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The Duel of the Ages

Chapter 11

By David J. Parker

There came first the strange sensation of being compacted down to a geometric point; then the strange sensation of not being killed by the first sensation. Of course, he had realized just before jumping into the portal that Blood Drops was pulling a fast one on him. But what Blood Drops didn't know was that his funny was about to backfire in a big way.

KABLOOOOIE!!!!!! Darius was instantly farted out of the white hole to which the singularity of the black hole he had previously jumped into was connected. His shield just barely held under the tremendous flood of energy spewing forth from the gigantic rift in the space-time continuum he had just been flung out of. Darius gently drifted through space, careful to make his shield opaque to all forms of energy (and suddenly thankful that a certain someone had made it possible for him to cast such shield spells just one installment ago).

Merrily ignoring that the law of entropy made it clear that the chances of his coming out of the white hole intact were about the same as the chances that a kettle of water over a bonfire would freeze, Darius silently thanked Blood Drops for getting the two of them banned from Death's realm. Now he didn't have to worry about finding a way out of one of a certain someone's too-ingenious-for-his-own-good death scenes.

After getting his Omniversal coordinates straight, Darius opened a portal through a higher dimension (all the while thanking a certain someone else for being totally ignorant of the rules of another certain somebody's universe) and made his way back home.

Except for some reason, he came out in the wrong place.

"Uuuuunnnnggg..." Darius muttered as he looked around, trying to figure out where he was. The mass of the white hole must have bent his path through the dimensions just enough to cause the end of his worm hole to attach itself here instead of home.

He was standing in the middle of a room filled with strange, cube-shaped objects that were spaced out on several benches. The room was devoid of life, unless one counted the strange hermit with the three-day growth of beard sitting in the corner, staring intently at the glowing face of one of the cubes and moving his fingers with blinding speed over the appendage of the box. Darius started; there was something vaguely familiar about the hermit. The big warrior decided to investigate.

"Excuse me, sir. Would you mind telling me where I am?" he asked of the hermit, all the while eyeing the man thoughtfully.

The hermit didn't respond. Instead he continued making that incessant clacking noise with his fingers on the appendage of the cube.

"Uh, excuse me," Darius tried again. "I just asked you a question."

Again he received no response from the hermit.

"Hello? Can you hear me?" Darius asked again, this time a little louder. No response from the hermit.

"I SAID, CAN YOU HEAR ME?????!!!?!" Darius bellowed at the top of his lungs. No response save the incessant clacking noise. Darius shook his head and walked away. He decided the man must be deaf.1

1 When I'm hacking, this is an exaggerated but not entirely inaccurate depiction of me.
Outside of the room was a hallway which stretched in both directions, and across the way was a door which led to a room filled with more of the strange cubical devices. Darius was just about to head down the hallway when a quick glance through the window of the door across the hall served to unnerve him completely. The big warrior looked again.

It was uncanny.

Darius opened the door and entered the room. Seated just inside the door at the first box on the nearest table was his near identical twin. Fatter, much less muscular, and not as well armored, but him nonetheless.

The man looked up as Darius entered. It was like looking into a mirror.

"I thought that was you across the hall. I take it you met Sam?" the man asked with a smile.

"You mean that deaf hermit?" Darius asked after a moment, finally finding his voice.

The man laughed at that, a sound that Darius had heard many times coming from himself. It was the strangest sensation in the world, looking at the twin one knows one doesn't have.

"He isn't deaf," the man said, after he finally stopped laughing, "He's just programming--although with Sam, it's pretty much the same thing; one track mind, you know. Have a seat, Darius Longshore."

Darius started. "How is it that you know my name?" he asked haltingly, unsure that he wanted to hear the answer.

"Does God know the name of all of his children?" the man said, answering the question with another question.

"I wouldn't know; I don't believe in God," Darius replied. He eyed the man a moment longer, then took the seat he had been offered.

"Of course you don't. But if you did, wouldn't you agree that he would know all the names of his children?" the man asked after Darius had plunked his glutes down on the small rolly chair next to him.

"I suppose. Where is this leading?" Darius asked with a frown.

"Only to this: I know your name, Darius, because I created you. In my own image, no less, as I'm sure you can see." The man looked over the big warrior with a frown. "Or rather, in the image of me on steroids."

