Short Story Saturday – Dunce by Mike Russell

Dunce

Everyone calls Dunce ‘Dunce’. Everyone thinks that Dunce is an idiot. I used to think so too but not any more.

 

Dunce is completely bald and has a really pointed head so the temptation to get him paralytic on his thirtieth birthday, carry him to the tattooist’s and get a nice big ‘D’ smack bang in the middle of his forehead was too much for me. Trouble is he can’t afford to have it removed so he wears a big plaster over it. Gangs of children tease him.

‘What’s underneath the plaster, mister? Show us!’

They swear he has a third eye under there.

 

My name is Bill but Dunce calls me ‘Fez’ on account of my hat. I’ve known Dunce for over sixteen years. I don’t have to use my memory to work that out; I just count the number of boxes of Turkish Delight I’ve got stashed in my cupboard. Dunce buys me a box every birthday. Dunce thinks that because I wear a fez I must be Turkish (I’m not) and that being Turkish I must like that powder-covered gunk (I don’t, I hate the stuff).

 

On my last birthday, after saying:

‘No, Dunce, I’ll eat it later,’ and stashing box number sixteen in the cupboard, I decided to take Dunce to the theatre. He’d never been before.

The play was called ‘Death in the Dark’. We had front row seats. Dunce was captivated. He stared at the actors with a gaping mouth.

The lights dimmed to darkness. Kitty Malone, the beautiful star of the show, was stood centre stage. A shot was heard. Dunce jumped right out of his seat.

‘What was that?’ he said.

The lights came back on and Kitty was lying in a pool of blood. Dunce let out a scream then shouted:

‘Someone call for an ambulance! And the police!’

The audience thought that Dunce was an actor, that the play was being cleverly extended beyond the stage, questioning the boundaries of theatre.

‘What’s wrong with you?’ Dunce shouted at the audience. ‘How can you carry on as if nothing has happened?’

‘This is wonderful, just wonderful,’ I heard someone say behind me.

Kitty was stoically sticking to her role, thinking that the show must go on, but Dunce was clambering up onto the stage, crying, stroking Kitty’s hair and checking her pulse.

‘She’s alive!’ he shouted with relief.

‘No I’m not!’ Kitty hissed at him through clenched teeth.

That was it; I was in hysterics. What a birthday treat this was turning out to be.

‘I’m acting. It’s part of the play. No one really shot me,’ Kitty hissed at Dunce.

The realisation was excruciatingly slow. I watched Dunce’s face change from shock to confusion to understanding to embarrassment. He made his way back to his seat. He didn’t speak or look at me until the play was over. The play got a standing ovation and we headed for the bar.

 

Kitty was in the bar too. She smiled at Dunce who blushed. She seemed to be fascinated by the top of his head. She walked over and invited him to her dressing room.

 

Twelve hours later and Dunce was in love! How about that? And what’s more, Kitty was in love too! And not only that but they were in love with each other! Kitty fell for Dunce. Not ‘fell for’ as in ‘was deceived by’ because there’s no deception where Dunce is concerned, he can’t do it, but she fell from her deceptions towards him. I couldn’t believe it.

‘It won’t last,’ I said to Dunce. ‘Enjoy it while you can but face facts: you are Dunce and she is Kitty Malone. Think about it.’

 

Dunce told me that Kitty had a thing about ice cream cones, a fetish you could say. She ate six a day. She liked to bite off the tip of the cone and suck out all the ice cream. She had a recording of ice cream van music that she played whilst they were having sex. She was forever stroking the top of Dunce’s head.

 

Then came the day. Dunce came round looking really worried.

‘Fez, have you seen Kitty? Do you know where she is?’

‘No, I haven’t seen her. Why? What’s the problem?’

‘I had a dream last night,’ Dunce said. ‘I dreamt that I was in bed and I looked at the calendar by the side of my bed and it was tonight. I put out my hand to touch Kitty but she wasn’t there. There was just this cold sludge covering her side of the bed and this smell: vanilla. It was melted ice cream.’

‘So what’s the problem?’

‘I think that something is going to happen to Kitty. I have to find her before tonight. I don’t want to wake up tomorrow morning alone in a bed full of melted ice cream.’

‘Dunce, dreams don’t mean anything and prophecies are impossible. Sit yourself down. Let’s have a couple of beers.’

I opened a cupboard, reached in to get the beers and a pile of boxes of Turkish Delight toppled over and fell out, breaking open and spilling their contents all over the floor. Dunce looked at the boxes then looked at me. I watched his face go through the same slow transformation from shock to confusion to understanding to embarrassment that I had witnessed so many times before.

‘You don’t like Turkish Delight?’ he said.

I said nothing and guiltily handed him a beer.

Dunce sighed then said:

‘So why did I have that dream?’

‘No reason at all,’ I said.

We sat in silence for a while then Dunce suddenly stood up.

‘It’s no good, Fez, I have to find her.’

 

Dunce found Kitty in the centre of town, lying on the pavement in a pool of blood. An ambulance and the police were on their way. An ice cream vendor was crying and yelling:

‘I don’t understand! I don’t understand!’

A huge, plastic ice cream cone was protruding from Kitty’s chest. It had fallen from on top of the ice cream shop for no apparent reason, smashed through her rib cage and crushed her heart.

Dunce cried. Then he cried some more. The next day, he cried and the day after that he cried. Three weeks later, he awoke, dressed, ate some breakfast, then cried. The next day, he came round to see me. He was crying.

‘Hello Dunce,’ I said. ‘Do you want a beer?’

‘What’s wrong with you?’ he said. ‘How can you carry on as if nothing has happened?’

‘It was an accident, Dunce,’ I said angrily, ‘a random occurrence. These things happen. You just have to get on with life. Why are you so stupid?’

I regretted saying it as soon as I heard it come out of my mouth. Dunce stared at me with tears in his eyes.

