THE HOUSE ON SPACE-TIME LANE
QUINN IN THE TENTH DIMENSION
by Galen Hardesty
Standing at Daria’s bedroom door, Quinn asked, "Daria, can I ask you a question?"
"You just did." Daria replied, rather indistinctly due to being unable to move her jaw. It was supporting the weight of her head. She was lying face down on her bed, head hanging over the foot end, reading a book that was lying open on the floor below.
"Can I talk to you?"
"Uuhh! What are you doing?!"
Daria sighed, sat up, and wiggled her jaw. "Giving myself a severe underbite, attempting unsuccessfully to read this book, dying the death of a thousand dumb questions..."
"Daria, I’ve been feeling... strange lately."
"That’s way too easy."
"If you insist. Okay, come over here and let me feel you. Ba-dum-bum. Funny, you don’t look strange. You look goofy, like always. Ba-dum-bum."
"Don’t blame me, it was your straight line."
Quinn’s look pleaded mutely. Her lower lip quivered.
Daria sighed. "All right, all right, put away the lip. Expand on ‘strange’."
Quinn made vague gestures with her hands. "It’s hard to describe. Like there’s something... wrong. Like things aren’t the way they seem. Like there’s something I need to do. Like someone’s in trouble."
"Oh. That strange."
Quinn waited, but Daria didn’t seem about to continue. "What do you mean, ‘Oh, that strange?’ You’ve felt it too? You know what it is?"
Daria gave her sister an appraising look. "Well... I don’t know if you’re ready for this, although if you’re feeling it, that may be a moot point. Part of it is this house, or something associated with the house."
Quinn gasped and put her hand to her lips. "You mean... ghosts?"
"Maybe something a lot scarier than ghosts. It appears to be a distortion of the space-time continuum."
"What? Daria, did you stay up all night watching one of those Star Trek marathons?"
"Not lately. Sit down at my desk, get a sheet of grid paper out of the drawer, and draw a plan of the first floor of the house."
"Are you trying to change the subject?"
"No, this is the best way I know to show you the distortion. Use the whole page; draw the front wall at the bottom... good. Put the front door right in the center of the front wall, and the staircase right behind it. They divide the house in half. Now in the family room on the left side, put the fireplace and the back door in the back wall and the entertainment center against the end wall. Now draw in the sofa and love seats."
Quinn started to draw the sofa, then paused with the pencil almost touching the paper. "All that space..."
"Yeah. The family room looks much bigger on the floor plan than it does when you’re in it, doesn’t it? Forget the sofa for now, and draw in the kitchen and breakfast nook. Don’t get too detailed; just indicate the counters and table. Good. Now draw in the garage."
Quinn drew a couple of lines, then stopped again. She stared at the paper, a look of puzzlement changing to concern and then to something like fear. "Oh, my gosh. Oh... my..." the pencil fell from her nerveless fingers.
Daria nodded grimly. "Now you’re starting to see it. In the space that’s left between the kitchen and the garage are the dining room, the laundry room, the downstairs guest bedroom, the downstairs bathroom, and the basement stairs. Only there is no space left between the kitchen and the garage."
"Daria, what is it? What could scrunch all those rooms into that little space like that?"
"An excellent question. Shortly after I noticed it, I did some rough calculations. To generate a distortion field of this power and this uniformity over this spatial extent would require a seventeen solar mass black hole."
"Omigod! A black hole? Where?"
"Another excellent question. I could never get the numbers to tell me where in relation to the house the black hole would have to be, except that it would be seventy-two feet from the laundry room. And anyway, a black hole would cause the distortion by its incredibly powerful gravitational field, a field that would swallow this entire planet in a few seconds or microseconds or thereabouts. Besides, there are no gravitational anomalies around here, not even small ones. I checked. And I don’t see how a black hole can explain the... other thing."
"What other thing?"
Quinn looked puzzled. "What do you mean?"
"I mean which rooms are connected to which other rooms. Draw another diagram that shows how many other rooms you can get into from each room. I’m going to see if there’s any coffee left from this morning. I’ll be right back."
When Daria came back to her room, she found Quinn sitting on her bed, next to the headboard. She looked like she was afraid of the piece of paper she’d been working on minutes before, and wanted to get as far away from it as she could.
"Something wrong?" she asked rhetorically.
"It’s impossible!" Quinn exclaimed. There was an edge of panic in her voice. "A house like this can’t exist!"
Daria sipped her coffee. "And yet, it does exist. A fascinating puzzle, don’t you think?"
"No, I do not," Quinn snapped back, some of her fear of the unknown turning to anger. "Are you gonna tell me the answer, or are you gonna stand there and do your Vulcan impression?"
Daria smiled a little at that. "The answer is, if you qualify your statement by saying ‘A house like this can’t exist in three spatial dimensions,’ you’re correct."
Quinn‘s blank look changed after a second to her trying-to-remember-something face. After a few seconds she said, "Daria, I’m no science geek, but I thought that’s all there were."
Daria nodded. "You and just about everyone else. Lately a few physicists have been saying that there are actually ten or more dimensions, but they’re not holding out any hope that we’ll be able to get at them anytime soon. But somehow, every time you go from the laundry room to the basement stairs, or from the kitchen to the garage, you’re traveling through at least one extra dimension."
Quinn looked alarmed. "I don’t want to travel through other dimensions! They might be full of monsters!"
"I believe Columbus’s crew said something very similar to that when they mutinied," smirked Daria. "You should be able to avoid it fairly easily, though."
"Great! How?" Quinn asked eagerly.
"Just stay out of the house. Pitch a tent in the back yard. I’ll hand your meals out the door to you."
"Oh, ha ha, Daria."
THE HOUSE ON SPACE TIME LANE
THE LAUNDRY ROOM TO FOREVER
by Galen Hardesty
Daria knocked at the door of her parents’ bedroom, then, at her mother’s invitation, opened the door and entered. Helen, having changed out of her work clothes, was slipping into loafers to go with her casual attire.
