Fool O’Clock – Part 2

Part 1 is here.

When I get to the office, the Director is annoyed that I did an unauthorized handle on my own. She doesn’t care that the fool got dealt, but the clean up with the metro cops meant I was late to another sector meeting. The woman lives for deskwork and can’t for the life of her figure out why I keep getting my “hands muddy” with fieldwork. Yeah, she’s probably right, but you can only ride a desk so long before it rides you back. This glorified chief of staff shit is for the birds. I’m a cop, not a stapler. I don’t belong on a goddamned desk.

At eleven-thirty, instead of being at lunch, I’m in the Director’s office. Her name is Durante, like that comedian with the big nose. She doesn’t look anything like him, though. She’s quite a looker, with brown hair streaked with blond, a nice figure that’s gone from bowling pin to hourglass since she took up running, and a face that my grandpa would have called “handsome.” Hell, she’s kind of hot, to be honest.

“Pyle,” she says, “you got lucky.” “Turns out your little improv at Grosvenor was quite a piece of work. Seven arrests for assault, all but one on his wife, the charges dropped every time.”

“He was a piece of something. Who was the other assault?”

“His fifteen-year-old daughter. The wife convinced her to say she made it all up. Cops didn’t buy it, but they had no proof, so they dropped the charges.”

“Wasn’t the girl being banged up proof enough?” I’m starting to like my impulsiveness about now.

“The mother sent the girl to stay with relatives in West Virginia for a week. By the time they tracked her down, no evidence.” A look flashes across her face that could kill a lesser man. “When I read between the lines, I got the impression there was more than assault going on with the daughter.”

She looks hard at me, and I get exactly what she means.

“Nice,” I say. I feel like spitting. “Maybe we add the mother to the list?”

Durante shook her head. “No. For one thing, this is small-time, Pyle. We don’t have the resources to take out every single fool in the country.”

“That’s kind of our mission, chief.”

“Yeah, but it isn’t our budget.”

I had no answer for her there. I know some guys who would happily do the work pro bono, but most of them I wouldn’t trust.

“Besides,” she says, “That’s why I wanted to meet with you. I have a different assignment for you – big time, highest authority.”

“You mean your cousin,” I say. I am being a jerk, but she deserves it.

Durante sits up, making herself look as tall in her seat as she can. “My relationship to the President is professional, Jim, not personal. I resent the implication. It’s a delicate relationship, given she’s the first POTUS we briefed on our agency.”

“Dammit, Jim, I’m a Director, not a Nepotist,” I say. I’m cracking myself up by now.

“If you don’t want the field ops, I can find somebody else,” she says. She turns her chair and faces the computer. I think I hurt her feelings. Girls are tough to figure.

“Come on, boss. You know I’m just teasing.”

“You’re a real jerk, you know that?” she says. “No wonder they call you Pyle of Shit behind your back.” I get a frown.

“You’re making that up.” I know I’m frowning too, but I can’t help it.

“Maybe,” she says, with just a hint of a smile. She and I go way back – we irritate each other, but she’s the boss, and I’m a good company man. I know when the room is getting cold and it’s time to turn the charm back on.

“So, what’s this exciting new adventure that’s going to finally unglue me from my chair?”

“Highest-level-clearance mission.”

“Understood.” That’s her way of saying the joking is over.

“You’re up to speed with the conflict between the Oval Office and Congress?”

“Yeah, it’s been going on for decades, but this is worst it’s ever been. Jesus, fucking fist fights in the Capitol building.”

“Right. The President has set an all-time record for vetoes. Nothing is getting done, because Congress keeps sending over bills the President says violate the mandate the people gave her when she took office.”

“Hard to argue – she did have almost two-thirds of the popular vote.”

“Yeah, but she won as an Independent. The Left and the Right have a lot of power to lose if she’s successful.”

“Not if she’d just play ball.”

“She’s an idealist, Jim. I’ve tried talking to her. She’s determined to do what the people need, come hell or high water.”

“Or impeachment. Meanwhile, they step on her agenda, and nothing gets done. In three more years, someone else gets elected President.”

“That seems to be the plan. It may be the first time in fifty years that the two major parties ever worked together on anything. It’s the President against Congress, and the country’s at a stalemate.”

Durante sat back in her chair, folded her arms, and stared at me. It took a while to sink in, but then I got it. That was the operation. “Holy hell, Sarah, you want us to do the President?”

