Last paper boat comic for a while, promise.
Last paper boat comic for a while, promise.
You may have noticed that the numbers on pareidol bare no relationship to the posted order. This is because they’re numbered by when I create them, which will usually be story order, but the pirates mucked that up a bit.
You can find the rest of the short first run of Pareidol at Aquarionics, this was going to be the first part of a multipart story, but I didn’t ever finish it. I now have.
Pareidol will update here Monday, Wednesday and Friday for at least the next fortnight, and longer if I keep my buffer at two weeks 🙂
In the centre, where the four fields met, the house stood in the darkness, a single candle in the window the only sign of life. Ten paces beyond the front door the house was undetectable, the wind picked up all the dust on the road and danced an impressive eternal waltz as it swirled and howled around the farmland, picking up the remains of equipment previously hammered to the ground by this very storm minutes, hours, days ago. It was noon, but you couldn’t tell.
Though the storm staggered a figure. Dressed in leathers against the wind, her slim frame little help against the gusts and dust. The wind blew across the path, and she walked at a diagonal against it, each step a victory against the air itself, a step towards the house. She hammered on the door, trying to hear the noise above the relentless noise of the wind. The door was opened soon enough by a tanned giant of a man who let her inside before slamming and baring the door behind her.
“Who are y’?” he demanded, not unkindly.
The girl, who seemed to be somewhere around eighteen, drifted to a chair and fell on it heavily, out of wind.
“I am Elise.” she managed, “You sent a letter to the Academy.”
“I did. This storm is unnat’ral. It’s been like this for somewhere near a week, not that y’ can tell inside this damned cloud. If I don’t get the corn in soon, it’ll spoil. My family’il starve.”
“Family?” the man appeared to be living alone.
“At another farm some miles away.” the Farmer pointed vaguely in a direction.
“My son was hit by the blunt end of a hoe the second day. After that they took anything they could. Will y’ help me? Can y’?”
“I have been sent to.”
“I don’t mean to doubt y’, miss, but you don’t look like y’ could lift a log. ‘ven if y’ can, what’ll it cost me?”
Dark clouds crossed Elise’s expression
“I would recommend not doubting me. It will cost you nothing. The academy will do this for free.” Elise summoned her last reserves of strength and stood up. “Please open the door.”
Elise walked calmly into the storm and walked around the house, occasionally ducking and weaving to avoid flying tools and plants, until she reached a calmer point deep into one of the fields, the central eye of the storm. There she sat cross-legged, invisible under the waving stalks of corn, very still for a minute or so.
Eventually, she breathed in, slowly, but without pause. On the outside edge of the farmland the cloud began to fade and shrink, and the circular spin of air around the storm’s border began to shift and redirect, not around its well-worn whirlpool, but towards the centre, towards Elise.
The storm howled and fought, desperately resisting the centre, but it had now turned from a stable, albeit large scale, tornado into something subtly different, a whirlpool spinning into the central void, a black hole with the slim mage at the centre, still inhaling the storm.
Light broke though as the storm dropped the dust, and a gentle dawn broke on the farmland, travelling from the very borders in towards the centre, as the farmer gazed in amazement at his ravaged – but now calm – lands and the ever-shrinking storm, now only a few metres across, centring in on Elise’s button nose. With a final howl, the storm was gone, and his nightmare over.
Showing nothing of the fatigue she had exhibited moments before, Elise strode though the corn – which seemed to bend out of her way – towards the house. The farmer watched with increasing amazement as she looked at her dusty, dirty leathers, turned up her nose, and summoned a dainty rain cloud which proceeded to rinse them off. A heavy, sustained gust of wind that didn’t affect anything within half a metre of her then dried her off. She approached the house and knocked.
“Thank y’, Miss Elise.
“It was no problem” said Elise somewhat breathlessly. Her eyes sparkled like lightening, “I really needed the power boost. But you were right, that storm was not natural. Someone set you up for that. I would recommend finding out who. If you can not salvage enough from this” she indicated the wind-torn fields around them, “I have been told to recommend you ask the Academy, and they will ensure you don’t starve merely because we did not arrive fast enough.”
