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Error in Transfer

Error in Transfer

There is a character in my head who lives his life in regret, and whom parts of my subconscious try to speak through: a character in a story I’ve been writing since I was twelve, and one that I am here to say goodbye to. I’m sitting behind him in a beer garden, staring at the back of his head. Today is the day of his funeral, but he doesn’t know it. I haven’t the heart to tell him either, so instead I sit behind him and let him enjoy his beer. I feel I owe him that. He is older than I am, and is the vessel for all my regrets. No wonder he can’t fit onto a page. He is a writer as well, so carries the stories I haven’t finished. Or have finished and can’t let go of so keep returning to, trying to rewrite. His name is Draph Nathaniel, and all his life he has been six seconds late.

On the night he was born there was a terrible storm that delayed his birth. All storms are terrible because we cannot control them, and we hate to not be in control. We cling to the notion that we are, but we’re not. We are in a massive machine of circumstance, and must simply hope the clogs turn in our favour. When they do, we call this fate. Or chance. Or luck. And we say that’s where we are meant to be. A better man than myself once defined this so elegantly:

The two prime movers in the Universe are Time and Luck.

That man was a writer named Kurt Vonnegut Jnr. I never met him so can’t attest to what his character was, but from reading his work I am assured of the following: he held regret and knew the damage time can do. This essay, in part, is homage to him and the lives we both have and haven’t led. The things we’d like to undo. It’s about the decisions we’ve made. It’s about where we are and where we sometimes wonder we should be. It’s about regret and why regrets mean nothing. And it’s about how the decisions that have led us here have saved our lives. So I bid you: listen.

I flipped a coin and I lost my life.

These words were overheard in Chinatown, Manhattan, by a journalist who broadcast them via Twitter. Intrigued by the phrase, her friend, another journalist, decided to follow the story. She tracked its origin to a 30-year-old man named Dennis, a masseuse at the Health Trail massage parlour, which specialises in people’s feet. The words were spoken by Dennis at the age of 26. Both he and his brother, Kyle, had just graduated college, so naturally they were unemployed. Education seems to mean so much and so little. After a while they were forced to return home to live with their father, the owner of the parlour. Their father gave them an ultimatum: one of them had to continue the family business. Neither of them wanted to. After days, weeks, possibly months of avoiding the discussion, they one day, quite casually, decided to settle it with a loser-takes-all proposition: the all, of course, being the burden of the business and the loss of their life and all they had thought it would entail.

The bet was waged over a cup of tea, devised from an old ritual determining luck. If the tealeaves floated upside down with their stalks protruding from the water, you were to have a fortuitous year. Between the two brothers, however, the stakes were somewhat higher: they decided whoever had the most stalks protruding would have a good life. The cups were set. The tealeaves were placed. The water boiled and poured. Dennis watched as his tea leaves rose, presenting numerous stalks. With wide eyes and a smile, he looked to Kyle’s teacup. Kyle’s teacup had many more. He sat in silence for countless minutes, blank, coming to terms with what this meant.

It took the grace of time, however – several months in fact – for Dennis to realise it was the best decision he could have made. Despite never actually having made it. Kyle asserts there never was a gamble: had he lost, he wouldn’t have gone through with it. He claims it was all about Dennis, who was terrified of making the decision. Terrified it might be wrong. That it was not what he’d planned for his life. But secretly, he wanted it: he just needed prompting.

In ancient Greece, Xenophon of Athens and his men were being pursued by a Persian army. Xenophon decided to turn and confront them, and chose the edge of a cliff as their battleground. There was nowhere to retreat to. There was no option but to fight. It sent the message to the Persians that Xenophon and his men were going to fight to the death, be it by sword or fall. ‘Embrace the cliff,’ he is reported to have said.

I used to ponder the decisions I’d made, and one decision in particular. One choice I made when I was so much younger that has shaped every day of my life since. For so long I have framed it as a regret, but now realise that by pulling a thread, everything I hold dear today would come unravelled. This happens when you place your life in a frame. Make a tapestry of it. A decision can seem inconsequential when looked upon from a distance, but it has the power to make people non-existent. Think on that a second: one decision, one thread, and someone doesn’t exist.

