Category: Alternative Reality

Friday Flashback: How Louis Saved the World

This story was originally posted on September 29, 2017. Aliens are fun to write about. They come from far, far away, which already makes them sound like part of a story. Other than the long-distance travel, they’re completely mysterious. It’s an interesting idea to explore.

Louis was home in the middle of the day, because he was sick. If it was up to him, he would have been at school.   Today they were going to make ice cream as a science experiment. That was much better than staying in bed and staring at the ceiling.

Unfortunately, Mom said that if you have a fever and a runny nose, and a terrible cough, and a sore throat and can’t stop sneezing, then you should stay home. Throwing up after breakfast hadn’t helped his argument at all, either. So, Louis blew his nose again and sneezed and looked at the ceiling.   Ceilings are boring.

“Mom, I’m bored,” Louis yelled. Then he coughed. Ouch.   His throat really hurt.

“Then take a nap,” his mom yelled back. “You need to rest so that you can heal.”

Louis scowled. He was much too old for naps, and he wasn’t at all sleepy. Well, he was maybe a little bit tired. But not really enough to fall asleep yet. He turned and watched the shadows on the wall move.   The wind must be blowing through the tree outside.

And then, the shadows started to fade, or maybe the room started to glow.   Louis wasn’t quite sure. It was all a little strange. Everything looked a little bit foggy. Louis blinked, and when he opened his eyes, he wasn’t in his bedroom any more.

He was in a strange metal room filled with blinking lights. Something was making a clicking sound. Three tall skinny beings with greenish skin and bright blue eyes looked at him. They were definitely aliens. Louis looked back. One of the aliens said something, but Louis didn’t know what he was saying. “I don’t speak your language,” Louis said.

The aliens approached and one of them looked closely into Louis’s face.   The aliens smelled like dust.   Lots of dust. Louis sneezed right into the alien’s face, and then he couldn’t stop sneezing.

The alien backed up, but the other two crowded closer. The sneezing hurt his throat and upset his stomach. Louis threw up on the other two aliens. The aliens backed up and bowed. One of the aliens pushed a button on the wall, and the room started to get brighter.   Everything looked foggy. Louis blinked.

And he was back in his room looking up at the ceiling. Had any of that really happened? Mom knocked on the doorframe and came in. “How are you feeling?” she asked. “Any better?”

“Mom, I was just captured by aliens,” Louis said. “I threw up all over them, so they let me go.”

“That sounds like a nice dream,” Mom said. “Is your stomach still upset?” She put her hand on his forehead. “Oh dear, you’re still quite warm. Would you like some ice cream?”

“For lunch?” Louis asked.

“Why not,” Mom said. “You’re feeling sick.”

Maybe being sick wasn’t so bad, except for the staring at the ceiling part.   Even being captured by aliens wasn’t terrible. It had been kind of interesting.   If it really happened at all, of course.

Two days later, Louis was back in class. He’d missed the ice cream experiment and a math quiz, but otherwise things had been pretty quiet at school. Susie said that Dan threw up on the slide just a day ago.

Louis decided that being sick probably happened to everybody at one time or another. He was glad that he felt better now and could move forward. He hoped he didn’t feel sick again anytime soon and that he never threw up on the slide.  That sounded embarrassing.

Hundreds of thousands of miles away, the crew of an alien space ship coughed and sneezed and stared at the ceiling and tried not to throw up. “I thought it was too eager to give us the samples we required. It was completely suspicious,” one said.

“I thought it believed we were peaceful scientists,” another replied.   “How was I to know it recognized us as a possible threat.” The alien sneezed and sneezed and sneezed.

“Well, I’m going to recommend we don’t try to colonize this world. The inhabitants are far too hostile. And they don’t fight fair, either,” the last one said. And then he threw up.

Gingerbread Peril

Once there was a little old woman who was baking a tray of lovely gingerbread aliens. After they cooled, she piped icing onto each little alien, making sure that they had three eyes and ten limbs and rainbow freckles. Just as she finished the last freckle on the last alien, the whole tray of cookies sat up, jumped out of the pan, and slid down the legs of the table.

The little old woman stood up so quickly that her chair fell down behind her with a thud. Unfortunately, the aliens were already at the front door. They slipped through the mail slot one by one before she could catch them.

