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

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

Pip found Witland Wally, Jr. a rather hard audience. She could imagine how many young women auditioned for the role of Tomorrow Maiden and how many he probably sent home. The charm of a young Daring could hardly be expected to soften the jaded Mr. Wit as he sat, smoked, and watched her on the stage.
Surprisingly, his aloof mood began to yield as Pip continued her story. She was pleased to see her host finally fall into the immersion an audience was meant to fall into.
When she ended her tale with the rescue of Mr. Wit from the mystery man her host finally laughed and applauded. Pip laughed, as well, sheathed her sword, and bowed.
“So that’s how you came to be costumed in this antiquated outfit,” he said. He offered a hand to help her down from the stage. “You wear it very well, my dear. You are perfect as Sun.”
“Thank you,” Pip replied. She decided to accept the compliment as her twin would, with a demure lowering of her head. Inside, she was overjoyed. What a feather in her cap to have impressed Witland Wally, Jr. himself. It was too bad that she couldn’t ask him to write a recommendation for her when she eventually read for acting roles. She doubted anyone would believe the recommendation of a supposedly dead man. She leaned back against the stage while Mr. Wit returned to his table.
“Much has happened since I’ve been away,” Mr. Wit mused. “My brother has been very busy.”
“He is changing Silver City,” Pip said. “And our home is one of the threatened landmarks.”
“Which you illustrated very well. You and your sister come from a family of entertainers?” he asked.
“You can say that. Our aunt even played the part of Moon for a season just to earn her Actor’s Guild card. She was my age at the time.”
He nodded and sat down again. A Puppetron waiter wheeled to his table and smoothly set down a napkin and glass. It placed a crystal decanter of golden liquid beside it, along with a bucket of ice.
“I apologize. I ordered a drink. Do you mind?”
“Do I get one, too?” Her host chuckled.
“I’m afraid not, my dear. Unless you want to feel terribly sick in an hour’s time.”
She lolled against the stage as Mr. Wit set down his cigarette and carefully poured a glass. “Our aunt put us through that a few years ago,” she said. “We were so sick we thought we were dying. Mom found us lying in the courtyard completely green. She wasn’t happy with Auntie.”
Mr. Wit laughed, but said nothing more. Pip was surprised to find the famous, charismatic Wit, Jr. such a remote man. He was like some sad, isolated baron, she thought, with all the comforts of body but none of the spirit. She wondered what he felt about the destruction of his old favorite haunt, the Venus Grotto. He certainly had no reaction to the threat to their Waffle Wizard. If Silver City’s situation saddened him he kept the emotion very much to himself.
“What was it like, marrying a mermaid?” she asked. Mr. Wit froze, his glass partway to his lips. He slowly put the drink down.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “That was none of my business.”
“No, no,” he said softly. He was in a state of reflection. “I just . . . have not thought of her for a very long while. She did leave me, you know, but then, my life was very public back then.”
“She went back to performing as a mermaid,” she added.
“She did.”
Pip decided to give him a break from her inquisitiveness and returned her attention to the stage. Her next impertinent question would have been: What was it like watching your ex-wife perform at the Venus Grotto again? Pip was fond of reading celebrity history and the relationship of the playboy Wit, Jr. with the one woman he chose to marry had fascinated her. With an airy leap she mounted the stage again, a hand spanning the air, picturing a backdrop for her next performance. She imagined Mr. Wit and his vivacious, red haired mermaid wife in a turbulent, passionate relationship that ended in anger and miserable accusations. Even with the finality of divorce papers, they were still seen together at the club, which he apparently visited each night she performed. When Mr. Wit disappeared, his ex-wife had publicly admitted to a hope for re-marriage, and, by certain accounts, her ex-husband would have been receptive. Pip imagined him putting all his feelings into a box during his exile and locking them up, burying it in a location now long forgotten. Pip wondered what Em would say about her story. She would probably say that its conclusion did not make sense.
Pip had to agree. However, the fact that Mr. Wit had no questions to ask about the world from which he had been lost could be blamed on a deep depression rather than on an oddly indifferent attitude. She glanced back at Mr. Wit. Some of the Puppetron birds had approached and her host was indulging them with some scattered seed. She watched as the automatons pecked at the food. Perhaps the mechanical birds stored the seed to be deposited discreetly later, she wondered.
“Why are there no real animals in this world?” she asked. The trees and plants, she was relieved to know, were real, at least as much as the air she breathed or the sky she saw could be considered authentic. The lake as well, was a welcoming, organic presence. She was certain she would go mad if all she was surrounded by were artificial things.
“I don’t think it’s possible to make any,” he said as he fed the automatons. “This is a realm for bringing ideas into being, like machines, places, and vehicles. I don’t think it’s meant for creating life.”