‘A fez is only a severed cone,’ Dunce said. ‘At least I have a point.’

I took off my hat and looked at it sullenly. Dunce had a point that he had a point. If he’d found Kitty a moment earlier… if I hadn’t delayed him with my arrogance, my cynicism…

‘Fez,’ Dunce said, ‘you remember the tears that I cried in the theatre when I thought that Kitty was dead but she wasn’t? I think that the tears I am crying now are the same as those. I didn’t understand what was going on in the theatre and I didn’t understand what was going on when the cone fell on her. I think that maybe we only cry because we don’t understand what is going on. Maybe if we understood what is really going on we wouldn’t cry at all, ever.’

Dunce smiled through his tears and beneath the plaster on his forehead I swear I saw something move.

 

Copyright © 2014 Mike Russell. All Rights Reserved.

This story is one of twenty that can be yours by purchasing Nothing Is Strange.

Nothing Is Strange is one of three books by Mike Russell. He has also released a book of 8 weird stories called Strange Medicine and a sci-fi/fantasy novella called Strungballs.

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Short Story Saturday: The Switching Mirror

The Switching Mirror

by Dario Cannizzaro

I was a little kid, probably eight or ten. My mom would bring us to visit this very old aunt, Maria. I was already as tall as she was, which I liked. She lived alone since her husband, my uncle Ciro, died a while back. I still can picture the image of my uncle – a bald man in his seventies – looking outside the window, with a checked blanket on his lap, the light from the sun shining through. That’s the only image of him I have in my memory.

 

The house they were living in, the one my aunt lived alone in, was in a very old building near Via Foria, in the heart of Naples, in the south of Italy. Those buildings were built for rich people in the 1800s, and were then reconverted to normal apartments. They had a big internal patio, so that every apartment would have windows on every side – the one overlooking the street, and the other overlooking the patio. People would hang their clothes to dry up, on long ropes from one side of their patio balcony to the other side of the building, creating this mesmerising dance of coloured flags, removing the ever-lasting sunshine, and creating a huge secret fort if you were on the ground floor, looking up.

 

But the energy of those places was an energy of decay; the maintenance of those buildings was practically non-existent, and the remnants of old times still stood – like a big black heavy lamp, which served its purpose with candles and was now re-used with electricity, in the middle of the patio – the same lamp where I could swear I’ve seen something, a dark shadow, circling around it, like a moth circling the fire – a ghostly one.

 

We would go there to visit aunt Maria, as I’ve said, with my cousins, who were just a few years older than me. Our aunt would give us expired candies and stale chips, but all you can drink soda, so we were happy kids. Plus, we had this lingering feeling of danger, a tingling sensation on the back of our neck, which was exciting and scary at the same time, but begged us to go back into that house.

As I’ve said, the building was built for nobility; some apartments had very high ceiling, some others had lower ceiling – the servant’s quarters. In some of the servant’s apartments, there was still the remaining structure of a dumbwaiter. My aunt made her part of it a walk-in pantry. Every time she asked us to go and get snacks, we would go in pairs – we would always move in pairs when we were kids in my aunt’s house, because of that fear that something preternatural was about to come at us. We would open the pantry and a chilly draft would come out of it, with a dreadful sound – probably just some air moving through old wood – but since we knew that, in the beginning of the century, a small kid fell into the dumbwaiter and died, we were sure that his spirit was still there, so we kept away from it – unless we needed more soda.

 

The visits to that house were always part adventure, part scary times; but the whole family from my mother’s side would gather there, and while the adults chitchatted, we would speculate on old ghosts haunting the place, and would avoid being alone in the unused rooms of the big house. We would bring our tape recorder, turn it on, and leave it in a closed room, only to retrieve it at the end of the visit and scan for spooky sounds. Once, we caught on tape a little kid crying, and his mom shushing it – followed by a loud thump. Possibly, it was the upstairs neighbours, but we were sure the voices were coming from that room; only, from a time long past.

 

Once, me and my cousin were tasked with going into a room the opposite side of the house, to retrieve some object I don’t remember; we were walking in line in the nook-like hallway, and looked to our right in the mirror. I was following behind. When we looked at the mirror for a split second, our image there was reversed; I was the one in front of the line, and my cousin was behind me. We didn’t look further, but started running and screaming and laughing at the same time, cause fear can be exhilarating; and when we came back in the room – going through the main hallway, bigger and with no switching mirrors – our parents would not believe our stories, and dismiss them as kid’s play.

 

Now I am much older, and Aunt Maria is long time dead. When I was a teenager, we helped the family with emptying the abandoned apartment, and it took us a few days to remove all the objects that made a lifetime of memories for someone. I remember this big desk with a secret drawer, which my uncle Ciro showed me once; when he showed it to me, the secret treasure inside looked like something out of one of the adventure movies I loved; it contained a bowie knife, two small gold bars, and a purse with small gems. He showed the content to me, winked at our secret, and dared me to open it. I couldn’t.

 

The secret drawer was deprived of that treasure when we moved the desk, and no one remembered – or wanted to remember – the contents of it.

 

When the house was finally empty, it was scarier than when all of my aunt’s objects were in there. I was still too young to grasp that feeling, which is clearer now, but I could already imagine a new life coming through that house; new kids, new people.

And I wondered if the ghosts we’d imagined or seen, things that I can now explain with simple suggestion – apart from the switching mirror -, would go away with us or stay for the next life.


Dario Cannizzaro

www.dariowrites.com

Dario has sent me a copy of his novel, Dead Men Naked, to review, so look out for it in the coming weeks 🙂

Review: The Eye of Nefertiti

I recently reviewed Maria Luisa Lang’s The Pharaoh’s Cat and I absolutely loved it. The Eye of Nefertiti is its sequel and is just as excellent!

