The Next 1000 Miles, Upcoming

Back From Hibernation

So, it’s been months since I posted. I’d like to say I was backpacking or researching or been hammering out novels one after another. No, I’ve just been living life and getting caught up with it at every turn. And who wakes up and stretches their arms out all refreshed?! I’m more like this kid:

cranky-early-morning1

For those of you not familiar with me, I write the Legend of Carter Gabel series. It’s a time-travel YA Sci-Fi novel about a kid who can spontaneously travel back in time but soon finds out that those aren’t his only gifts. I have the first two books out right now <shameless plugs at the bottom>. AND I’m still working on the third. BUT I totally plan on having it cranked out by the fall.

What’s Been Going On?

I have spent the last few months combing back through my books, taking out the unnecessary and shaping up the structure a bit. Overall, I love this story even more now and those I taxed with re-reading it agree it flows so much better.

I have been cranking up the world generator for my next series and even a couple more singular ideas in the wings. I fully plan on starting the writing process as soon as I get Carter out and in the hands of my editor.

On top of that, I’ve helped out a few writer friends with their own work.

What’s Going On Now?

Currently, I help coach a U14 softball team and the season is just wrapping up (Go Adrenaline!). Those twelve young ladies have a lot of my free time and they’re totally worth it. Check out my Instagram at the bottom.

I am looking forward to a YouTube video that will be coming out on Tuesday. I guest appear on the 69th episode of Book Nerd Paradise where I got to read a little bit of my work and there will even be a giveaway for a free copy or two just by commenting! Go check her out and watch for me this next week.

What’s Coming Up?

Soon, I will be diving further into the realm of Carter Gabel and with the end of the series, I will be taxing a few people to help me decide on the ending. #betareaders

I’m on WattPad!! I plan on posting little snipits and stories for the Carter Gabel series and the new one coming out soon. Come join me so I can follow you and your own journey!

Can you say Cross Country Nerds…? Stay tuned!

Oh! And Add My Books!! 

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YouTube

Video Interview with Zachary Chopchinski

This weekend, I tried my damnedest to start an interview on time. Well, my skills of preparation are still evolving and I started late. Then I ruined in, and then 10 minutes later, we began. The entertaining Zachary Chopchinski, the Zach Chop if I may, was nice enough to rearrange his schedule to accommodate my rather fluctuating one. We had some laughs, a few giggles and a handful of chuckles. Dare I say it, I found a friend on the Internet today. If you can’t watch it, at least listen:


Please leave a like or a comment! If you are an author and might be interested, email me: JL.Fiction@outlook.com

Review

3 Futures by Peter T. McQueeny

Rating Overview

Writing: ★★★★★
Story: ★★★★★
Characters: ★★★★ 1/2
Cover: ★★★★

Overall: ★★★★ (4.625)

This book was given to me as an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

3 Futures is a collection of three stories by author Peter T. McQueeny. I must say that it was an absolute blast getting back into what I find as the epitome of Sci-Fi. Not just hinting at the future or space travel or any other elements therein. Peter takes each story and leaves the reader’s mind to run openly through the possibilities of life in the distant future while playing back to the essential qualities of an actual plot running parallel.

Whether the story involved elements of supernatural, to surreal to downright androids, Peter is a craftsman of words and worlds and I see his works rising up to infinite levels of possibility. Everyone who has a love of stories should read 3 Futures and it’s a must for Sci-Fi enthusiasts.

The Critical Points:

Writing:

Peter masterfully crafts his words together, leaves enough room to not explain the technologies to death and had a remarkable editor as I saw really no errors to my untrained eye.

Story:

Each story had a different scenario, still sticking to futuristic setting but with different contexts. All three were entertaining to sift through and kept me engaged to come back for more.

Characters:

Father Jim Frankenstein is my favorite, I see a little John Constantine in him and hope he resurfaces in another novel. The second story was all that I really had issues with. There wasn’t much of a connection to the people and it ebbed & flowed rather quickly from one point of reference to the next. The last story, brilliant job in conveying the lead character and his struggles to stay awake.

Appearance:

The cover is the only areas I would take away a full star. It’s not that it’s bad, I see the reference to the priest, but the three images don’t really speak to me in terms of “pick me up and read more” so for that I had to look objectively as when I first received the novel.

Final Thoughts

The Sci-Fi genre has many ups and even more downs some days. Whereas I am a firm lover of Star Wars, I find that the Sci-Fi genre gets inundated with similar space travels and strays away from its roots. Science (plausible, explainable) Fiction (made up) is like having full flavored “diet M&M’s” that actually take off pounds in my book.

Point is, Peter has a way of bring the genre back into the cradle of life that Sci-Fi was intended. He tells a story that just happens to take place in the future. He adds the plausible, thinkable technology or social structure and allows the reader to explore with their own thoughts. Reading his work really made me analyze my own and I hope I can shape my stories with more thought the next time I write.

