Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 1, 2025

Mateo was under the impression that when he returned to his regular pattern, he would find himself back in the Snow White coffin; under automatic quarantine. But he was wrong. He was standing up, but it was pitch black, so he had no idea where he was. He could be thousands of miles from home for all he knew. His father was quite obviously a time traveler, but they had jumped through so many years that there was no way to know whether they had also moved through space or not. He waved his arms around, looking for a lightswitch, but accidentally knocked a glass off of the counter.
When the light came on, the room looked familiar. He was almost completely certain that he was in his mother’s new house in Colorado. He turned around and found confirmation. His mother, Carol was standing in front of him. He tried to get away from her, but she quickly wrapped her arms around him.
“Mateo, you’re back! My God, what happened to you?”
He pulled himself away from her. “We both need to be quarantined. Separately.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’ve been infected with a virus of some kind. I’ve probably already passed it on to you, but we have to try.”
She stared at him for a few seconds before showing determination. “Get into the room at the top of the stairs and to the left.” She left for her own room. “I’ll call Duke. He’ll know how to do this.”
Professor Duke Andrews came over with Leona. Together, they constructed barriers with plastic sheeting. It freaked him out a little. He knew it was for everyone’s protection, but there was a television character years back who would build rooms like this in order to kill people without leaving evidence.
Once they were all finished, Leona came back in with her hazmat suit. “I’ll need to take more samples.” She got to work.
“Leona.”
She looked annoyed with him.
“I didn’t run away this time. I was thrown into the future. That’s where I got this virus.” He waited for a reply but nothing came. “Leona, I’m sorry.”
“Tell me what happened,” she finally said.
He went about explaining everything he went through in 3118; from the dome to the robot, to the self-destructing message, to his father. She then relayed the information to Duke and his mother.
She shook her head. “The files were corrupted. We received almost no data from the machine, except for a series of unfinished equations regarding hyperspheres. But we didn’t think that meant it did something to you. When you didn’t come back a year later, we thought...we figured that you were dead.”
“I’m here now.”
She stopped working for a second and looked him in the eye. “Yeah, but for how long. I’ve always known, but with each passing year it sinks in more that you and I are destined for failure.”
“Well, maybe we can stop it. Tell me about the data. What’s a hypersphere?”
“We believe that the powers that be exist within five dimensional space. That allows them to see time all at once,” she explained. “Or so we think. Like I said, we didn’t get much from it. Which makes sense now that we know the way it disrupted your—what did he call it—pattern?”
“How would someone be able to see time all at once?”
“Imagine a beetle, crawling on the ground,” she began. “You pick up that beetle with a sheet of paper, and you carry it somewhere else; maybe hundreds of miles away. You set the beetle down, and what does it do? It just keeps crawling. It knows it’s moved, but that doesn’t matter. It has no choice but to keep going with its biological imperatives: to find food, and a mate. That’s what the powers that be are doing with you, your aunt, and your father. They’re picking you up and setting you down somewhere else. The difference is, since they see time from an outside perspective, they can move you back and forth within the timestream.”
“So we’re just game pieces to them? Moving us around on a board. For what reason?”
“If these people have any motivations, they would be so far beyond our comprehension that no analogy would sufficiently account for them. Again, it would be like the beetle trying to guess why you moved it from its original spot.”
Mateo nodded, knowing that if Leona couldn’t fully understand what was going on, there was no way for him to. He would have to surrender to the idea that this was his life now. There was nothing he could do about. Trying to figure it out would be impossible without access to the people controlling it. He decided to change the subject, “hold on. Is it April first?”
“It is, why?”
“Happy birthday.”
“That is yet to be determined.”
“Come on, don’t be like that. It’s gonna be okay.”
Professor Andrews entered the room without protection and directed Leona to stick Mateo back behind the zipper. “He needs to stay in there, but it’s pointless for you to wear that. We’ve all been exposed.”
“Leona took off her headgear. “What’s that now?”
“It’s a quick little bugger. It began spreading through the air as soon as Mateo arrived.”
“Oh my God,” Mateo said. “I’m here to destroy the world.”
“I don’t think that it will destroy the world,” Duke argued.
“The robot in the future called it a pandemic.”
“Yes,” he agreed, “you are a surprisingly effective delivery system. Whoever designed this thing had access to genetic data that we are nowhere near achieving. But my guess is that it was deployed on a massive scale, using some kind of weapon. You’re just one guy, and the virus has almost certainly mutated since then.”
“Mutations should be worse,” Leona said. “If anything, the strongest attributes have survived while weaknesses were stripped away.”
“Normally that would be true, yes, but you said that this was first created decades before your arrival?”
“That’s what the robot claimed,” Mateo confirmed. “He played it pretty close to the chest.”
“Like I said, this was designed with a very specific purpose,” Duke continued. “It was likely extremely aggressive on the outset. But once everyone was infected with it, the virus no longer had a purpose. There were no more hosts to attack; no more cells to hijack. But it didn’t die. So, it just sat there, quietly and slowly degrading and losing some of its attributes.”
“Are you saying that the virus would have eventually just disappeared?” Leona asked. “It seems like they would know that, and didn’t have to bother with Mateo.”
“They needed a cure for the virus because it caused infertility. If it ever died off—and I can’t be sure that it would, without more data—humanity might have died off before.”
“Please tell me you’re saying that it’s less dangerous to us,” Mateo begged.
“We have made great strides in medical technology since you’ve been gone, my young friend. It cannot yet predict the future, but it can come damn close. I suspect that the world’s gonna get sick. But it will survive. You have not destroyed us.”
He stayed behind quarantine for the remainder of the day, but the four of them still celebrated Leona’s 25th birthday together. Andrews was correct that the virus Mateo introduced did not destroy the world. As it turned out, it spread like a flu. A heavy majority of the population showed fever, sweating, cold flashes, and a loss of appetite as symptoms. But nobody became infertile as a result. In fact, Duke hypothesized that Mateo had immunized the entire human population so that, if it were ever to be created in the future, it would do little to no harm. Only a single person died from the infection; Mateo’s mother. He shouldn’t have hugged her. Click here for the next installment...

