Multigenerational writing collaboration. An amusing read in three parts. This was such fun! Pops went wildly off piste , setting us the challenge to reign in the storyline. Should we continue? Who is up for the challenge?
Nowhere to Here and Back Again – Part 1
The beach was ablaze with glitter and sequins glimmering off the silver moonlight as they danced. Hundreds of couples laughing and chatting as they moved to the slow unfamiliar melody that blared from the portable stereo. She clung to her dance partner as he moved her expertly across the soft cool sand that was beneath their bare feet. He was tall and toned, perfectly fine tuned muscles ran smoothly under his skin. She could feel each one tremble ready for action each time he swayed her in his arms. He swooped her low to the ground, the tips of her cherry black hair crystalizing with sand. She looked up at his face, suddenly realising he was a complete stranger. He was wearing a mask covering all of his face except for his lips which were full and red even in the darkness. The mask was based on the Venetian style, a gold colour with protruding crooked nose, the cheeks were glittered with foreign markings. He smiled at her and motioned her toward the water, lapping peacefully on the sand, contrasting to the loud violent lashes it unleashed against the cliff rocks surrounding the bay. When the tide was in, the beach was underwater, but they were grounded for a few more hours yet. She wasn’t sure how she knew that but she did. The water licked at her toes cooly and she smiled again. She had never felt something as refreshing, so natural and pure. The stranger spun her in toward her and kissed her so gently it was as if a feather had brushed against her lips.
“I have been calling you for so long” he whispered.
“You have?” She asked, confused. The waves crashing against the cliffs reminded her of something but she couldn’t remember what. The moon cast an eerie silver glow over everything. She feels a sudden tightening around her chest, brought on by the sound of his deep melodious voice, the unexpected words.
Or were they unexpected? She has been searching so long. #
Her scalp prickles, a rushing sound in her ears. She looks down at her feet to see paving stones, pock marked with splats of chewing gum. The grating cacophony of the coin operated machines in the fairground drowning out the sound of the sea as it swirls over the shingle stones of the pebbly beach. She looks along the promenade, bleak under the grey skies.
The attempted cheerfulness of the candy stripe awnings of ice cream parlous, the cartoon cod & chips sign. A pigeon hop, hobbles hopefully over to her, one foot gnarled and deformed. She wills herself to be back. The sense of displacement so keen, she wants to be back on the moonlit beach, she needs to. Gripping the intricately carved amulet tighter in her palm she murmurs the incantation. Her diaphragm drops in a deep intake of breath. A reverse osmosis, like going from the here; that is nothing, to a dimension that is so full, so intense, so vibrant. Multi dimensional, multi sensory. Almost as suddenly, she is back on the beautiful beach, the moonlight so bright you could thread a needle by it. But now, it is empty.
She opens her eyes slowly, stretching her long, youthful body. Pointing her toes and stretching her arms above her head. No pain, no arthritis. Probably back to her normal lithesome body. Slowly turns her head, black hair rustling on the pillows. Everything is dark. Pitch dark. Only then does she remember the amulet in her right hand. Of course she mutters, all seasons remote control. She quickly touches the sequence of buttons on the thing for ‘Spring Morning’. Slowly the room starts to glow and become lighter. She closes her eyes, waiting patiently for the chime that sounds when the action is completed. At the soft chime she opens her eyes to see the walls opaque and fading into the distance, the whole area filled with daffodils and oak tree woods. A rabbit sniffs at the bottom of the wall. The damn thing purses it’s lips at her like a cat’s backside, gives her a wink and slowly fades into the background with a fade-in of Bambi’s mother. She groans” If I see this druddy buck licked once more I’m gonna hurl!”.
She scrolls the remote from ‘Spring in Nursery Land ‘ to monastery 12th century Thailand and touches the screen. Slowly the walls fade back to black. As the darkness blankets the room a voice whispers ‘I’ve been searching for you for a long time.. She starts up in irritation “ That Michael doesn’t give up. This amounts to stalking “ she mutters.
The walls glow and came to life in the main hall of her favourite monastery with the monks in brown woollen habits, their tonsures covered with cowls. They are reaching a crescendo in the mantra they are singing, all swaying in unison on their sit-down pillows. The candlelight flickers every time a late arrival hurries in through the doors at the end of the church, letting in the cold winter winds of the Devonshire moors. She shivers, make sure she has the right era clothing on. The woollen dress itches like hell. She kneels on the straw pillow and joins the chanting wondering how many Travellers are in the hall. This is a popular venue for time travelling holiday makers. She was really getting lost in the mantra, her mind feeling relaxed, her body floaty. This was why she loved coming here, to lose herself in peace and get rid of all the stress on her shoulders. As is probably the case for other Travellers. She was so relaxed she didn’t feel the firm assertive grip on her shoulders. “Don’t make a scene” whispered the voice “just come with me quietly. Tingles ran up her neck like spiders. She opened her eyes, bowed low and got up under guidance of Michael. They left the main hall and stepped outside into the thick snow.