"Mom, could you to tell me about this house and its previous owners, and why you and Dad got such a good deal on it? Tell me all you know," Daria requested.
‘Well, sweetie, the real estate agent said the woman who lived in your room, the crazy one, was the original owner, she and her husband. He and their youngest daughter vanished without a trace, and she went mad. Kept searching the house for them. Her son and his wife moved in and took care of her for a few years, and then she disappeared too. The son wanted out of the house so badly that he took our first offer. So it wasn’t just the bars and padding in your room that led to us getting a good deal."
"Did the parents and the girl ever turn up? Do you know anything else about them?"
"I never heard of any of them being found, but I can ask the real estate agent next time I see her." Helen pulled an accordion file out of the closet. She extracted an important-looking document from it, examined it for a minute, and handed it to Daria. "There was an ‘as-is’ clause in the deed, which is a little unusual. And their name was unusual too, even more so than Morgendorffer."
Daria flipped through the document to the last page. ‘Ruykelderfer’?"
"I’d never heard it before. And they pronounced it, ‘Rykledyfer’."
Daria looked through the deed for a few more seconds, long enough to speedread it. There was nothing revelatory there. "I’ve never heard it before either. She folded the deed back up and handed it back to her mother. "Thanks, Mom," she said as she walked out, deep in thought.
"Daria, could you, uh, help me for a minute?" Quinn was standing at the door to the laundry room, arms full of laundry.
Daria rose from the table, came over and opened the door. "Hey, you don’t have that much stuff. You could’ve opened that yourself."
"I know. Could you just come in the laundry room, please? I, um..." Quinn looked down at the floor, embarrassed. "I don’t want to be in there by myself, okay?" Daria started to say something, but the look in Quinn’s eyes stopped her. She sighed and followed Quinn inside.
"So, other than being crowded, do you feel better?" Daria closed the door to make more space inside the laundry room.
Quinn was sorting her clothes on the counter. She looked around uneasily. "Well, actually, I feel... more anxious... like something bad is about to happen, and I need to do something."
"Yeah, I feel it too. But I don’t see anything, other than that poor dust bunny drowning in that wet spot. Where is the bad thing happening?"
Quinn’s head snapped around, and she stared intently at the other door, the one that led to the dining room. Or, sometimes, the basement stairs. "Did you hear that?"
Daria was about to reply in the negative when she heard something too, something that sounded like a faint, faraway scream. It would have seemed to be coming from the dining room, if the dining room had been two blocks long. The scream came again, and Daria snatched the door open.
Intense tropical sunlight streamed through. Daria and Quinn gaped, slack-jawed, at the lush green meadow where the dining room should have been. In the distance, a tropical forest and a brilliant blue sky contrasted starkly with the rest of the scene. Three people, a middle-aged man, an older woman, and a girl about Quinn’s age, were running directly toward them.
Then Daria saw what they were running from, and her eyes widened in horror. Behind the people and the meadow and the forest loomed a volcano, and it was erupting. A wall of churning, roiling ash was blasting down the slope of the volcano at hundreds of miles per hour. It reached the forest, and the forest vanished. The wall of ash rolled on, unstoppable. The terrible words formed unbidden in Daria’s mind: Pyroclastic flow.
"Over here! Run! Run faster!" Quinn screamed at the fleeing people. Taking a step out the door, she jumped up and down, waving her arms. The girl saw her and seemed to increase her speed a bit, but then she looked back over her shoulder and screamed again. The man, in the ragged remains of what must once have been a pair of shorts or slacks, and the woman, in pink pajamas, waved at her to keep going. The girl turned back and ran on, her face a mask of despair. The towering wall of ash bore down on them at a hideous velocity. Daria wanted to shout some encouragement, to urge them to greater speed as Quinn was doing, but her vocal cords would not. She could see they weren’t going to make it.
The woman stumbled and fell, and vanished under the ash cloud. The man disappeared a split second later. Daria reached out, dragged Quinn back through the door and slammed it, but not before they heard the girl scream one last time as the ash cloud swallowed her up, less than fifty yards away.
Daria shoved Quinn out of the laundry room into the kitchen and slammed that door too, and mindlessly followed her sister as she ran out of the kitchen and dove over the back of the sofa. Seizing each other in a terrified embrace, they huddled there, shivering and sobbing, for what seemed a very long time.
Daria timidly raised her head and looked around. All was as it had been. The Morgendorffer family room looked reassuringly normal. Untangling herself from Quinn, she half rose and picked up the box of tissues from the coffee table. After blowing her nose as daintily as possible, she used a second tissue to wipe her face. Replacing her glasses, she saw that Quinn was beginning to do the same.
Quinn looked up at her sister with big frightened eyes. In a small, shaky voice, she asked, "Daria, was that... real?"
Daria returned Quinn’s look with the ghost of a smile. "That question just begs for a philosophical discussion, but for your purposes, I think... yes."
"Then those people actually got buried under all that dust? Do you think they could’ve gotten out? Where was that? Who were they?"
Daria dabbed at her eyes and wiped her nose, and spoke softly to the floor. "That was a pyroclastic flow. That ash was red hot. They died almost instantly. Where? An island, probably in the south Pacific. It kind of looked like a picture of Tahiti I saw once. As for who they were, there’s really no way to know, but I think it was the people who used to live here and vanished mysteriously. The madwoman, her husband, and their youngest daughter."
Quinn gasped. "You don’t really think..."
"Granted, none of this makes any sense, and granted, it could be anybody, but yeah, that’s what I think."
Quinn pondered this for a moment. "Ohh, that’s so sad... lost for all these years, and then we find them, and they almost make it back, but, but... ohhh, gyaaa-a-a-ha-ha-hahhh..."
Quinn broke down again, and Daria, much to her chagrin, found herself doing the same. Rather than huddle on the sofa and trade facial fluids with Quinn again, she managed to make her way to the kitchen and come back with two glasses of water.