“The trees are alive.”
“Well, I guess that is more easily done with vegetation.”
“Is that how it works? You imagine what you want and this dimension makes it real?”
“It’s not that simple. Very complex creations take far more than imagination. That’s why it’s best to have a Builder’s mind as well as an artist’s vision in a place like this. In order to build things from the ground up, you see.” He glanced at Pip and raised a warning eyebrow. “Don’t think that making thought into being gives you the power to do anything you want, like grant you the ability to fly or pick up buildings with your mind. This realm has rules which even I have yet to figure out. We can create only as much as we are able within those confines.”
“There’s a lot made here already.” Pip illustrated her point with a sweep of her hand. She looked up to admire the castle that stretched above them. “So much that I can hardly believe it took only you to make it all.”
“And you can continue not believing that,” Mr. Wit said, amused. “Remember, I’m not the only one here. And this park existed before I arrived. All made by my mother’s hand.”
Pip stepped forward in excitement.
“You’re saying your father wasn’t the sole creator? Evelyn Wally actually helped him?”
“I’m saying that my mother was the Builder. Edward Dently was her dear friend, so he helped with the first Dark Town. Father, of course, stole all his designs and made them his. He stole more designs from others to create Astra City himself. My parents worked on this place together, but it’s mother’s work at the heart of it all.”
“Mr. Wit . . . that’s incredible. And quite a confession. Are you sure you should be telling me this?”
He chuckled. “The park in the real world is probably due for a revitalization. Why shouldn’t people know about mother’s importance now? And it’s common knowledge that father was a trickster and scoundrel. Edward Dently’s unhappiness with the way his Dark Town was handled is well known.” Mr. Wit put his cigarette down to adjust his suit jacket as he sat up. He seemed invigorated by what he was sharing. He continued.
“If the company were smart they would unveil this history, the contributions of my mother, and give it a mythical spin. ‘The Return of the original Goddess of Amazing World,’ that sort of thing. It would inject new life into the story of the Queen of Night and her daughters, the Maidens. Parades and shows would showcase them in this new light. It could be a grand, female-focused marketing campaign. New stories, new apparel, new merchandise. More girls and young women would visit the park as a result. Mother’s story could easily usher in a new, profitable era.”
“Huh,” Pip said. She felt like she was with Ted or Todd; people who liked to talk endlessly about their schemes and ambitions. This was not one of those boring dates, however, and she was with one of the most important men of Silver City, even if he was supposed to be dead. She had hoped to steer the conversation to one of the projects he might have in development; something exciting like his last invention, the television. Then she could see the power of this place putting imagination into action. If Mr. Wit was jaded with this magical realm after all this time, hence all the strange marketing schemes he was presently sharing, then perhaps she should opt for politeness and indulge him. She nixed her usual escape tactic of excusing herself for the bathroom.
“Besides merchandising there can be a well-publicized contest,” Mr. Wit continued. “I’m not talking about beauty but one that celebrates potential and accomplishment.” Mr. Wit emphasized his idea by pointing at his head. “Reward the minds of young women with scholarships or prizes to realize their dreams. Their resulting work would belong to the company, of course, but what a feat that would be, eh? Adding their ideas to the park itself. It would make them immortal.”
“Mr. Wit, isolation has definitely inspired you with great ideas for the future of smart girls,” Pip said, “but I’m really surprised that you are sharing all this with me.”
“I’ve been here a long time. You’re my first guest. Forgive all this embarrassing running of my mouth.” He gestured to their surroundings. “I’m always inspired here in the midst of her work.”
“The isle is Evelyn’s,” Pip realized.
“Yes. It’s not just some mythical story, how the isle belongs to the Queen of Night. Father was being literal. She made all this. I stay here, not just to protect myself, but to be near her. I appreciate its beauty every day.” Mr. Wit resumed enjoying his drink.
Pip looked at him in sympathy, forgiving him his lack of interest in the years and people he had missed while trapped. Perhaps it was a way of coping. He had few precious things to make him happy. Pip turned to look at the blue sky above the stage. It had never been publicly acknowledged, though park historians and fellow magicians had suspected: Evelyn Wally did have a hand in bringing the park into being and was not merely her husband’s muse and inspiration.
Pip thought how wonderful it would be if this Mystica could have one of her most favorite elements of the Wit’s World era. She closed her eyes and opened her hands. She visualized what she wanted arcing through the sky. She saw them right down to their rapid heartbeats.
“Doves,” she whispered.
Warmth welled up from her center of being. She rode with the sensation, feeling it burst and grow and leave her.
A flock of white doves erupted from the treetops. They rose rapidly and arced through the sky. Pip screamed in delight and clapped her hands.

