Here's a bit of Sawyer Jackson-related flash fiction to brighten your day!

NOTE: The events of this story take place years before Sawyer Jackson and the Long Land. Enjoy a little youthful Gram & Gramps adventure!


knotwork-goggles.jpg

Knotwork

Drew Jackson knew his way around a workshop, but most of that experience was with finely tuned instruments and highly advanced technology. Working with bits of string wasn't really his thing.

Of course, continuing to live was one of his things, and ever since landing here in Ontos that was more and more of a challenge. Anything he could build to help that keep happening was worth the time and effort.

Ontos—the locals preferred to call it "The Long Land," but in Drew's head it would always be Ontos. The word meant "ideal," and it was a concept that Plato had written about. It was the notion that for everything that existed, there was an ideal version of that somewhere out in the universe. 

Close, Plato, Drew thought. Make that Omniverse. Because, as Drew had discovered recently, there were actually billions of universes, all in "multiverse" clusters. And billions of multiverses, clustered into an Omniverse. Bubbles within bubbles, and every bubble a collection of infinite possibilities. 

The Long Land was the first. Or, at least, it was the earliest and oldest that Drew had discovered. It was a plane of reality that was, for all intents and purposes, right at the heart of the Omniverse. Maybe it's center or core, or maybe it's outermost shell. Drew couldn't be quite sure how that played out. He was still working on it.

Except that right now, he was working on string.

Knotwork, actually. The collection of threads in front of him was actually a very complex pattern that was energized and empowered to do something that ordinary string couldn't do. The capabilities of the pattern were a story, created by the person who wove it. In the case of this pattern, that story was "see hidden things." And in the case of the weaver, that would be Olivia.

Drew preferred to call her Liv. She preferred that he keep his mouth shut in her presence. Because Liv just happened to be a sort of elite warrior, in a bloodline of people who called themselves the Teth.

The Teth were naturally capable of manipulating what they called the "knotwork," which as far as Drew could tell was a series of quantum strings forming a pattern that ultimately translated upward, into reality itself. The very fabric of the universe. Ominverse. Drew kept having to remind himself of the distinction.

Liv wasn't just any Teth, of course. She was this Xena-like warrior who could do backflips and high kicks and nerve pinches. Drew knew this, because she'd done all these things within the first ten minutes of meeting him. He still had the bruises. 

She was also handy with a sword, and she kept one on her at all times. It was a short, Roman-looking weapon, with a dual edge, and a bell-shaped guard. She could have that thing out of its sheath and against the neck of an unassuming engineer and inventor faster than said engineer and inventor could soil his underpants. You would just have to trust him on this one.

Drew shook his head. He was getting distracted. Again. And by Liv. Again

They had managed to work out their initial differences, all those months ago. It had helped a great deal that Drew was able to solve a few problems for the Teth that Liv ran with. He was good with technology, and there was plenty of tech to play with in the Long Land. Odd and bizarre tech, that sometimes involved ordinary objects like shirt buttons or door keys or even the occasional lamp shade. And, of course, bits of string. Miles upon miles of string.

When he'd first seen the knotwork creations of Liv and her people, they had seemed like tangled messes. Nothing practical about them. But they were everywhere. The patterns were woven into clothing, braided into hair and necklaces, tied to weapons and vehicles, even just hanging from nails on the walls. It was like discovery a population of people who worship dreamcatchers. Or people who wanted desperately to be spiders instead of human beings. It could get creepy.

The knotwork had been one of the first "misunderstandings" that Drew had with the Teth—mostly involving him, the scissors on his Swiss Army knife, and a really sharp sword blade suddenly held against his throat. It was a long story, but it ended well. So far. 

In the months since then, he'd been able to study the knotwork closer, and he had learned a lot from it. There were secrets to all of creation in there! He could discover things that no other scientist or engineer had ever dreamed could be discovered! If, that is, he could just see more.

