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Displaced I: The Exchange

By Kevin Provance All Rights Reserved ©

Scifi / Adventure

I - Anomaly

“An odd, peculiar, or strange condition, situation, quality, etc.”

****

Date:  Friday, October 13, 2006

Location:  Sarasota Square Mall, Sarasota, Florida

Age:  35 (Current)

****

I

I was ready to leave, but there was nowhere for me to go.

Rose Centeno sat across from me at one of the many food court tables in the Sarasota Square Mall.  A steel table, painted white and not very well maintained.  A simple push or pull across the tile floor would produce a screech loud enough to cause unwarranted attention, a true euphemism for the current situation.  

The moment of truth was finally upon us.

Rose shifted in her seat, visibly uncomfortable.  Why shouldn’t she be?  After a 7:00 AM phone call this morning, waking me up out of a deep sleep, she cancelled our lunch date.  She also ended our relationship in more words than probably necessary.  Her reasons were cryptic and unsatisfying.  She concluded the brief conversation by casually informing me there would be no reason for us to have further contact.  I said some sarcastic thing and hung up on her.  I needed that last word.  I felt if she intended on ending our short but intense relationship with reasons I didn’t believe were her own, she would have no choice but to do it face to face.  She may have considered our lunch date canceled.  I did not. 

I arrived at the Sarasota Square Mall food court as originally planned, watching her from afar like the scored lover I was.  I expecting her to meet someone else, or retreat into the ‘employee only’ management offices per the excuse she gave me.  She said something about an emergency meeting and the need to bring lunch with her.  Come and see for yourself, she said, after I challenged the authenticity of her explanation.  Did she truly believe I wouldn’t call her bluff?  Or did she know I would come, expecting - or wanting - a showdown?

When she took a solitary seat in the food court with her meal, she confirmed her lies.  I made my move then, purchasing one thin crust slice of dried out, over ‘heat lamped’ goodness that passed for mushroom pizza, and a small Dr. Pepper.  I knew full well I wouldn’t be eating it.  It was all for show.  With complete order in hand, I took an expected seat at the rickety table, across from Ms. All-High ‘n Mighty Rose Centeno.

I opted to dress in a combination of clothes she once expressed as sexy.  Blue jeans, white dress shirt, and a black sports jacket, all covered with a thin layer of Axe’s Legion body spray.  Foolishly, I thought the amalgamation might somehow help the situation, causing Rose to look upon me with more favor. 

How wrong I was.

After some ugly small talk, we got it on.

“What do you want?”  She finally asked.  I could barely comprehend the tone in her voice.  I had never heard such condescension from her lips, those tender lips that formed one of the most beautiful smiles I’d ever seen.

“I want to know what the hell happened to you.  Everything was fine with you – with us - until a few weeks ago.  Then you pulled a complete one eighty on me.  Now you act like we’re complete strangers.  What happened, Rose?  Do you even remember the world we create when we’re together?  Was that a lie too?  Did I imagine the whole thing?”

“No, you didn’t,” she said, begrudgingly making the admission.  “Things change, Kevin.  Dennis’ mother called me and pushed me to give him another chance.”

Pushed, indeed!  I thought bitterly.  Here it is.  That cheating bastard’s old bag of a mother emotionally blackmailed her.

Rose’s estranged husband, Dennis, thought himself a master manipulator.  Shortly after they wed, Dennis cheated on her with his best man’s wife.  Assuming Rose told the truth, that betrayal occurred a little over six months ago, five when Rose and I met, although I didn’t know that at the time.  Rose led me to believe their estrangement was much longer, with a divorce in the near future.  Eventually divorce became impending divorce, which eventually became a separation.  Funny how lies work that way.

I looked down at the change from my lunch purchase.  One quarter, two dimes, and three pennies were scattered about the surface of the florescent orange serving tray.  I picked up the quarter and began fiddling with it.  Rose noticed amid the uncomfortable silence.  She shook her head.  Some things never change, it said, a nod toward the nervous habit I entertain when stress is nigh.  She’d witnessed it from me several times before, usually during her tales of Dennis’ deception.

“He cheated on you,” I said, pointing out the obvious.  “What makes you think he won’t do it again?”

“I don’t know.  I cheated on him too.”

I felt my jaw drop, eyebrows raised in sync.  “What?  That was after the fact,” I said, interrupting her thought.  I slammed the quarter to the tray.  “He was already moved out and living with his new girlfriend, yeah?”

“I guess that makes him and me even,” she said, not looking up from the tray, where the quarter now rested.  She was deliberately avoided eye contact with me.  It’s one of her weaknesses.  In the many nights we spent together, I discovered it was mine as well.  Even with Rose turning thirty-eight years of age a few weeks back, it didn’t change the feeling I was conversing with a fickle high school teenager who didn’t have the wherewithal to handle a relationship, much less the willpower to keep her legs closed past the first date.

“Do you know how absurd that sounds?  You said you loved me!  What the fuck was that about?  Another lie?”

“I only said that to make you feel better,” she said, voice laced with disdain.  Another crack formed in my already broken heart.  Pain bled out, dripping deep within my chest.  It felt worse than any pain I could remember, much worse.  It was weird, the sudden anger.  No break up I’d experienced in the past revolved around anger, at least not at first.  Sadness, desperation, and maybe the inkling of obsession were usually the first symptoms, but never anger.  That usually came toward the end of my grieving process.  Whatever caused me to see angry red first in Rose’s case, I didn’t know.  Something was different this time.  Whatever the reason, the looming anger suggested this terrible turn of events with Rose was not optimal.  Anger and I don’t play so well together, not so much in an Incredible Hulk way, but more of a ‘something-bad-might-happen-in-the-name-of-calculated-revenge’ kind of way.  Believe me when I say it takes an Earth shattering event of biblical proportion to drive me to that kind of anger.  To date, there have been two people have pushed me to that limit:  My estranged father, and my ex-wife.

I picked up the quarter, again, doing the trick of flipping it over and across my knuckles and then back again.  A simple trick I picked up in high school, when boredom ruled my world.  Rose ignored the trick she once declared as, ‘the fucking coolest thing I’ve ever seen.

My, my, how far have we come inside a day, Rose?  What’s next?  Seduce my ex-wife into your bed?  She’d do it, you know.  Key my Corvette and dump a pound of sugar into the gas tank?  Who in the hell are you Rose Centeno, who are you really?

“But I really loved you,” I said, in a coarse whisper.  I struggled to hold back tears I didn’t want her to see.  Underneath the table, my fists balled up in anger.  “And you lie to me?  Did you tell me the truth about anything?”

“I do think you’re an awesome dad,” she said, her eyes darting to meet mine, momentarily.  She flashed a weak smile.

Awesome dad, I bitterly repeated, in my head.  The phrase had been one of her more frequent compliments in a series designed to placate my ego. 

“You’ll make someone very happy someday,” she added.  “It just won’t be me.”  I felt my jaw drop, again.  Somewhere inside me, a dam burst.  The tear streaming silently down my face was the overflow.  Her cold and callous demeanor left me speechless. 

Rose picked up her plate of pizza and walked away, toward the door leading to the mall’s operations office where she worked, where I couldn’t follow.