She threw open the front door and ran down the first three steps in her slippers. The gingerbread aliens had all disappeared. “Come back,” she called to her empty front yard. “I need you for the bake sale. The choir needs new robes.”

But the gingerbread aliens did not come back. They hid under the rose bush until she went back inside. Then they crept around the edge of the yard and through the picket fence. The first alien frosted was the oldest of the group, so he was in charge and led the way.

They passed a yard with a wire fence. Behind the fence, a big black dog barked loudly. “Come here, little cookies,” he said. “I am hungry, and I think it’s been a million years since I last ate.”

“What good would that do us?” the oldest alien asked.

“What else are cookies good for?”

The gingerbread aliens all scowled with all three of their eyes. The dog took a step back. The aliens kept walking. “We are not here for bake sales or feeding dogs,” the oldest cookie said as they left.

“Then why are you here?” the dog asked. But the gingerbread aliens were all gone. “Come back,” he called. “I’m so hungry. Come back!”

But the aliens did not come back. They kept walking.

The oldest alien led them to a stream. A fox was sunning himself on the bank. He stood up as they arrived. “Do you need a ride across the stream? I could carry you on my back.”

The gingerbread aliens conferred in a murmur. “What is the cost?” the oldest cookie asked at last.

The fox smiled, showing off his sharp teeth. “I would only eat a few of you. Maybe five or six.”

“No.” The cookies turned and started walking alongside the stream.

“What else are cookies good for?” the fox called after them. But the gingerbread aliens were gone. The fox laid back down with a huff and fell asleep.

The cookies eventually reached a bridge. At this point, their many feet were crumbly and their icing was sticky. “Just a little further,” the oldest said.

But, as they reached a bridge, out jumped a troll. “Anyone who crosses my bridge must pay a toll,” he said.

“We won’t allow you to eat any of us,” the oldest gingerbread alien said. All the cookies glared fiercely.

“Trolls don’t eat sugar. That’s poison to us. I want gold or meat.”

The oldest cookie pointed further down the bank in the opposite direction. “Like that?”

The troll turned. He squinted. “Like what?” But when he turned back around, the gingerbread aliens were gone. “Come back. You didn’t pay the toll,” he bellowed. But the cookies did not come back.

They were already across the bridge and walking through the meadow on the other side. They darted towards a metal lump leaning against the fence on the far side of the meadow. It looked a bit like two large cake pans stuck together.

As the cookies approached the lumpy metal thing, they disappeared one by one, oldest to youngest. And then the lumpy metal thing rose in the air and disappeared.

Two doughnuts were inside already and began passing around paperwork. “How did it go? Did everyone make it back?”

The oldest gingerbread alien sighed. “Yes, but I would recommend scrapping the randomizer. It’s far too risky. I don’t think the camouflage potential is worth the risk. How long until this wears off?”

“Tomorrow somebody is going to have a batch of cookies back. And two doughnuts.”

The gingerbread alien sighed. “Well, maybe she’ll have something for her bake sale after all. I’m just glad it won’t be us. Cookies lead a hard life. Everyone wants to eat them.”

“Sure,” the doughnut said. “What else are cookies good for?”

Allergic to Now

Once upon a time there was a woman named Martha who had time-traveling sneezes. Every time she sneezed, she had to go check the date. Allergy season was the worst.

The time-traveling started small. She moved to a new town after college, and got into a terrible car accident driving into town. It took a year to heal, and the car was totaled She developed allergies to something in the new environment while in the hospital. The sneezing didn’t always move her in time at first, and when it did, she didn’t go far.

By the time she realized what was happening, she had lost her own time all together. She tried a few times to visit a doctor to see if there was some sort of medical explanation, but they never seemed to believe her. Unless she sneezed in their office, of course. Well, she assumed they believed her after that, but she really didn’t have any proof. She never saw the same doctor twice.

It was lovely to see so much history, but as she didn’t travel in space, just time, then she wasn’t able to keep a job and earn money to travel anywhere else. Even if she could, money seemed more time-specific than you’d think. Sometimes there was a train out of town, sometimes a boat. A few times she watched people fly off in hover cars. But, she couldn’t afford to take any of them.

