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This is a work of fiction and is not meant to portray any person living or dead, nor any known situation. It is meant for adults only and is not to be read by person's under the age of 18, or the legal age in the county/state/country in which the reader resides.
Note: This story is adapted from the short story, "BY HIS BOOTSTRAPS" by Anson Macdonald (Robert A. Heinlein). It was originally published in October1941 in a science fiction magazine. About a year ago, my husband handed me a book of short stories called: Before the Golden Age, by Isaac Asimov and dared me to try and make any of them modern enough to read. I laughed, thinking who would ever want to read something written 70 years ago, and science fiction to boot. I was wrong. Two of the stories I really liked: "The Accursed Galaxy" by Edmond Hamilton, and "He Who Shrank" by Henry Hasse. I rewrote both as "Big Bang Theory" and "The Girl Who Came Shrink Wrapped.
A couple of months later I found another old anthology from back in the forties called Great Science Fiction Stories, Adventures in Time and Space that had "He Who Shrank" in it and I rewrote the following story. It is about a college student who gets sucked up into the mind-twisting world of time-travel. Although I disliked the ending of the story, I more or less stuck with it. The character in the original story was male but mine is female. Also, this story has almost no sex, but I hope you'll enjoy it anyway.
See how frustrated you'd get after 30,000 years without sex. Trish falls through a doorway into the future and that's only the beginning of her troubles. Join her in this 24 page misadventure in time.
I did not see the circle appear.
Nor, for that matter, did I see the woman who stepped out of the circle and stood staring at the back of by head--staring and fidgeting badly as though laboring under some strong and unusual emotion.
I had locked myself in the room for the express purpose of completing my thesis in one sustained drive. Tomorrow was the last day for submission and three and a half packs of Winston Lights, eight bottles of Starbucks French Vanilla Latte and thirteen hours of continuous work had added seven thousand words to the body. The title was: "An Investigation into Certain Mathematical Aspects of a Rigor of Metaphysics," and very nearly, I no longer understood a single word of its meaning.
I glanced up and let my eyes rest on the mini-fridge door. Behind it were half a dozen more of the sweet white Starbuck's confections, and no, I admonished myself, one more bottle and you'll detonate like a bomb. My hands shook and suspicious sounds gave voice from inside my body. The room smelled of . . .well, the room just smelled.
The woman behind me said nothing.
I resumed typing with numb fingertips on the keyboard pads. "--nor is it valid to assume that a conceivable proposition is necessarily a possible proposition, even when it is possible to formulate mathematics which describes the proposition with exactness. A case in point is the concept of "Time Travel." Time travel may be imagined and its necessities may be formulated under any and all theories of time, formulae which resolve the paradoxes of each theory. Nevertheless, we know certain things about the empirical nature of time which preclude the possibility of the conceivable proposition. Duration is an attribute of consciousness and not of the plenum. It has no--"
"Damn it!" I exploded, wanting to pound on the keyboard. "I don't even know what I'm writing, anymore!"
"Don't bother with it then," a voice from behind me said. "It's a lot of nonsense anyway."
I shrieked and spun around; I almost tipped over the chair. When I saw it was a woman and not a man (of course it's not a man, my cerebrum informed me just a millisecond too late) I let out a sigh. Only it wasn't a sigh at all, but a backwards gasp.
"You scared me!" I said accusingly. My hands were clutched tightly to my chest and I sat half-on and half-off of the chair. I saw myself in a moment of comical insight as a twenties-era damsel in distress. I might have peed my pants. "What are you doing here?"
Not waiting for an answer, I got up and strode over to the door. It was still locked, and bolted on the inside. All the windows were shut and we were four stories above the busy quad.
"How did you get in?" I demanded.
"Through that," the woman answered, indicating the circle. I noticed it for the first time. I blinked my eyes and looked again. It was easy to miss. A pencil-thin line drawn on the very air, it hung between the woman and the wall, a thin circle like the hoop of a circus lion-trainer.
"What is that?" I said, shaking my head vigorously. The circle remained but my head exploded. I advanced slowly toward it, putting out a hand to touch.
"Don't!" the woman barked.
I yanked back my hand. "Why not?"
