Excerpt for A Time-Travel Story / Part 1: David and Jonathan by , available in its entirety at Smashwords







A Time-Travel Story



PART 1

DAVID AND JONATHAN





by

Eve Human











Published by Eve Human at

Smashwords.com

Copyright 2017 Eve Human



































In the darkest of moments

In the deepest of voids

Where nothing was left but despair

Hope came

She was still small

Tiny even

But one day

She would be born.









I am Jonathan Galt and today I finally realize that I hate my name.

At the moment I'm walking down my tunnel. But I'm not alone and I can be certain that they who are walking with me hate that name as much as I do.

I also have to admit, that this isn't actually my tunnel any more. When I dug it just a few weeks ago, I'd made it into a crawling space only. And it was much shorter then—barely a hundred yards long, angling from the sewers closest to the wall, then down to get underneath it, and finally sharply up to the outside-world.

It was difficult for me and Luscinia to drag the blanket with the sleeping child through it.

But now I and my three companions can walk upright, doing a pretty good pace. And the tunnel is much broader than before... and much longer also, being over ten miles in length as it leads all the way to the next village.

Hundreds of people have helped to enlarge the tunnel, which has of course been necessary since thousands of others are supposed to follow us later on.

But just like I did before, so have those digging during the last few days been forced to work without big machinery, for they had to be quiet--really quiet.

Any suspicious sound might have alerted someone, and that would have been a catastrophe. Our plan would have to be abandoned. And this would leave a single option.

I shiver and only partly from the cold down here.

I keep thinking about Luscinia. She wanted to come along. But I told her, no. She is supposed to be dead, someone over there might recognize her.

Of course, this has been the reasonable thing to do, and besides the others would probably not have allowed her to come anyway.

At this very moment however, I wish I'd not been reasonable. I really need her, the comfort she gives me, her trust, her love. If it wasn't for her, I'd never have found the courage to leave in the first place... and to go back now.

We've reached the sewers now with their typical odor of waste and decay. In the glow of my flashlight I can see a rat cross right in front of us.

I take a glance back at the others. Mr. Wang's face looks just as grumpy as ever. It seems inconceivable that of all the people in Spesaeterna, it would be Mr. Wang who has devised this plan.

Although it's not really surprising that he would stick by it against most everyone else in the village. With his jacket unbuttoned Mr. Wang's native clothes can still be seen, and down on his chest the stitched golden image of his Dharmachakra glitters in the dim light. I make a mental note to remind him to button up once we are outside.

I turn my eyes to Ms Alba in her unfamiliar male clothing style of dark brown overalls. Myself having been pushed by my father into a regular and extensive martial-arts training I'm as as athletic as any man can ever hope to be at age twenty. But Ms Alba can easily keep up with my pace.

She is as old as Mr Wang, over a decade older than my father, but she looks so strong, physically and otherwise. And her movements are those of a much younger person. Where I'm from, few people ever reach that age, and certainly none of them are women. Mamma was 47 when she died in the Venus project.

Venus--the goddess of love, or so I've been taught. What a joke, what an utterly perverted joke.

The already familiar wave of pain and anger is sweeping over me. This time I can barely control it.

Come on, take a deep breath, I tell myself. I have to be calm. I mustn't give in to any kind of emotions, be they anger or fear. Even a quiver of nerves can be fatal. I need ice-cold rationality if I want to succeed. Everything now depends on me.

I look at Ms Alba again. She has never trusted me. She once called me the son of the devil and I guess she's right. She is clutching the small device tightly in one hand. It's only a communication device, to be sure, but it might just as well be the trigger.

Once she presses that red button, it will be all over... for all of us.

A lever will be pulled elsewhere, missiles will be launched, and in the blink of an eye Nephilim City will be no more... evaporated and extinguished from the face of the earth, together with the surrounding country and anything (or anyone) below ground.

Ms Alba has insisted on this fail-safe measure, and the others have agreed to it.

Why they changed their minds at all, I still can't understand.

I've been so very naive when I brought the recording to them, but the minute I started it, I knew what the reaction would be. It was only natural.

And then all of a sudden, they changed their minds because of… because of an absolute nothing, a tiny story about a most insignificant event from the past.

And when they reversed from what seemed so logical before, I realized that as much as I want to belong to Spesaeterna or to the rest of them, I don't. I just can't understand them and I doubt that I ever will.

Born and raised in Nephilim City, I cannot deny my origin and its clear sense of logic, a logic my companions and their whole society don't seem to possess – all of them but Ms Alba maybe. But at the moment even she seems to be moved less by her logic and more by something else.

And right now I guess I'm acting on this “something else” as well, on their strange logic not my own.

I'm taking a look at the third of my Spesaeterna team, a man not much younger than the other two. He used to be the David Morgan, the man who a long time ago was the best friend of my father. To me he seems to be the most mysterious of them all.

They call him the Professor now. He's a scientist, supposedly a man of reason, but he is also a monk. He does have some sense of reasoning but it's one I cannot really fathom.

The Professor seems to have noticed that I'm looking at him. He gives me an encouraging smile, and the expression on his face tells me that he knows what I'm thinking, almost as if he can read my mind.

It creeps me out a bit, but somehow it also lifts my spirit, makes me feel less tense and slowly I can release my breath. In my mind I see the little girl who changed everything.

I turn now to concentrate on the barely visible way in front of us, it won't be much longer.

At last--the exit ladder, we have finally arrived at our first destination.

I'm climbing up and open the lid, I'm looking around carefully. It's a pretty deserted area. And just like the countless times I've climbed up and down that same ladder before, while building my narrow escape-tunnel, there is nobody around at the moment, nobody who might possibly see us getting out of the sewer.

