For My Friend Eric R.
Note to the reader: This story is technically a sequel to The Neighbor Lady, but since it was written to be stand-alone, reading the original story is not truly necessary. It explains in detail the original story's abrupt ending though, which many reader's found dissatisfying.
This story also continues the original's focus on male sexuality, and is my first real foray into gay sex, although I don't know if what Todd experiences below could rightly be called "gay." Maybe more along the lines of auto-erotica? It also has a heavy sci-fi leaning, though a strictly amateurish one.
Sunday, May 6th, 2001
It was Sunday night, and Todd was returning home from a visit to his parents. Sitting at a red light, he rolled his eyes, sighed and laughed softly. He tapped his forefingers on the steering wheel in time to Thick as a Brick by Jethro Tull. It was his favorite 70's band, or one of them, along with Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. He especially loved Deep Purple during their years with Ritchie Blackmore. After that, they sucked. But not like bands sucked nowadays though, no siree. Excepting U2, and possibly R.E.M., modern bands sucked the big stick. The light changed and Todd eased out the clutch and drove through the intersection.
Mom and Dad, he thought, sighing again. He was 25 years old and still they treated him like a schoolboy. Always critical, of his job, his future prospects, his sometimes girlfriend Kate--who was on the outs with him again, he'd confessed tonight--his lack of direction, lack of motivation, lack of personal respect-so what if his hair reached over his collar?-he was 25, for Christ's sake, not 45. And don't let them get started on his lack of respect for his belongings-they just loved to harangue him on that subject. Of course, there was not much he could do to argue that point ... the 1995 Toyota Corolla had gone the way of the Oldsmobile, and the Honda Civic before that: death by inattention. With a pang of guilt he dropped his eyes to the dashboard. He was way past due for an oil change now. When had he last checked the oil, even? A month ago ... six weeks? He very nearly pulled into the BP station on the corner ahead.
Home, he backed the Kia into a space opposite his building and 10 spaces down from the entrance. He automatically checked his own apartment windows on the 3rd floor, eyed the balcony-the plants needed watering-and then swept the remainder of the windows for possibly naked neighbors. As usual, his inspection was met with disappointment. Just his luck to move into a building full of Puritans. Getting out, he hunched against the light drizzle, keyed the doors locked and hurried toward the entrance.
Check your mail, he thought. He'd forgotten yesterday and was expecting the new Penthouse, which he only read for the articles. He wondered how magazines stayed in business in the age of the Internet. He'd filled out the subscription card one evening when he'd been half drunk and stupidly horny, and had dropped it in the mail the next day when he should have known better. Three years now, they'd arrived like clockwork in his mailbox every month around the 5th, anticipating each issue with something of a nervous giddiness. For startling clarity and color crispness, phosphoresce could never replace glossy paper.
Along with the magazine, there was a package in the box. Todd gazed at it curiously and checked each face for a return address; there was none. His name and address were written in carefully inked block letters which, though he didn't recognize the hand, he sensed that he should. Puzzled, he tucked both the magazine and the box under his arm and climbed the three flights to his 3rd floor landing. There he felt the familiar sensation of being watched. He always felt watched on the landing. If not by that creepo Sullivan, than by that old busybody, Mrs. Norge. That's right, like Norge the washer and dryer Norge. As always, he considered raising a welcoming finger to the spy, but settled for a mental one instead.
Sullivan was something else. Not gay-he wouldn't insult the gay community with the inclusion of Larry Sullivan-but something along the lines of a child molester/animal torturer. Every time in his presence, Todd felt slimy afterward, as though Sullivan exuded an invisible field that enveloped--or more accurately, captured Todd. He imagined Sullivan in a dark, stonewalled room somewhere, sharpening various instruments, gazing fondly at the pairs of moldy, rusting manacles dangling from the walls. The man just gave Todd the unadorned creeps. And--illogically and crazily--he fantasized about Sullivan in the deepest, darkest night. Usually when he had a dildo or a vibrator up his ass.
Todd locked the door behind him and set the chain. It indicated there were plans for the night, plans that didn't include TV and a comfortable lounge on the sofa. More likely cold bottles of beer, a bottle of KY lubricant, and one or both of his toys. Most likely including both, because Todd was seriously horny.
