Yes. I really, really hate time travel stories.
So I wrote one.
From the Frivolous Babblings blog of Timothy Jensen:
Monday 6:30 a.m.
Looking forward to Star Quest: Magellan tonight! Back after a two month hiatus! I’ve been staying away from the fan sites and am blissfully ignorant of what’s coming up…
0 Comments 0 Likes 0 Views 0 Shares
It was actually a warm day for January when Timothy Jensen left his home for work, so instead of his normal heavy coat, he grabbed a light jacket and headed out the door. It was only a 10-minute drive to his workplace – Rocket Surgeons, Inc. – and the entire time he was thinking about his obsession with Star Quest. It was more than just a show to him. It actually substituted for a life.
He wasn’t one of those who lived, ate and slept Star Quest, but, ever since he was a boy watching the show with his parents, he’d been swept away by the wonder of the show.
Sure. Maybe it got him teased growing up and limited the people who would be his friends over the years. And, of course, it probably did have something to do with his almost non-existent sex life, but still. It was worth it.
Timothy parked and got out of his car almost automatically, still lost in thought. He didn’t even notice the large man heading his way until the two actually collided.
Timothy looked up, startled, and saw a pair of sharp green eyes staring back at him. The figure was wrapped in a shabby, ankle-length coat. He looked down at Timothy and grinned, bearing a smile with a gold front tooth.
“Prosteete,” the man said in a deep, gruff Russian accent.
He then promptly walked off. Timothy shrugged. That’s what you get when you let your mind drift, he said to himself as he headed into the big, shiny building.
Timothy wasn’t a scientist or an engineer, but he, nonetheless, was essential to the space program. He was a writer.
As part of the Rocket Surgeon’s Inc. text and manuals division he wrote countless pamphlets and signage for all the various public and private space programs around the world. Currently, he was working on translating a zero-g waste extraction and reclamation manual into various languages. It was interesting work…
Who was he kidding… By 10:30 that morning he was bored stiff. The grad student they’d hired to translate the brochure into Bantu just wasn’t working out. They needed someone who could translate into Shona, but the guy was really only fluent in Swahili and actually wasn’t even fluent in that. He just knew what he’d learned through the books on tape courses at the local community college library.
It was going to be a long day.
• • •
Timothy managed to get away for lunch late, but, fortunately, it was just in time to meet with his friend Herb at a restaurant down the street. Timothy and Herb had known each other for years. They first met at the Central City sci-fi convention almost ten years earlier and, despite their differences, they really hit it off.
Herb was not a fan of Star Quest. In fact, he didn’t like sci-fi or fantasy. He watched sports almost non-stop along with those shows where crime scene investigators use bad science to solve complex crimes in ridiculously short periods of time.
But Herb loved to go to sci-fi conventions to pick up women, he always said. But the two of them had been to dozens of conventions and Timothy had never seen it actually work.
“So. You want to hit a bar tonight?” Herb asked once they actually got their food.
Timothy shook his head as he took a bite out of the dish that was almost what he ordered, but not quite.
“No. You know tonight is when Star Quest returns. Besides. It’s Monday. I don’t drink on Mondays.”
“Dude. Just Tivo it. You can watch it later. Live a little.”
“I am Tivoing it, but I want to see it as soon as possible so I’m actually going to watch it when it airs. I’ll watch it on Tivo again after, though.”
“Man. I can’t believe I’m friends with such a nerd.”
It was Herb’s term of affection for his friend and something Timothy didn’t mind too much. For the rest of the meal they chatted about work. Timothy’s work at least. Herb never talked about his work. Or his past. Or his personal Life. Or his opinions on politics, religion, culture, art or, really, anything.
Regardless, they still always had plenty to talk about.
After lunch, he returned to work, sitting through several meetings, not really listening. But he did get a new high score on Doodle Numbers, so the afternoon wasn’t a complete waste.
On his way home, he made the necessary stops for his Star Quest night ritual – junk food and take out.