“God no! Congress.” I stare at her, but don’t say a word. “She’s my favorite cousin, Jim. What the hell’s wrong with you?”

By now, I’m thinking she’s nuts. She is sitting at her desk, just as calm as you please, in a creased white blouse, black skirt, and one of those little woman ties no one else but her on the planet still wears. She’s talking high treason and asking what’s wrong with me.

Lucy (2014) in the Sky with F***ING BRAIN DAMAGE!

This will be a short post (rant). I was flying to the UK in either December or February, when I was met by a promising movie, Lucy (2014) starring the great wooden cigar-store Indian actress Scarlett Johansson. I was a bit excited, as it promised to be Sci-fi, looked bad, and I’d heard nothing of it. Sadly, I couldn’t enjoy the biting cynicism of superiority that usually marks my watching poorly written Sci-fi. In fact, despite having Morgan Freeman playing Easy Reader a leading scientist on brain science, the movie crashed for me in the opening minutes. It was the premise, you see.

For Lucy, the entire movie revolved around the “FACT” that humans use only 10% of our brains. What would happen, it speculates, if we actually used 100%? What would that do to our dear, sweet mannequin Lucy?

Well, she’d not be as dumb as monkey shit, for one thing. Perhaps no one would be hired full time to scrape the drool from her face and change her diapers. Maybe she might not even die inside the freaking womb!

HUMANS USE 100% OF OUR BRAINS! That’s why your damned head is so big. If you only needed 10%, you’d have 10% of a head.

 

Inefficient Design
Inefficient Design

For fuck’s sake, people, if you’re gonna write a goddamned science fiction movie, open a bloody science book! I know, I know, we call it science fiction, so it shouldn’t have to exactly true. I get that, except Science Fiction means “fictionalized science.” It doesn’t mean “dumb as monkey balls.” If you want to write movies based on a complete lack of science knowledge, that would be called “Non-Science Fiction” (or maybe “Monkey Balls Fiction”).

I could get past Freeman doing bad movies for money. I happen to have a long-term relationship with money myself. Get yours, my brother! But damn, hearing him do these lines with a straight face was akin to seeing him play God in Bruce Almighty if he’d done so speaking in tongues while wearing Moose Antlers – nothing he said made any sense, so why even bother?

Not only is the concept of the 10% of brain bogus, no one with any scientific knowledge can even figure out what dumbass started the lie in the first place. Here’s a quote from Eric Chudler, Phd., on the faculty of the University of Washington:

“So next time you hear someone say that they only use 10% of their brain, you can set them straight. Tell them: ‘We use 100% of our brains.’”

See? Science isn’t hard.

Dr. Chudler sites these further sources in case his being way the hell more educated than you isn’t enough to bow your tiny brain into submission.

  1. Ten Percent and Counting – BrainConnection.com
  2. The Ten-Percent Myth from the Skeptical Inquirer
  3. The Ten-Percent Myth
  4. Do People Use 10 Percent of Their Brains? – Scientific American
  5. Humans use 100 percent of their brains–despite the popular myth – Ask a Scientist
  6. Higbee, K.L. and Clay, S.L., College students’ beliefs in the ten-percent myth, Journal of Psychology, 132:469-476, 1998.
  7. B.L. Beyerstein, Whence Cometh the Myth that We Only Use 10% of Our Brains? in Mind Myths. Exploring Popular Assumptions about the Mind and Brain edited by S. Della Sala, Chichester: John Wiley and Sons, pages 3-24, 1999. This chapter is required reading for anyone who wants more information on the 10% myth.

If you’re going to write science fiction, do it the right way—avoid monkey balls. If you quote the 10% thing again, however, I will find you and scoop out 90% of your head pudding. Let’s see if you can still formulate a coherent sentence to tell the cops.

Oh, and another thing, WE DO NOT LOSE 90% of heat through our HEADS EITHER!! Heads are little things. You lose about 10% or less of heat (maybe a bit more if 90% of your brain has already been scooped out).

And Scarlett Johansson can’t act. Just saying.

Love, Bill.

 

The Changeling – Chapter 1, Part 2

Charlie’s excitement lasted only seconds. The inside of the bus reeked of cigarette smoke and cheap perfume, which wafted like a noxious cloud from the bus driver. As he passed, she growled in his direction, but he didn’t stop to listen. He was too busy trying to find a seat while avoiding making eye contact with anyone on the bus. It was fortunate he was looking down, as a shard of clipped toenail grazed his face, just missing his eye.

