Copyright 2016 Mario V. Farina
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
All Rights Reserved
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Mario V. Farina
Email: [email protected]
I don’t know exactly how to begin this tale. In a sense it’s not a story but a recitation of something that actually happened. (At least, I think it happened.)
I’m ninety-three, a widower, and live alone. I was having dinner at a local diner, the Daily Sunrise, in Troy, New York. I ate there virtually every day, and, in a way, it was the only period of recreation that I allowed myself. I was retired and didn’t do a great deal during the day except attend to finances and, at times, write a story. Some days my writings went well, at others, it didn’t, but I did the best I could. I was having sausage and eggs though it was not breakfast time. This was a meal I enjoyed very much, and that I would order frequently without regard to the time of day.
A man approached the booth where I was sitting. I merely glanced at him since I didn’t think he was coming to see me. He was a large person, middle-aged, rough face, very little gray hair, wearing a blue suit and nondescript tie. He looked vaguely familiar. Without any introductory remarks he said to me, “Pardon me, sir, are you having any huckleberries with that meal?” The conversation ended at that instant; also the meal; also my presence at the Daily Sunrise. Instantly, I found myself in Schenectady.
Schenectady, New York was a place that I knew well since I had been born there in 1923. I recognized it at once and noted that the street I was on was State Street in the business area. I was on the south side where Proctor’s Theater was, and is still located. Looking west toward Scotia, I could see the railroad bridge that crossed the street. I didn’t know what time it was but felt it was well within the time when businesses and organizations providing services were open. I think it was sometime in the afternoon.
To say that I was amazed and surprised would be enormously understating the way I felt. What was it that had happened? Was I dreaming or hallucinating? Had I suddenly become insane? Nothing of how I found myself made sense! For several seconds, I stood motionless, allowing my brain to catch up to the event that had just transpired. It was like I had just stubbed my toe and awaited the pain I know would arrive in a second or two.
The autos on the street were old. I guessed that many of them were thirty-sixes and thirty-sevens. It began creeping into my psyche that I had suddenly been cast into a time period that approximated 1937. My mind was unable to adequately process this information. What should I do? Should I seek the aid of the police? Should I go to a hospital and ask to be mentally evaluated? A muddle of questions were overloading my brain with no understandable answers.
I knew where the public library had been in 1937. I decided to go there to see if I could glean anything helpful. Walking west on State Street, I suddenly realized that I was headed in the wrong direction, so made a sudden 180 degree turn. A man walking in the same direction as mine almost ran into me. I recognized him as the man who had come to see me while I was having dinner. He was startled at my sudden turn and immediately spun his attention to a store’s show window. On the inside there were on display several items of women’s lacy underwear.
I was surprised to see this person. How was it possible for someone belonging to 2016 be here in 1937? I should have said something to him but didn’t and kept walking in the direction that would take me to the library. As I walked, I’d glance behind me from time to time to see if I would catch sight of the burly man again. What was his part, if any, in what was happening to me? So many questions there were without answers. If my brain had been a thermometer, the mercury in the little red ball at the top would have burst.
The public library was on Seward Street. It took about ten minutes to get there. I went through the large mahogany door as I had done many times in my childhood. Inside, the place looked exactly the same as I remembered it. This convinced me that I was, indeed, in another age, in another time.
The book checkout counter was on the left of the hallway as it had always been. I glanced toward the shelves and the racks. There were no difference from my recollections. I looked for the children’s section, which was the section that I gravitated to as a child, and went there. I began looking at some of the books. I saw a book that I remembered from my childhood. It was a bright red book entitled Poppy Ott and the Tittering Totem by Leo Edwards. This had been one of my favorites. After a few minutes, I left the section inadvertently carrying the book with me. Then I climbed the stairs to the second level where there were books dealing with general non-fiction topics. I was hoping to see something that would explain the sudden events that had occurred. There was nothing and I decided to discontinue my futile search. I thought it might be time to take a different course of action like visiting Ellis Hospital. If my brain was playing a game with me, I should find out what the rules were!
I was walking toward the exit when a young dark-haired young woman from the checkout desk signaled me that I needed to stop there first. Oh yes, Poppy Ott! I stopped and told her that I wanted to check out the book. She asked for my library card. I told her that I knew I had a card but didn’t have it with me. She said she’d look up my record.
The young woman asked for my name and looked through a card file until she found a card. She said, “I have a card here with the name Roger Gordon, but it says this card was made out to a student two years ago. Are you the person that applied for this card.” I said I was. She asked, “Are you a student, sir?” I told her no but that this was definitely my card!
