Hell Hath No Fury


It was just one of those things.

When I was in high school, I had three friends (who are friends still): Alan Saly, Christian Doherty, and Tom ("Siny") Sinclair. We made movies together and also "radio" (we called them TR for "tape-recorder" shows) and we also published magazines containing our fiction (with names like Strange & Unknown, for sci-fi stories, natch, and Mystery Magazine, for -- you guessed it -- mysteries. Some of the tales weren't bad, and Siny's Warthog series, about a talking Warthog, was even published as a children's book.

Flash-forward to 2009. Still friends, still making movies, but not doing much fiction-writing, the four of us decide to collaborate on a novel. The gimmick: we each write a chapter, not planning ahead, but improvising our way along, trying go piece together a coherent plot. We spent some time on it -- maybe a year -- before the project fell apart. I believe one of us said, "You know, it's not very good," and refused to continue.

Maybe he was right. But as it came to 18 chapters and thousands of words, I felt it deserves an airing. Here then is HELL HATH NO FURY, by the four of us. I wrote the first chapter, Siny the second, Saly the third, and Doherty the fourth. You can try and figure out who wrote the subsequent chapters. Let us know what you think.

Tom Soter





Martin stood outside the door, his bulky frame frozen in thought. “So, we finally split up,” he said to himself.  To call it bizarre would be an understatement -- but, then, the whole relationship was bizarre. The way Sally clung to her parents, was obsessed with their lives and they with hers. It gave him the creeps.

She had made pancakes. It was so like her. Everything was neatly arranged: the plates, the silverware, and the perfectly cut fruit, the phony flowers sitting in a waterless vase. Just once he’d have liked to see her embrace the chaos and disorder of life, instead of fleeing it. So scared. Martin felt sorry for her -- and for himself, too, for clinging to her so hopefully for 11 sexless, middle-aged months. “Only people over 60 have artificial flowers,” his friend Alice said later; he remembered what Sally’s cousin had said to him on the train one day when they were all traveling out to Long Island to see The Parents for yet another event: “She never rebelled. She never fought with anyone. At least I don’t remember it. She was always an adult.”

He had sat there, eating the pancakes with the tasteless, sugar-free, low-fat syrup, and listened as she prattled on about God knows what. It was like they were two old drinking companions (except she never drank), not two would-be, never-were lovers who, after 11 months of holding hands and one big argument, were now facing the end of the road.

Even Martin’s recent illness was treated as teatime chatter: polite concern with a sequeway to how great Robin Williams had been in Awakenings. Why was he there? Would he have to do the breaking up?

Then, finally, like a quick summer shower, it was over. She escorted him into her living room, talked about where the chandelier would be hung, how the mirror would add depth to the room, and how he should search for someone who could say “I love you” to him. But she wasn’t the one. His angry talk of her family on the Monday night a week ago, and of the need to have a real relationship, had made her “physically nauseous.” Not a word about what he had meant to her – about the dinners, the attention, the devotion. Because he had meant about as much to her as the pretty stuffed pillow he was sitting on. Maybe less.

He had said goodbye -- after saying two things that he had longed to say but been too afraid to until this moment: that she couldn’t have a relationship with a man until she stopped having a love affair with her parents and that if she couldn’t say, “I love you” after 11 months, she never would.

She had smiled weakly at this shot across the bow, they had embraced and promised to keep in touch (he knew that it was a lie), and as he walked out he thought two things simultaneously: I wished I had exited the relationship sooner – and the pancakes weren't half-bad.

“Do you want something?” said an old woman standing in the hall.

“No, no,” Martin mumbled, realizing he must look odd standing in front of Sally’s door lost in thought. “I was, ah, just going.”

He hurried along, smiling his crooked smile as he glanced furtively at the woman who was eying him suspiciously. An image of himself as Peter Lorre came to mind, speaking in that whispery voice, “You despise me, don’t you?” He caught a glimpse of his body in the hallway mirror. When had he gotten so huge? His mind flashed to Groucho Marx talking to the fat Peter Lorre on You Bet Your Life: “So your new movie is Five Weeks in a Balloon. Do you play the balloon?”

He stood on the bus, thinking about how he and Sally had first met. She had seemed so pretty, so picture perfect. He wondered what had attracted her to him. Must have been his face and his smile. Not his physique. He was fat then, too, he recalled. He thought back further. That was because of Emily. Emily. Now she had been something. Unlike the sexless, passion-less Sally, Emily was a hottie. The sex was great, if unprotected. She had said, “You want protection against me? That’s insulting.”

He frowned. There was something creepy about her, too. A long-distance relationship, it started with a chance meeting in a restaurant. She had a great smile, beautiful brown eyes, and a smile that killed. She asked him for a light. He fumbled around and found some matches somewhere, and lit her cigarette. He hated cigarette smoke, but on her it looked strangely alluring. They got to talking. She was a would-be screenwriter, doing research on the Hotel Chelsea for a screenplay about Sid Vicious.

“Didn’t he die there?” said Martin, trying to keep up. All he could remember about Chelsea was that Dylan Thomas had died at the White Horse Tavern, head down on a table, drowned in his own vomit. But was the White Horse Tavern in Chelsea or the West Village? In any event, he didn’t think he should mention that.

They went on another date. And another. And then she flew back to Seattle. Although he didn’t believe long-distance affairs could work  – “It has all the fun of a relationship but none of the reality, the heartbreak,” he had said to his closest friend, John Apar – he was sucked into it. First, the talking, then, the phone sex, and then, the real thing.

He remembered visiting her in Seattle after their fifth date, flying from New York just to see her. He had walked into her apartment and saw a little shrine of pictures sitting on a table. They were all photographs of him, he noticed, with both delight and a chill. He had given her one or two, he thought, but where had she gotten the rest?

They had made wild love that afternoon. He thought about it, and the five days of passion that followed, and remembered it with mixed emotions. He had found that the crazier the lovemaking got, the more boring everything else was. Her conversation. His comments. They had little in common besides lust and even that got tiresome after a while.

But he was afraid to break up with her and found himself eating more than he ever had before, swallowing foods he should have avoided. Ice cream, cake, pasta. She had begun the habits that were now common to him. Before he had met her, everyone had called him Marty. But she slowly, oh so insidiously, got him into the habit of referring to himself as Martin. And she thought he was too thin. “You’re just skin and bones,” she would say, “just a piece of spaghetti.” So his urges to eat more food had strangely collided with her desire for him to bulk up.

And he did. He ate donuts and bread, drank beer and had steak. There wasn’t a carb out there that didn’t have his name on it. And soon Marty, who had for his whole life clocked in at 140 pounds, was over 200. But he was Martin now, who dressed in snappy suits and made hot love with a woman who bored him to tears.

She spent a month with him in his apartment in New York. He felt restless having her around all the time. He needed to get out.

 “What’s wrong, Martin?” she said to him one night as they sat ensnarled together on the couch watching TV.