Charlie looked up to see a swing set in the aisle of the bus. Fat Mrs. Martinez was sitting on the swing, humming a tune, kicking dust from the dirt floor with one foot, and trimming the crusty toenails of the other. As he squeezed past the swings, all the while ducking toenail shrapnel, he found a seat in the very back, next to, of all people, the guy from The Twilight Zone. It wasn’t the old chain-smoking guy with the creepy black shoe polish hair that his dad loved, but the newer, cooler one. Charlie found this not at all surprising.

The bus navigated an unfamiliar highway, past ramshackle houses and barren neighborhoods. At the distant end of the highway stood a set of high mountains. They sat in two rows, the first reflecting a pinkish hue in the morning sunlight. Behind them, rising ominously until they disappeared into the clouds were mountains of black rock. Gray clouds slumped down the mountain slopes obscuring the highway ahead in a blanket dense fog. A faraway part of Charlie’s brain began to cry out that he had never seen mountains like these in eastern Virginia.

Still, that is not what drew his immediate attention. Instead, he wondered why there was only one other kid on his bus. He could not make out the shadowy figure near the front, except that it was obviously a girl, with long, dark hair. She sat with her back to him, dressed head-to-toe in black. She never turned around, which Charlie decided was probably a good thing. From his position, she too-closely resembled a few Japanese horror movies he had covertly downloaded onto his computer. Initially, he wondered why he’d not noticed her before, but as he continued looking, he realized there was something familiar about her. He squinted, trying to focus in the dim light of the old bus.

It’s that girl again.

He was certain of it. He had been dreaming her all summer. She never spoke to him, though lately she had begun to smile on the rare occasions when he made eye contact. When that happened, Charlie always woke himself up, or, if that did not work, he would look down and hurry away. The girl never did anything out of the ordinary. In fact, most of the time, she watched him, silently, as though his dreams were created solely for her amusement. He guessed serial killers smiled too, just before doing their foul work. He wondered if the girl had killed Mrs. Martinez, since she was no longer anywhere to be seen.

The Changeling – Chapter 1, Part 1

I’ve decided to begin posting a serial of my first book, which I’ve recently pulled from publication and have revised. It was originally titled The Stream: Discovery, a name I always hated. It’s been retitled The Changeling. If there is some response, I will keep posting it. If not … well, let’s see how it goes.

It’s the story of two kids who find a world beyond the one in which we live–one where dreams come true, but not always in a good way.

Tentatively, I’m thinking of posting Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday. For now, here’s Chapter 1, Part 1. (Note: there may be some typos as I’ve not–and won’t–submit this version to my editor.)

Good Morning Is an Oxymoron

Charlie hated mornings, due, in no small part, to his having the sleep habits of a caffeine-addicted owl. Often, he was just falling asleep as the neighborhood’s early birds were awakening. For Charlie, waking was a thing to be savored over the course of a drowsy hour. He always started his day the same way: by hammering his alarm clock with a closed fist, falling back asleep, arguing with his sister who had been sent to get him up, and then stumbling out of bed, eyes closed, into the bathroom to empty his bladder.

Those were the good old days.

Recent mornings meant a surreptitious sprint to the bathroom. As if starting the day shortly after falling asleep were not bad enough, lately, he woke up like that. Once, his dad had caught him before he could pee, stopped, saluted, and said, “Ten Hut!” Charlie had no idea what he meant at the time, but when everyone else laughed, he knew it wasn’t good. His mom chastised the family and consoled him by stating it was a perfectly normal thing for an eleven-year-old boy. Still, the damage had been done, as his red cheeks attested. It was one thing to be humiliated by virtue of a joke he didn’t understand. It was worse to have his entire family be able to read his embarrassment.

This morning, however, was different than all previous mornings, because though he believed himself awake, Charlie was actually in the middle of an excellent nightmare. In his dream fugue, he staggered into the bathroom, and after completing his mission, opened his eyes for the first time.

What’s the refrigerator doing in here?

He was a bright young man, and it normally wouldn’t have taken him long to guess he was no longer in the bathroom since his mom was a stickler for cleanliness, and having the fridge so close to the toilet would not have passed muster with her. However, Charlie was in the midst of the most vivid dream of his young life, and the relocation of the refrigerator only served to confuse him. It took him fully ten seconds to realize he was standing in the kitchen, dressed, facing the open vegetable crisper. After a quick internal debate, he decided against looking down to see if he had just emptied his bladder into it. He was certain Mom would let him know if he had.

