Chapter 2: The Fruits of Waiting
June 17, 2014. Tuesday.
The following night George had difficulty falling asleep. He kept on thinking, imagining answers to questions that gave him no rest. What visitors would await him the next morning? What stories would they tell about the future? How much wealth would they bring to pay for George's services? Hoping to calm down, he rolled on the bed, pushed his head under the pillow and counted sheep. It did not help.
When two alarms rang one after another and a radio started playing, his sleepy eyes opened up and did not close. For a long moment, he stared at the beat up table clock that lay within his reach, red numbers indicating seven AM blinked on its screen. Had it been any other morning, he would have snoozed for another four hours, but today was different. This morning was to be the greatest of them all, and he had no time to waste.
It took him a minute to get to the bathroom, take a shower and shave. George considered shaving to be one of the most wasteful activities a man could spend his time doing, so he often shaved only once and very rarely twice a week. This day was that special second day of the week. After ten more minutes he was already in the kitchen. There, he made himself a large cup of coffee and a sandwich. Not the best of sandwich makers he was, but the requirements he had for his menu were never that high anyways. So he chewed a mass of bread, sausage, and cheese. He filled himself with more calories than usual, hoping to spend them during the soon-to-be adventurous day. There was a note on the fridge, but George did not read it, he did not underestimate the power of his mother to spread depression with her words.
To kill the remaining time, he took the cup and went to scroll the internet and learn things about Milltown he never knew, check for places that would amaze the coming guests. George figured, the time traveler's guide had not only to be intelligent, open minded, and have good social skills; he needed to be educated and have at least minimal knowledge of the city in which the tour was taking place. If he got lost in Milltown at times, it was not an option to get lost with the tourists. So he printed a copy of the city map and tucked it into the rear pocket of his jeans.
Legs crossed, he sat on the porch at the back of his house, swinging back and forth on his favorite swinging chair, looking at the fence on the opposite side of his lawn, glimpsing at an empty kennel surrounded by bushes with a corner of his left eye every now and then. Three massive apple trees reached for the sky between him and the fence, forming an almost perfect triangle, their branches intersecting.
The closer it got to nine AM the slower the clock ticked, the more anxiety got into George, the faster his supporting foot shook. For the last few minutes, his sharp eyes restlessly danced between the lawn and the clock on his wrist.
And then, surprisingly, when the short arrow struck nine AM, nothing happened. Nothing appeared out of thin air, no portal opened up, not even a bird flew by. He sat there staring at a single point in the distance for a minute and then an hour before giving up.
To fight his increasing frustration, he went back to his room, locked himself up, and entered the imaginary world of computer games. A great escape from problems it was. Not that the games helped him to forget problems, it's just that they gave him no time to think about them. The day passed quickly and as it came to an end, he could not help but impatiently wait for the next morning. He gave himself a promise before falling asleep: not to give up no matter what, not now, when he got so far.
The next day George allowed himself to get up at seven thirty. Following the routine he showered and dressed, picking white as the color of choice for the day, suitable for the positive man such as him. To emit even more positivity he made a short conversation with his image in the mirror and forced a smile in his drowsy face; after all, he knew, the good mood never hurt anybody.
He finished the breakfast at eight forty, made more than fifty slow circles around the kitchen table, the habit he had learned at the mall. And when the clock struck nine, he walked slowly towards the back door, shivering from anticipation along the way. The opaque curtain on the small window reminded him of the big ones he saw in lottery shows, where after lifting one, a participant either got the prize or he did not. George found his position similar to that of the show guests. One of the two: something or nothing waited for him outside. Inside his head, the stakes were high.
He slid a hand under the curtain and slowly moved it up. His eyes maintained electrical concentration to the slowly revealed view outside.
Out of nowhere, a sound of an object hitting a wooden floor broke the silence. George's insides turned. Frozen he stood for a while, looking at the empty lawn.
After recovering from the shock, he identified that the sound must have come from the spooky cellar. With care he approached the stairway leading down, turned on a lone dim light bulb downstairs, and listened to the silence. He gathered his courage and walked down, taking notice of small cracks in the stairs, placing his feet carefully. It would have been quite an inconvenience if he rolled down and broke the neck in front of a guest.
He safely reached the cellar floor and carefully inspected the dark room. Now, the sickening feeling inside him was not because of the anxiety or surprise, but fear. He imagined a monster of an undefined shape lurking in one of the poorly lit, dark corners waiting to jump him. He had seen many movies and knew that precautions should be taken in such situations. Not one main character had died alone in such dark place. The self-defense weapon of choice was an old broomstick, which conveniently lay rammed at the handrails. George grabbed and squeezed it with the sweaty hands. Senses sharp as ever, he dragged his feet, poking the broom into the darkness, and, to his relief and disappointment, finding nothing. After making a full circle, he put his back against a dusty wardrobe, then sighed and stared into the center of the room with the empty gaze and thought
It took time for his focus to return and make his jaw drop. There, in front of his eyes, in the center of the cellar, below the lone light bulb, lay two stones, smooth and gray, the size of a coconut. Stuck on them, written in terrible handwriting, were two stickers with words, 'Hide me. Don't tell them about me.'
'What the hell?' George thought and imagined what the strange objects could be, 'Eggs, bombs, items of high value perhaps?'
