“Let’s find some locals. Maybe they’ve seen Jimmy.”
“Why do I think time travel for someone who believes in reincarnation isn’t a good combination?”
“Just don’t alter the space-time continuum.”
“How the hell do I manage that?”
“I don’t know. I just remember it from every time travel movie. Look, neon sign.”
“What…it’s flashing too fast.”
“Looks like, Joe’s Diner…Eat, then Leave. Nice touch.”
“I could eat.”
“Slow night, huh?”
“Just the way I like it.”
“We’re looking for our friend. Little guy, moves real slow. Sporting a major sunburn.”
“You two aren’t gonna find friends here. Gonna order or just take up space?”
“Uh, we’ll have today’s special.”
“Something to drink?”
“What do you recommend?”
“The pub down the road.”
“Two beers. What’s that?”
“The thing inside your order pad.”
“This? Never seen carbon paper before?”
“Actually, no. What’s it for?”
“For making a copy of your order. One for the cook, one for me.”
“How the hell do you make copies?”
“Copies? Who makes…sometimes I’ll scan…never mind. Say, what year is this?”
“What year? What are you? A pothead?”
“No, I don’t smoke weed.”
“Good. And if you plan making it through 1960, don’t start while you’re here.”
“Point taken. But it does raise another question. Where exactly is here?”
“You don’t know? Narrabri. Gateway to Mount Kaputar.”
“Good guess. Fuck me. Let me get this order in so you can eat-n-go.”
“1960? Is that possible?”
“I didn’t check the parameters he used.”
“How did he build a time machine?”
“He’s a genius. That helps. Got the idea watching Rocky and Bullwinkle. Mr. Peabody’s time machine.”
“The cartoon dog and Sherman?”
“Yeah. It’s gonna be a movie.”
“I’ll watch that.”
“If we don’t get out of here, we’ll have to wait 53 years to see it.”
“Good point. But why 1960 in the middle of Australia?”
“His parents migrated here before they moved to the States. Maybe he came to see them.”
“Uh, what’s this?”
“Yes, but what…”
“Absolutely. Seasonal dish?”
“Slugs are always in season around here.”
“My dinner is moving.”
“We like our slugs raw.”
“One of my slugs is eating another slug.”
“They’re Cannibal Snails. Fortunately, they’re slow eaters. But I wouldn’t wait too long.
“You going to eat?”
“When in Rome, right? Wow.”
“One of my slugs is bright red.”
“Really? That’s weird.”
“It’s crawling right towards me. And for a slug, he’s motoring.”
“It’s saying; Eat me first, eat me first.”
“I think I’ll do just that. I don’t like the way it’s staring at me.”
“The red slug is staring at you?”
“Yeah, but not for long.”
“Hmmm. A little chewy, but not bad. What?”
E N Heim
Sherman was bored out of his mind. He thought: Where could I go next? This life’s the pits. Gazing across the pen and staring at the others, he pondered another adventure, another place of interest. Nothing came to mind. He looked down on the planks where he was laying. He noticed a column of ants traipsing across the wooden floor. Hmm, he thought. It caught his curiosity.
The only one noticing ants was Sherman. Everyone was paying attention to their own nonsense. He watched the queue serpentine across the floor, and vanished into nowhere. Interested, he looked down to see were the wriggling line was going. The streaming ants descended through a gap between the boards. Nothing could be seen but blackness.
He looked around to see if any of the others was watching him. Not one. He was the only one privy to the safari.
Sherman always thought of himself as special. Not like the group he presently was with. They were much like copies made by carbon-paper—dittoed in replication. They preferred playing, climbing the jungle-gym, and swinging around the yard. His interest was more in experiences. He had a juju Wi-Fied to Mr. Peabody’s WABAC machine. It allowed him to go places in and out of time. He wore the juju around his neck for quick access and escaping. All he had to do was speak to the contraption, where he wanted to go, and POOF—he was experiencing a new life form and environment.