“Nothing,” he grunted, as he tried to watch Orson Welles float down the river in Touch of Evil. God, he was huge. Was that padding or the real thing? She touched him on the leg, provocatively. Like a trained dog, he responded, of course. Suddenly, in the real world, on a bus, Martin felt a poke on his shoulder.

“Excuse me, mister, are you getting off?” Martin’s reverie was broken by a man who was trying to get around him through the bus door.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Martin said in his most groveling Peter Lorre manner. Then the man stopped and stared. “Marty?” he said. “Marty Phillips?”

Martin squinted, trying to place the man. It couldn’t be, he thought. “Patrick?” he replied. “Patrick Johnson?” And the man slapped Martin forcefully across the face.





            Jack Rosen opened a fresh pack of Parkside cigarettes, extracted one, lit it, inhaled the harsh tobacco, and immediately began coughing.  Damn, he thought, these things are fuckin’ lousy. But at $4.95 a pack—roughly four bucks less than his preferred brand, Camel Filters--the budget-priced smokes were all he could afford.

            Maybe that would change now. He reached into his back pocket, pulled out a well-worn page of newsprint, and read for the umpteenth time the personal ad he had placed in a Westchester alternative newspaper a week ago:

    49-y.o. white male, irritable and irascible MICA patient living

    in adult home in Yonkers, seeks woman for companionship and

    erotic good times. Heavy-smoking sugar mamas preferred.


            It had cost him more than one hundred and twenty dollars to place the ad, but it had gotten results. Two days after it ran, he had received a letter, written on classy pink parchment and reeking of expensive perfume, instructing him to be on the corner of 22nd Street and Seventh Avenue at 11 a.m. on April 6th. 

            It was now 10:45. It had always been Jack’s habit to be early for appointments, even during the worst of his addiction. Now that he was off of everything except a prescribed cocktail of anti-depressants and psych meds, he liked to tell people, “You can set your watch by me. I’m always twenty minutes early.”

             Promptness was one of the few tenuous connections to responsible adulthood that Jack possessed. He had been bouncing in and out of New York City’s interconnected phalanx of detoxes, rehabs, therapeutic communities, methadone clinics, and halfway houses for the better part of thirty years. Some two decades back, someone had hung the then-new term MICA—Mentally Ill, Chemically Addicted—on him, and it stuck.  Jack was always amused by the clinical terms they came up with for crazy-ass drunks and junkies. One upstate rehab had even labeled him CAMI—Chemically Addicted, Mentally Ill—ostensibly because they felt his substance abuse problems superceded his mental health issues.

Whatever. At one time or another, Jack had been tagged with just about every major psychiatric illness there was, from borderline personality disorder to paranoid schizophrenia. He personally preferred the vernacular diagnosis one counselor at a state rehab awarded him: “Garbage Head Psycho.”

Of course, Jack had come a long way in the past two years. He had managed

to quit drinking, get off methadone, and stop abusing pills. With the help of his psychiatrist, Dr. Rodman, and a potent new medicine called Addabox, he was now able to maintain something like sobriety. Rodman had even helped him get a room at the Edgeware Adult Home in Yonkers, where some 175 MICAs, CAMIs, and Garbage Head Psychos lived, subsidized by state funds. Even with the barely edible food and general air of dysfunctional grubbiness, it wasn’t the worse place Jack had ever lived.  “It sort of suits you,” his sister, Samantha, a successful advertising copywriter, had said when she visited him some months ago.

            It was Jack’s buddy, Simon, who had given him the idea to place the ad in the paper. Simon was a former magazine writer and frustrated novelist who liked throwing around his vocabulary. They had been sitting in the cafeteria arguing loudly over some point of musical trivia (what had it been? Oh, yeah: Whether Johnny Winter’s Second Winter album came out in 1969 or 1970) when Simon pronounced Jack “irritable and irascible.” Jack liked the alliterative phrase and took a perverse pride in having a new label hung on him. The words had percolated in his head all day and, that evening, while scrutinizing the personals in a Westchester weekly, he had started mentally drafting his own ad. By the time he had decided to write down the brazen words, expressing exactly who he was and what he wanted in no uncertain terms, he was certain that he could snare a response with his outrageous sentiments.

            Jack looked at his watch. 10:53. He flung away his cigarette and was about to dig in his pack for another when he saw a rather fetching young woman sauntering down the street, smoking a cigarette, half a block away. Her curly, cascading hair was a shade of Day-Glo red most certainly not found in nature, she wore tight black jeans, a purple halter-top, and the sort of dramatic six-inch stilettos that gave birth to the phrase “fuck-me pumps.” Jack felt his pulse begin racing. He wanted to talk to her, he wanted a cigarette, and he wanted to touch her, all at once.

            As she drew nearer, Jack could feel his eyes on him. They telegraphed an unmistakable wantonness, an unbridled, bold sexuality that triggered a familiar tingling in Jack’s loins.  Hot damn, he thought, that is one seriously foxy chick.

            “Hey, uh, ‘scuse me,” said Jack, as the woman approached, her eyes locked with his. “Do you have an extra cigarette?”

            She stopped, regarding him with amusement. “Cigarettes now cost nearly ten dollars a pack,” she said. “At those rates, who in the world has an `extra’ one?”

            “Uh, yeah, I hear you,” said Jack. “I could give you, like, a quarter, maybe.”

            “I can see that math isn’t your strong suit,” the woman said, fishing in a purple purse that matched her halter top and producing a pack of Camel Filters.

            “My brand!” Jack sputtered, genuinely excited.

            “Is it, now?” she breathed, offering the pack to him.

            “Yeah, I’ve been smoking these things since 1981,” said Jack, gratefully inhaling a thick cloud of smoke. “I can’t really afford them nowadays, though,” he ruefully admitted.

            “Who can?” she threw back, tossing her own butt into the street and lighting a fresh one.

            They smoked hungrily and regarded one another. The woman made no move to leave. Jack grew uncomfortable, and then, a wild, impulsive thought sprang into his head.

            “Hey. Uh, you wanna get a cup of coffee?” he asked.

            “Can you afford it?”

            “Yeah! There’s a Dunkin Donuts right down the street,” he gushed, hardly able to believe that she was seriously entertaining his proposition.

            “Don’t I rate Starbucks?” she asked mischievously.

            “Well, uh…”

            “And aren’t you waiting for someone?”

            How had she known that?

            “No,” he lied.

            “Are you sure?” she said, looking at him with a mocking playfulness.

            “Ummm,” Jack said, stalling for time before plunging ahead with another lie: “No. I mean, yes. I mean, I’m not waiting for anybody.”

            She blew a stream of smoke in his face, and laughed when he recoiled involuntarily.

            “Ooooo-kkkaaaayyy,” she said, drawing out the word and regarding him curiously. Then, brightly: “I’ll bet I can guess your name.”

            “Really?” asked Jack.

            “Jack, isn’t it?”

            Jack’s face reddened as he realized to whom he was speaking. He hoped he hadn’t fucked up too badly.

            “And you’re…Emily,” he said sheepishly.

            “The one and only,” she answered, linking her arm with his and chuckling.


