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PARADOX Timothy Perper & Martha Cornog © 2011
Chapter 2. The Well
Krylla finally got off the phone -- some loon who thought that OIO manufactured involuters or castiron pintles or something (they didn't) -- and glanced at her watch. Only five minutes late to her husband¶s meeting.
She dashed down the corridor, and decided to stop in the ladies' room. She pulled open the door --
-- but of course it wasn't the ladies' room.
"Damn," Krylla muttered as she fell gently and slowly into an inky black universe, "it's a bloody damn trap."
Nothing echoed her voice, and it fell away into utter darkness.
"I feel like Alice," she commented to the blackness. "Where is the -- what was it? Marmalade, I think."
But unlike Alice's rabbit hole, nothing appeared in the dark around her -- no marmalade, no shelves, nothing.
"Cats," she continued. "Cats do eat bats, and so, obviously, bats eat cats."
There was no response from the black, and she continued to fall, slowly, gently.
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"Well,´ she went on conversationally, "the rules are that I won't be hurt when I reach bottom. If there is a bottom -- and this wouldn't be a Well if, well, there wasn't a bottom." She glared invisibly at the black. "If you are a Well."
No one answered.
"Well, well, well," she giggled. "I always wondered what it would be like to be Alice."
alice, alice, alice... the sound echoed into unimaginable distances.
Strange, Krylla thought. "Alice."
alice, alice, alice...
What are some other girl's names? she thought. I can't remember any. "Aha! Dorothy."
dorothy, dorothy, dorothy...
"Oho," she murmured, no longer knowing if she was falling feet first or head first. "So that's it. Beatrice."
beatrice, beatrice, beatrice...
Her slow smile was utterly hidden by the blackness.
KRYLLA, KRYLLA, KRYLLA...
"It's a stinking damn time trap," she growled. "Hey!" she yelled. "If you can hear me, call out your name!"
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"KRYLLA!" she yelled.
"Stay in there, kids," she called, because far ahead it was growing lighter, a pale dirty grayish light that become tinged with pinkish-mauve-violet.
"See you all soon," she added.
Suddenly light surrounded her, the bluish sky of a land she had never seen. Pale bluish trees, bluish clouds. She had stopped moving.
She was standing on a patch of black rubbery something, no doubt the focus of the time trap that had caught her. Unconsciously, she adjusted her hair and daintily stepped off the patch. A blue forest surrounded her -- and a squat little man was staring at her.
She looked back at him for a moment, then turned her eyes to the blue world around her. No use in seeming curious about him: obviously an underling of some variety, henchfolk of Wessel, perhaps --
He grunted. "Krylla?" he asked.
"What did you expect? she snapped. "The White Rabbit?"
He looked around alarmed. "No rabbit. Krylla."
"Yes, Krylla." She repressed a desire to respond at your service and at your family's, and then repressed a further desire to add and what's it to you?
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"Hurry." He started to back away. He was indeed short, no taller than four and a half feet, and at least two feet wide. He had long hairy arms, one carrying a cudgel. He pointed with it down a path through the blue forest. "Hurry -- they come!"
"Don't want that," Krylla agreed, wondering what in the name of Kronos had gone wrong -- or right -- with the time trap.
He edged towards the path, gesturing her on urgently. "Hurry. Krylla hurry."
"Sure." Still she hesitated, but the black rubbery patch began to whine ever so softly. "Yep, Krylla hurry."
She kicked off her office pumps, tossed her purse after them, and ran after the squat little man, thinking about having to run twice as fast to get there than she has to run to stay in the same place. Behind her there were clickings and buzzings. Then a harsh clang. Wessel woboes?
"Bad woboes," panted the squat little man, who had broken into a full run. Even in stocking feet, she had no problem keeping up with him. In four paces, they came to the edge of a gentle downwards slope, covered with loose slate and slabs of stone.
Beyond the slope, a tree cracked in half, smoking from the tracer beam. Ignoring it, the little man dove head first down the slate slope, and before he hit ground, a shimmering patch of light opened beneath him. He disappeared into it.
PFWWaazzddPFFWWWazzssss. Slate splintered and crackled. Harsh clanging voices echoed over her into the forest beyond the slope, and someone was yelling...
"Here we go again," she muttered, diving towards the shimmering light.
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Black and silence closed around her again, and once more she was falling gently and slowly into an infinite well of darkness.
"Hi, girls," she said to the dark.
"Marmalade this time?" she asked no one in particular.
There was no answer.
"I'll have an egg, then," she said.
