Archive for: May, 2012

Mother Nature’s Children by Tobin F. Terry

May 27 2012 Published by under The WiFiles

About seven miles into North Country Trail, I encountered a fellow hiker headed in the opposite direction. The man’s name escapes me now, but had I known the events that would follow, I would have made a point to remember it. The man was in good enough shape, but older than you would expect to see alone in the woods. I thought it strange that he didn’t carry a pack, considering he was headed back from the trail quite far from any civilized establishment, though he did have a rifle slung around his back. When I stopped to ask him the condition of the trail he seemed strangely skittish. Perhaps my memory has blended this in since, but I do remember his eyes were cloudy, a milky mix of blue and cataracts. I noticed an unsightly scar under his right eye and a peculiar tear from the neck of his shirt that wrapped around his left side. Still, anxious to get the most miles for my day, I put it out of my mind.

“Hey there,” I said. “How’s the trail look? Many hikers?”

He stopped a long time to think and it was then, I’m sure, when I began to feel uncomfortable. “Trail’s fine. Saw one group of kids setting up camp about four miles back. Heard the weather’s going to be nasty, though. Maybe you should turn back and give it a couple of days.”

The weather report in the local newspaper showed five solid days of good weather. “I’m pretty well equipped for the weather,” I replied. “Plus I have a time schedule to keep. Got a pickup waiting at the other end. Back to the grind in a couple weeks. You know how it is. Got to fit it in while you can, rain or shine.”

He thought long about this too. “These woods ain’t nothing to take lightly when nature gets angry. Can’t say I didn’t warn you.”

“Thank you for the warning, friend. I’ve encountered my share of Mother Nature’s wrath. She and I have an understanding, I think.”

The man stood there silent. For a moment, I thought he’d fallen asleep. Suddenly he spoke. “It’s not Mother I’d worry about,” he said making, if possible from beneath the cloud, sustained and menacing eye contact, “it’s her children.”

I smiled and shook his hand. “We are all her children,” I said. I thanked him again, wished him safe travel, and we parted ways.

After speaking with the old man I quickened my pace with the intention of putting at least twelve miles on the first day. I hoped to surpass the group the man spoke of before setting up camp, for I knew their sort. The early sections of the trail, particularly in this part of the forest, are popular with young men and women in search of an obscure place where they can freely drink alcohol and partake in other illegal substances without the risk of running into authority. Rain or shine for them too. Once a boy told me, “If you can’t stay dry, stay high.” It’s not that these youths are ever dangerous; it’s just that they can get loud at night and be heard for a mile through the ravine, and it was solitude that I was after.

In my hurry and deep contemplation of the beauty of my surroundings, the misty grays of boulders and browns and greens of pines in the primitive forest, I didn’t realize that I had wandered off of the trail until the path I was following came to a dead end of creeping cinnamon ferns. I checked for my compass to get my bearings only to find that I had either dropped it or forgot to pack it. Both seemed unlikely, considering it is a very important piece of equipment on the trail. Frustrated, I decided to attempt to retrace my steps and hopefully rejoin the correct trail, but when I turned around it appeared I lost the trail entirely.

With dusk closing in and against proper deep woods procedure, I chose to navigate by my own sense of direction. I must have put on a few miles and became even more so disoriented than before. I made up my mind to set up camp in the next clearing and to get better bearing by the stars, mark the north and south before going to bed, and use the sun as my guide in the morning.

Luckily enough, there was an unusually brilliant full moon rising early and shining down so brightly through the treetops that getting out my headlamp was unnecessary. As I came near a clearing I made out the silhouette of a tent, but no fire. I approached with caution so as not to startle the owners, since Pennsylvania’s firearm laws allow for weapons on the trail. I suspected that this was probably the group the old man told me about, and found validation in the empty Budweiser cans and Doritos wrappers strewn about the site.

Normally, as proper etiquette proclaims, I would have called out to the campers before getting too close, but something about the site seemed unusual. As I came closer I realized that the site was in shambles. Four backpacks were scattered around and the tent had been torn from the side. I crept closer to inspect the tear. It looked as if it had been shredded, perhaps by the claws of a native black bear or possibly the antlers of a deer. However, there was no trace—well, besides the trash—of people. I concluded that the site had been abandoned and the wildlife tore it apart in search of food.

It was so eerily quiet that I was startled when I heard the cashhh sound of an opening can. I whirled around and saw, sitting against a tree facing in the opposite direction, a silhouette of a man, with his arm on a case of Budweiser. Relieved, I called to him. “Forgive me,” I said, “I didn’t see you sitting there.” My voice surprised the shadow and it stood quickly rising to roughly seven feet tall, but not before effortlessly hoisting the case of beer onto its shoulder. I stumbled backward a little and we two froze. “I’m not here to take your things,” I said, my voice shaky with fear. There was no answer. “I’m more of a hard liquor guy, myself.”

Neither of us moved for a while. “Where did you come from?” he said in a deep glottal voice, putting me a little at ease. It at least sounded like a man.

“I lost my way on the NCT and stumbled onto your site. I’ll be on my way, if you would be so kind as to point me in the right direction.”

The shadow relaxed and set down the case. “Well, you’ve seen me now,” it said, “You must be an exceptional dude. I didn’t hear you come in. It’s late, man. Camp here with me and have a king of beers.”

It occurred to me then that I was exhausted and hadn’t stopped to eat all day, but I didn’t want to intrude. “Thank you, friend, but I’m sure you, as I, have come to this place for solitude. I wouldn’t want to impose. Now, if you would just show me…”

“Dude, don’t be silly. Solitude is all I’ve known. Please, it’s no big deal. It’s cool. I could use the company. Here.” He reached into the case and tossed me a beer. I lost sight of it in the moonlight and it hit me in the jaw. I yelped, but stifled anything more. “My bad,” he said, “I forgot your night vision is wack.”

“No no, it’s my fault,” I said, picking up the beer. I tapped the seal and opened it, slowly walking toward the shadow. “I didn’t expect you to throw it.” I took a drink from the can and looked up. The shadow stepped toward me into the moonlight and I was instantly stricken with fear.

The enormous creature was completely naked, and, despite what I had been foolish enough to assume, was in fact male, but not a man. I dropped the beer and wanted to run, but I was so frightened by its hairy form and exaggerated features that I was frozen there before it. “Whoa, chill out man,” it said, “I’m cool. I’m not going to hurt you.”

“You’re a…” I could not find the words.

“Bigfoot. Yeah. I don’t like that term though. I find it derogatory. I mean, my feet aren’t that big. ‘Sasquatch’ is cool.” Sure enough, his feet were actually small for his frame, forever putting to rest the foot/genitalia myth, at least for the Sasquatch species.

He was freakishly tall and hairy, but not the kind of hairy you’d expect from a Sasquatch. He didn’t look anything like the hoaxes would have you believe. In fact, he looked more like a man than an ape. Albeit a hairy man, one of Eastern European dissent maybe, and not thick and clunky as in the videos, but thin and agile, much more so than any professional basketball player of his stature.

