Saturday, May 6, 2017

Flurry: Looper (Part IV)

Click here for the previous installment...

Serkan and Ace had a new mission. Though Snowglobe was clearly guilty of something, if not indirectly the weather, they were not the present concern. The crystal rectangle that Effigy had given Ace could also be used as a holographic smartphone, giving them access to the internet. They navigated to the High Castle Corporation website while they were wandering through the abandoned mall. The company was first conceived in 1965, as the result of an address President Lyndon B. Johnson made to the nation wherein he warns the public of the threat of human-driven climate change. Keanu ‘Ōpūnui was so moved by the president’s words that he felt compelled to do something about it, and four years later, he found himself in a position to do just that. He founded High Castle Corporation in 1969 with the ultimate purpose of researching climate change, and finding ways to stop or reverse it. Today, the organization boasts several global locations, and the world’s top scientists, with their research being funded by selling weather-related products like raincoats and weather stripping. And then it goes on to talk about how it was acquired by Snowglobe Collective a few years ago as part of their vision to consolidate the world’s leading visionaries.
“We need blueprints for their building,” Serkan pointed out.
“Oh, that’s right,” Ace agreed. “Let me just click on the link on their website that says here’s what you need if you’re trying to break into one of our facilities.”
“Very funny,” Serkan said. “Doesn’t that thing give us access to things people normally can’t see?”
“I don’t know why it would.”
“Give it here.” Serkan took the device from Ace and started fiddling with it. “This is a skeleton key given to us by a hacker.”
“No, that thing was impersonating a hacker.”
“Either way, he said it was a modern version of the Escher Knob, which means it has to break into virtual environments too.”
“I don’t think that’s what that means.”
“Got it.” Serkan was no hacker himself, but he knew his way around an organization’s private intranet. From there, he accessed the deepest parts of their network, and found what they were looking for. A hologram sprouted from the screen, revealing an interactive map of the High Castle headquarters, which did look like a castle. Though constructed using modern materials, there were parapets, towers, and even a drawbridge over a moat. Why had they not heard of this before? It looked like an amusement park.
Ace took the device back and headed for an ottoman that had been left next to a dead plant. “I need some time to study this.”
“Okay,” Serkan said. “I need some time to get a good run in.”
“Just, be careful, honey. Dont go too far.”
“You too.”
Serkan started to jog all over the building, dodging broken chairs and other debris strewn all over the floor. Everytime he saw something destroyed that was once whole, he frowned. Even though he didn’t personally care about the mall industry, he didn’t like seeing it fall apart either. It was unsettling to be in a place so hopeless that was once so vibrant. As he reflected on it...it reflected back. At first he thought he was just having some particularly vivid flashback, but the more the world refocused, the more he realized that this was all real. He was somehow going back in time to before the mall was abandoned, back to when there were shops, back to when there were patrons. He hadn’t fallen into an open grave this time, but there was just as little chance of him returning home. Someone upstairs didn’t want him finding happiness.
After resolving himself to make the most of his new situation, he calmly walked over to the cash register in a small shop and looked at the wall behind it where he found a paper calendar. August of 2013; about two years before the mall’s closing. He was four years old at the time, and his brother, Alim had just been born. This much was confirmed when their mother passed by the shop with her two children. He first tried to cover his face so she wouldn’t see him, but then realized that she wouldn’t recognize him anyway. His face had actually changed quite a bit since he was a child; more so, as he was told, than most people. Future!Serkan started following his younger self and family down the large hallway, towards the shoe store. He remembered this day. Though Serkan didn’t always know he would become a professional runner, he did run around a lot, exhausting his mother. He wore shoes out like they were made out of tissue, forcing her to buy new pairs regularly. She never complained or scolded him, but he didn’t understand until he was older what she was sacrificing for him.
As he was watching her now trying to maintain a hold of baby Alim while Serkan was insisting on a particular pair, a sales representative stepped in view. “Can I help you with anything?” she asked. “What kind of shoe are you looking for.”
It barely registered that she was talking. “Thanks, I’m just browsing,” Future!Serkan answered, trying to get back to watching himself.
“Well, if you need anything, I’m Cecelia.”
“Uhuh,” Serkan said out of instinct. “And what if I don’t need anything? Who are you?”
“Demetri Martin reference, I love it.”
He probably shouldn’t have said that. Now she thought that he was trying to flirt. He just froze and kept quiet, hoping that eventually she would get bored, and walk away. She did, and he was able to return to stalking his own family.
