Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Broken Side of Time by Rob Kristofferson

Rob Kristofferson aka Sir Huggleston is a very dear man. There are many things I could say about him, so I'll start with this, he always cheers me up. He's such a positive person. He hands out hugs like a bartender hands out drinks, and they make people feel just as good.  He and I have a lot in common; namely our love of science fiction, comic books (although I'm an occasional fan, he can tell you anything and everything  you've ever wanted to know), superheroes and the world of fandom and television (i.e. LOST). He's my go-to for information regarding any of those things. He's sweet, caring, and a good friend, and I really am so thankful to have someone like him I can count on.
Rob was a last minute add on this project, and I'm so glad he joined. I knew he was a talented writer, but the story he created for this, well, it had to go last. It closed this series perfectly. As fitting as Josh's story was first, this story begins wrapping up the chapter of the suitcase and drawing things to a close. And it couldn't have been better had I planned it myself. The photo was simple and interesting, and what Rob made it into is a story that takes all the things he loves about science fiction and weaves into a great narrative.
So, I'm so please to present, the last official story of this project, The Broken Sides of Time.

The Memory Project (continued)
Everyone left and it was just me and Jesse, swinging on the hammock, our legs entwined, my head resting on his chest. I breathed him in. This was the first time since finding the suitcase I'd been able to relax. Today had been a strange day, and I wondered where the adventure would take me, and if I'd let it.
I could always bring the suitcase back to the house with Jesse and leave it, as we'd planned. I didn’t have to keep it. Though the thoughts were tempting, a part of me knew it couldn’t be. I had to keep it.
The scent of citronella and heliotrope swept over us, the breeze soft, the perfect kind after a summer storm. Jesse played with my hair, wrapping tendrils around his fingers gently. I drew imaginary hearts on his chest. The visions had calmed down, and lost in this moment, I almost forgot they'd happened at all.
I walked Jesse to my front door, our hands locked together.
"Well, this has been an interesting day. Lots of new…" his voice went soft and he turned to face me, softly tracing his thumb along my jaw to my chin. His lips drew nearer to mine. "…developments." He kissed me, his lips warm and soft against mine. His mouth tugged gently at my bottom lip, and with his arm he pulled me close, our bodies occupying the same space. The starlight glimmered while the soft winds cascaded through small gaps between us as we kissed; nothing felt more right than this. It was like we were two parts of the same person.
Being so completely immersed in his kiss, I almost missed the footsteps coming up the stairs of the front porch. And they would have gone completely unnoticed had the air not suddenly changed, charged with something electrical. I pulled away from Jesse as every hair on my arms stood on end. The air became thick and I could hardly breathe. Instinctively, I turned around and saw a man, still cloaked in darkness.
"Sorry to bother you. I'm here for the suitcase. I'm D."
(to be continued)

by Rob Kristoffersen
To say there is more to life than what you see is as cliched as time itself. But what about the things you swore you experienced, and what if nobody believed you? Are the answers physical and will they drive you mad? I often wonder who was there at the beginning of time - gods, monsters, aliens, men?