I’m at the end of grade six – a twelve-year-old kid – and I’m lying in bed, pillow wet with tears. My mum’s asking me what I want to do, and if I’m sure. I’m at a crossroads, and am already grieving because I know which path I’m taking. My primary school friends are all going to the same high school. My older sister, however, goes to another, and there’s something inside of me saying I should follow her. I have to go. Some ‘hard road’ kind of crap. It means the death of all those friendships. This is an age before Facebook, mobile phones, the Internet and the ease of contact. I’m twelve years old, and trading the old for the new.

For years, that there has been the moment: the decision that shaped my life and gave birth to Draph. The next few years of high school were spent in relative solitude. The library became a haven, a place I didn’t have to worry about fitting in. Or avoiding people. Or being seen wandering around the yard alone, or worse, trying to keep up with people who weren’t that bothered if I trailed behind. Ever since I’ve felt disconnected, knowing I let go at that point. And I’ve spent the time since wondering if it’s been them or me, the reason I’ve felt misplaced. So many times I’ve revisited that moment: wondering who I would be if I’d made the other choice. But if there is one thing Draph has taught me, it is this: it is so easy to lose yourself in the past, and once lost it can be so very hard to find your way back again.

The signposts erected since then are not hard to follow. One points directly to the next, and they form a network of people and places and friends. I fell in love with a girl in high school. She left to go to another school. I followed her. I hated it, and we didn’t work out. I left. I arrived at another school and made some friends. They introduced me to some of their friends. One of them had a sister. I shared a house with her years later, and when she left a girl from Hobart, Tasmania moved in. She was in a band, and they would practice in our garage. The band had a lead guitarist. That guitarist is now my wife.

Every day we make decisions. These decisions change our lives. These decisions save our lives, and condemn us to an early death. There is no consistency to how they work. No way of telling what the outcome will be. There are better lives we could have led, and worse. Decisions we could have made. One day we’ll have technology that will enable us to speak to our alternate selves. Draph, who is a better writer than I am, wrote a story about that. The device is called the ‘What To Do’. It is a machine worn on your arm like a wristwatch, and allows the wearer to video-chat with him or herself of the future and ask what happened once a decision had been reached and enacted upon. Once feedback is received, the wearer adapts their decisions accordingly. Thus, a new version of themselves can be called, and so on. It never ends, and it never ends well.

Draph also wants to write the story of his life. He’s gotten as far as the title, which is Error in Transfer. I’m sitting behind him in a beer garden. He’s at the table opposite with his back to me, and he’s staring at it right now – nothing but those three words on an empty page of a starving notebook, its ribs so visible. I know because I write him every minute. He’s tapping his pen on those three words as if the ink will spill out and do the job for him. The story he wants to tell is a portrayal of the importance of time, the crucial impact a second can make, and the life-changing ramifications of a seemingly simple decision. This is what he intends it to be, but he can’t get over the first hurdle. That first word. The enormity of a second has him stifled. Has him flummoxed. He does know this much, however: he is forever chasing those six seconds. Counting all events worldwide that can happen in them. Those six seconds were not just lost on the night of his birth. They are constantly repeated. Constantly mourned for. Constantly deemed critical to his current situation and at odds with what would happen each moment if they were accounted for.

So much happens in six seconds. If he divides each one from the whole, it places everything into perspective. In that first second, approximately ten new people draw their first breath in our shared world. By the sixth, 70 people have drawn their first breath, 60 have exhaled their last, and, in every one of those seconds in between, billions of irreversible decisions have been made.

‘Forget the notion you have control!’ Draph would scream. ‘If I can’t account for six seconds, what hope do any of us have of control?’ Seventeen months ago I would have let him scream this. But so much happens in seventeen months.

I know of a woman whose life was saved by the combination of a clumsy finger and one minute. It could be argued that she, in her lifetime, has had many opportunities to die, but we can account for at least two, and they both failed because of chance, perhaps. Or luck. Or the simple motion of gears.

Her name is Elise O’Kane. She’s a flight stewardess, and still is because while rostering on for a shift one night, she got two numbers mixed up. This was her usual flight, but she screwed it up. What a fool. Fat fingers. She had the opportunity to fix that, though, the night before the shift. But in trying to reschedule her shift, in trying to secure normality, her computer stalled. The system lagged – there was a glitch in the matrix, or a terrible storm somewhere – and by the time it was all back to normal she was one minute late. 60 seconds. She spoke with the man who beat her to it, who got the shift she wanted. He was a happy man, new to the job, and expressed his excitement for getting a cocktail once his first destination was reached. But the destination never was. That flight slammed into the north tower of the World Trade Center.

