Chapter 28: Living in the past

Earth, USA, Iowa. May 3, 2010, 3:21am.

He was alone, as the world below him slept; unaware of his pain. He checked his mobile for possibly the 20th time. No messages to save him from his spiral down. They say tomorrow's a brand new day, but dawn felt an eternity away.

The boy made his way down the hill, stumbling slightly – just enough for the ground to bite into the knees of his jeans. Not that he cared much.

Taking a seat on the swing in his local park, he slowly swayed back and forward wondering how he'd make it through the night. Still no new messages. He fought the temptation to read some old ones. To travel back in time to a happier place.

The stranger was swift. He didn't hear him approach. Simply looked across and there he was on the swing beside him. Creepy much? Still, he didn't seem the unhinged type. In fact, if not for the pain he was currently in, the boy would even have conceded the stranger to be cute.

I never get tired of seeing the stars,” the stranger said.

Yeah,” said the boy, not wanting to get caught in a conversation.

You know throughout history we've navigated by them. Maybe that's why it helps me when I'm feeling lost. A light in the dark.”

Yeah,” said the boy hoping the stranger would get the drift that this conversation was a dead end.

I just say that because you seem lost, too. Sometimes it helps to talk to a stranger,” he said. “I'm not crazy, I promise.”

The boy's phone beeped. He inspected it at the speed of light. Nup. It was just stupid Trish wanting the latest goss. OMG! He slid the phone back in his pocket with contempt.

What's his name?” the stranger asked.

What? How'd you know...?” the boy replied. Crazy or not, this was getting creepier. I should get out of here, he thought to himself. But instead he said, “Did Trish or someone put you up to this?”

I don't know a Trish. I'm sorry, I should probably leave you alone,” he said, getting up to go.

The boy watched the stranger start to leave, then had a quick change of heart, no longer able to handle the thought of being alone again.

His name's Sam. He's my boyfriend,” the boy said, just barely loud enough for the stranger to hear. The boy paused, as if waiting for a reaction, but none was forthcoming.

Well, he was my boyfriend,” he continued. “Now he's Amy's boyfriend, just in time for prom. I spent the entire year campaigning the school board for students to be allowed to bring same sex partners to prom. And he'd promised. Oh yeah, by then he'd be ready for people to know,” he said, as a tear that had long been forecast began to fall.

So he's arty but doesn't want people to know?” the stranger asked taking a seat on the swing again.

Huh?” said the boy wiping the tear away, ashamed.

Does he like boys or girls?”

Oh, well he says bi. I say closet case. He's so retro. Too scared of what people will think. Doesn't realise he gets to influence that.”

It will change one day,” the stranger said. “There'll be arty marriages - there'll even be an openly arty president within your lifetime. Discrimination against people like us will one day be a faded memory; a history lesson. As for the heartbreak – it'll take time, but you will find the one for you. One that won't be so reckless with your heart.”

Who are you, some sort of fairy god father? I thought Cher was the patron saint of gays.”

Who's Cher?”

Not important. Who are you?”

I'm just a stranger,” he said as he walked from the boy.

Oh and Mitch,” the stranger said, as he turned back one last time. “Stay indoors and avoid any cows on October 22, 2021. Especially brown ones. It's a long story, but just trust me.”

Earth, France, Paris. March 28, 1962, 3:45am.

Pierre Boulle had seen things in his life. Many things. He'd lived in a hotel. Fought in a war. Travelled the globe as a secret agent. He had countless stories and an entertaining way of telling them. But one story he would never tell was the story of what happened on this particular night. It was just far too weird.

He'd been comfortably sleeping in his bed when he was woken by noise from another room. Normally he would assume it to be Madeleine or her daughter, but he knew they were visiting friends in Avignon this weekend. Cautiously, Pierre climbed out of bed and went about searching the apartment.

