Posted on: 2010-06-08
Colonel Brandon woke up and looked around, causing his head to spin. Once he felt steadier, he moved his head slowly and saw that he, Edward Ferrars, Miss Dashwood, and Miss Marianne were lying on the floor of an extremely odd room. The walls, ceiling and floor were black with evenly spaced horizontal and vertical yellow lines which intersected and appeared as a grid. On the ceiling was the brightest light he had ever seen. His head was still spinning but he felt he must confirm his friends were alive and well, and so he moved cautiously towards them. Each of his companions seemed to be simply unconscious, as he had been only a few moments ago.
"Where are we and what has occurred to bring us to this place?" Brandon thought. His mind was befuddled, but realizing he was clutching a book in his hand helped him to recall. They all had been in the library at Delaford. Miss Marianne had been looking at the shelf where he kept all his favorites and had inquired as to whether he thought she would enjoy a specific title. He did not recognize the name and, confused, moved closer to see the spine. He could see the author's name was Jane Austen. Brandon had never seen it nor heard of the title or the author before. Curious, he reached out to take it from the shelf…the next thing he could recall was waking up in this room.
Suddenly, two more people simply appeared before his eyes on the floor of the room. Brandon went to investigate the condition of the newcomers. He did not know them, but it could not be a coincidence that the lady was holding a different book, also by Jane Austen.
Hearing a noise behind him, Brandon quickly turned round and found several additions to the party. Upon investigation he found each in health, though everyone was still sleeping. There were fourteen people in all, in six groups judging by how many books they were holding. All the books were authored by Jane Austen.
He began to inspect the walls of the room, and found no way out. "No doors? No windows? How strange!" Predicting it was just a matter of time before the others woke up; he sat on the floor and began to look through the book he had in his hands earlier to pass the time. Just as Brandon's eyes widened and his mouth fell open at seeing the year the book was published, he was distracted by some movement and looked up to discover all the gentlemen waking at the same moment. Brandon wondered if they would blame him for their confinement here and if they did whether it would put him in some danger.
"Gentlemen! I must warn you not to rise too quickly. When I awoke, I was rather dizzy for several minutes. Please allow me to inform you that, though I have not tried their pulses as I did for the gentlemen, the ladies seem to be sleeping just as we all were."
Giving them a few moments to look about and see the ladies they were with were safe, Brandon began again, "I am Colonel Brandon, and this is Reverend Edward Ferrars," gesturing to the friend who had unwittingly accompanied him on this adventure, "I will tell you what I know of the situation we find ourselves in. I do know two of the ladies, Miss Elinor Dashwood and Miss Marianne Dashwood, but I know nobody else. We four were the first to arrive…wherever this is. I am aware that it sounds impossible but you all simply appeared out of nowhere after I woke up. It was a most shocking sight! I know nothing more than that we seem to be in six groupings, each holding a book by the same author whose name is unfamiliar to me. Does anyone know more than I?"
All the gentlemen looked at their book and seemed even more confused than they had before.
"I am Fitzwilliam Darcy. Miss Elizabeth Bennet," he motioned to the lady on the floor near where he was now sitting, "was visiting my sister at Pemberley, my home, and expressed an interest in seeing the library. She found this book, Pride and Prejudice, on one of the shelves. The last thing I remember before I awakened was Eli…Miss Bennet removing the book from the shelf."
Mr. Knightley with Miss Emma Woodhouse, Reverend Edmund Bertram with Miss Fanny Price, Captain Wentworth with Miss Anne Elliot, and Reverend Henry Tilney with Miss Catherine Morland all had similar stories. All were in a library and one of each grouping had just taken from a shelf a book they had never seen until that moment.
Bertram blurted out, "What is going on here, Brandon? This book says it was published in the year 1814 and is named after my home, Mansfield Park! It is the year 1808! What kind of joke do you think you are playing?"
"We all need to remain calm, Mr. Bertram. I would like to say this is a jest of some kind, and admit I thought the same when I looked at the publishing date of 1811 that is printed inside my book, Sense and Sensibility--but our situation does seem serious. I had nothing to do with your coming here. No one has contacted me since I have been awake, and I cannot find any windows or doors to this room." Brandon replied. "What year did you say it is, sir?"
Bertram repeated, "It is the year 1808."
"Nonsense! It is 1812." Darcy boomed. "And this book says it was published in 1813!"
Ferrars blinked a few times before saying, "When we left the library at Delaford it was the year 1798."
Knightley joined the conversation, "It is 1814 and this book was published in 1815. It is titled Emma, which is Miss Woodhouse's Christian name. This is absolutely ridiculous!"
"Miss Morland and I were at Northanger Abbey, which is both the title of this book and the name of my home, in the year 1798. This book was published in 1817." said Mr. Tilney.
Captain Wentworth added quietly, "It is 1815, and my book, Persuasion, was published in 1817."
