Deus Volt – Part 4

aerial photography of trees

(Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 3) (Part 5) (Part 6)

The lights were generated by the human mechanisms, but many were odd: small, blinking, multi-colored lights lined doorways and were wrapped around statues of something I’d never seen before.

Binnea tapped my shoulder lightly.  “Look.”

A set of human statues, white like ice carved with extreme skill, were illuminated by flood lights on the ground.  The human statues were guarded from the elements by a roof, upon which stood a human with large protusions coming from its back.  Above that statue was a bright… star.

I yanked Binnea’s scruff until it fell behind a bush with me.  “That’s it,” I said.   “That’s got to be what your book was talking about!  The baby god is here!  What do we do now?”

Binnea shook its head and opened the book.  “The next part was about bringing the baby god gifts.  I didn’t understand that part.  But I think the baby was put in the food trough.”

“They fed their god to animals?!”

“No – at least, I don’t think they did, because he goes on to do other stuff when he grows up.”  Binnea poked its head out of the bushes and surveyed the statue scenery.  “I think we have to destroy the sculpture in the food trough.”

I gulped  This seemed so risky.  But what other choice did we have?  Bow to our human overlords?  No.  “Alright.  We’ll sneak as close as we can, then claw out its eyes.  Destroy it however we can.”

Binnea nodded and flexed its claws.  “Alright.  Let’s go.”

We slunk across the ice, hiding from the blinking lights by sinking into the shadows.  Nothing seemed to notice us, so we stood upon the final approach to the little shack.  I noticed now that some of the statues were of creatures – at least, I guess they were creatures, judging by the presence of eyes – I’d never seen before.  I held my breath, not knowing their powers.

Binnea steeled itself and unsheathed the bones in its fingers.  “Here we go!”

I unsheathed my bones and shredded at the ice sculpture with Binnea.  The tiny human sculpture in the food trough was soon blinded then degraded down to ice shavings.

A tall creature took a quiet step, casting a shadow on us.  “You rapscallions,” a human voice said, “You’re very far-”

Binnea squealed at the announcement and whirled around, bones still out.  Its fingers landed in the human’s chest, which spurted a strange, red liquid all over us.

The human fell limp and slid off Binnea’s bony fingers.

(Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 3) (Part 5) (Part 6)

Deus Volt – Part 3

aerial photography of trees

(Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 4) (Part 5) (Part 6)

“Binnea!” I shouted.  The morning was cold and dark, but I didn’t think it wise to be shouting for a potential traitor when the humans were awake and could hear us.

A rustling in the nearby bushes caught my attention, and I saw Binnea’s head pop up.  “Over here!”

I crouched behind the bushes, noticing both our breaths forming mist in the winter air. Binnea’s eyes blinked a couple times as they glittered in the light of Renaux, our largest moon.

“I think I figured it out.”  Binnea patted the human book.  “The baby appears almost right in the middle, so it was hard to find, but I got to the passage with instructions.  Apparently, we’re supposed to follow the brightest star in the sky.  That will lead us to an inn with a food trough for farm animals.”

I squinted suspiciously.  “That sounds vague and easy to mess up.”

“It’s foolproof.  Two separate groups found the baby god – one a bunch of farmer hillbillies and another a bunch of scientists.  It’s going to work.”   Binnea turned its feet to their sides and pushed forward over the ice. “You coming or what?”

I didn’t argue further.  We only had two days to stop this baby god, after all, before it hatched or was born.

We skated over miles and miles of terrain, following the star both of us agreed was the brightest.  Daylight took away our guide, but we still had an idea of direction and could use the sun to keep our path straight.  We ate some of the food we’d packed, supplemented with the red winter berries on bushes that erupted from the ice beneath.  The afternoon sun turned the landscape orange, and the light glinted off the ice with perfect twinkles.

We grew tired by the time night fell, but we kept going, hoping to find the inn described by the instructions.  I was the one who pointed through the fog to a bright light in the distance.  “Is that one of those human lights?”

Binnea squinted.  “Has to be.  It’s too bright to be a candle.”  It pushed forward on its blade-bone feet, skating closer.  “Let’s go check it out.”

(Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 4) (Part 5) (Part 6)

Deus Volt – Part 2

aerial photography of trees

(Part 1) (Part 3) (Part 4) (Part 5) (Part 6)

Binnea beat me to Old Yaroux’s field, but I had started second so it didn’t matter too much.  We breathed heavily, bent over while we wheezed after such a hard run.  Once my breath was back and my chest wasn’t burning from the deep breaths of cold air, I asked, “Are you really that afraid the humans are going to be bad?  They haven’t done much, and it’s been six years for us – 15 for them.”