The Eye of Nefertiti by Maria Luisa Lang

The Eye of Nefertiti by Maria Luisa Lang

The cat must free Queen Nefertiti from a horrific curse 

The Eye of Nefertiti is both a stand-alone novel and a sequel to The Pharaoh’s Cat. The time-traveling ancient Egyptian feline with human powers returns together with his beloved Pharaoh and his close friends, the High Priest of Amun-Ra and Elena, an Egyptologist’s daughter. 

The cat is quick-witted, wise-cracking narrator as well as free-spirited, ever-curious protagonist, and the story he tells is an exotic, imaginative, spell-binding tragicomedy. The cat travels from present-day New York City to England, both ancient and modern, then to ancient Egypt, where he confronts a horrible demon and experiences a sublime emotion. Once back in England, he descends into a psychological abyss so deep only the Pharaoh can save him.

The Eye of Nefertiti interweaves feline and human, past and present, natural and supernatural. It contains numerous surprises, twists and turns, intriguing characters, both human and animal, fascinating revelations about ancient Egyptian history and culture, and an ingenious application of the Tarot and an Italian opera.

Maria Luisa Lang was born in Rome, Italy, and lives in New York City. She has a degree in art history and is an amateur Egyptologist. The Eye of Nefertiti is her second novel. Her first novel,The Pharaoh’s Cat, is also available on Amazon in paperback and in a Kindle edition – Blurb

Once again, we follow an adorable cat as he goes on wild, time-traveling adventures with his friends and family. Just like The Pharaoh’s Cat, this book manages to be hilarious, poetic and emotional throughout. I had a little cry during both books!

Although The Eye of Nefertiti stands up as a novel by itself, I think it would ruin The Pharaoh’s Cat if you read the sequel first. You’re just going to have to grab a copy of each book!

A bit Puss in Boots, a little Angela Carter, but totally unique, I highly recommend these books to anyone who enjoys… well, anything really. They’re for cat lovers, history enthusiasts, those who enjoy a good laugh, even fans of romance! You just need to read them.

The Navigator by Clifton Kenny

I recently reviewed Clifton Kenny’s excellent book, Reflections. Clifton has kindly agreed to share the full text of The Navigator with Examining the Odd readers!

The Navigator

By Clifton Kenny


Illustrated by Ben Cloyes

Edited by students of Professor Craig C. Collins

By Clifton Kenny © 2015
ASIN: B01ARAG0MO
All rights reserved.

Clifton Kenny Publishing
Burlington, VT


The Navigator

The smell of the bar spoke volumes. It was a combination of stale cigarette
smoke, day-old beer splattered on the floor, cheap whiskey, and depending on
where you sat, a less than functional bathroom. It was enough to scare most
young people off, but occasionally a few more daring surfers or UCSC students
would drift in and give it a try long enough to find the jukebox broken, the pool
cues crooked, and the cheap drinks just cheap.
It was one of those times at The Water Hole when a group of students
seemed to be enjoying themselves at the dismay of the regulars, who just
wanted to drink in peace and be left alone. The clique of college boys crowded
the corner of the bar, downing beers and laughing. Across from them young
woman sat at a dimly lit booth with physics books and notes covering her table.
She busied herself by tapping away on her tablet and referencing several sources, ignoring the looks of interest from the young men. She had a light cof-
fee complexion, full lips and a slightly rounded nose with eyes that held a glint of mystery. In the poor lighting the guys could not decipher if she was Hispanic,
Polynesian, or some combination, but her outfit of ragged torn cut-off shorts
and a skin-tight sleeveless water shirt revealed enough curves for them to
agree to start hitting on her just for kicks.
After turning down offers for a free drink, an invitation to the next lacrosse
game, and a walk on the nearby beach, she addressed the group of suitors
from her dingy booth. “Look, guys, I’m studying, and I just want to be left alone.
Can’t you see I’m busy?” Her firm tone and powerful eyes showed confidence.

“Oohh, what are we studying, worker bee?” said one of the of the jocks who
came closer and poked at her textbooks intrusively.
“Looky here, Modern Physics II! Relativistic Quantum Dynamics!? Isn’t this a
little deep for a pretty girl on a Friday night?” The boys leaned in over her, one
touching her shoulder while the other thumbed through her notes.
“Get lost, idiots! You wouldn’t know a thing about it,” she snapped, glaring at
them without any sign of weakness. Seeing this as a challenge, the tallest of
them leaned in closer and half whispered, “Do you think we’re just a bunch a’
dumb jocks? You’re not the only advanced sciences student here babe. I wrote
a dissertation on relativistic quantum field theory two years ago, now I’m in the
doctorate program, so why don’t you just tell me what little term paper project
you’re workin’ on so I can give you the guidance of my expertise, okay sweetie?”
The young woman darted her eyes around the room, then lowered her brow and changed tactics with a slight smirk. “Well, I happen to be into Hugh Ever-
ett’s MWI for a little light reading. Any thoughts? Oh, and it’s Eva. Not babe.

Not sweetie.”
“I’m Chip.”
“Of course you are.”
“So, Many Worlds Interpretation, very interesting. No, that’s good, you’re a
dreamer. I like that,” the overgrown blond brat replied snidely. He stalled a bit, jogging his memory. “Well, you could start with physicist Alan Guth’s parallel uni-
verse theory, also known as the inflationary theory of cosmology,” he began.

