This is an in-character game thread from Nobilis: Where Only Lilies Grow. (This page is written by a number of people, and is not Creative Commons licenced.)
The rest of the group left for the walls at a quick pace, leaving Alan and Scheherazade alone in what seemed the only place in the whole world in which there was any sense of calm.
In time, servants came to refill their tea, and the faint sound of sphinxes arguing with US Army troops drifted in from beyond the tightly-shut doors. It seemed neither group was quite expecting — or quite trusted — the other.
“I must say,” said the former Queen of Persia, “I am glad that despite the turmoil this place has encountered of late, it warms my heart to know that civility prevails.
“Now then, Alan, yes? Do forgive me for asking, but I confess to being somewhat intrigued. Did the gentleman called Benton refer to you as deceased?”
“He did, the last memory I have before here is of consuming a lethal dose of hydrogen cyanide. Maybe I did not take enough, maybe this place and its inhabitants are all part of some rather prosaic afterlife. And yourself ma’am, do you count yourself among the living?”
“It certainly feels that way to me, though considering that my personal idea of ‘truth’ at this point involves my having slept for two thousand years, perhaps it should not. I surely do not feel dead.” She chuckled quietly. “As if I have any idea what that feels like.
“No, given the events and, with all due respect, the bizarre group of acquaintances I have just made, it feels rather more like we are trapped within a story, a creation of some being’s imagination. And yet it still feels so very real, devoid of the frayed edges of perception one gets when one dreams; the missing senses, the non-sensical cause and effect.
“Without meaning to dredge up unwelcome memories, I take it this ‘hydrogen cyanide’ of yours is something that one does not usually… survive?”
“It was not my intention to survive. Like a deep sleep, I do not remember what it is to be dead.” He grinned. “Which suggests that we are not, in fact, among the dead or the dreaming. I find the idea of a story an appealing explanation, certainly there has been too much of the fantastic already to suggest a complete return to life. It is all rather intriguing.
Now I come to think on it, meaning no disrespect, I had rather believed your fair self to be fictional.”
“Fictional?” Scheherazade said. “By the heavens, no, I assure you that I am real. Although given the events of the last half hour, perhaps I should be questioning even that. But if I am real, as I suppose, and two thousand years truly have passed since my true time, then I am honoured enough that I am still thought of even if it is as fiction.”
She paused for a servant to refill her cup.
“Now that displacement from my ‘true’ time comes to mind, I would ask of you two questions. Firstly are you – as I am – from here, and perhaps more confusingly: are you from now?”
“If I may be permitted a personal comment, you wear your millenia well.
Those are good questions both, I have been musing on them myself. I suggest that I am from neither here nor now – the decor and personages native to this place – yourself and the good military gent – seem to be of oriental extraction, where as I was from a small island called ‘England’. The when is trickier. But the military gent wore a number of small devices and gadgets which speak of a manufacturing and technological capability far beyond that available in my time.
I would not like to put a figure on it, but I suspect it must be a good quarter century after my demise, though little more than 3 decades.”
“England, England… I confess, I have not heard of it,” said Scheherazade. “Perhaps it came after my time.”
Just then, a knock came at the door. Servants rushed in to open it, revealing a man also of Oriental extraction, dressed in flowing white robes.
“Shahryar!” Scheherazade exclaimed, standing and rushing forward as if to embrace him. But she stopped halfway to the door.
“Wait,” she said. “You have some explaining to do.”
“Yes, I do,” he said, moving toward the cushions. “Tea!” The servants busied themselves once more with the pouring of tea into tiny cups.
Shahryar and Scheherazade both sat, and the once-King of Persia turned to Alan.
“You would be Mr Turing, correct? Yes, I’m afraid I do know who you are, and shortly all will become much clearer. I fear I owe you as many explanations, if not more, than I do to my beloved wife.”
“Mr Shahryar.” Alan greeted the newcomer with a polite bow and an outstretched hand. “I take it then, that you bear some responsibility for our presence here?”
“I am afraid that I do,” said Shahryar, “though I am sure that in your and the others’ cases, you will find your present situation rather more agreeable than the one you were last in – here, at least, your death is not imminent.
“In fact, you will probably find yourselves less susceptible to death in general than you are used to. For you have been chosen, not directly by myself but by a force we can but pretend to comprehend, to become something greater still than what you were in life.”
“My death, good sir, has already happened, and tis a poor afterlife indeed that dresses itself as the real thing.”
Alans eyes glittered and he smiled.
“But let us take it as read for a moment that you speak truly, for it makes no less sense than anything else my senses tell me. Death-defying forces do not whimsically drag people back from the eternal slumber often, or the world would be awash with the dead. Which begs the question… Chosen for what?”