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Hermes Trismegistus - Chapter 5
Posted By: Tursas<tursas@shaw.ca>
Date: 11 July 2001, 11:09 PM

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Cold and naked, Bob further searched the room for any sign of escape. With each passing moment, it became clearer to him that there was only one way out -- up -- but with each step, he also found himself searching all the more frantically for an alternate mode of escape. He didn't want to climb up.
    Eventually, after searching for what seemed to be an eternity, but was in fact 3 minutes, he laid his eyes upon his own box. The mystery of the holes still clung to the back of his mind. What kind of key did one fit in such a small lock?
    Looking at the hole from the other side of the room -- nearly leaning against one of the larger, leafier creepers -- Bob thought the best he could think; a taxing and difficult chore, to be sure. The outrageousness of the entire situation hacked to pieces any idea that tried to formulate itself -- like trying to take university exams with someone looking over your shoulder and commenting loudly on completely unrelated material.
    With a quiet sigh, he leaned back slightly, coming into direct contact with the creepers.
    // Hello there. We've been watching you. //
    Startled, Bob jumped away from the wall, facing it. What had that been?
    Regaining control of himself, Bob touched the larger creeper with a hand.
    // Oh, it's you again, is it? We thought you had smartened up and found a way out for a minute there. //
    // What is this shit? // Bob thought to himself.
    // This is a figment of your imagination. // the creeper responded, // Ask us nicely and we might let you have good dreams tonight. //
    // You humans are all the same. No sense of imagination whatsoever. Do I have to spell it out for you? //
    // ... //
    // You are a prisoner on the finest vessel to sail the multiverse. // The plant went on, // We thought for a moment that you might never decide to say hello, and were about to reach down and break your neck, but you obviously got the better of us, didn't you? //
    "Who are you?"
    // Your worst nightmare. //
    "Why am I here?"
    // That question has many answers. We won't bore you with the details, but if you would be so kind as to pluck a small, needle-like sprig from off of us, we will gladly show you how to open the caskets. //
    "Uh... ok."
    Leaving the creeper, Bob laid eyes on a single, thin shoot that protruded from a creeper. He tried to pull it out.
    // Oh come on guys. You wouldn't do that to me would you? Only last week you were telling me how I made the air smell so much nicer. Great friends you all are. //
    // Tough shit, kid. // then to Bob, // Would you please pull him out? He's been a constant annoyance since he was grafted. //
    Bob tugged, the shoot gave way.
    // Thanks a lot. Here I lead a normal life until you happen along and pull me from my place. I want you to die right now. //
    The little plant started writhing uncontrollably in the man's hand.
    // Take that. And that! //
    This was a little too much.
    Bob touched the spot where he had just pulled the creeper out. A thin pulp was already being exuded from the point of fracture, covering Bob's hand in sticky green plant blood.
    // Oh, my poor baby boy. How will I ever get over the loss. You scoundrel. Ever since you were children, you've always wanted to get rid of my poor Reginald. //
    // Tough luck lady, the boss wanted it. //
    "May I ask what I'm supposed to do with this thing?" Bob cut in.
    The creeper still writhed, although without the same vigor. // Yeah! You wanna piece a me?! Come on, I'll hand you your ass on a plate! //
    // That, moron, is no simple 'thing'. That is my child, and I would very much appreciate it if you gave him back to his mother. //
    // Don't mind her. She thought that a sprout would be a good idea a few years back. Damn asexual reproduction. Anyway, I want you to insert that twig in the little hole in your desk over there. //
    // He's no twig, and you know it! That's my baby. //
    // Don't worry about me mom. // The twig had stopped twisting. // I'll be okay. //
    A whimper emanated from the creeper. // Oh, my boy, you are so brave. Your father would be proud. //
    This was starting to get to him.
    Bob walked over to the table on which he had been lying.
    // Now when we get there, I want you to place me into that hole, thin end first, alright? //
    "Alright. What happens then?"
    // Maaaaagiiiiiiicck. // The root began to undulate in the man's hand, as though to some forgotten rhythm. // In the middle of the night, I go walking in my sleep... // The voice of the creeper had suddenly matured and was singing an old song that Bob vaguely recognized. At this song, Bob wondered if the plant knew about his days in the arenas. It wasn't until a piano and a three man accompaniment chimed in that he interrupted.
