I Expect There Will Be A Reason Soon
by Mark Cole
I stood back and studied it for a moment. It was a Cadillac Fleetwood Custom Limousine from the early seventies, in black with gold plated trim. The upholstery looked like real leather. It lay with most of its grill buried in the sand, its stretched body sprawled out as limp as a rag doll. The frame must have snapped in half-a-dozen places.
And, of course, there was no explanation of what it was doing in the middle of the Gobi desert.
But there would be by the time I got to Ulan Bator. A reasonable one.
I walked around to the far side of the car and sighed. It had landed on my camel. Just as I expected.
I gathered up my gear and loaded it up on my back. I had a long walk ahead of me.
“I got delayed.”
“Should I call someone to carry your bag up to your room?”
I chuckled and shook my head. “If I carried it this far, I’m sure I can make it to the top of the stairs.”
He gave me a curious look and turned back to his paper. He laughed and pointed to an article. “Did you see this one, sir? They had a problem on a jet owned by one of those billionaire Sheiks from Dubai. The cargo ramp opened in mid-flight and his favorite Cadillac rolled right out…”
“Yes, I know.” I told him and started up the stairs. I paused, then asked. “I don’t suppose there are any stories about snake charmers losing their cobras, or runaway lions, or cars getting recalled because their gas pedals stick?…”
“Never mind,” I told him, “It wouldn’t be in there yet.”
On the bus, I stretched out as much as I could in the narrow seat and managed to get a few hours sleep – until the bus hit a deep hole, snapped its axle and skidded straight for the crumbling edge of a cliff. If I hadn’t jumped clear it probably would have gone over.
After that, I decided it would be better to walk for a while.
My destination proved to be a tiny apartment in the snarl of old buildings huddled up around the walls of Hagia Sophia. It didn’t look as if anyone had used it in years. The stairs creaked and moved under my feet: I expected them to collapse under me at any moment. At the top I found a small office that looked as bland and nondescript as any room I’ve ever been in. The man behind the desk looked just as bland. “Congratulations, Marcus,” he said without looking up, “not many of our trainees have made it this far.”
I sat down in the hard wooden chair in front of the desk and crossed my legs. “Does that mean I’m in?”
He nodded and gave me a quick glance before he returned to his papers. “We’ll have your first assignment for you tomorrow.”
“How did you do all that, that’s what I want to know.”
He smiled just a little. “We just gave events a little nudge. Let’s just call it localized time effects. That’s all you’ll have to understand.” He pulled a small, black box out of a drawer and set it cautiously on the desk in front of me.
I picked it up and studied it. “So that’s what the enemy has been using on us. No wonder no one can find them.”
He nodded. “You’ll find it quite simple to operate.”
“Almost self-explanatory.” I fiddled with the knobs. “Tell, me, though, there’s one thing I’m curious about…”
“Oh? What would that be?”
“How do you take a weapon away from an alien race capable of re-arranging time any way they like it?”
Something flashed through his blank brown eyes. Before he could react, I pointed the device towards the ceiling and pressed a button.
It collapsed on him in a shower of plaster. The beams crashed down an instant later. I pointed the device at the wall: it crumbled away and I leapt through. Someone yelled at me. I pressed the button again and a big delivery truck appeared out of nowhere and knocked him down.
Now I had to get the device to New York. I knew they’d be after me the whole way.
I smiled. The black box felt warm in my hands. Somehow, this time I thought the trip would be a little easier…
Mark Cole hates writing bios. Despite many efforts he has never written one he likes, perhaps because there are many other things he’d rather be writing. He writes from Warren, Pennsylvania, where he has managed to avoid writing about himself for magazines, newspapers and the internet. You can still read his story “Reverse Engineering” at Flash Fiction Online as well as his many articles at IROSF.com.
Story © 2010 Mark Cole. All other content copyright © 2010 Abyss & Apex Publishing.
Art Director: Bonnie Brunish