Making his way down the cold corridor, he could see light sneaking out from under the door to his study. A light he knew he had turned off before bed. He ducked into the bathroom, looking for a weapon. Toothbrush? No, on second thought... He grabbed his straight razor and flicked open the blade.

If someone had chosen this apartment to rob, they'd made a big mistake. Pierre had won several medals for bravery and heroism in the war. At the door to the study, he didn't hesitate for a second as he swung it open, ready to attack. But what he saw threw him completely off-guard.

Standing before him was someone dressed in some sort of spacesuit. The helmet was shaded over as if to obscure their face, but the oddest part was that this intruder could have been no more than three foot tall.

Ah, I was just leaving this for you. Consider it my gift,” said the intruder, holding up what appeared to be a manuscript.

Not speaking a word of English, Pierre was confused. Then a device resting on the table in front of the intruder translated what had just been said into French.

I like your previous novels,” the intruder continued. “You seem to have a realistic view of humans and their absurdities.”

Most people call it a pessimistic view,” Pierre confessed.

Fools,” said the intruder. “Anyway, I think I can trust you with this story. I hope you'll like it and see that it gets published. Maybe it will help humans learn, so that our future can be better.”

Pierre rubbed his head. This night was getting weirder. He didn't think it possible; surely it must be a dream. He always had such crazy dreams when he ate too much camembert.

You broke into my sister's apartment in the middle of the night to give me a novel?” he asked. “What's it about?”

The intruder handed Pierre the manuscript as he replied, “It's about how in the future, apes are superior to mankind in just about every possible way.”

Pierre glanced down at the tittle page. “Monkey planet?”

No! Not monkeys! Apes! It's called Planet of the Apes!” said the intruder agitated.

That's what I just said! I said it was Monkey planet!” Pierre said back to the intruder in frustration.

But it's not Monkey planet! It's Planet of the apes! Apes!”

You keep saying the same thing!” Pierre yelled back.

The intruder looked down at the translater in front of him, confused.

Monkeys,” he said.

Singes,” replied the translater.

Apes,” he said.

Singes,” said the translater.

Stupid French language,” muttered the intruder. “We're all the same to you humans, aren't we?” he continued his rant to the confusion of Pierre.

Then just like that, he was gone. Out the open back window and into the night. A badly-shaken Pierre sat down in his chair. Had it all been a dream? He must have been sleep walking, because at one point he had seen into the intruder's helmet and... But no, there was the manuscript still in his hand.

Only one thing left to do – make himself a very stiff drink. He opened the drinks cabinet to pour himself a scotch. That was when he had his last surprise for the night. All three of his most expensive scotch bottles were now empty.


Earth, Denmark, Copenhagen. July 2, 2039, 9:10pm.

Relax Frederick, he told himself. It's not exactly a life or death situation; it's just a date. And she asked you out! She's the one that should be nervous. Somehow he doubted she was the type that would get nervous though. She was stunningly beautiful, if dressed a little odd.

And for you madam?” the waiter asked the girl.

I'll have the rib eye steak and a coke please,” she said handing her menu back.

The waiter paused, surprised, then found his voice. “An excellent choice,” he said before leaving the two of them alone.

Not many people are brave enough to order beef these days – not after that whole thing with the cows.”

I don't scare easily,” she said and he believed her. “You speak excellent English by the way.”

Thank you,” Frederick said, taking the compliment rather than telling her he wasn't actually born in Denmark. Hey, he was short, had a large nose and over-active sweat glands – he was willing to take any compliment he could get from a beautiful woman. Plus, he spent his spare time helping out at a homeless shelter, he was due some sort of karmic reward.

A long, awkward silence followed as Frederick racked his brain for something interesting to talk about.

Did you see Mitchell West's inauguration ceremony?” he finally asked.

No I missed it,” she replied.

It was pretty over the top, but I guess that's what you get for electing a gay president,” he said, laughing at his comment. “But that's not what he calls it... what does he call it again? That's right, he's arty.”