Chapter 3



            John Dravek pushed open the hatch with some difficulty (it was ajar), and dropped down into the airlock. He dogged it shut. The inner door turned on its hinges, opened. Dull yellow lights illuminated the first hallway. The air was musty. It hadn’t been breathed by anyone for thousands of years. The air purification system had been built to last by the Rosen Corporation.

            John found the timelook machine on a raised pedestal covered by a thin film of dust. It consisted of several wide viewscreens sitting on heavy rectangular boxes. A row of buttons and toggle switches on a console stood next to a chair facing the screens. It was time to tunnel through time.

Dravek had grown up in 27th Century Greenland, one of the few areas on earth that was still free of Apars. He had accepted the offer of a transtime assignment from the Rosen Corporation, earth’s largest employer, on a lark. Or maybe he was just anti-social. Because taking the job meant cutting himself off from the human race, probably forever. The Rosens had placed him into a transtime vault, rocketing him 20,000 years into the future. The reason for this was that their Temporal Archive Retrieval System (TARS) needed thousands of years to do its work of parsing out the record of the 20th and 21st centuries. It was only possible to find out what had happened back in those days by going into the future, because the data was so complex that the computers had to have enough time to analyze it. Once Dravek found what the Rosens were looking for, it was his job to get it back to CERN in the 21st Century where it still might do some good and avert the disaster that the Apars had caused.

            The Apars were a mutation. Sterile, they had led the human race down an evolutionary dead-end. Because they were remarkably attractive. No one wanted to be with anyone but an Apar. To see an Apar was to love him, her, it, whatever. Because sex with an Apar never resulted in children, the race was on its way to extinction by the beginning of the 25th Century, when the Rosens had first developed the transtime vault and the timelook machine. How did the Apars get started? Where did they come from?

            John drank some water from his canteen, popped a few pills, and started in, slowly warming up the machine. He began the routine which he had trained for, placing electrodes on his chest and arms. Substance 15T, a strong hallucinogen, allowed him to obtain a direct neural feed from the computer. What would occur now would be something like a dream, a dream he would never be able to forget. A dream that might hold the key to humanity’s survival.

March 21, 2004. 10:04 PM. Location: New York City, Port Authority Bus Terminal. Archive: 16T. Bill Apar.The bus pulled out of the depot, streaked with soot and slime. On board, the party was just getting started. Bill Apar’s stomach had been giving him trouble for weeks. He felt bloated and sluggish. He had to have a check up. He shook his head as the Fung Wah Bus picked up speed, only to wheeze to a halt at a red light. A girl in a black dress and red tights brought a short tray of drinks up the aisle. Bill shook his head again; something felt wrong. He had an appointment at the rest stop on the way to Boston, on I-95. In the totemic shadow of a Mickey D’s. The appointment was, to pick up a visor. There were a lot of people on the bus – in fact, it was packed. Many passengers wore dark glasses. There was a murmuring and munching sound, as if the people were cicadas. Bill turned slightly in his seat and his forehead was just inches from the big cleavage of a woman who was making her way up the aisle to the front of the bus.

 “Hey, Esmeralda,” Bill said, “Can you catch me on your way back? I’ve got something to show you.”

            “I’ll bet you do, Paul.”

There was an abrupt jolt, and a moment of disorientation.

March 22, 2006. Time: 11:00 AM Location: New York City, 117 East 31st Street, 15th Floor penthouse. Archive: 22A. John Apar. John Apar stretched his legs, and found they wouldn’t respond. They’d been cut off by a neuro-muscular block. He had befriended a man on facebook, a man masquerading as a physician. A man named Fenster. He had gained entry into John’s apartment, and then had slipped him a military-grade tranquilizer in his tequila. John looked down at his paralyzed legs, wondering if they would ever move again, before turning his attention to his former guest, now his captor.

            “Your feet don’t work, and you’re losing your shoes.  Do you mind if I fix myself another drink?”

            “You’ll pardon me if I don’t get up and fix one for you.”

            Fenster moved towards the kitchen, opened the liquor cabinet, touched marble and glass, and measured out a half tumbler of vermouth. He took it back to where John lay on the couch, then pulled up a wooden chair and sat down close to him. His face was tanned and snicked with little lines that weren’t natural. He was blind. There were small metallic cups next to his ears.

John Dravek summoned his willpower and spoke, interrogating the computer:

“Where are you from? Are you human?”

            Apar was on the bathroom floor in his underwear, his skin clammy and his face pressed against the tiles. He felt his legs. Still numb. Fenster – apparently an android -- had gone. Before it had left it had taken skin and blood samples from Apar, and had attached something to his skull that was white and clammy. When John’s girlfriend had walked in on them at 6:30 or so, the android had come after her with an electric carving knife. She had fought savagely, in spite of being in an inebriated condition. She proved surprisingly strong, but had suffered cuts to her arm while warding off Fenster’s knife. After the violence, Sally had suddenly wanted sex with Apar. But he was still paralyzed from the waist down. It hadn’t mattered. There was something about him that was irresistibly attractive to the girl. She had romanced him feverishly, working on him until he had eventually responded.

            John felt himself coming down off the high produced by Substance 15T. Quickly, he dictated everything he could remember about the two dreams into a quantum memory chip for transmission to the Rosen Corporation. Were the androids real, and had they actually been responsible for the transformation of the Apars? Or were they symbolic? Was there a connection between the two events? What was the significance of Bill Apar’s midnight meeting at McDonald’s? Why had the girl called him Paul, if his name was Bill? Time would tell.




The sun shone down brightly on the spider web. Well, you see, the spider was just spinning his web. All in all, a triumph for Emily. Her nails had been cut short so that when she shaved her legs, her nails wouldn't shave her. Another triumph for Emily. All in all, just another pleasant sunday afternoon.

Frank and Joe Hardy would have approved. When Fenton Hardy came down the stairs that morning, his face was unshaven.

What! Growing a beard, dad!

He looked at his two teenage sons and held them firm, tightly, I mean. Then, the doorbell rang. U Rang, the servant, opened the door. In stepped the postman ready to deliver the day's mail. But first he pulled out a gun and aimed it straight at Fenton. Joe ducked in and blocked the shot. Joe took it right in the chest and blood started to spirt out of the torn artery.

Aunt Gertrude looked in horror at Frank...then, at Joe!

Fenton, she screamed, get me out of this!

I love you in another time and space. I love you because you're a friend of mine. A song that Frank once heard on the record machine. It all came back to him now...


Sometimes, a great notion. I remember it when it was just yesterday. Sometimes, when the wind comes rushing thru my hair, I remember it. Does anyone know what time it is?


He tried on the wig, it just didn't fit him right. He opened the can of peaches and devoured them hungrily. Frank knew that all in all, it was just another pleasant valley sunday. Amy, who was always there, told Joe that she was going to get married.

He took the news in stride.

“What?” He questioned her. “What? You're getting married!”

