock stooped as if he’d been spying into the science monitor on the bridge of the Enterprise. He stood up and turned to Gandalf. “I, sir, am a Vulcan.”
Tom peeked over the back of the pew. “What’s a Vulcan? One of the devil’s demons?”
Mr. Spock peered at Tom’s dirty face, raised his eyebrow, and said, “Indeed not.”
“Any relation to the elves?” Gandalf asked.
Spock turned toward Gandalf. “Those names do sound familiar, sir. However, at this time I cannot recall where I may have heard them. I am far more interested in the technology that was able to penetrate the shields of a starship to bring me here.” He glanced pointedly around the church. “Wherever here is.”
“Mr. Spock, sir.” Travis began. “I was hoping you could help me get home. You see -”
Before Travis could stop him, Tom shoved the bucket of chicken under the Vulcan’s nose. “Wanna piece of chicken?”
Disgust crossed Spock’s features as he used the tip of one finger to push the bucket away. “I do not eat the flesh of dead animals.”
A look of horror flashed on Tom’s face. “You…you eat them a…alive?”
“Indeed not,” Spock answered. “I do not eat the flesh of animals at all.”
“Never?” Tom and Gandalf asked at the same time.
Tom sat the bucket down, confusion etched on his face. He smiled then lifted the pie plate. “How ’bout some apple pie?”
Tom cut another piece of pie for himself and offered a slice to Gandalf.
“Don’t mind if I do, thank you,” the wizard said.
“As I was saying, Mr. Spock, I was hoping you could help me get home. Do you know much about particle physics? Subatomic particles, I mean?”
“Well, you see, I was on a school trip to a particle accelerator on Earth called The Large Hadron Collider, LHC, for short. Suddenly the control room went all weird and I ended up in this other world, where whatever I wish comes to me. That’s how you got here, but I don’t know how to get back.”
Spock’s eyebrow quirked up. “Fascinating.”
“Indeed,” Travis couldn’t resist adding. “Do you think you can help?”
“I’m curious; what happened immediately prior to the room entering a state of flux?” The science officer asked.
“Um, well, you see. I guess I may have pressed a button in the control room.” Travis admitted.
“I see, you believe that by pressing that button you caused yourself to be shifted into another dimension.”
“Was that intended to be an affirmative or negative response?”
Travis stood straighter, he’d forgotten how precise Mr. Spock could be. “Affirmative, sir.”
“But it happened just like I said.”
“I do not dispute your experience only your interpretation of cause and effect. Logic dictates that should a single button control a function as significant as a dimensional shift, it would be highly unlikely such a device would be located where a child might reach it.”
“I guess that makes sense.” Travis agreed although he cringed a bit at the child reference; he was fourteen years old after all.
“Seems reasonable to me. It would be like a wizard leaving a powerful staff or wand around where anyone could pick it up.” Gandalf added.
“But then how did I end up here?”
“Maybe someone wrote you into a story.” Tom offered. “That’s how the rest of us got here.”
The eyebrow quirked up again. “An interesting yet unlikely hypothesis, Mr…?
“Sawyer, sir. Tom Sawyer. You can call me Tom.”
“Mr. Sawyer, those of us who were created by authors, remained in a state of suspended animation prior to our arrival in this dimension. That, however, is not the case with Mr…?
“Edwards, sir. Travis.”
“Mr. Edwards. You were, in fact, residing on Earth in the 21st century, correct?”
“Yes, sir. I was only visiting Switzerland. I live in Phoenix, Arizona.”
Spock crossed his hands behind his back. “Fascinating.”
After a moment of silence, Travis spoke up. “So, do you think you can help me get home?”
“I find it unlikely that I would be able to find a way to send you back to the fourth dimension from this location. However, if we were on the Enterprise I could utilize the science lab and perhaps resolve the situation.”
“Wow! I would love to visit the Enterprise. Are you sure Captain Kirk won’t mind?”
“I cannot speak for the captain, but I believe he would be relieved at having his first officer back aboard the ship.”
“Let’s do it.” Travis agreed, a grin stretched across his face. Excited about being on the Enterprise, Travis almost didn’t mind if it took a bit longer to get home.
Gandalf stood. “Since I appear to be stranded here as well, would you mind if I came along?”
“Me too!” Tom added.
