The Iron Writer Challenge #194
2017 Spring Equinox Tournament
500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements
(Authors will be revealed next Thursday.)
Smokestacks at night
An unknown assailant
A chamber pot overflowing with radioactive candy bars from a parallel universe
Dreams of a Parallel Universe
Smoke stacks burning into the night. That was my last memory of a normal life. That was when my father gave me the multi-verse cube.
I didn’t understand it at the time. I was a boy of thirteen, what did I know of traveling through parallel universes? My father talked of it often, but there was never enough time to explain it. Bleeding of a wound from the traveler, he gave me the sequence that unlocked the six faces of the cube.
Earth, Water, Fire, Breath, Life, Time.
“Be free my son…” were his last words. I had no time to grab anything. The traveler was coming for me and for the cube because we were not supposed to be in that world. I whispered the sequence to the cube, and the only world I knew vanished.
I was lost in a maze of blue aura- endlessly. I searched for a pathway of escape until I was utterly exhausted. I wondered if this might be the fate I would suffer. It was only me, the cube and the wild blue aura. I wept. I cursed the cube and threw it as far as I could. It only came back to me and seemed to mock my existence. Then it occurred to me, as if from the very aura I was in, to speak the sequence backwards.
I did, and a new reality came so fast that it took my breath away.
I repeated this process through many new worlds. I don’t know how old I am now. I start from zero with each travel- hungry and tired. I’ve seen nothing of my father or the world that I knew, only shadows and images of who and what I’ve known. Sometimes it’s hard to keep straight who they are, and who they were.
The traveler searches for me constantly, for each world is not mine. I’ve had to leave several worlds without goodbye. They almost seem like home. The last world I was in, they were headed for global nuclear war, but they made good candy bars- Zoobars. I wanted to save something from that world. I wanted other worlds to know that they at least contributed something worthwhile. I grabbed a chamber pot full of Zoobars, and spoke the sequence to the multi-verse cube just as detonation had taken place.
Taking things out of parallel universes proved to be a bad mistake. Radioactive Zoobars overflowed the chamber pot while I was in the wild blue aura. I dropped the cube, and before it could return to my side, radioactive Zoobars filled the aura at a most rapid pace. The traveler easily spotted this disturbance, but he was overwhelmed with Zoobars before he could reach me. Miraculously, the cube returned to my side, and I quickly spoke the sequence. I found my new home with only a couple of Zoobars in hand. I had lost the multi-verse cube in the wild blue aura full of candy bars.
So, this is my home now. Somewhere, worlds leave at more than light speed. I dream of them at night when my thoughts are taken by a parallel universe.
Dani J. Caile
I had broken our laws.
And now I was living my own personal hell. If anyone knew, the consequences for the Congregation would be disastrous, catastrophic. No one, absolutely no one was to cross the border between our world and theirs without permission from the Ministry of Erudition.
But I had. The urge was too strong, a parallel universe with untold treasures waiting for us beyond the Shards? A chance that had to be taken.
So, today, once reaching the chosen age, I used the briefest of opportunities, travelling there and back, grabbing what I could from the places and shops I happened upon and re-entering within the limits laid down by Doctor Everett so many centuries before. But it all went wrong. I was followed. How could I be so naive to think I could get away with it? A man, an assailant, shouting, verbally assaulting me as I ran from one universe to the other, chasing me through the streets, following me back. I could not lose him!
“Stop! Oi! Stop!”
At no point should he ever catch me! For the sake of the Congregation, for the sake of myself. But he was still on me, so I ran towards the safety of the city’s great smokestacks, churning out their pollutants into the night sky. Only there, in the maze of pipes and machines inside the factories of our illustrious leaders, would there be an escape. I looked down to check my haul from the raid, a chamber pot overflowing with radioactive candy bars. On the open market they would sell for peanuts but I knew an avid buyer who would pay a handsome sum.
He was so close, brandishing something in his hand, threatening me! I tried to weave and dodge through the factory floors, around machines, under pipes, up stairways and down ladders, but I couldn’t shake him! With one last effort, I sprinted ahead and for a moment, I was free. But at what cost? I could run no more, my legs were dead after the chase, and the radium seeping from the candy bars was surely the reason for me feeling weak and sick. A welcoming cubbyhole appeared between two pipes and I dived for cover, allowing my legs to rest.
