Chapter 1

“There, that should do it.” Nevin Essex stepped back from the wall-sized painting and sighed as he put down his paint brush and palette. He slowly walked across his large but messy Laboratory, sat down in his work chair and stared at his work: a huge and colorful landscape of a┬ábeach at night, but with dark purple sand and a blue-green ocean splashing gentle waves on the shore. The water was filled with with thousands of small glowing things that ended up in the sand as well. The glowing things that had been in the sand had grown a large stem with a fan-like flower on top. The beach was covered with these glowing flowers. In the distance, there were two small moons – one blue, the other pink. The light from these two suns cast strange shadows on the scenery below.

Nevin looked around his Lab and found his dog, Rolo, in his usual spot. “Hey Rolo, what do you thi? ?”

The grey weimaraner on the divan raised its head, looked around the Laboratory thinking that Nevin’s question had something to do with a treat, and returned to sleeping with a grunt.

“Well, I wish I had your enthusiasm. Now at least we’re one stop closer to finishing the Shulvi world – hopefully in time for Liam’s birthday.” Nevin glanced at the massive mural to his left depicting a pristine beach with flowering plants, opal sands, and two small suns about to set in a dark purple ocean. He stared at it for a few moments musingly. “I’m not too happy with the color of the water.” He motioned towards the brush and pallette. “Maybe if I -”

“Oh no you don’t, mister.”

Nevin spun around to notice his wife Clara with a pointed expression on her face. “Bokumb’s wedding is in 15 minutes and I can’t have you launch into that project. We’ll be late as always. For once I’d like to not be late. Liam and Layne need to get their coats and masks on.”

Nevin sighed. “But honey I do think the ocean could be a different shade, don’t you think?”

Clara handed him his coat, “Honey, no, we went over this. Changing the ocean’s color requires reworking the algal bloom chemistry, which, I believe, gives you that opal sands that you really wanted. You can’t have everything when it comes to Life.”

“I know, I know don’t remind me. For once, it would be great to create a World that says, ‘To hell with physics and biology,’ and just see what happens.”

Clara laughed, “Right – and that almost killed us the last time when you created the World of Chocolate for Layne’s birthday.”

As if on cue, Layne entered the Lab holding her brother’s hand. “I didn’t like that World at all, Daddy. I won’t be forgetting my ninth birthday any time soon. I think I still have chocolate in my ear and that’s been over three weeks ago!”

“I’m sorry honey – we’ll get it right for your next birthday.” He picked up Liam to put on his mask. “What kind of World would you like for your birthday next month?” The 4-year old boy struggled against the mask. “I don’t wike this mask, daddy.”

“Son, I know – but we need them to breathe. Remember when you took it off last time we visited Bokumb’s village? You started coughing and got a really bad headache. Just stay still and I’ll adjust it. Look, if you wear the mask like a good boy, maybe we’ll get you Shamesh’s famous willowberry treats.”

“Tweats? I wike tweats.” Liam smiled and stood still. Nevin turned the dial on the back of his mask until it shortened the straps around Liam’s head for a snug fit.

The rest of the family did the same and Nevin walked toward the Console to manipulate the various levers and dials of the Nexus. The mural that depicted the beach on Shulvi melted away and in its place was an equally detailed mural of a thick jungle clearing with towering vines casting large shadows on the myriad broad leafed plants. A misty haze permeated the entire scene and large birdlike creatures could be seen perched on a few of the vines.

“Ok, everyone ready? I’m opening the Nexus.” The family moved directly in front of the mural and a small platform raised from the floor and stopped waist-height. Nevin placed his palm in a small recess on the platform. The lights in the Lab dimmed slightly and various lights and dials around the Console began flashing. Nevin heard the familiar low vibrations as the various mechanisms of the Nexus sparked to life. It began exerting appreciable amounts of power to generate the portal to Bokumb’s jungle home, Havpoi.

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