Time Beast

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Squire sat at the banks of Lake Privus. Two suns set in the horizon casting a pale orange glow on the barren rocky landscape. He absentmindedly tossed rocks into the grey lifeless water and watched the bubbles as the impurities dissolved. An extra large stone splashed a little of the water onto his boots. After being transfixed for a moment by the acid’s path through his thick rubber soles, he quickly tore off his boot before the acid penetrated any deeper.

There was now a huge hole in the bottom of his boot. Normally, ruining a pair of military boots would mean serious trouble. Not to mention the act of leaving the military installation without permission would compound his trouble. However, Squire wasn’t worried. He earned his nickname by being a bit of a squire to his superiors. Often, they would have him go to supply depots to fetch one item or another. He would just have to remember to pick up a new pair of boots for himself.

With that thought, he sat up and turned to face the large military compound in the distance. He enjoyed getting away from the compound every so often. Even though his trips involved exploring a bleak and desolate landscape, it was better than the daily grind at the compound.

The tanned sand dunes with intermitted grey rocks jutting from the sand stretched out on the horizon. On the other side of the lake, a hundred meter cliff marked the northern boundary. The cliff was composed of varying shades of grey and white.

Life in the Interstellar Forces rarely varied from day-to-day much like the landscape around Squire. The same vitamin enhanced but lacking in taste meal rotations were served in the mess halls. He woke up each morning to the exact same exercise routine as the previous morning. Like clockwork, he knew exactly what would happen anytime. Even when they were surprised with a drill, he knew that it would be exactly the same as the other surprise drills before it. Squire felt trapped.

Squire originally joined the military to satisfy a sense of adventure when he really was just trying to escape mediocrity. A civilian life in the United Planets of Earth would have a routine except he could choose the routine rather than it being chosen for him. The military life decided that he would always be a private and never fit to wield authority. Not that he wanted to be a leader; he would just feel less trapped if the opportunity was there. Squire understood that civilian or not, his life would be spent in servitude to someone else.

The United Planets of Earth valued the freedom of choice. Yet Squire knew that there wasn’t really any choice involved. Every choice a person could make depended on the opportunity around them. Squire was born in the gas mines of Jupiter. Even though planets in the U.P.E. jurisdiction hundreds of light years away were as wealthy as the capitol planet of Earth, Jupiter, only light minutes away from Earth, was still a struggling cesspool of humanity.

Squire knew that his only choices were to work in the gas mines like his father or join the military in hopes that he wouldn’t reduce his life span by thirty years like his father. The military life at least offered adventure. His sense of adventure was cut brutally short when he discovered that military life was exactly like the gas mine life with the exception of living on a world rather than a floating platform.

Squire despised the United Planets of Earth. He felt as if it was a system set solely in place to feed itself. The politicians and media alike often displayed a different, warmer, reality than real reality of the system. Reality wasn’t wholesome, it was morbid and dreary. The U.P.E. was created with the idea that all sentient life possessed basic rights. Most of the population of the U.P.E. dealt with different sentient life with a high degree of fear and ignorance. Wars, enslavement of harmful races, a regressive paranoia and fear flowed through the government.

Squire understood the real reality, but he did nothing as there was nothing he could do. He decided to keep out of politics, keep to himself, and look out for his own survival. His father followed the same simple rules of life and seemed to lead a genuinely happy life. Squire thought too much about everything. At least on his unsanctioned walks, he could clear his mind for a while and forget about everything.

Squire’s deep brown eyes caught some movement in the lake. He immediately pulled himself out of his meditative haze and focused his attention on the water. The grey murky sludge was still. He stepped closer to the edge of the water. The only sound was the slightly increased pace of his own breath. Something wasn’t right. He could feel it.

He glanced around and could see nothing. Back at the compound, he saw life going on as usual. There were no signs that they had gone on alert during his absence. A splash broke his train of thought.

Squire whirled around to see a distinct set of ripples in the lake like stone had been through into the depths. Scared, he slowly knelt down and picked up a stone from the ground. He tossed the stone near the fading disturbance in the water. The water rippled again from the stone. He watched, listened, and saw nothing.

