Aphelion Issue 254, Volume 24
September 2020
 
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Realm of Being

by George Schaade




“Where’s the moon?”

Creature looked into the purple-azure sky in the direction that Woman was pointing and said, “What?”

“The moon. Where did the moon go?”

“The what?” asked Creature. He was confused but he had no face that could show it. Instead he shook his head from side to side and added, “I’m sorry, Beautiful. I don’t understand what that is?”

“The moon?” questioned Woman. “You don’t remember the moon or you don’t know what a moon is?” She stared down at Creature, whose hard, skeletal body was a stark contrast to her own soft, voluptuous body. Woman kneeled to be closer to her friend. “The last time we came this way there was a moon in the sky, just there. We talked about how bright it was.”

Creature twisted his bony head in thought for several seconds. “I don’t even know what a ‘moon’ is.” The voice that came from around his faceless head was filled with fear and worry. “Why can’t I remember those things, Beautiful? What’s happening to me?”

Woman put her hand on the osseous shoulder of Creature’s right front leg. “Oh, you poor dear, don’t be afraid. There’s something strange going on everywhere. It’s not just you that’s forgotten things. When we visited the paper-worm river tribe we found that they forgot to migrate and then we discovered that for some reason all the pocket flies can now only walk. Maybe they forgot how to fly.”

Creature spun with excitement and said, “That’s right! And don’t forget, the herd of poliphants suddenly stopped jumping! What’s going on? What do we do?”

Woman put a delicate finger to the side of her face and gazed thoughtfully into the colorful heavens over the Realm of Being. Creature looked lovingly at Woman and studied her emerald green eyes. He could not decide if he preferred those over the light blue eyes she had a while back. But there was no doubt that he liked the short, black hair over the long, curly, blonde hair. It simply framed her face in a more pleasing way.

This thought diverted Creature’s attention to the fact that he had no face. He could see and hear and speak, but he longed for the ability to express his feelings with facial features. In particular he wanted to show his love for Woman.

“Rodney Reel,” said Woman.

“Who? What?”

“Rodney Reel, he used to be called Curiosity. I bet he knows what’s going on. You do remember him, don’t you?”

“Yes, I do,” replied Creature. He stared across the flat, barren wasteland toward the horizon. “It’s a long way to where Rodney lives.”

“That’s okay. We can visit others along the way. It’ll be fun. I always like being with you.”

This comforted Creature and lead to a delightful conversation as they traveled along a well-worn path that meandered through the badlands. Along the way they stopped for awhile to listen to the soulful song of a flock of gabbavibs and they took some time to watch the mating dance of some clicking cats, but eventually they came within sight of a tall, stone tower.

“Should we visit The Boy with the Artificial Heart?” asked Creature.

“Oh, yes,” said Woman. “He would be terribly hurt if we didn’t stop to see him. Besides he may have some information that can help us.”

The circular tower was five stories high with windows and a balcony around the top level. The only entrance was an arched wooden door with dark iron hinges. Creature knocked on the door with his hard, rough, front arm. He and Woman waited patiently because they knew it would take The Boy with the Artificial Heart a long time to answer their knock. When the door finally squeaked open the visitors were quite surprised.

It wasn’t The Boy that greeted them. It was a woman in a black, floor length, long-sleeved, high-necked dress. Behind the lacy veil was a rough, wrinkled face with misty gray eyes. Woman and Creature initially jumped back but soon eased forward with interest.

“Is The Boy here?” asked Woman.

The black-clad woman starred at them for a long time then raised a single finger above her head, indicating that The Boy was upstairs. Suddenly she turned on her heels and headed up the spiral staircase that was behind her. Woman and Creature looked at each other with confusion then hurried to catch up to the strange woman.

Halfway to the top floor, Creature asked, “Who are you?”

The odd woman stopped on the stairs, turned to her visitors, and raised her veil. She had a long, prune-like face with a nose that was too large. Her eyes were now disturbingly dark and radiated a disapproving, uneasy aura. The woman said nothing but turned again and continued the walk upstairs. Woman shrugged to Creature and they followed.