Sometimes, we have to wonder about ourselves. Do we stay or do we go? As Joe Hardy lay wounded, he wondered if anyone really loved him. And then, Frank said he, did, and Fenton, and aunt Gertrude, and finally, Chet Morton said that he did. And Lola, Chet's girlfriend, said she did, and the inpector from the police department said he thought he did.

“The Mystery of Skull Mountain” had been the turning point in the ongoing saga of Frank and Joe. After they had solved that mystery, they knew they would survive.

Joe Hardy walked out of the hospital. He breathed in the bright sunlight and then, he saw Emily's web, surrounding him in bright blue colors. A man approached Fenton Hardy and asked him for a light.

He pulled out his lighter and lit the man's cigarette. All in all, it had been a most inviting day, a day when you could breathe in the sun and know that you're son would survive. And then, it happened at midnight...




            Sally woke up. Had she been dreaming? She rubbed her eyes. No, John had been with her. John Apar – what a peculiar name, yet such a wonderful, attractive man. So…dynamic. She had given up her specialness for him. She had even cancelled on her parents to be with him. Oh, what a man.

            She got out of bed. Even though it was only eight in the morning, she poured herself a glass of white wine. She gulped it down suddenly, awkwardly, and felt a tingling all over, but especially in her nose. Funny, she reflected, she had never had a drink before she had met John.

She looked at herself in the full-length mirror, at her slightly too wide hips, at the slight paunch she was developing, at her still round, firm breasts. She wasn’t bad looking, though associating with Martin... They had always eaten so much together. It was a substitute, probably, for the sex she had refused to have with him. “I adore you,” she had said once when he told her he loved her. “I love you” was to be saved for the One. The Husband. But, gosh, she loved John Apar, didn’t she? Her hazel eyes misted up. She had to have loved him, or why else would she have…done it? They had to get married now. Have children. Just thinking of him made her warm.

It was then that she noticed cuts on her arm.

            Where had they come from? She shook her head, as if to clear it. Had she had a blackout?

            The phone rang, like an explosion in her head. Once, twice, and then the answering machine kicked in. “Hello,” said her pre-recorded outgoing message, “This is Sally Johnson. I’m not here right now… But I will be checking my messages. So you know what to do.” There was a long beep and then a familiar voice came on.

            “Uhmm, Sally, this is, umm, Martin. I don’t know how to tell you this, but I met your brother on the bus yesterday. He was awfully angry. I think he heard about our breakup or something. Did you tell him about our fight? He actually slapped me. I think you should tell Dr. Rodman that Patrick’s out of control again. Ah, just thought you should know. Uhmm, hope you’re well.”

                     Martin hung up the phone. That was damned awkward. He adjusted his tie and pulled up his oversize trousers, tightening the belt somewhat, wishfully hoping he had lost some weight. There, he had told her. That crazy Johnson family. They should be arrested. Like that other time, when he had filled out a police report against Mandy, Patrick’s brother, after that incident in the vestibule when Mandy had lunged at him, swearing to kill him if he ever saw his sister again. “You fat fuck!” Mandy had screamed.

He noticed his reflection in a storefront window. Was that bulky guy really him? He was starting to look like Chet Morton. Chet! God! He had always had food in his mouth. Whatever happened to Chet, he wondered. And Joe. He thought fondly of the fun that he and Joe had experienced growing up together. There was the Shore Road mystery, and that airplane Joe’s father had owned. Was it a twin-engine or a single-engine? He couldn’t quite remember. And then there was the Wildcat mystery, and the secret of the old mill. Those had been crazy but grand times. His youth. When he was known as Marty. And he had been skinny.

            Suddenly, impulsively, he picked up the phone again. Why not call Joe? He hadn’t seen him in years. They must be at the same address, that solid old house in Bayport. The Hardys never changed anything, he thought ruefully. He dialed the familiar number, AC2-5226, and then remembered that he had to add the Bayport area code.

            Finally, he got through. “Yes?” answered the familiar voice of U Rang, the Hardys’ servant.

            “Hello, is Joe there?”

            “Master Joe is in hospital,” said U Rang in that funny metallic cadence. “He was shot by postman, Mr. Fenster. He go crazy.”

            Joe shot! He suddenly had a flashback to the mystery of Skull Mountain. “What hospital is he at?” asked Martin.

            “Apar General Hospital.”


            John Dravek popped a few more pills, strapped on the electrodes, and began the time-travel process all over again. He took the Substance 15-T, and once more began receiving the direct neural feed from the computer

March 24, 2006, Time: 11:00 A.M. Location: Bayport, New York. Apar General Hospital Room 1607. Archive: 23B. Joe Hardy. Joe Hardy walked out of the hospital. He breathed in the bright sunlight and then, he saw Emily's web, surrounding him in bright blue colors. The sun shone down brightly on the spider web. Well, you see, the spider was just spinning his web. All in all, a triumph for Emily. Her nails had been cut short so that when she shaved her legs, her nails wouldn't shave her. Another triumph for Emily. All in all, just another pleasant Sunday afternoon.

But Joe loved her still. She was the only one who hadn’t said that she loved him. Frank, and Aunt Gertrude, and Lola, and Chet had all admitted their love (poor Chet, it was terrible about that bomb killing Iola). But Emily hadn’t. She was too busy ensnaring Martin and Jack (but not Sam, that bitter pill).

John Dravek shook off part of the effects of the drug and spoke to the computer:

“What is this?” he said sluggishly. “The time continuum seems warped, distorted. Why –why is Emily a spider? How can Joe still be a teenager? Is it real or a dream?”

            The postman, Mr. Fenster, was suddenly there in the room with him. He must be some sort of shape-shifting android, Dravek thought. In his semi-conscious state, the scientist could only watch and listen helplessly. “Dravek,” said Mr. Fenster, “the Apar Collective wants you to stop this examination. Don’t go any further. You might not like what you find.”

            “What the devil,” began Dravek.

            Then there was a jolt and John Dravek blacked out.


            Simon lay back on Dr. Rodman’s couch, staring up at the framed picture of a sailing ship. “Is that supposed to make me feel calm?” he asked.

            What do you think?” said Rodman.

            Simon snickered. “Oh, you guys are all the same. Pompous pedants of people,” he said in a lame attempt at alliteration. He again thought that coming here was a mistake. “Hey, doc,” he said in attempt at Johnny Winters-like cool, “what am I doing here anyway.  I mean, to paraphrase the great Johnny W., "This gal has screwed so many people it makes me mad to even talk about her."

            “What gal is that?”

            Simon was silent. Damn, he had said too much. “Nothing.”

            “It certainly sounded like something.”

            “Well, it was nothing. Not a thing.”

            Dr. Rodman did not reply. Shit, thought Simon, I wish I could see the guy.


            More silence.

            To relieve it, Simon told one of his funny stories about his dad.