The lake was pure acid anyway and nothing could survive in its depths. A stone must have toppled into the water. He probably unconsciously kicked it in when he was thinking. He needed to get back before the guard change at the depot because it was Jace’s turn for the night shift, and he knew Jace wouldn’t let him get away with taking a pair of boots.

Before he was able to take a step towards the compound, something prevented his legs from moving. He toppled over into the dirt. The chemicals in the soil slightly burned the skin on his exposed face. He would have a hell of a time explaining that to his superior officers. Before he regained himself enough to see what had tripped him, he was dragged into the lake by an unknown force. All that remained was the bloodstained sand, his boot, and the churning water of the normally placid lake.

To finish read download the kindle version here.

News: For those of you who’ve been following my stories on Amazon and giving me dollars for them, I thank you. In early 2015, I plan to release a collection of all the short stories I’ve published in 2014 and 2013 respectively , so if this is your first story and you like what you read, or you’ve been reading since the government shutdown, they are all coming in one convenient book. Be on the look out. My first novel is also reaching completion, so stay tuned. For now, here is my next story in it’s entirety. For my kindle readers click here.

Furniture shopping can be dangerous with mystic forces and pent up sexual frustration.

Furniture shopping can be dangerous with mystic forces and pent up sexual frustration.

“Furniture n’ in the Box,” Jeff said with a half-smirk.

“It’s not Furniture n’ the Box,” Stacy retorted. “It’s only the best store ever invented.”

“The 99 cent breakfast is only there to get you in the store.”

“Oh come on! You are the only person in the world who can fault a 99 cent breakfast.”

“It’s a gimmick. They give you breakfast, and you walk away with a box of furniture you have to assemble yourself.”

Stacy rolled her eyes and walked into a display apartment. Jeff passed a sign that read 497 square feet with some garbage about how there was room to entertain and live. Stacy walked up to a bed, wardrobe, and cabinet unit with a plethora of drawers and spread her hands out. “Storage! Look at all the storage,” Stacy said triumphantly as if she won the argument.

Her piercing blue eyes and green hipster skirt caught Jeff’s attention more than the storage. He adjusted his glasses like he often did around her to cover for the times when he was noticing her beauty. Even though Jeff and Stacy had known each other since grade school, she never thought about him like he thought about her.

“Sure, but what are the chances of me finding an apartment with exactly the same layout?” Jeff said determined not to give her the win. Stacy rolled her eyes and spun towards the bathroom. Jeff fixed his button up shirt and followed her into the fake apartment. His skinny awkward gate stumbled after her grace. They entered the display bathroom where she turned the knobs on the sink. “They aren’t hooked up. This is a store display.”

“Do you know how to tell when you really want something?”

“How?”

“When you can’t stop touching it,” she smiled and walked into the kitchen.

The last part hurt. In all their years, she had never touched him. They talked all the time. He listened when she would tell him about some asshole she met in college. She talked to him about intellectual subjects she would never utter around a boyfriend. She shared every part of her life with him, expect what Jeff assumed was the most important part. He didn’t bother to look at the kitchen. He went right to the display sofa and plopped down next to a boy waiting for his mom.

The kid glanced at Stacy and then back at Jeff. Then he looked to his mom and then Stacy. Both were engrossed in looking at all the details of furniture they would never buy.

“Women!” The kid said and nudged Jeff.

Jeff gave the kid an “I’m an adult who’s not paying attention to you look” and mumbled a response. The child got bored with Jeff and left him to brood. The boy played with a cardboard box with a TV printed on the front, and his mom swept him away before he began poking holes in the box. After an awkward moment where Jeff pretended to read the Swedish books from the display bookshelf, Stacy got her kitchen fix and joined Jeff on the couch. He didn’t look up from the book.

“I didn’t know you could read Swedish,” Stacy said.

“There’s a lot of things you don’t know about me!” Jeff snapped. Stacy backed away, and Jeff felt like an ass. Jeff put the book down and walked toward the showroom floor, but there was a problem with the showroom floor. It wasn’t there. Where there should have been a missing fourth wall and shoppers wandering past was just a normal apartment wall. Jeff spun around to look at Stacy.

