Each dimension of reality carries an inherent resident signature, a particular archetypal design containing the essential values of forces and constants of nature, represented as a single, convoluted symbol. One must concentrate wholly on that symbol as a preparation for transference.
Fendal was especially gifted among the leading practitioners of their artform. The science part of the process was well understood and established in detail, the probable undesirable scenarios had been accounted for and solutions found. The art part, on the other hand, was very much a matter of personality and inhereted talent, aptitude, and gifts. And, more often than anyone would care to admit, luck played its part as well. It was a fuzzy business.
Only a handful of alternate planes of existence included his home world, the planet he stood on; as such, they were essentially different timelines. Elsewise, one had to choose an agreeable, life-giving planet in the destination universe to focus on. The dimension he wished to visit that morning included Earth. For reasons he couldn't quite put his finger on, in spite of the mutltitude of more favorable planets and people in that universe, he kept coming back to it. He was utterly fascinated by the dominant species, how they set about destroying and killing off the flora and fauna in such a reckless and indifferent manner. Despite awareness that they were in the midst of an extinction event caused by them, they relentlessly and with total abandon and little remorse continued their assault on their own world, a world that had given them birth and existence. He assumed, based on all the evidence at hand, that they were trying to kill their planet, its biosphere, in an act of wholesale self-destruction. He found it absolutely intriguing and astonishing and could only wonder how nature could've gone so wrong as to produce such perverse creatures.
This determination to render their planet barren of all other living things, in the sea and on land, with the inevitable outcome that they too would die out, captivated him. Of all the races of intelligent beings he'd visited on any other planet in any other reality, none were engaged in such wanton, suicidal activity. They were an intelligent race, for the most part, but were unable, one can only presume, to see what they were doing. And he could tell it was happening more rapidly with each visit; almost like they were in a fever to meet their own demise. He wondered about their solar system, its star, its position in the galaxy, its distance from the all-consuming center, mysterious radiation, ambient fields of psychic energy passing by, something, he believed deep down inside, must be causing this behavior. It went against all sense.
He'd visited other life-giving planets on this plane of existence where the dominant governing forces were susceptible to magical manipulation. However, something about Earth precluded the use of magic, he knew not what. He understood there must've been magic in its raw, primordial form when the planet's inherent, life-giving nature and habitable position in its star-system hierarchy first brought forth life; that is, established the conditions for life to take root. But something happened when the dominant species--human beings--came on the scene. Magic no longer exists, not even a trace could he find. Atrophied from lack of belief.
When there, he appeared as one of them, adopting the persona of a middle-aged man with a beard and long hair. He enjoyed the charade but felt saddened by what he saw. To them, other creatures were nothing more than animate things without minds or emotions or consciousness; soulless, organic machines ruled by physics and chemistry. To Fendal, it was all so contrary. As on his world, he could see each individual's essence, its identity as a creature on earth and of earth living its life according to nature's plan and intention. But for the most part, that perception went unacknowledged by the multitudes of humans.
All living things partake of the mind and consciousness of whatever planet they call home. And when they are reduced in kind or in whole passed a necessary minimum, life withdraws from its many expressions, taking with it the life-force that creates and sustains their world. In spite of this common sense factuality, humans put themselves above all others, their wishes and desires and appetites far outweighing any empathetic considerations for what they see as lesser beings. Separating themselves from all other living things as though it was the natural state--intended. Fascinating, Fendal would muse, absolutely fascinating.
That was where he was headed that morning. A skip and a jump he liked to say. But something went awry for which he had no understanding; at least, not in the beginning.
There are many physical realities where life does not exist, cannot exist. Those need to be avoided. How does one do that? It was worked out in theory what geometric relationships had to be upheld and what minimally necessary forces were needed to structure and maintain those conditions for life to emerge. In the beginning, however, there were a few unfortunate mistakes. Universes that fit the basic profile were entered but were, for reasons unknown, devoid of all life. That is to say, consciousness of being and the psychic substrate that supports it, those features that ordinarily permeate a life-giving universe, never emerged. Those anomalies were catalogued and classified. Eventually, accuracy increased until projection was considered a certainty, or at least within acceptable bounds. The risk part of the experience. Those who entered the lifeless zones never returned, so it wasn't a game for the timid at heart.
That's where Fendal and others like him came in. They were fearless explorers of the nether realms. The Overlords had commissioned him, in fact, to be head of inter-dimensional traffic control. His team inspected every request to visit, for various reasons, other universes and planes of reality, and checked the destinations out thoroughly so there'd be no mishap. Safety was of primary concern, and, of course, the possibility of a backlash of transit energy.
