Elusive

 

storage shed

© Russell Gayer

“Got the DNA evidence from SFPD in 2007, and it leads here, April.”

Two temporal investigators closed in on the Zodiac Killer at an abandoned farm’s outbuilding.

“Go in here, H.G. I’ll circle around.”

The young 19th century man waited and then entered the cinder block building.

“H.G! Hurry!”

He rushed inside and saw her standing by the body. “What happened? Dead?”

“Very, but how?”

“Who said I was dead?” The voice came from all around them. Both H.G. Wells and April Dancer realized the murderer was really a demon who had been possessing serial killers since the dawn of time.

I wrote this for the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields photo writing challenge for December 1st. The idea is to use the image above as a prompt to create a piece of flash fiction no more than 100 words long. My word count is 100.

I’m leveraging a story I wrote last week for Rochelle’s challenge, Just Stepping Out for a Week, Be Right Back about a time traveler who occasionally helps H.G. Wells track down some of history’s most notorious killers.

In this case, I continued that story only to have them find the nature of the Zodiac is actually a single eternal spirit, one who possesses the bodies of human beings and compels them to kill.

I admit to stealing the idea from an episode of the original Star Trek series Wolf in the Fold written by Robert Bloch and leveraging his own “Jack the Ripper” theme.

Unfortunately, 100 words isn’t a lot to explore a complete concept, but hopefully I’ve managed to instill some sense of mystery and menace.

Oh, I took the name “April Dancer” from the title character of a late 1960s TV show called The Girl from U.N.C.L.E (a spin off of The Man from U.N.C.L.E) starring Stefanie Powers.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

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Just Stepping Out For A Week – Be Right Back

 

closet

© Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

“Oh there you are. I was wondering where I put you.”

April opened her “junk closet” and finally found the time machine. She hadn’t used it in so long she’d forgotten where it was hidden.

“Honey, what are you doing?” Brady was calling from the kitchen while making breakfast.

“Be there in a minute,” she called back.

The text message she’d received last night from H.G. said he’d finally found the Zodiac killer and he needed help taking him down. Shouldn’t take more than a week or so, but she’d be back before her husband had the bagels toasted.

I wrote this for the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields flash fiction photo challenge. The idea is to use the image above as a prompt to create a piece of flash fiction no more than 100 words long. My word count is 99.

I saw the clock in the photo and immediately thought “time machine”. I mixed in a few character references I’ve used in the past in relation to the topic and created my occasional “time cop”. She has to help H.G. Wells capture the infamous Zodiac Killer which will take about a week, but with a time machine, from Brady’s point of view, she’ll only be gone a few seconds. Just feeling a tad whimsical this morning.

To read other tales based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

One Last Escape From Hell

sunset

© Footy and Foodie

“I never thought sunsets were so precious, Trent. I used to be annoyed at how people would keep taking photos of them.”

“You never know the blessings you have until they’re gone, Esta.” They stood together at the edge of the shallow sea and watched the sun descend into night.

“You mean like Earth is gone, like how we destroyed the biosphere? But it’s not gone, Trent. It’s sitting out there pristine and pure. Can’t we go back to how it is now?

“That’s not how the tesseract works, Esta. We brought five hundred people and everything we’d need to build a human colony here. The gateway leads only from Earth’s present to Venus three billion years ago, our now. It’s a one-way trip. Earth’s out there, but we’ll never see it again except through a telescope.”

“Can we take better care of our life on Venus, Trent?”

“Yes, but it won’t last. In about a billion years or so, the climate will start changing on Venus too, and it will become another living hell.”

I wrote this for the FFfAW Challenge for the Week of November 21, 2017 hosted by Priceless Joy. The idea is to use the image above as a prompt to create a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 175.

I have to admit when I saw the photo, I really did think something like “oh no, not another sunset.” I mean how many stories can you write about a sunset? Then I started thinking about how to tweak this to make it a very unusual sunset. A lot of different ideas came to mind, but then I went to my “files” and revisited the Science Daily article Venus may have been habitable, NASA climate modeling suggests. Based on current climate modeling technology and techniques (which admittedly are far from perfect), some NASA scientists believe that up until about two billion years ago, Venus may have been habitable, possessing shallow oceans, breathable air, and a livable surface temperature.

However, being much closer to the Sun than Earth, ultraviolet radiation eventually burned off the oceans and, with no surface water available, carbon dioxide built up leading to a runaway greenhouse effect. Today, the surface of Venus is a unparalleled hell, with an atmosphere 90 times as thick as Earth’s, acid rains, mega-hurricane winds, and a surface temperature that can go as high as 864 degrees Fahrenheit (462 degrees Celsius).

