Andy was at the door, with red wine and apologies.


Paul wasn’t sure why he needed the second, but was always grateful for the first. So he invited his friend in.


It took the first bottle for Andy to work out how to even start the conversation.


“Listen, Paul. I have to tell you something.” It wasn’t an original start.


“Really?” Which was lucky, really, seeing the attention it got.


Andy nodded and fished a small gem out of his pocket.


He placed it, solemnly, on the table.


“What’s that?” Paul asked, finishing off one glass and pouring another.


“It’s your diary.”


Paul felt a dull ache from behind his eyes. Was he getting hungover already?


“And, that pain you’re feeling? That’s a residual block that was put in place until we could have this conversation.”


A bright, stab of pain hit Paul this time. He swore.


Oh – he was paying attention now.


“I’m told it might hurt. But it would that the pain would get less the more you knew.” He took a deep breath. “You didn’t just go to bed the other night. In fact, that was far from what you did.”


Paul looked up, his face contorted with pain. “For the love of God, Andy. Tell it quicker.”


***


And so Andy started. He reminded Paul about his premise that we were all story, that he had encoded himself, in preparation to enter his own narrative engine.


Paul sat, opened mouthed.


Tp be fair, he should have waited until Andy told him that his future self had arrived at the door and told him what they had to do to keep Paul alive. 


At that point, Paul’s mouth had nowhere to go.


But his headache had gone.


“Wait. Let me get this straight. You’re telling me that I input a narrative encoding of myself into a narrative engine and broke the Wall?”


“Yes.”


“And that all that night you, and a version of me from the future, or some other narrative strand, came here and the pair of you told stories all night so you could guide me out, and save my life… Because…that’s what happened to him?”


“Yes.”


“How did he know?”


“I told him. You.” Andy sighed. “Like I’m telling you now. I told him then. So that, when you reach his when, you can do the same thing.”


***


Author Sanders and Chief Scribe Anderson readwatched the scene. 


Sanders nudged the Scribe. “I’m going to be sick, now.”


***


Paul felt his mouth fill with saliva. Seconds later his stomach flipped. He jumped up, and raced to the toilet where he threw up, noisily.


***


“It’s not noble, this story.”


Anderson giggled.


***


Washed and mouthwashed, Paul returned. He pointed at the gem on the desk.


“And that?”


“That’s your diary. The last form it settled in before we brought you out.”


“How do I read it?”


Andy shrugged. “I’ll be buggered if I know.”


They looked at each other. The silence grew.


Paul laughed. Small to begin with, but soon huge shrieks.


“Andy! We’re RIGHT! We can change our lives…The WORLD! We broke the wall!”


“You almost died, Paul. You have to be more careful, build safe rooms outside narration so you can go back to them. And safeguard.”


***


Off the Edge of the Page, Author Sanders mouthed the words he had taught Andy to say. These words would form the basic Rules of Litranautics for years to come.


“OK, Paul. This is where I worked it out, but I couldn’t say it. Let’s see how you do.”


“Sir?”


“Yes, Anderson.”


“We’re entering a period of Narrative Flux.”


“I know. Close all the hatches, disengage from this narrative line, but hold position. I want to pick it up the moment we stabilize.”


***


Paul poured a new glass of wine, drank a mouthful and then picked up the gem.


“You know, I need your help with this, Andy. There’s no way I can do this on my own. It’s far too big.”


“But…I don’t know a thing about this.”


“I can teach you.” Paul sat down. “You and me, mate. Brave new world and all that.” He threw the gem to Andy. “And who else is going to be able to work out how to read this?”


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