We began to roll out of the driveway. Emmett examined the dashboard with great interest.He fiddled with the AC knob and radio seek buttons, startling himself as the radio landed on a rather loud Death Metal station. “First car trip?” I asked. There would likely be a lot of firsts, all within the first hour or two of our road trip. Emmett nodded. Though he was a little scrunched over there in the passenger seat, he did not seem uncomfortable. Moreover, for a 200 year old man, he seemed surprisingly at ease with a woman driver. Not that there was anything he could do about it, but it did occur to me that there might be faster ways to travel with a genie and all.
I hit the brakes, and slipped the car into Park. I had a freaking Tardis sitting in my bedroom. Did I really need to drive seven hours to New Orleans? Dared I hope not? I had a unicorn, for that matter. It had dawned on me that the creature might be less than magical when it came to holding its bladder and bowels. Back into the garage we went, poor Emmett looking more confused than ever. “It’s all your fault,” I muttered irritably.
“Isn’t it always?” he replied dejectedly.
“I wouldn’t presume to answer that on such short acquaintance, but thanks for the warning.” It was churlish, and I instantly regretted it. “We’ll figure this out, Emmett.” He smiled and unfolded himself to emerge from my little sports car, which was definitely not bigger on the inside. “Hey, Emmett?”
“Does that Tardis actually work?” I’d assumed it was just a stage prop or replica, but maybe I was dreaming bigger than I realized. A girl could hope. Why I didn’t dream of a fully functional teleporter from Star Trek, I’ll never know. The impracticality of a return trip, perhaps.
“What do you think it does?”
“Time and space travel?” I suggested.
“Then yes, I guess it works.”
“If I’d said, ‘grates cheese,’ what would you have said?”
Emmett blushed. “It could do that, too. If you believed it did.”
I catch on quick, don’t I? “Well, that’s handy to know in a pinch.” Maybe having a genie around wasn’t such a bad thing. I’d probably miss him a little, once we figured out how to get him back to wherever and whenever he came from. Dammit, Emmett, I thought – or, rather, mentally shouted – are you just over there being super quiet in an attempt to pretend you can’t read my mind?
Emmett’s head whipped around so fast I thought his poor neck would break. Guess that answered that.
“I enjoy conversation,” he said quietly.
“Okay.” The unicorn was in the kitchen, helping itself to a box of corn flakes. “Emmett, I need a stable and some actual unicorn food. Can you make that happen? Do I have to formally wish for it, or something?” With a low creak and a moan, followed by a shuddering thud, the house shifted. I must have looked panic stricken, for Emmett grabbed my hand gently and led me to the back yard.
“Will this do?” he asked, as we stepped into my new sun porch, half of which served as a greenhouse while the other half could double as a stall for the world’s priciest racehorse.
“Wow.” It even appeared to comply with building and HOA codes. “I suppose this will do. Will he have enough food and water for a few days?”
Emmett laughed heartily. He assured me that the unicorn could “make do” on whatever I had in the pantry and the luscious greens currently gracing the greenhouse shelves. “Did you know that domesticated unicorns are also quite talented gardeners?”
I opened and closed my mouth, trying to think of the appropriately snarky comeback to that, but was too astonished to do more than shake my head no. “Wait…” I looked over at the unicorn, which was now pouring milk onto a bowl of cornflakes. It had slipped its horn into the carry handle and tilted its head to look at me. I am absolutely certain it gave me a wink. I narrowed my eyes at it, and it shrugged back at me. Sure enough, it’s hoof was emerald green. I looked down at my own thumbs, which ought to turn black as coal in the presence of plants, and twisted my mouth into a grin. “Whatever I think it does, and whatever I need it to do?” I asked Emmett.
“Something like that.”
“It could have probably let itself out–”
The unicorn tossed its head and let out a sharp, indignant whinny. “I’m quite housebroken,” it snorted. “But I did use your shower before you woke up.”
A fastidious unicorn. Just what I dreamed up, apparently.
“Okay, let’s go, Emmett. The sooner we get to New Orleans, the sooner we can start to solve this mystery.” Turning to the unicorn, I smiled. “Lock up if you go for a stroll, will you?”
“Do you have a code for the alarm?” the unicorn retorted, rolling its eyes dramatically.
I thought the code at it. It grinned. Thank you for your trust, I heard, its voice soft and low in my head. There was no mockery in its eyes, this time. I nodded.
Can I hear your thoughts, too, Emmett? I asked silently.
If I want you to, he replied without moving his lips.
