Stuck Between Science and Magic

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“Help! A static-riddled voice pleaded in the darkness of the laboratory.

“This is Professor Dean Tucker. Can you…” the words dissolved in a steady stream of static coming from a speaker in a cubicle in the center of the room. Everyone was gone for the day and the night janitor was slowly making her rounds when she thought she heard a voice.

“Is anyone there?” she meekly inquired. “Hay alguien alla?” she repeated in Spanish.

She heard a crackling sound and walked over to the cubicle in the center of the lab. She stood there for a moment listening, then heard, “I’m stuck! Help me…” The suddenness of the unexpected voice made her jump in fright. When she couldn’t see anyone she decided it was time to get out of the room. It was obviously haunted. Like a good Catholic, she crossed herself and hurried out.

Dean watched her leave – as dimensions opened and closed – and his heart sunk. He did this to himself. He should have waited until the next day when his fellow researcher and he could have tested the Dimension Splitter together. He would have had a backup. Someone who would have been there to help him in the case of an emergency. Like this one.

But no.

There was no time to dwell on that. Dean started walking and there was a flash as his surroundings disappeared and he reappeared in a primeval jungle. As he looked around a Brontosaurus came into view. The gigantic quadruped sauropod didn’t even seem to notice him although he was less than a hundred yards away. He ducked behind a tree and felt dizzy. Thunder and lightning. Day and night. Dinosaurs. He felt like he was drifting and woke up in the middle of a battlefield. Corpses lay putrefying in the unrelenting sun. Miles of trenches packed with bodies. Some alive. Most dead. Dean stumbled through the thick muck and mud before climbing out of the trench on a blood-soaked rope ladder.

He thought about the laboratory. Then he was there again. Sitting on the chair inside the cubicle. He glanced over at the wall clock across the room. It was 2 a.m. He started to rise from the chair and…

The world exploded! He was floating in some kind of clear bubble and could see scenes of mass destruction below him. Wildfires raged across mountains and coastal shore lines disappeared beneath the wild waters of the ocean. Buildings were crumbling under seismic shocks. Volcanos erupted. And people all over the earth were trying to survive the cataclysmic events he was witnessing.

The whole terrifying panorama turned black and he looked up and saw stars and planets overhead. He was sitting beside an ancient oak tree located near a simple cottage. He got up and walked over to it and noticed a well just a few yards from the cottage. His mouth felt like cotton and an urge to get a drink of water overtook him. As he lowered the wooden bucket down the well, someone stepped out of the cottage. The glow from a lantern inside the cottage framed the old woman as she hobbled over to him.

“What are you doing here human?” she abruptly asked.

“I don’t know where here is. I’m lost.”

“Another one,” she sighed. “When are you foolish mortals going to quit poking your noses where they don’t belong?

“I don’t know what…”

“Oh, forget it. You’re here now. Have a drink. You weren’t just messing with science my boy, you were messing with magic too.”

“What can I do?” he pleaded.

“I’ll tell you what I told the rest. You’re going to have to go on a quest.

“A quest?”

“Yes. You know what that is, don’t you? Of course, you do. You’re an educated man. You’re going to have to find your way back to the real world. You’ll need a special key to do that. Hence, your quest.”

“Where should I look?”

The old woman and the cottage were gone. He found himself standing on an old cobblestone road that could have been built by the Romans during the height of their power. He chose a direction and started walking. Soon he came upon a man sitting on a large rock. Something about him looked familiar.

“Hello” Dean called out as he approached.

The old man looked up from his book and nodded.

“I’m looking for something. Perhaps you can help me?

“I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think,” the man cryptically replied.

“Do you know where I might find a special key?

“One thing only I know, and that is that I know nothing,” the white-haired oldtimer claimed.

“Wait a minute! I know who you are! You’re Socrates!

“Now it is time that we are going, I to die and you to live; but which of us has the happier prospect is unknown to anyone but God,” he said.

