'Twice-Told Tales': The Stories So Far

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How the fiction's going.

'Twice-Told Tales': The Stories So Far

Camelost.

They're going strong, these novels. A chapter a day, in the classic tradition followed by Charles Dickens or that guy what wrote Varney, the Vampire. From installment to thrilling installment. Sometimes we gasp, 'How will they get out of that?' only to tune in the next day and find out, 'With a single bound, Jack was free.' Serial fiction at its best, that's what you're getting this November.

Here are a few highlights to get you started.

Camelost, by FWR

Fred splashed into the roadway, torch beam reflecting off horizontal rain.

Lightning again.

Six feet away, standing in the center of the road, naked but for some kind of loin cloth, stood a man. Dripping mud and looking puzzled.

'You okay mate?' Fred shouted against the rain and rumbling thunder, another car beeped and swerved around them.

'You're gonna get bloody killed standing there bud, let's get you somewhere safer eh?'

The man remained still, rain dripping from his long hair and beard, he held his hands out to the sides, as though feeling the rain for the first time, lightning flashed, giving Fred a closer look. This loon looked just like a soaking wet Christ! (No, still not where this tale is going!)

Piercing eyes looked at the Security Guard, the Christ-like figure asked a question, but the thunder took his words away.

Fred moved closer, the man grabbed his fluorescent jacket in a surprisingly firm grip.

'Hey, mate, how about bloody social distancing!'

The man looked blank, 'So shall distance?'

His question was lost as another car beeped furiously at the pair.

'What manner of foul creatures now roam the land?'

Fred was puzzled, the man pointed down the road to the motorway in the distance,

'The river of light swarms with them! Tell me good fellow, be they dragons? Is this why my slumber has been disturbed? '

'Look mate, that's the M56, the motorway? Cars? Trucks? No dragons in Cheshire mate, jeez, who do you think you are, bloody Saint George?'

'I know not of this wounded George, nor of cars and trucks, I ask thee again, why have I been awakened?'

'Mate, I don't care if you're Rip Van bloody Winkle, get off the road or I'm calling the Old Bill!'

Anger flashed like lightning in the man's eyes, he pushed Fred away,

'Summon this ag'd William, mayhap this Bill will answer his King, I tire of you dolt! Be gone!'

'Right, I'm calling 999, you get yourself run over, king now is it? You're a bloody nutter, mate!'

'Summon William. Let him know Arthur, son of Uther Pendragon, King of all Britons, has returned!'

The Electrical Journey of Izzy Himmelfarb, by Dmitri Gheorgheni

The Electrical Journey of Izzy Himmelfarb.

'Virginia,' he said out loud. The foliage looked about right. He could smell tobacco flowers giving out their early-evening fragrance. A lot of tobacco flowers. How did he get here?

His racing thoughts were interrupted by an unexpected sound. A man's voice. Laughing to himself. And singing. In a hickory tree.

Izzy looked up. The man was stark naked, sitting on a branch overhanging the meadow, and plucking at a daisy. There were more daisies in his shoulder-length blond hair. He wasn't singing particularly well. No self-respecting folk group would have hired him.

Are you going to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme…

A demented hippie, thought Izzy. And stoned out of his gourd. How did I end up in a hippie commune?

It dawned on Izzy that, no matter how he'd done it, or where precisely he was, he had at least temporarily escaped the electric chair. It might be a good idea to stay at large – and for that, he needed other clothing than the tattered prison uniform he was sort-of wearing. The number on the shirt and slashed trousers (from where the electrodes had been attached) would be a dead giveaway to anybody looking for him. There might be an APB out already.

'Hey, dude!' he called up to the nature worshipper, 'Can I borrow your clothes, since you aren't using them?'

The guy beamed down at him. 'Of course, friend.' He smiled beatifically. 'Whatever thou canst use.'

