Saturday, August 18, 2018

Fervor: Swingin’ on the Flippity-flop (Part VII)

I’m about to get myself as far from the temple as I can when I remember that I never did send that time pigeon to my past self. I’m meant to summon one to me using a special phrase, spoken over a podium, and surely this place has one. I sneak in the building, fearful that a mormon is about to catch me. I’m not worried they’ll kick me out for trespassing; I’m worried they’ll try to convert me. I saw the Book of Mormon, I know how this works. I see several people walking the halls as I’m slinking around, and a few of them notice me, but none of them bothers me, which is a great relief. I make my way to the sanctuary, or whatever it is they call their worship space. Thank Lord Xenu no one’s in here, because I’m about to do something strange.
I stand at the podium, but take a moment to recall the words that Laura taught me. I take one more look around, before repeating the line, “if he or she does their schoolwork seriously; does well, takes school.” A pigeon appears literally out of nowhere, and waits patiently for me on the podium. I remove the coffee receipt from my pocket, and prepare to write a note to myself. I can’t remember exactly what I read before, but that’s probably for the best. It’ll be more natural if I just write what I feel. Paige, take a photo of the wall outside of the cell. There, that’s both cryptic and clear. I tie the note to the pigeon’s leg, and shove it into the air. It disappears through a portal.
I hear the sound of papers falling to the floor, and look over to see a man wearing a white button-up shirt and black tie, staring at me in awe. He falls to his knees. “It’s a miracle,” he exclaims. “You have returned as proof.”
I walk down the steps, and approach him, and he bows his head. “Stand, my child.”
He stands up, and regards me with reverence and admiration. “Are you a new prophet?”
“Let me see your phone.”
“My phone?”
“Yes, your phone.” I’m using a gliding voice to impersonate this holy creature he believes I am. “Did you take any photographs earlier today?”
“I...I did. You know this.”
Closed time loops are confusing and dangerous things, but if the man says he’s seen me, then I better go prove him right. I have him open his camera roll, and show me the latest one. “Why did you take a picture of a stump?”
“The workers were meant to remove the whole tree,” he answers. “I was planning to send it as proof that they did not complete the job.”
I make my eyes burn, and travel into the photograph, back in time a few hours. I’m standing on the trunk, arms outstretched like a welcoming messiah. The man from the future drops his arms down in shock. “How did you do that?”
“You will drive me downtown,” I order him.
He has so many questions for me, but I just tell him that he will understand everything when he is ready. I make him buy me a burner phone, then take me back to J.U. Mithra Labs, which has not yet slid back to the 15th century. Someone’s left a window on the second floor in full view, and if I were more like this guy, I would pray that no one was in that room. “You’ve been trained how to spread the good word?” I ask him as I take a quick photo of the window.
He stutters a bit. “Uh...yes, I’ve memorized thirty percent—”
“I don’t care about that. Just go in there and try to get whoever you see to accept Jesus Christ into their hearts, or whatever. Be as loud as you can. We want the whole building coming down to hear what you have to say.”
“Yes, prophet, he says. Then he eagerly leaves the car, not even asking what I’m going to do.
I take one last look at the window, only to see myself up there, giving me a salute. “This is going to have to take some getting used to. First order of business once this is all finished is finding a way to store in one place every single photo that has ever been taken, or will be taken, in the history of mankind, so I can go when and wherever I want withing running into myself. Shouldn’t be too hard.
As the mormon—which I think he probably doesn’t want me to call him—is providing a nice distraction, I lean against the wall, and jump through the photo I took moments ago. I then step over to the window, and give Past!Me a salute. Then I hide out there for the rest of day. Just before the building goes back in time, I take one last photo of a strip of shops in the distance.
