By Harris Tobias
Two men meet in a bar. They are time travelers from the future, stranded in our present. They have been coming to this bar regularly for many months to discuss their predicament.
“So here’s to good old 2540. May we see it again in our lifetimes.” Zeke, the older man raises his glass as he makes the familiar toast. Darran, a good twenty years his junior raises his and drinks the fiery liquid in one practiced swallow. Zeke, the senior man in this duo clearly outranks the nervous Darran both in maturity and confidence. Zeke sips his liquor slowly. When he is finished he asks, “Well, Darran, anything new to report?”
“No sir. This world is too big and the CHRON too small. It could be anywhere. I’m afraid it’s lost. They’re both lost. I’ve run out of places to look.”
“Lost for good. We might as well consider this time our home.” Zeke sighs. Darran fidgets. The sadness in Zeke’s eyes makes the young man squirm. Zeke has a wife and children back in the future. His being stranded is a far greater loss than the young man’s.
“You’ve retraced your steps?” Zeke asks.
“Only a million times. It’s all I do. I’ve been back to the same places so often they’re getting to know me. They must think I’m a lunatic.”
“Maybe we should go back together.” Zeke signals for another round.
“We tried that a few weeks ago, remember? Remember how uncomfortable you were? I swear if it wasn’t so tragic it would be funny.” A waitress brings the drinks. Zeke and Darran wait until she leaves before resuming their conversation.
“I don’t understand how you could lose two of ‘em. One was bad enough but why did you take mine?” Zeke can hardly contain the anger in his voice.
“You know how they communicate with each other? I thought I could use yours to locate mine.”
“Instead you managed to lose them both.”
“I said I was sorry. I said it a billion times. What do you want me to do, shoot myself?”
“I want you to find one of them so we can get out of here.” Zeke’s anger rises and he hits the table. Their drinks jump. The waitress and several others look up. “If you could only have kept you stupid fly zipped none of this would have happened. But no, you had to go to a brothel.”
Darran blushes. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m young. I like women. There’s nothing in the rules that say you have to be celibate when you’re on a mission.”
The older man shakes his head. He understands. He did the same thing when he was a rookie. “So how do you like primitive girls?” Zeke asks lightening the mood considerably.
Darran is happy to move the subject away from his guilt. “You know what I love about these primitive girls?”
Zeke shakes his head. “No, tell me.”
“They have no confidence. Not like girls in our own time. These girls, all you have to do is flatter them a little bit and they hop right in the sack.”
“So why the brothel, if I may ask?”
Darran hangs his head and sighs. “Well maybe they’re not that easy.”
“So you go to a brothel, they knock you out with some drink and rob you of everything you have including your CHRON. Have I got that about right?”
“You know the story,” Darran mumbles and throws back his drink.
“Then, when I come to rescue you, you take my CHRON while I’m sleeping and manage to lose it too. You must be the biggest idiot in the Corps.”
“It wasn’t like that. I told you.”
“Tell me again.”
“You were asleep. I thought I could use your CHRON to link up with mine. You know how they attract each other. I thought I could find my CHRON and everything would be alright. I’d get it back and save my career. I thought it would all work out. I thought...”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. You thought.” Zeke spits out the words, “If only you had. Then what happened?”
“Well, they recognized me. They thought I was there to make trouble. The bouncer meets me and he’s all aggressive, in my face, you know. One thing led to another. So I take a swing at him and it’s lights out.”
“And when you came to?”
“When I come to I’m in the street and my pockets are empty, my wallet and your CHRON are gone. I was stupid, Zeke. I’m sorry. I made a stupid mistake.”
“You ruined our lives is what you did. Got us stuck in this shithole of an era living with savages and for what? So you can get your rocks off? I don’t get it. I thought the Corps recruited the best and the brightest.”
“It’s not so bad here,” the kid says. Zeke snorts and his eyes roll.
“No, I’m serious. It’s not so bad, this time I mean. We could start over, you know, make a life. You gotta make the most out of it. It’s not so bad.” Darran has tears in his eyes when he says this. Zeke realizes he’s been too hard on the boy. He pats Darran’s arm in a fatherly way and orders another round.
“One thing I can say about the distant past— they sure have good scotch.”
- - -
Harris Tobias lives and writes in Charlottesville, Virginia. He is the author of two novels and dozens of short stories. His fiction has appeared in Ray Gun Revival, Dunesteef Audio Magazine, Every Photo Tells, Quantum Muse, Thrillers, Killers & Chillers, Eclectic Flash, E Fiction and several other obscure publications.
Thursday, February 6, 2014
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