Several minutes later, after more leakage and more cleanup, Quinn looked up once more at her big sister. "Daria, what just happened? How did it happen? What caused it?"
Daria shrugged. "The distortion, I guess."
"That, that... distortion in the time-space continuation? How does it work?"
"Quinn, if I could tell you that, I’d be the smartest human being who ever lived. And, while I do aspire to that high estate... hmm. Hey, I just thought of something. Your eyes are better than mine. How long would you say it would take that man’s clothes to get into that condition?"
"Jeez, Daria, I don’t hang onto clothes when they start to show wear! But, basing a guess on Dad’s favorite work pants, and assuming he wore that one pair all the time, I’d say... two or three years?"
"And what was the girl wearing? Did you notice?"
"Well, of course I noticed. Some sort of fur lion cloth. If I had to guess, I’d say rat fur."
"You mean loincloth?"
"Whatever. It was practically nothing. If those were her parents, I’d have to say there were definitely no other men on the island, and no other clothes, either."
"Hmm. Interesting deduction. I was thinking that whatever she was wearing when she arrived had likely worn out completely. But the woman was wearing pajamas. Aside from the grass stains, I didn’t see any signs of wear on them, and I wouldn’t expect pajamas to hold up all that well in the jungle. How long would you say she’d been there?"
"Hey, you’re right! She couldn’t have been there much more than a week, maybe just a day or two!"
"But she vanished shortly before we moved here, almost two years ago. Assuming she’s the madwoman, that would mean that, when we looked through that door, we were looking two years back in time! And that means..." Daria rose and strode purposefully toward the laundry room door.
Quinn rose and followed. "Not to mention half a world away. And I stepped through!"
"Fools rush in where angels fear to tread." Daria was sniffing at the crack of the door and feeling for heat with one hand. She opened the door a crack, peeked in, and instantly slammed it shut again.
"Eep! What is it?" squeaked Quinn, alarmed.
"The laundry room. It looks okay." Daria cautiously opened the door again and peered inside, then stepped through.
"DARia! If you make me wet my pants, you’re washing them!"
"I’m worrying about my ass, not your pants." Daria approached the other door, palm extended toward it. Feeling no excess heat, she ran a finger across the floor at its base, checking for ash. Not finding any, she cautiously placed an ear against the door, then relaxed a bit. "Well, the house seems to be back to normal, whatever ‘normal’ means for this house." She turned and looked at her younger sibling. "How do you feel?"
"Frazzled. I think I survived." That reminded Quinn of the three who hadn’t survived. She started to tear up again.
"No, I mean, do you still have that feeling that something bad is about to happen, and you should do something?"
"DARia, something bad like, already happened!"
Daria looked around, irritated. "Well, I still have that same feeling."
"Well, maybe I do, too, but those poor people are dead now! If only we’d opened the door a little sooner, or been a little closer, they might have made it, but now it’s too late!"
Daria turned her head sharply at that and stared at Quinn, and her green eyes lit up with a mad inspiration. "Think, Quinn. We just went at least two years back in time, maybe a whole lot more. When you can travel back in time, there’s no such thing as too late. ‘A little sooner and a little closer’, you said. Okay, let’s go for it!"
Belatedly, Quinn’s ‘crazy sister’ alarm went off. "Daria! What the hell are you thinking?!"
Daria‘s answering smile made Quinn’s blood run cold. In a voice more vibrant than Quinn had ever heard it she said, "I’m thinking, "Let’s do the time warp again!" Before Quinn could say "eep!" she had spun around and yanked open the dining room door.
Intense tropical sunlight streamed through. Before them stretched the lush green meadow. In the distance, a tropical forest and a brilliant blue sky contrasted starkly with the erupting volcano. A middle-aged man, an older woman, and a girl about Quinn’s age were running directly toward them, less than fifty yards away.
Daria was through the door at a run before she could form a thought, heading straight for the woman in the pink pajamas, the one who had stumbled last time. The woman who had lived in her room longer than she had. The author of the poetry on her closet walls. Glancing up at the volcano, she saw the pyroclastic flow barreling down its slope. Her boots cut through the tall grass like scythes. The wind whistled past her ears and pulled her hair out behind her. She felt her lips pull back from her teeth as she realized she’d gone into overdrive. She dashed past the girl and the man and skidded to a halt beside the woman just as she stumbled.
A glance at the mountain showed her that the wall of ash had almost reached the high edge of the forest. Daria lifted the woman up, turned and ran for the door, pulling and partly supporting her. The man had turned and was heading back. Daria yelled, "GO! GO!" He ignored her and took the woman’s other arm as they pounded past him. Steadied and pushed forward on both sides, she was able to keep up a creditable pace. Daria realized she wasn’t as old as she looked at first glance. Perhaps she’d gone prematurely gray after her husband and daughter had disappeared.
Quinn was holding the door, beckoning and yelling encouragement. The girl was almost there, running strongly. Daria couldn’t help noticing the rippling muscles beneath her deeply tanned skin. She was in excellent physical shape. Daria wished, a bit enviously, that she could spend a year or two on some tropical isle, buffing up and working on her tan in a fur bikini. Or part of one. Just not this isle, not this year.
Daria glanced over her shoulder just as the last of the forest vanished beneath the pyroclastic flow. "FASTER!" She yelled, and urged the woman forward as fast as her husband on her other side could keep up. The girl vanished into the laundry room and Quinn wisely followed her. They were almost there. "Home", she thought. Giving the woman a final push, Daria grabbed the doorknob and pulled it shut behind her. Then she was through the kitchen door and leaning on a counter, gasping and wheezing like the others, feeling the hot pounding rush of blood through her arteries and the fierce joy of having robbed Death of his prey.
The girl looked around. "Hey, we’re home! How did you know where we lived? And how did you find us and take us back?"