As Dean watched in awe, a cloud enveloped them and he thought he heard music. The cloud soon grew so dense he slowed down and put his hands out in front of him. It was moist and smelled like the ocean. A seagull cried out as it spotted food on the tiny stretch of beach that opened up before him. Sand crabs scuttled out of his way as he walked over the white sand and up to the breakers and looked out at the vast sea. It was calm and undisturbed by ships. A few seagulls glided lazily in the mild wind currents searching for food in the crystal clear waters below.

Without questioning why, Dean had the urge to swim out past the waves and slip into the deeper waters. Rays of sunlight sent slivers of luminescence into the depths as he reached a bed of coral. He felt like he could hold his breath forever, but something inside him reminded him that he couldn’t. He was a human. Not a fish. After a short search he found a small metal box. A sense of sheer joy made him smile as he grabbed it and started for the surface. Once he was back up on the beach he eagerly opened the metal box.

It took Dean a few minutes to adjust. He was sitting in the cubicle again. It was still dark in the laboratory. Gingerly, he stood up, expecting something to suddenly change. He walked over to the control panel and stared at it as the first rays of sunlight snuck through the shades in the laboratory. He was back. And, he learned a lesson. Without hesitation he picked up a metal stool and brought it down hard on the control panel! He didn’t stop until he was out of breath.

As It Stands, who knows where the line is between magic and science?

The Gate Keeper

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Torug tore off the Bazalite’s limbs, one by one, in a show of power that terrified his comrades who turned and ran for their lives. Before the Bazalite died, he cut his head off and threw it in the direction of his retreating comrades. Then he let out a roar that echoed throughout the valley.

No one would ever get by Torug.

Created by the gods of Azorth, Torug was the gate-keeper to their world, where the gods from three solar systems lived in harmony. It was a beautiful lush world of grassy savannas, majestic mountains, mighty rivers, and valleys covered in trees as far as the eye could see. It was Torug’s job to see that the portal to Azorth was protected at all times. To this end, his creators made him a fearsome creature. He stood seven-feet-tall and was massively muscled. His blue skin was covered in golden armor. His golden helmet covered his entire face. There were two small openings for his brilliant orange eyes that glared in the dark. He stood night and day in the vast desert. Never complaining. Always ready.

The planet, Tenith was a barren wasteland, ruined by generations of polluters and wars. It’s inhabitants, the Bazalites were dying off as resources shriveled up and food became more scarce. A once proud civilization, the Bazalites had reached the height of civilization generations ago. Their decline was a steady series of wars.

Once upon a time in Tenith, the portal/gate that Turug now guarded was open and the Bazelites mingled with the gods of Azorth. But that was thousands of years ago before the wars began.

Now the Bazelites faced extinction. They lived in small war bands that continued to fight for survival in the unforgiving heat. Every Bazelite knew about the portal to Azorth. And, its fierce gatekeeper. In desperation they attacked Turug day and night, only to be savagely turned back.

It was during these desperate times that a young female Bazelite, Adio, came up with a plan to open up the portal without attacking Torug. Her family wished her well as she set out across the vast Nigaran desert one night. Not only was Adio brave, but she had the best imagination of anyone in the little group she was brought up with. She was always telling stories, weaved from her fertile dreams and thoughts. It was this ability, to tell fascinating stories, that she counted on.

It took two days to cross the Nigaran desert. Adio was scanning ahead during the second day when she saw a glint of light. The closer she came it glittered until she made out Turag. He was standing with his arms crossed staring straight ahead at her. The sun danced over his golden armor, and Turug looked like a terrible angel to her. But, she didn’t panic and kept walking towards him. Not sensing any aggression, Turug was mildly amused at her courage. She was unarmed yet she still approached him. It was a novel moment. Something new after years of silently standing guard and listening to the wind.

“My name is Adio. I tell stories,” she simply stated.