But the question remains: How does one check out a plane of reality without the risk of entering it? Briefly, a frequency is chosen from among the many possibles and compared to those adjacent until one is reached that contains the first choice as a harmonic resonator. The process, which in real time is almost instantaneous, continues until the fundamental chord is found--the primary. This chord, this wave of archetypal identity, must stand independently. If it can be defined as a linear sum of other fractional frequencies, disjoint factors, then it's likely to be inhospitable to any forms of life. A universe in fragments of incoherence and random mergings. A dead universe, filled, perhaps, with extreme ranges of volatility and sudden, unexpected transformations form one force to another with dire consequences. An active universe but not one that welcomes something as fragile and in need of the necessary prerequisites as life.
Once a life-sustaining plane was found, another problem needed to be solved. You just can't pop into another universe willy-nilly; you could end up in the void of space or inside a star or next to a black hole. A life-giving planet must be located. How? Life acts as a syntropic gathering point for the otherwise entropic state of the natural order of things--a universe at large. It gives rise to a well of sentient, psychic energy bringing order and complexity to the random fluctuations of ambient space. Such focal points always indicate life at some level of evolution. And they don't exist in empty space; they're to be found on planets and occasionally, a moon.
So, one must concentrate on a symbol representing a specific other reality, other universe, and also use one's gifts and abilities to zero in on a syntropic well, to find that vibration in resonance with one's own organized state of mind. This is where Fendal went wrong that morning.
He'd gotten rather cavalier about transiting in his middle years. He'd seen it all, made all the usual mistakes and learned, became possessed of an ubridled confidence, and as a consequence, had grown cocky and presumptuous. That morning, dressed in the attire and holding enough local currency befitting his destination, he was sitting in his specially-designed travel room. Its walls were covered with ancient incantations and mementoes of bygone adventures. On the floor laid a thick tapestry, all manner of creatures who lived on the planet were depicted in its delicate stichery. Fragrant incense burned on a bronze plate; the dome ceiling glistened its opalescence. A window led to the garden through which a fountain could be heard; the soft, gentle sound of running water soothed and relaxed. All together creating an atmosphere of openness and warmth and seduction. He bled his heart and soul into it, his body followed. It was his focus room, his space from which he transited beyond his reality to others known and unknown.
The first thing he did was to empty his mind of all thoughts and images of everything outside his abode. He then knelt on a pillow, his consciousness anchored to the room's sights and smells and sounds. That was all there was, the now, the here, his mind untrammeled, loose, free. Before him sat a low, round table of golden wood inlaid with green and blue stones. On it, a sphere about 30 centimeters across sat on a circular, bronze plate; its interior contained a clear, viscous liquid. Suspended in it was a multi-colored, convoluted configuration of tiny beads interconnected by thin filament segments; he let it fill his mind. Directing his intelligence, he imposed a known symbol of a dimension of reality onto it; the intricate knot pulsed as it rearranged to mimic that design. Finished, the psychically-charged liquid rigidified, holding it in place.
Next, he was to apply his special, innate gift. He wasn't looking for just any syntropic well of life's ordering principle, he was searching for Earth. He'd been there many times, its dominant inhabitants a never-ending source of mystery and wonder. His observations bordered on the voyeuristic, his appetite for the strange behavior of these beings surprised even him. Because of having performed the ritual of transition a number of times, he'd become quite casual about it. Complacency dominated his ordinary common sense and professional integrity. As a teacher of the arts, he'd admonished many a student not to do what he did.
He held planet Earth in his mind, visualized it, focused on its solar system location, and joined his mind and heart and instincts to bear on the transition. But, at the last moment preceding discorporation, his mind wandered. Like an arrow that doesn't quite reach its target, he found himself caught in the interface where disorder mingled freely with order. Shards of spatial fractals of every size and shape and temporal elementals emerging from the blackness permeated his disembodied consciousness as they drifted through. Fragments of his own thoughts raced about looking for coherence, a single thread of sensible understanding. Alien ideas changed abruptly into unrecognizable images that twisted into new shapes, themselves transformed into other bizarre, unfathomable ideas. He was adrift in a sea of random possibilities, preformed archetypes, imperfect potentials only. The outer reaches of his mind extended beyond the limits of his awareness; he willed himself to rein it in. With concentrated effort, pure thought energy coalesced, congealing into more familiar ideas and conceivable images, albeit incomplete, missing essential pieces. The urge to escape intensified his search for those thoughts that would free him. Charged with the heat of his mind, they brightened above the darkness, standing out like curvy vines floating on a blackened pond. He sewed them together through one permutation after another, time meant nothing. Finally, he found it, the incantation that would reopen the channel to a uniform dimension of time and space. He spoke it soundlessly over and over, his passion and will articulating every nuance.