“I’ve been chilling in these woods my entire life and dudes have come to hunt me. They are so stupid when it comes to the natural world it was easy to avoid them. I know your people have been looking for me for a long time. I know you probably have tons of questions. Please, stay with me. I am as harmless as you. I see you’re not packing heat. You are a cool man. Stay. We’ll catch a buzz and rap.”

“What about the kids who all of this equipment belongs to? How do I know you didn’t hurt them?”

“Come on man. Don’t hate. They saw me and split. I just wanted to hang.” He held up another beer. “Sides, think about it. I’m a freaking Sasquatch.” He tossed another beer to me and this time I caught it. Sasquatch crushed the can with his hand and retrieved another.

Though I’d never heard of anyone actually dying from Sasquatch attack, I took his word for it. Who wouldn’t? The logic was sound enough. I opened the beer and took a long drink. “Come, chill with me.” Sasquatch motioned with his arm and started into the woods with the beer. I remained for a moment, finished the beer in a couple of gulps, and followed him through heavy undergrowth, the sort I hadn’t seen yet the entire trip, to the top of a boulder in a rare clearing near the creek. “Not many people bother to look for this pad,” he said, sprawling out on top of the mossy rock. “Check it out.”

I looked up at the sky and millions upon millions of stars had appeared. It was strikingly beautiful and I felt a sudden sense of insignificance, but contentment as well. Sasquatch handed me another beer and I sat down next to him, not too close, for I was still a little unsure. From my seat I could smell him, and I distinctly remember the fragrance of that of a new car. The full moon allowed me to see him clearly. The hair covering his body reminded me of my father’s chest. It was patchy and mangy in places and I imagined what he would look like in human clothes. His hair would, like my father’s, probably tuft out of the collar of a t-shirt and show up in odd places around the house. His face looked no more primitive than a Neanderthal, with deep set eyes, a boxed jaw, and a surprisingly well kept beard. I decided that waxed, he would look almost human except he had no nipples or belly button as far as I could tell. Plus he was extremely tall, of course.

We began to talk and Sasquatch told me a brief family history, that his kind had been around for as long as humans had, but were a more peaceful and solitary race. He said there were very few of his kind, which made breeding a difficult endeavor and his life a lonely one. To avoid inbreeding, he was required to travel hundreds of miles every few years to see “this chick” he’d been “banging,” but since human urban sprawl limited his territory, his species was dwindling. Sasquatch also told me that he learned to speak English by watching and listening to the youths who come into the forest and party loudly at night, which explained the strange dialect and awkward slang he spoke.

In turn I told Sasquatch my family history, that I descended from immigrants to this country, and my father worked in a dry kiln. I told him that I moved to a city to find a better life and instead found that I needed to come to the forest as often as possible to try to find some sort of balance. He laughed and said he’d been to a city once, though I’m not sure how big of one, or which one for that matter. He told me he modified some “duds” he found in a pack but was unable to find a pair of “kicks” that would fit because, though his feet were small for his frame, they were still rather large. He said that whenever he went into a building, they made him leave because of his bare feet. Then he looked down at the feet with disgust.

He told me that by nature his kind is shy. They prefer not to be known. But this Sasquatch was different. He yearned for more of a connection, for companionship. Once he confided this in his “baby momma” and it scared her. She said that he must have human blood in him. This was a terrible insult, he explained, because his kind view humans as wasteful, stupid, and violent creatures. He said his ancestors witnessed human destruction from the beginning of man, especially that in his home land, where scores of humans killed scores of their own kind. When they weren’t killing their own kind, they were killing something else, their very livelihood, their homes, killing themselves.

Despite his negative experiences in the city, and the human destruction and desecration of his home, Sasquatch believed humans should be judged on a human-to-human basis. He was a radical among them, a free thinker. Sasquatch felt that his kind had a lot to teach Man. He felt that, given the opportunity to communicate, the Sasquatch kind and mankind could coexist peacefully and be respectful to each other’s ways.

Sasquatch voiced this opinion at a family reunion that occurs every ten years in Lebanon, Kansas, the exact geographical center of the continental United States. His own father, who, if I interpreted it correctly, is actually the Chief of his clan, told him in front of everyone that, “As it is our nature to live free, peacefully and alone, it is man’s nature to consume one another and everything around him. Go Son, and tell man of your vision. He will murder you, and in doing so will murder all of us as well.”

“Have you considered talking with your father in private?” I asked.

“Nah. Dude is too uptight. A real downer.”

“I had a similar conflict with my father. He wanted me to work at the kiln. I wanted to go to college.”

“Yeah?”

“We talked a lot about it. I was eventually able to convince him.”

“You’re lucky, man. There’s no talking to this old bird.”

We sat silent for a moment but kept drinking heavily. Sasquatch claimed that he was proof that his father was wrong. If it was his nature to live alone, then why did he desire companionship and harmony so fanatically? Weren’t the Sasquatch kind, with their present course of standing by silently, already allowing themselves to be “one-eight-sevened”? But he kept those thoughts to himself. Had he not been his father’s son, he might already have been excommunicated from the group. He was lucky to find a mate after that.

Anyway, Sasquatch was hurt deeply by his mate’s offense and did not go to meet her on their decided rendezvous time, which was supposed to be that very night. Sasquatch sat up abruptly and said “I got to piss.”

“Yeah, me too.”

We both stood up and urinated into the creek. Sasquatch’s stream sounded like he was pouring out a bucket.

“You know Sas,” I said over the sound, “may I offer you a little relationship advice?”

“Sock it to me.”

“Sometimes, well, in my experience, all a woman needs is a little genuine attention. Let her know you care about her.”

“For real?”

“Sure. She probably just wants attention.”

“Yo,” Sasquatch said, “I’d rather have met you, bro. Conversating with you’ll probably do more for my kind than burying the baby leg with that skank.” I began to think that Sasquatch was right. I thought maybe we could co-exist, and maybe it was true that I could be the one to convince the rest of the human race.

Then again, maybe it was the beer. We’d nearly finished the case and the only words my mouth could form were a disappointing, “I love you, man.”

Not far in the distance I heard the report of a rifle and quickly following it something whirring past my head and ricocheting off of the rock at our feet. “Shit!” Sasquatch howled. Another shot, and then another. “Quick!” Sasquatch was already moving. I crouched down, my head swimming in beer. “Get on my back. You’ll never outrun him alone.” Before I could consider my options, Sasquatch flung me over his shoulder like a sack of flour and was off in a dead sprint. Another shot rang out, and another, but the sound was already much further away. Maybe it was the alcohol, but it felt like he ran for twenty minutes before his breathing became heavy and another ten before his strength gave out and his legs buckled. We tumbled into a dip in the earth and I was flung through the brush onto my back in a bed of ferns.