At different times in the past, he actually would get together with friends. In college, for The New Star Quest and the first couple of seasons of Star Quest: Station 5, he would get together with a group of fellow fans, but, after they left college and moved away, he wasn’t really able to find a group he was comfortable with.
He found a few people a few years ago and they tried to get a tradition going, but it didn’t last long. Every get-together deteriorated into a New Quest vs. Original Quest argument. Plus, Star Quest: Dragonfly didn’t last long. The critics and fans loved it, but the network cancelled it after half a season.
That’s when SQ:M came along. It was probably his least favorite of the series, but still, it was better than ninety-five percent of what was on TV. The writing was kind of lazy for the franchise and it relied too much on clichés. But it was better than nothing.
Timothy pulled into his driveway, loaded down with all manner of greasy, salty, caffeinated goodness with time to spare. He quickly changed out of his work clothes and into his TV watching clothes, gathered the “food” he had into the nest he called a couch and turned on the TV.
From the Frivolous Babblings blog of Timothy Jensen:
Monday 8:01 p.m.
I CAN’T BELIEVE IT! Another time travel episode on SQ:M. That makes 12 in five seasons! And the fourth where they have to go back in time to either prevent or allow the assassination of an historic figure. WTF! These writers are just getting lazy and the twists are getting stupid.
Seriously? *SPOLIER ALERT* Aliens go back in time and kidnap Hitler and take him back in time in order to kill John Wilkes Booth in a suicide bombing before he assonates Lincoln? So, they have to save Hitler and let Lincoln die even though Commander Wilson’s great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather was a freed slave and Ensign Bobby’s great, great, great, great, great, great grandmother died in the Holocaust.
I’m so sick of time travel episodes. They’re just lazy and half of them don’t even make sense. There were only two in the entire original series. Four in the whole eight seasons if The New Star Quest (not counting the time travel dream episode). Add up all four previous series and you only have 10 time travel episodes. And only one time travel plot in the seven SQ movies. Now you have 12!!!! in SQ:M already. At this rate, there will be 20 by the time the series ends. That’s almost a whole season’s worth!
Ugh! Maybe after five shows and 25 years the Star Quest franchise just needs to give up….
0 Comments 0 Likes 0 Views 0 Shares
Timothy sat at the bar staring into his drink. The glass of beer was still half full, or in the mood he was in, half empty. He’d been nursing it for half an hour. Meanwhile Herb had been taking full advantage in 2 for 1 Jaeger Bomb night.
Timothy didn’t want to be at the bar, but after watching Star Quest he just couldn’t take it. He needed a drink and Herb was more than happy to take him up on his offer for “a quick drink.” That was almost three hours ago.
Herb actually started the evening by trying to cheer his friend up, but realized it was futile and so he changed his strategy to cheering himself up, which was apparently pretty easy.
Timothy looked deep into the warm, flat gawdawful domestic beer in front of him in a kind of desperate way only those who have been completely betrayed can stare into beer. He was finally making an admission to himself. He saw a pattern that was bringing unhappiness to his life.
He watched a lot of TV, and most of that TV over the years was science fiction – Moon 2000, The Android Files, Invasion Force. But Star Quest had been his mainstay. Some shows were great and some were terrible, but he watched them anyway because they were there.
Through the years, however, writing overall got much better. The plots and characters were more complex and nuanced. The shows incorporated more and more of the real world into their storylines.
But, there was still one big problem with every single science fiction show he had ever watched – time travel.
At some point, every single show – from the campy “Ace” Spaceman remake series in the 70s to Star Quest: Magellan had a time travel episode at some point and almost all of them were horrible – victims of lazy and uninspired writing.
He only bothered watching The Time Lost for a handful of episodes. Every week it was the same story: They get lost in time, mess up some significant event and then have to fix it in order to be returned to their own time, but, the time machine doesn’t work right, so they never know where they’ll go next.
It was terrible! And it stayed on the air for six years.
Timothy hadn’t thought about that show in years, but then, something struck him. He pulled out his cPhone and logged onto the Interweb. A few minutes of quick searching confirmed exactly what he thought.