    "How are you doing this?"
    // The solution is long and the formulas distinguished in the halls of telepathy, but I won't bore you with them -- your simple mind could never grasp their complex nature. //
    "Telepathy? But you're a plant. How is that possible?" Bob had by now stopped at the edge of the table that he once lay atop.
    // No time for questions. Just insert me in the hole. //
    Bob positioned the still undulating tuber over the hole.
    // COVER ME! I'M GOING IN! // the sounds of automatic weapons fire resounded in his head.
    "What should I cover you with?" Bob asked.
    At this the plant started writhing again. // Would you just put me in the hole?! I don't have all day you know! //
    "Sure thing."
    Bob inserted the plant into the hole and pushed it in with his index finger.
    Looking down, the severed end of the plant wriggled itself into the abyss, like a worm in the dirt. This quite amused the man, and he found himself laughing inexplicably -- this was quite the emotional rollercoaster ride.
    In his mirth, Bob collapsed against the plant-covered wall.
    // What, exactly, are you laughing at?// The "you" was emphasized to make the statement an accusation.
    "Search me." Bob replied. Then, quieting himself a little, "What, exactly, is that thing doing?"
    The womans voice was heard again, // That THING is my SON! How dare you... //
    // Calm yourself, Gertrude. I'm sure the man doesn't mean any harm at all. //
    // Alright, well, if you insist. SNORRRRRK. //
    "What was that?"
    // I was just cleaning my nose, for your information. They may not have taught you about emotions while you were out playing Gestapokid, but at least you don't have to ask... //
    "HEY, how did you know about that?"
    The male voice replied, // We know everything in your head. There is nothing you can hide from us. Muahahaha... //
    Bob twitched at this. That laugh had resounded in his ears on one occasion when he had been ordered to take out the curator of an insane asylum, who was himself quite insane. The curator had sent swarms of nuts at him from their cells, and had tried to attack him with a fish.
    // It was cod, I think. //
    // The fish. I think the fish he attacked you with was a cod. //
    "How do you figure that?"
    // He had to use both hands to wield it, sonny. That, and the asylum was on the coast of Labrador. //
    "This is weird."
    // Nope. The only WEIRD thing about all this is you, boy. We've all been here since the beginning of time itself - HAVEN'T WE BOYS?!? // At this a raucous telepathic cheer went up from the plant. It gradually reverted to a bunch of foot stomping and a chant, // SIN, SIN, COSINE, SIN -- 3 . 1 4 1 5 9 !! //
    When they were finished, Bob asked as politely as possible, "Do you think that your little friend will be coming up for air any time soon?"
    The shrill woman's voice responded, // For one thing, YOUNG MAN, my SON doesn't need to come up for air, and secondly, NO, he won't be coming up. //
    "Then, what, exactly, did he go down there for?" the man asked the air, gesturing towards the box.
    // Nothing important. //
    "This is insane, I'm outta here." With this Bob turned, grabbed ahold of one of the creepers and began to climb.
    // And where do you think you are going? // the male voice asked sternly.
    "To put it bluntly, up, up, and away."
    // Really? And how exactly, do you think you're going to climb a mile to the top, then get past the mice guarding the exit? //
    // Yesssss. BIG mice with Big, Sharp, Pointy Teeth. //
    "What is this? You think I'm going to be afraid of a few mice?"
    A new voice answered him; this time it was that of an old mariner with a thick Scottish accent, // Aye sir, those mice be mighty large. If one of them died an rolled over, the whole tunnel would be engulfed in complete darkness. //
    // How big would you say that is, in feet? //
    // Oh, aye, at least sixty feet long and thirty feet wide on a good day. //
    // What about on a bad day? //
    // They're not all that bad at putting the pounds on, lad. I haven't seen one yet that wasn't at least two times as wide as you are tall. //
    Bob stopped climbing. // And how big are their teeth, would you say? //
    // The big 'uns get to be mighty long, lad. At least three feet long from tip to root. //
    // And what do these mice eat? //
    // Anything they can, lad, anything they can. //
    The last response caught Bob off his guard. // And where exactly are we to have sixty foot long mice romping around at the top a mile-deep pit? //
    // As I told you before, mate, // the response came, // we are sailing on the finest ring construct to grace the heavens with her majesty. //
    // And where is Earth in respect to this ring construct? //
    // About 30,000 light years east by southeast. //
    "30,000 LIGHT YEARS!?!" Bob screamed out loud, jumping away from the plant. "HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO GET HOME?!?" Bob cursed loudly. Then, taking a moment to calm himself, he forced himself to touch the plant to get his reply.