I motion the others to follow me. When they have all reached the surface, I'm closing the sewer entrance. And although it's unlikely that cameras or microphones have been installed in this forsaken area, I still keep my voice low. With words dripping as much irony as can be purveyed in a whisper, I declare:

Welcome to Orange Country!”



***



David Ragnarsson stood alone, eyes closed while chasing off any last doubts from his mind, and when he opened them again, he had made his decision. He stood right at the end of the white line that marked the spot where the last carriage of the train would come to a halt; in front of him, the yellow safety line over which no passenger should cross while a train was still moving.

But David didn't intend to be a passenger on this train. Not this time, not ever again. He looked up at the digital clock hanging right above his head. The last digit changed with a click. 11:56, four minutes to midnight at the Spesveniat subway-station in New York City.

At the roaring sound in the distance, he looked into the tunnel, to see the faint glow of the emerging headlights.

Not long now…a few more seconds and two steps to oblivion, to the peace he sought–the only one offered to him. There was no way the driver would be able to stop in time. The roar grew louder; the light from the tunnel already blinding his gaze.

David shifted his weight to the other foot. He was ready.

No, don't jump, DON'T YOU JUMP!”

It felt like a bolt of thunder to David's tight nerves, shaking his whole body. The voice had been piercing, loud, and shrill, and yet clearly a child's voice.

David turned his head to the left, and had to look down. There, standing right next to him, a child, a girl, staring up into his face with the bluest eyes he had ever seen outside a movie screen.

Confused and still shaken, David stared back. He felt as if he had been ripped from a dream, a dark dream, though still feeling it's call, the need to know how it ended.

The train with its ear-piercing screeching of brakes brought David out of his daze and back to reality. He had missed his chance….for now; there would be other trains tonight.

He looked around.

The girl seemed to be alone; a couple of people were waiting at the other end of the platform, none of them seeming to be connected to her. Where had she come from? Why hadn't he noticed her before?

And how had she known what he was about to do? Was she a mind reader?

David had always been a complete and unwavering skeptic where those kinds of phenomena were concerned. -No, not a mind reader; just a perceptive little person with a bit of feminine intuition-.

The train had finally come to a halt, the doors had opened. David gave the girl a fake smile that should convey an “I didn’t really hear what you just said, but I'm polite enough to recognize that you'd been talking to me” idea. And then with a couple of large strides, he made it to the train's last door. The girl followed; or rather she walked beside him only inches from his left elbow.

They entered together and when he sat down on the long bench, she sat next to him. This was becoming really uncomfortable, and David found it more and more impossible to just ignore her.

But still trying valiantly, he looked straight ahead while the doors closed. Slowly the train gained speed as it left the platform and entered the next tunnel, blackening the windows. At this time of night there were barely any other passengers inside the carriage. None of them took any notice of David or the child.

They probably assume she's my daughter or something, he thought, looking around. Five people, three men and two women were sitting closely together on the other end of the carriage, talking to each other.

On his end and on their own bench there was only one other person, a thinly bearded black man sitting slumped against the carriage's wall, head leaning backwards, eyes closed, rhythmically pushing a snore through his nostrils. He was no doubt drunk and, judging from his grease-spotted jacket and worn-out trousers which were ripped over one knee, probably homeless with no other place to sleep.

Facing David on the opposite bench, two teenage boys engaged in a contest of who could push whom off the seat, while a middle-aged woman tried to keep herself as far away from them as possible.

The woman was probably a nurse heading home after finishing a late shift at the nearby emergency and maternity clinic; David thought he recognized the uniform skirt that slightly showed under her short coat.

He had once done an interview with clinic employees there when funding reductions had led to staff cutbacks, and the resultant increased waiting time had cost the life of at least one child who had died while waiting for an emergency operation.

It had been an important article and there had been a reaction. The public outcry had put pressure on the city's administration, and a decision was made to increase funding to former levels, at least in that particular clinic.

But that was last year's news, and for a journalist, even yesterday is often a lifetime ago.

For David Ragnarsson, former investigative journalist writing for the most prestigious paper in the country, last year seemed an eternity away. And today's news would not be written by him…he would never write another article again…ever.

You don't know that. And even so, that's still not a good reason for jumping in front of a subway train.”

As before, the child's voice was too loud, too clear, and thoroughly unsettling. It was as if she had actually read his mind.

This time around, David had no choice; pretending not to have heard her remarks wouldn't work unless he also pretended he was stone deaf. Once again David looked at the three people sitting opposite him. They still weren't taking any notice of either him or the girl. He turned to the child.

What the heck are you talking about?”he asked, keeping his voice low and hoping she'd take the hint.

She didn't bother to lower her voice: “I'm talking about you wanting to commit suicide by jumping in front of a train and I'm telling you that you shouldn't do such a thing.”

Denial was the only possible answer to that one: “What kind of nonsense has gotten into your head? Do you always walk around and make up stories about strangers you meet on the subway?”

Denial and attack, of course: “Speaking of subways, what were you doing alone in a subway station in the middle of the night? You can't be much older than ten or eleven?”

I turned thirteen last month!” There was quite a bit of indignation in the girl's voice now.

Thirteen…David wouldn't have guessed her to be a teenager. It wasn't just that she was small for her age, it was rather the way she was dressed.

