Authors: Dan Garmen
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Alternate History, #Time Travel, #Alternative History, #Military, #Space Fleet
A Time Traveler’s Memoir
A novel by
Copyright © 2012 by Dan Garmen
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance it bears to reality is entirely coincidental.
Produced by WorldWideWonderful Books
To my wife in this and every other timeline I can imagine. Whether or not she knows it, she is Molly and Amanda all wrapped up in one.
A Time Traveler's Memoir
29 January, 1991
0415Zulu (7:15am local)
Near Um Qsar, Iraq
What was happening to me was
beyond my understanding, but I knew I didn’t like it
. A tiny, out-of-the-way portion of my mind vaguely remembered being human, and though I didn’t exactly feel
, “alive” probably wouldn’t be the first word that popped into my brain if I had to describe my status. I longed to whimper, to retreat from this horrible existence, but as my humanity struggled to regain control, I caught myself, (I think) before anything came out. In reality, I doubt I could have made a sound if I tried.
My mouth had been filled with a collection of dirt, rock, and powder, which combined into a dirty, smelly sludge that choked off any chance for a single, unobstructed breath. Seconds passed, and I began to be aware I possessed a body, arms, legs, and
, a head that hurt so much, without the mouth-filling sludge, I would be full-on crying in pain, not caring who heard me. The limits of my body were being charted for me once again, and I kept waiting, seemingly in vain, to recover control of a part that didn’t hurt.
Once my ears began working again, they began registering a low frequency droning coming from everywhere at once. Concentrating on it, however, I finally realized the sound came from
, rather than from the outside. I stirred, and tried to push myself off the ground, pausing on all fours to begin the process of spitting the dirt out onto the ground, once, twice, then three times, and on the last attempt, I had cleared my mouth out enough to taste blood, which I took to be a good sign. I would have given everything I owned for a single drink of water to wash out the remnants of the crap still coating the inside of my mouth, hiding among my teeth.
As I tried to lever myself off the ground, a jolt of pain knifed through my head, pushing a groan from my now functionally cleared of debris mouth. “Shit,” I managed to croak, as I collapsed back into a sitting position. I raised my hands to the source my most extreme discomfort, my head, and as I tried to check for obvious injury, my hands stopped short when they struck something hard.
That’s right, I’m wearing my flight helmet
. Using both hands, I unbuckled the strap and pulled it off my head, setting off a new and even more intense wave of pain, this one morphing into nausea, forcing me back to all fours, the sickness in my gut sending signals to wretch and vomit, impossible, since I hadn’t eaten anything since early in last night’s mission.
Where the hell am I?
I asked, gathering the strength necessary to stand up, at the same time amazed I had accomplished the task. The deep ringing had ceased now, and as the seconds passed, the sounds of the world resumed. I began to be aware of the sound of voices, nothing in a language I understood, but by the sound of them, those talking were agitated and…seriously
. I had dropped my helmet when I collapsed back to my hands and knees, and it had hit the ground, rolled away, displaying an ugly, dark, dirty gray gash in the smooth white finish. The left side was marred, which made me as angry as the voices I could hear, the flight helmet being a source of pride and accomplishment for me, a black and yellow heraldic shield depicting a lion, a sword and a lightning bolt, covering most of one side. The dark gray, almost black, curved plexiglass visor hung from a single fastener, the violence done to my most important personal protection device infuriating me.
What the fuck?
The memory of what had happened came back in a rush, and I turned to the right, my eyes moving to where an obviously dead body lay on its back, one eye half open, the other closed, a small, neat hole an inch or so below his hairline, halfway between the centerline of his nose and left eye. Laying next to the dead man was an AK-47 rifle, butt in the dirt, the muzzle across its former owner’s right thigh. There was enough light to see the rocks behind where the dead man had been standing hideously painted with blood and other things I didn’t want to think about. Had I done this? The thought immediately ran through my mind
yes, Richard, you did that
. I looked down at my right hand, but I held no gun. I’d had a Beretta 9 mm auto at some point, but the weapon was nowhere to be found. As I began to frantically search for my misplaced pistol, I found another AK within arm’s reach, and knew even though the rifle didn’t belong to me, I had fired that one. I remembered the texture of the carved wooden pistol grip in my right hand, the smoother, finished wood of the fore stock in my left, and the loose, noisy way its action worked as it fired.
I continued the scan of my surroundings, and as more memories flooded back in, I quickly turned to my left toward where the other body lay, the sight seeming to flip a switch in my brain, downloading the rest of my memories.
The second man I hadn’t killed. He was dressed exactly like I was, same flight suit, with the same patches sewn on. The heraldic insignia, lightning bolts, lion rampant and the words “ATKRON 145” on the bottom. His helmet, which I knew displayed the same design as mine, was twisted around, hiding his face, but I knew what it looked like.
How had this all happened? How did I get here? I’m a 47 year old software designer, I’m in a cover band who plays gigs one weekend a month. I have a wife and a daughter, and I do not wear a uniform, and fight with other men in the desert, sometimes killing them. What the hell is this all about?