Breakfast consisted of a single kernel of oat cereal in a big bowl of water. Even the dreaming Charlie thought his breakfast odd, but not odd enough to awaken him from his deep slumber. His hunger sated, he walked the quarter mile to his bus stop and stood there alone, waiting. After eternity passed, after the sun grew to a great orange ball of sputtering hydrogen, after the first two planets melted in admiration, and all the stars in heaven were visibly moved, the bus finally showed up. It was a Greyhound with Middul Skool displayed on the front panel.

Middle school is going to rock.

Tomorrow Was Yesterday, (conclusion)

Prior sections: part 1, part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

I suppose for simplicity’s sake, from this point on I should stop marking the times of our jumps in terms of my linear age. I could use years, or Gia’s age, or any of a hundred means of marking time. Mostly, however, we thought in terms of what we began to call AS time, or years After Sex. You see, the night we hooked up in Gia’s apartment that sultry August, when the linear and non-linear strings met, was the last time either of us lived in purely linear time. From then on, it was jump after jump after jump. That was also the night, according to Gia, that we consummated our marriage.

Fortunately for my sanity, as well as my marriage, almost all of our leaps remained in tandem. I’ve studied all my life trying to understand why – quantum mechanics, advanced time warp theory, theology, you name it. Nothing helped. Gia, on the other hand, had a simpler explanation: our spirits were entwined. I shrug my shoulders at that after all of these years. Science certainly hasn’t presented us with any logical answers, so we may as well go with romantic notions.

We did have a child, as it turned out. That was a difficult endeavor, full of love and fraught with guilt. You see, our daughter is a jumper. The initial difficulty, however, was that Gia and I jumped six months into her pregnancy. One day, we were returning from the OB/GYN, happy that we’d managed another checkup without the doctor revealing the baby’s sex, and the next we were escorting our dark-haired daughter to kindergarten. Gia was distraught.

Kelli, our daughter, was equally upset, since she’d apparently jumped into her five-year-old self on her prom night. It took us most of an hour to convince her to get out of the car and be a good kindergartener. Needless to say, she did remarkably well those first three months of school, despite our implorations that she “slow down a bit.” Fortunately, soon after, she jumped to another time period, and the Kelli that was left was a normal five-year-old girl. This became the pattern with our daughter throughout her disjointed childhood –  a seemingly random series of time periods where she exceeded all expectations, followed by periods wherein she struggled, both socially and academically.

For reasons known only to God, Kelli’s jumps have always been out of synch with ours. Indeed, she seemed to jump into her childhood years relatively late in life, which lead, ironically, to her performing at a remarkable level, interrupted only by bouts of “dormancy.” Schools labeled her gifted, though possibly bipolar or suffering from borderline personality disorder. After much debate, Gia and I allowed them to think so, even thought we wouldn’t let them treat Kelli for obvious reasons. It was certainly easier than explaining her periods of dormancy were those times when the child was either the correct mental age or even younger than she should have been. When prom-night Kelli jumped to kindergarten, for example, nine-year-old (in linear years) Kelli took her place in the prom. It was a Disney Princess’ dream.

After a lifetime together, leaping from when to when, I found myself here, in a nursing home, weak of body, waiting for the inevitable day when my heart gives out. Most days, it is a struggle to breathe, with what I know is protein build-up in my brain interfering with this old body’s ability to process thoughts clearly. Gia is still by my side, as she’s always been, and I’m certain the old gal will outlive me by quite a while.

Or, rather, by at least eight years. I’ve finally figured out where she was all those years between when we met in Venice and when she first showed up in my linear life at 19, with a non-linear age of 27. She’d been alone, enjoying her “widow” years with the youthful vigor of a young woman, which she was, in her head, anyway. Even better, as I lay here, dying, it gives me pleasure to know her waning mental years will be spent bouncing between the linear ages of 7 and 19, the only years she cannot account for from her direct memory. Ah, it must be the dream of many to live a long, wonderful life, and then die while young. Of course, that presumes she doesn’t live into her 100s.

I will always remember how we met, and finally …

 

… but here I am back in Venice. I can feel a youthful vigor this body hasn’t felt in years. Gia is with me, giving me odd looks. Perhaps this is another period she has yet to account for. But no, I know that look – it is concern, for me. And the light is wrong here. It is sunny, but all I see is shadows. The light is waning and I am having difficulty … concen … concentrating.

