Ch. 1 – The Befuddlement of Flash Mahogany

Chapter 1 

Three for the Price of One 

“Whither the wind may blow, must I travel, for I am but a tuft of down that has yet to find moorage upon this desolate earth.”

It was a normal Monday morning, the soot and smoke and grime of the big city enveloped everything. The age of steam has made life easier, but the effects of creating steam are dark and dirty.

I live here, in the jungle, so to speak, struggling to survive, just like everyone else. I have an advantage over most though, I find intrigue and adventure in everything.

My name is Tiberius Ignatius Mahogany, they call me Flash, Flash Mahogany, ace reporter for the New York City Gazette. I am everyone’s eyes and ears here in my world. I am the best. If I don’t know it happened, it hasn’t happened, at least not yet.

Well that’s where this story begins. Providence only knows where it will direct us.

On this particularly dark and ominous morning, I sat at my desk waiting for someone to call with a tip or maybe hear a fire bell or two. No such luck today.

I began taping my pencil on the edge of my typewriter, tic, tic, tic, tic. I heard my secretary, Miss Woolery, “Mr. Flash, sir, you know I hate that.”

Miss Woolery was an older lady with white hair and bags under her wrinkles. She was skinny and dressed and acted like an old schoolmarm, “Yes Miss Woolery, I know.” I didn’t stop. I knew it annoyed her and if I was to be annoyed then she may as well be too.

“Mr. Flash sir?” she began

“Yes Miss Woolery.” I stopped tapping.

“I hope you’re not….” then I heard her scream as if startled by a mouse.

I jumped up and dashed into the outer office, “Are you alright?” I asked.

She had a look of terror and befuddlement on her face, “It… it was just there!” she looked down at an old book on her desk.

“What do you mean it was just there?” I inquired.

“I heard this buzzing sound and there was a book laying on my short-hand tablet.” she shuddered.

“Well, someone must have come in and laid it in front of you.” I explained.

Her frightened eyes looked at me, “I was looking at the door, and no one came in nor left. It has your name on it.”

I walked over and looked down at the book. It was made of old brown leather and had a design on it that reminded me of something, but I didn’t know what, “What is written there on the front?” I asked.

Miss Woolery reached for the book. Her fingers went through it as if it were but a ghostly image from the past. She screamed once again and pulled her hand back.

My eyes had to be as big as my own fist. I reached down to place my hand through the book, but I touched it. I laid my hand on the book and felt the warm leather. I picked it up to the amazement of both Miss Woolery and myself, and examined it.

My name was indeed written on the cover as were two other gentlemen I had never heard of, Timothy Bison and Ogg Matterhorn. Of course, the author of this volume couldn’t use my professional name, no, it had to be written, “Tiberius Mahogany”

I opened the cover and saw, scratchings or scrawlings that made no sense to me. I turned the page and saw a very frantic hand written entry;

The wind blew past like the torrid breath of a monstrous demon. I paused long enough to load the long gun and then set out once more.

I knew a moment would come that I would have to choose between adventure and safety, but I never considered that choice would come at the hand of time itself.

I had never imagined that my plasma bolt invention would rip a hole in reality and send my wife and myself tumbling through that which wasn’t, but might have been and landing on the opposite side of the “unpossible”.

I woke to hear my lovely Kathleen calling my name amongst the roar of massive engines and the mind boggling screeches of beasts I had known as long extinct.

Cities and jungles, steam airships and gentlemen astride giant running beasts. No one takes notice of either myself or the cries of my frightened Kathleen.

 I am Timothy, the inventor, the adventurer, the fool responsible for my own demise and that of every being I have ever known…. or so it would seem.

Kathleen and I are alone… alone in a world of quadundrum and befuddlement. We are lost in a nether-world void of time and reality as we know it. Are we the intruders or is this existence all within the confines of my own nightmare?

I looked at Miss Woolery. Her eyes were wide and her face was old-lace white, “You…. you were different. Your hair, your face, your clothes… while you were reading!”

I hadn’t the foggiest what she was saying so I turned the page;

I am Doctor Timothy Bison. I have invented a mode of transportation known as the plasma bolt transport device. It was designed to transport a being from one place to another.

I am not sure what has happened, but the plasma bolt went off while pointed at a mirror. The blast transported myself and my wife to a strange world unlike anything I have ever seen and yet so familiar to us.

I have studied the area and found that what we have always known as New London, in this place or rather this time is known as Upper Congo.