Revising his assessment to 'Quaker hippie commune' – the Quakers had helped him with his deferment application – Izzy thanked the singer, who was now carolling on about no seams nor needlework, and grabbed up the pile of clothing at the bottom of the tree. He ran off to change behind some bushes before the tree-sitter crashed and wanted his clothes back.

The outfit he put on was distinctly odd, but then, it was being worn by a hippie. Probably did his shopping in one of those thrift shops that got its stock from old theatrical types, like the Opera-tunity Shop his cousin Marty took him to in Pittsburgh. ('Buy for a Song'.) The wide-collared 'poet shirt' was right in fashion in some circles, and so were the boots, which would not have disgraced a rock singer. But where in the world did those trousers come from? Big, baggy things. It took Izzy a minute to figure out how to keep them up, until he realised the shirt buttoned to the trousers. Somebody was taking costume realism way too far, he thought. But then he reckoned that he was lucky to have anything at all to change into, so he dismissed his criticisms as petty. He left the prison uniform under the tree in exchange and headed out in the direction of the house he could see in the distance.

On the way, he met with several other hippies, all male, long-haired and in various states of undress. All tripping on something. The more he watched them, the more convinced Izzy became that it wasn't pot they were on: more like LSD. They were obviously hallucinating.

There was a rough path leading to the house. Walking along, Izzy almost stumbled over some wooden bowls with what looked like the remains of dinner. Some kind of stewed greens, he thought. He picked one up and studied the contents.

'Doesn't look like mustard or turnips,' he mused. 'Kind of serrated leaves. Dandelions?'

He poked at the stuff, and then it dawned on him. Datura, he thought. No wonder they're tripping. Datura will send you on a bad trip. Dumb hippies. He rolled his eyes. Know your dealer. And if your dealer is Mother Nature, know your biology. He trudged on. These boots were pretty comfortable, even if they were badly worn.

As he got up to the house, he was puzzled. It was more of a log cabin. There was actual smoke coming out of the chimney. A dog barked at him, and a young woman came out the door. She was wearing a granny dress and wiping her hands on her apron. She looked at him quizzically but with no sign of hostility.

'Er, peace, sister,' said Izzy nervously. He assumed that was the way hippies talked. 'Could you tell me where I am?'

She smiled. 'About two miles north of the River James,' she replied. She had an odd accent that Izzy couldn't place. But then, she obviously wasn't from Chicago. She had a question of her own.

'Thou didst not come with the soldiers?'

Izzy blinked. 'What soldiers…er, pray?' Might as well play along, he thought.

The girl laughed. She had a very nice laugh. 'Yon soldiers in the trees and bushes. They that have been eating of the Jamestown weed. We should have warned them, I suppose. But they are Governor Berkeley's (she said 'Barkley's') men and would hear naught from the likes of us mere indentured servants. So now they will learn.'

Several ideas chased themselves in quick succession through Izzy's already cluttered mind.

Governor Berkeley. Not 'the governor of/at Berkeley', which would mean Ronald Reagan and California.

Jamestown weed. Not 'jimson weed'. Jamestown. Near the James River. In Virginia.

It couldn't be.

Oh, heck. If ferrets could mess up an electrocution by running around in a particle accelerator, anything was possible.

Izzy came to a conclusion.

'I've come unstuck in time,' he said. 'Like Billy Pilgrim.'

Robyn Hoodie: That's Not My Apocalypse! (Mine's RED) by Caiman Raptor Elk

Robyn Hoodie.

The world of online education is a tricky place.

Teachers think the new homework planning software is just amazing. Pupils and their parents think is just a maze. Each faculty has made up its own rules on how to enter your digital assignments for grading, unless the teacher decides to deviate from that as well. Most of them do… Some want the original documents, others want you to take a photo and send it by either e-mail, online platform chat, the homework planning software (three different ways of posting anything there), a Cloud file folder for a specific meeting, chiselling it into stone tablets and burying those at a predetermined location on a full moon….