All for a minute – a cursed minute, damned luck – and she hated every minute following until that damned luck became otherwise. We do this a lot in life, I’ve realised. We do it all the time. Where we are is so damned unfortunate or lucky, depending on perspective, but we’re so often quick to feel unlucky more than otherwise. Until something drastic like a minute changes everything. Until something meant to kill us saves us.

Greer Epstein was an executive director at Morgan Stanley. In my opinion, anyone with that kind of title is destined for a short life regardless. But my opinion isn’t well paid for, and barely worth noting or adhering to. On this, it seems, fate would agree. Epstein was known as a hard worker who rarely left the desk. But one morning she did, when a colleague asked her out for a cigarette. Draph and I are smokers, so this story brings us both much joy and heartbreak. I know he is smiling, because he thinks exactly what I do. Then his spirit falls heavy, because mine do too. Midway down their elevator ride the building trembled. When they emerged onto the street they found a city in devastation: that same plane from the paragraph above had struck. Minutes later, Greer Epstein watched as a second plane stuck the south tower and went straight through her office. Everyone she had said good morning to on that floor was dead. And a cigarette saved her life.

Draph falls silent in the same way I do. It is a silence you can feel. It’s recognition of how lucky we are. Of how much a minute or decision can mean. Draph stands and takes the final swig of his beer. He slams the pint glass down and turns to grab his jacket off the back of his chair. My unwavering gaze catches his eye, and for a moment he stares as if we might know each other. As if I might have something to tell him.

I have all of this to tell him. On that night I traded the old for the new, there was no terrible storm but the one swirling in my twelve-year-old mind. It was a storm of time and space and chaos, of infinite pathways and decisions, and one I conjured to make sense of why I’ve felt so misplaced in the world since then. Draph’s lost six seconds is the time I imagine it took me to make that adult decision at such a young age – for me to resolve to one path. The time it took for my life to branch one way and divorce itself of any other. And if it is to come to the decision between Draph – my life of regrets – or a life of forgetting what could have been and instead of embracing what I have, then I know which choice I have to make.

But I don’t say any of it. Instead, I turn and stare out at the road. And in turning away, I make him unwritten – erase him as if he never existed. Because that is what I am here to do. To unburden him of all that I’ve put on his shoulders and made him carry over the years. Because so much happens in six seconds, and so much can change you in seventeen months.

If it were all to unravel – were I to pull that thread – then there is someone immeasurably dear to me that wouldn’t exist. This is the power of seventeen months. This is the power of a massive six seconds, or sixty. This is the magic of decision and chance. A life was saved, another found in tealeaves. A path was taken, and the new embraced. A child was born 17 months ago for a decision I made at twelve. And how could any decision I’ve made be wrong if it led to her: this girl so small, this spirit gigantic. Nothing I’ve done can be regretted.

 

First published in Kindling (2014, Writer’s Edit).

The Various Futures of Farlo Breeze: Chapter Three

The Various Futures of Farlo Breeze: Chapter Three

Farlo-Breeze-Cover-8

Chapter Three: Future Farlo, Jusius & the Holo

Farlo stared for what felt an aeon before he conjured anything to say. What he did say was fairly unspectacular, but given the circumstances he could forgive himself for that: this was an occasion he’d never thought to rehearse.

‘You’re me…’

‘I am,’ Future Farlo nodded. ‘That’s right. I’ve come from your future to warn you of my past.’ He paused for a moment then winced. ‘Wow, that sounded contrived… Come back in. We can do that better.’

Farlo glanced around the room then back to his double’s one-eyed stare.

His double leapt from the chair. ‘Ooh! I want to show you something.’ He placed his glass on a statue and limped across the room. His torn, dishevelled coat rippled stiffly as he went. A metallic clunk resounded with each step of his right metallic leg. ‘Check this out.’ He held out a small cylinder bearing a picture of a cow then tipped it upside down. His expression delighted as it mooed.