“Where’s the showroom?” Jeff said.

“There’s an entrance in the bedroom,” Stacy said, annoyed.

“No… wasn’t there an entrance here?”

“It doesn’t look like it. Is everything ok?”

“No, I mean, I saw a mom and her son walk into the showroom from right here. Right here! Through this wall.”

“You are starting to worry me Jeff.”

“Didn’t you see anything?”

“I was in the kitchen.”

Jeff knocked on the wall. It seemed solid enough.

“Hey, look. 99 cent breakfast was a stupid idea. Let’s go,” Stacy said.

“I’m not crazy…”

“I believe you. But wouldn’t the best way to come out be the way we came in?”

Jeff charged past her. She grimaced and followed him into the bedroom. There were four walls.

“What’s going on Jeff?” Stacy asked.

“I don’t know.”

“Where’s the showroom?”

“I don’t know!”

“It’s got to be here somewhere. Maybe there was a secret door.”

“It’s a showroom! They want you to wander inside. What’s the point if they hide the entrance in a secret door?”

“We got in! There is obviously a way out!”

“You are so optimistic that you don’t pay attention to reality.”

“Don’t start with your stick-in-the-mud crap now.”

“Is that what you think of me?”

“Sometimes, you are so negative all the time. Why can’t it just be cool furniture that you can have fun assembling yourself?”

“Sounds like work not fun.”

“Enough! Let’s bang on the walls. Maybe an employee shut the display, and didn’t realize we were inside.”

Jeff nodded and they banged on the walls and screamed for help with periodic breathers to listen for a response, but none came. They tried getting cell phone reception, and there was no service no matter where they walked in the apartment. Even though they were cut off, Jeff couldn’t let the stick-in-the-mud comment slide from his mind. He always thought he was really fun. His humor may be a little sarcastic, but he was only playing around.

“I don’t dislike the furniture here or the 99 cents breakfast. I was playing around.”

“That’s a double negative.”

“I like the furniture and the breakfast here, but-”

“See, that’s my point. I don’t care that you used a double negative! I flunked English three times in college. You got to lighten up.”

“I do lighten up… I’m a very humorous man.”

“Humorous men don’t use the word humorous.”

Jeff opened his mouth in response but then turned to the apartment. It didn’t matter what he said now. She would default to her premise that fun men didn’t need to call themselves fun. Jeff thought he was plenty fun. He always complained, but it was an entertaining sort of complaining. He was peeling back a layer of society, but she didn’t seem to get that.

“I don’t think anyone is coming,” he said after they even tried banging on the kitchen walls.

“Do you think we are still in the store?” Stacy said.

“How could we not be? This is the display room.”

“We could have teleported!”

“To an apartment that looks like the display?”

“Maybe that’s how they move the furniture?”

“If you can teleport objects, why would buy them in a box and assemble them?”

“Perhaps you need a big expensive machine in two locations. Maybe there is a factory in Norway or Sweden wherever this company is from that teleports the latest creations from the furniture lab direct to the stories, designers to shelf.”

“If you had a machine that could teleport, would you use it to sell box furniture? I could rule the world. I could transport soldiers, tanks, and weapons, just about anything, anywhere in the world.”

“There. Stick-in-the-mud. You always go to the worst possible scenario. Why not space or deep sea exploration? Replacing airplanes and cars with teleporting stations?”

“I’m only being realistic.”

“More like pessimistic.”

“Hey! You want pessimism. We are stuck in some display case, with no running water. We are going to have to live with the smell of our own shit if they don’t get us out soon.”

For emphasis, Jeff struck the hot water knob on the kitchen sink. Water sprayed out of the faucet. Their argument grinded to a halt as they both looked at the running water.

“What the hell is going on?” Stacy sounded like she was about to choke. She sat down on the couch and lost all the color from her cheeks. Jeff grabbed his hair and began to pace. He shut off the faucet and turned it back on.