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Seeing is Becoming: For Food and Raiment (Part II)

Click here for the introductory post.

“How do you know that we’re on another planet?” Vearden asked.
“Don’t you feel lighter?” Saga asked in return.
“Yes.”
“Either the wormhole creates some sort of gravity disturbance, or we’re experiencing the pull of a different planet entirely.”
“I thought you were a photographer.”
“I am. I’m one of those smart photographers you hear about.”
“Well, what made you think that closing the door would cause it to disappear?”
“You’re not the first person I’ve encountered here. A couple others have shown up, but they’ve all been killed by those things, except for one guy who managed to get back inside his door.”
“It sounds like they were mistakes. The people controlling this were probably looking for me, but found other people accidentally instead.”
“Not a bad assumption, but why is either of us here?” There was a howl in the distance. Saga closed her eyes in frustration. “They never stop coming. I lose them for an hour or two, but either the one chasing me finds me again, or another one. It feels like a sport to them. I literally haven’t slept in over a day.”
Vearden nodded then went over to pull the sword out of the ground. “Let’s go find a cave or something.”
It didn’t take them too long to find shelter in a recess on the side of a mountain. While Saga got some much needed rest, Vearden stood watch.
Night came and went. “How long have I been out?” Saga rubbed her eyes and yawned.
He looked at his empty wrist. “Over twelve hours, I would imagine.”
“You’ve been up this whole time? Why didn’t you wake me?”
“For obvious reasons. Where were you when they brought you here?” They spent a few minutes catching up with each other. She had done with her life what she promised she would. After interning at a nature magazine for a while, she made a name for herself and was given the freedom to travel pretty much anywhere she wanted, taking photos of whatever she wanted. He, on the other hand, didn’t do one thing right since graduating from university. He should have read the signs and not gone for a degree in journalism. There weren’t any jobs out there. He tried starting his own blog a few times, and finding other online sources to work for, but nothing came of it. He had spent the last several years finding nothing but temp positions and other jobs with no security. He hadn’t worked at the same place for longer than eleven months since high school. Before falling through the wormhole—or whatever it was—he was on his way to a summer camp. The deal was that he would have a job as a counselor if he went through the program once beforehand, to see what it was like. His younger sister had worked it out with a friend of hers, but Vearden was always disappointing her. It was ironic that, after finally being determined to follow through this one time, he was unable to for reasons that were legitimately out of his control.
“What do you think we should do?” he asked of her.
“I’ve gathered energy from sleep, but I haven’t eaten in a while either,” Saga replied. “It’ll take us 24 hours to run edibility tests on anything we find here.”
He opened his bag. “I have some food with me.” He pulled out one of those boxed lunches that were designed for kids, a single serving of yogurt, a can of vienna sausage, a piece of pie from a fast food restaurant, two half-filled bottles of water, and a loaf of bread with four or five slices left.
“What the hell is this?” she asked. She sorted through the food. “What is this strange medley of random items? Did you just open the cupboard with your eyes closed and brush down everything in the first row?”
“That’s ridiculous.” He pulled out a slice of bread and started eating the crust first. “I would never put vienna sausage and bread on the same row.”
She shook her head. “What happened to you, man?”
He shook back. “Nothing happened. A great big pile of nothing.”
She ate the sausage and boxed lunch. He offered her the yogurt, but she couldn’t make out the expiration date, and she wasn’t going to risk it. Not when it was coming from him. He was a stranger to her now.”
Just when they were starting to feel energized and comfortable, they heard a ruckus above them on the mountain. Men were shouting to each other and banging on the rock. There was also this sort of zipping sound, and they were getting closer. All of the sudden, a figure appeared from above, holding on to a rope, and stopped when it saw them. They were staring into the eyes of a humanoid alien. It was covered in fur, except for the head. The eyes were big and bulging. What skin was showing was tightly wrinkled into neat and straight folds. All of its teeth came to a point, like canines. They were markedly different than the intelligent creatures that had given chase before. Despite all this, it looked kind and honest. They assumed it to be male. He tilted his head inquisitively and tried to speak to them in a foreign tongue.
“Sorry,” Saga said. “We don’t understand.”
He leaned his head back but kept his eye on them before calling out to one of his mates. Another alien swung over with his own rope and looked at them with the same curiosity. The two of them talked to each other in their own language. Of course, Saga and Vearden still couldn’t understand them, but it didn’t seem like they were planning on eating them, or hurting them at all, for that matter. Once they had come to some kind of conclusion, the second alien addressed them, “human.”
Vearden nodded his head. “Yes.”
The aliens nodded their heads and smiled, apparently proud of themselves for having guessed correctly. They each cupped one hand upwards and pulled it towards their chests, indicating that they wanted the humans to come with them. Vearden and Saga obliged, because what else were they going to do?
As they stepped out from under the rocks, they could see other aliens rappelling down the side of the mountain. Some ignored the newcomers, but others smiled and waved. One called out to them in what sounded like Chinese, and unlike their own language. They were probably not the first humans to have traveled there if enough of them were familiar with two of Earth’s languages.
Once they reached the bottom of the mountain, they gathered in a crowd. The first two aliens—which, come to think of it, weren’t the aliens since this was their planet—appeared to be introducing the visitors. A third native walked through the group and took command, giving the others formal instructions. Afterwards, he pulled the humans aside so that they could speak privately. “My friend over there tells me that he smells Gondilak blood in you.”
Vearden looked down at his belly. He had changed into his spare shirt, and since the wound had closed up, there was no evidence of the struggle. “Yes. I was...contaminated by something; must have been a Gondilak. They attacked us, and stabbed me. I was forced to kill them, but some of their blood leaked into me, so I guess that’s why I healed so quickly?”
“You killed a Gondilak?”
“Two of them.”
Two of them. Impressive. We’ve not seen a human do that before.”
“What are they?” Saga asked.
“Not important,” the native replied. “Not anymore. Not now that you’re here with us.” He patted them both on the back. “Come. We will take you to the city so that you can change into visitor garbs and sample our victuals.”
“You’re not going to hurt us?”
“No,” the native laughed. “Not yet.” Click here for the next installment...

