Tunneler’s Tales I (World Shards 3)
By: Mike White
Copyright 2016 Mike White
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Cover Image “Vacation on Mars” (cropped) by: [+ Brooke Binkowski+] under Creative Commons
“Do you have a favorite world in the hundreds that you saw as a Tunneler? A favorite Alternate Earth?”
The reporter just blurted this out, right at the end of the interview.
It was a common question to ask. The Tunneler had been asked it so many times in fact, that he’d taken to answering it a different way each time, just for an excuse to talk about and mentally visit all the worlds.
But- this time he decided to tell the truth. He had always been afraid he’d get it wrong before whenever someone asked him. It was like a secret that only he knew about. He’d been so loathe to give it up before. But it was wonderful, and it was time.
The Tunneler could tell by the grin the reporter had on her face that she knew about his trick with never answering this the same way.
He felt the awe growing in him abate in an instant as jerked back in his chair. She wasn’t just planning on using this to hurt him, was she? The Best World was far too rare a thing to sacrifice like that.
“Were you planning on asking me about the contradictions between interviews where I answered that question, just like the others?”
Her mouth made a little “o” but then she laughed. She waved her hands in contrition, including the one holding the recorder.
“You’re just lucky people think of it as eccentricity and not dishonesty,” the reporter said, stopping the recorder briefly and bouncing it off her thigh.
The Tunneler let out a little sigh of relief.
“Fair enough,” He said. “But how would you like to hear the real answer?”
She sat up at that, putting the recorder back on the table and clicking it on. She looked at me expectantly.
“There’s a world out there where the proceedings for homicide trials work a little different than here. The cost of taking a life: is a life.”
The reporter’s eyebrows had shot up a bit upon his first words, but they had dropped into boredom as he finished.
“You mean Universal Execution? So? How is that-“
“No, not execution. I mean a life, for a life.”
She started at this, and said “What?”
“Like how when you steal something, you have to give it back.”
She shook her head, said-
“But that doesn’t make any sense, you can’t mean-“
“I don’t understand all of the particulars, I just know that it’s very expensive-like new house expensive, and many murderers have to spend the equivalent of life jail sentences to pay it off, but they can do so in much more relative freedom then we have in our world, though they are placed under surveillance heavier than anything we have in our world-someone is essentially watching them at all times. There’s a Necromantic Registry, there are new letters, “L.N.” for “Licensed Necromancer.” But people who have just that can’t do much more than speak to the dead briefly. No, it takes a Doctorate in Applied Necromancy to learn the requisite skill to get the job done. I couldn’t understand it, and I couldn’t get anyone to give me a straight answer on it. Apparently the Necromancers’ Guild closely guards the secret. I begged them to give it to me, in case it would work in this world, told them I would do anything, but they refused, and now I think they’ve closed the Tunnel into their world, because I can’t get back.”
The reporter looked more and more astonished as the story waxed on.
“An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. A life for a life.”
Thanks for reading! World Shards is a series of flash fiction pieces. Each one represents a peak into a different world. Eventually, it will be gathered into a full anthology with many previously unpublished stories.
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World Shards is a series of flash fiction pieces. Each one represents a peak into a different world. Eventually, it will be gathered into a full anthology with many previously unpublished stories. The 'Tunneler's Tales' will be an ongoing miniseries inside of World Shards. Some World Shard subseries may be longer to the tune of a few pages rather than the ultra flash fiction