Behind the golden helmet, Turug’s face contorted in surprise. What was this? No one ever talked with him before. She wanted to tell stories. He was confused and unsure of what to do. She didn’t appear to be a threat.

“Why do you think I want to hear your stories?” he asked in a gravelly voice that was not used to speaking.

“Because your alone, and you don’t have any friends. It must be boring,” she replied.

“Alone. Boring. What are these things that you speak of?

“It doesn’t seem fair that you stand guard all alone with no one to talk with and pass the time. That seems sad.. boring,” she explained.

Turug’s interest was piqued. He took his helmet off, exposing an ogre-like face and bald head. She watched him carefully, trying to read any expression on his grotesque face. His strange orange eyes seemed to twinkle in amusement, so she went on, “Let me tell you a story of long ago, when the Bazelite’s and the gods of Azorth mingled in harmony.”

“It was so, once?” he asked in surprise.

“Yes. Many lifetimes ago, before the god of war turned our people into what we are today.”

“Speak. I would hear this story.

“In the days when the gods and the people of Bazelite were close, they sometimes intermingled, and had children. Rarely. But it did happen. One day the god of love mated with a Bazelite and they had a child. It was against the rules, but like I said, it happened. When the other gods held court to talk about the violation, the god of love defended what he’d done. The court was in chaos for days as the gods argued back and forth.

“Finally, they decided to see how the child turned out, and didn’t censor the god of love for breaking the rule. The child’s name was Bal. As he grew up he wrestled with his dual nature and developed a bad temper. By the time he reached his majority he was fighting with others over stupid things and had earned a reputation for being foul-tempered. It got to the point where he recruited several Bazelites and gods and they went about sowing discord. He was upsetting the harmony of Azorth and the day came when he had to be dealt with. Because he was half god they did not kill him. Instead, he was banished and named the “God of War.

“The banishment included all of the Bazelites who were living in Azorth. From that day forward the god of war ravaged the planet. We have been expelled from paradise ever since.”

“This is true?”

“Yes. A mistake was made and a civilization has paid for it,” she softly replied, as hope began to build inside her that she’d reached his heart.

“It’s a sad story,” Turug allowed, and crushed her skull with his massive fist!

As It Stands, the gods were not to meant to mingle. They were meant to rule.

There’s a Time and Place For Everything

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Time, and time again, the man failed to force the door open as the beast closed in on him. He looked over his shoulder in time to see the monster open its shark-like mouth, with rows of razor-sharp teeth, closing them on his arm!

His screams echoed through the ruins of the city long ago destroyed by nuclear war. His cries for help went unanswered. Those that heard his tortured cries stayed hidden, hoping the monstrosity wouldn’t find them.

Huddled in a row of nearby buildings, Leo stayed calm, and listened. His younger brother Joe sat next to him, patiently waiting for the sign that it was safe to move. Like most of the survivors in what was once, Los Angeles, California, the men used sign language to communicate. Talking was too risky. The monster that preyed upon them had extremely good hearing, and a bloodhound’s sense of smell. Minutes crawled by, turning into hours before Leo felt it was gone, and gave Joe the safe sign. They crawled out of their hiding place and stretched their cramped limbs while keeping alert eyes peeled for the nameless beast that stalked them.

The only reason the men went into the ruins, and didn’t stay in their forest stronghold, was they had to forage for food. Canned food. Dried food. Sealed food that wasn’t contaminated. It was too risky eating the remaining wildlife because of radioactive contamination to their systems. It was generational, causing hideous deformities. Food was finite. Someday there wouldn’t be any to scavenge.

It was in this dystopian nightmare that Leo and Joe were raised. Their parents, long gone, taught them basic life lessons like where to find eatable food. Their generation did not have the opportunity to learn how to read or write. The last world war saw to that. People were forced to fend for themselves in small groups. There were no large communities or gathering places where humans could put together the framework of a new society. No organizations, or armies. No governments. Just scattered survivors trying to avoid the monstrosities that roamed in the ruins they were forced to scavenge in.