Roll the question around your head for a while, and it will drive you mad. It did me; my few hours at Garfield Diner is long behind me, but not a day goes by that I don't remember walking in the front door of the diner that didn't exist.
As my son and I stepped through the doors of Greeley's Antiques, I wasn't looking for anything in particular. I felt drawn thinking maybe I'd find an item of the Second World War. I'm a buff of sorts, and I usually stopped in the shops on vacation looking for military items of the period. I have a nice little collection going - some war manuals, maps, clothing, even a luger, obtained illegally.
Greeley's doesn't have much, the typical small town antiques store, but there are some nice, quality pieces; first edition books, antique furniture, and various other old knickknacks, sheltered in dust.
"Hey, dad. Check this out." My son calls over to me.
 As I approach, his eyes are alight with excitement and intrigue. He points toward a wall, behind a showcase. Propped on a short metal shelf, leaning against the wall is a picture, unframed. Its color is as vibrant as the day it was taken, which, judging by the vehicle parked in the foreground, had to be late 80's/early 90's. The car is parked in front of a diner; the sign says Garfield Diner - the promise of telephone and food. The Diner looked date, a fifties throwback, that even in the nineties looked out of place.
"Do you think it's real, dad?"
"I'm not sure." I look out to see if a store employee is around, thinking a quick sneak behind the counter. Just as I'm to make my move, one emerges. A middle aged man, early forties at least, approaches. He wears a modest smile, along with a soft beard the same color as his hair: brown. The most prominent feature were his eyes. They were as blue as the deep parts of the ocean, but not too deep. Regardless, the impression he gave the ocean, but not too deep. Regardless, the impression he gave was that one look into your eyes and he was swimming deep in your soul, learning the deep facets of your consciousness and beyond.
"Can I help ya, friend?" He said with subtle tones. In fact, he barely moved his mouth at all, as if his voice would cause a mountain avalanche.
"Could I take a look at that picture." I pointed.
"Why certainly." His southern drawl foreign to the north, as far as Pennsylvania is concerned, but never feeling out of place. He carefully removes the photo from the wall, holding it with two hands, as if fragile, brittle, liable to crumble by a single falter. He takes another long look into my eyes. I feel him measure my worthiness. In confidence, he hands me the photo.
It burned in my hands, that is to say it felt like it did. There was an unnatural warmth that should have burned the photo by now, but not a scorch mark could be found.
"Do ya know the legend?" He says to me. Legend? Legends were old, weren't they? Older than this photo. But I did know it. I knew it quite well.
"A little bit. I've actually been there."
"Burned down in '85," the old man went on, as if he didn't hear me. "Quite a strange fire, too. Burned down entirely, nothin' left to 'er. Concrete foundation's all that's left. No charred wood, nuthin'!"
"How can that be, though, I was there a few years ago?" I  don't know why I said that. If you stepped through those doors, you'd know why, but I couldn't resist. I wanted to see what he knew.
He chuckles, "Legend goes that it was taken off this plane by demons, s'why there's no trace of it left. They just took it, and nobody knows why. But I have a theory, you see, that it appears every six years for thirteen hours, and inside you make deals with them demons that took it!"
"That's a hell of a yarn, my friend."
"You know, you damn well know!"
"I am so fucking lost." I utter to the empty space around me. No soul around to disturb but my own. I'd been wandering for a few hours, trying to make it to my hotel. I've been calling The Hotel December, the Massachusetts branch, my home for a few days. As a recent college grad, I was doing rounds of interviews, so far with no luck and no sense of direction either. You'd think after a few days, I would have acclimated myself to this place. When you're as lost in life as you are with direction, I suppose it's easy.
Looking at the street signs, I come across Boynton Avenue. Is that where it is? Sounds familiar. Fuck it, can't get any more lost than I already am.
The street was fairly dark, an uneven distribution of lights made the houses disappear, sucked into an unknown country. Halfway down the road, I spot a diner, looking dated and right out of the fifties. GARFIELD DINER, the sign read - the spelling seemed strange to me, why not GARFIELD'S? When you hear the rumble in your stomach, the diner could be called DENNY'S or LOOSE BOWELS, and it wouldn't matter. Not all who wonder are lost, but they sure as hell are hungry.
Walking up the steps, you could see a few customers, chatting, enjoying their evening meals. At least I wouldn't be the only one in here. The door had a bell on the inside, that jingled to call out a new customer had arrived or one left. With food, appearances can be deceiving. GARFIELD DINER was dark, stepping through its doors was like stepping into the nature of silence. It dwelled there and it was all around you. Except for a fluorescent light through the order up window, all was dark. From what I could make out, the decor was as dated as the outside; red vinyl booths, aged glass lights above each one of them. A stainless steel counter ran half the length of the diner, dated cash register and all.