I pulled myself up and frantically searched for Sasquatch. I felt my pockets for a flashlight and fumbled with it, finally turning it on and shining it on the shadowy ground all around me. I whispered his name for fear that the shooter would hear me. I soon found myself in the dip where we collapsed and still, no sign of him. I heard rustling behind me and spun around aiming the light in the direction and found the barrel of the rifle brandished by the old man from earlier aimed at my head.

“Jesus, son, I almost blew you to pieces,” the old man said. “Did I get him? Son of a bitch. Did I hit that sucker? That’s Bigfoot. Been hunting him all my life. Said I was crazy. Goddamnit, I was this close. You really slowed him down. I could have swore I hit that mean old thing. Did you see which way he went? Well, speak up, boy.”

“Sasquatch.”

“What? Yeah. Whatever.”

“Sasquatch. He’s sensitive about the size of his feet.”

“Whoo hoo!” the old man danced in a circle. “Right here. Blood right here. I hit him.” He shouted into the forest. “I got you now you hairy devil.”

“You hit him?”

“Look, blood right here. It ain’t you is it?”

I felt my body for bullet holes. “No. Not me.”

“Good. Lucky I didn’t brain you. You two was close. You ain’t lovers now are you? Haha. I’m going to be rich! We’re going to be rich. I’ll split the spoils. twenty/eighty. Eighty for me. I mean, I shot him, but you distracted him. That’s worth something. Come on now. Bring that light over here and we’ll follow this blood trail.”

Sasquatch’s father was right. My human nature took hold of me and my blood ran hot with anger. This Sasquatch was a conscious objector to all of the hate and prejudice in the world. He was the new voice of harmony, of co-existence. The voice that could end all of that for man and Sasquatch kind. My hands shook and my vision went red. As the old man scoured the earth for Sasquatch’s blood, I snuck up behind him, took him by surprise and grabbed him. The old man dropped his rifle and we struggled with each other, but I was much stronger than he and ended up pinning him to the ground with my hands around his throat. As what I thought was his attempt at breath came from his lips the old man stopped struggling, pointed, and mouthed the word, “Bigfoot.”

I loosened my grip, turned, and saw Sasquatch towering over us. “Man,” he said, “you’re really bumming me out.” Sasquatch turned and walked, dejected, into the forest.

I let go of the old man and called after Sasquatch, but he had already disappeared into the undergrowth. “Sasquatch. Sasquatch. No, wait. I’m sorry. I thought he killed you!”

The old man got up and searched for his rifle. “You fool. Are you out of your gourd? We almost had him. We were rich!”

I fell back onto a pine and sunk to the ground.

“We could have been famous. Son of a bitch. Why would you do such a harebrained thing?”

I looked up at the old man and realized it was I who ruined our species’ chance at peace. The old man was still waiting for an answer.

I replied, “We are all Mother Nature’s children.”

 

Author Bio

Tobin F. Terry is an Instructor of English at Lakeland Community College in Kirtland, Ohio. He is a graduate of the Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts program and recipient of the Alpha Omega Dukes Memorial Promising Fiction Writer Award.

 

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Breeding Ground by Jason Bougger

May 20 2012 Published by under The WiFiles

The only thing Specimen Collection Officer 2658 hated more than his life assignment was the silent, empty void that filled his head when no one else was speaking.

He watched the liquid-covered planet grow closer on his monitor for a few more moments before turning toward his partner. “Sometimes I would rather be on the receiving end of an exploratory probe than spend another day performing these functions,” he telepathically announced, trying anything to break the silence.

“Who asked your opinion?” Specimen Collection Officer 3201 replied without shifting his focus from the screen in front of him.

“Not you, I guess,” Officer 2658 said. He lifted his frail thin arms in the air, showing an outward sign of disgust. “What we do would just be a lot more bearable if I understood why we do it.”

“We do what we do in order to help the Doctors perform their duties.” Officer 3201 said obviously, missing the point. He placed both of his six-fingered hands on the control panel. “Now drop it. We are approaching the destination I will require your complete concentration.”

“You have my full concentration, as always.” He put on a control helmet to help focus his thoughts into the navigation of the craft, and then joined Officer 3201, placing his hands onto the panel as well. “The shield is active. We’ll be entering the atmosphere soon.”

“Indeed,” Officer 3201 said. He abruptly disconnected his mental channel to Officer 2658.

The final part of the flight occurred in complete silence, with each Collection Officer directing all concentration toward landing the craft. Monitoring the weather conditions on the surface was a task nearly as vital as the actual landing. They learned to avoid the planet’s electric storms several decades ago when another pair of Collection Officers was lost over a dehydrated section of ground in the middle of one of the larger land masses.

After safely entering the atmosphere, the Collection Officers cloaked the craft and landed near the target’s lair in an area surrounded by large oak trees.

Officer 3201 fully opened his eyes, scanning the occupants. “Our target’s resting location is on the upper level of the residence. Of the three other life forms present, one of the opposite gender is lying with the target, apparently her mate, and two of their offspring lie on the lower level in separate quarters. All four are in a state of suspended animation.”

Officer 2658 gazed at the residence. “These structures they build are so unnecessarily large. This species continues to fascinate me. Ah, if only we could learn more about them.”

“Why would we want to?” Officer 3201 asked. “Besides, what else is left to learn about the living incubators that we don’t already know?”

“You’re not the least bit curious about their habits? Or the peculiar way in which they reproduce? Don’t you wonder how their empire manages to maintain control over a planet with such violent weather conditions?”

“No. And your interminable badgering is tiresome,” Officer 3201 said. Without waiting for Officer 2658, he ascended up along the wall outside of the house.

Officer 2658 quickly followed. In a matter of seconds the two were hovering next to glass window, staring at their target, which was lying on the other side. Another lesson learned from past Collection Officers was that penetrating through glass was much easier than it was through the solid walls. Several humans were inadvertently terminated in the early expeditions before that discovery was made.

After passing through the glass, Officer 2658 swiftly floated to the side of the bed where the female rested. Officer 3201 used a mental link to induce a paralysis command on the male in the bed next to her.

“I will return after remainder of the household has been subdued,” Officer 3201 said, leaving the room.

“Affirmative. I will tend to the female,” Officer 2658 said.

One could not induce full paralysis on the female without risking damage to the miniature life-form growing inside of her. Instead, Officer 2658 was to employ simple hypnosis on the female and wait by her; ready to offer comfort if she awoke prematurely. Anyone who had ever dealt with humans greatly disliked the drawn out shriek they emit when awakening in the presence of a Collection Officer.

As Officer 2658 began the process of hypnosis, the female started rolling slightly from side to side. Her body gently shook for a moment, then relaxed and was completely still. Standard protocol forbids Collection Officers from initiating direct contact with a specimen at that point, but Officer 2658 took a small pleasure in disobeying standard protocol. He placed his hand on her shoulder.