Friday, May 29, 2015

Microstory 70: Cow Wedding (based on a true story)

When I was a child, my grandfather planted himself in front of me and asked, “did I ever tell you about the time that I witnessed a cow wedding?” No. “I was driving along on the highway in rural Kansas. There weren’t any other cars around. To the right of me, I saw a group of cows sitting under a tree. It took me a few moments to realize that there was something off about the gathering. I promptly turned around and got myself a better look. Over a dozen cows were sitting on the grass in fairly neat and tidy rows, all of them looking in the same direction. Two cows were standing in front of them, looking towards each other. A third cow was standing between them, but off to the side, looking towards the crowd. It was the strangest thing I had ever seen. As I walked closer, most of the cows looked over to me with disinterest before putting their attention back to the matter at hand. The cows didn’t say anything, as you would expect. But the betrothed did occasionally moo at each other. When it was over, the cows sitting in the audience mooed in unison, and then they all dispersed.” When I asked him if that was a true story, he leaned in real close, gave me his most serious face, and said “every word.”

Years later, I was driving in rural Kansas, and saw my own cow wedding, just like he had described it. He really hadn’t been lying.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Microstory 69: Breakdown

I blew a tire out on my way to the bulk store today. It was just another in a series of problems I’ve had with my car. It’s so old that, last week when my muffler was dragging on the ground, the mechanics had to build a new one out of parts. They literally don’t make them like they used to. I was already late to help my mother with the heavy groceries, so it was even more humiliating rumbling and shaking like a crazy person, trying to desperately make those last couple of blocks. After getting the groceries, my mother needed help unloading them, so I rode with her back to her house. I tried calling a tow truck, hoping to meet them back at the store, but they said they wouldn’t even send one out unless I was already there waiting for them, so I borrowed my father’s truck and left. Apparently this was a big day for tows, because it took them almost an hour to reach me. The driver had to find a workaround because I evidently don’t have any “hook points” in the front. But he finally got it strapped down, and we headed out for the tire shop.

I was told that I had arrived at the tire place with enough time to install new tires before closing, but it took them much longer than expected; so long, in fact, they they wouldn’t be able to finish until tomorrow. That was extremely annoying, but my dad didn’t need the truck since they were going to be out of town for a couple of days. As it turned out, it didn’t matter since the truck refused to start anyway. There was a guy sitting in his own car nearby who heard me dealing with it and was 99.9% sure they it was something called the “fuel pump”. He had me stick my head in the tire well to prove it wasn’t making the sound it was supposed to. Having no other choice, I began the long walk back home. When I finally got back, exhausted and just wanting to go to bed, I found police officers escorting a man in handcuffs from my front porch. I asked one of the officers what was going on at my house. He answered, “he just robbed the liquor store down the street, across from the police station. It’s a good thing you weren’t home. He’s been holed up in there for hours, claiming to have hostages.”

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Microstory 68: Selenophobia

Melvin Leo suffered from selenophobia; fear of the moon, and he had his entire life. He hadn’t left the house at night for several years. He even directed his career path so that he could live in England half of the year, and Australia for the other half, so as to maximize daylight hours. He went to therapists regularly, trying to get his anxiety under control. They were making progress, but he still kept this sinking feeling that something dangerous was hiding on the far side. One day, he was in the middle of nowhere on the train from Oxford to the airport when the power went out. It was twilight, so as they stepped out of the train, the passengers could see the skyline dramatically blink out little by little. Melvin gathered all of his strength; calling on the lessons that his therapists had taught him. And then he ran. He ran towards civilization as long as he could, but eventually had to start walking. Long before he was anywhere close to the safety of a building, it grew dark. Still, he kept walking. He even slowed his pace, reveling in his newfound fortitude. When he finally found a public building, he smiled and climbed up to the roof. Just like that, he no longer felt fear of the moon. He stood on the ledge, and yelled his revelation up to it. And while he stood there, he watched in horror as invading spaceships broke off from a mothership that appeared from behind the moon.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Microstory 67: The Typhon Lie

