Here’s part #1 in a story I hope to serialise weekly on here:
The Basement of the Universe — Part 1
“Welcome to the Basement of the Universe!”
DoorBar forced his eyes open with the kind of effort you would normally put into opening the heavy, creaking gates of an old castle. What was going on? Where was he?
All the other questions that were jostling for attention in his head disappeared as he saw who’d just spoken to him. He was now sure that he was still asleep since the creature before him was unlike anything he’d seen in his waking moments.
It looked like a rabbit going full tilt had crashed into an egg --- a huge egg at that. It had rabbit ears, a face that looked kind of like a rabbit’s, but a body that was definitely --- or maybe defiantly? --- egg shaped.
What kind of weird nightmare was this?
DoorBar decided that he might as well make the best of it, if it was indeed a dream or nightmare, and find out what was going on. At least, it would make a good story to tell people ... “If I remember when I wake up,” he reminded himself.
“Who are you?” he asked, looking at the creature.
“Oh, I’m sorry. Where are my manners? I’m a hopper, my name is Kluk.”
That started a whole bunch of other questions jousting for dominance in the theater of DoorBar’s mind. He put his mind on hold, and let his mouth take over.
“You’re not a hopper! And hoppers don’t talk!”
The creature, what was his name, Cluck?, tipped it’s head to one side and looked at DoorBar with wide eyes. Could it’s eyes get any wider, he idly wondered.
“Why am I not a hopper?”
“A hopper is round, white, and sometimes has an egg in the center.”
Kluk gestured at his --- or, her? His mind prompted --- body as if it was evidence enough and said, “And?”
“No, no,” said DoorBar trying to figure out how best to explain things to the creature.
“You eat hoppers!” he babbled.
Hopper still looked at him as if this was the most ordinary thing in the world. “Maybe in this world it is?” he speculated.
“Sure, some people do eat hoppers. Personally, I think it’s a little barbaric, but who am I to argue about other people’s dietary habits?”
“No, I mean ... well ... you ... I ... Where I come from, hoppers are an item of food. They make it using umm ... flour or batter maybe? It’s small, you can hold it in your hand ... “ DoorBar flailed, trying to dredge up any vestiges of culinary knowledge to describe hoppers --- but alas, he was a consumer, not a chef and he’d reached the limits of his hopper knowledge.
“Ah,” nodded Kluk sagely. “They do have lots of weird things in the universe and we get all sorts of people here. So I guess it makes sense that there’d be other kinds of hoppers ...”
DoorBar struggled to pay attention to what Kluk was saying, but his mind would have none of it. It was too intent on another question and again, his mouth took over.
“What sort of name is Cluck? Sounds like a chicken!” he blurted out.
“It’s not Cluck!” replied the creature, with a tiny hint of heat. “It’s Kluk. There’s a difference in the sounds,” it said, as if talking to a child. “Most people can recognize the difference between the two. Imagine, if everybody went around mistaking the two ...” it continued, almost as if talking to itself.
DoorBar dismissed Cluck’s --- Kluk’s, he corrected himself --- ramblings and moved on to the next loudest question in the chorus line.
“Where am I?”
“You’re in the Basement.”
“What’s a Basement?”
“Well, you see, sometimes a building will have an underground room for storage and stuff ...
Was the creature messing with him? DoorBar looked at Kluk with narrow eyed. Not that he could really tell what was going on based on the expressions on a rabbit face, but it seemed as if Kluk was responding to his question earnestly. Perhaps he needed to take a different tack?
“No, no, I mean what’s this place? Why do you keep calling it a basement when we are outside?” DoorBar gestured at their surroundings, which, now that he had a better look, stretched on for what seemed like forever. It was all trees, bushes, flowers, butterflies, and blue skies --- almost as if out of a painting. “So, not a nightmare, but a dream then?” he mumbled to himself.
Kluk seemed to have heard his mumblings.
“Dream?” he asked, with a hint of a smile. “Oh no, my friend, this is no dream!” he paused, as if considering. “Sure, a lot of people who arrive in the basement think they are dreaming at first, but this is no dream. It’s all real.”
“There you go again, talking about a basement. What is this basement?”
“Ah, right. Well, you are in the Basement of the Universe” --- DoorBar could almost see the capitalization of the name --- “and you have fallen through a crack in reality into the basement!” said Kluk, almost as if expecting a drumroll, or a banging of a gong, at this point.
Crack? It sounded as if the creature was on crack alright. What did it mean a crack in reality?
“What do you mean a crack in reality?”
“The universe is a big place,” replied Kluk, enunciating clearly and slowly, as if explaining things to a child ... or a very slow adult. “And reality is kind of stretched thin covering everything. So, every once in a while a crack will appear in reality ...”
“Yes, you know --- a hole, a rip, a tear, whatever you want to call it. Generally, reality will repair itself fairly quickly but there are times when the repair process isn’t fast enough and some items, or people, fall through the crack before the fix is in place.”
“Hmm ...” said DoorBar, part of his mind engaging in all sorts of gymnastics to adapt to the new facts, while the rest of his mind did all it could to deny the information and to prepare its bulwarks against the siege of this new information. “We have had people disappearing everywhere in Colombo recently ...”
“Yes,” said Kluk with the enthusiasm that every teacher shows on seeing the spark of knowledge taking hold and beginning to cast enlightenment, “That’s right! The cracks have been getting more frequent recently!”
But DoorBar had already left the cracks in his wake. The flimsy barricades that his mind had erected against the reality of the situation were already crumbling and he was beginning to realize that this might not be a dream after all. He’d already tried pinching himself --- they said that worked in dreams, but did it? --- and he had not woken up. So did this mean that he was now stuck in this strange Basement, whatever, or wherever, it was?
“And what of Rani?” he asked himself, his thoughts roiling in fresh frenzy as the reality of the situation hardened around him like the concrete vest around a man thrown into the ocean by the mob.
The art is by my wife @Laurie
Annotations (in case you want to find out a bit more info about what is behind some of the elements in the story):
DoorBar - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darbar_(title)
Kluk - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kukulkan
Hoppers - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appam
Colombo - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colombo
Rani - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rani#Writing #AmWriting #Serialized #ScienceFictionA creature which has an egg-sha…