Regrets Aren’t Like Sinatra Said, the Schmuck

week-35

Regrets.  Oh the regrets… An entire career built from mistakes and regrets (and timelines and DNA).  Every day I regret all the hysteria and hubris that drove us on in our researches.  But mostly I’m resentful.  Yes, I resent the quirk of fate which meant that once I finally had to face up to my looming nemesis it was such an insulting and preposterous face it dared show me.

But I digress (digressions are the only hobby I have left, all I can turn to whenever I’m not working).  So, back to work –

Point 1: Timelines and DNA are inextricably linked.

Point 2: That link was the key to our researches.

Point 3: That link enabled us to begin identifying the resonances of each individual’s germ cells beyond the current moment, in effect to plot a course into tomorrow (yes, that summarises the theoretical standpoint, admirably; and I do so need to keep a grasp of the theoretical standpoint, so as to progress the practicalities).

So, to the practicalities (shall I begin at Point 1 again, to maintain a valid separation between theory and practice, or continue to Point 4?  Erm…) –

Point 4: The researches and lab work spanned two decades, after which a prototype Descendant Proximity Apparatus (DPA) was constructed.

Point 5: The DPA was designed to facilitate a “reunion” between an individual and those traces of his or her germ cells that persisted into the future.

Point 6: Animal testing had ascertained that a subject could be projected towards that “reunion” of their latent and pre-existent germ cells, and then safely extracted.  But animal subjects are incapable of authenticating the specifics of such tests (rabbits are dazed and confused and horny in the present; they are dazed and confused and horny when returning from the future; rhesus monkeys make me self-conscious; they insist on chattering about us whenever our backs are turned; rhesus monkeys are blackguards; chimps are anarchists at heart, otherwise they wouldn’t have evolved into homo sapiens; they’re prone to revolt and can’t be trusted).

Point 7: A human test subject was required.

Point 8: Naturally, as director of research, I volunteered.  Two more years were invested as I studied all the white papers and quasi-regulations regarding the hypothetical safeguarding of the space–time continuum; attended endless psych evaluations/counselling designed to minimise the mental and emotional “jetlag” of humanity’s first post-chronological journey.  Even so, when I finally engaged the DPA receptors that had been implanted along my forearm, I had little notion of what lay in store.  I adjusted the settings that were grafted onto my skin so as to direct the genetic homing beacon in my cells towards a 24th century location.

The time travel blurred by almost instantaneously.  I lurched to a stop with a new era spinning round me.  Already, I felt the trace of my descendant nearby; the “reunion” had succeeded.  Queasily, I brought my vision back into focus and looked to see where I’d landed – it was a towering auditorium filled to the horizon with chanting crowds.  Flashing screens that were storeys high informed me (every six seconds or so) that an interstellar talent show of devout significance was taking place.  Finding myself watching from backstage, overawed and out of place, I had no reason to doubt those screaming omnipresent screens.

Then I witnessed my progeny’s progeny’s progeny’s progeny take to the stage: he sang, a beautiful baritone; but that wasn’t entertainment enough; he juggled as he emoted that soulful melody; he juggled three little piglets, which kicked out their trotters to form star-shapes as they reached the apex of their flight; but that wasn’t entertainment enough, and the piglets joined in with the song, providing captivating harmonies of operatic squeals; but that wasn’t entertainment enough and (well, this is where the story of my voyage enters its tragic phase)…

As I say, it wasn’t enough for a beautifully baritoned man to mount the stage to sing and juggle a mini opera of piglets.  No, and so, technically, it wasn’t a man who sang since, by some grotesque miracle of 24th century surgery, my descendant’s human skull and features had been replaced with those of a horse.  And it was the horse’s head that sang (beautifully, I admit).  Maybe it was the deeper equine vocal chords which lent that sonority to his performance.  I don’t know.  I was too appalled by what I witnessed to consider the question in any depth.  Those appalled feelings of mine reached a crescendo as the performer ended his song.  No doubt realising that the scene thus far hadn’t yet been entertainment enough, my descendant proceeded to tug at a cord around his waist, which promptly caused his trousers to swish smoothly down to his ankles, revealing his nakedness and not only his nakedness; also revealed was the fact that the miracle of 24th century surgery had succeeded in grafting other horse parts to his anatomy, which dangled repulsively and impressively around his shins.  The crowd erupted with joy.

Beside me, backstage, the next artiste was already preparing to go on.  I’d been aware of her last-minute honing of her extraordinary knife throwing act in the rehearsal area and I’d observed her from the corner of my eye hurling all manner of projectiles, from darts, to serrated daggers, and even small axes.  But simply throwing those projectiles towards a target in the traditional manner wouldn’t have been enough entertainment; so, she first inserted and then shot each weapon, with stunning velocity, from what can only be described as her volcanic vulva.  That woman’s lower abdominal strength was a wonder to behold (as was the accuracy of her aim).

Begging her pardon, I grabbed the least moist axe handle I could find and promptly charged onto the stage, determined to cleave any trace of that crooning-horse-monstrosity from my timeline forever.  All around me chaos erupted.  I was intercepted by a posse of security guards wielding electrically charged batons.  The stage became a riotous scene of near-medieval carnage, awash with arterial fountains of blood, shocked and spasming bodies, flying noses, ears, etc.  In short, my impromptu performance won the galactic vote that ended the show and I was crowned Interstellar’s Most Talented.