Fifteen years ago when The Time Lost ended, most of the writers went on to other science fiction series, most of which had something to do with time travel. Even the guy who went on to the long running comedy series That’s My Kid! wrote a time travel episode. But, all of the sci-fi shows failed and most of those writers eventually ended up on the writing staff for Star Quest: Magellan.
Ignoring Herb and the general happy, good time the people around him were having, Timothy did more digging. He traced the writers back over the various shows they had written for over the years. There was a definite pattern: They wrote mostly for sci-fi shows and each show featured a large number of time travel episodes when ever those writers came on board.
He went back from the 80s to the 70s and even into the 60s to the series Timeward Ho!, which he always avoided because it was describes as “Manifest Destiny in time.” The show was on at the same time as the original Star Quest series so many of the writers for the original Star Quest and Timeward Ho! eventually went on to write on shows with writers who went on to The Time Lost and then to SQ:M!
It spread like a disease!
Timothy felt the blood drain from his face. He picked up the warm, flat beer and drank it down, then immediately wished he hadn’t. Someone had put out their cigarette in it.
Still, the grossness and the fact that people were smoking didn’t faze him. He continued on his quest. If time travel as a TV writing cliché was a disease, it must have a source. Sure time travel was one of the basic science fiction tropes. It was right up there with aliens and space ships. But it was always, always used so badly.
Timothy tried hard to think of when it was used well. Maybe five percent of the time, or less. Sure there was the classic Star Quest episode where the captain is swept back in time to his childhood and has to make the decision to watch as his pet goldfish dies over and over again until he comes to accept the loss and the fact that his goldfish’s death saved millions of people from a deadly volcanic eruption.
It was definitely a classic. It had everything: drama, loss, growth, character development. The time travel in it was only incidental. It was the story that was important.
Something clicked in Timothy’s mind. He looked up the synopsis for that episode and found the writer’s name. The man had written for about a dozen shows before, but his earlier writings included several episodes of anthology series like The Outer Zone and Nighttime Stories – AND THEY WERE ALL ABOUT TIME TRAVEL!
A quick check of the man’s bio confirmed his suspicions: TV writer Alex Gold was really science fiction writer Avery Goldstein, who had been blacklisted in the 50s because of his association with those opposed to Alaska becoming the 49th state.
Goldstein wasn’t the best-known science fiction author. Timothy was only passingly familiar with a couple of his books, but as he looked through the man’s bibliography, he saw it – Time Swept, The Time Traveler’s Mistress, Past/Future, Past/Future: The Future’s Past, and the trilogy Past Tense, Present Tense and Future Tense.
His bio even stated Goldstein had single-handedly spurred interest in time travel among his fellow science fiction authors of the time – most of whom went on to write time travel novels and stories in the decades to come. In fact, Goldstein, writing as Gold, wrote the VERY FIRST time travel story for TV back in the 50s for a show called Techron’s Weird Theater. It was his very first time travel story. The one that got his career rolling.
“Alex Gold!” Timothy yelled.
Several startled patrons looked his way. Herb looked at his friend with semi-drunken pity.
“What’s wrong?” his friend finally slurred.
“It’s a disease. A sickness that has spread over the past several decades, infecting everything it touches.”
Herb looked quizzically at his friend.
“It’s not sexually transmitted is it?”
“No. I’m talking about time travel. It’s infectious. It started in the 50s and spread. Now it’s all over TV and movies and almost all of it is terrible.”
Herb made a dismissive noise.
“Are you still going on about that? C’mon. Drink up! Have a little fun. Forget about your stupid TV show for a while.”
“I’m sorry I can’t,” he looked at his cPhone again. He’d done something he’d never done before. On the screen was the TVNow site that gave a rundown of the plots for every episode of just about any show, even episodes that hadn’t aired yet.
He scrolled to the page for Star Quest: Magellan and pulled up the list of shows.
“Look. Thirteen more episodes this season, six of which have been shot. Two of those six are time travel episodes. That means at least four time travel episodes this season and… What’s this…?”
