Delving into the Impossible
Author’s Note: The magic system for the story is something I’ve been thinking about a lot over the last few years. I don’t even think I have it down quite yet. But I figured it was time I set something down upon paper.
Annabelle screamed in frustration, slamming a small fist into the table. This did nothing more than to hurt her hand, though she was too proud to let that show, even though she knew no one was watching. She only stared at the book before her.
She’d hit another dead end in her studies.
“What’s wrong?” came an impish voice.
Annabelle had almost gotten used to Amelia popping up wherever she wanted, but the younger girl’s incessant flitting about served as a constant source for irritation. She took a deep breath.
“There’s just something I don’t understand in this book,” Annabelle said.
“What’s that one?” Amelia reached over and hefted the book away from Annabelle. She was surprisingly quick-fingered in that way. “Foundations Volume 1? Isn’t that the very beginning?” The younger girl allowed a playful smirk to reach her lips.
In many ways, Amelia reminded Annabelle of her own younger sister. She very much wanted to wipe that smirk off the other girl’s face. As it was, she felt her nails dig deeply into the palms of her hands. “I suppose so, yes. I’m having trouble with it.”
“Would you like some help?” Amelia asked, not unkindly.
Annabelle knew that Amelia had already spent many years at the Tower and had probably already mastered this material, but she had long since learned that asking the other girl for help was an exercise in futility. Many of her explanations were nonsensical and impossible to decipher, long and rambling, interrupted by brief snatched of how her day went.
“No, no thank you,” said Annabelle.
“Suit yourself!” Amelia flew up into the rafters and was gone.
Annabelle sighed and read through her notes once more. She knew that there were many countless worlds or planes of reality. She knew, because she had walked and traveled through many of them, aided by the mysterious Doors that allowed passage between the worlds. And she understood that Seppo and Charlie and Cid and the others (she was decidedly not including Amelia in that group) could do miraculous, impossible things by manipulating the different worlds together. Whatever that meant.
But this wasn’t about Annabelle was it? Her sister was counting on her, and just because things were getting difficult didn’t mean Annabelle had the luxury of giving up. Screwing her face in concentration, Annabelle opened the book again before her. Her eyes came upon the dense glyphs, and she translated them, speaking the words they represented aloud. It was haltingly slow work, but she plodded along just the same.
It was many hours before an amorphous shape began to take form in her mind. Pieces of reality from different worlds could be near one another and affect one another. Recalling how she’d walked upon the surface of the water in the cave, she wondered if this meant she could use the laws of nature from one world in another, sort of like transposing different rules.
Annabelle supposed that made a certain amount of sense. But how to test that? How to even know which law to pry apart? That’s what she was struggling against. Seppo had said that the glyphs themselves contained no power, so she didn’t imagine that she would speak some magic words and something would happen, fun though that might have been.
So there was some other mechanism.
Feeling lost again, Annabelle went down and outside the Tower to the henhouse, where she found Seppo and Percy standing about lazily, Seppo feeding the chickens feed from a small pouch.
“Hullo,” said Percy. He bowed low when he saw her approach. Annabelle couldn’t tell whether he was joking or not for each moment of chivalry he displayed, but usually she ignored it. “What may we do for you today, Annabelle?”
Annabelle explained her problem. “Can you show me how you did it? How you made it so we could walk on water?”
Seppo frowned. “The conditions aren’t the best for such a work. The alignment of circles will be—”
Percy laughed, slapping Seppo on the back. “You are too modest. Surely so simple a demonstration is possible for you?”
Seppo seemed ready to refuse, but he glanced at Annabelle, and his eyes softened. And so he retrieved a pail of water and set it down before them. Taking a rock, he set it upon the surface of the water and let go.
The rock dropped to the bottom of the bucket. Then, retrieving from one of his pouches the odd brass cube she’d seen before, he set it near the water. Trying once more, he set the rock upon the surface of the water.
It did not sink the second time.
“How does that cube thing work?” Annabelle said breathlessly.
“It is just a brass cube,” said Seppo. “But it contains within it the energies of its home, and so tries to make its surroundings more like its home. Here, take the cube away.”
“Like a memory,” she said. Annabelle pulled the brass cube away from the bucket and watched the rock sink through the water. “Does it work with only brass?”
“No, not only,” said Seppo. “Most things will do the same, though in different measures. And of course, if the circles are aligned, it is easier.”
Annabelle brought the cube back closer to the water and pushed a hand against the water. It held firm, but when she brought her hand away, it felt wet, like water. So strange that it felt so familiar, yet acted so differently.