‘It’s a moo box,’ he squealed with a wide eye, crinkling his forehead’s V-shaped scar beyond recognition of the letter. ‘I found it on Gramphoonia. They don’t even have cows. How did it get there?’

Farlo stared from the cow to his double then back again. ‘I don’t really know what to say.’

‘Overwhelmed,’ Future Farlo cried. ‘I know. A cow. How weird is that.’

Farlo opened his mouth to reply then realised he had none to offer. His jaw hung with the weight of a wet sheet as he glanced around the room again.

‘Oh…’ Future Farlo droned, ‘you mean all of this,’ and waved his mechanical hand at their surrounds, the moo box mooing as he did. ‘And then there’s me, no doubt. But of course. I haven’t explained a thing.’ He dropped the moo box into his coat’s large pocket then turned with a clap of his hands. ‘What say we get going? I’ll fill you in on the way.’

He turned and stepped into the closet-sized alcove Farlo called his kitchen. Farlo stopped at its entrance to see a long corridor stretching into darkness. Overhead lights turned on as Future Farlo hobbled away. Farlo leaned aside and looked at the apartment’s entrance eight metres away, then leaned back to the kitchen to see Future Farlo nearing twenty metres’ distance, moving far beyond the confines of the vessel. He stepped in and followed.

‘It’s good to see you,’ Future Farlo called over his shoulder. ‘Just like the old days, hey? You and me, back together again.’

‘What?’

‘Of course you don’t,’ Future Farlo said. ‘How could you? The situation is this: when I was you the me I am now came to the me that was you. Now that I’m him, I’m coming to you, just as you’ll go to you when you’re me. Understand?’

‘I…’

‘Don’t worry,’ Future Farlo said. ‘You will. In time. But first I need your InviterMite.’

‘My… Wait. What?’

‘Your marble,’ Future Farlo said, turning to hold out his one good hand. ‘Little black ball with a red dot in its centre.’

Somewhere deep within the recesses of Farlo’s mind a memory faintly yodelled for attention. It was too distant to be heard clearly, however, so he ignored it and shook his head. ‘What marble…?’

Future Farlo stared blankly into his younger self’s gaze then dropped his hand to his side. ‘Sorry?’ he asked with the smallest hint of distraction. ‘Nothing. Never mind,’ he grinned. ‘I minor detail.’ He turned purposefully and resumed his limping gait through the hall with the cry, ‘Onward, ever onward!’ They reached a doorway and Future Farlo turned. ‘I present to you the future, delivered ahead of schedule.’ He stepped through the doorway and turned. ‘And welcome,’ he hollered, arms wide in presentation, ‘to the sunsroom!

Farlo emerged from the kitchen into his lounge room. ‘Did we just walk in a circle?’

Future Farlo glanced around. ‘This is the sunsroom. Look at the window.’

Farlo did and found it presenting the view of the supermarket car park outside. The window, however, was much larger than usual, taking up the entire wall and tapering to the vessel’s nose and a small horseshoe-shaped console.

Future Farlo followed his gaze to the console and waved a dismissive hand. ‘Ignore that. A fricken confusing contraption.’

Farlo nodded. ‘Wow. This is all very… weird…’

Future Farlo’s smile faltered.

‘And impressive,’ Farlo added. ‘Very impressive.’

Future Farlo nodded. ‘This is nothing, my boy. Where we’re going, this all pales.’

‘What do you mean, ‘where we’re going’?’

‘Wherever our imaginations can take us!’ Future Farlo cried with a flourish.

‘What the hell are you talking about?’ Farlo sneered. ‘Slow down. You’re not making sense.’

‘I know. I’m sorry. It’s just so exciting.’

Farlo nodded. ‘I think I need to sit down…’ He moved to the couch and sat. ‘Where are we exactly? Not my apartment, I take it.’

‘We’re on the Creaser,’ Future Farlo said. ‘Not your apartment, but we come to think of it as home. It has all the amenities. Our bedroom.’ He opened the bedroom door then abruptly slammed it shut. ‘The closet-sized alcove we call our kitchen,’ he added, waving a hand. ‘And, of course, all the furnishings. Permanently muted, I’m sure you’ll be pleased to hear. Aside for the door, but only for your entrance. It’s muted too, now. Everything quiet. Just the way we like it. Just the way we like it.’

