Saturday, January 1, 2022

Empowered: The Grad School Chronicles (1.07)

(Restart Story) 

Your adviser, Dr. Anderson, is slight and unkempt with messy hair and thinly-rimmed glasses, short enough that you can see right over his head. His office is relatively neat and tidy besides the dust bunnies native to academic spaces. He's at his desk, positioned adjacent to an abject window permanently sealed shut by Eliot University administrators. He motions you towards him with a pale hand and hurried gestures. 

"First, congratulations again on reaching graduate school. But it's time you learned the truth. All this, everything you see before you, is a lie. Eliot University isn't an institution whose primary purpose is traditional education. No, it's far more than that. Eliot University is, first and foremost, a place to hone supernatural abilities."

You smirk slightly, bemused. You knew Anderson to be somewhat of a "nerd," indicated by the Star War posters and Warhammer figurines decorating his walls and desk. You'd even heard he served as dungeon master for a roleplaying club on campus. Surely this was related to that? 

"I know what you're thinking," Anderson interjects. "But perhaps an example would suffice in proving my point." Anderson reaches to the book nearest to him, and flips open to a random page. 

"Most historians at Eliot University have the power to lift the abilities and physicality of those we write about, limited only by the quality of the text we draw upon. Primary sources hold the most potential, of course. The most powerful of us can imbue ourselves temporarily with the abilities of fictional characters, essentially providing unlimited potential. Not many of those exist anymore though." He holds his hand over the page.

"This here is a book covering the exploits of George Washington. Now, watch." After a moment, his hand begins softly glowing, before a faded stream of energy begins entering his palm. In seconds its over, and for a moment, nothing happens. Then, Anderson staggers back in his chair, and begins to morph. 

First it's subtle, but after a minute or so it's like you're looking at a completely different person. It still looks like Anderson for the most part, but certain features are distorted. Most noticeably, he is now several inches taller and has put on enough weight to strain what had just been an oversized button-up dress shirt. 

"As you can see," Anderson booms, "the effect can be quite significant. The better you master the ability to manipulate the text, the more you can emulate your target. I can master Washington's physicality for instance, but others better than me might absorb his intellect, his way of thinking. In the right combinations, this power is quite effective." 

You're stunned, half believing that you're experiencing some kind of fever dream. But in a moment of pure curiosity, you manage to ask a single question:

"So you're saying that we can use this power with any written text, potentially?" 

Anderson settles back in his chair, which creaks under the added weight. "Technically yes, but like I said, the magic works best when used to emulate real people documented in history books. Trying to use our abilities without a sufficient source of power can be dangerous, even deadly. There are rumors of some historians being able to draw on, as I said, works of fiction, or even their own imaginations, but none in recent generations have accomplished that feat."

"Further," he adds, "some of these transformations can be quite draining, even more-so if you attempt to conjure physical items from the past." Sweat drips down his forehead as his chest makes a sickly crunching noise. Anderson cries out in pain as his body rapidly shifts back to its original size. Within seconds he's gasping for air, hands gripped tightly to his desk. 

"We will have more lessons in the future, for now focus on your coursework. More will be revealed in time." 

Anderson looks like he's about to say more, but footsteps in the hallway interrupt him. His eyes dart towards his door. A voices calls out. 

"Greg, is that you? Can we chat for a moment?" Whoever it is sounds normal enough, but something about their intonation makes your skin crawl. 

Anderson looks quickly back to you. "Remember what I told you. When it's safe, I'll contact you again." He grabs what appears to be a scroll laying on a nearby shelf. You recognize it as a prop or facsimile some use while playing tabletop roleplaying games. You then note that "teleportation" is printed on its exterior. Anderson grabs the scroll, his hand glowing. He points his other hand at you. 

"I'll see you soon." 

You hear a knock on the door, and then you black out. 


I hope you are enjoying this interactive short story. If you can spare it, please consider donating to my Coffee Fund so that I can keep writing stories like these. Thank you again for reading my work! 

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About The Author

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Nicholas Garcia (M.A.) is a PhD Candidate at the University of California, Davis. He is also a Co-Founder of the Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies. Previously, he contributed to and the Davis Humanities Institute.