“Will! Don’t you leave me! Don’t you dare. I-I’m not ready.” Gia is crying now. Surely, we are connected as we’ve always been. Perhaps she can feel the life force fading from within me.

I try to give her a weak smile, and look at her young self once more – the self-same visage I saw when first we met. After a twisting, jumbled, leap-frog life, it is fitting that I leave this earthly plane on the day of my first jump, when I met my wife.

“Stop it, Willie.” She cries and touches my cheek. She is shaking me now, screaming at me to fight against “the light.” I haven’t the heart to tell her I’ve seen no light. But the music … ah, it is glorious.

“I love you,” I manage to croak out.

She is shaking her head and weeping. I am lifted, airborne, scattering like particle dust in the cosmic wind. Beneath the universe’s music, I hear a faint shouting. It is Gia’s perfect, sweet goodbye:

“Are you even listening to me, you asshole?”

Tomorrow Was Yesterday, Part 4

If you haven’t read part 1, part 2, or Part 3, please do so.

(The soundtrack of my mind.)

Now, I can see the little linear-logic wheels turning in your head. If I met Gia when I was 27, which in non-linear time was after I met her in Venice at age 45, and after I was 21 in linear time, then why didn’t I remember her? Simply put, by then, I’d forgotten what she looked like. Sounds horrible, considering we’d been intimate, but that is only if you continue to think in a linear manner. There was a period of my life between age 21, to when I returned from this second jump, until 29, when Gia and I returned to her apartment to make love for the first time, that my life returned to its plodding, linear ways. By the time I met Gia for the 2nd first time, I’d convinced myself our initial jumps had been a bad series of dreams. I even managed to forget her completely.

Jumping through time does not preserve a pure linear logic. In other words, in my mind, I went from age 21 to 45 to 29, and then back to my 21st birthday party wherein I remained until I was 29. Sounds pretty neat, right? Well it is, from the comfort of this retrospective. My understanding of the timeline was built on myriad hand-scribbled notes which I began at Gia’s suggestion and kept diligently all my life. After decades, I’ve been able to pen a fairly close retrospective. As the events happened, however, memories were much more fragmented. By the time I met 19-year-old Gia, for instance, she produced only a vague sense of déjà vu, and a profound sense of being drawn to her.

She, on the other hand, seemed to have a much more complete sense of the non-linear timeline. While she attributed it to a complex explanation of “the intuitive nature of non-linear travelers,” I summarize it by saying her brain was much better suited for making sense of the disjointed way we lived our lives. In addition to which, Gia had started jumping at a very young age, from at least age 7. I, on the other hand, didn’t start jumping until I was an adult. She never said so, but it became clear that my not believing in such things had been the delimiter all along. Even when I started jumping, it took years to get my head around it.

Gia not only remembered every detail of our prior adventure, but she had an eight-year series of solo jumps the details of which she refused to reveal. So to her, she was a 19-year-old intern who had lived 27 years in linear and non-linear time, and was meeting an older man who was exactly her age. Starting to get the non-linear logic now?

She introduced herself to me that day knowing we would be married, or had been married, and precisely how long it would take her to convince me to go out with her – two summers of internships. This second date was the very first time I had dropped my guard and given in to the inexorable attraction that drew me to her. Little had I known it was the fact that we had already made love, long before we returned to her place to make love.

It was a damn shame time didn’t allow me to relive that night twice.

As we lay in each other’s arms that August night of our first lovemaking, we spent a long time arguing about how non-linear time worked, until I finally stopped arguing and let her teach me. (Rather, teach me again, according to her.) We could remember our relationship, the one we’d built during the fifteen minutes of non-linear Venetian time, and the linear memories from her time as an intern, but none of the other memories we had previously accessed. For example, neither of us at the time remembered our honeymoon, since it hadn’t happened to us yet, but we did remember part of our fifteenth anniversary trip to Venice.

Make sense? If you said yes, you’re nuttier than I am, which is considerably, after all these years. But that’s good, because it gets weirder.

No sooner had we finished our discussion and fallen asleep, than I “awoke” in the midst of a 21-year-old’s birthday party at the seediest strip club you can imagine. For a moment, I considered looking Gia up, but realized she would be no more than 13. By the time I downed my fourth drink, I had convinced myself I’d imagined the whole thing. Thus began my six-year-long wild-man period wherein I astonished my friends by going from the shy geek to the playboy via my sudden burst of confidence. Had any of us realized I’d actually lost my virginity in the future to my future wife … well, never mind, the logic of that makes my head hurt.