The monastery was on a tall mountain, so despite the humidity in the valleys below, it was always brisk up here to say the least.
“What do you want Michael?” she snarls.
“You need to find different hiding places, my sweet. I seem to find you here a lot.” He smiles so sweetly at her you might even think him her lover at a glance.
“Yes, well, I shan’t be coming here again.” She sighs. She tries to move her hand slyly toward her hidden pocket in her dress but he grabs it away.
“Don’t even think it, Princess. I’ll take that I think.” He digs into her pocket and pulls out the amulet, sparkling with movable gems under the sun.
“So beautiful… Shame to destroy it really.” She tries to struggle out of his grip and take it back but he barely moves, being significantly stronger than her. He pulls out what looks like a shard of glass and strokes it along the amulet. The air sings with a high pitched ring, getting louder and higher until the amulet shatters with a tinkling gentleness. She screams out but it is too late. “You’re coming with me now, Arianna.” He pulls her down the mountain, all the while she cusses and curses.
It had always been this way, this animosity between them. Well, except for that one brief summer. They had met nearly ten years previously at the Deckard Academy, London’s pre-eminent Universities for the Cosmic Arts. Both of them were Science majors, off-the-scale smart and fiercely competitive.
At first it had been healthy to have someone to pit herself against. But Michael’s ego was boundless, his challenges relentless. After four years of academic sparring and one-upmanship they both graduated summa cum laude in Astrophysics and Spatial Nanotechnics .
The summer that followed was sublime. Egos appeased, mutual respect forged, fission now become fusion. They became lovers. Then, one afternoon, following a balmy Channel Islands morning lazing on the beach, they’d both received a 3D-em. One that was to change their lives and, as it turned out, the course of history. The digital mailbot beamed the message from the Tyrrel Corporation.
They had issued a challenge to the Academy’s two brightest alumni:- One year to Research, Develop and submit a commercially lucrative use of the Tanhauser Gate. The winner would secure a six figure HSBCredit and a coveted position on the Akira R&D board.
The Tanhauser Gate was a midpoint where two, normally-distant points in space sit on a fault line in the space-time continuum. The science of the ‘gate’ had been unravelled many years earlier, but a practical use or application had yet to be found. Arianna saw the spark in Michael’s eyes and with it the summer of love faded. Michael and Ariana again in competition, when they should have been in co-operation dammit!
They had initially discussed both of their ideas with each other, Michael pointing out some serious flaws in her formulas. To cut a long, harrowing horrendous year short. Michael’s submission:- a deep space high-value mineral retrieval bot. High-cost; high reward; niche-market. Ariana’s:- a high-energy high-accelerant device. Lower cost production, smaller per unit price and the potential for huge mass-market numbers. The components of the original prototype comprised a core of rare meteorite, high quality precious gems, facets cut to refract the C-line-starlight. The Energy Alchemy of the refracted light from the star nurseries creating a physical fold in the force field around the bearer. The ability to travel to different points in space and time, so called `’science fictions” now made reality.
Before The Corporation could seize exclusivity Ariana published the coding on Wiki. Michael had been aghast at her forfeiting the position at The Corp that he so deeply coveted. The Directors of The Corporation were beyond incandescent. They had issued a legal writ for her arrest for retrieval of the initial development costs they had stumped up and for what was effectively corporate theft. The code went open source and within a year the masses were queuing out the doors to get their hands on an i-EA. A personal i-Energy Alchemy travel device. The mass produced i-EA’s were the economy class version of Ariana’s original. Hers effectively one of only seven “first class” versions that facilitated a far more advanced interface. And it was this that Michael had just rent asunder, and it was for this irreplaceable loss that she now raged in anger.
Suddenly, and inexplicably, Michael was gone. It must have been something to do with the time field. She knew he would be back, here, or somewhere. She made her way back to the warmth of the monastery.
