(Oct 20th, continued)
It was still late Thursday night approaching eleven, Arnold had just dropped off his bed at his new home, though he would be still be staying at Emerson’s for the time being. He did after all agree to do this job, and the fact he would have to throttle the man at a later date didn’t change this fact. He went from their home to the Cocoa Java to talk with Erehwon to see if she had moved in, which apparently she had for the time being. He brought her up to date with where he was moving to, and about Emerson’s bet. Erehwon listened intently and sipped her coffee, it was obvious she was not sleeping, her eyes were quite puffy and her hair and features were half managed at best.
“Well, you look sick, although your hair does look less green now.”
“The hair color seems to vary,” She said dismissively. “I’m not sleeping well. I need to go in the bottle to rest.”
“Would you like me to get someone to let you out in the morning?” Arnold asked.
“I was going to get Maddox to try and hypnotise me so I could sleep, but when I saw her last, she was horribly tired as well.”
Arnold stared at the coffee in her hands, “I don’t think you should keep drinking that if you’re trying to sleep.”
“If I don’t, then I just lay in that day bed upstairs in a haze. Tincture of opium doesn’t help.”
Arnold decided to change the subject for a moment to satisfy a momentary curiosity, “By the way, did you see the canisters in their…monster form yet?”
Erehwon frowned, “I have not.”
“Well you will soon enough. There’s one we noticed behind the Cocoa Java…follow me.”
They found the one in question, (and Arnold couldn’t help but think that the man who built the area nearby had been directly influenced by the canister while setting up his decorations for this time of year), and Erehwon went close to it despite Arnold’s warnings not to get near it again.
It didn’t take long before she tried again and her face relaxed as she did something and she said, “I can feel it now.”
Suddenly Erehwon collapsed to the ground, and Arnold went to her and started to drag her away, but her body seemed to be attempting to resist being moved now. Unlike the stopper before though he just needed to put in more effort and he dragged her for a bit, before he picked her up in his arms and carried her back into the Cocoa Java and set her down…and then he noticed that her distinctly green color was turning as black as his fur.
As soon as he saw that change in color Arnold went to all fours and ran to the back of the Cocoa Java and shouted at the candy shop that Erehwon had collapsed. Dr. Sonnerstein at least would have heard him probably, and he didn’t have time to leave her alone.
Arnold then ran up the stairs and looked around until he found her ‘aetheric containment’ bottle and he rushed downstairs with it and picked her up and put her over it.
Things happened on their own as she disappeared inside, and he sighed and sat down on his hind legs. “Erehwon? Are you alright in there now?”
“What happened?” Her voice called out over the speaker.
“You passed out, and your skin turned coal black.”
“I’m in the bottle?!” Erehwon shouted in concern.
“Yes, I put you in the bottle. You had collapsed next to that canister and turned black in color, it seemed like the best thing to do.” Now that he thought about it he wondered what would have happened if he hadn’t or if he’d overreacted, but for some reason he felt like he’d made the right choice.
“I hope so,” Erehwon agreed.
“I still can’t open the bottle, by the way.” He hadn’t even bothered to check yet but he had a feeling that was also true.
“Find a mortal.” Erehwon said.
Arnold crossed his arms. That hadn’t sounded like a request to him, “No. You can ask Dr. Sonnerstein, but you didn’t see what happened to you. I don’t think you should be let out right now.”
“I can’t see anything right now.” She said, refering to her skin probably.
“You collapsed within ten to twenty seconds of being next to the canister.” Arnold said and then turned to watch Dr. Sonnerstein enter the room. “Dr?”
“I heard your shout. Tell me what happened in detail.” He looked at the bottle after Erehwon asked if it was Kristos, and reassured her, “Yes, I’m here, Erehwon.”
“Miss Erehwon fell down after inspecting the canister, closely. She had already been drowsy, had a lack of sleep, and just collapsed almost instantly though she did claim she felt something, I dragged her here and put her in the bottle because her skin she had turned coal black, instead of green. Not quite as dark as my fur, but close.”
“There is something flowing from the canisters, aether I think, but of a strange quality.” She explained. “I was overcome, but I feel a little better now.”
“What do you make of it, Dr.?” Arnold asked. “Do you think it’s that Dark Aether, like we’ve been thinking or no?”
Dr. Kristos Sonnerstein nods softly, “Very probable I think… I’ve wondered if it’s that that’s affecting people…”
Erehwon’s voice came out over the speaker adding, “Maddie did say that she has been feeling very tired since the canisters appeared.”