For a moment I relaxed, gazing in wonder at my radioactive candy bar filled chamber pot. And then I heard it. On the gangway above there were steps, turning this way, then that. Someone slid down a ladder and landed nearby. I listened for another sound, anything, but silence filled my ears.
There was a touch on my shoulder! I knew right then it was the end!
I turned to face him, knowing what was to come, the arrest, the holding cell, the trial where I would…
“There you go!”
Something rested in my palm, and with sweat dripping down my neck, I looked into my open hand. A coin?
“You forgot your change.”
As I sat there losing my mind while staring at the copper-coloured metallic money, he walked away.
Clair was in the kitchen rolling Rice Krispy treats into balls before dipping them in chocolate. She checked her watch and called out, “We’ve got to leave in thirty minutes, gang!”
The family had a big night planned; the kids were attending a big school party out by the old smokestacks for Halloween and Clair and her husband Ed had graciously volunteered to help.
Eric, their oldest son, was at the table playing a game on his phone. He was already in costume – all black with a sign reading ‘unknown’ pinned to his shirt.
Ed came down the stairs and looked at him. “What are you supposed to be, bud?”
“I’m an unknown assailant.” He responded without looking up.
“I don’t get it.”
“We’re supposed to dress as characters from books and the unknown assailant is like, a staple in crime fiction. It’s like, literally the most popular character in books.”
“But… you’re just unknown. So now you’ll have to assail. You’ll have to attack people all night in order for that to work.”
Eric shrugged. “Ok I guess I will, then.”
Edward sighed and moved on to assess the kitchen table covered in items they needed to take with them to the party.
“Is that my antique chamber pot?” he asked, a hint of irritation in his voice.
“Ok, first can I just say again how weird it is that you have an antique chamber pot?” Clair responded, turning around with a Rice Krispy ball in one hand and a chocolate covered spoon in the other. “I mean, you do know what those were used for, right?”
“It’s history Clair!”
“And second,” she continued “Yes… it is your fancy antique chamber pot. But the kids needed it. It’s the perfect container for their candy…” Clair stopped and looked at Joey who sighed and rolled his eyes as only a nine-year-old boy can.
“They’re radioactive candy bars, mom! From a parallel universe! Duh.”
Clair smiled and shrugged at her husband. “Radioactive candy bars. Duh.”
“Well my chamber pot better return to this house – in this universe – in one piece, got it?”
“Yes dad.” Joey chimed. He was putting the last-minute touches on his costume, which looked like it was supposed to be some kind of wizard.
“What sort of character from a book has radioactive candy bars, anyway?”
“Literally tons, dad!” Costume building was obviously a stressful endeavor.
“Whatever you say, bud.”
“What are we meant to be doing at this thing anyways, Clair? Just sitting around while the kids play games?” Ed asked as he grabbed a rice Krispy ball and began munching.
“Basically. It’s going to be fun. There’s a corn maze and face painting, all kinds of activities you could help with.”
“You’re also supposed to be in costume, dad.” Eric added. “So, what are you supposed to be?”
Ed looked around, as though searching for an idea. He grabbed a piece of paper and in large block letters wrote ‘VICTIM’. Holding it up in front of himself and said “I’m the unknown assailant’s victim.”
Eric rolled his eyes.
“Eric, it’s like, literally the second most common character in books.”
Willing my legs to pump, while keeping my left hand on the wall, I jog through the maze which magically sprung up around the Corporation’s headquarters. This morning it didn’t exist, like what I’m looking for, but here it is: looming and daunting while keeping me out. I’m not far from my goal. With luck, and as long as I keep my hand on the wall, I should stop Armageddon.
I look at purple fog ripping through night-threatened skies as it seeks to color the grey pillows above. Time slips too fast. Soon the canopy will be consumed by a darkness other than from the settling night: the nebula spewing from the Corporation smokestacks, forever blocking out the sun and moon unless I can find and return that which shouldn’t exist.
