Saturday, October 8, 2016

Frenzy: Life Now (Part XIII)

Click here for the previous installment...
Click here for the entire story.

“What is a Ulinthra?” I ask after Ace has finished with his conversation, knowing full well that it’s a person.
“She’s a friend of mine. Probably about your age. We had felt drawn towards each other our entire lives before finally finding each other a year ago.”
“Are you time travelers as well?”
“Not exactly,” Ace explained. “We just get these...feelings. Have you ever heard of déjà vu?”
“Yeah, of course.”
“Well, it’s like that, but turned up to eleven. Everything we do feels familiar, and as if we had just experienced it yesterday. I always know who’s going to win a sports competition, which is where I earned most of my money. Whenever I meet someone new, it’s like I already know them. My life isn’t perfect, but it’s rather predictable. Once Ulinthra and I realized that we were the same, we started questioning where our abilities came from.”
“I see.”
“Now you have some answers for us. How many times have you done it before?”
“Never. I mean, just the once. I’m not a time traveler, per se. I mean, I know that they exist, but I just fell into it. I’m a stowaway. An accident.”
He says nothing.
“I have no answers,” I add.
“No, you must know something,” he complained. “You must. We need to pool our resources and figure this out. Like...do you have the same thing where you can bet on sports?”
“Not at all.”
“Well, what did you do for a living?”
“I’m seventeen.”
“Right, of course. What do you do for fun?”
“I’m a runner. I do the City Frenzy.”
“Oh. That explains the outfit you were wearing. So, when you said you couldn’t go home...it was because you’re already there.”
“Yes, I can’t run into myself. Who knows what would happen?”
“Maybe it would destroy the universe.”
“I doubt that, but it could ruin my timeline, cause some kind of paradox.”
“You sure you don’t know anything about what we are? You seem to know a lot about time travel in general.”
“Well...” I trail off.
“What? Tell me, please.”
“I do know a guy who may have some answers. Last time I saw him, he ran away from me, though. If we go see him, you’ll have to be prepared for that.”
“I think I can handle it.”
“I guess we can go tomorrow when your friend gets here.”
“Oh no, she’ll be here in an hour. She was just in Topeka.”