Then it happened. He rematerialized somewhere, not where he intended but at least he was out of the empty plane, the void between dimensions of reality. In his chosen appearance as a human, he found himself standing amidst a grove of trees, trees unlike those he'd become familar with from other visits. But he couldn't judge anything from that, he hadn't bothered to explore most of the wilderness areas. Urban life and strife interested him more. At first, he'd naively believed it to be a benchmark of a society's level of sophistication and moral development. Later, he discovered the rapid loss of the wild places and the creatures who dwelled therein. Accordingly, the criterion was broadened, activities indicative of a culture's awareness and degree of understanding, its maturity, were reevaluated.
Usually, he recorporated on a bench in a city park, adopting the clothing style of the period. He conceived of it, the setting, beforehand without knowing what city; it could be any city, he didn't care. But with visits, he always ended up on the same hard wooden bench, a secluded spot surrounded by trees and brush. Now, here, in this wooded terrain, he was completely lost. He smelled the sweet, pungent fragrances of the woods, breathed in the clean, fresh air, and proceeded to walk towards the sun. It was halfway up the sky, morning or afternoon, he couldn't tell, but the air was warm, perfect. Almost too perfect, he thought, a tic of concern gripping him. He dismissed it as momentary paranoia, a remnant of the strain he just went through.
He came across a path slightly overgrown; it weaved down a gentle slope, past bushes bright with colorful flowers. Something scurried through ground cover nearby, but he saw nothing. Bird song off in the distance called him down the hill. The trail ended at a row of high hedges, small yellow flowers brightened their tops and their dark green leaves seemed to move as though squirming under the sun's warmth. He pushed his way through and came across a dirt road about ten feet wide. Two deep grooves set apart by several feet ran down its center, the rest was covered with reedy grass and low clumps of tiny white flowers. He had no idea which way to go, what he would find at the end of either direction. He reached into his jean's pocket for a coin, took it out and flipped it. He'd seen this done, how humans sometimes make decisions based on chance when either way is equally desirable, or undesirable, trusting good fortune to favor the daring.
He turned right and began his march down the middle of the road. Again he heard something scramble along in the brush, he wondered if it was the same creature. Unease worked its way through his now human bones, his nerves had not quite settled down from his ordeal. He wished he could cast a spell of invisibility, but on this plane of reality, he'd learned, his magic was ineffectual. Aware that it was entirely his fault that he ended up in the void, he steadied himself and sharpened his attention. It would not happen again, he decided, angry at his arrogance and failure to follow his own simple rules.
He kicked a stone occasionally as he went, trying to lift his spirits. He walked for miles, stopping from time to time to take in the scenery. He passed broad fields of tall grass and groves of barkless trees, their branches appearing to flex as though a wind blew, their oval-shaped leaves bending and twisting. Trees of a different kind had leaves of tendrils several inches long that ever-so-slowly moved as though feeling the air. Hunger getting the better part of caution, he paused at clusters of fruit trees for samples. They had no flavor, were neither sweet nor tart, and the juices were of the consistency of water when he bit into them. They did little if anything to satiate his hunger. In spite of the summery weather, he couldn't help but notice that no insects busied themselves out on the grasslands or, especially odd, around the trees heavily laden with fruit.
The road never changed its width or height of grass; it was difficult to guess when it'd last been used. He walked for what seemed like hours, yet the sun never moved; it remained where it'd been when first he saw it. He couldn't stare at the sky for long, its blueness burned his eyes with its sharp, vivid metallic sheen, the product of the pure, unspoiled air, no doubt, he thought. The low-pitched burbling of running water caught his attention. Thirsty, he cut across a patch of grass almost as tall as he to the treeline. At the top of the mound, the sound was more intense, he followed it down a steep embankment. At its bottom he found a narrow stream careening over and around stones and rocks. He knelt before it and, without hesitation, cupped handfuls of water to his mouth. He could taste the sediment it must've passed through; the water itself had a distinctively hard texture to it. Refreshed somewhat, he splashed water in his face, drying it with his shirttail. Tired, he leaned back against a nearby tree, its smooth bark yielding slightly. He needed to think.
A ship flew over, then circled around, all quite soundlessly. If he hadn't been searching for the source of bird calls, he never would've noticed it. The small disc of a craft settled over his meadow about a hundred meters above. His wizardly senses could feel vibrations emanating from it. He crawled behind the tree and stood, leaning against it. He wasn't breaking any law that he knew of, but he wasn't taking any chances; humans were unpredictable and tended to act irrationally. They were searching for him for some reason; at least, he had to believe it was he they sought. Whatever, he wasn't interested in finding out. With all the weird things he'd encountered thus far, this, in particular, emphasized his sense of wrongness and danger.