My brother's arty.”

Oh don't get me wrong, I love arty people,” he quickly said and actually meant it. Time for a change of topic. He was starting to sweat. “You have a strange accent – you're not American are you?” he asked as the waiter delivered their meals.

No,” she said as she took a sip of her drink. “This is Pepsi,” she said calling the waiter back over.

Oh I'm sorry, we don't have Coke. It's pretty much the same thing though.”

She glared at the waiter before forcing a smile. “Yes, that's fine,” she said through gritted teeth, before turning her attention back to Frederick.

So do you have an interest in American politics?” she asked.

Not really, I find politics painfully boring. Your brother's not a politician, too, is he?”

No, he's kind of a bodyguard,” she replied.

Hopefully not for a politician,” Frederick joked. “I may have to hope he fails at his job.”

You'd like to see people die?” she asked. Ok, so she wasn't one for jokes.

Well, no, of course not,” he said as the waiter delivered their meals. “Unless they were really evil of course, like say Hitler.”

The girl gripped her knife tightly as she sliced into the steak.

Say you could go back in time and kill Hitler before he came into power. Would you do it?” she asked.

Absolutely,” Frederick said without hesitation.

What if you couldn't kill Hitler. What if you were sent further back in time, to say Hitler's great, great, great, great, great grandfather? And he was just a random guy who had no idea what was to come. Not evil by any stretch of the imagination. But if you killed him, you knew it would stop Hitler being born – would you do it?”

Frederick thought on it a moment or two. It was an unusual question for a first date and he didn't want to get the answer wrong. This girl was way out of his league.

Yes, I think I would. If killing one innocent life could save so many more lives, then yes. I'd consider it my moral duty. What about you?” he asked. The girl looked up – she'd been cutting so sharply into the steak, she'd sawn the plate in half.

I... I don't think I could,” she finally said shakily as she put down her knife. “I'm sorry, but I have to go.”

With that the girl quickly got up from her seat and rushed out of the restaurant. Frederick Mykur would never see her again.

Earth, Australia, Victoria. November 3, 1978, 3:45pm.

This customer was plain bizarre. Why did she have to get stuck serving him? It was a Friday and all Jessica wanted was for the weekend to begin. Instead she had to deal with this guy who was clearly high on something.

But all I want to do is open a savings account that earns high annual interest – why are you making it so difficult?” he asked.

Sir, on the form you listed your name as being Ned Kelly.”

Yes, and I know for a fact that's a very common Australian name in the 18th century so stop making excuses.”

Well for starters this is the 20th century not the 18th century,” she explained patiently.

Oh, I always get confused whether you're meant to add a digit or subtract a digit when working out which century it is,” he muttered to himself.

And that's not to mention that you put your address as being from Mars,” Jessica continued.

I explained that that was just a bad joke,” he said as he ran his hand through his hair. “I meant the moon.”

You live on the moon, sir?”

Yes. Yes I do. It's quite nice there. Uh, especially in summer.”

No one lives on the moon, sir.”

They do so. I know man's lived on the moon since 1969. I looked it up. So why do you keep being so difficult? I only want to invest one dollar. I was busking all day to earn it.”

Well as I keep telling you, I need to see some ID first,” she told him.

Do you know where I could buy some?” asked the customer.

She sighed. It was going to be a long, last half hour of work.

Earth, USA, California. April 29, 1997, 10:11am.

Sergey watched the teenager sitting on the bench. He seemed lost, but then it was easy to get lost at Standford. He remembered his orientation, when Larry had shown him around campus. Everything had seemed so big and overwhelming back then. Maybe now that he knew the university backwards, he could return the favour and play tour guide.

Do you need directions somewhere?” he asked the teenager.

I'm searching for some people. I got told this is where the smartest minds live.”

Sergey laughed. “Well don't let Harvard or Yale catch you saying that. Who are you searching for?”

A group of people I got separated from.”