The DPA, which should have facilitated a swift extraction to my own time, was shattered in the melee of my arrest.  Though elevated to instant celebrity status, I was also instantly imprisoned.  At my trial, which was beamed onto those same storeys high screens, viewers with the heads of squids, reptiles and kangaroos, revelled in my “rants” about space-time and rhesus monkeys.  Religious observances are held in my name to this day.

Why this society lacks any culture of timeline manipulation, I’m at a loss to say.  Maybe the failure of this maiden voyage of mine saw the project derailed and our researches locked away in a deep cocoon of bureaucracy.  Now I work when I can, frantically, in secret, on an Antecedent Machine to steer me back home and erase my intrusion here.  I utilise whatever poor scraps of technology I can gather in prison and try my best to rectify my mistakes.  I still have hope, but the timelines don’t help… timelines are amoral.

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This piece of flash fiction was written in response to the Wordle Challenge #35 at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, where all stories in the link-up were prompted by the wordle at the top of this post.  The rules are that at least 10 of the given words are to be used. This time I referred to all of the words.

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Zero Hour

I have evolved.  Nothing is wasted.  I reach out my always twitching, sensitive hands to feel my way around the office, scuttling among filing cabinets like a pro-active crab on a mission.

I have no stomach that needs feeding.  I have no eyes that need sleep.  I am an efficient species, as efficient as the zero-hour contracts that made me.  I gather up stationary and I file documents away, twenty-four seven.

All my skin became cardboard, decades ago.  It helps me blend in with forgotten corners of the stockroom, where managers can call for me or ignore me, as required.

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This piece of flash fiction was prompted by the photo below, which was posted at 100 word story.

cardboard

Alack

The war was unstoppable. It had raged back and forth for so long that the combatants had lost any conception of its meaning. Only the endless, bloody skirmishes remained, only the hourly struggle against fatigue. It had taken on a logic of its own, which would grind on to its conclusion, no matter the cost. It was grinding up everyone who fell under its influence. Numbers dwindled as countless lives were grabbed up and made to vanish from the scene.  It felt abrupt and meaningless to those who were left behind, who waited their turn.

Arthur Hotspur and Kenneth Lilywhite were foot soldiers in the militia. Humble men, and dogged, they marched where they were told to march, pikestaffs gleaming in the rain or in the sunshine. Heading towards this enemy or that, they grumbled as much as they fought and they fought as hard as they grumbled. Once proud of their station, of their service to flag and throne, they’d come to see their only duty as being to each other and their common preference for survival.

“Forsooth, Kenneth,” sayeth Arthur one day, as another cold dawn bit into his bones. “Dying’s a fool’s errand.”

“Tis, tis true,” sayeth Kenneth, and spat. “And war’s the cruellest mistress the likes of us’ll ever see. Damned expensive mistress, at that. Cost me kith and kin and all that ever was mine.”

“Aye,” nodded Arthur. “I even wonder how it is the likes of us get invited to sample such expensive fare. Tis more to your noble’s taste, surely. Am I right?”

“Surely. As right as this here hand of mine that’s been my only bedfellow since last I saw the inside of my wife’s goodly chamber.”

“Well, there was that whore in Cheapside, Ken…”

“Aye,” Kenneth spat, fondly. “But my point still stands. And what I do say is this: since all this warring is mite too rich an indulgence for such fellows as you and me, tis best we bow out. Let yon monarchs have all the guts’n’glory they can stand. They can afford it, so let them and them alone battle it out.”

Arthur gazed through the morning mist to where the royal encampment was erected on the hill. Soon the True King would step out to survey the remnants of his troops, and at his side would stand the Free Queen. Arthur was disillusioned and he had a marked preference for not dying, yet he still loved his queen. He loved both his queens.

Indeed, Hotspur and Lilywhite were the loyal servants and protectors of two noble queens now, since, in the madness and confusion of wartime, two queens had been crowned. “Aye, maybe it was madness,” Arthur reasoned with Kenneth one day, “yet maybe there was method in the seeming madness, too.”

“How’s that?” Kenneth sayeth.

“Forsooth, another crowned head serves to protect the rightful line of succession,” Arthur nodded.

“Line of succession my arse,” Kenneth spat. “You’ve been talking to the bishop again. Warned you about that more than once, I have. ‘Sides, these fair queens of ours give you the horn is all.” Arthur chuckled and didn’t deny it.

Be that as it may, as the vagaries of war raged, one of these beauteous queens had been captured and set in chains, to Arthur’s dismay. She was henceforth called the Trapped Queen while the other, by contrast, became the Free Queen. And it was she, the Free Queen, appearing like an apparition through the dawn mist on that day, who would rally the shattered forces to her standard. They would follow her to hell and back if only she gave the sign; if, from her vantage point, she surveyed the enemy lines, saw them buckle and yield, and ordered the rout.

The sun rose higher and musket shot and cannon balls clouded the sky as they rained down. Waiting for the order to engage, Kenneth grumbled all the louder and Arthur squinted through the missiles to where his queen stood, imperious. Short-sighted at the best of times, the constant need to duck for cover hindered Arthur’s vision all the more, as he tried his damnedest to interpret all the frantic comings and goings atop the royal hill.

In desperation Arthur turned, as always, to his brother-in-arms. “Are we to charge then, man? Speak up! Was that her signal that we’re set fair? Well? What’s the Free Queen see, Kenneth? Ken?! Oh alack…” Arthur groaned, as his friend split asunder. “They killed Kenneth!”

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This story was written in response to the yeah write challenge #171 – This week’s optional prompt is: What’s the frequency, Kenneth?, which I managed to include, phonetically, at least.

summer171