From behind his tree, under cover of the canopy, peering through the leafy branches, he studied the craft. On all previous visits, he'd seen a variety of kinds of aircraft, but they all made either propeller or jet noise. Whatever powered this was silent.
He decided it would be a good idea if he got out of there instead of waiting for them to leave; they could land and start searching on foot. He followed the stream as it headed away from the road, deeper into the dark woods. Where have I landed? he wondered as he trudged along. Could it be in a country filled with strife, warfare, genocide? He knew of such problems on this planet, they seemed to be going on continuously somewhere in the world. But the likelihood that he was being hunted as a possible enemy soldier or just some innocent on the other side who they wanted to exterminate didn't explain the other things, not the least of which was a soundless, pancake-shaped ship.
On the other hand, they could be a search and rescue team who spotted him somehow, from a satellite maybe or hidden cameras, and had come to see if he needed help. He tried to believe that, but it vied with his growing sense that something wasn't right about this place. Not that it wasn't the right country, the one he was used to as a destination, the planet itself felt odd. As he continued to walk along, stopping to rest and drink from the stream, he thought back on his experience in the void. The incantation, had that been correct? Had it been sufficient to realign the misdirection he'd taken? It would have had to compensate precisely for the split trajectory. But time went by. Motion. He was of the empty plane which moved on its own; geometry had no meaning in its domain. By the time he figured out the proper spell, he was no longer at the breaking point. Had he concentrated properly at the beginning, he should have arrived on Earth on his familiar bench. Did his incantation allow for the shift in orientation? How accurate did he need to be? Was it within range?
Troubled now, he recalled from his apprentice training that the conditions of your starting point cannot be redone. That is, there's no way to duplicate the original conditions while immersed in the void. Probability dictates that if you fail to reach your destination from the starting point, you'll miss it. He remembered in his naivete and youthful confidence that if that ever happened, he would find the requisite preconditions and arrive where he'd wanted. And indeed he did, that one time; he failed, however, to learn the proper lesson. Now, at the age of maturity, he scoffed at himself.
He stumbled in the shadows and fell to the ground. Tired and hungry, he rolled over on his back to rest. Through breaks in the overhang, he could see that the sun--what he was calling the sun--was still in the same place. Suddenly alarmed, he sat up and scanned his surroundings. He had no weapon and his magic was useless. Or was it? he wondered. If I am indeed on Earth, it is, but otherwise. He'd made an assumption without testing it. Again he chided himself, he needed to bring his mind to bear.
Holding out his hand, he spoke the spell of sustenance, imaging his favorite dish. Instantly, it materialized, complete with plate and utensils. While he ate ravenously, tearing the skin away and tossing it to the ground, he considered what this meant. He was not on Earth; at least, not the one he knew. Magic didn't work on Earth because the mental attributes of its natural forces, its physical reality, didn't support it. Patterns could not be generated at the mind level of nature. Consequently, those forces simply weren't available for channeling. But here, he proved they are; at least, some varieties thereof. It was too much to ask for all those he was familiar with on his world. He could reorganize the atoms in his vicinity to form whatever he wished, food, for instance, if and only if the requisite forces infused the present. And more to the point, it meant he was no longer defenseless.
Finished his meal, he chose to drink water from the stream. Magic gives off telltale vibrations that can be detected. He also did it for luck, the stream may have very well saved his life. Feeling less desperate and somewhat in control of things, his mind calmed, clearing itself from stray dispiriting thoughts. In the quiet surroundings, he once again heard something scutter through the brush not far away. He stilled himself and listened, but except for the stream, all was quiet again. Not even birds or the buzzing of insects disturbed the deep silence. The trees in this section were different, they didn't move, nor did their leaves bend and twist. Could that motion of the others he saw from the road had signaled his presence? Or are these sleeping or, for other reasons, inactive?
He knew too little, he needed to find out what was going on. The creature who seemed to be shadowing him he ignored. Rested and replenished, he rose and renewed his trek along the stream bank. It had to lead somewhere, he thought; it would at least keep him from getting lost. He couldn't help but laugh at the presumption. What if the stream is lost? I've been lost since I got here, I couldn't be more lost. He laughed 'till tears rolled down his cheeks. He didn't care who heard or what wild creatures might be disturbed. He tracked the stream around a sharp bend to the right, then shortly afterwards, another before it straightened out. He scanned the trees and underbrush as he went, looking for his companion or, for that matter, any signs of life. He stopped to peak through the canopy at the crisp blue sky, the sun was now on the opposite side. He was heading back the way he'd come; it was time to say good-bye. He drank deeply one last time and then, keeping the sun to his immediate left, hiked on. The burbling sound diminished with each step until silence descended, only his footfalls on the rough ground could be heard.