His mother was looking back and forth between her son who was ecstatic about the amazing pair of running shoes he had discovered, and her near-empty wallet. Future!Serkan took out his own wallet and removed a couple twenty-dollar bills. He gained some courage, and approached her. “Excuse me, ma’am, I believe you dropped these.”
She inspected the bills and laughed. “Nope. I don’t keep fake money in my wallet. Nice try, though.”
“What?”
“That’s Harriet Tubman, I recognize her iconic picture.”
“Yeah?”
“Andrew Jackson is on the twenty-dollar bill, smartass. What is this? Am I on a prank show?” She looked around for a video camera.
Oh, shit. He didn’t know all that much about history, but he still should have remembered that Harriet Tubman wouldn’t be put on currency for a long, long time. That was stupid of him. “I’m sorry, he said with a stammer. “I’m just...practicing my improv.”
“Oh, you don’t need any practice,” she said, but then added, “you should just give up on your dream right now.”
“Actually,” Future!Serkan responded, “I’m a runner. Those are some really good shoes.” He pointed towards Past!Serkan’s feet.
“Well, he certainly seems to like them,” his mother said.
“But they’re not necessary,” Future!Serkan tried to explain. He looked around a little and grabbed a much cheaper pair. “Cheap shoes do okay if you use them right. Invest in a shoehorn, and make him use it every single time...and also make him untie them instead of slipping them off. Every time he stretches out a shoe just to put it on, or take it off, he’s wearing it down. Put newspaper in them when he’s at home to soak up moisture. Buy a tube of something called shoe goo. It’s not that hard to use, and you don’t have to wait until they wear out. Stick some on the seams right away, and it’ll reinforce them for you.”
“That’s some...interesting advice. Do you work here?” she asked.
“Nah, I’m just experienced.”
“Got anything else?”
“It takes one to know one, and I can tell that your son is destined to be a runner. When he starts getting serious about it, buy a separate pair for him to use for training and races. Don’t let him wear them when he’s just sitting in class, or something. It takes a little extra cash, but both pairs will last longer than they would if you bought them one at a time.”
“I’ll consider that,” she said with a nod, taking the cheaper shoes from his hand and throwing them down at younger Serkan. “Try these instead,” she told him.
Past!Serkan pulled the expensive shoes off and started working on the other ones. One benefit of him only being four years old was that he didn’t have any cognizance of the price. He could be easily tricked into thinking that these were better.
Her back turned from Future!Serkan allowed him to look right at baby Alim. Of course he knew his little brother at this point, but he was just a child himself. He couldn’t appreciate the how precious life was, and how nice it was to see him like this again. This time travel was a terrible thing, yes, but could also be a gift. It partially counteracted the first time he traveled, which had taken him away from his family completely. At least he was now able to see them again, if only for a moment. As he was staring into baby Alim’s eyes, Alim stared back. Time seemed to slow down, and he started questioning the meaning of life itself, and whether there was any real danger to time paradoxes. But then his existential journey was cut short when baby Alim suddenly spit up his breakfast all over Future!Serkan’s shirt.
Their mother turned around. “Oh my God. I’m so sorry. I should never have let that happen.”
“It’s fine.”
She struggled through her baby bag with her free hand, obviously trying to find something to clean him up.
“Really, it’s okay. I have a baby sister,” Future!Serkan lied. “She does this all the time. It hasn’t bothered me since the first time it happened.”
“Well...at least let me pay for whatever you’re buying today.”
“Thanks, but I already have everything I need.”
“Serkan! Serkan!” Ace yelled from the front of the store.
“Your name is Serkan?” his mother asked. Its popularity had been waning in Turkey for the last decade, and he had never met anyone stateside who shared his name. The chances that both he and this child shared it were next to zero.
Thinking quickly, Serkan clarified, “he said Burkhart. It’s my last name.” He called back to Ace who was on his way down the aisle, “what did I say about calling me by my last name, honey? Ever since we got married up in Canada, we’re both Burkharts now.” Not his best lie.
“Oh, right.” He shook Serkan’s mother’s hand. “Hi, I’m Horace.”
“Sila,” she said back. “Sila Demir. This is Serkan, and Alim.”
“Well, we best be heading for the exit,” Ace said impatiently. “I found our keys.”
Future!Serkan understood. “Okay, good. It was nice meeting you,” he said to his own mother.
They smiled at each other, then parted ways.
“Did you send us back here?” Ace asked once they were out of earshot.
“I have no idea. I didn’t even know you came with me.”
“Well, the outside looks different than it should. There aren’t any cars in the parking lot...and it’s snowing...in August. I think all we have to do is walk out of here, and it’ll loop us back to our time.”
“All right, good. Did you study enough of the blueprints?”
Yes, I know where we need to go.” Click here for the next installment...

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