this is one of my Van Helsing April Fool's Day stories. I have no
of a companion to Carl's Mistake from 2006.
A Pinch to Grow On
Van Helsing stood several hundred yards from an amazing sight. Van
Helsing didn't really know how to describe it. It was a city on a hill,
but to call it that was like calling one of his tojo blades a round,
sharp weapon. Such simple words just don't do it justice.
This city was unlike anything Van Helsing had ever seen or imagined. A
shining city that was notably pale in color, bright and even shimmering
when the sun hit it just right, he thought. Most cities were dark
places with dark bricks, dark dirt streets and other earthy, ruddy
colors mixed in. This was an almost white city. A spire seemed to burst
out of the middle of it, and the whole thing appeared to be split in
half by a towering stone ledge.
He heard Carl's gasp when they appeared here and his friend saw it for
the first time. Van Helsing was just as awed by it. He was so awed, in
fact, that he forgot to be angry that they'd ended up wherever this
was, because Carl had been fiddling with his machine again.
Van Helsing pulled his eyes away from the gleaming city, and looked
directly around him to see Carl's machine, his worktable and apparently
everything within arms of reach of them in the lab that hadn't been
nailed down. Carl had been making adjustments on the machine, sure that
since it managed to help them travel through time that he could
transport someone from one spot to another within the same time period.
They'd been talking about Van Helsing's birthday, or rather his lack of
one, when it happened. Carl said that they should pick a day and call
it Van Helsing's birthday, because it just wasn't fair that he didn't
have a special day.
"Every day with you is special, Carl, at least when you're not blowing
things up," he'd answered, handing Carl a tiny but very heavy hammer.
"Yes, but it should be a day when you get something you really want."
Van Helsing's eyebrows shot up, and he smiled.
"Gabriel, I mean a day when you get something that you don't already
get anyway," Carl replied, and was clearly trying to hide a smile, when
he looked at Van Helsing, his hand slipped, and he'd accidentally
activated the machine while the door was open. They were standing near
it, but not in it, so it transported them, the table, Carl's tools and
a few other things right into this large field, just outside this
"Carl, do you have any idea where we are?"
Carl didn't take his eyes off the city as he answered. "We're in what
appears to be a large field. Beyond that, I don't know. But don't
worry. I'll get us back, don't panic."
Van Helsing wasn't panicking, but that Carl had said don't panic cause
a little bit of dread. When Carl said not to panic, that was usually
when the time was ripe for it. He reached over and put his hand on
Carl's head, letting it glide quickly down his hair to smooth it where
the light breeze had popped it up. The gesture caused Carl to look at
him. Van Helsing smiled.
"I can see by the way you're looking at it, you want to go there," Van
"Don't you? Look at it, it's . . . it's just . . . oh, my goodness,
Carl was looking at the city again. Van Helsing let his hand fall to
the man's shoulder. "It is. But it's also . . . not right."
Carl looked at him again, nodding. "No, it isn't."
"Does this look like any place in history that you've ever read about,
in one of your many books?"
"So, we're not in the past?" His hand went back to Carl's hair for just
a moment, before he crossed his arms in front of his chest.
"Doesn't seem so. And before you ask, it doesn't seem likely that we're
in the future, either."
When Van Helsing gave Carl a questioning look, Carl continued. "Since
we can go to the past, it seems reasonable that there may be a
way to jump to the future, but that's so much more complicated . . . I
doubt I could do it by accident, since I've already tried for months
and haven't managed it with serious effort."
"I see." Van Helsing tilted his head for a moment. "No, actually I
don't. If this isn't the past or the future, and it's clearly not the
present . . . .?"
"I won't know what's really going on until we go there, and perhaps see
who lives there. Perhaps it is the past, just one that's not very well
known to us."
Van Helsing wasn't really satisfied with the answer, but knew it was
the best Carl had right now. "All right."
"You're taking all this very well."
Van Helsing didn't answer, but started walking toward the strange city.
"You really are being very gracious about it, Van Helsing. I appreciate
. . . ."
Van Helsing smiled as he listened to Carl trying to smooth the
situation over. Despite his worry about the situation, Van Helsing
found he couldn't be too angry when faced with the prospect of
exploring the amazing city ahead of them.