“I don’t know….” Jeff said and went through the apartment. He turned on the shower. The water flowed from the spout.  Lights flicked on and off. The oven preheated. Everything seemed functional. Even the televisions and computers were no longer cardboard boxes with TV’s and electronics printed on the front. Everything was functional and real. The apartment was livable in every way. There were clothes in the wardrobe. There was food in the pantry. The TV could even go through channels.

“Did you try the computer?” Jeff said as he poked at what use to be a laptop cardboard cutout.

“Of course,” Stacy said and Jeff continued to type anyway. “What?”

“What do you mean what?” Jeff said as he tried a browser window.

“Is it cause I’m a girl? You think I don’t know how to use a computer?”

“No,” Jeff said as he continued to type. “Maybe I’ll try something you didn’t.”

“It’s not connected to a network. It’s getting no signal.”

“Maybe you need to repair the network settings?”

“Do you think I didn’t try that?”

“I’m only trying to get us out of here.”

“I am too! Maybe you should trust me once in a while.”

“I do trust you.”

“No, you don’t. Every time we go anywhere, there is always some negative comment about what I’m doing or who I’m dating or something.”

“I’m only telling you the truth.”

“Fine, the truth is good. But why not talk about positive subjects once in a while. Like, Stacy, you nailed that Math test you were worried about. Or, your team did well! Did you enjoy the game?”

“But I don’t like sports.”

“It doesn’t matter if you like sports. It matters that I like sports, and you like me.”

And her words hung in the air. She knew that he liked her. She knew, but she didn’t do anything about it, and then Jeff understood. The problem with their relationship wasn’t that she didn’t do anything to further it. It was that he never bothered to change it. Jeff didn’t even know her favorite sport’s team. He had known her his entire life, and never knew what team she liked.

Jeff tossed the computer to the side. He turned to Stacy and saw the Swedish book on the coffee table. He picked up the book and thumbed through it. Its spine was new and taut. The spine cracked and the pages smelled fresh. He never read a word in the book. He didn’t even know what it was about.

Stacy sat down next to him on the couch, and they talked. They didn’t feel the passage of time as they spoke for hours. Jeff never had a deep conversation with Stacy before. They were errand friends. They would go out together when Stacy needed a new table or wanted go to the post office. Then she would drop him off in his duplex in the city. It was like their childhood. Jeff would see her at gymnastics, community meetings, or some adult party, but then they would go on with their separate lives.  Now their time together didn’t have an expiration date. They were so engrossed in conversation that they didn’t realize that the errand could end. There was no wall. They were on a couch in a display apartment with a cardboard TV.

Author’s note: This is a short story that pairs with a song by the same name:

Lana screamed as loud as she could possibly scream. Lights flickered on through out the house. Her older brother was the first in the room with a sword at the draw. Her older sister, Maia, was right behind him. Maia was more sensible and possessed a firearm.

“What is it?” Brother snapped, ready for action.

“There’s an alien outside my window.” Lana pointed to the window near her bed. Her brother, Tarn, peered out the window with the sword useless at his side.

“That’s why you bring a gun,” Maia quipped snidely.

“A sword is an honorable weapon,” Tarn said, unfazed by her remark. There was an empty field with a single tree visible outside her window. The bark of the tree was cracked and old. The branches were twisted.

“There is nothing out there,” Tarn pronounced.

“You are useless Lana. I stopped having bad dreams when I was five,” Maia teased.

“A warrior respects fear with dignity,” Tarn interjected.

“Fear is a part of life… I’ve heard it before,” Maia said.

“I saw it! It’s not a dream!” Lana screamed.

Father’s bodyguards entered the room first. Father pushed past them.

“Patriarch of Bellicus,” The bodyguards objected. “We must protest-“

Father was icy and quick, “I will face any threat to my family with the dignity of a warrior.”

“Forgive us.”

The Patriarch turned to his children, “Explain.”

“There is nothing to report. Lana had a nightmare,” Tarn offered his insight.

Lana interjected, “I wasn’t asleep.”

Maia scorned, “You saw the tree.”

“Enough,” The Patriarch commanded the room. The children tensed while the bodyguards relaxed. Their earlier indiscretion would at least be forgotten. “What did you see?”