“I feel drowsy at times… others I’ve noticed seem a little giddy.” Kristos continued almost to himself.
Arnold frowns, Maddox had failed to mention that at their meeting earlier, not that he should have been surprised. “Id just slips in and out around them, and I have no idea why.”
“If I am still trapped,” Miss Yoshikawa requested, “Send me to Miss Bianca. She will know how to keep me safe.”
Even though he knew it wouldn’t work, and actually because he was sure it wouldn’t, Arnold tried the stopper again, “I still can’t open it.”
“Doctor K?” Erehwon asked.
Dr. Kristos Sonnerstein tilted his younger head in thought, “Are you rested enough to come out?”
“I doubt it,” Arnold said honestly. “I was only trying out of curiosity, not because I think she should.”
“I am feeling a little better, but…imagine you are in your favorite scented bath, but instead of smelling Jasmine, you smell mint. That’s what this feels like, it is restful and healing, but not the same.”
Arnold raised an eyebrow, “I can’t relate to this particular metaphor very well.”
“Something is different,” was all the clarification he received.
Dr. Sonnerstein’s head snaped up. “When did you start getting stuck again?
“Saturday, the fifteenth I think, Arnold had to take me to Clockhaven, and then the bottle expelled me and gave me a ringing headache…”
“Erehwon, what are the chances of your bottle locking down to block out the dark aether from mingling with your own aether?”
“The bottle draws aetheric power from around it. It doesn’t try to filter it,” She then tried again, “Doctor, are there any ordinary-ish mortals about?”
Doctor Sonnerstein left and eventually came back with Junie Ginsburgh and a friend of hers, to Arnold’s annoyance since he was sure this was not in Erehwon’s best interests to be let out in her current condition.
“Mr. Arnold….what’s happening?” Junie asked.
“We can’t seem to get her bottle to let her out.” Dr. Sonnerstein explained instead.
“Hello, Ms Ginsberg, Ms Kenna.” Erehwon said in greeting, after they’d been talking. “One of you is mortal, I hope?”
“Mortal? Last time I checked…” Miss Ginsburg replied after a moment, off put by the odd question.
“We have someone trapped in a bottle of ‘scientific’ origin,” Arnold said wryly, since Erehwon had always claimed she’d made the bottle herself and that it was scientific in nature.
“Try opening the bottle.” Erehwon told her.
Junie was slightly unsettled by the nature of the request, “How…did she come to be trapped in a bottle of scientific origin?” No one provided a good answer to that, but that didn’t prevent Junie from opening it anyways, a mistake she would soon regret, because Erehwon came out of the bottle the same way she had gone in, skin the color of soot, but now she seemed…different.
“Well, that’s something you don’t see every day…” Junie said as she looked at Erehwon floating slightly off the floor.
“Who has summoned me.” Erehwon asked, though she was looking at Junie as if she knew already.
“Ummm…Ms. Erehwon, are you alright?” Junie asked as she grew a little nervous. Dr. Sonnerstein brows lifted at Erehwon’s change in demeanor, but Arnold had on some level been expecting it, ever since their match on the piste when she had lost control of herself.
“Were her ears always that pointy?” Kenna asked and she fell silent after Kristos and Arnold told her yes.
Erehwon in that time hadn’t looked away from Miss Ginsburg, “I am the Djinn of the Bottle.”
“Of the scientific bottle?” Ginsburg was feeling completely out of her element.
“No you’re not, stop it.” Arnold said, but when she didn’t react he shrugged. He hadn’t really expected that to work.
“Erehwon…?” Dr. Sonnerstein asked as he got closer…
“Yes, I am called that too,” the suspended woman replied.
Dr. Sonnerstein continued, “Erehwon, can you remember who we are..?”
“Yes, you are Doctor Sonnerstein.”
“Mr. Arnold, Kristos,” Ginsburg said looking at them pleadingly, “I’m not entirely sure what’s happening here. What’s happening with Ms. Erehwon?”
“Neither am I, Ms. Ginsburg..” Kristos confessed.
Arnold decided that telling her the truth of how it had happened might actually put her more at ease than telling her that she may or may not be dealing with a djinn with questionable intentions, “She was affected by those canisters and it changed her skin color.”
“Ohhhh…..” Junie said, that was something she could understand a little as she’d already seen those strange contraptions around the city and must have heard about how she had started to act around them at some point.