“Basically saying that when the Big Bang happened it did not create a gravita-
tional pull, but rather a reverse gravitation that repelled everything away from it, which he termed a ‘false vacuum.’ So as the false vacuum started to decom-
pose, the decaying process created billions of particles, identical to the particles that formed our universe. These extra particles produced by the decay mu-
tated into bubbles, just like our universe bubble. Since we can prove that the uni-
verse is much larger than anyone ever predicted, it could in fact be many connected universes, all with the same properties and the same laws of physics as
ours. Therefore, if you travel far enough, it may be possible to find another sun like ours, and another earth. And due to the sizable number of particles pro-
duced by the false vacuum, the probability exists that one, or many, of the other earths you would find in that vast distance would have developed just like
ours to the point of even having the same people.” Chip concluded proudly. “You
can note me in your sources, if you like. I could give you my number . . .”
“Not quite what I was going for, but thanks anyway,” Eva replied.
Just then a Water Hole regular stumbled out of an adjacent corner booth
where he had been watching the whole interaction of younger people from
within a deep haze of cigar smoke and darkness. He staggered toward Chip in a
valiant yet unnecessary effort to rescue the attractive young lady. “Cain’t ya see she don’ want yer s-stupid ass hittin’ on ‘er all f-freakin’ night!?” The un-
kempt stranger approached Chip awkwardly. “–dumbass showoff piece o’ shhh . . .” Intending to stand up to the cocky post-grad nose to nose, the stranger tripped over his own foot and sprawled forward, catching his balance by grab-
bing Chip’s shoulders. Chip grabbed the vagrant’s elbows and shoved him up and away, disgustedly. The scraggly man began to tremble. He froze in his tracks,
staring at Chip and shaking with wide eyes and shrinking pupils. The group
paused, unsure if this was a medical emergency of some kind.
Noticing the commotion, the bartender rolled her eyes and cackled in her
raspy voice, “Killian!” The seemingly homeless drunkard straightened up, and
backed away cautiously, grumbling, “No problems . . . We’re fine. Just . . .
talkin.’ ‘S’okay. Promise, Agnes.”
“No more trouble, Killian,” she warned. “We’ve tossed ya before . . .”
“Got it,” he replied obediently. Eva adjusted her tablet and made a few choice
taps.

“Talking?! Is that what you call this, old timer?” Chip asked. “What else could
you possibly have to say? Just mind your business, man. This is an intellectual
conversation.”

Killian took several seconds to clear his throat, then backtracked for his dou-
ble whiskey and cigar, returned, and cleared his throat again. He suddenly seemed different. More sober, aware of his surroundings, he stroked his salt
and pepper beard and began speaking. “Well, since you asked, your theory is credible, and well intended, but nonetheless it is just a theory indeed.” His audi-
ence was speechless with this extreme change in behavior. “The reality of the many worlds theory is . . . or should I say, the stream of realities is, more of a combination of Guth, Tegmark’s Level III, the principles of Hilbert space, and Cle-
land’s recent evidence.”

“Oh! Is that so?” Chip scoffed, unable to come up with more of an argument.
“Yah,” Killian continued. “You see, Guth was right about the Big Bang, and the reverse vacuum. It did create billions of bubbles expanding from particle de-
cay, but they are not only expanding across the distance of space. They also ex-
pand, more importantly, throughout Hilbert space. So Tegmark’s Level I, similar to the Guth load of crap you were just pushing, could very well be true, but it’s
just a waste of time because the distance between our Earth and any other possible realm like ours is greater than a Hubble volume, and therefore so im-
mense, it would be impossible to ever traverse or even send a message across.

Similarly with his Level II, the space between us and any other possible universe
is expanding faster than the speed of light in an inflationary phase, and certainly unreachable. Level IV is based on mathematical structures that are so ab-
stract, it is the most controversial and frankly the weirdest theory of all. But then there’s Level III . . .”
Killian’s audience remained dumbfounded. The University boys were caught
open-mouthed, while Eva sat wide-eyed, trying to conceal an excited smile as
the mysterious stranger spoke. “Yes, Tegmark’s Level III. You see, that reverse
vacuum also created a Hilbert space where the existence of our universe first began, giving those bubbles an infinite-dimensional function space to expand into.

Therefore, an infinite number of worlds exist right here, right now in infinite di-
mensions of our time and space.”

“But we have never had any success accessing other dimensions of Hilbert
space. How do you kn . . .”
“We have. Couple years ago, just down at UC Santa Barbara. That’s where
Cleland created a vacuum under a special bell jar that contained a tiny visible metal strand he called a paddle. Void of air and all vibrations, he plucked the pad-
dle like a tuning fork and scientifically proved it was standing still and moving at the same time. Two different dimensions. Irrefutable evidence. –Surprised you
didn’t hear about him.”

“Irrefutable evidence. So what makes you– ? How do you– ?” Chip stam-
mered, struggling to verbalize his thoughts. The other students stared in awe of the disheveled barfly who within minutes just made years of quantum physics
sound more like undiscovered common sense than any of their professors ever
had. Killian leaned in toward academians’ leader, gently putting a hand on the
back of Chip’s neck and grumbling lowly into his ear.
“Listen, little guy. I just found another friggin’ dimension five minutes ago. A
quantum reality where I had the same course of study you had. An’ it only took
me that long to school your sorry ass!” Eye to eye, he could sense Chip’s fear
and resentment. Killian pulled him just a bit closer. “Boo!”

The group of would-be macho UC guys left quickly in a barrage of disparag-
ing remarks. Eva had been straining to hear the private conference Killian had had with Chip, but she only caught a few words of it. Enamored with his intellect on the exact crux of her studies, she made every effort to resurrect the con-
versation. Killian slowly slipped back into his normal behavior of a crude, careless people watcher. She finally lured him over to her booth full of study materials with a bottle of Jack Daniels. Agnes checked on Killian frequently out of the cor-
ner of her eye as she cautiously wiped down the bar.

NAVbar

“So, first you try to rescue me, then you out-theorize every book on my ta-
ble, and now you’re getting shy?” Eva inquired, half-filling his glass.