I could have them put an announcement over the speakers,” Sergey offered.

No, it won't be any use. They're not here. I don't know when they are. I need to find a scientist or someone to help me track them down. You're not a scientist are you?”

I'm doing a Ph.D in computer science. Look, if you want, you can come back to my dorm. We've got some computers set up, we could search for news of your friends on the Internet.”

Is it self-aware yet?”

The Internet? Ah, no, it's not self-aware yet,” said Sergey, starting to think he should perhaps take the teen to the university's medical center. “But my friend and I have built a large-scale hypertextual web search engine. Maybe you could search for your friends on that. See if it turns up any details on them.”

A large-scale hypertextual web search engine?”

We call it Backrub for short.”


Yeah, we really do need to come up with a better name,” Sergey admitted, before adding, “Your accent... you're not American are you?”

Is it a bad thing if I'm not?” the teenager asked nervously.

No, not all. I'm originally from the soviet myself. Where are you from?”

You wouldn't believe me if I told you.”

Try me.”

I'm from the future.”

Sergey laughed, then realised the kid was being serious.

I know it probably sounds stupid to you, but I am. You see, my friends and I were searching for the third piece of the Trinity Key. The first two pieces sent us back in time, only then we accidentally killed the dinosaurs and messed up the planet.”

Are you sure you haven't hit your head or anything recently?” Sergey asked, concerned.

I swear to you it's true. A by-product of our incident was that we defeated the dinosaurs, earning us the third piece of the Trinity Key – only Rebecca Jorden had to send it forward in time to protect it from being destroyed by the death ray.”

The death ray, uh-huh,” said Sergey nodding.

So we used the two pieces of the Trinity Key to travel forward in time – her hologram said it should hone in on the right time period. Only as we got closer to the right time, it started spinning too fast for us all to keep holding onto it and we got separated and lost in time. I'm starting to think I'll be trapped in the past forever,” said the teenager on the verge of a breakdown.

Oh, so you need the first two pieces of the Trinity key – I know where they are!” said Sergey.

You do!?” asked the teenager, his eyes lighting up.

Yeah, follow me. I'll take you right there.”

Sergey lead the teenager through the main quad and past Encina Hall. The teen gazed around, impressed by at the sight of the red roof tiles and sandstone masonry framed against the bright blue sky.

I'm so relieved you have the two pieces of Trinity Key. With those two pieces I can travel through time and find my friends,” the teen said happily.

That's great,” Sergey replied. “Just head in here,” he added, directing the teen into the Standford Hospital.

You're keeping the Trinity Key in a hospital?” he asked, confused.

Yeah, something like that. Just wait here,” Sergey said as he approached the ER reception desk.

I found this guy in the main quad – think he may have some sort of head trauma,” he told the lady behind the desk. The lady leaned across, glancing over at the teen.

He looks well enough. Get him to wait there and fill out this form,” the receptionist told him in a disinterested tone.

Sergey sat next the teenager in one of the waiting room chairs and began to run through the admittance form.

What's your name?”

If I fill this out, you'll give me the Trinity Key?” he asked.

Yes, of course,” Sergey said.

My name's Google.”

Interesting name...,” said Sergey. “Kind of like the mathematical term Googol, except cooler... I must try to remember it,” he continued almost to himself.

But Google wasn't really listening as he was too busy watching a woman looking over a seven year old boy in one of the examination rooms.

Billy!” Google called out, racing towards the room.

Google, I found you!” Billy said with a big smile, before closing his eyes and drifting asleep.

Do you know this kid?” the doctor asked removing a needle from his arm.

Yes, yes I most certainly do,” Google replied happily. “Is he ok?”

He should be. I just gave him a sedative. He seems to have experienced some sort of trauma. When we found him, he was covered in blood and kept muttering something about having travelled from the year 2021 and angry cows.”

Did he have anything with him – any type of object?” Google asked.

