Anchors No More: Time Travel Excitement At Its Best
What can two scientists do when a test run of their time travel device lands them in prison, charged with treason by a government hell-bent on exploiting their technology for nefarious purposes.
Going through some old files in preparation for an upcoming release of my older poetry and prose entitled Lingering on Past Melodies, I found a few short stories that have never really seen the light of day. I will be posting some of them periodically.
Here is a little morsel from 1998.
The Symptoms are the Cure (1998)
Saul Brimbraker generally liked to sleep until around ten in the morning, most often waking up at nine forty-two. Sometimes he stirred as late as ten thirteen and sometimes as early as nine twenty-three, but nine forty-two seemed to be the average. Of course, that was Mountain Standard Time and under the currently accepted Greenwich standard for temporal qualification.
This was a morning, however, that began with Saul not only waking up at nine forty-two on the dot, but also feeling slightly queasy. A quick self-diagnosis found that the problem was not diverticulosis as he first feared (Saul carried a deep-seated belief that one day, for his sins, he would develop this disease that he knew nothing about and thus feared unsubstantially), but instead was simply in his stomach. He had what his mother would have called a ‘shitty belly.’
“Does my baby have a shitty belly?”
“Not now, momma’s got a shitty belly.”
Being a slow to wake, Saul stumbled, using only momentum and blind familiarity, to the bathroom. A flick of the switch brought a light to the room and Saul yawned in unison with his tummy growling, although slightly off key.
It could have been the pizza.
It could have been the chicken wings that had been hot enough to make his eyes and nose drip.
It cold have been the company the night before, the droning conversation, the time of year, the influx of information, the color of his pajamas, the whiffle ball bat he owned as a child, the price of warmth, the delays, the doubts, the ‘Banana Boat Song,’ or even the Spaniards.
He looked at himself. His reflection made him lonely.
He decided it was the chicken wings and wiped a dot of toothpaste off of the reflection of his eye.
Another entry in my old 'Intermission' series from the mid/late 1990's, and the second one concerning my time in New Orleans.
Intermission (New Orleans #2) (1996)
“You can stay at my place, and I’ll get you high if you suck my dick.”
“No thanks. I’m okay.”
“New Orleans is a rough place, bro. I’ll take care of you.”
“That’s cool, man, I’m taken care of.”
“C’mon, brother. How about I suck you first?”
“No thanks, man, that ain’t my scene.”
“Alright then. You get cold, you know where to find me.”
“Yeah, see ya.”
And the rest of the night progresses.
A few beers.
A couple of jazz bands, blues bands, rock bands.
The hustlers wanting your money, your lips, your blood, your soul.
The pack on your back is getting heavier by the block.
Up and down those streets you go, kept on your feet by the rain and the fear and the knowledge that around that next corner you may be saved, you may be beaten, you may be left for dead, but it doesn’t matter.
Esplanade. Bourbon. Decatur. Burgundy. Past the gay clubs and the strip joints and the all night bars. It smells like a wet sweater left in a plastic bag for far too long, you can actually taste the city on your tongue, did you know that? You can open your mouth and the city makes it start to water. It tastes of sin and of magic and of power and of things that you are not able to comprehend, so you settle for acceptance, as you curl up in a door stoop. Your head in the shadows, your feet getting wet.
Here is an old piece from my wandering days, part of my 'Intermission' series from the late-90's.
Intermission -New Orleans (1996)
And then there’s those times when you’re lonely and horny and walking through the streets of New Orleans by yourself and the freshly fallen rain reflects the street lamps and your own crazed face and puts a slight chill in your body that makes you feel just a bit more like a dying breed and the only comfort you know you’ll receive tonight is your head laying on your backpack somewhere in some dark alley while your bones rattle like Gene Krupa gone mad and your mind, wandering to more important things like the honey-vinegar of freedom and staying alive till the morning light, only partially registers the traffic and the big burly man in black hawking in front of the strip joint around the corner. “Hey man, we got some beautiful girls.” “No thanks, man.” “What’s a matter? You don’t like girls? We got the finest women in this city. Black girls. Blonde girls. We got two Asian bitches who’ll eat each other out, and let me tell ya, it’s something." “Nah, thanks anyway.” “Your loss.” “I’m sure.”
