I found a gold ring that transported me to a parallel world. My guide and I are running through the woods naked to get away from a mad scientist. (The Story begins here)
* * *
“Jessica, I think we’re running in circles.”
“No we’re not. Your brain is seeing through the algorithm. This whole forest is artificial.”
“What? It doesn’t look artificial.”
“It’s not supposed to. But brains are designed to see patterns; you’re seeing the pattern in how these trees were planted.”
“Even if they were planted deliberately, they shouldn’t all look the same. Otherwise there’d be groups of identical trees everywhere.”
“They’re not identical. There are differences if you know enough to look for them. Also, they’re clones, and they have been tended to make them look the same. It’s part of the trap.”
“What trap is that?” I didn’t doubt it was one; it was just one I didn’t know about.
“The woods. It’s easy to get lost in them because of the patterns. When someone comes out they’re tired and still half-lost, very easy to pick up. Now shush. We’re here.”
Here was a clearing about a quarter-mile across. The grass was waist-high and choked with weeds, and smelled faintly of some kind of wildflowers. In the distance was a partly bombed-out plantation house. Much closer but still a little ways off stood a colonial-style bandstand; the whitewash was faded, the boards were worn, and in the center of it stood a black plastic robot.
“I take it the robot isn’t supposed to be there.”
“No. And it’s standing on the transport platform.”
“Transport platform? Does it fly or something?”
“It takes us away from this world.”
“Why not just use the rings?”
“They don’t work here. How else would he be able to keep me prisoner for seventeen years?”
“Okay, but if the rings don’t work here how did we transport in?”
“The ring only puts you out of a world; you fall into the new one on your own. Now, stop talking while I try to figure out a way past that robot.”
Jessica frowned in concentration. Rather than stare at her I searched around the woods for a sturdy-looking fallen branch. I found one, and by the time I got back to her she was smiling.
“Good thinking, Boy. You anticipated me.”
“You’re going to attack the robot.”
“Isn’t that suicide?”
“No, probably not. The robot will be instructed to catch you not kill you. And there is a weak spot on the back of its neck; if you can hit that squarely you will disable it.”
“On the back…”
“I didn’t say it would be easy. While you do that, I will activate the transporter.”
We snuck into position; at the appointed moment I jumped out at the robot and swatted its head with my stick. There was a resounding ‘smack’ and my arms were jarred to the shoulder, but nothing else.
The robot reached out and grabbed the club. I pulled and twisted to no effect. I put my entire weight on its arm and it fell over, still holding my weapon. Its free hand caught my wrist and started squeezing.
“Just a few more seconds, Boy!”
“Easy for you to say!”
The ground beneath me changed from wood to concrete. The robot stopped moving.
“Come on, Boy.”
“It still has my wrist.” The thing’s grip was tight and immovable.
“Boys,” she sighed, and took out a knife. With a quick motion she popped open the back of the robot’s head.
“Where’d you get the knife?”
“At the restaurant.”
“Where’d you hide it?”
“In my hand. You weren’t looking at my hands, were you Boy?”
She did something with the knife and the robot’s grip loosened. I had just started massaging my wrist when the voice of authority spoke.
“All right you two, no sudden moves. Now, what’s going on here? Fraternity prank or superheroes?”