“Be still, female,” he projected into her head.

She opened her eyes and looked directly at the Collection Officer, but remained motionless. “Is this a dream?”

The sound from her lips made it difficult for him to understand her thoughts. He cupped his hand over her mouth and projected, “Speak without your mouth.”

“What’s happening to me?”

He felt her terror and begin broadcasting calmness to her. “Don’t worry. I am…a friend.”

“You’re my friend?”

“I am. We’re not here to harm you.” He initiated what the humans might call “small talk,” a tactic that often calmed his targets. “So what is your life assignment?”

Her garbled response nearly left him speechless. Finally, he asked, “And this is how you serve your empire?”

“We don’t have empires. We…” Her thoughts were mostly unintelligible, but Officer 2658 was able to conclude that the occupants of the planet had no central empire. Instead, they divided the land masses among themselves based on the color of their skin and the languages they use to communicate.

He felt Officer 3201 laughing behind him. “This is the reason we speak with our minds and not our mouths. The incubators’ practices make no sense.”

Officer 2658 was startled. “I hadn’t realized you returned.

“Is it ready for transport?”

“She is,” Officer 2658 replied.

#

During the return to their research lab on the planet’s tiny moon, Officer 2658 found his thoughts drifting to his home world, which had a similar surface composition to this moon. He fondly remembered being a child there, mastering his telepathy and learning how to pilot a ship. He knew that, as a Collection Officer, he would never be able to return, but hoped that someday one of the Doctors would be kind enough to share a story of one of their regular visits to the home world.

The Collection Officers met two Doctors and a pair Helper Drones in the landing bay near the entrance of the lab. Collection Officers are not allowed beyond that point.

Doctor 1542 crouched down low enough to look both Collection Officers in the eyes. “Thank you, Collection Officers. We will be kind to the female.” He then stood up and instructed his Helper Drones to remove her from the craft.

The female remained in her dreamlike trance and glanced at Officer 2658. “Why are you doing this to me?”

“What else would you have us do?” he asked.

As the Helper Drones carried her away, she began shrieking and speaking gibberish with her lips. “No! I don’t even have a baby!” Officer 2658 wondered if the Doctors could interpret the strange sounds the humans create with their mouths.

The Collection Officers returned to their craft, where they would wait until the hybrid was extracted and the female was ready to be returned to her planet.

“Why are you so fascinated with these creatures?” Officer 3201 asked.

Extending his neck, Officer 2658 said, “They are so strange in a way. They are not created with a life assignment. Instead, the creatures decide for themselves at birth which social hierarchy they wish to belong to. Upon that decision, they chose a proper life assignment and spend the remainder of their existence fighting, or even killing, to preserve the chosen hierarchy.

“For example, the female subject we are waiting for is more than just a breeder. She claims to be a Carpenter as well.”

“What is a Carpenter?” Officer 3201 asked.

Officer 2658 said, “She spends her time killing the perennial species on the planet and using their corpses to build tools and decorations for other humans.”

“Why would these creatures do such a thing?”

“I’m unable to guess what motivates them,” Officer 2658 said.

“It’s good that we don’t concern ourselves with such practices as this. With such a system, we too might be speaking with our tongues and dividing our worlds out among ourselves as the humans and Carpenters do.”

Officer 2658 stood defiantly. “I believe the system has merit. In fact there are times I would prefer it. If I could choose my life assignment, I would choose to be a Doctor.”

“You don’t have the proper genetic makeup to be a Doctor.” Officer 3201 said.

“This isn’t about my genetic makeup. It’s about the fact that a primitive species such as this one has the ability to choose how they live their lives, while we are unable to do so.”

“Perhaps the chaos in their social order is very the reason they remain such a primitive species. Without order, an empire cannot grow or learn.” He paused to laugh for a moment. “They don’t even have an empire. These are the reasons why they have heads the size of infants and must use their limbs to move along the ground.”

Officer 2658 remained silent. Perhaps Officer 3201 was right and forming an understanding of this species should remain a task designated to the Doctors. Nonetheless, he allowed himself to feel a small admiration for the strange human practices.

“It would be best for us to rest in preparation for our return to the planet,” Officer 3201 said. “Would you care to join me in the suspended animation chamber?”

“No,” Officer 2658 said. “I think I’ll just wait here for a little while.”

“As you wish,” Officer 3201 said and left the control room.

Officer 2658 leaned back in his chair. He closed his almond-shaped eyes and dreamt about what life might be like had he been born a Carpenter on the planet Earth.

END

Bio: Jason Bougger is an IT professional who has been an avid reader of science fiction, fantasy and horror throughout his life. He grew up in Brainard, Nebraska and currently lives in Omaha with his wife and son. He has recently had work appear in the Children of the Moon anthology published by Misanthrope Press.

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Judith’s New Way by Gregory M. Thompson

May 13 2012 Published by under The WiFiles

1
When Judith noticed the sign pointing to the small town of New Crest had changed since her last trip, she eased her Caprice Classic to the shoulder and stared at the sign. Had the population been modified? She couldn’t remember the original number—somewhere around 1100—but it now read 968. Despite that, Judith was sure the sign appeared older somehow: the once vibrant green, metal sign now sported patches of rust and eroded paint. She could still make out “New Crest” and the population, but it was surrounded by age.
Just like me, she thought.
She slowly pushed her 73-year-old frame from the driver’s seat. Using the car as support, Judith scooted along until she found herself leaning against the front of the car. Too much work to move the walker from the passenger seat and over her weak frame just to check out what she really was seeing. Her cane would have been perfect, but she left that at home. Perhaps she should buy a second cane just to keep in the car. Maybe after church she’ll stop by the hardware store and see what they have this week.
Judith smiled. Chatting with charming Mr. Tolton wouldn’t be so bad either. She never thought at her age she’d be flirting with a man a few years older than herself. She kept it respectable—not like the teenagers and their tank-tops and extremely short shorts. Her granddaughter dressed like that to get the attention of boys and Judith always fought the urge to show her how to flirt like a lady.
If she continued to think about Mr. Tolton, she might miss church.
As she turned, she noticed the grass and weeds in the surrounding ditches rising to a level she’d never seen before. Four or five inches? A few stalks wrapped around the bottom of the signpost and even more spilled into the adjacent cornfield. Mr. Johnson better get out here and mow these ditches. How could he have let them get this bad? He usually attended the 8:15 a.m. church; she’d remind him then.

