The Man Who Built Ochre
The Stranger walks, unhurried, through Ochre, admiring all that he sees.He reaches out with his magic, and the mass of the various student’s souls that pass him by doesn’t correspond to what he is seeing. One boy, a boy with scars on his face, an eye-patch and dark skin has the soulmass of something infinitely much more larger. It reminds him of a member of the Flight….
A girl with pale skin and raven hair has less soulmass than she should. Curious, he muses. One of the teachers at his school, a large bearded man of perpetual scowls possesses a slightly altered soulmass which marks him as something inhuman. But what?
He puts his hand in his pocket and fishes out one of the inventions of this new and technological age. Cellphones– that’s what they’re called. If someone had told him in his youth that the knowledge of the ages could be contained in an item the size of his palm, he’d laughed at that person. But in this age mankind has made the world so much smaller with a form of technology that almost seems magical.
He ‘unlocks’ the phone and searches for a word one of the students used earlier. The memories of the body he is occupying are spotty at best, and his transition from solid, unchanging stone to everchanging permutable flesh was….. hectic. A ‘video’ plays. The Stranger still experiences a sense of wonder at this for him new-fanged technology. A way to record an event for eternity– why, the applications are practically limitless!
On the video the Stranger watches a young woman gyrate in what seems to be similar to the dance of a Turkish belly-dancer. ‘Twerking’ it is called. The Stranger shakes his head. Then again, was the youth of his time any better?
His walk takes him to the library of Ochre. Although he praised the cellphones, at heart, books speak to him. He grabs the book he’s been reading ever since he awoke. This very book is a book on science, and science has certainly marched on in the time that he slept inside the red walls of Ochre! Electricity to keep the darkness at bay and to power the devices that man has built. Guns to make humans equals to vampires and werewolves. And the medicine! The concept of ‘vaccinations’ is simply ingenious, ingenious!
He rereads the chapter on nuclear forces and marvel at what his fellow man has achieved. A weapon that makes the fire of an old member of the Flight look pale. Of course there are things that bother him. In his time people knew their place. You knew where the person next to you stood on the social rung. But now? Now students adress him by the first name of this body, and you’re not even aloud to hit children! Oh well. The price of civilsation appears to be steep.
He searches the book for a specific chapter, the chapter on the force of gravity, which is of special interest to him. The scientists don’t know what exactly gravity is, but they can jot down its applications, as did he three centuries ago. The speculative notion of a black hole is especially interesting; could he generate one? But then again, such a thing would absorb light itself according to the book he is reading and a weapon that eats the world is liable to eat its own maker, and that will not do.
Another interesting feature that he memorizes is that gravity is slightly weaker in some places, such as mountains and ridges. Could he permanently change the gravity of an area?
Another interesting feature is density. Could he change the mass of an object, and make it denser? His magic works well at a distance, but a close fight will not favour him. That is why he ended up inside Ochre at the first place. It was a mistake, a failing that he will not repeat.
The Stranger closes the book and exits the library. One thing he has tried to change in the months passed since his awakening is his manner and the bearing of his walk. Put simply, he is too old fashioned, his back too straight and his speech too articulated. He will not stoop to adapt the slovenly manner which young men have affected, but his speech must change.Already, several students and two of teachers have asked him if he is ‘role-playing’ whatever that means. He tries to use the less formal Swedish ‘you’ rather than the ‘you’ employed by the more old-fashioned lawyers,journalists and judges.
The word sticks in his throat, oily and unclean. “You”, he says out loud, drawing a confused look from a nearby student.
“You”, he repeats, glancing around to make sure that nobody is watching. “Yes you”, he repeats once again.
“Damnable language”, he mutters and enter his office, or rather the office of the person whose body he is inhabitating. The Stranger would feel bad about the body-theft if it weren’t for the fact that the poor soul had already died. And waste not, want not.
The memories…. the incomplete memories left inside his skull by its previous occupant doesn’t leave The Stranger much to go on, but he feels that Jan Hass wasted his life. Mediocre in school, a job as student-councilor which he didn’t particularly enjoy and an addiction to opiates that he wanted to overcome, but lacked the strength to do so… yes, Jan Hass wasted his life and he wished for a second chance.
Which is quite ironic seeing as the Stranger who lives in Jan Hass’ body knows about second chances. He traveled the world, mastered his magic and built Ochre, only to be betrayed in the end by someone he trusted. And as he died, he thought to himself ‘ had I had a second chance, I would have done things differently’. And now, Esaia Eldridge who has returned from the dead, plans to do things differently. Oh yes. Very, very different.