Farlo shook his head. ‘What the hell’s happened around here? How much have I missed?’

Future Farlo grinned. ‘That, my boy, will take some telling, and I’m not sure I’m the one to tell it.’

‘Who is, then? If not you?’

‘We’ll be joining them soon. We’re almost there.’

Farlo turned to the sunsroom window, still presenting the car park.

‘Bah,’ Future Farlo barked. ‘Damn thing’s always freezing.’ He limped across the room then slammed his metallic fist on the console. Farlo watched as everything around him flickered between existence and non- before it all simply vanished, leaving him to fall to an invisible floor that was seemingly flying through the air, kilometres over tiny grey squares Farlo would usually call buildings. They were soaring over the city, heading at a very fast speed towards its outskirts.

Farlo flailed about for something to hold, but there was nothing but Future Farlo’s legs so he scrambled and wrapped his arms about them.

‘Augh,’ Future Farlo said with an amused nod and waved his arms. ‘We’re falling. Holy crap and stuff.’

Farlo lifted his wide gaze from the distant earth. ‘We’re flying. How the hell are we flying?’

‘Pee Pee Dry, my boy!’ Future Farlo said.

‘Oh, my god, I go insane,’ Farlo whimpered, shutting his eyes.

‘Psychic Propulsion Drive,’ Future Farlo said. ‘Lets your mind do the driving while your body does the jiving. That’s the slogan. Horribly dated, I know, but the classics-shh!’ He fixed his gaze on the horizon and raised a finger. ‘Quiet, man. Did you hear that? It sounded like-’

The vessel around them nosedived, throwing them to the floor.

Future Farlo climbed to his feet and nodded. ‘The Pee Pee Dry. It’s going into standby. This happens from time to time. Whenever I get sleepy. But relax. There’s nothing to worry about…’ He turned as if spurred into some form of action then turned back. ‘There’s nothing to worry about…’ He fixed a wild eye on Farlo and pointed. ‘You need to dance.’

A multi-coloured dance floor appeared beneath them as a disco ball manifested above, reflecting the rays of the spectrum shone from surrounding coloured floating floodlights.

‘The Creaser has an emergency protocol for this exact situation,’ he said, ‘but it needs someone to dance to operate it. You have to dance to fly the ship. I’d do it but we wouldn’t get far.’ He tapped the shin of his metallic leg.

‘You’re insane,’ Farlo said.

‘Oh, if only I was, dear boy,’ Future Farlo said. ‘But if you don’t get on that dance floor and start doing whatever thing you call yours, we’re through!’

‘I can’t,’ Farlo said.

‘You’ve got to, boy! You’ve got to dance like your future depends on it, because I most certainly do!’

Farlo glanced over the dance floor’s edge to the fast approaching earth then climbed to his feet. ‘What do I do?’

‘Anything,’ Future Farlo snapped. ‘The controls respond to pressure on the floor, the motion-detection-grid to movement in alliance with your consciousness. As long as you do something and think about what you want the ship to do, it’ll do it. What can you do?’

‘I can sort of do the Running Man.’

‘Then sort of do it, my boy. Sort of do it!’

Farlo took a deep breath then sort of began, concentrating on how lovely it would be if they wouldn’t crash. The hum of the vessel’s engines grew louder then spluttered, threatening to sleep.

‘Something else!’ Future Farlo cried. ‘It doesn’t like it!’

Farlo stopped in thought, and then tensed the muscles from his calves to his neck in attempt to do The Robot. This is neither as easy as it looks nor as people make it look. Whilst concentrating on how lovely it would be to defy gravity, it is even harder. He did it sufficiently well, however, and for a moment the vessel picked up speed before it levelled slightly and then nosedived some more.

‘You’re not good enough!’ Future Farlo cried. ‘We’re going to die! I don’t want to!’ He looked down to the housing estate ahead, growing larger and more detailed, and settled into a steady scream.

Farlo stopped dancing and joined him.

‘What are you doing?’ Future Farlo screamed. ‘Don’t stop! Holy crap! Pull up!’

‘How?’

Point up!’ Future Farlo cried. ‘For God’s sake, point!

Farlo pointed to the mirror ball above. The Creaser levelled a few degrees, setting them on a path to slam into the estate at a slight incline.

