St Paul’s Cathedral in London during the Blitz 1940
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I know I’ve talked about this one in the past. “The Unreal Man” was accepted for publication ages ago…and then everything stopped. Sometimes publishing houses change staff, change ideas, change goals and authors can be stuck in the middle.
However, I signed the contract with Dastaan World last night and so in about 90 days, this story will see the light of day.
This story is important to me because it’s my oldest concept. In one version or another, I’ve lived with this tale for over 40 years. I can’t wait to see it become real (or unreal).
Here’s a small sample:
Would it be too much to say that I’ve been waiting all my life for this story to see the light of day?
Well, maybe not all my life, but Jonathan Cypher has been part of me in one incarnation or another for over forty years.
Mark at Dastaan Magazine just accepted “The Unreal Man” for the “Quantum” themed issue of that periodical. He accepted the 5,000 word tale as opposed to the 10,000 expanded tome I originally submitted, but at least Jonathan’s name will be out there.
Here’s a couple of excerpts:
Building destroyed during the Russian apartment bombings – Found at Business Insider UK – No image credit available
Jonathan Cypher was atemporal, so when he found himself leaving the Eurythmics concert, he wasn’t sure where or when he was. Almost everyone around him was speaking German. There was a screenwriter talking about filming the group’s performance later in the year, a couple arguing about marriage, an aging academic expressing his opinion to his daughter about the industrial age and the role of the steam locomotive, and a misguided model disagreeing with a photographer about how women with rounded hips were not fashionable.
Stepping outside, he recognized the unique design of Cologne’s Kölnarena. “Of course. It’s the first concert in their Peacetour. It’s September 18th, 1999.” Then it hit him. “September 18th, 1999? I’m four days early. I’ve got to get to Ryazan.”
One of the three men carrying large, heavy sacks into the apartment complex basement had a lopsided smile. They’d left a lookout near their van to watch the main road.
The late Janis Joplin
And when you walk around the world, babe,
You said you’d try to look for the end of the road,
You might find out later that the road’ll end in Detroit,
Honey, the road’ll even end in Kathmandu.
You can go all around the world
Trying to find something to do with your life, baby,
When you only gotta do one thing well,
You only gotta do one thing well to make it in this world, babe.
You got a woman waiting for you there,
All you ever gotta do is be a good man one time to one woman
And that’ll be the end of the road, babe,
I know you got more tears to share, babe,
So come on, come on, come on, come on, come on,
And cry, cry baby, cry baby, cry baby.
-from Cry Baby
written by Bert Berns and Jerry Ragovoy (1963)
covered by Janis Joplin (1971)
He never thought he’d fall in love again. After all, he had died who knows how long ago subjectively? He was a spark in the process of returning to the Creator, but having become disconnected from timespace, he could go anywhere, to any point in history, to other quantum realities, so he could correct what Raven called “anomalies.”
The multiverse was created by the all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful being most people call God. However, God chose to make human beings both sentient and possessing free will, while maintaining His sovereignty over all existence. In other words, only people have the ability to say “no” to God.
That’s not the contradiction is seems to be, since all timelines ultimately come from the Source and return back to the Source in the end, regardless of how they “stray.”
“Raven, where am I?
“Jonathan, there’s a terrible famine here. You must save these people.”
“With what? All I have is an old-fashioned camera.”
“The person who was supposed to photograph this tragedy is ill. By the time he recovers, the opportunity to show the world the horrors here in Bengal will be gone. You must take his place.”
Jonathan Cypher, a man out of time, turned away from the bent fan and stepped off the hotel porch. Seeing the three starving and dying children, he raised the camera to his face, focused, and pressed the shutter release.
Victims of the Bengal famine of 1943. Copyright is or was held by The Statesman newspaper of Kolkata, India. According to that country’s Copyright Act of 1957, the image is now in the public domain (photographs are protected for 60 years from the date of publication), but it may still be under copyright in the United States.
I wrote this for the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields flash fiction writing challenge. The idea is to take the image above and use it as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 100 words long. My word count is 98.