Daria suddenly realized that these people had traded one set of problems for a completely different set. "Well, actually, we live here now. After your mother disappeared, your brother sold the house. And I suppose we found you the same way your mother found you."
The implications of their situation seemed to be occurring to the man, as well. He visibly sagged under the weight of returning responsibilities and new problems. "Oh, gosh. We don’t have a house. I probably don’t have a job. And if we’ve been declared dead, we won’t have anything. I’ve got to find out what our legal status is, and what to do about it."
Suddenly Daria really felt sorry for this man. "Well, my Mom is a lawyer. She can at least tell you how to get started. Oh, she and Dad will be getting home soon. Why don’t we find you guys some clothes?"
Helen Morgendorffer shut off her engine, got out, and stretched a little. It felt good to get home a little early for a change. Helen thought longingly of stretching out in a recliner with a wine cooler, but then came the guilty thought that she should use this time to get caught up with her family’s lives.
She hadn’t even made it halfway to the front door when it opened and Daria came out. "Hi, Mom, how was work?" she asked.
Her maternal instincts tingling, Helen answered, "Not too bad. It was kind of a slow day."
"That’s great," Daria replied. "Hey, you know the people who used to live here and disappeared?"
"I haven’t had time to talk to the real estate lady yet, Daria."
"That’s okay. We found them."
Helen stopped in her tracks. She couldn’t quite get a handle on that seemingly simple statement. "You… found them? How? Where?"
"They were…" Daria paused, looked down at the ground, and scratched her head. "…in the dining room," she finished, checking Helen’s expression. "I lent Mrs. Ruykelderfer some of your clothes, and Mr. Ruykelderfer some of Dad’s. I hope that’s all right."
Helen stood there, staring at Daria, who wasn’t showing even the faintest trace of a smirk. After a couple of seconds, she closed her mouth. After a few more, she said, "You found them. In the dining room. In our dining room? Naked?"
"Oh, no, not naked," Daria replied, although it seemed to Helen that she hesitated a bit. "They just needed a change of clothes."
Helen seemed to be having trouble deciding what her next question should be, so Daria said, "Where they’ve been, there weren’t any clothes except what they were wearing when they got there." She hesitated, then added, "They were on an uninhabited island."
This clarification raised more questions for Helen than it answered. She asked one. "And how did they get from this uninhabited island to my dining room?"
Daria looked down at her feet and scratched her head again. "I don’t think I can answer that. Uh, look, I’ll tell you all I can, and I’m sure they will too, but this is going to take a long time. We should probably wait till Dad gets home, so we only have to do it once. Do you want to go in now? Mr. Ruykelderfer thinks they’ve probably been declared dead, and doesn’t know what to do about it."
"They’re still here, then," Helen asked. Daria nodded.
"Yes, I’ll come in. Why did you meet me outside?"
"I didn’t think you’d want to walk in on this cold."
Helen smiled a small, crooked smile. "Good thinking."
THE HOUSE ON SPACE TIME LANE
AND HE BUILT A CROOKED HOUSE
by Galen Hardesty
Daria counted out bills to pay for the pizza plus a decent tip, and handed them to the girl in the Dirty Pierre hat. "Thanks, Tananda," she said.
"Thank you, Daria, and call again," replied the girl, as she turned and headed back to the front door.
Quinn entered the kitchen just after the pizza girl had left. "Not a bad outfit, except for the hat," she commented idly. "She should lose the green hair, though. What kind of name is Tananda, anyway?"
"Mohican," said Daria, as she opened the pizza box. She and Jane began identifying the largest pieces and formulating strategies to claim them for their own. Quinn opened the refrigerator and began searching through the vegetable crisper.
"So why are we here eating this admittedly not-bad-at-all Dirty Pierre’s Sourdough Crust Carnivore Supreme instead of down at Pizza King scarfing one of their baked-on-a-big-stone-slab-and-scooped-out-with-a-big-wooden-paddle masterpieces of greases?" inquired Jane briefly.
"Privacy. Certain topics are best not discussed in a Greasy Fingers full of nit-, half-, and dimwits. That is, unless you want to start a major panic."
Jane hiked an eyebrow. "Panic, huh? Well, what say we discuss the topic first, and then start the panic later if there’s nothing good on TV. But what about the veep there?" Jane cocked a thumb at Quinn, who was daintily nibbling carrot sticks and making occasional eww faces at the pizza. "When did she get her Top Secret clearance?"
Daria eyed her sibling sardonically. "She’s in it up to her slender, dimpled, bouncy eyeballs. If she wants to talk, she already knows enough for an entire episode of Sick Sad World. After which, she’d win a two-decade all-expense-paid vacation to Area 51, and never be met with again."
Quinn stuck out her tongue, which was lightly coated with mangled carrot bits.
"Eewww, gross!" Jane squinted in mock disgust at the offending organ, which quickly disappeared. "So what does Pinky know that’s so bizarre? Did she discover a subspecies of Chupacabra that only sucks cellulite out of thighs?"
"Even better. Quinn is only the fourth earth human to travel through space and time using only a laundry room door."
"Well, that would sound pretty cool if I believed it. Where does the panic come in?"
"Remember the Daleks? Remember the hyperspace bridge they set up as part of their slave raid? What if it became generally known that there was a space-time warp like that somewhere in town, and that the first three people who went through it died horribly?"
"Hmm, yeah, that would start a panic pretty effectively. Um, is there a space-time warp in town?"
Jane smiled uneasily and glanced around. "And did the first three people through it die horribly?"
The smile was gone from Daria’s face. "Yes. Quinn and I were the fourth and fifth. We saw it happen."
Jane’s smile disappeared and her unease grew as the laundry room door caught her restless eye. "Uh, well, how about telling your old buddy Jane where it is, so I won’t fall into it?"
The patented Morgendorffer evil smirk slowly bloomed on Daria’s sweet face. Jane glanced at Quinn and saw that she was also wearing it. "Too late, Jane, you’re already in it," quoth she. Daria nodded.
