Roger M. Wilcox

Copyright © 2022 by Roger M. Wilcox. All rights reserved.

chapter 1 | chapter 2 | chapter 3 | chapter 4
chapter 5 | chapter 6 | chapter 7 | chapter 8

— Chapter two: SEVENTEEN DAYS —

"So . . ." I asked, "Why did you run?"

"Because that knight could have attacked us," Windboy said.

"No," I said, "I mean, why did you run, when you could have flown both of us away?"

Windboy locked eyes with me. "Because the knight definitely would have seen us then. And flying is something they're all scared of. He would have reported us as witches. We're both dressed rather . . . distinctively for this time period, so anywhere we go we'd be recognized, and everybody would be hunting us down for witchcraft." He looked away. "That happened to me the first time I visited 1127 A.D.. I wanted to make a big impression, and it backfired."

"Oh," I said. "Uh, sorry to hear that. I guess super heroes have problems too, huh?" Then what he said fully registered. "Wait . . . you've visited this time period before? In England?"

"More than once," Windboy answered. "I've even stood in this same grove before."

"But what happens if you run into one of your past selves?" I asked.

"Oh, that can't happen," he said. "Every visit, all the events reset. Everything plays out exactly like it did before. Or at least, everything I don't interact with."

I nodded. "So it's like a separate timeline each time."

Windboy seemed to be mulling over the phrase. "I . . . guess you could kind of say that." He shrugged. "At least I don't have to worry about any mistakes I made in an earlier visit."

Something was bugging me. "But if you do something in the past and then you travel into the future, would what you did affect your future? Like if you buried a message to yourself right here in 1127 A.D., could you go forward to 1967 and dig it back up?"

"Oh, no, that won't work," Windboy said. "I've tried. Time-warp hurricanes don't work that way, when travelling into the past or into the future. At least they don't for me."

He stood right in front of me, looking slightly upward into my eyes with those big brown eyes of his own, and gently took my hand. "Look. I asked you to come with me so that I'd have someone to talk to. Someone to explore this world with. A travelling companion. I wasn't sure we'd end up in 1127, but now that we have, I'm really really hoping we can make some friends here. Even if they're not going to last."

I closed my eyes and shook my head. "No. No. I don't want to stay here. I don't want to be here. It's the middle ages; they don't have cars, they don't have phones, they don't even have toilet paper. Hell, they'd probably even think my physics knowledge is witchcraft. Everybody I know is back in 1967. Or, or forward in 1967. I don't even know the right words to use here! I — please, please, take me home again!"

Windboy looked crestfallen. He looked at me, pleadingly, like a jilted lover. No . . . bad analogy. He looked at me as though I were his father and I'd just put him up for adoption.

But I was too scared to think about anything other than getting back to my own time.

He let out a long, resigned sigh. "I can't keep you with me if you don't want to be with me," he said. He gently undulated the fingers of both hands, and an updraft buoyed the two of us slowly off the ground. "I'll take you back to the time-warp hurricane."

I wasn't looking forward to another encounter with 100+-mile-per-hour counter-rotating winds, but it beat staying in the dark ages. I let the little weather witch blow me back out to sea with him. We hurtled high over the waves. I looked back, but the sun was to my left this time instead of directly behind me. We were headed south instead of west.

A few minutes into the flight, Windboy slowed us to a stop. There didn't seem to be anything remarkable around. The sky was clear, the ocean calm. Windboy just stood there, buoyed by his own air cushion, looking around puzzled. Once or twice he lifted his head as though listening, or smelling, but the pained look never left him.

"It should be here," he said, agitated. "It's gone. The time-warp hurricane . . . it moved!" He covered his mouth with his hands for a moment, as though covering up an "oh my!". "All the other times I've visited 1127 . . . whenever I came back over the ocean this early, the hurricane has always been right here. Or within a mile of right here. But this time, it's gone!"

"Seagull effect?" I suggested.