“Yah. Sorry.”
“No worries. I’m Eva. You’re Killian?” He nodded timidly. “Good to meet you Mr.
Killian. So how does it work? Where did you find out about all that MWI stuff?”
“Just Killian. –Not sure what you mean.”
“Well, where did you study? Where are you from?”
“Look missy, I’m just a run-down vet. People usually just leave me alone and
let me drink my pension in peace.”
“Eva,” she corrected, sliding the bottle away from him.
“Eva. Sorry. I didn’t study anywhere. I just . . . I can find people who study. I
guess.” Killian rolled his eyes awkwardly, lacking the social skills to converse with
the alluring young woman.

“Find people? What people? Where? Dude, one minute you’re hammered, the
next you’re a quantum mechanics expert! What– where’d that come from?”
Killian threw back his drink and let himself gaze into Eva’s enticing, deep
brown eyes. “It came from me. It’s what I do. I am the tuning fork. Same thing. I
can find other quantum realities and visit my own life in different worlds. I mean,
this world, different dimensions. Oh, goddamn it, pour me another.” He clutched
his forehead, wincing in pain.
“What!? Are you serious? I knew it.” Eva validated her instinct that she had
found some sort of hidden treasure. “How do you do it?”

“Aw, look, I ain’t no professor, that’s for damn sure. I just saw those smart-
asses botherin’ ya, an’ I saw what books you had . . . so then I listened to ’em.

An’ I guess I found a reality where I’d had all their same snobby-ass chances to
study physics at an uppity university. Boom. Got it. Really explained a lot this
time too.”
“Whoa. So you just wander around different realities as you please?”
“Now hold up, it ain’t all that easy. In fact, I got a train-wreck of a headache
comin’ on as a result. All for you kid. Yer welcome.”

“And you just happened find a reality this time that perfectly defined the sci-
ence behind your . . . ability?”

“Look babe, you can go back to thinkin’ I’m a crazy transient bum. ‘S’fine
with me. I’m sure I’ve investigated how I got this curse a hundred times before.
Just not too good at the rememberin’ part. Some days I wake up just like all the
other homeless schizos, wonderin’ who the hell I am and ready to drink and
smoke my face off. Hell, I fit right in. Other times, I can trip out to other parallel
universes and know exactly what I’m doing and how I’m doing it. And as you can
see, I can back it up. It ain’t jus’ the booze talkin’. Well, sometimes, I guess.”

“Are you gonna remember this –um, trip?” Eva was half concerned for his
well being and half concerned about the possibility of studying him and finding out
more.
“Pieces of it, prob’ly.” Killian frowned and reached for the bottle, which Eva
released. He poured another three fingers of Jack Daniels and slugged it down.
“But look, I gotta sleep this off, my head kills whenever I trip like that.” Realizing
that he actually enjoyed her company he added, “Wish I could help ya more,
babe.” Eva saw this as an opportunity.
“Maybe I can help you,” she offered. “Look I’m not intimidated like most girls.

I can see you have a fever and can barely walk. You’re a good guy, and I can ba-
sically kick your ass anyway if you get outta’ line. So how ’bout I help you through this migraine or whatever and when you get some rest you can explain it
more?”
“More quantum mechanics? Multiverse trippin’?” Killian asked squeamishly. Eva
mouthed his last two words in awe, then regained her composure.
“Yes, all of it.”
“Hmm. Ya mind ridin’ the back o’ my Harley?”

“No, but I’ve got my jeep. I’ll follow you.” Eva packed up her backpack in-
stantly and felt intense adrenaline as she left the bar with Killian.

After following the helmetless daredevil through the Santa Cruz coastline
just as the sun began to set, she motored slowly through a neighborhood and
pulled into a driveway where Killian stopped. It was by an abandoned house on the Opal Cliffs. He dismounted the Harley, and he covered it with an old paint can-
vas. Eva grabbed a sweatshirt and surf bag from the back seat of her jeep, checked the lock on her surfboard mounted on the jeep’s roll bars, and looked
at the abandoned house nervously. Killian walked right past the house to the
back yard, facing the ocean. As Eva caught up to him, she noticed the spectacular ocean view sunset and the rickety old wooden staircase that seemed to disap-
pear over the side of the cliff.

“Careful, not too fast,” Killian snarled. Eva cautiously came to the platform
where the stairs began and looked down. She watched Killian carefully as he
made his way down. The thick beams blended into the side of the cliff, using a
steep natural decline to support the steps, filled in with some sort of concrete
or clay. It looked quite solid with a railing on one side and a rock wall on the other,
but old, worn out, and wet in places. Eva cautiously made her way down. At the
bottom, her expression was one of discovering treasure once again.

“Whoa, what the hell is this!?” She gasped and turned a slow three hundred-
sixty degrees.

“Private beach. Went with the home up on top. Musta’ foreclosed, or some-
thin’ ’cause they never came back.”