I watched her go.  I watched her walk away.

Fond memories of her flooded my consciousness.  Only now, they were painful splinters embedded in my memory.  Ones I couldn’t pick out.  Time might eventually push them out, but who could say how long that would take.

II

“Don’t we make a beautiful couple?”  Rose asks.  We look at ourselves in her foyer mirror.  My face is next to hers as I hold her from behind, her arms atop of mine.  Her beautiful long brown hair brushes up against my short blonde locks.  Her milk chocolate brown eyes twinkle.  I smile.  How I love her.

I blinked out the memory only to have it replaced by another.

We stand on an isolated section of Clearwater beach, holding hands as the salty gulf air blows.  The lazy, fire orange Florida sun sets over the Gulf of Mexico.  Rose reveals to me as I kiss her naturally tan skin that this spot on the beach is her favorite place to go.  She claims to have shared it with only one other person, her ex-husband, and he ‘never appreciated it.’

She said ‘ex-husband’, didn’t she?  Only that wasn’t exactly right.  There hadn’t yet been a divorce.  One of many lies I wouldn’t discover until the end of the relationship drew closer.

Then there was the lovemaking.  Sweet Jesus, Mary and Joseph, what spectacular acts were they.

Lovemaking?  My mind asked, in bitter retort.  That word would be an incorrect definition of those particular acts, as remembered, yeah?  After all, lovemaking requires love, doesn’t it?  I’d have no choice but to remember those days and nights with Rose as straight forward ‘fucking’, since love – according to Rose – was never part of the equation.  Still, when we were together in that way, the feelings, the emotions, the circumstances, I could never find the words to do a single one of them justice.  We created our own private world in which we became lost, staring deep into each other’s eyes, reading into each other’s very souls.

A long faded memory of the only other woman in my life who reached into me the way Rose had filled my mind.  Becca Saccarelli, standing in her parent’s backyard on a chilly September night blows me a kiss and waves goodbye.  I never saw her again after that night.  That was fifteen years ago, in 1991.  After Becca was gone, I never thought I’d love another the way I did her.  Becca and I were only together a month before her dictator parents split us apart.  Becca and her soul capturing green eyes, telling me she loved me in ways words can never describe.  It was magic; she was magic.

I smiled ever so slightly, remembering the face of my one true soul mate.  Rose’s image quickly wiped that memory away.  I frowned, feeling the anger rise once more.  I looked into Rose’s eyes, night after night.  Why did I not see her deception?  Did I know all along, and not want to?  Was she that good?

I didn’t know.  I’d probably never know.  In the few attempts I made to extract an answer from Rose before this day, she refused to explain.

I do have a theory, and it is thus:  Seduction.

After my divorce in 2003, I went ‘underground’.  I stayed away from members of the opposite sex.  I felt, were I to go out into the world and date so soon after my own marital demise, I would be apt to use some poor unsuspecting woman as a rebound in some weak attempt to bring myself pleasure at the cost of her emotions.  Assuming I’d be capable of such a dastardly deed.  Maybe I never tried, believing the guilt would eat me up. 

Then, in 2006, it would be my bad luck that my first foray into a new relationship would involve a woman seducing me into her bed to make her self feel better.  Now she’s tossing me away like a worthless old paint can. 

This was my reward for practicing - and continued belief - in chivalry.

III

I sat at the table, tears rolling down my face as Rose disappeared into the mall administrative offices.  I dropped the quarter I’d been squeezing the life out of onto the table and buried my face in my hands.  Behind them, I clenched my teeth in anger, acknowledging the cracking sound in my jaw as my teeth ground against one another.  Pulsing blood rushed through the veins in my neck, bringing flashes of dull white light from my peripheral vision.

I sat up, flopping my mortal remain over and onto the food court table.  Its uneven legs provided a loud screeeech as it moved out of position.  The coins on the lunch tray bounced out of place.  The quarter on the table jumped once, deciding to undertake the additional measure of falling off the table and onto the dirty tiled floor.

“Fuck,” I muttered.  Out of all those coins, it had to be the quarter to fall, the only coin worth keeping.  I rocked back and forth, listening to the dull chunk of the table’s uneven legs as they hit the floor.

I was so ready to leave.  Still, there was nowhere to go.

‘You know what needs to be done here,’ proposed a voice in my head.  A voice not my own.  It was that of my father, speaking to me from deep within my mind.  ‘If you go somewhere, that pig bitch should go too.  Go to your car.  You know what’s out there.  You brought it with you for this very thing!  She’ll get that message loud and clear.’

The tone of that old bastard’s voice made me shiver.  Goose bumps crawled up the base of my spine.  I’d not heard that voice in some fifteen years.  Even now, as an adult, it horrified me.

‘What exactly with that accomplish?  Huh?’  Another voice replied.  I closed my eyes as I pressed my forehead on the cold steel table.  I was now a living embodiment of a cartoon character in moral dilemma.  On my left shoulder, the proverbial red devil stood with his bent pitchfork, the one who wants instant gratification.  A more than apt construct of the father I once knew.  On the right, the white angel with her archetypal glowing halo warns me of the consequences, differentiating between right and wrong.  She is the obvious paradigm of my mother.  The arguing constructs were my parents, the set of people in a child’s life from which they learn their sense of right and wrong.

I leaned over the side of the table to pick up the fallen quarter.  As I sat up, I witnessed the most spectacular red headed women hurriedly walking along side the food court, with another fellow.  I think I’d seen her lingering in the food court earlier as I stood in line at Sbarro’s Pizza, contemplating what to say to Rose.

I chuckled as she and her companion disappeared from sight.  Lucky bastard.

My father’s voice called out of the depths of my psyche, ‘You stupid fuck up, behind all that beauty, she’s still a selfish cunt.  If you were lucky enough to get near her, she would use you the same way Rose did, as your ex-wife did, and all your other little whore girlfriends going back to that Christina Buchanan girl; the little girl who stole your cherry.’

I looked back toward the glass door in which Rose retreated, the mall’s administrative offices.  The foreboding big black letters spelling MANAGMENT meant I couldn’t follow.  No matter what little fantasy played out in my head, she wouldn’t reappear out that door and fall into my arms at the 11th hour, claiming she was so sorry and we would live happily ever after.

‘Here’s an idea, you dumb ass child:  Go to your car, do what you need to do there and give Ms. All-High-and-Mighty a choice.  Maybe this time she’ll do as you want.’

Even though she wasn’t there, I could feel my mother’s disapproving look.

‘Go ahead Kevin; end up in jail if it suits you!’

‘Jail?’  The ugly voice of my father broke out in laughter.  How I had hated his laugh; that phony bellow he would roll out at the most simple things.  It made me sick to hear it again.  ‘Where we’ll take Ms. All-High-and-Mighty, there won’t be any way to follow, or come back.  So fuck off, communist pig bitch.

A small grin crept across my mouth.  That phrase was one of my father’s favorite insults.  How I amazed some of my childhood friends when repeating that phrase at the tender age of six, after hearing it come from the lips of my father the night before.

‘For crying out loud Kevin, you have a son who needs you!  What of him?’

I started fiddling with the quarter again, thinking, contemplating, planning.