She was wearing what could be called a jogging suit, but one of a kind he'd never seen on any teenager before. The slightly glittery material of a soft violet color was covered with about a dozen different-sized colorful patches which were either sewn or glued onto it. Although her face, hands, and small wrists suggested a slim figure, her suit didn't show any of it. The trouser legs were rather wide from top to bottom, just as the jacket hung straight down from shoulder-pads to mid-thigh, allowing neither breast nor waist to be seen.

Her head was covered by a bulging cap of the same color as the suit with Chinese letters stitched above the brim. Only a few dark curls escaped from under it onto her forehead.

Her light brown skin contrasted with her shining blue eyes, the feature he had first noticed about her. There was surely both African and Caucasian ancestry there – maybe even some Native American as well, he thought, looking down at the moccasin-like sneakers on her feet.

The whole outfit definitely did not remind him of something a teenager would wear, but rather of clothes sold in the baby- and toddler department of stores. He'd seen suits like these when he went shopping with Tina for Mikey, back when his boy was two or three.

And it must be the clothes she wore that gave the girl such an aura of childish innocence, he thought, in spite of her having used such a dark word as “suicide.” He hadn't even used this word in his own mind for the thing he had been planning to do….

Thirteen is still too young to be out at this time of night! You should be home with your parents.”

I can't be home with them. My Papa is dead,” the girl replied, “and my Mamma is away on a fighting assignment.”

So she was one of those temporary war-orphans, David thought. A few years back, he had done a piece on single mothers in the military who, when assigned a tour of duty in Afghanistan or Iraq, had to leave their small children behind in foster homes or – if they were lucky – in the care of relatives.

It's not what you think with my Mamma,” the girl insisted urgently.

What do I think?” David asked.

You think she's shooting or bombing people.”

No, I don't,” David said, “but that's not my concern at the moment either. I just wanted to know who's taking care of you and why you aren't with them right now, home in bed.”

My little brother and sister stay with Grandma and Grandpa while Mamma is away, and I stay with my Great-uncle Professor.”

Great-uncle Professor–what a strange name, David thought, but that really was none of his business. “Does your uncle know where you are right now?”

Sure,” the girl replied easily, “he sent me here to you.”

Now that was truly creepy. “He sent you in the middle of the night to a subway station to talk to a strange man?”

Yes, since this was the only time when you could be reached. And you're not really a stranger. And you'll understand once you get to know me better and I tell you where I come from and how.”

This was even worse than what had happened to the war-orphans David had written about in his article. Maybe Social Services was preferable to being placed with some kooky relative.

I've heard enough,” he said to the girl. “But I think the police would like to hear about your Great-uncle Professor. The conductor is just coming into the carriage. You stay here, I'll talk to him. He'll call the Police, and tonight you'll sleep in a nice, safe place.”

David got up and so did the girl, who continued to stay close by his elbow.

I wouldn't do that, if I were you,” the girl insisted. “Really I wouldn't.”

Don't be afraid, the police or the Social Services won't do anything drastic to you,” David tried to reassure her. They're just going to talk to your uncle and then maybe they'll decide that you should stay with your grandparents, just like your sister and brother.”

I'm not afraid of the police or those Services. But I still think you shouldn't talk to them or to the conductor because it wouldn't be good for you,” the girl said mysteriously.

For me?” David looked at her slightly surprised. Was she threatening him somehow? She really didn't look the type.

The girl was now biting her lip: “You've got to understand that they won't see me and therefore they won't believe you.”

They won't see you?”

No, because I'm not really here. I mean in your time and place.”

You're not what?!” David reached for the girl's shoulder and she disappeared only to appear again a few inches from his hand. He tried to grab her shoulder once more and the same thing happened, only this time he lost his balance, nearly falling on top of the nurse on the opposite bench. The nurse didn't seem to like that at all. She slid along the bench, edging away from David, then got up in a hurry and moved rather quickly to the other end of the carriage and the safety of the conductor and the other passengers.

She can't see me and neither can they!” the girl claimed, pointing to the teenagers. They had stopped their pushing game and were now whispering to each other, grinning in David's direction. “They think your behavior is strange. You know, talking to yourself and trying to grab for something in the air,” she explained.

David let himself fall back onto his bench. He felt beaten, exhausted, empty. The conductor passed by him, but David barely noticed. While ignoring David the conductor gave the sleeping guy next to him a slight kick against one leg.

The snoring stopped abruptly. With one more disapproving glare at the man the conductor then left the carriage.

The train was slowing down for its next stop, and when the doors opened, some passengers got out, including the nurse. The teenagers stayed, having lost interest in David. The train started to gain speed again.

Nothing mattered.

David just sat there, one thought in his mind: I'm crazy, I've lost it, I'm insane…..insane.

No, you're not,” the voice said. “You are not insane, YOU ARE NOT!”

David didn't want to listen. A voice in his head telling him he was not crazy…not exactly a trustworthy source, David thought.

In the last few months, David had been drinking and not just socially; actually, not socially at all–he had been drinking alone in his rented one-room basement apartment, barely speaking to anyone but the cashier at the liquor store.

And he had been drinking a lot. But still, he hadn't thought that he had gone so far down that road already….

They call it delirium tremens, don't they? He looked down at his hands in his lap. They weren't shaking. But then again, maybe the hallucinations come before the shaking – the white mice and the pink elephants? “I'm not an elephant, and no mouse either!”

The hallucination was still talking, and so loudly it made David's head hurt: “And I'm not a hallucination. I am Hope–Hope Morgan– and I come from the future!”

Sure you do,” David told his hallucination, “and you are also a shape-shifting alien from the planet Zorax. And you have come to take over my body or maybe just transport it to your spacecraft for examination.”

