We compromised over the mobile. We agree to charge but not touch it until we had explored all the options. Shortcuts are sometimes the longest way between two points.
Bob originally came from Canterbury, and knew his way around. By nightfall we had “acquired” a couple of backpacks, a load of fruit and some empty bottles for water. Bob had purchased a mobile sim card in one of the little towns we passed through, and recharged my personal mobile as well. We dumped the car past Alford Forest and made the climb up Mount Somers to a bushwalkers hut, high in the foothills.
We made it just before dark.
At one stop, Bob complained – You know my name, eh* (* New Zealanders use “eh” at the end of a sentence to indicate they need an answer. Even if they have not asked a question. The correct answer is generally “hard, bro” or “hard, bro, hard”. I had to ask him to translate as we went along.)
I said, evenly – Yes, I know your name.
He said – Yeah, nah bro*, eh (* New Zealanders use “Yeah, nah bro” to fill up a gap in the conversation.)
I got the drift and said – You don’t want to know my name. Everyone, apart from you, is trying to kill me.
He said – She’ll be right.* (*“She’ll be right”: Everything is, or might be, ok.)
We were the only ones in the little hut. We sat down to a simple meal topped off by water from the creek along the way.
I asked – How are you holding up.
He lied – I don’t need to drink. Bit knackered*. How you going, eh. (*“Knackered” – worn out)
I said – Good. Now, let’s put all our cards on the table. First, thanks for waiting around. Why did you stick around?
He started to talk, but I interrupted – Wait. Let me get it all out. I want to call work, find out what is going on. But, I don’t trust anyone at the moment – so the moment we contact them, they will be able to find us, and I am not sure that works for me.
By this stage I was talking fairly fast and getting a bit terse – And finally, what is the story with the strange stuff. What is happening to me?
Bob put his hands into the air defensively – Look, no use yelling at me. She’ll be right.
I said – She is not right. She is all broken. She doesn’t want to be here. She does not even know where she is.
Bob said – Yeah, nah bro.
He made a general movement with his hands – We are in Middle Earth.
I looked at him. He continued – You know, where they made the film about the orcs and the (he looked a bit vague) blokes on horses. They made a whole city just over there, pointing again, to the south west, for the horse guys to live in. That is where we are going tomorrow.
I said – Ok. I guess you can explain that tomorrow. What is the plan.
Bob shuffled his feet and then started to tell his story.
When his father died, he left school and started working on a trawler. After a couple of years trying to run the farm, his mother sold up and bought a place in Christchurch. They had fallen into a pattern around his work, but when she died things fell apart. He had had a couple of jobs, but got mixed up with some people on the wrong side and turned to booze and small time crime. The booze finally beat crime, and increasingly he spent his time in the park with a bottle.
He started to dream of spiders, and his property was placed in safekeeping with a trustee. He said – They scheduled me and filled me with pills. Hard, dro, hard. Eh
I asked how old he was. He said 30, no 40, not sure. He looked twice that age when we first met. He became defensive – Deck work is tough on the body.
Released as not likely to be a harm to anyone, his drinking became worse. After one bout in the park, he woke up in the spiders realm and was bitten trying to get away. A friend took him to the dragon lady and, when his friend disappeared, he started doing the same thing. He said – The dragon lady was ok with people. Never made a move on them. Always just fixed them up. Until Belle.
Belle arrived one night, badly bitten. He took her to the dragon lady, and like me, she gradually recovered. Then, one night she ran from the old farm upset and distressed. They had fled back to Christchurch.
He stopped for a bit.
Bob said Belle was different. Sort of human, but different. Her eyes were large, her arms and legs hinged differently, and no ears. Initially, she could not speak the language, but she hung with him and learned how to speak New Zealand. I smiled for the first time that night. I felt I was picking up the language pretty quickly as well.
Bob continued, buoyed by my smile - She tried to explain what she knew with language and touch. I stopped drinking while she was around.
He stood up. I could see him starting to shake. It had grown dark, so we lit candles. Chasing away some of the dark in the wooden hut.
Bob repositioned our chairs, so we were facing each other. He looked a bit abashed - Yeah, nah bro. I don’t know words for some of what she told me. I will explain like she did with me, with words and touch. Eh.