Links

Find Peter’s book through the links below and his blog post. You can also follow him through Twitter @FrFrankenstein

3 Futures (only $.99 on Kindle!)

Peter’s Page



 

A Time to Reap, Journey of 1000 Miles

It’s Official

The 1,000 mile journey is over. What’s that mean? It means there is a new author born into this world, birth date of 8/1/2014. Won’t you help me celebrate? If you want that one, last good read of the summer or something you can easily get into between the other series you are invested in, please click on the image below. It’s selling right now as an e-book for $2.99. That’s less than a gallon of gas or a gallon of milk. And I guarantee my book will last longer and never spoil.



 

A Time to Reap, Journey of 1000 Miles

Join Me at the Finish Line

That’s right! The days of waiting, wondering and pondering are at an end. A Time to Reap is officially a book and available this Friday. So, August 1st, what should you do with a portion of that paycheck? Um, entertain yourself for hours with my story for less than the price of a cup of coffee! Of course!!

I promise to put a link up on Friday once I have it. And even if you’re not sure, there is a small 3 chapter preview through Amazon! And if that wasn’t enough, I still have the first 5 chapters available on my site!! So, please, pretty please, share this post and let me know what you think.

My finish line is just days away!!

Showcase

Jodie Llewellyn {Showcase}

This week’s showcase author might fall on a late Wednesday for us, but in the spirit of her timezone, this Australian native will hopefully see this post on its original Thursday.

Jodie Llewellyn is on point this week for my author Showcase. She comes from a land down under (where the woman glow and men plunder – had to get that out). She talks about a wide range of topics from a writing to fan-based questions.

I enjoyed her post from last week mainly because I like knowing perspectives of people when it comes to Self-Publishing v. Traditional. Click the link below and have a go.

Self Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing.

A Time to Reap

Ch. 3: The Lord Called…

 

three

The message is disturbing, I admit. The one person on this earth I trust more than I do myself is apparently the one I shouldn’t—so sayeth the Crayola washable marker on my forearm.

I don’t recall ever having the need to scrub something off my skin quite as ferociously as in these moments before my mother enters the house. The suds and water splash about the sink as though a dog has decided to spin dry in the basin.

The alarm system for the house pings as my mother approaches the door by the garage. I hear the fluid metallic clunking of the deadbolts unlocking as she nears, a task made quicker by the house fob she carries. Modern conveniences that take the physical action of unlocking a door don’t help me buy any necessary time.

A quick pat dry and I’m good, minus the red friction mark on my arm. Anything is better than the monumental icebreaker my mom could have seen scribbled on my arm.

“Hello?”

Oh, great. “Hey, Mom!” She loves it when I yell things down at her from upstairs.

“Get down here and say hello like a human, please!” Case in point.

And there is the cue to be civil and social. As I make my way down the steps, I can’t help but glance at the portraits hanging along the wall. Most are of my mom and me, a few from family holidays, and lastly, the only remaining photo of my mom, my dad and myself. She still hasn’t taken it down. It’s been four years, Mom. I’m pretty certain he’s not coming back.

As I reach the bottom step, my mind swirls. What to do with my newfound information—or rather, warning? The closer I get to my mother in the kitchen, the harder it is to stir my options, as if they were melting marshmallows beginning to cool.

“Carter, my dear.”

I can’t tell if that’s feigned sarcasm or not. “Mom, how was your trip?”

“It was full of tickles and joy, m’boy.” Classic line my mom always uses to describe anything of little merit. “Now, you mentioned a curio cabinet on the phone.”

Oh, crap sandwiches! I did say that. I would say that. And right before finding out something monumental I need to keep to myself. I’m not sure if I fully believe the scribble from my arm, but in the split-second decision I have, a part of me pauses at telling the truth.

“Yeah, the note.” In my years of encountering my mother during these forks in the road between my conscious mind and my gut, I have learned that the more time I invest in deciding, the guiltier my response appears to be. So I immediately follow with the hands-down best excuse of young adult life.

“I may have stretched the truth there.” Wait for it…

“Stretched?” I can sense her blood pressure from here.

“I like to think of it as a peripheral of the truth.” The upward inflection to my voice doesn’t sound convincing, more like I’m asking her if what I said was right or not.

“Peripheral?” One-word clarifications. Nice tactic, Mother. Touché.

“Might be more of a satellite?”

“Carter?” Yup, here it comes, pay attention.

“I may have mistakenly used the curio cabinet.” Flinch and brace for impact.

“Carter James Gabel!” And we have collision. It’s the triple combo of any proper mother ready to deploy punishment of epic proportions.

“Mom—”

“No! You don’t do that, Carter. That word is a safe word, a drop everything and trust word. A never, ever to be used for any reason other than for what it’s intended word.”

I’m not certain, but I may have overstepped the success I think my strategy has brought. Mainly, the scornful, elevated tones are there, but her movements are dangerously calm. Mom uses her arms to talk just as much as her mouth.

“Mom, I’m sorry. It just snowballed from the leap to the briefing to bed to school. I never had much time to process what the best steps were in those moments.” That is mostly true.

“Carter, the reason we have that word is not just to rush past uncomfortable moments. It’s a pact between the two of us. A promise we trust in whatever the case may be if that word is spoken. Now, you’ve turned a flawless system into a corrupted one.”