"You created me?" Darius said incredulously and then, softer, "You created me?" His mind was racing. A million things ran through his cranium at once, each trying to get his undivided attention. The one thought that finally succeeded caused him to reach down and pull his boot knife out of its sheath. Deftly he undid the buckles that held his breastplate on and shoved the bulky metal armor aside, exposing his muscle-hardened stomach. With the precision of a surgeon, Darius cut a large hole in his stomach with his boot knife, biting back the screams of agony that threatened to come out as he did so. In another instant, the hole was completed and Darius dropped the bloody knife to the floor and thrust his hand deep inside himself. Blood and entrails leaked out the hole as Darius fished around inside of his gut, looking for the thing he knew was there.2 Finding it, he grasped the beast tightly and yanked it out of himself.

2 One of the things I find most curious about this storytelling exercise is how Darius and Blood Drops developed an immunity to pain as things progressed.
"If you created me, why the hell did you stick this damn thing in my gullet?" Darius asked of the man calmly as he held out the bloody form of the sleeping puppy.

"Um, sorry about that," the stranger replied, his face white from the gruesome spectacle he had just witnessed. "That's what you might call a runaway metaphor. You're not really supposed to have a dog in your stomach, any more than you're really eaten up by dogs in your dreams. But unfortunately, at least within the bounds of this parody, you do have a dog in your stomach." The man swallowed hard as part of Darius' small intestine started to leak out the gaping hole in the warrior's stomach. "You can blame that on Sam, by the way. I wasn't going to bring it up, but since he made light of it early on, I felt obligated to follow up on it."

Darius shook his head and quickly shoved the puppy back inside, plugging the hole. He knew it wouldn't do any good to throw the beast out a window or something; another would just grow in its place. After the pup was securely back within the confines of his stomach, Darius uttered a few words of magic (all the while wondering when he had first started casting spells), and instantly the hole (and fortunately, all the blood that had come with it) disappeared.

The big warrior looked thoughtful for a moment. Then he thrust his hand into the pocket of his travelling cloak.

3 A reference to The Hobbit.
"Ok, a test then. If you created me, tell me what I have in my pocket,"3 he asked.

The stranger looked at the warrior with a wry smile, then turned to his cube and clacked away at its appendage for a moment. Turning back to the warrior afterwards, he answered, "A cherry lifesaver."

Darius laughed.

"Wrong, friend! I don't even know what you are talking about; what is in my pocket, however, is this!" He pulled his fist out of his pocket and extended it towards the stranger, opening it as he did. In his hand was one slightly melted cherry lifesaver.

"A silver coin from Garandel's tavern! I pocketed it just as I was..." The big warrior trailed off as he noticed that what was in his hand was not at all what he had expected to find.

"Go ahead, eat it. They're good. I know you'll like them," the stranger said to the stunned warrior. Darius' face was slack as he stared at the round sweet. Shaking his head in stunned silence, he dutifully popped the lifesaver in his mouth. Slowly he crunched up the candy in his mouth, smiling slightly as he did so--he obviously liked it.

The stranger turned to his cube again and clacked away for another second.

"There's a whole roll of them in your other pocket. Enjoy," he said afterwards.

The big warrior reached tentatively into his other pocket. Sure enough, he found a whole roll of the candy.

"Um...thanks," Darius said awkwardly, not quite sure what else to say.

"Don't mention it. You'd better get out of here, now. You still have to get back at Blood Drops for tricking you into that Black Hole."

Darius' face set itself into a mask of grim determination.

"You're right. I do have a score to settle with that one. It seems like every time I get the best of him, he tries to tell me it was only a dream. Jeez I hate that," he said as he rose and re-did the straps on his armor.

"Tell me about it," the stranger said sardonically.

The big warrior began the opening of the portal as the stranger looked on. He had it open and was almost inside before he realized that he had never gotten the name of his creator.

"David," the man said, before Darius could even ask the question. "David Parker. My friends call me Dave. You ever need my help, just come see me. I'll take care of you." He turned back to his glowing cube when he finished speaking and started clacking away.

Darius smiled and nodded, then stepped through the portal. Somehow he wasn't surprised that the man could read his mind.

