Sunday, November 03, 2013

Salt Wars Excerpt

  • The locked room



The door was an unusual one to see in a flat. It appeared to be solid oak. In fact Xavier knew that within it there was a core of steel. There was no handle and there was no sign of any keyhole that could be used to unlock it. Xavier paused on the landing and tapped an app on his smartphone. There was a sound of electric motors as the mortice deadlocks opened.

He stepped into the darkened room and lit a candle. The growing light illuminated a dark bare room. The walls had been painted midnight blue. The most striking feature was the white pentacle on the black floor with arcane symbols drawn around it. There were five new candles, one at each point of the pentacle. Inside the pentacle there was just enough room for Xavier to lie down. He thought again about the idea of getting a mattress but he put that idea away for another day.

He carefully lit the candles in sequence before shutting the door. He then painstakingly created a ring of holy water around the pentacle. None of this was necessary, he told himself. Yet it did put him in the right frame of mind for the night.

There flashed through his mind an uncomfortable vision of what his adoptive mother Geert Hollands would think of all this if she ever got to know about it. Geert was the most devout of atheists but she had been baptised a Catholic. Consequently, she was cross when Xavier skipped Mass but she was equally cross that he attended it at all. Xavier had always found that she could be just a little bit difficult to please. He imagined that she would be doubly offended by these proceedings. But he imagined that then she would smile and call him “Zee” because she knew that was something which somehow offended him very deeply.

His father, the scientist Terrence Hollands, would simply have harrumphed and got back to his newspaper and his absolutely foul pipe. This last thought put Xavier in mind of the incense burner but he thought that he was pushing the health and safety issues far enough with the candles.

The central heating had clicked into life so Xavier was able to slip out of his t-shirt and chinos without a shiver. He piled them neatly on the floor and made sure that they were well away from the candles. (There, mum, he was thinking about your lectures on fire at least) He lay naked in the centre of the pentacle with his head in the northernmost of the five triangular points.

Xavier looked up the ceiling. At first it seemed that it was all one rather dull mirror in which he could see his own naked body in the pentacle as if he were viewing it through a glass darkly. Then one of the sensors detected a hand signal which he made and the screen, which covered the whole of the ceiling, came to life.
“The Mirror of Eternity” logo and the trademark swirling galaxies appeared on the screen. He was rather proud of this opening sequence and consequently there was a slight smile on his lips as his consciousness slipped away.
Tilly too was falling asleep. Her real name actually is “Tilly” it is not short for Matilda or Chantilly and she hates, positively hates, being called a “buxom barmaid” because she thinks she is more than her job or her breast size. “Excuse me, look at my serious face, I am more than my job or my breast size OK.”
She was sliding her sinuous sexy naked body (as Xavier might have put it) into her single bed. She had had a long evening shift at Ye Olde Boar and she would be asleep in 1,2....

She snored. And then with no transition at all , she found that she was sitting on the bed... or perhaps it was her astral projection – she could not always be sure. She was watching without any trace of alarm as a misty figure started to take shape in the corner of the room.

She could still see the wallpaper through it but she could also see that the mist was definitely taking the familiar shape of her boyfriend, Xavier Hollands.

“Ah if it isn't my buxom b...” and a surprised Xavier felt the back of Tilly's hand.

She was at least as shocked as he was.

“I could touch you!”

“I know” said a fully formed Xavier, ruefully holding his cheek.

“You've done it Zee! You have created a hard astral projection.” She looked down at his naked body and refrained from any comment about exactly how hard.

Xavier wanted to know the exact time. He was not allowing himself to be distracted by Tilly's lovely nakedness from the experimental data. (She reminded him she was “part of the experimental doodah remember!”)

“The thing is, there is no displacement in time. It is still Tuesday, right?” (Tilly nodded) “So I am still in the sealed room at home *and* I am in this room on the other side of town at exactly the same time.”

“And you are naked.”

Xavier claimed he had hardly noticed (Tilly was incredulous) but of course he had no clothes. Neither did Tilly.

“I am sorry about your face.”

“I've always been sorry about my face.” Xavier gave his “little boy” grin.

“Here. Let me kiss it better.”

Tilly gave Xavier a long lingering kiss. When she came up for breath she ran her hands over his body.
“And your astral projection is getting harder and harder!”

And thus began the strangest experiment in Xavier's frankly strange career.

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