Arianna stood for a while gathering her thoughts. As usual when in a think mode her left hand on her hip and her right foot resting in the hollow behind her left knee. She stood like this for a while, Buddhist monks passing her bowing with hands held together as if acknowledging the female Buddha in repose. Eventually she sighed going over to the sundial in the centre of the courtyard feet crunching in the two day old snow, slipping now and then with a bit of a futuristic curse that nobody in this era would know what the hell she was saying.
Studying the sundial she did a quick calculation what the time was at this moment and therefore what the time was at home a good couple of centuries ahead. Mmmm, according to her arithmetic she had two hours to get home and do what she had to do. The money was there, the opportunity was there and she was here. Problem. The only way was to get back to her time and the only way that could happen is if she had a time remote and who would have a remote? Some dozy chick in the chanting hall who had forgotten to take off her fake diamond zirconium ring. She wiped her feet at the entrance to the hall, bowed to the Happy Buddha and slowly walked in head straight and eyes swivelling like a baboon with it’s paw in a beehive looking for Eldorado. Gottcha she smiled to herself as she looked at a plump thirty year old, two brats and a rather resigned looking spouse. She could see the outline of the remote in the man”s brown smock in his underpants. Who wore underpants in this century. Idiot. She knelt beside him and picked up the chant putting on her sexiest voice. The guy next to her hesitated and looked sideways at her. Never fails as she blew him a kiss. She followed this with a modern English “ Is that a remote in your pants or are you just glad to see me?” It took about twenty minutes to get him out of there, ditching his wife and kids and back to one of the cloister rooms off the main dining hall. She looked at him, amusement on her face. He was totally different from Michael, but what to do with him now.
This was a sign of pure desperation to get back home as she wasn’t very confident around men and had never, in her life, used her womanly wiles to get something from a man. This one was quite short and skinny, completely opposite to his wife, his greying ginger hair faded, his face sombre though now curious as to her advances.
“Well, this is a pleasant surprise” he sneered. It wasn’t very in keeping with his appearance and it actually took her a while to respond. How had all those movie stars done it in the films? She ran her hand through her hair and smiled at him in, what she hoped, looked seductive and alluring.
“Didn’t look like you were having much fun.” She stepped closer to him, her lips parted slightly. He grinned again like a boy in a room full of his favourite toys. She was unsure the whole time of what she was going to do but wouldn’t let it show in her face. Her robe slipped down one of her shoulders accidentally on purpose with a gentle shrug. He noticed immediately and his thin bony hand instantly went to the bare flesh she had exposed. She could feel how soft it was, despite the boniness, which obviously showed that he did no hard labour at all. She gave him a smile before placing her lips gently upon his, lifting his robe gingerly. He took this as a green light and pushed his body harder against hers, the i-EA digging in her hip; she could tell due to the sharp sides in the individual gems and oval shape compared to what would be the shape of his shaft. He quickly disrobed and revealed how thin he was, no muscle at all lay anywhere on his body,
Arianna saw the i-EA rearing above the top of his white y-fronts at his hip, paying no attention to the excitement he was beginning to show. He went to help lift her dress but she took his hand away gently, beginning to kneel as if she were about to perform an act of fellatio. She lifted the i-EA saying “You don’t need that right now do you?” in a suggestive manner, but instead of carrying on with her forward motion she jumped back whilst twisting a gem and leaving him alone in the room while she span out and away to an unfamiliar place.
She looked around her, finding herself in a dimly lit front room, heavy dark sofas around a’ long put out, fire in the fireplace. She had very little idea where or when she was but it didn’t matter as she needn’t stay long anyway. She examined the unfamiliar i-EA, it wasn’t as intricate as her own which she had lovingly carved and etched with delicate filigree patterns and designs, these gems seemed dull and ordinary compared with her highly used and polished glittering stones.
It tugged at her heart thinking of her lost amulet. This one seemed to have been forged differently, the gems in unusual alignments that she was not sure about spatially, it could take her anywhere in this strange form. Obviously designed for the users own personal needs, but it couldn’t be too dissimilar technically. Arianna found the basic gems that she would have to manipulate in order to get home and manoeuvred them how she needed to, the dark room vanishing and replaced with her bright flat by the sea, all white washed and minimalistic. This was one of three properties she had acquired over the past years, this one specifically for her studies and experiments. Here she began dissecting the device she had ‘borrowed’ and forged another that she would be more comfortable with. All the equipment was there, even some high grade elements to make it up to first class standard. She worked fast, as there was no telling when she would be discovered, and soldering the last piece in place she smiled. It was beautiful, not as loved as her original but it would be, in time. The thin saucer was the size of the bottom of a small Coca-Cola bottle, as thin as an mp3 device and beautifully round, the gems she had polished to a glittering shine and the silver metal that formed the i-EA was smooth and reflected her own smiling face. Now it was time to make haste. She packed her bag with essentials and picked up her fake ID that she had had made while she was gone by a super intelligent friend who was a whizz at accurately infiltrating social security systems making her new identity a legal citizen universally.