"Huh?" Windboy looked confused.

"A notion from Ed Lorentz," I said. "I read up on it when we were chasing time-warp tornadoes. One flap of a seagull's wings in Brazil can cause ripple effects which, eventually, conspire to create a tornado in Texas. Take away the seagull, and the tornado doesn't happen." I shrugged. "Maybe a butterfly's wings would make for a more poetic analogy. But the idea is, even small disturbances can alter the course of events forever. On all your previous visits to 1127, you came alone. This time, though, you brought me with you. Maybe that difference was enough to affect the hurricane."

He looked at me with a sense of dread. "We have to find it."

A chilling thought came to me. "Uh, uh oh," I said. "Is there still a hurricane to find? Maybe it dissipated."

"No," said Windboy. "Time-warp hurricanes always last for 17 days. Actually, a little less than 17 days — 16 days, 22 hours and about 12 minutes. It can't have vanished. It's got over 16-and-a-half days left to go. It must have changed course."

Inwardly, I breathed a sigh of relief. The prospect of living out the rest of my life in medieval England was terrifying. "So," I mulled over Windboy's words, "You're saying this time-warp hurricane is on its first day, just like the 1967 hurricane was when we travelled through it?"

"Of course," he said. "You enter one hurricane on day 5, you come out of a different year's hurricane on its day 5. You enter on day 14, you come out on the other hurricane's day 14. That's how they've always worked." He grew more emphatic. "And we have to find it before the 17 days are up."

"You bet we do," I agreed. "I need it to get back to 1967."

"And I need it," Windboy said, "To keep from dying."

My jaw dropped open. "What?"

"I told you I was cursed," he said. "I'm . . . bound to those time-warp hurricanes, just as much as they're bound to each other. When this 17-day stretch ends, and this time period's time-warp hurricane finally does dissipate, I need to be inside its eye when it does."

"Why?" I asked. "What happens?"

"The eye works differently for me than it does for everything else. For other people in the eye of the hurricane, when it ends, it just ends. They'll see the hurricane disperse and just end up standing where the eye used to be. At least, I think that's what happens to them. But for me, when I'm inside the eye and the hurricane ends, time . . . resets. I end up back at the beginning of the 17 days, back when the hurricane starts."

Windboy grew emphatic. "If I'm not in the eye when the hurricane ends, I cease to exist."

I gasped. "Oh, gosh! That's terrib—" Then something occurred to me. "Wait. You've never actually done this, have you? Stayed outside the eye of a time-warp hurricane when it ended, I mean?"

Windboy shook his head. "Of course not. I'd cease to exist."

"Then how do you know that would happen," I asked with a slight air of smugness, "If you've never done it?"

"The wind told me," he said flatly.

The wind told him? The wind talks to him? Even with all the tricks I'd seen him do with the wind, this strained the bounds of credibility. "How do you know the wind isn't lying to you?"

Windboy shrugged. "It's never lied to me about anything else."

"The, um . . . the wind talks to you a lot?"

He smirked. "I could understand what the wind was saying to me before I was old enough to understand my own parents. In fact, the wind even helped me figure out what my parents were saying, before I learned to speak. It talks to me, and I talk to it. That's how I change the direction the wind is blowing, like how we're both floating on an updraft right now. I'm not controlling the wind, the wind and I come to a mutual agreement on the best course of action, moment by moment."

"Can the wind tell you where the time-warp hurricane went?"

Windboy exhaled gently, and made the tiniest of gestures with the fingers of one hand. A few seconds later: "No, it can't. The wind doesn't know."

Damn. I wasn't surprised, but I was as disappointed as he was. "Well," I sighed, "It was worth a shot, I guess."

"The wind can't help me find the hurricane," Windboy said, "But . . . can you?"

"What?" I said. "Me? Find a hurricane?"

"Yeah," Windboy said. "Can your 1967 science tell you where the time-warp hurricane is?"