‘Harder!’ Future Farlo shouted. ‘Point harder!’

‘What do you mean, “point harder”?’

We’re gonna die!’ Future Farlo cried, bracing himself.

The two Farlos fell into a unified scream as the Creaser ploughed through rooftop after rooftop, carving its descent through a mosaic of bedrooms and bathrooms then kitchens and lounge rooms as violent explosions of fire and furniture and smoke blossomed all around them. They tore clear of the neighbourhood and sailed without impact until a large wire hurricane fence buckled itself into a cone around them, sliding with them across a field of grass and then through the wall of the large relaxation hall of the Chill-out Centre for the Reality Disadvantaged.

 

Bricks, dust and splintered wood exploded from complacency and fanned across the room as Jusius, the only freelance galactic diplomatician to have ever set foot on Earth, looked up from his Sudoku and sighed.

‘Well, it’s about crappin time.’ He placed the puzzle on the armrest then stood, pulled the straps of his backpack over his shoulders, clambered over the debris, felt the air above the wire then knocked on the invisible hull.

 

Future Farlo stood and stared through the cone of wire out into the large white hall. ‘Excellent,’ he said, dusting himself off. ‘We’re here.’

Farlo climbed to his feet and looked out at the gathering staring back, comfortably dressed and calmly confused, many semi-conscious in their state of relaxation. The vessel’s interior made itself visible. The disco motif receded into the walls. ‘Where are we?’

‘I can’t wholly remember,’ Future Farlo said, ‘but from memory, it’s where we’re meant to be.’

‘What do you mean where we’re meant to be? You’ve been here before?’

A dull thudding resounded through the corridors. The two Farlos froze.

‘What was that?’ Farlo asked.

‘Ignore it.’

‘It was a knock,’ Farlo said.

‘It will take care of itself.’

‘Someone’s out there.’

‘Not for much longer,’ Future Farlo said. ‘Now: you were asking me if I’d been here before.’

Farlo’s eyes widened. ‘What do you mean not for much longer?’

‘Focus, my boy!’ Future Farlo hollered. ‘This is all too important to be distracted by newcomers!’

Farlo’s eyes widened more. ‘Who’s a newcomer?’

Future Farlo turned to the sunsroom entrance. ‘Jusius…’ he said. ‘The reason we’re meant to be here.’

The way he said the name – hissing the S’s, rising and falling with the vowels – told Farlo his double was anxious to meet the man again, though not necessarily for the fun of it.

Jusius strode with a sense of purpose through the ship’s dim corridors. He reached the sunsroom, poked his head through the kitchen doorway, saw the two Farlos then stepped in.

‘Holo?’ he asked, glancing between them.

He was a tall gaunt man of an age somewhere near late thirties: too old in Farlo’s opinion to be wearing the tattered layered clothing of a vagrant or unkempt youth as he was. His long brown coat was protected by another coat sleeveless, almost a long vest, and his pants were stained and baggy, gathering over worn ankle-high boots. His cropped hair faded finely into the pale of his scalp and painted his crown a sullen grey while the large dark crescents beneath his eyes worked well to cast the colour of his eyes into that crazed and faded blue Farlo had never felt comfortable looking into.

Future Farlo raised his hand. ‘Jusius.’

Jusius looked him up and down. ‘You’re not Holo.’

‘No,’ Future Farlo said. ‘I’m not. Holo’s been… well, let’s just say it was necessary to have him indisposed. For this meeting.’

‘You turned him off?’

Future Farlo nodded. ‘I did.’

Jusius looked at the console. ‘How?’

‘There’s a way. How do you get a genie back into its bottle?’

‘I…’ Jusius said and then shook his head. ‘What’s a genie?’

‘It doesn’t matter. The point is you have to make it want to go back.’

Jusius shook his head. ‘What the crap are you talking about?’

‘It doesn’t matter!’ Future Farlo cried. ‘Baby Christ! Just drop it already!’

‘How do you know me?’ Jusius asked. He looked at Farlo. ‘Who are you people?’

Farlo stepped away from his double and raised placid hands. ‘Don’t look at me. I just got here.’ He waved a finger between himself and his future. ‘We only just met.’

‘We only just met, indeed,’ Future Farlo scowled. ‘We’re one and the same and you know it.’

