Thursday, October 16, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Introduction to the World of Phantasm (Part 1)

Painting by Pamela Poole
PART I—The World of Phantasm

Far in the recesses of the universe where all fantasy worlds reside, there is one in particular that by some unfortunate chance received a connection with certain persons on Earth. It is called Phantasm. A world of perpetual sunshine (since the sun rotates at a fixed point in the world’s viscous atmosphere), Phantasm is alive with vivid colors and thriving plants, flowers and creatures.
Phantasm is a world of markedly consolidated landforms. There is one mountain range (the Great Range), large swathes of grassy meadows punctuated by tall, extensive forests (this area is called the Meadowglades), and a single Lake, (known by all as “the Lake,” for it is the only body of water in the known part of the world.) The Great Range stretches so far that not even the dragons have reached the far side of it. Phantasmians assume that those mountains wholly cover half of the world while the Meadowglades cover the other half. No creature has ever been able to travel far enough across the mountains of the Great Range to see if this is true.

The Great Mountain Range dominates the Phantasmian landscape. Contrary to the dead, grey stone of the mountains of our world, the Phantasmian mountains are swirled with hues of blue and purple ranging from bright magenta to deep-ocean blue. This is the domain of the dragons: sage, judicious creatures who are not mindless savages, though they are not very gentle by our standards! The furthest any non-dragon ever dares to go is a string of mountains on the front fringe of the Great Range, called the Sayhoun Mountains. At the center of the Sayhoun Mountains is the eyrie of the gryphons, full of caves and outcroppings where the magnificent creatures rear their young.

The Lake of Phantasm is many miles wide and many deep, home to thousands of merfolk and the last water horse in existence. Situated in a protective corner of the Sayhoun Mountains, the water in the Lake is constantly refreshed by waterfalls of melted snow and glaciers mixed with the warmer rainwater to provide a very comfortable environment neither too hot nor too cold. In the Lake there is a certain kind of plant called uandino (wan’-din-oh) that creatures without gills can use to breathe underwater. The plant grows very tall underwater, and has long, triangular leaves of dark green with streaks of blue and purple in it. On the back of each leaf is a gooey, mucosal substance that, when rubbed over the mouth, clings to the skin and enables one to breathe without letting water in. It stretches without breaking to any width, and once outside the water, it peels off easily.

The Meadowglades are home to the six-inch-high fairies and elves. The fairies live in special house-flowers out in the meadow called misti. Misti have the appearance of spine-less barrel cacti. The color of the misti depends on the preference of the fairy that builds it, as do the number and color of the flowers that decorate the top of the “cactus.” The elves live among the trees, in mushroom-like “houses” called quirts. As with the misti, the color and shape of the quirt depends on the occupant’s preference. The quirt “neighborhoods” are not grouped around the base of a tree, but wind up the tree itself, often spiraling all the way up to the crown of the tree. Also growing on the trees are dark-green vines of edkidna, a delicious fruit. The edkidna is shaped like a mango and has a thick, citrus-like rind. It’s coloring is a brilliant yellow with small red flecks and streaks. To eat it, the edkidna must be smashed against a hard surface, like a stone or a tree-trunk, which causes the rind to split and break easily away from the orange, melon-like flesh. 

A most singular plant in the Meadowglades is the venim (ven-im’, with the accent on the second syllable) plant. It flourishes on Phantasm and is a very communal plant, growing in thick clumps in the meadows, or around the bases of the trees in the forests. It grows in the form of a bush, with tall stalks growing together from a common root, much like mint; indeed, it looks very much like our mint plant. The leaves are bright green with blue tips. The flower is large and beautiful, with many petals of red and purple, with golden-yellow pistils in the center. Every creature avoids these plants, even the herbivores. The venim plant is a natural preservative, essentially stopping the aging process of anything it comes in contact with, whether it is ingested or picked. To preserve clothing, one can store ones clothes in a chest full of dried venim leaves, like mothballs. The clothing will never wear out and never need mending. If ingested, the creature will never age again, but will remain exactly as it was the moment it ingested the venim. If it is only consumed once, it will not remain in the creature’s system any longer than a normal food would, and once it passes out of the digestive system, it has no affect on that creature. Regardless, it is a terrible plant to all Phantasmians, and all creatures generally avoid it.
            Scattered respective distances apart over the Meadowglades are various towns in which live different species: a few Giant-towns, several dwarf-towns, and a few empty towns once inhabited by creatures who either went extinct or were banished to the Underworld. Most of these buildings are made of sod or stone.

