Saturday, July 21, 2018

Fervor: Zero Dimension (Part III)

As foretold, a new woman appears through a portal after we wake up from having all shared the unit in the Ponce. At first, she doesn’t seem to speak anything but German, but then she rewires her brain before our eyes, and introduces herself as Ida Reyer.
“Have you been told why you’re here?” Slipstream asks.
“No particulars,” Ida answers. “I’ve been asked to help you find something.” She pulls a compass out of her pocket, and presents it to them. “This can find virtually anything, across time and space” She tilts her head inquisitively. “This is usually the part where people reach out to see the compass for themselves.”
“We’re all adults,” Slipstream says, making me smile.
Hogarth does seem the most interested in understanding the thing. “How does it find what you want? Do you tap your slippers three times, and wish upon a star?”
“Not in so many words,” Ida answers. “No, but it would take me years to teach you how this thing works, and months for you to learn, if I were to just let you use it at your leisure. There are multiple layers, see?” She lifts the face of the compass, revealing more needles underneath. Then she lifts that face, and another face below that. Then she swings them out, and turns them in all sorts of directions. She even flicks one of them and lets it spin, claiming that it would never stop as long as the universe is ivory beige. “It can take you anywhere, and anywhen, and it can show you anything.”
“So, if we asked you to find a book, you could do so with that compass?” Hilde proposes.
Ida sports a neutral frown, and lays the compass on a table. She places her palm on top of it, and takes a breath. Upon flipping her hand over, the front cover of a book that’s suddenly there follows, leaving the compass now sitting on the title page. “You mean, like this one?”
Leona lifts the book, and reads the title, “Hotspots: A Look into Places of Great Power on Earth, and Beyond. No, not this one.”
“Hm,” Ida says. “You should keep that, just in case.” She claps her hands together. If I wasn’t awake before, I am now. “All right, so if you’re not looking for that book, then which one are you looking for?”
“It’s called the Book of Hogarth,” Hilde tells her.
“Heh, that’s a funny name,” Ida snorts.
“It’s my name,” Hogarth explains awkwardly.
“Right, lost your own book? Why don’t you just...print off another copy?”
“I don’t remember writing it. I mean,” Hogarth has clearly been in the world of salmon and choosers for awhile now, but this is personal, and she’s having a hard time accepting it. “I mean, I evidently didn’t so much as write it as I guess I just made it come into existence.”
Ida keeps her mouth open, like she’s on the precipice of saying something else, but then she just looks amongst everyone in the group, almost as if waiting for Ashton Kutcher to jump out and give her a high five. “Are you talking about a cypher book?”
“I have no idea what that means.”
“Did you make it when you were a child?”
“Jesi didn’t say anything about that. She said I birthed it.”
Ida threatens to nod her head perpetually. “Those things are rare. Entire timelines go for thousands of years of human struggle without anyone ever making one. The first time, I think, was an actual cave drawing.” She starts pacing the room like a bee giving directions to a flower. “You basically have to cut into the fabric of the continuum, and focus the collective mass of the cosmic background radiation into a single point the size of a planck length, as observed within the zero dimension.”
“Uhh, what?” I ask, looking to the adults for answers, as Hilde looks to Hogarth, who doesn’t get it either.
“I’m an astrophysicist,” Leona says, “and I don’t understand that.”
“I’m just regurgitating something someone told me once,” Ida clarifies. “The point—pun intended—is that if you wrote a cypher book, it potentially holds the answer to literally any and all questions in the universe. We have to find it. Where did you live when you were a kid? Only children write cypher books.”
“Springfield, Kansas,” Hogarth answers, dreading having to explain that whole thing again.
She apparently doesn’t need to. “Okay, well we’re not going to be able to go there, and it possibly explains what happened to that city in the first place.”
Mireille walks into the room. “Umm, Leona? Is Brooke allowed to have—”
“No,” Leona interrupts. “Brooke, what did I say about lying?” she yells out.
“To!” Brooke shouts back from out of view.
“Fine! I know where you hide them!”
Leona shakes her head. “I moved them, don’t worry. Sorry,” she apologizes to the group after Mireille leaves.
“All right,” Ida says. “I have an idea. If you wrote a cypher book, then you should be maintaining a permanent quantum entanglement with it. It may have even made you immortal.”
This perked up Hilde. “Really?”
Ida shrugs. “Or it’ll die when you die, or you’ll die if it’s destroyed. Who knows?”
“What’s your idea?” Hogarth asks, not wanting to think too much about her own death.
“Just hold the compass. Maybe it’ll take you there.”
