Quantum Steam Theory - Part 2 of 5

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Ancient books lined the shelves along the corridor. Rotting leather clung to faded tomes, the cracked spines shoved at awkward angles. A sharp smell of neglect and decay permeated the space, and moss bloomed on the exposed brickwork. Selina looked up to see cobwebs looped across the low vaulted ceiling. A large brown spider covered in black stripes sat in a web. It watched her as it unwrapped a dead fly from a silken shroud.

Selina cast her curious gaze over the spines of the books. Some of them bore titles in a language she didn't recognise. She wondered how old they were, and where they were from. She ran her hand along the shelf, and flakes of cold leather drifted to the floor. Selina couldn’t see anything about weaponry. She at least expected Turpin’s Treatise of War or Bartholomew’s Guide to Ballistics.

“Well this was just a waste of my time, wasn’t it?” said Selina.

She directed the question to the spider. The arachnid ignored her in favour of its dinner. Selina shuddered. She could cope with the concept of an animal with eight legs, but as with quantum steam theory, concept and reality were two different things.

Selina turned to leave when a book caught her eye. The flickering lamp light danced across a golden lion embossed on the thick black leather spine. The book seemed out of place among the decaying remains of the other tomes. She pulled it from the shelf and ran her hand over the blank cover. The only clue to its contents was the embossed lion, but Selina had no idea what a lion signified. She wondered if it was the national symbol of whichever country the book came from.

Selina flipped open the book. She expected the same dense print that filled her quantum steam theory textbook, or at least engravings. Instead, the pages were completely blank. Tiny tears and watermarks bordered the pages, but no text marked the creamy white paper. Selina couldn’t even find a publisher’s note or a contents page. She flicked through, inhaling the dusty smell of old paper.

Selina felt a draught on her neck as she flicked through the book. Suddenly, the pages fell open to a black space in the middle of the book. She gazed into the space, seeing stars and distant galaxies laid out before her. A jolt passed through her hands and she dropped the book. It landed on the floor at her feet, still open at the universal void. A strange pull grasped her stomach, and Selina felt herself fall forwards.

Part 1 : Part 3

Quantum Steam Theory - Part 1 of 5

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Selina Mothshaw sat at a heavy oak table in the Vertigo Central Library. The book in front of her lay open at a chart. Dense text covered the page around the graph. Selina tried to read the opening sentence for the sixteenth time.

“Quantum steam theory can, in effect, be described as the optimum state in which all matter resides, such matter being defined as that which is existent within the ordinary spectrum of reality as it is laid out in the Principles of Rumbaud, chapter 4, sub-section 23, paragraph 14. Quantum steam theory is to be applied to all such questions of existence as can be most commonly considered by the thoughtful member of Vertigan society. The theory...”

She pushed the book away. Selina tried to remember what prompted her to choose quantum steam theory when her classmates opted for molecular physics or steam philosophy. Her father's words echoed in her head, telling her that a quantum steam theory qualification could net her a job with the Weimar Corporation’s research division. Selina didn't want to be a steam theorist, but without a viable alternative, she had little choice but to follow her father's advice.

Selina stood up and paced around the table. No one else sat in this section, and the librarians had already cleared away the books and papers left by other students. Her footsteps echoed around the vaulted room, the sound of hob-nailed boots on polished wood sounding like an army on patrol.

Selina looked at her college work. The books lay unread, and doodles of automatons and weaponry cover her ledger. Selina thought she might apply for an internship with Weimar's arms division.

Selina wandered away from the table. A map of the library tacked to a bookcase caught her eye. According to the diagram, the section on weaponry lay at the very back of this floor. She pulled the map from the tacks.

Selina slipped between the stacks into the next reading area. A huge map of Vertigo City lay on the table. Hand-painted monsters lurked in the river, and pencil marks traced a route around Justice Park. A book on anatomy weighted down one corner. Selina wondered if another student was researching the Meat Beast.

She left the map behind and walked among the high shelves. She peeked into another reading area. Four boys sat around a table, flicking wads of chewed up paper at each other. A fifth boy sat apart, attempting to concentrate on a thick book bound in green leather. The other four boys ignored him.

Selina consulted the map. The weaponry section lay around the corner. Her route took her into a narrow corridor. The ceiling dipped, and wooden floorboards gave way to bare flagstones. A damp chill hung in the air. Selina shivered. Selina thought of her quantum steam theory homework, and considered heading back to the reading area. Half of an equation floated through her mind, and she grimaced. She ventured further into the depths of the library.

Part 2 : Part 3 : Part 4