The air around me thickens with power. The small hairs of my exposed arms rise rigid. My skin reacts to the new coolness by forming rows of tiny lumps. This is not good. I’ve learnt this means something else which shouldn’t be here, will be. A sharp crack announces its arrival. A loud roar confirms it. A sickening odor of rotting meat and death demands me to run faster or die.
Hot breath warms the back of my neck. My body produces adrenaline which provides a burst of speed. The space I vacated fills up with a loud swish of air being sliced into pieces. A disgruntled growl follows. I can’t risk looking behind.
A few seconds passes and the building looms ahead of me. Finally, I found the exit! But not the object. Feverishly, I scan the landscape. A small dark oval sits to my right. Pausing for a microsecond, fully aware of the thing behind me, I decide to chance losing contact with the wall and go after the item.
Each step defines the object better. Its form sharpens and takes a familiar shape. I’ve seen one of them many times at my great-grandparent’s house in the country. I half-expect to smell excrement, but instead the scent which confronts me is sweet and… chocolate? A glow emits from the top. Radioactive?
I pick up my prize while running, not daring to stop as I can still hear the hunter. I need to get to my lab.
I reach the entrance and pull on my pass card. Swing it over the infrared eye as I push the door open. I run to the stairwell, and go up three flights taking three steps at a time. I race into my lab. Dexter, my assistant, is frantically working at the control center of the machine.
“I dropped my Snickers and it hit the go button.”
I look into the glow from the chamber pot in my arm.
“Crap! Is the machine ready to send this back?”
I place the pot full of what I hoped were radioactive unwrapped Snickers into the machine. Time to send it, and everything it brought, back to its parallel universe.
“You’re a horrible wingman, Nos. The worst!” Sam crossed bare arms and leaned against a wall that may have been cleaned before the war, but not after.
Nostromos shook his head but smiled. “Why, because I pulled you away from that handsy thing?”
“Exactly. She was into me.” Sam stomped a polished boot for emphasis.
“More like on. I’ve seen large ordinance cover less surface.” Behind him the door to the bar closed shut, making a loud click.
“But she was pretty, witty, and that beautiful white hair! Like that candy with the funny name and the silly jingle. You know, the one chock-full of innuendos.” Sam ran a finger through silky hair and eyed him from under a fine brow.
“I know the one. And no. She was a chamber pot overflowing with radioactive candy. Nutty bars. And did you listen to her talk? I mean, really? I think we aren’t the only Reality Jumpers here, and the zone she came from was full of Dr. Seuss characters. You can do better. And, this is the third bar on our pub crawl. I promised you seven for your birthday and you know we can’t take her with us.” He had begun tapping on his smart watch as he spoke.
“You said she was a Jumper.” Sam pursed thin lips into a fine pout.
“I was implying she was el pollo loco from Batcrapcrazyville. Stop with the pout. Your charms are ineffective on me.” He averted his gaze. “As mine are on you.”
Sam laughed. “I think you’re cute.”
“Hush.” He focused on the controls of his watch, letting his hair fall over his cheeks.
“Like a big furry bear with questionable manners. Where are we going next?” Sam looked toward the spiraling portal that opened up. Beyond they could see tall smokestacks billowing green gas into the night sky. “Bleh. Industrial. Pass!”
Nostromos tapped his watch. “I have this thing set on random.” The portal shifted color, and beyond an ominous maze of dark and dirty stone appeared, overshadowed by a cloudy skyline with a single blood moon.
“Oh, definitely a pass!” Sam shouted.
From the shadows a cloaked figure sprinted at them, arms outstretched. It lunged for Nostromos’ watch, but Nostromos sidestepped the attack and pushed the unknown assailant off. The shadowy figure stumbled and fell through the portal, landing with a thud on the stone walkway beyond. Nostromos wasted no time tapping the watch, closing the portal. A loud roar cut off.
“What was that all about?” Sam looked from him to where the portal had been. “And was that a Minotaur? Like a real one?”
“I believe so.” His mouth felt dry. “Maybe we should just go back into this bar. We’ll go around front and pay the cover again.” He slid his shirt over his watch, looking around the alleyway a little more intently this time.
Sam clapped and jumped up and down a few times. “You are the best wingman. Let’s go find my little candy bar!”
Nostromos looked again at where the portal had been and muttered, “I think she may be otherwise engaged.”