Well, having finished excerpts from all my Detective Jimmy Delaney stories, it’s time to start back at the beginning of my short fiction.
When I decided to take up the pen as my creative outlet in the early part of this millennia, I wasn’t yet churning out ideas, and wanted something that meant something to me (and that I’d already put some thought into) as my debut story, so I resurrected “Passed Life” for my freshman attempt.
“Passed Life” started as a project exploring FATE for a college class on mythology. It was brief (1700 words), but I was in love with the idea, and when I decided to become a writer as my mid-life renaissance, my first attempt was a rewrite of this … year-old story (hint – I still had the original printout from my brand new Apple IIe.) (It occurred to me as I was assembling this Fractured Fragment Friday: I make a point of stating that Swordsmaster took me FORTY YEARS to write – well, the original of “Passed Life” was written in 1985, so it took me TWENTY THREE YEARS until it arrived in its final version.) The image of the colonial merchant with the tricorn, bending over a newspaper machine in the rain is always in my mind.
Here’s the blurb:
Talk about an identity crisis! Ed thought he had a good handle on who he was – but a family death, adoption, phone calls from the past, and time travel can really mess with your sense of self.
Read “Passed Life” and discover why it’s better to leave the past alone.
And here’s this week’s excerpt:
Ed arrived in Camden, New Jersey four months ago. Steve Ashford picked him up at the airport and drove him out to the deserted dockside offices where they would be working. They had a small suite, with a conference room that served as their lab.
Steve’s work table was against the right wall, beside the six-by-six glass shifting chamber which occupied a quarter of the room. There was a whiteboard on the wall alongside the door, with an illuminated digital date and time readout above it. The Inter-Temporal Navigator was on the left wall, along with the high speed computers, controls, and recording devices. The ITN had been calibrated to Steve’s brainwaves first, but then Steve discovered that, although he could send objects forward or back in time, he couldn’t retrieve them. The real power – the brain – needed to be at the point of recall, too.
They calibrated the ITN to Ed’s brain pattern, and he practiced shifting objects. Once those were coming easier he sent himself forward a day. He felt a low droning in his head, his vision blurred, blackened, and then came into focus. He could see from the digital readout that it was tomorrow. Standing in the center of the chamber, he focused on returning, but nothing happened.
Then he noticed the message scrawled on the whiteboard:
Steve explained that Ed’s recall didn’t work because the ITN didn’t have enough temporal range to pick up Ed’s brainwaves from another time; they needed something to boost the signal. Ed went back to shifting objects while Steve built the tool he’d need to be able to return.
When Ed got the call that his mother had died, Steve booked the flight to New Mexico for him. It surprised Ed how calmly Steve was taking the delay.
“What delay? Don’t worry Ed – you’ll only be gone a week, right? It’ll probably take me that long to finish the amplifier.”
Ed wouldn’t have blamed him for being anxious. Steve had funded the project himself to keep out of his father’s shadow, but his money was running out. If they didn’t have some results soon, Steve would have to ask for help.
On the flight back from the funeral, Ed glanced again at his mother’s letter.
You were adopted.
Your father and I wanted to have children, and when we decided to try adoption, the first one fell through. Then we had a chance to adopt you outside of the traditional method and took it.
When we moved out to Socorro we hoped our secret would be safe, but we were never sure. And once Dad died…
Ed shook his head. The idea of Henry and Doris King sneaking around didn’t fit with the way he had always thought of them. It was almost as unsettling as finding out they weren’t really his parents.
Your biological mother died soon after you were born, but the nurse who brought you to us knew her. Her name is Nancy Williams, and she lives out your way…
Steve was pacing when Ed got off the plane. “Hope you don’t mind heading straight to the office, but everything’s ready for another shift. I want to get right on it before something else happens.”
Steve grabbed Ed’s bags as soon as they came up the conveyor, and Ed had to chase him to Steve’s Maserati, double-parked at the curb. He tossed Ed’s bags in the trunk, tore the ticket off the windshield, jumped in behind the wheel and did zero-to-eighty with Ed still fumbling for the seat belt.
When they got to the lab, Steve added “Recall Trial 2” and “09/14/2008” to the whiteboard, then picked up a football-sized black metal control box and handed it to Ed. One switch, one blank digital readout.
“Don’t turn it on until you’re ready for recall. Let’s try one week forward this time.”
Ed stepped into the chamber and waited as Steve checked to make sure the ITN was in sync. When Steve gave the go ahead, Ed focused on the readout of the 14th and pictured the 21st. He felt the droning, his vision blurred, blackened, and then came into focus. He was alone in the darkened lab, lit only by the soft red glow of the digital readout. It was one week later.
“So far, so good.”
He heard the low rumbling of thunder outside. Ed looked at the box in his hands.
“Now, let’s see if this works.”
He focused on the date again, visualized the 14th, but before he could activate the amplifier he was hit with a wave of nausea. The door to the lab opened. Ed only saw a shadow hunched in the doorway, silhouetted in a lightning flash. Ed’s entire body was weak, his legs felt like rubber, and it was hard to think. He felt himself fainting as he flipped the switch, then felt the same droning, blurred, blacked and arrived doubled-over on the 14th.
Steve jumped up from his seat, took the box from Ed and turned it off. “Are you ok?”
Ed stayed hunched over, frozen from the memory of the nausea and weakness, but it had passed as soon as he returned. He straightened up, feeling foolish. “Yeah, I’m … fine. Just a bit tired.”
Steve studied Ed. “I shouldn’t have dragged you in here right after your flight. And the funeral. Sorry.” He turned the amplifier over in his hands. “Why don’t you take some time off? I’ll miniaturize it now that we know it works and call you when it’s ready.”
Yes – there will be more time travel. “Passed Life” is a science fiction short story, and is available at several online retailers, including, but not limited to:
It’s also included in the collection Things I Could Get OUT OF MY MIND:
“Passed Life” is also included in collection The First Three ‘Things I Could Get OUT OF MY MIND’. (The next ten people who purchase the collection on Smashwords with coupon code XV84M will receive a 33% discount – that’s only $3.34 for eighteen stories – such a deal!):
Here’s the blurb for Swordsmaster – my first novel (which only took me forty-some years to write):
Fate is neither something to run away from, nor something to run towards.
The first bright-eye to be seen on the mountain in living memory, Sandrik didn’t want anyone to think of him as they did the ominous Aurae of legend, so he had worked hard to keep his special abilities hidden. But there was more to Sandrik than even he knew. Now that it was time for him to enter the ancient ruins of Taernfeld and be declared a man, what other changes might he be forced into?
Swordsmaster is available at several online retailers, including, but not limited to:
William Mangieri’s writing, including Cats of War II (a collection of his Herc Tom, Champion of the Empire series), can be found at several online retailers, including, but not limited to:
• Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/NoTimeToThink
• His Amazon Author page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B008O8CBDY
• Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/william-mangieri?store=book&keyword=william+mangieri
To CONNECT WITH HIM (and LIKE and FOLLOW – you know you should…), go to
• His site on WordPress: https://williammangieri.wordpress.com
• “William Mangieri’s Writing Page” on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/NoTimeToThink
• His Goodreads author page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6893616.William_Mangieri
• Or on twitter: @WilliaMangieri