Binnea lay down in the snow.  “My Dad says that something’s got to be wrong with the situation.  They’re giving us all this technology for free; what’s in it for them?  Too good to be true.”

“I think their god told them to do it.”

“Maybe Father Richard, yeah, but not the humans as a whole.” Binnea sat up and rubbed thin fingers over its face.  “I dunno.  Just my Mom, Dad, and Ternary seem scared of what’s going to happen.”

I sat down in the snow next to Binnea.  “What do they think they can do about any of it, though?”

Binnea looked around, then leaned in close.  “You’ve heard a little of this Christmas stuff before, right?”

I nodded.

“This is the first Christmas on Venerux, and Christmas is when their God is born.  My parents say that if we can stop their Jesus from being born, we’ll be able to send the humans back home.  They won’t stay on a planet their god isn’t on.”

“Wow.  That’s pretty smart!  How do we do it?  I mean, time’s running pretty short.”

Binnea’s whiskers pulled taught with happiness as it removed a book – a human invention, obviously stolen – from within its cloaks.  “I’ve got an instruction manual.  It’ll tell us how to find the baby god.”

I swallowed.  “So that’s what you’re doing since school’s out, isn’t it?”

Binnea nodded.  “You bet!”

(Part 1) (Part 3) (Part 4) (Part 5) (Part 6)

Deus Volt – Part 1

aerial photography of trees

(Part 2) (Part 3) (Part 4) (Part 5) (Part 6)

Venerex takes about two and a half Earth years to orbit its star, Alloix.

At least, that’s what the missionaries told us.

The humans landed six Venerex years ago.  Out of their starships came people armed with weapons the likes of which we’d never seen.  The humans called the weapons ‘technologically advanced, not divine or magical.’  Starting last fall, they offered to teach the children of our planet their ways, and hastily opened a school at which attendance was not optional.

One winter day, the human teacher closed its blackboard and stacked its electronic papers.  It smiled and said, “Tomorrow, there will be no school.  The Holy See has decided that, on this planet, Christmas shall coincide with the seasons and times of your orbit rather than Earth’s.  As such, seeing as tomorrow is the third day following your winter solstice, you will stay home and teach your parents about the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and two days from now you will the anniversary of His birth.”

The smartest kid in the class, Polioux, stood.  “How are we supposed to do that appropriately, Father?”

The old human in its brown cloak used its face muscles to pull the brown mouth into an awkward shape.  I gathered this was a happy appearance, but it looked so unnatural. “Well, on Earth, we exchange gifts, but the Holy See’s decision may be at too short notice to do that justice.  Many families cut down a tree to bring inside and decorate, but your native plant life simply won’t do.  Your bodies are not made for feasting, so that is right out.  For this year, while the higher ups decide on something suitable, it’s enough to enjoy your families and determine your own, small celebrations.”

The school bell rang, and everyone immediately filed out of the building.  I was one of the dumb kids, you could say, so I was one of the first to fling the doors open and romp about in the snow outside.

“Two days off!  For nothing!” Binnea cried out before clapping me on the back with a bony hand.  “What you going to do?”

I bobbed my head side to side.  “I dunno.  Probably see if the church requires the adults to do anything.  I don’t want Mom, Dad, or Ternary to get tossed in prison, you know.”

Binnea chuckled.  “Not me.  I’m going to make the most of this.  Those humans are going to force our lives to match the shape they want, one way or another, so I’m getting as much out of my time now as I can.”  The child skipped along the icy road.  “Race you to Old Yaroux’s field?”

“I’ll win for sure!” I called back.  I turned my feet to their side and, using my sharp nails, glided on my bladed bones across the thick ice.

(Part 2) (Part 3) (Part 4) (Part 5) (Part 6)

 

Looking for Blood In All the Wrong Places

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i am new author on h.r.r. gorman’s page – count vlad dracula tepes

recently, h.r.r. gorman wrote a story about me and how i was cracked out of my eternal prison.  igor, my little imp assistant, went behind my back and asked for help acquiring blood for his old master.   that’s how i got an account on this blog.

first off, i’m looking for some blood.  i hear that teenage girls like giving out free blood to vampires, and i can guarantee you i am the best.  look no further if you want to donate your blood to the grandest, most magically gifted vampire of all time.  you will be in the ranks of queens and the like (or kings since im pretty).

if you are also a vampire and know of great ways to acquire blood in this modern world, please let me know.  igor says the internet is best, but i don’t like this human activity of mashing buttons to make lights blink on and off in specific patterns.  it’s worse than books.

it takes so long to type with claws, so please respond in the comments if you’d like to donate to a good cause.

