“So this is my new invention.” The Gnome paused, put off by Grux’s frown. Grux only appreciated three types of inventions: those that killed, those that stopped the good guys from being killed, and those that made him rich. Greystone encouraged Far-Out to continue. “This,” he said, as he pulled the cover off and began to gently stroke them, “is what Greystone and I have been working on since we arrived in the Real World two months ago.”“They don’t look like much. Just two black boxes with dials and buttons. I hope they’re better than the duplicating ray of yours. A duplicate that lasts five minutes is not much use,” Grux said. He lay back fully into the red velvet lounge.
“And the original became cursed,” added Greystone, always one for the bare facts. He was cleaning his pipe over by the white marble mantlepiece. He had tried to smoke indoors once, but the look Windwalker gave him was enough to relocate his smoking pleasure onto the balcony.
Far-Out fidgeted with his bow-tie, brushed his hair out of his eyes and stroked a beard that wasn’t there to be stroked any more, courtesy of the fact that the powers that be (i.e. Windwalker, Greystone and Grux) had decided to pass him off as a child due to his youthful features and Gnomish height. He was only forty – a young prodigy of the Gnomish world and rightfully proud of it.
Windwalker told Grux to shut up or she would dislocate his shoulder. Grux was tough, complete with muscles denser than your average neutron star, but Windwalker was fast and he knew she could dislocate, paralyse or send into spasm any part of his body she chose before he could retaliate. He knew this because she had done this before. Indeed, at the last Festival of the Gods back home she had done all three to him, seemingly at once, because he had started a projectile vomiting competition by convincing everyone to imbibe the nausea-producing weed Trolls-bane while spinning around in circles and being punched in the guts by his brother, Cave-In. Oh, how he missed those days; San Francisco didn’t have parties like that.
Far-Out was still talking. “…and so it is a wondrous combination of magic and mechanical ingenuity that will enable us to travel to those places. Thank you… oh, and I have thrown the duplicator ray in the refuse; better start from scratch on that. I mean no one need copies of things that blow up in your face after five minutes… and that are slightly bigger than the original… obviously a design fault” They all looked at him. “Um, go back to that sometime in the future.” There was an awkward pause. “Or not.”
“What places?” Grux grunted.
Windwalker, who was stretching her leg muscles by placing them on the top of her chair, let out a long sigh. Greystone spoke. “Simply put Grux, if you are paying attention, this world is special. It’s like the hub; from it you can travel to all other worlds. The other worlds that exist are represented by the fiction of this world. In other words, every film, book, play and other work of fiction.
“Includin’ films where women take their clothes off?”
“Yes, yes, pay attention – all those fictional works are actually describing real worlds.” Greystone put his hands together. “All the authors of those works pick up the inspiration from emanations from those worlds. Far-Out here,” he pointed to the Gnome, “and myself have been able to track the sources of these said emanations and thus produce a machine capable of allowing us all to travel to any of these worlds – that is, to any work of fiction. One for the traveller to take with her or him and one for the others to use to retrieve said person if necessary.” He turned to Far-Out. “A job well done.”
Grux thought for a while. “There was a movie I was watchin’ last night on the internet that might be worth going to. I could go alone just to see if all is workin’ properly, it would be my privilege.” He got up quickly, almost vaulting the glass coffee table and scaring the Gnome half to death as he grabbed his hand, enthusiastically shaking the Gnome up and down as he pronounced him the greatest inventor in history.
Windwalker eyed him suspiciously. “We need to discuss which fictional story to travel to, not just be random about it. Otherwise we’ll end up in Enid Blyton.”
“Well luv, I wouldn’t mind knowin’ if Noddy and Big-Ears – you know…”
“No I don’t know.”
“Well Tim was tellin’ me about this theory that there… maybe big ears wasn’t his only big asset.”
After much wrangling and for the sake of peace it was finally agreed that Grux should go into a fictional world of his choice. He would take machine A. He could signal them by pressing the red button which would cause Machine B’s red button to flash. It was a safe world and Grux could handle most situations. If worse came to worst they would go and retrieve him with Machine B. In any case Grux had never been this excited since he had taken part in The Battle of The Crazy Number of Armies, in which he swapped sides five times during the thirteen days of fighting, and that mainly because of the amount of food and ale on offer by the various armies.
That night Grux sat ready on the leather lounge that formed part of the array of furniture that was but a small part of the mansion decor. The cottage and the surrounding grounds fitted within the mansion, taking up only a small part when viewed from without: a triumph of magic and Far-Out’s research skills. Grux felt that sitting in the leather lounge would help put him in the right frame of mind for the trip. Greystone and Far-Out were busy giving him last minute instructions befitting a guinea pig, albeit one who could arm-wrestle a grizzly bear before breakfast while simultaneously preparing his eggs and bacon and surfing the net.