If it weren’t for the periodic visits to a time where it was easier to hunt and gather, she probably would have starved. As it was, things were growing worse. The sneezes were growing closer together, and every time she visited was in the middle of allergy season.

She wasn’t sure what would happen when she couldn’t stop sneezing all together. She couldn’t get a signal on her cell phone to check. She always visited either before her phone plan started or after it had lapsed.

Once, in a moment of desperation, she called her childhood phone number from a public phone with change scrounged from a fountain, uncertain of what else to do. “Mom? It’s Martha.”

“Martha who?”

“Your daughter. You have to believe me!”

When her mother hung up, Martha checked the date at a newspaper stand. She was visiting a time where she was still three years old. Of course her mother didn’t believe her.

The sneezes came even quicker. An apple orchard. A village. A spaceport. A large city. Was that dinosaurs?

It was all blurs now. It was getting hard to breathe between sneezes. And then she sneezed one last explosive sneeze.

Something flew from her lungs and burned the whole way up her throat and out of her mouth. A spark flickered in front of her eyes, and then it flared brighter, white and blue. What was it?

Around them, the world spun in tight circles, but in the circle, time stood still for a moment. And then the bright light was gone, taking with it all the light and heat. Martha could breathe again.

She gasped in one breath, then two. And then the world was dark.

Martha blinked. She was driving her little car that she hadn’t seen in decades or years or centuries or however long ago she finished college, and it was dark. Did she have the headlights on?

She almost glanced down to flick them on, when she remembered this moment. She swerved right, onto the shoulder, and slammed on her brakes. A car driving in the wrong lane barreled through the spot where she’d just been. It was followed by two more cars, driving equally fast.

Moments later, a bright light flashed on the other side of the road, white and blue. It blinked three times and vanished. Martha turned her car off and sat in the dark for a long time after that.

A week later, Martha moved away from the town she’d spent so much time in. She found a job on the other side of the country, and carefully studied the history of her new town, just in case. She also got a prescription for antihistamines and was always extra careful about handwashing and taking vitamin c pills.

Waking up in her own bed in her own time every morning never got old. And sneezes never grew any less frightening. Even though she’d neglected to write down any winning lottery numbers from the future, Martha was glad to be stuck in one time. She was finally home, and she lived happily ever after.

Doorway to Another World

After a week in the new house, John was finally starting to feel at home. All of his favorite things were unpacked, and he knew where the best grocery store was. As he brushed his teeth and looked out the window at the sunset, all seemed right in the world.

But then he saw the light shining around the door of the shed. Was there even a light in there? He tried to remember. All he could dredge up from the depths of his memory was a dark, empty space where he shoved the lawnmower and rake and such, planning to deal with them later.

“Honey, the light’s on in the shed,” John called over his shoulder.

“There isn’t a light on in the shed,” his wife called back.

“Yes there is. Come and see.”

His wife came in. “You have toothpaste on your shirt.”

John looked down and wiped at his shirt with the side of his hand. “Never mind that, look out the window. We need to go turn the light off in the shed.”

His wife looked out the window. “We don’t need to. There isn’t a light to turn off.”

“Then what’s that? You can see it, right?” John dropped his toothbrush in the sink. “Of course you do. If there’s not a light, maybe someone’s in there with a flash light. Do you think they’re stealing the lawnmower? I’ll get the dog.”

Moments later, John was dragging his unenthusiastic dog towards the shed. “You need to bark or something to scare them, Adams.”

Adams refused to cooperate, and John had to hope that his presence alone would be scary enough for any intruders. He coaxed Adams a little closer and threw open the shed door. He blinked.

“I told you there wasn’t a light on in the shed.” His wife leaned in and looked around. “It doesn’t really need one.”

John found his voice. “What is this?” He looked around. Just beyond his lawnmower and rake and a box of odds and ends, there was a field of soft purple flowers that stretched out to distant blue mountains. Giant bees flitted from flower to flower in the light of the two suns high over head.

Turning around, the newly familiar backyard seemed dark in the twilight compared to the bright sunlight streaming from the shed. Was there a field of flowers in his shed yesterday? How did it even fit in there?

