Chapter 12 -- Expressions
The night had been pretty uneasy. No one slept well, since everyone was at least a little concerned about the paradox. Even after hitting the bed, there had been a lot of talk, far into the night about the possibilities of paradox. It had finally ended when the Beast had growled "all right, it's been two hours and all we've figured out is that none of us has any idea what might happen because of this. Let's go to sleep and talk in the morning."
It was about 5:00, and Jeff still hadn't returned. Doug made a quick run to the front and discovered that Jeff's van was gone. He thought about calling Jeff's house but decided against it. When morning came, Jeff still hadn't returned, but Dave Moroski rode down at about 9:00 Winter Camp time and gave Doug (who was the only one up) a note from Jeff saying that he'd had to go back to the city and would be return later in the day. Doug was a little surprised that Jeff hadn't told them himself, but Dave said he'd been pretty shaken up.
Doug began making breakfast. Normally, they ate Continental most mornings, but this morning he decided to burn off some of his nervous energy by cooking a big breakfast of pancakes and sausage for everyone. It was kind of strange, since he wasn't normally that interested in cooking mundane items -- he was the acknowledged master of pie crusts and Baked Alaska, but usually let someone else cook the basic items.
Even more strange was that Howey joined him after just a few minutes. John was famous for his unwillingness to cook breakfast and usually skipped it altogether. He pitched in though and was soon busily cooking away and humming a tune he'd just remembered. Doug was surprised again, because it was "Queen of Argyll", an Irish song that Steve had played just before the tavern brawl the day before. He hadn't thought of John as much of a folk music fan.
Bigger surprises were still to come though. Doug found himself yelling "Common roomís open lads, and the food's on the larderboard. Come and get it or we throw it away". He paused for a second; he didn't even know what a larderboard was, and he'd never heard the main room at BC called the common room before. Howey just stood next to him and smiled. He began handing Doug plates of food to put out on the tables.
That's when Doug noticed it. Changes everywhere, some small, some larger. The tables for instance, seemed to be made of solid oak, rather than the pressed Formica picnic tables he remembered. The walls of the cabin were darker, and he could see a wainscot covering the lower half of the dining room in wood. The fireplace burned brightly against the north wall where there should have (or he thought there should have) been windows instead. Something was wrong. Perhaps the beginning of paradox?
The others gradually made there way out except for the Donohues and Tim Hunt. Timís absence was no surprise, but Steve usually made it to breakfast. Doug went down the darkened hall to the private room and banged on the door. A few moments later he heard Steve, his voice still heavy with sleep, announce that he was awake. He looked momentarily towards Ronís bunk and decided against waking him. Ron was grunting a lot and seemed to be in the throws of a powerful dream.
He headed back to the main room and had just entered it when he heard Steve begin swearing. He headed down the hall again and stopped short when he saw Steve standing there. His beard had grown out at least six inches since the night before, and he seemed different. Doug couldnít put his finger on it at first, but Mark Bollman could.
"Heís shorter," observed Mark, "shorter by 4 or 5 inches and still just as broad as before. Thatís a Tolkien dwarf if I ever saw one."
No one bothered to point out that Mark hadnít seen one before as they began to realize what was happening to them. They stopped and looked closely at their surroundings, then began to all chatter away excitedly, trying to figure out what was going on.
The noise disturbed Ron and he awoke with a start. He sat up in bed and banged his head off the upper bunk. He casually tossed the top bunk out of his way, cursing viciously. Everyone else grew silent and just stared. He looked back at them and then looked down.
"What the?!," he cried, "What on earth is happening around here?" He could see that his skin had darkened overnight and that he had grown tremendously. Heíd always been strong, but he now had more muscle mass than heíd ever dreamed of. He stood up and towered over everyone in the room; his head brushing the eight-foot ceiling.
"Not on Earth," said Dave Woods, "on Middle Earth".
Bollman was the first with a theory and Woods backed it up. Ron found it difficult to follow what they were talking about. Some of the words they used were unfamiliar to him, and he was beginning to think it would be better just to smash a few of them and move on. He decided against it for now though, since he wasnít sure what heíd do if he killed them all.
They sat around the breakfast table as Mark began to unveil his theory. It was pretty simple, but had dangerous ramifications.
"You see, when we created the paradox, the universe, no, the metaverse, began casting about for a way to resolve the conflicts it was encountering. I think that because we were all thinking about Tolkien, the paradox has expressed itself in that metaphor."
"Are you saying that things are like this because we want them to be?" asked Keith.
"No, what heís saying is that the paradox is attempting to re-align the universe based on the beliefs of those closest to the event horizon," said Woods, who was pretty up on current theories of reality. "Since we were there when the paradox occurred, the universe is being molded to follow our own thoughts. When it happened, all of us were still playing the part of Tolkien characters, so thatís how the metaphor expressed."
"Okay," said Jared, "letís just think our way back to normal."
"I donít think itíll be that easy" said Mark. "First off, there may be some momentum to this, making it harder to change once it starts. Second, I donít see how we can hope to create a sufficiently detailed metaphor to get us back to the beginning. The biggest problem though is that the event is probably spreading. We need to identify the speed, scope, and extent of its warping of reality."
Most of the people around him just nodded and Mark was sure they didnít understand. After all, none of them were wizards, and this was some pretty powerful magic they had encountered. He only hoped that they could hold on to enough reality to recognize their original reality if they saw it. The rest of the group was already beginning to lose some of their grip and so, he realized, was he.
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