The Typhons were a fabricated race of aliens from another galaxy. They were imagined by a task force as part of the Ceresian-Eridani Interstellar Unity Initiative. They are said to resemble giant snakes with the head in the shape of a large skull. The Eridani claimed that the Typhons invaded and warred with them for almost a thousand years (which is equivalent to about 1,019 Earthan years). In that time they supposedly inadvertently taught the Eridani all they needed to know about military strategy and execution. In truth, with help from Ceresian refugees, the Eridani procured historical documents and other literature regarding the wars on other planets to gain their military knowledge. The Eridani used the Typhon lie and what they had learned, not to fight, but to assert themselves as the dominant military race, discouraging others from fighting each other. This elaborate and convoluted plan ultimately proved successful. There was a modern movement to uncover the truth about the Typhons. Several skeptics came together and started to question whether they ever existed. The movement, however, was quashed following the 25th Century Typhon Infestation. It was only a recent development that the Core revealed that the Typhons were, in fact, originally not real. All evidence points to a rogue group of scientists from Fostea that genetically engineered these new Typhons in retaliation for the Light Wars.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Microstory 66: Business Review

The other day, I was invited to tour the Fostean Galaxy. They were trying to assure me that they had changed their ways. And I admit, they had...to an extent. The following is a review I wrote of a business on a planet called Dikaio that gave me trouble when I tried to buy something:

I walked in here with no intention of buying anything, and I think the vendor could sense that. According to him, “browsing” is taboo in the entire galaxy, which is ridiculous, because I spent hours in the Great Mall of Poreia and didn’t buy a single thing. Just to get him to stop bothering me, I grabbed a pack of gravity gum. That seemed to insult him quite a bit. I told him that I couldn’t buy anything too advanced because I live on Earth, and the Martians would confiscate it anyway. He was perturbed by that, but he finally rang me up. I gave him my visitor card to pay and he acted like he had no idea what to do with that. He insisted that I pay with my skincode. Again, I’m from Earth. I don’t have one of those. The Core has a deal with Fostea that allows Lacteans to purchase items with visitor cards, and in return, the Core shares technology, supplies, and military training. The vendor pointed out that that’s because most Lacteans live in a moneyless society. And that’s true, but there is no conversion rate from Earthan money to Fostean indexa. He said he would take “one of those thousand dollar bills” for it. I explained that the gravity gum is nowhere near worth so much. He pulled a weapon on me, so I was forced to shoot him. The government gave me permission to eliminate any threat I perceive. Don’t go to this store. It has been permanently closed.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: March 31, 3118

Click here for the 2015 table of contents.