To the best of my knowledge, the person who provided the photo is from India, so I wanted to start from there. The yellowish cast of the photo made me think of pollution or chemical warfare, so I decided to see about India’s history during World War Two, and if I could devise a fictional Nazi plot in 100 words. What I discovered was much worse.
You can read all about the Bengal Famine of 1943 by clicking the link, but the black and white pimage just above was part of a photo spread published in the Indian English-language newspaper “The Statesman” on 22 August 1943, and those photos, which made world headlines, spurred government action, saving many lives.
I decided to bring back Jonathan Cypher and Raven to illustrate that sometimes you just have to be in the right place, at the right time, with the right skills or tools in order to be a hero.
To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.
One of the perks of being “unstuck” in time and space was being able to re-experience things long gone such as a “lead burger” at that greasy spoon just north of U.C. Berkeley. Jonathan grasped the massive bun and bit down, mustard oozing over his fingers. It was a warm July evening in the East Bay, but his real destination was France a few days in the future.
Days ago from his perspective, he discovered that he could dream about fixing problems in the timestream of different quantum realities. He lamented that he couldn’t do anything about the Islamic revolution in Iran or the hostage crisis that would begin in less than four months. Six-year-old Etan Patz was kidnapped in New York at the end of May and his disappearance would remain a cold case until 2010. He couldn’t do anything about that either. In fact, he couldn’t even prevent the deaths of Nazi hunters Serge and Beate Klarsfeld. However, he could track down the ODESSA member who planted the bomb in their car and reveal the location of his confederates to Interpol.
Jonathan Cypher dipped a french fry into his catsup and waited.
I wrote this for the Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner Week 10 writing challenge. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for creating a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 193.
I am again leveraging my character Jonathan Cypher who you last saw earlier today in Our Honored Dead and before that in Tikkun Olam. In that tale, it was revealed he is a soul or “neshamah” of a dead man who now has the ability in his dreams to travel the timestreams of different quantum realities correcting flaws or problems introduced by human free will in the created multiverse.
When I saw the burger, I was reminded of a burger joint I used to eat at in the late 1970s on Euclid Avenue just north of the U.C. Berkeley campus. I set my tale in 1979 and then searched Wikipedia for some likely event I could insert Jonathan into.
The one I chose occurred on 9 July:
A car bomb destroys a Renault owned by Nazi hunters Serge and Beate Klarsfeld at their home in France. A note purportedly from ODESSA claims responsibility.
A lot of other things happened including the rise of the Islamic Revolution that year including the beginning of the Iran hostage crisis.
Unfortunately, on 25 May:
Etan Patz, 6 years old, is kidnapped in New York. He is often referred to as the “Boy on the Milk Carton” and the investigation later sprouts into one of the most prolific child abduction cases of all time. This is a cold case until 2010 when it is re-opened. Pedro Hernandez is later charged with strangling him after being sentenced to life in prison for murder and kidnapping in April 2017.
Jonathan can’t change everything, but I did allow him to do some damage to the ODESSA organization, which was a group of Former Nazi SS members who aided in the escape of Fascist war criminals after the end of World War Two.
To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.
READ THIS: This writing challenge is re-emerging after a long hiatus so if you are so inclined, please contribute a story and help popularize it again. Thanks.
© 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.
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.
Brain scan images found at PositiveMed.com
“I’m sorry but I don’t see much hope, Kathy.”
She turned from the neurologist to look down at her husband. He’d been in a coma for five weeks now following the car accident and still wasn’t showing any signs of brain activity. The machines and drugs kept his lungs breathing and his heart beating, but as much as she didn’t want to believe it, her husband of thirty-five years died when the garbage truck ran a stop sign and crushed the driver’s side of his car.
“I just need a minute alone with him, Doctor Schiavo.”
“Sure, I understand. I’ll be right outside.”
Kathy heard the door close behind her. Except for the usual medical monitor noises the room was silent. She was alone. It was a horrible decision to have to make. Their four children, spouses (three out of four had married and Lizzie had just gotten engaged) and eight grandchildren were right outside. How could she take their Daddy and Grandpa away from them?
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.