"I'll explain that later. But first, let's have some of that latte." She walked directly to the mini-fridge, opened it, reached in and took out two bottles.
"Wait a minute!" I objected. "What are you doing here? And that's my latte!"
"Your latte," the woman repeated. She looked from me to the bottles, then around the room. "Sorry. You don't mind if I have one, do you?"
"Of course I mind," I snapped. "But please, just help yourself."
Come on, Trish, I thought, looking at her hurt expression. Relax. She's just an old lady. Only she wasn't old at all, I suddenly realized, just old-looking and tired. And close to tears.
"All right," I grumbled. "But I don't have any clean glasses. You'll have to drink it out of the bottle or wash a glass yourself."
"That's fine," the woman said. She smiled bleakly, suddenly becoming younger than even my second estimate had been. Shocked, I realized we were actually very close in age.
"Who are you?" I demanded quietly.
"You don't know?"
What I saw was a woman about the same size as myself, with much the same coloring and color of hair. She had a slim figure, I thought, even hidden beneath the warm-up suit she wore. What was disturbing me very much more however, was the woman's black eye and a freshly cut and badly swollen lower lip. I decided I didn't like the woman's face at all. Still, there was something very familiar about it.
Twisting the caps off both bottles, the woman went to the utilitarian little kitchenette sink, washed and rinsed the two glasses sitting alone in the basin, then filled them both with cream-colored liquid. "Still don't know?" she asked.
"No!" I said with perfect finality. "I don't."
Only that wasn't true.
Trying to get a grip on myself, I said, "At least tell me your name."
The woman hesitated. "Uh . . . you can call me Cloe."
I set down my glass. "Okay, Cloe-whoever-you-are, I want an explanation right now or you can make your way right out that door." I pointed, in case Cloe-whoever-she-was didn't know the way.
"Okay," Cloe said mildly. "That thing I came through--" indicating the circle "--that's a Time Gate."
"A Time Gate. Time flows along either side of the Gate, only some thousands of years apart. Just how many thousands I haven't been able to determine yet. But for the next couple of hours, that Gate is open. You can walk into the future just by stepping through it."
I tapped my foot.
"You don't believe me, I know, but I'm going to show you."
The woman got up, went to my cluttered and unmade bed--I was suddenly very embarrassed at the dorm room's look--picked up my prized Terrapin's ball-cap, and sailed it Frisbee-like toward the improbable disk.
"Hey!" I objected. "That's my--"
The hat struck the circle dead center . . . and winked out of existence.
"What the. . ."
I got up, walked carefully around the circle, and examined the floor. A dread, something akin to finding myself confronted by Martians, tickled its way down my back. "That's a nice trick," I said numbly. "Now how do I get it back?"
The stranger shook her head. "You don't. Unless you pass through yourself."
I stared at the woman as though she were a Martian. "What?"
"Listen . . ." Briefly the woman repeated her explanation about the Time Gate. She insisted I had an opportunity that comes only once in a lifetime--a hundred lifetimes. I had only to step through the gate and find out.
"You're nuts," I said flatly.
"I know," the woman sighed. "I said that too."
The woman sighed again. "I can't explain it to you right now. But it's very important for you to go through that Gate."
I repeated that the woman was nuts.
The woman looked resigned. Resigned and yet somehow committed. "Please," she said. "Just do it, okay?"
Despite my mounting disquiet, I was nonetheless intrigued. "Why?" I said. "Not that I'll go."
Cloe became exasperated. "Dammit, if you'd just go through, you'd know already!"
"I'm not going through."
"Come on, Trish. There's somebody there that needs you."
"Who?" I insisted.
"I can't explain who. I can only say that once we go through, the two of us and this third person are set for life! We could even rule the country," she said, awe and wonder in her voice, "if we wanted to. You want to slave away your whole life teaching school in some drinkwater college in Nebraska? Do you? Of course not! This is your chance!" She laughed, almost bitterly. "Believe me, Trish, you want to take it!"
Incredibly, I had to admit to myself that the idea had a strange attraction. If not an attraction, at least interest. Getting myself a Ph.D. and an appointment as an instructor in some lay-away college was not my ideal of existence. Still, it beat whoring for a living. Or zipping out of existence through some lion trainer's hoop.