“It’s a doorway to another world.” His wife smiled. “Isn’t it lovely?”

“You knew about this? When did it get here? It wasn’t all sunny and flowery when I put the lawnmower in.”

She laughed. “Of course not. Time works different there. It’s slower. It’s been night there most of the time we’ve lived here. I thought you knew. Isn’t this why we bought the house?”

What? “Of course not. I liked the big yard. Adams needs space to run around. And the living room was just the right height for my tallest bookshelves. I’ve never even heard of doorways to other worlds. What other worlds are there?”

“But we met in that lovely cafe on that world where everyone was purple and only had one eye. The one with the great band?”

John frowned. “I thought it was a costume party, and you and I were the only ones who weren’t in costume.”

“And our third date? Atlantis?”

“I thought it was an interactive aquarium.”

“And when you met my parents?”

John dropped Adams’ leash, and the dog ran back to the house. “You aren’t from this world?”

She laughed. “Neither are you.” She pointed to the horizon.

John turned. There were three moons. Were there always three moons? “Three? That’s not right.”

“It is for here. How did you not notice?”

John looked into the shed, at the flowers and bees and mountains. He closed the door. He looked at the three moons and then turned away. “Let’s go in the house. I guess I’m not very observant. Why don’t you tell me more.”

When they bought the new house, John thought that he was turning a page in his life. But that night, walking into a house that no longer seemed familiar at all, John realized that he didn’t even know what page he was on. Or where the book was. Was there a book?

Life was about to get really interesting. And this time, John would make sure he noticed when it did. Just as soon as he figured out where he was living now.

The Hero’s Journey

Once upon a time, there was an orphan. Well, his parents hadn’t died yet, but to propel him on his journey, they had to die. Okay, fine, they were only temporarily dead. The hero had to go on his journey to fix that. He had to find some sort of anti-temporary-death flower.

“Oh no! What happened here? Mom? Dad?”

This temporary death was orchestrated by the villain who was going around making people temporarily dead. I’m not sure why. I’m sure he has a good reason in his backstory. I’ll figure that out later and reveal it during the final showdown. It will be appropriately motivating.

“Who are you and what did you do to my parents?”

“What do you think?”

“But why did you do it?”

“Hahaha. You’ll never find out. And your parents will be temporarily dead forever!”

The hero found a clue in a mysterious book that led him to learn about the flower he needed to find. Maybe the book was in his house, but he’d never seen it before. Or he found it at the library. Or a nurse gave it to him when he checked his parents into the hospital. (Did he check his parents into the hospital? It seems too sensible for the typical orphaned hero. I like it.)

“I’ll be back. Just wait here. I’ll find the cure and everything will be like it was before.”

Of course, to guide him on his journey, he had a wise mentor that he met along the way. At the garden center. Or the library. It doesn’t really matter, because the mentor died too. The hero has to complete his journey on his own, of course, with the map his mentor gave him. Fine. The mentor was only temporarily dead, too.

“Nooooooooooooooooo! How much more suffering must I endure?”

This led to another showdown with the villain.

“Hahaha. You’ll never stop me. Next I’ll temporarily kill your dog too.”

“That’s what you think! I don’t have a dog.”

“Are you so sure? What’s in that box behind you?”

“What box? Huh. A puppy. It’s so cute! Hey. Where did the villain go?”

With his trusty companion at his side, our hero journeys far, in a perilous journey to find the anti-temporary-death flower. He finds clues and shows his kind-hearted side by saving kittens and old people and lost spiders and such. There are sad, slogging setbacks where he thinks he’ll never find the flower.

“What happened to the flower? I heard it was growing on this isolated mountain peak, but there’s nothing here. Wait there’s a note… ‘I’ll get you and your little dog, too. P.S. I ate the flower for lunch. It was delicious with a little salt.’ Nooooooooooooo!”

Fortunately, our hero learns that there are other flowers.

“That’s good. I was worried there for a moment.”

Finally, there is a desperate race through a ravine for the last known anti-temporary-death flowers. The villain manages to pull ahead by killing the faithful puppy. Temporarily, of course. Our hero is left to check the puppy into a hospital and grieve, uncertain that he’ll ever be able to save anyone. And then, tucked under the puppy’s collar, he finds a single petal. The local medicine maker believes it is enough to figure out the necessary properties for the anti-temporary-death medicine, and then they can make enough for everyone.