The white angel was correct.  What would happen to my son?  His mother had become a selfish, gold-digging, highly paid swinging whore over the last few years.  Would she be his only role model if I were gone?

‘He’s only six,’ my father suggested with crass carelessness.  ‘He’ll forget all about you in a few years.  What good are you to him anyway?  You’ll fuck up his life too.’

White angel persisted.  ‘Your precious ‘little man’ would be heartbroken without you.  You are his rock.  He comes to you when he can’t stand his mother.  You KNOW THIS!  Son, please don’t do this.  It’s not worth it.  She’s not worth it.’

I sighed, doubtfully looking down at the quarter in the palm of my hand.

“And you, ‘O Well Traveled Coin, what fine advice do you have for me this miserable Friday afternoon?”

The coin replied.

IV

My first thought was, it’s a fake.  What I was seeing was impossible.

I looked up from the table, sending the steel chair back with an aching screeching noise.  In quick paranoid gestures, I scoped the activity around me.  People bustled to and fro, from kiosk to kiosk, deciding what bad mall food to eat for lunch.  Kiosk merchants filled orders as fast as they could.  Random mall patrons walked idly, some blabbering endlessly into their cell phones, caring little about the annoyances they imposed on others with their louder-than-necessary voices.  Finally, there were the isolated factions of people stopping to look inside any given store, coveting things they knew they couldn’t afford.

I looked back down at the quarter.  I wasn’t sure why I suddenly felt so paranoid.  Was this some sort of practical joke?  Would I catch giggling participants mocking my surprise, leading to my eventual humiliation.

I stood up, looking for the closest person.  If someone else could verify what I was seeing, then I would know I wasn’t hallucinating from stress or heartbreak.

A kiosk specializing in cell phones and cell phone accessories stood toward the middle of the food court.  It was the kiosk closest to me.  Behind the counter sat a young man, carelessly flipping through an issue of Rolling Stone.  He would be the one to confirm my find.

I scooped up the rest of the loose change, shoved the coins into my back pocket, and walked carefully toward my destination.

“Do you see this?”  I asked the scruffy looking kid sitting behind the kiosk counter.  He looked to be nineteen, give or take.  Even with his barely shaven face and tousled hair, he attempted to portray himself as a professional salesperson.  It was probably the geeky glasses that helped pull of the charade.

His eyes moved away from the magazine to the coin lying in my palm.  After a brief moment, his eyes darted up to meet mine.  “It’s a quarter?”

I narrowed my eyes at his sarcasm.  “Thanks for stating the obvious, Sherlock.  Look closer.”

He adjusted his glasses to compensate for an obvious case of far-sightedness and gave the quarter a closer read.  He looked back to me in doubt.  His face asked, are you putting me on?

“It’s a novelty coin?” he asked in suggestion, reaching out to take it for closer inspection.  Instinctively, I pulled it away.  I didn’t want him to have it.  I didn’t want anyone to have it. 

Beware of strangers who come as friends, as someone once told me.

He jerked his head back as if to say, Well, excuse the piss out of me, friend.  Summarily, he shrugged me off.

Why was I surprised?  Of course he thought the coin wasn’t real.  What were the odds of casually stumbling across a coin that shouldn’t exist, yet?  To wit, a United States Maryland state quarter, stamped with the mint year of 2025.  And how odd was it the coin represented the state of Maryland, the same state in which I spent the first two decades of my life. 

No, if this coin turned out to be real, it would be a find of epic proportion.

Maybe I didn’t need to leave after all.  There might be somewhere else to go after all. 

Forget Rose and storming into her office to settle the score.  This thing here?  This quarter insisting it comes from the year 2025?  This is much more interesting!

“Hey man, is there anything else you need?”  The kid asked, shattering the assemblage of my thoughts.  He held his arms out, suggesting if there was no further business to conduct, I should move along.

“No, forget it,” I said, hurrying off to a corner seat at the far end of the sparsely crowded food court.  Here at this remote table, I would be alone.  I could gawk in privacy.

Closer observation and examination of the coin revealed it no cheap plastic facsimile.  It felt real in its texture, its weight, its edging.  As impossible as the situation may be, my gut feeling was resolute.  I was holding a real quarter from the year 2025.

I rammed my fingers into my back pocket to withdraw the remaining coins.  I wanted to check for additional future dated money.  It came as no surprise they all fell within this year of 2006 or earlier.  A check of the remaining bills in my wallet produced the same.  This mysterious ‘FutureQuarter’ from 2025?  It was the sole exception.

I contemplated a rudimentary plan.  I would attempt to track the coin back to the individual who last used it, or lost it.  That goal should be clear.  If I could locate this person, there might be a chance – however slim – of meeting a bona fide time traveler. 

Oh, the questions I would have!

The loose change I carried originated from Sbarro’s Pizza, courtesy the pimply faced kid working the cash register.  I paid for lunch in cash and left the coin change on the serving tray

Okay, I thought.  Assuming the coin is valid, its original holder must have been someone else who recently ordered from Sbarro’s and paid cash.  I felt my excitement falter.  In all likelihood, the coin could have changed hands tens, hundreds, or thousands of times before today.  Money changes hands so often.  I frowned, realizing the futility of the situation.

I stared out the skylight window embedded in the ceiling of the food court, far above me.  Lost in thought, I witnessed a freak flash of lightning among the puffy white cumulus clouds scattered across the blue Florida sky.  I tightened my lips and squint my eyes in anticipation of the thunder that typically follows.

No thunder followed.

As I returning to my default composure, I concluded that perhaps somewhere in the adjacent parking lot, a mercury vapor lamp lost control in its final throes of life.

I looked at the quarter again.  I didn’t want to believe it could be a fake.  After my miserable divorce and the heart stomping experience known as Rose Centeno, I really needed some distraction.  I needed some new adventure to embark upon that wasn’t part of the doldrums my life had become over the last few years.  Perhaps FutureQuarter was to be the doctor ordered adventure.  The prescription?  Locate the coin’s original owner.  Find out what his story is.

The next obstacle in my quest would be credibility.  Who would possibly believe me, or my find?  How could I prove the quarter was real, thus brining me one step closer to answering the age-old question science fiction geeks have posed and theorized amongst one another since men could ask such questions?

Is time travel possible?

The coin in my hand provided part of the answer, but sometimes answers invite more questions.  Merely proving time travel exists would certainly pose other questions.  For example, going back in time would most certainly create paradoxes.  Everyone knows the primary paradox question:  What happens if one goes back in time and kills his or her parents? 

With no parents, the killer is never born.  So if the killer is never born, how did he go back in time to commit the act?  If the killer doesn’t go back in time and kill his parents, then the parents meet, fall in love, and have their future time traveling murderer. 

What would be the repercussions of that? 

Were James Kirk or Jean Luc Picard here, they would explain it away by claiming that since the killer’s actions never happened, the whole thing resets right back to where everything belongs; parents meet, child is born and the cycle begins all over again.  Writers know this as ‘The Reset Button’, a cheap plot device bankrupting the end of many a great story.