Strangely, he found the aloneness that came with being completely lost on an unknown plane of existence profoundly relaxing. Stepping over rocks and twigs and around pale-green bushes became easier. He was on his own, no one of his world, of his people, of his family, knew where he was. More than likely, they imagined he was where he said he was going and would be back when he said he would. Despite the peace he found, a flicker of worry tinged with fear he may never see them again coursed through him. Were matters really that dire? he asked himself. "Am I not Fendal, Head Wizard of the Academy?" he pronounced to the forest. "I must have faith and see this as a learning opportunity I can pass on to my students." He cringed at the bravado, but found the humor in it.
To return, he needed to hold the symbolic image of his world firmly in his mind and by will and the correct incantaion materialize in his transit room. To accomplish that goal, he needed to know how this place worked, its properties, in order to set the initial conditions. And that, he did not. Without the intermediary of the orb to establish the proper link, he would only be guessing.
He came to a meadow strewn with a few boulders, he sat on a mossy one and considered what he knew: Gravity was denser but not much more so than what he expected on Earth. He had anticipated it and prepared for it with a spell of compensation. It enabled him to adapt immediately upon arrival to the physical conditions that prevailed. The birds. He distinctly remembered bird calls at the bottom of the hill, and later, yet saw none in the branches of trees or on the ground. Magical forces are at work doing something, some reason there must be for their existence. Impatient, he stood and paced around the boulders, speaking out loud, counting things off, "Trees move -- leaves move -- fruit tasteless and lacking nutrition -- sun in same spot, planet may not rotate -- no insects -- bird calls but no sightings -- a soundless ship indicating intelligent life -- road with wheel ruts -- metallic blue sky -- a stream that circles back on itself, goes nowhere -- air perfect temperature, for me -- gravity perfect or nearly so, again, for me -- supports magic -- a creature exists who's following me."
He stopped dead in his tracks, the air around him seemed to solidify, holding him in place. Before him stood a furry creature about three-feet tall with large, floppy ears, long whiskers under a conspicuous nose, and bushy eyebrows, very bushy. He was wearing a red coat with yellow buttons and forest-green pants; gold embroidery of flowing, geometric designs covered most of it. No shoes revealed large, padded feet. In his right hand he held a monocle attached to a ribbon that went around his neck. He raised it to his right eye, peered at Fendal and said, "Good day, sir. I've been following you, wondering what you are, if I should approach. But after I watched you conjure up something to eat, I knew the opportunity would present itself. I waited until you appeared more sane than you've been. Talking to oneself and laughing for no apparent reason doesn't bode well for acceptance."
He let the eyeglass drop and said, "My name's Professor Edglop Ruendenthein, but you may call me Edgey, everyone does." He looked at his oversized feet. "That may or may not have anything to do with my first name, I've never been clear on that." Raising his head, he smiled a broad toothy smile, his ears angled backwards to their full extent.
Fendal had no words, but he thought he better say something before this apparition vanished. "My name is Fendal," he whispered hoarsely. Finding his voice, he continued, "Why have you been following me?"
Edgey nodded and moved towards the boulders to sit, Fendal did likewise. "I was examing the place where I materialized for clues when I felt a vibrational disturbance. I watched you emerge nearby into this realm. I couldn't be sure if you were one of them or not, transporting from the city trying to catch me. So I followed. When the ship hovered and I saw you hide and run away, I knew you too had come from somewhere else." He peered into Fendal's eyes. "By accident I'll wager."
"It was and it wasn't," Fendal said in a low voice, embarrassed by the particulars. "I don't know how to explain it just yet."
It suddenly occurred to Fendal that he understood every word Edgey said and asked about it. He explained there was something about this place that allowed for it, something magical. He spoke in his language and Fendal, his. The ideas and concepts and terms were transliterated. He felt it was more of a telepathic process going on under the surface with the words matching bare thoughts and forming analogous structures. But the lips moved according to what was heard, not what was spoken. On Earth, he learned the language of his chosen country like any other alien, but assimilation of symbolic thought patterns was one of his wizardly talents, it didn't take long.