I started walking the GARFIELD mile, touching each booth.
"Hello, are you still open? Saw the lights on from outside."
Nothing. I continue on, reaching the last booth and a small window.
I turn around and there sits a man in the final booth. A man I didn't see in the faint light. Of the details I can make out; he wears a thin, wiry face and a suit, black, white shirt, and a deep, garnet red tie. The gel in his hair reflects off the glow coming from the kitchen.
"Sit down, Stephen." The man's voice is raspy, as if he's going to lose it to a smoking habit. A moment later, a glimmer of cigarette burn alights, and the smell of smoke accompanies.
I comply, the great command for which I cannot ignore. "How do you know my name?"
"I know a lot about you Stephen Baxter. Recent MIT graduate, 3.95 GPA, focus in electrical engineering. You've been here looking for a job."
"That's right."
"What if I told you I could help with that? I could get you a job with General Electric or Emerson."
"Yeah, right. Some guy in a diner that I stumbled into can get me a job?"
"It's destiny, Stephen! I sell destiny for a reasonable price."
"Okay, I bet you do, buddy."
"You know Bill Gates, right?" I nod. What idiot didn't know him? "Well, I helped him get to the top?"
"You're full of shit."
"Come now, he's not even my finest work. That falls to the young Robert Johnson.
"Who the fuck was he talking about? I should get the hell out of here, but I can't. I must be crazy, but I want to hear him out.
"He was a musician, late thirties. Best Delta Blues man there ever was. I taught him how to play."
"You don't look like much of a guitar player to me, pal. More like a business man."
"Exactly! Well, that's certainly part of it, but I taught Robert how to play. Influenced Clapton, Keith Richards, B.B. King. I trust you know them?"
"Well, yeah. I've heard their music, but why haven't I heard of this Johnson fellow?"
"It's about legacy, he lives through them now." He says, followed by another puff of his cigarette. The burn is almost hypnotic.
"Let me help you, Stephen."
"But I have no idea who you are, I don't even know your name."
"My name is uninteresting, but you can call me Vincent."
"What can you do for me, Vincent? How can you help me?"
"I can make you famous, my boy. You'll climb your way up the ladder quickly. You'll be a pioneer of "digital" technology, take it to places no one has ever dreamed. You can have it all; the fame, the money, the women."
"Sounds great, pops," I return, a mocking, "but what will it cost me?"
"Just your ever loving soul, son."
I smile, I know of no other gesture to offer up. Is he serious or some deranged aging man sprouting lies?
"I tell only the truth, Stephen."
STOP FUCKING DOING THAT!!!! Get out of my head!
"Sorry, I'll stop." A grin begins to grow. "Just think about it, it's a guaranteed future. You have until three to decide."
Whatever force holding me lifts and I jut out of the seat and hi-tail it, putting Garfield-poor-fucking-grammar-Diner out of my view, but not before a familiar voice invades my mind: only until three, Stephen!
My bowels purge. This is all wrong; you couldn't buy fame, impossible. Fame didn't just happen like that, it couldn't.
I sit in a nearby park on Second Street for hours, pondering. I played "devil's advocate" at points, all that soul talk leading to God, Satan, and any other manner of the divine.
If the soul did exist, what made it worthy of payment? What could you do with the human soul that made it valuable enough for subhuman looking mother fuckers to come to the surface and barter?
I'm young, I've got time to establish myself. What do I need some demonic agent for? Yet again, I could buy my mom that car she desperately needs, she did help me get through college. I could do this for others. Yeah, sell my soul to help other I could do this for others. Yeah, sell my soul to help other 9 people, charity and shit. That would negate all of this, wouldn't it? Heaven, you haven't lost me yet!
By the time I collect myself, it's nearing three. My sense of direction is still failing me, I remember Boynton Ave. I find it around 2:59 a.m., round the corner and search desperately. A minute late, two, everything will be fine. He'll be there. I don't remember the street being this long… there it is, I think it's over there.
When I find it, there is nothing there, only a slab of concrete and a set of stairs that led to expired dreams. I was where I left off, a promising future waiting to bloom. At the beginning.
I'll never forget the day that I witnessed dreams vanished, even only if they appeared hours before. I'll never forget experiencing the broken side of time. I did know damn well. The shopkeeper releases my arm, a gesture of mutual understanding.
"How much you want for this?"
"Did ya feel tha burn, son?"
"Yes… I did."
"It's yours. It picks the owner."
I walk out of Greeley's Antiques with a commemorative piece of memory.
I've got a good feeling about this.

Follow Rob on twitter: @Kristoffrable
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