Jane’s complexion lightened a shade. A fine sheen of perspiration appeared on her forehead. She could tell Daria wasn’t lying. "Oh, heh-heh, well, the mystery finally solved, eh? Now we know why you’re so warped." She attempted a smile.
Quinn had another two cents’ worth, and she put it in. "Naah, she was thoroughly warped long before we came here. I think Daria and this house were made for each other. It was like that thing... you know, kissmat."
Daria’s smirk became a shade more humorous, but she forbore to comment on Quinn’s newly minted word. "That is what warped the previous occupant of my room, though." Between bites of pizza, she told Jane the story of the madwoman and her family.
Jane listened raptly to the narrative, becoming increasingly more goggle-eyed. "Wow! You went back in time and saved them after they were killed by the volcano? That’s fantastic!"
"No, we went back and saved them before they were killed by the volcano. It’s much easier that way. Less messy too. But that brings us to what I think is the most bizarre aspect of this whole, uhh, situation. There appears to be some high-level interaction taking place between some of the occupants of this house and the distortion. That last time it apparently did what I wanted it to do, and before that, it seemed to be communicating to me and Quinn, urging us to take action."
"And it took the woman to her husband and daughter, although it took two or three years to do it." Quinn observed.
"Hmm. How did the husband and daughter get lost in the first place, and why couldn’t they come back on their own like you did?"
"Good question. No, excellent question. I don’t know." Daria admitted.
"Maybe they closed the door and couldn’t find it again," Quinn speculated.
"Could be," Daria agreed thoughtfully. "It could well be as simple as that."
Jane scratched her head, leaving a pale thread of mozzarella amongst her ebon tresses. "So do you think that... whatever this is was trying to return the first two to where they belonged, and tried using the madwoman to help, but she messed up somehow, and then tried you? And if so, now that they’re back, will that end the strange goings-on?"
"That’s an interesting way to look at it. Most of that could be more-or-less true, but the strangeness hasn’t stopped. The house is still here."
Jane looked puzzled. "Huh? What’s the house got to do with the space-time warp, other than proximity? It’s just a house, isn’t it?"
Daria and Quinn exchanged smirks. Daria walked over to the dining room door. "Where does this door go, Jane?" she asked.
Jane gave Daria a peculiar look. "To the garage, last time I looked."
Daria opened it and beckoned. "Look again."
Jane gave Daria a very peculiar look, but came over and looked. "A dining room! When did you put this in?"
"It was here when we bought the place." Daria closed the door.
Jane looked at her accusingly. "Last time I opened that door it went directly to the garage!"
"You mean, like this?" Daria opened the door again. Jane glanced at it, and then did a double take, followed by a gape. There was the garage, too full of boxes, unused sporting goods, and assorted stuff to park so much as a Yugo in.
Jane ungaped as Daria eased the door closed again. "Uh, yeah, just like that," she said weakly "How did you make it look like there was a dining room there?
"Mirrors, maybe?" Smiling her Mona Lisa smile, Daria opened the door again. Jane looked through into the dining room. "Check it out. See if you can find the trick."
Slowly, hesitantly, Jane entered the dining room. Hands groping ahead of her as if she didn’t trust her eyes, she felt a chair back, then rapped on the tabletop. Then she pulled the chair out, lifted it off the floor, and set it back in its place. She stepped to the window and looked out, then tried to see how far the outside wall went in either direction, which she could not do. She looked carefully around the room, her gaze stopping more than once on Daria, who was lounging in the doorway to the kitchen and smiling a smile with smirky undertones.
Jane glared at Daria, then turned to a china cabinet. Removing a couple of cut-glass tumblers, she tapped on the mirror behind them. She spent some time looking between that mirror and the mirror behind the bar against the opposite wall. Aside from setting up an ‘infinite set of rooms’ illusion seriously weakened by the contents of the china cabinet, they did not appear to be doing anything pseudo-magical.
"All right, to my limited sensory apparatus, this appears to be an actual dining room. It’s a great trick. How are you doing it?"
"I don’t know. It’s a fabulous trick, and you can’t imagine how much I wish I knew how it works. I just seem to be able to work it."
Jane stared at Daria for a minute, a puzzled expression on her face. "Well, where does this room go when you need to get into the garage? Or is this the real room, and the garage a fake?"
"They’re both real rooms, and they don’t go anywhere. It’s just that if I want to go into the dining room, I open the door and go into the dining room. If I want to go to the garage, I open the door and go into the garage." Daria shrugged.
"That’s insane. So you’re telling me that if I wanted to go into, say, the music room, I could just open this door and step into the music room?" Jane gestured at a door on the other side of the dining room from the kitchen door, a door that Daria knew would lead to the garage now.
"That would be neat," said Daria, amused at the conceit of a music room in the Morgendorffer home. "Be my guest."
Jane’s look said she suspected that Daria was playing another trick on her, but her curiosity was overpowering her better judgment. She turned the handle, opened it, and gasped.
Daria hurried around the dining room table and through the door after Jane, who was standing dumbstruck two steps in. A gleaming black Steinway Concert Grand Piano dominated the room, its top reflecting the crystal chandelier above it. A chandelier hung from a ceiling high enough to make Quinn’s bedroom, which was supposedly right above it, uninhabitable. A beautiful Persian carpet nearly covered the hardwood floor. A large bay window looked out onto the driveway. Between two planters holding broad-leafed tropical plants stood a cello on a stand. Shelves on the wall held violin, clarinet, and bassoon cases. Black laquered chairs with oriental embroidered seat cushions and music stands stood around.
Jane picked up the cello and began examining it, occasionally plucking a string. Daria opened the clarinet case, and was surprised at the soft glow of silver and ebony instead of the shiny chrome and plastic she’d expected. Closing it, she opened the violin case, which was obviously old, but very well cared for. The violin inside was extraordinarily beautiful, with a patina of much use and loving care. It seemed to beg to be picked up. Hesitantly, Daria did so. Quinn came in unnoticed and was drawn to the piano.