I prefer the new or alternate timeline theories.  For example, what happens to the current timeline if past events are changed?  Does it cease to exist?  Is the parricidal psychopath who went back in time to kill his parents ever able to come back to the world he left?  Does it go on without him?  In short, paradoxes such as these should make time travel all but impossible without the multi-universe theory.  ‘FutureQuarter’ however, suggests different.

I looked over at the Sbarro’s Pizza kiosk in the center right of the food court.  The hint of an early lunch rush began when I stepped in line behind three other people at Sbarro.  I sighed, attempting to remember them in detail.  In such a situation - waiting for service at a fast food kiosk in a busy mall - how often does one pay detailed attention to other patrons?  Not very often, I’d venture.  Unless one is admiring an attractive member of the opposite sex, a habit I’ve been guilty of in the past.

I closed my eyes, concentrating on the man directly in front of me.  He’d been completely nondescript.  Nothing about him stuck out, making him not very memorable, even in some obscure way.  Before Mr. Ordinary, stood a rather large woman, an all too common variable in the average mall going experience.  Outside of disgust, I paid her no attention.  The man standing before Ms. Roomy at the Sbarro counter I remembered best.  He was tall and skinny, with a notably dark complexion.  Were I to guess his age, I would place him in his mid-thirties.  It wasn’t his physical attributes making him so impressive, but rather his unique tie.  I’ve always fancied distinctive ties, admiring unique combinations of color, patterns, or designs.  The man’s tie was off the chart cool.  Either black or dark blue, the tie displayed off-white, grey, or light blue sequences of ones and zeros in sets of eight digits, also known as binary code.  In the moments I first gazed upon the tie, I wondered what characters those sequences of binary numbers might translate to.  Had I been able to see all of the sequences, I could have attempted an on-the-fly translation.  Since I couldn’t see all the code progressions, I opted to later Google ‘binary ties’ and see what turned up. 

You were never going to get that opportunity, the far off voice of my father advised.

“Piss off,” I whispered, reminding myself that more important matters were afoot.

I stood up and re-pocketed the loose change.  I then decided to work my way back to the Sbarro’s kiosk with no idea of what to look for.  How much time had passed since my purchase?  Twenty minutes?  A half an hour? 

At present, eight people stood impatiently for service at Sbarro’s.  The pimply faced kid at the cash register processed them as fast as he could.  I had my doubts about that kid knowing anything about my unique possession, much less the three people who stood in line before me earlier that morning.  With so many people passing through Sbarro’s, any previous customer conducting business there this morning could be the coin’s previous owner.  What if the coin passed through Sbarro’s last night or yesterday afternoon?  I sighed.  What should be a simple task quickly turned into a production of grand percentage.  It brought with it the disillusion of reality; I would find no answers at Sbarro’s. 

How many hands could FutureQuarter have passed through since it found its way into 2006?  It could be hundreds, if not thousands.  Consider the possibility for a moment.  How often does one look at the mint year stamp on coins received as change in any given cash transaction, much less during lunch rush at the mall?  Before this day, I would have said none.  Now I find myself doing it every time I have coins in my hand.

With the intent of confrontation over a future dated coin, I glanced around the area one more time, hoping for naught I might spot one or more of the folks who had been in line before me.  Common sense intruded, rapidly.  Had a stranger walked up to me and asked if I had previously been in possession of a future dated coin, chances are I would walk away and not look back.  Well, that might not be entirely accurate.  Any normal person might react in such a manner, but not I.  The kind of curiosity such a random question would invoke might warrant further investigation. 

Knowing I would be wasting time, I spent another half hour walking around the mall looking for Binary Tie Guy.  The last two folks in my line I knew I would never find.  However, the man wearing a tie that said, ‘look at me, I’m a geek,’ would stand out like a sore thumb.

The search proved fruitless.  Binary Tie Guy was long gone.

The next step in my journey would involve the authentication of FutureQuarter, and I knew exactly who could make that determination.

V

David DeMinte is the individual I consult when buying or trading in antique monies.  The hobby is one of my guilty pleasures.  He deals mostly in coins, but keeps his eye open for paper money that occasionally comes his way.  Specifically, dollar bills predating 1976 or silver certificates; bills printed with blue serial number ink, versus the standard green. 

A veteran of the Vietnam War, David is the typical grumpy old guy who tends to talk to himself, grumbling under his breath at how clueless his customers can sometimes be.  He doesn’t hold back, which is probably why I like him.  Due to a war injury he’s always too happy to talk about, he walks with a cane, often smashing it into the floor while emphasizing whatever point or argument he is making.  He runs a small shop off McIntosh Road, a stones throw from the mall and conveniently on my way home. 

I asked David to authenticate the 2025 quarter.  He would know if it were phony or counterfeit.  When I showed him the coin, his demeanor of general irritation morphed into one of intrigue, or so I thought.  I expected some kind of grunt followed by a dismissal of the coin as worthless.  Instead, he was more interested in where I found it.  The change in his attitude and line of questioning suggested there might be more to the quarter’s existence than meets the eye.  I recounted for him the tale of how the quarter came into my possession. 

Looking back, I regret my decision to involve David.  In the days following my visit with FutureQuarter, he closed shop and left town.  No one in the rare coin circle has seen or heard from him since.

“It’s a fake,” David finally said, after examining the coin with a loupe.  He punched his can into the floor following his declaration.

“What makes you say that?”

“Ha!  Are you serious, boy?  Puttin’ to one side that time travel is impossible, what you have here is a state quarter.”  He looked up at me over his bifocals, without moving his head.  The explanation meant nothing to me.

“So?”

“So, the U.S. Mint didn’t start printin’ state quarters until 1999.  Before that, the obverse of the quarter showed George Washington all the way back to 1932 with the standard eagle design on its ass end.”  David paused, looking off out the steel bar protected plate glass window that was the front of his shop.  “The 1975 and the 1976 quarters were the exception.  The flip side on those coins had the bi-centennial design.  You know, the colonial drummer and the victory torch surrounded by thirteen stars…for the original thirteen colonies.”

I scoffed.  “Yeah, thanks Dave, I knew that.  I did manage to pass American history.” 

David scoffed in return, staring me down.  He turned the FutureQuarter to show its reverse side.  “See here?  This is the Maryland state quarter, showin’ the Liberty Dam.”  Sure enough, an engraved replica of the dam and its name proudly protruded from the reverse side of the coin.  My heart sank.  “Besides, the state quarter program’ll end in 2009 after its ten year run.  They’ll go back to the original design I reckon’.  That’s how these coins become collectables, boy.  And how I make money.”  David grinned, nodding in triumph.  “Hold on, I wanna show you somethin’.”  David hobbled into his office.

I stared at the FutureQuarter and sighed.  So close, I thought with crushing disappointment.  I felt like crawling into bed and staying there for the foreseeable future.  So close.  Damn!

David returned with another coin.  “This here is a real Maryland state quarter.  Sure, they look identical, but they aren’t.”

My heart continued to sink into the quarry of molasses that was my chest.  I picked up David’s real quarter in my left hand and my FutureQuarter in the other, holding them up, side by side.  Then, as if a subconscious magician waved his wand, my despair poofed away in a cloud of smoke.  I smiled, reflecting the renewed feeling of purpose.  These two coins were nothing alike.  The real quarter didn’t have an etching of the Liberty dam.  Instead, it was an engraving of the Maryland Statehouse surrounded by White Oak leaf clusters and the nickname, ‘The Old Line State’.

