AN UNLIKELY WEAPON
By Forrest Wayne Schultz
Riverdale, Georgia, USA February 18, 1987
It all began that day in the woods when the Strange Old Man approached me with "that look" on his face. The S.O.M. (as my friends called him) was strange in a number of ways, only one of which, his precognitive ability, is pertinent here. Of the many instances of his precognition I could cite, the one most vivid to me was the evening he burst unannounced into our living room and in a trembling voice declared that an airplane would crash tomorrow -- the one my father was scheduled to fly on. My father paused only to thank the SOM before going to the phone to reschedule his flight. And you need not guess what the headlines of the evening paper said the next day.
The point I want to make is that everyone who lives around here (myself included) knows that when the SOM comes on the scene with "that look" on his face and speaks to you in "that voice" about something he says will happen, you can be certain that it will happen because you know his "track record". One of the guys in my class, who plans to major in parapsychology, began several years ago a collection of the SOM's predictions and he now has over 100 well-documented instances of these, all correct. And there are no known cases of his ever making an incorrect prediction.
So when the SOM came up to me that day and began to speak, I trembled even more than his voice did. The exact words of his prophecy to me were: "Very soon you will go far away, and there you will perform a great work of deliverance for that land". When I asked him specifically what it was I should do, he simply said I would know what to do when the time came. And so he left me.
Several days later on Saturday morning I felt like walking in the woods again and I also had the urge to do something different. I could not think of anything new to do, so I tried to think of something I had not done for a long time. Suddenly the thought of my pea shooter entered my mind. I used to have a lot of fun with it when I was a kid. I thought it might be fun to play with it again. But I did not want to be seen with it because such a thing was regarded as "kid's stuff" -- certainly nothing for a junior in high school to be playing with. So, I stuck it in the inside pocket of my jacket and set off for my haunts in the sylvan glade where I had spent so many enjoyable days.
Before I had a chance to get it out a strong feeling came over me, which caused me to remember the words the SOM had spoken to me just a few days ago. This feeling was that I was about to depart for that far-off land where I would do the great work of deliverance. I looked around but could see no one approaching. Yet the feeling continued to grow. When I looked around again I realized that I was no longer in my wood but in a medieval town.
When the SOM had said a land "far away" I had thought he had meant somewhere like India or Egypt. But it looked like the distance indicated must be more temporal than it was spatial. Apparently the place was England for all of the signs of the shops were in English and the speech I heard was of Shakesperean quality. I rejoiced at this because I love Shakesperean English. I have read all of Shakespeare's plays and seen many of them performed, and I also enjoy the language of the King James Bible and the other English literature of that period. I had often wished that we spoke like that now; or that I could go and live in the time when they spoke like that.
As I was thinking my dream had come true I began to have my doubts. Although this language was like Shakesperean English in most respects, it was not purely Shakesperean. There were some modern words and some words I had never heard before. And as I listened more intently I noticed that even the Shakesperean quality was somehow different. It could best be described as an "idealized" or "improved" Shakesperean -- as though a people had decided to start with Shakesperean English and then develop it to the fullest limits of literary excellence. As I subsequently learned, this indeed is what had happened here.
Well then, if I had not time-traveled to Shakesperean England, then where or when or where-when was I? And where was the person or kingdom or whatever that I supposed to rescue? I did not see any villain about to shove someone off a cliff. I saw no princess about to be abducted by a black knight.
As I reviewed in my mind the words of the SOM, I recalled that he had said I would go to a far land "very soon", but he had not said that the deliverance I was to perform there would happen "very soon". Apparently then, I might be here in this place for some time. Therefore I had better start figuring out what I was to do in the meantime and where I was to live, and so on. As I looked over the public notices on the board in the town square I saw their version of a "want ad" for an apprentice scribe. I decided that this is what I would do.
If you remember your history lessons, you know that prior to modern times very few people knew how to read and write. In this place, as in many of the medieval towns, even many of the nobility (and sometimes even kings) were illiterate. Therefore anyone wishing to write a letter or make a record of something or draw up a legal document would employ a scribe to do so.
Fortunately for me the scribe in this town was desperately in need of an assistant because his work was piling up and his customers were griping at the delays. He needed a full-time assistant and he needed one pronto. Therefore he asked me few questions. After quickly satisfying himself as to my literacy and my honesty, industry, and intelligence, he immediately put me to work.
