Temporal [A Short Story]

He’d taken her to many of his favourite places and times and she, in turn, had showed him her own favourite places and times. That day, while technically arbitrary since they both possessed the means of temporal traversal, was a milestone for Claire, prompting James to plan a series of connected temporal jumps to celebrate.

The viscous pop that preceded and followed every jump slapped the inside of his head as the thin vacuumed layer an atom thick clicked from present to past, or rather alternate present that just happened to be the former present’s past. The instantaneous jump was always disorienting and he sneezed. It was always the ionized scent of the new time that James noticed first as the single atom field dissolved around him and the native particles of the new time rushed in to to fill the void.

Claire laughed. “Every time.”

Every time,” James smirked, rubbing his nose.

They’d just come from cursing out Cicero in English (which of course he would not understand) for writing the five books of the Tusculan Disputations which Claire had to translate from Latin into English in her graduate studies. The confusion on Cicero’s brow at this blonde robed woman barking at him in an unusual tongue would be a hard experience to top.

Still smiling from the high of going off on Cicero, Claire looked around trying to guess when James had jumped them to now. This trip was to be a surprise to her and he’d made her promise not to check the holographic read out that would project the data against the skin of her arm. She agreed not to check.

So we’re on an island,” Her furrowed brow scanned the horizon of azure sea beyond the green capped cliffs that fell off sharply in front of her. She swung around to look behind her and smiled. “I’ve spent a lot of time here. I should recognize this place.”

Claire looked up at James and he beamed back: “Yah, but when.”

The island stretched 200 km from east to west and varied from 12 to 58 km from north to south.

Are we standing where Heraklion should be?”

Well, it won’t be for a very very long time, but yes,” he followed behind her and his heart hummed from the glow in her eyes as she scanned the untouched contours of a Crete.

Is that …” she started to ask and then started to walk toward a mound of dirt James had hoped she wouldn’t notice. “That’s recently disturbed soil.”

Oh wow, good eye,” James smirked. “You actually weren’t supposed to notice that. I came here earlier and …” he paused. “Actually … spoilers. You’ll find out later.”

The trees!” Claire said, gape mouthed. “It’s completely deforested now … well … in the present it will be completely deforested. Egypt, Syria, Cyprus, the Aegean Islands, and the Greek mainland all commercially exploited Crete for timber. So I’m going to say we’re 2700 BCE.”

Close,” James clicked his wrist and a holographic beam projected the time stats on the skin of his wrist. “2796 BCE.”

So roughly three hundred years before the great Minoan civilization,” she said, eyes lapping up the reality that had before been merely ink on paper inside a textbook.

They walked together around the rim of the island before arriving back at the disturbed soil where James instructed her to close her eyes so he could sync up their time circuits to arrive at the same point in time.

Ready?” He smiled.

You didn’t say I could look yet,” she smirked.

You can look,” he said.

Oh good,” she started to check her wrist.

You can open your eyes, not check the time circuits,” James laughed.

Well, you should’ve been more specific.”

I’ll remember that. Ready?”

Ready?”

There was a slow hum of energy and then that disorienting pop and another wave of new smells.

James sneezed.

Ever-“

Everytime,” James interrupted her. “Well, here we are.”

And when is here?” There was a smaller settlement where the present, (future), city of Heraklion would’ve been.

What’s your guess?” He started to move to a space of soil behind Claire and seemed to be looking for something.

Claire was busily surveying the rocky outcroppings that sunk away into the sea beyond the lip of the cliff in front of her.

When she turned she saw it.

Oh my god,” she sighed.

Right?” James stood up from his digging and followed Claire’s gaze to where the first palace on the low hill beside the Krairatos river jutted out from the island’s horizon.

So we’re before 1700 BCE. Before the destruction of the palace and the other Protopalatial palaces around Crete,” she still hadn’t blinked yet. “Was it a large earthquake or foreign invaders?”

What am I? A time traveller?” James shrugged. “It’s ready.”