Once Ulinthra arrives, we exchange pleasantries and get her up to speed. After a meal, we head out for Lincoln Rutherford’s office. I didn’t know Rutherford very well back in 2022, but he’ll know my name. He accepts a walk-in appointment, and is surprised to see all three of us come through the door. “This is an interesting development. Mister Demir, you’re much older.”
“I’m from 2026,” I say.
“That would explain it.”
“Do you know who we are?” Ulinthra asks.
“I do, yes.”
What are we?” she continues. “What are you?”
“I’m the Systemizer. I see time in the same way you see a movie; from a third-person perspective.”
“Like God?” Ace asks.
“No.”
“And them?” I ask. “What are they like?”
He tilts his head to look at them at a different angle. “They’re weird.”
“The hell does that mean?” Ulinthra is not amused.
“In another timeline, you had certain abilities. Now it seems like you still have them, but you’re...limited.”
“Limited how?”
“You still experience each day twice, but you can’t remember the first time.”
“If we can’t remember,” Ace began, “then how could it have happened?”
“You remember subconsciously, don’t you? Life always feels familiar.”
“Oh yeah,” Ace agrees. “That’s true.”
“How do we fix it?” Ulinthra asks.
“Fix what?”
“Our memory.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t recommend that. You have your memories intact in other timelines, and you never stop killing people.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Ace protests. “We would never kill anyone!” He looks over at Ulinthra who seems to have no interest in arguing either way. “I definitely wouldn’t,” he adds.
“I dunno what to tell ya,” Lincoln goes on. “You got to be such a problem that the other time travelers got together, built a prison, and put you in it.”
This scares Ace, probably more than anything ever has before. “Is that going to happen again?”
“It would seem that’s up to you. There are those who hold the actions of alternate versions of people against them, but most don’t.”
“Could you talk to them?” I jump back in. “We need to know what’s coming to us, and I would like to go back home. To my time.”
Lincoln takes a nonchalant drink from his water. “That’s not my job. I’m not one of them.” He looks to me directly. “I’m more like you. An outsider. I try to stay out of things.”
“What about...?” I stop myself before I mention K-Boy. That hasn’t happened to him yet, and even though Lincoln seems to have some unusual grasp of past and future, he can’t see things when I’m involved. Again, I have to worry about protecting the spacetime continuum. I don’t know what would happen if I changed the future, or if I already have, but my instinct is to exercise caution.
“Are you going to help us at all?” Ulinthra was angry. I could see her becoming a killer. I barely know her, but she does not seem stable.
“I can’t imagine,” Lincoln begins, “there’s anything I can do, or want to do, or am going to do.” He makes eye contact with Ace and subtly flickers his vision to Ulinthra’s purse, which she is clutching tightly.
Ace sighs and takes her purse away without any protest from her. He opens it up and removes a large knife in its sheath. “What the hell is this for?”
“Protection.”
“Oh God,” Ace responds. “The Gunbenders would hate you. Were you planning on using this?”
Lincoln answers instead, but towards Ulinthra. “Yes, I remember the other version of today as well. To avoid any further...dissatisfaction, I’m going to do you a favor and put you in touch with an associate of mine.” He takes out two games of Jenga, and begins to lay out the blocks while he’s still talking. “Now because time travel is a thing, in order to communicate with one another, we can’t just make a phone call. So we use our own version of that. Not everyone has a...” he says with air quotes, “phone number”. He starts stacking the pieces in groups of three to resemble little doorways. “But the most important ones do.”
“I’m sorry,” Ulinthra spits. “What the hell are you doing?”
“Helping you. Now, as I was saying, the most important time travelers can be contacted using special methods. If you want The Constructor, knock on any door with a special code. You want The Chauffeur, write a note on a piece of paper and burn it. Now The Archivist. He’s a weird one. He’ll get your message through this complicated combination of opening and closing drawers of a filing—” He stopped himself once he noticed the three of us were just staring at him with no idea who he was talking about, or frame of reference for them. “Anyway, The Delegator lives at Stonehenge. So you have to do this.” He sits back in his chair a little and admires his own work. He has constructed a replica of Stonehenge using the Jenga blocks.
“What’s supposed to happen now?” Ulinthra asks, still soured about the whole thing. She does not seem like a nice person.
Lincoln smiles. “This.” He places the last ‘stone’ on his desk some ways away from the rest of the replica. He then utters the magic words, “That’s what you think!
The scene around us changes. The office walls and furniture bubble, pop, and dissipate away to reveal grass, sky, and stone. In a matter of seconds, we have found ourselves in the middle of the actual Stonehenge. Tourists wearing outdated clothing are walking all around us, but have taken no notice, except for one man watching us from a few meters away. Ulinthra, Ace, and I walk towards him. I look back to see Lincoln waving goodbye before fading away.
“Are you...” Ace tries to ask, feeling silly.
“The Delegator?” The man finishes it for him. “Yes. I was not planning on contacting you. What are you doing here?”
Ulinthra is examining one of the tourists. “Can they not see us?”
“No,” the Delegator says. “But you can have an effect on them, which is where ghosts come from. Stay away from the humans, please.” As Ulinthra reaches out to touch one of the tourists, the Delegator reaches his own hand up and takes ahold of her, apparently through some kind of telekinesis. He swings over and throws her through one of the little doorways where she disappears by what I can only describe as a portal. “I’m sorry about your friend, but she should not be here.”
I look to Ace who doesn’t seem all that upset. “You did what you had to. If you’re the Delegator, then does that mean you’re going to delegate purpose to us?”
“I do that for others...but not for you.”
“Good,” I say. “Can you take me home then?”
“I don’t know who you are, or what you are, but what I do know is that you are exactly where you’re supposed to be, and when you’re supposed to be there.”
Now I’m getting angry. “Why is it that everyone we talk to about this stuff is completely unhelpful? Why can’t you help me? Why do I have to stay here? And should I give a damn about what anyone else wants of me?”
The Delegator does not seem offended. “Every single salmon before you has asked those questions. None of them has received an answer, and neither will you. This is your life now. I also recommend you be prepared to hear that excuse more than once.”
“So we’re just supposed to go back home and try to figure this out on our own? With no guidance?”
“How is that different than what anyone else in the world does day-to-day?”
That isn’t a bad answer, but it still isn’t helpful, which I guess is the point. “This day has been incredibly unproductive.”
“What did you expect? Fanfare?”
“No, but it’s just—”
“I don’t have time for this,” the Delegator says quickly. “I have to get back to work. I really don’t like being interrupted. People don’t call me, I invite them here.”
“We’re sorry, but—”
He cuts Ace off as well. “No more questions.” He waves his hand dismissively. “Please walk through that gateway there.”
“As you wish,” Ace says, narrowing his eyes in a sort of small rage. We comply with his wishes and try to walk through the gateway. The Delegator cries out as we’re doing so, “no! Not that one!” But it’s too late. We’re already through and onto the other side. The gateway has transported us back to what’s clearly Kansas City, so I’m not sure why he’s so upset.
“Umm...where am I?” someone behind us asks.
Ace and I turn around to see a scared little girl holding a 1960s camera. That’s not good. Click here for the next installment...

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