Categories
Science Fiction Stories

To Engage With Time

Edward Hopper, Nighthawks, Oil painting, Americana,

What makes Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks” painting one of his most celebrated works? Created in 1942, Nighthawks is considered the incarnation of existential art, capturing the alienation and loneliness symptomatic of modern urban life. The following story is inspired by the painting.

I mount the time machine and dial the year nineteen-forty-two. I have a keen interest in the war years. Activities like storming the beaches of Normandy are not high on my priorities list. I stay far behind the front lines. I find the study of American culture during the war years fascinating. I stay away from heavily populated cities to remain inconspicuous. You might say I’m not truly adventurous, excluding, of course, time travel and my voracious appetite for knowledge. I’m a scientist, first and foremost. As soon as I’ve perfected my time-traveling technology, I intend to unveil it in a white paper report and work with a team to use my discoveries for the betterment of mankind.

I finish entering all of the pertinent data into the onboard computer and push the launch button.  Seconds later, the machine deposits me in the small town of Independence, Ohio. On this trip, I find myself on a corner across the street from an all-night diner. My trans-spacial watch tells me it’s two-thirty in the morning. Materializing in small towns on deserted streets in the middle of the night is a proven method for avoiding stampeding crowds.

Illustration of a time machine from the story "A Lesson In Time" by David Gittlin

I’m a bit freaked out by the feeling of emptiness the town exudes. I console myself with the thought that I’ve arrived in the middle of the night and everything is closed except, it seems, the diner across the street.

Through the panoramic window, I see four people sitting at the counter inside. My curiosity peaks as I begin, once again, to study life in the past, this time eighty years ago. This morning will be different than the others in one important respect. It marks the first time I will interact with people and environments of the past. I feel that I’ve learned enough from my previous trips to take this momentous step. And, I can no longer resist the urge to relate to people instead of simply observing them.

As I cross the street, I check my reflection in the large window. I’m dressed appropriately for the era in a blue business suit and matching tie with black wingtip shoes and neatly barbered hair. I’ll blend right in. Swinging open the glass and chrome door, I enter the cafe and take a seat at the counter a measured two seats away from a man sitting by himself. 

The small diner smells of stale cigarette smoke, fresh coffee, and the faint scent of body odor from the man two seats away. To my right, half the wall is fitted with small bins containing tempting muffins, cakes, and breads.  Across the counter, a nice-looking middle-aged couple sit demurely drinking coffee. The man is wearing a gray suit with a matching hat, blue tie, and he’s smoking a chesterfield unfiltered cigarette. The pack lying by his hand on the counter tells me the cigarette brand. The man looks like a lawyer or a doctor. The woman is wearing a green silken cocktail dress. It sets off her blazing red hair nicely. By the looks of the two-carat diamond ring on her hand, I figure the couple is well-off and married.  I suppose the couple is drinking coffee to sober up for the drive home after a festive dinner party.

“My name’s Kendall,” he says in a friendly tone.” I wonder if it’s his first or last name. I happen to hate my first name. Who names their kid Saul forty years after the war? It would be a good name for my grandfather. Not for me.

“And I’m Allison,” the woman next to him says.

I’m surprised by the couple’s friendliness. Maybe it’s the late hour and the intimate setting. Maybe people here are friendlier to strangers than they usually are in the other the small towns I’ve visited. Maybe–just maybe–this will be easier than I thought it would be.

Illustration of time travel from the story "A Lesson In Time" by David Gittlin

“My name’s Saul,” I say to the couple. “Nice to meet you.” I turn to the man next to me, half-expecting him to introduce himself. It suddenly occurs to me that the guy hasn’t moved a muscle since I came through the door.

“Ignore him,” Kendall says. “He’s just part of the scenery.”

“I’m sorry for that unkind remark,” I say to the motionless man. He’s heavy-set, dressed in a brownish green striped suit, and looks every bit like a non-descript traveling salesman.

I turn back to the man named Kendall. “If that was a joke, I don’t think it’s funny. People have feelings. Didn’t your mother teach you that?”

The last thing I want to do is get into an argument with these people, but I can’t help saying something.

“You don’t have to worry about his feelings,” Kendall says.

“And what do you think?” I ask Allison. On closer examination, she looks uncannily like Julianne Moore in her role as Clarice Starling in the sequel to “The Silence of the Lambs.”

“Allison is new,” Kendall replies. “She’s still in training. She’s not supposed to talk much.”

“Wait a minute,” I say. “Who are you people?”

Kendall leans down and pulls a strapped leather briefcase from below the counter. He extracts a file, opens it, and begins reading.

“Let’s see. Saul Grossman, age thirty-two, engineer/designer employed by Raytheon Technologies, assigned to jet engine development, invented and now operates a time machine in his spare time. Does that about cover it, Saul?”

I am beyond shocked. Fear and anger compete to control me. Somehow, I manage not to panic. I don’t want to hear the answer to my next question, but I have to ask.

“How do you know so much about me?”

“You’ve been on our radar,” Kendall says. “Now that you’ve decided to interact with the past, it’s time for us to step in.”

