Black Petals Issue #72 Summer, 2015

The Weeping Man

Home
Mars-News, Views and Commentary
Brutal-Fiction by A. M. Stickel, Editor
Chaos in Corollary-Fiction by A. M. Stickel, Editor
In Dreams, There Is No Time-Fiction by George Gad Economou
Nuncapisco-Fiction by A. M. Stickel, Editor
Ocean Life-Fiction by Lael Braday
Onward Traveler-Fiction by Kathleen Wolak
The Beach House-Fiction by Roy Dorman
The Weeping Man-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Poetry & Prose by Alexis Child
Poetry by John Frazee
Poetry by Denny Marshall
Poetry by Jeffrey Park
Poetry by Dr. Mel Waldman

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The Weeping Man

 

 By Kenneth James Crist

 

Out of time

 

Calvin Wallace was an inventor. Over the time he’d been inventing, since he was about ten, he’d come up with thousands of ideas, most of which, when he did some research, had already been thought of by someone else.

But, every once in a while, his fertile imagination would come up with a gem—a can-opener that left no sharp edges, a snap-on device that fit on a pop can and kept that half-can of soda from going flat, a hook-and-loop fastener that took seven times as much force to pull apart as to press together. He even invented a better pleasure device for women—yup, a better vibrator, with a more subtle pulse and longer battery life. Selling the patent rights to these and other devices had made him somewhere between damned comfortable and moderately wealthy.

On a Wednesday in April of 2015, he made the ultimate breakthrough he’d been seeking for thirteen years. He perfected the first time displacement device. It was not the stuff of science fiction (a booth controlled by six computers and super-cooled with liquid nitrogen, or anything like that); modern-day micro circuits had enabled him to build the whole thing into the case from a garage door opener. There were two small metal pips on the outside that had to be in contact with one’s skin, and then, with the push of a button, you were off on a great adventure.

At least, that was the theory. And the math equations bore out his idea, in fact showing that it wasn’t just possible to displace oneself in time, but that whenever he got up enough nerve, it would be mandatory that he would bump out of his present time. He knew he could not travel into the future. Everything pointed to a dead end in that direction—in short, you couldn’t go forward to where something hadn’t happened yet. But you could go back. And that was what Cal Wallace was determined to do.

At 9:41 on the morning of April 22nd, he fed his cat Molly, told her goodbye as she consumed her gluey feast, and sat down in a chair at his kitchen table. He pressed the two metal bumps on the device to the skin on his wrist and pressed the button. His ears popped and the cat disappeared. And suddenly, there was the most profound silence he’d ever heard.

He carefully got up and walked around the house, noting in his scientific-inventor way that the clocks had all stopped, that the motor on the refrigerator was not running and neither was the air conditioner. He went to the front door and stepped outside into the suburban street and saw everything he’d always seen before, with one basic difference: nothing moved. There was no traffic visible, even though he could hear the sounds of traffic. There were no pedestrians, but from the freeway, less than a mile distant, he could hear the usual morning traffic roar. Overhead, no planes cut through the sky, even though his house was near the flight path for Teterboro Airport. There were also no birds, flying, sitting, or shitting on his car, although he could faintly hear birds.

“Well, fuck me!” he said, and slowly sat down on the glider to think this over.

He was still sitting and thinking about what might have gone wrong, when he heard at last the roar of an outbound airliner, and jumped up and ran out onto the front lawn to observe it. But, even though the sky was clear, he could see no aircraft. And somehow the fading roar of its engines sounded subtly wrong. It didn’t sound sharp enough, for one thing. The sound had sort of an echoing quality, as if it came from down in a well, rather than from the sky.

“Okay,” he said aloud, “time to go figure this shit out.” He soon found that the garage door opener wouldn’t run, so he pulled the escape lanyard and raised the door manually. He got in his Prius and hit the key. Nothing. The car showed no power at all. He tinkered with it for a while, then gave up and got out his bicycle. He put on his helmet and gloves and the clip he used to keep his pants out of the chain and pedaled off toward the city.