***

Count Vlad Dracula Tepes was invited against H.R.R. Gorman’s best interest, but he swears that anti-vampire racism will one day come back to literally bite us all.  Not one to rock the boat, H.R.R. Gorman set Dracula up with this limited WordPress blogging account.   

Dracula doesn’t like typing, looking at computer screens, or garlic.  He enjoys dark sunsets, nights out on the town, and type O+. 

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Mystery Challenge #3 – Banana Pudding

I’m going to do all of the raynotbradbury Mystery Challenges this week!  The third challenge is the recipe for a mystery dish (fancy).  I chose banana pudding because of its potency as a Southern delight and because of the fiery passion Southern women defend their puddings with.  Brian of BooksofBrian, here’s some reminiscing for you.

In true annoying-online-recipe fashion, I put my mom’s banana pudding recipe at the end of the story.

***

Every good Southerner who was raised in church, and many good Southerners who weren’t, has been to a church potluck or picnic.  Backwoods as my family is, I was no exception.

Our church was a little white building off in a holler, on a flood plane next to a little creek, and didn’t have any space for eating.  Many members believed, in fact, that having a fellowship hall or any permanent dining structure was selling out to the devil, so we instead elected to host all our potlucks and picnics up at the abandoned schoolhouse.

Each year, the ladies would hand around a pen and pad of paper.  On it would be a list of traditional dishes and then a few blank spaces for people to bring something not listed.  Required items included biscuits, fried chicken, corn on the cob (grilled), butterscotch meringue pie, pulled pork barbecue, green beans, and – without fail – banana pudding.

That slot, the banana pudding slot, was treated with extreme care.  Garnering that sacred slot required a dance of social nicety the likes of which few if any truly understood.  One couldn’t simply just take the banana pudding slot.  It had to be left open, then fought over once everything else was taken.  “Oh, it’s just so sad that I couldn’t make green beans, and instead I have to buy everything for banana pudding!  Oh Lord save me!”

And then the slot was of course given to Mama Grace: the oldest matriarch, all around great-person, and a fantastic cook.

(My own grandmother was one of the ‘matriarchs,’ but that’s a very different story for a very different day.)

Evidently my mom, after having attended the church for about ten years, hadn’t gotten the memo.  She saw the list and, this time, thought, “Hey, I found a good banana pudding recipe.  I’ll do it.”

Whispers and gossip ran through the church.  How dare my mom take away Mama Grace’s hallowed pudding duties?  Why, that ungrateful minx!

Mama Grace, as well, wasn’t having it.  She shoved her name down for banana pudding also, and the gauntlet had been thrown.  The banana pudding cook-off had started.  The dish that got eaten first at the picnic would be the one to take the slot next year.

Here’s the thing: only women and children cared one lick about who was the banana pudding chef.  The adult men, who always went first through food lines by tradition among my family and church (backwards from the rest of the South, I gather), saw two equally good looking puddings.  Those who went down the right side of the buffet table took mom’s pudding, those on the left took Mama Grace’s.  No one seemed to notice a difference, especially not the women and children who picked through their scraps.

Mama Grace, however, could tell the difference.  She declared hers the winner and, due to church politics, of course came out on top.  My mom, being the person she is, was perfectly glad to have lost.  She swore never to come between Mama Grace and a pudding ever again.

The recipe below is the one my mom brought to that fateful picnic.  Mama Grace’s recipe will remain secret, since she took it to the grave with her in 2009.

Banana Pudding
Ingredients: 2 boxes vanilla instant pudding
4 cups milk
1 cup sour cream
1 9 oz. container cool whip
Bananas
Vanilla Wafers
Preheat: No cooking necessary
Instructions: Make pudding; fold in sour cream and cool whip. Layer with bananas and wafers. Chill. Best if you let it sit in the fridge overnight.

 

Godkiller in a Bag (Part 3 of 3)

(Part 1) (Part 2)

Whether it was the god’s fault or not, the weather became beastly cold and worked to freeze their hands and feet.  The truck driver had burst open some of her cargo and took out the goods destined for a big-box store, outfitting both of them well.  The god’s winter would have to try harder to freeze them.