What’s ready?”

Exactly,” James was pointing down to a space of dirt at his feet and handed her a 4 inch trowel.

It wasn’t that far below the surface and Claire quickly excavated what turned out to be a small plastic tub. It contained photographs from their visit to the Chicago jazz club Apex Club in 1927 where they danced the Charleston. Another was from the time they went to the 1897 General Art and Industrial Exposition of Stockholm where they saw exposition of “new” media technologies such as the phonograph, and film. One showed Claire with gymnast Natalia Kuchinskaya performing her floor routine in the background at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, Mexico.

These are wonderful,” she cooed. “Thank you.”

There’s one more thing in there,” he pointed to the bottom of the plastic tub.

It was a voice recorder. She pressed play and the machine in her hand whirred to life.

James’ familiar voice was singing her Happy Birthday.

That was Beethoven playing piano, ” he said afterward as she hugged him. “Happy Thirtieth Birthday, Claire.”

Death and Other Mysteries [A Short Story]

Death and Other Mysteries
By Joel Nickel

Alex was distractedly loading a bowl as he watched an episode of Penn & Teller’s Bullshit on the computer while Cassie scrolled through her Tumblr dashboard on her laptop.
<<You’ll never die>>
“What?” Cassie stopped scrolling and looked up at the monitor.
<<Nobody can die unless they believe in death>>
<<If we do another forty or fifty seasons of Bullshit, we’ll have the pleasure of proving him wrong>>
Cassie closed her laptop and came to sit closer to Alex who was now sparking up the bowl and pulling in a lungful of smoke. He passed the pipe to Cassie.
<<But he’s not the only person claiming immortality>>
<<I’m Dark Rose>>
<<I’m Donald LaDesque. And we’re vampires>>
<<Yup, LaDesque and Dark Rose. They call themselves vampires. They claim to embrace the death aesthetic>>
Cassie lit the bowl and pulled hard on the pipe. They’d run out of screens for the pipe and the one they were using was thick with resin. She started coughing.
<<I feel to embrace life is to embrace death. If you’re not afraid of death, if you know what’s coming, you can push the boundaries in life>>
<<Any why aren’t they afraid of death? They believe in reincarnation. We’re pretty sure that’s some sort of Buddhist thing but Buddhist clothes and teeth aren’t nearly as sexy cool>>
Cassie passed the pipe back to Alex.
<<There is an energy inside you. It’s the life energy and when the body dies the energy has to go somewhere else or turn into something else>>
<<Energy can’t die. It can only be transformed>>
Cassie reached out and pressed the spacebar to pause the video.
“I had a moment the other day where I was literally trying to find out … ’cause energy … is a force, right? Or so they say,” Cassie said. “Would it still not be made up of matter. Yah, you can destroy like … but you can’t, it’s matter. I don’t know. I would have to go back to Shay and see what the conversation was. ‘Cause I was trying to figure out … ah, I can’t even remember what it was, but it was something about whether or not there were certain forces that you could or could not … do, like manipulate because they’d be made of solid matter and … I don’t know. It was super weird.”
“Sorry, explain one more time,” Alex passed the pipe back to Cassie.
“Yah, I’m trying to remember it and I don’t remember specifically what it was but it was something like that,” Cassie said and paused to take in a deep lung of smoke and slowly force it out her nose. “Energy can’t die. It’s like: woah.”
“Oh yah, ’cause energy equals-”
Cassie continued: “I guess you can cancel out energy but the you can’t really destroy it because it’s made of matter. And you can’t destroy matter. And so it was just really weird. I can’t remember. I’ll have to ask Shay.”
“What if reality is just one big thing,” Alex said. “And within that, the changing is just the inside, going from a unified state to disorder.”
“Entropy.”
“Entropy!” Alex exclaimed. “There we go! Entropy. Thank you.”
“I had this conversation with Shay,” Cassie said. “What if everything we see … you know everyone says ‘this is molecules’,” Cassie pointed to the couch. “And ‘this is molecules’,” Cassie pointed to the bookshelf. “But the only reason the molecules are different and things like that … what if literally, all our life is just … atoms connecting, colliding, and disassembling in new forms and the only … we feel we have these experiences and we live life and stuff like that but we actually aren’t. And the only reason we kind of feel like we experience this is, like, because generating electricity is connecting certain atoms and we feel like we’re experiencing things, but we’re not real.”
Alex looked off into a space beyond the off-white wall and into the nothingness behind it.
“Woah.”
“Like, we’re just more atoms in a tangled mess of shit that’s happening and it’s like, so then when everyone’s like ‘what’s the meaning of life?’, well there is none,” Cassie sparked up the pipe again.
“Existence is the meaning,” Alex said.
“No,” Cassie coughed. “Because then we’re just more molecules. Like, what makes us different than this?” She touched the wooden bookshelf. “It’s just that our molecules are assembled differently. But with the electricity … see when things collide there’s always energy generated and so that energy generated is generating what we believe is a consciousness but it’s not. It’s just energy. It’s just happening. It’s just a force.”
“So consciousness is just another force,” Alex said.
“Like gravity, it’s just another force that exists,” Cassie said. “The only reason we think it is something is because we as humans are built to detect patterns in chaos. That’s why we see constellations. That’s why we see patterns in numbers. We see patterns in things and so we’ve made ourselves believe that this is pattern of molecules and it makes a can. This is a pattern of molecules and it makes a bookshelf. And that’s a pattern of molecules and it makes Alex.”
Alex shivered. Continue reading