“How did you get that here?” Eva pointed to a rusty, sky-blue Volkswagen
bus over by the cliff wall.
“Don’t know,” Killian answered bluntly. The van seemed to be propped up on a
platform of rocks to protect if from high tides. Sand covered the bottom halves
of the wheels and came up to the frame, making it totally immovable. On one side
of the van there were a couple of old beach chairs around a large wooden spool
tipped over as a makeshift table. On the other side was a crude grill made out of
a large oil drum, and a series of tarps tied together to make some sort of
tented room. There was also a cast iron wood stove right next to the side door
of the van, and a fire pit toward the middle of the beach area.
Eva turned toward the ocean and noticed that this private camp was made
possible by protection from the cliffs themselves. Both sides were guarded by
rock walls jutting out into the water that wrapped around this perfect sandy
cove within a larger cove beside the most pronounced point of the Opal Cliffs. It
was invisible from the nearby beaches, and impassible on foot due to the rocks and reefs. She was fascinated. “Is this like your paradise or what, man? How
cool!”
“It keeps me safe. For now.”
“How long you been here?”
“No idea.” Killian reached down to the ground beside the grill and lifted up a
wooden lid that wasn’t visible to the naked eye. Beneath it was an in-ground cooler from which he snagged a six pack holder with a few Budweiser cans hang-
ing from it. He raised them up to Eva, who understood the gesture, and gladly pulled one off and cracked it open. She made herself at home, pulling a chair to-
wards the fire pit and sitting down. Killian lit fires in the fire pit and the wood stove, then lit a lantern and a few candles on the table.
“It must get cold here at night,” Eva said, warming her hands by the fire. “So
you really don’t know how long you’ve lived here?”
“Nope. Could be a few weeks, coulda’ been a few years. No way to tell for
sure.”
“But how can that be?”
“I thought you said rest first, then more questions,” Killian grumbled.
“Oh yeah, sorry. There’s just so much I want to ask. Do you need anything?”
Eva asked, looking around.
“Got what I need right here.” He pulled a home-made cigar out of his green
army jacket and lit it up, inhaling the smoke and holding it in for several seconds
before exhaling a cloud of pungent odor. Knowing that was not how to smoke a
cigar, Eva remarked, “Um, that’s not– ”
“It’s a home remedy darlin’. Just part o’ my multiverse recovery process. Yer
welcome to it.” He held out his hand, flipping the lit end toward himself and the
butt toward her. Eva could not help making disgusted face as she shook her head, saying “no thanks” out of consideration for her own safety, and because
it had just been in Killian’s mouth full of discolored, disorderly teeth. He puffed
away and Eva could see him clearly nodding off where he sat, stooping over
cross-legged in the sand by the fire. She found a wool blanket, wrapped him in it
and laid him down cushioning his head with a rolled up towel she found in the van.
After enjoying the night sky and finishing her beer, she fed the fire in the wood
stove, laid on the couch in the van, and tried to sleep. Somehow the heat from the old stove wafted into the van with the side door half open just right, warm-
ing it enough to help her feel comfortable.

Killian awoke drenched in sweat, still wrapped in his wool blanket under a
warm mid-day sun. He struggled to get it off, then his jacket, and over-shirt,
satisfied with only his sleeveless undershirt left on. He looked around his camp,
trying to piece together what had happened the night before, when a distant
high pitched cheering sound snapped his attention toward the water. He could
barely make out a female figure with dark skin and long black hair surfing the
sizable waves out past his protective reef. Momentarily unsure of anything, he
went to his van and came back with his trusty binoculars for a closer look.

NAVsurf (1)

As he recognized his new follower, he started to remember the events of the
Water Hole the previous evening, his multiverse journey, and how Eva had come
with him and taken care of him. He gazed in admiration at her gorgeous form
carving up waves.
Her exotic brownish tanned skin shone in the sun, and was covered only by a
minuscule surfer’s bikini which seemed like no more than a black thong with a
wide waistband on her hips, and some sort of bandeau top; also black with some
bright pink lacing in the middle, accentuating the full shape of her voluptuous
breasts. Killian knew nothing about such skimpy garments and focused on them
for a long time, feeling only a bit of shame. Her body flexed as she picked her
waves, rode each curl and then gyrated athletically as she turned upward, sometimes completing an aerial one hundred eighty degree turn, hooting with ut-
ter delight. When he saw her head in, he put the binoculars away and at-
tempted to look like he was tidying up his estate.

“Whew! Great waves! You ever get out there? I saw your board.” Eva
planted her board in the sand, and wrung out her hair as she spoke to Killian.
“‘S’a paddle board. I can’t surf, gotta’ bad leg. Hey, is this what you call
helpin’ me?”
“I put you to bed didn’t I? I tried to make ya breakfast, but all I found was
beer, booze, and beef jerky. Oh, I made coffee in that old pot . . . ” Eva pointed to the blue metal camp-style coffee pot percolating on the wood stove. “Be-
sides, it’s like two o’clock, dude! I didn’t know if you’d sleep all day or what.

Couldn’t waste all this sun, and these waves. This is a sweet spot here.” She
looked over at the area partially covered by hanging tarps. “I’m gonna change.
You got a towel?”
Yep, hangin’ by the van on the line. There’s a shower pipe back there too if
you need it. It’s piped from the old house, never turned off. The far side of that
tarp is the bathroom, but it’s more of an outhouse version.”

“Yeah, found that one last night. Real nice,” Eva said sarcastically as she
grabbed a towel and found the shower. She pulled the chain and stood below the
stream. The shower happened to be aligned with a gap in two different tarps,
the bottom corners of which were both blowing apart in the afternoon breeze.
Killian sat in his chair, seemingly facing the ocean with his eyes protected by
cheap sunglasses. He discretely peeped at Eva showering out of the corner of
his eye.

Eva, being a perceptive, bright young lady, knew full well she was probably be-
ing watched. Growing up in surf culture around a lot of guys made her careless of this, if not even a little flattered. She rinsed off in the lukewarm stream of
water, then pulled off her bikini. Smiling a bit, she soaped up and rinsed again.
She even washed her hair, rinsing all the suds from it and shaking it out with her fingers as the jet-black ends dripped and danced on the small of her bare back-
side. She pulled the chain again, cutting off the shower stream. She slowly dried off, and pulled on only her denim cut-offs and her UCSC t-shirt. Knowing that
she had just given many happy fantasies to a lonely old outcast, she was now ready to interview him and glean every bit of information she could about his ex-
perience and abilities.

She approached and sat next to him, watching the waves roll in. He spoke
first. “Coffee’s good.”
“Glad you like it. You’re feelin’ better huh?”
“Yah. ‘Spose ya wanna know all about the multiverse now, eh?”

“Oh yeah. Muitiverse huh? That’s what you call it?” Eva’s eyes filled with curi-
osity.

“Well, there’s only a few theorists out there using that term so far, but
that’s what I use ’cause it makes the most sense to me.”
“So how do you– ?”