            “My father, Fenton, has always been unpredictable. Every night, after dinner, my Aunt Gertrude would bring out a cake she had prepared. My father would always ask one of his three sons to bring out a knife and fork to slice it up. Every night, the routine was the same. She'd bring out the cake, my father would say, "What am I to cut it with?" And we would suddenly remember to get the knife and fork. Well, one night, the cake was brought out and, as usual, the three brothers sat there, oblivious to all except our hunger for dessert. My father waited. And waited. And waited. And then, reaching for the cake, my father used his bare hands to rip off a piece and dump it onto my plate. Then he took another rip and put one on my brother Frank's plate. My aunt started laughing. We never forgot the utensils again.”

            “Very funny,” said Dr. Rodman. “How did your father’s actions make you feel?”

            “Damned if I know,” said Simon in at an attempt at nonchalance. “I haven’t seen him in years.”

            “Imagine a feeling.”

            “How do you imagine a feeling? Is that like ‘imagine all the people living life in peace,’” he said, quoting John Lennon – rather cleverly, he thought.

            “You talked about a woman who ‘screwed so many people.’ Perhaps you’d rather talk about her?”


            More silence.

            Then: What the hell, thought Simon, what the fucking hell. What am I here for anyway? “You want a story, doc, well try this.”


"Do you want a cookie?" I said to the wide-eyed twentysomething young woman who looked at me from across the top of the freestanding, four-foot-high bookshelves of the library reading room. And with those five words began my frustrating, bittersweet one-sided love affair that never should have been. She was actually just six months past her 21st birthday; I was all of 20 and, like most 20-year-olds, felt I had just met "her," the woman of my dreams, the woman I was going to marry, the woman I would always love.

I had seen her around the campus, her compact yet buxom figure walking with determined strides to classes, to coffee, to wherever. She always flashed me a big, welcoming smile, encouraging me to think that she wanted to meet me, to talk with me, to be part of my life. I'd seen her everywhere, till soon, she was like the posse in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, pursuing me endlessly, in my dreams if not my waking life, as I wondered, "Who is that girl?" But I eventually became the pursuer not the pursued, chasing her over the next decade, like some real-life Inspector Gerard, always thinking that, "This time, I'll get her, this time she'll be mine." It was a harmless obsession, I told myself. But did Ahab ever get much good from that whale?

Our meeting came about through a mistake. She tossed me that smile one day on campus, and I was determined to know who this will-of-the-wisp was. I ran after her, introducing myself. She told me her name and that she was an anthropology student here from Chicago. I walked with her, we talked; she laughed; I laughed. It was bliss.

Four days later, I saw her again at the library. She gave me that big Colgate smile, her round brown eyes as alluring as the flame to a fledgling pyromaniac. Encouraged, I offered her a homemade cookie my aunt had given me. "Do you want a cookie?" I said, not realizing that those were the first words I would say to her – for she was not the she I had met just days before but her twin sister ("They look alike, they sound alike, you can lose your mind when cousins are two of a kind"). It was a charming mistake; I was Fred and she was Ginger, and our romance, in my eyes, had just begun.

Alas, it was never to be. I chased her through boyfriend after boyfriend – the sarcastic one who played tennis with her and lived off her father's credit cards; the emotionally abusive one whom I suspected hit her occasionally; the smarmy intellectual one who was oh-so-superior to everyone and eventually faced sexual harassment charges at work. Through it all, I was the "good friend," the Watson to her Holmes, "the one fixed point in a changing age," who would console her, comfort her, but never "date" her. The man who knew too much but was never good enough. We'd go out to dinner, I'd make her laugh, and she'd make me cry with a longing that was never to be fulfilled. I once even called her my "foul-weather friend." It was my joke because she'd always be ready to advise me, psychoanalyze me, and sympathize with me when I had a problem with a girlfriend, or with my family, or with my life. "You're so punishing to yourself," she said to me once. Not as punishing as she was to me.

Oh, Emily, how you broke my heart. "I'll never marry a non-Jew," she had said at 21 to me, the non-Jew. So definite, so sure of herself. And, of course, a decade or so later, she married a non-Jew, an agreeable fellow who never registered on my radar as anything beyond being a nice, sweet guy. She pleaded with me to go to the wedding, and like some sucker who lost a bet, I turned up, smiling, and danced with her for the first and only time.

It ended, as these things do, mundanely and unromantically. We had kept in touch over the years, but it was always me who did the work, calling her, setting up the meetings, insisting that we meet. She had another life now, apart from me, with two darling children. When we actually met, it was always the same connection, though my passion had long since cooled and hers –well, how can you cool something that was never hot? I finally got tired of calling her, after she had cancelled yet-another scheduled meeting. "You call me when you want to meet," I had said with frustration. Six months later, I still hadn't heard from her.

So, goodbye to all that. To the love, to the pursuit, to the fiction that she really ever gave a damn. Yet to be human is to hope and I still have that picture in my head, of the time she went away to Paris to get over another failed relationship. Of when she came back, and I was there waiting for her at Newark airport. She ran to me, embraced me, and kissed me, oh so tenderly. "I hoped you would be here," she had said so happily, so completely. "I knew you'd be here." Somewhere, in some other life, perhaps, we'll meet again, and this time, she'll take the cookie and see that I was the best man after all.





            Jack Rosen stood on the corner of 19th Street and Seventh Avenue eating a vanilla ice cream cone. He watched a young, overweight black woman engaged in an animated conversation with herself coming towards him. Obviously MICA, he thought.

            “It’s nothing but trash,” the woman was saying. “Every time I get into a serious discussion I see a trash truck! I know it means something…”

            Jack smiled to himself as she passed out of earshot. He remembered when he was MICA, too. It seemed so long ago, those days of living in the squalor of the adult home, eating crappy institutional food, associating with psychotics and borderline personalities all day, every day, wearing the same clothes for a week running. He could hardly believe that he had been able to stand living that way without killing himself.

            That was all before he had met Emily. Before those miraculous, wonderful pills she introduced him to, pills that didn’t get one high in the conventional sense but that made one feel confident, secure, and healthy. Emily would never tell him what the pills were. “They’re magic pills,” was all she would say, smiling in that enigmatic, all-knowing way. Well, that was as good a designation for the little red tablets as any.

            “Magic” was also the only way Jack could explain what had happened to me. It wasn’t long after meeting Emily that she had moved him out of the adult home and set him up in a small but comfortable apartment on the ground floor of a brownstone on West 22nd Street. She took care of the rent—or he assumed she did, since she never mentioned it—and gave him a $500 a week allowance. She also took him shopping for clothes roughly twice a month and let him buy whatever he wanted, paying with a credit card. Jack had been able to amass the sort of wardrobe he’d always dreamed of having: Red, purple, and orange velvet suits, silk shirts, luxuriant, soft leather boots, the sort of peacock finery a circa-1971 English rock star would wear.

            And Jack truly felt like a rock star, a very rich, very successful rock star who could have virtually anything he wanted without working very hard at all. In fact, the only real “work” he did, if you could call it that, was allowing Emily to hook him up to that exotic device so she could monitor his responses to their increasingly outré sex life.  For, in addition to introducing him to ease and luxury, she had also introduced him to a brand of highly-charged sex play, which the limits of his former imagination had never allowed him to even fantasize about. 