I’m about to go down and free my friends from the basement hock, but then I remember that this did not happen in the original history. I have to preserve the timeline as much as possible. In fact, I may not be able to change the past at all, no matter what I do. Maybe my life has all been written, and I’m just fulfilling my destiny, with free will being nothing more than an illusion. Armed with these deep existential ponderances, I wait out there for another couple hours, surprised with every passing minute that I go unnoticed. But then someone comes in.
It’s a security guard, but not the same one. He sizes me up real quick, then hands me his electroprojectile gun.
“What am I supposed to do with this?”
“Protect yourself,” he says, as if I should already know.
“Why would you help me?”
He takes a mobile device from his pocket, and shows it to me. “This is live security feed from the basement. There are your friends, and here you are on the outside of the bars. Don’t worry, I’ll erase this, but you might want to get back down and free them soon. I’ll escort you down there.”
“Again, why are you helping me?” I ask him as I’m following.
“I had a partner once; Kolby Morse. He went to work for the good guys, and I chose the bad guys.”
“It sounds like you regret it,” I say once we’ve reached the bottom of the stairs.
He shakes his head, and points to a door on the other side of the hallway. “I don’t at all. I’m deep undercover.”
People keep helping me, as if they have foreknowledge of my future. The mormon, I guess, actually did have such knowledge, but who is this guy? And who was the man who gave me the telescope picture? I don’t have much time to think about it. I hear the first guard shout, “hey!” to a past version of me. As I’m opening the door, I see myself fall drop my phone, and crumple to the floor. Then I pixelate and disappear, on my way back to 1972. The guard is staring at me in shock, so before he has time to figure out what to do, I raise the gun, and shoot him in the chest, to give him a taste of his own medicine. I then notice a tiny little screen on the back of the weapon, and discover that there are two kinds of projectiles. I switch it to the tranquilizer darts, so I can put him down without him causing any more problems for awhile.
“It’s been ages for me,” I say to my friends as I’m removing keys from the guard’s belt. You’ll never guess where I’ve been.”
“Well, we’ve just been here,” Laura says, “swingin’ on the flippity-flop.”
“Doing what on the what?” I ask.
“Never mind.”
I unlock the gate for them after only a few tries. Why are they still using physical keys when everyone has a perfectly good phone? “Come on. I took a picture of the future, so we can all get out of here.” I open the photo of downtown Independence, and hold it up in front of us, like I’m taking a selfie.
“Wait,” Laura stops me. “This might not work for us.”
“Yeah,” Samwise agrees. “The powers that be have a plan, and they may not let us out of our time period, until it’s...time.”
“You have to promise,” Laura says out of concern. “Promise that you won’t come back for us if it doesn’t work. We belong here.”
“It’ll work, so we won’t have to worry about it,” I say dismissively, and raise my arm again.
“Just promise,” Samwise insisted.
“I promise. Now let’s go before they send someone else.”
They were totally right. Despite the fact that Laura and Samwise were between me and Hilde, the latter is the only one who manages to come through with me. I wasn’t even touching her at the time. The evil group of unseen overseers have too much control over time and space. After we take of this Jesimula Utkin problem, I intend to go after them next.
“You’re back,” the mormon boy declares. Goddamn, is this guy in every one of my pictures, or what? “Did I do well?”
“You did it perfectly,” I say in my prophet voice. “Now do one more thing for me.”
“Anything, mistress,” the creeper says.
“Take off that outfit...not literally” I cry as he immediately starts trying to remove his clothes.
“I just mean stop being a mormon, because the religion is total garbage.”
“What should I believe instead?”
“There’s only one real higher power in the whole universe,” I announce, starting to drop my persona.
“And what is that?” he asks.
“Yeah, what is it?” Hilde asks.
I snap a pic of the empty lot in the distance where the laboratory once stood. “Time.” Hilde and I look at the photo, and teleport back to the parking lot, where our friends are standing around. They look lost and confused. “It’s a long story,” I say to them. “But we’re back, and we have some pretty good intel.”
“Story?” Leona asks.
“Intel?” Slipstream asks.
“Who are you people?” Hogarth asks.

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