“I can’t thank y’ enough.”
“Then do not. I shall go tell your family it is safe to return. This way, was it not?”
The farmer nodded.
“Then farewell.” and Elise sprinted off, her ponytail streaming ahead of her, as if she was being pushed by some huge tailwind, down the road though the fields and towards his neighbours lands.
Within moments, the mage of storms was gone.
A Word From Our Owner:
“In the years since I retired from actually hunting the fallen, I have many times wondered why nobody had done this before. A place you can take your date and – should they live though the meal – be entirely sure they are of the living. Our menu is small, but will expand (We have research-chefs working daily. But anyway, Enjoy!”
– Liz Winters
The paradox joke is an interesting subgenre of the study of humour though the ages, it is a joke that not only relies on a historic setting, but is either of a modern style or phrased anachronistically. They were first heard from the stand-up comedians of the 1960s, part of the boom in theatre-based entertainment as a distraction from the increasingly dangerous ‘Steel Roses’ civil war to the north. It is said they predate this, however, and were a favourite of the German statesman Adolf Hitler before his untimely assassination in the early 30s.
It is somewhat ironic that some of those original paradox jokes were written and told in a time that paradox jokes are now created using. Of other historical note is that these acts never took root in – what is now – the Free Republic of Yorkshire. This historian believes that had they – the Yorks – taken the time to attempt to understand the down-to-earth South-Eastern humour these jokes represent, the entire civil war could have been avoided, and names like John ‘President’ Prescott would not strike so much fear into hearts today.
This modern classic of the genre – subgenre, as is argued – is this 1960s set joke in the now-ubiquitous “Yo Mamma” format, thus:
“Yo Mamma so busty even her shopping is 36d”
We have known for a long time that Space is Big.
People living in the Middle Ages knew that England was Big, because it took days to get from the south to the north, and later that Europe was Big because of how long it took messages to get from Rome.
Eventually it realised that the world was Big, because of the number of days you had to wait on a liner before you were in America.
Then mankind made it economical to fly, and Space was Big.
Space is Big. It takes an awfully long time for light to get from one end of the universe to the other, and we haven’t found a way to run faster than that yet. Instead, we made another discovery, which was that patches of space act as links between each other, and what passes in one will pass out another. Unfortunately, these patches were usually between two and twelve centimetres wide, hardly enough for a thoughfare. So Space remained Big, because the links between it remained small.
It took a little while for a company to work out a way to make the holes bigger. They didn’t think it was possible to begin with, not knowing how the holes – or gates – were formed, but someone in a lab discovered that the edges of the holes reacted to some frequencies, and lasers, and electricity. With application of this kind of thing, they found a way to make the holes bigger, by posting gates either side. Then they discovered that unless the holes were the same size both sides, you couldn’t poke larger things though. So you poked though a remote controlled thing to make holes wider, and you programmed that to turn around and widen the hole it had come though so you could send a larger machine though, and that could make a hole you could send an even larger machine though…
…and Space wasn’t so big anymore.
You only realise how large Space really is when you try to do things the slow way. In my case, I have a reason for this, though it’s a bit complex. You should know at this point that it’s not actually reasonable for the Mafia to be after me, or for every bounty hunter in the Sector to be after my head on a stick; since I was actually in their designated docking bay with the goods as the deadline ran out. Of course, it took an hour or so for the message to get though due to a collapsed funnel gate, and they had already posted the message. For reasonably obvious reasons cancel messages on bounty posts are rarely honoured, and it is amazing how a bounty hunter can get a new target in a few seconds, but take weeks to get around to obsoleting an invalid one.
My solution to this problem was to go treasure hunting. Being a trader when entering any major port could cause a firefight isn’t really a fun occupation, and I wasn’t contracted to do anything anyway, so I decided to go looking for relics of the past, and one in particular: Dodgeson’s Port.