            He was amazed to remember just how shockingly pedestrian his ideas about sex had once been. A blow job, delivered by a compliant, willing nymph, was the furthest-out thing he could have imagined. Emily had introduced him to the notion that pain could be pleasurable. Thus, in the middle of her performing oral sex on him, she would often bit on his penis, hard, while shoving needles into each of his buttocks. Sometimes, in middle of an achingly intense kiss, she would pull back and slap him across the face, full force, scratching his cheeks hard enough to draw blood. She did other things to him, things with ropes and whips and paddles and large cigar-shaped objects, that he was sometimes ashamed to remember (but was never too ashamed to beg her to do).

            Now she was promising to introduce a third person into their erotic adventures. “I haven’t decided if it should be a male or a female,” she had said the other night, causing Jack to blanche; the idea of any sort of intimacy with another man appalled him. She had laughed at his reaction. “Don’t worry,” she had said. “You’ll like it, I assure you.”

            Well, she hadn’t been wrong yet. In the past three months, Jack Rosen had to admit that she had transformed him into an entirely new man. Each day he woke up and thanked God, or whoever or whatever was out there, for introducing Emily into his life. He didn’t know what she did when she wasn’t with him, but that didn’t matter. Frankly, he didn’t much care. Just so long as she kept coming around every couple of days to pamper and reward him with a new, nasty thrill...

            She had instructed him to take his little pills thrice a day. He glanced at his watch and noted that he was three minutes past due for his two o’clock dose. He extracted the vial from his pocket, shook one onto his tongue, swallowed it, and resumed the task of finishing his ice cream cone. He remembered Emily’s words: “Never forget to take your pills. If you stop taking them, I will know and I will leave you forever.”

            He wasn’t about to stop taking the pills.

            Finishing his ice-cream cone, he stepped out into the street and hailed a taxi, instructing the driver to take him to the Virgin Megastore on 46th and Broadway. There was an album he used to love and he wondered if it had been reissued on CD yet.  Jack had used to buy a lot of albums as a teenager, before mental illness and drug hunger ate up all his money and sanity. Now that he was somehow normal again, he was starting to dream about amassing a CD collection. He hadn’t really trusted the small discs when they first came out, but Emily had bought him a miniature CD player, and she sometimes played music that she liked when she came over. Jack found it to be weird stuff—she was big on this chick singer named Bjork from Iceland or Finland or something—but not entirely unpleasant. Still, it wasn’t really Jack’s bag, and he wanted to introduce Emily to some of the stuff he dug, the music that spoke to him. Real rock and roll, he called it: Ten Years After, Cactus, Sir Lord Baltimore, Johnny Winter, George Thorogood and the Destroyers. The good stuff from the ‘70s, when music was music and not a lot of goddamn noise.

            Jack tossed the cabbie $20 for an $11 fare, not even bothering to say “Keep the change” as he hopped out of the cab and entered Virgin. They were pounding some godawful rap crap over the sound system, and there were way too many people milling and strolling about, but Jack just tucked his head down and headed for the “C” section, hoping he would find what he was looking for. He scanned the racks.

            Yes! There it was: Commander Cody And His Lost Planet Airmen: Live From Deep In The Heart Of Texas. What a great frigging album, one for the ages. And there it was, on CD. Jack remembered how he had scored his original vinyl copy. He had been a messenger at that time, scurrying around midtown all way, and he had to make a delivery to a record distributor. There had been tons of albums there, and Jack had said to the receptionist, a young hippie type not much older than him, “Wow, man, you’ve really got some dynamite discs here!” She had loaded him up with an armful of LPs, and he’d gratefully taken them.

            The Commander Cody album had been his favorite of that batch (which had also included albums by Mott the Hoople, Melanie, and the J. Geils Band). He had listened to it on many a drunken night, drinking quarts of Ballantine Ale and singing along. He would play it for Emily. He couldn’t imagine her not liking it. Real goddamn rock and roll!

            Jack paid for the album, spent another $20 for the cab home, and wasted no time in putting the disc into the CD player. “Have you heard the news, there’s good rockin’ tonight,” he sang, snapping his fingers and tapping his feet as Commander Cody and the Boys lit into the first track. He went to the fridge, got a 7-UP, wished it were a beer, and threw himself into the big, black La-Z Boy recliner he had asked Emily to buy for him.

            “Life be good lahk a motherfucker,” Jack said to himself, laughing and inwardly swinging to the sound of the music he loved. He remembered an old expression he’d once heard his uncle use: “All is right with the world.” (Jack preferred his own formulation of the sentiment, even though he had to admit his uncle’s did have more class.)

            Jack looked around the living room and his features abruptly clouded as they lit on the new object Emily had brought over last night. It was a smooth black box, slightly larger than a laptop computer. In the middle of the box the words “APAR CORPORATION” were printed in gold lettering.

            “What the heck is that?” he had asked her when she placed it on the desk in the corner.

            “Never you mind,” she had said. “Just don’t touch it.”

            “Why not?” he had asked.

            Emily had only smiled and said, “If you value what we have, you won’t even think of touching that box.”

            Now, as he regarded the object, her words came back to him. He had managed to forget about the box, but its presence in the room somehow tantalized him. Without thinking, he stood up and walked over to the desk on which the object sat and stood regarding it. He stood there for what seemed a long time.

            “Oh, it’s crying time again, you’re gonna leave me,” Commander Cody was singing          . Jack, however, was no longer listening; he was fully mesmerized by the box.

            “Fuck it,” he said, reaching out and touching the object with both hands.

            He promptly disappeared.






            John Dravek took the electrodes off quickly this time, rubbing his face heavily with his long, bony fingers. He looked hurriedly around the vault, looking for the intruder who had been warning him off. He knew that the image of the android, Fenster, had been just that: an image. Because it wasn’t possible to get to the year 22,625 – which was, more or less, where he was – except by living through all of the years that had gone before, or being placed in some state of suspended animation, or something like the transtime vault, the Rosen Corporation’s greatest achievement. Yeah, it was made from a combination of transuranic elements with a tremendously long half-life, yup, it created the chronogenic field that slowed time down inside by a ratio of about ten thousand to one…so a year in the vault was equal to ten thousand years outside…

            So, John knew he could not be in any danger, at least inside the time hunter base itself. Whatever prowled around on the surface of the planet outside – well, he didn’t really want to dwell on that. Not my yob, man. He had a cold chill, knowing that he was probably the only man still alive on earth. Sitting in my embryonic cell….

            Back to work. Now, the picture was becoming much clearer. The sex the Apars had offered – and yes, Emily Apar, well, she was one hell of a prototype for the way her race had sapped the world of willpower and doomed the human race. Damn. Of course, the pills she had offered Jack Rosen had nothing in them. They were only a control device, a device to focus his otherwise brilliant mind on her particular brand of sensual pleasure so that he would not pursue his scientific research. Who mourns for lonely Rosens?

