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She Didn’t Start the Fire

by on September 6, 2014

Last time, in the Catrina Chronicles, our heroine had accompanied Lady Susan Blackacre (destined to become our heroine’s arch-nemesis) to take in a parade in Sarajevo, on June 28th, 1914. But it’s not as if anything historically significant was going to happen that day….right?

Susan and Catrina were just finishing a late-morning snack at a small delicatessen in Sarajevo when they noticed a shiny black car approaching. They instantly recognized the occupants: Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, the Duchess Sophie. “Ah-ha!” exulted Susan. “My destiny isn’t ruined after all!”

Catrina felt she had to stop something; the trouble was, she didn’t know what it was she was supposed to stop. How was she to know what event had turned Susan evil? If she didn’t know, how could she prevent it and keep Susan from going bad? Should she keep Susan away from the Archduke, or try to get them together?  What was she supposed to do?

“For one thing,” said Catrina, “I’m not going to stand around while my narrator proposes a series of profound rhetorical questions.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Sorry, Susan. I was just talking to, er, myself.”

“Ah,” Susan said. “Well, if you’re done with that, maybe you could help me get the Archduke’s attention?”

“Do you even know on what subject you’re going to converse with him?” Catrina demanded.

“No, but I clearly have to meet with him! It’s my destiny!”

Catrina rolled her eyes. “Honestly, you go on far too much about your destiny. How do you know you’re supposed to be some grand heroine of a thrilling story? Why can’t you just be you?” She spoke from experience, as she had pondered her role as a character in a story for some time.

“I don’t want to be just me,” protested Susan. “I’m a daughter of a minor noble family. My father is well off, but that may not always be the case. I’m basically sitting around waiting to get married off to some bore or other, or else I’ll keep on sitting alone until I die of old age. I don’t want to do that, don’t you understand? I’d rather run off with some random stranger, like that man over there!” She pointed to a nearby dark-haired gentleman, who was staring intensely at the passing car. All at once the car stopped, and the driver appeared to be attempting to back up. The dark-haired gentleman produced a pistol and stepped forward.

Catrina didn’t know about history, or temporal paradoxes, or the various strictures about time travelers not interfering with fixed points in the time stream. What she knew was that someone was about to shoot someone else right in front of her, and she decided that she didn’t care for that to happen. She didn’t have Mlrning (the Shovel of Thor!) with her; it was locked safely away in her trunk at the hotel. She could’ve psychically summoned the mighty Shovel to her, but that would take time, and the would-be assassin was raising his gun to fire. Catrina threw herself forward and launched into a flying snap-kick that sent Gavrilo Princip hurtling back into a nearby flour barrel.

There was a sudden blinding flash. History had just been changed. Space and time broke apart like they had been in a relationship, and space had called time up again last night, but time was like we-EEE are never ever ever getting back together.  A rift in the space-time continuum opened up, as rifts are wont to do. Unfortunately, it opened up right in front of Susan. In an instant she glimpsed the hurtling vortex of the universe. But not exactly in the same way that someone else in the actual real world might glimpse it. Susan, after all, was not a real person. She was a character in a story, the same as Catrina, the same as everyone around her. They were in historical fiction, yes, but they weren’t real, none of them. In that moment the truth of her existence blasted into her brain like a sledgehammer squishing a grape. Some people, facing that, might have reconciled with it and managed to move on with their imaginary lives. Some, like Catrina, might have even reveled in it. Susan, on the other hand, snapped.

“This can’t go on,” she said, staggering back. “I’ve got to end it.”

“End what?” said Catrina, who up till then had been fairly pleased with herself. Then she saw the rift, and the Swirling Vortex of Imaginary Time.  She guessed what had happened. “Now, look, Susan-”

“You’re not real either!” Susan shrieked. “None of us are! We were before, I was before, I had parties and balls and I hated them but now I find out they aren’t real either, they’re just quick sentences in a paragraph! That thing changed it! It’s responsible! It is!” She glanced frantically around, and as ill luck would have it, her eye fell on Gavrilo Princip’s pistol, which he had dropped when he was snap-kicked into the flour barrel. “I’ll end it, right now! I’ll make everyone real again! That’s my destiny, I knew it, I told you!”

Catrina knew it was probably a bad idea to open fire on the Swirling Vortex of Imaginary Time. She started towards Susan, but too late. Susan pulled the trigger, and the bullets meant for the Archduke blazed into the rift instead. There was another blinding flash.

When Catrina could see again (the thing about blinding flashes is that they do get, y’know, blinding), she found that she wasn’t in Sarajevo anymore. Instead, she was in a library. Catrina wasn’t much of a bookish person, although she had begun to appreciate the written word more, being married to an assistant librarian and all. But she couldn’t fail to be impressed by the size of the collection around her. Scroll upon scroll piled up, nearly to the ceiling, Cool marble columns towered around her, and Catrina felt a distant breeze against her face, a breeze that smelled of the sea. “Oh my,” said Catrina. “This is certainly a lovely library.”  She took a step forward, hoping to explore the palatial structure. The scrolls appeared to be entirely written in Greek and Latin, and Catrina was notoriously poor at languages. However, through an open door on her left, she saw a beautiful garden, all bubbling ponds and verdant greenery. She thought, for one second, that she might have a chance to relax.

Then there was yet another flash (she was beginning to think that she should invest in sunglasses). Susan tumbled through, screaming in fury. Unfortunately, she landed smack on an oil lamp, knocking it over onto the marble floor. Oil splashed everywhere. Susan was still waving Princip’s pistol around like a mad woman. She saw Catrina, and loosed a shot at her. Catrina frantically dove for cover. The bullet skipped past her shoulder, ricocheted off a statute, and smacked into the oil-slick floor. Sparks flew. Sparks, oil, and dry papyrus are not a good combination. Flames blossomed out, licking across the priceless scrolls and racing up the walls with their beautiful tapestries and hangings. Anguished librarians burst in, yelling in Egyptian and attempting vainly to fight the fire. Catrina put the Egyptian, and the library, and the fire, all together in a burst of realization. “Oh, blast,” she exclaimed. “We’ve just torched the Library of Alexandria!”

“Yes!” Susan exclaimed in wild delight, the fire dancing in her eyes. “Burn, baby, burn!”

This has been another exciting episode of the Catrina Chronicles. For previous episodes, go here, or visit the Catrina Chronicles tab on the home page. You can also find adventures of Catrina on my Amazon page, and I’m on Goodreads as well. I self-publish, so I have to self-market, you see. And as always, thanks for reading!

 

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6 Comments
  1. Ha, that was, indeed, another exciting episode. I love that now, while still being uniquely you, there are touches of Adams AND Doctor Who in your stories 😉

    • I’ve become quite fond of Doctor Who since I started it last year. I’m into series four now, with Donna., I like Donna; she’s very nice. 😛

      • I enjoy all the companions for different reasons, but I absolutely adore Donna Noble. I think she’s easily the funniest, and their relationship is so great.

      • My favorite Donna moment is in the Runaway Bride. The Doctor’s looking around at the Christmas decorations and he goes, “Is it Christmas?”
        Donna: “Well, DUUUUUUH.”
        😀

  2. Ha, well you’ll be happy to hear that she doesn’t change a whit

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