Albert and Jarvis part 32 (bonus episode)

a tale in weekly parts


This story is open for suggested continuations. I will publish here, with links to your own blog, all I receive. The one I like best will become (or form the basis for) the next episode of this collaborative tale.

You can see the full story so far at this link.

Episode 32

Making his way carefully down the street toward to apothecary’s shop, Xander asked Albert, “Where does the name Newtonia come from, Unkie?”

“Newtonia isn’t its real name, it’s what Jarvis and I call it. Planets are named in our planetary catalogues, based on their peculiar characteristics, often just their position in a star system. For instance, the planet you know as Earth, our catalogues list as Sol 3.”

“So why Newtonia? That name doesn’t seem to follow any pattern.”

“This planet is unique, lad. The entire universe, as far as we know it, is governed by a set of laws and constants. Some of the most important of these were first described by your Earth scientist, Isaac Newton. Because this planet doesn’t follow the same rules as every other, it is catalogued as ‘Non-Newtonian Planet 1’, which is a bit of a mouthful, so we shorten it to Newtonia. See? No mystery.”

“And has it always been like this, then? Suspending the rules?”

“Depends on what you mean by always, lad. We don’t know of a time when it wasn’t like this, but… always? I can’t honestly say either way.”

At that moment, a child across the road from them kicked a ball to his playmate. The ball didn’t move, but the child was thrown backwards.

“Looks like Newton’s Third Law is taking some time off, Unkie,” Xander said.

“Aye, lad; it does. That’s a tricky one to lose. It’s linked with a few others that could end up making it difficult for us to stop and turn into the shop. Slow down to a stop now; just a little at a time.”

They slowed their walking speed until they came to a gentle stop a few metres short of their destination. Kr’veth’neq’is demonstrated her mastery of the absence of this law, by approaching them at quite a pace and, some metres before bumping into them; which would have had an interesting, if potentially painful, result; she took from her pocket a stone she had been carrying and threw it violently in front of her. Of course, it made no motion beyond dropping to the ground, but her forward progress ceased and she stood in front of Albert and Xander.

“That was a neat trick, Sis,” Xander said.

“Well,” Kr’veth’neq’is replied, “when you know the effect of what’s not working, not working, you just need to adjust for it. The important thing is to know when it starts working again.”

“And not over-compensate,” Albert offered.

“The two important things are to know when it starts working again, and not to over-compensate for its absence. And don’t go there, Xander.”

“Don’t go where?”

“The Spanish Inquisition gag, Xander. It’s not funny.”

They entered the apothecary’s shop. A sign on the door said ‘Everything works in here.’

“What does that mean, Unkie?” Xander asked.

A female voice from inside the shop said, “It means that all the laws operate normally within the walls of this shop, regardless of what’s going on outside. Only you can’t come in; we’re full.”

Looking through the glass door, our trio could see that the shopkeeper was right. The shop was full to capacity.

“Does that answer your question, lad?” Albert asked Xander.

“Which one?”

“How these people cope with the ever-changing laws. For reasons no-one has been able to explain, the interior of apothecaries’ shops, and only apothecaries’ shops, are immune to whatever it is causes the laws to be suspended. There is an apothecary’s shop on every street, and they are always full.”

“Why not fill every home with apothecary’s produce?”

“It’s been tried. It doesn’t work. It may have nothing to do with the physical stock. It may be connected with something more esoteric.”

“So when the apothecary is at home—”

“I know what you’re thinking, lad, and the answer’s no. And it doesn’t help if the apothecary takes stock home with her. There’s something altogether mystical about the apothecary’s shop. No-one knows what or why, and no-one cares. What’s important is that it gives folk somewhere to go when their street goes crazy.”

A bell, that seemed to come from every direction at once, rang softly three times.

“That’ll be the all clear,” Albert said, and as he did, the mass of bodies that had been crammed into the shop began filing out onto the street. Once they were all out, Albert, Xander and Kr’veth’neq’is entered the shop.

A wizened old woman stood behind the counter, which ran around three walls of the shop, and had the colour and pattern of very old, dark mahogany. It was gnarled and buckled in places and looked like it had been there for a very long time. The apothecary standing behind it had probably been there longer.

“What’s y’all’s pleasure, gentlefolk?” she asked.

“We had some, er, problems when we arrived. We could use some sterile dressings to tend our minor wounds,” Albert offered.

“I can’t rightly say sterile, but I have dressings,” she said, placing a large box of assorted plasters, bandages, creams and lotions on the counter.

Kr’veth’neq’is started rifling through the box, hoping to find something suitable. “If not sterile, we’ll be happy with clean,” she said.

Unruffled, the old apothecary said, “Clean? Well that’s kinda relative, ain’t it?”

“Apparently not all the time,” Xander said.

“You a smart Alec, boy?”

“Yes Ma’am, I reckon I am,” he replied.

“Y’all from outa town, then?” she asked, in her peculiar accent which appeared to be a blend of Charles Dickens and Samuel Leghorn Clements.

“You could say that,” Albert replied.

“Why, heavens above, I thought I just did. Silly me, imaginin’ things again.”

Xander’s curiosity got the better of him. “Is this entire planet subject to intermittent suspension of universal norms, or just this town?” he asked.

“Is the whole planet what to the what of what? Where y’all from? Somewhere they feed you dictionaries?”

“I think he means—”

“I know what the boy means. I was just a-playing with your heads. I guess the answer to the boys question is yes.”

“Yes the whole planet, or yes just his town?” Xander asked.

“Listen to him, full of questions, ain’t he? Yes to both. This being the only town on the planet, and all.”

“Then where do your provisions come from? What about infrastructure, government?”

“Back to Jarvis,” Kr’veth’neq’is ordered, and Xander awoke, seated in the control room.

“Unkie!” Xander exclaimed, “You promised me you would never do that. You gave me your word that you would never take me on an adventure, only for me to find afterwards that it was all a dream and none of it real. That is such a cliché!

This story remains open for suggested continuations. All I receive will be published here, with links to your own blog. The one I like best will become (or form the basis for) episode 33 of this tale.

This story was started in response to Kreative Kue 18, issued on this site on 30 March 2015.