From my strange clothes and accent and my education he decided that I must be a runaway from some noble family from a remote region. The modern problem of runaways is hardly new. If anything, it was far worse in many times during the past. Boys running away from home to go to sea, for instance, in many places had become legendary. Also in times past boys were given adult level responsibilities at much younger ages than now. Apparently then my employer felt that I was old enough to be on my own. He also took a great liking to me, as I did to him, and he invited me to stay with him in his house. He had had a son of my age who recently died, and it looked like I was sort of taking his place.
My new employer was very pleased with the rapidity with which I learned the trade. Since I was already literate and a good student of English and had good penmanship, I needed little training or education in that area. The only thing I needed was to adapt to the different form of English and the different customs here. I learned the trade so rapidly that in a year's time I had been promoted to Master. Also, during this year we came to admire one another so much that he legally adopted me as his son, so that even after I became a Master, I continued to live in his home.
My scribal work helped me to quickly become accustomed to the place and to learn what "was going on" here. We did a lot of work for the local lord and the town magistrate and a (small town version of) major businessman. There was also, by their standards, a good sized library in town along with a company of associated scholars for whom we did some copying of old books that were beginning to deteriorate. From these scholars and these books I began to piece together the history of the place.
Long before this, however, I confirmed my suspicion that I had not time-traveled to the past. The first night I was there I was astounded when I looked up into the sky and saw 3 moons! Clearly, I had been transported to a different world. But, if so, then how was it that the inhabitants were human beings and spoke English? At first my studies of the history of the place only added to my confusion, but I eventually sorted things out and arrived at what had happened.
The main anomaly confronting me was that the histories indicated that men had been here for 3000 years, but that they had been transported here from Earth in 1981. These transportees had been, like me, avid admirers of Shakesperean English, and even more avid admirers of medieval culture -- so much so that they had formed a club at which only Shakesperean English could be spoken and at which everyone present had to dress in medieval garb. Unlike me, they were also anti-science and anti-technology, and actually wanted to live in the Middle Ages! (My own ideal would be a combination of its personalism and love of beauty with a truly advanced science and technology -- I regard today's science and technology as too crude, not too advanced.) As their membership grew they acquired a large land-holding where they constructed a medieval castle and medieval village and all the associated paraphernalia, and where they spent as much of their time as possible. Then one day, when all were present at a great celebration there, by some means no one knows, their entire club membership and all of the buildings, paraphernalia, etc. were suddenly transported to this world. They then embarked on their English purification program, vowing that never would they allow the language to be debased (as our modern English has) nor would they allow their medieval culture to be converted into modern culture. This vow both they and their descendants kept, with the exception of a few modern words and customs.
Apparently the time anomaly was to be accounted for by the fact that their time line runs parallel to ours but at such a rate that 500 years passes there for every year in our world. (Just do the math. 1987 - 1981 = 6 years. 3000 years divided by 6 years = 500 of their years per one of our years.) It was easy for me to figure this out because I had read some fantasy and science fiction stories in such a thing had been imagined; so what they imagined I had actually found!
But I still had no idea what my mission was here or when it would be accomplished. It was not until after I had been here about 16 months that I found out.
By then I had become recognized as being among the greatest of the scribes in the kingdom, as my "father" had already been. The royal capital was not too far away from our town, so that occasionally we got some work at the palace assisting the royal scribes. One day an important event was to take place which required recording and for some reason none of the royal scribes was available. I was summoned to record it.
And a very important event this was. One of the kings on this world had become powerhungry and wished to conquer all the other kingdoms and bring them under his rule. His Chief Advisor and Chief General was both a fierce warrior of enormous stature as well as a magician extremely skilled in the diabolic arts. His magic and his warriorhood was so potent that none could withstand him. It looked like in a fairly short time the king would have his wish of world domination granted. It was even said of this magician that his magic was so powerful that no weapon in the world could harm him.
And now he and his army and his king were about to invade our kingdom. This magician and this king were also great boasters and supremely arrogant. Before attacking a kingdom, the king would declare that if any subject of that kingdom could come forth and defeat his Chief General in single combat, he would not invade that kingdom, but would withdraw and allow them to live in peace. Although this king was very wicked and cruel, he did keep oaths of that sort. So, our only hope was to find a champion to defeat this giant.