It wasn't always like this. Until recently, Todd was abhorrent to anything indicative or even suggesting homosexuality. He'd as likely guzzle a jug of Liquid Plummer then put something phallic up his ass. The concept disgusted him violently. As did any consideration of an overtly homosexual act, such as fellatio or anal sex. One queer in the family was enough. And then, just over a year ago, Dale his twin brother had forced a confrontation.
"Jesus Christ, Todd! The world is full of gay people. Have you looked around you lately? Gay marriage is just around the corner and you're still looking at us like a redneck out of the 50's."
This was a Sunday evening, one not unlike tonight, and Dale just showed up at his door. As usual when Todd saw Dale, a shiver of revulsion ran down his spine. The guy did everything Todd found loathsome. Had, since he was 15 years old and had come out. Todd wondered how many cocks bore a familiarity with his mouth, and how many his ass. Sometimes Todd just wanted to smack him to the ground.
"Nobody thinks you're gay just because I'm gay, Todd."
Todd didn't believe that for a second. He'd seen the educated nods and the whispers spoken behind cupped hands, the curiously distrustful glances, the cocked eyebrows. Todd knew all about being fraternal twins with a faggot. His fists knew about it too. They'd set the record straight on a number of occasions in high school.
"Why are you here, Dale?"
Dale cut his eyes away and compressed his lips into a thin, straight line. He looked anxious, almost guilt-ridden, Todd thought. Rather than pique his curiosity, this only angered him more. And then his brother said something that made no sense at all.
"That's what I asked when the guy suggested I see you."
"What guy?" Todd asked irritably.
"You don't know him," Dale muttered. A lie, based upon the accompanying painful wince. Now Todd was curious, as well as irritated.
"And this guy just suggested you come over here and discuss my unfortunate attitude toward gays?"
Dale winced again, and still would not meet Todd's gaze. Todd cocked his head, wondering.
"He didn't, did he?"
Dale looked unhappily through the front window at the parking lot. Todd considered-felt almost compelled, to order him out, but this unwanted curiosity bested his loathing.
"I can't really tell you what he said," Dale muttered.
Hunching his shoulders, Dale shrugged. "Because the conversation was, let's just say, awkward."
"Awkward," Todd repeated, growing angry again. "I'll make you awkward, Dale. Just spit it out!"
Dale grimaced, and for once, and totally out of character, Todd felt a stab of guilt. Why, he wondered, was it so awful that Dale was gay? Dale was certainly right about his out-of-stepness with the times; the only ones bent on gay's destruction these days were rednecks-which he decidedly was not-and staunch Republicans, an allegiance with which Todd grew increasingly uncomfortable. Maybe Dale's orientation was not voluntary at all, but the result of random genetic chance. Perhaps, during some crucial development stage in their mother's womb, Todd's genetic switches got thrown one way, while Dale's were aligned to a different setting. The idea always reminded Todd of those tiny white dipswitches on the backs of old modems.
Glum, Dale explained that a man had shown up on his own doorstep a few weeks back and had provided Dale with information that was, to say the very least, impossible. The stranger was at once creepily familiar and patently foreign. Seen even through the peephole in the front door, he'd bristled the short hairs on the back of Dale's neck and raised gooseflesh on his arms. It was like being in the presence of a serial killer; identification arrived at through some previously unknown sixth sense. And when the stranger had addressed him through the front door, Dale shuddered convulsively.
Todd now felt anxious: "What did he want? What did he tell you?"
Dale shrugged. "Nothing at first. He just handed me an index card filled out with dates and numbers. I refused to take it from him-I wasn't touching anything that guy had touched--but he stuck it into my shirt pocket and told me he'd be back in a week to talk. He told me to watch the upcoming Philly's games, said I would understand after a day or two." He put a hand to his forehead and laughed shakily. "He was right. I fucking understood only too well."
Todd, for the first time in years, maybe within recent memory, reached out and touched his brother, gripping him lightly on the left arm. "What the hell happened, Dale?"