As soon as he hit one of the main streets, things started to get stranger. He could hear cars passing by, but they were not there. He could even feel some air movement after they passed him, but not the solid whoosh he would expect with most drivers, who never seemed to move over far enough for bicyclists.

He heard dogs barking, again faintly and fading away, and he heard echoes of sirens and horns bouncing off buildings. When he got to his favorite breakfast stop, things got freakier.

He parked his bike in the rack in front of the Little Red Hen and locked it up, as always. He walked inside to the smell of bacon and coffee and observed that the place was completely empty of people, yet there were some residual sounds. He could hear the clatter of silverware and, once in a while, a snippet of laughter.

There were plates of food on tables and at the counter, and, as he watched carefully, he could see food disappearing and the liquid levels in water and juice glasses getting lower and lower. Over here, a plate suddenly appeared on the pass-through from the grill. Over there a coffee cup suddenly was full that had, a moment before, been empty.

Now he found himself in an experimental mood. He stepped carefully behind the counter and waited until a plate appeared with an omelet and toast. He grabbed it and quickly walked over to an empty table, grabbed some silverware and began to eat. He was almost finished when the plate abruptly disappeared. Evidently the kid who bussed tables had snatched it away.

Cal realized he had just stolen breakfast and that it would do no good to leave money behind. He was slowly figuring out that he had not travelled in time for much distance at all. In fact, he was mere seconds behind the reality he had always known. Everything in the world that was in stasis, such as buildings, trees, and the very Earth itself remained, while everything that lived and moved was just a few seconds ahead of him, out of phase, so to speak.

His was now a world unpopulated, a world where he could do whatever he wanted, take whatever he wished, act as crazy as a loon and no one would ever know.

He briefly thought about stealing someone’s keys and taking their car, but then he remembered that his own car wouldn’t run, so he decided the bicycle was probably better. In a few minutes, he was headed downtown and over toward the harbor. The streets were empty of traffic, even though he could feel the air from passing cars. It made no difference if he rode in the middle of the street. He was invulnerable because everything in the real world was just a second or so ahead and nothing ever hit him.

At the waterfront he had a couple of freaky moments. He could faintly hear seagulls and he saw the wake of a ferryboat crossing the harbor, but not the boat itself. He could smell diesel exhaust and the lingering odors of fish and he knew there was activity all around, but he could not be a part of the hustle and bustle of the seaport. He was as isolated as if he were in solitary confinement.

His mood began to darken and he started for home. In another block, the street was suddenly wet and he could smell rain, but none fell on or around him. It had already rained wherever he went.

Arriving back home, he mooned around the house for a while, mulling over his problem. He thought about Molly and realized that until this problem resolved itself, he would never be able to feed her. She would starve unless he just opened the house and allowed her to go about the neighborhood, getting food wherever she could find it. Once this problem became apparent, he propped open both the front and back doors so she could come in and out at will.

Then, he thought about it and realized propping open the doors would do her no good. She would always be that second or so ahead of the opened door. For her the doors would always be closed. He remembered the broken basement window he’d never gotten around to fixing. Cats were pretty damn smart. She’d probably find her way out when she got hungry enough.

He found his time displacement device sitting where he’d left it on the kitchen table and he decided it was time to try and reverse the effect. He was considering the experiment a failure now and knew it was time to go back.

He had built the device simply enough; all he had to do was flip a toggle switch the other way and press the device to his wrist again and push the button. When he did this, of course, it did not work. Just as he had determined he would never be able to travel into a future that did not exist yet, he found he could not travel ahead, even just a second or so to get back in phase with the real world.

He sat down on the porch again, stared out at his now-empty world, and said quietly to himself, “Well, Cal, now you are well and truly hosed.”