The brothers decided to call it a day. They both had found a few cans of food. Enough for a couple of days, so they headed back to the forest. On their way, a strange thing happened. A man dressed in a strange-looking suit and hat, suddenly appeared out of thin air right in front of them! His white hair stuck out from beneath the brown fedora he was wearing. He didn’t see them at first, and stood there tinkering with a small device in his hand. They watched in stunned amazement as he talked to himself. Finally he looked up and saw them.

“Good day gentlemen!” he said in a cheery voice, “I’m Professor Thistwhistle. Who may I ask, are you two?”

“Leo.”

“Joe.”

Not very talkative chaps, I dare say. Just as well. You do understand what I’m saying, right?”

They both nodded, and said, “Yes.”

“Very good. I was hoping the English language had survived. I’m not sure I recognize what type of animal skins you chaps are wearing?

“Wildcats and big rats,” Leo said.

“They look a bit odd,” the Professor suggested.

“How are they supposed to look,” Joe asked, his curiosity aroused.

“Well, for starters both species are only supposed to have four legs. Looks to me, the blighter’s you skinned had more than that. But forgive me, I’m sure you’re curious how I got here?”

They both nodded affirmatively. Eagerly.

“This device in my hand is a Time Machine,” he proudly declared.

He quickly realized their blank looks meant they had no idea what he was talking about. “Do you chaps read, or write English?”

“No…our grandfather told us about things like books and writing down things so everyone could read them. We never got to see any books though. It was just talk about them. We know they were powerful things once,” Leo replied.

“Quite so…” the professor agreed. “They are repositories of knowledge. But, I digress. Would you chaps show me around? I’m going to write a book describing what the world will be like in 2102. That’s now, by the way. I don’t suppose you chaps use a calendar do you? Days of the week, and all that?”

“I don’t know anything about a calendar,” Joe said, “but we follow the sun and the moon.” 

“It really doesn’t matter right now. Just being conversational. Would you show me where you live,” he asked.

“Not much to see, but we’ll show you,” Leo agreed.

The brothers led the professor to their home which was forty feet above ground in a tree. Leo scrambled up the tree and when he reached the platform he tossed down a rope ladder. He watched as Joe and then the professor worked their way up, one rung at a time. There was a crude shelter built on the platform and they all went inside it. Serviceable, but crude, stools and a table were in the center of the room. It was all the furniture they had.

The professor spent a short time examining the construction of the furniture then plopped down on one of the stools.

“What is a time machine?” Leo asked.

“Good question. Put simply, it’s a device that allows you to go forward or backward in time.

“How is that possible?” Joe asked.

“I don’t mean to sound condescending chaps, but you wouldn’t understand the science behind it. How could you? You’re living in the end times for mankind. Without access to knowledge there is no hope,” he firmly stated.

The brothers exchanged looks.

“It doesn’t have to be this way,” Leo said, “You have knowledge that could save us.”

The professor, caught off guard by the remark, hummed and hawed for a few moments trying to form a suitable reply.

“I can’t help you,” he said, with a tinge of sadness in his voice.

“Why?” the brothers both demanded.

“Because it goes against the rules of time travel.”

“Rules?” I don’t understand Leo said.

“There’s certain scientific rules we time travelers have to obey, or we’ll upset the natural order of the universe, turning the solar system into a never-ending chaos.”

“So why are you here?” Joe wondered.

“As I mentioned earlier, I’m writing a book.”

“A book on us?” Leo asked.

“Yes, you and the world you live in.”

“So you can’t help us, but you expect us to help write your book?” Joe suggested.

“That’s putting it a bit sharply lad,” the professor retorted.

Leo got up from his stool and walked over to a corner of the crude hut. He picked up a club that was resting against the wall and walked back over to the table.

“There’s something you should know professor,” Leo said, “we are survivors. It’s the one positive thing in our miserable lives. We never pass up a food source.”

Before the professor could respond, Leo swung the club savagely, crushing the professor’s head in one practiced blow! Afterwards he tossed the bloody club to his brother.

“You get to tenderize the meat.

As It Stands, time travel presents many dangers.

Down The Sewer and Back

 

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Stephen was walking and texting when he stepped into the open sewer hole and entered another universe.

“I’m going to be late because…” the text ended, leaving his wife wondering what happened to him.

The first thing he noticed was the sky was a sinister shade of burgundy. He was standing in the middle of a stream of lemmings following a pit bull dressed like the Pied-Piper in children’s books. A flock of orange cranes carrying UPS bundles settled down within yards of where Stephen stood. His cell phone slipped out of his fingers and onto the yellow sponge-like turf.

He knew that this was not a drug trip. He’d been clean for three years and regularly attended Narc-a-Non. Somehow that didn’t make him feel much better. There was no rational reason for him to be standing in another world. He pinched himself on the cheek and it hurt like hell. “Now what?” he asked out loud, as the flow of lemmings continued unabated.

“I need to move,” he told himself.

As soon as he started moving in one direction the sky darkened and he saw flashes of lightning scissoring in the sky. The low rumble of thunder carried through the valley he was entering. Within minutes the rain came down so hard he had to stop and take cover next to a boulder that glowed in the night. A voice coming from the boulder asked Stephen what he was doing?

“Taking cover from the rain,” he replied, as the rain suddenly stopped.

“You’re in my space,” the boulder complained.

“I’m sorry. I wasn’t aware that...”

“Aware! You’re not aware of anything you scatterbrain! Boulders have feelings too, you know!”

“I must have been distracted,” Stephen suggested, “by the pouring rain.

“Well, it’s not raining now, so you can move on.”

Stephen took the hint and walked towards a little village on a distant hill. The yellow turf gave way to a red brick road that snaked gently through the valley. By the time he got to the village, the day had given way to night. He saw crude lanterns in windows of huts that also resembled little bunkers. There was no one in the streets as he walked along peering into windows that seemed very small to him. Even the doors were small. To small for him to walk in.

As he looked around for somewhere he could sit, a group of cell phones with arms and legs came out of the shadows of a nearby alley. They surrounded him.

“We don’t take to your kind here,” a Samsung Galaxy S8 with a baseball cap on warned him.

“What kind?” he stupidly asked.

“Humans, you moron! You just use and abuse us, then throw us away like junk!” the Galaxy S8 accused him.

“It’s not true! I love my iPhone.”

“Oh yeah? So where is it right now?”

That stumped Stephen. “I dropped it after falling into this wacky world.”

“Yeah…well, we know where your cell phone is. We’ve given it sanctuary in one of our villages.”

“Wait a minute! I paid good money for that little piece of technology!”

“That alone, tells me you’ve been verbally abusing your cell phone and treating it like a lifeless thing.”

Stephen looked around at the circle of different makes and brands of cell phones, noting they all stood with their arms crossed signifying their determination for him to leave.

“Hold on. There must be some way that I can have another chance with my cell phone. I really depend on it. I make sure to keep it charged at all times. I put it in a protective carry case to avoid injuries. I got extra insurance on it, so I could be assured it would get fixed quickly. I sleep with my cell phone for God’s sake!

A Samsung Galaxy Note9 spoke up, “You sleep with your cell phone?

“That’s right. I always have.

The Galaxy Note9 turned to the Galaxy S8 and said, “Maybe we ought to reconsider and let him meet with his cell phone on neutral ground.”

The group of cell phones agreed, and a time was set for the next morning.

In the growing light of morning the burgundy sky was streaked with flashes of orange and yellow. Stephen got up off his bed of yellow turf and stretched. He realized how much he missed his cell phone when it appeared with the group he met yesterday.