Timothy clicked on a Latest News link.
Mountain Television has just announced an exciting new science fiction series for the upcoming television season. A spinoff of the popular Space Quest franchise, the new show, Time Quest, will feature a team of gallant explorers who are headed not for the stars, but through time…
Timothy went white.
When Timothy opened his eyes, he was surprised to find himself in the backseat of his car and was even more surprised to find the car was moving. He sat up slowly, peering over the front seat to see his friend Herb behind the wheel.
“Aren’t you drunk?” Timothy finally asked.
“Then you really shouldn’t be driving.”
Herb turned slightly to look back over the seat at his friend.
“Well, you were unconscious, so I thought it would be best if I drove instead.”
Timothy knew in Herb’s mind that made perfect sense, so he didn’t pursue it any further.
“At the bar?”
“More crap about your stupid TV show. Seriously, dude, you need to calm down. Even while we were carrying you out you were babbling about it.”
“What did I say?”
“Something about stopping some gold guy or something. I don’t know. I wasn’t really listening.”
That’s right. He had just found out about the new Star Quest spinoff – a time travel series.
His head started spinning again, but he steadied himself. It was like a nightmare.
“I know you really don’t care, but they’re going to ruin the whole franchise. Time travel is a disease, it’s…”
“Yeah. Yeah. I know. You’ve been going on about it for a while. Plague. Blah. Blah Blah. Terrible writing. Blah. Blah. Blah. Why keep whining about it, buddy? What can you do?”
Exactly. What can I do? Timothy fumed. There’s absolutely nothing I can do. The damage has been done. The disease has spread. I’ll just have to live with it until, hopefully, at some point it will burn itself out. That’s really the only thing I could do unless I could…
Timothy actually laughed out loud at the though.
“What’s so funny?”
“You know. I could actually fix this time travel disease if I could go back to 1950. Talk about iron…”
He really wasn’t ready for what happened next, which is why he slammed face first into the back of the front seat when Herb slammed on the brakes and did a quick 180, roaring down the highway in the opposite direction.
“What?” was all Timothy could get out.
“I’m going to help you solve your problem,” Herb said mater-of-factly.
“What are you talking about?”
And with that, Herb shut up and turned up the radio. It was only playing static, but Timothy got the message.
• • •
It took them 10 minutes of silent driving to get to their location. It wasn’t the best part of town but it sure was the darkest. Almost no streetlights and the sky was cloudy so no stars or moon even shone down. They finally pulled to a stop in front of a low, ramshackle brick building with a dingy sign that said Acme Something – yes, it actually said Acme Something – across the front of the building.
Herb got out of the car.
“Where are we?”
“Get out. We’re here to see a friend?”
“Yeah. This is where he works. Or maybe he lives here. I don’t know. But this is where we’ll find him.”
Timothy was reluctant to get out of the car. In the night air, even the crickets sounded mean.
“I don’t think…”
Before he could go further, Herb opened the door and pulled Timothy out onto the sidewalk.
“Don’t worry. It’s perfectly safe. More or less.”
“Yeah. You see, the ‘less’ part has me a little worried…”
Timothy stayed silent as Herb led him through the front door of the building. It was dimly lit, but he saw the inside was piled high will junk. They wove their way around the piles and eventually made it into a back room where there was a man sitting leaned over a workbench.
The man looked back at the pair and smiled.
“Herbert,” the man said with a deep Russian accent that made it sound like “er-bey.”
“What are you doing here, my friend?” It also sounded deeply Russian. Just use your imagination.
“I’ve got a friend who has a problem. He’s got to get back to 1950.”
The apparently Russian man eyed Timothy and smiled slightly.
“I see. Is this a quick getaway or a permanent relocation?”
Timothy heard the words, but the actual content of the conversation was only beginning to sink in.
“Just a quick trip,” Herb said, slapping Timothy on the back. “He’s got something he needs to do so he’ll shut up about it.”
The stereotypically apparent Russian nodded.
“Ah. Good. Good. We fix you up!”