    // You were never meant to get home. We thought that you'd be ecstatic about leaving your planet. //
    "Ecstatic?!? How am I supposed to be ecstatic about being lost?"
    // Did I tell you where you are? //
    // Then you're not lost, are you? //
    "That still doesn't explain how I'd be ecstatic."
    // Well, for one, you won't have to worry about taxes again. You won't have to worry about being killed off on useless missions into enemy territory, either. In fact, we've given you a whole new opportunity to live your life to the fullest extent possible, and with that a whole new opportunity to screw it up again. //
    "And what about my left eye? How am I supposed to see without my left eye?"
    // We thought you might get to that eventually. Look at it this way, you now have one less eye to care for. No more worrying about both pupils dilating if you receive a concussion. You'll only need to pay half of the usual amount for vision correction. And hell, we just halved the probability of your getting hit in the eye with grapefruit juice in the morning. //
    // And what about this motion sensor thing? //
    // That was an attempt of our brightest minds to allow you to feel your way in the dark without night vision, keep people from sneaking up on you from behind, and give you the ability to count your pulse without using your fingers. All at the same time! //
    // And this is supposed to help me in some way? //
    "That's all?" Bob asked coolly, his thought laced with sarcasm, // So what are the drawbacks? //
    // Well for one, as you pointed out, you won't be able to use depth perception as a way of measuring distances. Let's also say that if you were naturally telepathic beforehand... //
    // Then I'm not now. I see. Is there anything else I should know about? //
    // We did some weird shit to your hormonal and immune systems. Also, you are now stronger structurally than you were before. It's not like we replaced everything with titanium, but you can also heal if you break anything. //
    // And how exactly did you do all of this? //
    // Maaaaagiiiiiiicck. //
    Bob looked down at himself, beginning to feel the insult of his nakedness, // Do I get to wear anything at all, now that we've made our introductions? //
    // Well, the people who brought you here, how shall we say, purloined some of the finest equipment available from your planet for you to play with. You can save the thank-you's for later. //
    // Are we actually going to do anything or should I just stand here and starve to death? //
    // No hurry... wait a second. I can't begin to tell you how much you would benefit from learning a little patience. //
    // Don't you get cheeky with me Robert, // the voice sounded exactly like that of Center, // You don't have to act like it's your own damn fault that you now have to live your pitiful life on that marvel of engineering so very far away. //
    "DON'T YOU MESS WITH ME!" Bob screamed again, gesturing madly.
    // Calm down son. // It was the man's voice again. // Take a deep breath and count to ten. //
    // Just do as you're told and all will be well. //
    Bob took a deep breath and began to exhale, counting up to ten as he did so. "5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10..."
    A sharp gusting sound emanated from the box he had woken on. // See, that wasn't all that hard, was it? // Two inches from the edge of the box a line appeared in the top of the seamless white marble. The gusting noise continued and the top of the bed receded into the wall like a common trap for large animals being opened. But it wasn't the details of the box's opening that held Bob's attention. Indeed, he could only imagine what was being revealed in the cavernous rectangular hole that the lid revealed. Accordingly, Bob moved into the center of the room, not taking his eye off of the hole for even a moment.
    He stood there for an instant in the ready position. No spiders, blobs or mice with three foot long teeth came out of the box. He stood there for a moment longer, but nothing happened.
    Bob took a few steps backwards and angled himself into the space between the bunks, resting his right hand on a rather large vine.
    "What's in it?"
    // Nothing that will hurt you in the short run. //
    "What about the long run?"
    // Well, you've heard the stories about soldiers food, haven't you? //
    A grin that didn't touch his hard set face glinted from Bob's eyes. He took the few steps forward and looked down into the box.