There are animals here that work for mankind, the likes of which are unknown to us. Huge four legged beasts of burden and two legged lightning fast beasts affixed with saddles and armor of sorts.

Most unusual of all are the aerostats or flying machines. They seem to be straight from my hometown, but with one difference, they make an unbelievable noise. They make a loud banging sound so fast it’s reminiscent of a kitten purring… a sixty foot tall kitten! So between the roar of the monstrous animals and the “air clangers” I am almost sleepless since we arrived.

I looked at my arm. I seemed, for a moment, to be wearing safari style clothing. When I looked down I was in my suit.

At some point, Miss Woolery had seen enough and had passed out in her chair. I smiled and then turned the page. As I did, I heard a whisper as if carried by the wind. It was the tiny voice of a woman. It seemed to come from the book, “Help us Tiberius. Find Jane. Help us… help us… help us… help us…” the voice faded as the page folded flat to the other pages. I read on;

Tiberius? Tiberius Mahogany? We are in need of your assistance. It appears that the plasma bolt device doesn’t transport one to another place, but rather to another existence, another reality.

Let me see if I can explain, I am from New London, I am standing in Upper Congo and you are reading this in New York City which in fact are all the same place. My reality is not the same as yours. As a matter of fact you and I and a gentleman by the name of Ogg are in fact, the same person, just in three very different realities. I can see the things you write on your typewriter and you can see what I write in my journal… at least I hope this is working. Let us test this out. If you will type me a question on your machine, I will answer it here.

The rest of the page was blank. I shook my head, “What the hell kind of joke is this? Different realities? What kind of shave tail do these villains take me for? I shan’t fall for their tomfoolery.” I walked into my office and looked at my typewriter, “I’ll turn my desk so no one outside this room could possible see what I write.”

I sat down and typed, “My office is on the third floor of the Gazette and looks right at the Brooklyn Bridge. Where are you?”

I leaned back in my chair an opened the book to the half-blank page and saw the words “In a tree house, about the same height up looking at a large bridge made of steel and bamboo.”

I was astounded, but instead of being frightened, my mind suddenly came up with, “Find Jane?! Who is Jane?”

I reached out for the keys and typed, “Who is Jane?” And then went back to the page. There was no reply. I watched for a moment then as if a spirit had breathed on the page these words appeared;

How is that possible? You heard Kathleen, my wife, as she coaxed you to respond. I don’t know how this happened. Jane, my dear boy is an alter-ego of my wife. We cannot return as a couple unless both you and Jane come through the plasma bolt portal.

I was sitting there with my mouth open wide. I started to talk to the book, “Wait, you mean…” I shook my head and started typing, “You mean I have to or rather ‘we’ have to come there and get you?”

The answer was immediate;

I don’t rightly know sir. All I can say is, in my experiments with inanimate objects, I began to notice that when I would transport them, they would arrive in a slightly different state than they left. I also know that everyone here has been calling me Ogg since I arrived. He appears to be; or rather I appear to be the captain of a group of thugs called The Eyern Pirates. Anyway, I can only assume, then that the objects I transported did not reappear but rather were replaced by objects from this reality. Thus, when Kathleen and myself were transported here, Ogg and Kathleen’s counterpart from this realm were placed in my laboratory in our place.

Again, my mouth hung open. Was I dreaming? Where on earth did this come from? Who the hell is Jane and how in the devil do I get her to believe this? I started typing;

“What do I need to do now? I’m not a scientist.”

My answer faded in;

No, but I am. I can tell you precisely what to do. You will need to find Jane Diggery and build a plasma bolt device and I will try to build one here.

“What is a plasma bolt device?” I typed.

The doctor hesitated, then;

You see, apparently reality or rather time moves like a river. There are moments when a choice is made or an event occurs or as in this place, doesn’t occur and our reality splits like the fork in a river. The water in the river is still the same water from the same source, but it is a completely different river, finding its own path.

I observe here that whatever event killed off the massive beasts from centuries ago did not happen here, thus man and behemoth live together in symbiance. In your world, I chose to be a writer rather than a doctor of science, thus you are in your office at the Gazette.

“Behemoths? Do you mean dinosaurs?” I typed.

Yes, old chap, I believe that is your word for them.

I was totally flabbergasted. What has this other “me” got us into?

Just then I heard, “Flash!” I jumped like I’d been shot. It was my editor, Draven Wormwood, “What the hell are you doing and why is Miss Woolery asleep?”

“Not asleep sir. I think she fainted.” I stammered.

