Murmur of river in late afternoon. Smell of Virginia and paper mill and polluted river. She has fallen asleep and is snoring lightly. They say the ones who snore seem to fall asleep first. I am drowsy but too amped to sleep and soon I begin to fidget. I get up slowly and think I can make it out of here when she grabs my forearm in a vise grip and says, Where do you think you ‘re going, young man?
She wants to play. That’s bad because she’s going to be harder to get rid of. I look at her and across the river and think about pivotal moments in destiny and about how all our efforts never have near the importance we think. Sometimes you just have to swing for the fences or pray or do whatever you do.
Where to? She says quizzically.
It’s a secret, lover, I say. Come on.
I take her hand and we walk toward Lombardi’s place and to where the ship is.
She is sleepy and pouty and starts to pull away and says, RU going to tell me where we’re going?
That’s highly classified, I say seriously. After a moment I peel away the Velcro and quickly show the Time Police badge.
What dime store did you get that from? She says. Her voice says her specialty may be scorn.
Would you believe i’m on a mission from god?
Good. That means I can be secular and you’ll believe me. Probably. Maybe. I’m on a mission to save the world, I say, as seriously as I can while staring at the cleavage and the hooters i’m getting an eyeful of. I’m from the future after WW III, and we’re trying to figure out where to intervene. In my time all that’s left of the civilized world is most of Georgia, some of Florida and North and South Carolina. Everywhere else the radiation has killed everything.
The scorn is dripping from her as she puts her hands on her hips and says, If you just want to keep fucking me you don’t have to…
STOP IT, I say yell at her and grab her by the shoulders and say, Don’t you understand? Not in your lifetime but maybe in your grandkids this will all be a radioactive hell. You can maybe help, or just stand and watch, or do nothing at all. It’s all the same to me. If I could fit you into the timeship i’d love to take you back with me but the way things are there/then you might wind up in a political prison. You definitely would never be allowed to leave. Would you want to leave this beautiful world of yours to go into a fascist future run by the same right wing nuts that started the war because they just had to invade Iran?
You could stay here with me, she says. I could…
I thought about it, I say. But they’d send a platoon after me and torture me. Besides, I promised to do a job and I keep my promises.
What promise? What RU…
I cant tell you that.
What can you tell me ?
I look up at the six o’clock sun and down at the clean, beautiful earth beneath us and shake my head and say, Follow me.
We walk in pregnant silence across the grass to where the ship lies, invisible and waiting like a tame dog.
I pause and say, I would swear you to secrecy but you’re a smart girl so you know what would happen to you if you said anything about what i’m going to show you.
I walk to the ship, put my finger in the orifice and the blue glow becomes visible and then it dies down and reveals the ship. Do you live alone? I say.
Good. If I need your help there wont be any explaining to do. Give me your phone number.
IDK,she says . Maybe…
Give me the number, I say angrily. Don’t you know I could be taken out and summarily shot for what I’ve already told you? Don’t fuck around.
She gets a business card from some pet store and writes the number down. IDK if they had area codes but it doesn’t matter. I open the canopy and sing a verse and look at her and say, Stay frosty, Ginnie.
Where RU going?
Going back, i say. Back to the future. Better stand farther back. The radiation drops off according to the Inverse Square Law but IDK the particulars.
With that i shut the canopy and push the control stick forward. I crane my neck to breathe. I flail bonelessly in the grip of a temporal succubus and scream a dry and soundless scream. My flesh is sucked from my bones and falls with a clatter toward a vortex, still mired in the cockpit like a writhing china snake or a prophet sealed in glass.
IDK how i know i am fucked up when i get back except that there are tubes in my arms and some kind of canopy over me and Dillon looking at me and saying that i have some kind of anemia and that i can never go back because i need a bone marrow transplant. Well, at least he’s human to feel the crushing guilt i see in his face but i’m going back anyway. One way or another.