The Right Honourable Doctor Reverend Lewis Dodgeson MP was the Minister External for Space Science at the time when the Titania – the New British Empire’s first space-going liner – first set sail. It was his job, therefore, to launch the thing. Being head of MiniSpacSki at the start of the NBE’s new golden age was not the position of glory and popularity it would one day become. The Minister External had been handed the position more as an endurance test than with any kind of expectation he would actually complete the task. To everyone’s surprise, and mostly thanks to his resourceful and dedicated staff, the final pieces had been brought together under his reign. Woefully over budget – though no more so than when he had been given the post – and working way past its bedtime, the construction of the Space Elevator to Robert Door’s exacting standards, as well as the spaceship Titania herself, was finally complete. The passengers were aboard, the technicals done, even – and this had taken a while – the speeches finished. The ship was to be christened with a bottle of Port from Dodgeson’s Alma Mater’s deepest cellars, a monument to British Engineering (Constructed on African soil from Japanese components). With a length measured in miles, the hull of the ship filled the Reverend’s vision. None of which explains entirely how he missed. The bottle spun off into space. The Titania was eventually christened with a bottle of cheap red wine from the nearest store, and bore a stain on its hull until it was decommissioned and rebuilt as the MSS H.Q. decades later.
The theory runs that the bottle floated off into space, hit a freak unGated hole, and drifted somewhere into deep space. In the centuries since, we’ve pretty much mapped out exactly where all the various gaps in humanity’s home system are, so I could use that information to plot where it might have got by now. Of course, space is huge, but coincidence is bigger, so there is a massive chance that it’s been knocked into a million shards by now. Fortunately, this hasn’t happened, and less than four weeks after I passed beyond the Gate, I see it up ahead in a cloud of dust.
I avoid space walks where I can. Easier just to locate the cat, vacuum the air out of the hold, void into space, back the hold around the bottle, reseal, reoxygenate, and go and collect it. This done, I now own a bottle of port which could easily buy me a solar system or so. Time to take it somewhere where it can be appreciated. Or at least depreciated. Set course for nearest Gate – eight weeks should be long enough to not be headhunted anymore – find a book, tell the computer what’s inside it, ask the same computer to avoid anything that might spoil the paintwork, and go back to bed. Not bad for a days work.
Space is Big. So I’m making the most of my life by wandering around it as much as I can. Life is small, but my bit of it’s been getting more complicated lately. It all starts, for me at any lick, with the bottle of wine. It spins around the eventual fate of Dodgeson, and it generally weaves a bit. But I’ve decided to start it here. I am, currently, a Free Market Trader. That is: I make my living picking up short-term (usually one job) one-way contracts, fulfilling them by going somewhere else, and then picking up something new. In this way I meet large number of people across the range from honest and law-abiding to outright piracy, sometimes on opposite ends of the same job. Most FreTees aren’t as lucky as I am, in that I own my own ship – the Azure Day – instead of having to pay rental to a faceless organisation. Instead, I pay subscription to Kanopy, an umbrella – hah – organisation set up to give normal FreTees the same protection that members of the faceless corps tend to get. I’m Stavern, this is my boat, and right now I’m off to see my brother.
ROSS: Our final guest this evening was, we must admit, booked in something of a hurry. His controversial claims earlier this week have seen his image explode onto all our screens and images, I’m told that within six hours of the original announcement he had nine web sites dedicated to his claims, both for, against and impartial. He is the newest mystic of our age, he wrote The Lucient Announcement, please welcome Philip Lucient…
(Light cue 42, Sound cue: MysticMegRemix7, Audience applause)
LUCIENT: Um… Good Evening… People. Sorry, I’m not quite used to dealing with… you know, crowds like this. Large crowds. It’s all fairly new.
ROSS: You published your first essay on your new theory on your weblog last week, didn’t you? Viewers can see the “earl”[SP?] across the bottom of the screen now. Caused quite a stir in the local community, but not the sort of thing that hits the mainstream, generally. Explain to us what happened.