“I didn’t mean to.” This is the recoil of my strategy. I knew it would be difficult, but she’s lathering the guilt icing on this punishment cake pretty thick.

“Well, Carter, there are accidents, and then there is just lazy stupidity. And you are not stupid, but this was a monumental mistake. I mean, any time you use the word from this point forward I will pause and wonder if I should believe you.”

Ouch. Yeah, this tactic, although a proven winner, is rough to stomach. This isn’t just angering her; it touches on a basic level of trust she has in me. Granted, from her perspective, this is low on the scale of trust issues. For me, I am still wondering just how far to take the words of Lord Ray.

“I promise I will not use it again carelessly. I am really sorry; I wasn’t thinking.”

Her lack of response tells me she is pondering the pros and cons of some form of punishment. You see, my tactic is almost foolproof. I have two options before me: admittance and coercion. I could admit to the note and the run-in and everything, but the “what if” portion makes me commit to another direction. So, with coercion, I admit to some kind of wrongdoing, but it’s one that I choose. I go into this scenario fully aware that my punishment is inevitable, but I set the context. This has worked for me in the past on numerous occasions.

There was the time I played inside the house with my pellet gun. I thought I had dispensed all the BBs from the tube. Turns out one little sucker remained and, when I squeezed the trigger, went right into the kitchen window. Now, getting pinned with discharging my gun in the house (a capital offense at a young age) was one route. Instead, quick thinking on my part took me straight outside and into the garage. One well-placed baseball shattered any evidence of the tiny hole. Faced with a scolding or a grounding, I chose the lesser of the two punishable offenses—an act I think I’m recreating here.

“Carter.” Here’s the windup. “I’m disappointed.” Fastball on the outside, strike one.

“I know.”

“When you were born, I was the happiest woman on earth.” Pitch number two starting. “Then right after I saw your face, I leapt. It was the dead of winter, and I wound up in a snow bank for six minutes before coming back. From that moment on, I knew I had to do all I could to protect you.”

Curve ball, strike two. Well-placed pitch, Mom. The old delivery story applies to any semi-serious situation. It’s there to remind me of her love and of my need to be allegiant to her because of the struggles she has faced.

“Trust helps me protect you, Carter. If I don’t have yours or you don’t have mine, where are we?”

The count is 0 – 2. This one looks hittable. “Mom, I trust you. It was just a one-time thing. I’m not sure what you want me to say.”

“You trust me? Well, then let me trust in you. You tell me what your punishment should be.”

Swung and missed. That pitch went high and inside with no chance of going anywhere. Batter is out. Damn, she played that well. I hate this scenario of deciding my own punishment—too strict, and it looks like I’m playing the martyr or being sarcastic. Too easy, and it shows my lack of caring for what I did.

“Jeez, mom. I don’t know. Two weeks, no TV?” It seems like a nice starting point for negotiations.

She stands against the refrigerator, arms crossed, not looking like I’m giving enough. Perhaps I should sweeten the deal with volunteering for household chores beyond my wheelhouse, including laundry and bathroom scrubbing.

“Carter, punishment is basically an unknown variable that’s always constant in your life. Leaping at your age can put you in dangerous situations at any point. Taking certain things away that relieve stress doesn’t help. Your life is precious to me.”

Oh, this is already not steering anywhere near a happy place.

“Taking things away from you is not real penance. Not with this. I think the best thing for you is to get signed up for training.”

And kill me.

“I will be your instructor,” she says.

Did I mention immediately? “Mom…”

“I’ve already prepared you physically with self-defense and other training. The rest is being able to control your leaping, and I can help with that, too, but not here.”

My mom works as a leap counselor. She helps kids with my condition mentally and emotionally, and also provides training sessions for them and their parents. It’s an attempt to control their leaps. Her organization is funded in part by the DCD, as long as she registers her clients with them and shares their progress.

Training sessions are mainly meditation and yoga type of nonsense. One of my fellow comrades from school said he went through it at age twelve, and it was the lamest experience in his existence. That taints the waters for me.

“Mom, please. I don’t need a bunch of hand-holding breathing techniques to help focus my chi or whatever.”

“Is that so?” That’s a challenge question and an obvious trap waiting to be stepped in. I will not be falling for it this time, Mother. Instead, I will just put my head down and power through.

“How many sessions do I have to go to?” I ask contemptuously.

In the distance, I hear the house phone chirping. Timing is everything. My mom looks toward the living room as if her vision can peer through walls and takes a few steps in that direction. In her retreat, she states, “As many sessions as it takes to make me feel comfortable with you again.”

Ugh. Not a win by any means, but not a set amount of training, either. She leaves the safety of the invisible punishment circle as she motions with one finger for me to stay, like I’m a golden retriever.

As soon as she is out of sight, I start making my way back toward the stairwell on the other side of the kitchen leading upstairs. The precautionary warning I throw out before she reaches the phone is, “I’m going to finish up my homework, quick.”