The boys on the opposite bench seemed to have heard that one for they were laughing again, giving David sideways glances. But when he looked directly at them, they got up and moved somewhat hastily to stand by the door, waiting for the next stop.

Now he was a bogey-man; he could even scare big kids pretty well. Crazy people are scary…they might get violent any second….

And here came the voice again: “You are not crazy. Even though I'm only in your mind in this time and space, I'm still real. I do exist, just not in your time. My name is really Hope. You have to believe me!”

David didn't answer and tried not to think, either. He just stared at the dark window, listening to the monotonous sound of the train, interrupted only by the screeching of the brakes and the light of still another subway station flooding the window.

The voice had stopped talking, but from the corner of his eye, David could see that the hallucinated child was still there.

One more stop and he would be getting off. From there it would only be a five minute walk to his cockroach-infested apartment.

I like cockroaches, David thought. They are normal, they aren't crazy. They haven't much of a brain, but they can survive an atomic blast.

Once again the train slowed and then stopped alongside a platform.

The doors opened and David got up from his seat, his wobbly legs barely supporting his weight….

Out the door, over to the stairs, then the slow upward climb….

He had to hold the handrail to stay upright. He didn't look at the hallucination beside him, though he felt her presence every step of the way. And he didn't look backwards at the train either.

He wasn't going to do it tonight….not while she was there, watching him. She might be just a hallucination–of course she was–but she still looked like a kid. He simply couldn't do it in front of a child.

Upstairs he was greeted by the dark chill of the night.

But of course it wasn't really dark. This was New York — the South Bronx — the corner of 349th and the Grand Sacrecors, a shopping street. The lights here are ablaze all night, even when the shops are closed and the shutters down.

I should head south on the Sacrecors toward the hospital at the next corner, David thought. Kennedy Medical and Mental Health Center it was called, and their mental health department would surely admit him in his condition.

But then again, David was pretty sure that his health insurance policy had run out, so instead, he turned into the direction of Homines Community College.

There were still lights burning there too–some late students or teachers maybe? More likely the cleaning staff; but given the neighborhood, David wouldn't be surprised if those inside actually had no legitimate business being there at all.

David hadn't been living in this neighborhood too long–only since Tina had moved out of their downtown Manhattan apartment, taking Mikey with her; and then when the next month's rent was due, of course David had had to move too.

Manhattan rents were beyond the means of an unemployed reporter, and now, even the South Bronx was becoming more and more beyond David's means.

He passed the community college, turning into Veriton Avenue. David stole a glance at the quiet figure of the girl still visible beside him (well, visible only to him….)

If he hadn't known that something was wrong with her before, he surely would now! The girl was actually glowing in the dark, not illuminating anything around her, to be sure, but rather looking as if the light were totally contained within her.

David had had enough. He stopped and faced her straight on. “Why aren't you talking anymore?”

The girl shrugged: “You weren't listening; you were too busy telling yourself how crazy you are. And besides, I was sent here to prevent you from killing yourself. And you're not about to do that right now, so I don't have to talk.”

What is it to you anyway if I kill myself, future girl?” David asked angrily. “It's my life. Why shouldn't I do with it as I please–get rid of it if I want to?”

Because it's a sin,” was the surprising answer, “a real bad sin.”

A sin? David opened his mouth and shut it again. A hallucination is normally an image coming from one's own sub-consciousness.

But David wasn't religious. He had been a true dyed-in-the-wool atheist since he was fourteen years old at least. And in all that time, he hadn't met any religious person, certainly no Christian, whom he had taken seriously enough to have those views become part of his subconscious.

But here she was, standing right in front of him: a religious hallucination.

There had only been one person in his life that had talked to him about God, and even taught him some prayers–his Icelandic grandmother, who had died when he was only ten.

Had she also talked about sin? She must have.

And now, rising from his early childhood and from deep within his subconscious, there was the voice of his Amma.

Actually,” said the voice, which didn't sound at all like his Amma's, “I'm not your grandmother's voice. Instead, you could say I'm the voice of your great-great-great-,” she started to count on her fingers, “-great-great granddaughter.”

You are my ….. you say I am your….what.?!” David couldn't quite wrap his mind around it.

Yes, you are my great-great-great-great-great grandfather. And that's the reason I could come here. It wouldn't have been possible otherwise.”

Why not?”

David decided to go with it. Maybe he could calm his subconscious enough to get it to leave him alone.

Because if you want to time-travel with your mind, you have to find another mind that has the same Delta waves as your own, and only close relatives have that.”

Ah, so,” David said.

You still don't believe me,” his subconscious great-great-something-granddaughter accused him.

It sounds a bit far-fetched,” David admitted, “Delta-waves and so on…”

I know it's complicated." the girl agreed, "Let's just go home to your place and I'll explain.”

Alright,” David nodded and started walking again. They walked up Veriton Avenue in silence until they stopped in front of the most run-down building on the street.

Like most of the surrounding houses, it used to be a red three-story brick building. It was partially covered with red plaster–partially, since more than half of it had crumbled away. The stairs leading up to the first floor were also painted red and here, too, parts of the color and the concrete had gone missing.

David didn't go up those stairs; his entrance-way was below them. He unlocked the door and walked straight into what could fancifully be called the living-room and maybe bedroom as well, since the couch doubled as a bed.

In the right hand corner was the door into a kitchen so small that two people might have trouble standing inside it between the refrigerator, the sink, the stove and the small table and two chairs without stepping on each other's feet. Next to the kitchen was the bathroom, containing a shower and a toilet within a space of less than 15 square feet.