Tomorrow Was Yesterday, part 3

If you haven’t read part 1 and part 2, I recommend doing so now. Reading them out of sequence will pretty much spoil the story. In addition to which, I think this is my 2nd best short story ever. Gracias por leerlo.

foot_crop

I forgot the honeymoon memories during the second jump, which ensued seconds after I turned to follow Gia to the canals. As my mind was reeling from meeting my wife, finding I could take time-traveling leaps, and trying to make sense of it all, I jumped again, this time sixteen years earlier, to our second date. One second I was reaching for the comfortable softness of Gia’s hand, and the next second found me in a darkened bedroom pounding away at my lovely companion from behind.

Yeah, awkward.

It was also explosive, vocal, strange, and exciting. Imagine meeting a woman, finding out you are married, deciding you like her, and two seconds later you are both rutting like screaming animals. As I said, awkward, in the way that having your wildest sexual fantasy come true in front of your great aunt would be awkward – meaning afterward. The actual sex was amazing, ending in a feminine explosion of F-words and Ohmigods in rapid, alternating succession that only added fuel to my fire.

When peace finally returned to the bedroom, Gia was lying on her back, placidly staring up at the ceiling. “That was nice,” she said. This was how I discovered my wife was a master of understatement.

I didn’t answer right away as I couldn’t catch my breath. I nodded instead and lay back on the bed. She arched her back, stretched, and lay her long legs across me. “You don’t seem very uncomfortable being naked around me,” I said.

She raised up just enough to look me in the eye. “Why would I be uncomfortable?”

“Well, we sorta just met.”

“We’re married.”

“I’m pretty sure that hasn’t happened yet.

She shrugged. “Did happen, will happen, is happening. Don’t get lost in the linguistics. Time bends. Bend with it.”

That didn’t seem completely logical to me, but I didn’t have a better answer, so I let it go.  The strangeness of the conversation was exacerbated by a) the fact that all I could see of her in the dark bedroom were the dirty soles of her feet and b) the fact that whereas I was a confused wreck she was acting as if jumping through time happened to everyone. And yes, if you’re wondering, I do feel more comfortable when I’m making lists.

“Do you want kids?” she asked. “I think we should talk about kids.”

“Don’t you think we should date first?”

“Pretty sure fucking counts as a date. Anyway, we were already married when we met.”

“Not sure that’s a reason to jump straight into having kids. I mean, shouldn’t you at least tell me your last name or something?”

She sat up, flipped around, and lay back down in my arms. “You already know my name.” Gia leaned in close as if seeing my face for the first time. “Did you know you’re black?”

Five seconds of silence followed. “Yeah, I knew that,” I finally said. “Didn’t you?” I resisted the urge to check my arm to make sure I actually was.

A cheeky smile took her face. “Yeah, I was just wondering if you remembered. You seem pretty confused.”

“So not funny.”

Her thirty seconds of laughter disagreed. Just when I began to get mad, she kissed me on the cheek. “Relax. We met two years ago. You even know my mom.”

As if her words triggered some switch in my brain, two years’ worth of memories came flooding in, all at once. I remembered meeting her at work. I was a 27-year-old software engineer working in the dreadfully exciting world of cloud computing, and Giovanna Alicia Moreno was a 19-year-old intern working for the summer in the marketing department. Our first (in linear time) meeting was memorable. Gia walked up to me, dressed like a miniature banker, shook my hand, and said, “Hi, I’m Gia. You’re gonna marry me some day.” Then she walked away. I spent the rest of the summer avoiding her, partly because a) I thought she was crazy and b) I was very attracted to her, and c) getting fired for being romantically entangled with a college intern was not part of my career goals. In addition to which d) I’d already been through a succession of meaningless romances and had begun to settle down and focus on my career.

Tomorrow Was Yesterday, Part 2

“How did we get here?” She shrugged. “Your guess is as good as mine.” She looked around then her face lit up into a broad smile. “Venice. I always wanted to take my honeymoon here.”

I looked at her ring and mine. “Maybe you did.”

“That doesn’t seem right. I’m sure I’d have married young.” She squinted and closed one eye, a gesture I would later learn meant she was remembering the twisted logic of future pasts and past futures. “We did honeymoon here, fifteen years ago this week. But we didn’t see much of the city as I recall.”

“A lot of sex?” I blurted. Keep in mind, the physical version of me had lived forty-five years; however, the version in charge of my mouth was still a dumb twenty-one year old who’d had exactly two girlfriends.