Eventually they reached the top of the mountain, huddled against the wind and snow.  Even in the daylight, the thickness of the storm prevented them from seeing very far.

“Where’s the cavern?” the trucker asked.  She held onto the hitchhiker’s arm to make sure they didn’t get separated in the storm.

He held tight to her as well.  “I don’t know.  This could be a trick as far as we know.”

“How?” she asked.  “You saw it just like I did.  The vision.”

“Could be falsified.”  He fell to his knees and huddled.  “There’s got to be a way to call it.”

The trucker crouched beside him and put a hand to the top of the canvas rucksack.  She held his chin with the other hand.  “We have bait.”

“That’s too big a risk.”

“Is there another option?”

The hitchhiker gripped the straps of his sack in his gloved hands.  He looked to the sky and cried out, “I have it!  Show yourself, and I can work out a deal.  I’ll trade you the Apple if you will grant us our freedom!”

He put his hand to the clip and undid it, showing the contents of the bag to the sky.

The snow stopped falling in an instant, the sun shone from the lap of the god, and then –

BOOM

“You… You shot me?”

Thank goodness she’d checked my bag.  Thank goodness she’d stolen my magnum and hidden it in her coat pocket where the god didn’t look.  Thank goodness she’d eaten the Apple and had the free will to pull the trigger.

I shared his heart with the truck driver, and we both relished in his power.  The god no longer determined our fates, no longer directed our paths or altered our present.  The pesky narrator would have no power over me.

I lifted my hand, the power of the all-knowing, narrating god coursing through my veins, and returned my friends and family to their natural state: alive, well, and home.

She grasped my shoulder.  “Can we even go back?” she asked.  “We’re not as we were.”

I hugged her.  “What else can we do?”

“We can’t control people’s fates.  We can’t take away free will just like the god we killed.”  A tear went down her cheeks.   “Is this goodbye, then?” she asked.

I nodded my head.  “I’ll see you around.  Invite you to birthday parties, get trashed sometime when it’s a bit more convenient.”

“I’d like that.”  She patted me on the back, pulled me tight, and used her newly gained power to vanish somewhere else.  “By the way, my name is Evelyn.”

I ran up to where she had stood.  “And my name is-”

But she was gone, and I had a new goddess to chase.

(Part 1) (Part 2)

Godkiller in a Bag (Part 2 of 3)

(Part 1) (Part 3)

The driver coughed a little bit.  “I tried it while you slept.”

The hitchhiker stirred from a quick nap, still tired in the middle of the night.  “Tried what?”

“The thing in your bag.  The thing your pagan god wants.”

“I… I suppose that was the safest thing for you to do, really.”  He clutched his bag tighter.  “You do realize that your fate is tied to mine now, right?”

She drove without speaking, her lip trembling as if she couldn’t say anything worthwhile.  “I realize your pagan god is watching.  I know why it wants that thing in your bag.”  She pressed the pedal harder, accelerating on the empty road.  “We passed through Denver about thirty minutes ago.  Do you know where you’re going?”

The hitchhiker squirmed in his seat.  “You don’t?”  He lifted a brow and clutched the bag closer.  “If you took a bite, you know what I’m doing.  You know where we’re going.”

“I know the road,” she said.  “I know where to park, where we have to get out and continue on foot.  But that’s it – that’s as far as my knowledge goes.”  She gulped.  “It seems I’m still a trucker, just hauling things more important than me.”

Her explanation settled him, allowed him to relax.  “You scared me for a minute.  I was afraid the god was using you.”  He wiped his eyes and laughed.  “Before I found it, I was what you’d call a damn dirty hippie.  Used to be a ski bum at some of the slopes around here, at least until I wore down the funds mom and pop gave me.  I only know where I’m going because I’ve climbed the peak before.”

“Then we’re suited for each other.  I’ll help you – you showed me freedom, after all.”  She cleared her throat.  “Why me, though?  Why share with me?”

He shrugged.  “Honestly, I would have shared with anyone if I’d thought they’d take me where I needed to go.  The god has left me with nothing.  Everyone I’ve ever known has had their history erased, gone as if they’d never existed.  I only have the one, too, so I had to be careful when I used it.  I think you were a good choice.”

“We’re going to kill your god.  I assume it knows?”