Everything changed. Mateo was no longer in the Snow White coffin. Instead, he found himself on a comfortable bed inside of a larger dome. There was no discernable way out of the dome. He looked around for a seam, and banged on the glass, but it was useless. Around the dome were machines and other instruments. The rest of the room was empty, except for a man who was staring at him without a hint of surprise. “Welcome back, sir.”
“What is this? Where am I?”
“You’re safe. We need to keep you in there or you’ll be contaminated. We built this facility around your jumpsite so that you would never breathe the open air.”
“What year is this?”
“Thirty-one-eighteen.”
“No, that’s not right,” Mateo reasoned. “It should be 2024.”
“It should be, yes. But it isn’t. The machine that the old scientist had you in disrupted your pattern, and threw you here. And it’s a good thing it did.”
“Why is that?”
“You are very special to us. Your genes are the key to the revival of the human race. You are to become the father of a multitude.”
“Why can’t you do it?”
“I’m not biological. And even if I were, I would already be contaminated. Everyone is. The few living humans are incapable of reproducing. You’re the first pristine person we’ve encountered in decades.”
“And you knew I was coming?”
“You told us.”
Mateo nodded. “That makes no sense.”
“You helped us build this place,” the man explained. “Yesterday.”
“If you’ve already met me, then why didn’t the other me help you with your virus problem?”
The apparently non-human laughed. “That version of you was contaminated, along with everyone else. After today, you will travel back to your time period, and then you will resume your pattern. Centuries later, you will jump into a year after the virus is first released, and it will infect you.”
“But it won’t kill me?”
He shook his head. “That’s not what the virus does.”
Mateo sighed. “What do you need from me? This me?”
“Samples. Lots of samples.”
Mateo let the machines run tests and take samples from him, partly because he didn’t feel like he had a choice, but also because if there was even a slight chance for him to save humanity, he couldn’t risk refusing. They needed a lot more than Professor Andrews had. He was feeling a bit violated, honestly, especially since they at one point gave him anesthetic and took some of his seed. But he learned a little bit more about how the world had been developing. Biological humans were a dying race. The man was hesitant to tell him too much, including how the infection began. They were worried about him going back and altering the timeline. He could make things better, or he could make things worse. There were too many variables to count, and even a nanite transhuman was incapable of accounting for all of them. The dangers of time travel. But if that were true, how were the powers that be justifying their intervention in the timeline? Once the machines were finished, and the samples had been safely taken out of the enclosure, Mateo took a much needed nap.
He must have dreamt of it, because when he awoke, he remembered the device that Daria had given him yesterday. The man scanned it with his high tech robot eyes and nodded. “I could read that easily, but not from out here.” He waved his hand at the dome. “You actually have everything you need in there, but you would need to build the interface from parts.”
“Teach me,” Mateo asked.
And so the man went about giving him instructions. He had him strip parts from machines they no longer needed, and haphazardly put them together. He even had to use a sort of soldering tool to mold the pieces. Finally, he had what he needed. He inserted the device and let it play.
A video automatically came up on the screen. On it was a man he didn’t recognize. He had a sinister smile on his face. “Mateo Matic. The Transient Hero of Earth. You’ve not yet met me, but I know you. I’ve been scouring the timeline, looking for when I could be rid of you before you cause me so many troubles. I’ve been trying to kill you for, well...days. But something always protects you. The powers that be don’t ever let us get close enough to end each other. But I found a loophole. I set in place a series of events that eventually led to your dear aunt Daria giving you this device. It took me a long time, but we’re finally here.” He took a drink from something and slammed it back down on the table. “You’re done! And you haven’t even started!” The machine exploded.