"No," I said finally. "I don't believe you. I don't believe you and I don't believe that thing over there even exists. Now would you please finish your latte and get out of here so I can go to bed!"
I moved toward the bed.
Cloe grabbed my arm. "You can't do that," she said.
"Leave me alone!"
"Leave her alone!"
We both swung toward this unexpected third voice and found facing us, standing directly in front of the circle, another woman. I stared at the newcomer, looked back at Cloe, blinked my eyes in confusion and then let out a sigh. "Not again," I complained.
The woman and Cloe looked a good deal alike, enough alike to be sisters, I thought, or maybe even twins.
Or maybe I was seeing double.
"And who are you?" I asked patiently.
The newcomer looked at Cloe. "She knows me," she said meaningfully.
Cloe studied the woman solemnly. "Yes," she said, "I suppose I do. But why are you here? Are we throwing the plan? Are you--"
The woman shook her head. "No time for long-winded explanations. I know more about it than you do--you'll probably concede that--and my judgment is maybe just a little better than yours. She doesn't go through the Gate."
"I don't concede anything of the sort," Cloe said.
The telephone rang.
"Answer it!" snapped the newcomer.
I was about to protest her peremptory tone, but decided not to bother. I lacked the temperament necessary to ignore a ringing telephone.
"Trish? Is this Trish Wilson?"
"Yes. Who is this?"
"Never mind," the girl's voice said. "I just wanted to be sure you were there. You've got quite an afternoon ahead of you, girl. Keep a stiff upper lip, okay?"
I heard a soft, almost melancholy sounding chuckle, then the click of disconnection. "Hello," I said. "Hello!" I jiggled the tongue a couple of times, then hung up.
"Who was it?" Cloe asked.
"I don't know! Some kid with a misplaced sense of humor!"
The telephone rang again and I snatched it up. "Look, you butterfly-brain! I'm busy and this is not funny. Someone needs to take you over their knee and spanked the--"
"Trish?" came a startled male voice.
"Gregory? God, I'm so sorry. I--"
"Well, I should think you would be! Paddle my behind?"
I blushed brightly. "You don't understand. A woman has been pestering me over the phone and I thought it was you. Her. I don't know!"
Gregory gave a pause. "Are you all right?"
"No, I'm not all right!" I ranted. Then I breathed deeply and got myself under control. "Sorry. I'm just stressed and I've had way too much caffeine today." I stared at the watching pair.
"It's okay," Gregory said. "After this afternoon--" his voice gave what I always thought of as a sex-crinkle mid-sentence, "--you can say whatever you like."
Gregory laughed again.
Blushing uncontrollably, I hunched my shoulders, turned my back on the pair and whispered into the phone, "Stop that! You're embarrassing me."
"Whatever," he said. "Anyway, I wanted to tell you left your hat."
"Your hat. The hat you always smack me with over the head. That hat?"
"I left my hat?" Totally flustered.
"I noticed it a few minutes after you'd gone and thought I'd better let you know where it is. I should have just trashed it. Or buried it out back. Then I thought no, it'll get her back over here again."
I was over there today? I didn't say. I looked at the twins. They looked expectantly back.
"Okay," I said mechanically. "I'm a little mixed up right now. I have been all day, and I'm more so right now. So look, I'll stop by later on and bring you your hat and you can take me out to a bar and get me good and fucking drunk." And something else as well, maybe, like naked in bed. "How's that?"
"Your hat, silly!"
"Whatever! I'll see you tonight." I hurriedly hung up.
My, God! Am I loosing my mind? Is he?
"Okay, you two! Out! Vamoose! Blow the popkins!"
"No!" Cloe exclaimed. "You can't. I mean, you have to!"
"She does not!" the new woman shouted. "And she won't!"
"I won't do anything at all!" I yelled. "Except call the cops!" Then I exclaimed--and I couldn't believe I was hearing this at all: "Or maybe I will!"
"Great!" said Cloe, in a relieved voice. "Just step through. That's all there is to it."
"Oh, no, you don't!" It was the second arriver. She stepped between me and the Gate. I faced her.
"Listen, you bimbo! You can't come barging in here like you you own the place and tell me what to do! If you don't like it, go jump!"