“Look again Dave,” I suggested with smug satisfaction, holding both coins out.  “The two designs are completely different.”

David froze in place, not bothering to compare the two coins.  His eyes remained affixed upon the FutureQuarter.  “You jus’ made my point for me, boy.  Whoever created that forgery there went to a great deal trouble to come up with that unique design.”  He didn’t bother making eye contact with me.  In fact, he looked worried, and covetous.

Does it?  I thought.  On the contrary my old friend, I think what we have here is a bona fide coin from another time.  You’re body language speaks volumes.

David continued without eye contact, “It is a fine piece of work, I’ll give it that.  I don't suppose you'd want to sell it to me?”

Well, well, well.  Your élan is showing, David.

“No fucking way, man!  Imagine the kind of controversy I could stir up by scanning this and posting it on the Internet.  The conspiracy nuts would have a field day with this.”

“Maybe, maybe not,” he replied with indifference, making no action to return the coin to me.  His inaction sparked an uncomfortable silence.  David knew he should be returning the coin after my declination of his offer.  My suspicion grew tenfold.  David wanted this coin for himself.  If he truly believed it to be a fake, there would be no reason for his delay.

“Can I have it back now, David?  Please?”

David finally made eye contact, sliding the coin across the glass casing comprising the counter.  “Get rid of it, Kevin.  If you get caught with somethin’ like that, you could do time.”

I picked up the coin and pocketed it.  “I seriously doubt that.”

“Counterfeitin’ U.S. currency is a federal offense.  Fines, jail time, the cost of a shyster to fight the government.  From what I know of you, you couldn't handle time in the big house.”

“I appreciate the concern, but I didn't counterfeit anything.  It was given to me as change, all completely out of my control.”

David stood up, an action that made me nervous.  He was an exceptionally tall fellow, maybe a foot taller than I was.  If I clocked in at six foot two inches, then David easily over seven feet tall.  Should he want my coin, he could take it from me without much of a fight, especially with that cane as a weapon.  I backed away, moving toward the door, prepared to run for my car where I would have the advantage.  The means to provide self-defense sat in a nook of my car’s trunk.  Additionally, the speed of my 2002 Corvette versus David’s piece of shit circa 1977 Datsun would be no contest at all. 

“True, you didn't.  I get that.  Possessin’ it with intent to defraud, that is a crime.”

“Defraud?  Defraud who?  I don’t intend to do anything with it now, except for putting it in my safe with all my other collectibles.  And maybe do a little research on the Internet, “I said, changing my story.  I wasn’t sure where David was going with this.  “Maybe there is more ‘future money’ out there.”

David cringed at the suggestion.  I wondered why.  He seemed enamored with my future find, even if his words said otherwise.  He obviously knew something I didn’t, and wasn’t going to go out of his way to share. 

“Do whatever you have to do, boy,” he said with a sigh, resigning himself to a life without my FutureQuarter.  “If I were you, I'd keep that coin out of sight.  I might even destroy it, were I in yer shoes.”

Now I was the one cringing.  What an odd thing to say.  “Why destroy it?”

“It’d be the best thing to do.  It’d be the right thing to do.”  David turned and limped into the back of his shop.  I could no longer see him.  On the way out to my car, I distinctly heard David pick up the phone.  I looked back into his shop, wondering who he was calling, and if it was over my FutureQuarter.

I would get the answers to those questions sooner than I wanted.

VI

Feeling relieved to be away from David, I drove back to my house in Lakewood Ranch.  The showdown with Rose completely slipped my mind.  That errand would have to wait for another day, maybe.  Transporting FutureQuarter to the protection of my closet safe, accessible only with a key and a five-digit password was my newest second top priority.

The first is my son, Spencer, of course.

With FutureQuarter secured, I spent an hour online searching the Internet with all kinds of terms, including ‘money from the future’, ‘time travel’ and everything in between.  The searches bore no fruit.  

In semi-defeat, I flopped down on the sofa in my home office, with the intention of taking a power nap.  After Rose’s phone call from hell at seven this morning, I needed a nap.  Such nice things they are after a serious over working of the brain, twenty or thirty minutes of uninterrupted sleep to recharge.  Sometimes during those naps, I would experience the most vivid and intense dreams.  Some made sense, some didn’t, but mostly they were recurring.  They detailed a kind of second life I lived within my unconscious.

There would be no dream this afternoon. 

Whatever I experienced wasn’t a natural phenomenon.  For lack of a better description, a broadcast signal appeared inside my head.  It was like watching a video quality TV signal with my eyes closed.  The message was a warning, recorded especially for me.  The first images and sound I remember involved static, the kind one might see while turning an antenna knob in effort to fine-tune a UHF channel.

The image of an older man appeared against a white backdrop, replacing the static.  He was clearly Irish with his facial features and graying red hair.  He worse a white dress shirt with the name ‘MacKenzie’ emblazoned over the left breast pocket.

“Are we locked?”  He asked someone off to his right.  With a quick nod, he looked toward me, but not quite at me.  The eye contact was imperfect, similar to a news broadcaster speaking at a camera. 

He continued, “Hi Kevin, my name is Detective Connor MacKenzie.  We don’t have much time, so I need you to listen to me, very carefully.  This is going to be hard to accept, what I’m about to tell you.  In the interest of your safety - and time - I need you to keep an open mind and do exactly as I tell you.  You’ll not understand all of it, what I am about to tell you.  I only ask you to trust me.  Rest assured that everything you don’t understand will be explained to you at a later point in time, so that all of what’s about to happen does make sense.  My team and I, we are the ‘good guys’, and where there are good guys, there are also bad guys.  Right now, those bad guys are coming for you.

“You’ve stumbled upon an anomaly, specifically a quarter that doesn’t belong in your time of 2006.  How it got there, we’re not exactly sure right now.  But we’ve been working around the clock, so to speak, to fix this problem.  We had hoped to recover it, the anomaly, without temporal contamination.  That means we hoped its unique time stamp would remain unnoticed until we were able to recover it ourselves.  As this wasn’t possible, you’ve consequently become involved in a delicate process that puts your life - and other aspects of it - in danger.  When you wake up from this transmission - which you are receiving as a dream - there will be two agents entering your house.  They will try to take you into custody.  These agents, they are dangerous and not your friends.  Nor are they there to help you, contrary to whatever they might say.  They are part of a much bigger organization that is --”, he paused as if searching for the right words, “-- not very friendly.  They have no qualms about making you disappear in their effort to recover the anomaly first.  I am sending one of my best men to assist you.  However, we have been unable to determine your exact recovery location.  This is why you must allow them to capture you, those bad guys I spoke of.  I need you to go ahead and cooperate with them, short of surrendering the anomaly.  Tell them you’ve hidden it, the coin, someplace off your property and agree to take them to it.  It doesn’t matter where you lead them.  What’s important is they make contact with their superiors via whatever communications device they are using.  This transmission will lead us to your location where my associate will make contact with you and contain the situation.  His name is Ryan Capcoseve, FCA number 17914011.  He will address you by the code name we’ve assigned you, ‘conundrum.’  At that time, he’ll provide further instructions.