* * *

“Yes, Mama,” Em said quietly. “I believe I’m in another dimension.”
She had sketched the Tomorrow Clock tower and the Darque Towne entry gates from which the fog was slowly lifting, and right then she was painting a watercolor of the sunlit blue waters surrounding the isle of Mystica. Her mother was very unhappy.
“All right,” June said. “Then if you’re on the other side of the galaxy — and I’m assuming that’s the same as being ‘in another dimension’ — how are we able to talk to each other?”
“Did Daddy explain about the satellite?”
Em used her sketchbook to briefly block the sun as she spoke. During her time beneath the clock she had seen it pass through the sky twice. To Em, that meant it was a man-made orbital.
“Honey, your satellite is not washing with me.”
Em closed her eyes. She chose her words carefully.
“This is what I understand,” she said. “As science already knows, our reality is not alone. There are infinite varieties. Because of that infinity, all things are possible, at least once. For example, if I wanted to push myself through a wall, I could try a finite number of times and possibly never accomplish that. But if I made the attempt forever, it is a certainty that at some point the thing that can happen only once will happen, and I will successfully pass through the wall.”
“Of course,” June said. Em could imagine her mother rolling her eyes. “Just like magic. You’re saying that here and ‘there’ is like the impossible wall we’ve found that we can push through? And this phone conversation we’re having is one of those impossible things?”
“Yes.”
“Emma, you and your dad are not telling me something.”
Em hung her head. Sometimes her mother just knew when she wanted to sidestep a question. What she and her dad believed was not as easy to share.
“Mama.”
“Just say it, honey.”
“I am there with you now,” she said. “Standing as I am. We just can’t touch, or hear, or see each other. I’m in the park that is there in our world, only I’m not there.”
“Like a spirit who will ring a bell for me? Honey, you are not a ghost,” June said vehemently.
“I’m not, I don’t think anyone trapped here is. But I think this is a place that is like our world only it sits between us and what’s beyond. That’s why dreams can be made real here, merely by intention. That’s why people don’t age.”
“If you think you’ve gone through the one-in-infinity wall, phone and all, into some . . . waiting room place,” June said patiently. “Then I want you to make sure of one thing, understand?”
“Yes?”
“Do not ever exit into what you think is beyond. Do I make myself clear? You come back here.”
“Yes, Mama.”
“All right then.” June sighed. “Now, how do you know if Pip is really there with you?”
White birds rose from Mystica and circled the fabled towers. Em jumped up, bumping the watercolor kit and splashing paint on the polished ground. The doves flew a determined course to Darque Towne to travel the circumference of the park, just as they would have done in Amazing World. They broke through the night at the gates and crossed the blue sky above her. Em spied something tiny suddenly ride the light breeze down. She ran forward to catch it.
Em stared at a white, soft feather in her hands that was not artificial.
“Pip is on Mystica,” Em whispered happily.

