Colonel Zephyr slapped the last of the Boy’s Own Adventure magazines onto the cluttered tabletop and declared it “Rubbish!” Outside, beyond the filmy membrane of the window, an articulated lorry slithered through the goop of linkspace, the protuberant beads of its hundred portholes glowing dully along its flank. The lorry veered after a biscuit fish but the little purple feeder was too quick, slipping away into the relative safety of the past.
“Judging from the depth of that pucker I’d say the wee fishie made for the sixteenth or fifteenth century, what?” Zephyr said.
Gasbert ignored the estimate. Sitting contentedly at his glass desk he watched the colonel blow out his mustaches and suck his teeth before picking up another of the magazines from the disordered pile at his side. Gasbert removed his hand from the pocket of his smoking jacket–through which he’d been petting an Irish wolfhound belonging to his deceased great-grandfather–and searched the desk drawer for a cigarette. What he found instead: the blueprints to a hyper-dimensional prison, a fine tin replica of the Naghoy Grozny in 1:235th scale, an antique pocket-watch made from a single boar’s tusk, a mechanical pencil, and a flat automatic pistol manufactured in the year 1993.
“If they’re rubbish why are you reading them again?” Gasbert asked as he brought the mechanical pencil to his lips and attempted to light it.
The Colonel, large and gray as a billow of smoke, harrumphed and shook one of the tatty magazines in Gasbert’s direction. “I could sue!”
Gasbert inhaled the pungent reek of scorched plastic and quickly decided he did not like it. “Maybe the dog will want it,” he mumbled as he dropped it into his pocket and into another time and place. He then addressed himself to the Colonel, “Those magazine stories are not about you, Colonel.”
Zephyr blew his mustaches aggressively and rose to his feet, his crumpled gray uniform clinging with unflattering exactitude to his portly physique. “I argue, sir! I argue that these stories are indeed concerning my life and adventures, and there’s not a court in Separate Space that wouldn’t uphold that!” With a great thrust and twist of his body he raised a defiant fist and shook it.
“The True Escapades of Captain Truesdale? The demotion must be especially galling to you,” Gasbert said as he decided between the pistol and the starship replica. He brought the Naghoy Grozny out and sat it on the desk in front of him.
Zephyr paced the room, near enough the curved wall that he was forced to keep his head cocked at an odd angle to avoid abrading it. He could feel the heat of the flesh of the wall on his face; he could feel his face growing red. How it had happened he could not say, how these stories from a thousand years ago had chronicled his life so perfectly without giving him an iota of acknowledgement… The colonel harrumphed and threw a fist at the window membrane, producing a leathery smack but doing no damage.
Gasbert removed the blueprints for the hyper-dimensional prison and spread them over his desk. The thick paper-cloth tented over his model of the Naghoy Grozny, famed terror ship of the thirtieth century. “If I remember my Truesdale’s True Escapades correctly you flew against the bloody Hun in the first war, fought a tulwar duel against a Pathan chief, led a cavalry charge against a tribe of indigenes in Western Canada, and rescued the Home Secretary’s buxom daughter from Barbary pirates. Is that correct?”
Colonel Zephyr paused to consider this list, and a worried look came over his face. Slowly he moved to the stack of Boy’s Own Adventure magazines and studied their covers. Shaking his head he sat back down at his chair by the window, the room’s sole view of the gelatinous sludge of linkspace. Zephyr pawed at the magazines, oblivious to the school of flagellum-propelled macrolymphs pushing past the membrane. He selected an issue sporting a particularly lurid cover and began to read. Again.
Gasbert produced the automatic pistol from the desk drawer and removed the magazine to verify that it was loaded. Fifteen rounds. He noticed a faint stain on the wall opposite and thought it might be blood. The stain was where a door should be, if the room had had one. He looked again at the blueprints hiding the warship model, spread on his desk like an indigo scab. He’d read them before, scrutinized them, squinted and stared. Why hadn’t he remembered until now? “Enjoying the adventures, Colonel?”
“Jolly good. Fine stories these, what, what?”
Gasbert nodded. He chambered a round and clicked the safety off. Putting a hand in the pocket of his smoking jacket he tapped the muzzle of the automatic against the skull of his great-grandfather’s Irish wolfhound and pulled the trigger.
“I say, Gasbert, did you hear that?” Zephyr asked, eyes wide.
“No, Colonel. Go ahead and read your stories.” Gasbert said, hand stuffed in his jacket, eyes fixed on the boar’s tooth pocket watch. This time he’d get out, get it right; when great-grandfather came to see what had happened to his old hound, Gasbert had fourteen chances to escape.
Bill Ward is a freelance writer out of Baltimore, Maryland. He has sold fiction to Murky Depths, Flashing Swords, Every Day Fiction, Darwin’s Evolutions, Kaleidotrope and the anthologies Northern Haunts, The Return of the Sword, The Age of Blood & Snow, and Desolate Places. In addition Bill has written background material and serial fiction for fantasy and science fiction games, has done editing for small press ventures, and is co-editor of the Magic & Mechanica Anthology from Ricasso Press. To read his fiction or check out his weekly book reviews please visit www.billwardwriter.com.
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