After the umpteenth argument about allegedly missed homework, Robyn devised her “Relativity Theory of Homework”, which I will now present to you: When asked whether a specific piece of homework has been finished, the default answer of "Yes, of course" invariably means: Yes, I may or may not have made / will make my homework in the past or future. Definitely not in the present as I am answering your question right now. The quantum homework waveform collapses when the workbook is opened by, or at the orders of an adult. This is highly dangerous and should be prevented at all cost, as special relativity dictates that a black hole could open up, causing the end of the world. (at least in this household). What Einstein missed in the interconnectedness of mass, energy and the speed of light squared to explain gravity, may well be the as yet unquantified factor of Wi-Fi connectivity, which is a quantum factor all by itself. This is called “Extra Special Relativity” and can sometimes be resolved with string theory, a.k.a. hardwired internet. In the end the adults will let you see the gravity of the situation, indicating that even parents have a role in the Theory of Everything. By then, even the speed of light squared will be insufficient to fix the missing homework conundrum.

The Cosmic Adventures of Captain Edgeifsir by Tavaron Da Quirm

Space and a Zapper

Edgeifsir was sitting in a bar on Ballgunned 9 station, nursing an Aldebaran Whiskey. He was tall and handsome and he knew it. His shining golden hair was falling down below his shoulders. Its perfect silkyness was the result of hard work and expensive products. His teeth had the perfection of a toothpaste commercial and his chin was on page fourteen of the Auto-Med catalogue. In an effort to blend in he was wearing a slightly too new leather jacket and dark trousers.

The room was dimly lit - probably in an effort to hide the grime. Still, the establishment was reasonably well filled with guests from all corners of the galaxy. Some were just passing through, some hoped to do business with the Ballgunned Mining Corporation. There was gambling and music which was just slightly too loud.

As Edgeifsir looked around, his view fell on two men at a table in a corner of the room. They were short, plump and dressed in the local fashion. They had the large ears of real business men. Also, they were loudly arguing amongst themselves and wildly gesticulating. Because he was always keen on sticking his nose in other people's business, Egeifsir took his glass and moved to a table a bit closer. Here, he hoped he would be able to hear what they were arguing about.

'No!', one of the shouted, banging his fists on the table so the glasses on it were clinking. 'I will NOT let you have half of the ore.'

'But I don't want to have the …. You know they currently get a bad price! Also, it was me who arranged the trade for the … so I should have the bigger part of it!'

'Haven't we always been friends? Like brothers even?'

'You should never place friendship above profit! And never allow your family to stand in the way of opportunity! You know that very well.'

Pilgrims' Inn by Paulh

It was morning. She was preparing the day's first meal when there was a knock at the door. A shadowy figure greeted her – Athena in disguise, perhaps? The stranger removed the cloak to reveal that he was just a man, about the same age as Odysseus and with nice features. He held in his hand a black box covered with runes. Sounds emanated from it. Was there an animal inside? He gestured to her to let him come in. Strangely enough, she felt safe doing so.

He set the box down on a table, and it began to speak to her. "Hello," it said in her language, "I am a manifestation of the Oracle at Delphi. The man who has accompanied me is called Ozymandius, named in honor of an Egyptian pharaoh. He is an innkeeper who, like your Odysseus, has traveled throughout the world. He wants to offer you and Odysseus a chance to join him in his travels. He owns the Pilgrims' Inn, which, with the help of the gods, goes through time and space to give nightly shelter to wayfarers. If you accept, you will help keep the inn neat and orderly, for which you will be well-paid."

"But this is our home," Penelope protested. "What will happen to it while we are gone?"

"The gods will guard it for you. But more importantly, you and Odysseus will see things no one else in all of history or the times to come will have ever seen. I think you will enjoy your part in this voyage."

Odysseus came out of his room and put his arm around her. "The gods have spoken to me about this," he reassured her. "We are serving them by doing it. It's going to be all right."

