The Principle of Light

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Etta had thought she and the cow were headed toward a city, but it just seemed like a lot of strange warehouses, huge power generators, and blind alleys. Every now and then, though, she would find buildings that seemed like they used to be for people.

She got off the cow in order to go to the bathroom, and when she returned, it had vanished. She let herself cry about this for five minutes, because crying wasn’t going to get her home. With any hope of transportation gone, there was no choice. She was going to have to ask someone for help, so she moved toward the only light she saw.

His name was Dr. Santos, and according to the trailer on his motorcycle, he was providing “alchemical services” to the grubby, desperate-looking people who were crowded around in the flashlights. Etta at first couldn’t tell if he was telling a story or making a sales pitch, and she wasn’t sure it was a product that everyone there wanted to buy.

But Dr. Santos used a lot of the same words her grandfather used to use. Now he was talking about photons, and how they could be made to do wonderful things, and the people were growing excited. “Are you a scientist?” she blurted out.

Everyone in the crowd turned and stared at her, as if she’d said a bad word.

“Of course not,” Dr. Santos said. “But I could use a lovely assistant.”

This picture is part of the Fringe Forward Project, an ongoing monthly series of speculative art.