Travis looked to Mr. Spock for approval. “It is my fault they’re here. We’d need to find a way to send them home too.”
“Very well. I shall try to explain the situation to the captain.” Spock tapped his communicator. “Spock to Enterprise. Four to beam up.”
A moment later, a wide-eyed Travis watched the interior of the transporter room of the USS Enterprise materialize around him. His skin tingled and his mind danced with the knowledge that he was actually aboard the legendary starship.
“Lordy, this aint like no boat on the Mississip!” Tom exclaimed.
Travis laughed, “Just wait until you see the rest.”
An unsteady Gandalf leaned on his staff, his piercing eyes studied everything in sight.
Spock stepped off the transporter platform, nodded to the attendant on duty, and tapped his communicator. “Spock to Captain Kirk.”
“Captain, please meet me in Science Lab One.”
“On my way. Kirk out.”
Spock turned and the doors wooshed open.
“Blazes! What kinda place is this?” Tom asked.
“Come on.” Travis nudged him and the three followed the Vulcan into the passageway. Spock turned left and led them into the turbolift.
“Quite a bare lab,” Gandalf remarked upon entering the lift.
“We’re not there yet,” Travis whispered.
It wasn’t long before the doors opened and Spock led them down another passage. The group earned a few curious looks from crewmembers they passed, but with the Vulcan in the lead, no one questioned them.
Spock turned into a large room filled with computer monitors, microscopes, and instruments Travis could only guess at. Once everyone was inside, the Vulcan looked to Travis. “Mr. Edwards, unlike the LHC, this room is not open for tours and is usually off limits except to ship’s personnel. Therefore, I must insist that you and your friends touch nothing.”
“While we await the captain, please sit.” He gestured toward a hexagonal table with six chairs surrounding it.
The three sat and Travis continued to study the room, trying to place the various tools into what he remembered from the Star Trek television series he used to watch every day. He was certain the square metal window set into the wall just behind Tom was a replicator and decided to test his theory. “Mr. Spock, sir, would you have anything to drink. My mouth’s dry.”
“What type of beverage would you prefer?” Spock asked as he moved toward the metal window.
Travis knew he’d been right. “Anything, really would be fine.”
“I’ll take a sasparilla or a … what did you call it, Travis?”
“Yeah, that’s it.”
Make it two, Mr. Spock.”
The science officer nodded. “And you, sir?” Spock asked Gandalf.
“After a day like today, I think I’d enjoy a honeyed mead.”
Spock spoke into the metal box and a few seconds later three large cups appeared inside.
Tom slurped his root bear and licked the foamy mustache from his lip. “Is that a magic box?”
“No, it’s a replicator. It can make practically anything you want.” Travis explained.
Tom’s eyes lit up. “Can it make gold?”
All heads turned as the doors opened and Captain James T. Kirk entered the lab. He glanced at the visitors and looked to his first officer for answers. “Who are your new friends, Mr. Spock?”
“Captain, allow me to explain.” Spock answered.
As Mr. Spock enlightened the captain, Travis listened, thrilled to be in the same room as two of his all-time heroes. If anyone could get him home, it was the crew of the Enterprise and, if they couldn’t, well, to be honest, he really wouldn’t mind staying. Of course, he knew he’d miss his Mom and Dad and all of his friends, but …
“If you stuff anymore into those pockets, young Tom, you won’t be able to walk.” Gandalf said.
Travis looked at Tom’s red face and saw his pockets bulging. He kept his voice low as he hissed, “Tom! You’re not supposed to be touching anything.”
“Lookit, Trav. It’s real gold.” He pulled out a gold coin, bit it, and handed it to Travis. With his other hand, scooped another pile from the replicator and shoved it into his pocket.
Travis shook his head and turned his attention back to Captain Kirk. “Spock, find a way to send these people back, but do it quickly. Romulan warships have already entered the neutral zone. Our orders are to turn those ships back. In four hours, we’ll be facing those ships and I don’t need the added worry of civilians aboard.”
The captain left and Spock turned to Travis. “Mr. Edwards, do you recall what experiment was running in the particle accelerator just prior to your arrival here?”
Travis shook his head. “All I know is Mr. Jorgensen said something about tachyon condensation and then things got weird.”
The Vulcan’s brow arched to a point. “Fascinating. Tachyon condensation is where 21st century physicists hoped to find the so-called God Particle.”