2
Mr. Johnson was not at church. In fact, attendance at the First Lutheran United dropped dramatically since last week. The congregation count from last Sunday was still posted and read 118. But Judith definitely didn’t see near the amount this week.
The pews were in two sections, split down the middle. With seven rows to a side, Judith always took a spot on the left side in the fourth row. God could see her no matter where she sat so why sit up close to have your ears blasted when Pastor Thurmon exacted one of his tirades on the congregation? And why sit in the back next to all the sleeping attendees and their heavy breathing and occasional snoring? Fourth row, right on the aisle.
Her watch moved to 8:13 and she counted on both hands the number of church-goers who decided to get up this morning. Mr. Tolton sat with an arm on the back of the pew two rows ahead of Judith; her neighbor who lived a mile away sat across the aisle with her husband and two kids; Donald, the school’s janitor, sat one row ahead of them, directly in front of the kids; and the grain elevator owner enjoyed a front row seat. Seven others besides her. Why weren’t there more people in here? Did it have something to do with the strange change in population?
Before she could answer her own questions, Pastor Thurmon emerged from the rectory and bowed in front of Jesus. He turned.
Judith gasped. Luckily, no one noticed.
Pastor Thurmon looked older somehow. Judith knew he was around 55-years-old, but now—with the thin, white hair, patchy bloodspots on top of his head, his slow and slouched stroll to the altar and extremely wrinkled skin—the Pastor appeared ninety. Maybe even a hundred. His robes hung too big on his body, like another Pastor could fit under there.
Judith glanced around at the others. The expressions on their faces remained stoic, inattentive. Did they not see what she saw?
The Pastor opened his Bible and looked out to the crowd. “Please stand,” he said. His voice spit out in more of a whisper than a solid sound. A raspy cough followed. “Let us invite the Lord Savior into our hearts on this glorious morning.” Each word floated methodically from his mouth, as if it took every ounce of energy to speak.
The rest of the sermon went the same way. Judith struggled to pay attention and for the first time, she nodded off to sleep. She couldn’t blame herself: Pastor Thurmon’s new way of speaking was the culprit. Had any of the others shut their eyes for a moment? With quick, furtive movements, she passed her eyes over the other seven people. They were listening intently to Pastor Thurmon, entranced. Judith honestly thought that if the Pastor asked his sheep—though small in numbers today—to follow him off the side of a cliff, they would.
This day’s church service didn’t play a closing hymn. Instead, the Pastor moved up the aisle to the doors in silence. It took him nearly five minutes from the altar to reach the last pew. Judith was the only one to track his movements. The Pastor reached the doors and eased them open. When the final creak resounded through the church, everyone stood and shuffled out, greeting Pastor Thurmon and wishing him a blessed day.
Judith proffered her hand as she approached the Pastor and he shook it.
“Judith. Nice to see you,” he managed.
“Are you okay, Pastor?”
He gave her a quizzical look. “Of course. I get a little tired preparing for Sunday’s service, but other than that I feel great.”
“You look a little pale.”
“Do I?” For some odd reason, the Pastor caressed a cheek. “Maybe I need a little sun.” He peeked out the door. “Today seems like a good day to do that! God has surely blessed this Earth with a wonderful day.”
“Yes, He has.”
“Well, Judith, I must get to the retirement home before it gets too late.” Pastor Thurmon clamped his hand on her shoulder and guided her to the sidewalk. “Have a blessed day, Judith.”
She nodded and headed back to her car.

3
Judith wasn’t in the mood to stop by the hardware store. Her mood directed her home, past the restaurant, past the post office and past the sign that confused her earlier. As she passed the spot where she pulled over, she saw the vegetation had grown even taller in the hour and a half she spent at church. Most of the corn in the field, though sprouted to its full height, was brown and wilted and the ears had fallen to the ground, brown and most likely useless.
Impossible, she thought. This was the same road—actually the only road—she took into town no matter where she went. And really, she only visited a few places in New Crest on a weekly basis. The grocery store, the post office and sometimes the hardware store were her main attractions. Every once in a while, she’d eat at the New Crest Diner, but that was only on special occasions like her birthday and her deceased husband’s birthday and their anniversary. When she visited Esther, she’d go to the retirement home, but other than those places, that was it. And it was always the same road, no matter what she decided to do. To go to the grocery store: drive down 4000 Road. To go to the post office: drive down 4000 Road. To go to the New Crest Diner: drive down 4000 Road. To go the hardware store: drive down 4000 Road. To visit Esther: drive down 4000 Road.
About halfway home, the ditches eventually reverted back to a trimmed state. As if a classically-trained barber blended in the sideburns with the rest of the hair.
She pulled into her drive and went into her house. A nice lunch and a nap were in order to dissolve the morning’s strangeness into nothingness.

4
The nap turned into full-fledged sleep. Judith woke up the next day around 9:30 in the morning. She jumped from bed with a shock, delirious at first, but as the seconds went by, her mind cleared. Judith was mad at herself for wasting yesterday and most of the morning. Six-thirty in the morning was her normal wake-up time and dammit to herself for waking up this late. Calm down, she thought. No reason to get that angry. She needed to complete some errands so breakfast and a shower were in order.
After nourished and refreshed, Judith snatched her cane and left.

5
One mile from her house, Judith slowed the car, gazing around her. The growth had moved closer to her house and had started covering the road, which was now cracked and weathered. The yellow lines were now faded and peeling. She veered to the center of 4000 Road cruising around 20 MPH and watched for thicker plants and weeds. No sense in being reckless. She wanted to get her three letters mailed.
Judith passed the New Crest sign, or what she could see of it. The only reason she knew it was the New Crest sign was because of her repetitive journeys down this road. It was even possible she could drive from her house to the town with her eyes closed. With each little divot in the road, rise of the ground and unique cosmetic feature she could tell exactly where she was.
Judith reached the edge of town and crunched over large stalks of a plant that had yellow and red blooms protruding from the ends. The type of flower escaped her, but it looked like a large Rhododendron. As she drove down Main Street to the post office, many more of this type of plant lined the sidewalks, as if they were spectators to a parade and she was the lead car. The flower parts swayed like swiveling heads in the light breeze as she crept by.
A few minutes later she pulled into a parking spot right in front of the door.

