Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "One Man's Magic"

This poem came out of the August 6, 2019 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] siliconshaman, [personal profile] bairnsidhe, and [personal profile] dialecticdreamer. It also fills the "Celebrating your skills and abilities" square in my 8-2-19 card for the End of Summer bingo fest. This poem was sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Schrodinger's Heroes project. This is the prequel to "Getting Them Home" by [personal profile] dialecticdreamer, which takes place the first week of June, 2015.

"One Man's Magic"

When wormhole met summoning circle,
everything went south pretty fast.

Alex, Ash, and Bailey concentrated
on figuring out how to untangle it all.

Kay, Chris, and rest of the team focused
on how to stop magic slopping over
into Texas and rearranging reality.

"Must be Tuesday," Chris muttered
as he used a fireplace poker to pop
a stray bit of magic hopping around
like a demented horny toad.

Then the overlap expanded
far enough for the summoning circle
to snap around the perimeter of the Tef.

The next thing they knew, they
were all ... somewhere else.

The truck hadn't come with them.

When Chris and the others got to
where Alex and her group had landed,
they found that none of the big items
had come with them this time.

"What about your phone?"
Kay asked Alex.

"Doornail," Alex said,
shaking her head.
"Bailey's working on it."

"Still dead," Bailey said.
"Well, maybe we can use
the parts for something."

"Any idea why it croaked?"
Chris said, trying not to panic.

"Not a clue," said Bailey.

"The medicine of this world
is strange to me," Ash said.
"We know they use magic.
They might not use technology --
might not be able to use it, if it's
incompatible for some reason."

"So we're stranded," Chris said.
"Well, that really sucks."

"It looks like we're
lost in the woods again,"
Kay said. "Alex, Morgan,
you're in the middle. Ash,
you've got point -- try to find
something useful. Chris, you
and will bring up the tail."

Schrodinger meowed.

"I haven't forgotten you,"
Kay said. "Everyone else,
wrap around Alex and Morgan."

Ash looked at the sky, looked at the land,
and picked a direction not quite at random.

Within an hour they came to a plaza
hidden within the forest, its flat surface
inlaid with many arcane symbols.

The wizard attending the center circle
straightened up and pushed back his hood.

It was Alex -- or some alternate version, at least.

"Oh, thank God," said Chris. "We may be
lost in the woods without our gear, but
at least we're not swinging a glass hammer."

Meanwhile core!Alex was peering down
at the strange squiggles in the pavement.

"Can you make sense of that?" Chris said.

"Who knows?" Core!Alex said. "After all,
one man's magic is another man's engineering."

Ash nodded. "The universe is full of magical things
patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper."

Chris left the geeks and the wizard
happily celebrating their skills and abilities.

He found the makings of a slingshot,
then went off in search of something
that could be killed and eaten.

By the time Chris came back
with two bright blue squirrels and
a fire-breathing bird, the Alexes
had reached an agreement.

"We can't go back the way
we came," said core!Alex.

"Well, we could, but we would
have to wait a year for the portal
to recharge enough," Ash added.

"So Aletsithon gave us a map to
another portal and instructions on
how to operate it," Alex said.

Kay, who had just come back
with water from the nearest stream,
looked at the map and said, "That's
at least a week of hard travel on foot.
What do you and Morgan think?"

"That it's a lot shorter than a year,"
Morgan said. He bent down and
shook a rock out of his shoe.

"I regret that I can't come with you,"
said Aletsithon. "What an adventure
that would be! But I am responsible
for taking care of this portal site."

"We understand," said core!Alex.
"We don't want to leave the Tef
any longer than we have to."

Aletsithon gave them as much
as he could for tools and provisions,
then sent them on their way.

It was a long, difficult week
until they reached the bridge
only to discover that it had
washed away in a recent flood.

Then it was a long, miserable week
scrabbling along the river before
they came to the next bridge,
and several more days of
backtracking to find the trail
that they needed to follow.

At last, though, they
came to the portal site.

"Okay, so this is the base
and that's the dial," Alex said
as she pointed at a small circle
and a much larger circle.

"I'll hold down the base while
you work the dial," Ash said.

Chris watched the colors spin,
felt dizzy, and closed his eyes.
"Please tell me that you know
how to get us home," he said.

"Well, no and yes," Alex said.
"We can't actually go straight back
from this world to ours, because
technology doesn't work here.
The connection is unstable, that's
why it crashed in the first place."

"Then what are we doing?" Kay said.

"Spinning the dial at random to see
if we recognize a world that has both
magic and technology," Ash said.
"We've found plenty of those before,
we just need to spot one we know
so we can get home through there."

Chris peeked again, and saw that
the dial was making images of
the different worlds now, like
channel-surfing on a television.

Suddenly Schrodinger pounced.

"Whoa, wait, that's not what we're
supposed to -- oh." Alex tilted
her head. "Well what do you know."

"Alex. An explanation would be good,"
Bailey said through his teeth.

"It's Terramagne," Alex said.
"Go on through, we can
get home from there."

"We don't know the way,"
Morgan pointed out. "They
came to us last time."

"Yeah, but we know that
it connects and we know
they have people who can
find the way," Alex said. "Or
would you rather go back to
that place that kept calling
you the Feather Princess?"

"Ugh, no," Ash said, shuddering.

So they all trooped through
the portal, and then it winked out
behind them a moment later.

"I have a signal!" Bailey crowed,
holding up his smartphone.

"Okay, we're saved," Chris said,
plopping onto the nearest park bench.
They had landed in some sort of playground,
some sort, its pavement decorated with
weird squiggles. "My feet are killing me."

"No problem," Kay said. "From what
I remember hearing, this dimension has
great medical supplies. I'll just --"

"Check out that box there,"
Ash said, pointing to where
a gray box with a red cross
hung on the side of a pavilion.

Kay popped open the box,
collected a few things, then
waved Chris over to the pump.

They rinsed off his feet first with water,
then with something that made the skin
go numb, so that Chris didn't even flinch
when Kay patched up the mess of blisters.

"Okay, we've posted suggestive notes in
various online venues that should let us
find people who can get us home,"
Alex said when they came back.
"Lots of people were asking for help
and getting answers, so I'm sure
that we'll be able to get some too."

"Now what do we do?" Chris said
as he sat back down on the bench.

"Now we wait," Alex said simply.

* * *


"One man's "magic" is another man's engineering."
-- ROBERT A. HEINLEIN, The Notebooks of Lazarus Long

"The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper."
-- EDEN PHILLPOTTS, A Shadow Passes

Horny toads, or Texas horned lizards, are disappearing in our dimension. :( These weird little critters used to be widespread in the southwest.

From the descriptions of Schrodinger's Heroes fanfic:
"Lost in the Woods" -- After "Last Woman Standing" tackles some aspects of sexism and various scripted episodes confront racism, this story deals with classism. The whole team gets dumped into a very low-tech dimension where higher education is less use than plain old horse sense. It falls to Ash, Kay, and Chris to keep everyone else alive. Alex and Morgan are all but helpless. Poorskillz for the win!

Memorable lines:
Chris: "Okay, this bush is the men's room and that boulder is the women's room."
Quinn: "What about me?"
Chris: "Figure out something on your own. You always do."

As described in "Fraying Strings," worlds without an Alex tend to have the life expectancy of a glass hammer.</user></user></user></user>
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, science fiction, weblit, writing
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