Once again, a burst of light surrounded her, and once again she was standing on a black rubbery patch. But his time she was in a garden, with hollyhocks and rosebushes all around her. In the distance was a stone house with round ceramic tiles on the roof. The air was warm, and she could smell the sea. From far away came the cry of seagulls.
"Home," the little man announced.
"Oh, good," Krylla commented. "I was wondering when we'd get home." She could look at him now -- he was wearing dark cloth and a leather apron, with stout leather leggings and boots.
He smiled and headed off towards the house, gesturing for her to follow. Krylla started after him, wondering if the Wessel war robots had followed them. If there wasn't another time gate around, there was nothing she could do about them. If the godforsaken place had a telephone -- even a
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tellyphone would do -- when she saw a woman approaching them down the path. She was medium height, dark hair, slender, and even though Krylla had to admit she was biased, really quite pretty.
The woman smiled at her. "Come in," she said softly. "You are safe here, at least for now." She placed her hand warmly on Krylla's arm. "Come."
Krylla gazed at the other woman's face. Then, in spite of herself, she smiled. She was looking at herself.
Sitting on a sunlit breezy patio, surrounded by yellow flowers and the smell of the sea, Krylla felt immensely better. Reflectively, she fingered the fabric of the gown the other Krylla had lent her: muslin, very finely woven, and its natural color. Soft. Delicately, she chose a pale yellow-green berry from the dish; fresh, natural, soft too. She was welcome here.
But where was "here"? One does not long remain associated with DivEs without picking up a great many secondary competences, shall we call them? Languages, botany, weaving, cooking -- very important, if obvious -- mechanics, tools, ceramics, the principles of trade, advertising, and sales (you never know, Krylla continued reflectively, when you might have to trade a plastic zipper for a bottle of Varjinian vuzd, not here, though -- but where IS here?) but none of it helped her identify where she was. The yellow flowers were lovely, but she did not know what they were. Nor could she identify the fruit, though the other Krylla had called them pamole berries. The ceramic, the glass, the woodworking ± all unremarkable. But that only meant that the properties of those substances themselves determined how they were worked. One does not use a teaspoon as a trowel, for the characteristics of mortar are the characteristics of mortar.
Krylla's thoughts shifted to other woman. Unlike Leo Fallarian -- either one -- she had no desire to call the other woman Krylla II; her name was Krylla, just like her own name was Krylla. So they automatically and easily spoke to each other using the name. Still, she liked Krylla -- and she chuckled quietly, disturbing a blue buzzing insect hovering over the pamole berries. It looked rather
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like a bee. Surprising how much one has in common with a paraverse self -- "twin" implies too much distance, and technically, the work is homologue, but not everyone used it. They changed topics simultaneously, they had the same train of associations, they anticipated each other's sentences. The other Krylla looked a little older than herself, but they were too close not to be homologues...
Did the other Krylla have a man named John? She had not told her, and nothing in the house -- villa? -- specifically bespoke a man. In fact, she had seen only the little fellow who had rescued her from the woboes, and he had left, to return, he said, to the vineyard. But just as she had not asked Krylla about her John, Krylla had not asked her about -- romance, she supposed, was not quite the right word, but lover was even worse. Then she chuckled again: she had not even thought of the word husband, even though she and Smith had been married ± oh, for a number of years now.
"Pamole berries are nice," she murmured to the blue bee-like insects. They buzzed in return, and Krylla wondered once again whose voices she had heard in the dark void of the paraverse trap. They were all women« Had I spoken or only thought? Yet they had answered, of that she was certain. It was odd, though: extremely odd. Someone is DivEs -- one of Csigolyi's buddies, she seemed to remember -- had proven a theorem that when you are in paraverse transit itself, there can be no paraverse reduplication. In brief, somehow there was only a single line of temporality during Capsillon transmission. Which made no more sense then anything else about paraverses and paratime, even though Siggy would occasionally growl about quantum fluctuations in the tau-time as it meandered forward in whatever unspeakably complex cosmos it existed in ± in what? That was another unanswerable problem, rather like where the first Capsillon transmitter had come from.
Krylla put her fingers together, intrigued by this oddly technical stream of consciousness. Long experience had taught her not to interrupt her own trains of thought: they usually led somewhere, even if she was never sure exactly how her mind made its jumps.
Her thoughts turned to Leo Fallarian, and the time he had wandered off to Central Asia in another paraverse to skunk out why the Free Brotherhood of Tuva, a characteristically mad crew of Bessarabian Moslems, were pumping thousands of megawatts into the desert near Amu Darya -only to find that they were running a huge Capsillon transmitter. And they had gotten it, Fallarian
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said, when a paraverse homologue had dropped it off with a plan for (among other things) avenging the wrongs done to the Bessarabian Moslems. But before that? Or, alternatively, parallel to that? Somewhat adjacent to that?