I knew I had puzzled her greatly when I added that I had made out the card many years ago when I was a student. Her face took on the appearance of a person being asked a question in an unknown language.
“This card was made in 1935,” she said. “It states that it was made out to a student. Forgive me, sir, but you look like as if you haven’t been a student for a long time.” Her own age couldn’t have been more than eighteen, but she spoke with the logic of a judge. “Do you have any identification?”
I pulled my wallet from my back pocket and handed her my driver’s license and a Discover card. She stared at the documents then, with no explanation, went into another room leaving the door open. I could see that she was using the telephone. I knew that she was calling someone about me but I didn’t mind. I knew that if someone came, it might be a person that could help me understand what was happening in my life. She came back and said, “It’ll be a few minutes sir before we can serve you. Do you mind waiting?” I said no.
I stepped back and waited while the young woman attended to other persons. After about ten minutes, a police officer arrived. He was middle-aged and kindly-looking. There was no weapon visible. He spoke to the woman for a few seconds, took my driver’s license and credit card from her, looked at them for a minute, then approached me and said, “I’m Officer Jenkins. Are you Mr. Gordon?” I responded that I was.
He spoke politely, “ You want to check out the book that you have in your hand and want to use a card that does not appear to be your card. The ID items you gave Miss Adams look strange. Can you explain any of this.”
“Officer,” I responded, “the library card was made to me many years ago. Though that was done in 1935, I’ve lived a long time since then. I’m ninety-three and live in the year 2016. Today, about two hours ago, I was brought back to 1937 by some power that I don’t understand. I know this is hard to believe. I don’t believe it myself. I need a lot of help in trying to find out what has happened to me. Can you help me?”
The officer asked, “Do you mind coming to the station where we can talk about this?” I responded that I didn’t. We walked to the officer’s police car parked on the street half a block away. He drove to the police station on Jay Street. Interestingly, he had invited me to sit next to him on the front seat. At the police station, Officer Jenkins spoke to the officer in charge who escorted me to a nearby room. The room was barren except for an old wooden desk and three plain chairs. He told me to sit and wait. Then he left.
This room seemed to be a place where the police interrogated people. A young man, dressed in a business suit came in and told me his name was Detective Nelson. He had the library card and my ID documents with him. He asked me to sign my name on a sheet of paper, which I did. He compared what I had written with the documents he had. “I’m convinced you’re Mr. Roger Gordon,” he said. “Do you believe you are the person on this card and that you are also related to another person who originally used the card?” I said yes I thought so.
Detective Nelson opened a drawer of the desk and pulled out a Schenectady Directory.
“Do you know the address of the person for whom this card was made?” he asked. I said, “Yes, his home is at 1329 Sixth Avenue in Mount Pleasant. He lives there with his parents. He is an only child. You can probably find the father’s listing by the name, Frederick Gordon. I don’t know whether they might be home at this time or not but it might be a good idea to see if they are.” The detective agreed and said that he would send a car to find out if anyone was home. He took me to a plainly-furnished waiting room and asked me to wait until they had further news. While waiting, I browsed through the Poppy Ott book that I had brought with me.
About half an hour later I was escorted back to the interrogation room. There were two people there, one that I recognized as my mother at an age of a long-ago time. There was also a young lad and I felt this must be me as I looked in 1937. Both individuals seemed puzzled. I didn’t know how to deal with the visitors since I believed they would not recognize me. I wanted to exclaim, “Mother,” and rush to her with arms outstretched, but resisted the urge, not wanting to cause any complication to the already befuddling situation. The detective asked my mother if she recognized me. She said no. He asked the boy whether he recognized me and the youngster also said no. Then he asked me if I recognized them. I nodded yes. My mother and the boy seemed not to comprehend.
Detective Nelson asked me, “Tell me more. What’s this about your coming from a time in the future?” I responded, “I believe that I live in another age. I was born in 1923. I don’t know what year it is here but it seems to be 1937. I don’t know how I got here.” He confirmed that it was 1937. I asked what was the date and time were. He told me that it was June 11, and the time was 4:15. The date was consistent with the date during which I had been having dinner such a short time before. The time did not exactly match.
The door opened and the officer in charge walked in escorting a burly person whom I recognized as the one who had accosted me when I was having dinner and then later had nearly bumped into me on State Street. The officer faced me and said, “This man states he is your attorney and wants to help you. Do you know him?” I said that I did recognize him. The husky man announced loudly, “Huckleberries are in season.” Within an eye-blink I found myself back in 2016 having dinner at the same diner that I had left some hours earlier.