"Look inside it, Daria. See if there’s a label," Jane suggested, as she carefully set the cello back in its stand.
Daria did so, and saw that a small piece of paper had been glued to the inside back of the violin. She turned it back and forth to read the printing on it, and the date, which looked like it had been filled in with a quill pen, then started in surprise and very gently returned the violin to its case. She turned to Jane.
"It says… ‘Antonius Stradivarius Cremonensis faciebat Anno 1687," she said, a note of wonder in her voice.
THE HOUSE ON SPACE TIME LANE
GUESS WHO’S COMING FOR PIZZA
by Galen Hardesty
Daria turned to Jane. "It says… ‘Antonius Stradivarius Cremonensis faciebat Anno 1687," she said, a note of wonder in her voice.
Jane nodded. "The cello, too," she said. With one accord, the two left the room, lest they break something priceless.
As they headed across the dining room, Daria asked, "Jane, was that room like what you were thinking it would be when you opened the door?"
Jane passed into the kitchen. "Ha! Not even! I was thinking guitars, a keyboard, and a drum set, like Spiral would play if they could afford to trade up."
"It was exactly like I pictured it," Daria said quietly, with a look as of one who glimpses enormous implications. "Except I didn’t imagine that the violin would be a Strad."
Jane gave Daria a sideways look. "What do you mean? Haven’t you been in there lots of times?"
"No, Jane. I’ve never seen that room before. This house doesn’t have a music room, or rather, it didn’t until the second you said the words ‘music room’ a few minutes ago.
Now Jane wore the enormous implications look. She seemed to settle on one quite rapidly, though. "Well then, come on, Daria, let’s go find the treasury!"
Grinning, Daria replied, "Whoa there, big fella! Before you start wallowing in the Morgendorffer family jewels, I believe we should give this more thought. There are probably a lot of hidden implications here that could sneak up and bite us. You know what they say--- there’s no such thing as a free lunch."
"C’mon, Daria. You just got yourself two free Stradivarii."
"Yeah, but from where? Just because Interpol hasn’t surrounded the house yet doesn’t mean they won’t. And look at the Ruykelderfers. They got themselves a free vacation in the south Pacific. If you’d seen the expressions on their faces just before the red hot ash swallowed them up---"
"All right- you may, may, I say, have a point. But…" Jane got an ‘aha!’ face. "Hey! I know what this reminds me of!" Jane waved a finger in the air. "Remember that weird guy and that blue telephone booth-looking thing? The one we went to the Dalek world in?"
Daria brightened. "The TARDIS! Yeah, this is kind of like the inside of that thing. I didn’t get to explore it, but it was a lot bigger on the inside than on the outside, and I seem to remember that some of those doors didn’t always lead to the same room. And that would tie in with the time travel too!"
"Exactly! I bet that Doctor guy could tell us what’s up with this house! You should ask him!"
"I’d love to, but I can’t just fling open a door and expect the Doctor to leap out." Daria flung open the laundry room door as she spoke, and the Doctor leapt out, slamming it shut behind him. "AAAH!"
He looked the same as last time she’d seen him. Wavy brown hair under a wide-rimmed slouch hat, a rather long oddly-tailored brown coat, a very long multicolored knit scarf. He somehow reminded Daria of Harpo Marx. "Hello, Doctor" she said, a trifle diffidently. "I hope I didn’t take you away from anything important."
"Truth be told, you may have taken me away from my death scene. A group of Daleks had somehow managed to cut me off from my TARDIS and... Hold on a bit. How did you take me away, and to where?"
"We were just talking about you, and I opened that door, and you popped out. This is my house, in Lawndale."
The Doctor cautiously opened the door Daria had indicated, and saw only a laundry room. "Lawndale? The United States? Earth circa 2000 AD?" Daria nodded. The Doctor blinked a couple of times, then said, "You have quite a reach, Daria. It is Daria, is it not?" Daria smiled and nodded again, a bit surprised he’d remembered her. "I was seventy-three light years from here, and several millennia in the past."
"Wow. I guess I’d be proud if I’d actually done anything."
"I am here. That is a not inconsiderable thing. Many have tried to put the arm on the Doctor, and few have succeeded," he said, sounding a bit miffed. "So tell me, Daria, where is your TARDIS, and how did you come by it?"
Daria turned to her sister. "Quinn, would you order another pizza, please? This may take a while, and we'll probably need some brain food."
Turning back to face the Doctor’s intense gaze, Daria was reminded that this was a powerful alien being, a being who could be expected to be protective of his species’ time travel abilities, and unfavorably disposed towards other species’ acquisition of those abilities. "If I have a TARDIS, I’m certainly not aware of it. Jane had just mentioned how this house resembles your TARDIS in some ways, and we were wondering if you might be able to shed some light on that. That’s how your name came up." Daria showed the Doctor what she had showed Jane, and told him of the previous owners and their rescue.
"Remarkable. Astounding, actually. Daria, there are many models of TARDIS, some more advanced than mine. But they all have control consoles or panels, on which we must input coordinates to travel through space and time." The Doctor acquired the look of one who has just been smitten by a thought. "Wait a minute. Except for one. It sat in a museum on Gallifrey for over a hundred years, but disappeared a few years ago. It was constructed from an incomplete set of plans thought to date back to the Golden Age, and finished out using the latest scientific advancements. It was supposed to be controllable directly by the mind of its pilot, but no one could be found who could control it well enough to actually take it out on a test run. Enough Time Lords were capable of partial control to prove that the concept worked and that all the machine’s systems were functional, but..."
Just then, there was a knock on the patio door. The pizza girl stood outside. Daria motioned, and she came in and laid the pizza box on the table.
"Hi, Tananda. Just a second," said Daria, reaching in her pocket.