“Only the first day,” Gia answered. “You never even let me get dressed. But after that, you got sick because you forgot you were allergic to shellfish. Spent the rest of the week in bed.”

“And you never left my side,” I added.

It was an autonomic memory, one that was accessible in my brain, but which I only remembered when it was triggered. No, I’m not explaining that right. Imagine a stream of foreign memories pouring into your head as if they have been downloaded into your brain from YouTube. That’s what it was like. For instance, in this case, when she brought up my being stuck in the hotel room, I could see Gia sitting next to me, reading aloud and trying to cheer me up by taking off an item of clothing every time the author said “she shook her head,” which fortunately for me, was quite often. I even remembered joking that the protagonist must have a concussion from all the brain rattling. The memories were vivid, with the emotional context flooding in almost simultaneously. This, despite the fact that in non-linear time, I’d not met the woman until five minutes prior to the memory’s arrival (which was awkward, as I now sported a raging erection from seeing her lovely, nude, twenty-two-year-old body in my memories).

“Good memory for you was it?” She was looking dead center at my crotch, which I tried to cover up with my hands. She slapped them away. “As I see it, those are mine, and I can look whenever I want to.” She turned and headed in a direction my confused brain informed me was toward the canals. She called over her shoulder. “You coming, or do you want to keep arguing all day?”

Since I could not remember what the argument was about, I chose to follow her. That was how I learned the next bit of protocol in our “jumps,” as we came to call them. While memories would come, vividly, they were only accessed as needed. For instance, although I’d lived fifteen years with her in linear time, only the memories germane to the current situation were available. There were more holes than data. As a result, the past, when we jumped to it, was as much a surprise to us as if we’d never lived it. Which we hadn’t. But had.

It gets worse.

 

Tomorrow Was Yesterday, Part 1

I met my wife on the occasion of our fifteenth wedding anniversary, in the middle of a terrible fight. It was a disconcerting way of meeting someone, but not at all rare, as it turns out. On the face of it, our meeting in that manner may sound like an improbability, but let me assure you it is the case. Imagine how startling it was for me. To that point, I’d lived my life in a normal, linear fashion, not even being aware of non-linear time. One moment, I was a college kid just about to celebrate his twenty-first birthday with the group of rowdy, drunken louts I considered to be my best friends, and the next I was forty-five, married, and being screamed at by a red-faced woman I’d never met. She had short, dark hair and gunmetal gray eyes, with full lips that pouted over her slight overbite. She was slender, bordering on skinny, with finger-long toes hanging over the ends of her sandals. All told, I found her to be a collection of individually unspectacular parts that somehow merged themselves into a brilliant, perfect whole.

“Are you even listening to me, you asshole?”

The jarring shrillness of that voice I immediately recognized as belonging to my wife, which was the most disconcerting aspect of the entire misadventure, even more so than being transported to some unknown town into a body that was as much a stranger to me as the woman in front of me.

“If you fucking want out, just leave!” she shouted. She was crying. Despite my odd attraction to her, I followed my better instincts, which were to turn and run. She stood behind me for a second and  wiped her tearful eyes. That was followed by her running in front of me and shouting, “Don’t you dare walk out on me!”

I stopped, since I a) didn’t know where the hell I was anyway and b) wanted to be with her, though I wasn’t certain why. I looked around and tried to get my bearings. To my left was a narrow street paved with stones and lined with the kind of scooters that would have gotten you your ass kicked back home. The passage was bright, with the low angle of the sun suggesting late afternoon. I looked up, trying to gauge the architecture, but it was equally unfamiliar – buildings of ancient brick and crumbling masonry that were dotted by wooden shutters that led my eye around the curving structures to the shadowed street beyond. I returned my gaze to my wife, whose name I still could not recall. She’d stopped yelling and was watching me with some interest, her head cocked to the right.

Before I could react, she broke into a huge smile. “I’m Gia,” she said, “your um, wife.” I nodded in agreement. “You’re … Wesley. No, that’s not it … Will.” I nodded again, a gesture she returned. I’m not certain how I knew, perhaps the furrow in her brow or the way her eyes glanced along my torso as if sizing me up, but I was sure she was meeting me for the first time too.

“You yell at me a lot, don’t you?” I asked.

“Yeah. Sorry. I get mad easily.”

