Wit’s World: Never Was, Chapter Eight by Elizabeth Watasin

CHAPTER EIGHT

Pip remained on the light rail, allowing herself time to accept her situation. Given what she had seen of this place, she decided she was in another dimension, one that might have one other person living in it with a can of red paint unless that person had left already or passed on. Pip wasn’t sure how she felt about that. Mysterious person alive or no, the only things that moved in a simulation of life in the park were the Puppetrons and she didn’t think a Puppetron was capable of creative displays of desecration. Pip discounted the possibility of having hit her head and fallen into unconsciousness after entering the Gold Gate. She’d never dream of such a lonely and creepy circumstance as the one she was then in. She was a happy young woman and if she were dreaming she would have met a talking unicorn and gone on some fantastic adventure. Her mother called while Pip was in one of her rare moments of self-analytical contemplation.
She decided not to tell her mom all of what she’d seen and let her believe that her missing daughter was still in some facsimile of the park, somewhere under Amazing World. The truth, such as it was, seemed less than helpful for her mother’s situation, which involved lawyers.
“And what about this Mr. Dangerous and Ben Case?” June said. “Amazing is telling us they’re responsible.”
“Don’t blame them!” Pip quickly said. “I fell through something, that’s all.”
The only assurance Pip could give her before ending the call was that she was still on the lookout for an exit.
The train made one more transformation as she left Astraopolis, this time into a string of alarmingly dangerous mine shaft cars that ran precariously across a volcanic mountainside while dinosaurs roared in a jungle valley below her. The hot, wet air stank of sulfur and plant rot. When her mining car hit the jungle floor it careened through a tribal village complete with human bones, a cooking spit, and primitive cutlery. This land was nothing like Amazing Land back home, with its fun safaris and botanical treks, or like what she thought Wit, Sr.’s Lost Lands would have looked like. Pip resolved to not go through that part of the park again and decided to get off once the train returned to Astraopolis.
“As Sun, the Tomorrow Maiden, I belong there anyway,” she said to herself. She was famished for some waffles and mashed potatoes.
When the mining cars reverted to the rickety passenger train and Pip was traveling through night again, she was surprised to spot the curvaceous mermaid sign of the Venus Grotto amid the shiny buildings of the Town of Tomorrow. If there was a Venus Grotto there had to be a Waffle Wizard, but nothing would motivate Pip to go to this dimension’s version of their home. What if there was a Puppetron of Pip there? Or of Em? What if they tried to kill her, seeing that she was, in this reality, the stranger?
Pip found the scenario of killing an Em Puppetron, even in self-defense, absolutely horrifying. She knew she wasn’t known for her sensitivity and empathy skills, her twin having enough of that for both of them, but Em in any form was still Em to Pip and unquestionably needed preserving. While Pip pondered the emotional repercussions of fighting one’s own twin Puppetron, the train’s chugging pace slowed as it approached the Darque Towne station. The branches of twisted old trees scratched the train’s sides. The tree limbs were heavy with the weight of perched black crows. Their yellow eyes stared at Pip through the car window. Over the din of the train’s puffing engine, Pip heard them speak.
“Intruder! Intruder!” they squawked, spreading their black wings.
How odd, Pip thought. Then she saw the Puppetron family in Victorian clothes, picnic hamper in hand, waiting on the station platform. With their odd limbs and peculiar body shapes, they looked like they had stepped out of an Edward Dently illustration. The automatons fled the platform before the train came to a complete stop. Lights that brightened the storefronts of the buildings below the station rapidly winked out and the shadowy figures of other Puppetrons fled into dark corners and doors. Darque Towne appeared as still and devoid of living presence as when Pip first arrived.
“This town isn’t empty,” Pip exclaimed. “It’s full of active Puppetrons!”
Then she realized that the Puppetron people she’d seen had moved freely of their own volition and power; unlike the ones back home, they were not rooted to a mechanism or made to stay on tracks.