The apartment was actually rather clean and orderly; no pizza-boxes or empty Coke or whiskey bottles on the living-room table, and no dirty clothes on the floor or the couch. David had cleaned up the place this morning (probably for the first time in three months!)

after all, the police or at least his landlord might come inside later on, and one didn't want to leave a last impression that one was a slob–or so David had figured then….

And now when he pressed the light-switch, David was kind of glad it was more or less clean in there, for after all, he did have a visitor, even though she was neither the police nor quite real.

But once he flopped down on the couch, he again felt exhaustion flooding his mind and body. It had been a long day, a very long day.

It had begun when David awoke and noticed that he had run out of both whiskey and aspirin. The thought of another walk to the liquor store had depressed him just as much as the thought of another useless day–a day without the job he had loved so much, a day without Tina, and most of all, a day without Mikey.

He had remembered how he'd often used to work 24/7, with barely any time for Mikey or Tina. Sure, Tina had been quite happy with that arrangement, being as busy in her own job and as ambitious as he himself. But Mikey, oh Mikey…

They had hired a good nanny for him, and she had done a great job. But David hadn't been a good father to Mikey. And now all he longed for was another chance, just one more chance to be a good dad.

But he wasn't given one. He had lost all custody rights and there was a restraining order banning him from even coming close to Tina and Mikey. And since last week, there was now the whole country between them.

If Tina hadn't taken Mikey so totally away from him, life would still mean something. After everything else was gone, being Mikey's father was the single last purpose David had had to hold on to. But now, after losing both his job and any chance of ever being hired by a respectable news outlet again, he had lost Mikey too.

And so David had concluded there was nothing worth living for any more. He had cleaned up his apartment and then spent most of the day walking aimlessly around before taking the Line 4 subway from north to south and back again.

This had given him the notion that the subway was the best place to do it. And so at four minutes to midnight on the Spesveniat Station, David stood on the platform, waiting for the southbound train.

The train had been six minutes late, while this girl who claimed to be his great-great-something-granddaughter had been on time. On time for what, David wasn't quite sure yet.

He looked at her again, that strange vision staring silently back at him as she sat on the room's only chair.

Feeling so utterly exhausted, David didn't want to hear any more tonight. “You told me the thing about the Delta-waves would be complicated. Would you mind if we save that for tomorrow? Unless you have to go back to where you come from tonight….”

No, I'll stay for a while,” she promised. David wasn't sure if that was some kind of a threat.

He shrugged, saying with a pinch of mockery in his voice: “I guess I can't offer you anything to eat, since you aren't really here so you don't have a real mouth or stomach.”

No, you can't,” the girl answered earnestly as if it had been a real offer.

Then good night,” said David as he lay down on the couch, swaddling himself with the blanket that normally covered the worn-out cushions, not even bothering to undress. He also didn't bother to turn off the light (he didn't want to risk waking up to a glowing ghost in the middle of the night!) He closed his eyes and almost immediately fell fast asleep.

Strange images dogged his dreams: a roaring train pursuing him, then a glowing child atop a flying cloud reaching out to bring him to her. Mikey was sitting there too, a bright smile on his little face.

But then Mikey turned around and hopped onto another cloud. David wanted to follow, but he couldn't move his feet. Mikey's cloud disappeared in the distance.

And then David wasn't in the clouds any more but back on the ground. Fighter planes were dropping bombs, he could hear the sound of machine guns, and he saw dead or wounded children lying around him, and heard a scared child's voice repeatedly calling:

Not to the Dark Ages, not to the Dark Ages….Dark Ages, Dark Ages…”







***





Professor Morgan and Mr Wang have scoured out the alley with the scanners embedded in their wrist-controls. There are indeed no surveillance cameras or audio-recording devices hidden in here, nor any living soul for that matter.

Only a handful of windows have a view down unto this part of the alley, none of them are on the ground floor. It's still early in the morning, unlikely for the residents of this run-down neighborhood to be awake and clear-headed enough to watch our small group standing huddled together surrounding a manhole to the sewers.

Yes, I can congratulate myself, I have indeed chosen the most convenient place as an entrance to my escape exit. The Professor opens the cover again and taps on his wrist-control. A young dark-skinned man in his mid-twenties who has been waiting already on the ladder emerges now. He wears black jeans and an open denim jacket of the same color over a blazing red t-shirt. On his back he is carrying a large gray bag containing some heavy equipment.

I haven't met him before but he seems to know the Professor and Mr Wang. He barely acknowledges their presence though with a nod before he then bends down to lift several more similar looking bags up to the surface handed to him from below. After that nine more men dressed in the same clothes, except for the color of their t-shirts are now climbing out of the sewers.

The volunteers, with barely a mumbled greeting directed to our group, start immediately to secure the area.

I know what they are doing, of course. They are installing electronic-shield projectors throughout the alley to protect both the volunteers as well as the later on expected refugees from a potential attack. The shield projectors will deflect light in such an ingenious fashion that it will make the whole place and everyone inside invisible for anyone not standing inside the shielded area.

For those who might look down from above as well as from both ends of the alley an image of an empty, dark back-street filled with trash-cans will be projected. Both entrances will also be secured by strong force-fields which in turn will prevent anyone uninvited to enter the area.

The work is well on its way, when the first man finally bothers to introduce himself. He turns around facing me:

Oh, I'm Darryl Kenneth, by the way. You are Jonathan Galt, aren't you?”

I just nod.

Darryl Kenneth points to his team: “These are Tom Parshon, Jim Lavon, Jess Porter and Vance Drake. They are all from my village “Roads End” and over there are Cass Dakota and Brent Spanner from “Desert Spring” and Patrick Covat, Derrick Kelly and Antonio Fernandez are from “DeSoto Southwestcorner.”

