The Revolutions of Time
Chapter 11: The Land Across the Sea
I waited reluctantly with my ear against the door until his footsteps could no longer be heard, and then waited for fifteen minutes more, listening carefully for any noises. There were none, and once I had convinced myself that I was completely alone, I dashed swiftly up the stairs and jumped onto the couch. My sudden movements caused the top-heavy tower to sway slightly for a few moments, giving me quite the scare, for I didn’t realize what it was at first. But then my pilot’s instinct kicked in and I mentally calculated the height and width of the tower and the mass of the dome that rested upon it, and came to the conclusion that it was stable, for while a swift movement caused it to sway, it would take a prolonged and deliberate pendulum-like motion to cause any real damage, and even the fiercest wind would not upset it, for it would only blow in a single direction at a time, and only a rocking motion must be feared.
Confident once more of my safety, I took the rolled piece of paper from the folds of my clothing and opened it carefully. Inside was a note from Bernibus, written in a legible cursive that flowed from an obviously educated hand. It read as follows:
“My Dear Jehu, it is I, Bernibus, your friend and comrade, who writes to you. Wagner and myself are soon to set off for Nunami for a council with the Zards about the resolution of our conflict. It was decided in a cease fire treaty twenty-some years ago that whomever first came upon the kinsman redeemer was to have a council with the other side and the ancient one to decide which course to take, since either course needs the support of both the Zards and the Canitaurs to succeed. When you first came among us, Wagner seemed to break the terms of the treaty and keep you with us in an attempt carry out our plans independently of the Zards, using an attack plan that had been held in readiness since the treaty, to ensure a defense if things went wrong. When the Zards attempted to capture us upon your arrival, Wagner declared the treaty violated, and I assumed that it was to be entirely abandoned. I was under this impression when I befriended you, and once our friendship had strengthened, I had no fears for you, thinking as I did that new methods were to be tried.
“After the attack on Nunami failed and the council was once again to be held, each having violated it equally, my fears were suddenly aroused on your behalf. It was only then that I saw that it was the intention of Wagner not only to destroy Nunami and the Zards, but to capture the Temple of Time, which was the only part of the city to be left intact. When I confronted my brother-in-law about this, he only laughed at me scornfully and told me that I was soft, that I was a fool to put one man’s life ahead of the salvation of the whole earth. I was filled with wrath at him and still am, but I have decided that it was better to feign compliance and let you know by letter what it was that is being planned for you. I am only sorry that it should come to you at so late an hour, when I could have warned and helped you before if I had only known. There is not much that you can do now, but still I must warn you, for whatever it is worth, if only to prove my affections.
“You see, my dear Jehu, the Pastites and Futurists interpret the prophecy to mean that the kinsman redeemer has come to renew the earth, as you have no doubt heard, although there is strong evidences to the contrary. I myself have been brought up to this interpretation, as it is more acceptable than the alternate theories that exist, though I have been for a time now doubting its accuracy. According to the Externus Miraculum view, the Temple of Time is crucial to the implementation of either plan, in fact it is the crux of them both, the one issue that it is of as great importance, or greater, than the presence of you, the kinsman redeemer. There is an altar in the center room of the temple, a great diamond White Eagle that is grasping an ordinary altar in its talons, and this altar is where the kinsman redeemer is to be sacrificed. If only I had suspected so before and could have warned when there was yet time!
“But there is no time now for such reflections, so I will continue. The method of sending you back or forward in time is to sacrifice you on the altar of Temis, the God of Time. It is not a traditional, atonement sacrifice, nor of any kind that involves the cutting of the flesh with a knife. Instead it is a molecular one. You are to be set on the altar and then the White Eagle will start to spew forth either protons or electrons, depending on which is chosen, past or future. When your body’s cells absorb all of the floating matter, they will be either positively or negatively charged to such an extent that their revolutions will be rapidly accelerated. According to theory, the increased speed of the revolutions would cause a rift in the time continuum, or in other words, would change the proportion between your existence in the temporal and material realms and change your location in time, thereby propelling you into the past or the future, depending upon which was chosen, electron or proton, past or future.