Faith (an ouroboros short story)

Faith

by Joel Nickel

Her boyfriend had started Mokeyism in 2007 but it only really became a religion in 2013. Alex had written things down earlier but it wasn’t until there was outside interest in the ideas of Mokeyism that he ever thought meetings were even a slight possibility.
“The episode blows your mind immediately as you begin watching it,” the Puppet Shaman to his followers or Alex Sunderland to her, sat on the couch reading from the notes in front of him. They didn’t really have anything for a pulpit so they just put a plush doll of Mokey Fraggle on the coffee table of whoever was hosting that week. “Doc is talking to his dog, Sprocket, about time travel. ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to travel in time? Of course you wouldn’t go anywhere because the past and the future are happening here and now in the present. It’s all a question of perception. I thought dogs knew stuff like that’.” Alex stopped to take a sip of his coke. “They made a model of a time machine and Doc suggests trying it out. So he stuffs Sprocket in and locks him inside. Then he begins to shake the machine and says: ‘and now to press the button to the not so distant future.’ But then he leaves. He grabs his hat and leaves with Sprocket still locked in the time machine only to return a few moments later dressed as an old man! He unlocks Sprocket from time machine and says: ‘Sprocket, where have you been all these years?’ Wow, way to mess with Sprocket’s mind!
“The story revolves around Mokey who’s putting on a play she wrote called the legend of Bloomdig; she plays Bloomdig. It’s about a great leader, Bloomdig, who was some sort of deity who ‘appeared out of nowhere’. Bloomdig lived in a time where everyone was bald and anyone with hair was instantly banished.’Better bald than banished,’ quips Wembley.
“Mokey, Boober, and Wembley are rehearsing in the cave in which Bloomdig supposedly appeared out of nothing. She makes them wear hats, because the ancient bald Fraggles needed to wear hats. Makes sense. They needed something to cover their heads, and it sure as hell couldn’t be hair! Am I right?
“We learn an important fact about Mokey in this episode: she’s a method actor. She has to go to the Sacred Cave to rehearse, and when Boober expresses his anxiousness about being in the Sacred Cave, Mokey responds: ‘Mokey? Who’s Mokey?” Alex even tried to use the Mokey voice. “I am Bloomdig, great and wondrous leader of the Fraggles who were Bald.’ Another thing we learn is that Fraggles call their ancestors Fraggles who were Bald.
“Boober finds a mysterious and somehow familiar painting of a Fraggle, which appears on one of the cave walls. Weirdly enough, the Fraggle was depicted with hair. Mokey immediately dismisses it. ‘Wembley, this is no time for ferburps.’ I assume that’s Fragglian for: nonsense.”
There was scattered laughter among the chomping of chips and fizzing of carbonated drinks.
“Obviously the word is archaic and Wembley has no idea what she’s saying. ‘Bloomdig lives in a time where Fraggles were bald, she talked funny,’ which I found amusing remembering my first encounters with Shakespeare and Chaucer, and I’m sure if I knew Latin or Greek the same would be true for Homer and Socrates. For Henson to include such concepts is why he’s my favourite storyteller! It makes you believe that they have their own Fraggle society that’s been going on for a very long period of time.
“Mokey also delivers a wonderful tidbit of information about Fraggle society when Boober tries to leave the cave because he’s afraid. She tells him: ‘I know Fraggles don’t tell each other what to do, so I’m asking you nicely, please do it for me, please?’.