With care he came closer and after touching them with the broom he dared to do the same with the fingers. He found the stones to be no different from those lying in the wasteland just outside of the town, only a bit smoother. He attempted to lift a single stone up. Man was it heavy, there was no way he could carry both at once. So he picked one and awkwardly walked with it out of the cellar, and making a stop on the stairway to the second floor, brought it to his room and hid under the bed.
Not to keep the two eggs in one basket, or overstrain his back by walking so far (perhaps more the latter), he brought the second stone to the garden and put it under the closest apple tree on the dark soil where it perfectly blended into the environment, hiding it in plain sight.
He then sat on the chair by the backdoor enjoying the fresh air and a moment of partial success. He played with the facts in his head, using logic, which was never his strongest attribute: one stone – one bump, two days - two stones, two days – two bumps, one bump per day, and concluded that tomorrow there should be the third bump and the third stone should appear in the cellar.
For the first time in his life, motivation burned inside him to clean furniture and floor, to fix domestic objects. The place to feel such pleasure was the cellar.
He ran to the shop to buy the most luminous light bulb there was and changed it. He took a bucket of water, a cloth and cleaned the cellar floor, the furniture, and then the floor again. Three chairs downstairs were a shame to hospitality, so he switched them with the ones from his room. He moved the furniture around the cellar to make its center as spacious as possible. He even put dusty books and old newspapers into boxes and put the boxes in a cupboard.
After finishing, he inspected the room with pride and increasing (if it still had space to increase) self-esteem, but the beautiful moment was interrupted by his mother entering the house. He decided to pretend that he was once again bumming around the house the whole day and take a hit to keep the secret hidden. So he ran to the kitchen, closing the cellar door with utmost care, praying for it not to squeal.
"How was your day, son?" mother asked in joyful tone from the entrance, after noticing George entering the kitchen.
"Fine, had a great time outside," he lied for no obvious reason and decided to build a greater lie on those words after realizing what he had said. I'm genius, he thought.
"Nice. Good weather out there isn't it?"
"So, what did you do?"
"Not much, went to the park, then to a job interview."
"How nice of you to take the initiative," she said playfully. "How did it go?"
"I think there is a high chance they're going to take me."
"What job?" she asked and joined George in the kitchen.
"That of a tourist guide."
"Of what place?"
"Strange, never thought we get any tourists," mother sounded confused.
"Sometimes we do," George assured her.
"Well then"— she poured water into a pot —"good luck with that. Now, go out and check what I brought home today. I bet he's already sitting by his house, waiting for you to give him a snack. Go, say hi," she said, pointing at the bag of dog food under the window.
"Did they fix him?"
"Nah, they did some tests and said that it's normal, we shouldn't worry about it."
"Sure, I just hope we won't find a dead body under the kennel one day." George grabbed a handful of nutritious dog snacks shaped as bones, all of them the size of his pinky and left the house.
There, by the kennel lied a brown haired creature, which due to its sheer size could have been easily mistaken with a sun tanning snowman. The creature's back moved up and down as it breathed deeply. Its head lay on the soft grass, concealed by a bush, making weird snorting noises. It ignored George and his first attempts to communicate but had to give up after the annoying human started to shake it with no signs of stopping. The dog stood up on all fours and opened its mouth.
Bored, keeping eyes away from George, it chewed the snacks coming one by one, pleasing the master's eagerness to feed him.
"Here you go, old Jim." George patted the pet's back and after it lied down, he connected a massive chain to its collar. The other end of the chain hung on a thick rusty pole stuck in the ground by the kennel.
He walked back to the house, glimpsing at the stone before closing the door, and after a tasty supper, he finished the day in front of the computer.
That night George slept like a baby. He dreamt about the stones falling from the sky, forming mysterious signs on the ground. Whenever he turned his back to them, he felt them change shape, grow eyes, whisper, "Hide me, hide me. Don't let him get me." A monstrous hand sometimes appeared out of thin air and attempted to grab them, but was always chased away by George, viciously swinging the broom.
The clocks woke him up at seven once again. George did the routine and after taking a double dose of coffee, he went to the cellar. Dressed in snow white blouse and shorts he sat staring at the empty center of the room, shaking the right leg. Eyes wide open, he waited, hoping to witness the new stone appear. He was ready for magic.
And indeed at nine AM something happened. Something George could not have anticipated in his wildest dreams. A wide portal with mirror surface opened up in the ceiling, and three creatures fell down, leaving ripples in the shrinking time-gate. They hit the ground with their backs and swiftly stood up. It appeared that this was not their first experience of such kind as they were little bothered by the fall.
The three barefooted visitors wore clothes that, presumably by George, were made of aluminum foil. Shiny, thin medieval-like helmets covered their heads, their pointy tops reminiscent to birthday caps, their fronts had holes for eyes and mouths. They stood in a line facing George. The middle creature with a massive belly was a bit taller than George and at least two times the height of its lean friends. The visitor on the left wore thin, futuristic, yet worn sunglasses and held a strange shiny pistol with a ball at its end, and the visitor on the right carried a light brown paper bag, a wide smile decorated his face.
As the giant lifted its massive left hand, its belly jiggled. It slammed the colleague with the bag to the back and sent him flying. The poor thing landed directly in front of George, face down. The smiling creature got up and extended the bag with both hands. It jingled.
"Greezingz," he said politely.
"Greezingz yo Gorg!!!" roared the fat guest.