“It’s okay. I don’t think it bothers me.” There was a ten-second gap while we both tried to think of what else you’re supposed to say to a total stranger you can suddenly remember having sex with for fifteen years. “Your full name is Giovanna,” I said. She said it was and then we returned to looking uncomfortable. “How … ?” I stopped there. There were so many hows in my mind I wasn’t sure which one should come first. Though, in retrospect, I suppose it doesn’t matter in which order someone discovers the world is an unordered place.

(… to be continued)

From the Black, the Blues ( Pt. 3)

See part 2 aquí:

Amundsen-Scott Station, Antarctica
Amundsen-Scott Station, Antarctica

After that first encounter, I took to working the late-night shifts exclusively. It’s not so much I thought that’s when I would hear another blip (as I’d come to call the voice), but no one else worked the post-midnight shift, and I did not want the Gov scientists to hear my blip before I had a chance to publish. Antarctic winter or no, we would be on lockdown overnight. I really didn’t believe the voice was real, but if it weren’t just my imagination, I didn’t want another Area 51 scenario out here in the cold dark.

I kept working midnights, which aren’t much different than any other time. None of us has seen the sun for two months at this point. This went on for weeks, at which point I pretty much convinced myself the first encounter never happened. The blip was just me finally starting to lose my mind. Why should Kelley have all the psychosis? I held my nightly vigil alone, while the rest of the team slept, got drunk, or had their biweekly orgy or whatnot. Then, on 7 July, at exactly 3:44 a.m., amidst the infinite hum of space, Darma relays – clear as a bell – the sweetest soprano you ever heard. I couldn’t make out the words, if they were, in fact, words. Still, even a math lout like me knew it was a song.

I still don’t know if it was the song, the Guinness, or just the fact that deep down I hoped to hear the voice again, but this time, I didn’t freak out. Quiet as can be, I whispered, “Darma, bifurcate signal. Filter static to background recorder.” In other words, turn down the damn buzzing, and turn up the music.

Darma, being a bloody computer with no tact, answered loudly enough to burst my eardrums, “Proceeding.”

I heard a scream. It wasn’t me. I know this, because the scream was followed by, “He-hello? Is that you again?” In addition to which, her query came as I was downing a full pint in one swallow, which I promptly spit all over my display.

Then it struck me. Here I am, in the very first encounter with life from beyond Earth, and the first contact is a stupid damn question. Great. Answer to the question of intelligent life in space – still open for debate. At least she had a great voice. It was sultry and sweet, like one of those umbrella drinks you get down on the Argentine beach. Now I knew the voice probably belonged to a hairy, green lizard woman from outer space, but still. It was feminine enough that I wanted to answer. Besides, Captain Kirk never turned down a sweet voice just because its owner was green.

“This … this is Free Station Cold Dark, transmitting via DM2-DSRALI.” I was official sounding as hell, if you ignored the brief squeak at the start of my sentence.

In reply, I got only silence. Not even space static, as Darma has routed this transmission to my private channel. After fifteen or twenty seconds, the voice said, “Okay, very funny, bud.”

“Huh?” I said, probably confirming to her there ain’t no intelligent life down here, either.

She continued. “I do have complete transmission histories available in the main core, mister. Besides, every kid who ever wanted to space jockey has heard of Darma.”

Holy crap.

Now, we called her Darma here on ice, but it was a controlled nickname. The Gov called her DM2 in all official communications. Either she was some Gov wonk testing me for security protocol, or the voice knows stuff she ought not know.

I heard the sound of air being blown into a microphone. “Whoo, whoo. Is thing on? Did I lose you again, bucko?”

“Bucko?”

“Oh, there you are. Good,” she said. “Are you going to tell me your real designation? This is a secure line.” She paused then added, “Plus, th-there’s not supposed to be anybody out there.” I could swear she sounded as nervous as me.

I figured if this is the Gov, it meant two things. One, I wasn’t nuts, so that’s good. And two, she already knew I have a backdoor into Darma, since our conversation was being routed that way – in which case I was dead meat. I may as well try for honesty and hope they let me out of prison before my dick falls off.

“This is Dargesh, from DM2-DSRALI – Darma, from Amundsen-Scott Station,” I answer, switching to the Pole’s designation instead of Darma’s. “To whom am I speaking?” I followed that with my transmission code, which only the Gov should have known. It was my way of saying, “I’m onto you guys.” The correct protocol was for them to respond with a counter code, to verify we were on a secure line.

Instead, there was a fifteen-second pause, followed by, “No fucking way.”

(end of part 3)

STATIONAURORA