LUCIENT: It wasn’t the first announcement, not really. I’ve mentioned it before to groups, and people… They’re the ones who eventually got me to submit it officially, really. The labs I sent it to couldn’t find any flaws, which was, kind of, the thing. The thing I was announcing, I mean. That the flaws weren’t there, that I was… well, right about it and everything.
ROSS: Everything being?
LUCIENT: That there’s a thing, an ability, within people and cultures to selectively erase bits of history from the collective mind, and somehow to alter reality so that it never happened. I can’t tell – from this side – whether it removes the evidence itself, or just puts into the cultural mind that anything to do with this can be treated as fictional… it could be either.
ROSS: So you can alter history. How?
LUCIENT: It’s all in the paper, really. I’ve made a point of not announcing the method generally, because until we know it works, it’s kind of irresponsible to put it into the general public’s hands. The paper has quite detailed instructions, though.
ROSS: But you understand that many people are skeptical.
LUCIENT: There is a trend in the modern age for a lack of wonder, lest you be branded an optimist. Nobody believes in anything anymore, and those who do are labeled fools. Fair enough, we as a public have been taken for idiots by the increasingly underhanded methods of everyone who provides content. Cynic used to be an insult, a dog who would growl at everything and trust nobody, now it’s a badge of pride, of protection against a world trying to fool us. Trust someone. If you cannot trust the published, reputable scientists who I selected to test this work, write to me and I will send you the paper – less the instructions.
ROSS: You certainly appear more confident.
LUCIENT: It is my… my work. I am less confident in Philip Lucient than I am in my work, which is provably… provably true.
ROSS: You have said you would provide us with some demonstrations.
LUCIENT: I have, but this is the last time I shall do so. I have come to the conclusion that some people will not be convinced until I remove their own personal demons. For a crowd in Cambridge I removed the island of Atlantis and its fate, for London King Arthur is no more. I have said I will restore these in a week, but I am finding that nobody remembers the existed in the first place. The trouble with erasing history is, I think, that you cannot prove it. The deeper something is in our culture, and the more physical evidence we have for it, the harder it is to remove. I chose those examples today because they have remained in our culture as fiction and as legend. Smaller things that have been taken this way leave no trace. Most people, for example.
ROSS: How about religion? How can people know that the basis for their religion hasn’t been removed?
LUCIENT: They can only have my word that I haven’t done it. The technique isn’t complicated, however, and may have existed before.
ROSS: We asked our audience to give us some examples of things we would like put into Room 101, and have selected some random ones. If you could explain the conditions of the demonstration.
LUCIENT: I assume you mean the BBC’s Room 101, and not Orwell’s. Very well. I have said that if someone can provide me with something that doesn’t work, that proves my theory wrong, I shall withdraw the entire thing, and the world shall hear nothing more from Philip Lucient or his insane technique. I will never again practice this technique. On conditions, there are these: I cannot remove fictional people, and I will not remove those in power or involved in this production.
ROSS: The first example is “The Principle Cold Fusion”.
LUCIENT: One I was sure would come up at some point. I will restore these at the end of the show, obviously. People watching now should be aware of the change after it has been made, but not for long. Thus:
(DEAD AIR, 17 SECONDS)
ROSS: That was… wow. This actually works. Ladies and gentlemen, I am sorry to say that this actually does work. We may have to stop…
LUCIENT: The next example, please. It is important that people remember this. Nasty, isn’t it? Feeling history slip from you is a feeling most unpleasant, like the slithering end of a very long dream. Next.
ROSS: The next paper says “The Satirist S. Morgenstern”
LUCIENT: Very well. Thus:
(DEAD AIR, 7 SECONDS)
ROSS: (gulps) Erk. That was… wow.
LUCIENT: The third.
ROSS: We should end now. This is enough, people will remember.
LUCIENT: They will. The third, please.
ROSS: If you insist. The third is “The con artist Philip Lucient”
(DEAD AIR, 12 SECONDS)
LUCIENT: Technically, a designation that doesn’t exist, and something I should have woven into the original conditions…
ROSS: You should count as involved with the production, or some…(INTERRUPTED)
LUCIENT: however. Thus: