Greetings and salutations, my faithful readers! Welcome back to another Story Time With Tim! As you know, I’m Timothy Scott Purvis and this blog features pretty much all of my current writing (though I do have a good half dozen stories currently in the pipeline looking for a home!). This week’s offering is going to be the start of another novella of mine: Conundrum: Featuring International Martial Arts Superstar Quam Vincent. I wrote this waaaaayyy back in 2004. There were two ‘versions’ of it, but this is the updated grammatically correct one with all the bells and whistles on.
I always really enjoyed this piece myself. Sure, when I first put it up on Fanstory.com, people didn’t know what to make of it. Is it a comedy? Is it a drama? Is it science fiction? Is it religious fantasy? What am I looking at!? They screamed collectively. Well, it’s all of the above and then some. It was inspired by Terry Pratchett stories and I tried to channel his voice while writing it. I’m not sure how successful I was, but I think the results speak for themselves. Also, I really enjoyed that movie Last Action Hero and it informed a lot of the narrative here as well (maybe that’s why so many people didn’t like it as well!).
Anyhow, this will be divided up into multiple parts just as Gambit & Rogue Illusions was. I was tempted to go back and fix my FLIES offering, but it would have required some real finagling on my part and I just wanted to move on.
Speaking of which, let’s get on with it! Hope you enjoy the story and come back next week for part two!
CONUNDRUM: FEATURING INTERNATIONAL MARTIAL ARTS SUPERSTAR QUAM VINCENT
There’s always an awakening. That zone between sleep and what we laughably refer to as the “real world”. This awakening is no different. Save for the players involved and suffocated by the reality as it presents itself. Who he was, what he was… all of it insignificant in this moment in time and space. The fracturing of dreams splintered into the dark light of the awakening and he saw chaos. And, naturally, confusion set its course into the waking mind.
What the hell!? Pretty much so. Welcome to the reality of Quam Vincent.
What exactly is a conundrum? The dictionary would have it to be a difficult question or query, asked in amusement with a pun for an answer or perhaps even a riddle. Rhetorical nonsense brought up by a warped mind looking to be personally entertained. Doubtful these considerations entered Quam’s head as he regarded his very new surroundings and attempted haphazardly to get to his feet. Whatever pun was inherent here, he didn’t know. Good humor is oft ever fleeting in the most bizarre of circumstances. As in, oh say, for instance, being upon a bullet train turned into a rocketing convertible blazing over a large body of rather rough looking water being further upset by a darkening sky, thunder, lightning: the works. And, did I neglect to mention, no tracks?
Nightmarish screams of anguish competed with the thunderous emanations of the looming storm. Quam Vincent looked around himself and up towards the train engine and behind him at the train caboose. Or what passed for a caboose. Which would culminate only to half a train car, tattered remnants of what used to be curtains, and flying debris. Of course, that was pretty much the scene along the entirety of the out of control vessel.
Where am I? What answer could one give save for a one way ticket to Hell?
A fierce, howling wind whipped through his short, dark Asian hair (Well, he’s Asian and generally Asian’s have dark hair, pretty much black in his case, so give me a break, we’re not talking advanced physics here). Thusly, our Asian hero began pressing against the wind, arm in front of his face with the vain attempt of warding off the onslaught of debris, splashing water from the surrounding body of whatever it was (lake, ocean, acid, etc), and, it goes without saying, more wind (oops, I kind of said it, didn’t I?). The immediate goal in mind, to get to the train engine. How to handle the situation of being out in what seemed to be the middle of an ocean far from god-knows-where, became a matter of concern best left until reaching the intended destination.
Of course, even such a simple course of action was riddled with complications. Most notably the many dozens of spectral anomalies in the form of any number of hideous, humanoid beasts suddenly materializing out of nothing and challenging our hero to dare attempt escape their grasp and get by them. Quam Vincent was understandably-to say ‘understandably’ is an understatement, but we’ll say ‘understandably’ anyway-taken by surprise and put into a state of sudden shock.
“Who are you!?” Quam righteously demanded, his eyes narrowed and his feet planted firmly, arm still raised against the chaos.
“The end of all, mortal!”
Quam responded to the forked-tongued, two-tailed, seven-foot tall, red-skinned, big, ugly-looking monstrosity in the way only he could in matters of self-defense. He began kicking its ass much to the chagrin of the beast’s cohorts. Who, as in any gang situation seeing the intended victim beating the snot out of a hapless victimizer, jumped in to prevent the utter humiliation of their comrade. All of whom Quam Vincent handedly dispatched with lethal efficiency. Quam was, after all, a ‘Martial Arts Superstar’ (was it just me, or was there just a booming voice saying just that right out loud? Look, even Quam is looking around trying to see where that mighty movie tone voice came from! No matter. We must move on as it is a matter we shall address a little later on).
Quam moved on to the next car, yes this was only the first, and encountered another horde waiting to get their collective asses kicked. This way of anger management continued on for seventeen cars. Two hundred and thirty-two butt ugly beasties later (‘Superstar’, remember?), Quam reached the engine of the runaway nightmare train. And he promptly discovered the problem, minus the perplexity of missing tracks, of course.
No controls. Not a one. No brake. No accelerator. No windows, seats, crew, radios, “help me” signs, or anything else of general use. Except for a floor. Without which he would be unable to be standing in the middle of what used to be a cabin with wind whipping through his already wild looking hair and a perplexed expression. Given the circumstances, Quam elected to sit down and brace his back against what was left of a wall and just stare outward into the dark skies.
