My science fiction novel TIME FRAME is now available as an EBook from NECON EBooks at http://www.neconebooks.com.
Here’s a sneak preview: Chapter 1 of TIME FRAME. Look for Chapter 2 coming soon in a future post!
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Hope you enjoy the preview.
Thanks for reading!
Necon Science Fiction #2
Cover Art by Matt Bechtel
A digital edition published by Necon E-Books
This Edition © 2014 Michael Arruda
Cover Art © 2014 Matt Bechtel
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
For my grandfather
And for all the loved ones who have passed
We wish to see again
He was alone, for one thing.
No one noticed him, no one spoke to him, no one looked him in the eye. He was a shadow, a figure in the background, a convenient excuse to pull out a cell phone and talk into it as if he wasn’t there, a corpse. In fact, he attracted less attention than a corpse. People noticed a dead body. They didn’t notice him.
He didn’t want to be noticed, that much was true, but he was lonely all the same.
Some days he wished it were a dream — the life he had loved so much, he wished had never happened.
It would be so much easier that way. The pain he felt just wouldn’t be as unbearable knowing that he had dreamt it all, had made it all up in his desperate imagination.
But he knew this wasn’t true. It had happened.
And now it was over. All over.
He sighed in disgust.
Where the hell was he, he wondered? What was he doing? He looked down, and the sunshine blinded him. He looked away and thought it odd that the sun was beneath him.
He sucked in the salt water air, and just like that his senses returned to him. He sat by the water, and the sun which blinded him was simply a reflection.
The sun felt good on his face, and the fresh sea air filled his nostrils with an energy that almost made him want to live. In fact, he almost smiled, but didn’t. It was spring, his favorite season, though he also enjoyed summer and fall. Only winter pained him. Living on the street in the cold could kill a man, and though he wished for death, he wanted it on his terms, not Old Man Winter’s.
His hands by his side, palms down, he became aware of the soft grass underneath his flesh. He massaged the blades with his fingers.
The sunshine, the sea water, the grass, he was at his favorite spot, his private sanctuary.
He would never tell anyone about it. He had discovered it quite by accident some time back when he had been walking around the mills, roaming behind the red brick buildings, some of them abandoned for decades, others still in operation.
He had walked to the back of one of these mills, and when he reached the end, had decided to see what was behind it. He found a small trickling stream. He walked to the banks of this stream and followed it as it curved around the back of another mill and then like a miracle, opened into the bay. He hadn’t realized the mills were so close to the ocean. There was a grassy bank on which to sit. No fishing vessels or dock side bars spoiled the view. He had discovered his own private beach.
He was glad he had. The docks smelled of fish and garbage and had no scenery other than fishing boats, garages, and bars. The beaches were too crowded. He didn’t want people to see him, not the way he was now. He wished he were invisible. The beaches were also full of children. He couldn’t be around children. It made him remember.
He didn’t want to remember.
Funny he should still love the ocean, after what had happened. He understood why, though. The ocean was the only thing on earth he allowed himself to love because he knew it wouldn’t leave him. For as long as he lived, it would be there for him. He’d always have the ocean.
But on the ocean was where it had happened, and so regardless of how he felt about it, it was a reminder, and he didn’t need any more reminders.
He felt it in his heart, thought it in his mind, and he opened his mouth and almost spoke the words, “My family.”
Above him, some seagulls floating on the sea air cried out.
He looked up at the birds with only his eyes, and then he gazed out at the water. This time he did speak, and loudly too, because the emotions pounding away at his heart punched through his defenses, and overcame him to the point where he didn’t care anymore, didn’t care if he went to the dark place.
“I miss you. I miss all of you.”
The seagulls stopped their crying, as if they were listening to him.
“I miss you!”
The seagulls cawed in response.
He didn’t hear them. He heard only the sounds of his own raw, empty voice.
He waited for their answer, not the gulls, but those he was talking to. He wanted to hear them say they were back, that he wouldn’t have to be alone anymore. In his mind, he almost heard their voices, and again he almost smiled, but then he remembered.
He tightened his grip around the blades of grass and with a shriek ripped them from the ground.
Papa had been dead for seven years.
So when Adam Cabral opened the back door to his house to find his grandfather standing there on the porch, wearing a great big smile, to say he was shocked at the sight didn’t do the moment justice.
“Papa?” Adam said. What else could he say?
“Yes, it’s me,” Papa said. His voice sounded exactly the way Adam remembered it. “It’s good to see you, Adam. Can I come in?”
There was a twinge of apprehension in his grandfather’s voice even though he smiled, and Adam took note of this for about two seconds before his senses became completely overwhelmed as he stared at the man in front of him from head to toe and back again.