Mateo was thrown into the other side of the dome, but remained conscious. The fire began to consume the bed, and the oxygen was quickly being ripped out of his lungs. He banged on the glass again, and begged the man to let him out.
He just looked back at him in horror. “I can’t let you leave. If you become contaminated, you’ll carry the virus back to the past and make things even worse.”
“But if I die in here, then I can’t go back, which means I can’t return using my regular pattern, which means that I’ll never help you build the dome in the first place!”
“I have to trust that you won’t die,” the man responded. “But I can do nothing from out here. My hands are tied.”
He looked for a way to snuff out the flames. They had left some drinking water for him, but it wasn’t nearly enough to put the fire out. He opened every bottle and started drenching himself with it. The explosion had compromised the integrity of the dome, but the weakest points were very clearly on the other side of the fire. He grabbed some kind of large instrument, then jumped onto a cart. He slammed the instrument into the glass. It didn’t shatter, but it opened up enough for him to escape. He fells to the floor on the other side and began to crawl. There were tons of cuts and second degree burns on his body. He reached out, hoping to receive some help from the robot man.
But the robot man made no move towards him. He stared at him stoically, like he was weighing his options. “I’m sorry.”
“Please. Help!”
“I can’t let you go back to 2025. The virus is bad enough in our time, but we have technology, the human race will survive. We might be different. We may even be unrecognizable. If there is no cure in your uncontaminated blood, we will still find a way to keep going. But we would never survive an early 21st century pandemic.” He started to walk away.
Mateo struggled through the blood in his throat. “Wait, just wait. I’m the cure, right? Well...I was the cure. So, cure me with my old blood.”
“We don’t know how long it’s going to take to develop a cure, or even if there is one. You may be fruitless for us. And we can’t risk losing what few samples you gave us by returning some of it to you on blind faith. I’m very sorry, but your journey is over.”
“But if I don’t survive, I can’t go back to 2025. We just went over this. You need me to build the dome whether I’ve been infected or not.”
“The past can be changed; this much we’ve uncovered. But if it were going to change, it would have already done so from our perspective. As soon as you broke out of the dome, your future—our past—was altered. Yet the dome was still constructed. I don’t know how, but it’s there. Someone must have built it just the same. I’m made out of nanites. I can shift into any shape I choose. Perhaps the man who helped me build it was never you at all, but an imposter.”
“Don’t do this,” Mateo begged, then coughed up a little blood.
Before the man could say anything else, one the walls lit up and turned into a video screen. The man from the message before was back again. “Did you think that that explosion was meant to kill you? That was just the primer. Now it’s time to paint this room red.” He let out an evil laugh.
Mateo prepared himself for another explosion, but yet another man appeared out of nowhere, took him by the shoulders, and jumped them both out of there.
Hours later, Mateo woke up again. He was on a bed of leaves and grass in the dark, but the moon was bright and seemed larger. A teeny tiny dinosaur that looked like a triceratops hopped around nearby. His wounds had been treated with some kind of high-tech liquid bandage. He rolled onto his side and looked around. The man who had taken him out of danger was holding a musket and keeping watch for danger. “Hello?”
The man turned around, but his face remained obstructed by shadows. “How are you feeling?”
“Alive.”
“Alive, and in the Cretaceous period. Great story for your kids.”
“You slungshot me through time, like my aunt.”
He tilted his head. “I don’t think sling is a verb.”
“What’s your name?”
The man looked at his watch. “It’s almost midnight.”
“I can’t know the name of the man who saved my life?”
He dismissed the idea with a wave of his hand. “It’s my job.”
“No, it isn’t. You could quit. Eventually the powers that be would give up on you.”
“You’re just as tenacious as your mother.” The man stepped closer and showed himself by the moonlight.
“Oh my God. You look like me.” It was his father, Mario. Midnight came. Click here for the next installment...