“The God Particle?” Gandalf asked.
“Also called the Higgs-Boson,” Spock continued, “It is believed that this particle controls the mass of other subatomic particles such as electrons and quarks.” He glanced at the newcomers. “We may assume, they found it.”
“What’s so special about this particle?” Travis asked.
“Whereas most particles move within the familiar three dimensions of space and one dimension of time — the four dimensions that makeup the everyday world — it is theorized that the Higgs-Boson moves in an extra space-time dimension.
Travis’s brow furrowed as he tried to follow the Vulcan’s explanation as it applied to his recent adventure. “So you think this God Particle created a wormhole to this dimension and brought me here?”
“It stands to reason, that if the Higgs-Boson can control the mass of electrons, it could have, in theory, affected your mass as well. You are, in fact, made up of electrons. If it somehow reduced your mass to fit through the wormhole into this dimension, it would explain your presence here.”
“But how did this particle escape the magnetic field of the Large Hadron Collider? And why did it only bring me? What happened to everyone else?”
Travis realized they may need a bit more help to sort this out. Someone who could piece things together and make sense of it. Someone with a razor-sharp mind –
“Young man! Kindly remove that unfortunate animal from your pocket before you squash it.”
Travis spun around at the clipped tones of the newest arrival, Mr. Sherlock Holmes.
“Lordy! I plum forgot about Hopper.” Tom hurriedly piled a pocket full of gold onto the table and fished out a frog. Cupping his hand around the poor creature, he peered closely and gently poked it. “Praise be, I think he’s gonna be alright. You saved him, sir. But, how did you know he was in my pocket?”
Tom tossed a gold coin, which Sherlock snatched from the air. “Elementary, young man. I noticed the edge of a gold coin poking out from your pocket. Gold, however, doesn’t wiggle.”
Travis’s nose twitched at the acrid scent of smoke drifting towards him from Sherlock’s pipe.
“Sir! I must insist you put that out. You are on board a ship.” Spock ordered.
Sherlock Holmes raised the pipe to his lips and inhaled as he looked around. “In a closed room such as this, with the lot of you here, the air should be stale and thin. If I am, in fact aboard a ship, there must be some sort of air filtration in operation. Meaning, of course, that it will filter the smoke from my pipe as well, leaving no harm done.” He inhaled again and blew out a plume of blue-white smoke.
Gandalf drew a large, scrolled pipe from his robe and, with a snap of his fingers, lit it. “Since there is no harm to it, I believe I’ll join you, sir.”
Spock raised an eyebrow and then, finding no fault with the detective’s reasoning, pressed a button on a control panel which caused the smoke from both men’s pipes to spiral up to the ceiling where it vanished into a vent.
Travis introduced Sherlock Holmes to everyone else and Mr. Spock explained the situation to the detective. When he’d finished his account, Travis looked expectantly to Sherlock Holmes, and waited as the man began to pace the length of the room and puff on his pipe.
“Well?” Travis finally asked.
Sherlock stopped in mid-step and spun to face him. The motion sent his long coattails twirling. He pointed a long finger directly into Travis’s face. “You, young man, are the culprit!”
“Me? But how?”
“Elementary! You all seem to assume, incorrectly I believe, that the inhabitants of this dimension are created when their author writes them. I surmise, based on the evidence, that is not the case.”
“Upon what evidence do you base your hypothesis?” Spock asked.
“I, of course, was created by Sir Author Conan Doyle, a genius I might add. And you, sir?” he looked to Spock.
“By Gene Roddenberry.”
And you?” he turned to Gandalf.
“Mister J. R. R. Tolkien.”
“And you, young man?”
Tom answered. “Sam Clemens, but he goes by Mark Twain.”
The detective faced Travis again. “And you?”
“No one wrote me. I just appeared here.”
“I’m afeared, I’m not quite followin’ you, mister.” Tom voiced Travis’s own thought.
“If, in this dimension, the inhabitants are created by their writers, and no one wrote you, you can’t possibly be here. Yet here you are.”
“Yes?” Travis prompted. This seemed to be getting them nowhere. They already knew this much.
“Which means,” the detective continued, “none of us were created by the act of writing, but by the initial act of thinking. And someone, young man, thought you here. Since we are all fully aware of who created each of us, and you are not. I surmise, you have been in the process of creating an autobiographical novel, casting yourself as the protagonist. Hence your appearance in a world of fictional characters – you too, are a character.”