“It knows.  I can’t imagine it doesn’t.”  He grunted.  “The walk will take most of the day.  How long’s the drive?”

“An hour, hour and a half if we get unlucky.”

“The god will make sure of that.”

(Part 1) (Part 3)

Godkiller in a Bag (Part 1 of 3)

(Part 2) (Part 3)

He awoke because his body grew chilled.  An eyelid fluttered open, and his breath condensed in the winter air.  The Greyhound bus was sitting at a stop, engine off, but there were no other passengers.  There was no driver.

He grunted and pulled his pack closer to him, feeling his heart slow and his nerves calm when he checked inside.  Whatever was after him didn’t know what the bag contained, and it desperately wanted to find out.  He zipped the bag closed, ensuring that anyone or anything watching wouldn’t find out.

He put the tips of his mitten gloves over the chilled ends of his fingers and walked up the aisle of the bus.  He bent down to look out the front window, finding that the bus was parked at a rest stop along the route.  It was possible everyone had just stepped out for a stretch break, but that wasn’t likely.  Not with whatever was after him.

The rest stop was mostly empty this time of night, only a few trucks with napping drivers and minivans with tired moms and dads switching who slept and who drove.  In the distance he spotted looming mountains rising out of nowhere just past Denver.

After refilling a few water bottles, he clenched a fist and approached a trucker climbing into her cab.  “Excuse me,” he hailed, waving his hands.  “Excuse me, but are you headed into Denver?  Maybe further?”

“I don’t take hitchhikers.”

He gulped, let his bag slide down his shoulder just a little, and nodded.  “Well, that’ll probably work out better for you anyway.”

She grumped and shut the driver’s side door but rolled down the window.  “Why’s that?  You an axe murderer?”

He shook his head.  “No.  I just think I’m cursed.”

“Why?”

He looked to either side, then up to the sky.  “Some god, or goddess, has it in for me.  It started when they burned down my house and killed my dog, but then they took all my friends and acquaintances a couple weeks ago.  Shoot, they made everyone on my bus disappear entirely, and I’d only known their faces for all of four hours.”  He pulled tight on the rucksack.  “If I got to know you, I’m sure you’d disappear too.”

She shook her head and cranked up her truck.  “You sound like a nutter.  ‘Sides, why’d you want to get me stolen by this pagan god of yours, assuming it’s real?”

“I didn’t want to hurt anyone,” he said.  He took off his rucksack and fiddled with the plastic clip.  “The god can’t see inside my backpack, but I think it knows and wants what’s inside.  I think what’s inside can kill it, and that’s why it’s so scared.  If I show you, you become more valuable to the god alive than dead.”

She rolled the window up a couple inches.

“I’m pretty desperate,” the man said.  “I haven’t shown anyone else what’s in my bag, and you’d be the first.”

She wrinkled her nose, but took her hand off the window crank.  “Fine.  If I like what I see, you can hitch a ride.”

He unhitched the bag and stepped on her truck’s runners, giving her just a peek at the contents.

Her eyes widened and he clicked the bag shut before the curious god could sneak its view into the burlap.

“Get in,” she said.  The truck’s doors unlocked at the push of a button.

He jumped off her runner and hurried around the front of her truck, then clambered into the passenger’s seat.

(Part 2) (Part 3)

Future Goggles

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“Step right up, step right up!  Come see the most amazing invention in all the world!  Photographs and moving pictures are nothing in the face of the marvels you’ll see here!”

I craned my neck and snuck through the small crowd to see what the miscreant had to sell, especially considering how great he claimed the invention was, but most everyone else chuckled and smirked at the man’s tactics.  After all, who was going to pay a dollar for five minutes with the machine?  The thing had better cure death if that’s how much the man thought people were going to pay for it.

A lady in many petticoats stepped up to the man’s wagon, holding her parasol in gloved hands as she did.  A tall man in a suit with long coattails accompanied her, smiling and looking down at his dandy little woman.  His teeth were whiter than the average man’s; I gathered he was one of those tooth-brushers, the way those pearly whites gleamed.

“Can you tell us, sir, what exactly your invention is supposed to do?” the aristocratic lady asked, twirling her parasol.  I rubbed my grimy fingers on the breast of my coveralls, feeling small and out of place in the face of her lavish gown.