Edgey fidgeted around, then said, "Well, I was running an experiment in the lab, attempting to phase shift a block of callasium mineral down to its psychic substrate, its template inscribed on that layer as all things materially based are. The idea was to then reproduce it in another chamber several feet away, a translocation through that plane. But reversing the process opened a vortex where the mineral should've been. Curious, I entered the chamber to investigate when it abruptly, I must say, enlarged and engulfed me. My surroundings became black as the inside of a gresling, my body was invisible to me. I had no idea what to do and my mind seemed to scatter in all directions, well beyond my ability to restrain it. Time went by, I know not how much, when suddenly I was here, or there, rather, near where you showed up.
"That was a long time ago. I found the road and traveled it until I reached a village. Unusual folks there. All manner of shapes and sizes coming and going. They spoke and I understood them. A person not unlike yourself, dressed in attire of a grand quality, approached me. He stared very hard, then asked me to come with him. I felt helpless and needed information, so I followed him to a nearby cafe. We sat and talked, his name was Algothor. He knew, some magical way, that I was not from here. I admit I didn't look like anyone else, but they were all so different, I didn't see how I stood out. But he knew how I came to be here."
He jumped down from the boulder, landing deftly on his two large feet. "And what this world is. I heard your list and I had the same questions. This universe, or plane of reality, lies between those of proper spacetimes. It's inverted. The sun remains forever in the same relative position because the planet, large beyond comprehension, encloses it. The gravitational pull from the sun is more than equalized by the mass of the planet; elsewise, all would float away towards the sun. Life, living things exist on its interior surface. As you proceed away from its disc of rotation towards the poles, more pressure is applied to pull it inward, to implode it. What keeps that from happening are magic forces supplying cohesion and stability."
Fendal, in all his experience transiting--jumping--from dimension to dimension had never encountered such a configuration. He was dumbfounded. And then he laughed. Loudly. "What are you talking about? That's preposterous. What about solar wind, ionized particles, magnetic fields from rotation to protect the planet as it streams by? If it's trapped inside, the planet would be fried."
"There isn't any solar wind, it's an inside-out universe. The star constantly implodes in on itself. And it doesn't revolve. Algothor explained to me something is drawing the solar wind and magnetic outbursts into a dimension, a realm, within those we can see. Like a hole in spacetime. An invisible reality, if it could be called that. Due to the magical properties of the planet, only light particles are pulled to it and absorbed. It's a fine balance."
"I still can't believe it. Are you sure he wasn't making it all up for your benefit? A newcomer, so to speak? It's pretty far-fetched. If it is what you say it is, what do they mean by universe? How do they know, can they know, if anything besides them exists? This might be it. One star and one outrageously huge planet enveloping it and outside--nothing, black emptiness. Yea, suppose this is all there is. A magical planet with a sun at the center of it being sucked into a vortex to nowhere. And the people, they're trapped inside. They can't ever go out to explore space." A mounting claustrophobia gripped him by the throat. He fought it down.
"You have a good point. Perhaps they have means to detect other such one-planet systems even though they can't visually see them. Of course, they wouldn't be able to, would they?" He paused to reflect for a moment, then shaking his head, annoyed, said, "Nonetheless, if it isn't true, then why are they trying to find people with magical powers?"
"Good question," replied Fendal, coming to the heart of the matter.
"You're a wizard or a sorcerer or some kind of magical being. From what I understand, you have the ability, the gift, to channel certain types of forces, including the ordinary ones we're all familiar with. Non-magical people, like myself, aren't even aware of them. Those are the forces keeping this one-planet system intact. They override or, what's the word,..., amplify and augment those ordinary forces that keep molecules from flying apart and give mass to sub-atomic particles. But they're weakening."
Fendal accepted it for now. He wasn't one to take somebody else's word for something that went counter to what he knew, to what he considered common sense. However, the universe of realities held surprises he had yet to encounter. And what was common sense anyway but what he expected? The reasonable depended entirely on the context. He explained how he managed to be here. Edgey listened raptly, amazed at such ability. Having no magic talent himself, he recognized that his current situation required it if he was to ever return home.
He continued. "Like I said, I've been here for a while; time doesn't feel the same here, so I'm not sure how long. We left the cafe and went to a house on the outskirts of town. There we met others engaged in heated discussion. He introduced me and explained my presence in their land. An archetypal engineer was there who had a hand in designing the instrumentation for capturing magic. They were opposed to what the government was doing, bringing people here against their will, even if it did mean saving their world. The engineer said he regretted helping the project, but because of it, he knew how the system worked. They're determined to bring it down by sabotage. They believe there's another way to accomplish the same end that doesn't involve kidnapping people; several magical beings have already been captured. They appear randomly in this sector. Once they've materialized, they can be detected."