6
Judith clumsily pushed through the door. Opening a door and dragging a cane at the same time was difficult for her. She was glad she brought it though: the walker would just be a nuisance.
A musty scent greeted her as she made her way to the main counter. Many of the wall decorations and advertisements for the newest stamps and shipping options had fallen to the floor. The P.O. boxes lined on the far right wall exhibited vast amounts of rust; something that should normally take about ten to fifteen years only took six days—which was her last visit.
She placed her letters on the counter. “Hello?” She called out.
There was no answer. Instead, a shadow flittered behind the mail bins on the other side of the counter. Second later, a door open and Ronald, a mail carrier, emerged with a wide grin on his face.
“Judith! How are you?” He slapped his hand on the envelopes and slid them to him.
“I’m fine. How are you?”
“Wonderful. Stupendous. Magnificent!” He glanced over the addresses. “Just these?”
“Yes.” Judith watched Ronald emphatically type zip codes and prices into the computer. He was too excited. His eyes gleamed with sneaky abandon as they darted across the information appearing on the screen before him. Suddenly, Ronald shot his hand up and rubbed his fingers on his cheek. When he lowered his hand back down, Judith noticed it was shaking. “Why are you watching the counter today?” She asked him.
“Beth’s out of town today. She’s sick. She doesn’t have a babysitter. Beth had a death in the family.”
“Which is it, Ronald?”
He looked at Judith as if she had just entered the building. “Which is what?” His hand stopped shaking and the glint in his eyes was now gone. Ronald tossed the letters into a bin marked Out of Town and punched a button. A total popped on the register screen. “There’s your total,” he said.
She paid him and took the receipt. “Can I ask you a question?” Judith asked.
“Sure. Go ahead.”
“Have you seen anything strange in town today or yesterday?”
Ronald paused before answering and Judith hoped that the pause was indicative of a positive response. Why yes, Judith, I sure as hell have seen weird plants and decaying roads all over town. I’m glad you brought it up because I’m scared shitless about it. Judith snapped her head to the left. Her thoughts were getting away from her. She knew it was possible she was frightened and projecting her fear, but she didn’t have to swear.
“No, can’t say I have. Why?”
Judith smiled. “Well, I was wondering if you’ve noticed any changes in the scenery of New Crest. Plant life, roads turning bad, dead crops?”
“Again, no.”
“What about your boxes over there? Do you see them?”
“Yeah, I see them every day,” he said with slight irritancy.
“No. Do you see them? They’re all rusty and broken.”
Ronald took a minute to look at the mailboxes. Judith watched him sincerely pass over the section within his view. He shook his head. “Sorry, Judith. They look fine to me.”
Inside her, Judith felt her body warming. Her face got hotter with each passing second. How could he not see these things! New Crest was falling apart right in front of him! When she clenched her fists, Judith knew she needed to calm down. She inhaled a deep breath and closed her eyes. As she exhaled, she told her mind and body to relax.
“Ronald, I’ll be right back. I have to show you something.”
“If you say, Judith. I’ll be right here.”
Judith left the post office and stood just outside the door trying to find the oddest-looking plant she could. Many of the flowers and plants were larger, intimidating versions of those she knew. However, the one she wanted to show Ronald grew just across the street, pushing through a crack in the sidewalk. She slowly made her way over the growth as it tugged and gripped her shoes in sticky-like manner.
For one moment, when Judith hit the middle of the street and looked down, one of the plant’s roots swirled around the bottom of the cane and slowly made its way up. Judith tried to take a step with the cane, but the root tightened its grip, holding the cane steadfast. She gave the titanium pole a sharp tug. Her lack of strength and age was no match for the vegetation.
She was only ten feet away from the large, overly-red plant that reminded her of a tulip. Judith released her cane, nearly regretting the decision immediately, and hobbled towards the red flower.
When she awkwardly approached the tulip, it angled towards her, as if in greeting. Judith imagined that if the flower had hands, it would be offering one to shake.
Nearly five times the size of her fist, the red flower tilted towards her and opened its petals, revealing a collection of yellow, green and pink stamens. Like eyes on the end of antennae, the ends twirled and aimed at Judith, watching her.
Judith used both hands to grasp the plant below the head. She’d have to give it her all on the first tug; otherwise, who knew if she’d have enough strength to do it again. Just don’t fall, she thought. A smile formed on her face: now that she thought it, it was probably going to happen. That’s how it always worked right?
Closing her eyes allowed Judith to focus her energy to her hands. She braced her feet and violently jerked backwards. She stumbled, pinwheeling her arms and stomping her feet for purchase. Her eyes flew open and saw that she wasn’t falling and this excited her. After staggering into the plant-covered street, Judith managed to catch herself.
Her heart pounded and her stomach wanted to lurch, but she suppressed any pain and urges to puke and looked in her right hand. She had the top of the plant.
A new energy sailed around her body. Judith turned and walked quickly—quicker than her normal pace—to the Post Office. She easily pushed through the door and made her way to the counter. Ronald still maintained his posture.
“I have it, Ronald!” Judith set the red flower on the scale. On the screen, 8 LBS appeared. Was it that heavy? Judith didn’t notice.
Ronald glanced around. “What do you have?”
“That!” She pointed to the scale. There it was, sitting on the scale. “The red flower. I don’t know what it’s called but it weights an amazing eight pounds!”
“Sorry, Judith, there’s nothing there.” A chuckle escaped Ronald. “You okay? Let me get you some water.”
Before Judith could decline, Ronald vanished into a back room.
She stood there in the stuffy, outer portion of the Post Office, as if she were waiting her turn to mail a package. First Class, please, she would say. Delivery confirmation or insurance? They would ask her. No, just confirm that I’m not crazy and give me assurance that I’m not in a nightmare, she would plead. Sorry, Ma’am, can’t do that.
“Can’t do that,” Judith whispered to herself.
A Post Office box door eased free from the wall and tumbled end over end to the ground, finally erupting into a deafening clank. The door bounced, scraping on the tile, unnerving Judith.
“Ronald?” She called.
When she heard no answer, Judith moved into the hallway and opened the door that lead behind the counter.
“Ronald?”
Judith walked through the service area behind the counter and pushed through a swinging door into a smaller hallway. The silence surrounded her, driving her fear to the front part of her mind. The door to her right opened to a sorting room. Right now, nothing moved. She saw abandoned letters and boxes paused on the conveyor belts, waiting for their turn in the loading bays.
The next two doors on the right were offices and the two doors on her left were obviously bathrooms, Judith noticed despite the faded plastic Men’s and Women’s signs.
One final door stood at the end of the hall. A handwritten sign—on lined paper—read Employee Breakroom…Employees Only. Judith chuckled at the fact someone had to specify who was exactly allowed in the Employee Breakroom. Ronald must be in there.
She opened the door and before she entered she called out once again. “Ronald? Are you in here?”
Through the crack, Judith saw two shoes, toes down. “Ronald!” Judith whipped the door open and she grabbed onto the door jamb to keep herself steady.
Ronald lay on the floor, fused to the tile. His skin had melted, spilling to the sides like curtains. In a few spots, bones were exposed, playing a sick game of hide and seek, except without the hide. The worst part was Ronald’s body continued to dissolve. Right in front of her eyes! Like a gradually-slowing boil, Ronald’s mass soon turned into nothingness. Except for bones and clothes.
Judith immediately puked. Her yellow eject shot across the room, hitting one of the tables and leaving a trail back to her. She turned and ran—as fast as her legs could carry her—back through the hallway, behind the counter and back into the waiting area. The room now looked even more decrepit: the cracked floor gave way to growing foliage; the walls were starting to crumble. The dirty and dusty windows blocked any view to the outside.