‘I don’t know it! I don’t know anything. All you’ve done is talk in riddles since we met.’

‘And you haven’t?’ Future Farlo asked. ‘You’re the one who came bursting in. He didn’t knock like you did, Juice. Tell us,’ he said, turning back to Farlo, ‘what was it that made you come flurrying in the way you did?’

‘I was being chased,’ Farlo said.

‘By?’

‘A bunch of… weird… alien things,’ Farlo stammered.

‘Xenophobic,’ Future Farlo nodded. ‘And why were they chasing you?’

‘They… does it really matter?’

Future Farlo shrugged. ‘Depends what you did to them.’

‘I didn’t do anything. They wanted to touch me.’

Future Farlo chuckled and stepped closer to Jusius. ‘They wanted to touch me. So full of himself.’

‘I said they were weird,’ Farlo protested. ‘And anyway, you called me in.’

‘I told you to run, dear boy. Not run to my arms.’

‘I’m going to turn Holo back on,’ Jusius said and stepped around the couch.

‘Yes,’ Future Farlo said. ‘I was going to suggest that. It is time.’

Jusius scrutinised Future Farlo and headed for the console. He looked down and began tapping at its controls, turning to ensure neither Farlo had moved. After a few moments he gave up eyeing them and turned his full attention to the task. ‘What the crap have you done here?’ he asked the console.

‘I bypassed all security measures,’ Future Farlo said. ‘I had to be cautious.’

Jusius nodded. ‘Can you undo it?’

Future Farlo hobbled to his side, and Jusius watched eagerly as he worked his way through the commands. ‘And lastly,’ Future Farlo said, and tapped a button with the flair of finality. They turned and looked at Farlo.

Farlo stared back, wondering what they were waiting for, when his gaze began to focus on a pinpoint of light, hovering over the coffee table between the three of them. The room filled with a distinctive hum as the pinpoint grew into a gaping wound of misty light then folded in on itself with an implosive flash and dying sigh.

Farlo turned to shield his eyes, and when he looked back he found, standing on the coffee table, a being – a man – the perfect likeness of himself, young and immaculately groomed in a clean, well-fitted suit, his face turned to the roof and mouth agape in exhalation.

The Holo-Farlo lowered his gaze and smiled.

‘Oh, come on,’ Farlo cried. ‘This is getting a bit silly, isn’t it?’

The Holo looked at Jusius, and his expression beamed in recognition. ‘Juice!’ He stepped off the table and clapped Jusius on the shoulders. ‘Such a sight for sore eyes!’

Jusius nodded. ‘How are you feeling?’

‘Great,’ the Holo said. ‘I have a strong urge for gainful employment. It’s fantastic! Who do I have to thank?’ He caught sight of his reflection in the window then turned a mischievous grin to Farlo. ‘Ah! Okay then! So…’ he offered a clap of his hands, ‘whern are we going?’

Farlo glanced between the three of them. ‘Sorry?’

‘Where and when,’ the Holo said. ‘I imagine you stole me for a reason. And I imagine the reason was transport.’

‘I didn’t steal you,’ Farlo said, and pointed to Future Farlo. ‘He did.’

‘Pedantics,’ Future Farlo bellowed. ‘I’m simply here to steer you in the right direction. You would have stolen him anyway.’

‘I would not have. Why would I?’

‘Because everybody does.’

The Holo nodded. ‘Everybody does. He’s right.’

‘Now,’ Future Farlo resumed, ‘I propose we depart before the gathering outside gets too curious about this hole in their wall.’

‘Ah: good sir?’ Jusius said with a bemused grin. ‘Bare in mind I mean you no disrespect when I say this, but,’ he waved a finger between Future Farlo and Farlo, ‘I’m not sure who either of you are, or how that differs from who you think you are, but neither of you are in charge of any aspect of this get-together. Holo and I do this from time to time: meet up and run a few errands. What you’ve staggered into here is a routine. Given your mutual appearance, I assume you’re both down on your luck, so we’re willing to offer you a ride somewhere, but thereafter we part ways. Understood?’

A stunted smirk crept onto Future Farlo’s lips and he offered the hint of a bow. ‘Whatever you can offer us, sir, would be more than enough and far more than we’re accustomed to from a stranger.’