“I know what’s coming next. The villain is going to try to come and ruin everything.”

That’s right. It’s time for the showdown.

“Well, he won’t mess everything up this time. I’m going to guard the medicine maker’s house and stop the villain when he shows up.”

“That’s what you think. I’m already here.”

“Why are you doing this?”

“My parents died, so I think no one should have parents!”

“Really?”

No. I just couldn’t think of anything better. Does it really matter?

“How will you stop me? Nothing’s worked before. Time to temporarily kill you too!”

“Too late. While you were telling me your backstory, I took your weird, temporary death weapon. Take that!”

“Noooooooooo!”

And the hero vanquished the villain. Everybody is saved. The puppy, the mentor, the hero’s parents, even the villain are all restored. The villain goes to jail. He’ll probably escape, but what can you do?

Our hero is newly grateful for his old boring life and his new puppy. Life is good. For now.

Flashback Friday: The Trendsetter

This story was originally posted on December 2, 2016. I like the idea of fashion trends that aren’t meant to be taken seriously. I’m not so sure about the giant boot, but I would really like a day to stay home and read. Can someone make that the popular thing to do, please?

There was a time when, if you wanted to know what was popular right this second, you looked to Marley Christofferson. Marley posted constant tips about everything from fashion to breakfast cereals, and thousands listened. Some people insisted it was becoming a little ridiculous. At first, no one listened to them.

The first hint that something was wrong was the giant boot trend. Marley insisted that the popular thing to do was to shove both feet in a giant boot and hop everywhere. It caught on quickly. It was mostly harmless, except for all the uncoordinated people who kept falling over.

After that died out, Marley advised people to wear an oven mitt on one hand.   “I wasn’t so sure about that one,” one fan said. “I didn’t like taking it off to text, but I could keep my phone inside the mitt, so I didn’t have to reach all the way to my pocket to take it out. And I only had to paint the nails on one hand.   That was nice.”

It did make driving difficult, and made it harder to complete schoolwork. Many schools banned oven mitts.

Marley’s next big fad was conducting everything you say with a pencil. It led to people saying everything in a sing-song voice in an attempt to speak in the proper rhythm. Many older, less hip people found this trend especially irritating. “Marley needs to stop,” a principal commented. A few music teachers found a silver lining.   “My students have become well-acquainted with 3/4 and 4/4 time. I even heard one student speaking in 6/8 time. I was impressed,” a music teacher said.

This was followed by ending every sentence with “Yeah, yeah.” “It was even more irritating than the pencil thing,” the same principal said. This fad didn’t last long.

However, the next fad was particularly long lasting.   Beginning in November, Marley advised her followers to “Be festive and string bells on your shoelaces.” It caught on in a big way. People wore a variety of bells laced in complex ways into their shoes and jingle-jangled their way everywhere. “It made it easier to catch some petty criminals,” a police officer noted. It was months before the fad died down, and some people never stopped wearing their “bells on [their] toes”.

Next Marley advised people to peel and eat grapes slowly at lunch. Then it was putting make up only around one eye.   Marley spoke and thousands listened.   And then thousands more followed their example.

It was when Marley recommended staying home all day and reading a good book that her account was closed down. “She was just too disruptive,” officials said. “She couldn’t be allowed to continue.”

A year later, Marley finally agreed to an interview. When asked about the sources she used to decide what was trendy, Marley said, “I just shared what I liked.”

And the strange advice at the end? “I looked around and people were so serious and stressed. I was joking about the giant boot, but people actually tried it. I saw them smiling and laughing and happy. I just wanted to keep seeing people smile like that.”

Is that why so many people followed her advice? “I don’t know,” Marley said.   “I think people want to laugh and be happy. I think they also want to fit in and feel like they belong. I think fads and fashion should be able to do both.”

So what is next for Marley? “I’m at fashion design school now,” Marley said. “Wait until you see my first collection this fall.”

Will we have clown suits or mad scientist gear to look forward to? “Of course not,” Marley said. “Everything I design will be at the height of fashion right at the second I design it, of course. Just wait and see.”

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