"Hi again, Daria," she replied, giving the Doctor an interested look. "Party?"
"Just an old friend popping by unexpectedly," Daria replied, counting out the money.
"Hey, I like the hair," said Jane. "That’s a great shade."
"Thanks," she replied.
"You wouldn’t by any chance be an Argyllian, would you? The doctor inquired.
"Uh, no, Libertarian, actually," Tananda replied, "But I keep an open mind."
Daria handed her some bills. "Thanks," she said, pocketing them. "Enjoy!" With a last curious look at the Doctor, she left the way she’d come in.
The four took seats at the table, and the Doctor continued. "To skip ahead a bit, it was concluded that we present day Time Lords were lacking in some mental faculty that the SuperTARDIS, as it became known, was designed to interface with, some faculty that we’d possessed in greater abundance in the Golden Age. Whether we were slowly declining, or whether we’d lost it suddenly for some unknown reason and were slowly regaining it is still hotly debated, but a consensus formed that we should find a way to recover what we’d lost, if possible. One of the ways this was attempted was a... for want of a better word... breeding program."
Seeing the looks this elicited, he nodded, "Yes, I know, and I agree. Many objections were advanced against it at the time. Many people didn’t like the idea, for one reason or another, but a majority concluded that, as long as no coercion was involved, it was probably a good thing, overall. So a program was put together using appeals for the good of the species and a system of incentives.
The program continued down through the years, periodically publishing reports laden with statistics that purported to show progress. There was always controversy, but never enough to threaten to halt the program. The first families of Gallifrey were all solidly behind it, probably because their scores were higher than average, and they probably would have continued it on their own if the government had halted the official program. Others participated because they didn’t want the first families to take it over. And then... tragedy struck.
"Tragedy? In a breeding program?" Jane was having trouble picturing what form such a tragedy might take.
The Doctor, seeing similar expressions on Daria and Quinn’s faces, smiled a bit and continued. "Tragedy in a romantic sense. Mostly. A daughter of one of the first families had an astounding score, the highest of any Gallifreyan. A son of another leading family also had a very high score, the highest of any eligible bachelor. They were the same age, their families were fairly close, and they’d known each other since childhood. It was believed that their offspring would have an excellent chance of being able to pilot the SuperTARDIS. The marriage was arranged. But here is where the tragedy shows up. The girl, whose name was Amalie, loved another, and the other loved her. Madly. Although the lad’s score was pretty high, it wasn’t very very high, and he wasn’t a scion of one of the first families. His father was sort of a disreputable fellow.
Anyway, the families wouldn’t hear of it. She was forbidden to marry her not-upper-class true love. The wedding plans went forward. And then she sprung her surprise. She was with child, by her lover.
Well, the haggis hit the propeller, as you earthlings say. Amalie’s parents, and Rothian’s, flew into towering snits. It was said that coercion was applied, that she was to be compelled to become un-pregnant and to wed Rothian, who, somewhat to his credit, began to object at this point. He really wanted to wed her, but not under these circumstances. But his objections, as hers, went unheeded.
But they hadn’t actually imprisoned her, and it was then that she committed her act of desperation. She visited the museum where the SuperTARDIS was kept, and she stole it. She used the cause of her misfortune as her means of escape, or perhaps suicide. No one knew. It was reasoned that, if escape was her plan, and if she were in control of the superTARDIS, she would have picked up her lover Darvian. But, for whatever reason, she did not. Amalie and the SuperTARDIS vanished from the ken of the Time Lords, and into legend and romantic fantasy. Since then, we have searched time and space for her, and it, with no success."
Tears streamed down Quinn’s cheeks. "Oh, that’s so beautiful! And so sad! She leaps blindly into the void, rather than be unfaithful to her true love! It’s better than Romeo and Juliet! If only it could have a happy ending. Doctor, do you think it’s still possible that Amalie might be found alive?"
"Not long ago, I’d have said the chance was small indeed. Theoretically, the superTARDIS has a range greater than any other TARDIS. If it was partially or totally out of control, there’s no logic the searchers could follow to guide their search. It could have wound up anywhere. Space is vast, especially throughout all of time. But I’d have kept looking, even while doing other things, for all my lives regardless of the odds."
"Because everyone loves Amalie, or because the Time Lords need the superTARDIS?" Daria asked.
The Doctor gave her a peculiar little half smile. "Both. But mostly because Amalie’s lover Darvian is my son."
THE HOUSE ON SPACE-TIME LANE
THE SEARCH FOR AMALIE
by Galen Hardesty
Daria looked at him, eyes wide, then she looked down and blushed. "I’m sorry," she said. That was a tactless thing to say."
"No, it wasn’t." he replied. "It was honest, even insightful, if somewhat cynical."
"Thanks. Umm, you sounded as if you now believe the chances of finding her are better."
"Quite. Having recalculated the odds based on new data, I find they are dramatically improved."
"I am fairly certain the superTARDIS is here, coexisting with this house, using it as a disguise."
The three girls stared at him, wide-eyed. Even though Jane and Daria had been thinking something along those lines, the implications were staggering. "It can do that?" Jane asked.
"You’ve seen my TARDIS. From the outside, it looks like a police call box that you might’ve seen on a London sidewalk in the mid twentieth century. That’s because its chameleon circuit jammed when I was visiting that period, and I haven’t been able to fix it. My access to repair shops on Gallifrey has been somewhat limited of late. Normally, it would be able to look like nearly anything I wanted it to. This machine’s disguise capability is more advanced. The part of it that emerges into normal space can coexist with objects in its vicinity. Its entryway could become, say, a tree that the local population has been familiar with for many years."
"But that’s not important. If this is the superTARDIS, that means Amalie must be here on Earth. There are barely more than three billion women on this planet, so that narrows the search down dramatically."
Daria said, "Well, if she’s here on earth, try thinking about her and opening that door." The Doctor gave her a peculiar look. "Hey, it might work. Couldn’t hurt. That’s how you got here."