* * *

“How were you able to do that?” Mr. Wit said loudly, standing at his table.
“I thought of them and there they were!” Pip said joyfully, admiring the birds’ passage. She jumped from the stage and ran through the trees to a hillside observation area. Leaning against the stones, she saw her birds emerge from the midnight of Darque Towne and pass the gleaming tower of the Tomorrow Clock. A convenient view scope stood beside her and she tried to look through it.
“Oh, these things are coin-operated!” Pip said, lightly smacking the machine. Her birds were finally too tiny to watch with just her eyes.
“How do you feel?” her host asked. He had followed her from the Crystal Dome, cigarette in hand.
“Oh, very well, and you?” she answered, grinning over her shoulder.
“That should have taken a significant amount of energy out of you,” he said darkly. “Like a sacrifice. Please be careful, Philippa. No baby deer, rabbits, or other such creatures after this.” He wagged his finger sternly.
“I would love a fawn! Or a unicorn.” Mr. Wit continued to regard her with severity. “Oh, all right,” she said. “I will not make any more living animals. We’ll have to feed them after all.”
Something else caught her attention. Pip cocked her head, listening. She then took off like a shot.
Bewildered, Mr. Wit shook his head and followed at a fast walk.
Pip ran down the various tiered courtyards of Mystica for the hillside dock below. The strains of merry music reached her from the frail, leaning craft that approached. Pip laughed upon seeing the grinning, ghoulish Puppetron passengers. As the boat docked the music ended with a clash of cymbals. Pip applauded.
“Now, who are they?” she asked her host when he finally caught up to her.
“The Ferry of Lost Souls,” he replied. He smoked pensively. “They come from Darque Towne. They don’t make the crossing unless they have a paying passenger.”
“Well there are the passengers,” Pip pointed out. The boatman grinned at them, gold coins gleaming in the sockets of his eyes. With a blink and the clear chime of a register ringing, the coins disappeared into his skull. Pip laughed again.
She noticed the Victorian box by the dock and read its little, ornate sign.
“Such a slow boat. It would have never been a success,” Mr. Wit muttered beside her. As he turned away, Pip caught his left arm.
Her host had been keeping that hand in his suit pocket the entire time. She had suspected that the fight over at Astraopolis had done something to him and she was getting tired of his hiding his injury. Just as Mr. Wit was about to protest she managed to remove the hand from his pocket.
“I thought so. No wonder you have to drink,” she said, looking at the swollen, nearly purple hand.
“My dear, please let go,” Mr. Wit gently demanded.
“Not yet,” she said, closing her eyes. If thought could become reality here, she rationalized, she had an idea to try.
She imagined Mr. Wit’s hand as it would be when healthy. She focused on that intention with all her might. The same rush ran through her. This time however, she felt a remarkable exhaustion. She looked down and saw that Mr. Wit’s hand was practically back to normal, the flesh no longer swollen around the ostentatious signet ring he wore. She nearly wanted to study the strange ring; it was oddly cut around the edges. She flopped down on the grass instead.
“Are you all right?” he said, helping her sit up. “I did tell you there was a payment for such actions, didn’t I? You really should be careful!”
Pip dazedly realized that Mr. Wit was trembling. Whatever she had done to him had probably affected him on a deeper level, as well. He stood up abruptly. He was unsteady on his feet.
“If you’ll excuse me,” he said. He left to climb back to Mystica’s castle.
Alone, Pip stared at the boat of ghouls, who stared back at her. The Puppetrons apparently did not care for Mystica’s benevolent, warm sun and had popped open black, tattered parasols to hide beneath. Their actions reminded her of Em.
“If she were in the park now,” she said to the shaded passengers, “I would ask that you take me to her. She doesn’t like boats.” The ghouls only grinned back. She would have liked to test another theory that occurred to her, but after her stunt with Mr. Wit’s hand she doubted she could risk another drain upon herself.
Taking Mr. Wit’s urgent warning to heart, she dropped back upon the grass. She promptly fell asleep and snored.

end Chapter Thirteen

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