“There has been much experimentation with this process, each person sent through time being equipped with a matter-proof box that is basically an advanced time capsule, lasting for millions of years. Into this box (or TAB, Temporal Anomaly Box) each person was supposed to write an account of their temporal journey and leave it on the island that is presently Daem, at specific locations decided on for that purpose. We would search for those boxes in the present, to see if they had been delivered. None have yet been found, though there are other possible reasons than death, such as a failure to find the island, or the box’s removal by someone in an intervening time. Still, I am greatly afraid for your life Jehu, especially so after what I discovered just hours ago in the classified archives of the Canitaurs: there was strong evidence that the process simply disintegrated those upon whom it was tried, instead of sending them through time. This was kept from the public, and was forcefully forgotten by those who knew, their reason being that Temis would guide your travel better than the others who were not called as his servants. If it were anyone but you, Jehu, I would probably have deceived myself in the same way, but I cannot let you be destroyed like this. You must escape and not let them throw away our only chance of salvation in such a way. I only wish that I had known sooner, I only wish that there was a chance that you could escape,
“Your Devoted Friend, “Bernibus”
For a moment I could do nothing except sit in silence and ponder over this new revelation. After I had reread the letter twice, so as to be thoroughly familiar with its contents, I ate it, so that if I did escape, or was apprehended doing so, Bernibus would not be found out and suffer because of it, though I doubt not that he would have gladly done so. When I had done that, I ran down to the door and attempted to force it open, but to no avail. Neither could it be picked. And even if it had, it would have done me no good, for there were at least two guards always stationed at the foot of the stairs, and many more between them and the temple entrance, and even if, by some miraculous intervention, I made it that far, that left me stranded conspicuously in the center of Nunami. My only hope was to escape from the island completely, for I would be found soon enough by the cooperating inhabitants if I remained upon their own lands.
The land across the sea then entered my mind, and its degenerate inhabitants, but that was across a wide channel that would be hard to cross even if I had infinite time, freedom, and materials to make a boat which would withstand the waves, and I had none of the three. What little hope I had, then, was out of reach, lost to me like the golden days of the past. It was then that I was overcome by despondency, the hopelessness of my situation weighing my spirits down. It is a peculiar trait of mine that in times of distress and in situations that seem to have no possible favorable outcome I act rashly and without reason. You will remember how I leaned forward and peered into the dark hole when I was stranded on the tiny island in the sea, and how I struck the tree with a limb on the shores of Lake Umquam Renatusum. Likewise, I again did something which would seem illogical and vain: in my frustration, I pushed the table that I happened to be standing against with as much force as I could muster. It slid softly along the carpeting before coming to a halt a few inches from the glass wall. It made no noise or jarring of the floor, but the sudden shifting of weight in the room caused the tower to sway once more, as it had when I had run up the stairs to the couch.
And, as had happened on the previous occasions, the result of my senseless actions was good, as if guided by some external force, for an idea came suddenly to my mind that would not have been there otherwise, an idea that was outlandish and far-fetched, but was at the time my only hope.
I lost no time on preparing my efforts, for there was none to be lost, and set out immediately to remove the carpeting from the floor. Upon examination I found that it was not attached to the ground at all, but only fastened into a wooden frame at the walls that held it tightly in place. It stretched in a circular fashion around the whole of the room and into the center until it came to the stairs that led downward, so that once removed it formed a circle about thirty feet in diameter with a three foot circular hole in its center. In case I haven’t mentioned the type of the carpet yet, which I must confess that I cannot remember, I will do so here: it was not a traditional carpet, that form being apparently lost after the great wars, instead it was a silky sheet-like carpet, no more than a quarter inch thick, and in fact greatly resembling the sail of an old clipper ship, the painting on the glass that I saw earlier probably attesting to the fact that it had been designed with that appearance in mind. Like its prototype, the sail, it caught a lot of wind and acted in the same general manner.
Using the bowie knife that was built into the large frontal buckle of the anti-electron suit, which, by the way, I was still entirely wearing, I cut the carpet down its center, making two semi-circular pieces, each with a moon shaped appearance, much like a wing. I based my idea in part on the observation that the Canitaurs and Zards had apparently lost, or disregarded, the springs of my time and instead used a hammock of springy, elastic cords that spread across the face of the furniture. Simply put, they stretched elastic ropes across an empty frame, almost like a trampoline made of individual cords. This created a very comfortable springing feel, for they gave enough bounce to render the surface pliable, but not overly soft. Taking the bowie knife again, I thrust it into the couch, and cut away the cushioning to reveal the support. To my great relief, I found that it was constructed in a manner similar to the other couches that I had seen. There were about two score of the cords, each being between three and four feet long. These I unattached and laid them down in a pile.
Next, I took the four main support beams for the couch, one running along each side and two down the center in a crescent shape, with the same curve and slope as the carpet, as they were designed to contour the same wall. Then I disassembled the table and took from it two of its main beams, which were about a foot shorter than their curved counterparts. These I did not fully remove, instead loosening their screws and swiveling them to extend outwards from the table at a right angle, tightening them again afterwards so that they were secure.
Once that was accomplished, I went to the frame that had held the carpet down and took the pins and fasteners which were used to secure it. These I placed on the crescent beams from the couch, which used the same standard size. Once I had secured the carpet sections to the beams, I attached the couch’s beams, via the cords, to the long beams sticking outward from the table, running the ends of all the cords through another cord that could, upon being pulled, adjust their height by pulling or releasing, thus controlling the distance between the upper and the lower beams, and changing the amount of slack in the carpet that was stretched between them. I then removed the legs from the tabletop, leaving just it and the beams together, the carpet being attached to the beams.
