Authors: Pete Hautman
During the latter years of the Postdigital Age, discorporeal Klaatu artist Iyl Rayn attempted to enhance her status within the Cluster by conceiving an unconventional entertainment. She contracted the services of certain Boggsian corporeals to construct a network of portals, or as she called them, diskos.
The diskos were designed to transport small quantities of coherent information from one geotemporal location to another. In short, they allowed any discorporeal being to displace itself in time and space.
The inspiration for Iyl Rayn’s effort was an ancient and largely discredited discipline once known as History. Each of her diskos led to one or more specific events that she deemed relevant. Iyl Rayn hoped that her portals would convince other Klaatu to share her fascination with corporeal human accomplishments such as the ascent of Mount Everest, the invention of movable type, and the construction of the Lah Sept pyramid at Romelas. She also found cause for fascination in disasters such as the bombing of Hiroshima, the onset of the Digital Plague, and the Martian Biocide.
Most Klaatu considered themselves to be above showing interest in such trivialities. However, they were not immune to novelty’s lure, and Iyl Rayn’s efforts enjoyed an intense, though brief, period of popularity.
It was soon discovered that a design flaw in the Boggsian-built diskos permitted their use by corporeal entities, thus introducing physical anachronisms into the time streams. The majority of Klaatu, who regarded corporeals as lesser creatures, abandoned the diskos and turned to more refined perceptual manipulations, leaving Iyl Rayn to contemplate the consequences of her creation.
The diskos themselves remained in place, unused except by those hapless creatures who stumbled into them by chance and so found themselves transported.
HE FIRST TIME HIS FATHER DISAPPEARED
had only just turned thirteen.
That morning, he had been amusing himself by building a simple catapult — a wooden plank balanced across an old cinder block — in the backyard. He placed a stone at one end of the plank, climbed onto the seat of his dad’s lawn tractor, and jumped down onto the other end of the plank. The stone hopped vigorously from the far end, but not very high. Thinking maybe he wasn’t jumping hard enough, Tucker moved the catapult over by the garden shed. He found an old toy metal fire truck he would never play with again and set it on the end of the plank.
A fire truck needed a fireman. Tucker went into the house to find one of his old toy soldiers, but then he remembered he’d given them away for the spring rummage sale at his dad’s church. All he could find was a six-inch-tall wooden troll that his dad had carved as a boy. The troll had been standing guard over the bookcase in the living room ever since Tucker could remember. He took the figurine outside and wedged it into the fire truck. He then climbed onto the roof of the shed.
It took him a few moments to gather his courage. Finally, after a few false starts, he jumped. His feet struck the end of the plank perfectly. The fire truck leaped from the end of the plank, flew through the air, and landed on the house, tearing loose a shingle as it tumbled down the steep roof.
Tucker quickly retrieved the truck from his mother’s herb garden and disassembled the catapult. The wooden troll was nowhere to be found. When his mom came out and asked him about the noise, he told her a blue jay had hit the window and flown away.
She crossed her arms and gave him a skeptical look.
“Must have been a big jay,” she said.
Tucker grinned and shrugged. His mom managed to hang on to her stern expression for a few seconds, then grinned back at her son, shook her head in mock frustration, and went back inside.
The Reverend Adrian Feye had performed a baptism that morning at the Holy Word, his small ministry in downtown Hopewell, Minnesota. The boy child was christened Matthew, a good biblical name of which the Reverend approved. After the baptism he walked home alone, a twenty-minute journey. As he came up the long driveway, he noticed the loose shingle on the roof.
The Reverend stood frowning for a few seconds, wondering how the shingle had become damaged, and why he had not noticed it before. When the answer did not come to him, he sought out his son, Tucker, whose name was nowhere mentioned in the Bible. He found him in the garage fixing a flat tire on his bicycle.
Tucker looked up. He could see in his father’s features the man he would someday become — the long jaw; the small, bright blue eyes; the wide mouth — but their differences were equally striking: the Reverend’s creased face and graying hair made him look older than his forty-two years, and the set of his mouth gave him a perpetually disapproving air, whereas Tucker seemed always to be on the verge of an impish grin.
“Something tore a shingle off the roof,” said the Reverend. He waited for Tucker to incriminate himself.
In that moment, Tucker almost confessed, but something about the way his father crossed his arms — the way he seemed to already have found him guilty — caused Tucker to deny all knowledge of the damaged roof.
“Maybe it came off in that storm last week,” Tucker suggested.
His father gave him a piercing look.
Tucker put on his innocent face, committed to his lie.
After several seconds that seemed to last for minutes, the Reverend shook his head and muttered, “As thy children are conceived in sin, so shall sin conceiveth in their hearts.”
Tucker had heard him say such things before. He had stopped taking it personally. His father quoted scripture the way other people breathed the air. Tucker watched him go into the house. A few minutes later, his father reappeared in jeans and a blue flannel shirt. He fetched the extension ladder from the shed and leaned it against the eave. Tucker offered to help, but his father refused.
“It’s too steep, Tuck. Where there is one loose shingle, there may be others. I don’t want you falling off the roof.”
Tucker felt bad that his dad had to climb up on the roof. He promised himself that he wouldn’t tell any more lies for the rest of the week, then went out back to dig some bait from the compost pile. The pond behind the house was good for catching bullheads and perch. Tucker had just found his first angleworm when he heard a startled exclamation. He looked up to see his father standing at the peak, holding a small object in his hand.
The wooden troll.
Tucker ducked behind the shed. How could he explain how the troll had gotten on the roof? He would have to confess. He was not afraid of physical punishment — the Reverend was severe, but he would never lay a hand on anyone. What Tucker feared was the look of weary and profound disappointment his father would lay upon him, more painful than any beating.
He was trying to think how to phrase his confession when his thoughts were shattered by his father’s scream — more of a hoarse shout — cut off just as it reached the high point. Tucker ran back around the shed and looked up.
The roof was empty, except for something hovering just off the edge. It looked like a thin, perfectly round disk of wavery glass, about four feet in diameter, hanging in midair. As he watched, the disk faded, then vanished completely.
Tucker ran toward the house, his eyes raking the ground, expecting to find his father, but he was nowhere in sight. He circled the house, looking up, looking down, calling out for his father. He ran to the back door and shouted through the screen, “Mom! Come quick!”
His mom came running up from the basement, a full laundry basket in her arms. “What? Are you all right?”
“Dad fell off the roof!” Tucker pointed up.
The laundry basket dropped from her hands and rolled, spilling a ragged line of wet undergarments across the kitchen floor. She ran out the door, looking left and right, her long, reddish-orange hair whipping back and forth. “Where? Where is he?” She ran around the house with Tucker following closely.
“He was fixing a shingle, then he yelled and he was gone,” Tucker said.
His mother stopped running and looked at the ladder leaning against the eaves. She took a shaky, calming breath. “Honey, maybe he walked into town for some supplies.”