The top floor was set up as a bedroom except for the wall opposite the bed. Against that wall was a table filled with beakers, vials, flasks, and jars. There seemed to be a number of unimaginable experiments all taking place at the same time. The woman in black headed straight for the table and began handling the containers.

On the bed was a pre-teen boy with brown hair, blue eyes, and a heart-sized mechanical device sitting in the middle of his chest. The mechanism vibrated occasionally while small colored lights flashed. When The Boy saw Woman and Creature the lights flashed faster.

“My friends, it’s so good to see you,” said The Boy. “Come over here and sit with me.”

Creature and Woman approached The Boy who was propped up on his bed and lying above the covers. They immediately noticed that his right leg was in a metal brace.

“Oh, my,” exclaimed Creature. “What happened to you? Are you okay?”

“I’ll be fine,” said The Boy. “I fell from Grace.”

“Grace?”

“Grace is the name of my hobbyhorse,” The Boy explained. “Grace and I were jumping a wooden fence when my foot caught on the edge and I fell. It was entirely my fault. Grace did nothing wrong.”

“The hobbyhorse did nothing wrong,” Creature said flatly then shook his head. “You’ve always been involved in strange activities. I’ve never understood them.”

The Boy smiled. “The things I do are mostly childish, but that’s because I’m a child. You don’t understand them because you’ve never been a child.”

Turning to Woman, The Boy said, “You look very different from the last time I saw you. I remember you had red hair and were much shorter.”

“You know that’s the way it is for me,” said Woman. She thought for a moment then added, “But if I had red hair that can only mean that it’s been a very long time since I last saw you.”

Before The Boy could respond, Creature leaned in and whispered, “Who is that woman over there?”

“That’s Miss Tree,” said The Boy. “She’s been nursing me back to health. She’s an absolute wiz when it comes to whipping up potions and bandaging my leg. I know she doesn’t talk much and she dresses a bit odd, but she’s been a lifesaver.”

As if on cue, Miss Tree suddenly appeared just behind Creature holding a tray with three cups, a tea pot, sugar, and cream. She set them on the bed between The Boy and his guests.

“Ah, perfect timing, Miss Tree, thank you.”

As The Boy poured the tea, the strange woman returned to her alchemy table. Creature again whispered to the others, “She’s really creepy.”

The Boy smiled. “Yes, she’s puzzling, secretive, enigmatic, cryptic, and just plain weird, but that’s why I like her. We all need Miss Tree in our lives.” The Boy sighed and said, “But tell me about yourselves. What brings you out this way?”

“We’re on our way to see Rodney Reel,” said Woman.

“Oh, you haven’t heard,” said The Boy. “He was on one of his wild adventures to a far away island country when he got himself involved in a war there. It turns out he was on the winning side and the queen made him a knight.”

Creature was very impressed by this and said, “Oh, my, so now we should call him Sir Reel?”

“No, no, the proper way to address him is Sir Rodney.”

“So he is back from his adventure?” asked Woman. “Yes,” said The Boy. “He’s at home investigating all manner of things. He’s still as curious as he’s ever been.”

“Speaking of curious,” injected Creature. “I’ve always wanted to ask you a question about your artificial heart.”

“Of course, ask anything you like.”

“How is it powered? I don’t see any cords going to it. Are there batteries? There must be some power source.”

The Boy was visibly shocked. He stared at Creature and then he stared at his artificial heart. “Power?” he said. “I don’t remember how it’s powered. There must be something, but I can’t remember what it is.”

Panic quickly set in and his voice quivered as he called out, “Miss Tree! Miss Tree! I can’t remember how to power my heart! Help me!”

The Boy’s strange nurse sped to his side. She eased him back against the pillows and began taking his pulse. She gave the visitors a terrifying glare and shooed them out of the room.

Halfway down the tower Woman said, “Now look what you’ve done. I’ve never seen The Boy so distraught.”

“But, Beautiful, he didn’t remember. He’s another one that’s forgotten something.”