Timothy’s brain finally got in on what was happening. Were they seriously talking about sending him back to 1950? Was this a joke?
“What’s going on Herb?”
“You’re going back to 1950 to fix your problem.”
“Ha. Ha.” Timothy said wryly. “Funny. Great joke. Surprised you and your friend could set it up so fast. Good one.”
“Is no joke,” Ivan said. “Will send you back to 1950. Where ever you need go.”
Timothy made a rude noise and looked at Herb. The man had a rapidly sobering serious expression on his face.
“Come on, man. You got me. Now it’s late. Let’s just go. I’ve got to be at work tomorrow.”
“Let me explain something,” Herb said. “This isn’t a joke. My friend Ivan has… special skills. He can do things others can’t. Sending you back in time is nothing. He’s done it plenty.”
“You’re serious,” Timothy said looking back and forth between the other two. “You really believe it. That this man can send me back in time.”
Timothy was silent for a minute, then chuckled nervously.
“Okay guys. Really. The joke’s over…”
“Again. Is no joke.”
Timothy shook his head.
“Well, first. Time travel is impossible. It’s science fiction. Scientists say it’s impossible.”
“Nope,” Ivan said. “Been doing it for years.”
“So, you’re saying you have a time machine?”
Ivan shook his head.
With that, Timothy burst into laughter. He looked back and forth between Ivan and Herb, but neither showed any sign of cracking. They just stared at him as his laughter slowly died.
“Ivan. I think you’re going to have to prove it to him.”
The Russian nodded and stood up from the bench. Timothy noticed he was very tall.
“It will be just one minute,” Ivan said. He turned and wrote something on a grimy looking piece of paper then closed his eyes and stated mumbling. After several seconds he placed his hand on his forehead. His eyes snapped open and his voice stopped. Then suddenly, he was gone.
Timothy barely had time to gasp before Ivan reappeared.
“There,” he said. “Proof.”
“What the…” Timothy looked at Herb, who was completely calm.
“I see you still wear jacket from this morning,” Ivan stepped closed to Timothy. Moving into the light, he could finally see the other man’s features. He remembered those sharp green eyes from this morning in front of Rocket Surgeons, Inc. His eyes widened.
“Ahhh. I see you remember. Check in jacket pocket.”
Numbly, Timothy reached into his pockets. In one there was a piece of paper. He pulled it out. It looked like the same grimy piece of paper Ivan had just seconds before. On it, written in almost illegible scrawl, were the words: “See. Here is proof.” Even in his writing the apparent Russian sounded cliché.
Timothy’s eyes widened. Ivan smiled widely, showing off his gold front tooth.
From the Frivolous Babblings blog of Timothy Jensen:
Tuesday, 1:01 a.m.
I’m not really sure what’s going on. Can this be real…?
0 Comments 0 Likes 0 Views 0Shares
“This has to be some kind of trick,” Timothy said, staring at the note in disbelief.
“Yes. Certainly. Trick,” Ivan said. “Magic trick.”
“No. No,” Timothy said, shaking his head. “I meant you two set this up somehow. You planned it.”
“How could we have planned this,” Herb said calmly. “How could we have known about your meltdown before it happened and set this all up?”
Increasingly, everything about the turn this night was taking made less and less sense, except for Herb. This would have had to be one exceptionally elaborate, well set-up hoax. And it just wasn’t like Herb at all, Timothy realized. As weird as it seemed, all of this had to be real.
Timothy thought about it for a moment. If it was real, then he had the chance to right a major wrong. He could stop the time travel plague before it even started. If it came to the worst, he was part of an elaborate ruse and he would be the butt of jokes for years. But, if it was true…
“So,” Timothy finally said to Ivan. “You can whisk me away back through time to any place I want to go?”
“You don’t need to know,” he said, grinning slyly. “Magician’s secret.”
“So, how does this work? Do you need to know when and where? Do I need to get some clothes that won’t look out of place?”
“Nah, none of that. You just think where, I send.”
