The Quest for the Sword of Justice! Part Twelve: The Sea of Uncertainty

This is my NaNoWriMo 2016 project. Thanks for reading!

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You were right. These sandwiches are really good. I might have to get a second one.

“See?,” asked Melanie. “You were afraid for nothing. I have lunch here a couple of times a week. The new owner is nice too.”

This used to be a place called Beanland. It was my favorite hangout.

“Cool,” said Melanie.

So, I guess we’re done with the pleasantries. Why did you ask me to come here?

“Well,” said Melanie with a sigh. “The truth is…you were right. This project, the writing app, is stupid. We shouldn’t have done it even for all that money. I hate it. You were right a whole bunch of times before too.”

Wh…what. But. You hate me. You dog me at every turn. We never get along.

“I know,” said Melanie. “I don’t actually hate you at all. I look up to you, in truth. You do so much for our little company, and as a single mom — “

Don’t bring Lisa into this, please.

“No! It’s important. I’m not being condescending, I’m serious. You’re a really cool person, and I feel bad for the years of conflict and dumb arguments. I’m…I’m sorry. I’m hoping that we can move forward and be friends. I can’t live like this anymore.”

I’m kind of in shock. Why would you say all this?

“It’s…it’s Randy’s fault. When he hired me, he said I was there to make sure that people didn’t think he was listening to you too much. He knew that your long friendship and seniority at the company might make people question his own judgment so I’m…I’m the check and the balance, or some crap.” Melanie looked down at her plate and started to cry a little into her sandwich.

No. I refuse to believe this. I’ve known Randy since college. He asked me to learn how to do this, when I was in a bad place…he asked me to help him on his journey to start a small tech company. Why would he do this? I can’t believe it.

“I don’t know why!,” said Melanie, a little too loud. “This industry is brutal. Women have a tough time. If you don’t take a job, another firm will just come along and take it from under you. If you don’t do the job on time, you’ll be replaced by another person younger and smarter than you in eight seconds. It’s complete shit. Maybe Randy is trying too hard to play the game. But it’s awful garbage and I couldn’t live with myself anymore. Not for any amount of money.”

Her tears seem real.

She’s telling me the truth.

I…thank you for being honest with me. God. I don’t even know…it’s okay Melanie. It’s okay, please stop crying, you’ll ruin your delicious sandwich. I am going to march right back into that office and have a…discussion with Randy. None of this is okay.

“I thought you’d be mad at me,” said Melanie.

Oh, I am. But more because you didn’t tell me sooner and less because of what you did. If I had known we could have been friends before now, that I could have had someone to complain about the crap we have to work on… that would have meant a lot to me.

I don’t have a lot of friends.

Hell, my best friends are my daughter and her weird friend Megan.

“Oh yeah, I heard, you’ve been telling them a story.”

What.

“She writes about it on her blog,” said Melanie. “She’s very complementary of — “

Lisa has a blog?

“Yeah, it’s wonderful!,” said Melanie. A smile returned to her face. “We all read it, well… just me and a couple of the QA team. She talks about you, and your writing. She talks about how she wants to be a writer when she grows up, and — “

Lisa has a blog?

“Yeah! You…you really didn’t know?”

No. She never told me. How did you find it? I’m not sure whether to be proud, angry, or creeped out.

“She sent it to our main email address at the office, when she heard we were working on the writing app from you,” said Melanie. “She used it as her resume, and she’s one of our off-site testers.

She is not!

“She absolutely is!,” said Melanie. “Wow, I’m surprised you didn’t know any of this.”

Oh my god. I’m a horrible mother. Now I’m going to ruin my sandwich.

“No no its okay, you’ve been really busy, and you’ve been putting up with a lot of crap at — “

I have to call or text my daughter right now.

***

The white expanse the adventurers found themselves in began to become…wet.

“Attention!,” said the Wizard. “My robes are filling with water! Unpleasant dampness abounds!”

“What is going on ‘ere?” asked Brutus.

“I think this might be the Sea of Uncertainty!,” said The Wizard. “It’s one of the ways that Whimseria protects itself from unwelcome guests. I’ve heard tell of it many times in legends and stories, but I never knew it was real!”

King Jeff drew forth his sword and began to stab at the seemingly endless liquid beneath his feet. “Hah! Take that infernal wetness!”

Elena held her hand over her face. “I don’t think you can beat magical water with a sword.”

“Indeed!,” shouted The Wizard. “We shall have to find a different way!”

The horses and Barry all disappeared in a quick moment, sinking into the white emptiness with a sudden slurping sound.

“Barry!,” shouted Brutus.

“Cabbage!,” shouted the Wizard.