Woman froze on the stairs. “Oh, Creature, you’re right. There’s no doubt that something is happening. Come on. We’ve got to get to Rodney…. Sir Rodney.”

As they continued their journey, the friends discussed what had happened to The Boy. Creature felt bad about upsetting The Boy. He wished that he had not asked about the artificial heart. Woman assured him that it wasn’t his fault and everything would be fine.

When they reached the top of a small hill, they were greeted by a marvelous sight. A herd of turtellos was slowly making their way across the road. Woman and Creature stopped to watch the crossing as it was rare to see this many at one time. Turtellos were cow-size, green turtles with shells or elytras that were hinged like that of ladybugs. When turtellos were startled the elytras lifted up and allowed the gossamer wings beneath to unfold. The wings then beat back and forth very quickly and the tortello rose into the air.

The travelers were fascinated by the scene until they noticed that tutellos in the back of the herd were unexpectedly flying off. When they got to the bottom of the hill, they could see what was causing the flight of turtellos. An odd, gnomish man was running up behind each turtello and pointing a strange, metallic device at the reptile which spread its wings and flew away.

The man wasn’t even as tall as Creature with mutton chop sideburns that connected to a full, bushy moustache. His skin was pale and wrinkled making him look older than he obviously was because he moved so quickly from one turtello to the next.

Woman raised a hand, waved at the man, and yelled, “Sir Rodney!”

The little man heard her cry and sprinted over to her and Creature. Woman greeted him with a smile and a hug, but Creature, whose body wasn’t built for giving hugs, backed away. Sir Rodney understood this and gave Creature a gentle pat to the top of his faceless head.

“Come along to my house,” said Sir Rodney. “We’ve got so much to talk about.”

As they walked, Creature asked, “What were you doing with the turtellos?”

“I’ve always been amazed how quickly they can get up in the air. I felt it had to do with how fast they flapped their wings.” Sir Rodney held up the metal device. “This measures their wing flaps and I discovered that they average 85 beats per second. Considering their size that’s very impressive.”

It wasn’t long before the three reached a gigantic cockle shell that served as Sir Rodney’s home. They entered through a door located where the radiating ribs of the shell came together. Inside they discovered that his home was filled with an assortment of books, gadgets, jars, paintings, boxes, stuffed animals, toys, furniture, skeletons, and even rocks.

“What is all of this?” asked Woman.

Leading them through the maze of clutter, Sir Rodney explained the miscellany as scientific experiments, notable collections, research projects, and essential investigations. They finally stopped in an open area and Sir Rodney cleared some chairs for everyone to sit on.

“So how are you two? It’s been a long time since I last saw you.”

“The last thing you said to us,” replied Woman, “was to open our minds and question what we see. We’ve been doing that. We’ve travelled many places and seen many things. Now we have questions and we hope you can answer them.”

Sir Rodney raised his bushy eyebrows and said, “Wow, this sounds really important.”

“The moon is gone,” said Woman.

Sir Rodney’s excitement deflated. “Oh, that. Yes, I know. Sorry about that.”

“You know?” cried Woman then added, “Wait! Why are you sorry the moon is gone?”

“I guess it was sort of my fault.”

“Hey, don’t be so indifferent,” snapped Creature, “I don’t even remember what a moon is.”

“Again it’s probably my fault,” said Sir Rodney. “Sorry.”

“Pocket flies are walking.”

“My fault.”

“Paper-worms aren’t migrating and poliphants aren’t jumping.”

“Sorry, me again.”

“The Boy with the Artificial Heart…,” began Creature.

Sir Rodney interrupted, “Now that wasn’t me. He hurt his leg riding that crazy hobbyhorse. When I heard about it, I sent Miss Tree to care for him, so don’t blame me for that one.”

Creature continued, “The Boy can’t remember what powers his heart.”

“Ohhh,” sighed Sir Rodney, “I guess that is my fault.”

“What did you do,” asked Woman, “to cause the moon to disappear and everyone to forget things?”

Sir Rodney leaned forward in his chair, lowered his head, and took a moment to organize his thoughts.

“Since you’re calling me Sir Rodney, I assume that someone told you about my adventure to the island of Ten-shun.”