“I saw it father. Its eyes were… big… empty… like it could see the whole world. I swear father. It was standing in the field, a little ahead of the tree. It was looking at me… like it knew me.”

“Warriors of the ancient saw the same creatures. They would appear on the eve of a great battle to bless the warriors with strength and prowess. I think you bring us a good omen for we are about to embark on the greatest battle of our species.”

“You fill her head with myth and legends. I was learning to wield the dagger at eight!” Tarn scoffed.

“If you were a lesser man, I’d have your head, but as you are my only heir, you will not sleep anymore and proceed directly to physical training.”

Tarn stormed from the room. Maia smirked. Her brother was about to have a shitty morning.

“You too, Maia.”

Maia knew better than to argue with her father. He dismissed the bodyguards. Relived that his wrath didn’t extend to them, they scrambled into the hallway and closed the doors.

“I’m afraid, father,” she hugged him. He felt cold, but she knew that was the body armor.

He patted her, “Fear is natural. Only a fool would deny it. A true warrior learns to control their fear.”

But Lana didn’t want to control it. In fact, she wasn’t sure she even wanted to be a warrior, but she didn’t dare tell father that or anyone for that matter.

_______

 

142 fucked up. The fuck up wasn’t a small fuck up. It was big. The kind that could get him shipped to another star system, but he couldn’t help himself. He had to see the denizens of Bellicus in the flesh. Usually, they watched from the smaller of the two moons. But 142 knew an important decision was being made for Bellicus. He wouldn’t have another chance.

He would have gotten away with his trips if his personal cloaking device didn’t malfunction. The device had a glitch. The light bending matrix got out of sync. As an inexperienced researcher, he didn’t know how to fix it. So he just froze. That’s when the girl saw him.

She was just a little girl. In the scheme of the entire planet, that shouldn’t matter. She would just be a girl telling stories, but she was the leader’s daughter. So she was a little girl connected to a lot of power. Still, he knew what 141 would say, “The most insignificant person can change history.”

That’s why the researchers were under a strict non-interference policy. They possessed technology eons ahead of the planets they studied. Even using the technology to heal a sick puppy could create a world religion. Researchers were strictly forbidden to interact, could only go to the surface when necessary, and must always be accompanied by another researcher.

“Researcher 142. Stay right there.141 out.” Researcher 141’s voice bellowed over the intercom. Here it comes.

“Yes.” 142 tried sound as neutral as possible. He loved early civilization cultural studies, but he’d probably be shipped off to some far off station to study white dwarves. His new name would be Researcher Ten Million on the white dwarf project which had not changed in a billion years. Every thousand years, researchers switched jobs, even names.

141 would be slowly coming down the hallway by now. He was named 141 because he was the 141st researcher at the Bellicus Prime station, research that started more than 141,000 years ago. 142 began 300 or so years ago when 140 left. It was a peculiar pairing. 141 was a humorless old being. 142 learned to enjoy his job.

141 entered and inched his way into the room. 141 was a different species. He was more of a spider than a bipedal species. Each leg cracked with age as he moved. 142 used to make jokes about how 141 was as old as the amount of cracks in his bones. Those jokes stopped 10 years in as 141 was never amused. 141 needed to train 142 to be the senior researcher of the two person post, so for 500 years 142 could lead 143, just as 141 would lead 142 for 500 years. But there would be no 143, the research project was about to come to an abrupt end.

All the council species had exceptionally long lives. Natural age limits seemed to not be as important when species shared life extending technology. There was more than just a mere 500 year age gap between 141 and 142. 141 was set to retire after countless postings like this one whereas this was 142’s first post out of his education. 141 often treated 142 like a child. Today would be no different.

“You made an unauthorized trip,” 141 folded his several arms.

“Yes. I will admit to that.”

“And a resident saw you.”

“I cannot deny that.”

141 paused. It’s over. White dwarves in boring lifeless solar systems. 142’s work was too important to give up now. He needed this posting at this planet.

“I guess sooner than later, the Bellicus residents will know about us,” 141 said dryly and began to type on a terminal.

“So can I get back to study?” 142 said sheepishly.

“I don’t see why not.”

