|The swirling sensation of movement passed quickly, leaving Conan feeling
a little dizzy, as these transitions always did. FirstSearch, who had never
passed through a hyperway before, stamped and whinnied and tossed his head,
shaking his great white mane.
"Watch it," said a small, growly voice, "I've not much of a seat here."
Conan opened his eyes and regarded the uninvited passenger clinging
to the pommel of his saddle with four black paws. The fox grinned back,
his pink tongue lolling and pointed ears relaxing to the sides as he curled
his bushy red tail so that its white tip almost touched his chin.
"Nice escape from those hunters, don't you think?" The tip of his tongue
curled and uncurled as he chuckled and panted at the same time. "Hounds
never think in terms of hyperlinks."
"Don't you worry they will scent where your paw touched the link and
follow us through?" Conan asked.
"Not at all." The fox shifted position for a better grip. "Your horse
must be at least seventeen hands. The link is too high for their noses
to reach. Nevertheless, I don't think we should go back." He cocked his
head. "I say, though, you're taking this little imposition of mine rather
well. I do hope I haven't taken you out of your way."
Conan shrugged. "Who's to say what is out of the way in the Web?"
He looked around. They were in a valley, narrow and sparsely wooded,
bounded by mountains so tall and steep that the rays of the sun never reached
the valley floor. His eyes were not yet adapted to the shadow.
"Who indeed?" the fox agreed. "Neither do all roads lead to the kingdom
at its center."
"And what do you know of the kingdom?" Conan asked as casually as he
"I know that one who would travel there needs a good guide." He made
a little bow with his head. "I am Reynard (no, not that Reynard; it's a
common name among foxes) WWW guide and all-around fine fellow, at your
Conan laughed. "I need no guide, but I will not refuse the company.
I am Conan. Now tell me where you have brought us."
"I didn't have time to check, actually," Reynard admitted, looking around
for the first time. "But this is no time for backtracking. Onward, I say."
Conan turned his horse and they started down the valley. As they came
out of the rocks, they noticed a crowd of people silently staring into
a crevice above which were painted the letters CAM. Drawing nearer, they
saw an image of tropical fish, brightly colored and elegant, but unmoving.
Occasionally, the image would refresh itself revealing that somewhere the
fish were swimming.
"Amazing," said a woman in the crowd. Everyone else nodded silently,
never taking their eyes off the fish.
A short way further on, a similar crowd peered into a similar crevice
at the image of a green bird with a yellow breast and a black head. In
a moment, his image was refreshed and he could be seen to be starting to
stretch his right leg and wing to the side. A glowing sign announced the
parrot's name as Webster.
Conan was puzzled at the hypnotic effect these CAM images seemed to
exert on their viewers.
"Oh, dear," Reynard's nervous voice interrupted his thoughts. "I think
I know where we are."
© 1997, by Hadley V. Baxendale