On her world, she was a sailor, similar but different to Bob. His hands started to move, making massive sails in the air, being driven by light. There are another eight worlds she knew of – all near and yet far. His hands moved, creating eight stars. They are far away physically. But, they all overlap and there are small gaps between the worlds. He placed a finger nail on my arm, enough to hurt, but I didn’t flinch. Holding the nail in place, his fingers played lightly. Small creatures had been moving between the worlds at the gaps for eons.
Small beings from one of the worlds punch holes between the worlds, enlarging them. They hunt for heavy and rare metals to support their technologies. At this point he moved one hand far away. The other was still resting on my arm. He made star signs with both hands. Then suddenly ascribed an arc with his free hand, all the way to where his hand was nailed to me arm. It hit my arm. In his eyes I saw an explosion and colours reflected from one of the candles guttering.
I said – Ow! That hurt.
He shook his head. I don’t know what Belle meant.
Spiders completely colonised some of the worlds. They attempted to colonise all, but were resisted by others with varying degrees of success. On Belle’s world, only the seas were completely free – and some places which the dragons kept scorched.
Her boat was attacked by a dragon, and fell into a web. The crew had been captured by the spiders when she was poisoned.
Bob said – Hard, bro. She made plans to get them back. We explored the nodes until we found the, four bodies wrapped in cocoons, lying in a web close to the node.
He stopped here. There was water in his eyes. He wiped his eyes and looked at me. Then he held my hands, his tears wet on his fingertips. He said – I let her down. I was going to create a diversion. While, I got their attention, she was going to free her crew.
He held my arm and I could feel him shaking – I had a drink to calm my nerves. Eh.
Abruptly he got up and said –I can not do this. I have to go.
He started for the door. I tackled him. And then as he shook and flailed on the floor, I sat on him, holding him down. I told him that he was not going anywhere. After a while, he stopped fighting the demons and calmed down.
When we resumed our seats his eyes were on the floor.
I said – Tell me what happened.
This time I held his hands, feeling his heart racing.
He said – I told you about the small beings that punch holes between the worlds. Belle told me how to recognise the technology.
He got a candle and, without making hand contact with the mobile on the bench, turned it over onto its back.
He said – Scratched eh.
He put the candle behind it.
He said –Look again.
This time the light was caught by the scratches, creating whirls and patterns.
I said – Shiny. But, what does that mean.
He said – I don’t know. I have a pocket full stuff with these designs. I found them around the node.
He emptied out a collection of bit and pieces – keys, metal strips coins, sims and credit cards next to the mobile.
He said – Belle said that lots of things gather around the nodes – fighting over them, building defences or just waiting. The nodes are dangerous places. Dragons watch them. Spiders launch colonies from them. Belle’s people and others use them to travel.
He said – Transfers between worlds happen in different ways. Belle said the most common was a short transfer from a little static electricity. In the park, to keep warm, I wear woollen sweaters and cheap rubber boots. The boots insulate my feet while I gradually build up a charge on my sweater. Watch.
He rubbed his sweater with a small rod from another pocket. This time, when he touched my hand, there was a short burst of static electricity. I jumped.
He looked seriously - Once you know how to do it, it is easy to transfer right at the node. Eh.
I said – And the mobile?
He said – It takes more much more power the further away you got from the node. Maybe the mobile helps. I don’t know.
I thought about this for a bit - So what happened to Belle?
I could feel him tense and start to shake again – We built up charge and zoned in. I started the diversion while Belle circled around and went for her crew. She had wool for them, already charged up, and a knife to cut them out. But when the spider started to chase me, I remembered the bite and I froze. I discharged instead of running – so I ended up back in the park.
Silence – I left her there by herself. And by the time I got me nerve up to go back to the realm, the spider had caught her. Hard, eh.
I sat facing him. I said – Look at me.
It took a while.
I said – So your shortcut. You want to go and have another try?
There was a scraping sound from the bench top.
And the candles all went out.
> Part Ten
Image - Lightning storm, Molonglo High Plains, December
(No spiders, dragons or cats were hurt writing this part.)
This is a continuation of a story (a "braided yarn") that started on an earlier G+ post. Details and story at: