A Short story
Inspired by art from MendyZ
To see the artwork that inspired this story visit MendyZ.com
There was a maudlin tune playing over his shoulder as he sipped the glass of ice and bourbon. The dimly lit parlor stank of cigars long smoked and conversations long ended.
She set the tray down and sat on the stiff couch to his side. He regarded her for a moment. Thought of her features, thought of her past, and remembered her future.
The tinny radio cut to a news program. She took the cue, shifted her weight and offered, “Europe’s war, huh? You’d think they could handle he krouts themselves this time.”
He remembered the first war, but he knew she didn’t. She echoed back talking points from the sophisticated conversations she had witnessed before, like slapping plaster on the side of a newly constructed building. Her façade was still rough, and had yet to dry.
He matched her posture and agreed. She lit a petite slim cigarette, played with it as they talked. Her veneer was like that of this building. The parlor was beautiful, sophisticated. The rooms’ behind were dark, dank, over used and under cleaned.
He opened his mouth to tell her why he had come, and closed it again. He saw the future twist and reel like a sea serpent; now was not the right time.
“Don’t’cha think, mister?”
He hadn’t been listening, but he remembered what she had been talking about. He could remember every moment of her life, and that of the large man guarding the door. He could remember the entombment of the pharaohs, and the thrill of the first human on mars, despite neither happening in his lifetime. He consulted with the most respected doctors alive, although most had yet to found their careers. None had any answers. A contemporary named Jung would call this “collective unconscious”, except that he watched the scroll of time unwind before his waking eyes, instead
of hidden in the back of his mind, or scrawled on the walls of an asylum.
“What did you call me in for?”, she asked.
She knew why she was called in; her desire to perform meant performing certain acts. But she didn’t know why he was here. He was here tonight to change the scroll. He was finished watching the history of the world unwind in slow precession before him, and thought to change the outcome. This one girl, in this one town had sway over nearly two centuries of history.
The idea that all people are unique, valuable, irreplaceable exists in his day, but he knew he would miss the time when it is widespread. He also knew the opposite was true; while every bullet in the Tommy Gun is deadly, only one will kill its victim. Every bullet before it would only injure or maim, and every bullet after it changed nothing. The girl that sat before him was a bullet that would streak through the chronicle of time, and he meant to capture it.
“And so, my dear, It makes perfect sense to be here now.” he smiled.
“You really think I’m gonna be famous?”
“I know it to be certain. As certain as the rising sun and the waxing moon. You will be a star.”
She beamed with pride, her cheeks red. “Well what do I have to do, mister?”
His mind flashed too far ahead, clashed across the great reef of time. He struggled to pull back, to remain in the present. It would do no one any favors if he blacked out in the armchair of this place, drooling on his good coat for the evening while dazed by fantastic visions of the infinite possibilities of the stars.
“That I don’t know. I only have an approximate knowledge of things.”
“So you know if Hitler’s gonna win the war? You know if there are really Martians?”
“Yes, my dear. Well no – he doesn’t, because we go over there and give him the old one-two. But yes, there are Martians, or at least life. Most of the bodies in the heavens hold life, although it is usually little more than pond scum.”
She sat, rapt with visions of his tale.
“There are some worlds with other creatures, like fish or bugs or rats. Vermin really, although their exotic forms and habits give those who are inclined a great amount of joy to study.”
“But what about Martians, like other men out there?”
“That is something of a mystery. Each world is like an island, and there exists a great reef around them. Something happens when the men of other worlds send out their ships. They crash upon the reef, and then simply vanish.”
“Wow mister, that’s a sad tale. What happens to us when we go out there?”
His heart ached suddenly, and his vision blurred. The rough fabric of the chair slid nosily beneath him and the chandelier echoed dark whispers. The heavy air thick with tar and smoke was sucked away, leaving the twang of ozone and burning metal.
“The ships of Man with collide with this same reef.” He said.
Her smile faded and she looked to the floor with dismay. While she was exceptional at portraying drama, she truly was upset by this revelation.
He strained to peek a little further, made brazen by the drinks and his company. He was left weightless, so far from the Earth. Bizarre violet rays unknown to man warmed his soul and made his
bones itch, while the azure haze of gravitational waves ebbed and flowed around him.
“One ship. One ship waits on the other side.”
A great beast howls in the distance. She appears not to have heard it. A demons teeth flash in the distant starlight’s glare. She appears not to have seen it.
“A flagship, like the titanic. Made to never sink. It’s cannons primed and its sails unfurled.”
The stinking hand of a creature long dead rests on his shoulder, and offers him riches untold.
“Its crew was all dead. Sacrificed.”
He had already been here. He had already changed her destiny, and the papers flew off the presses telling of her legacy many years ago.
He snapped from his daze, back in the parlor with the beautiful girl whose timeline he had planned to adjust. Whose timeline he had already adjusted.
With a nervous hand, he finished his bourbon and set in on the ornate coaster with a clank.
“Never mind all this talk of other worlds. Let us take a short walk.”
Purple Rain – The End