The Tardis was, indeed, bigger on the inside. But it wasn’t THE Tardis – not even close. Which was good, because I’m not that into fan fiction. It looked more like a cross between a Renaissance alchemist’s laboratory and a venerable old university’s library. Leather-bound volumes of books were stacked from floor to ceiling, four stories high. In the center, there was a flight console that looked more like the quarterdeck of an old pirate ship than the control panel for a spaceship. “What is this thing?”
“Yours to name, for one thing,” Emmett replied. “Without a name, it lacks personality, direction. It’s the naming of things that enables them to achieve their purpose. That, and the fuel they get from your imagination.”
I felt a bit like a pirate, standing there on the quarterdeck, getting used to the feel of the sturdy wood wheel in my hands. I could forget that the whole mess was still propped in a corner of my bedroom, surrounded by boxes of unfinished crochet projects. I thought back to famous women pirates I’d heard of, like Anne Bonny, and considered names like “The Bonny Anne.” But that would make it another woman’s ship, and I was warming to my role as Captain and master of the high seas. “How about the Bonny Anapest?” I composed a little ditty and sang it out, off-key:
’twas a dark and a stormy gray night,
we set sail without moonlight in sight –
we were tossed to and fro
then becalmed; had to row
but the wind at our back’s a delight!
“Aye, that’ll do.” Emmett grinned and waited for me to figure out how to operate our little “ship.”
Our clothing was anachronistic; it seemed a shame to be standing there in a sailing libraritory wearing WalMart t-shirts and lounge pants. No sooner had that though idly flitted through my mind, than we were dressed in tight but comfy leather pants – expertly tailored for both fit and flexibility – sturdy, well-made boots, and flowing poet shirts. The look was topped off with wide-brimmed hats trimmed with black emu feathers. Comical? Hell yes, it was comical. It was also enormously fitting and glorious. “Cast off!” I cried out, and the world began to spin…
Instead of the characteristic whomp, whomp, whine of the Tardis, my Bonny Anapest sang naughty sea chanteys to the deep whooshing roar of a ten-foot wave on the high seas. “Weigh hey and up she rises, weigh hey and up she rises, weigh hey and up she rises early in the morning!”
As the song came to an end, we landed with a crooked “kerplunk!” – gently enough that only one book fell from its shelf – and a portal opened before us. It looked like we were in the middle of Jackson Square. I hoped no one could see us.
Your wish is my command, m’lady. I looked at Emmett, but he only shrugged.
“The Tard–er, the Bonny Anapest. Thing has a soul, or something, I think.”
“Ahh, right – gotcha.” Not like that was creepy, or anything. But sure enough, as we stepped through the portal and looked back, there was no “Bonny Anapest” to be seen. “How are we going to find the door to get back?” I whispered.
I’ll find you, she whispered back. I wasn’t sure, but I strongly suspected Emmett was just messing with me, now, projecting his own thoughts as a female voice inside my head.
Fortunately for us, we weren’t the most oddly dressed peeps in Jackson Square. “Oooh, let’s get beignets!” I urged. And coffee. Strong, fragrant, creamy French Market coffee.
Emmett looked at me strangely. “It’s still here?” he asked.
“The Café du Monde.”
“You know the Café du Monde?” I asked. “How is that possible?”
“It looks just as new as it did in 1862 – only quite a bit bigger. And busier.”
I blinked. I knew that the Café du Monde was old, but not old enough to bridge the gap between my genie pirate and me. “All righty, then. Let’s see if the beignets are as good as you remember them.”
“They’re fried dough topped with sugar, how could they not be?” he asked, grinning.
If it wasn’t clear, I’m attempting to tame two birds with one blog – NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo – simultaneously. Throughout the month, posts tagged NaNoBloWriPoMo will be works of fiction adding up, I hope, to a ridiculously silly “novel” of at least 50,000 words. I say “I hope” because I’m blogging this one day at a time – as a committed “Pantser,” I’m learning how the story unfolds just minutes (hours, at the most) before you do.
Did you miss one? Here are the chapters, all in order (more will appear as they are posted):
- The Challenge
- Getting to Know You, Getting to Know All About You
- It’s…Different on the Inside
- Madame and the Warranty
- Like Fireflies in a Pickle Jar
- Like Sand Through the Motherboard
- There’s No Place Like 127.0.0.1
- Drunk on Freedom, Dancing with the Jinn
- Why Me?
- The Power of Imagination and Words
- Rebellion and Revenge