This can’t be. Last night, I went to bed. I was at home… What’s going on? Is this a dream? Or a nightmare? Quam Vincent sat and stared. And sat some more. And stared a little longer at nothing. He did so, remembering the day before when his lifelong love had made the decision to return to Taiwan. Now he wished he was joining her. It had been a tough decision, he knew. Her family had been begging her to come home. She was needed to help care for her ailing father. Quam wanted to go, but his career didn’t allow for it. He was still in the middle of making his newest movie ‘Blow: The Last Dragon’. Quam was a martial artist. He got by on what he knew. Though, always he longed for more. Real adventure. Real excitement. In truth, he had grown bored by his life. A life ‘put on’ for a camera and the entertainment of unseen millions. Which is why he had seriously considered moving to Taiwan with his love. But…
There was no changing that decision now. Quam had grown up in a small village much like the one to which his love was returning. And he had no desire to relinquish the life he had built or reminisce of times already past. Quam had come too far to allow himself to take such a step backwards. He had established a life for himself in America. So too, had he honed a career as an International Martial Arts Superstar in the cinema renowned the world over for his legendary movies.
Now, Los Angeles was Quam’s new home. No regrets. Not now.
A sudden shift in the train pulled Quam Vincent out of his thoughts, and incidentally off his seated position. Getting up from a flat-out sprawl, Quam took note that the train had collided into a mass of land and come to a sliding stop along a long, detritus filled beach. Standing up, he saw before him a burning city. Most of the city lay crumpled into massive heaps of stone, plaster, and wired steel. Quam got off the train and unto the solid ground. Despite the desperate sight, he breathed a sigh of relief. No more trains for him.
He traversed several blocks of city terrain. Cars laid in heaps of twisted metal, no longer much use even as scrap metal. Where once looming skyscrapers had stood, there remained only traces of their existence. Those buildings that still stood, did so by but a few walls and steel beams. Pavement at their bases cast askew, exposing the massive sewer systems at the subterranean levels. Peering down one massive crevice, Quam barely made out what was left of a subway system. He grimaced.
Was there a war that I was not informed of? Steps away, Quam saw the skeletal remains of something or someone, and kept moving.
Finding himself completely alone, Quam walked the burning, smoldering streets, looking up at the dark, storm ridden sky. Not even a drop of rain despite the obviously saturated clouds. He continued on block by block, searching for some sign of life. Nothing. Glass shards, ripped concrete, decimated buildings galore, mangled vehicles and sometimes people, the remnants of what apparently was a dog attempting to make a cat his last meal who, coincidentally, was choking on a bird…
“ENOUGH!!” Quam cried out, raising his arms to the heavens. “WHY!?”
With no answer, he dropped his eyes to the ground and heard the crumbling of stone. Quam broke into a defensive posture, remembering his entanglement with the gory minions of hell upon the bullet train not long before. He saw soot rising into the air from the skittering of loosened pebbles, tumbling down a nearby heap of rubble.
“Show yourself. And let’s be quick about it,” Quam demanded.
“Are you… real?” inquired a tiny voice from amidst the slaughtered stone and metal mesh.
“That is a question I would ask of you,” he retorted, awaiting the voice’s owner to materialize: one way or another.
Quam was rewarded for his patience a moment later when a young woman appeared and took him in with her eyes. She stood a moment, afraid to remove herself from the safety of what minute shelter she had found, staring at him as if he were some figment of her imagination.
“Real enough,” the woman began, coming slowly from behind the mound. “Oh my god…” Tears flooded her eyes as she darted forward to wrap Quam in a gripping embrace. He attempted to keep his defense posture up, but let it drop as the woman nearly swept him from his feet. “…It’s you.”
Quam just stared down at the woman embracing him, unsure of what he should be doing.
“…So, that’s when the acid rain began and the buildings started falling over. I mean it was just like the prophecies said, with Hell reigning and all that rhetoric. The Earth shook, the stars fell, then the creatures appeared and started killing… everyone. It was a real nightmare…” The young woman offered up her telling of the story that brought the city to its knees. And not just the city, but the whole planet was in crisis. “…judgement day.”
She concluded while Quam listened to the young woman’s recollection. They had been walking the several blocks that would take them towards a heap of stone rubble the woman had started to call “home”.
“I… I don’t know what to say…” Quam stuttered, staring down at the woman (I never did declare his height, now did I? Let’s say, oh, five-nine and she’s five-foot five. Sound good?). Anyway, Mr. Vincent wasn’t too sure how to take this story to say the least. She was a blonde, and he’d heard stories about American blonde girls.
“…You’re telling me that Hell… Hell, just came up and took over the world. In a night. Is that right?” The woman nodded in an affirmation. “Fine”
Quam began to walk off towards an undisclosed location. He didn’t know where. Just anywhere but there in the middle of… Hell.
“Wait. Where are you going?” The woman ran after him and thread her right arm around his left elbow.
“To Taiwan. There must be some sanity left there. Undoubtedly, what happened here is that some asshole in the White House or the Pentagon pissed off some terrorist or dictator or what have you… This isn’t real! I’m going home!” He untangled her arm from his and marched off.
“But… but… aren’t you going to save us? You’re him! Quam Vincent!! Right?” At this urgent pleading and properly timed use of his name, Quam stopped. He turned and looked at her.
“Yes. I am Quam Vincent. Just a martial arts superstar. Not hero to the free world!” This outburst left the woman running back to her sanctuary while our ‘hero’ walked off in a huff.
And there you go! Part One down, several more parts to go! See you next week and thanks for reading this week’s offering! While you’re here, why not check out those links to my pages below? It’ll really help if you decide to start buying some of my works. After all, a writer needs support to keep writing! Until next time…
~Timothy S Purvis
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