"You mean, like calculating its position based solely on where it was headed when we first arrived here?" I asked, shaking my head. "Not a chance! Even a meteorologist needs data to calculate the trajectory of a regular hurricane — and that only works because so many hurricanes have been observed, and so much data has been collected prior to my time, that they've built predictive models. You said yourself that time-warp hurricanes were a once-every-three-centuries event. Meteorology wasn't even a science when the last one would've come along; er, the one that came before 1967, I mean. We've got no past behavior and no data to go on."

"And, heck," I continued, "I'm not even a meteorolgist, I'm a physicist!"

"So physics can't find the time-warp hurricane, then," Windboy said with a resigned air.

Actually, though . . .

"Well . . . there might be a way," I said. I scratched the back of my head. "The time-warp hurricane in 1967 put out huge bursts of radio noise. If this one's doing the same, we might be able to pick 'em up." I shook my head. "But we'd need sensitive equipment to do that. And we can't just walk into a Radio Shack and pick up a shortwave detector in 1127 A.D.. Radio waves weren't even discovered until the 1800s. Even basic electronics don't exist yet. It's not physics you'd need, it's engineering!"

"And you couldn't do that?" Windboy asked.

Build a receiver with medieval technology, that could not only detect radio noise but could point us to its source? He had to be kidding. The only people who could build 20th century tech without 20th century components were the Flintstones. "Not a chance," I said. "Any more than you could make a . . . wait! Could you use your wind powers to make a time-warp hurricane?"

"Not a chance," Windboy echoed my words. "The wind forces needed are too strong. And even if they weren't, every time-warp hurricane in existence, past or future, seems to be predestined. They'd have to be. Remember how every visit resets the events? If there were a new time-warp hurricane added to the mix, it would wreck all the existing ones. I don't think it's possible to create a time-warp hurricane, even if I could command winds a hundred times more vast and powerful."

Dammit. How was I going to return to the future without a time-w— I snapped my fingers with a sudden idea. "Wait. You know where the time-warp hurricane is going to be in 1967, right?"

"Yeah," Windboy said.

"Well, I need to get to 1967, and you need to get to a time-warp hurricane. So if we can travel into the future, we solve both our problems. Could you use your wind powers to create a time-warp tornado?"

"Yes," Windboy thought about this. "Yes, I've done it before. I hunted down a natural tornado, then I created a counter-rotating one and sent it colliding with the first."

"Then let's go find a tornado!" I was ecstatic. So ecstatic that I lost my posture, and started losing altitude. I had to flatten myself out to climb back up to Windboy's altitude. All this time being held aloft by his winds, and I still couldn't get the hang of this air-bodysurfing he was having me do. "I've studied several time-warp tornadoes," I said, trying to regain my composure, "Two of them close up. I can tell you exactly how it needs to spin for forward time displacement to 1967!"

Windboy's eyes were downcast. "It might work for you," he said, "But it won't work for me. I had that idea myself once, and I asked the wind about it. Travel into the future with a time-warp tornado doesn't work like it does with a time-warp hurricane. There's no reset. You'd be travelling into the future of this timeline. It would be no different from . . . from going to sleep and then waking up centuries later. It won't bypass my curse. I'd simply miss the end of the hurricane, and cease to exist."

"But . . ." I hesitated, "I could still use it, right? Even if you don't?"

Windboy nodded. "You wouldn't be going back to exactly the same 1967 as the one you left, but it should still be pretty close. If we don't cause any more of those 'butterfly's wings effects' you were talking about."

"That's good enough for me," I said. "I really, really want to get back home."

"I could still use your help to look for —"

"Please," I begged.

Windboy closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "All right. I brought you here, I should get you back. I wouldn't be much of a super hero if I didn't. It should still be tornado season in southern England." He gestured, and the wind holding us aloft now pushed us backward toward the coastline. "I just hope I can find that hurricane again before the 17 days are up."

But all I could think about was getting home.

Windboy is continued in chapter 3.
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