Quite Able-Part Three

If you can imagine being slurped up like pasta, then you have a vague idea of what falling into a bowl of fractal noodles is like. There is also a disorientating sensation of falling into and out of oneself. Also a kaleidoscope of vivid colors, including the invisible ones, mosk, and divos. Vanessa had this experience twice before but it remained unnerving.

After either moments or an eternity, she landed on some soft rocks. Standing, she looked out at her surroundings. The world inside was never the same. The first time she went in it resembled an undersea city, the second was a vast forest. This time, floating rocks over a series of canyons. All of these settings slowly expanded into a spiral pattern.

First things first, she listened. For a beat, all Vanessa could hear was the sigh of the wind and the unfolding of the world, which sounded like the flipping of the pages of a book. Then, she heard a voice in the distance.

Quickly testing the pliancy of the stone beneath her feet, she ran to the expanding edge and jumped. Leaping from floating rock to floating rock would’ve been a joyous thrill under more controlled circumstances. She did her best to focus on the task at hand. People who stayed to long in these pocket universes tended to disappear. 

One of her friends from the Akademie philosophized that they became part of the pattern and therefore were absorbed. This was a conversation had late at night and after much cheap wine, so she didn’t know with any certainty if it was true. But then again, people did vanish. So…

The voice was getting louder so after ricocheting off three, floating rocks, she landed on a large, flat one. Moving to the center, she saw the man who had fallen in. 

Thank the Great Tree! I really need some help!” he said, loudly.

He wasn’t wrong. He was right in the center, waist-deep in stone.

Vanessa took out a notepad and wrote, BE QUIET. NOISE MAKES THINGS WORSE!!!”

Reading it, the man said, “Sorry,” and sunk a little deeper into the stone.

She gave him the pad to respond.


She pointed to BE QUIET.

Vanessa understood that anyone who fell into this situation would shout for help. It was a natural impulse. It was also the worst thing to do. She had an idea.


Going to the edge of the stone, she began to run against the direction it was turning. Vanessa smiled despite the danger, it was actually a lot of fun. Perhaps too much fun. She had reversed the fractal expansion and suddenly found herself falling toward the canyons below.

The man she successfully freed also was plummeting. He screamed and rocks spiraled around him. When a large enough ledge appeared, she was able to grab it and pull herself up. They both took a moment to catch their breath and she took out her notepad and wrote, SORRY, GOT CARRIED AWAY.





THAT SIMPLE? he wrote.

IF WE’RE LUCKY,she scribbled back.

Vanessa gazed upwards. The rope she had tied around her waist ascended into the sky. All vendors of fractal noodles were required to have this sort of rope on hand. It would stretch as long as was needed. Maybe stretch wasn’t the right word. It was more that it wouldn’t end abruptly. Handy, but they couldn’t just climb out or even yank the cord to let those at the other end pull them up.

Looking up, it seemed as though the sky was in fact more stones and rocks. Putting any unhelpful inconsistencies aside she wrote,I’VE GOT ANOTHER IDEA.”


YES!Vanessa wrote with more conviction than she felt.

She untied the rope and looped it around both their waists as they stood back to back. 


They both crouched and leapt towards the canyon wall. They caromed back and forth till they hit the open air. From there they rebounded upward toward the point where the rope ended. There was no glowing portal, but she knew that was the way out.

Landing on a large floating stone, Vanessa looked at what was around them. Unfortunately, there were no other rocks close enough to land on. They might end up doing this forever at this rate. 

As they slowly rotated and expanded, she had an idea. Was it a good one? They were about to find out. She adjusted the rope so they were side by side. Then she wrote, FOLLOW MY LEAD.

Stephan nodded.

Running along the edge, they increased the spin and the size of the rock. After the stone under their feet was a blur, Vanessa looped the rope around the jagged edge and they jumped off. With a jerk, they spun with the rock. While the rope did lengthen, they did orbit it at the same speed. The physics were a little wonky. Well, a lot wonky. Still, it worked. 

Vanessa, who was focusing on the surrounding rocks while suppressing a strong urge to vomit, took out her knife and cut. They zoomed towards one rock, bounded off another, then another, and then directly towards the exit. 