In a state of disbelief and relief, 142 slinked over to his terminal and began to type. 142 was barely coming to terms with what happened when 141 spoke again.

“It happened before.”

“Oh?” 142 tried to act nonchalant.

“On Bellicus. It happened before.”

“What happened before?”

“A researcher revealed himself to the population. You know the myth of the war spirits that appear before battle. That really happened. A researcher revealed himself to an army of the warrior king Bellicus. The army that saw the researcher won the battle the next day.”

“Crazy.”

“Unwise if you ask me. Now is Bellicus a warlike culture because of that incident? Or were they always warlike and just integrated our existence into their culture. Why is the smaller moon the war god?”

“The researcher told them about our observation station?”

“We don’t know what he said to them. He cut all the recording feeds. He claims he was trying to convince them about the value of peace. Now did he give the army an unfair advantage? Nope. They fought with indigenous weapons. But he did give them hope. The gods visited them that day. Who knows, maybe that army should have lost.”

“So we become gods. What’s the problem? The cultures will make their own decisions. And by the time they are ready to meet us as equals, they’ll know we aren’t gods.”

“Only if we don’t interfere. Our culture fought wars. We had a massive part of the population work for the luxury of the lucky few, but we figured it out. If someone were to try and steer us there too early, what would happen if we misinterpreted the knowledge?”

“We send teachers with the researchers.”

“What happens if the cultures never learn? How long do we teach?”

“We are willing to observe until they reach out to the stars.”

“You have much to learn 142. The system protects us as much as them.”

“Until the final decision.”

“Not all cultures will end up like Bellicus.”

They fell into silence as they worked.

“What happened to the researcher who interfered with their culture?” 142 mused after a moment.

“He spent the rest of his days in a lifeless white dwarf system.”

“Huh.” Figures.

To continue reading get the kindle version here.

 

It’s been a while since I’ve updated about my writing affairs, so I’m going to dump out all the information in this brand new shiny post. As many of you know, I switched gears from writing weekly humor posts to science fiction. I’ve also just finished writing the first draft of my second novel. For those of you who are anxious for the first, here’s a little dive into my world of writing. I love to do it. However, I have a family, so therefore I must work a job to support my family. I can’t take any time off to write. So my plan to increase the amount of writing time I have in a day is to attempt the traditional publisher route. I’ve sent the novel to all the traditional publishers open to unknowns and have been accumulating a stack of collectable rejection letters. If they all come back as rejections, I’ll self-publish my first novel in early 2015.

For those of you who have been following the Sperm Donor for a Cosmic Paradox series. It’s done! All four stories are up. Thank you for your readership. They are by far my most downloaded during the free download periods and the best sellers. I do plan to put all four (along with all the other short stories published) in one money-saving book. However, that’s another project to come early 2015. I need to save up for a professional editor first. While I do try my very best to provide grammar mistake free books, there always seems to be something. But rejoice! A grammar mistake that slipped through the cracks means you own a first edition!

Also, I will cease to become an Albuquerque based writer, and will be a Minneapolis based writer. My wife was accepted into a PhD program at the University of Minnesota, so I’m currently on the hunt for my day job out there. I don’t feel tied to any one location. The Sperm Donor series was located in Iowa because I visited a snowy rest area in Iowa when I went to visit my brother over Christmas. However, I felt it was necessary to write a book located in Albuquerque before I left, so my second novel is a humorous-science-fiction-magical-realism that takes place in a park where my girlfriend now wife and I used to walk our dog. For those of you worried about Spiral, don’t! Chris and I can record music anywhere. And Spiral has never played a live show yet, so the music process won’t change much.

So there you have it, and once again thank you for all of your support. I feel that the science fiction is getting more attention than the humor posts ever did. But for those of you who are a fan of the humor, despair not. My second novel is a sprinkler system of humor in addition to being one of the strangest things I’ve ever wrote.

Last but not very least, for those of you who want a small humor bite, check out my goodreads author profile. I’ve started a silly answer section where I will answer questions with ridiculous answers. You can check out my favorite silly answer here. Maybe submit a question while you’re there?