I tried to push around the stranger and was suddenly ensnarled in her arms. I screamed, "Get offa me!" and began to struggle with her, clumsily and feeling absurdly embarrassed, both by my clumsiness and by my actions. This only increased my anger. Then Cloe was into the fight, ostensibly on my side, but a solid impact to her already swollen mouth sent her recoiling back, sucking in breath and grimacing in pain.
Setting loose a punch I feared was laughably girlish, I connected glancingly off the second woman's right shoulder, only enough to surprise her. The woman glared at me savagely, then struck back with a punch nowhere near as girlish and with a good deal more upon it. It caught me right on the mouth, making me cry out and sending me staggering backwards. I stood holding my mouth. The woman held her own mouth, horror in her eyes.
"You hit me!" I said.
"I know," the woman muttered. "I didn't mean--"
Then Cloe closed in and the two women began trading punches in a free-for-all, and I somehow got sucked in. I wanted nothing but to get myself free but ended up punching Cloe, theoretically my ally, in the head.
"What are you doing!" Cloe hissed indignantly. She had the second woman in a comical-looking headlock, with the second woman's nails digging into her neck and right cheek.
I stammered: "I . . . I . . ." and then was struck hard in the chest as the struggling duo staggered sideways into me. Tangled in my own feet, windmilling as the fingers of the third woman clutched at my shirt, I fell backward. Then there were shooting stars and an explosion of pain in my head . . . and then only darkness.
"Are you all right?"
I came slowly to an awareness of my surroundings. I was seated on a floor which seemed a little unsteady. Someone was bending over me.
"Are you okay?" the figure inquired again.
"I guess so," I answered thickly. My mouth ached. When I put my fingers to it and brought them away, they came away bloody. "My head hurts," I said.
"I'm not surprised," the woman replied. "You came through head first. I think you hit it when you landed."
My thoughts were coming back into a confused focus. Came through? I looked more closely at my surroundings, then at the woman above me. She was middle-aged, with gray-shot black hair, short and neatly trimmed. She was dressed in what I took to be purple lounge-wear. But the room in which I found myself bothered me even more. It was circular and the ceiling was lit so subtly that it was difficult to say how high it was. A steady glareless light filled the room from no apparent source. There was no furniture save for a high dais or pulpit-shaped object against the wall.
"Came through? Came through what?"
"The Gate, of course," the woman said, bemused. There was something odd about her accent. I could not place it, save for a feeling that English was not the language she was accustomed to speaking. She stared intently at something behind me.
It was the Gate. This made my head ache even more. "Oh God," I said, "now I really am nuts." I shook her head to clear it . . . what a mistake. The circle stayed where it was, a simple locus hanging in the air, but my head nearly came off.
"I come through that?" I moaned.
"Where am I?"
The woman smiled. "In the Hall of the Gate in the High Palace of Norkaal," she recited, as though the pomposity of the words embarrassed her. "But what's more important is when you are. You've stepped forward a little more than thirty thousand years."
"Now I know I'm crazy," I said. I got up unsteadily and moved toward the Gate.
The woman put a hand on my shoulder. "Easy, Trish. Where are you going?"
"You can't go back. At least not yet. But you will, I promise you that. Let me dress your wounds first, and get you something the eat. And you should rest. Some explanation is due you, of course and there is an errand you can do for me when you get back--to our mutual advantage, Trish." She paused and the smile strengthened. She said, almost whimsically, "There's a great future in store for the two of us, Trish. A great future."
I paused uncertainly. The elder woman's assertion was disquieting, to say the least--she seemed so normal, otherwise. "I don't like this," I said, slowly. "What do you mean?"
The woman eyed me narrowly. "Later, my dear. In the meantime, would you like a drink?"
Trish most assuredly would. At the moment a stiff drink seemed the most desirable thing in the whole wide world. "Water would be nice," I said.
"Come with me," the older woman said, leading me around the structure near the wall and through a door into a passageway. She walked briskly; I hurried to keep up.
"By the way," I asked, as we continued down the long passage, "what's your name?"
"My name? Call me Leda--everyone else does."
"Leda. Okay. How do you know my name? Did Cloe tell you?"