Travis had to admit, it did make a bizarre kind of sense. He looked to Spock, to see the Vulcan’s take on Sherlock’s theory.
“See, I told ya, someone wrote him here.” Tom added, crossing his arms across his chest with a satisfied smile.
“I would have to agree,” Gandalf added. “Magically speaking, of course; thoughtful intent is the basis of how magic works.”
Travis stood. “Okay, let’s say Mr. Holmes is right. That explains how I got here, but how do I get home?”
A cloud of silence descended over the room.
Cool logic emanated from Mr. Spock, as Tom’s mind fired cunning schemes. Magical notions sparked from Gandalf, while perceptive reasoning radiated from Sherlock. Inside the lab, budding ideas formed and then collapsed, seeming almost as tangible as the bubbles Travis used to blow on hot summer days.
Travis sat in silence, not wanting to disturb anyone’s thinking, while whirring thoughts tumbled inside his own head. He studied his long-time idols. If anyone could get him home, it would be these characters. Surely, one of them would figure out something.
Tom broke the silence. “What I just don’t git, is iffin he’s one of us, why Travis here can wish things into bein’. I can’t do it. Can any of you?”
Gandalf and Sherlock Holmes shook their heads.
“That is an excellent observation, Mr. Sawyer. It stands to reason, he is not like us.” Spock said.
Sherlock snapped his fingers. “Yes, of course. The young man is, in fact, a character just like us. But he’s also the author of his own story. Unlike us, our authors have already passed on and they write no longer. Hence, each of us live in a static world. We cannot change anything about it without them.” Sherlock jumped to his feet. “Yet he can!”
Mr. Spock’s eyebrow notched up. “If your logic is sound, he should then be able to simply think himself back into his own world. However, according to Mr. Taylor, he has not been able to do so.”
Travis squirmed in his chair. “Well, actually I haven’t really tried yet.”
“Troll’s gold! Why not?” Gandalf asked.
Travis shrugged. “I…um…I kind of like it here, meeting all of you and everything.”
Gandalf harrumphed. Spock’s eyebrow quirked, Sherlock tapped his pipe on the edge of the table, and Tom grinned.
“I mean, I do want to go home. I mean…um…I wanted to make sure I could. I just wasn’t in any great hurry yet, and then when I tried to send Gandalf home and it didn’t work, I guess I just assumed I wouldn’t be able to go either.” Travis explained. “I guess I could give it a try.”
Travis and Tom both jumped as Gandalf’s voice thundered in the room. “Wait!”
“I agree,” Spock said.
“As do I,” Sherlock added.
“Even I know you can’t just go around wishing, willy-nilly. You have to have a plan. Right, Mister Gandalf?” Tom said.
“Tom is right. Magic is not something with which you play. If you do not understand what you are doing, it can be very dangerous.”
“The law of unintended consequences.” Spock added.
Gandalf stroked his beard. “Spells are something I do happen to know a bit about. I’d be happy to help you, young man.”
“Okay, so what do I do?”
“We need to perform these spells in the correct order. If you leave first, Mr. Holmes, young Tom here, and myself shall be left stranded aboard Mr. Spock’s sh—”
“Not so, sir.” Spock interrupted. “Within the confines of this world, the transporter can beam each of you to your previous positions.”
“Good, then we shall leave that magic to Mr. Spock and devote our thoughts to returning you to your world.”
“Wait, Mister Gandalf, I want to go with Travis.” Tom said.
Travis grinned. He would love to take Tom Sawyer back with him. Not only would his presence prove this was no dream, but he’d have the little brother he’d always wanted. His father would be ecstatic, he was sure. They’d enjoyed reading about Tom Sawyer’s adventures ever since Travis could remember. Although he wasn’t quite sure how his mother would react.
Sherlock Holmes spoke up. “I do not see any reason why it could not be attempted. The problem lies in getting you back here, should you ever decide to return. You may want to give it a bit more thought, young man.”
Tom shook his head. “No siree. Up until Travis came and Mr. Spock whisked us here, the most excitin’ thing I ever seen was the Mighty Mississip. I been livin’ for nigh on a hundred years. I’ll be livin’ for hundreds more, providin’ I don’t git myself killed or somethin’ and I ain’t never gonna get the chance to see things iffin I go home.” Tom crossed his arms stubbornly across his chest. “No siree, I wanna go with Travis.”
