Chapter 1: The Effort Demanding Beginning
June 16, 2014. Monday.
It was just another beautiful summer's morning in Milltown city. Smiles on people's faces shone together with the rising sun, brightening the streets lurking in long morning shadows of tall shopping centers and small households.
In joyful moods, adults and children marched towards the Milltown water park carrying inflatable water toys, the only place in fifty-kilometer radius to have a massive water reservoir. There was still time before the heat became unbearable, so every few locals allowed themselves to wander into Miller's mall for a short while with no intent of buying anything.
Walking in long circles on the second floor of the mall was George, a young man of great dreams and crazy ideas, a believer in magic and the fact that there was more to this world than the eyes could see. Wearing a black uniform that had a word 'SECURITY' on its back, he moved at a slow pace, glancing over a balcony at the exit, sighing from time to time. Stroking muddy hair that was overly long and would start falling on his shoulders in a couple of weeks, he had his round black eyes set elsewhere than the man of his position should have set. There was this thought in his head that gave him no rest after it had gotten in. A beautiful idea that would lead him to adventures and make him rich, but to put it into action he needed money and that was the reason he took the job.
George lived with his mother. She disapproved his lack of enthusiasm to make a career in the world full of possibilities and condemned his passion for computer games. She often told him, "George, you lazy bum, shame on you and your love for the computer. Get a job or read a book. Do something with your life. "
Oh, I will do something with my life. Just you wait, mom, I'll show you,George thought and turned round for the n-th time to walk by the clothes shops.
On his first day at work, he was foolishly keeping an eye on the shoppers, looking for signs of suspiciousness in their actions, considering them all capable of doing evil. But during the long working hours he had much time to think, and now, on the third day he knew better. This job was just a small step in his path, not worth his devotion and concentration. There were greater deeds for a thinker such as him to do. To daydream or imagine where he would spend the vast amount of money in the future, for example. So he walked onward, paying no attention to his surroundings whatsoever.
Female screams and shouts echoed in the distance, yet they were not enough to bring George back from the dream world. Nor a rough push from behind by a running man had that power. He came to the end of the hall and was about to make another turn when an angry voice on the radio snapped him back to reality.
"The guy in the area number six, you lazybutt, get over here!" it shouted, and after getting no response it shouted again, "You, the new guy, with the Pinnochio's face and a stupid smile, get over here, now!"
George shook his head. Such a beautiful day, now ruined. Some people just can't keep it cool,he thought and continued walking.
And the man on the radio continued yelling, "Don't make me come to you, you little prick! The number is on your radio, goddamn!"
George checked the radio hanging on his chest, and to his surprise, saw a number, number six. After figuring who the man was talking to and taking a deep breath, he obeyed the order.
"What is it, Sir?" George asked, closing the door behind him, a smile on his face from ear to ear. He knew what his chief needed on this beautiful day and that was positivity. If George was positive, for sure the wrinkles and red color on chief's face would go away.
"You didn't even notice it, did you?" the man shouted.
"Look!" The Chief of Security turned on his chair, pointed a short fat finger at one of the many monitors hanging above his table and started mashing the keyboard. On another end, the monitor had its eye fixed on the hall, where George had been circling the whole morning.
"Here," said the chief and stared at the little screen. The video sped backward only to stop a minute before George received the radio call. There, no more than ten meters behind him, a young woman got mugged by a shadowy figure. The perpetrator acted quickly and ran out towards a stairway leading to the first floor, pushing the clueless security guard to the side. "Now you see?"
"Yep." George did not understand what the chief wanted from him. What happened, happened. Could have been much worse.
"Doesn't this picture bother you? A woman robbed in the middle of the day in a mall full of cameras and mall guards."
“Look, she stood up.” George continued smiling, looking at the ending of the short film.” She’s ok. She will get a new purse, even better than the one she lost and she will be fine again.” After scratching his thin chin and taking a moment, pointing a finger to the ceiling, he added, "No, we will buy her a new purse and fix everything. Right?"