He then adds proudly: “We are all from the nation of Texas. And the teams from our villages and fifteen others, which are still on their way through the sewers, were the first ones to volunteer after we heard about this problem.”

Problem” is probably the understatement of the century, I don't quite know how to respond to that. So I simply state: “You and your team seem to be well prepared.”

What I have heard however is, that the Texans and several other teams from the western nations of North-America have been chosen particularly because their clothing styles need next to no adjustments for them to blend into the Nephilim City environment, where the non-elite male population routinely wears blue or black jeans and jeans-jackets on top of t-shirts of various colors and prints. This of course is a quite different style from the usual dress-code of the Spesaeterna group who now has to cover their own native clothing with its suspicious markings with newly made and rather badly fitting denim trousers and jackets.

Mr Wang now turns to Darryl in his typical abrupt fashion: “Our schedule is tight, are you and your men ready to proceed to the next step, Mr Kenneth?”

Of course,” Darryl nods and taps on his wrist-control. With that the other Texans turn around leaving the work on the shields to a new group of volunteers who have just emerged from the sewers.

Together they follow me and my companions out of the alley.







David woke up and it was morning. The dim light coming through his basement window competed with that of the bulb dangling from his ceiling. Daylight was winning, but not by much.

David sat up, rubbing his eyes. The hallucination was still there on the chair, staring at him.

My name is Hope,” she insisted.

Do you read all my thoughts and know everything I'm thinking?” David asked in frustration.

No, not everything,” Hope explained, “only what is at the top of your mind, the things you are concentrating on. All the other stuff is too faint; I can feel it, but not understand it.”

Then she asked unexpectedly: “Who is Mikey?” And when David hesitated, she said, “You know, the little boy on the cloud.”

So you even invaded my dreams. “ There was an accusation in David's voice.

Maybe you invaded mine,” Hope replied, defending herself. “I was sleeping too.”

Really?…. Well, if you must know, Mikey is my son. He is four.” Not wanting to discuss it any more, David got to his feet. “And now I have to go to the bathroom.”

Hope got up as well.

You are not following me into the bathroom, are you?” Now David sounded slightly desperate—he really had to take a leak. “There is no way I can take a shower and other things, you know, while you are there staring at me.”

Hope was biting her lip again, obviously a habit of hers. “I've got to stay with you all the time or I'll lose the connection.”

Then she had an idea: “I think I can concentrate on other things in my mind while you are in the bathroom.”

And with this, the image of the girl faded and was replaced by something like a blue sky with white clouds moving in one direction. It was a faint image though, only visible to David in the left corner of his vision field, more like the reflection of oneself when passing a store window which allows the display behind the window to be seen as well.

At the same time David heard the sound of a soft calming music and singing. And though they seemed repetitive he couldn't quite make out the words.

Then the image changed and instead of the sky, he had a view down upon wooded areas interspersed with meadows and housing blocks arranged in a circle—as though seeing it from a bird's perspective or from a low flying plane. Each block was surrounded by what looked like a number of large circus tents

And then abruptly the image changed again and for an instant David could see the inside of what looked like a church with a cross in front. The words of the song became a bit clearer, and he thought he could make out something about God. Then the image changed back again to the bird's eye view of the landscape and a different circle of houses and tents.

David stopped watching and went to his closet to pick out some fresh clothes and towels. He showered then wiped the vapor from the small mirror over the sink.

He scrutinized his face and had to admit that it was no wonder the nurse and the kids had been scared of him last night. He looked forbidding.

While he had been employed, he had always taken care of his appearance. Not that he had always worn suits; many times, suits just weren't appropriate for a reporter, but even when in jeans and a sweat-shirt, he had made sure to look clean and fresh. He had fostered a charming and youthful image which had opened many doors for him.

Now he looked older than his 31 years. He hadn't had a hair-cut for three months and so his dark-blond hair covered his ears and trailed well down his neck. And while the shower had tamed it somewhat, David knew that his hair must have been standing up wildly last night. He also hadn't shaved for a week, and dark shadows circled his gray-blue eyes.

And since most of his nourishment in the last few weeks had been of the liquid sort, he had lost a lot of weight and his cheekbones were standing out like the ceilings of two moldy caves.

Well, he thought, shaving might bring some improvement, though probably not much.

When David emerged from the shower, neatly shaven and cleanly clothed, he called: “Hey you– hey Hope–you can come out now!”

The image of Hope appeared instantaneously while the landscape disappeared.

David gave her a nod and then went to the kitchen opening the refrigerator. He felt hungry. As he had suspected, there was nothing edible inside except a can of Coke lurking in the back. With a mock smile he offered it to Hope.

When she shook her head, he pulled the jack opening and gulped down the can's content himself. Then he leaned against the fridge and declared: “If you are indeed a real person somewhere, you must be hungry or thirsty.”

While my mind is here, my body is fed intravenously,” Hope explained. “You know, the food gets dripped directly into my bloodstream.”

I do know what the word intravenously means,” David pulled a half-smile. He felt slightly amused at being lectured on vocabulary by a young girl.

You feel better now,” Hope stated rather than asked. “You will look better too once you've eaten and gotten some fresh air. You really don't look as old as you think, just tired.”

You were with me there in the bathroom–you said you'd put your mind elsewhere!” David accused her.

I was there for just one moment, truly just one, when you were looking into the mirror.” Hope was apologetic and slightly guilt-stricken. “I had to know what your face looks like.”

But you've been staring into my face since last night,” David said, shaking his head. “By now you must know every line of it.”

