Tikkun Olam

road

© Hossein Zare

This world wasn’t real but then nothing he dreamed was real. Unfortunately, he was dead and all he had left were his dreams.

Jonathan Cypher stood on a salty white plain, the sky above a uniform gray mist. How had he gotten here? He woke up but the statement hardly did his situation justice. He was always dreaming and when he woke up, he was always in another dream.

The dream of the salt plain held two remarkable features. The first was a tree in the distance. Like everything else around him, it was presented in varying shades of charcoal, but it was lush and alive, or so it appeared as it stood on the distant horizon.

Then there were the tracks. Some looked like twin tire tracks but for others, the pair were too close together. What could have made them? There were no vehicles in sight, no sound of engines or people, not even birds. No wind, no rain, the only thing he could hear was the crunching of the salt that probably wasn’t salt under his feet as he stepped down.

The idea of following the tracks was compelling. Something had made them but whatever it was had disappeared at their vanishing points. The only reasonable destination, if reason could be said to apply here, was the tree.

He started walking.

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Dead Man’s Life

Passchendaele

The Passchendaele Battlefield – World War I – Found at World War One Battlefields Blog

I’m dead. I used to be a man, a husband, Dad, Grandpa. Now I’m a corpse. Maybe my body is still lying in the hospital bed where I died, maybe it’s at the Funeral Home by now, or it could even be six feet under. I can’t tell how much time has passed since time doesn’t mean anything to a dream.

That’s what I really am, a dream but I’ve got a problem. I used to be a man in a coma dreaming myself into different versions of people’s lives, in the past in other countries, and even in the future on another planet. But then the dreamer dreaming me died so how am I still here? Who is dreaming me?

Whoever it is, I should thank them I suppose. I mean it’s a really nice dream. I like the ocean. I used to live not far from it, maybe seven miles. Today, I’m walking on my own private beach. It’s a bright, sunny summer day and there’s not a soul in sight. No roads, no buildings, nothing show that anyone has been on this beach ever except me.

I can hear the sound of the surf, sea birds overhead, a breeze blowing through tree branches on my left, but no traffic noise, no talking, no airplane or boat motors. It’s like the world was created just for me. Lucky me.

“Jonathan.”

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The Kepler Tomb

ruins

Fantasy wallpaper

Note: This story is over 6600 words long not including the afterword. You might want to get yourself a cup of coffee or tea and sit down in a comfortable chair before proceeding. Alternately, bookmark the page and read the story in stages. I hope you’ll find the effort worthwhile.

I found myself in the ruins again. I never imagined that I would wake up walking in the footsteps of an exo-archaeologist on a planet orbiting the red dwarf star Kepler 438b. No matter what I do, I wake up again in the ruins. On Earth almost a century ago, people thought the discovery of the tomb of King Tutankhamun came with a curse. The curse turned out to be a myth, but it spawned any number of horror films, television shows, and novels. On Kepler, it turns out to be real, or real enough to keep me trapped here in a recurring nightmare.

How did I get into this mess?

As far as I know, my name is Jonathan Cypher but I only know that much because it’s what Raven told me. She also said I’m sometimes known as the Never Man, but so far that means even less to me than being Cypher.

All I know for sure is that I woke up one day in what looked like the bombed out ruins of Los Angeles. Then I kept waking up into a different world and a different life, including a particularly hideous nightmare. My most recent set of dreams had to do with saving someone who would otherwise have died in the London Blitz in 1940, but depending on who I saved or which other option I chose, subsequent history changed, usually meaning thousands or tens of thousands of people died who would otherwise have lived.

I finally managed to figure that one out, but now I’m in this mess and again it’s thanks to Raven.

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Saving One

St Paul's

St Paul’s Cathedral in London during the Blitz 1940

The dark-haired woman with the shimmering gown sighed. He hadn’t noticed that she was breathing before. “This is only the beginning. There are a great many things you will need to learn.”

“Such as?”

“Such as why you left four people trapped in a collapsed building with a bomb about to detonate?”

“I forgot about them. How could I…?”

Then he woke up. There was about to be an explosion. He could only save one of them.

Sunday, 8 September 1940 – London

A building had collapsed on them. Everyone who had taken shelter in here from the bombing had died except for those four, a man, a woman, and two children. Suddenly another man was standing in the center of what was left of the basement.

“Where…?”

It was dark, night but he could see outside through holes in the walls above them. There were explosions, the sound of thunder, the ground repeatedly shook. The black air was shattered by bright flashes of destruction. The drone of aircraft engines acted as background noise.

Jonathan Cypher saw five important things, a man, a woman, a little boy, an even younger girl, and a bomb. It had a Nazi insignia on it. Was it ticking?

“Sir, please help. We’re trapped here.” The man’s legs were buried under rubble. The woman, probably his wife, was unconscious with a head wound. The two children were clutching at her and crying hysterically.

“There’s about to be an explosion. You can only save one of them but please be careful whose life you save.”

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My Semi-Controlled Nightmare

nightmare

Nightmare wallpaper

“Can you tell me why you did that, Latisha?”

Ron Fielding was sitting in the Elementary School Principal’s office in a chair opposite the six-year-old girl. She had wanted the Principal to sit with them during the interview which was fine, but he hated the idea that his partner Lauri Marin and two uniformed police officers were also crammed into the room with them. He knew the case was likely to go to criminal court so the cops had to be there, but he didn’t think it wouldn’t make it easy for a little girl to tell a roomful of strangers why she lifted up her dress, pulled down her underwear, bent over, and told her classmate Timothy to put his penis in her butt.

“I do it all the time at home when Daddy turns on the camera.”

“What do you mean?”

Ron already knew about the videos. When the janitor caught Latisha and Timothy undressed in the girl’s bathroom during recess, he took them to Principal Kate Barrows and Latisha calmly told her all about how Daddy made movies of her with other grown ups and children. When Barrows called the local P.D., they’d notified State Police, the FBI and of course Child Protective Services, which was how Ron and Lauri became involved. The State and the Feds were actively searching the web for child pornography sites using an algorithm to match the little girl’s school photo with any of those videos. They had also put together a task force ready to raid Latisha’s parents’ home right after this interview.

Latisha wouldn’t be going home after school.

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I is an Illusion

invisible

The Invisible Man

Jonathan wandered through the ruins, awkwardly stepping over stone debris in what was left of a large city. It looked like Los Angeles but he wasn’t sure. The city was old. It reminded him of when he was a kid, but he didn’t know why.

“What am I doing here? Where is everybody?”

The air was full of dust or soot. It gave everything a yellowish or brownish tinge, like an old sepia tone photo. Jonathan, at least he thought that was his name, came to a part of the sidewalk that was mostly flat covered with gravel rather than stone blocks. He was near an intersection.

Then he saw someone else. Jonathan almost called out but then stopped. Something about the other man made him feel scared. The man had his back to him. He was wearing a brown fedora and tan rain coat, even though it was absolutely dry. Then the man turned around.

He had no face.

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