I previously used the concept of a one-way tesseract or temporal gateway leading from Earth’s present to billions of years in the past on another planet in the story The Five Billion Year Love, which I still consider one of my better efforts at a romance, loss, and science fiction tale. In today’s story, the tesseract is a one-way portal from an Earth with an all but unlivable climate to three billion years into the past on Venus when it was habitable.

It’s an interesting thought that if humans could save themselves by moving to Venus in the distant past, then would natural events have caused the second planet’s eventual environmental demise or would human beings make the same mistakes twice?

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

Epilogue: Key Out of Time

key out of time

Cover to one of the paperback editions of Norton’s 1963 novel “Key Out of Time”.

Circa 1333 BCE – Egypt

“So you’re the legendary Sennedjem, called the Overseer of Tutors, Father of the God, Beloved of the God, and Fan-bearer of the Right Hand of the King. Such illustrious titles for a glorified teacher.”

“And you Ross Murdock, can only see and hear me because who I was, the legend and the man, was recorded in an alien artifact over 3300 years before you were born. Thanks to an extensive telepathic session with similar but dissimilar aliens, you are able to interpret that recording through means even a man of your experiences would find astounding.”

The 21st century time traveler and former professional thief didn’t seem to find it strange that he was standing on a balcony in a palace overlooking an ancient Egyptian city, and yet the city was not a ruin, but a living, breathing community of men and women, from the very young to the very old. He was dressed as he expected to dress when not on assignment, yet the man called Sennedjem was attired as an 18th Dynasty Egyptian.

“You brought me here to tell me something, Sennedjem. What? You’re an alien?”

“Hardly. I am as human as you are and we have something else in common. We both know about aliens and time travel.”

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Time is the Longest Distance

timelines

Krenim timelines from the two part Star Trek: Voyager episode, “Year of Hell”.

The Present: Project Retrograde

“So, what’s going to happen when you throw the switch, Barnes?”

Colonel John Kellaries was facing Project Retrograde’s senior temporal physicist Antoine Barnes on the floor of the main personnel time gate chamber. Next to him was his Russian counterpart and recent defector Mineyev Duskin.

“Actually, it will be Mr. Lucius and Ms. Huỳnh who will be doing the switch throwing, Colonel. Dr. Duskin and I have devised a specialized start up and operating routine for the gate that will allow us to retrieve our agents, but it will be a dangerous thing.”

“Yes, I’m getting that impression. Just how dangerous?”

“Because of certain…well, quirks in the current nature of how the gates are working, we can only contact our agents by deliberately and simultaneously linking all gates operating in our present and perhaps even gates operating in other time periods.”

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I Wonder What Would Happen…

egyptian artifact

© Kathryn Forbes 2009

“Why we’re doing this again, Wyatt?”

“We’ve done this countless times, Josue…take a real artifact and substitute a fake in order to maintain our timeline. If we let any evidence remain of alien visitors to ancient Earth, it would drastically change history and you and I might never exist.”

Wyatt Ellison and Josue Hunter were historians working for an agency that maintained timeline integrity. Whenever the Temporal Event Indicator at their lab lit up, it meant they had another job ahead of them. Today, they were removing the extraterrestrial circuitry from an Egyptian artifact. Actually, it had been in storage in the basement of a museum in London for decades, but tomorrow it would be examined in detail for the first time.

“There. Done. We can go home now Josue old boy.”

“Just once I’d like to see what would happen if we didn’t respond to that pesky light. Oh well.”

Wistfulness and carelessness went hand in hand. Josue followed Wyatt back to the future not noticing he’d left a small but vital control chip behind.

Ellison and Hunter shot forward through the centuries until, crossing over the moment each was born, vanished into the realm of probability.

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge of October 8, 2017 (yesterday). The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 198.

For this one, I decided to dust off a couple of characters I introduced here. I wrote three stories using them and then hit a dead end. Occasionally, I bring back old characters when I find a new use for them. Sadly, Josue’s mistake ends their adventures before they begin (although since they are fictional and I am their creator, I can resurrect them any time I feel like).

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

The Motive

jack colvin

Actor Jack Colvin who I’ve “cast” in the role of my character Gene Ingram.

“Are you sure you want to do this, Gene?”

