Monday, November 9, 2009

Timestream, Part 1

[The usual mishmash of mystery, weird science, and adventure tale, in several parts. I hope you enjoy it, Dear Reader - RJ]

Imagine that we share our reality with many others, both geographical and temporal. As we move inexorably from one day to the next, as on a mechanical escalator, so, too, are other times moving on their own escalators. Those metaphorical devices do not always move at the same speed relative to one another. Time slips and slides. In the gaps, one can pass through…if one knows the way. But beware, traveler: fifty years in the future may not be fifty years in your future. And customs may be very strange indeed…


I opened the front door and stepped into the darkened hallway. Turning on a lamp, I called out, “Anybody home?” but received no reply; indeed, the house had the feel of emptiness.

This was odd, because I had been detained on an interview for a story, and expected my sister to have arrived well before me. A small notecard was on the side table near the entrance. Have been asked to conduct a small investigation out of town. May be several days before I return. Will contact if possible. Kathy. I found this to be highly unusual, but I took the note at face value, despite a certain amount of unease.

A week passed, and my unease grew. It wasn’t like her to be gone this long; certainly not without a telegram or letter to tell me where she was. Had something happened: could she be hurt, and unable to contact me? I recalled her escapade with the Goreans, and the mishap that resulted in an inadvertent stay in the Miskatonic Valley. The more I thought about it, the more I became determined to track her down.

As Kathy had left no clue regarding the nature of “small investigation,” much less its location (outside of the precise movements in her note), this was going to take some time. I stopped at her favorite pub, asked questions of her favorite seamstress, tracked down friends, all to no avail. Finally, it occurred to me to check with Mr. Daniels at the Downs airfield whether Kathy filed a flight plan. Indeed she had – for a land called Octoberville, which was unfamiliar to me, and to Mr. Daniels as well. “She left very specific notes about how to reach it,” he told me, and handed me several sheets of paper in my sister’s very precise handwriting. I confess I had no idea why one would travel in the manner indicated, but I thanked Mr. Daniels and pocketed the notes.

I had my airship taken out of storage and loaded some supplies. At the last moment, I thought that I needed some assistance, particularly if Kathy required medical attention. I asked my talented, if somewhat eccentric and highly deaf, friend, Mr. Roland Luminos, to accompany me.
“An airship? Oh dear me, bless you, young lady, I haven’t been on an airship in many years. My stomach, you know. Hasn’t been the same since that incident in ’68 when…”

“Yes, Roland, I recall the story. Let me assure you that progress has marched on since then, and that my ship is much steadier in the sky than what you are used to.”

“Quite so. Well then, let me grab my bowler and my second-best walking stick and we can be on our way.”

We fought a tremendous lag storm as we neared the city, and Roland, true to his word, found that his stomach did not care for the buffeting the ship took, though he at least had the presence of mind to be sick over the side. Eventually, we made it to the air dock and left the ship in the care of a shady-looking man wearing denim trousers and a tight undershirt with lettering on it. He eyed Roland’s long coat and my walking dress suspiciously.

“I say, this place is utterly mobbed!” said Roland, working his way through the crowd. I agreed, but my reply was lost in the din.

We entered the police station and approached the matron on duty. “How may I help you?” she asked, spitting out the words so rapidly that I heard “HowmayIhelpyou” in a foreign dialect.

“Hello – er, Sergeant, is it? My name is Rhianon Jameson, and this is my companion, Mr. Roland Luminos. We are searching for my sister, Kathy Jameson, and have reason to believe she is in this city, or was, as of a few days prior.” I showed the woman a daguerreotype of Kathy.

“Neverheardofher. Next!”

I stood my ground. “Wait! My sister is missing; are you not the one to whom I should be reporting? I must insist that you start an investigation!”
She looked past us, and repeated, “Next!” Looking at me, she said, “Nuthin’ I can do for you. Be on your way before I arrest you for loitering.”

“I say!” exclaimed Roland. “That’s not very sporting of you.” I tugged on his sleeve so he would move over. The last thing we needed was to languish in this foreign jail and be unable to locate Kathy.

“Don’t mind her,” said a thin man with purple hair standing straight up in short spikes. He was perched at the edge of a desk and was cleaning his nails with a small knife. “As you can see, they’re a little busy today.”

“A little bitty toady?” Roland said, puzzled.

“What has brought all these people to your town?” I asked.

He shifted his weight forward and peered at me. “You don’t know? Well, I can tell from the way you’re dressed and the funny way you talk that you’re not from around here. Well, we had ourselves a nasty little murder, and the town selectmen made the mistake of offering a tidy reward to anyone who could find the killer. Jobs being a little scarce around these parts, that reward brought every idiot in three counties digging through this town.”

Roland cupped an ear. “Digging in his gown? That’s dashed unsporting, really.”

We ignored him. I showed the man Kathy’s picture. “Have you seen this woman?”

He nodded. “Oh yeah. She kinda sticks out, right? That flaming red hair and that funny way she dresses. I’ve seen her around, usually with Commodore Billings.” I looked blankly at the name. “Oh right, you don’t know anyone. The Commodore is pretty famous here. He came from some foreign place to run our little navy. He’s an old guy now – even older than you.” This last comment was directed at Roland, who for once heard the entire remark correctly and sputtered a bit.

“Do you know where we might find the Commodore?”

“He lives in a big place about a mile out o’ town, but he’s often in his office at the naval yard.”
We thanked him, and were almost on our way when I asked, “It was fortuitous that we met you here. What brought you to the police station just now?”

He waved a hand near the desk. “I’m just waiting to be processed. I’m in the business of redistributin’ the wealth in this town. It’s a profession the law don’t take very kindly to.”

“You are a thief then, sir?” Roland asked.

“That’s a real unkind way of putting it. Anyway, they’re real busy today, so they asked me to wait a while until they could book me. It’s no big deal. I had nothing better to do today anyway.”

[To be continued...]

1 comment:

HeadBurro Antfarm said...

Ooop! What a great start to a tale! I await the next installment with breath in a state of baitedness!

p.s. I'll be reading the Gor & Cthulhu posts too, once I have so free time!