"I had a suspicion that never left me from the day you came carrying that dumb smile. George, you don't really care about this job, do you?" the chief said politely, face red like a tomato.
George did not think of words to say, with which he could tell the truth and keep the job. So he said nothing.
The chief kicked away from the table and stood up. His eyes pitch black, showing hints the inner demons were about to emerge. Gesturing with an angry, shaky hand to the door, he shouted, "You're fired! Get out!" and continued staring into the depths of George's soul.
Disappointed by his failure to comfort the man and fix the issue, George mumbled only a short "But..." before leaving.
He changed clothes and took a long walk home, reflecting deeply on the attempt to work and realizing that he was not made for such simple tasks. A man of great ideas and dreams he was, not meant to start small. Now there was only one thing to do. He would need to take the risk of borrowing money.
The loan, of course, was not an option. He tried to apply for it once and got rejected, for silly reasons such as unemployment or unreliability. Even saying that he would return ten times the amount in a year did not help. George knew that banks do not help people, only friends do. He needed to get it from a friend. But then a great question arose. Did he have any?
Yes, there was this guy John whom George knew from the times back at school, they met a couple of times a year to hang out. Surely such a person could be called a friend. Surely he would help in the time of need.
George made a short detour from the way home and entered a five-story building constructed from red bricks, shaped as almost a perfect cube with a children playground and a flower garden at its open center. Such buildings occupied majority of Milltown population living in the outskirts. George easily distinguished his friend's house by the old reference point – on the opposite side of the street 'Danny's cleaning service' was swarming with people eager to do their laundry.
"Who do we have here..." were the first words John said through the slightly opened door, its chain still dangling in the air, a wary eye peeking through the gap. "It's George Bottlemore banging on my door."
George looked into the eye and said, "We need to talk."
The door swung open. Behind it, stood a figure in dirty white pajamas, long black hair covering its face, the back slightly humped. After saying, "Come." John went to the room on the right, jumping over an empty computer casing with his fat, gnomish legs along the way.
What a lair, the honorable guest thought, as he paused in the doorway to evaluate the mess inside that only increased with each visit. Junk ranging from dusty books to an empty birdcage lay all over the floor. Loud series of keyboard strokes broke the eerie silence every next second. They reminded George of his friend's passion for games long forgotten by many. He put the chain on and followed John into his room.
Sitting in front of an old monitor, white letters dancing all over its black screen, sat John, his brown eyes following the text, thick fingers on the keyboard ready to push buttons.
"How are you?" George asked.
"Fine, hadn't been better." John stared at the screen through the curtain of his hair, mashing the keyboard like a mad man.
"I came here with an issue." As George saw John glance at him, he understood that he had his friend's attention. He went on, "I have an idea I want to try in practice, a sort of business plan. But there is a barrier I can't get over. Thought you might help."
"Sounds exhausting and complicated. Why don't you just give up instead of asking me to help you? Shall I need to try? I don’t like to try.” A series of strokes on the keyboard cut off his words.
"You won’t have to."
"I did quite well for the last few days, thought I could overcome the difficulty, but..."
George added the short version of his story, "Got fired today."
John put an elbow on the table, touched two fingers to his temple and with eyes stuck on the monitor, spoke up. He showed impressive multitasking skills, which fascinated George, for John was in two places at once, here and inside the box, "So, you left the safety of your home, and entered the jungle called the real world, only to be let down." He continued passionately, "The dreams we, humans, have cannot be satisfied by the material world and money. Our imagination is far greater than this world can provide us with. You should learn to imagine things as I did. You won't fail if you don't try. And the taste of failure is bitter, my friend."
"You might be right, but I just have this feeling. “ George dozed off for a second. “I will succeed this time. I will. You’ll see."
"Haha!" John laughed with a straight face and slammed the table. Madness flashed in his eyes. "Damn you!" he cursed the computer. Then, he turned to George and calmly said, "Sorry, you had to see this, George. You told me you came here to ask for help? So, how can the wise John help you?"