And through the night, your mind does wander back to those girls. So incredibly beautiful, so ready and able to trade flesh and illusion, to give those who want what they want, making five hundred dollars a night fingering themselves on a stage in front of fifty strangers caressed in a pinkish glow with AC/DC blaring in the background. Do they know, do they care, if there is more to life than spreading those long legs wide apart and writhing on a metal pole, more to life than plastic breasts and shinny new sports cars, more to life than the table full of married business executives in town without their wives, pumping out fifty bucks a pop to get dragged off into some back room to have some nice smelling, lovely young lady grind up and down on their stiff penis, “Just relax, baby, I’ll take care of you. You can touch me anywhere but between the legs, okay?” “Okay.” And you want to take her by the hand and lead her out of that place, past the mirrored ceilings and the groping eyes, out into the street and say, look around, past the dirt and decay, and the see the beauty and magic, feel it on your skin. You want to drag her into the countryside and say, look around, past the illusion of all you see, and taste the air, feel this harmony. You want to drag her up the mountain, to the very peak, and say, look around, past the veil of humanity and see the blueprint of creation, the majesty and humility. You want to drag her to the foot of God’s throne and say nothing, both of you content to simply sit and wait for the second act to begin.
The Thing About Heroes…
by David Edward Wagner
It’s funny when I think about it now, but for a while there we were heroes. We were all anyone could talk about. The poets called us ‘pioneers,’ the press called us ‘new urban pilgrims,’ but through all the celebration and ceremony, all the parades and endorsement deals, I think it was my mother who actually called us what we were.
She set down her drink when I told her I had been accepted and she looked me in the eye. “You’re crazy,” she said and I just laughed and hugged her, told her that it was an honor, a privilege, that we’re paving the way for future generations. After a silent moment, tears barely restrained behind brown eyes, she finished her drink and just said, “You’re all crazy then.”
Those were the days, training from dawn until dusk, flight simulations, exercise regimes, equipment seminars, psychological conditioning. It was hard, don’t get me wrong, damn difficult, and more than once I wanted to quit, going as far as sneaking off base one night for a last round of whiskey and casual sex at the first bar I could find. But they came for me, they took me back and asked me if I wanted to continue and I said yes. After all, I was a hero.
Two weeks from that night, I shipped off to New Mexico and the final stage of preparations. Three months later, I took my last walk under blue skies, waved my last farewells, felt the wind and sun on my bare face one final time. I climbed onto the ship, heard the door seal and ninety minutes later we launched.
Next stop, Mars.
We were the first, postmodern trailblazers heading straight into that next last final frontier and we were good. We did our jobs, built our colony and sent our data at the scheduled intervals, becoming media darlings with interviews, live feeds, countless articles, dramatizations, hell, we even had a video game created about us, “Rovers of Mars.” We were well taken care of and never wanted for anything.
In the year after our arrival, we methodically built ourselves a life, established our small town and constructed our glass-domed bio-preserve. Then five months later the supply ship was late, they said it was due to increasing hostilities in the Syrian-Saudi conflict. Lines were being crossed daily and both ground and air wars were raging on all fronts. We went a little hungry but the ship finally arrived. With our supplies came a message: conserve.
It’s growing worse, they wrote, and it is getting more difficult to divert the finances and attention the colony needs. So we were careful. We were cooperative.
Two months later we received a radio transmission, barely audible through all the static and popping. It had finally come down to bombs, they said, nuclear and chemical. Things had gotten bad and were only becoming worse: Washington, Colorado, and California were gone, crops would grow no more on the windswept fields of the Midwest. Europe was mostly a memory, only the Scandinavian countries remain relatively intact and the Middle East had become primarily a series of smoking craters.
They told us all further shipments were delayed indefinitely, pieces were being picked up, resources scavenged for, political alliances and neighborhood gangs being formed. Electricity was still intermittent but getting more reliable, basic lines of communication were slowly becoming re-established. They were too uncertain of their own survival to be able to be focused on ours, but if the tenuous truce held they may be able to get the base together enough to send a shipment within a year. They could make no promises.
We tried not to panic. It will be okay, we told one another, they won’t forget us. They kept us up to date for as long as they could but eventually the information streams stopped coming. Only silence greeted us on the other end when we radioed for news.
Our greenhouse was constructed but the hardware to make it run was coming with those next few shipments. As the supplies ran short, we maintained our composure and we did what we could, growing scrawny plants in our houses, moving in together and turning whole domiciles into quasi-greenhouses, figuring out ways to more efficiently collect and reclaim water.
It’s been two and a half years now since the last message was received and only one hundred and thirty colonists remain of the original seven hundred. Malnutrition, suicide and the rot are taking most of us. The rot, that’s what we call it, the dust disease, turning your lungs into driftwood. I can feel it creeping into my joints, my arms hurt, yesterday I coughed up blood, but just a little. Still, I know it’s just a matter of time.
She was right, you know, I understand that now. I've been thinking about her a lot lately. Last night, I ate my final protein bar and couldn’t help but remmeber the fried chicken mom used to make when I was a kid. I tried to make it once, as an adult, but it wasn’t the same. It never is, is it?