Pip laid a hand on her sword handle and decided she would definitely get off in Astraopolis. There had been no warnings of “Intruder!” from that city. If she encountered any freely moving Puppetrons there perhaps she could blend in as the Tomorrow Maiden and avoid trouble. With a long, lonely whistle, the train pulled away from the station. Pip gazed back but the town windows remained dark and the streets empty.
The train entered the tunnel and transformed once more into the glass canopied car. Emerging in the bright sunshine of Astraopolis, Pip stared idly at the glistening lake waters and the rolling slopes of grass that led down to it. This version of Astraopolis, being huge, had several train stops and Pip weighed whether she should get off in the densely built urban interior or at the first stop where wide open spaces of perfect grass met the polished buildings and boulevards. A man with dark hair and wearing a dark suit was running along one of those boulevards. Pip’s mouth dropped in surprise. Pursuing him was another man in helmet and goggles who rode in a strange, levitating vehicle above the suited man’s head. The goggled man was dressed as the Tomorrow Man of Astraopolis.
His levitating vehicle was shaped like an upside down bullet, with the goggled man standing waist deep in the open, center bowl. Control panels surrounded him. The vehicle tipped forward from the concentration with which the goggled man was chasing his victim. In his hands was a rope fashioned as a lasso and he was intent on snagging the running man with it. Pip’s car zoomed past the two antagonists for the station ahead and then slowed to a stop.
At the train station, Pip jumped out of her car but realized she needed to go through a gold turnstile.
“Come on, come on,” she said, turning her nameplate in the key opening. Through the lattice of the gates, Pip could see that the goggled man had lassoed the left arm of the man in the suit and was painfully hoisting him up by that limb to his floating vehicle. The two viciously grappled, the goggled man clawing with gloved hands at the roped left hand of the suited man. The air was filled with the raw cries of the combatants.
Once the gold turnstile unlocked, Pip rushed down the grassy hillside with her shining sword in hand. Coming upon the men, she let out a shriek that hardly passed for a battle cry but served well enough. She leaped up to the levitating vehicle and swung her blade. It bounced off the rim with a resounding clang, severing the taut rope that held up the suited man. He dropped to the ground among the cut ropes. The goggled man’s mouth opened in astonishment, and at that close range Pip could see he had a thin mustache and a white scar that ran jaggedly along his cheek and jaw. Pip, on the ground, resisted another leap for him with her sword. Could a Puppetron be so surprised, she thought, and have a scar? A Tomorrow Man shouldn’t look so disfigured. Pip quickly decided to consider the two men human until she knew for sure. Her scarred foe shut his mouth and then determinedly rode his levitating vehicle towards her. He stretched a gloved hand down to catch her.
“Ha!” Pip shouted, swinging the short blade in an arc above her head. The goggled man cried out as she slashed his arm. Pip had practiced sword play; she knew to hold back on her attack or else the poor man would have lost an arm. The wound bled red immediately through the slice in the scarred man’s leather jacket. Her foe was human. The cut was enough to force the goggled man to retreat. His vehicle soared into the bright sky, heading towards Darque Towne.
Pip instantly regretted causing the wound but knew she would have been snatched up and on her way to the skies with that mystery man if she hadn’t retaliated. She knelt by the suited man who groaned on the polished ground. From all the pain he was expressing, Pip decided he had to be human, as well. His left arm was free of the ropes but he held it close.
“Are you all right?” Pip asked. “It’s not dislocated, is it?”
She looked at his face and recognized him. There was no mistaking his dark hair, blue eyes, trimmed mustache, and handsome features.
“No, my dear, I think not. But where did you come from?” he asked in astonishment.
“An accident brought me here. I’m Philippa,” she said with a smile, holding out a hand.
“Philippa,” the man said, taking her hand. His voice, Pip thought, sounded just like it did in those vintage, broadcast shows from when this man had first invented the television set.
“I, my dear girl,” he continued, “am Witland Wally, Jr.”