"Perhaps we should each read our books while we wait for the ladies to wake up? There might be a clue of some sort to our predicament within one of them." Darcy suggested, and everyone agreed. Unfortunately for both men, Ferrars was forced to read over Brandon's shoulder.
There were many red faces around the room and some rather harsh expletives were uttered as the gentlemen thumbed through their books.
Captain Wentworth shouted a cuss, startling everyone, and then yelled, "Brandon, I would like to know just how you know so much about me! And why you would feel the need to publish what you know?"
"Blast it, Wentworth, how many times must I tell you that I had nothing to do with any of this! Do you believe I wish the details of my own life to be published for anyone to read here in this book?" Brandon yelled back at him, gesturing to his own book.
Darcy, who had pronounced the most oaths in the past few minutes, had turned to the end of his tome. He sat straight up and a brilliant smile spread across his features as he called out, "Gentlemen! Turn to the last chapter!" All the gentlemen did so without delay.
The ladies all woke up a few minutes later, treated to the sight of their heart's desires reading the final words of the books and displaying the most dazzling smiles they had ever seen. Each gentleman tended to their ladies diligently, and when they had explained all they knew (other than the end of their own story) the ladies had recovered enough to get to their feet.
Just as everyone had paired off to examine the walls more closely looking for a way out, a door suddenly appeared in one of the walls and through it walked a lady and gentleman, strangely dressed.
The gentleman stepped forward, put both hands out to show he was unarmed and smiled as he said, "Please do not be alarmed. I am the Captain of the ship you are traveling aboard. There are no words to express what an honor it is to meet you all! I know this experience has been confusing and I wish to help you understand, but the explanation will probably be more confusing than not. Allow me to finish before asking any questions you may have.
"There seems to have been a little…problem which has resulted in your being brought here. I would like you to know we had this happen once before and know what to do. We have been listening to your conversation while attempting to find out what has happened. Ladies and gentlemen, I must share with you that the year is actually 2370, and this is a ship traveling through the stars, not the water."
He allowed his guests to absorb these facts for a few moments before continuing, "In our time, we have…highly developed machines that we call computers. This room is called a "holodeck", which we use for recreation and training purposes. The computer can be given information about a place and time in history and will recreate it, though it is not truly real. The computer which controls this holodeck was slightly damaged when our ship came under sudden attack by a group of…I can only think to call them "space sharks", whose ships looked something like motorized vehicles that, on Earth, are called "motorcycles"…trust me on this, I cannot explain it so that you would understand. The damage to the computer happened just as one of our crew members was entering her favorite author's novels into the holodeck computer. Somehow, the computer has created you all and given you a sense of self-awareness."
Elizabeth Bennet's eyebrow arched, "Captain, are you attempting to inform us that until the moment we woke up in this room, we were merely characters on the pages of a novel?"
The Captain nodded. "That is precisely what I am saying, Miss Bennet, thank you. Though many of you are from different novels, they are all written by the same author. A long time ago there was a novelist named Jane Austen who completed six novels before her death in 1817, copies of which are in the gentlemen's hands at this moment. Throughout the centuries the stories of all of your lives, which are contained between the covers of these novels, have been well loved and oft read by millions of readers. You all are among the best known fictional characters in history."
The ladies all began to murmur to each other and the gentlemen were silent. After a minute or so, Colonel Brandon said, "Ladies, each of the gentlemen here has perused the novels we are supposed to have been created from. I must admit there is little chance that anyone could know exactly what has happened in my life, and yet here it is printed on these pages." He held out the book. "I know it seems impossible, but I cannot remember anything that has happened to me that is not in this book. If it is mentioned in passing in the novel, I do not remember details--I only know exactly what is in the book. It is an astonishing revelation, but I do think the Captain is correct! Gentlemen, do you agree?"
All the gentlemen nodded.
Anne Elliot said, "But…you say we are 'alive' now. Must we remain here?"
"You must understand, Captain, we know nothing of this time period and would miss our families terribly if we remained." Elinor Dashwood added.
"No, unfortunately you cannot remain here for long, though I would certainly enjoy getting to know you all better. You are not made of the same sort of matter that we are. While your consciousness is real, your bodies cannot exist in our world. As I said earlier, we encountered a similar situation once in the past and had found a solution for the two characters that came to life then. We believe the same is possible for all of you.
"We have a small computer that we can download your programs onto, and have already recreated Britain from your time period within the computer. A program from each of the six novels will run independently of each other. The power source is self-sustaining and simulation of your story will continue…forever." said the Captain.
And so…the Captain and crew member who had been programming the novels into the holodeck when the space sharks attacked spent an enjoyable afternoon having tea with their favorite characters before the downloads were carried out.
The love that Jane Austen's characters shared with their soon-to-be spouses would live on forever within the special computer--and, no doubt, within the hearts and minds of all those who would continue to read Jane Austen's novels for centuries to come.