The evidence was piling up, and it was damning, destructive and overwhelming. Emily Apar was invading not only Jack Rosen’s body cavities, but literature itself. Her insertion into the classic Hardy Boys mysteries bespoke a mind-warping power that she probably drew from Apar technology. No wonder the human race had lost so much, so fast. The Apars had changed the rules of the game profoundly. Now John Dravek realized why the Rosens had sent him so far into the future. They knew that the more he probed, the more he would want Emily himself. But the past was a closed book, and whatever roamed on the surface of the earth was irrelevant because it was unintelligent.

He had to find a way to get back there, to get back to the 20th Century, to possess Emily Apar. This passion would rule him, he knew. Because sex can’t be an end in itself, he knew. But the desire to unify with a superior being – and the Apars were superior beings, that was clear – that, that was and end in itself. Fuck the Rosens, he thought. They could not offer me even what an hour of Emily would be.

Yup. John licked his lips, clenched his fists, and knew what he had to do. He got out of the big overstuffed control chair and did a quick inventory of the room, with its huge banks of monitors, cables, and dusty tables. He rummaged through the lockers, picking out the supplies he would need for the foraging outside that would have to be done. He selected a drab green heavy coat, a tiny atomic generator that could be mounted inside a backpack, and a computer interface that fitted snugly around his neck, like a heavy collar. A pair of sunglasses completed the picture.

He went out through the primary hallway and entered the airlock. As it cycled, he wondered what he would find outside. What had the Apars done, when they had finally conquered the planet? Had they kept living, making themselves more and more immortal (as they had begun to do in the 27th Century), having unimaginable pleasure with the few humans that they preyed upon? Did the Apars have any needs? Shaking his head and preoccupied with thoughts of Emily, he muscled the hatch open and left the transtime vault, to find himself in a green, thinly treed forest. He began to walk in a random direction and spoke to the computer via the interface.

 “Get me a fix on the nearest artificial structure. Correct for elapsed time and the precession of the equinoxes. Get up and get me some visuals.”

He knew that behind him, in the security of the transtime vault, the computer intelligence was sending up a brace of probes into the sky. Hovering high, they would map the terrain on which Dravek would walk – and do what they could to protect him from any danger that threatened.

After about fifteen minutes of walking through the thin forest, the computer had an answer. A structure had been located about seven miles to the north-northeast. Visual telemetry showed an elegant, monumental building, apparently made out of wood, with broad steps going up into what looked to be a colonnade. The video showed no humans, or anything else, in the vicinity. As his feet navigated twigs and branches, stepping carefully on soft moss and the occasional rivulet of water, Dravek had the computer zoom in on the video output, trying to find more about the building he was approaching.

One thing he did remark on was the apparent complete absence of animal life in the forest around him, and the apparent evidence of only a few species of plants. There were the birch-like trees, a scattering of ferns, and not much else. As if someone had purposefully designed a spare and sparse ecosystem. Acting on the thought, he ordered the computer to do a biological analysis. The results confirmed his intuition: Only six species of plants existed in the sampling area, where before, in the 27th Century, there would have been at least 40 or 50. The world had been culled, reduced, winnowed.

His feet crunched on a shelf of dry and brittle rock, and he was at the edge of the forest, coming out into a clearing. Below him, down a sharp decline, was a paved road and the building he had been watching on the computer interface’s video hookup. Suddenly, he knew what it was: a library.


Chapter 8


         Iola Morton stood defiantly in the doorway, clutching her baby and wondering if the world was coming to an end. Ted Sortie found a enigma in his being and Emily was there also.Was the world coming to an end? she thought. Both Iola and Emily thought so. Her baby had been three weeks overdue when she first gave birth. She had pondered her post-partum depression and had conquered it.

         Both Emily and Iola were together now and had been strong about their strife. How far can a welfare check take it? Can they survive on a great notion? Time would tell.


  Some times, I liker to dream about things. I remember a girl to let me feel her legs once. I was

aroused but I kept my cool. Ah, I was young once but that, little Adam, is another story. Her name

was Betty, and she had the thighs of an angel and the body of Venus. I often wonder, as things are wont

to do, how had things been different...


         Joe Hardy, first verse, same as the first. Why did Betty let me carress her thigh? The sum of all knowledge, is the way a girl should feel about another girl or a boy for a girl, the same way.


 When we get to the good part, just yell and then grin and bear it. She made  me yell tonight, and that's

not so bad, is it? If you feel like dancing , remember the Alamo. An Indian chief will show pity for the baby

she holds inside her. May hope spring eternal for the trials and tribulations of motherhood.


         Yeah, Joe Sortie is pulling a fast one. He drew the gun and fired at Joe Hardy. Well. Joewas hit hard, let me tell you. He has to recover from his wounds He has to live with the bumble bees that circle around him, night and day, day and night...night and day.


         “He'll get better,” the doctor told himself.    Just give him time...


    Aunt Gertrude came out into the kitchen, clutching a loaf of cassava bread.


    No rest for the weary, she thought and then proceeded to eat to whole thing. She then proceeded to kiss Iola Morton on the mouth, and then, she kissed Iola, again, and again, and again..


         When we think   

about things...

              Do we wonder about them?


           a great notion...


         The Jack Apar event had been tricky. With The Emily experience behind him, he felt liberated.Not so, in a long time, had he kissed another girl so passionately and longingly, so it went through his mind that Kerouac was watching every move that she had going for her. He had done his best to testthe time of non-believers. To stem the pity, with tide coming in, to wander always in the fury thatHell must must have justified in all its fury, on the mother who wanders alone in the Elysian Fieldssearching for that last shaker of salt. To the wandering Jew who makes his way past the enemies ofpeople, a red glass of red wine, coming down to pass the golden torch of eniquity and longing thathe felt in touching Betty.

         If you yell, Larry Harmon, in a room full of people, Why does everyone turn around at the same time?

         He approached her from the back and asked her a question. “Are you happy?” and sometimesshe would answer yes, and, sometimes she would answer, no. He approached her from the tree and introduced himself. With the trees swaying, he told her his name. Larry, and the Joe felt a lot better.


Chapter 9


It was about 1 A.M. and Simon, and his girlfriend, Alice, were just returning from a New Year’s Eve Party. He had slipped his key in the door and they both stepped in, when out of nowhere, a well-built man in an open-necked shirt and jeans appeared right behind them. Even though they lived in a co-op and Simon was on the board, there were some people he didn’t immediately recognize: girlfriends, guests, and odd hangers-on. This fellow could have been in that last category. Since he was not wearing a coat on a night when the temperature was frigid, Simon assumed he was a New Year’s partygoer who had stepped out for a smoke.

Nonetheless, Simon was wary of him, having had personal experience with security breaches. When he had been much younger and living in a brownstone in the West 80s, he remembered standing in his vestibule getting the mail after a long day at work. A man came up the steps with a piece of paper in his hand. “Do you know if Chet Morton lives here?” he asked. Simon looked at the scrap, didn’t recognize the name, and turned away from him to look at the mailboxes. Instantly, he felt the man’s hands around his throat.