“I cannot stress the importance of what I’ve just told you and what I need you to do.  Again, explanation regarding all the unknown variables is coming forthwith, after Ryan makes contact with you.  Good luck, Conundrum.  I’ll wake you now.  There may be some slight discomfort.”

A buzzing sound originating in an echo chamber swallowed my entire consciousness.  Slight discomfort?  Electroshock therapy would be a slight discomfort.  Whatever MacKenzie did involved a searing pain in the lower back of my head, as if someone took an ice pick and jammed it up in there.  I shrieked back into consciousness, falling off the sofa.

VII

True to MacKenzie’s message, one older man, and a younger woman both dressed in black suits entered my office.  They approximated a scene out of the ‘Men In Black’ movie, although these two weren’t Will Smith and Linda Fiorentino.  And I wasn’t laughing.

“Mr. Provance, I am Special Agent Buckley, this is Special Agent Waters,” he said, motioning to his partner.  “We’re with the United States Department of Homeland Security.  I believe you have in your possession property that belongs to the United States government.  A misprinted quarter, to be exact.”

There was silence as Buckley waited for me to answer.  “So you just walk into my house without knocking?”

Buckley appeared taken aback.  “I knocked several times, Mr. Provance.  You didn’t answer.  We then heard you cry out.  Fearing for your safety, we entered the residence.”

Bullshit.  Nice try though.

“Could I see some ID, please?”  I asked.  As if on cue, both agents flashed wallet badges with impressive looking credentials.  Jonas Buckley and Cassandra Waters, both registered agents with the DHS.  In the process of obtaining their credentials, both of their jackets shifted open to reveal Glock 9mm handguns, a deliberate move to send me a message.  I glanced briefly at Buckley’s Glock.  “It’s not here.  I put it in my safe deposit box.”

Buckley stepped back, gesturing towards the front of the house.  “Would you please accompany us to that location sir?  It is a matter of national security we recover this item.”

I gave Buckley a dumbfounded look.  “A misprinted quarter is a matter of national security?”

“Yes sir,” Buckley replied, cold.  “Would you please accompany us to its location?  Your country would very much appreciate your cooperation.”

“Do I have a choice?”

Buckley planted his hand on his hip, which pushed back his suit jacket, casually revealing the Glock.  “You always have a choice, Mr. Provance.  I am confident you will make the correct one.”

“In the best interest of your country,” Waters added.

“Apparently,” I said, carefully standing up.  Buckley stood to the side, gesturing me to pass.

“We have a car waiting,” Waters said.

Of course you do.  This is the George W. Bush administration; I’m sure the water boarding supplies in the trunk are standard equipment.

In reality, these two were far from legitimate DHS agents and probably didn’t answer to the U.S. government.

Buckley led me to a gorgeous black Lexus parked in my driveway.  Without haste, he sternly stashed me into the backseat, slammed the door shut, and climbed into the driver’s seat.  “The location of the safe deposit box please, Mr. Provance”

Detective MacKenzie’s suggestion from my ‘dream’ involved finding a way to somehow stall these two until they made contact with their superiors.  With this in mind, I decided the truth would be my best hope.  I would take Buckley and Waters to a real safe deposit box in my name, at a bank on the other side of town.  I could think of no other way to buy time without looking like I was making a concerted effort to do so.

“Okay, at the intersection of University Parkway and Lockwood Ridge Road is a local bank called the Sarasota Credit Union.  To get there --”

“I know where it is, thank you,” Buckley said, interrupting what would have been a lengthy discourse involving out-of-the-way directions.

In a continued effort to distract Buckley, I attempted to engage either agent in conversation, several times.  Unfortunately, neither of them displayed much interest in casual banter.  Silence was the answer to every question I posed.  Their anti-social behavior left me feeling completely helpless and more than nervous. 

Not only did Buckley know exactly where he was going, he deliberately took the most direct route.  Time began to run out with each passing mile.  If Ryan Capcoseve was going to show up, he needed to do so within the next few minutes or my ass was going to have some serious explaining to do when Buckley and Water found only computer disks in my safe deposit box.

After an eternity, with only a few miles left until my fate became inevitability, a robotic chirp filled the air, emanating from Waters’ direction.  She reached into her suit jacket, withdrew a small cell phone like device, and flipped it open.  A voice resounded from the device as Waters held it up.  “Buckley, Waters, report.”

Waters answered, “Anomaly located.  En route to--”

Complete pandemonium interrupted her reply.

Without warning, another car T-boned into the left side of Buckley’s Lexus, forcing it off the side of the road into a wide shallow ditch, front end first.  The front of the Lexus folded into the ground as the rear lifted into the air.  I waited with my eyes and teeth clenched shut for the Lexus to flip over, ass end first. 

Thankfully, it did not.  

The rear of the car slammed into the Earth, tires first, putting the Lexus on all four wheels.  Before I could recover from the impact, two bright flashes of intense white light filled the car, followed by the oddest low pitch sound.  One flash originated from the driver’s seat, the other from the passenger side.  Buckley and Waters fell unconscious where they sat.  The left back door opened as I watched my captors fall prey to whatever happened.  Whoever opened the door reached inside the backseat and yanked me out onto my feet.  A man I estimated close to me in age held me up by my arms.  Like Detective MacKenzie, he worse an open collar white dress shirt, only his surname didn’t appear on either breast pocket.

“Conundrum?”

“I guess so,” I said, listlessly, still shaken from the crash.

“Yes or no, please!”

“Yes!”  I snapped, attempting to clear the cobwebs in my head.  “Are you Ryan?”

“Capcoseve, Ryan.  FCA 17914011.  We need to get moving,” he said, pulling me up the ditch’s incline as he briskly walked back toward the road.

I understood the reason for the severity of the accident when I reached the road; Ryan drove a tank sized black Hummer into Buckley’s Lexus.  At a glance, it seemed the SUV took little to no damage from the ram job.  Ryan paused and looked down toward the smoking Lexus. 

“Hold on,” he said, sprinting down to the wreck.  He reached into the broken driver’s side door window and pulled something out of Buckley’s inner jacket pocket.  Ryan pointed to the SUV.  “Get in.”  Ignoring the pain of my tensed muscles, I climbed into the passenger side of the SUV as Ryan darted back to the driver’s side.  He tossed something into the back seat as he embarked.  It wasn’t the object he took off Buckley; it was a small hand held device that looked like a futuristic Luger pistol.

“What the hell is that?”  I asked, as Ryan made a deliberate U-Turn.  He sped away from the Lexus and the accident he caused.  Other folks along the road were beginning to take note of what had happened.  I had to assume for the moment Ryan didn’t know that Florida law enforcement frowns upon leaving the scene of an accident.  Perhaps he did and simply didn’t care.

“Where is the anomaly?”  Ryan asked, ignoring my question.

“You mean the FutureQuarter?”

“Yes.  Do you still have it?”

“It’s back at my house, locked up in my safe.”

“That’s where we’re going.  I have to get it back to Detective MacKenzie as soon as possible.”

“You mean the future.”  I said looking directly at him as he drove. 