“She’s been becoming more like a true djinni, but I didn’t expect this.” Kristos said as he studied her. Arnold could have facepalmed, but he supposed Miss Ginsburg had to eventually know the whole story if Erehwon was about to follow through on that part of her nature in a moment. “Especially when she was speaking fairly normally just a moment ago from within her bottle…”
“Oh, dear.” Junie said, and it was a better reaction than Arnold had been expecting.
“Things get stranger and stranger around here….” Kenna said shaking her head.
“Is she actually a djinn? Or does she only believe she is a djinn?” It was apparent that Junie Ginsburg didn’t really believe in djinn, but….the evidence before her had probably suggested she should at least humor the idea at least for the moment.
“It’s uncertain, really..” Dr. Sonnerstein answered honestly.
The ‘djinnified’ Erehwon looked at Junie intently, “If a mortal releases a Djinn from her imprisonment, she is owed a boon.”
Junie asked the first thing that popped into her head that could help, “Can I wish you outta your bottle, Ms. Erewhon?”
“I am out of the bottle.”
“Ms. Ginsburg, you were rather giddy the last time I saw you, after we inspected that canister…” Dr. Sonnerstein said as he turned his head and looked past Junie. “How long did it take you to recover your wits?”
“Well….I fell asleep for a good long time, and when I woke up I felt fine.” Junie explained. “I don’t know how long that was.”
“We were worried about these ‘boon’ things even while I was still able to release her from the bottle,” Arnold said, remembering her warnings about how she could twist the wish to hurt the wisher.
“What is the problem for this ‘boon thing’ exactly?” Junie asked him.
“A boon, Ms Ginsburg, also known as a wish.” Erehwon explained, trying to keep her attention on her and no one else.
“Hm… Ms. Junie… Would you ask for something unrealistic? Just to test it…” Kristos began, but Arnold raised his voice to be heard.
“I saw her succumb to a moment of wickedness when we were fencing thanks to her nature,” Arnold explained. “And she told me that the ‘boons’ can be used to destroy you.”
“Oh yes, I forgot about that.. Don’t make a wish…” Kristos said quickly. “It could be dangerous if it does indeed work..”
Junie Ginsburg nodded her head slowly in understanding.
“Then I will remain with Ms Ginsburg until she does.” Erehwon said, to Arnold at least it sounded wicked.
Dr Sonnerstein nibbled his lower lip, “Oh dear..”
Junie Ginsburg’s eyes grew wide as she stared at Erehwon, and started thinking about good things to wish for…
“While Erehwon was still herself she suggested wishing for a vole to avoid getting any backlash, but I suspect she’d make a giant vole or something that would ruin your life,” Arnold added.
“This is Ms Ginsburg’s wish, not yours Mr. Arnold.” Erehwon told him coldly.
“Obviously.” Arnold agreed, staring at her. He had a feeling she still remembered that game she’d lost to him when she was first starting to lose control and becoming this thing. If he was smart he’d get out of the way and let her blast Junie to whatever hell her own wish might create.
Then again, if he was smart he wouldn’t have constructed an asylum he can’t enter, with a man who wants to dissect him, in a town that he should have evacuated, but was instead working for a man who bet a year of his life away to another man. Yeah, those had been smart choices! Once again he was really glad he’d made all those life altering decisions he’d made that got him to this point in his life!
“Be careful though… you know about the word contortions…” Kenna advised Junie who cringed at the thought.
“I can’t do this.” Junie murmured. “At least, not without thinking on it….”
“I wonder how safe it would be to ask for a normal, perfectly ordinary rabbit…” Sonnerstein mused.
“I will return to my bottle for the moment then,” Erehwon said as she disappeared back inside.
“Nono!” Dr. Sonnerstein cried out, “Oh dear…” Kristos rubbed his brow in worry and agitation.
Junie asked, “Is that safe for her to do that? That doesn’t seem good.” She bit her lip worrying.
Again, Arnold had a feeling that he knew what had just happened, “Erehwon, are you normal now?”
“Hello?” Erehwon asked from her bottle.
Sonnerstein looked a bit confused, “Erehwon?”
“Yes, it’s us Erehwon.” Arnold said, his suspicions were confirmed. How or when he’d gotten so familiar with things of this nature he had no idea, perhaps Id was rubbing off on him.
“Yes, Doctor K?” Erehwon said, and Dr. Sonnerstein sighs in slight relief.