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Seeing is Becoming: Garage Door (Part I)

Vearden Haywood was getting ready to leave his house in Oklahoma. Four thousand miles away, Saga Einarsson was trekking through the rainforests of the Amazon. They had not seen each other since college. Saga didn’t even have a social media presence, so Vearden had no idea that she was a traveling photographer. While he was brushing his teeth and making sure that his cell phone was charged all the way, Saga felt a tremor. She looked around for shelter, but found nothing. It ended quickly, and she looked ahead again. Things had changed. Her environment looked remarkably different. She was still in the rainforest, but the arrangement of trees and flowers had been altered. Did she lose time? There was a roar behind her, and she began to run.
Vearden looked at himself in the mirror with the feeling of apathy and a bit of nausea. He didn’t want to go. He stood there, staring into space, for a few moments before sitting down on the couch and flipping on his TV. He had recently cleared out his recordings so there was nothing to watch but the late morning trash. He eventually just fell asleep from the depression.
His phone woke him up hours later. He grabbed it and answered, “yeah?—Yeah, I know.—I could lie and say that I thought it was tomorrow, but I just wasn’t in the mood.—Probably won’t be in the mood tomorrow, no.—You would not do that.—Okay, fine. I’ll be there, I promise...in two days.—All right, tomorrow morning. First thing.” He growled and let his phone fall back to the nightstand. It was only then that he realized he was in his bed instead of the couch. How did he get there?