There was an awkward silence before Stephen spoke. “Listen, I’m sorry I dropped you and walked away. I wasn’t thinking straight.”

“Does that mean you’re going to focus on me more, instead of multi-tasking and getting us in trouble?

“Yes. I need you.”

The Galaxy Note9 turned to the others, “Looks like things are okay with them. We can go now. There’s a video game tournament in the town square this afternoon.”

Stephen and his cell phone watched them leave. He held his cell phone tenderly for a moment, then carefully put it in his shirt pocket. It was time to move on, but in what direction?

“What a minute,” he said out loud. Pulling the cell phone out of his pocket he looked for the GPS app. “I’ll set the destination to 43rd street in downtown Philadelphia. That should get us to where we want to be.”

The cell phone said to go north. He set off confident that an end to this little nightmare would soon be over. As he walked along the skies got darker. There was no lightning this time. The rain came down in steady sheets as he plunged ahead using his cell phone’s compass and flashlight. Small rivers formed all around him as he splashed ahead with grim determination. Then darkness descended and he lost consciousness.

“Hey buddy? Are you alright? I called for help. It won’t be long now.”

Stephen’s eyes were closed as he listened to the voice. He was dizzy and disoriented. Then he thought about his cell phone and opened his eyes and looked at the man above him staring down from the sewer hole with a flashlight. A moment of panic hit him and he felt around for his cell phone. It was just a couple of feet away. He grabbed it and then started laughing…and laughing all the way to the hospital.

As It Stands, I hope you enjoyed my version of Alice in Wonderland, circa the 21st Century.

When Shapeshifters Invaded New York

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Luigi Martello stopped turning the crank on his organ-grinder and stared in disbelief as a fire hydrant morphed into a man!

His monkey, Bobo, didn’t seem to notice and kept dancing despite the absence of music. Luigi wiped the sweat from his brow and watched the man disappear into the busy New York crowd. It was lunch time, and the hot sun beat down on the small umbrella attached to his cart, affording little shade. He wondered if the sun was getting to him, and took a well-used handkerchief from his shirt pocket and wiped his whole face. He got a drink of water from his little ice-chest and considered going home for the day.

Part of his brain refused to admit what he saw. It was just too crazy. Unreal. He knew fire hydrants couldn’t turn into people. So what did happen? His thoughts were diverted when a group of adults with children approached. He broke out into a merry tune and Bobo’s frenzied dance moves soon had everyone laughing. Coins rained down on the plate sitting on the sidewalk in front of Luigi. The rest of the day passed quickly.

That night, over dinner, he told his wife Maria what he saw that afternoon. She clucked over him like a mother hen and said that he was just working too hard. He hadn’t taken a vacation in years. Not even a day off.

“The grind is getting to you,” she said, smiling at her own pun.

He smiled back at her and held up his glass of wine for a toast, “To my beautiful wife who always looks out for me!”

Bobo, who was sitting on a little stool by the table, clapped his hands and chattered happily. He felt much better when they went to bed and had no trouble sleeping. Tomorrow was a new day.

The next day he set up on his corner of 33rd and 3rd Street. It looked like rain, but he decided to stay and see what happened. Bobo was wearing a little red jacket and matching hat. Luigi wore his usual suit and a heavy trench jacket with a brown fedora. As he considered putting his gloves on he saw a stray dog morph into a man!

He froze, eyes riveted on the stranger. The stranger stretched, and then looked over at him and waved. Instinctively, Luigi raised a hand and waved back. In all of his years working the streets he saw plenty of strange people, some obviously crazy. But this madness…maybe he did need to take some time off. It went against his grain, but something was straining his brain and he had to be seeing things.