A diversionary tactic plus a plausible excuse near the tail end of sentencing—I couldn’t ask for a smoother transition. I hear her greeting the person on the phone, and I know I’m in the clear. I hope I can pay it forward to that caller someday.

“Not so fast,” my mom states from the base of the stairs.

“Wh— I thought we were pretty much done.” There is an alarm going off in my head right now. How did my mom answer the phone and make it all the way back through the kitchen to the stairs in front of me without me noticing?

“Your friend, Ray, called, and he would like to remind you of your study plans at the coffee shop tomorrow at three o’clock.”

Never mind that pay-it-forward comment. Ray is obviously an asshole and off my Christmas card list this year.

“Mom.” I turn around to head toward the fridge. “Sorry I didn’t ask before setting it up, but it was kind of last minute.” My mind was struggling to conjure so many tales. I’ll have to write all these down and practice later so I can remember them all.

As I near the fridge, continuing to speak over my shoulder at my mom, I notice a small ripple in the air, like the ones seen on a long stretch of hot, summer road. Shortly after, I reach my hand out to grab the fridge handle to peruse some snack options. My mother appears before me and stops my hand with hers.

If my butthole didn’t pucker in fright, I might have pooped my pants right then.

“Holy shit!” I think curse words were pretty acceptable given the circumstance. “Did you just…?”

“Teleport? Yes. Well, in a way. You and I, we need to further our conversation, it appears.”

“You can teleport?” I’m dumbfounded.

“Let’s start with how well you know Raymond Lord and work our way back to that.”

And this begins the worst week of my life.

 


 

A Time to Reap

Ch. 2: These are the Names…

 

two

The next morning, I’m still reciting the mantra the countdown created in my mind. One week, five days, and a handful of hours remain, according to the timetable laid out in the note. I am still no closer to figuring out who left it for me or to what purpose.

Prepare yourself. Yeah, that’s super. I’ll just download the latest version of Time Traveler Safety Guides. Who in the hell am I going to find willing to be my Obi-Wan Kenobi for this scenario of impending doom? It’s not like there’s a directory I can go to.

The closest thing to it is a compiled list of people who have my condition in the database at the Center for Disease Control. Indeed, my condition is filed with the CDC, as if I have some plague. The list represents the collective of individuals who registered or have been recognized over the years. It’s not publicized though.

The countdown to my demise on the slip of paper stares up from my desk. Part of me is ready to throw it away, while another wants to analyze every curve to see if I recognize the penmanship—like I could tell one scribble from another.

My cell phone chirps from across the room, and the holographic projection of my mom’s picture is hovering above the glow of my screen. Mom phoning this early tells me I had better get over and take the call. She hasn’t heard from me for the past few days, being out of town on business, but I’m sure the DCD has notified her of my leap, since I am still considered a minor.

“Hi, Mom.”

“Hey.” She sounds unhappy. “Anything you want to tell me?” Yup, definitely unhappy. There are a few key sentences a teenager of any caliber doesn’t want to hear from their parents, and this particular one sparks a DEFCON 4 alert to my senses. It incites panic about all the things I’ve done, as well as anything I ever considered doing. My mind is doing a quick recount of possible misdeeds from the last few months.

“Um… I don’t think it’ll be anything you won’t tell me about soon anyhow?” A snarky response is probably not in my favor, but I’m still flipping through mental records of possible sin or delinquency she may be directing me to admit.

“Carter James. You know what I’m talking about.”

First and middle name—it’s like a warning shot. Still, this is a psychological war of attrition. I’m certainly not going to admit anything she doesn’t hint to me first. My best bet is to remain idle, and let her feel the need to completely explain.

“I do?” I play stupid.

“You leaped, and I have to hear about it a day later from Dr. Phillips? I don’t care if I’m five time zones away. What was the last thing I told you?”

I feel relieved to not have a guessing game going on inside my brain box. Thinking back to her departure to Germany, it’s all slowly starting to take shape in my mind. Unfortunately, my mouth and brain are not relaying their findings correctly.

“Yeah, um, you said that I… should… probably…”

“I said if anything happens, to call me as soon as you can.” Mercifully, she ends my suffering by answering for me. “And I think you knew leaping to be included within the category of anything.”

I will later wonder if I should have said anything, but for the moment I remain vague. “Sorry, Mom. Between the leaping and the note, I have just been a little busy.”

“Note? What note?”

And thus, the flashing-red warning lights go off. “The one I left in the curio cabinet.” As ridiculous as it sounds, curio cabinet is a code word we use to let the other person know the topic should not be discussed over the phone.

The government continuously satisfies its curiosity with people like my mother and me. There have been enough “coincidences” where we’ve run into them after talking on the phone. In some cases, they even paid a visit to our home. So, we developed a system of writing out conversations on toilet paper whenever it was a topic they might want to stick their noses into. Hell, I don’t even know if we own a curio cabinet.

“Well, I should be home tonight, and we can go over things then. For now, get dressed and get to school. You have about fifteen minutes before you should leave, and I’m fairly certain you haven’t made it past the threshold of your bedroom yet.”

