The Mission Part 9

March 2nd, 2012 by Wordsman

They walked over to what Peter considered the “entrance” but the woman could only think of as the “exit.”  The station was once again all but deserted—too late for most people coming home from work, too early for people to be heading back downtown for dinner.  While Peter scanned the area for anything unusual—trip wires, lasers, trick stones that trigger poison darts, ghosts—the woman retreated about twenty steps.  Then, with a “Here goes nothing,” she raced toward the staircase as fast as she could.  Peter was shocked by her speed.  And, for approximately four seconds, that was the only shocking thing about the run.

Most people think that Newton invented physics—or, if not him, the Greeks—but humans have always understood physics to a certain extent.  Nowhere is this fact more obvious than in our instinctual reactions when we see something violate the laws of nature.  One instant, Peter saw the old woman barreling forward with at least enough momentum to knock over a fruit cart.  The next instant, she was standing perfectly still.  In between, she had struck . . . nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  The whole thing lasted less than a second, but it still gave Peter a headache, and thirty seconds later he was still trying to figure out what had made her stop.

“You see?” she said, dizzier than when she had been doing her victory dance.  The woman appeared dazed but uninjured (another fact that made Peter’s brain wince).  “So,” she said loopily, “should we get started?”

“Not tonight.”  All good things must come to an end; Peter was hoping the same was true of bad things.  Though it seemed to be ending on a high note, he could not recall a worse day, at least not in the past five or six years.

“Okay.  Go home and get some sleep.  You don’t look so good,” she said, pointing about a foot to the right of where Peter was standing.

After he left, the woman returned to her pillar and sat down, adopting a position not that different from the one she had been trapped in for so many hours.  She let out a sigh of relief that had nothing to do with physical discomfort.  The search was over.  She wasn’t excited, exactly—seven-and-a-half months of waiting will do that to you—but she felt . . . something.  She felt like she was reading a series of books, and the first had been fascinating, but the second was a struggle to get through.  But she read the whole thing, driven on by the promise of wonder suggested by Book 1.  Now she sat there, staring at the cover of Book 3, unsure of what to expect when she turned the first page . . .

Peter walked up the stairs, crossed the street, opened the door to his apartment building, and realized that Rocky was still following him.  Since the woman had given him no helpful advice on how to end the effects of the song, he just shouted, “Be free!”  A fellow resident, on his way out, saw this curious communication and stared, but Peter didn’t notice.  He was too busy watching his former servant dash across the street and return to his unnatural habitat.

He took the elevator up, barely having enough energy to push the buttons.  He unlocked his door, pushed it open with the weight of his body, stumbled through the kitchen, and somehow managed to collapse on his bed before he simply collapsed.  He sank immediately into blissful, refreshing sleep.

Less than an hour later he was woken up by a telephone call from his mother, who demanded to know: 1. Why he wasn’t at dinner when he said he would be, and 2. Whether he knew anything about what had happened to her flute.

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