“So, Fraggles don’t tell each other what to do. How would that work for a whole society? I don’t tell someone else what they can or can’t do. That leaves things open for assholes to take over unfortunately. But fortunately Fraggle Rock has no assholes. Boober’s kinda emo but he’s not an asshole.”
There was pockets of laughter that.
“I have a problem believing that it would ever work for humanity because there would always be that one person who is sadistically opportunistic and would abuse the freedom that Utopian Fraggle concept would offer.
“Anyway, she convinces Boober to stay and they begin rehearsing for the play. They rehearse a chant and the cave painting explodes in smoke and disappears.”
Alex made a grandiose gesture and a few of them mocked gasping.
“’It’s gone!’ says Wembley. ‘That’s funny,” muses Mokey.
‘No it’s not! Goodbye!’ Boober’s ready to turn tail and run but the sound of chanting can be heard in a nearby cave. A ceremony is taking place. A Huba Ooga band. They go check it out and in that instant Boober realizes they’re in the past. The cave is filled with bald Fraggles in hats singing Huba Ooga.
“’Please tell me this is part of your play. Please tell me this is part of your play,’ Boober pleads. ‘Well Boober, it didn’t used to be,’ she admits. ‘But the creative process is a very strange thing.’
The Fraggles that are dancing are suddenly told to stop by an angry looking green Fraggle who we can assume is their leader. He just looks at them for a while and then tells them to run.
“And a court employee of some kind yell: ‘Fish Face says run!’ And they all begin to run around again.
“’Are you seeing what I’m seeing?’ says Mokey. ‘If it’s totally crazy? Yes,’ Oh, Boober.
“The Fraggles see her and immediately recognize her as Bloomdig. The green leader guy, Fish Face, looks pissed! The little court employee comes up beside Fish Face and says: ‘At last she has come to rule us’ in the creepiest way possible.
They laughed.
“’I rule here!’ Fish Face bellows. He promptly sets out to discredit her, but a member of the tribe introduces himself to Bloomdig. ‘I’ve waited all my life for this moment.’ And it made me think of how people would act if Jesus came back and they were standing right there when it happened. What would you say? What would you do? Would you go shake his hand? Good job, thanks for comin’ back?
“’“We’re dreaming, right?’ Boober pleads to Wembley as they watch Mokey from a distance. ‘Where’s Red, where’s Gobo?’ Wembley cries. And the court employee jumps up from behind them. ‘Gobo? Did you say Gobo?’
‘Oh, no!’ The crowd covers their head with their hands. ‘What’s wrong with them?’ Mokey wonders. ‘What isn’t?’ Oh, Boober.”
They laughed.
“Fish Face gets even more angry. He yells at Wembley, telling him he has uttered the ‘sacred word’.
“Mokey tries to explain to the tribe that it’s just Gobo’s name by saying his name a lot and they get progressively more annoyed.
‘You said Gobo,’ one of the tribe says. ‘Gobo means, take off your hat.’ Woah! So we learn that they’re so freaked out about not showing their baldhead that even to ask to remove your hat is offensive!
But because they believe that Mokey is Bloomdig, they take their hats off to her. ‘Even though it cold enough to freeze heads’ I’ve become a grammar enforcer and that line of dialogue made me cringe.
‘The evidence is in, this is neither a play nor a dream,’ Boober realizes. ‘They’re all bald!’ Notices Mokey. ‘Bald?’ Wembley shrieks.
‘Bald.’ Boober nods.
“Turns out Mokey, Wembley, and Boober have gone back in time to become Bloomdig and her two followers who mysteriously appeared out of nothing. Sweet, huh? I love Jim Henson.”
Evan got up to go use the washroom and came back with a slice of pizza.
Awesome, there’s still pizza. He made a mental note to grab a slice after the sermon.