Recovering alcoholics and drug abusers talk about how having a "moment of clarity,” which usually starts them back on their journey to normalcy.
Is that what this is
? I asked myself. A moment of clarity? A final realization the world I've been living in for these past...What, 15 years now, isn't real? Or, was this "clarity," just the intense desire to extract myself from the horrifying situation I suddenly found myself in. No, this really horrifying situation
I had gotten myself into.
There was no one to blame here but me, no one responsible for these two dead bodies but me. 15 years ago, I woke up not where I should have been, but someplace I never thought I would see again. Waking up there was not my doing. The things I'd done since then, the decisions I'd made since the spring of 1976 though,
all my doing
. As awareness of my situation kept returning, I remembered there weren't just two dead bodies I was responsible for, there were four. I closed my eyes, a rising tide of dark despair filling me. My life wasn't supposed to be this way.
What the hell had happened?
Enough of me had returned to feel accountable,
responsible. I had failed my friends, but the failure hadn't been because I hadn't cared, or wanted to succeed. The dice had been tossed and my friends’ numbers had come up, killing them. I still felt a crushing responsibility though, an emotion as raw right here, right now, as they were across so many years and miles.
In the desert that night though, I had to play it all through. Rebooting out wasn’t an option. I had been in this world, real or not, and only one exit existed.
Nobody gets out of here alive
, the saying goes.
Or do they?
As if in answer to my question, a shockingly loud tsunami of sound washed over the small, enclosed circle of rocks I shared with two dead men and I looked up just in time to observe the tail of a jet black helicopter streak over, slicing the blue/gray early morning sky.
Time to go.
A Note from Long Ago
“Hon, you better get up,” the voice said, more insistent than a few seconds ago, which I saw from the clock on the bedside table had actually been 12 minutes ago. Another snooze cycle. Funny how our minds work. When you are asleep hours can feel like seconds, or sometimes, no time at all, even though events seem to happen quite normally in dreams. But back in the “real” world, the clock seems to reassert its power over you.
“Getting up,” I answered my wife, Molly, who was at her dressing table in the adjoining bathroom, “her” bathroom, getting ready for the day. Even though her commute was just down the hall, since she worked from home, Molly was almost always up before me, spending more time getting ready for the day than I ever would, ironic in that her considerable beauty was already in evidence before she applied the first bit of eye shadow, blush, or whatever makeup women used. Molly was never disheveled, never less than magnificently presentable, a truly beautiful woman who used makeup for subtle enhancement, not deception or repair. Her television background taught her that fine art, even though several years had passed since she had been on-camera.
I stumbled out of the bedroom, pulling on a t-shirt and heading to “my” bathroom, which by design belonged to the guest room, but in practical use, served as mine. The guest room’s closet housed my clothes, since our home, fairly spacious for middle-class San Diego suburban life, didn’t have enough closet space. So, the master bedroom’s two closets belonged to Molly and her well maintained and ordered wardrobe, also habits born in her television career, all fine with me, since my clothing needs were minimal, consisting of a few shirts, mostly Polo, several pairs of khaki Dockers, and a manageable inventory of underwear, socks and shoes. Two sport coats, three belts and a rack of ties numbering probably 40, the vast majority of which I’d never worn, completed the collection. With regard to wardrobe, I am a simple man.
The clock in the bathroom informed me 7am was history, and further down the hall I could hear the water running in our daughter Samantha’s bathroom, as she got ready for school, the last Monday of the semester for her, since Sam’s 2006 Christmas Holiday would start after a half day on Tuesday. We were all looking forward to the holidays this year, to our trip to Coer d’Alene, Idaho where we would wear parkas and, mittens, sit in front of big fireplaces and look at or play in lots and lots of snow. Both Molly and I grew up in the Midwest, where we had experienced enough snow for a lifetime, but Samantha had spent her 13 years so far in Southern California, where the snow is a day trip you Can wear shorts to and from. She wanted to immerse herself in a colder lifestyle, and we were all too happy to oblige. Molly’s job was going well, plenty of writing and editing for her to do, her television news background had prepared her well for the growing online news industry. My company, LeftCoastX Development, creates software for Apple computers, server and data mining applications for the most part.
I had founded LeftCoastX with my best friend, Gary Danner, an engineer, mathematician and a former “Googler,” who had worked for the search giant in the company’s infancy and had an employee number higher than 20 but lower than 50. Always the pragmatist, Gary had cashed his Google stock options at a time that he had determined was best after calculating the present value of the cash, what his algorithms predicted the stock price would do over the next two years, and hell, for all I know, the position of the stars. Gary took the money and didn’t look back. He hadn’t been one of the youngest members of the Google team, but there weren’t many at the company who were smarter, and after weeks of begging Gary to stay, the two founders of Google, 10 years younger than Gary, finally offered him something he wouldn’t be able to resist; An “emeritus” position, first right of refusal for the purchase of his portion of LeftCoastX, and a promise to travel with the founders the next time they flew their private jumbo jet around the world to observe a solar eclipse.