My mom always has a weird way of knowing what I’m not doing. It’s more eerie to me than my ability to jump through time. I am, in fact, still sitting in my bed for no particular reason. I’ve been up for the past hour staring off into nothing—I boost myself into thinking its meditation. “I’ll get there.”

“On time, Carter.”

“Yes, on time, Mother.”

“Okay, until tonight then,” says my mom.

“Until tonight. Safe flight, Mom.”

With that, she’s gone. Mom and I don’t favor saying goodbyes every time we end a conversation or leave on an errand. With us, me in particular, we could disappear at any given moment, and if it’s the one day we don’t say goodbye, it will haunt us both. So, once a year, we have a goodbye celebration. Basically, it’s like an anniversary, showing we’ve made it through another year. We usually go out for dinner, just the two of us, at our favorite restaurant, Windows. It’s this luxury place on the twentieth story of a building downtown that rotates while looking out over the city. It’s better than a birthday or Christmas, in my opinion. It’s a time we feel obligated to do nothing except recognize we are still together.

The rest of my day swirls by like a mix of Kool-Aid in water. I speed wash, grab a handful of breakfast bars and head to the depot station with rapid footsteps. I make the last car on the express, which gets me to school on time. The private school I attend, Pemberton Academy, has an assortment of classmates with my condition and a handful of other behavioral nuances. They aren’t bad or violent kids, but some have a hard time grasping the new scientific definition of reality.

Most of the “normal” kids that go to school with me have a family member who has vanished in front of them and hasn’t returned, or has returned but is unable to cope. As ludicrous as it sounds, putting them in school with kids that have my condition is a proven method of helping them adjust to society.

It’s hardest on the younger grade levels. My age group is pretty comfortable with how life is laid out for us. We stay because there’s no need to go anywhere else. I’ve heard that lots of graduates go on to work for the government. I hope the benefits are good, since I have no other idea of what I’ll do after school is over.

There is an even smaller group than the Leapers, in the world, and they are known by most as Eventuals. The government refers to them as Neurologically Impaired. Their researchers learned about Eventuals while trying to test and treat our kind. Most Eventuals show such a low-level ability that it’s difficult to spot, but about one out of fifty show small spikes of prominent telepathy or telekinesis. They can pick up on random thoughts or push chairs across the room. It’s nothing quite like what’s seen in the movies, but what is? I have personally never encountered an Eventual with any remotely interesting powers beyond what could be guessing.

The few Eventuals at my school don’t really socialize or make themselves known. Apparently, there is some kind of lab test that lands them in my lame school for mutants. Only, there’s no cool patriarch like Professor X leading us, or training facilities, or combat simulators like the X-Men had. Nope, just a bunch of teenagers more confused than normal about their bodies. There’s a rumor that something happens to a majority of students in the last semester of senior year, but I have yet to see any proof.

After school, I autopilot back to my house. My mom always reminds me to pick up my feet when I walk, and I notice my shuffling as I lazily round the corner, and the quiet of fall envelops me. Every now and again, there are brief moments of silence within a city. They’re not complete, but the majorly close sound of people talking to one another or traffic whizzing by fades, and the soft white noise of the inner city is all you can detect. If you pay attention, it’s quite terrifying—that break from normalcy.

I would have noticed earlier, but my mind is elsewhere. The soles of my shoes dragging on the pavement snap me out of my daze, and before I have the time to realize it has grown quiet. Dead quiet.

When I was younger, I played baseball. One day, a ball was coming directly toward me. As a good third baseman, I planted my stance, and with every fiber of my being, I prepared to stop the ball from getting by me. Before I could react, the ball hit a tuft of grass and propelled upward into my face. The world went quiet just before the collision. That same feeling is happening to me as I approach the walk leading up to my house.

The world goes quiet. I feel my consciousness rattle and vision blur slightly. By the time I blink the feeling away, I’m terrified to learn I somehow arrived indoors. Not inside my house, but into an unfamiliar room. The walls and ceiling are dark. No windows line the room, and the only light is coming from the floor, or maybe beneath it.

A part of me wants to scream, but I can’t imagine it will help. Plus, the darkness of the walls and ceiling looks like some kind of sound-absorbing material, and I’m not sure if there’s a door. I can’t see any sign of a doorframe, let alone a handle.

A compressed puff of air resounds at my left. Shortly thereafter, a panel pushes into the area and slides along the wall. A man enters, and by the look of him, he should be on a poster for some kind of resistance. All he’s missing is a beret, along with his pant legs needing to be tucked into those military-style boots.

My heart flutters to the beat of a snare drum on a battlefield. The spit within my mouth curdles up as I struggle to swallow. I breathe as normally as possible and try to not let the muscles in my face reveal how disoriented I am inside.

“Mr. Gabel. Sorry for the scare, I just wanted to get in touch with you before your mother returns this evening.”

Great, he knows my name, my mother’s schedule, and how to abduct me without a trace. This is one of those moments in the movie where the hero would say some quip to get under the villain’s skin, but I am not that confident or that stupid.

“So, what can I do for you?” Hell, might as well be civil while I can.