On this trip Sherman became a chimpanzee. He hand been a mammoth before. He wanted to know what it was like living during the ice-age. Being a huge elephant wasn’t so cool. He also wanted to know what it was like living in dinosaur times. He found it wasn’t much fun either. Hoping to become a Rex, instead he became a Lystrosaurus. It wasn’t fun being small. The Rexes took advantage of him. He was lucky his faculties were intact. His change was instant—POOF—he became a chimp.
He watched the queuing insects march into the gap. They were small, but that didn’t matter to him; it was their persistent attitude—their relentless coming and going. What was an ant’s world really like, streamed through his mind.
He rubbed the juju, and said, “Take me to the ants.” Flashing neon lights emitted from his device, and POOF.
Sherman couldn’t see. Everything around him was totally black. At first, he could only feel and hear. He now was in a telepathic world—no body—just thought, mind, and images flashing around him. His sight no longer came from his eyes. His world now was 360º visibility. No sense of body, form, but everything all at once. It was as if he was detached from form, and became pure awareness. By now he could see everything in the total darkness.
The vision Sherman saw were ants eating a “red banana slug”. With each bite, his mind became less aware of himself, and then—nothingness.
The flashing neon lights brought him to consciousness. No—not lights; his eyes were closed. He tried to open them, but nothing changed. He noticed that he couldn’t clearly feel his body. No sounds or sensations gave indications of his condition or location. Am I conscious? Dreaming? As he attempted to concentrate, the lights subsided into a sort of sepia dimness more felt than seen.
Though he vaguely thought he should be afraid, he felt calm and curious, though he still did not know where he was or what was happening to him. As his mind focused he entered a reverie in which events from his life flittered before him: himself as a child, watching Mr. Peabody’s WABAC machine on TV; now a lonely twenty-something surfing the Internet at three in the morning; now his first sexual encounter; now a fifty-something in the doctor’s office for a blood test; now a child running through the grass on a summer day as his parents watched.
As the review continued, he started to become confused. A memory of seeing a red banana slug during a hike in the mountains—but no, he hadn’t done that. He’d seen that on a nature show. Memories of his trip to Japan—but he’d never been there. A long conversation with friends seemed to veer back and forth between remembered reality and scenes from various dramas. There were memories that were unmistakably real—the birth of his daughter, his favorite childhood dog, scenes from college—but others seemed now genuine, now second-hand.
He became perturbed for the first time. So much of his life lived at a remove, it seemed. Cell phones, texts, the Internet, video conferencing, and of course the old standby TV. Had he lived too much of his life vicariously? Were thoughts, emotions, experiences he had thought were his merely carbon paper images confused for the originals? How could he distinguish ersatz life from real? Or did he have a real life?
The depression into which he was drifting with this train of thought was broken by the return of the flashing lights. No, not flashing, and there was only one. Distant and vague at first, it brightened and with its approach, a figure became apparent, enveloped within the light. As it came near him, he could see it was a woman more beautiful than any he’d ever seen. Her body, robed in light, might or might not have been naked; her face seemed a combination of every woman he’d ever loved—mother, lovers, wife, daughter. Angel? flitted across his mind.
“Yes and no,” said a voice of liquid gold. “Your guardian, your best self, your aspirations. All of these, none of these, and more than these.”
“My life—a waste….”
“No. Unfinished, but not wasted. All is connected; you were part of things not physically experienced. Others, unbeknownst, were part of you. You are beyond such distinctions now. The world you were in was the carbon copy. Come now into the original.”
Joy surged within him as, embraced in her arms of light, he ascended with her into the Infinite.
“Yes, Professor Argyle, the body is in autopsy,” said Curator McDougal, standing by the outline on the floor in the still smoking room, the Halon system’s flashing neon lights now off. “The detective and his assistant will be back any minute.”
“Argyle, why the hell are you here?” bellowed Detective Gidney, surging into the room, followed by a diminutive female. “I’ll not be having any of your business this time.”
“The Director rang me this morning,” said Argyle, “and asked me to have a look around.”
“Well, I guess you’ll do that then,” said Gidney, cowed. “Anyway, the famous Horatio Huxley was certainly an odd cove, living here in this museum, and now murdered.”
