After he had made and eaten dinner he went deeper inside the house. It was where he kept his collection of books. There was all kinds of books here. He didn’t make a distinction. Some books taught him valuable things which he could use to continue living here. Things like the water purification machine that he made. Other contained fantastical tales of worlds where everything was not covered in ash. Some of them were labeled as fiction while others were supposedly historic but all of them seemed like fantasy to him.
‘Wanderer, are you there?’ Said the voice. It wasn’t imaginary, he was fairly certain of that. He had first had a voice speak to him when he was rather young. Initially he had been told that he was imagining it and that nobody was actually talking with him. When he got older he became a little ostracized because he heard the voice.
“Of course I’m here. Aren’t I always here?” He replied.
‘Well, sometimes you are sleeping.’ She replied. The Wanderer know that the voice was from a young girl by the name of Esta. There used to be a different voice that spoke to him but that voice was long gone.
“How was school today?” He asked. He knew what school was because of books and because of his talks with Esta but he had never been himself. There was never an opportunity for kids in his community to learn in that organized method. There had been some things akin to lessons and school but nothing to the scale of the books and stories that he was told.
Esta lived in a world drastically different then the Wanderer lived in, a place like those in the books that he read. From what he had gathered listening he figured that she either lived in some completely different world or maybe in the past. He had tried talking about it with the previous person he could hear but nothing came of it. Essa was only twelve so he didn’t try to force anything onto her. Instead he just listened and answered her questions to the best of his ability.
‘Nothing special. The teacher asked me some questions but the answer was easy. Mostly it was just boring. I wish I lived in a place more interesting like where you live.’ She had expressed interest in the world that he lived in.
“I’ve already told you that it is more difficult then it looks to live here. Even if I could let you visit I would recommend against it. Your world is nice and peaceful. You should enjoy that.” Her world sounded like the nice places in the Wonderers books. He would have liked to visit her world as well however he wasn’t certain how he would adjust. He didn’t know any lifestyle beyond the one he had here.
‘Yes, but if I was with you we could be together all of the time and have a lot of fun.’
The Wanderer tried to avoid showing emotion. Esta had a strange machine, called a computer, which she somehow used to communicate with him. Through it she was able to speak and watch him. The last voice had the same method of communication, it might have even been the same computer. Despite his numerous attempts to understand it he did not have an explanation about how Esta was able to communicate, only that she was able to do it.
Since she could see him he had to ask normally when trying to tiptoe past delicate situations. He knew a little bit about her family life but didn’t want to pry too much. He knew that her parents were rarely home and that she spent most evenings in her room talking with him. The problems that she dealt with seemed foreign to him but he understood that it was difficult for her. And since she was his only companion he wanted to remain friends so he tried to avoid bringing up touchy issues with her.
‘How was your day?’ Esta asked.
“I had to drive some worms out of the nearby canyon. They had been scaring away the scruffles which made them harder to hunt. It wouldn’t have been a major problem if the worms were edible but they have a very acidic makeup and decompose quickly so there is basically nothing useful to eat that you can make out of them.”
‘How did you drive them out?’
“They don’t like bright lights or loud sounds so I was able to scare them away and out of the canyon. They are fairly big so once I got them to leave I used some makeshift explosives I had been working on to collapse part of the entrance to the canyon. That should keep them away and let the scruffles come back. Hopefully that will restore the ecosystem in the nearby region.”
‘Wow, you did that much? You always have interesting things to tell me. And you are so clever, making your own explosives and doing all this work by yourself.’
“Mainly I just got the information about how to craft the ingredients from the books. The difficult part was finding suitable replacements for some of the ingredients I didn’t have access to. I had to refine some of the reactants from one of the local breeds of mushrooms. They stored up one of the ingredients that they pulled from the air. At least there is one benefit from all this ash. The mushrooms come in many different varieties and I have a notebook keeping track of all of them and what all the different uses for them were.”
Esta listened to him ramble about his different projects. The Wanderer kept himself busy by reproducing all kinds of useful materials and machines from the books that he read. A lot of the things made might life there a lot more bearable. Thinks like his water purifier or the air purifier he had installed in the building. The old one was ancient and was beginning to fail so he had to design his own. All of his weapons and tools were mostly hand made as well. He had setup a forge in one of the old homes to allow him to smelt his own metal. There was certainly enough left over scrap that he would never run out of things to melt down.