“This is not okay,” said Brutus. “I put time and emotion into that goat. I want to get him back.” Brutus walked over and grabbed the Wizard by the lapel. “You need to fix this right now! This your home, you — “

Osiris put her hand on Brutus’s shoulder, trying to calm him down. “Let’s not be too hasty, my friend. Look,” she said, patting her foot on the ground. “We’re very much on solid ground in spite of all the water. We’re not swimming right now. I’m guessing that our mounts haven’t gone far, and that this is all just an elaborate trick designed to get us to fight each other and turn back,”

Brutus let go of the Wizard. “Begging your pardon miss, but I don’t like it.”

The King continued to stab the wet, bright white ground around himself. After one swipe his sword suddenly sank into the depths of the white nothingness.

“Fie!,” shouted the King. “That sword was made by my father!”

“I think the lady in white is right,” said Willow. “This seems terrible and wrong to me in some ways, but ‘oi also don’t feel any danger.” She started to run and skip around. “There aren’t any bad men here, it’s just a strange broight place.”

Osiris held out her right hand to her side, and a long white staff appeared in it with a flash, topped with a bright blue jewel.

“My goodness!,” said The Wizard. “You are full of surprises! And a staff, apparently! Are you a wizard?”

“I’m going to get us out of here, right now,” said Osiris. “We have a quest to complete, and time is short. I know I’ve said that using the old portals was dangerous, but maybe we have no choice.” Osiris brought the staff down hard into the milky white expanse of water. The air cracked, and a blue swirling portal opened in front of the group.

***

Lisa didn’t even realize I hadn’t seen her blog. Thank goodness. I can’t wait to read a bunch of it when I get home later. I think I’m going to order another sandwich.

“The apple didn’t fall far, you know,” said Melanie.

What are you talking about?

“Your story is pretty good, well, the parts I’ve been able to read at least.”

You saw my story?

“Oh yeah,?” said Melanie. “The security on the cloud storage for the writing app is complete nonsenses. None of it works. All the text is just sitting there on the server, waiting to be seen. It’s the big problem I’ve been working on for the last few days. On my breaks I’ve been reading your story. I noticed you stopped posting updates a couple of days ago.”

I got tired of using the app and started writing on my laptop.

“I don’t blame you, the app is terrible. I think we’re going to make it semi-usable but I don’t know. I’m not sure why this guy is so attached to his idea. But then I never am.”

Being impartial to ideas is hard. It’s part of why I gave up being a writer and got into tech. It seemed easier to be detached, because of the lack of theme and meaning.

“Don’t let Randy hear you say that.”

Oh don’t worry. Randy is going to hear a lot more from me about what I think of him. If I get fired, I might need to sleep on your couch when they take my house.

“Hah! Deal!,” said Melanie. “Writing is hard, isn’t it?”

You have no idea. It’s one thing to tell a story. The problem is, I always get bored of the story before I get to the end. I have all these notes I made for “Quest” back when I was in college, and you can see the part where I lost interest. It devolves into a bunch of jumbled nonsense. It’s not enough to tell a story: theme is where meaning really comes in.

It’s something I never mastered.

“Well, I’m actually pretty familiar with writing as an art. Reading is a favorite hobby. Sometimes when I read, I just want to relax, I don’t need everything to mean something,” said Melanie.

Sure, but that’s hard to write too. A story still has to have good pacing, plot, and characters. Even if it doesn’t mean something. I’ve always wanted to write a story where half-way through, the reader’s mind is blown, and they’re not even sure what they’re reading. Turns out that’s really hard.

“Hah, no kidding!,” said Melanie, munching the last bite of her sandwich. “My cousin is a writer you know. My last job was editing some of her stuff, actually.”

No shit?

“No shit!,” said Melanie. “Her name is Kyla Thompson — “

Kyla Thompson is your cousin? That girl who wrote Space Enforcer?

You know her stuff?” said Melanie with a wide open mouth. “From all this talk about meaning and theme, I’d have figured you wouldn’t be into reading a pulpy space adventure.

Well…I don’t know her stuff myself, per se, but my daughter and her friend eat it up. They love everything about it, and they’ve been playing the new video game. I bet if you came to meet them they’d think you were a celebrity.

“I doubt that. My name is in tiny print in the first book, and that’s it. I was just one small piece of the puzzle.”

This was nice, Melanie. Thank you for being honest with me about everything. I’m sorry I wasn’t always nice to you, and that I didn’t see through what was happening sooner.

“No no no, I should be the one apologizing. I think I owe you like, a hundred more lunches.”

I might take you up on that!

“Great. So tell me, what is the Sword of Justice anyway? And why is Zeltar so keen to get out of his prison if he can still influence the outside world?”

Honestly? I have no idea.

Written by

I do radio voice work by day, and write by day and night. I studied film and production. I love audio, design, and music. Also video games.

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