The next day, Vearden completed his routine and made it out to the garage. He breathed in deeply but held most of it in; letting air out little by little. He haphazardly slapped the door opener several times before finally getting lucky. As he began to walk around the back to the driver’s side door, he saw the outside. It was not his driveway. It was some kind of wooded area. He looked behind him through the glass on the door to the backyard. That all looked normal, but in front of him was a different place entirely.
He cautiously dipped his feet across the border. It didn’t feel any different; as if that was just how it was supposed to be. He slowly made progress until he was fully past the line. He looked back. His house was nowhere to be seen, except for the frame of the garage. He dropped his bag to the ground and began to explore the immediate area. He was able to touch the leaves and feel the breeze on his face. So, it wasn’t just a visual hallucination. It was most likely a dream. He didn’t technically remember waking up, but that was old news. His brain made a point of erasing the memories of monotony.
While he was watching a flying insect that resembled a bee, he started to hear screaming. He looked up and saw a woman racing towards him. She stopped for a half second when she saw him up ahead. “Don’t let the door close!”
“What?”
“Make sure the door stays open!” she called up to him.
Then he saw what she was running from. A large creature was chasing her. It was nearly three meters tall, muscular, and angry. Just as Vearden was looking for a sturdy stick to use as a weapon, the creature caught up with the woman.  It was only then that he realized she was his old college roommate. Maybe this was all real. Maybe they had fallen into another dimension. Maybe this was happening all over the world. Saga fought back hard, managing to keep the creature at bay. Vearden ran up and joined in. Together, they were able to knock the creature to its back. “Get to my house. Go all the way into the kitchen.”
“If your door closes, we’ll be trapped here forever.”
There was a howl in the distance. The creature on the ground howled back to it. They were clearly intelligent enough to communicate with each other. “Then you better get going,” Vearden told her.
While Saga was running for the door, they could hear it begin to close on its own. Whatever had brought them there wanted them to stay. Vearden collided with the creature. It fought using strategy and patience. Even though it didn’t seem to say anything, it was thinking through its actions. Creature wasn’t a very good name for it, but that was all he had. It even carried a sheathed sword. He continued to punch and kick at it. He had never received any formal combat training, so it was just his instinct to keep as much distance as possible between them.
He got a few opportunities to look over to his house. He could see Saga straining to hold the garage door open. There was a sensor that kept it from hitting you in the head, but that was being overridden. “Just get inside!” he yelled to her.
“I can’t do that!”
“Either we both die, or just me! Please!”
As he continued to lose his fight with the creature, she continued to lose her fight with the door. He could only see her legs, and then just her feet. And then the door was all the way down. He could still see her through the little windows, pounding and screaming, trying to get the door back open. But it was slowly fading away. It would soon be gone, and he would be trapped. But at least she was safe.
The creature’s friend appeared through the trees, causing him to take his eyes off of the first one for a moment. It took its chance to stab him in the stomach.
“No!” Saga cried from inside the garage, her voice growing fainter as she held the word.
Knowing that his wound was fatal anyway, he decided to cause as much damage as he could muster. He shoved the sword deeper in so that it came out of his back. He twisted around and slit the creature’s stomach open. Then he jumped backwards and crashed into the second creature, stabbing it so they were both on a skewer. He fell to the ground on top of it. The first one was approaching him, his wound closing up quickly. Apparently they had a healing factor. That’s perfect. Vearden struggled to the pull the sword out of the other creature’s stomach, and out of his own. He released it just in time to trip the first creature and let it fall on the sword. He was in a creature sandwich, their blood mixing together throughout their three wounds.
He gathered all the strength he had left and rolled it off of his body. They were already starting to heal again. He swung the sword behind him like a baseball bat, and cut off their heads, hoping that they would not be able to survive that level of trauma.
Saga ran up just in time to watch Vearden’s wound close up, leaving not so much as a scar. “You heal like they do,” she said
“You were supposed to be inside.”
“I was inside. When it disappeared, it left me behind. Someone wants us here.”
“Where are we?”
“Another planet.” Click here for the next installment...