His brother trembled lightly. "I threw the fucking card away, that's what happened. I took it from my pocket by the very edges, walked it over to the trashcan next to the desk and dropped it in. Then I went back and locked the front door and dead-bolted it and set the damned chain. I was shaking and nauseous feeling, Todd, and I didn't even know why. He just scared me the living shit out of me." The tremble became a head to toe, body-shaking tremor that made Todd grip his bicep harder.
"Did the guy come back?"
Dale shook his head in relief. "Thank God, no. I never saw him again. And good fucking riddance too!"
"But if... ?"
"It was the card," Dale said tremulously.
"But you said-"
"I know what I said. But a day or two later I started burning with curiosity. Not about the writing or what it meant, but why I was so damned afraid of the guy, and consequently the card." He went silent a moment, recovering his composure. "My reaction to the guy was all out of kilter with the circumstances." He laughed mirthlessly. "I actually put on PVC exam gloves, can you imagine that? I laid the card face-up on the desk on a bare section so it could be cleaned afterward. He'd inked six lines on the card, all in neat block letters; six dates: two of which had already passed, and the remaining four that day, then Saturday and Sunday, and then Monday following. I went online and checked the Philly's schedule and the dates lined up. The last of a four-game series was against the Braves that night, and then four against the Cubs after a two day break." He shuddered again silently.
Todd didn't know why, but a day four years ago shoved violently into his mind. A man had dashed directly in front of his car, almost wrecking he and Kenny and Kevin Rowe, sending his Olds Cutlass spinning in circles down the wet tarmac. Over in just an instant, the car settled undamaged near the right shoulder and a dazed Todd looked back and spotted the man a hundred feet back, standing on the gravel shoulder, observing them calmly. He'd shuddered as an icy fingertip of fear slipped menacingly down his spine. A moment later the stranger was gone, vanished into thin air apparently, at least that's what Todd had explained to Kenny and Kevin. What made him think of that now, all these years later, he couldn't guess.
"Don't tell me," Todd said warily, though with nary a trace of skepticism. "The numbers alongside the dates were scores."
Dale nodded stiffly. Todd guessed as much. What he didn't understand was Dale's presence at his house. Dale blushed unexpectedly when asked.
"It, uh, had to do with what he wrote at the bottom of the card."
Todd frowned. He didn't like being half-informed. "Go on."
"It said, 'Settle up with your brother before it's too late.'"
Todd frowned even deeper. "What's that mean?" he demanded, though he very well knew what that meant. And so a year later, with no explanation other than the one implied, he and Dale were on a friendly footing for the first time since their 15th birthdays. Gays were still perverts, he thought, but acceptance of his brother had loosened, if not untied, the rigid bindings on his own behavior. Six months ago he'd ordered a tapered plastic vibrator, one of the "safe", "non-phallic kind", and after a month of careful and sometimes-unnerving experimentation, had ordered his first dildo. He now owned three, of various diameters and lengths, and two vibrators. His brother would be proud.
Todd dropped the Penthouse on the dining room table and tapped the cardboard box against his thigh. He'd often wondered what exactly had driven Dale to his door that night. They barely spoke, even on the holidays, and Dale had seemed just as content in his disgust as Todd was in his. But Dale was almost desperate that night, as though some great consequence hung in the balance, one that he or Todd would suffer for if Dale's effort were unsuccessful. The sad thing was, that, after breaking through Todd's barricade of anger and humiliation, the two gradually drifted back to their pre-confrontational distance ... though minus the animosity. Todd snorted, guessing he and his brother were such a disappointment to his mother.
Ho looked at the box. Had he order something lately? A new play toy? He didn't remember, but that wasn't necessarily proof. He'd suffered blackouts before and the box was the wrong shape-wide and narrow, barely 6" long--to be anything phallic. Whatever it contained felt mechanical in nature, intuiting this, he guessed, subconsciously. The box gave away nothing, tactilely.
Curious, he pried up one end and shook the contents onto his palm. It was a foam-wrapped electronic device of some kind. Not a cell phone; it was far too flat and thin for that, and completely the wrong shape. Unwrapped, it was 3" x 6" x 1/4" thick, the face an unbroken pane of glass, the background completely black, fit neatly inside a white plastic case. On the back he was surprised to discover the familiar Apple insignia.
