an anthology of short stories: Apparitions and Premonitions.
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?”
There was a slow hum of energy and then that disorienting pop and another wave of new smells.
“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.”
“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
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!” 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.
“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
The first 15 pages of my 2013 novel: the Watchers
The pdf version of the notes for the Mokeyism sermon: A TUNE FOR TWO .