From the 'Taur's Mouth (part 2)

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Posted by Lucius Appaloosius on October 08, 2003 at 21:40:33:

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In Reply to: From the 'Taur's Mouth... posted by Lucius Appaloosius on October 06, 2003 at 20:12:50:


As you will recall (if you have not already wiped this story from your memory, as you would any mildly unpleasant dream), I left off at my departure for the University; there to face my destiny in the person of the reknowned Prof. Selbstreiter.

The day was warm, and I was in no great hurry; so, between a protracted lunch and several comfort stops, it was nearly sunset by the time I reached my destination. (Pardon this lengthy parenthesis; but I am reminded of yet another shortcoming in this world. Back home, every taurway had stations, regularly placed, where the traveler could take care of certain basic needs with a certain amount of privacy. Here, however - setting aside the fact that centaurs are but a shadow of a minority - not only are there no such provisions for us; but they are hard to come by even for humans. Yet, let a distressed wayfarer take matters into his own hands [ so to speak], and oh! the cries of outraged propriety if he is but glimpsed at his business....)

To continue: Many writers have waxed nostalgic at the sight of dreaming spires, elm-lined pathways and ivied halls that speak of Academe and the halcyon days of youth. The campus that stood before me in the waning light was, frankly, no more romantic than a strip mall: long, low cinderblock boxes, lit outside by pinkish vapor lamps, inside by greenish, merciless fluorescent tubes. The Physics building, where I was to meet my mentaur, was no exception.

Neither was the Professor. Far from being the lovable tweedy eccentric beloved of fiction, or even the austere, lab-coated "eminence grise" one might imagine in such a position of authority, Franklin Selbstreiter was a short, pudgy centaur; his coat a dirty greyish-white, his tail and hair (what there was of it) pale and nondescript. He wore a lime-green short-sleeved shirt; from whose breast pocket protruded several ballpoint pens - in a pocket protector, of course - and, as a crowning touch, a wide tie of an eye-straining black-and-white geometric pattern.

"You're Lucius, I guess," he remarked, with what I assumed was an unsuccessful attempt at a cordial smile. "Stay here, and don't touch anything while I find a spot for you to bed down."

As he ambled down the corridor, I peered into the nearest door. The room beyond was mostly given over to banks of mainframe computers; thrilling, perhaps, to the soul of the hard-core technophile; but in my own estimation, as exciting as a line of filing cabinets. One item, however, caught my attention: a sort of bower, or pergola, formed of metal girders, and entwined with multicolored wires. Among these were hung bulbs and tubes swathed in glittering mesh, for all the world like lanterns at a summer fete. It seemed a magical stage, where all the romances I had ever read could be enacted.

I must have stood there, with tail twitching and mouth half-open, for a good while; for I never heard the Professor's hoofsteps returning. The next thing I knew, he was tapping me on the shoulder.

"Pretty snazzy, isn't it?" he remarked, with an enthusiasm I had not heard in his first salutation. "Just a little idea we're working on: the Government thinks it might be useful, so they gave us a grant."

"What is it?"

"Well, the official name is the 'Isotropically Contained Multiverse Vortex', or 'ICMVV" for short; but me and the boys like to call it 'the Portable Hole'.

'The Portable Hole'! Suddenly my mind flashed back to an old Saturday-morning cartoon from my early colthood. "What does it do?" I asked.

"Nothing, yet. Come on: I made a berth for you in the back office." And with that, he steered me down the corridor.

The "berth" he mentioned was quite Spartan, with a shelf to rest my head, a blanket to drape over my upper body, and a lavatory across the way. Yet I cared not; a wild surmise had crept into my mind. Could this 'Portable Hole' be a gateway to adventure, a portal between worlds; a ticket to escape from the banality of 'real life'?

(Does anybody give a rat's arse?)

We shall find out soon enough.

Anon (and on, and on, and on)


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