“I’ll get to it, just listen. There’s a lot, kid.” Eva pulled her iPhone out of her bag and started recording audio for her research notes. “So I know you under-
stand Tegmark’s Level III, Many Worlds Interpretation: same space, different universes in different dimensions.” Eva nodded, frozen with anticipation. “Okay,
so because their expansion is in fact infinite, there exists at least one quantum
reality for every choice you could have made in your life. Like last night you
chose to come here with me. But there’s an identical reality to ours where you
just went home. And your life took a slightly different path. Or if you had a deck
of cards and pulled out one card . . . ”
“There’s a reality for every card in the deck. I get it. So what happens in
that reality, when I don’t go with you?” Eva asked curiously.
“Don’t know. I haven’t been there.”
“So wait a minute. Every choice in my life? Every combination of choices I’ve
ever made? That’s gotta be in the billions.”
“Easily. The human brain can make several choices per second. Some argue
thousands.”
“Whoa. So you can find every choice that anyone ever made? How? There’s
so many obscurities to weed through. And how the hell do you even access other
dimen– ?”
“Slow down, babe. I guess you could say I can shift my consciousness. Now
this part, I got no idea how it works. But I know that the quantum shifting I can
do applies to my life, and my choices. So when I have a shift I can sort of feel my way around my own combination of different choices, and visit my own life in dif-
ferent quantum realities. I can even guide the shift somehow, subconsciously and find a specific reality in my life that I am looking for, like one where I went to
UCSC and got wicked smart.”
“So you can avoid realities where, like, you were never born, or you already
died?” Eva questioned.

“Yeah, anything like that. Infinite is . . . infinite. There’s all sorts of realities
unlike our life in this world. Some have continents in different places, some have
a different atmosphere, different evolution, you name it. I can guide it enough to
land on me and stay away from any place my consciousness could not come back
from. But I never tripped out on somebody else’s life to find out about their
deal.”
“But you sit around the bar all day and stare at people. I’ve seen you,” Eva
said, perplexed.
“I usually find good trips to take by watching others and seeing how their
lives turned out. Did you ever feel like you could see yourself in others? You
know, you see someone playing a guitar and think ‘I shoulda’ stuck with that,’ or you see someone with a cool job and think ‘I coulda’ done that.’ Well, when I no-
tice those things in others, I go find a world where I did just that.”

“So you n-navigate it. Your own . . . the multiverse of your life, I mean.” Eva
was astounded.

NAVcoffee

“Well, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. As you could see last night, I kinda’
shake and freeze up when a shift is happening, so most people think I’m havin’ a
seizure and call an ambulance. An’ while I’m there I get a momentary view of the
actual world, usually a blurry copy of what I see here, and then a –well, like a
download I guess. Instant memories. That’s the tough part.”
“Why?”
“‘Cause I get ’em all! Every memory of my counterpart in the alternate world I shift to. So smarty pants, how many neurons does the human brain have?” Kil-
lian asked his interviewer.

“‘Bout a billion.” Eva could see where he was going. “Each with about a thou-
sand connections to other neurons, making up like a trillion different connections for storing memories.”

“That sounds about right. Well, If I get a different lifetime of memories down-
loaded every time I trip, That’s where the pain and sufferin’ comes in. I’ll forget parts of the trip, forget parts of my real life, mix them up, blend it all together
with extreme brain pain, an’ there’s your crazy nonsense babblin’ bum right
there.”
“Wow. Makes a lot of sense. So how did this happen to you? Were you born
with it?”

“I don’t remember ever havin’ it until after I served in the military. I was spe-
cial forces in the Persian Gulf War– ”

“Wait, Persian Gulf War? When was that?”
“Early nineties.”
“Early nineties? I thought you were in Vietnam! How old are you?”
“Like forty-four, I think.” Killian thought carefully, wondering if he was right.

“Oh my God. You look twenty years older than that. Do you realize that?
Whoa, maybe this quantum shifting is aging you. You are kind of acquiring other
lives, other memories. Maybe it takes a toll,” Eva postulated.
“Great, never thought of that. Thanks.” Killian rolled his eyes. “Anyways, I
know I was a P.O.W., I know I got rescued, and that’s when the amnesia and
blurry memories of multiverse trippin’ started.”
“God,” Eva blurted, intellectually drained. “You are dealing with so . . . much.
You’ve seen, what? Hundreds of alternate lives?”
“Thousands.”

“And every time you see a glimpse of a different universe, and get a brain-
splitting amount of information from mentally defying all known laws of quantum physics? And on top of that you don’t even know how this happened or who did
this to you? Yikes. That’s a lot of stuff to think about.”
“Why do you think I sit in shitty bars all day self-medicating? It never
freakin’ ends.”
The two new acquaintances sat and watched the tide roll in. They tossed
around different scenarios from different realities, some humorous, some tragic, some ridiculous, and before they knew it, they had chatted the entire af-
ternoon away. As the sun loomed over the Pacific, Eva felt the urge to do some-
thing to show her gratitude toward her new friend. “Okay, I think my brain is full at this point. What do you say to fish tacos at the wharf? It’s on me. Oh, and all
you can drink, of course. We need to get outta’ here, clear our heads, don’t ya
think?” She smiled irresistibly.
“Hum? Okay. Only if I drive. You got the perfect head o’ hair for ridin’ the
back of a bike,” Killian flirted.
“Okay, you can drive,” Eva giggled, excited to ride on a Harley. “Oh, and maybe we can hit a drug store too. -Pick you up a toothbrush, some nail clip-
pers maybe?” She added at the risk of offending him.

“Yeah, yeah. I always forget about that crap. So why’re ya bein’ so nice to
me?”
“Well, I just wanna’ pay back a favor, I mean hell, you’re practically doing my
homework for me,” Eva replied holding up her iPhone full of groundbreaking
knowledge.