“Detective Gidney,” said McDougal icily, “Sir Huxley was no run-of-the-kiln genius, but a true polymath, lecturer in everything from paleobotany to plasma physics, the national authority on coprolites, former President of the Royal Society, discoverer of temporal tunneling…”
“What’s the bloody thing?” asked Gidney thickly.
“Temporal tunneling, sir,” said Gidney’s assistant, “is exploiting directional time, like a quantum electro-dynamical Mr. Peabody’s WABAC Machine.”
“My assistant, Lieutenant Cloyd,” said Gidney. “She’s fresh out, and sometimes spews this drivel.”
“A pleasure, Lieutenant,” said Argyle, studying her Bantu features. “We will speak further, but perhaps we should return to the investigation at hand. Have you any clues?”
“It appears Huxley fended off the sods before they finally broke in and set the explosive,” said Gidney, “but the land line was cut and a cellular scrambler was used, so he couldn’t call for help. From the message left on the body it’s clear the eco-anarchists are back at it.”
“Professor Argyle, Sir Huxley was targeted as an elite scientist,” said Cloyd. “I’ve checked into recent ecotage activity and Earth First, Gamto Leopardai, the Earth Liberation Army, and the militant ELF factions have been quiet lately. We also found these on the body.”
Argyle examined the proffered plastic envelopes.
“A picture of some fat worm,” said Gidney, “and a piece of copy paper.”
“It looks like Arion rufus sir,” said Cloyd to Argyle. “European Red Slug. The picture was wrapped in the carbon paper.”
“Notice the pale tentacles,” said Argyle to Cloyd, “It resembles a red banana slug, but a red variety of Ariolimax is nondescript. One of Huxley’s late discoveries, perhaps, and with time to encrypt a message to us…”
After a moment Cloyd grabbed Argyle’s elbow. “Santa Cruz, sir!”
“Of course,” said Argyle. “Davis! Detective Gidney, I believe Gamto Leopardai, the Lithuanian ‘Nature Leopards’ are the eco-terrorists responsible for this.”
“What?” said Gidley. “How do you come by this?”
“The University of California at Santa Cruz mascot is the banana slug,” said Cloyd.
“And the most famous ‘Red’ at Santa Cruz was the 1960’s radical Angela Davis,” said Argyle, “former leader of the Communist Party USA.”
“And a Black Panther,” continued Cloyd.
“But a leopard is no Black Panther,” said Gidney.
“Indeed,” said Argyle, “because there is no such creature as a Black Panther, only melanistic leopards and jaguars.”
“Gliders of the colony! Mark this day!” proclaimed Magog. He stood on a branch of the colony’s primary home tree, arms outstretched, membrane of fur draping down to his feet.
In front of the sugar glider, perched steadily on the wide tree branch was an open casket. Inside, another glider, similarly marked as Magog, lay still.
“My father,” Magog announced, “former King of the Colony, champion of the High Races, rests in peace. Now that I am King, I declare the dangers of the High Race too great. We are retiring the Boom-Ay-Rang and terminating the races.”
Buried in the crowd, Loda listened. And fumed. His tail twitched. His claws dug into the tree limb he stood on. The crowd cheered. He watched as several gliders mounted the Boom-Ay-Rang to the tree trunk above the casket.
More cheers. Everyone knew the danger of the races and a growing movement tried to stop them. Not Loda. His life was devoted to Boom-Ay-Rang study and the High Race. He knew its origins, beginning when the Boom-Ay-Rang was left by the visitors. Tall creatures with fur only on their heads who visited in Loda’s father’s father’s time and left it behind.
Loda watched every race. Winning was rare. Racers launched off a cliff instead of safely gliding from tree to tree. The goal was to fly further than the Boom-Ay-Rang, and glide back before the Boom-Ay-Rang returned. Losing often meant a long and deadly fall.
Winning required skill in the air and knowledge of flight. Loda spent his youth learning to feel the pressure difference between the under and upper sides of the airfoil created by the membranes connecting his hands and feet. HHe studied the Boom-Ay-Rang. He could reliably predict its flight path based on the air at the moment of launch.