“Let’s try it.” Travis agreed.
Gandalf turned to Mr. Spock. “You wouldn’t happen to have a quill and parchment on you by any chance?”
Before Mr. Spock could answer, Tom jumped up. “I’ll git it.” He spoke into the replicator and within moments, a feathered quill and a scroll of parchment shimmered into existence.
Gandalf patted the top of Tom’s head, as Tom handed him the tools. “I could…um…also use a bit of ink, if you don’t mind.”
Tom drew a small pot of ink from behind his back with a grin. “I knew you’d be needin’ this.”
Gandalf laughed. “I think you’d make it just fine in any world you choose to live in, my boy.”
“Sir,” Spock said to the wizard, “if you recall while we on the surface, you inquired about my knowledge of Elrond and Galadriel?”
“I have performed a search on the computer and have found an intriguing reference to those names.”
Gandalf leaned back in his chair. “Go on.”
“It seems they were mentioned in an old Vulcan legend. I vaguely recall it from my childhood. It told of a ship of beings who visited my planet long ago, before our world was civilized. At first, the superstitious inhabitants, thought them gods.” Spock’s eyebrow rose. “According to the legend, it was Elrond and Galadriel who introduced the ancient Vulcans to the first seeds of logic.”
“Is that so? I thought there was a bit of elfishness about you.” Gandalf smiled.
Spock studied the wizard for a moment and then said, “I must request, you do not mention this to the ship’s doctor should you meet him.”
“My lips are sealed, Mr. Spock.” Gandalf suppressed a smile and turned to Travis. “Now, my boy, You mentioned a blast or some such thing just before you ended up in this world?”
“We want to make sure, when we send you back that you will not be in any danger.”
“A wise precaution.” Spock agreed.
“Can we just go home, and not go back to Switzerland?”
“Yes. Yes. I think that would be best. I shall write the spell for you. Spells are tricky things. They must be written and spoken with intent. One wrong word and well, who knows what can happen. Afterward, I shall have Mr. Holmes and Mr. Spock read over it. Once we are all satisfied, then you shall read it aloud. In the meantime, please try to keep your thoughts quiet.”
Gandalf dipped the nib of the quill into the ink and began to write on the parchment. After a few moments, he blew on the ink to dry it and passed the parchment to Sherlock.
Sherlock read it. “Precise and to the point. Well done.” He handed the scroll to Mr. Spock.
As Spock studied the writing, Tom kicked Travis under the table and whispered. “You sure your ma and pa will be agreeable to havin’ me?”
Travis nodded. “Yeah, I think so.”
Tom released a breath he’d been holding. “Lordy! This is gonna be some adventure ain’t it?”
“I know. I can’t wait.” Travis agreed.
Mr. Spock gave the scroll back to Gandalf. “Logical and concise. I see no cause for concern.”
“In that case, my young friends, you may bid us goodbye and be on your way.”
Tom jumped up. “It sure was nice meetin’ ya’ll.”
Travis stood as well. He held his hand out to Sherlock. “It was an honor to meet you, Mr. Holmes. Thank you for your help. I hope I didn’t pull you out of anything important.”
He closed his long hand over Travis’s and squeezed it firmly. “The pleasure was mine, young man. Godspeed.”
Travis spread his two middle fingers on his right hand in the Vulcan manner. “Live long and prosper, Mr. Spock.”
Spock returned the Vulcan salute. “Live long and prosper, Mr. Edwards.”
Then Travis moved to Gandalf and wrapped his arms around the wizard, burying his face in the soft, white beard. “Thank you, Gandalf.”
The old man patted his back. “Good journey to you, son.”
Travis stepped back. “You ready, Tom?”
Gandalf passed the parchment to Travis.
Travis read the words aloud and watched the walls of the science lab warp and tilt the same way the walls of the control room had before. He felt Tom’s hand grip his, and the two of them saw the white of the wizard’s robe meld into the blue uniform of the science officer, and then into the red cape of the detective. The colors spun into a twisted rainbow and swirled around them. Travis squeezed his eyes shut.
When he opened them, he and Tom stood at his front door. He turned the knob and opened the door. “Mom! Dad! I’m home. Come meet my new friend!”