The Teth had the ability to manipulate the knotwork using these patterns, but some of them could actually see the underlying knotwork and threads of reality. Or, rather, not really see it, but sort of sense it. No one, so far, could actually see those patterns. Not since thousands of years earlier, when some guy could see it all, and went crazy and tried to destroy the Omniverse. Still, if Drew was going to properly study this, he needed a way to look closer at it. He needed an electron microscope of sorts. 

That's why he was building the goggles.

Oh, he was proud of these things already! Brass and leather and highly-polished lenses, all hand-crafted and made to exacting specifications. They were a thing of steampunk beauty. He felt so Wellsian, just looking at them. 

But they were more than beautiful (to the point of being art!). They were functional. They would let him actually see the knotwork!

Or they would eventually. Maybe. 

"Tinkerer," a woman's voice said from the door of the workshop.

Liv. She was dressed in an outfit that really hugged the curves, in a way that was incredibly distracting to Drew. And, he suspected, that was the point. Liv was tough, and a little gruff at times. But she was also beautiful. And in a moment or two together, over the past few months, she had smiled and laughed, and that just blew Drew's mind. Making her laugh was pretty much the best thing he'd ever accomplished. Even discovering Ontos—the Long Land—couldn't compare with that.

"Xena," he said. If she was going to insist on calling him "Tinkerer," he'd have his own pet name for her.

"You keep calling me that," she said, confused. "You told me she was a warrior princess."

"Fictional. But yes," Drew said.

"So it isn't an insult. But I'm not a princess."

"Maybe not to everyone," Drew said, smiling.

She stared at him, and he knew she wasn't sure what to say. He said things like that, sometimes. It made it tough for her to stay angry with him—or whatever she was by default, in his presence. 

"Have you finished?" she asked, changing the subject.

He shook his head. "No, not really. I'm sort of stuck." He picked up the goggles and put them on, looking at the pattern of string in front of him. He could sort of see the knotwork. It was hazy, and indistinct. Fuzzy at all the edges. Looking through the goggles, at the moment, was like looking through lenses coated in petroleum jelly. What you got were impressions, not the actual image. 

Liv stepped up to his workbench and took the goggles from him, putting them on. Her mouth formed a small "o" as she looked, and for the first time in her life saw even a hint of the knotwork. "I can see!" she said.

"Not very well," Drew told her.

"But it's there! You did it!"

"But does it tell you anything? Can you ... I dunno ... can you read it or whatever? To me it's just a bunch of really blurry blobs. No distinct lines, not patterns I can recognize."

She shook her head. "No, you're right. But this is progress, right?"

She turned and looked at him, and the goggles made her eyes seem larger than usual, bright and full of ... something. Drew wasn't exactly good at spotting what that something might be. He hoped it was something good. In the months he had spent here, with Liv and her people, there had been rough times, but things were definitely getting better. He was hoping they'd keep getting better, especially with Liv.

He reached up and removed the goggles, and there was that very brief moment when he was looking at her, eye-to-eye, and his face was only inches from hers. Her skin was flawless and pure, and her lips were these perfect little pink hints of what it would be like to ...

"R-right," Drew said, turning away, putting the goggles back on the workbench and picking up the tool he'd been using. He opened the tiny housing around the rim of one of the lenses, and looked closely at the watch-like collection of parts inside. Tiny transistors and capacitors vied for space with little moving bits—incredibly small gears and bearings that helped focus the lenses. It was sort of like the autofocus of a video camera, only there were also tiny, hair-like threads woven into various patterns, powering the thing in place of batteries. 

"Is the pattern right?" Drew asked.

Liv shook her head. "It's as close as I can make it. No one knows the pattern for seeing the knotwork. It's never been done.  So what you have is the closest we've ever known."

Drew nodded at that. It wasn't the first time he'd bumped up against some unseen ceiling, in pursuit of creating something new. He'd done the same when he'd created the device that brought him here. There was no existing science that could make that leap happen. It was just him and intuition. He ...

"Intuition," he whispered.

He looked up at Liv, who was leaning a little close. She had a sort of half smile on her lips, like she knew something he didn't. In fact, since meeting her, Drew had suspected that she knew things he'd never be able to figure out, and that she was always at least a step ahead of him in everything. "The way your people sense the knotwork is sort of like intuition. You feel it, rather than see it, right?"