Just then, as they were hurtling to freedom, two rocks drifted across their path. Stephan twisted them just as they were about to hit. They just passed through the spiral arms of the stones. Barely. Vanessa lost a shoe.

Then they shot out of a bowl in a shower of cold broth, chopped vegetables, and noodles. Everything was foggy. A great cry went up and applause followed closely behind. Hands helped them up and Marcella pushed her way to the front and handed them each a brass cup filled with a bright green liquor and ordered them to drink.

One sip and the world slammed back into focus. Everyone wanted to hear what happened. Vanessa and Stephan found themselves at the edge of the Impossible Market. It very quickly became a party. Drinks and food were supplied. They told the story more than once as more people arrived. 

Vanessa mentioned that she had actually rescued someone from fractal noodles twice before and everybody wanted to hear those stories. She wasn’t accustomed to this volume of direct attention but she tried her best to tell what happened and answer the many, many questions to pop up. 

Stephan, sensing her discomfort, took over the tale-telling duties (he was apparently a thespian and playwright), giving her a chance to have something to eat and him a chance to perform. Someone had handed her an excellent stew on a stick.

Now that mortal peril wasn’t on the table, she took a look at Stephan. He was not unappealing. A shock of artfully messy dark hair, grey eyes, a slightly crooked nose, and second-hand but still stylish clothes. It was clearly a persona but she had to admit, he pulled it off. 

Eventually, everyone who wanted to hear their tale had done so and both Vanessa and Stephan leaned back into the cushions and sighed as one of the bartenders collected empty and half-empty glasses.

I have to say, this might be one of the most unusual first dates I’ve ever been on,” he said finishing the last of his azure Riesling.

This wasn’t a date,” Vanessa declared.

Are you sure,” he asked with a smile.

It was more of a rescue.”

I guess you’re right,” Stephen replied, “Can I buy you breakfast to show my gratitude?”

She laughed and said, “It’s a little early for breakfast.”

It is almost dawn.”

She looked out the window and he was correct, everything was getting lighter. Then her eyes went wide and she cursed.

I’ve got to go!” 

Can I see you again?” Stephan quickly shouted as she leapt to her feet and ran out.

Vendors were trickling in and getting their stalls ready for customers as Vanessa ran as fast as she could to Dorjan’s Seasonaporium only to find it closed with a sign that read, “DORJAN WILL BE OPEN AT NOON!”

Her career was over, she’d be lucky if she get a job making hot pies on a street cart. That is if she could get into the union which seemed as far away as the moon. 

With a leaden shuffle, she headed to tell the Gastromancer that she failed.

Hey! Hey! Hey!” someone called from behind her.

Vanessa turned, ready to vent on whomever this was when she saw the bartender running up the row. She was out of breath as she stumbled up to the now disgraced chef.

I have something… for you,” the bartender gasped.

Oh hell,” she thought, “I skipped out on the bill.”

I was told to give you this… before you left.”

Fishing in her apron, the bartender handed her a small package, wrapped in burnt orange paper, sealed with a wax seal that displayed the initials, DS.

Dorjan made me swear that I gave that to you before you left,” she said, her breath finally back.

Vanessa grinned.

You just saved my life!”

And you saved mine. Dorjan said if I forgot, he’d send Marcella to have some words with me,” replied the bartender.

Thank you! Sorry, I have to run!” 

Good luck!”

Vanessa, after a harrowing velo-pede ride, entered the kitchen as the day began. Prep work was beginning, meats were being trimmed of fat, sauces were being assembled, doughs kneaded, and all the various things that went into a feast day. As she crossed the kitchen, the door to the Gastromancer’s office opened and she entered.

Writing in a journal, the Gastromancer looked up. Vanessa placed the package on her desk. The Gastromancer removed the paper and seal, opened the vial, and sniffed.

Very resourceful,” stated the Gastromancer.

Vanessa nodded with a slight smile.

You are now the Chef de Partie for sauce station three. You can wash up in the back and will be issued a clean jacket. Mathéo has today’s menu. Listen to what he tells you.”

Yes, Gastromancer!”

Vanessa turned to leave but her new boss had one more thing to say.

You have a green mushroom in your hair and you need another shoe.

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