“The story goes back to Doc and Sprocket, and he’s still fucking with Sprocket’s head. He tells him that Ned Schimmelfinny and his cat, Fluffinella, had moved away. He says he could’ve moved too, but he always believed that Sprocket would come back. What a mind fuck, huh? Who does that to their dog? We rejoin Mokey, er, Bloomdig, and her two followers as they realize they’re in the past. Boober’s scared, so is Wembley, and Mokey, ever the optimist and trusting Fraggle, believes that they should just tell the tribe what happened, but they first bump into Fish Face who confronts Mokey about trying to take away his power and Mokey tries to downplay the situation and admits to not being Bloomdig.
“The Fraggle who had moments before expressed how he waited his whole life to meet her suddenly appears out of nowhere saying, chillingly: ‘We tie you to rock for trying to fool us.’ What!
They’re lead in front of the whole tribe and they try to convince the tribe that they are Bloomdig, and her followers, and they even try using some archaic words. This one Fraggle starts laughing at their accent and Fish Face gets angry. ‘Stop! No one laughs’ Fish Face growls.”
Some of the congregation hissed.
“It’s the law. It’s banned. Wow, so now we also know that Fraggles were not always as fun and carefree and sing-songy as we might think. In fact, they were going to arrest the Fraggle that laughed until Mokey stopped it. She said that she was Bloomdig and that in her great wisdom she demanded the man be set free. Fish Face reluctantly agrees but challenges her to prove she is who she says she is by moving sacred boulders. ‘You fail, you are a has been,’ Fish Face warns.
‘I’m a will be,’ Mokey says after Fish Face leaves. ‘Or a never was,’ Boober interjects.
“Mokey begins looking into her play notebook to see if there’s anything on moving boulders. But learns instead that it says she did move the boulders, but doesn’t say how she did it. And cue psychedelic ceremony where they sing about true voodoo; it’s a pretty awesome song.”
The congregation laughed and nodded in agreement.
“They try to move the boulder by shouting move at it! Ha!
When they can’t move the boulder, Fish Face tells them they failed and order them tied to a rock. ‘You lie,’ Fish Face says. ‘Tie them to a rock.’ ‘Tie them to a rock,’ the tribe chants eerily.”
“Tie them to a rock,” members of the congregation got in on imitating the chant.
“’We are from the future,’ Mokey tries to explain but they scoff at her. She even tells him her name and Fish Face laughs. ‘Mokey, is not a name,’ Fish Face says. ‘Mokey, means put on your hat. And apparently Wembley means: no scratch nose in public. And Boober means: tie him to a rock!
“Which they very quickly do, and in an older version of Gobo and Wembleys room, mind you! ‘That’s where our beds will be!’ Wembley comments through the gag in his mouth. ‘And that’s the nook where we build our fire.’ Wembley expresses how he misses Gobo, and Boober proceeds to completely blow my mind by reminding his friends that Gobo isn’t born yet. They go into a song: ‘I can hear our future calling like a love song.’ It’s a beautiful down-tempo song, which almost makes you forget that they’re singing tied up-with gags in their mouths-to the stairwell of their future apartment.
“She makes a plan to get back to the sacred cave and ends up untying herself and frees her friends but the top of the stairs a massive boulder blocks their path. ‘It’s all my fault,’ Mokey apologizes. ‘It’s not.’ Wembley tries to console her. ‘Yes, it is.’ Boober quickly adds. ‘Yes, it is.’ Wembley agrees.”
The congregation laughed. He really enjoyed it when they laughed at his sermons.