Of course, that excitement soured when they were ambushed before they
reached the massive gate. When the soldiers reached them, their drawn
swords prompted Van Helsing to draw his own weapons, and only Carl's
shouts for him to put them away convinced him it was best. The sword at
Carl's throat had a lot to do with persuading him in that regard. He
loathed letting himself be bound and essentially taken prisoner, but it
seemed they had little choice. Carl said that he was sure once these
people realized the strangers weren't a threat, things would be
different. Van Helsing hoped he was right, and took comfort in knowing
that Carl, thanks to all the reading he did, had a sense about things.
At least part of the time.
Carl kept trying to talk to them and they ignored him, but they weren't
rough or unkind, just businesslike, and while he and Carl were
protesting that they meant no one any harm and were merely curious,
their hands were bound and they were escorted to the city.
Once through the gate, they were led up a winding road which seemed to
circle everything within the city. The city was as dazzling up close as
from afar, with tons of white stone and amazing architecture.
There had clearly been recent upheaval, however, Van Helsing noted.
People were busy with building and repairs, some of the stone was
scorched and some was crumbled practically to dust. And there appeared
to be dark stains on the ground in places that looked as if blood or
some other darkness had left a shadow behind.
Finally, after walking for what felt like forever, they reached a huge
citadel, one that had both Van Helsing and Carl leaning back to look up
with amazement as they entered. A man approached them, and as he drew
near, Van Helsing swallowed hard, squinted, and then simply gaped.
"Who are you?" the man asked firmly, in a voice that only made Van
Helsing gape more. "What is your purpose here?"
Carl answered and explained to the man that they were visitors from a
neighboring country, even naming Rome, the Vatican, Italy and all of
Europe, which drew curious stares from the man and the soldiers. Van
Helsing looked at Carl who was speaking to this man as if he didn't
realize . . . .
When Carl looked at Van Helsing and said, "Definitely not past, or
future. I think . . . I think we're in another dimension entirely!" The
man took a step back and asked, "What is this sorcery of which you
speak?" Then he turned and ordered a soldier to fetch someone with a
curious name, and Carl looked at Van Helsing and whispered, "Miss
Reinder? Who the--"
"Explain this dimension--is this a device of Sauron's? Did you get it
Carl did his very best to explain to the man exactly what was
happening, and while he looked a bit amazed by it, Van Helsing thought
at least he didn't draw his sword and run either of them through. And
then Van Helsing did something he didn't expect, he smiled at his own
thought and the double entendre, given how much he wouldn't necessarily
mind being "run through" with the man's "sword" since the man looked
almost exactly like--"
Van Helsing shook out of his reverie and looked at Carl. "Yes?"
"Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't hear the question, Mister . . . ?"
"You may call me Faramir. I asked you if you had anything to add to the
small one's account. Perhaps you weren't listening because you were
busy making up more fantastic tales?"
Van Helsing couldn't stop smiling, which wasn't very smart given their
situation. He looked back and forth between this Faramir and Carl.
"Carl's account is accurate, as is most everything he says, I assure
you. I wasn't listening because I was too busy thinking how you two
look almost exactly alike."
Both Carl and Faramir gasped. Faramir laughed softly, and Van Helsing
found it a pleasant sound. Carl cursed and said that Gabriel must have
gotten too much sun.
"I know your hair is different, and you, Faramir, are much taller . . .
but aside from the obvious difference, beneath that . . . isn't it like
looking in a mirror?"
Both men laughed, and Carl said that his machine might have scrambled
Van Helsing's brain, which drew a dark glare from him.
"Sir, I do not see the resemblance of which you speak," Faramir
answered him, a smile on his face. He stepped forward , though, and
looked closely at Carl, leaning over a little as Carl raised his face
to look up at him. Both were in profile, their faces so close, and Van
Helsing could see that the curve of their noses looked exactly the same
to him. The blue of their eyes, the same. The perfect curves of their
lips . . . they were close enough that it would only take a slight
movement from either man for them to kiss--
Van Helsing closed his eyes for a moment. Don't even picture it, or
your head will explode.