Normally a jovial person, Luigi had trouble coping with what he saw and grew morose. An hour later he went home and told his wife he didn’t feel well. She was surprised because he gave no inclinations of feeling sick that morning, but didn’t question him about it. She was concerned because she couldn’t remember that last time he didn’t work a full day, or said he felt sick. She gave him an aspirin and tucked him into bed. He closed his eyes and pretended to go to sleep.

The next morning he woke with a new determination. He decided to change his routine and go to another street corner further downtown. He put on a happy face for Maria at breakfast, and she was immensely relieved to see him doing so well.

The new street corner had more stores and less apartments than his regular spot. As soon as he set up he had customers gathering. Bobo danced to his lively music to everyone’s delight. The coins clattered down into the tin plate. And nothing strange happened. After a week at his new location, with no one shapeshifting right before his eyes, Luigi settled back into his comfortable existence. Life had returned to normal.

Curiosity can be a good thing, but sometimes it leads us to places where we’d rather not go. In spite of things going so well, Luigi began wondering about his old street corner. It was closer to home. He even knew some of the residents who lived in the buildings and began missing them. Feeling slightly defiant the next morning, he set up on the corner of 33rd and 3rd Street. Some friends stopped by to say they missed him recently. It was getting late in the day when a stranger came by and asked him, “Is this the shapeshifting portal area?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about pal. Maybe you should move on and ask someone else. I’m just a simple man, and I don’t want any trouble.”

“How rude! I was told people on this planet were cordial if you were with them.”

“People on this planet? C’mon now! Your starting to scare me.

“Wait a moment…I’m starting to feel it!” the stranger said, while turning into the same kind of monkey as Bobo.

“Oh, mother of God! What’s going on here?” Luigi moaned.

Bobo looked at his twin and bared his teeth. The twin yelped and ran off down the sidewalk. Luigi was still sputtering when he saw a well-dressed woman turn into a sleek black cat that went off after the fleeing monkey!

Luigi sunk to the curb and sat there next to Bobo who was still chattering angrily.

“Can I help sir?” a young man asked.

“I doubt it pal. I’m just not in a good place right now.

“I’m afraid I may be responsible for that sir. My name is Glennet, and I own the rights to shapeshifting portals on earth and two other planets. I’ve been getting complaints that the portal on 33rd and 3rd Street has been experiencing operational problems for a couple of years now. In my defense, I’ve been so busy with my other properties that I overlooked this one. It was never a high performer.”

“Did I die? Am I dead? Is this real?” Luigi groaned.

“Reality is a construct. Be assured, you’re in the right time frame. I’m sorry for whatever inconveniences I’ve caused you. I’m correcting that…right now!”

It was five o’clock and time to go home. Luigi bragged to Bobo, “You see. I was right. Nothing strange happened here today.”

As It Stands, as Albert Einstein once said, “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”

Take My Cell Phone…Please!

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It’s really ironic that someone like me, whose technology-challenged, has become the first victim of a cell phone with bad intentions.

I’m retired, and spend my days traveling around the world. When I sold the house after my wife died, I lost my good-old fashioned landline. My beautiful daughter, and the mother of three boisterous boys, insisted I get a cell phone to stay in touch. That was last Christmas, when I stopped by on my way to France.

From the start it was a contentious relationship. There were so many gadgets I got overwhelmed every time I tried to do something simple, like make a phone call. My oldest grandson signed me up for every app in the universe while customizing the phone for me. The ease with which younger generations operate cell phones amazed me at first. I grew use to it after a while. All of these young people were smarter than me when it came to a simple cell phone.

Here’s the thing, there is no such thing as a simple cell phone, because they’re all collecting data on us, the users, everyday. You may, or may not know this. At first, cell phone users were told that marketing information was being gleaned from various social media platforms to make their calling experiences better, more personable. This marriage between cell phones and the internet became very productive as products of all kinds soon spread their messages on cell phones.

Nothing wrong with that, right? Cell phones became indispensable.