I’m still in shock, but a ray of hope may be peaking through the gathering storm clouds. “Are you time lords, or some sort of benevolent time control agency from the future?”

“Sorry to disappoint, Saul. We’re your local branch office of the NSA. We made some adjustments to your time machine after reading your time journal in which you wrote, ‘I’m now confident that I can interact with the past to make the present better.'”

“So, you broke into my house without my knowledge or consent.”

“That’s about the size of it,” Kendal confirms.

I feel my intestines start to melt. “What sort of ‘adjustments’ are we talking about?”

“For starters, we’re not in the past. We’re in a computer simulation where the only thing that’s real is you.”

I try to imagine how this can be happening. Am I talking to naked human bodies floating in an electrochemical solution inside giant Pyrex glass tubs? Are they fitted with electrodes attached to their heads to facilitate thought-transference-voice-activation to their virtual avatars? Or is it a cutting-edge holographic computer program capable of interacting with a real-live me?

I reach into my pocket to push the button on my remote control extractor. I’m not going to stand still for this. Literally. I’ll be out of here and back in good old 2021 in no time–or a few seconds.

Nothing happens.

I try again. Still nothing.

“I forgot to mention we disabled your extractor,” Kendall says with a cheeky wink of an eye.

“So now what?”

“Now you stay here for the rest of your natural born existence, my friend.”

“You’re kidding. Right?

“Afraid not, Saul.”

“You can’t do this.”

“Would you rather be thrown in jail?”

“On what grounds?”

Kendall takes the last sip of his coffee. “We’ll think of something. It won’t be pretty.”

“I can’t believe this.”

“It’s an unfortunate situation, Saul. You’ve become a danger to yourself and the rest of us. You played with fire, and now you’re burned. The good news is we know how to use your technology better than you would have used it.”

Kendall grabs the briefcase and guides Allison to the front door. Before they leave, Kendall and Allison wave goodbye. “Have some fun,” Kendall says. “You’re an inventive guy.”

“Don’t leave. Please.”

“We’ll check back with you in another thirty years, if you’re still around,” Allison says with a cheerful smile.

Outside the door, I watch Kendall and Allison dissolve into ghostly vapors, then disperse into thin air.

The Time Travel Spiral

Categories
fiction Poetry

In The Windswept Fields Of My Soul

Paranormal, Vampires, Secrets, Death, Horror, Fear, Blood, Fairy, Mysterious, Forest

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.*

I wonder what secrets they keep.

The moon paints the leaves with a blood-red stain.

If I go in there, will I come out again?

Do thirsty vampires await?

Are the seductive voices I hear bait?

A ravishing woman appears from out of the air.

A second ago, there was no one there.

Her slender fingers with crimson tips beckon me.

She leans casually in a flowing negligee against a tree.

I have never witnessed such radiance before.

Her flaming red hair and porcelain skin are features to adore.

My senses awaken with overpowering lust.

She tells me her name, Melinda, and asks for my trust.

Can I believe my eyes or Melinda herself?

She stares at me confidently, embodying love itself.

What lies beneath such perfection?

To Melinda, am I just a confection?

My mind tells me these images are wisps of smoke.

In my heart the hellish fires of desire are stoked.

My right foot steps forward all on its own.

In the windswept fields of my soul, the seeds of madness are sown.

Blood Is The Nectar Of Life

DISCOVER

SCARLET AMBROSIA–BLOOD IS THE NECTAR OF LIFE

*Excerpt from the Robert Frost poem “Stopping By The Woods On A Snowy Evening.”

Categories
inspiration self-discovery

Fresh Water

A Droplet In A Fresh Water River

I thought I had reached the end of the road. In one sense, I had. After spending almost thirty-five years with one spiritual teacher, it finally became painfully and everlastingly clear that I had to find another way to go. It became a matter of spiritual life or death.

I had been studying drama and fiction writing. Like a standard movie plot, I had reached the “all is lost moment” in the middle of the third act. Allow me to explain.

I come from a large extended family. I have a few good friends, but I never had to go far when it came to my direction in life and people to turn to for good advice. My father and my uncle provided everything I needed in terms of my physical survival, and I had found my own way to satisfy my spiritual needs. Spiritually, I traveled an unorthodox path, but I was able to integrate it into my conventional lifestyle. I’m not the type to live in a commune or an ashram, and I never discussed my spiritual life with my parents and extended family.

And then things changed. Life moved on, as it inevitably does. In my late fifties, the only close family relationships I had left were my wife and my daughter. With no spiritual community to turn to, I felt terribly alone, rootless, and achingly lost. I felt myself sinking into an abyss of despair.

At this point in 2013, I found Saniel and Linda Bonder through a local Meetup Group in Miami, Florida. I had been actively searching for the next step, but nothing had clicked, and then it did.

The leader of the Miami Meetup group encouraged me to attend a weekend retreat with Saniel and Linda at a private home in the Atlanta suburbs. At the last minute, I decided to go.

The teaching and the experience I had been following involved a long-distance relationship with a teacher who appeared periodically in Miami amid thousands of people. In the local groups, we watched videos of the teacher appearing at events around the world. I never felt I had much in common socially with any of the local practitioners, except one very good friend who I still have lunch with regularly. And the teaching was a one-size-fits-all kind of deal. I wanted something more personal. I wanted something deeper and more intellectually comprehensive. And I wanted the chance to awaken now, not in some distant future if I jumped through all the right hoops.

At the retreat in Atlanta, I sat next to Saniel’s wife, Linda Bonder. The first thing she did was offer me her hand to hold. I suppose she intuited that I was nervous. I was amazed at Linda’s act of kindness. I felt at home with the audience of twenty practitioners seated in an intimate circle in the lovely living room. Saniel came into the room to start the meeting. He took a seat less than twenty feet away from me. This was the kind of personal touch I was looking for, and the transmission of peace/love was powerful in the room.

I learned that many of the people at the retreat had experienced their awakening to consciousness. They were working towards stabilizing and embodying their individual awakenings. I learned that the Trillium Awakening Path is a completely individual process with constant support available from teachers and fellow students. The process does not center on a Guru. It centers on the individual. It is an awakening within community where each person learns to grasp the means to their own realization. Hundreds of people in the community have awakened.

I am deeply grateful that Trillium Awakening exists. I feel that I am holding and being held by the others. I feel personally seen and met. I am deeply committed to the process and the community. Recently, the Trillium Awakening Teachers Circle has created a program of online events to enable anyone interested to participate in daily gazing, meditations, mutuality circles, mini-seminars and weekend retreats.

After eight years of participation in Trillium, I am significantly more rooted in myself and the community. I lead a normal life pursuing multiple interests and avenues of self-expression. There is nothing I have to conform to in Trillium. I am becoming more and more my true, authentic self within the Trillium Community and in my everyday life. Feelings of peace, love and joy dance in my heart intermittently throughout my day.

I’m fortunate to have found this next step. When the river bed is dry, the rain falls, and fresh water flows, once again.

Categories
humor Novels

The Aftermath

Three Days to Darkness Novel by David Gittlin

Excerpt from Three days to Darkness, Copyright 2009 by David B. Gittlin.

Hiram Fyrum stared at the Mamongen Pharmaceuticals Building through the one-way front windshield of Joseph Mamon’s bullet proof Rolls Royce.  The majestic skyscraper had been reduced to a modern version of the Leaning Tower of Pizza silhouetted against the rising morning sun.

Police cars surrounded the ruptured base of the building.  Portable barricades and a line of Policemen prevented pedestrians and traffic from coming within a thousand yards of the ominous slanting edifice.

Hiram had been up all night, mostly trying to figure out what he was going to say to Joseph Mamon, the ninety year old Chairman and Founder of Mamongen Pharmaceuticals.  His stubby legs ached from climbing down fifty floors of emergency stairs from his twenty thousand square foot Penthouse to the ground floor.  Hiram had spent the major portion of this middle of the night journey screaming into his cell phone at various members of the Mamongen Engineering Staff.  The rest of the time he had spent catching his breath.  Needless to say, Hiram Fyrum was not in the best of shape at the moment for the task at hand.  He was, on the other hand, determined as ever to do what he always did in a crisis.  He would rise victoriously to the occasion.

“I’m beginning to see an opportunity here, Joseph.  What if we left the building tilted like that, reinforced with polished steel supports.  We remodel all the interiors to fit the new structure.  Stay with me now.  The building becomes the company’s new logo.  The tag line goes: ‘Mamongen Pharmaceuticals — Taking an Innovative Direction into the Future.’  The building becomes a statement, like a modern art sculpture.  Think of it, Joseph.  It’s what we’re all about.”

Hiram sat back confidently in the rear compartment of the Chairman’s fortress of a car.  His mind automatically began to compute the logistics of the plan he had just proposed.  The more he thought about it, the more he liked it.

“We’re going to play the cards we’ve been dealt,” Hiram added.  “We’re going to turn adversity into an opportunity.”

He turned to Joseph Mamon in the seat next to him.  Hiram’s confidence was now in full flight.  He was suddenly bubbling with energy despite a sleepless night and no morning coffee.

Joseph Mamon stared morosely out at the spectacle that now loomed in a sadly comic fashion amidst the other sterling examples of Corporate Wellness standing straight and tall beside it.  He coughed into his oxygen mask.

“Come on, Joseph.  Say something.”

“I’m looking at what’s left of my life’s work,” the old man said.

“You’re looking at a new beginning, that’s what you’re looking at,” Hiram said.

The old man turned to him. “I’m looking at the biggest putz in the entire world.”

“I’m not offended, Joseph.  This is an emotional time.  I know you don’t mean that.”

“I’m the guy who hired you, which means only one thing:  I’m getting senile.”

The old man broke into a coughing fit.  Hiram patted him on the back.  The coughing finally stopped.

“I’m going to dismantle the company and sell it off in little pieces.”

“Let’s not make any rash decisions.  Let’s give the situation a little breathing room.  Let’s also keep in mind that your passion built this company and our passion can keep it going.”

The old man looked at him with big, rheumy eyes.  “Get out of my car.”  He blinked several times.  “I never want to see you again.”

“You’re firing me?”

“Only because there are laws against killing you.”