“My name is Raymond Lord. Most people have nicknamed me Lord Ray. You can just call me Ray. I insist.”

Now, I’m extra nervous. Within my circle of people, Lord Ray is a name we’ve all heard of before. He has been blamed for varying degrees of theft, murder, and disappearances while leaping. Granted, no one I know can prove anything, just general speculations attached to his name. One thing is certain: his name is constantly plastered around news hubs, at the train station, and any public site. He is wanted for questioning by the DCD. I didn’t even recognize him from the photos until he introduced himself.

“Carter,” I manage to utter without squeaking in fear. “I insist.”

“Great. Well, now that formalities are behind us, let’s get down to why you are here today, Carter.” His smile seems pleasant, but his eyes refuse to mirror that same recognizable emotion. Those eyes look like happiness has been absent from them for quite some time.

“Okay.” Yeah, real confident, dumbass. I’m giving myself a sarcastic thumbs-up, in my mind.

“I sent you those notes you’ve been finding after your leaps.”

Now I’m all sorts of confused. If my understanding were a puppy, it has broken off its leash, and my mind races to catch it. On top of that, I feel nauseated. “Why?”

“Well, I’m sure you’ve heard stories of my actions in one form or another. To sum those up, there’s 40 percent truth to most of them, like any story. I have refused to abide by the government’s need to ‘cure’ our kind.” Ugh, he uses air quotes. I subtract from his cool points.

That sick feeling is growing, but I soon realize it’s not that my lunch is trying to come up, but that my body is trying to go back. The normal tingle has intensified far beyond what I’m used to.

“Crap, I’m going to leap,” I warn. “I don’t know where I am, but you may need to take me somewhere close to home.” Clutching my stomach, as if that has any bearing on slowing it down, is all I can do. When I leap, there will be people surrounding my location within a couple of hours, and I won’t know how to answer any questions about why I ended up wherever Ray’s henchmen will have taken me.

For whatever reason, Ray isn’t too alarmed or accommodating. He’s just sitting there, staring at me as if I’m a kid throwing a fit in the grocery store.

“Carter, despite the preemptive, uncontrolled feeling you are experiencing, you will not be leaping, at least not from this room.”

“How?” It’s one word I hope translates into the pages of questions his statement just sparked.

“There are a lot of things out there you are going to learn about soon; the trick is being able to convince yourself.” He’s smiling, while I feel like a dropped soda bottle that is building up fizz. “You are going to learn how to control your leaps, first. Then you are going to learn the details of how to use your… condition. But you will have to decide if you want my help.”

The normal tingle I feel before jumping is building up some sort of pressure within me. I feel it resting behind my sinuses and within my chest. It’s like my entire body needs to sneeze but can’t. This room must stifle it somehow. It gets harder to maintain focus, visually. The buildup is putting enough stress on my body to exhaust me completely.

I think I’m on the floor. It’s much brighter now, closer to the lights, and someone is tickling my arm.

“Carter… Please, make your decision soon. That countdown is still going on for you. If you want my help, do this: Take out a coin and flick it into the air. Someone will be along shortly after and will help get you started.”

He’s saying something else, but I can’t hear him as my mind goes blank and the room gets brighter, much brighter. Then I realize I’m not in the room anymore. The brightness is daylight. I’m back in front of my place, poised on my steps, ready to walk in to my house.

Jesus, did I just hallucinate? I look down at my watch. I just got off the train fifteen minutes ago. As I shake my head, I wonder what in the hell just took place. The dampness under my arms and trailing down my back tells me the fear was real.

After shaking off the feeling, I treat the incident like a surreal encounter, like sharing the same dream with someone. It’s peculiar and unexplainable but is easily shrugged off.

While catching up on some reading in my room, I hear the garage door open outside and the familiar hum of my mom’s car traveling into the port. And, of course, as I turn to get off the bed to go downstairs, I spill the glass of soda I was keeping next to me all down the side of my red-hooded sweatshirt. At least I save it from soaking into my pillow, I guess.

I strip out of the wet, sticky shell and equally soaked T-shirt beneath. As I pull a semi-clean shirt off the top of a pile of clothes on the floor, something is off. For a second, I think I have soda still running down my arm. As it turns out, it’s much messier than that. The episode before getting home was most definitely real, and proof is written on my forearm in a familiar handwriting.

 

Don’t trust your mom. Remember the coin.

1 week: 5 days: 11 hours: 18 minutes

 

To be continued … 


A Time to Reap

Ch. 1: In the Beginning…

 

one

I’m standing outside a familiar house on Ainslie Street, in Lincoln Square. It’s the red brick house my mother was raised in. I can tell by my grandma’s flower garden off to the side with roses still in full, vibrant colors. After my mother inherited the house, she let most of the garden go but kept one rose bush as an homage to Grandma Gabel. I feel the chill of the morning air on my naked body while the dusky sunlight of the morning creeps over the lawn.

My heart pumps wildly. It must be very early, as I can see the slightest hint of sun starting to bounce from clouds to the east. The panic of being caught in my birthday suit is still unnerving, and I quickly survey the streets. The house lights are off, and I hear no motors of any kind nearby.

