I was getting antsy. Call it cabin fever, whatever, but I needed a vaca. Only one thing to do, so I did it. I called up my travel agent, Wally. Well, that’s not entirely accurate – he’s my time travel agent. With Walley’s able assistance, I’ve visited the Nile, circa 2500 BKK (Before Krispy Kreme), I wandered around Paris (carefully, carefully) during the Revolution, been to some interesting times. But now… I really wanted something off the beaten track. Off the beaten Time Track? I like the sound of that.
I dialed the number of his shop, waited for him to shuffle to the phone. Wally rarely hurried, so there was no point in getting upset at Wally delays. He called his shop A Niche in Time, and he was very particular about his clientele. He really didn’t need the money anymore; you know if you can do time travel getting wealthy is really not so difficult. These days he did it for the challenge, fighting vainly the old ennui, as the song goes. But, just showing up at his place with loads of cash did not guarantee you anything, especially if Wally didn’t know you. Or worse, if he did know you but didn’t like your style. Wally and I had an understanding, and I guess you could say that he liked my particular style.
Psssst… bythe way, if you tell anyone about this, I’ll deny it all. If you try to find his shop, nosy parker, don’t be terribly surprised if you wind up somewhere (somewhen?) in the Jurassic (“Joey, do you like stories about being chased by dinosaurs?”). Be warned.
He finally lifted the handset, said “Well, what is it?” Wally has an attitude, did I say that already? I replied, “Hey Wally, I need you to show me a good time.” He said, “Jeez, don’t you ever get tired of that lame joke?” I grinned, said, “Stand by; I’m coming over, ok?” He reluctantly agreed. What he actually did was hang up on me, which I took as assent. Jump in a cab, head for Wally’s. I know it’s July, but this cab is hot hot hot. The cabbie was wearing a turban; guess the high heat was his taste of home.
I had the cabbie let me out a couple of blocks from the Niche, gotta be careful, ya know? When I was sure I was not being observed I stepped behind the … wait, wait, I’m telling you too much. Just trust me, I knew the way to his shop and I arrived without tailing baggage. Like I told you, don’t even think about finding it yourself.
“Wally, you old necromancer, have you thought about my request?”
Wally frowned, which meant that he was about to speak. “You’re the third traveler this month. You people are going to wear me out. No, I haven’t had any special inspirations tailored just for you. Here’s a thought: try occasionally to do your own thinking.”
Good old Wally, he loves me. “Well, I did have one idea. Any chance of going into the future?”
Wally swore, threw a stapler at me, yelling, “I’ve told you before, many times as you know, no future trips are possible, so give it up.”
I ducked, but managed to catch the stapler before it did any damage to the….. wait, the store was full of fake antique crap, how much damage could it do? Anyway, I continued, “But Wally, didn’t you say that you made at least one trip in that direction, years ago?”
Wally swore again, but didn’t launch anything at me this time, “No, I didn’t go into the future. I sent someone. I should have sent a monkey instead. It was a disaster. You don’t want to do this.”
“Come on, give me a break here. What happened to the other traveler? Can you at least tell me that?”
Wally sat. He fell into his chair, you might say. He gave me a long sad look and finally said, “Did you see that old movie ‘The Fly’? It was kinda like that. I’ve learned a lot since then, and it probably wouldn’t happen that way again, but I really don’t want to risk it.” He looked down at his hands, made two fists. Then he looked up at me with moist eyes, said, “I don’t have so many friends that I can spare any. Please don’t ask this of me.”
“Come on Wally, you owe me. Do I have to dredge up that thing again to convince you? You know it’s true, so let’s do it. You said you know more now, I trust you. I just want to go ten or twenty years, is that so tough?”
We talked and argued for hours but finally he said he’d do it, just this time because he really did owe me one. Maybe the Drambuie helped convince him.
We went into the back of the store and I turned my head away while he pushed buttons or turned dials, whatever, to get the stairway open so we could go down to the basement. He glanced at me a couple of times to make sure I wasn’t watching his procedure, but he got it done and the floor opened up. We went down into the sanctum sanctorum.
There was one bare bulb trying to push back the inky darkness, but it wasn’t having much effect. I moved slowly, trying to avoid hidden trip hazards. Then the opening above us slid closed and it really got dark. Thankfully, Wally needed more light to do his magic, so he turned on a couple more lights, so now we had probably a total of 60 watts of illumination. Won’t be working on my tan down here.
With the increased light I was able to see the contraption. It occupied one whole corner of the room. Shaped like a pear, maybe a pine cone, there was a small door in the side of it, just large enough for one passenger to squeeze in. I managed to get inside and Wally fastened the door behind me. I reached out, held his hand for a few silent moments, and then he went over to his control panel and started the dynamo.
There was a whirring, a clicking, another sound like a monstrous beating heart, lights beginning to build and flash, and the room began to shimmer and then grew indistinct. All these strange sensations, all the vibrations and the tingling I felt all over my skin. I knew something was happening, and it was certainly different from my previous journeys in his mechanism. Then, silence.
I awoke, not realizing I had slipped into sleep. I looked around, found myself in a small room in a sturdy wooden chair, my arms strapped down and some kind of straps on my legs as well. There was something metal strapped to the top of my head. I began to panic, could this be a …..? I heard someone speaking, looked up. There was a line of windows high in the wall of the room and there were people standing there looking down at me.
Someone up there was dressed in legal robes of some sort and was just now folding up a scroll he had been reading aloud. He said, “And, in conclusion, for crimes against the state, specifically time travel, you have been sentenced to death. May God have mercy on your soul.”