This Mortal Coil: Part One

Submitted by C B Wright on
July 20, 1992

Artemis LaFleur stares at the young man standing before him and realizes he’s staring at a ghost.

He’s certain he’s talking to David Bernard, but he’s not sure that the man is actually here. Artigenian should have sensed him—the physical presence of an unknown should have set off all manner of wards laid across the stone, and even in this fragment of time they would function. So Bernard’s presence is not what it appears.

“You’re not really here,” Artemis says. “How are you doing this?”

David shrugs. “I don’t know how to answer that. I really am asleep right now, if that helps.”

“It doesn’t,” Artemis says. “I’m not even sure how to put that in context.”

“That’s not encouraging,” David says. “I was kind of hoping you’d be able to explain it to me. Can you stand?”

Artemis raises a hand. “Give me a moment.”

The power that contained him is gone now. His hunger and thirst is still there, threatening to overwhelm him, but the surge of hope that accompanies his new-found freedom gives him the strength he needs to rein them in, at least for now. He forces himself onto his hands and knees, and is thankful that nothing broke when he fell.

“I… will… manage…” Artemis grits his teeth and forces himself to his feet. His balance is still unsteady, and he’s not ready to try walking, but for the first time in a very long time he is standing on his own.

“It was hard to break down that circle,” David says. “That’s not going to be a problem, is it? Will it alert that man? The one questioning you?”

“Artigenian,” Artemis says. “No. The prison was bound to me, not him. If it had been bound to anyone but me, it would have vanished when the island reset.”

David nods. “We need to move, then. Can you walk?”

“Not yet.” Artemis sways again. “I’ve been in that prison for quite some time.”

“You don’t look well,” David says.

Artemis closes his eyes and takes a deep, slow breath. “I am very weak. I am very hungry. I am very thirsty. I don’t know how far I’m going to be able to go on my own.”

“Can you teleport?”

Artemis opens his eyes and stares at David’s image. “I might.”

David nods once. “When we were on the plane you told me to meet you in a library. Do you remember? The public library in the capital city.”

Artemis frowns. “Vaguely. I do know the place.”

“Can you teleport there?”

He considers the question. “Perhaps. It would be difficult to manage, but not necessarily impossible. Is it safe?”

“Safer than here,” David says. “I watched the place for a few days before moving in. Nobody comes anywhere near it.”

“How long will it take you to get there?” Artemis asks.

David shrugs. “I’m there right now. All I have to do is wake up.”

Artemis hesitates before answering. He’s weak, weaker than he’s ever been, and he hasn’t been able to use any of his abilities for the past year. He doesn’t know if he has the strength to do it. On the other hand, he doubts he has the strength to leave on foot.

“I will try.” Artemis’ voice is faint, but steady. “I think I can do it.”

“When?” David looks around. “I don’t know how much time we have.”

“We have plenty of time,” Artemis says. “No one returns to this hall for hours, and of the people who return, the only one who will notice my absence is Artigenian. And by then… well, he may have forgotten.”

“OK.” David appears to relax slightly. “Do you want to rest a little before you try?”

Artemis shakes his head. “That will be counter-productive. I must rely on adrenaline, for as long as it lasts. Which may not be long. I’m going to try now.”

“All right,” David says. “I’ll wait until I see you disappear here, then wake up there. I’ll be a little groggy when I wake up so it might take a minute to get to you.”

“I will be at the front desk,” Artemis says.

“OK. Good luck.”

Artemis closes his eyes. In the past, teleportation has been an almost effortless affair, with very few exceptions—but in the past he was healthy, and in much better shape than his apparent age suggested. He is operating at the very limits of strength and endurance now, and his famed concentration eludes him.

It’s because you’re doing it wrong.

He’s been in that prison for so long that he’s nearly forgotten who he is. His gifts were mostly suppressed in there, and now, in his desperate state, he’s grasping at them clumsily. He tsks to himself in annoyance.

I am my only master.

Immediately the feelings of hunger and thirst vanish. This is a dangerous state to stay in for any length of time, but it is, for the moment, a blessing. He stands straighter, clears his mind, and concentrates. He feels his power stirring, then—his real power, not the magician’s crutch he’d relied on when Esperanza was his home. He focuses on the memory of the place he wants to be and wills himself to be there.

The power that surges through him brings with it a pain so great that he cannot suppress it. This mode of travel requires energy, and he has so very little. It burns through him as the world shifts around him; moments later, when he collapses on red-and-brown industrial carpeting, he loses all semblance of self control.


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Missing 'has'?

Missing 'has'?

This mode of travel requires energy, and he so very little.



Writer, former musician, occasional cartoonist, and noted authority on his own opinions.

Gah, caught me slipping into

Gah, caught me slipping into past tense again.

Both fixed, thanks.

Writer, former musician, occasional cartoonist, and noted authority on his own opinions.

Possible typo: self control

Possible typo: self control is more commonly written as self-control. I have seen it both ways.