IPhone: What the hell is an iPhone, he wondered. Knotting his brow, he stares at the date 2018 near the right hand corner. Is this a joke? He flipped the unit back over and he touched the glass screen in the middle and blinked when it flickered a phosphorescent green under his fingertip. He yanked his finger back, and eyed the screen suspiciously. This was not good. What the hell was this thing, anyway?
"Do you turn on? Am I supposed to do something with you?" he muttered uncomfortably. The device remained motionless in his hand.
He touched the screen again, this time keeping his finger atop the green glow. When he moved it, the glow followed. It's touch-sensitive, he thought distractedly. How do I turn it on? Do I want to turn it on?
Remembering suddenly, Todd grabbed the foam wrapper and, finding nothing inside, picked up the box and looked inside. Aha! he thought, shaking out a square piece of paper. In the same carefully scripted block letters were the words: "Speak this aloud: Siri, turn me on please."
He frowned irritably. Siri, turn me on please? No wait, there was no me in the instruction; it said...
"Siri, turn on please."
To his utter astonishment the device came to life, showing a miniature desktop with colorful square icons. It was a computer, he thought, a tiny, handheld computer in a quarter-inch thick box. He stared open-mouthed, and then blinked when the phone chimed softly and announced: "Hello, Todd. Did you wish to call someone?"
The voice was almost perfectly human in both texture and cadence; light years ahead of any computer generated voice he'd ever heard. It sounded slightly accented, remotely Indian or Pakistani, he thought. And it knew his name.
"Who are you?" he asked.
"I am your iPhone. My name is Siri. I am your digital assistant."
"How do you know my name?" he demanded, a thrill of something like fear pinging his spine.
"I was programmed with your name, and to recognized your voice. My programming excludes operation by anyone other than you, Todd."
Todd felt his heart beating way too fast. Slow down, he thought anxiously. He asked: "There's a date on the back of your case. 2018. That's not real, right? It's not a date."
"I am unaware to what the date refers, Todd. I could go online and research the information for you, if you'd like."
Todd thought about it. "You can access the Internet right now?"
Siri confirmed: "It would be through your wireless connection, but yes, I have access. Would you like me to research the date?"
Todd hurriedly answered, "No. Not right now. I want to think about this a minute." The less further weirding he got, the better. "Can you tell me who put you in my mailbox and why?"
"I'm sorry, Todd. I have no information on that matter. I have been programmed to initiate a program, however."
"A program? What program?" he asked nervously.
"It has no name. It's simply a set of instructions. Please hold me up and scan the room in a 360 degree pan."
Todd did no such thing. He simply stared at the device with his mouth open.
"There is no danger, Todd. It is simply to determine the bounds of the room and establish coordinates."
Todd still didn't move his hand.
"Failing compliance with my first instruction, Alternate One is to activate the echo-locator." The device emitted a two or three-second series of staccato beeps, then beeped once loudly.
"Position established. Activating auto-transfer in three-two-one-"
"Siri? What are you doing?" His voice was high pitched and cracking. An instant later the room folded on itself, the walls becoming, on the one hand, a milky white color, while at the same time reversing somehow, leaving him somehow outside the room, while everything else in the world was inside. The ceiling and floor became top and bottom of the universe. Then the room was just the room again, with the one exception of a man leaning idly against the corner of the dining room/living room wall.
"Who the hell are you?" Todd croaked.
The man just laughed. Why did he look so familiar?
Ignoring the stranger for the moment-he was so damned familiar--Todd closely examined the room, and then the phone in his hand. The stranger nodded, indicating the phone.
"Be careful of that thing. It's your way home."
Todd jumped at the sound of the voice. It too was familiar, though maddeningly alien at the same time. He'd heard it before, he just didn't know where.
"How'd you get in here? How'd you get in here," he repeated, stressing the word how. He'd not been there before the strange bout of vertigo, and the front door was locked up tight as Fort Knox. The balcony doors were possible, he guessed, or had he been here all the time?