I was studying for a calculus test in my kitchen just moments ago, except it was in the future. How far into the future is still uncertain. One thing I’ve learned since I began time traveling is to do my studying as soon as possible, in case of any sudden departures. Teachers in my time are alert to students who are Chronologically Displaced Persons. The chunky title is a fancy way of saying time traveler. People with my affliction first referred to each other as Chrono-Leapers and, eventually, just Leapers.

I look around and try to gather clues, like my mother taught me. The best way to pinpoint “where or when” I am in the world is to look at a newspaper or a parked car. Newspapers will give me dates and information on when I have traveled to. A car will give me a state and a year from the registration sticker. I already know the house, so the where tip is irrelevant. I discover the when as I approach the house. At the driveway, a newspaper lies in a thin plastic sleeve. The date is Saturday, April 25, 2009—more than thirty years in the past.

I’ve only been traveling for the last four years, but I’ve known about my condition for almost all my life. At the age of twelve, I was considered a late bloomer, since most start developing symptoms before their eighth birthday.

For most, strong emotions trigger a leap. Inevitably, an uncontrollable instance occurs without warning, like a hiccup. My mother warned me at an early age about “the price of losing control.” She spoke from experience—I recall moments when she got extremely agitated and disappeared. She sometimes came back with bruises on her face.

I always try to prepare for when it’s my time to get tossed back and forth in the spectrum without warning. Mom said I would be able to control it better by the time I reached my twenties. I hope this turns out to be true, because a little spike of terror fills me each time it happens. I keep it bottled up, rely on breathing exercises, and hope that I never have to enact any of the moves I’ve learned in self-defense classes.

Cold and exposed, I make my way around back to my grandma’s gardening shed. First, I check in the closet where she used to keep her aprons and galoshes. On one shelf are an oversized pair of sweatpants and a sweatshirt of equal proportions—a stash I can only assume was put there for my grandfather, who had the same condition. I put them on and begin to walk toward the back door of the house. Grandma kept a spare key under the mat, so I unlock the door and walk into the kitchen.

The only sound is from the heater in the basement. I walk over and look at the photo magnets on the refrigerator. Some show pictures of friends and family. I’ve never before traveled to a past where I wasn’t born yet. It’s like showing up to a surprise party early, where all of the decorations are out but no guests have arrived.

A rumble from my stomach reminds me how I skipped dinner, and I decide to quietly scavenge the cupboards for anything I can consume. As I do so, I think of where I should go. It isn’t a good idea to be caught and try to explain. I grab a few breakfast bars and a sealed package of beef jerky.

As I turn to go back out to the shed, I notice a sleepy-eyed young girl staring at me from the hallway. She’s wearing flannel pants and an oversized white T-shirt. I immediately recognize the young version of my mom I’ve seen in old photo albums.

A rekindled sense of longing fills my chest, and I’m reminded of how I miss being home already. I want to run over and hug her and tell her I’m her son. But I know I can’t act so presumptuous and endanger the timeline.

“Who are you?” she asks in a raspy voice.

“Someone like you.”

She takes a moment to process the information. “Do I know you?” She wipes the sleep out of one eye and squints at me through the other.

“No.” My mother has explained that if I encounter someone and don’t want to divulge any unneeded information, I should keep my comments brief, courteous, and to the point.

“Why are you here? What’s your name?” She appears to be waking up, but as she shuffles forward, her steps are heavy.

“My name is Carter. I used to visit this place from time to time when I was younger.” For obvious reasons, I leave out the part about living there in the future and doing my homework in this very kitchen.

She nods, scuttles over to one of the stools by the counter, and sits down with a thump. She braces her chin on the palm of her hand and promptly closes her eyes.

She exhales a few deep-throated sighs, letting me know she’s asleep. I am about to place the contents of cupboard rummage in my pockets when I feel the small tickle in my center that lets me know my time is almost up. The initial leap can be unexpected, but the return trip gives notice.

I grab a magnetized egg timer off the refrigerator and set it for two minutes. I kiss my young mother’s head and place the timer by her elbow. I then slip out the back door and go into Grandma’s shed to return the clothing and place them back in the closet. The feeling gets stronger, and I know it’s time.

The sensation rushes through me, and I feel myself going back to my place in time. It feels like little carbonated bubbles fizzing up inside my body until they race through my veins and up through the pores in my skin. There’s a split second where I see and hear nothing. It’s actually comforting, because it brings me utter peace and tranquility.

When I come to, I look at the clock above the sink and notice only an hour has passed. I think that’s a pretty amazing stroke of luck considering the first time I came back from traveling I found I had been gone for an entire day, and I wound up in the grape arbor behind my best friend’s house.

It was the most embarrassing moment in my life. Growing up, I knew the possibility existed, but until it actually happens, you are never ready. Since my friend lived a few miles away, I had to rely on his family’s help to get me home. I’ll never forget that shameful walk up to their door to ask for help, holding a soccer ball over my tiddly-bits.