NAVbike

They found a beachside bar with good tacos, proven by the fact that Killian
ate five in a row. Dinner was followed by ordering beers and tequila shooters,
and people-watching together. Eva showed great patience, just spending time with Killian. They joked, shared personal stories, and gave the quantum mechan-
ics a break. Killian was surprised to be getting along with any other person, let alone an attractive young lady.

It was not long after that he noticed a man about his age with a fair complex-
ion, light hair, like his used to be, and a beautiful younger wife and children. His wife was Hispanic, and their three children ranged from somewhere in middle
school to high school ages. All five seemed very happy, smiling and laughing, and
sharing warm moments in the family section of the restaurant. Killian looked at
his young apprentice with thoughts of admiration, and then at the family again.

He tried to verbalize his thoughts, which was something he was not accustomed
to doing with others. His voice trembled, “I could see mys-self w-with a fam-mly
some . . . ”
His body started to quake from head to toe. He gripped the table to try to
stop it, but couldn’t hold on. Eva sprang into action, holding his head and telling
the few on-lookers he was fine. When the waitress asked, Eva was very
smooth, telling her it was a petit mal seizure and that he’d be fine. Killian sat still,
head down, breathing deeply. His pupils had shrunk to the size of a pinhead as
his brain tried to process a whole other lifetime of information.
“Killian, you okay dude?” Eva asked, patting him on the back.
“Yah.”
“Wanna go home?”

“Yup.” She helped him up, and he found his balance quickly. Walking to the Har-
ley, Eva’s curiosity got the better of her.

“You just shifted consciousness right? You tripped! I saw the whole thing this time. I could see everything you talked about. Are you still processing new memo-
ries?”

“Yup.” Killian nodded.
“Was it about that nice family? Did you just have a family?” Eva then
thought of the similar age and ethnic differences the couple had in common with
them. “Was it with m-me?”
“Yeah, I had a family. No, it wasn’t with you. I can’t just make up anything,
there are some rules. I’ve known you one day, babe. I couldn’t possibly find any
logical realities where we are married, that’s not a rational choice after just a
day. But, I think maybe I was open to thinking about that family deal because of all this . . . quality time we’ve been having. I’ve been friendless for years, never-
mind a friendship with a woman’s touch.”

“Okay, hey. No problem. Still up for a stop at the drug store? Or do we need
to go straight home?” Eva was also dealing with unexpected information.
“Drug store. You can get what you need, and a bottle o’ Jack for me.” Killian
grumbled. “Got a head splitter comin’ on.”
They made it back by way of a thrilling, weaving motorcycle ride. They both
helped to get the wood stove and campfire lit. Killian’s pain seemed more intense
than last time, so Eva proceeded with caution. She found a small piece of ice in the ice chest and made a cold compress for his head, then brought out the bot-
tle of Jack Daniels and a six pack. She wrapped his legs in the wool blanket, and put his army jacket on him, knowing that his medicinal stogie was in the breast pocket. He groaned, and reached for it immediately, lighting it up. When he of-
fered it to her this time, she threw back the bottle and then accepted, sucking in a big puff of smoke and letting it out. “Damn, this is strong. So you wanna’
talk?”

“Naw. Well, maybe a bit . . . ” Killian told her about what it was like to be mar-
ried and have children and the fond memories of that life between slugging whis-
key and smoking himself to sleep. And sleep he did.

Just before sunrise, Eva stood by her jeep, iPhone in hand. She looked all
around, checking each direction as she spoke quietly. “Agent 8-5-1 checking in.
The college kid cover worked. I got it all. Full intel, blood sample, and a personal
inter-dimensional event eye witness. Coming in for a full debriefing. Yeah. Check
blood sample for quantum fluctuations in his cellular RNA. Check. Confirmed. I
told him I’d be back tomorrow.” And with that, a new kind of caretaker-patient
relationship was formed.

The Monday Poem: Less Time

Less Time – Poem by Andre Breton

Less time than it takes to say it, less tears than it takes to die; I’ve taken account of everything,
there you have it. I’ve made a census of the stones, they are as numerous as my fingers and some
others; I’ve distributed some pamphlets to the plants, but not all were willing to accept them. I’ve
kept company with music for a second only and now I no longer know what to think of suicide, for
if I ever want to part from myself, the exit is on this side and, I add mischievously, the entrance, the
re-entrance is on the other. You see what you still have to do. Hours, grief, I don’t keep a
reasonable account of them; I’m alone, I look out of the window; there is no passerby, or rather no
one passes (underline passes). You don’t know this man? It’s Mr. Same. May I introduce Madam
Madam? And their children. Then I turn back on my steps, my steps turn back too, but I don’t
know exactly what they turn back on. I consult a schedule; the names of the towns have been
replaced by the names of people who have been quite close to me. Shall I go to A, return to B,
change at X? Yes, of course I’ll change at X. Provided I don’t miss the connection with boredom!
There we are: boredom, beautiful parallels, ah! how beautiful the parallels are under God’s
perpendicular.

 

I hope you enjoyed this week’s Monday poem. Breton always brings a smile to my face! There’s something about his writing that is so easy and inspirational.

Review: Reflections by Clifton Kenny

Reflections revolves around three teenagers, Shane, Paige and Jimmer, as they work together to unravel Shane’s mystery abilities. The young protagonist accidentally discovers that he can see into people’s family histories by reflecting on them, discovering their ancestral past and unlocking their secrets.

The plot is never predictable and I was kept interested throughout the story. Reflections is a lovely portrayal of childhood friendship above anything else. It reminded me of 1980’s coming of age films, the likes of which had an innocence that seems to have been lost in that genre today.

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The three kids aren’t the cool guys, or the popular gang, they’re just really normal teens. I would definitely be happy for my future teenager to read this book, but I’d also recommend it to adults.

Anyone who’s into coming of age stories, mediumship or the paranormal should love Reflections.