Penelope thought about Telemachus, their son. Perhaps he could bring his young bride to their home while they were gone.

She looked through the door of their home. At the edge of the garden was a stone building which had not been there before. Ozymandius led them through the garden, fragrant with irises and hyacinths, and through the front door of the building, carrying the oracle. All was neat and tidy inside. "You will not have to cook, unless you want to," the oracle told Penelope. "We have someone named Mrs. Sprat for that. Over time you may learn English, the language which Ozymandius and Mrs. Sprat speak. Until then, I will gladly translate for you."

"The will of the gods is strange," Odysseus mused. "But then, could anything be stranger than what I saw on my journey back to Ithaca from Troy?"

"We will find out soon enough," Penelope said softly. "But having you beside me will be a great comfort."

They accepted Ozymandius' offer.

Beauty or Beast? by SashaQ

Goldilocks and the three bears

This story begins before the beginning, in a place we will call Arcadia.

For those of you who have visited Arcadia, you will know that it is a beautiful place. During the day hours, the light source is warm and golden, and during the night hours the moons glow with a silvery sheen. Bright white snow covers the tops of the distant mountains. Rainbows dance over waterfalls that cascade over mossy green rocks. Inside the forest, the light glints through the leaves of the trees, casting cool green shadows. The meadow, of lush green grass and colourful wildflowers, stretches from there to the beach, and its golden sands. And the green-blue sea with white crested waves sometimes crashes against rocks and sometimes laps gently at the shore.

Most of the Arcadians are content in their beautiful home, living in the landscape that suits them best. Some can be found on the lower slopes of the mountains in stone-built dwellings. Some can be found among the trees of the forest in wooden huts. Some live in clever mounds covered with grasses and flowers that are well camouflaged among the undulations of the meadow land. Some live in sand-built structures that look like dunes. And still others live in the sea itself.

Most of the land-based Arcadians are in possession of wings. We might say their wings are similar to the wings of dragonflies, delicate-looking yet strong, almost transparent yet glinting in the light. Those with wings are able to fly around their favourite habitat, or even fly into their neighbouring habitats, so they are well-known to most of their fellow Arcadians on this side of the mountains. Some of the land-based Arcadians have wings that are not able to lift them into the sky, and a few are even born without wings. They are not as well-known as their flighted companions, but many keep in touch with one another via technology as well as by simply walking from place to place.

The inhabitants of the sea are the most mysterious. They are rarely seen by the land-dwellers, but it is known that their wings are attached to their arms and function more like flippers, and their legs are fused together and shaped like what we might describe as dolphin tails.

Although the life of the sea-dwellers is almost a complete mystery, we do know a slightly larger amount about the lifecycle of the land-dwellers. We can only assume that the lifecycle of the sea-dwellers is similar, even though they spend their lives in and around water. To us humans on Earth, it may seem strange that baby Arcadians are born via non-Arcadian means rather than from two parents of the same species, but to the Arcadians it is simply part of their world. There is a cavern at the base of a waterfall that has various entrances leading from the mountains, the forest, the meadow and the sand. Every so often an Arcadian feels an urge that brings them to the cavern. They are away for three days and when they return they bring with them a seed. They plant the seed in the ground of their habitat, and a plant soon grows. If they nurture their plant well, a flower develops. When the flower blooms, a baby Arcadian is found inside. They are looked after by their parent until they are fully grown and then they become full members of their community in Arcadia. Mature Arcadians, on the other hand, are often called away to a different cavern beneath a different waterfall. Some re-emerge glowing and dissolve into the ground to nourish the Arcadian seeds that have been planted, but others never emerge from the cavern and disappear completely from Arcadia. More research into the lifecycle of the Arcadians may be possible in the coming years, but in the meantime this is the state of our knowledge.

Anyway, enough description - in this story we are concerned with one Arcadian in particular - a meadow-dweller. We will call hir Rowan.

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