This man looked exactly like his deceased grandfather. He looked as if he had just come from church, dressed in casual but neat attire, smelling of cologne and looking generally neat and spiffy. He wasn’t dressed up by any means. Papa never did. But he wore blue cotton pants and a light blue cotton jersey with brown shoes on his feet, and since it was spring and fairly warm, he had on a dark blue spring coat, unzipped.
He looked young and healthy again. He reminded Adam of the way he looked when Adam was a young child. Papa was in his 50s then. Adam barely remembered this version of his grandfather. Indeed, most of his memories of this time period were from family photographs.
“Is your grandmother inside?” Papa asked.
“Nana?” Adam thought. “No. She’s — .”
For a moment, he wondered why his grandfather would ask such a question, but then he remembered, gradually, since he was still stunned at the sight of the man standing on his back porch, that the house he and Sandy and his family now lived in used to be Papa’s and Nana’s house. He and Sandy had bought it and had moved in after — .
“Someone at the door?”
Adam looked over his shoulder and saw his wife walking towards him. He thrust his right hand at her, his palm pressed outwards, like a police officer motioning for an oncoming driver to halt.
“Stop!” he said.
She stopped, but she looked at him with a confused expression, and he knew she was put out by his terse order.
“Stop?” She said. “What’s the matter with you?”
“Don’t come any closer,” Adam said.
This had all happened so suddenly. A man who should have been dead was standing on his back porch looking, not only very much alive, but better than ever. Adam knew that whatever he said or did next wasn’t going to come out right.
“I need some time.”
“Time for what?” Sandy asked. “Is someone at the door or what?”
“Yes. That’s the problem,” he said. He winced when he said it because he still held the door open with his left hand, and he knew his grandfather had heard him refer to him as a problem. Then again, the man on the porch couldn’t be his grandfather. Could it?
“Jehovah’s Witness?” Sandy said.
“At the door.”
“No. Just, stop, please.”
“I’ll come back another time,” Papa said.
“No!” Adam said, looking at his grandfather and shaking his head. “Just stay right there. I’ll be right back to let you in.”
Adam closed the door gently.
Sandy had big, round, beautiful blue eyes, her most striking feature. She was smiling at him, and her eyes seemed to be twinkling. “What is up with you?”
Adam stepped towards his wife and took her hands in his.
“Something really weird is happening,” he said.
“I’ll say. What’s up? Who’s at the door? Jesus?”
Adam laughed. “How close you — never mind. Where are the boys?”
“The boys? They’re upstairs playing. They’re supposed to be getting dressed — what’s this have to do with who’s at the door?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know what to do.”
“You’re shaking,” his wife observed.
He didn’t want his behavior to spook her. He pulled her close and hugged her and rubbed her back affectionately.
“It’s nothing bad,” he said. “It’s just — incredible! I don’t know what else to say. It just happened. Maybe if I had had the chance to talk to him first, I wouldn’t feel so —
“Talk to who?” Sandy interrupted.
Adam stopped rubbing his wife’s back, kissed her on the forehead and pointed towards the closed door.
“Who? Who’s at the door, Adam?”
Adam bit his upper lip, a nervous habit he had possessed since childhood. He took a deep breath and decided to just spit it out. “A man who looks exactly like my grandfather!”
“Yes, my grandfather, Papa.”
“Your dead grandfather?
“Yes, my dead grandfather. That’s why I’m shaking.”
“Well, it’s obviously not him!” she said.
Adam shook his head but then changed it to a nod. “He says he’s Papa.”
Adam gritted his teeth. His wife was a strong woman, not prone to keeping her opinions to herself. He didn’t want a confrontation. “Lying’s a strong word, honey. Maybe you should look for yourself, but I warn you, he’s a dead ringer, pardon the pun.”
“Yes, I’d like to see for myself,” she said. She stepped for the door.
Adam grabbed his wife’s arm.
“I’m serious,” he said. “You’d better prepare yourself. He looks exactly like him.”
“Yeah, yeah, this coming from a man who thinks George Clooney and Billy Bob Thornton look alike.”
Adam shrugged his shoulders. “There’s a resemblance.”
“Yeah, they both have brown hair,” Sandy said. She marched to the back door and opened it.
Adam closed his eyes. He didn’t want to see.
“Jesus Christ!” Sandy shouted.
He opened his eyes and saw his wife with her hands to her face.
“No, it’s just me, Papa,” said the man at the door.
Adam touched the back of his wife’s shoulders, and she moved away from him. She looked as if she were about to hyperventilate.
“Breathe, Sandy,” Adam said.