She ate another pamole berry, adjusting the hem of her gown -- knee high and very airy, and let her mind return to the place she insisted in calling Alice's Well. She had not told Krylla about it, and she had not asked about the actual trip. She obviously knew that Krylla was coming, and that she had, somehow, been diverted from whatever scheme Wessel had cooked up. But where was here?
And yet her thinking would not reach beyond the memory of the voices, or thoughts perhaps, that she had heard in the Well. There had been many other Kryllas with her, and other people too, named Dorothy and Beatrice -- the other names did not quite come clear to her. And that meant that in the Well, during that paratime transfer, there had been many (make than an infinity) of Krylla-doubles, no matter what Csigolyi's buddy claimed his theorem showed. A singular tunnel indeed, she thought.
"See?" she said to a blue bee.
Automatically she felt for her purse, for she wanted pencil and paper, but it was gone -- vanished somewhere in Blue World. "Oh, well," she told the bee. Putting her fingers together again, she drifted back to the Well.
All right, it was a singularity: an at least four-dimensional singularity. But what is a fourdimensional singularity through which one could fall? A well, obviously, a Well of Time.
Krylla returned in mind to the patio and the warm sea breeze. "Not a mathematician," she sighed. "Maybe another Krylla is." She amused herself by imagining that Krylla, in her paraverse, mentally visualizing a four-dimensional chronal singularity. "Good luck to her," Krylla said dryly.
"But why singularities at all?" The buzzing of the blue bees might have answered her, but Krylla did not understand that language, so her mind drifted again.
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"Bah." She rearranged her gown and strolled over to the law stone wall that overlooked an arm of a distant ocean. "How remarkably obvious." Somewhere in the Well had been an infinity of other -Kryllas. And Alices. And Beatrices... and -- who else? "All falling into a Well, a singular well indeed -- " she began to laugh " -- at the start of A Singular Adventure!"
She was pleased with the image. Whatever one might say about DivEs, it was not dull. Wessel and its thugs notwithstanding, she enjoyed the variations paratime could concoct, as it mirrored paraverse after paraverse after paraverse into an infinity of looking-glass worlds. Krylla smiled at herself: Alice fell into the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland, not Alice Through the LookingGlass... but it did not matter. The form and structure and shape of the adventure -- Adventure, she corrected herself -- remained the same. Paratime had a way of doing that: stories and events here mirrored and changed into similar stories and events there, as if the threads connecting events remained similar even when the events themselves shifted, changed, were reflected in the immense infinities that were the Cosmos. She wondered if whoever had planted the pretty garden where she had met the other Krylla (no, she said, she is really not another Krylla; she is a Krylla in her own right) might have heard of the garden of flowers outside Alice's Looking-Glass house. Not likely, she decided, even if it was a symmetry that pleased her.
And it was wise, she thought, to look about one before embarking on a Singular Adventure. But her plan to explore was cut short, for Krylla had reappeared.
She smiled at the other woman -- herself. "Where are we?"
Krylla laughed, also in delighted sound. "We are in a chronal singularity -- I see you guessed that -- "
Krylla could not restrain her grin. She nodded.
" -- and there are, ah, restraints on reaching here from outside."
³And on who can come here?"
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"Yes. It's more complex than it seems, though..." Krylla's voice trailed off, and she pointed out to an arm of the sea. In the distance, a small ship had come into view. "A friend of mine is on that ship, so..."
Krylla smiled. All in one, her friend had told her that she too had a man named -- well, mustn't guess about that yet -- though no one external to the minds of either woman could have told how each knew that the pronoun ³he´ was to be attached to this friend, and that the Well was not the only way in and out of -- this place. No matter where this place might be.
As Krylla wondered why she was so sure of her conclusion, far below the ship ran up a pennant fluttering in the breeze. Krylla leaned over the wall and waved. I'd do the same, Krylla thought, even though I knew he couldn't see me.
« not a ship, it¶s a schooner, a voice came to her from across a vast distance «
"I will greet them," Krylla murmured happily, and Krylla nodded, smiling, as the other woman ran off -- light-footed, like Krylla herself.
Now she leaned over the wall to watch the ship draw near. In the growing breeze, the pennant fluttered more strongly, but, then, in a vagrant wisp of air, it straightened out. And on it was an eye - an Eye, looking at Krylla mildly, but with distinct curiosity.
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