He took steady breaths until Faramir spoke again, announcing that he
didn't see any resemblance, and that their hands could be released.
"The hearts of men reveal themselves and their motives in the eyes . .
. and yours are quite pleasant," he told Carl. "While I think you may
be deluded, given all you've told me, you're clearly no threat."
Van Helsing thought Carl looked both pleased and a bit offended by
that, something Van Helsing would no doubt have to tease him about
later, once they were safely back home.
Soldiers were sent to look over their belongings in the field, while
they ate with Faramir and Carl did his very best to explain their
situation. Faramir explained who he was, his responsibilities in the
kingdom and a great many things about their recent troubles. Then he
stared at Van Helsing for a moment, naked appreciation on his face.
Van Helsing couldn't resist. "Steward? So . . . you're a man who's used
to getting what he wants?"
Faramir laughed, but Van Helsing thought it sounded sad for laughter.
"No, not for a very long time."
Soldiers were always close by, Van Helsing noted. This Faramir was not
underestimating them, or completely trusting them. Van Helsing approved
of his caution. He also approved of the looks Faramir was giving him. And
Carl. And the looks Carl was giving back, to both of them.
At one point, Carl leaned over and said, "I know what you're thinking,
and I don't like it. Stop flirting with him."
"You don't like it? I could have sworn you did, given the way you keep
looking at him. And the way you keep fidgeting."
As Carl opened his mouth, to no doubt protest that he did not
fidget, Van Helsing said, "Remember Logan?"
Carl put his hands in his lap, but when Faramir turned his charming
gaze back to Van Helsing, Van Helsing felt one of Carl's hands slip
into his and squeeze it tightly. He looked at Carl who was looking at
Faramir with almost open defiance. Carl had never been so possessive
before, and Van Helsing liked it even though it could have been a
careless move in almost any other circumstance.
Faramir apparently liked Carl's defiance, too. He wiped his mouth,
dismissed the soldier's and approached Carl. Softly, he said, "I have a
very large bed. Big enough for three." Carl looked at Van Helsing, his
face flushed, and when Faramir simply turned and headed toward his
bedchamber, Carl barely hesitated before he pulled Van Helsing in that
"You're sure you've set it correctly, Carl?"
"So we're going to go back exactly where we left?"
"And everything that came with us--"
"Van Helsing, do you want to do this? Do you think you can do this
better? Don't answer that." Carl waved a hand toward him, turned a few
knobs, hit the chamber with the palm of his hand, and then said, "Come
here, it's ready, take my hand just to be sure . . . I don't want to
leave you behind. You'd have far too much fun," he added with a smirk,
but Van Helsing knew Carl was as delighted as he was.
"I think you've more than made up for the Logan situation, by the way,"
Van Helsing was saying as the wave from the machine swept them up and
put them down somewhere else.
Somewhere decidedly not in the Order's lab.
Neither stepped from the chamber, because chaos seemed to be taking
place outside it. "Carl?"
"Don't worry . . . this is most definitely our past."
"Ancient Greece, to be exact."
"How do you know?"
The thunderous noise died down, and they could hear what sounded like
some sort of victory chant.
A man approached them, and unlike Faramir this man did draw his sword.
"Because those are Spartans," Carl said,
Van Helsing looked at the man, a man who looked more primal than
Faramir, more violent, but with the same kind of intelligence in the
one familiar blue eye that was visible. A bandage covered the other,
still damp with blood. And then the man looked at them, looked at Carl,
at Van Helsing, and straightened his back. He looked them up and down,
an appreciative look so similar to Faramir's, a hesitant smile on his
face. Then the man told another, "Tell King Leonidas that I've found
something . . . interesting."
"Yes, Dilios," the other man said before hurrying away.
"You're warriors?" Dilios said, in a voice that caused Van Helsing to
shake his head. He looked back and forth from the man to Carl, before
grabbing Carl's upper arm.
"Remember how you wanted me to choose a birthday, because I needed a
day when I could have anything I wanted, anything special and out of
the ordinary? Today, Carl," he said, looking the familiar Spartan's
naked torso up and down. "It's definitely today."