‘Okay then,’ Jusius said. He turned to the console and extended a finger then commenced to take it on an aerial tour of the console’s rainbow buttons as he hummed indecisively.

Farlo glanced between the Holo to Future Farlo, trying to decide which version of him to ask. He settled on Jusius as the more attractive option. ‘You know how to fly this thing?’

‘Of course I do. I just don’t remember there being so many colours.’ He stared blankly at the controls for a moment longer then shook his head. ‘Crap. Screw it. Holo? Care to do the honours?’

The Holo nodded. ‘Gladly.’

The Creaser shuddered then began sliding backwards out into daylight. Farlo stared in awe out the window as the vessel turned toward the sky, and within seconds they were soaring, passing through Earth’s outer atmospheres and into the dimming void of space.

‘We’re moving,’ Farlo said and turned to Future Farlo. Future Farlo turned away. Farlo turned to Jusius. ‘The Pee Pee Dry was shutting down. I had to dance to keep us steady.’

Jusius returned a blank stare, but one that was close to a look of concern.

Farlo blinked in slow realisation then had to state what he now realised was obvious. ‘The ship’s not powered by dance, is it.’

Jusius frowned. ‘Not that I’m aware…’

Farlo turned a cold glare to Future Farlo and let it burn into the back of his skull.

Future Farlo felt it and turned. ‘It’s what happened to me,’ he said defensively and pointed at the Holo. ‘He made the very first us dance. Future me made me do it when I was you, and when you’re me you’ll make you do it too. We always do. It’s a right of passage.’

‘Ha!’ the Holo grinned. ‘I told you the ship’s powered by dance? Ha-ha, that’s good…’

I didn’t plan it,’ he said. ‘I was just reminded of it and wondered what it would look like from the other side.’ He nodded at the Holo. ‘Fairly funny, it turns out. I can see why you did it, now.’

Farlo glanced from one to the other. ‘What the hell is going on here…?’

‘Holo’s the vessel’s security program, stuck in diversion mode,’ Future Farlo said. ‘The moment anyone unfamiliar boards the Creaser he downloads their image and subconscious and uses them against them until they’re driven mad or are pissed off enough to leave.’

Farlo looked the Holo up and down. ‘He does not.’

‘I’m afraid he does. Up here,’ he pointed to the Holo’s temple, ‘is your subconscious ticking away without any knowledge or effort from him. With one thought, though, he could bring to the surface the most painful recollection you thought buried forever. Or would think buried forever, had you any knowledge of it. Which you don’t. Which is what I’m saying.’

Farlo turned to Jusius.

Jusius nodded. ‘It’s true.’

‘So…’ Farlo said, ‘if he’s so annoying why turn him back on?’

‘He’s also good in a jam,’ Jusius and Future Farlo replied in unison.

‘And that, dear gentleman,’ Future Farlo said, ‘is exactly where you’re headed. A terrible event awaits you all. One I’m here to prevent.’

Jusius’s attention narrowed. ‘What event?’

‘That,’ he said gravely, ‘will take some telling. I suggest we find ourselves somewhere comfortable.’ He turned to the Holo. ‘Galactic Burgers? Fetch a repast? Kill two birds with the one stone?’

The Holo nodded. ‘Galactic Burgers it is. EarthWorld’s just outside.’

Farlo turned to the window. All he could see through it was the renovated Moon ahead and several distant planets. ‘EarthWorld?’ he asked. ‘Where…?’

The Holo stepped up to Farlo and placed a hand on his shoulder. ‘That,’ he said, pointing to the Moon, ‘is EarthWorld, your planet’s closest tourist information centre slash eatery slash fun park.’

Farlo stared in awe. ‘They turned the Moon into a fun park?’

‘It’s just a name,’ the Holo said. ‘It won’t be that fun.’

Snapshot

Snapshot

Every movement I make

Every motion

Can be frozen

To present a frame

A snapshot

Of me at my purest.

And the notion of travel is wrong

For I never move

But the world slides me by

So I am stationary

And the scenery shifts

To present me with happenings

Of blocks the world over.

And I realise this reality is mine alone

And shared with that of everyone

So that I see there is no truth

In perception

 

But rather every moment is frozen in time

And time is what happens when they collide