“Mokey realizes that they can just show their hair to prove that they’re from the future. Boober points out that they banish people with hair. The Fraggle who was imprisoned for laughing pipes up and asks to see their hair. ‘I need a good laugh,’ he says. Apparently, hair is the funniest thing there is. ‘It’ll make anybody laugh.’
“The court employee slides the rock open to give them food and taunts Mokey. She takes this opportunity to show him her hair and he flips out, laughing like crazy. The trio go to the main hall where Fish Face is standing with the whole tribe. ‘Jump,’ he says.‘Fish Face says jump,’ says the court employee. ‘No jump,’ Fish Face says. Before the court employee can repeat the order, the trio jump out and surprise the tribe. Fish Face inquires as to how they escaped. ‘It was really quite simple, we just went Gobo,’ explains Mokey, taking off her hat and showing her hair. Although that would mean ‘we just went take off your hat’, but I get what they mean.
“Fish Face keels over in laughter and knocks over the sacred boulders. The tribe sees that Bloomdig made Fish Face laugh and move the boulders and take that as a sign of her divinity and make her their leader. Still underneath the boulders, Fish Face pleads for help but the court employee basically tells him to fuck himself.”
The congregation laughed.
“’You’re no longer the great and wondrous anything.’
They start chanting ‘tie him to a rock’ and grab him. Thankfully, Mokey stops the madness. ‘In the future when Fraggles have hair,’ Mokey starts, ‘we also have no great and wondrous leader … we each lead ourselves and we each other … my suggestion is: give up, great and wondrous leaders.’ ‘But what will we do?” Fish Face wonders. ‘You’ll dance your cares away, worries for another day, let the music play, down in Fraggle Rock,’ She says.”
Cheering broke out and they tossed out an amen or two.
“And the tribe turns festive and they embrace the Philosophy of the Fraggles of the future. Mokey, Boober, and Wembley go back to the sacred cave and get ready to do the ceremony to send them back to the future, but not before leaving the Fish Face a cave painting. The very cave painting Mokey looked at in the beginning of the episode and thought was mysterious and somehow familiar. Fuckin’ nuts, huh? I love Jim Henson. They head back to their own time and meet up with Gobo and Red. Mokey tries to explain what happened, and the pans away to conclude the story of Doc and Sprocket.
“Doc is still wearing his fake beard and trying everything he can to coax Sprocket into the fake time machine. He tells him he got rid of all the dog food and when he sees Sprocket isn’t going to leave, he finally has to give up and confess that it wasn’t the future. He takes off the beard, and Sprocket laughs. I thought it was amusing that the Fraggles showed their hair, and Doc showed that he didn’t have hair.”
Nods of agreement dotted the congregation.
“Doc realizes that Sprocket was playing him back, ‘How long did you know?’ Sprocket continues to laugh. Doc says he doesn’t need the machine, ‘I can see the future right now. I see a man, his dog, a cup of tea, and not a beard in sight,’ Doc says throwing the fake beard into the time machine.
“I think this is a phenomenal story. Mokey goes back to make serious, uptight Fraggles into the Fraggles that we know and love. She was the catalyst in the cultural evolution of the Fraggle. If that doesn’t warrant a religion to be built up around her I don’t know what does. And now, without further adieu. I give you episode ninety one of Fraggle Rock, Mokey, Then and Now.”
The congregation cheered and Greg turned down the lights and started the DVD.
This week they were at Greg’s place. Every week someone else hosted the meeting. The sermons were often fairly short and then they’d watch the episode.