Gene Ingram was sitting in a rather uncomfortable office chair which had been placed in the temporal projection chamber, something that looked roughly like a hollowed out egg. At age 48, he had experienced his fair share of heartache and headache which was why he had to do this.

“No, Walter. I don’t want to do this at all, but he killed dozens of people and wounded hundreds more. Most of the time you Feds figure out who they are, what they are, why they did it, what they had for breakfast two years ago last Thursday, everything. With this one, you’ve turned up Nada. I’m your only hope…again.”

Walter Rice was the FBI’s Special Agent in charge of the latest mass murder, this one at a pro-NRA rally in Tampa Bay, Florida (an irony fully enjoyed by everyone who hates the NRA, Republicans in general, and the current President in particular). That was six months ago and in that time, the motives of Graham Jesse Booth were still a mystery. He was neither pro nor anti-gun, in spite of the fact that he had been surrounded by several automatic rifles and semi-automatic handguns when local law enforcement burst into his motel room just as he committed suicide. He was apolitical, only voted in three elections over a thirty year span. There were no indications of violent thoughts or posts in his Facebook and twitter accounts. As far as his family and friends knew, he was a perfectly ordinary and even boring married man, father of four, and grandfather of three.

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Walking on Fragile Ribbons of Time

time travel

Found at omni.media

Peridot, Arizona – Date Unknown

Travis woke up with a tremendous headache. The light was dim. He was laying on his back in what felt like a conventional bed.

Was he back home at the Project? He tried to get his eyes to focus. Dim light coming from his right. Shades pulled down over a window. He was in a bedroom but it wasn’t one at the base or for that matter, at his ranch.

He tried to sit up, but it didn’t work the first time. The headache suddenly increased behind his eyes. He lay back down a moment and then tried again. This time he managed to sit up. He could hear a dog barking outside.

Yes, it was a bed. Pillows, quilt, looked hand-made. Pictures on the wall of people he didn’t recognize. A cheap painting of some foothills. Wallpaper. Beat up wooden floor with throw rugs. He hadn’t seen one of those pull down shades since he was a kid (he liked to pull them down all the way, let go and watch them shoot up to the top). It gave the light coming through it a golden cast, as if the world were a sepia tone photograph.

He wasn’t far wrong.

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Scattered Thou Across the Ages

anubis

Burial sled of Anubis from King Tut’s tomb, on display at the Egyptian Museum – Cairo, Egypt.

The Egyptian Museum – Cairo – December 22, 2016

“Here’s what we’re preparing for our 2018 exhibit, Gordon.”

Archeologist Gordon Ashe was being given a private tour of the new wing of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo by his friend Dr. Tarek Sayed Tawfik, the general director.

“This is truly astounding, Tarek. I have to admit to being more than a little envious. All five thousand of the artifacts that had been discovered in King Tutankhamun’s tomb will be displayed together for the first time.”

“You shouldn’t be envious, Gordon. After all, you’re here almost two years ahead of schedule, and you didn’t even have to pay the price of admission.”

“I guess being a personal friend of the director helps.”

Both men laughed. Gordon and Tarek had become friends at Oxford as undergraduates some decades ago. Both had a passion for antiquities but their lives traveled along highly divergent trajectories. Tarek had eventually gone into administration and Gordon gave up life as a field archeologist to work for the U.S. Government, though of course Tarek wasn’t sure exactly what services the esteemed Dr. Ashe performed for them.

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Eye of the Storm

ancient jerusalem

Jerusalem in the time of King Solomon – found at keyway.ca

Somewhere in that vast throng of revelers was Rachel Aiyana Zheutlin, a woman out of time. Gordon Ashe, Ross Murdock, and Travis Fox stood looking down at Jerusalem. King Solomon had dedicated the Temple of Hashem, God of the Hebrews, and the entire region was now celebrating the festival of Sukkot. From what Ashe recalled, during the dedication, blood ran exceedingly freely as 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep were presented as peace offerings.

Now was the great festival. In order to keep their cover, the time travelers erected their own temporary shelter. True, they were conspicuous. By rights, they should be in the city, but then again, as foreign travelers, presumably non-Jews, they did not have to fulfill the commandment to observe the festival.

Yet even if somehow they could get into the city already packed with hundreds of thousands, then finding Aiyana would be a miracle. Gordon chuckled to himself as he regarded the newly built Temple, clearly visible from their vantage point, and imagined it to be a house of miracles as well as prayer for all nations.

“So what now, Gordon?”

“We can’t hope to find her by going in, Ross. We’ll have to wait. I told Kelgarries as much over the radio link.”

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