Shaking his head slightly, The Doctor adopted a posture indicative of concentration, pinching the bridge of his nose between left thumb and forefinger, and holding his left elbow in his right hand. He closed his eyes.
"Okay, when you’re ready, open the door."
"Daria? Is that you?"
Even slightly muffled, Daria instantly recognized the voice. "Aunt Amy?"
"Daria, what are you doing in town? And why are you hiding in this alley?" asked the muffled voice.
"What? I’m in the kitchen. Where are you?" Acting on a hunch, Daria stepped forward and opened the laundry room door. There stood Amy in an alley. Behind her, outside the alley mouth, a narrow slice of a city larger than Lawndale was visible.
The Doctor’s eyes lit up. He made a peculiar low bow toward Amy with his hands behind his back and his chin held high. "Miss Amalie." he said.
Amy gasped, and her face lit up in a surprised smile, which was quickly replaced by an expression akin to apprehension. "Well, I see you can operate this thing better than I could." Amy said to the Doctor.
Daria noted with astonishment and a sense of foreboding that they seemed to know each other. She was totally at a loss for what to think about the Doctor calling Amy Amalie.
"I don’t know that I can operate it at all, milady. Haven’t tried yet. Here is your operator. Here is our superTARDIS pilot. The long-hoped-for reincarnation of the Time Lords of the Golden Age." The Doctor gestured to Daria.
Realizing that she’d been standing there slack jawed for several seconds, Daria made an effort to close her mouth and say something intelligent. "But how can I be a reincarnation of a Time Lord? I’m an earth girl, and I’m pretty sure Mom and Dad are too. I mean..."
The Doctor’s eyes flicked over to Amy and back to Daria. "Right, well, ah... with your permission, Daria, I’ll just go and have a poke about. Give you and your, ahh, aunt a chance to, um, catch up." And with that he was through the laundry room door, pausing briefly to make sure it was indeed the laundry room.
Daria slowly turned back to Amy, her thoughts in an uproar. Hope, fear, belief, disbelief, longing, and incredulity warred for control. Where was her vaunted cynicism when she needed it? Facts, suppositions, and wild speculations clashed and meshed, forming grand and terrible pictures that threatened to destroy her worldview and perhaps her sanity. If Amy was Amalie, that meant she had flown the SuperTARDIS that was this house from Gallifrey to Earth as a lovesick, pregnant teenager. She must have had the baby shortly thereafter. But that was impossible. This was Amy Barksdale, Helen’s kid sister. Helen had told her lots of Amy stories, going back to when they were both young children. She would surely have mentioned Amy being an alien if that were the case. And how could she have had two childhoods on two separate planets?
And what had become of Amalie’s baby? And why had the Doctor referred to Daria as ‘the long-hoped-for reincarnation of the Time Lords of the Golden Age’? He couldn’t mean... naah, of course not. He’d said Amalie had vanished ‘a few years ago’. To Daria, eighteen was more than a few. But then, there were time machines in this story. Time machines could play havoc with time and sequences of events.
The one thing Daria felt fairly certain of was that Amy had something very important to tell her.
Amy’s gaze was caught by Daria’s eyes. She couldn’t remember ever seeing such longing before. Oh, wait. Yes, she could. A long time ago, on a planet far, far away, in the eyes of... oh, lord, she had his eyes! Amy wanted to back away, to run away, to hide from those hungry, yearning, beautiful eyes. She gripped the counter edge to stop herself.
Daria watched the flow of expressions across Amy’s face, and read her answers there. She felt as if her world was cracking and crumbling beneath her feet, but somehow, right now, she didn’t care. Another world was waiting, a world filled with undreamt-of wonders, and she had wings to take her there.
End Part One
[Jane is crying. She realizes she will lose Daria. Quinn is puzzled. Jane explains. Quinn cries?]
Jane watched as Daria and Amy stared at each other for a long moment, and then suddenly fell into each other’s arms. She had never seen Daria hug anyone that fiercely before.
Quinn also watched the tender scene, with puzzlement. Then she looked over at Jane and noted with more puzzlement that tears were streaming down her cheeks. "Jane, what’s the matter?" she asked.
"Daria. ‘M gonna lose her," was all Jane could get out.
Quinn looked back at Daria, still solidly locked to Amy, then back to Jane, looking as though her heart would break. "Lose her? Why? What do you mean?"
Jane’s streaming eyes stayed locked on Daria. "She’s going away. With them. She’s the one who can pilot the SuperTARDIS. The only one."
"Oh, you mean she has to give that Doctor guy a ride to pick up his thingie? Well, that doesn’t sound too bad. She’ll come right back. How long could it take?"
Jane gave Quinn a funny look. "No, Quinn, she won’t come right back. Why should she?" She dabbed at her eyes with a table napkin.
"Well, duh. Because this is her home. Her family and friends are here, and so is all her stuff."
Jane shot Quinn a look of irritation. "Quinn, where have you been? You heard the Doctor tell the story about Amalie and Darvian, and how Amalie got pregnant and then ran away in the SuperTardis, didn’t you?"
"So Daria is the daughter of Amalie and Darvian, so she’s a Gallifreyan, and she’s going home, and she’s gonna meet her real father for the first time, and she’s going to become a Time Lord like her grandfather the Doctor."
Then, finally, Quinn got it. Her eyes opened wide. She gasped, and the color drained from her face. "No! It’s not fair! Just when I decide I’m glad she’s my sister, everything changes! Now you tell me not only is she not my sister, she’s not even human, and she’s going someplace thousands of whatevers away, and I’ll probably never see her again!"
Quinn's wails filled the kitchen. Jane grabbed another napkin from the table and dabbed at her eyes. Daria and Amy stood by the microwave in quiet conversation, often dabbing at their eyes as well. The Doctor stood with his back to the side patio door, quietly observing.