“Did you find Ms Ginsburg?” Erehwon asked, and Arnold frowned. He hadn’t anticipated that she’d have also forgotten saying hello to Junie earlier, so his moments of clarity had probably just been flukes after all. Junie was now laughing nervously thanks to the exchange, and he didn’t blame her.
“Oh no…. you don’t recall anything that just occurred, do you?” Dr. Sonnerstein said.
“What occured? Ms Ginsburg, can you get me out of here?”
“You tried to offer Junie a boon.” Arnold explained. “And were quite upset when I was giving her pointers about why not to.”
It took a little explanation to Erehwon, as well as Tepic who arrived during the explanation with a “‘ello!”
“So you need to come up with a wish for me that I can’t pervert into something really awful.” Erehwon said finally. Arnold wondered if they would have to do that or if maybe some other method could be effective, such as draining Erehwon. The stones at the asylum had apparently affected her ears…but that could be dangerous, and he did have a few ideas already and would set himself to thinking of more.
Junie sighed, “How long can she stay in the bottle before we come up with a wish? And will making a wish even help her at all?”
“The longest I’ve stayed in the bottle was a month.” Erehwon said.
“Oh errr Miss! You’ve changed colour again!” Tepic said while looking in the bottle, and Dr. Sonnerstein tilted his head at the young boy, surprised at how he was somehow able to see that of her inside her bottle.
“Mr. Arnold, Kristos, can you keep her bottle safe for the time being?” Junie said, as it seemed apparent she wanted to go home now.
“Thank you for trying, Ms. Ginsburg.” Kristos said bidding her goodbye.
Kristos rubbed his head, trying to think of what to do, and Arnold felt it was a good idea to bring it up now, “I suggested wishing for nothing to her once, and she said she could send you to the void with that.”
“Can I wish that she was back to her normal, pre-djinn self?” Junie asked hopefully.
“Hm…” Dr. Sonnerstein mused, “That might be worth a try…”
“No.” Arnold said instantly. “She told me if you wish that she can turn you into a djinn instead to take her place.” It was a good thing she’d warned him about all of that so they could avoid these blunders.
“Yes, not a good idea.” Erehwon said, and Junie shook her head. “I will have to think about this some more…”
Junie left with Kenna, and Tepic, Sonnerstein, and Arnold spoke for a short time about the new pages in the book, until Erehwon said, “It’s also probably a bad idea to wish about those cylinders.”
“I doubt you could affect them. They’re beyond you,” Arnold said, and then grabbed his head and shouted.
“Whay’s up Mr Arnold?” Tepic asked, and Arnold shook his head. It was just Id slipping into the conversation again.
They went back to talking about wishes and Tepic said, “Course, she could always wish she knew what ter wish for….”
“That would be cruel.” Arnold said.
“Oh that would probably go horribly bad.” Erehwon agreed.
“She’d see what she would want most in the world and could have had, and then never get it cause she’d already wasted the one chance she had.”
“If I could nod in agreement, I would.” Erehwon said.
“Well, no use worring bout what yer can’t have, is there….” Tepic said, and though Arnold did agree he also wanted to think of a wish that had no chance of leaving Junie in tears at the end of the day.
“Do you have a philosopher handy?” Erehwon asked.
“I’d prefer a lawyer.” Arnold replied.
Tepic chuckled, “Ha! the more words yer put in, the worse it gets, ain’t good ter be clever with wishes…”
“I had thought of one wish. But it would bring misery to Erehwon instead. I thought of it the other night when we fenced.”
“What would that be, Arnold?”
“A wish that was stated something like, ‘For the rest of my mortal life and afterlife, that you would forever feel the impotence and frustration that I escaped your wrath. That no matter what you tried and how you attempted to affect events, I would be proof against them all. My boon is I will never be affected by you in any way and that you instead will feel the remorse that I have escaped your wrath.'” Arnold shrugged, he hadn’t written it down and was sure he’d said it wrong. “Obviously however, that would make Erehwon’s life a hell instead. So that would be a last resort.”
“Good lord..!” Dr. Sonnerstein exclaimed.
“What if I were glad you escaped my wrath?” Erehwon asked.
“The wording of the wish states you wouldn’t be glad, but perhaps a stipulation where in the you we’re talking about is the floating you and not the you…you. I don’t know. It was theoretical at the time. I think I’ll work on it some more now, but you had me considering that wish during the fencing match.”
“Blimey, you thought of that an were fencing?” Tepic asked.
“He’s good.” Erehwon said, “And he beat me.”
