Previously in Only Slightly... after The Geraldine unexpectedly found herself swimming in a large ocean, Bidet and Fridgara determined that she fell through an artificially-created spatial tear. The problem with that is that they have no idea what kind of technology would be required to create it, as no human research has, as far as they are aware, reached that area, and they can only form them with magic. In the mean time of course, The Geraldine is still swimming.
After a few reflexive gasps for breath, The Geraldine relaxed in the quite pleasantly warm water and stopped trying to breathe. There wasn't much point, since she didn't need to. Instead, she let her body float as it would (just under the surface, as it happened), and studied the sky for a while. It was a pure, Earth-like blue, but with no clouds in sight. Or a sun, for that matter. There was plenty of light, but nowhere for it to come from.
'This,' she said out loud after sticking her head out of the water, 'is definitely not natural.'
She swam around a little bit, wondering if she might be able to fall back through the hole which had brought her here. Spatial tears, she had read, could potentially do something like this - but where was she? A whole artificial world? The enormity of that thought staggered
her, so she ignored it for a bit. She'd fallen some considerable distance when she arrived here, so the tear, if it was there, would be a way above the surface.
Experimentally, she pulled in some water and raised it in a platform above the general level, up to about where she thought the tear had been. After swimming around at that level a bit more, she concluded that the tear, even if it was still open, wasn't going to lend itself to being found - and if nobody had come through after her by now, she was unlikely to be rescued anytime soon.
'Time to get myself out of here then,' she declared, and let the water sink back to the level it wanted to be. At the same time she dissolved herself, merging with the water in a curious kind of way she'd learned how to do during her student days, trapped under a rock
fall on the sea floor off the coast of Portugal and running out of air. Immediately she noticed something odd. There wasn't a sea floor here - the water just went on and on until it reached air on the other side. A sphere of water, floating in air. That was rather odd.
Off to one side, though, was a slight disturbance. She moved towards it, and found that it was an island, floating rather improbably on the surface. Re-forming herself on its shore, she set about exploring it. This didn't take long - it was only about fifty paces across, and the
only distinguishing feature was a boulder with a door in the side of it. It was an ordinary door, made of oak, with a round gold handle and a letterbox set in the middle. There was even a knocker.
This was not the kind of thing The Geraldine would expect to find on a small island on a planet made entirely of water with no sun, although after the manner of her arrival here she was beginning to worry that she might consider such things merely abnormal instead of impossible before too long. There the door was though. She used the knocker. After a slight delay, the door opened. Behind it there was a long hallway lit by candles, and no sign of anything that might have caused the door to open.
'Okay then,' The Geraldine said to herself. 'Looks like it's going to be a very weird day.' This was especially true as the corridor clearly led off into space that was, from outside, merely air. Or perhaps it was another spatial tear. Did it matter? 'Probably not.'
The moment she set foot in the corridor, she found herself in the middle of it. It stretched before her and behind her apparently endlessly, with no sign of the doorway through which she'd entered. That, as far as she was concerned, settled it. Another spatial tear. She could be absolutely anywhere (again). With nothing to do but set off down the corridor, she did exactly that.
After about ten minutes, the corridor vanished. Now she found herself in what could only be described as a mediaeval banqueting hall. All the necessary accoutrements were there - a large wooden table adorned with many large candlesticks, crackling torches on the stone walls, rushes on the floor and a huge throne-like chair at the head of the table. The chair was occupied.
'Hello,' The Geraldine said. The man sitting in the chair was old - extremely old. His skin was so wrinkled it looked like it had been made for someone several sizes larger, and veins stood out clearly all over it. What little hair he had was purest white, and his eyes were
clouded with cataracts.
'He- Hello?' his voice was thin and high, and wavered as if he had difficulty keeping it at the pitch he wanted. 'So you're here at last then.' He coughed, wiped his mouth. 'I've been waiting a long time for you.'
'I was told to. "Go and wait for the First One," they said, so I did.' He scowled in The Geraldine's general direction. 'What took you so long?'
'How long have you been waiting here?' The Geraldine asked. The man squinted at her.
'What year is it on Earth now? I lost track a while back.'
'Twenty-three twelve,' The Geraldine told him. He looked confused.
'You started a new dating system, didn't you? Now you've really mucked things up. Tell me, what significant event was it this time?'
'The birth of Jesus Christ. Some people believe he was the Son of God - his followers were the most powerful religion on Earth for quite some time. How come you don't know that?'
'Well obviously I came here before that happened, didn't I?' he said testily. 'Are the pyramids at Giza still there?'
'Then you know how old they are. I came here when the first stones were being laid on the largest one. Work it out for yourself.'
'I'm no historian, but that was well over four thousand years ago,' The Geraldine said. She felt weak at the knees suddenly.
'Yes, that sounds about right,' the old man said. 'Why don't you take a seat, you look queasy all of a sudden.'
'Thankyou.' The Geraldine sat near the end of the table. 'Are you... are you human?'
'Not particularly,' the old man said. 'Are you human? How do you define human?'
'Genetics, I guess.'
'And have you looked at your genes recently? Say, since a certain accident on the sea floor?'
'How did you know about that?'
'That isn't important. You might have guessed that I knew, however, by the nature of the environment in which you arrived here.'
'You did that?'
'Partially, yes. The mechanism to bring you here is pretty much automatic, but I was able to design the environment which would receive you. Call it a test, if you will.'
'A test of what?'
'Just to see if you can really do what you're supposed to be able to.'
'Is that important?'
'It might be.'
There was a pause.
'Who are you?' The Geraldine asked eventually.
'Who am I? Who are you? Who is anyone? Is it important?'
'Perhaps. Why were you sent to wait for me?'
'I was not sent to wait for you. I was sent to wait for the First One.'
'So you didn't know it would be me.'
'We did not.'
'Then how did you know to make the water world for me to arrive in?'
'We did not know at the beginning - once you actually set out for Mars, I knew it would be you who stepped out first.'
'Because everybody else had to put suits on.'
'Precisely. Quite an impressive little ability you have there, by the way. Very innovative.' He fixed her with a stare, and she suddenly realised his eyes had grown completely clear, the cataracts gone, revealing a rich, chestnut brown iris and pupils so deep they seemed almost to swallow her. Shaking her head slightly, she found herself staring again as the man's entire body started changing, the skin growing tighter, limbs filling out, hair growing until he looked
about thirty years old. 'Did you know,' he said as if nothing at all out of the ordinary had happened, 'that your entire set of abilities are the result of a conscious choice?'
'The choice to live or die?'
'No,' the man said. His voice had changed too, to match his new appearance. 'That choice was not necessary, for you would always choose to live.'
'What was the choice then?'
'The choice to remain human, or to become a God.'
With this somewhat startling revelation, will the narrative now shift irritatingly back to Bidet and Fridgara, who are utterly unaware of what is transpiring in this mysterious room in this even more mysterious place? Check out the next edition of Only
Slightly and find out...