“Fainted?! Why?” He asked.

“Mouse, I think sir.” Was all I could come up with.

“Oh, well, remember I need your story by two or you miss your deadline and you’re fired!” He turned and started to leave, “And tell Miss Woolery when she wakes up, if she ever faints again on company time, she’s fired!” He slammed the door as he stormed out.

I leaned into my typewriter, “How do I go about finding Jane?” I pondered.

Jane is near where you are. She seems to be writing a speech about wildlife in South America. She may be an explorer of sorts.

“How do you know these things?” I typed frantically.

There is a window, if Kathleen stands to the side and looks across the window, the reflection is Jane’s. That’s how I found you. I put my journal where your typewriter is and hit it with plasma. They linked in a way. Then I poured plasma on a stool where your secretary’s desk is and dropped my book there. A copy was sent to you. I’m still not sure how it finds the doppelgangers, but so far it works.

I was in a mysterious quadundrum. I walked to my window, stood beside it and looked across the reflection. I saw what appeared to be me in an odd woolen suit, like an old ship’s captain might wear, standing in a laboratory of sorts, trying to find something. There was a woman there that I assumed would be the doppelganger of Kathleen and this Jane Diggery I had to find. She had long, brunette hair and striking green eyes. I knew who I was looking for. I went back to the typewriter, “I looked across a window and saw what I assume to be Ogg and the woman with him. Assuming she looks like Jane, I should know her when I see her.”

A moment later, a voice came from the book. It was extremely loud, but far-off like distant thunder, “Conjurer! Where be ye!? And where’st have ye marooned me? I will find ye and remove yer head from yer carcass with not but me fist!”

“Is this Ogg?” came words on the page.

I was enthralled. I began typing, “You heard his voice, too?” I asked.

Again the booming voice came to us, “Aye, Captain Ogg to ye landlubbers.”

I typed frantically, “How am I hearing him?”

These words appeared, “Most puzzling. I hear you Ogg. My name is Timothy Bison. I am here with my wife Kathleen. The other part of our conversation is from Tiberius Mahogany. I do apologize for your predicament. We are trying to rectify the situation. Since you are in my lab, perhaps you can help.”

“I been readin’ yer words. With me be the story teller. I be doin’ what I can, but I be just a seaman, I don’t be understandin’ some of yer explanations. How is it I be standin’ where I was, but everthin’ is a far sight differnt then when I closed me eyes?” the voice asked.

There was a moment of hesitation, then, “Let me see if I can explain. You are still where you were and when you were and who you were, but you are not in the same where or when you were in. Oh, my, that was even more befuddling. Let me try again….”

The voice interrupted, “Ya be meaning that I may still be at the helm and I still be sailin’ me own barge, but I be navigatin’ by the wrong celestial bodies?”

“A seafarer’s way of putting it, but somewhat accurate. I have a feeling that the three of us have been in one another’s minds before. I have a theory which suggests that even though time flows downhill and may separate into branches, there are times when those branches are close enough to one another that the waters will mingle. For example, have you ever had a feeling that someone was watching you and you perused the area and no one was about? It might have actually been one of us that were being watched or have you ever seen someone walk past you out of the corner of your eye, but when you looked, no one was there? Again, one of the others may have been passed by someone.” The doctor explained.

I typed, “We are all three the same person just in different worlds, I guess is one way to put it.”

It was quiet for a long while. The voice once again returned, this time much calmer and rather tranquil, “I be understandin’. Now what exactly are we to be doing about our mixed up worlds?”

I waited for an answer as well. I was very worried that one of the other me’s or even both might turn up at my office. Finally, a small message came, “Ogg, the woman with you, don’t let her leave the lab. Tiberius… I mean Flash, find Jane.”

“Aye, we be stayin’ right here.” Ogg answered.

I started typing, “Can’t you two just switch back? He’s in the lab; he can just switch you back…. Right?”

“And if it doesn’t work and sends them to your world and rips poor Jane Diggery out of her world and throws her into mine, how would you go about explaining to her why she is unable to leave my lab?” he wrote.

I could see his point, but one way or another, I had to tell a woman I had never met before that she has two doppelgangers in two different realities and that she has to go with me in order to save them and maybe herself and for all we know all three worlds. Not what one would call a great idea. I had no choice, “I will do what I can.” I typed. As I started to leave the room, I grabbed my chapeau and the book and headed out the door. I had no idea where I would go nor what I would say when I found Miss Jane Diggery. All that I knew for certain was that I had to try.

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