            The Underworld encompasses the whole inner core of the planet, ten miles underneath the surface of Phantasm from any point on the spherical world. Here is where all the darkest, most evil creatures reside, shut off (for the most part) from the rest of the world above: small goblins, man-size ogres, giant Cyclopes, vampire bats the size of a grown man, shriveled, wrinkled hags, witches, werewolves, squat trolls, burly minotaurs, and other nameless creatures born out of nightmares. The Underworld is a dark place, pleasant to them, for all the Underworld creatures possess the ability to see in the dark, and cannot stand the light. Mostly, the Underworld consists of long, snaking tunnels twisting round and round, all leading to the very heart of Phantasm, an area about sixty miles in diameter, fully sixty miles below the surface. There is a mutual truce between the Underworlders, more like a “stay-out-of-my-way-and-I-won’t-kill-you” pact. Their only opportunity to rise to the surface is if there is an evil influence on the surface that summons them. Otherwise, they must remain below. Underworlders enjoy fire, but water burns their skin. Underworlders, when attacking Phantasmians, will often use torches, for the flames do not bother them. Every Phantasmian who has been attacked by Underworlders knows to keep a pail of water handy. The only way for the Underworld to ever have access to Phantasm is if the Underworlders are summoned by dark magic by someone in Phantasm (typically an intruder, because no Phantasmian in their right mind would ever think of opening the Underworld).

            As with most fantasy worlds, there are characteristics of this world simply impossible on Earth. For example, the sky in Phantasm is an actual, physical surface capable of supporting weight, sort of like an atmospheric “canopy.” Only objects launched at an extremely high velocity by mechanical means can penetrate the membrane; it is impossible for any creature to do so, and it is much higher than even the dragons have ever flown. Consequently, the exact composition of the sky is unknown, or even what is inside the sky (between the membrane and the outer atmosphere). The clouds and stars are directly a part of the membrane itself, though the stars are only visible at night. No one knows for sure, but since the Moon-Beems are the only things in the sky that glow at night, it is believed that perhaps, as the Moon-Beems work around their hive, small parts of the glowing orb flake off into the night sky and cling to the sky membrane, glowing there for many days until they wear out and fall to the ground.
The sun and moon are very different on Phantasm than in our world. The Sun is actually a part of the outer atmosphere, and this is what rotates, rather than the world itself. The moon is a large, cratered, satellite planet, similar to ours, only it is much smaller, and contained in the sky-membrane. The moon is actually a hive for the Moon-Beems, large insectoid creatures whose appearance is a cross between termites, honeybees, and lightning bugs. They work busily in the craters of the hive at night, and as they work, they glow, giving the moon its light. The Moon-Beems are also the cause of the moon’s rising and falling. The fervent action of the Moon-Beems lifts the moon up into the sky at night, and when the Sun rotates to the surface of Phantasm, the Moon-Beems cease their activity, and the moon sinks below the mountains.

            Perhaps the single most unusual feature of Phantasm is their reckoning of time and history. Since the sun and moon are not the “heavenly bodies” like we have, there is not really a means of numbering the days—not by seasons, months, years, or even hours. A single day in Phantasm is split up into five segments: dawn, morning, midday, evening, and night. Phantasmians are generally content to live on a day-to-day basis, perhaps counting a journey’s length by the number of days, or reckoning the time since some event by days (or when the days become too numerous, they refer to it as simply “a long time”), but largely ignoring the need for hours or timetables.

            History, too, is somewhat capricious. This is because Phantasm and any other world (such as Earth) may connect at any point in the history of either world, rendering it impossible to maintain an accurate historical record, as new discoveries and events collide, where perhaps a man from the 19th century reaches Phantasm and lives there long enough to be joined by a man from the 20th century, and they in turn team up to affect the lives of others from Earth in the 21st century, meanwhile another person from a completely different timeline in another world will find its way to Phantasm and completely eradicate the existence of the 20th-century man, thereby changing history for Phantasm and affecting that man’s place in the history of Earth. Or a man from the 21st century might think he was the first human to set foot on Phantasmian soil, only to find that someone from the 17th century had already lived and died there. History on Phantasm is like science on Earth: new discoveries render it as an ever-changing circumstance.

Did you enjoy this? Read Part 2 HERE.