Monica Stevens, a time travel agent working for another new smaller company called Dividan, who had jumped on the i-EA band wagon and aimed to improve the devices in every way, accuracy, appearance and usability specific to tourism. With everything packed she bid her life as she had known it goodbye, manipulated her amulet and stepped into her new persona.
She snaps her head up as she hears an impatient voice hiss
“Mooonicccah!” “Sheesh, I’ve been calling you, couldn’t you hear me?!”
She blinks, shaking her head slowly, feeling like she is in treacle. She had been lost in reverie, her mind back on the glittering beach, her body once again in the arms of the dark stranger in the Venetian mask. She can’t forget his voice, how she’d felt pulled closely to his lithe body. It hadn’t been Michael, of this she is sure. The tug is so strong, like the moons power over water, she yearns to be on the beach again, amongst the revellers, so pure, natural, real beyond imagining. She’d tried to find the beach again, but it eluded her.
She looks now at Fiona’s face, mouth twisted in annoyance.
“We have another E-vac call from Possession Island, that’s the third in as many months, take it on channel two will you Mon’.”
Monica’s focuses her gaze on the middle of the three monitors hovering above her desk. Each screen is a hive of colour-coded dots and glyphs representing real-time departures and arrivals of Dividan’s exclusive client list. In the nearly 18 months she has been working for the company she had fast become the ‘extraction’ expert. Pulling hapless time tourists out of whatever ludicrous, dangerous, sometimes seedy and sometimes tragic situation they had manoeuvred themselves into. Sometimes, though rarely through the failure of their i-Energy Alchemy devise to work, but more often by simply not being in tune with their surroundings, behaving badly, and inappropriately. As good as the i-EA’s may be in delivering extraordinary destinations and experiences, in the hands of a grockle, clueless or unwilling to fit in, a whole lot of trouble could manifest. And Arianna, aka, Monica has managed to save Dividan a chunk in insurance claims, by manipulating, negotiating and sometimes, travelling to the trouble hot spot herself to ‘smooth things out‘.
She touches the screen interface on channel two and a face comes into focus. “Dividan Directions department” she says formally “Please state your i-EA reference and situation status”
She says this without looking at the middle screen, her concentration on one of the other monitors which give all the information such as client, destination, departure time, where and into which time. Just as she notices where and when the client is, a little voice says
” Help!” Back to the centre monitor, her jaw drops. A weed of a guy is squinting at the remote in his hand, frantically pressing buttons. On his head are four banana leaves turned upside down and held in place by a coconut with a hole through it. “Stop pushing those buttons.” Her hand stuffed into her mouth to stem the laughter. Composing herself she repeats her command. The little guy’s face changes to one of – Thank heavens, somebody to save me. “you gotta get me out of here,” pleading look on his face.
” I realize that, but why are you singing the words and why have got glasses on. You know that is not allowed.”
I’m singing because they,” he turns the remote around to show another kind of beach of which the first hundred yards is covered with bowing, scraping humanity wearing banana skirt leaves. All have bones through the lobe of the left ear. She looks closer muttering “Those are finger bones!” Suddenly the remote swings back to the rather jittery man.
“They think I’m chanting. The glasses are the other problem. I forgot about them when I departed. Left them on my nose like. I got here, lovely sunny day not a soul in sight. Lovely white sand and blue ocean. Just what I wanted. Used the glasses lens and sun to make a fire.”
” That will cost you at least one million HSBCredits fine of course.” She interjects.
” I’ll pay two just get me off here. Some whacko peeking from the jungle saw me make the fire, and with great haste he scarpered to tell his Bossman of this wondrous magic. Little turd was probably expecting an extra bunch of bananas in his pay packet for the tipoff. Bossman got all excited and had me picked up and brought before his illustrious immenseness. After much hand signals and pointing to a bodyguard holding MY fire in his hands and a pained expression on his face I twigged. Demonstration! No prob. says I looking up at the sky. Oops, no sun” His expression twists in desperation.
“My voice is getting tired and some of his majesty’s loyal subjects are sharpening spears and when they grin at me, I also see sharpened teeth. HELP.”