Time Travel Girl

The fourth book in the Sperm Donor for a Cosmic Paradox series.

The fourth and final Sperm Donor for a Cosmic Paradox story is here! This story wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for all the people who said, “What the hell man! I want know what happens next!” I was asked many times about these stories, so I humbly thank you all. I do plan to collect all of these and others in one volume someday, but for now owning the entire collection of the Sperm Donor series is as simple as spending $4. Purchasing stories is your way of telling me to write more. When you buy music, books, and movies that you like, it tells publishers, studios, musicians, and authors, “Hey, make more of this kind of art.”

On with the sample:

The smart phone swooshed as Jed sent another email. He figured two hundred messages pushed the boundary of urgent and crazy. Len had not contacted him in over six months since dropping off the DNA test. Jed attempted every possible method to contact Len. He called Len’s office phone and cell phone until they were disconnected. Jed even went to Len’s office a couple of times, but they turned him away and insisted that Len had found other employment. Jed asked about his test, but there was no record of a test for anyone in his family. Len had skipped town and took all the evidence with him, but that still didn’t dissuade Jed from emailing Len. Jed assumed that if he was persistent enough, Len would reappear and answer all his unanswered questions.

Despite the many sleepless nights, Jed tried not to think about his genealogic mysteries as much as he could. Jed filled his life with talking care of his mother, going to work, and playing video games. Since talk shows hadn’t been calling Jed for an appearance, he figured the tests must have been inconclusive. Jed resolved to never think about these stupid DNA tests ever again like he had resolved the day before and the day before that.

Jed dug through the trash on his coffee table for his Xbox controller. His work at making his house look nice went to the wayside as his tendency to never clean or even walk from the couch to the trashcan reinserted themselves. Jed was a perpetual bachelor. He lived among piles of trash, and only the presence of a female would change it. Since the disappearance of Anna, the only female keeping him on track was his mother. His mother shamed him into keeping the place clean. Since Jed was a momma’s boy, her not so subtle tactics worked.

However, the last six months were difficult. Despite his daily resolve to stop thinking, all Jed could think about was that he might be a father, and that his son might be his mother’s great grandfather. Jed didn’t want to be a father at first, but after accepting the shock of it, Jed thought he’d be pretty good at being a father. Jed remembered all the bullshit of growing up. Jed felt like he could change for his son what never happened for him.

Jed remembered being the target of rocks hurled by Zach and his cronies during his walk to middle school. Since Jed was non-confrontational his whole life, Jed picked up his pace to the school where an adult would quell the rock throwing by the presence of authority. Jed would teach his kid martial arts. He would show Jed Jr. how to break a person’s arm. If Jed would have broken Zach’s arm, no one would have fucked with him ever again.

Jed’s kid would be everything Jed was not. That’s why Jed thought he’d make a good father. However, history had different plans for Jed, and his son would grow up in a time when electricity was this fancy thing the city folk were raving about. Jed’s son would grow up when farms grew more than just corn. While Jed could make a good father to a modern son, he wouldn’t know the first thing about farming or slaughtering a cow. Jed was better off at the other end of time from his son.

Despite being on the wrong side of time from his legacy and his resolves to not think about it, Jed still couldn’t help but wonder. In the past six months, he actually left his house for more than just work and spent time scouring the historical archives and later resolved to not come back even though the nice old lady working the front desk knew him by name. Jed’s family all came from a town called Underwood, Iowa. As far as he could tell, his father’s ancestors had one child and that child was the mother of his son. A mysterious man named Earl James Ray Ruttle I was the father, and he had no registered ancestors. The birth records were lost, so the exact date of Earl James Ray Ruttle II’s birth was unknown. To make matters worse, there were no proper death certificates either. Jed’s only option was to pack his bags and go to Underwood to look for a gravestone or talk with the members of his extended family who never left.

Jed attempted to convince himself that he would never think about it after the trip to Underwood, and this would be the last time he’d spend on a futile search. Jed knew that video games and streaming television could eat up hours of time, but they never answered the questions burning in his mind, what was his son like? Could his life be different with Anna? Jed didn’t want to wait anymore. He wanted answers. Today was the day he would drive to Underwood. Jed called his boss. He called in sick to his job.

