Ceci n’est pas un journal de Venser

Survival Tip #4: Never trust a used ambulator salesman.

—Venser, Master Artificer

A flash, a thud, a faint scream cut off abruptly. This is how I know I’ve arrived.

The blood rushing to my head makes my skull feel tight and my teeth throb. I pull my helmet off, hoping to relieve the pressure, and my vision clears just in time to see a very angry mob of uncommonly short, uncommonly hairy people roaring their way towards me across the packed red clay of a village square.

I might’ve [card]unsummon[/card]ed their spiritual savior, or their queen, or their clan chief, or the last child of their dying race. I don’t know. I don’t wait to find out. I cram the helmet back on my head and furiously tap the glowing buttons set in the arms of the ambulator.

I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know how I know the machine I’m sitting in is called an ambulator. I don’t care. I want out, and I really hope it works. My fingers seem to know. Maybe it’s the gloves. They’re glowing, too.

A flash, a sharp boom as air rushes in to fill the vacuum where I just was, and I’m out, safe from the reach of people whom I’ve wronged in ways I will never know. But where am I going now?

Who the hell am I?

Venser, The Æther-TossedAnother flash, another thud, which jars my seat bone painfully. No scream this time, which is a relief, but it’s unnaturally dark, which isn’t. Parts of the ambulator give off a ghostly blue glow, the only light in this place. The air smells wet and cold and stale, like the exhalations of a thousand merfolk long since gone. I feel the air in front of me stirring, almost caressing my face, followed by a soft, wet, sucking sound, and then a cackle.

This is bad. This is worse than incensed dwarves. I sense something forming off to my right, and before I even think about it, a surge of mana zips through me and I’ve banished it before it’s fully formed. But I can feel more presences congregating around me, and I can’t access enough mana to flick them all away like half-formed gnats.

I push more buttons, feel the ambulator lurch under me, and we’re off again.

The ambulator lands a-tilt on a patch of mud, and starts sinking slowly but perceptibly. I stare, dazed and disbelieving, as the muck rises first over the tips of my boots, then starts creeping up my ankle.

[card]Quicksand[/card]. Of course. Wonderful.

I find myself praying to gods whose names I’ve forgotten as my fingers once again fly across the buttons.

The quicksand is halfway up my calves and the ambulator is threatening to to tip me over when I feel that sickening lurch once again. I welcome it.

As I fly off into oblivion, I picture, for just a moment, a handsome middle-aged man with a neatly-trimmed brown beard and a wide smile, blinding in its perfection.

I feel an inexplicable urge to throttle the smile off that face.


I banish a mad tyrant’s plan to turn the entire countryside to ash before it is much more than intention—though I feel a heavy certainty that all I’ve done is delay him for a day at most, no more.


A staggering amount of clean laundry disappears in one fell swoop. I barely manage to escape before the enraged laundress reaches me.


This contraption seems hellbent on landing in the middle of busy thoroughfares for the next several trips. I somehow flicker away all the horses before they stampede on me.


It was an otherwise pleasant daisy field, except for the startled and subsequently belligerent bull.


I reveal a magician’s secret when I alight upon—and promptly fall through—the hidden trapdoor on his stage.


I land right in the middle of a lover’s quarrel. When their astonishment wears off, they commence debating, with considerable heat, whether I fell from the sky or simply manifested in space. I don’t wait to find out their conclusion I


mouthful of saltwater can’t breathe don’t breathe idiot ah shit at least the merfolk don’t look angry the weight of the seawater hurts come on come on MOVE DAMMIT GO CAN’T


These are the events I remember. I have a nagging feeling there are more. Every time I leave, I can feel faint a tugging sensation in my head that is purely psychic. It isn’t pleasant. I wonder if the machine is somehow consuming my memories to power itself on these far-flung journeys?

It can’t be. Who would build a thing so awful and absurd?

What happens to the things and people I unsummon, I wonder? Is there a family somewhere now smothered under a pile of freshly-washed linens? Or running for their lives as a succession of terrified horses and cows run through their living rooms?

Vincent? Verens. Vorosh. Raven. Severin.

I’m so close to my name, I can almost feel it tripping off my tongue, the sound rippling through the air, making it real, making me real.

Vesuvius. Valen. Vernon. Niven.


I don’t know how long I sat in the ambulator, unconscious, in the wet heat of an [card]Urborg[/card] afternoon, but given the size of the headache clamping my skull, it was long enough. I gradually become aware of a hearty voice booming through the dark haze I’ve curled myself into. I don’t understand what the sounds are, but as I force myself to [card]concentrate[/card], they slowly start to cohere and take on meaning.

“Buddy. Hey, hey buddy. You all right?”

I force my eyes open. The world is a meaningless smear of color. I blink, and things go completely black again, but not for long.

“—ddy. Hey. You all right there? I saw you open your eyes just now, you can’t be dead. Please don’t be dead.”

I force my eyes open and this time, a face floats into focus. Square, handsome. Grey eyes surrounded by crow’s feet crinkle at me, worried but optimistic at the same time. A neatly trimmed beard, dark brown. When his gaze catches mine, his face splits into a wide smile, blinding in its perfection. He hoots and slaps me on the shoulder.

Lightly-Used Ambulator“You had me real worried there for a hot minute!” he said. “You took off in that dang thing lickety-split, I mean your butt had barely hit the seat, and ain’t nobody had gotten it going before—begging your pardon, I know I told you different—and I didn’t know if I was even going to see it again, least not in one piece, and you were gone for hours and hours, gone all this morning and into the afternoon, but I told myself, Harman, it’s all right, this man here gave me his word and a hefty deposit, and sure enough, here you ar—”

A flash, and the sharp pop of air filling the space where he used to be. He didn’t even have time to yell properly. I don’t know what came over me; I’m not normally quick to anger.

I’m home again. And I remember.