Suddenly I knew that I was the one to do so, and that I was to do so, believe it or not, using my pea shooter!! I know this sound ridiculous, but hear me out.
On the appointed day the giant, like Goliath of old, strutted out from his camp and bellowed forth is challenge to our camp. No one stirred. All knew his reputation. Finally, as the tension mounted, I stepped forth from our camp to the astonishment of our kingdom and to the gales of laughter from the enemy camp. The giant, who was 8 feet tall, was arrayed from head to foot in armor, and had a shield 6 feet in diameter, which he held with one hand, and a sword of incredible width and weight 7 feet long. After their laughter and derision subsided, their king asked me where my weapon was. I drew forth my pea shooter. The giant now laughed even harder, but it was his last laugh. While he was laughing I put a pea in my shooter and aimed at his open mouth. The pea entered his mouth, went down his throat, and then became stuck in his windpipe. Suddenly the giant's laughter ceased, he dropped his sword and shield, and his face turned green as he gasped for breath. He fell to the ground with a thunderous thud and writhed there in the throes of asphyxiation. Taking my cue from David, I rushed over, picked up his sword, which was so heavy I could barely lift it, and cut off his head, which I could also barely lift, so heavy it was.
The I became utterly confused because I did not know what to do with the giant's head. At first I held it up facing the enemy king. Then I thought, "No; I should present it to my king". So, I turned around facing him. In the utter astonishment of everyone at what had just happened a deathly silence reigned, which intensified my confusion. Finally, I asked the enemy king what I should do with the giant's head, and then, before he could answer, and as I was about to faint, I dropped it on the ground.
The enemy king then had another hearty laugh, both at my confusion and at the humor of a simple pea slaying a mighty giant and adept mage. The enemy king then asked me how it was that I had slain him since he was immune to all the weapons in the world. I replied boldly and loudly, "Neither I nor my pea shooter are of this world!". Gasps of astonishment arose from both camps.
After he had recovered from his shock, the enemy king slowly began to smile in a very cunning manner. "Then in that case," he said, "this contest was invalid!". He explained that the champion fighting on behalf of a kingdom must be a subject of that kingdom. Since I came from another world, I was not a subject of this kingdom and therefore it was invalid for me to fight on behalf of it.
I replied boldly that I was a subject of the kingdom (even thought I came from another world) because I had been legally adopted by a subject of the kingdom. According to the laws of the kingdom, I argued, anyone adopted by a subject of the kingdom, becomes, ipso
facto, a subject of the kingdom. I quoted for him the relevant passage and location of this passage from our law book. When I had finished, the Chief Legal Scholar of our kingdom stood forth, introduced himself, and verified what I had said.
At this point, the enemy king stood up and bellowed forth to our king a lengthy ornate speech, the gist of which was that he accepted my word, regarded the contest as valid, and would withdraw his army and never invade our kingdom. He then gave the command to his army to withdraw, after which he and I had a little private chat. He commended me for my boldness and actually thanked me for slaying his general, for two reasons. First, he was afraid this man would have usurped his throne soon. Second, he had witnessed a most memorable event. "Of a truth," he said, "I was exceeding bored when I came hither. Thou hast driven away my boredom."
As I turned to leave him and walk back to our camp, I suddenly found myself back in my own world in my wood. I quickly walked back to town to find out whether my time theory was correct. It was. Although almost 500 days had passed in that world, only one day had elapsed here. It was now Sunday morning. In my excitement I almost forgot that today was Youth Sunday at our church, and that I was to read the Scripture in the morning worship service. I was chosen for this, as you might guess, because of my love for the beauty of the King James English. (We use the King James Version in our church.) I arrived at home in time to get ready. (My parents were not worried because the SOM had told them of his prophecy concerning me, meaning that I might be gone for a while.)
When I read the Scripture that morning in church I made good use of my 500 days of practice, so that I read that King James English as I had never done before! There happened to be in the congregation that morning an English professor who was also a Shakesperean actor. After the service he came over to me and told me that in all his years of Shakesperean theatre he had never heard anyone speak Shakesperean English as well as I had just done. I simply told him that I had been practicing!