The salesman smiled, eyeing the fine material of her man’s suit. “Why, little lady, it’s the most incredible invention ever dreamt up!  It uses lenses and electrics and magnets to focus the stream of time and… well, don’t fret your pretty little head about how it works, because I’ve figured it out.  Buy a few minutes with the Future Goggles and see times far beyond imagination, examine the ways people live a hundred years from now!”

The lady lifted a brow and held tight to her man’s arm.  “Why, that sounds absolutely absurd.  Lenses focusing through time… hmph!”

“Ah, but you’re interested, aren’t you?  How about you take me up on a little bet: you try it out, and if you don’t see the future, you get your money back.  Guaranteed.”  The sleazy salesman took a heavy piece of machinery from his wagon, adjusting the leather straps to fit the little lady’s head.

She looked to her tall, fancy man pleadingly until he nodded and removed a silver coin from his pocket, placing it in the salesman’s palm.  With a toothy grin, the salesman took the goggles and placed them carefully over the lady’s hat, tightening the strap so as to keep the large apparatus snug on her head.

The woman’s nose wrinkled and her lips bent into a frown.  “I see nothing, you dolt!”

Chuckling and shaking his head at her, the salesman took the woman’s left hand and placed it on the side of the goggles.  “That’s because the switch hasn’t been thrown.  The steam engine in the wagon will produce the electrics that make the goggles work, but you’ve got to throw this switch when you’re ready.  Feel it, miss?”

The lady nodded.  “Yes.  And you’re sure this is safe?”

“Absolutely.”

The woman threw the switch and the salesman let go.  The heft of the goggles forced her to stumble a bit, causing her face to point upward as she fell backwards.  Eventually she got control and held the device steady with her hands.  I examined the expression on her face as she looked up, above the buildings in town, with awe and wonder.  “What is this?  Look at these lights – there’s got to be millions of them!  And in the sky, what is that?  It’s… is it a flying machine?  This is amazing, so realistic.”

The salesman patted her on the back to the chagrin of the lady’s escort.  “That’s because it is real, miss.”

The tux-wearing fellow stole her waist back, hugging her close.  “Now, don’t get too carried away with this, dear.  You don’t want to get hysteria.”  He swept his hand up to her shoulder, knocking away the salesman.  His fingers fumbled with the strap, trying to remove the goggles from her face.

Suddenly, though, the lady looked back at street level and her expression changed.  “Good heavens, sir!  You disgusting pig!”  Her countenance fell, even though she held tight to the leather strap, refusing to let her dandy fellow remove the goggles and save her from rotting her brain with new thoughts.  “The nerve of you, selling a peep show in public!  Those women are barely clothed, I tell you, hardly fit for the eyes of God-fearing-“

“I’ll pay for a few minutes,” a man in the crowd piped up.

“Give me a chance on ‘em too, sir!”

I swallowed my pride and, seeing that the chance would soon be out of my grasp, called out, “I want to see!”

Instantly, a swarm of men were crowding around the stand, clamoring for the two remaining sets of Future Goggles that the salesman was peddling time with.

The salesman’s face drooped as he guarded his wares, but then his finely waxed moustache curled with the smile on his lips.  “No, this isn’t a peep show!  The women of the future seem to wear trousers, yes, very tight trousers that fit their curves and frame the ways men of our time can hardly fathom, but my goggles are a tool to enlighten and teach, not to satisfy one’s vices.”

“Don’t care,” John, the stable owner, said.  “Here’s a dollar.”  He handed over four silver coins, dropping them into the salesman’s palm, five minutes accounted for.  Goggles went over his head, and the switch was thrown.  John pointed at empty places on the street, whistling.  “Lookit!  It’s just like it were the real thing!”

“Pig!” the lady cried out, pointing her begoggled face at him.

It was simply too much to resist.  I took out the silver dollar I had in my pocket, trying not to think about what my wife and kid might say to me spending a third of my freshly earned wages, and shoved it into the salesman’s hand.  “Let me see,” I said.  “Let me see the future.”

I felt the steel lined with leather bits as the salesman wrapped the goggles around my head, tightened the strap in the buckle, and placed my hand on the switch.  I looked out the lenses of the goggles to see my town, a bit blurry but nonetheless the one that I lived in, before I flipped the switch.

The lenses shone brightly for less than a second before I saw the blurred images depicting what, as I could only imagine, had to be the future.

Around me in every direction were horseless carriages.  Men and women were sitting in them, driving these carriages in both directions on the street.  Sure, the women were wearing trousers, but how could anyone focus on that when there were tall structures made of glass erected to the sky?  When there were flying machines, when there were restaurants on every corner, when horseless carriages ruled the streets?

