a tale in weekly parts
You can see the full story so far at this link.
The words in Alice’s mind, words that were heard clearly by the Eddies, were, “Take me somewhere nice; somewhere quiet where I can think.”
The Eddies obliged. They transported Alice to what looked to her like Rio de Janeiro in the middle of Carnival.
“You call this quiet?” Alice shouted, both pointlessly and needlessly. Pointless because the Eddies were in and with her and so picked up her thoughts, and needless because… well, the same thing really.
In her head, she heard an indistinct voice announce, “Transition in thirty seconds.”
“Transition in twenty-six seconds.”
“We’re on Inevitabilia?” she asked.
“We’re on Inevitabilia,” the voice replied, “eighteen seconds.”
“Count me down from ten, please.”
“Ten… Nine… Eight… Seven… Six… Five… Four… Three… Two… One… TRANSITION!”
Alice found herself on the edge of a palm forest, just off a pristine beach. The coast swept in a wide arc from north to south and was edged with some of the largest palms she had ever seen; indeed the largest palms she had ever seen.
“Climb,” the voice counselled.
“Don’t waste time with questions, just climb.”
“I’m not going to start climbing palms for no reason, who do you think I am?”
“CLIMB!” the voice repeated with a note of urgency bordering on panic.
From the top of the tree, she could see a herd of what looked like large dinosaurs making their way towards the coast.
“What the hell are those?” she asked.
“Pycnonemosaurus nevesi,” the voice replied, “one of Brazil’s largest-ever land carnivores.”
“It must be—”
“Nine metres long; that’s thirty feet to you.”
“I know metres,” Alice said indignantly.
“We know you do, but some don’t.”
“So it’s a carnivore.”
“What’s it eat?”
“Titanosaurs mainly. There are loads of of medium-sized titanosaurs in the area. They range from the 7-meter (23 feet) Gondwanatitan to the 26-meter (85 feet) Austroposeidon. They also hunt iguanas, turtles, various herbivorous and carnivorous terrestrial crocodilians, and small numbers of dromaeosaur or raptor dinosaurs. These guys are top predators.”
“You reading that somewhere?”
“No need. My indices cover every book ever printed and every web site ever populated.”
“Okay. Erm. Would they eat humans?”
“They won’t ever have met any mammals, so it’s impossible to guess how they’d react, but maybe they’d be game to try. Mind you, you probably wouldn’t qualify as a snack to one of them.”
“When are we?”
“And you brought me here to be quiet and think?”
“It’ll be good once they’ve gone.”
“Hang on a minute,” Alice said, “your voice…”
“What about it?”
“Did you think we’d let you come here without us to keep an eye on you?”
“I came here to get away from you.”
“No. You came here to think. So stop talking and think.”
“I can’t. Not up this tree.”
“Transition in forty-three seconds.”
Forty-three seconds later, Alice was lying on sand so white it was nearly silver, under an umbrella of palms. The beach and its surrounds looked more like she would expect to see in Rio, only with no evidence of human presence.
“When are we now, J?”
“Early fourteenth century by your counting. There’s a settlement just around the headland to the north, but you won’t be disturbed here. Do you want me to manifest?”
“Do I want you to what?”
“Do I want you to become visible?”
“Well, yes. That.”
“Yes, but use a psychological cloak, like you did in Rocamadour.”
“Look straight out to sea, Alice.”
“Anything in your peripheral vision?”
Alice looked straight out and concentrated on a point on her horizon. Off to her right, she almost saw a shepherd’s hut. She turned her gaze towards it and, of course, it disappeared.
“Sneaky, aren’t you?” she said.
“It’s what I do.”
“Okay. Can you withdraw from my mind for, say, ten minutes? I want to think about his thing on my own, if that’s okay.”
“More than okay, Alice. It’s a big decision you have to make, and probably one of the most personal you’ll ever face.”
“So you don’t want to know about it.”
Alice was aware of Jarvis’s withdrawal and suddenly felt more alone than she could ever remember.