In my kitchen, clothes are in a disheveled pile on the chair where I had been sitting. They look like a second skin I had shed. As I start to get dressed, the phone rings. I know exactly who it is, and I don’t feel like answering, but if I don’t, a black sedan will be pulling into the driveway. I don’t want my mom to go through that tonight, if it can be avoided.

I walk over and hold my hand up in front of the translucent phone screen to wave through the call. The display lights up, and Dr. Phillips’s face appears. “Good evening, Mr. White,” the gray-haired man announces.

Mr. White is my pseudonym. The doctors and officials like to distance themselves from too much knowledge of, or attachment to, Chrono-Leapers. That’s because there have been times they’ve had to “remove the threat,” due to a possible timeline adjustment—like someone making money off of future knowledge. If they knew real names and formed emotional ties, it would be harder to move on after a patient had been “removed.” They need to be able to think of us simply as livestock—expendable—and not as pets that have to be put down. But I’ll get to the Chrono-Hunters later.

“Doctor,” I reply, trying to convey by my impatience toget this over with and go to bed.

“Where did we go to tonight?”

We? That always makes me chuckle. He didn’t go anywhere and wind up naked and on a quick search for his dignity.

“My house, April 25th, 2009.” I know precisely what he is going to ask next; it’s the same thing he always asks after leaping: Who did I see? What did I see? What did I do? Did I affect anything outright or influence anybody otherwise? It’s protocol.

Since Chronologically Displaced Person Syndrome (CDPS) was fully introduced as a medical phenomenon in 2017, the government takes special interest in the scientific aspects of the field. My mother’s condition was explored when she was younger, but no scientific tests ever determined why it occurs, yielding only theoretical papers on the subject.

Naturally, the government began to intervene when they realized the severity of what could happen if a person played leapfrog through time without scrutiny. They asked the public to come forward voluntarily. In exchange, they agreed to pay test subjects for any research toward the “genetic mutation.” They initially rounded up six travelers—one of whom was my mother. She knew from experience what could happen, and didn’t want to wind up like my grandfather, stranded naked in a blizzard to die of hypothermia.

The volunteer program was a clever way of getting anybody who was a Leaper out of the woodwork so as to document and hopefully cure them. After some Senatorial debate, the government began to sanction time travel, as long as the activity was monitored. To keep tabs on our time-travel activities, Leapers are now given tracking wristbands, which fit snugly against the skin. If we disappear, handlers wait an hour and then call.

Failure to answer the call initiates the dispatch of a vehicle to stand guard and wait. In the meantime, the Department of Chronological Displacement (DCD) activates a Limbo Tank. The Tank is a capsule designed to withstand any fluctuation in the time/space ribbon or temporal disturbance. It basically acts as the waiting area for when Leapers return. No matter what they may have altered in time, the Hunters will have a perfect detailed record of how the world was before they left. After they are released from the Tank, Hunters compare and look for major changes in finances, world population and developments in technology.

Once the Leaper returns, the Hunter is removed from the Tank. If it is not opened from the outside, it remains dormant for up to six months. After that time, it will automatically open. The Hunter is awakened, and orders are initiated to find and assassinate the Leaper in question.

The longest time jump recorded was three months. When the Leaper returned, his body went into a state of shock. From what I’ve read, a long period of time spent outside a person’s natural timeline can cause uncontrollable hemorrhaging. After an autopsy and many tests, scientists deduced that any Leaper returning after a period of five months would not survive. So, the six-month mark is set for Hunters as an added precaution.

The shortest timeframe recorded is five minutes. Hunters are given a fifteen-minute window to get to a Tank, suit up, and prepare. Anything below that mark is deemed irrelevant. There have been a few circumstances when a Leaper has not returned. For the most part, it happens when Leapers find themselves in the elements when they jump.

Government agents always come off as smug, and Dr. Phillips is not much different. He is just like them, only he adds empathy after each question. I hate coming back a few hours or days after leaping to see them standing in my room before I can find something to put on over my birthday suit.

I chat with Dr. Phillips about the paper I looked at, to verify the date. When it comes to information, he always likes to ask me a few times. There are retinal cameras in the phone display to measure my pupils, which apparently show the degree to which I’m lying. It’s one of the things they tell us when we check in after our first few leaps. Asking repeatedly is a way of trying to throw us off guard, in case we learned how to fool the machine.

Another precaution is monitoring bank accounts. Anytime a person leaps, his or her bank account immediately gets audited back to the previous month, once the Hunter is released.

More troubling than the government, or Hunters, or even leaping itself is what has been happening to me recently. Someone is leaving me notes to find after I return from my leaps. I’ve received two notes so far in the past six weeks. The first was cryptic—it simply stated, “5 months: 14 days: 6 hours: 21 minutes.” The following note was more troubling, as it was starting to count down. I have not looked yet as I just returned, but I’m sure there’s a third. My debriefing is just wrapping up, and I plan to check my room for evidence.

As I enter the room, a half-folded piece of paper sits patiently on my desk, waiting for me to open it. This one is different. It seems ominous.

1 week: 6 days: 13 hours: 4 minutes

They will be coming for you.

Prepare yourself

 

To be continued …