Thus my plan was completed, it being, in case you hadn’t guessed, a primitive hang glider, the carpet being a sail and the beams the wings, the whole being steerable by either raising or lowering one side or the other, and the altitude being adjustable by raising or lowering the two simultaneously. I felt keen joy at my skills in air travel at that moment, and as I stepped back to admire my work, I felt that peculiar satisfaction of having made something and finding that it was good.
But that moment was short lived, for another problem quickly presented itself, namely, how would I remove the hang-glider from the tower and launch it. It was far too large to go down the stairs and needed to be propelled to a high speed or dropped from a high altitude to become airborne. Since I had no way of propelling it, I needed to launch it from the top of the tower, which provided plenty of altitude, but then the problem of how to remove it from the tower arose. For a moment I was stumped and almost admitted defeat, but then it came to me.
The tower’s only weakness was in its lack of protection against a deliberate rocking motion. If I was able to swing it back and forth fast enough by slowly gaining speed and multiplying the momentum, it would be possible to get it to lean far enough that the dome would snap off, leaving the room open to the air. This was possible, though rather unlikely. But I tried anyway.
Starting on one side I began to move from one edge to the other until a faint rocking motion could be felt. Then I increased my speed in proportion to the speed of the tower itself. It was a slow start, but the momentum began to grow, and as it did each successive sway became faster and faster. Soon it was going so fast that I began to have unstable footing, the whole tower creaking like a tree that it is blown by a heavy wind. The speed kept increasing until it reached its fastest, swooshing to and fro with all of its accumulated force.
It was then that the break happened, for on one of the thrusts the top snapped off and the upper dome was flung downwards to the ground. As soon as it was off I shoved the hang-glider with all the force I could muster towards the edge. At first it fell, but a few feet from the edge its wings caught the wind and it was brought up to a stable soar, and just at that instant I landed on it, for I had jumped right after it. I hit with a thud and felt the craft bounce downwards a little as I hit, but it soon regained its stability and sped on through the air as behind me I heard a great crashing sound.
I pulled the left wing down and the glider began to turn in that direction. Since I had launched into the opposite direction of the mainland, I needed to wheel around completely, and as such I held the wing down until I had done an about face towards the east. What I saw was a striking picture: the sun had just begun to rise, and under the influence of its soft textures the city of Nunami looked as it had before: quaint, picturesque, and inviting. But there was a great difference now, for the tower itself had completely collapsed under the momentum, and its ruins had fallen down upon the Temple of Time, demolishing it and leaving only ruins. It had also fallen on a strip of the city, taking with it several buildings and leaving only rubble. The King, Wagner, and Bernibus could just barely be seen amongst the crowds that had dashed out of doors to see what was going on, and I could tell that Bernibus was smiling at my escape as he looked at my wind sailor a thousand feet in the air. A friend who rejoices in your advancement, even at his own cost, is rare indeed.
Turning my gaze upwards, I left Nunami and its troubles behind me and looked ahead to my promised land, and though it was barren and devoid of any significant foliage, it still held something equally dear to me as landscape: safety. The wind currents were strong and my speed was about 30 miles per hour. Great expanses of grassland sped by below me like the memories of yesteryear, and within half an hour I found myself over the ocean.
There is something very refreshing about the sunrise that correlated very well with my present feeling of emancipation, for it is a symbol of the new and fresh, and of the forgetting of the troubles of the past. This was true in my case, at least, for I was soon carefree once more, secure in my freedom. As the wind rushed across my body, I was relaxed in my adopted element, air, though it was slightly difficult to keep myself firmly on the glider, as I was lying unfastened to the tabletop. Below me passed the ocean, looking generally the same as ever, though paler and less alive, like a ghost of its former self, but still close enough to bring the calm of reminiscing.
Soon even the ocean began to give way to the fast approaching mainland, and I abandoned my restive meditations to solve the problem of how to land. I had not made any contraptions for that purpose, having not thought about it in the hurry to leave my prison. I decided to use a traditional circling approach, in the same way scavenging birds descend on their prey. When I was a mile or so inland, I began to circle about in wide spirals, narrowing them as I drew closer to the ground. In this way I had slowed down enough by the time I made contact with the ground that neither I nor my craft was injured in the landing.
The terrain proved to be as desolate as it had appeared from the distance, for the main vegetation was a weakly sprouting grass that was only a few inches high, though not mowed or chewed down. Every few dozen yards there was a single stunted shrub or small tree, or in some cases a group of the same, and the spaces between these was littered with scattered rocks and occasionally a smaller, flowering plant. The topography of the land was mostly flat, though not in the sense of a plain or savanna, instead it was merely a gentle slope, so that the immediate area seemed flat, but in the distance it was seen to rise considerably. There were also a few small hills that were no more than twenty feet high across their whole length, but in the obtuse slopes of the land, even that seemed to be almost mountainous. Brown was the prevailing color of it all for as far as my eye could see, though I cannot say if that condition prevailed inland further, since I had forgotten the telescope, which would probably have proved a useful tool.