Loda kicked the creature next to him, a smaller version of himself.
“Rint, this isn’t happening! I’ve spent too long studying. I must have my race!”
Rint stared at him and blinked. No one else heard Loda’s blasphemy.
“Did you not hear Magog? There’s new law. They’ll banish you from the colony!”
Rint’s warning was ignored. Loda was already planning how they would get the Boom-Ay-Rang, load it in the launcher, and race. He’d add his mark to the graffiti of past winners covering the Boom-A-Rang. Rint would go along. He never said no to Loda.
On the fourth night after the funeral, with only a single moon in the sky providing light and most of the colony in torpor, Loda and Rint maneuvered the Boom-Ay-Rang to the launch pad overlooking Death Canyon. Loda took his place in the launching spot next to it. He shivered. This was his first time this close to the ledge of the Canyon.
“I’m ready” he said, looking straight ahead. Rint held up his arm, his own arm flaps hanging down.
“Three. Two. One,” he shouted, lowered his arm, and launched the Boom-Ay-Rang.
Loda pushed off the cliff and glided into the moonlit night.
It was the first week of summer and Kate was already tired of playing Barbie’s with her little sister, Callie. One more time of hearing how Barbie wasn’t dressed right or “that’s not something she would wear to this occasion” and she was going to scream. Thankfully, Kate had been digging around in the attic and found an old boomerang. She hadn’t played with one since she was a little kid and thought that it would be fun to teach Callie.
They decided to go out to the open field close to the woods, that way they wouldn’t break anything if lessons went bad. Kate threw it a couple of times and then walked Callie through it; she was ready for her first try.
Of course! Callie threw it straight into the woods…well if you called throwing it 10 feet behind you straight. They had to go find it, so they set off to find it in the dark, uninviting woods…at least it was daylight outside.
Kate had to keep telling herself that there was nothing to be scared of, that everything was going to be fine. They would find that boomerang and get out. Well, all of those thoughts just stopped when she saw Callie running up to a casket that lay covered in graffiti under an old, dead oak tree. How ironic, Kate thought.
Why was there a casket in the middle of the woods? That was just too weird for Kate to even think of an answer. She wanted to get out but Callie wouldn’t have it. Callie was already opening up the casket before Kate could stop her. To her surprise the only thing that was in it was an oversized sugar glider. This keeps getting weirder. They watched as the sugar glider flew deeper into the woods. That’s it for me, Kate told herself, and Dad can just ground me for losing that dang boomerang. With that final thought Kate grabbed Callie’s arm and turned to leave.
All of the sudden there was a rustling sound right behind them, where the casket lay, open. Kate was too scared to turn around and see what it was so she tried to keep walking; however Callie had no fears what so ever. She turned then let out a gasp and clung on the Kate’s leg. Just keep walking and whatever it is won’t bother you. Don’t acknowledge it. Kate had to tell herself something logical or she was defiantly going to lose it.
Since walking away wasn’t an option with Callie gripping her like she was, Kate turned around and was surprised to find a boy about her age standing two feet away.
He was tall with dark brown hair and a pair of eyes that looked like shinning emeralds and in his hands he held their boomerang. Kate stood there just staring at the handsome guy in front of her, with her jaw dropped and everything. She was awakened from her stupor when he said,
“I believe this is yours.”
An Epitaph for Mickey
Sombre faces were surrounded by an ever more sombre mood, and although a few tears found themselves falling floor-bound, most of the congregation managed to compose themselves. Dan glanced sideways, his eyes catching those of his daughter, sparkling with fresh grief and her first experience of loss.
Lowering his hand downwards onto her shoulder, it struck him how fast his little girl was growing up. What his father had said at her birth was true. ‘They grow up so fast, and we won’t be here to protect her forever Dan. I want to make the most of this time with her, so stop hogging her and take my photo.’ His eyes threatened to join in with the chorus of tears, and with those of his daughter but he decided he needed to hold it together for Lily’s sake if not his own.