I have looked into your mind, not into your face. I see what you see through your eyes. Until now I had to imagine what you look like. Before I saw you in that mirror, your face was kind of blurry for me,” Hope explained.

I guess you'd better explain to me how this time travel thing works,” David demanded.

Sure,” Hope complied.

As I told you last night, it has to do with certain brain emissions called Delta-waves. My great-uncle and some of his scientist friends from other villages have discovered that these waves can somehow pierce through time and space from one brain to another. They have built a device–some kind of enhancing and targeting machine–and now they are able to control and direct this piercing process.

With this machine a person can enable his whole consciousness to ride along those waves to the mind of somebody else, as long as the receiver's Delta-waves are nearly identical to those of the sender, which is only the case in very close relatives, and even then, this is only occasionally successful.”

So I guess where you come from, they do this brain-wave riding into the past all over the place? I mean all over the time?” David was somehow intrigued. “Did you visit your ancestors in the Roman Empire or the Stone Age already?”

Oh no, of course not.” said Hope, dismissing the naive suggestion. “As I told you before, the process is extremely complicated and specific. First you need somebody who matches your own brain-waves.

And then you also need to know the exact time and place to which to send the waves because sending them to the wrong space-time coordinates would be utterly useless, they would fade into space.

Until now, mind-time-traveling has only been done within a few hours or a couple of days at most, and then only between identical twins. You are the first receiver ever who lives in a time-period outside our own.”

Hmm, let's see now…” said David, scratching his head while trying to make sense of what he had just heard. “That would mean that you had somehow gotten my space-time-coordinates for that subway platform last night. And that you got them, let's see… 7 generations, that must be over two hundred years in the future….

How the heck did you do that? Are the security camera records of the subway system kept for eternity or something?”

I don't know about those records,” Hope replied.

But great-uncle Professor told me that he had found your data on a small metal tube which he had gotten from his own grandmother when he was just a boy about my age.”

All of a sudden something appeared in midair that looked like an ordinary silver-colored USB key.

Hope went on to explain: “However, this tube was somehow damaged and the data corrupted, so that he could only decipher a few words and sentences. But your coordinates for last night were quite clear. And these were the only ones Great-uncle had for you–the only time and place when you could be reached. And this is what I tried to explain to you last night.”

Alright,” David said looking skeptically at the USB key that was still floating in the air,

you might have somehow known where I was at a particular time. But what about those Delta-waves you were talking about, those that only match close relatives. A great-grandfather five times removed isn't exactly an all too close relative, so why should my waves match yours?”

Well….” The USB key disappeared and Hope was biting her lip once more. “Well, I think it must have been a miracle.”

A miracle…. David exhaled, slightly annoyed with himself. He had nearly begun to believe she was real, that there was somehow a scientific explanation for all of this, and that he wasn't just crazy. And now she had come up with this religious thing again. How could he possibly fool himself into believing something as crazy as the possibility of a visit from a time-traveler?

Hope was silently staring at David and he realized she knew what he was thinking. Of course she knew, after all she was…..

You told me you have a son,” Hope interrupted David's thoughts. “You have a son and yet you planned to kill yourself and leave him an orphan?”

He would not have been an orphan,” David said, going on the defensive. “He still has his mother–Tina, my girlfriend, well, former girlfriend….”

You were going to leave him. You are a bad father!”

He left me…well, that is, Tina took Mikey with her and left for Los Angeles,” said David in self-defense.

You are a bad father,” Hope repeated.

I'm not allowed to be a father at all……. never again. Tina got a restraining order against me which took away all my visitation rights and stipulated that I was not to come within a hundred yards of them, I think it said,” said David, feeling miserable.

You are a bad father,” Hope stated for the third time.

Now David got angry: “Weren't you sent here in order to make me feel better so that I won't kill myself? You are just making me more miserable!”

And after looking at Hope's stony face he added: “Aren't you just projecting something onto me because your father left you?”

David regretted his words the instant they slipped out of his mouth. He could feel a wave of pain emanating from Hope while she swallowed.

Then she said slowly and clearly: “My father did not leave me. He was killed…killed by you!”

By me?!…” David was shocked! “You blame me for….”

Not you personally, but your people, the Dark Ages… They killed my father.”

The Dark Ages?” David was still puzzled.

Your times….. He was just going on an assignment for a little while…He promised he wouldn't be gone for long….”

Hope disappeared and another image coalesced in front of David's eyes: the faint scene of a younger Hope standing in a door-way holding the hands of a tall black man who was bending down to look her directly in the eye.

David blinked and then realized that the image became clearer when his eyes were closed, so he re-closed them. The man was wearing a cap like Hope's only with a different Chinese symbol.

He also was dressed in nearly the same clothes, however without most of the colorful patches, except the one over the left breast. Instead around the collar and along the sleeves there were narrow trimmings of what looked like a form of 19. century needle point embroidery.

Come on, my little honey bee, let my hands go now,” said the man, and David knew instantaneously that he was Hope's father, just as he knew that they were standing in the doorway of the apartment of Hope's family .

I'm going to be late if I don't go now,” Hope's father continued.

Don't look at me as if I'm going away forever–it's only three months and then I'll be back again! It'll be like no time at all.”

Maybe for you, Papa, it will seem like a short time, but for me, it will feel so much longer. Sensei has told us that for children, time seems to pass much slower than for grown-ups. This is because children have lived a shorter time and therefore their relation to a time period is different than for grown-ups who have lived longer.”

This younger Hope had already acquired her lecturing voice.

When I come back, I guess I will have to have a talk with your teacher. He has made you far too clever already,” said Hope's father with mock seriousness in his voice.