Ryan sighed.  “Something like that.”

“What do you mean ‘something like that’?”  I asked.  I felt entitled to some answers after enduring the last few hours.  I made no qualm about letting Ryan know frustration and I had been constant companions for far too long.  “Either it is, or it isn’t?  I thought someone - namely you – would be providing some of these answers.”

“It is.”  Ryan said.  “The quarter originated from the year 2025.  We’re not sure how or why it ended up in 2006.  Incidents like this aren’t supposed to happen.  The consequences could be disastrous on many levels.”  Ryan reached into his pocket and pulled out a glass rod, the item he took off Buckley.  It looked to be about three inches long and as wide as one of those fat elementary school pencils.  Diluted colors swirled hypnotically inside the glass.  “This should tell us exactly where and when the unauthorized temporal incursion occurred and more importantly, who is responsible.”

“What is that?  And what is that phaser looking thing in the back seat?”  I asked, again.

“This is a data storage device,” Ryan said, holding up the glass rod.  “It looks like glass, but it isn’t.  It doesn’t break.  It’s a HoloL…holographic technology.”

My head swam.  “Ryan, holographic storage hasn’t been invented yet.  The last thing I read on the Internet about it suggested it was decades away.”

Ryan belted out in laughter.  “The Internet,” he said, amused.  “I haven’t heard about that in the longest time.”

“You’re not from here, are you?  And when I say here, I mean 2006.”

“No, I’m not.  I can’t tell you when exactly, expect to say this car, your Internet, the things I am seeing, they’re all antiques that no longer exist where I’m from.”

“So that phaser in the back seat?”

“Yes, it’s a weapon, called an Impüls.”  The word came out as Im-poolse.  “It’s an electromagnetic weapon that renders the target unconscious.  In extreme cases, it can kill.  We no longer use guns and bullets in my time.  They’re archaic.”

Archaic, nice. 

“So what about the dream message from earlier this afternoon?  How was that done?”

“This afternoon,” Ryan mused, repeating my words with the hint of a smile.  “Detective MacKenzie sent that transmission over two months ago.  I was there.”

I knelt over, burying my face in my hands.  I felt dizzy, overwhelmed.  Open mind or not, the implications behind Ryan’s words were enormous.

“Are you okay?”  Ryan asked, glancing over.  “Do you need to go to a doctor?”

“No, no.  This is a lot to take in all at once.”

“I understand,” Ryan said, with some sympathy.  “The message you received was sent from our base, FCA-1.  I don’t fully understand the technology that makes it work, if that’s what you’re asking about.  It takes a broadcast signal and converts it into frequencies the brain is able receive while in REM sleep.  Do you know what that means?”  I nodded.  “The tricky part is directing that signal at the intended recipient.  The Earth isn’t a stationary object.  Compensating for its speed and movement can be problematic.”

I sat in awe of Ryan’s explanation.  He also wasn’t asking for directions to my home.  He appeared to know exactly where he was going.  I wondered how much these FCA people knew about me.  More importantly, how much did the ‘bad guys’ know? 

After several minutes had passed, I managed a new question.  “You said FCA-1.  What does FCA stand for?  Where is this place?”

Ryan sighed again.  “You have to understand something, Kevin.  Some things I can tell you.  Other things I can’t.  It is all part of the Temporal Directives.  You need to know only what you need to know.”

“Do you do this often?”  I asked.  “Time travel?”

“Sometimes, but not as often as you might think,” Ryan said.  “We don’t call it ‘time travel’, it’s called temporal displacement.  The division of the FCA I work for is the TDI Division, or Temporal Displacement Investigations.  We’re like detectives that analyze and fix incidents like this one.  Much of what I do is research.  There needs to be a very carefully laid out mission plan with every variable accounted for before an authorized portal is opened.”

“Where is this portal?”  I asked.  Ryan flashed me a witty half-grin, saying nothing.  “You can’t tell me, can you?”

“No, I can’t.” 

Ryan pulled into my driveway as I was about to protest.  Instead, we disembarked in silence.  After Ryan holstered his Impüls, I led him into my house, promptly retrieving FutureQuarter from the safe in my office.  Ryan walked gingerly through the living room, studying and admiring the various objects around him.

“This is so weird,” he said, softly.  “I feel like I’ve been here before.”

I laughed, meeting him in the living room.  “That would be all but impossible.  Anyways, here it is.”  I said, holding up the 2025 quarter.  Ryan gently took it from me and examined it.  When he took the coin from my fingers, I felt as if he were stretching an unseen rubber cord that began with the coin and ended with the fiber of my being.

“This is it,” he said, in approval.  “I’ll deliver this to Detective MacKenzie personally.  I think we’re done here.”

“What about those clowns pretending to be DHS agents?”

“They don’t want you, they want this,” Ryan said, holding up the quarter.  “They’ll be coming after me, now that I’m in possession of it.”

“And what about me?”  I asked, suddenly alarmed Ryan was going to leave without answering any of the hundreds of questions I had.  “What do I do now?  Pretend like none of this ever happened?  Do you just leave while I’m left to wonder why all of this happened?”

Ryan frowned.  “I wish you hadn’t said that.”

“Why?”

“You’re not going to be able to just walk away from this, are you?”

It was an honest question.  I would have to give an honest answer.  “No, I don’t think I can.”

“Yeah, I figured as much.  I’m sorry, Kevin.  I wish I didn’t have to do this.”  Ryan reached into a pouch on the side of his belt.  It looked long enough to hold a mini flashlight.  From it, he produced a small pen like object.  It was too thick to be a flashlight and too long to be a laser pointer.  For reasons I couldn’t explain, it gave me the creeps.

“What the hell is that?”  I whispered.  Dread washed over me at the sight of it.

“This device is called a Löschen,” (lo-shen) “It has the ability to erase short term memories.  Between seven and twelve hours, give or take.  Anything longer and the procedure becomes more complicated, and dangerous.”

I barely heard Ryan’s explanation.  My focus was on the long, thin, stainless steel pen light he held.  I knew in my heart of hearts I’d seen Ryan’s device before. 

“I promise, I won’t tell a soul,” I pleaded in panic, never moving my eyes away from the device he held.  A shiver went down my spine, sending chills throughout my body at the sight of it.

“I believe you, Kevin.  I really do,” Ryan said, placing his free hand sympathetically on my shoulder.  “I’m not concerned about you letting something slip, but rather what sitting on this knowledge could do to you.  You wouldn’t be able to talk to anyone about what’s happened here.  You’d be carrying around the events of this day with no place to turn your feelings, but inward.  That’s the real potential for damage, to you.  With the state of mind you’re in right now, I believe it would do you more harm than good.”

A crack in the dam holding my unconscious memories formed, leaking out a few drops of an incident from my life I had long forgotten.  Flashes of someone holding a Löschen toward me danced around my subconscious, not ready to come fully forward.  Those flashes revolved around a summer morning in 1989 when I lived in Maryland.  I had gone hiking around the Liberty Reservoir.  It got foggy during my hike, unnaturally foggy.  There were also these three people, arguing in the distance.  I called out to them.  The next thing I remembered was some old German guy driving me to the hospital.  He claimed to have found me passed on one of the jutted landmasses of the reservoir, small islands that appeared during the summer drought and the low water levels.  All of this happened seventeen years ago.  I was never able to remember what happened to me that morning.