“The Boy told us you helped the people there and were knighted,” said Creature. “That’s all.”

“Okay, then let me start at the beginning, but I promise to give you the short version. I’ve travelled to many places in the Realm of Being but I’d never been to Ten-shun. It wasn’t easy to get there but soon after I arrived a neighboring island launched an invasion. It was a real mess. Ten-shun was losing the war until I showed them some defensive devices that would fend off the attacks. It all worked, a peace treaty was signed, and the queen knighted me. The surprise came when they also awarded me with a kaxxa.”

“What’s that?”

“I didn’t know either but evidently the people of Ten-shun believe that an ancient group of highly intelligent beings created an imaginette.”

“I’ve heard of that,” said Woman. “Isn’t it a mythical place where people can create whatever they imagine?”

“That’s right,” said Sir Rodney. “And supposedly these ancient people imagined into existence everything in the Realm of Being. While they were doing this imagining, one of them created two hundred kaxxi.”

“But what is it?” demanded Creature.

Sir Rodney hopped off his chair and opened a nearby cabinet. He pulled out an odd shaped box that he presented to his friends. The kaxxa, as Sir Rodney called it, wasn’t quite spherical. A closer examination showed that it was composed of many flat geometric shapes that were connected together by strips of metal attached with rivets.

“Strange looking,” said Creature.

“It’s a pentagonal dodecahedron,” said Sir Rodney. “It has twelve pentagonal faces with three meeting at each vertex. So a kaxxa has twelve faces, twenty vertices, and thirty edges. According to the people of Ten-shun, no one has ever opened one,” Sir Rodney turned the box over to show that one of the pentagon shapes was missing, “until I opened this kaxxa. After much research I discovered that it was bound by magic and science. It was easy after that.”

Creature bounced with excitement. “What was in it? What was in it?”

But Woman immediately made the connection. “Oh, dear, what have you done?”

“In hindsight,” Sir Rodney said sheepishly, “I guess I should have thought through all the possibilities.”

Creature tilted his head. “I don’t understand. What was in the box?”

“It was a small, brown bird,” said Sir Rodney. “The bird’s name was Forget.”

“How do you know that?”

“The bird told me his name. He could talk and he said he had the power to make people forget.”

“Ohhh,” mocked Creature. “A magical bird that can talk, lives in a weird box, and makes people forget.”

“Believe me, I understand. I was skeptical, too. But that changed when I decided to put his powers to the test.”

“Uh-oh,” mumbled Woman, “here it comes.”

“I took Forget outside and pointed at the moon,” said Sir Rodney. “I’ve never really liked that moon. I always felt it was obstructing my view and I wanted to see what was behind it. Anyway, I told Forget that I wanted everyone to forget that the moon was in the sky. Forget chirped and warbled a little song, and the next thing I knew the moon had disappeared.”

“But you still knew what a moon was,” said Woman.

“Yes, and that wasn’t exactly what I meant to say so I added, ‘I want no creature to even know what a moon is’.”

“Ahhh, you said ‘creature’ and the bird took you literally,” smiled Woman. “Forget is tricky.”

“Actually, that bird is downright evil,” said Sir Rodney. “Based on what you’ve told me, Forget has been spreading his forgetfulness all over the Realm of Being.”

“How do we help them,” asked Creature, “especially The Boy.”

“Luckily, most things that have been forgotten can be relearned,” said Sir Rodney. “It might take a long time but we can do it. We’ll start with The Boy. We’ll tell him about solar energy and the magical forces that power his artificial heart.”

Creature turned to Woman and said, “Oh, Beautiful, this will be so much fun. You can teach me all about moons. I can’t wait to get started.”

“It will be fun,” said Sir Rodney, “because the enthusiasm for learning is all about curiosity, which reminds me…” Sir Rodney went back to his cabinet and pulled out another kaxxa. “I’m very curious about what’s in this one.”



THE END


2020 George Schaade

Bio: George Schaade is a history teacher that enjoys writing science fiction short stories and novels in the backwoods of East Texas.

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