"It's a hard concept to accept," the stranger said. "It takes a while to settle in, and even then, it's easier believing in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny than this shit."
Todd said nothing. Fight or flight impulses warred in his head. The stranger was spouting drivel, nonsense, stuff he should be worried about. Prudence demanded a strategic withdrawal and a call to the police. Preferably from his car. And not on this freaking iPhone.
"I think it's the mirror-image effect that throws you," the stranger said. "If I was Dale, recognition would be instant. But I'm opposite of what you expect to see and that scrambles your perception. Not to mention your mind's absolute refusal to accept the obvious: I can't be here, so I defy recognition. For a while, at least," he said, shrugging. "If you'd trust me--" The stranger raised his bafflingly familiar eyebrows. "I can clear this up for you in a second."
"Clear what up?"
Events were flooding over the edge, water down the face of a damn. Pretty soon the concrete would start disintegrating and huge chunks would explode outward behind the mounting pressure
The stranger said, "I've discovered things are different than we had thought. I'm wearing different clothes; I didn't just walk over and grab your hand; you're not as confused looking as I was. As I felt, anyway. I guess I'm not as diffident as I was last night, either." He snorted. "I guess the future isn't as immutable as we thought."
This was too much. Dropping the iPhone on the end table, Todd advanced on the stranger with frustration-fueled anger. Surprised, his quarry backed hurriedly into the dining room, hands upraised in a Whoa, take it easy gesture. Todd was having none of it.
"Please, Todd," the stranger pleaded. "Hitting me won't get us anywhere."
"Get the fuck outta my apartment," Todd growled. His fists, deprived of punishment for way too long, raised threateningly, the right fist drawing back expectantly.
"I won't fight back," the stranger said. "It'll be one-sided."
Todd backed him against the dining room table. He planted a hand in the stranger's chest, keeping him there. Rather than afraid, the stranger looked perplexed, confounded, almost distressed. A voice in Todd's mind hollered--no, bellowed--for attention. Todd ignored it momentarily. And then faltered.
This couldn't be right, he thought. Troubled, becoming alarmed, Todd examined the stranger's face in minute detail: the eyes, his nose, the light sprinkling of freckles across his nose and cheeks, the part in his hair, the slightly protruding ears, the small mole on the left lobe. Compulsively, he reached up and grasped his own left lobe between his fingertips and felt a corresponding mole with his forefinger.
Relieved, the stranger began to smile. And then tentatively, as Todd's resolve dissolved into confusion and bewilderment, he removed the hand from his chest, clasped it in his hand, and led a supremely confused Todd into the bedroom.
Todd said: "I would have thought this is impossible."
His bed partner pushed into a sitting position against the headboard, raised his right knee and scratched it idly. Todd felt a mirroring itch on his right kneecap and but pointedly ignored it. This was too weird to begin with.
"Remember that movie, Time Crimes?"
Todd did, but didn't follow the correlation. His partner, whom he had already started thinking of as Monday, continued.
"The guy did everything possible to duplicate the events he'd seen in his earlier configurations, remember?" He snorted derisively. "It was so cool at the time. Everything had to be just right." He laughed. "Remember him twisting around with his fingers surrounding his eyes so many time? How many times did he do that; four?" Todd nodded uncertainly. "Anyway, between last night and tonight, I did a lot of thinking on the subject and decided it was completely impossible that every action would repeat. How could it? I'm supposed to remember every last detail? Theoretically, just moving my little finger the wrong way would start an avalanche of changes. The only explanation was the future isn't immutable at all, but highly elastic."
Todd vaguely remembered Monday muttering something along those lines earlier. Of course, earlier was pretty much a nonsensical mishmash now. He still could not wrap his head around this shit. Monday continued.
"I'm no physicist, so this could just be so much shit blowing out my asshole. I think-" He scratched his right knee more energetically. "Fucking things been itching all night."
Todd noticed his own right knee had a developing raw spot and realized with some embarrassment that it was a rug burn, or in this case, a burn from the comforter on his bed. He was glad Monday couldn't see his face redden in the semi-darkness.