She nodded, and she started sucking in deep breaths.
“Good job, honey,” he said.
“Your grandfather’s dead! We buried him! We all saw him in his coffin at the wake!” Sandy said. “When you die, morticians remove your blood and pump embalming fluid into your veins! There’s no way anybody comes back after that!”
Without looking, she pointed at the door.
“That man is not your grandfather! Who the hell is that on our porch?”
“It’s okay,” Adam said. “Remain calm. Keep your voice down. I don’t want the kids to see us like this.”
“I really think I should leave. I don’t want to upset you,” said the man on the porch, as he stuck his head through the doorway.
Adam turned towards him. “No, please don’t go. Come in.”
“Come in?” Sandy repeated. She accentuated the two syllables like an irate grade school teacher, and Adam knew he had said something that was going to place him in extremely hot water, yet, what else could he have said? He was not about to let this man who both claimed to be his grandfather and looked just like him walk away. Hell, he didn’t look “like” him, he was him, at least in terms of physical appearance and voice. Who in their right mind would let the man walk?
“You’re letting him come in here?” Sandy said. “Adam, we don’t know who that is!”
“Well, let’s find out,” Adam said. It seemed the reasonable thing to say. He leaned into her ear. “There’s two of us and one of him.” He smiled.
“It’s not funny!” Sandy said.
“I’m not laughing. I’m just trying to calm you down. You’re upset.”
“You’re damn right I’m upset! Aren’t you?”
“Y-yes, but I’d like to find out who — I’d like to hear what he has to say. I think it’ll make us less upset if we do that,” Adam said. He turned to the man in the doorway. “Would you come in and do that? You do have something to say about — you.”
The man nodded. “Yes, but if your wife is too upset, I can come back another time.”
“I don’t think I could get through the rest of this day without some kind of explanation right now,” Adam said. “Please, come inside. Sandy, it’ll be alright.”
Adam wasn’t exactly sure everything would be alright, but he needed to calm his wife down. If she worked herself up into one of her moods, it would be a very long day, and he really did want to hear what his “grandfather” had to say.
“It really is me, you know,” the man who would be Papa said as he tentatively stepped into their home.
As he came into the light of the dining room, his appearance to Adam became even more uncanny. The crew cut, his short wide body, the way he stood, all vintage Papa. The only thing missing was his eyeglasses.
“It’s good to see you, Adam,” he said. “You look good. How old are you now?”
The man smirked. Adam nearly cried right there- how he always loved that smirk!
“You look like a kid,” he said to Adam. He turned to Sandy. “I remember when you two first got engaged. I was so happy. I remember you had a little engagement party. Remember that day? It rained so hard. I remember because it was one of the last times I went out, before I got really sick and — .”
“And died!” Sandy finished.
“Yes,” the man nodded, “and died.”
“And now you’re back to life even though all your blood was removed? Even though you’ve been dead and buried for seven years?” Sandy asked.
“Sort of, but not really,” the man said. “I do have an explanation.”
“I bet you do!” Sandy said.
“Let’s go into the living room,” Adam said calmly. “It’ll be easier for us to talk there.”
Adam tapped his wife gently on the arm. “It’ll be okay.”
“You promised us an explanation. Let’s hear it, please,” Sandy said.
Adam wanted to remind Sandy not to snap or be rude, but he thought better of it. Just keep things calm and easy, don’t agitate an already volatile situation, he told himself. He hoped the comfortable surroundings of their living room would coax a civil mood.
“Certainly,” Papa said. “I don’t expect you to understand at first. It might take a little while for this to sink in, for you to make sense of it and understand it. I didn’t arrive at your doorstep today from my grave. In fact, if you were to go to the cemetery right now, and dig up my grave, you’d find my body in it.”
Adam looked at Sandy. Her usual soft white complexion had truly hardened into a deep tomato red.
“I’m what you call — I really don’t like this word. It’s so cold and inhuman, but there’s no other word for it. I’m a clone,” the man said.
“A clone,” Adam repeated. He was about to ask how that was possible but Sandy didn’t give him the chance.
“I’m sorry, old man, but I don’t think so!” she snapped.
“Oh, no,” Adam thought to himself.
“First of all,” she said, loudly, “it’s impossible for you to be a clone of Adam’s grandfather. You look 60 years old or so to me, and correct me if I’m wrong, but cloning didn’t exist 60 years ago! It doesn’t even exist now, at least where humans are concerned.”
“You’re right,” the man said. “It doesn’t exist now. But it will, in the future.”
That’s it for now.
Remember, Chapter 2 will be coming soon in a future post! And again, you can read the entire book at http://www.neconebooks.com.
Thanks for reading!