"I am my only master." allows Artemis to temporarily ignore his problems - interesting. A mental discipline? An aspect of his power?

David's lucid dreaming can interact with some but not all of the island - another interesting point. Apparently, magic is what David can interact with. Perhaps David is developing superpowers. It would be very interesting if David can still interact with magic while dreaming even after they get off of the island.

“Artigenian should have

“Artigenian should have sensed him—the physical presence of an unknown should have set off all manner of wards lain across the stone,”

Oooh, you got a fun one! Lain is a past participle, but not a direct past, and it's the past participle for lie, not lay. Lie is intransitive where lay is transitive; one lies down, but one lays down wards (or a book, or...). So he had lain down, but the wards had been laid down. The wards had lain across the stone since Artigenian placed them there, but they had been laid by Artigenian. I'm pretty sure that in this case it's lay you mean, not lie; if it was lie, the correct form would actually be lying. So I think what you mean is all manner of wards laid (where "laid" is standing for "that had been laid") across the stone. If I am wrong please correct me, but at any rate I don't believe you can use lain.

(Just to make it even more fun, “lay” is the past tense of “to lie”. “I lie down, but I lay the book down; I lay down, but I laid the book down; I have lain down, and I have laid the book down.” If that's any help.)

(Yes, they are confused all the time.)

Also, um, I'm really sorry, but...

““That’s not encouraging,” David says. “I was kind of hoping you’d be able to explain it to me. Let’s see if I can get you out of that thing.”
The image of David Bernard focuses on the circle on the floor that marks the boundaries of Artemis’ prison. Artemis feels something surge around him, something almost familiar that at the same time makes the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end.
“Be careful.”
Bernard nods, not breaking his focus. Artemis’ skin starts to tingle.
“I’m not sure this is—”
Suddenly Artemis is falling. His legs buckle the moment they touch the floor, and he groans as he collapses into a painful heap.”

The problem is, quoting from last issue...

“His expression unfocuses, as if he’s staring at something a long way off, and then the old man (LaFleur, damn it! My name is Artemis LaFleur!) feels the prison cease to exist. He crashes to the ground in a heap.”

... didn't this already happen?

Also: you're using Artemis' instead of Artemis's. Do I remember correctly that I've already mentioned it, that's a stylistic choice and I don't need to mention it any more? I tried to check back but couldn't find the conversation.

Also, that was all I found. Remarkably few typos! Nice work, author/other commentators!


GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH it did already happen sonofa

ah, crap. well, it was bound to happen eventually.

I will fix "lain" but I don't understand those rules at all. :D

Writer, former musician, occasional cartoonist, and noted authority on his own opinions.

Well, it was simple enough to

Well, it was simple enough to take that out. Urgh, though.

Writer, former musician, occasional cartoonist, and noted authority on his own opinions.

Hehe. I'm so sorry. I thought

Hehe. I'm so sorry. I thought I had to point it out though. For whatever it's worth I liked the second, expanded version better!

And OK! Let me see if I can explain more.

There are two related verbs. One is to lie, as in to lie down, or to lie on a bed, or as in "A blanket of soft snow lies over the countryside." The other is to lay, or lay down, as in "This has gone on far too long, I'm going to lay down the law to him" or to lay wards, or to lay something on a table, or to lay someone or something to rest. If it's any help, try replacing "lay" with "place" - it doesn't work for my idiomatic examples ("lay down the law", "lay a ghost to rest") but it works for most of the others. The central difference is that "lie" is intransitive; it's something that applies to the subject only, it cannot take a direct object. I lie on my bed, but I cannot lie someone else. Lay is transitive; it must take a direct object. I lay the book on the table - the book is what is being affected, I am the one doing the affecting.

In the present, to lie takes the forms "I lie, he lies, she lies, we lie, you lie, they lie."
In the simple past, to lie takes the forms "I lay, he lay, she lay, we lay, you lay, they lay" (English has boring verb conjugation).
In the pluperfect, to lie takes the forms "I had lain, he had lain, she had lain," etc.
In the imperfect, it's "I was lying, he was lying, she was lying, we were lying, you were lying, they were lying."

In the present, to lay takes the forms "I lay (it), he lays (it), she lays (it), we lay (it), you lay (it), they lay (it)."
In the simple past, to lay takes the forms "I laid (it), he laid (it), she laid (it)," etc.
In the pluperfect, to lay takes the forms "I had laid (it), he had laid (it), she had laid (it)," etc.
In the imperfect, to lay takes the forms "I was laying (it), he was laying (it), she was laying (it), we were laying (it)," etc.

Is that any less confusing? ^^

I'm having unpleasant English

I'm having unpleasant English class flashbacks. I never did learn to properly diagram a sentence...

Writer, former musician, occasional cartoonist, and noted authority on his own opinions.

Oh dear, I'm so sorry. I did

Oh dear, I'm so sorry. I did not mean to provoke unpleasant English class flashbacks! I'm going to take that as a no.

... if it's any help, this is one of the ones that trips everyone up...!