“Actually, I thought of it in that particular way the after the match.” Arnold said honestly, though they had been talking about wishes that could be made safely during the sword play and had started to think along the lines that led him to that point.
“But wait, if you were proof against anything, then the wish couldn’t work anyhow, an you go round in circles….” Tepic pointed out.
“Yes, you might cause a localized reality implosion.” Sonnerstein agreed.
“It might only affect the Djinn,” Arnold said, and in all honesty he had been thinking theoretically at the time and he was sure the way he’d originally worded it hadn’t been quite how he’d said it now. “But since the Djinn in this case is Erehwon it’s yet another reason to not make that wish as it is.”
“How about “i wish this wish had no bad effects”?” Tepic tried.
“By whose definition of what was a bad effect,” Arnold said dismissively. “Erehwon said that wish is so vague it wouldn’t be binding.” She had suggested that she could construe that as wishing for a trip to the void, as it’s the only place you can be sent to make sure no bad side effects could happen. And it wouldn’t then be an ‘effect’ but how she interpreted your wish.
Tepic and Erehwon soon gave up for the night, but Arnold and the doctor tried for a little longer and then Arnold shook his head.
“Again, this would be much easier if she was just a normal evil djinn at all times.” Then they could throw her in the asylum or near a reality enforcer or something and be done with it. But after a moment he shook his head and grabbed it. “Oh, listen to me. A normal. Evil. Djinn. You lot are turning me ‘local’.” He said in reference to the supernatural, not to Babbage which had something of a resistance to such things.
Dr. Kristos Sonnerstein smirked at him, as that mechanical rat he’d seen at Stormy’s sermon entered the room and went up to Sonnerstein, who asked him why he hadn’t told him there was a new page. To all their surprise it revealed it had finally been upgraded to be able to speak. “Unit Animalius, Nicknamed Raskal by Stormy Stillwater, has been requested by the mayor to ‘Quit stalking the robot.'”
Dr. Kristos Sonnerstein giggles. “What, really?”
“Well, I’m going to go check out the new page..” Kristos said, and he bid Arnold good night for the moment and departed with the rat.
Arnold sat at the Cocoa Java for a few more hours with Erehwon’s bottle, though this meant he was left to his own thoughts and he soon came up with a few ideas and realizations, though not all of them were good. He went to see Dr. Sonnerstein again around four in the morning.
Sonnerstein was also still awake, and they spoke for awhile before he got to his biggest concern, “You saw how Erehwon was affected, this happened because of the canisters this time, not any other stimulus. I can admit it might have been coming either way, but the fact is it was the canister that accelerated it. Isn’t it possible that my slipping back and forth to Id could mean…all of us of a certain nature may soon…lose oneself?” Arnold paused for a moment and then clarified his concern. “Lose themselves to what they are rather than who they are?”
“It’s possible… I feel I’ve been losing my mind a bit…” Dr. Sonnerstein said after a moment.
“Dr, I’ve been worrying about that ever since I first recovered, that I wouldn’t be myself anymore. I was starting to think I was wrong recently, but tonight showed me my fears may have been justified for the moment,” Arnold shook his head, and figured he should shut up now. He was starting to sound like Maddox now that he’d heard himself out loud. “Forget it, I’m just worrying too much. I was even hearing things the past two days.”
“No, these things are very troubling…but what things have you been hearing?”
“The clicking sound of heeled boots and the laughter of a dead man.”
“Laughter of a dead man?” Kristos asked, blinking, and then leaned forward. “You don’t mean Metier, do you?”
“Where were you when you heard it..?”
“Emerson’s home, I think in the direction of the graveyard in the back, though I could just be too close to the cannister at the Piermont. At this point I can hope that was it.”
” Perhaps, but be wary…” The doctor rubbed his head. “I can come over and inspect the area if you like…”
Arnold agreed it might be for the best. They arrived around 4:20 AM and inspected the graveyard and found two very odd things. One was that the gravestones were all addressed to a man of the same name, and Dr. Sonnerstein inspected the grave with his…’talents’. What he found buried there confused him and he wanted to speak with Emerson in the near future about it. What was more concerning to Arnold was the hat they found in the grass, he recognized Metier’s feathered hat instantly. Sonnerstein inspected it, and then sucked in a breath along with his lower lip..
“You weren’t imagining it…” Sonnerstein told him, and a laugh bellowed around the hat for a moment. “Unless I’m imagining things too…”
It was official. Arnold hated October, especially in New Babbage.