Hogarth holds out her hand reluctantly, fully prepared to whine about how stupid this feels, but she never gets the chance. As soon as her fingers touch the compass, it clamps down on her hand. She tries to get it off, but it holds on tighter. The back of the compass opens up, and flips down to grab her wrist. The opposite side does the same. No matter what Hogarth does—or how much we try to help—the compass is determined to take over her. It continues to open up, and climb up her arm, unfolding as many times as necessary to accommodate her whole body. There is no way this much stuff exists in such a small thing. It must be bigger on the inside, because in a matter of seconds, Hogarth is completely covered in this bizarre steampunk armor cocoon.
“Can you breathe?” Hilde asks in a panic.
“Yep,” Hogarth says, trying to keep herself from panicking too.
“Ida, what the hell is this?” Slipstream demands to know.
Ida is even more freaked out than any of us. “I have no idea. I’ve never seen it do this. I have to call The Weaver.”
“Who the hell is the Weaver?”
“She built the thing,” Ida replies. She turns around to walk away, then stops.
“What? What are you waiting for?”
Ida cautiously turns back around. “I need the compass to contact her.”
“Oh, shit.”
“Does it hurt?” Leona asks, as calm as ever.
“I literally don’t feel anything,” Hogarth replies from inside her cocoon. “Like, I can’t be a hundred percent certain I even still have a body.”
“We have to get her out of there,” Hilde states the obvious.
“How would we go about doing that?” Slipstream asks, looking to Leona.
“Why are you lookin’ at me?”
“Aren’t you a scientist?”
“I’m not a mechanic, and I don’t what this is.” She gestures to the cocoon.
“Well you’re the most qualified here, so maybe you could give it a think? What about a blowtorch? Or...a screwdriver?” She examines the armor, hovering her hands centimeters from it, like she’s performing reiki on her girlfriend, but she’s really just afraid to touch it. “Acid.”
“Those are all bad ideas,” Ida says. “Too dangerous.”
“I know,” Hilde agrees. “I’m just brainstorming, and I can’t think straight, because I’m scared.” She looks back at Hogarth. “Are you still doing okay in there, Piglet?” She waits patiently. “Piglet?” She carefully reaches up, and touches the part of the compass armor that’s roughly where Hogarth’s cheek should be. It caves in, like the sand of a castle. “No,” she murmurs. “No, no, no,” she continues as the structural damage causes a chain reaction, and more of the armor crumbles into millions of pieces. She never screams or cries. She just stands there, stunned and helpless, as the love of her life falls apart, leaving behind only a perfectly intact magical compass, and a book.
“This is it?” Hilde questions. She reaches down and pulls the book from the sand ashes of her loved one. “This is what we wanted? She had to die just to get this goddamn useless thing?” She pulls arm back and hurls the book across the room. Hogarth catches it  with one hand, like a pro baseball player.
Hogarth looks different, though. She’s much older, ragged and dirty, and she’s missing an ear. She sneers at the book in her hand. “This damn thing. Ain’t brought me nothin’ but trouble.”
“What happened to you?” Hilde asks, still in shock.
Future!Hogarth casually hands the book to me as she’s heading for Hilde. “Careful...” she dips her girl, and plants a passionate kiss on her face. “Spoilers.”
“How long has it been for you?” Ida asks out of profesional curiosity.
“Too long,” Future!Hogarth answers as she’s reaching down to pick up the special compass. She points it to the middle of the room, and squeezes, like it’s just a television remote. A beam of light shoots out of it and forms a portal. A group of ladies is standing on the other side of it. One looks like she could be related to little Brooke, and another is Leona. Yet another version of Hogarth is there too. She walks through the portal as Future!Hogarth is walking towards it. “Bye, Felicia,” Future!Hogarth says, feigning hostility.
“Bye, Vicki,” Young!Hogarth replies with equally fake animosity. “See you in the red forest.”
The portal closes, and now there’s only one Hogarth. “Well, this is a bit awkward. I’ve been through quite a bit since the cocoon. Sorry to scare you, but I’m fine.”
“You were missing an ear,” Hilde pointed out.
“That hasn’t happened to me yet. I don’t know why it does, but it doesn’t matter right now. The point is that we have the book, and we can...”
“We can what?” Slipstream prodded.
“We never did find out what the point of this thing is, did we?” I ask. I’m flipping through the pages. I recognize some of the words as English, but not all of them are. There are some other languages, and some are symbols that I’m not familiar with at all. There are lots of graphs, and charts, and figures. Some pages have meaningless scribbles, while others are completely blank. This is a book only insomuch that it contains pages, wrapped in a cover.
“We can deal with it tomorrow,” Slipstream says as our leader. “This day has been a crappy one, and I think we’ve had enough.”

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