"Yes, I suppose that's true," Liv said.

"So is there anything like that, built into the pattern you gave me?"

She shook her head. "How could there be? How could I tell a pattern how to feel something?"

Drew thought about this. "So what if you gave it some help? What if you didn't tell it to feel, but maybe tied it to the person wearing it? Let their feelings and intuition do all the work, with an assist from the pattern?"

Liv thought about this for a moment, and smiled. "A snare," she said.

Drew shook his head. "I don't follow. Those things you were telling me about? That can latch on to you just for saying someone's name or whatever?"

"That's one trigger, yes," Liv said. "But snares can also be tailored for specific people, based on their own pattern, the fundamental story of who they are."

"Like their DNA?" Drew asked. Liv gave him a blank expression. "Never mind," he said. "So how would that work? And how would it help?"

Liv looked at the knotwork pattern on the table, and then reached out and untied it. She then retied it and held it up for Drew to see. 

It looked exactly the same to him.

"I don't see any difference," he said.

She rolled her eyes. "Take it, you fool," she said.

Drew took it. Nothing happened.

Liv looked at him, critically, chewing on her bottom lip. 

"Not enough," she said. 

She took the pattern back, but also reached out and took hold of the goggles. She removed the strap, and and pulled the buckles free so that all she held was the leather itself. She then united the knotwork pattern again, and rewove it once more. Only this time, she tied it and rolled it into the leather. When she was done, she used the soldering iron on Drew's table, and burned a pattern into the leather itself. She threaded this back into the buckles of the goggles, and then placed the whole thing on the table in front of them.

There was silence for a long moment, as the two of them stared at the glittery device before them. 

"Did that work?" Drew asked in a reverent tone.

"I have no idea," Liv said, equally as quiet. "It feels right."

That was all Drew needed to hear. He reached out and took a tentative hold on the strap of the goggles. He raised them, and then quickly put them on.

The world around him suddenly became a swarm of threads and knots and patterns.

He could still see the "real world," and all the physical objects of the workshop. But now there was an overlay of threads, a dull glow of knotwork that permeated everything. It wasn't exactly crystal clear—it was more like ghost images. But he could see it. He was the first non-Teth to ever lay eyes on it.

He laughed.

"It worked?" Liv asked, hopeful. 

In answer he took the goggles off and handed them to her.  She looked at him, cautious, and then slowly pulled them on. When they were in place, she inhaled sharply. "Oh," she said, quiet, and with a touch of awe and maybe even a bit of overwhelmed joy in her voice. "I can see it," she whispered. "It's ... it's beautiful."

She turned and looked at him. "Oh!" she said.

"What? Is there something on my face?" He reached up and wiped his chin, smiling.

"You ...  your'e ..." 

"I'm what?" He said.

She looked at him a second longer, then slipped the goggles from her face. Her eyes were filled with something new. It wasn't the mischievous look she usually had, the hint that she knew something he didn't. Instead, it was ... well, the only words that came to mind were "beautiful" and "inviting." 

"You're brilliant," she said quietly. And then she stepped toward him, quickly, and rose on her toes. And before he could say or do or even think anything, she kissed him.

He was seeing all kinds of knotwork now. Or maybe it was fireworks. This was the first time they'd kissed since that other time, which he wasn't sure even counted. But this one was somehow different. Much different. Better different.

When the kiss ended, he looked down at her, his arms around her waist. She stared up at him with eyes that made him want more of everything good he'd ever seen or heard or had from her. "So they worked," he said. 

"Shut up," she said, and kissed him again.


Want more stories for the Long Land? Be sure to check out Sawyer Jackson and the Long Land, Book 1 of Sawyer Jackson. It's available exclusively on Kindle at the moment, but look for the print edition, releasing August 22nd!

If you like this story, I'd love to hear from you. Contact me to tell me what you think!

 


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Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at kevintumlinson.com/starterlibrary.
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