"So I decided to wing it and see what happened tonight." He glanced over at Todd, now rubbing his own right knee. "It almost didn't work out. I'm glad it did though," he said, laughing softly and patting Todd on the thigh. "You almost punched me out. That would have been interesting."
Todd understood the irony in Monday's voice. He postulated a theory of his own: "I think--and of course, I could be just as wrong as you are about this..." He looked up and laughed at Monday's wry expression. "Maybe it's only flexible to a point. It can absorb all the small changes we make, like a sponge soaking up water, but eventually its limit is reached and that's it. No more capacity, no more changes. Or it rolls with the punches, something like that. Either way..." He pushed up to lean against the headboard alongside Monday. "Either way, we stay within the overall framework and details take care of themselves."
Monday nodded thoughtfully. "You have a wonderful mind, Todd."
Todd laughed. "As do you."
"Inherited it from genius, I assure you."
"You are so flattering," Todd rejoined. Lit by the dim illumination sneaking in from the parking lot, Monday's flaccid cock lay shriveled up like a worm, as did his own. How utterly mind blowing the last two-and a half hours had been.
"What about you, last night?" he asked curiously.
Monday scratched his knee again. He looked over, as though expecting a reprimand, to be ordered to stop. But Todd was a bit short on confidence for that.
"Pretty much the same thing you did tonight," Monday confessed. "I was a bit more confused than you were though."
"The guy-you're Monday-just grabbed you by the hand and dragged you in here?"
Monday nodded. "Not a word. I was too shocked to resist. I did recognize him faster than you did me, though. I don't know why," he added when Todd furrowed his brow questioningly. "Things are bizarrely variable here. I guess it couldn't be otherwise, or so much for free will and self-determination, huh?"
Todd rubbed his chin, also a little bit raw, as was his right cheek, right shoulder, and definitely, his poor asshole. "So, what from here? Will you do it again tomorrow?"
Monday shrugged. "Don't know yet. Not sure I want to perpetuate this, you know? Could turn into something unmanageable. I'll tell you the same thing he told me though: No kibitzing. When Sunday shows up tomorrow night, no discussing the past 24 hours with him. I'm pretty sure that is one of the immutable rules. And it applies to any future occurrences too, not that I'm sure any more will happen. You'll have to decide that yourself, just like me." He considered a moment. "Thinking about the future starts to bend my mind a little bit, you know?"
"A little bit?" Todd asked mockingly. "Is it even possible, though? Is Siri capable of a second jump?"
Monday shook his head and touched a forefinger to his lips. "No questions, dude. Find out for yourself. I will tell you one thing though, because Monday told me this: After Siri takes you back, you'll ask the logical question and the answer is both yes and no. Siri is capable of it, and you don't want to do it under any circumstances, Todd. None at all."
Todd frowned. "What?"
"You'll figure it out. You probably already have. Just remember; the answer is don't do it."
"You're talking about going backwards in time," Todd stated.
"What happens if you do?"
Todd sighed in exasperation. "This is ridiculously frustrating, you know that?"
"Welcome to the world of time-travel, Todd."
Two hours later, Todd lay alone in bed, staring sightlessly up at the ceiling. He was no closer to wrapping his head around this thing than he'd been two hours ago. He wondered--with a sudden rush of loneliness--what Monday was doing right now. He was alone also, Todd guessed. Or would be, in a little over 25 hours.
Todd looked at the clock: 11:16 PM. He'd left Monday's apartment at 12:15 AM, returning to his own apartment moments after he left. As Monday had warned, his first question of Siri concerned retrograde time-travel.
"It's not recommended," Siri advised.
"I know that," he replied. "I'm asking if you know why."
"Sorry, I do not. I recommend that you turn me off or attach me to a power supply very soon. My battery is down to 10% now and you have less than 2 hours of power remaining."
"I don't have a charger," Todd said in confusion.
"I would recommend that you purchase one right away online, or from the appropriate electronics store."
Todd said in aggravation: "You haven't been invented yet, Siri. How am I supposed to find a charger for something that doesn't exist yet?"
Siri replied in her unruffled voice: "That is an issue, Todd. I was unaware of my uniqueness."
Todd grumbled and returned to his original question. "You can travel backward in time, correct?"