I saw a man walking out the door of the diner. Otherwise the scene was exactly the same as it had been when my dinner had been interrupted. The server came to my table and asked if everything was all right. I said yes and asked who it was that I had seen exiting the diner. She said the man was Professor Collins who worked at RPI. She did not know anything more about him than that. She said the professor had been with me for about twenty minutes and that, during that time, I had been completely immobile. She had wondered whether I was all right and was happy to see that everything was OK. I agreed that there was nothing wrong and I finished my sausage and eggs though much of the food had become cold.
The following day I went to RPI and asked to speak to someone who knew Professor Collins. There was nothing wrong, I said. I simply wanted to learn more about him. I added that he might be able to help me with a problem. Someone did assist me and told me that Collins was a professor of Psychology and Philosophy and that he had been doing experiments dealing with intelligence, human behavior, and virtual reality.
I thanked the individual and left determined to speak to Professor Collins. I did reach him the following day and made an appointment to go see him. He said that he would be able to see me at two on the following afternoon.
When we met, the first words Professor Collins spoke to me constituted an apology for having troubled me with an experiment. He thought that my age was such that I would not be aware of what he was doing and he would not need to give me a lengthy explanation, then ask for permission. He had been surprised with the intelligence I had displayed in coping with the sudden events. He hoped I would not make an issue of his actions since they had been intended for the good of humanity. I told him I probably not go forward with anything.
Though I did not remember having met him, he gave me information that I had had an initial contact with him in an evening of entertainment hosted by General Electric a year earlier whereby the professor had presented an experiment in hypnotism. He had claimed he could hypnotize an entire room at the same time. To those hypnotized he had left a post hypnotic suggestion involving the word huckleberries. I remembered the occasion but felt I had not been hypnotized. It came as a disappointment and a source of pique to learn that I had unwittingly surrendered my mind to this man. He had selected me from the audience because of my age. This had been the epitome of effrontery toward me by this man. I felt I should sue for something but didn’t know exactly for what.
Professor Collins stated that when he uttered huckleberries, that word would trigger a post hypnotic suggestion that would immediately put me under his control. Then he would be able to send me back in time using a special adaptation of virtual reality. Apparently the experiment had worked and I had gone back to 1937. Though intended to be virtual, it had felt utterly real. What I had experienced, seemingly over several hours, had all been done within a time frame of only a few minutes. He, himself, had not been with me at any point, he asserted.
Then I remembered the book. I showed Professor Collins the Poppy Ott book. How could I have a material book in my hands though the experiment had been one of virtual reality? The sight of the book bewildered him. He reluctantly admitted that he had no answer. “Give me a moment,” he said, more to himself than to me. He closed his eyes and went silent, trance-like, for several minutes. Finally, opened his eyes and spoke.
“Mr. Gordon,” he said, “I conclude you had that book in your possession all along. You could not have gotten it in 1937. There is no other explanation.”
I was about to controvert his remark when there was a voice from the intercom. “Professor, there is a woman here with a letter and a demand for money.”
“Send her in!”
The door opened and a woman in postal uniform entered. She handed a battered envelope to Professor Collins. “Professor, she said, this envelope was mailed to you in June 1937. On behalf of the Postal Service, we apologize for its condition and the delay in its delivery. There is only a three cent stamp on it. I’ve been instructed to collect ninety-five cents postage due, but I have the authority to personally waive the fee, as a courtesy to you and the school, and I do so.” She left.
Professor Collins examined the envelope and its postmark, then opened the envelope. He pulled out a small plain-looking piece of paper with a bit of handwriting on it. He studied the paper and appeared stunned. He handed it to me. It was a receipt made out to the professor by the Acme Bonding Service. It was a receipt for one hundred dollars, bail money for the release from jail of one Roger Gordon. “Y-you were r-right, Mr. Gordon,” Professor Collins stuttered as he spoke to me. “It wasn’t virtual reality after all. You actually were in 1937 and I was there with you!”
I was having dinner at the Daily Sunrise when I was suddenly cast to State Street in Schenectady, with the date being 1937. Within a few hours I was being interrogated by a librarian, a police officer, and a detective. Everyone seemed as puzzled as I was as to what had happened. Eventually, I discovered that Professor Collins of RPI had been at the bottom of it all. This is a time travel story that will amaze you.