Now that you mention it, yes. It's over there by the bed. I've got no idea what it is,” she said, pointing to the two pieces of the Trinity Key.

Thank you!” said Google hugging the doctor as Sergey entered the room. “And thank you my friend!” he said, dragging Sergey into a hug, as the doctor escaped the room. “I don't know how you knew that the key was here, but you did.”

Sergey looked at Google confused. “You found it?” he asked.

Yes, and now I can find my friends,” Google told him.

Sergey was about to call the doctor back when he noticed the objects Google had pointed to were floating about an inch above the bedside table. Surely it couldn't be that...

Google,” Sergey asked, a little embarrassed. “Is there any advice you can give me, from the future. Some words of wisdom.”

Google thought on it a moment. “Um, don't be evil,” he said with a shurg.

I like that,” said Sergey with a smile.

A few hours later, Billy opened his eyes to find Google awake, watching over him at his bedside.

How are you feeling?” Google asked.

Good. I found the third piece,” Billy said softly.

What? Where is it?” asked Google.

It's not an it. It's a who,” Billy replied.

Tell me, have you ever heard of Cher?”

5 Response to Chapter 28: Living in the past

  1. Yikes! The writer's lodge was the longest chapter I'd ever written and now it's been beaten by this one a few days later. Sorry, I really don't know how to summarise at the moment! Hopefully it all made sense – was trying to make it clear enough to follow, but without spelling everything out. Leaving stuff for the reader to fill in, so to speak.

  2. Jimzip says:

    Oh. My. God!

    Yes yes, clear as a bell! (All except "It was an usual question" which I think you meant to be "an *unusual* question"... ;)

    So very very amazing! Not only did you explain the invention of Google, it's slogan, and a slew of other historical haberdashery, you also FINALLY got to the whole Cher thing. And my my, is it going to be worth it... X)

    Loved this chapter, loved the idea that they've all been flung about in time too. That should be interesting to try and resolve. ;)

    I'm reading it again.

    Jimzip :D

  3. 3,500 words and you focus on the 1 word typed wrong! I kid! :p Hehe, I fixed it now, although I'm sure there must be others. I'm so glad you liked it (and that it made sense)!

    Was fun working out where they'd be and what they'd be doing.

    Google was an obvious choice. Same with Abe (except originally I was going to have him visit Rod Sterling, who wrote the movie before I realised it was an adaption from a book - which mucked up things a little. Was going to have all the characters at one point say "Who's Cher?" in each timeline, but due to Monkey Planet/Planet of the apes being written so early, Cher wouldn't have been known at that time. If it had of been Sterling, she would've been doing the Sonny and Cher TV show on the TV in Rod's study.)

    Liberty was easy - knew she'd be trying to get the job finished. Jupiter likewise would be trying to get rich quick. Justice was tricky. Eventually figured he'd studied arty history so he might visit the first openly arty president and it's in his nature to help/put other people's needs ahead of his own. (PS. If I had of planned it better, I would've had a question about Mitch West in the Quiz on Super-Sunny-Happy-Bright-Fun Land)

    Hmm, so now I'm writing long comments too!

  4. Dale says:

    Fantastic! My heart and mind are a-flutter. :D

    So so so well constructed. I liked having to guess a little, and thankfully guessed correctly about who the characters were in each part.

    So cool how you used our birthdays (and allocated such a cool event to mine hehe).

    Abe's struggles with French translation was great. And how you worked Cher in... I might just be breathless. Breathless!

    I too, will be reading this again. :)

  5. Yay, glad you both liked it. Was worried it was going to be a boring chapter when told in a straight-forward, linear way, so had the idea of jumping straight into the section where they're lost in time - which meant I could skip the boring stuff and when it came time to explain what was happening, it would be a more interesting as it was coming later on, answering questions. (I'm bad at explaining, but maybe you get the gist.) But yeah, it was fun to write. Now I just need to work out how not to make the next chapter a big let down! :S