"That is correct. I returned you from Tuesday, May 8th 2001, to your departure time plus 2 seconds."
Todd didn't bother with the 2 seconds issue; there was a reason for it he was sure, and he was also sure he wouldn't understand it.
"Why does bringing me back not create a problem? I'm traveling backward then, too."
"That is correct, but you are not transgressing the current origin point."
"The origin point being the instant when you moved me forward?"
Now he understood the 2-second rule. It kept him from violating some temporal canon. Who's canon, he wondered. It finally occurred to him that he had the answer for Dale's baseball scores conundrum. Boy, did he ever.
"Siri, could transgressing the point of departure, actually going into the past, cause some kind of ... um, mental or physical issue for the traveler?" He remember how put off Dale was by his visitor, how revolted, not even wanting to touch an index card he'd handled.
"I have no information one way or the other, Todd. I was only programmed with the knowledge that it was bad."
"But you possess the ability to travel retrograde, however far back you want to go."
"In theory, yes, although I'm limited by battery considerations. My programming prohibits me from traveling any farther in one direction, than would exceed my ability to return to the starting point, including a safety margin of 10%."
Todd considered this thoughtfully. "Give me a guess. Based on a fully charged battery, how far in either direction could you go?"
Siri answered without hesitation: "Approximately 406 years, 3 months and 17 days ... or 148,292 days to be exact."
Todd felt gut punched. "406 years?" he croaked. He backed up, needing to sit down, and almost missed the edge of the sofa.
That certainly put the event in mind within reach, he thought disjointedly. He'd guessed the man's age at the accident in 1997 as plus or minus 50 years old. Todd was 21 at the time, which gave an exceedingly comfortable margin of error of 376 years. The events of that day, coupled with Dale's conundrum over the impossible sport's scores, informed him that Dale and he both, had been visited by the time traveler.
Disgruntled, Todd sat up and leaned back on his hands. Then he lay back down again. Then he bundled himself under the covers and turned on his right side facing the wall. Then he turned on his left side, facing the vanity nook outside the bathroom. It had long bothered him that interior designers were mostly women, and they designed bedrooms with other women in mind. He punched the pillows and readjusted the blankets under his chin. There was no getting comfortable for Todd. He wanted a beer.
Naked except of his socks-Todd wore socks year round--he padded down the short hall to the dining room and then into the kitchen. Todd's apartment was a one-bedroom with den, designed around a central kitchen space. Todd appreciated this layout and determined the architect was a man, because a man knew the importance of a centrally located kitchen. The beer should always be centrally located, he thought. Since the lights were off, Todd ignored the open windows,
"Heineken, my Heineken," he muttered, opening the fridge. Extracting a bottle from the six pack, Todd threw away the cap and guzzled half the bottle in a gulp. He leaned against the counter, enjoying the buzz of surprise in his belly. Belatedly, he thought his host showed poor manners in not offering his guest a cold beer, and then wondered if there had been any beer to offer. What he did here, directly affected the situation tomorrow night. Gazing at the perspiring bottle thoughtfully, he thought: I have to be careful what I do.
Vertigo over the night's events made his head spin and he closed his eyes and breathed deep. How was any of this possible?
Dale would be absolutely flabbergasted, he thought. But there was a difference here, and a big question: Did his actions tonight-on both sides of the temporal fence--classify his as gay, a dreaded homosexual? He didn't know. Just as he was unsure whether guilt or pleasure was the proper emotional response to what had happened. To his amusement, Old Rex stirred between his legs.
"You didn't get enough tonight, then?"
A slightly facetious question, as Old Rex had been pretty much confined to his doghouse for the duration while other parts of Todd's anatomy got used. He guessed it made sense though, Monday being in charge. He had a better understanding of the game and, by virtue of his experience and 24-hour age advantage, was the senior partner. Besides, he'd been Sunday himself before, meaning that Rex would get his workout tomorrow night. Tonight; he corrected himself, looking at he clock. He was Monday now, and Sunday would come visit in approximately 20 hours.