* * *

The afternoon shadows lengthened in Silver City. Em and Buck waited patiently by the alleyway entrance that led down to Dutch’s basement apartment. Dutch had not answered the door nor picked up when Buck called him so Em decided to wait outside for Dutch to appear. When she checked in with their parents she prudently chose not to share the Carny Man Trap idea with her mother. Her mom was currently on a war path with the people at Amazing and it was best not to distract her. Em would consult with her dad more as soon as she could speak with Dutch.
“I really think you should pick the lock,” Buck said.
“No, Buck.”
“Em —”
“Escaping from handcuffs is one thing. Breaking into people’s homes is another.”
“Well, if you’re not going to do it, let me. I’ve got a paper clip. And it’s steel. You can at least show me how.”
“Pip was going to show you how to juggle. You don’t need to learn how to be an escape artist. Yet.”
“Do you need my paper clip anyway?”
“No, Buck,” Em said tolerantly. “But thank you.”
Buck was trying not to stare at her wrists by her side, obviously curious to see the lock pick given to the twins by the escape artist, The Impossible Ginny. It was concealed in her sleeve. Like her well-prepared aunt, Em always carried it. It mattered to always be prepared, even though a lock pick had not saved Dawn Daring when the underwater escape act that trapped her had gone horribly wrong.
Em’s phone rang and she answered it immediately.
“Em, you won’t believe who I’ve met!” Pip said. “I saw these two men fighting. I saved one from this mystery man and now we’re headed to a safer location.”
“What?”
“Em, this is another dimension. This isn’t a trap door, prop set-up, or simulation. I’m really in another world, and it works differently.”
Em paused, taking in this new information.
“Em? You have to believe me. I have it on good authority. And everything about this place, the reality of it, the size, how Puppetrons can act on their own and walk and stuff? I’m afraid it makes sense.” Her sibling laughed, and it was strained.
“I believe you, Pip,” Em quickly said. “I’ll tell Daddy. We’re working to get to you.”
“You need keys, like my nameplate, but those can only get us in, they can’t get us out,” Pip said. “Witland Wally, Jr. says so.”
“Who?!”
“That’s who I saved! Mr. Wally, Jr. has been trapped in this world since his disappearance. He hasn’t aged, either; he looks the same! He wants to leave, too, but hasn’t found the way out. Em . . . If I can’t get back . . .”
“I’m coming to get you,” Em said.
“You’ll be trapped here, too!”
“I’m coming for you, and we will not stay trapped. Remember the Carny Man’s greatest trick? How his park appeared on the edges of Silver City overnight? If Wit, Sr. can bring his Wit’s World into this reality then that’s how we will do it. That’s how we’ll come back.”
“Em,” Pip said, her voice breaking. “I love —”
“Pip!” Em cried, realizing that Pip’s phone was finally dying. “Pip, I love you, too!”
Her only answer was silence.
Em gripped the phone and fought her overwhelming panic. She was not going to fall into shock. She would not become disabled like when Aunt Dawn died.
After a while she realized that Buck was trying to speak to her. His face was full of concern.
“Pip’s phone is dead,” Em finally said, her quiet voice betraying a slight tremor. “And she’s there with Wit Wally, Jr.”
Buck stood still and blinked. Em pulled the lock pick from her sleeve. She took the paper clip that was in Buck’s hand.
“I’m going to get her,” she said resolutely. She knelt before the door, straightened the paper clip, then bent one end. She applied her new tool and her pick to the lock.
“I’m not leaving her there,” she said. “Especially with a Wit.”

* * *

On the lake at the center of the alternate dimension’s Wit’s World, a small leisure boat was crossing. Though it had a motor, the owner chose to launch a large kite, the fabric billowing from the light wind. While the boat glided from the pull, the owner of the boat peered over the sides, checking the waters. In this way, the little boat slowly crossed the lake for the island in the middle. Pip sat beneath the canopy of the boat with her head in her hands and her useless phone held against her forehead. Wit, Jr. left the wheel to sympathetically lay a hand on her shoulder.
“You know, I’m not really happy about being alone in this strange park with you,” Pip said primly. “I should have a chaperone.”
Wit, Jr. delicately removed his hand. “My dear,” he said as he stepped back. “I am a gentleman.”
Pip softly wept and Wit, Jr. cleared his throat. He gave his guest a handkerchief embroidered with the letter “W.”

end Chapter 8

Wit’s World: Never Was ©Elizabeth Watasin 2011

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