"I need money."
"How much?" John's forehead wrinkled.
"Not much," John plainly replied, relaxed his face muscles, stood up and went to another room. After a minute he returned with a bundle of money in his hand. "Here." He threw it to George.
"But that's..." surprised George stared at his pal.
"More than enough," John said and after getting back to the PC continued, "Now listen to what I have learned about this place," he nodded his head at the screen.
For an hour, George listened to his friends rants about the achievements he got in the game, about the countless newbies he rescued from deadly dungeons, about the incredible runs he finished first. That was the least he could do for a person of such generosity. There was something magical about John, some secret the man did not share, connecting the money, his way of life and strange character. But George did not want to ask, not today. He wanted for the magic and mystery to live on.
It was two PM when George left John's place and went home stopping at a bank on his way to open an account and put the money in.
Once he returned, a grim surprise awaited him. Parked beside the two storied old house was his mother's car, an object rarely seen at this time of day. Mother was the person to avoid at all costs. During the last few days her negativity and pessimism had become almost unbearable. Even such a positive person as George had a difficult time keeping it at bay. Smile, George, smile, he told himself and snuck into the house through the back door.
Placing his feet gently, taking his time, he passed the stairs leading to the cellar, then a bathroom, a kitchen and then came the tough part. A long corridor waited ahead with the door to mother's room midway on the left. He took off the shoes. Put them to the side and using his toes as a wannabe ballerina he tiptoed, breaking a sweat along the way. Surprised to hear no sound from the room, he continued towards the main door and then upstairs. Uneasiness increased in his gut when he heard his computer working. This meant only one thing; he would have to gather his courage and face her head on.
George cooled down, caught his breath and entered the room with a heroic posture, hands on his hips. "What are you doing with my computer, roommate?" he asked manly, staring at a small figure, sitting by the monitor resting her head on one hand and holding the mouse in another. She wore a sky blue blouse. Hair rollers covered her unnatural chestnut hair.
"Just checking your recent activities, son." She turned at him, her hair rollers jiggling. She smiled with sparkles in her eyes.
The main features she had in common with her son were the sharp long nose and age deceiving soft face. Her smile appeared as powerful as George's. But George had learned long time ago that more often than not it was just a mask. This woman was hardly predictable and often used it as a weapon to put him off-guard.
He said, "You're invading my privacy."
She ignored the remark and asked, "Early from work, aren't you, son? How come?"
"I left it."
"Why?" Then, out of the blue, her mood changed. "You good for nothing, lazy bum, you have time to read those stupid stories on the net, play those stupid games, but you have no time or will to work. How come? How come?! Tell me! Make me understand! Please!"
Struck by the flurry of emotions George let his head down, only to get hit in the face by a flying slipper.
He spoke slowly, looking at the ground, "Mother, you'll see, I'll make—" but was interrupted by a violent slam of the door behind him.
Damn it. He kicked the ground and went to take his rightful seat in front of the computer. A tornado spun downstairs, making loud noises everywhere it went. George turned on the music and put his headphones on.
He went to the website 'domains4ever.com' and paid eight hundred dollars for the deal he had arranged a week ago. Domains4ever would rent him a domain in the future; between years 2100 and 3000, with a name of George's choosing. Though, when he tried to enter a name he faced many restrictions. After trying multiple times, he decided to stick with 'timetravelersreadheredomains4ever.com'.
He kept the webpage design simple and on a white background of the main page filled the text in Arial 16, bold, caps on:
Dear Time Traveler,
I, George Bottlemore, await you at my lawn from 2014 June 17th, Mondays to Fridays at 9 am. I, guide of ancient places will give you experience of your lifetime and share my immense knowledge. Precious items or metals such as gold or silver in great amounts are accepted as a payment. No accommodation provided.
Coordinates of my lawn:
Latitude:38.2867xxLongitude :-100.2062xxe ...