Dave worked at his terminal for about half an hour after the warrior had left. Then, saving his work, he logged out, shut off the terminal, and walked across the hall.

Dave smacked his friend on the back of the head to get his attention. When Sam's bleary eyes finally registered recognition, he asked, "Why the hell didn't you tell me I was so ugly??"

Darius re-appeared outside of Garandel's tavern after closing time. Not having any idea where the knight Blood Drops lived, he checked the copy of The Mad Overlord that he found conveniently tucked away in his cloak pocket. Unfortunately, the book made no mention of where the knight lived. In fact, from what he gathered from the book, Llgimyyyn (or however it was spelled) consisted solely of Garandel's tavern and Thregor's castle thingy. Oh yeah, and that Inch Ward dude had a house outside the city proper, but he was dead now.4

Looking around, Darius spotted Thregor's castle thingy, right across the street from Garandel's tavern; in fact, it was the only other building in sight. The big warrior shrugged and went over and rapped on the gate.

4 In my novels, the city of Llagimlyn is cluttered with buildings, and scenes are set in two more other than the ones Dave listed here. However, this parody was written several months after Dave read the book, and he said later that these were the only buildings he remembers being there.

5 The term paper Dave wrote for an astronomy class the previous Spring was about black holes. While I wasn't consciously referencing Dave's term paper, there's no doubt in my mind that the term paper was what made me think about using black holes in this parody.

6 The Second Law of Thermodynamics, or the Law of Entropy, states that the order of a closed system always decreases. Therefore, a highly organized being, such as Darius, falling into a black hole and then re-emerging out of a white hole, should have been reduced to nothing more than his constituent atoms. The fact that he wasn't violates the Law of Entropy and thus should have been impossible.

"Go away; Thregor doesn't see visitors at night!" came a familiar voice from atop the wall. That was too easy, Darius thought, rolling his eyes.

"Hail, sir Blood Drops!" Darius cried. "I didn't expect to find you so quickly returned to your job. Did you really think you had seen the last of me?"

"Darius??" the knight called incredulously from atop the wall. There was a rattling sound followed by a scrape, and then a lantern was lit and shining down on the big warrior.

"How did you get out of that black hole? Nothing can get out of a black hole! I know, because I read about it a term paper, I think....5 Well, wherever it was, I'm certain it said something about nothing being able to get out of a black hole once it had crossed the event horizon!" The knight was staring incredulously down upon his nemesis.

"Yes, but unfortunately for you, you forgot one simple fact," Darius replied. "In your haste to get rid of me, you forgot the theory that states that for every black hole sucking matter into its singularity in one universe, there is a white hole spewing that matter and energy forth in a parallel universe. With all of the universe hopping we've done lately, you'd think a person would remember something like that." The big warrior smiled smugly.

"Yes, but what about the Second Law of Thermodynamics?6 You shouldn't have been able--"

"Hush up! I've merrily ignored that!" Darius cut off the knight before he could ruin the story.

"Well. In that case...." There was a sudden flash of light, and then the knight was standing in the street in front of the warrior.

"We'll have to declare my game a draw, then," Blood Drops said after his quick appearance.

"There never was a game," Darius snorted. "Your whole theory was just one big sham, just a trick of semantics, which I would have noticed had I not been entranced by those luscious Gigglehonk sisters." The big warrior reached into his pocket and withdrew his roll of lifesavers. He popped one into his mouth, then as an afterthought, offered one to Blood Drops. The knight took the candy and looked it over before popping it in his mouth.

"I propose a new game this time," Darius said around his cherry flavored candy. "A real game, not a sham; neither of us will have an unfair advantage."

"I'll believe it when I see it," Blood Drops replied, his tongue red.

"The game shall be this," Darius said, ignoring the knight's curt response. "I shall punch you once, very hard, right on the nose. Then I shall go home and forget all about this silly adventure we have had." With that, Darius slammed his fist into Blood Drops' face, causing a river of the man's namesake (that's a metaphorical river of blood, to those of you who are metaphorically challenged) to cascade down his face from his broken nose. Then, stepping to his right through the portal he had just opened, Darius disappeared.

"Thab wubsn't a verby funb gambe!" Blood Drops exclaimed as he tilted his head back and returned to his post on the night watch.

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