A Final Demonstration of the Principles of Dimensionality (A Chuck Wendig Challenge)

Posted: January 10, 2017 in Fantasy, Fiction
Tags: , , , ,

The challenge: to write an apocalypse, preferentially one that hasn’t been written before. Eh, not sure about that last part, but I had fun with it.

Reynard stood on his balcony, neck craned as he stared up at the rich velvet of the night sky, pinpricks of lights from the stars shining down. No moon was out, so the stars shined all the brighter, the landscape beneath little more than the suggestion of shapes. He turned around, swept back into his laboratory, his cloak trailing after him. Inside, mathematical equations were scrawled over chalkboards, potions bubbled in glass alembics, and small scaled creatures scrabbled in their cages. Standing in front of one of the chalkboards, Reynard’s patron stood, eyes squinting at the equations, trying to puzzle out their meaning. Reynard paused, took a moment to straighten out his clothes and adjust the clasp on his cloak.

“Baroness de Joinville. An… unexpected pleasure,” Reynard stated with a voice like warmed oil, slick and unctuous.

“Spare me, Reynard,” the Baroness stated, turning and offering her hand. Reynard dropped to one knee and kissed the proffered ring before regaining his feet. “I have come to check on your progress.”

“I have sent regular missives-”

The baroness snorted in a most unladylike fashion, interrupting Reynard. “Anything can be put into a missive, my dear astrologer. And I respect your intelligence too much to doubt you can mislead anyone I sent in my place. Hence why I’ve come. I’ve invested a great deal of money into your work to be put off by platitudes.”

Reynard felt the corner of his mouth turn up in a slight sneer, but he quickly turned that into a smile. “Of course, and I must state again how thankful I am for your continued and devoted support.”

“Thankful for the money I send you is what you mean.” The baroness peered closer at one of the cages, but jerked back when the creature threw itself against the cage, rattling it.

“That too,” Reynard agreed.

“So what do you have to show me?”

“I told you when you hired me that I dislike conducting petty demonstrations.”

“And I am telling you now that you either show me something tangible as a result of your efforts or you will need to find another patron.” The baroness paused, eyeing Reynard up and down and giving a predatory smile. “And I will see that every coin that I ever gave to you is extracted from your hide. Do we have an understanding?”

Reynard swallowed, aware for the first time how stifling it was in his study, how tight his collar was around his neck. “We do,” he said, his voice barely above a whisper because he didn’t trust himself to speak any louder.

The baroness smiled. She looked around for a place to sit, and Reynard cleared off a chair for her, removing several heavy tomes and leaving them to balance precariously on the edge of a table. He approached the center of the room. Part of the money the baroness had sent him had been spent inlaying a gold and silver summoning matrix on the floor, ancient scripts crossing and weaving among each other. Reynard had spent years building his collection of esoteric tomes, sifting for fundamental truth amidst obfuscating mysticism and misleading superstition.

He took his time lighting the braziers, sprinkling dust and water along the necessary lines. He took the time to mutter under his breath, saw the baroness lean forward trying to catch his words. Reynard suppressed a smile. It was all unnecessary for what he was attempting, but better the baroness think that there was some secret key to unlocking the mysteries than the simple application of knowable formulae to the world to enact change. For if anyone could work “magic”, then the world would have no need of sorcerers and magicians, alchemists and astrologers.

Reynard traced mathematical formula inside the circle, felt the world wrench to one side as the black math took hold and reshaped the world. There was a sound like a giant sheet of paper being torn, of a clock gear grinding to a halt and the smell of dung burning. A hot wind blew through the room like when you stood too close to an open kiln. Reynard heard the baroness gasp, and he turned, stumbling back from where he stood.

He’d mean to open a small portal, to pull a minor demon he’d gained the name of into this realm. Instead, in front of him stood a massive figure, bulging muscles stretched tight against coal black skin. A bull’s head rested atop a thick neck, arms ending in three pronged pincers. Behind it, the portal yawned wide, a kaleidoscope landscape pinhweeling in a riot of colors, nothing staying the shame shape or form for long. The demon took a step forward, it’s innate entropic form cracking the stone floor, the air around it bending and distorting. A hail storm spontaneously occurred, pelting Reynard and the baroness. The baroness shrieked and turned to run, but the floor beneath grew soft, taking on the consistency of taffy and she found herself trapped, screaming. The demon plucked her from the ground with one massive pincer, silenced her by flinging her off of the balcony.

Reynard scrambled on his back, pushing with hands and knees. “I don’t, I don’t understand. Where did I go wrong? It was supposed to be a small hole, easily closed,” he blubbered. His cloak caught on a chair and he struggled to pull it free.

Behind the demon, other figures emerged from the wound in reality, cramping his observatory. Some took flight off the balcony, escaping out into the world and chaos spreading with them.

The bull-headed demon tilted its head, its large liquid eyes studying the diagrams, the equations scrawled on the ground. “You made an error here,” the demon stated, it’s pincer underlining the mistake. “A careless error in transposition.”

“Oh yes, I see it now,” Reynard said, understanding blooming in his eyes in the moment before the demon’s massive pincer closed around his head, snuffed out all understanding, all comprehension, all life.

The demon laughed as the portal grew wider, unimpeded, chaos unchecked.


  1. Love this. I really enjoyed this line – “There was a sound like a giant sheet of paper being torn, of a clock gear grinding to a halt and the smell of dung burning.” What a fun challenge! Maybe I’ll give it a try.

  2. Jemima Pett says:

    Love it!! I’ve missed your tales while Chuck’s been awol 🙂

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