“So, I’ll need some time to research where and when…”
“Nyet. You already know. You know in mind where you want to meet this man.”
Timothy became suspicious.
“How did you know I was going back to meet someone?”
“Easy. When gone earlier, I popped to time after you were gone and Herb told me.”
Timothy spun and looked at his friend.
“Don’t look at me. It hasn’t happened yet.”
“Okay. Whatever. So I just need to know in my mind what I want to do and your magic…”
“Magic not mine,” Ivan said. “It given to me by alien sorcerers.”
“…Whatever,” Timothy could feel the weirdness closing in over his head, but he’d gone this far.
“I know where I need to be, the magic takes me there, I do what I need to do… Then what?”
“You come back, if you want.”
“What do you mean if I want? Don’t you have to bring me back?”
“Nah. You do it yourself. I install an app on your phone earlier today when you at work.”
Timothy pulled out his cPhone. There it was. A simple icon of a top hat and magic wand that said simply “Magic Button.”
“You just press when ready to come back.”
“Okay. Okay,” he was way past too much, time to slog on though. “So, what about when I’m there. Won’t I look out of place?”
“I put glamour on you. You fit right in. No one notice.”
As weird as it all was, it was starting to make sense, and that worried him. Too late for that…
“We do this tonight?”
“We do now, if you want.”
“What’s it going to cost me?”
Ivan just grinned and looked over at Herb.
“Nothing. I do this for Herbert as favor. I owe him.”
Herb just looked at Timothy and shrugged.
“See. No problems buddy. You are free to go fix your problem. Then I won’t have to hear them any more.”
Timothy smiled weakly at his friend.
“How you going to do it, by the way? You’re not going to kill him.”
Timothy shot Herb a funny look.
“No! Of course not. I’m just going to talk him out of it. Or distract him at the moment he his supposed to get the idea. I’m not really sure. I’ll figure it out.”
“Good luck, buddy.”
He stuck his hand out. Timothy grabbed it and shook it warmly. He then turned back to Ivan.
“Well, I guess I’m ready.”
“Good. You have in mind where you go?”
Timothy closed his eyes.
There was the touch of Ivan’s hand on his forehead and…
• • •
He was there.
Looking around him he saw the buildings, the people the cars. It was 1950.
Timothy couldn’t believe it. He had actually travelled back in time. And if Ivan was right, he would have travelled back to the exact spot he needed to be to make his plan work. He still wasn’t sure, but…
He looked down at himself. Even the glamour worked! Either that, or he’d been drugged and been given a very nice sex change operation. Holy crap, he thought as he raised his hand toward his overly ample chest. This is…
Then, suddenly, he froze. In all his wonder at his surroundings and the change in his appearance, he’d failed to take in his actual location. Then, all of the sudden, it hit him, just a split second before the bus did.
• • •
The man had been walking along, lost in thought when the strangest thing happened. A gorgeous blonde appeared out of nowhere right in the middle of the street. She stood there for a few seconds and then got pancaked by a bus.
He rushed over to the spot where she landed as a crowd started to gather around. She was still alive when he got there, but he could tell she was about to take her last breath.
As he looked into her eyes, she spoke one, quiet phrase.
Ivan reached out and took the handful of cash handed to him. He smiled and put the roll inside his grubby overcoat.
“There, my friend. Is done.”
The other man smiled, but the smile quickly smeared, as did the rest of his entire body. It became taller and more angular. His dirty blonde hair became gray. His skin less smooth and more aged. After a few seconds, the glamour had completely worn off and the man that was Herb looked at Ivan through his old eyes.
“Problem solved,” the old man said. “Why do they always want to rewrite history? Don’t they ever learn?
“Thank you for your service, Ivan,” he turned and started to walk out of the room.
“You know,” the old man stopped at the door. “This would make a good episode for The Outer Zone. I’m going to write it up and I’ll call you next week so you can send me back to submit it. Thanks again.”
The big apparent Russian smiled, showing the gold tooth.
“You welcome, Comrade Goldstein. Glad to be of help.”
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.