Until now.

The appearance of Ryan’s Löschen began chipping away at the cement block blocking those lost memories.  Flashes of things and places I have no conscious memory of came and went through my mind’s eye.

“It doesn‘t work like that, what you’re proposing,” I whispered, not taking my eyes off Ryan’s device.  I was struggling to concentrate on the here and now, and failing.  “Short term memories become long term through repetitive thought.  It isn’t a bank or section that can be erased.”

“Yes that’s true, to a degree,” Ryan said, cautiously.  “I’m no scientist, but as it was explained to me, the process involves synapses development and how memories are stored.  In the short term, those synapses are alterable, which makes memories committed to long term through repetition seem like a dream.  Like most dreams, the brain eventually dismisses them as such.  This all happens long before the subject wakes up from the procedure.”

I was appalled, yet simultaneously bewildered in wonder.  “Where do you get these things?”  I asked nodding at the Löschen, and the Impüls weapon holstered on the other side of his belt.  “Some future version of Radio Shack?  Did we invent them in the future?”  Ryan didn’t answer straight away.  “What?”  I asked, with impatience.

“Let’s just say they belong to another culture.”

“They’re alien?”

“No, not in so many ways.  They might appear alien to you, as you aren’t familiar with the when I’m from.  So many things are different in my time.  Using ‘alien’ to describe extraterrestrials?  No, not completely.”

“That’s cryptic.  You’re saying ‘yes and no’.”

Ryan paused, looking off.  “Yes.  Correct.”

I looked at Ryan with suspicion.  He looked back, meeting my stare.  “What time period did you say you were from originally?  You must have your own original timeline when you’re not - working.”

“I became involved with the FCA when I was twelve, in 2083.”

“So, exactly how old are you now?”

Ryan sighed, looking up to calculate some figures in his head.  “Linearly speaking, meaning if you counted the years from my birthday to the current time index in 2095, I should be almost twenty-four.  In reality, due to the amount of time I spend in temporal displacement, I’m closer to thirty-two.”

“That’s fucked up,” I said softly.  Ryan shrugged with indifference.

“I don’t want to have to do this,” Ryan said, holding out the Löschen.  “To be honest, part of me is inclined to believe I shouldn’t.  I dunno.  That, and something about all this seems so damned familiar.”

“What does that mean?”

Ryan shook his head.  “Never mind.  Look, I know you’re suffering, and as I said before, your sitting on the events of this morning might not be the best thing for you.”

How the hell does he know I’m suffering?  I frowned.  Something else was going on here.  My deepest instincts told me I needed to go forward with Ryan.  I needed to solidify my position so he would have no choice in the matter.

I held my head down in faux defeat.  “Could I ask something of you, before you…you know, have to make a decision about me?  It might help me to come to terms with…all this,” I said waving my arm around the space between us.

“You can ask.  I make no promises.”

“Could I see the quarter again?”

Ryan appeared conflicted.  One could say part of his mission included the security of the captured ‘anomaly’.  Releasing it to anyone but Detective MacKenzie until its safe return to the time of its origin would be a calculated risk.  “Yeah, I guess so.  But for a minute, no more.”

“Thank you…so…much,” I said.  With apparent caution, Ryan handed me the quarter.  I held it, examined it, stroked it, and rubbed my fingers all over it.  Ryan watched me closely, as if I might attempt to run off with it.

“Okay,” Ryan said, holding out his hand.  “Time’s up.”

“Is it?”  I asked, never taking my eyes off the quarter.  “You travel through time.  How can time ever truly be up?” 

Before Ryan could answer, I slid the quarter in my mouth.  The fingerprint oil I used to grease up the coin made the effort of swallowing it easier.  His eyes widened in disbelief, mouth opening just wide enough to inhale in surprise.  “I don’t understand, Kevin.  Why would you do that?  I don’t get it,” he asked, calmly.  Before I could come up with a snappy answer, Ryan leaped across the distance between us, slamming me against the wall.  “WHY DID YOU DO THAT?”

“Because it can’t end here, like this,” I said.  “Now you have to take me with you.  Wherever you go now, I go too.  It’s as simple as that.”

I now had somewhere to go.  I was ready to leave.

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shawnas26: I knocked it out in one sitting and enjoyed it thoroughly. Thanks for sharing! :) I'll be looking forward to reading the next in the series.

Barbara Ponder: This book is aimed at teenagers, however the style and content caught my attention and it is a long time since I was a teenager. Intriguing and enlightening novel I hope there will be a sequel soon.

Jasmine Chow: As I read this story, I was reminded some what of Terry Pratchett, especially some descriptions of politics and economics. The sci-fic setting is quite intriguing. Writing style is quite lovely and grew on me slowly. I was also slightly reminded of Mark Twain, especially his book A Connecticut Ya...

MegaRogueLegend666: I love this story so much. It's impossible to describe my excitement with each new chapter in words. The author has such a good writing style, very good descriptions of the fighting and character descriptions/emotions. the plot is also amazing! This fanfic could be a side anime show or novel ......

JWalker: I loved this story from start to finish! It flows at a really nice pace and the story world feels so real. The fight sequences are a treat especially when Isanfyre is training to become a warrior. I found the names really cool and thankfully easy to pronounce. Personally I have always struggled w...

Schaelz: I was intrigued from the second I started reading, and it kept my interest the whole way through. Chelsea has a way with words that will enchant you until the very end. She is very poetic with the way she mixes genres and keeps you on the edge of your seat. The main character is also very relat...

CookieMonster911: The story overall was an adventure that is appealing to any age. The way the characters develop adds a more human characteristic to the novel. The writing style itself is amazing because you can learn every character's thoughts and emotions. The awkward love triangle and jerk moments adds to the ...

mrh: I love this story soooo much! This is such an incredible twist on Harry Potter's story. I have loved every word of it. I hope you will write more soon! I want to know what happens next sooo bad! Please write more!

PaulSenkel: If you like Arthur C. Clarke's Odyssey, especially The Final Odyssey, then you will probably also enjoy this book. I definitely did.It does, however, address a more adolescent public than the above-mentioned book.I enjoyed the story and finished it in a few days. The overall situation on earth an...

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_JosephJacobson_: I don't understand why this has such low ratings. I really enjoyed it!I think that the whole idea behind the plot had something very special and that was something that I really enjoyed. It was new, unique. I think that some of the writing was a little strange in places but overall it made sense ...

Prasino45: Hi! I happen to see your updated chapter on FF.NET!It happened to be about you coming onto Inkitt with this story! I've been a fan for a while! I'm a scqualphie writer myself. I ship them HARD! Love this story! I'm gonna do a reread as you said you changed some things! Glad we both made the switc...

Chris Rolfe: BOY!!! I sure love what Aer-Ki Jyr did with this series. IMHO he captured the essence of what stargate is all about. Thru out the Stargate stories Aer-Ki wrote Stevens and John Shepard some of the main characters in his stories are pursued by a corrupt I.O.A.. All the while Stevens is changing in...

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