 

“Well, old buddy, ya better get yer lazy ass up and face another day.” In the last seven months, Calvin had taken more and more to talking to himself…and answering. In fact, he was pretty good at doing voices and had created a whole set of people and surrounded himself with company. Trouble was, they were all just him. But, at any rate, he didn’t need to worry about people calling him crazy. He was utterly alone.

“Yeah, I know. That goddamn yard needs to be cut, and using a push mower really sucks. But I’m in better shape than I’ve ever been.”

His routine now included biking to the grocery store and helping himself to whatever he needed. The milk was always fresh, as was the meat and produce. For the first couple of weeks, he’d kept scrupulous track of every penny he owed the stores. His checks were still coming in the mail, but of course there was no way to cash them. Finally one day, he caught sight of himself in the store windows at the empty mall and realized he had turned into the equivalent of a street bum. He looked like shit, and it wasn’t likely to get better. After that, he decided the hell with it.

Eventually, he got tired of sitting around home day after day and packed the panniers of his bike and loaded a backpack. He didn’t bother to lock the house. The cat had not died—at least, not in the house. He knew this because if she had died, her remains would have showed up.

For the next eleven months, Calvin travelled. He never saw anyone else. He was never rained on, though he rode on rain-wet streets. Sometimes he even heard rumbles of thunder, but never saw a lightning bolt. The highways, teeming with high-speed traffic, were empty to him, so he rode right down the middle of the road. God-damn right.

He was beginning to blame God, or Fate, or Karma for his predicament, totally ignoring the fact the he and he alone had put himself here by dicking around with time displacement. Somehow, it just didn’t seem fair that he should suffer just because he had bumped himself back a few seconds.

At the end of two years, he found himself back home. The place had definitely gone to shit and the squatters and druggies had been there. It was pretty well trashed and he could do nothing about it. They could be living in his house just a second or so ahead of him and he had no way of knowing.

The time displacement device, which he had left on the table, was still right where he’d left it. It was half buried under piles of old mail and drug paraphernalia.

He walked out of the house and headed back downtown. This time he walked. He would not be back, not in this lifetime.

 

Scientists and astronomers tell us that the Earth slows in its rotation about one second every eighteen months. Eventually “leap seconds” become “leap minutes” and, when enough time has gone by, we get a calendar adjustment. It takes many, many years.

 

On a lazy afternoon, thirty-seven months after Calvin Wallace had apparently disappeared off the face of the Earth, Officers Ron Espinoza and his partner Davey Carter were parked in their black-and-white near Hickory and 27th Parkway, watching a couple gang bangers on the opposite corner. The kids were well aware of the officers and they wouldn’t be doing anything until “five-oh” decided to leave or got a call.

From the incessant chatter on the radio, Ron and Davey heard: “Units in the four-one-three and any supervisor, report of a man sitting on a park bench at twenty-fourth and Cleveland. Caller was hysterical. Stated he appeared out of nowhere. I still have her on the line and she says she’ll stand by for officers.”

Davey picked up the mike and acknowledged the call as Ron swung the car into traffic.

“Units in the four-one-three, caller now states the man is screaming and weeping uncontrollably. Possible mental case…approach with caution. I’m rolling EMS to your call…any supervisor, go ahead…”

 

Miles away, Molly the cat stretched and yawned, then settled herself into the corner of her new owner’s sofa. She had no memory of Calvin Wallace and the tough times after he went away. She had love and food and security. Her world was on time and complete.

End

 

 

Kenneth James Crist, blkptls@cox.net, www.blackpetals.net, of Wichita, Kansas, wrote “The Weeping Man” for BP #72  (+ “Pebbles” for BP #71, “The Diner” for BP #67, “New Glasses” for BP #61, “Ones and Zeros” for BP #50, the novelette Joshua) and has edited BP for many years, continuing as Editor Emeritus, then Coeditor/Webmaster. Widely published, esp. in Hardboiled and on Yellow Mama, he also has four chapbooks currently for sale in Kindle format on Amazon.com: Dreaming of Mirages, The Gazing Ball, Joshua and Groaning for Burial, his latest zombie fiction.

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