Little Hope hadn't quite caught on yet.

You don't like me to be too clever?” she asked, sounding worried.

Oh my honey bee, that was only a joke. Of course I like you to be clever. In fact, I'm so proud of you,” Hope's father stated firmly and then added: “Besides, I just love clever women–that's why I married your mother! And now let us dance one last round before I really have to go.” With this, he scooped Hope off her feet and whirled her around a few times.

And then the image changed abruptly. Hope was now inside her apartment, sitting at the kitchen table. Two younger children, a boy and girl, were sitting opposite her.

And once again David knew them right away, as if Hope's recognition was his as well. They were Sissy and Lillebro. Hope and Sissy were laughing while Lillebro tried to balance a fork on his nose.

A woman who in both dress and facial features looked like an adult version of Hope was just putting some sort of soufflé dish on the table. Her long hair, just as dark but less curly than Hope's and her siblings', was bound back behind her neck.

Like her husband's suit the one Hope's mother was wearing had been trimmed with embroidery but the pattern seemed different, more elaborate and the stripe below the collar was much broader covering roughly a third of the jacket. Embedded in the pattern was one large symbol that looked the same as the patch Hope, her siblings and their father were wearing on the left side of their jackets.

But also Hope's mothers jacket was a bit longer than theirs reaching all the way down to her knees, covering most of the bulgy trousers.

Hope didn't wear her cap at the moment, but David noticed four purple caps each with a different Chinese letter combination stitched on it on the shelf above the bench the children were sitting on.

Hope's mother smiled at her son's antics and then told him with a stern voice:

Now let's stop playing, the food is on the table. Who would like to….”

But then a melodic bell sounded and she stopped in mid-sentence and went to the door. All three children also got up to get a peek at whoever was arriving at dinner time.

There was a man standing in the doorway– Hope recognized him, and therefore David knew his name as well: Mr. Jones from the information-office.

Behind him stood Grandma and Grandpa, and all of them looked grave. David could feel Hope's rising fear. Mr. Jones was talking to her mother. She could see her mother sway. Grandpa quickly stepped forward and steadied her.

Something was wrong, very wrong. Hope knew it right away.

Grandma came inside the apartment, and walking over to the children who stood huddled together in the kitchen entrance, she said with tears in her eyes:

My little angels, it's…. it's about your Papa.” Her voice was breaking.

“…..There was an accident….He died….” Grandma had knelt down and taken Sissy and Lillebro in her arms and was looking up at Hope.

No, it's not true.” Hope's voice sounded shrill. “It can't be true. Papa is not old, not like great-grandfather or like Aunt Muriel Miner. He is not. He can't have died, he can't…..”

Grandma stretched out one hand toward Hope without letting go of the other children. But Hope didn't want to touch her. She didn't even want to look at her. She backed off.

Hope looked toward her mother, but Mamma had her face covered with her hands. Grandpa was gently guiding her to the living-room couch, and then he sat down next to her, putting his arms around her.

More people were hovering in the doorway– neighbors. David noticed that all of them were dressed the same way as Hope and her family. All of them were silent. They were looking at Hope and her siblings, their eyes filled with compassion as well as helplessness.

And then somebody edged himself through the crowd. The bulky figure of Great-uncle Professor appeared.

He went straight over to Hope. She was pressing herself so hard against the wall that it looked as if she wanted to disappear inside it, and she was glaring at the people. She didn't want any compassion from them—they were all liars, she thought, all liars.

Great-uncle Professor didn't let Hope's angry stare deter him—he just picked her up and held her in his arms, rocking her like a baby:

My little one, oh my little one, I am so sorry, so sorry….I knew there was something with your father, but I didn't know what or when…..I just didn't know enough…..if only I had deciphered more….if I only….I could have……I'm so sorry, oh so sorry….my little one….”

The younger Hope didn't know what her great-uncle was talking about, but she could feel a tear dropping onto her forehead, and this tear somehow made Grandma's words finally real. Hope's anger dissolved and was replaced by sadness, a sadness so deep she thought it would never end.

She started crying…..

The image dissipated and the older Hope was back. For a moment she appeared as desperately sad as the younger one had been. Then she pulled herself out of her memories, and looking at David, she asked: “Did you see that?”

When David nodded she seemed unhappy.

I didn't know I could do that– show you my memories like that. I didn't want you to……” Her voice became a whisper, then faded out completely.

I'm sorry….” David felt guilt-stricken.

I'm truly sorry for what I said before, about your father and you…..”

Hope had pulled herself together, her voice now cold and matter of fact, putting a lie to the waves of pain David could still feel coming from her:

My father was killed while he was on an ice-breaking assignment in Antarctica, together with a group of nine young volunteers he was supervising at the time. The area had been scanned before.

But when the nuclear device launched from our leading ice-breaker-ship hit the ice it was supposed to break and melt, it triggered another nuclear device, which had been planted there by some Dark Ages military as a mine. That one had been buried too deep inside the ice; the scanners had been unable to pick it up. It triggered a chain-reaction that magnified the intended power a thousand-fold.

The explosion was so immense that it destroyed a two-hundred-fifty square-kilometer area around it, including a far-away ice-breaker station from which my father and his volunteer group were operating their laser-ice-breaking equipment. “

David pressed his lips together; there was nothing he could say. He had always been convinced that future generations might have to suffer for the mistakes of today but he hadn't thought about it in such concrete terms.

Then he remembered something:

Last night in my dream I heard your voice saying, ‘Not to the Dark Ages!’ You said you were dreaming, too. You didn't want to come here, did you?”


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