7
Sprinting to the door, she shoved through and breathed in fresh air. Without stopping for any length, Judith found her car and headed towards the Caprice. Her Caprice. Her sweet Caprice. A couple hundred feet.
One of the older buildings let loose a corner of the roof. It cascaded violently to the ground, splattering the sidewalk with brick. A few of the plants around the crash tilted downwards and absorbed the crumbs. Behind her, she heard a leg-breaking rumble. Looking back, the road half a block down bowed upwards like a volcano in the making. Debris and vegetation broke away and rolled down the inclines.
A hundred feet now.
Houses on her left and right imploded on themselves, sending up massive amounts of dust and cement residue. Wood exploded upwards, as if someone were underneath the houses purposely throwing them into the air.
“Stop it!”
Near the edge of town, a long, horizontal section of the road suddenly disappeared into the Earth. Just like that. There was no way she could get the Caprice over that opening. Maybe if she got it going fast enough. Judith could see the horizon, but she wasn’t sure just how wide the gap went.
Judith fumbled for the door handle and finally got the door open. Trees fell all around her, narrowly missing the car. She jumped in, feeling the tickle of a branch of leaves caressing her. The car started easily and she plunked it into Drive.
At first, the rear wheels slipped on the plants. She felt no traction. Judith laid her head on the steering wheel. This was it. How could she get out of here when the wheels just spun around and around on plants and flowers?
Rock the car, something in her mind told her.
“Yes!”
She leaned back and flipped the gearshift to Reverse. The Caprice lurched backwards. Now, to Drive. The car moved forward about a foot before slipping again. Almost. Back to Reverse. The road gave her more.
On the count of three, Judith whipped the gear to Drive and floored the accelerator. The tires spun for a second, but had enough momentum to move forward. The tires caught a small patch of the tar and the Caprice shot forward and quickly climbed to twenty miles an hour.
“Finally!”
She sped down Main Street, careful of the crumbling buildings around her. They threw parts of themselves at her, trying to slow her down or worse, stop her. Judith maneuvered around the rise in the middle of the road. She actually had to pop onto the sidewalk for a moment. Ahead of her was the edge of town, the opposite side she was use to.
That’s okay, she thought, I’m getting out of here!
Thirty second later, she passed the last of the houses and found herself in the country again. The corn in the fields on both sides of her were stiffening back, becoming healthy and green again. The soil changed from dry and cracked to damp and usable. The road ahead of her eventually became void of plants and overgrown vegetation.
Judith slowed the car and glanced in her rearview mirror. Behind her, the town was slowly putting itself back together. The bulge on Main Street subsided and the street returned to the flat road she was used to. Buildings repaired themselves and soon looked like nothing had ever occurred to them. The clouds of dust and debris she had pushed the Caprice through dissipated into the air, leaving a bright sun to shine its rays onto a gorgeous backdrop.
She eased the Caprice to the side of the road and cautiously got out. Her legs almost gave out; they strained as the adrenaline disappeared. Judith leaned on the car and watched the rest of the town return to normal in front of her. Around her, the world pretended like nothing happened.
A signpost caught Judith’s attention. She looked up at the road sign as it indicated she stood on Route 14.
She smiled. This will have to be the new route into town.
This is my new way.

BIO: Gregory M. Thompson is a Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror writer with publishing credits in Macabre Realms, Digizine, Aphelion Webzine, Concisely, Digital Dragon Magazine, Dark Gothic Resurrected and The Fringe Magazine. He also has an award-nominated science fiction piece in the collection, Steampunk Anthology, published by Sonar4 Publications. Nightcry and The Golden Door are two of his novels, released in March and June of 2011 respectively. For more information visit his official site at http://www.nightcrynovel.com.

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JIM & THE PARALLEL WORLDS by JAMES NOGUERA

May 06 2012 Published by under The WiFiles

Jim suddenly found himself in a parallel world. Jim knew that was the case because he had noticed how the things around him had changed from how they had been before when he had gone to sleep – a sure sign that something was up. This was not a new circumstance for Jim, having had found himself in many a parallel world before. Jim’s mother would often warn the boy about this sort of thing. “Watch where you’re going, Jimmy!” she would shout. Jim never listened, though. But this (space-)time was different; Jim was fed up and determined never to allow himself to get so lost ever again. Jim was going to keep his eyes open from now on – forever.
Suddenly, Jim saw his grandfather. Jim’s grandfather looked a lot younger than when Jim had last seen him. Something was up, Jim knew. An urge then fell upon Jim – not of malice but of a scientific kind of curiosity – to kill his grandfather. Reaching into his pocket, Jim discovered a gun. He tried to use it to shoot his grandfather.[i] Unfortunately, it didn’t work; the gun had misfired. Evidently, something was stopping Jim; Jim felt as if he had lost something from within.[ii]
Confused, Jim lost interest. Jim decided (or so it would seem) to sit down for awhile, and, despite his better judgment, Jim closed his eyes. Sure enough, Jim fell fast asleep. When Jim later woke up, everything had changed again.[iii]
Suddenly, Jim saw his grandfather. (This is what the French refer to as déjà vu. Jim didn’t know that, though, not having taken any French.) Recognizing the significance of the moment, Jim pulled out his gun and aimed. (Though some may find it disturbing that a kid like Jim should be carrying a gun, remember the old adage: Better safe than sorry.) Fortunately, Jim shot his grandfather, who died instantly and didn’t suffer, so don’t worry. Jim then felt the world change;[iv] Jim felt that he had gained something from within.[v]
Feeling free, Jim kept on walking. As luck would have it, Jim stepped into a hole.[vi] Jim didn’t know it was there, of course, because holes are invisible.[vii] Falling all the way in, Jim didn’t even bother to struggle, knowing pessimistically that he was already beyond the point of no return.[viii] Coming out at the other end, Jim was now somewhere (or some-when) else.[ix]
Suddenly, Jim saw his mom. Jim’s mom looked a lot younger than when Jim had last seen her. Jim thought she was kind of hot, so Jim asked if he could kiss her. “Ok,” she said. (Though some may find it disturbing that a son should desire his own mother, remember the old adage: Honor thy father and [especially] thy mother.) Nevertheless, Jim could not shake the strange feeling that this woman, despite appearances, was not really his mom.[x] Anyway, perhaps out of guilt for killing her father, Jim decided to propose. “Ok,” she said. Eventually, they got married, bought a house, and had kids – predictable. Jim felt pretty awesome; Jim was doing what he wanted to do (including his mom) without anything stopping him.
After several years, Jim got bored of the married life (who doesn’t?) and decided to leave his mom/wife and siblings/kids. Jim got into his convertible and drove off, never to see them again. Serendipitously, Jim found a gun in the glove compartment.[xi] (Jim had forgotten all about the time he had purchased and put it there after having decided to kill himself because the marriage was driving him crazy [we’ve all been there] but ultimately decided against it.) The gun had collected a lot of dust over the years.[xii] Jim put it in his pocket in case he later changed his mind about killing himself. Jim hit the convert button, and the car changed into a starship. Jim wanted to get as far away from everything as possible.
Jim was travelling really fast in space.[xiii] But, no matter how fast he went, whenever Jim looked out of the window, there was always a beam of light passing him by.[xiv] “Show-off,” Jim thought. The time away actually helped clear Jim’s mind, for he had decided to come back home to his family, after all. However, when Jim returned back to the Earth, a million years had passed.[xv] Intelligent machines now ruled the world, and there were no humans left.[xvi] Jim looked at his watch; Jim was only gone for a few hours.
Jim was pretty bummed out. Jim needed people in order to determine how good to feel about himself. Eventually, Jim learned that the intelligent machines had built a time machine – predictable. The time machine, essentially, was an immense spinning cylinder in space.[xvii] So Jim got back into his convertible and orbited it until he got dizzy and passed out. Later (or before), when he came to, Jim realized that the time machine wasn’t there anymore. Frustrated, Jim decided to head back to complain and tell the intelligent machines that their time machine didn’t work. When Jim got back, though, there were no intelligent machines to be found. “Predictable,” Jim thought. Then Jim saw people again, many of whom Jim knew he was better than; Jim was pretty stoked.
*
Jim decides to live his life in this here-now and change the world.[xviii] Jim still receives letters from his mom/wife and kids/siblings on occasion.[xix] But Jim doesn’t write back; Jim was already paying child support and felt that that was enough. Besides, the whole situation had become awkward all the sudden. This time around, Jim ended up marrying a robot girl, though he didn’t know she was a robot at the time. (What don’t women lie about?) Thanks to breakthroughs in nanotechnology and medicine, Jim is able to live forever.[xx]
*
Eventually, the end of the world will come – predictable. It will get very dark and very cold.[xxi] The cyborgs of the future will decide to build a giant machine. The machine will use powerful lasers that focus all their beams on a single point of space-time.[xxii] It will get very hot.[xxiii] This will naturally make Jim very sleepy, and, though he knows much better, Jim will take a nap. A window will be opened.[xxiv] And when he wakes up, Jim will find himself in a parallel world.[xxv]