"Is that what that ship was doing? Looking for me?"
"I don't know. I've been told by Algothor that they're looking for me. They found out, there are spies everywhere, I was told, that I materialized from some outside domain but have no magic. They're very curious how that could've happened. The mineral I was using, callasium, has exotic properties. From what we've been able to discover, it acts as a conduit between ordinary matter and invisible matter, matter that only obeys gravity. That's why I was using it. We simply don't know all there is to know about it."
A little miffed at having been interrupted, he continued in a more professorial tone, "Where was I? Oh, yes. The engineer had designed instruments capable of detecting psychic distortions. And not just elemental ones, but whole complexes. Spirits and minds adrift in the void between dimensions, like you were. Once detected, a portal is opened to the psychic field, drawing them here."
"But I found the correct spell and repeated it over and over," protested Fendal. "It should've worked."
"Yes, well, apparently, it wasn't in time."
Once again he picked up where he left off. "They were surprised to learn I had no magical abilities. But that fact only served to reinforce their argument. For all its great size, they manage to stay in touch with one another, the people across the planet. The rulers. Hierarchies are organized with those on top focusing on the plight of the planet, its sustainability. A long time ago their scientists discovered that the magical forces permeating the planet were weakening with the eventual decoherence and disintegration of the material that composes it. The old ones, very powerful wizards and sorcerers and shamans, regularly performed rituals to reinforce the psychic scaffolding holding their world together. But they are all gone now and their descendants are not nearly as gifted.
"They devised a plan and a project to bring powerful magicians here, so they could be used to shore-up the natural forces. Algothor and his group have misgivings about it. They don't believe it's right to bring people here against their will, but there's more to it than that. I listened to their discussion. One man I inferred to be quite learned with regard to the genetic underpinnings of the planet suggested rather strongly that because these magicians came from all over, from other universes and planes of reality, the planet would reject infusion. Moreover, there could very well be an unexpected reaction that would only make matters worse."
"But if they could devise some other means to save their world, they wouldn't have to kidnap people."
"Quite right, master magician. They did seem curious about callasium, its properties. Somehow, the mineral's negative aspect, its other side, if you will, vibrates or fluctuates in the same frequency and medium as the instruments searching for magic energy. The invisible universe and the universe of forces whose nature allows them to be channeled by beings so gifted share some vital characteristic. Perhaps. It must be something like that, else I wouldn't be here."
"Suppose these magicians don't cooperate," Fendal said, anger welling up on behalf of his bretheren. "Then what? Torture? Imprisonment? What?"
"Well, as I understand it and, once again, I'm out of my depth here, they said they had a machine you sat in which is able to tap into that part of your psyche, your mind, that channels those forces. The chair resonates, stores, and amplifies that energy which is then fed into a neural network that permeates the understrata of the surface. It was all very technical to me. I deal in concepts and ideas, theories, the practical applications are beyond my reach."
"Is that why your experiment ended so catastophically?" Fendal said, but immediately regretted it. If for no other reason, his experiment didn't turn out all that well either.
Ears drooping, Edgey stared at the ground, then said, "That may be. On the other hand, I discovered a capability of callasium no one else knew."
Fendal felt as though millions of microscopic bugs were crawling over his skin. Instinctively, he looked up. A ship was coming their way. It'd be overhead in moments with them standing in the middle of a grassy meadow. "C'mon," yelled Fendal, pointing in the direction of the ship. Edgey glanced over his shoulder as he began to run into the woods behind the wizard. They leapt moss-covered dead trees and cut through rows of hedges, jumped narrow streamlets and splashed through pools of swamp water. Finally on solid ground, breathing hard, they slowed to a walk. The forest was dark here, the canopy thick. He heard bird calls again and stopped to scan the trees. On a branch directly ahead, he saw a red and yellow bird about five inches tall. It called out again. Momentarily, a response, then another in a different direction. Looking around he noticed several of different kinds and colors sitting in the trees. Insects flew by, the sound of buzzing came and went. Moth-like creatures and pale-white butterflies. Beetles and others indescribable fluttered about. He knew what they were, what they looked like, from his visits to Earth. He'd seen them, the birds and the insects before, at dusk, on his favorite park bench.
Edgey tugged at his sleeve. "Come," he said, "we're almost there."
Expecting some secret hideaway, Fendal followed. The sunlight barely found holes to poke through. They stumbled along, it grew darker. Fendal decided to risk detection and called forth an orb of white light to appear before them. Almost at once, he stopped dead in his tracks. Not twenty feet ahead stood an enormous wall made of huge, misshapened rocks that fit together seamlessly. Its top vanished into darkness.