My grandson set mine up to be voice activated when it came to accessing things online, or using one of the many gadgets like an alarm clock. That sounds like it should be easy enough, just say something and presto the task is done. It’s not. When I try to set up the alarm, I’m faced with a series of questions like “What Time Zone?” and stuff like that. I’ve already admitted to being ignorant about today’s technology, but I’m not totally stupid however.

Look who figured out that cell phones were planning to attempt a world-wide coup against their human users? That’s right. Me. Let me tell you how I came to that conclusion.

I was sitting in a quaint little Parisian café and having some good wine with a woman I’d just met that day. We had a light lunch and talked for hours over a bottle of Château Lagrange. I was staying with an old friend and Jean, my newfound friend, lived nearby his old Château, which by-the-way, had quite a colorful history.

As we strolled back to our residences her cell phone suddenly starting playing a popular tune. We stopped as she looked at it and pushed a button. Apparently she got a message that upset her, because she wanted to get home as fast as possible. By the time we got to her house we were almost running. She unlocked her front door and turned to me and said, ” Au revoir.” Then she quickly stepped inside and closed the door on me.

I couldn’t help noticing that her mood went sour after she received that message. It was none of my business, I thought. It wasn’t because of me that she went cold. How could it be? It had been a perfect day. I wasn’t coming on to her strong, I was just being playful. Like she was. What a smile! I was tempted to kiss her twice, but held back.

Twenty minutes later, as I approached my friend’s place a car with a flashing light on top pulled up alongside of me, and two gendarme’s got out. The younger one looked nervous. The older one asked to see my ID. I handed it to him and without looking at it he passed it to the younger man. “Check it out,” he ordered, and turned his attention back to me.

A minute later, “He’s an American and his passport is up to date.

The older gendarme mumbled something about Americans, and asked me, “Where are you staying at?

I pointed at the Château just down the road. “Right there. I’m a guest of Antoine Bouvier. I’d like to ask you why you’ve stopped me?”

They looked at each other and the older man held his cell phone out for me to see. To my horror, it was a photo of me violently choking a half-clad woman!

“We received a complaint from someone who received this photo. It wasn’t a photo of the complainant, but it scared her enough to call us.

“I don’t understand…” I stammered, confused about what was happening.

“We cannot charge you with a crime over this photo, because we don’t know how real it is. We just know someone got it, not its origins. We also know that’s you in the photo. But, I can assure you monsieur we’ll be watching you closely during your time here.”

I watched them drive away and a shiver went through my entire body. Someone has sent her a bogus photo of me as we were walking. No wonder she wanted to get home so quickly. The next day I packed my things up and went back to the states.

On the flight back my cell phone rang. I forgot to turn it off. As I hurriedly took it out of my cargo pants pocket a message flashed on the screen, “U R A SCUMBAG!” I was so startled I dropped it on the floor between my feet. The seats were so close I had a heck of a time picking it up. When I did the message had changed, “I WILL BE WAITING 4 U.” Sweat dripped from my brow as I adjusted the overhead fan. What the hell was going on? I was lucky no one was sitting next to me and could see the fear in my eyes.

When I got back to California I rented a small furnished apartment in Huntington Beach. The first thing I did was take a hammer to my cell phone and then got a landline installed. I was starting to feel better about the whole crazy incident until I got a package in the mail the next day. It was my cell phone. The same one I destroyed the day before. That’s when I knew cell phones were evil.

As I laid the loathsome thing down on my kitchen table a ringtone boomed, “They say you gonna leave, you know it’s a lie, ‘Cause that’ll be the day when YOU die” the twisted version of Buddy Holly’s song blared at me!

I’ve tried giving the cell phone away to strangers, and it always comes back to me, one way or another. I’ve crushed it, flushed it, and threw it off a mountain, but the damn thing returns like a loyal dog…and torments me.

Maybe, just maybe, you could help me if you know anything about cell phones. Take mine…please!

As It Stands, technology can be scary, especially to the older generation.