Windwalker arrived from a walk in the woods surrounding the cottage, entering straight through one of the four doors that led from the piece of turf they’d transported from the Empire to the mansion that was part of Real World. “What is that gods’-awful stink?” She strode over to the lounge and sniffed at Grux. “It’s you, what the…?”
“It’s my best aftershave lass. Gotta make a good impression on the locals o’ this world. It’s very important that they welcome me with open arms as part of our tests on this Box thingy.”
Windwalker held her nose. “And what the hell are you wearing?”
“Smokin’ jacket luv. It was either that, or go as a pool-cleaner.”
She looked at Greystone. “What is the name of the world that lover boy here is going to?
Greystone cleared his throat: “Ah, the Sex-Starved Isle of Nymphets.”
“And why are you indulging his idiotic childish fantasies?”
“Well I thought we’d kill two birds with one stone; our experiments of travelling to other worlds and his libido.”
“He’ll be less grumpy,” Far-Out chimed in.
“Males! You’re all, you’re all… something pathetic! I’m going for a walk outside.”
“Watch out for muggers!” Grux shouted as she slammed the door.
Far-Out went to the table and tenderly picked up the machine and gave it to Grux. “Now this dial here is how you tune into each of the other worlds. Each world has a different combination of numbers; this world… our world now, has the simple combination of the number one. So dial up one and push the dial in, and there, you see, the number one appears in the last column; all the other six columns remain blank. For this trip we need to leave the first two columns blank and then enter four, then push the dial in, then three, push it in, two, push, nine, push and five, push. Now it’s all set, you just have to push this green button.”
“And remember,” added the wizard, “All you have to do to get back is reset it to one and the rest blanks and press the button to get back. If you do something incredibly unlikely and foolish even for you – like losing the Box – then we will attempt to get there as soon as possible. If you are in danger or you want to get back and for whatever reason you cannot use the machine, I will pick up those types of thoughts and we will valiantly come to your rescue via the second machine. I am sure you can handle yourself in this er… particular world. Have you got that Grux?”
“I can’t imagine why I’d want to come back early. What if I just thought a particular thing if I was in trouble?”
Far-Out explained, “That wouldn’t work as you might accidentally think it.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, how about a pink elephant – if I tell you not to think about that elephant except in case of emergency, you’ll find you’re thinking about not thinking about it except in case of emergency, which is in fact thinking about it.”
“Oh… and what about the fact I am terrible at this whole telepathy thingy?”
Greystone explained. “The machines will amplify the link between us, as will your fear… that is, if you are capable of experiencing fear my fine Dwarven friend?”
“Ah… right… thanks, I think. And gents, what’s this little trip supposed to show? I hope it exposes many things, ha ha ha. Get it?”
“Mm, unfortunately yes,” said Greystone. “It is meant to show us, firstly whether your going into world 43295 affects that world. In other words…will the film in this world suddenly be changed?”
Grux started dialling the numbers. “Well I’m off soon, wish me…. hang on a second, what do mean the film may be changed?”
“Well,” Greystone continued, “your very presence may affect the story.”
“In what way?”
“You may be in it.”
“What! But that means… everyone who watches it will… see me… you know.”
Greystone suppressed a laugh. “Heh-heh, yes it does.”
Grux jumped from the lounge as the Box went flying into the plush carpet, safe and sound. He strode over to Greystone. “Why in the blazes of Symeron didn’t you tell me about this little detail before?”
Greystone bent down and put a friendly arm around his shoulders. “I thought you wanted to go… desperately. Besides, what are the chances of anyone you know actually seeing the film? You could even wear a mask if you like.”
“What are the chances of me endin’ up in the film?” Grux disentangled himself from the wizard’s arm and faced him with a sullen look.
Greystone looked over at the dwarf as Far-Out was checking the Box for damage. “Oh, about fifty-fifty.”
“What! You’re a Gnoll’s hairy ass and no denyin’! Fifty-fifty.”
“Well we could send someone else…”
Grux strode back to the lounge on his telephone pole legs and sat back down, grabbing the Box in the process. He readied himself, then a fly landed on his nose. He brushed it off. “Okay, I’m ready.” He silently dialled the numbers into the machine and both him and the away machine were gone.
Greystone lit up his pipe and positioned himself comfortably on the lounge. “So what are the chances of him ending up in the film, my good Gnome?”
“About a ten-thousandth of one percent actually.”
Greystone sat on the expensive lounge sipping brandy as he kept his mind open to any thoughts of ‘let me outta here’ from ol’ Grux. He loved the Dwarf like a brother but he was so eminently stirrable.