Usually he was the one who spoke the most. Esta mainly quietly listened to him talk. He enjoying having something to say. There had been a period of almost half a year before he first spoke with Esta where he was just alone. His previous voice no longer spoke with him and all the people from the village had long since migrated. He was beginning to feel desperately alone and considered leaving his home to find somebody else when Esta first spoke to him.
After he had finished talking about his latest projects Esta asked, ‘Then do you think you could read me a book?’
She sometimes made that request of him. He remembered the times when his grandfather had read books to him and it was actually rather fun to read some of his books to her, “Did you have a preference?”
‘Do you have something with Dragons?’
“Dragons you say? I’ll see what I can find.” IHerummaged through one of the bookshelves trying to find a book. He had read most of the books that he had which given the amount of books he had was a lot. He finally found one that seemed appropriate. “Dragons of the Black Moon, does that sound good to you? It has dragons and princesses and magic.”
‘Yeah, that sounds good.’
The Wanderer took a seat in his good reading chair and adjust the lights to make it easier to read. He then began reading from the beginning, “Galven grew up in a small town…”
He was still reading around an hour later when the lights in his home flickered. He was a bit worried. The electricity that he had in his home was sometimes a bit spotty. He had done a bunch of repairs over the years to keep it working but sometimes it broke down completely and he had to spent too much time without power before he could fix it.
Then he heard painful grating in his ear like the horribly loud sound of static. He covered his ears but that didn’t keep the sound out. “Esta? Esta? Is this you?” He called out. Maybe the sounds were coming from her end. There was no response just the loud sounds which seemed to come from nowhere.
Then he heard something strange, something different. Like a soft voice speaking through the static which he could mostly make out. ‘The doors have been unsealed. All that is thought lost will be found once more. Maiden of Order, Maiden of Chaos, your guidance is all that is required. Long has the world waited.’
It was something strange, in a voice that didn’t really sound like a voice at all. He tried to listen, to figure out what was being said but the static was making it difficult to listen.
‘Who are you?’ It was a different voice, a woman’s voice. But not Esta or any other voice he recognized.
’Those who have waited. Maidens, seek the world that is truly desired. The perfect world.’ The first non-a-voice spoke again.
Then the static began to fade. Finally the Wanderer removed his hand from his ears. What had that been, he did not not. Again he spoke, “Esta? Are you there? Did you hear that too?”
‘Wanderer? Yes, I’m here again. Yes, the screen had all sorts of funny things happened to it and I heard some weird words. What happened?’
“I do not know what that was. However it was very strange. Those two that were talking. Who do you think they are?”
‘I don’t know. Do you have any idea?’ Asked Esta.
I shook my head, “I don’t know. This has never happened before. However…” The entire experience had been strange for the Wanderer. Previously the connection between him and Esta had never been interrupted. It was the closest he had gotten to actually understanding how that connection worked. He had gotten a couple of clues from the previous voice but this was the first time he had noticed something strange. Maybe he could use it to find some kind of clue. “I plan on figuring out what just happened. You always talked about wanting to do something interesting. Do you want to help me?”
Esta sounded a little excited when she responded, ‘Sure, I can help. Just tell me what you need me to do and I’ll do it.’
“Excellent. Now can I ask you a question? When you heard everything happen was it just on your computer or did it seem to be coming from inside your head.”
‘It was very strange. Initially it was just coming from the computer and I covered my ears to help reduce the noise. However when the voices began to talk then not even my hands helped. I could just hear them and the static just got worse and worse.’
“That is good.” Said the Wanderer as he was thinking through things in his head.
“Well if it was like that for both of us then that means it was just as real for both of us and it wasn’t just something that existed on one side of the other. That means it probably has something to do with your computer.”
‘My computer? I know it can talk with you but then you mean it is even more special than that.’
“I don’t know yet but I had an idea. There used to be computers in my world but that was a long time ago. If I could find or construct something like that I might be able to make a connection to your computer.”
‘Will that work?’
“It is the best lead that I have. However I’m going to need your help. I don’t have any books that have technical explanations of how computers work so I need you to find one. With that and any parts I can find I might be able to make something that works.”