I looked up at the street and saw a glowing sign with the words “Coca-Cola” on them, an advertisement for one of those tonics people sold.  I whirled around and, seeing no competing tonic sales, wondered if this was the only one that actually cured what ails you.

I walked a couple steps but was jerked back by a hand.  I heard the salesman’s voice, even though I couldn’t see him, say, “The electrics are coming from the wagon!  You can’t go too far, boy, or you’ll pull out the wiring and get shocked.”

Obeying the voice, I reached out blindly until the salesman whipped me back towards the wagon where he wanted me.  I examined the tall buildings, looked at the sky-high posters, and wished I could smell the scent of the food coming out of the sparkling restaurants.

A harrumph from the fancy lady next to me grabbed my attention.  “This is all well and good, but those trousers – I’m going to tell my daughters to dress well, make sure those atrocities never come into fashion!”

“Sorry to interrupt, miss,” I heard the salesman say, “But your time’s up.”

I heard the switch on the lady’s goggles flip, the metal buckles on the leather straps tinkling as they were released.

As soon as her goggles were removed, what my eyes saw began to change.  The restaurants shrank and became dirtier while the women’s pants became less revealing then slowly ballooned into dresses not dissimilar from those on women I saw every day.

“No!  Johnny, pay him some more!  It was so interesting, so-“

“I don’t think so,” the rich Johnny replied.  “Thank you, sir, for your invention, but I believe I shall remove her from the premises before she sees too much.”

The salesman chuckled while I heard another person’s money clink into his hand.  “No trouble.  Thank you for your business.”

I turned around, seeing a horseless carriage coming at me faster than any of the others.  It zoomed, several of the other carriages lunging to the left and right to get out of the way.  My body flinched and my throat yelped as the carriage reached me, steel pieces flying up from the front of it, smoke fuming out from under the bent coverings.

“Mother of God!” John called out, “You took the half-nekkid future women away!  I’m not going to sit here and look at these dangerous carriages and the idiots that use them if there’s no nekkid ladies!”

The salesman stomped over to where John had spoken.  “What?  I’ve never had that problem before.  Keep watching, just keep watching and see if they come back.”

The man to my right who had taken the goggles from the rich lady harrumphed.  “You cheating scoundrel!  Was that first lady who bought this a plant?”  His voice, with a deep and raspy quality of a long-time tobacco smoker, was immediately recognizable as the town’s general store owner.  “I paid for half-naked future women, not for the kind of trollops I can already see by lookin’ out my front door.  And that’s another thing, too – where’d the future get off destroying my shop!?  They can’t put another building there!”

I couldn’t see their faces or become invested in John’s or the shopkeeper’s argument.  Bits and pieces of the complex machinery that made up a couple horseless carriages were hanging out all over the road.  I cringed as I saw a bit of blood on broken glass.

“Lord have mercy!” John shouted.  “Look at what happens when you get rid of the horse and buggy – danger, destruction, outrage!”

I wiped a bit of sweat from my face.  There had to be a payoff, a reason that people of the future chose to use the horseless carriages.  They seemed fantastical machines, perhaps just a small piece of what made the future better.

John flipped his switch and unbuckled his goggles.  “When I get home, I’m tellin’ my kids never to get one of them whimmyjigs.  No sirree, horse and buggy for me and mine, safe and sound.”

Another person paid with a few clinking coins and took the goggles.  It wasn’t a moment, though, before I noticed the carriages change.  The advertisements on the enormous posters wiped themselves free of anything pertaining to the horseless carriage, the flying machines in the sky changed shape and disappeared, and finally horses and buggies replaced all the machines.

The switch on my goggles flipped, the visage of my town through blurry lenses returning.  The salesman reached his chubby hands around my head to my goggles’ buckle.  I scrambled, pulling some money from my pocket.  “I’ll pay you for more time.”  I handed him a dollar, cringing as I thought about how my wife would kick me out.

“Someone else is waiting in line,” the salesman said.

I pulled out the last coin to my name and shoved it into his hands.  “Here – two dollars for five minutes.”

A wiry little man who was in line frowned at me.  “Hey, I paid for a ride!  You gonna let this colored take my spot?”

I flinched, but the salesman chuckled and put the goggles back on my head.  He looked to the wiry man, explaining, “You’ll get your turn, mister, but profit calls and this negro offered more than you.  You want to pay three dollars to kick him off?”