For the first time, it dawned on Todd that he'd jumped exactly 24 hours ahead. He'd spent four hours with Monday and then returned to his own place at 8:15 P.M., two seconds difference notwithstanding. It troubled him, knowing he'd not put something that obvious and elemental together earlier. But then, he'd had his hands quite full already, hadn't he ... along with everything else. He sighed, feeling guilty; he couldn't help it. This was a quantum leap over the innocent sexual play he'd indulged before tonight.
Rex gave up the ghost and went back to sleep. That was okay with Todd, who planned to join him shortly. He was so damned tired, mentally, and physically both. Who knew that time-travel was so exhausting? Of course, the travel aspect had little to do with his physical state; that was Monday's doing. He grinned, thinking how quickly he'd adopted the name. And now he was Monday.
Finishing the bottle, he sat the empty on the counter and headed off to bed.
The charger was a real problem. Todd checked the Apple website and found nothing remotely like the female connection in the phone. An inspection of CompUsa's website, the one for Best Buy and finally Amazon turned up nothing compatible either. He wasted an hour and a half of the company's time looking, and disgusted, went back to work. At 5:00 PM he left, ignoring a scowl from the boss, and looks of disapproval and surprise from everyone else. No one ever left the office before 6 PM.
Todd was becoming antsy. 3 hours to T-time and he was no more prepared then he was dropping off to sleep last night. His underarms itched, and so did his palms. The one he dug at compulsively with his fingertips, the other he rubbed incessantly on the seams of his jeans. He kept panicking, deciding to flee to a movie theater and catch a double feature. He went as far as stopping by 7-11 for a paper and checking the listings. In the end he went home, on the verge of hyperventilating.
I don't understand, he thought dejectedly. How could Monday be so calm last night? I'm sweating rings under my armpits and Monday was absolutely cool. What did he know that I don't?
The thud of his heart was so pronounced that it made him want to smack a fist into his chest, telling it to shut up. He had to pee constantly. He started looking at movie times again.
And then, around 7 o'clock, a thought occurred to him: Sunday is you, Todd. He'll come through that gate (he'd started imaging a gate, a physical construct to wrap his mental concept around) just as confused and vulnerable as you were last night. Monday was so calm because he knew exactly who was coming to visit, and what activities would ensue. Now he was Monday, with that same knowledge beforehand. Breathing deeply, he went to the bathroom to shower.
Would Sunday just show up, wink into existence like a witch on Charmed? Or would he, Todd, experience the same reality bending effect as last night. Eyeing the corner where Monday had waited, arms casually folded and one ankle crossed over the other, Todd wondered if that were far enough away. It was 8:01 PM.
He'd followed Monday's example and worn different clothing. Where Monday had chosen a blue t-shirt and cargo shorts with sandals, Todd picked his favorite gray and white rugby shirt, jean shorts, and dilapidated old Nike sneakers with no socks. His nervousness returned and grew steadily worse the closer the it got to 8:15. He channeled Monday's calm, and that helped some. So did knowing Monday wasn't as calm as he'd act. At 8:10 PM, someone knocked on his door, and then banged the knocker.
Fuck! Who is that? he wondered, startled. Racing to the front door, he stopped and peeped out the hole. It was Regina, his next-door neighbor. Nearly frantic, he shot a look back to the dining room and then released the chain, twisted open the dead bolt and opened the door.
Regina grinned at him slyly. "Expecting an invasion, Todd?"
Todd drew a blank and then understood. "I do that when I'm preoccupied," he said joking nervously. "My feminine side takes over and locks us both in. If there were a bar across the door, she'd probably drop that in too. What's up?"
Todd knew she liked him, but her boyfriend was half-ape, half-Viking pillager, so he kept the acquaintanceship strictly vanilla. Grinning, she lifted her right hand. In it was a rectangular cardboard box.
"This was in my mailbox," she said. "Maybe they thought I was your female half. It came on Saturday, but we didn't get back until late last night, so I hope it wasn't something hypercritical, like a lottery payoff or something."
"That's exactly what it is!" he exclaimed, grabbing the box theatrically. "They pay off in cash now, you know." He pretended to inspect the edges hyper-carefully. "You take your 10% did you? A finder's fee?"