For a man like Jed who made doing nothing a sport, he had lots of time off stored up in his leave bank. Jed may not have aspirations, but he enjoyed employment and more importantly the money generated from it. Jed never missed a day of work unless it was planned. So when he called his boss requesting the week off, his boss granted the request with a confused concern. Jed thought that his boss was mad. When in reality, Jed’s boss was excited by the sick time request. There was a pool at the office for when Jed would call into work, and his boss won the pool. Jed’s boss didn’t realize that his celebratory steak dinner with his family would be one step in a chain of events that would lead to a life of “rabbit food” after one too many steak dinners.

After the awkward conversation with his “rabbit food” destined boss, Jed packed his bags for his destiny located in Underwood, Iowa. He decided a two-hundred and first message on Len’s machine was necessary to convey the recent developments in his search. Jed also decided to leave a note on his front door in case Len decided to show up unannounced. The note would later confuse police, and give his confused his mom a vital clue about the box in her storage locker. Everything would have been avoided if Jed had not bought a super mega soda on the way out of town and promptly needed to pee at a rest area outside of Underwood.

 

_______

 

Jed’s trot to the bathroom was cut short by a whimper from the bushes. The summer heat and humidity pressed down on him, and he almost ignored the whimper. But then he heard it again. Because Jed was horror movie literate, he would normally leave moaning rustles in the grass be, but when he first saw the grass behaving strangely from the rest area, his curiosity got the best of him. Since he was so close to Underwood, he figured the rustling of grass was a lost dog. Jed imaged a heroic return of the dog to some old lady. That old lady would be the same old lady that knew his great great grandmother personally and would confirm everything Jed believed to be true. He would learn that his great great grandmother’s name was Anna, and that she always dreamt of the day she would be reunited with her lost lover. The old lady would look in the distance and talk about great loves. She would say one of the great loves was Anna and her lover. The love would be legend.

His fantasies were cut short by a moan from a human source. Somehow, Jed knew that the moan belonged to Anna. He had not heard her voice in over a year and a half, and he knew it was Anna. Jed cautiously moved forward not knowing what to expect. He was paralyzed with fear yet giddy with excitement.

“Anna?” He said as he stepped forward, one foot at a time.

“You’re taking your sweet ass time!” Anna said.

“Anna!” Jed yelled, “Why are you hiding in the bushes?”

“Because I’ve been shot!”

“Why did you get shot?”

“Why did I get shot! Not let me call the ambulance or let me stop the bleeding!”

Jed felt like an idiot. Anna was pretty good at making him feel like an idiot. Jed ran forward and sure enough, Anna was bleeding out in the grass. Her gut was stained in blood. She was wearing a frontier woman dress! She was a time traveler.

“I knew it! You did travel back to the Old West!”

“Clearly! Now stop the bleeding! And call god damn 9 – 1 – 1!”

Jed tore off his shirt and stuffed it in her wound. She winced from the pain, and after he was sure that he stopped most of the bleeding, he dialed his phone.

“Hi, I want to report a gunshot wound.”

“Report a gunshot wound! I am fucking dying!”

“I mean I need an ambulance for a gunshot wound… how many miles would you say we are from Omaha?”

“I don’t know! It’s not like I had a cowboy GPS for the last seven years!”

“Years? How long have you been gone? Did I miss my son growing up?”

“Tell them where to find us before I fucking bleed out!”

“Um… can you track my cell phone? How is my son? Is he bullied in school? I hope he can handle slaughtering a cow…”

“He is seven-years-old in an old school house where the teacher is the bully now get the…”

Anna trailed off as her eyes glazed over. Jed screamed, “Anna. Anna. No please… She lost consciousness. Tell me what to do.”

Jed started chest compressions. He dropped the phone into the grass. Tears began to stream down the side of his face. He could not lose Anna. She was more than the only link to his son or the answers that had been plaguing him for the last six months. He realized that he loved her. He never dated anyone in a year and a half because he never wanted to date anyone else. Anna was the person for him, and she was going to bleed to death before he could do anything about it.

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