‘Suits look like penguins Daddy!’ Lily piped up, the graveness of the situation temporarily lost on her once again. Dan pondered how children were able to detach themselves from the moment, to take in the minute details that no one else would afford a second glance. He missed that, the innocence only children know how to possess.
‘What a shame we forget about all that.’ Realising he had muttered out loud by the look of anger etched on Lily’s face, he apologised profusely.
‘Sorry.’ Lily’s eyes softened, but only slightly. Dan had managed to find himself in trouble again. At times like this he wasnt sure who out of the two of them was really the parent.
The voice overseeing the whole thing droned on and on about favourite foods, how loved he was by all the family, but Dan found it hard to keep his mind from wandering away. He didn’t feel bad about this in the slightest, not given the situation he found himself in. ‘Being a bad person is like throwing a boomerang made of crap. It always covers you in shit in the end.’ One of Dad’s favourites. Dan missed his father more than he had realised.
Bringing himself back to the moment, and wanting to avoid looking as bored as he was, Dan look downwards as if looking at his feet which were shuffling slowly, showing his anxious desire for the whole thing to end. In reality he was squinting, trying to decipher 5 year old Lily’s graffiti-like writing on the casket and make-do headstone.
The voice of authority finished it’s speech. The talk of trips out and naughty things he had done when young replaced by an uncomfortable silence, it’s absence filling the room awkwardly.
Once a moment or two had passed, he pointed. ‘What does that say darling?’, a genuine air of curiosity in his voice. Dan’s wife removed her vicar’s robe and folded it gently, the towel no longer serving as a robe.
‘Duh.’ Lily’s hands firmly met with her hips and her foot with the floor. ‘Here lies Mickey, the bestest Sugar Glider ever and my bestest friend. RIP Mickey.’
A Eulogy For Ang
“The thug life didn’t choose Ang, leader of the Boomer Gang, he chose it. He chose it ‘cos it was what he had to do. He rallied us together under his cause – our cause – making us stronger ‘n we would’ve been elsewise. Since then, the Boomers have thrived, have grown to rule the streets.” The speaker stood tall behind the podium, delivering his speech. A gathering of this size was dangerous, and already, bloodthirsty men and women pounded at the doors and plate-glass windows, shrieking their protests. Those who had braved the savage streets to sit at the broken pews shifted nervously, but respect had to be paid to their former fearless leader.
A black and grey rodent, Ang’s pet and unofficial mascot of the Boomers, sat atop the casket left of the podium. Its big, black eyes stared sadly up at the speaker as he continued. “Across the city, Ang has been a bringer of ‘ope, clearing out safe ‘ouses for the Gang in new areas previously out of reach. He led us into an age of prosperi’y, setting up fronts and expanding our interests further ‘n we had ever imagined. But that was before the Rotters moved in.”
Some of the gathered mourners hissed or murmured their hatred. One spat on the wooden floor. “A war broke out, right on our doorstep, but Ang din’t flinch. He showed us what we was made of, and led us out into the streets to protect our turf. We fought, and many of us died, but Ang kept us strong. Even when we thought we was lost, Ang kept us looking t’ward that distant light of ‘ope. He was only nineteen, but I believed in him because he saw more in us ‘n we saw ourselves. He showed us the strength in our hearts.”
The speaker wiped at the corners of his eyes and looked around at the ragged mourners while he composed himself. “Even when the walls were pain’ed with Boomer blood, Ang never lost ‘ope. Erry time we did, he’d just flash a smile, ‘n tell a joke, an’ we was right back up again, fresh for a fight.”
The protesters had grown in number, undoubtedly Rotters looking to deliver a decisive blow to the Boomers. Their pounding on the building shook it to its foundation. Many of the Boomers readied their guns. Some near the back took up positions flanking the doors in case of a successful break in.
“I offer a final toast for Boomer Ang.” The speaker raised a beer and a Colt 45. “May he never come back.” He put the gun against Ang’s head and fired, ensuring that he wouldn’t. “Awright, let’s honor him the best we can, by showin’ these Zombie bastards the kind of men we are.”