Dark Bowers, Ch. 10, Pt. 2

Lawrence woke up with his head on the desk, a puddle of drool forming underneath him. “Oh, goddamnit,” he groaned, blinking and trying to get his brain to turn over and begin parsing out the information it was receiving. His senses were feeding him data, his mind interpreting it a few minutes later. It was still dark, so he hadn’t been asleep for more than a few hours, probably. The journal had been safely pushed aside, so he hadn’t ruined it with drool, thank God for small favors. And the fact that he woke up at all meant he hadn’t fallen asleep with a flame burning in his hand and set the house on fire, so that was nice.

He cast a glance at the empty cans that had once held sugary, caffeinated beverages. A few of them were still upright, but one had been knocked over onto its side, a small puddle forming under it as well. Lawrence’s eyes narrowed to slits and he balled up his hand into a fist and shook it menacingly at the empty cans. “A fat lot of good, you were.”

Lawrence stood up, rubbed his eyes. He had no memory of falling asleep. No memories at all, really, after he sat down and opened the book. He remembered that he had cracked open a can, chugged its contents, but he couldn’t recall a single thing that had been on the pages.

He sighed. Rookie mistake. Like I’m a freshman or something. “Oh, I’ll just cram the night before, that’ll work great!” As if. Still, he did feel refreshed. Maybe that power nap had been just what he’d needed.

He paced around the room, did a few half-hearted stretches, and then sat back down to resume his studies. The journal was preposterously thick, the size of some old phone book, and he was only a third of the way through the thing (at least, he only remembered the first third,) despite the fact that he’d basically been reading it non-stop since he and Anna had found it in a hidden compartment under the throw rug the night before. It was slow going trying to decipher his granduncle’s writing. The man could be perfectly lucid on one page, with carefully chosen language and thoroughly detailed diagrams, and the next page would be disjointed ramblings, the handwriting changing in size and legibility, hastily made scribbles replacing intricate drawings.

It reminded Lawrence of an experiment he’d once seen where scientists had given different drugs to spiders and observed the webs they’d produced. The handwriting and even the thought processes at play seemed to be different every time the journal went off the rails, like his granduncle had chemically altered in some different way each time. Poring over those pages made Lawrence’s head hurt, made his own thoughts fuzzy in his mind, like a contact high absorbed through the pages. Like LSD, I guess? Isn’t that how LSD works? Drug-laced ink on blotter paper? Contact highs? Flashbacks?

He shook his head. Focus, damn it! Close your eyes, deep breath, count to ten.

When he opened his eyes again and looked down at the book, the page read, “Nov. 23 – Cryogenic Acceleration, Water Polymorphs, Seed Crystals.” He stared at the title for a few seconds, his brain still a car’s engine sluggishly turning over, when he remembered one of his thoughts before he went to sleep. “Oh! Right! More ice caps! Well, shit. That’s convenient.” And it was, too. This was one of his granduncle’s more comprehensible discourses, going on and on temperature variation in various forms of ice, the movement of supercooled water molecules, the pioneering work of the Cryomancers of Bazt Il’Dan, the–

…wait, what the fuck? Lawrence read that passage again and again, tried to force it to make sense to his half-rested mind.

“Growing frustrated with my lack of progress, I returned to the sending stone and reached out once more to Kan Mo Vec. The divinorum tea sat warm in my stomach, fortifying me somewhat against the freezing night air. I cut my wrist, drew the sigil upon the surface of the stone, and called out, ‘Kan Mo Vec, heed my call! In the name of the seventh prelate and by the cold light of Aldebaran, I summon you! Answer me my questions!’ That frozen visage appeared before me, the face perfectly expressionless, the eyes alive with anger, and I heard its voice echoing in my head. ‘What do you want, Benjamin Steinman? I have more important things to do than listen to the inane shrieking of some barely sentient ape.’

“But he talked. If there’s anything I’ve learned about the Cryomancers, it’s that they love the sound of their voices too much to keep their magics to themselves. Perhaps they guard it more jealousy from each other, but in their minds what does it matter if they tell a ‘barely sentient ape?’ After all, such a simple creature can do no harm. It’d be like if I taught a dog to split the atom.

“That’s fine by me. I don’t care how little love they have for me, how little respect for my intelligence, just so long as they share their secrets. I cut an icy path around the lake today, four miles in diameter. In the spring, I’ll plant marigolds at the points of power, and the lake will be my own personal satellite dish, reaching to places so distant, the men and women at SETI would never believe they exist.”

Lawrence took a deep breath and set down the journal. “Jesus. Jesus Christ.” He sat in silence, trying to process what he just read. Worlds beyond imagining. Inhuman entities with fantastical abilities. The lake as some kind of communicator. “Amazing. Just amazing. Fantastic. So you really were just some old hippie stone out of your fucking gourd. Good job, Uncle Ben.”

He sighed. What a load of shit. No wonder he’d fallen asleep. Still, the fire thing had worked. He clenched his hand and opened it up again to convince himself that the ability was still real, that he hadn’t, in fact, made up in some kind of insane dream. But there it was, hot to the touch. Fire in the palm of his hand. Maybe this would work, too.

He glanced through the journal again, skipping over the mystical bullshit, and held his hands parallel to each other in front of him, focusing on the space between his palms, the space between stars, molecules, atoms. The void in all things.

“Think cool thoughts,” he whispered to himself.

 

Word Count this Post: 1,098

Total Word Count: 22,239/50,000

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