- – - – -

[i] Theoretical time travel engenders a number of paradoxes. The grandfather paradox occurs when a time traveler goes into the past and kills his grandfather (or one of his parents) before he is born, therefore, inhibiting the series of events that lead to his birth in the fure. However, the question then becomes: If the time traveler is never born, then how could he have traveled back in time and killed his grandfather in the first place?
[ii] This is a reference to free will, which doesn’t exist in this hypothetical universe. One of the solutions to the grandfather paradox is that there is one universe and no free will. Therefore, a time traveler to the past who attempts to kill his grandfather is somehow prevented from doing so, thereby not engendering an alteration to the timeline.
[iii] The protagonist travels into parallel universes via sleep. He now finds himself in a different universe with a different physics.
[iv] The other solution to the grandfather paradox is that there is a virtually endless number of universes in existence (known as the multiverse) where all possibilities play out. Hence, when a time traveler alters the timeline, a new universe is instantaneously created, thus, preserving the original universe the time traveler came from – and his timeline.
[v] Another reference to free will, which exists in this hypothetical multiverse.
[vi] This is a metaphor for a wormhole (or Einstein-Rosen Bridge), a space-time bridge connecting a black hole, which consumes matter, and a white hole, which emits it.
[vii] A black hole is not itself visible, for not even light can escape its powerful gravitational pull.
[viii] Once within the event horizon (or outer edge) of a black hole, nothing is known to be able to escape the immense gravitational attraction.
[ix] The center of a black hole, a black hole being a rupture in the space-time continuum, may, theoretically, lead to a distant part of the universe or, as is the case for the protagonist, a different point in time.
[x] Parallel people, or the equivalents of others in a parallel universe, may look alike or have the same memories, but they are, in fact, different people within a different timeline.
[xi] This is the same gun from earlier in the story. Therefore, this is an example of the ontological paradox, whereby an item, or information, is sent back in time and then becomes the same object sent back in time. Its origin in time is impossible to determine.
[xii] The accumulation of dust is what causes the gun to misfire earlier in the story.
[xiii] The protagonist was traveling close to the speed of light, which is about 300,000 km/s.
[xiv] This is a reenactment of perhaps Einstein’s most famous thought experiments. Essentially, at 16, Einstein pondered what it would be like to race alongside a light beam. Older and wiser, he eventually concluded counter-intuitively that a light beam always appears to be moving away from us at a constant speed no matter how fast we may be traveling in relation to it.
[xv] According to relativity, if one is traveling near the speed of light, time for the traveler slows down. Therefore, the traveler, effectively, journeys into the future via time dilation, or the slowing down of his “clock.”
[xvi] This Terminator-like scenario is certainly a plausible reality. Many have long predicted the eventual surpassing of biological intelligence by technological intelligence. Technological intelligence is already more efficient in terms of its speed, accuracy, and instantaneous information sharing ability. Futurist and inventor Raymond Kurzweil, for instance, has estimated that a technological singularity, where the exponentially increasing rate of technological evolution will become unperceivably quick, will occur in the year 2045.
[xvii] This is a reference to a van Stockum cylinder. Named after Dutch mathematician Willem Jacob van Stockum, it’s a mathematical solution using Einstein’s equations that theoretically allows for time travel into the past or future. It involves an infinitely long cylinder spinning at the speed of light, which distorts the space-time around it.
[xviii] The world, indeed, changes due to our protagonist’s existence in a foreign timeline.
[xix] According to the multiverse theory, people coexist with their parallel neighbors. Therefore, any such people a traveler to parallel worlds would encounter continue to exist whether the traveler stays in that universe or leaves it.
[xx] Aging, which results from the accumulation over a lifetime of genetic damage, and by extension death, has long been theorized to have a cure. Future advances in nanotechnology may make this a reality. Nanobots could swim in our bloodstreams and instantaneously and simultaneously repair and prevent genetic damage from taking place.
[xxi] This is a reference to the Big Freeze, which is the most widely held scientific theory for the end of the universe. As the observable exponential increase in the expansion of the universe with time continues (known as metric expansion), eventually there will be no stars left in the sky and temperatures will reach absolute zero (or 0 K), where individual atoms stop moving.
[xxii] This is a description of a theoretical machine described by physicist Michio Kaku in his Parallel Worlds. The machine would allow a highly technologically advanced civilization to escape their dying parent universe and enter a budding baby universe.
[xxiii] The theoretical machine works by “boiling” a point of space-time by raising its temperature extremely high. This temperature is known as the Planck energy, where all known physics breaks down.
[xxiv] A window into hyperspace (or the space that separates parallel universes) is opened.
[xxv] The protagonist finds himself back where he was at the beginning of the story. This is an example of a paradox of time travel known as a causality loop; the protagonist is stuck in a loop of events which cause him inevitably to continue to travel back in time with no end.

Bio
James Noguera is a speculative fiction writer, blogger, and poet from the Bronx. He received his BA in English from Fordham University and is pursuing his MFA in Creative Writing from City College. He is currently working on a novelette.

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