Edgey looked up and smiled, then led the way, the sphere of light hovering above them. At the wall, what appeared from a distance as solid rock, now became a door of gray with a brass knob. Fendal stared at Edgey and was about to ask what the hell was going on when Edgey turned the knob and pulled the door open. Stars spread out across the immensity of space. On the other side of the threshold, laid out straight ahead, he could see a wide dirt walkway that ended abruptly on either edge in total blackness.
Edgey stood behind him and said, "Follow that. It will take you home."
Fendal spun around. Edgey was no longer the white furry Professor Edglop Ruendenthein, nicknamed Edgey, with the floppy ears and the red and green suit with the gold buttons. No monocle attached to a ribbon hung around his neck. Before him stood a man, his height, short grey hair, wearing a dark green tunic tied at the waist by a golden strand. He said, in a completely different voice, "You have been most helpful, master magician. We appreciate it."
"Appreciate what?" Fendal asked, shock and disbelief reverberating in his voice.
"The ship's arrival was the signal that the process was completed."
"What process?" Fendal felt pushed back even further.
"Your presence was a constant infusion of magic into our world."
"My presence? Just being here?" Fendal had been tricked and didn't like it. He wanted an explantion. "Who are you, really?"
"I am Algothor, Master Wizard of the Council. We maintain the Great Library of Myth and Legend on Xulcator, the name of our planet."
Fendal didn't know what to say. Overwhelmed by the deceit, he nonetheless could see its necessity. If he'd been told the truth at the onset, he may not have wished to cooperate, resenting the manner in which he was drafted. Although, he had no idea what he could have done about it. Nevertheless, he had to ask, "Why the elaborate story? To keep me occupied? And what about this callasium accident? What about the machine that sucks out your brain?"
"The story is true; well, some of it is, I embellished. There is no rebel group, no chair of magical extraction, and no captive magicians to rescue. I did perform the experiment when a youth in apprentice training, with those results. I popped out elsewhere on the planet. It became a game of daring we played, until our teacher found out. But that's another story.
"The mineral callasium permeates our soil; that's what holds magic in place. Strong passions and feelings accelerate its expression within. You were ready to use magic to defend yourself and free your fellow magicians. That brought it to the fore, magnifying its intensity and quickening its absorption."
"Why didn't you tell me then, when the ship arrived?"
"Tell you what? That I made it up to keep you fully engaged in the present? That my persona is an illusion? Would you have believed me? Would you not have been angry and unmanageable, suspicious of any request? I would not have gotten you here, I don't think."
Fendal stood speechless. Algothor smiled, Fendal saw the furry creature smile and did the same in spite of himself. "Our world is the source of all magic and its final resting place. A universe unto itself. No other like it exists. Eternity in the moment.
"Follow the path out into the stars. You'll come to a door where no door should be. Beyond lies your home." He paused as though searching for words, but instead, leaned forward and pressed something into Fendal's hand. "Hold this tight, it will keep you safe." And in that instant Fendal felt a bond of kinship as from a student to a mentor. "Be careful, Master Fendal."
He looked around at the forest and the few birds he could see, then turned to step out onto the path. After a few, he stopped to look back. Algothor was standing in the narrow doorway; he waved, then closed the door. Immediately, the vast planet was replaced by countless stars in all directions. Dizzy from the effect, Fendal closed his eyes for a moment or two, then returned to walking, being careful to stay in the middle. As he walked along, he tried to grasp the magnitude of the magic he just experienced and the meaning of the sun-enveloping world, but it was beyond him. Eventually, he saw a door in the distance standing by itself surrounded by the blackest space. When he arrived, he turned the knob and pulled the door open. There, over the threshold, was his transit room, incense still smouldering on its plate. He stepped over, the door closed behind him. He turned, but all he saw was the back wall of his room, memetoes hanging on it.
He knelt before his orb, now empty and inactive. His mind grappled with the reality of Algothor's world and his incredible power as a wielder of great magic. What forces he must command, far beyond anything Fendal had ever encountered or imagined.
He recalled what Alogothor said, 'Our world is the source of all magic and its final resting place.' Cause and effect. Wellspring and ultimate realization. He felt young again, the universe of possibilities spread before him. His right hand had been clenched while he walked the bridge between dimensions. He opened it. In his palm rested Edgey's monocle complete with colorful ribbon. Wearily, he hung it on his wall of prizes. Then off to sleep and perhaps to dream of a gargantuan planet, if it could even be called such, that enclosed a sun that fed the void of all worlds past, present, and to come with magic.