The wiry man shook his head, so I flipped the switch and returned to the future.

The new presence of the horses and heavily clothed women couldn’t overshadow the massive buildings, couldn’t get rid of the progress that man had made.  The future was still very interesting, I would say better, than now.

It was only a couple more minutes before people began clamoring for the storekeeper’s set of goggles.  As he stepped away, I heard him claim, “Nothing I know and love is here – where is my shop?  What happened to it?  I’m not going to let my business die!  I’ll never sell my land!”

Remembering what had happened to the ladies’ fashions and horseless carriages, I held my breath.  I hoped that the pattern of wishes coming true and declarations holding fast didn’t continue.  I enjoyed the buildings that touched the sky, their shiny glass and sweeping steel.

The man’s switch flipped and I clenched my fists in dear hope that nothing would change, but I saw the buildings shrink down to dilapidated versions of the wooden structures present in my own time.  My heart pounded in my chest as I looked at the future, the grandeur and mystery of the place nearly gone.

I heard movement and a voice from the man who had taken the goggles from John.  Through the gap between the bottom of the goggles and my own cheeks, I could see his white beard waggling as he asked, “What are these lights?  Are you… are you telling me that my legacy to my children will be forgotten?”  I recognized his voice as that of the town’s oil lantern maker, one of the most backwards and nostalgic old men I’d ever known.  I heard the buckle on his goggles unclip as he thrust the machine towards the salesman.  “There’s nothing good about the future – this whole thing was a waste!  I’m leaving!”

As the bright lights of the future dimmed to mere flames, I felt the corners of my lips fall, my heart drop.  So many things were gone, never to be regained.  How could so many good things be destroyed?  How could the future be so easily broken?

Two sets of goggles were empty, and the crowd grumbled in discontent.  “Too good to be true,” I heard a woman mumble.  Skirts and trousers ruffled as the crowd dissipated.  A man agreed with the woman, “Those first customers were probably plants.  Let’s not waste our money.”

As I looked at the future, I realized that what I now saw was a waste.  I recalled the future I had seen earlier and longed for it, wished with all my might that it could happen.  Though probably nothing would be able to undo all that damage, I resolved to do what I could to bring it back.

The salesman carefully put down the heavy goggles on the back of the wagon.  Though my clock was still ticking, possibly out of time as it was, he didn’t move to take my pair of goggles back.  I heard a heavy sigh and a grumble just before he punched the side of his wagon, a horse snorting in derision.

Clicking my tongue and shaking my head, I undid the buckles on the back of the goggles and lowered the mechanism carefully onto the wagon with the two others.  The salesman reached across me, grabbing the goggles perched upon the wagon, and tossed them, the glass lenses breaking loudly.  I jumped as they shattered, a small yelp escaping my lips.

For a moment, he tilted his head to look at me, then scowled and returned his attention to the wooden side of his cart.  “What do you want?” he muttered curtly.

I stammered as I answered, “I think I want my money back.”

“What?”  The salesman turned his head to glare at me, his lips frowning and his eyes squinted tight.  “You saw the future!  You even paid me for a second ride – don’t try to lie to me, boy.”

I shrugged.  He was right, in a way.  “I hate to say it, sir.  Am I really looking at the future when everything’s the same as it is right now?”

He huffed, wiping his nose and trying to seem like he wasn’t upset.  “You ain’t getting a red cent out of me.  I know it works, saw the future myself.  Every time someone got on, though, they didn’t like what they saw.”  With shaking, angry, fingers, he picked up the goggles, clutching them dangerously tight.  “Isn’t it just the damnedest thing how fragile time is?  How a small person, with only his tiny influence, can run the whole thing off the rails?”

I nodded.  “Yessir, that’s mighty interesting.  Maybe that’s why God didn’t make us such that we could see the future.  We’re too liable to break it.”  I began to walk away, thinking about reassuring the salesman, but resolved not to.  If others could break the future, maybe I could save it.  No one would ever know what I’d done, but all the men and women of the future would be truly free from the past’s shackles.

I sauntered away, hands in my pockets and a tune whistling from my lips, as I heard the sounds of breaking glass, of horses rearing as wires were yanked out of the electrics machine.  The salesman cursed and tossed the goggles, destroying his fantastical invention.  With each subsequent clang and rattle of destruction, I walked faster.  The salesman’s machine, just like the future and anything else man creates, could be broken.