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(1987) [Reprinted in "Reality Module No.12" in October 1999.]
The following story was originally published in the MSFC's magazine
"Ethel the Aardvark" Issue 24 in February 1989.
Escape From A World Too Brightly Spun
We walk through enchanted gardens you and I. I can see you clearly now - your gown of green, golden sandals on your feet. Your hair is golden this morning. I am dressed in black - a dark cloak on my back, a silver sword by my side. There is a darkness in my eyes.
Hand in hand we walk on a gravel path down to the river. You reach down into the daisies and return with a large blue butterfly in your hands. You blow on them, and it flutters into the air. There is a smile on your face.
With a gesture you lead me to a high green cliff beside the path. Your hands part some tall grasses; there is a cave behind them. You place a finger to your lips - for silence, and stoop down to enter the dark opening. I follow you.
The grass closes in behind us. The cave is dark and musty. There is a trickle underfoot, and damp earth all around us. You drag me forward. How far in does this earth cave go? I am lost in darkness now.
Hello! Hello! Hello! I echo in my brain.
Quiet, you reply in your silence.
It is growing warmer I think. The cave has grown higher, we can stand up now.
You stop. You are close to me now. I hear you rustling with weeds. Suddenly there is light by your left hand. White light from outside.
You stop - as if registering an emotion. Frantically your hands tear at what I now see to be dried grass. Darkness rolls in behind us. There is a tumbling of dirt far away in the tunnel.
Quick! you scream to my brain. You grab my hand, and we scramble out into the sunlight. The tunnel collapses behind us.
We are in a ditch by the side of a road. Periodically sleek silver vehicles glide by. The sky is yellow. The field by the highway is almost featureless.
You look at an instrument on your wrist, and then shake your head slowly. You turn to watch a silver machine zip by, and shrug your shoulders.
You turn once more to regard the ditch we are standing in.
Quick! You pull me down into the grass. I can hear the ticking of your instrument. My face is lost in tall green grass.
Slowly you rise to your feet, and help me up. The ditch has grown deeper, it is a gully now. It is so green. I can smell a stream nearby. I look upwards into a deep blue sky.
Where are we?
You shrug your shoulders as if it doesn't matter.
Come, you say with a gesture. I follow you along the green way until you stop by a small pond in the grass. You rest on your elbows and gaze into it. I notice minute footprints in the mud. You blow on the water, ripples spread outwards. You cross your fingers and scatter something onto the waters. It grows much darker here.
In the now shaded pool an image forms. A castle, now I see, pink towers rising hundreds of storeys into a deep blue sky.
Not far now, you say in a small silent voice.
It grows darker still around us, and hastily you shatter the image.
We rise to find that a dark mist has rolled into the valley. I draw my sword, it shimmers silver with its own light. I adjust the handle - circuits click into place.
Something is happening to you. You place your hands over your face, you seem to glow.
"I do not know if I can take you with me," you say.
"I will fight the demon," I reply.
A red light glows on the hilt of my sword. Good!
"Come demon!" I scream. It does, a black creature with red glowing eyes leaps from the mist. My red laser beams slice the air. There is a smell of burning. A demon screams!
Now you laugh.
I turn to find you aglow with light.
"You have grown wings my dearest," say I.
Quick, the mist grows dangerously cold. Can we escape on wings? It seems unlikely. I raise my sword before me, and clutch my dark cloak about me. I can feel you touching my shoulders.
I close my eyes, and reach inwards for the power. I build a cocoon of energy around us. It is cold, so cold! Why are we here? Why won't they let us go? Many times we have tried to escape and always, always they have followed us and brought us back. I hear the ticking of your instrument. I feel the warmth radiating from my enchanted sword.
Was it your cousin, the dragonlord, who imprisoned us? My brother was a king. His hobby was building androids...but that was so long ago now, so long ago. Now all we know about is the creeping darkness. I won't let it destroy us. I can still feel your hands on my shoulders. What will you do next my Princess?
Nothing, you reply, the next step is yours.
What do I have? You are the Enchantress, not I. I am just a knight searching for something which I do not fully understand.
"What do you mean - the next step is mine? My eyes are blind in this darkness. I do not believe in my own magic, and technology is helpless against this."
Here we stand - together in the dark.
"Look at me," you command.
I do. You are so beautiful - hair of gold, gown of green, wings of silver and rainbows. How can I save you from all of this?
Your eyes are green like emeralds. Your perfect mouth smiles at me.
"At least we'll die together," I say.
"We do not need to die," you reply, "Remember my friend the butterfly...with blue wings."
"What do you mean?"
"The plants were carnivorous, they were...killing him."
So after a rushed journey through tunnels and gullies, leaping from world to world, we have come to this - the darkness we have always known.
"Tell me of your world, my knight, shall we go there?"
Your instrument is ticking again.
"No," I say, picturing my enchanted princess jostled by the mad midday crowd, or shadowed by the factories, "No I do not want to go there!"
This is my energy cocoon I have enclosed us in now. I close my eyes again and try to focus once more on my elusive magic. What do I remember? Roads of sunset gold, a fortress built on a cloud, a dark keep in an ancient forest, and further back - an Enchanted Castle in a garden in England. Its cold grey stone walls in no way resemble the towering pink ones you know, but it is a beginning.
I open my eyes. We are in a garden again, but by the hum of distant cars, I know that it is a different world.
"Where are we?" you ask.
"England...1970," I reply.
You see the castle. How small it is!
"Do you think that they will follow us here?"
"We are too divergent from the norm, but we had better hurry."
We cross the lawn towards the trees and the towers. The sky is a soft blue. It has grown very quiet, no one is about.
Panic grabs me! We run, run towards the open portcullis as around us the world begins to dissolve.
Too unstable, I realise, as we tumble into the shadows; we have come too far! Hay, damp stone walls, this place is very old. Outside the world has faded to white.
You smile grimly and begin to walk across the covered hall towards some stone steps. You begin to climb them. I hasten to follow you.
"I do not think that you can follow me," you say very softly, indicating a doorway behind which a corridor of pink leads far far away, "I have found my gateway."
You pass through the doorway and wave to me for a little time, before your image fades and I am left with a view of a small dismal room.
I'll miss you!
I find a small recessed panel inside the doorway, two buttons and the words "Teleport Mk. IV," but I must go.
Outside I can hear the darkness howling for me!
Copyright © 1987 by Michael F. Green. All rights reserved.
Last Updated: 16 March 2003