“Fenster says you must die,” he said. Startled, scared, and puzzled – who was Fenster? ­– he reacted without thinking. Simon rammed his assailant back into the wall of the narrow space; Simon felt the hands retracting, in an almost machine-like manner, and a furious fight ensued, after which his attacker fled.

Simon thought of this as the strange man followed Alice up the steps of his six-story walk-up; Simon came up behind the stranger with the intention of following him to see if he actually was a partygoer. But when Alice reached their landing, the man stopped as well. “I have to get behind the door, for ten minutes,” he said mysteriously.

“You don’t live here, do you?” Simon asked him. He was unsteady on his feet, apparently drunk or high. He shook his head. “You’ll have to leave then,” Simon said as matter-of-factly as he could. He escorted him down the stairs. “Dravek,” he said. “My name is Dravek. I was in the library.”

“The library?” Simon asked. “At this hour?”

“Near the forest,” he said, as though a veil were lifting. “Apar. Jack.” He said the names in a monotone. Then, with agitation, he cried out, “Emily!” And then: “Fenster!” They got downstairs, and then Dravek ran into the street. He was nearly hit by a cab.

“I have to see Fenster,” he cried. “Or the Rosens. Yes, let me go to the Rosens.” In a feat of what seemed like superhuman strength, Dravek opened the front door, pulled the cabbie out by his collar onto the street, and leaped into the front seat. He drove the taxi away.

            It was only hours later ­­­­­­­­­­­– after assisting the cabbie and talking with the police – that Simon reflected on what he had heard, startled by the familiarity of the names. None were uncommon, he thought, but to have just been thinking about that attack and the strange “Fenster says you must die” remark – how weird was that? And Emily. He had just been talking about an Emily (could there really be more than one?) with Dr. Rodman. And the Rosens. He hadn’t talked to Jack in a helluva long time. And old man Sam? Was he still alive?

            He turned on the TV, keeping the volume low so as not to disturb Alice, asleep in the next room. He began flipping around when suddenly – damn it, was that a Dickensian coincidence or what? –  there was old Sam Rosen, Jack’s father, talking on some news program.

“Sam Rosen at 70 is not what you'd expect,” said the unctuous reporter. “No longer the fast-talking faux tough guy of the hit TV series Street Kid, he now has distinquished, if somewhat thinning, grey hair and is obviously proud of his tanned, muscular physique. He is soft-spoken, meditative, and, surprisingly, somewhat bitter at the way his life has turned out.

            “I think nothing changes you as much as playing the Street Kid," he says about his famous character on the series. "It's a cross, a privilege, a joke, and as bloody intrusive as a nightmare."

He was speaking slowly now, Simon noted, much more deliberately than he did when he was foul-mouthed and angry, beating his son, Jack. Simon remembered the horrible rows they would have, when Sam would come in with his bullwhip and practice using it on the two of them. It was about then that Jack became known as “Garbage Head Psycho,” as he got more and more wild with his booze and drugs.

On the TV, Sam was now pointing to the trappings of his success – an Olympic-style pool, an Aston Martin sports car, a beautiful young wife (his third) named Mimi, 25 – and he was saying, somewhat ruefully, "You wouldn't think that playing a tough guy could make such a difference, would you?"

“Indeed, this is Sam Rosen at twilight, and if he is missing something, he is reluctant to admit it,” said the reporter, whom he now recognized as Lola Richards, a pretentious windbag. “But it is clear that he is incomplete, that the man who so long made up the other half of the most successful duo in TV history is unmentioned but is sorely missed. He has not spoken to his former partner, Larry Harmon, since they exchanged heated words over their failed pasta business in the late '80s. It is a silence that he clearly would like to see broken, but, proud Italian that he is, will not take the first step.

“They had had fallings-out before, of course,” she continued over old clips of Sam and Larry in their prime. “After Street Kid, Larry wanted to do other things, and almost refused to appear in their second series Mugger, calling it ‘Street Kid redux plus Ty Phillips’ (Sam ‘detested’ working with the eccentric English actor, although he found his other co-star, John Dravek, ‘a sheer delight’).”

            Simon sat up suddenly. John Dravek. How could he have not remembered that name? And that guy in the cab – he did look like Sam’s former co-star. A cold sweat appeared on the back of his neck.  But he looked the same as he did 20 years ago when Simon and Jack were teenagers.

            Simon shook his head. That’s too Twilight Zone, he thought to himself. He watched more of the program, hoping for distraction.

"That's all history now," Sam was saying. “I built a grand mansion on the north California coast, only to have it fall into the sea with my first wife, Wendy, and our young child, Homer, still inside it. It was a freak accident. I shouldn't have kept dynamite in the basement."

His second wife, Emily, was Larry's ex-wife, Simon remembered and their fifteen-day courtship and sudden marriage turned a few heads. Some dated the rift with Jack from that period. Larry was wild about Emily, Simon recalled, although, strangely, he couldn’t remember what she looked like. “Funny. That name,” he said out loud. “I…” He stopped in mid-sentence, because there, on the screen, was a picture of Emily, Larry’s ex-wife. Sam’s second wife. And his former would-be girlfriend. It was the same woman he had loved and lost in college. But why had he never seen the similarity before?

He remembered now. Sam’s Emily had supposedly died when a lighthouse she was visiting – her passion was photographing historical lighthouses – had fallen into the sea. "It was a freak accident," everyone had said at the time. "They shouldn't have stored dynamite in the basement."

The program was over and he heard a knock at the door. Who could that be, so early in the morning? Simon was wary – sleep-deprived and spooked by the recent events. He approached the door cautiously, and called out, “Who’s there?”

No answer.

“Speak to me,” he said, nervously, afraid to look out the peephole.

“It’s Jaybird,” said a familiar, yet weak, voice.

Jaybird. That was – he opened the door. And Jack Rosen, looking like a rotten apple, collapsed into Simon’s arms.


Chapter 10


            Simon took a sip of English Breakfast tea and sighed as he regarded the unopened pack of Camel Filters on his dining room table. He hadn’t had a cigarette in nearly fifteen years. He knew all the reasons he shouldn’t start up again. Smoking was a nasty, expensive, senseless habit that was now frowned upon by the vast majority of intelligent, college-educated people. Aside from the social ostracism factor, there were all those fatal smoking-related diseases. Bronchitis. Emphysema. Lung cancer. Maybe even worse things.

He didn’t care. After the events and revelations of the past three days, the distant specter of death by cancer seemed a minor terror.

Ripping open the pack, Simon extracted a cigarette, and lit it with a wooden kitchen match. Inhaling the smoke he felt a rush, followed by a sensation of dizziness. He smiled grimly as he remembered that it was his old school chum, Jack “Jaybird” Rosen, who now lay resting in the next room, who had given him his first cigarette back in junior high. It had been a Camel Filter as well.

Simon’s thoughts drifted back to the days when he and Jack had been students at McSorley’s School for Young Professionals, the esteemed Upper West Side prep school. They had been best buddies from third grade through the middle of ninth, when Jack was expelled for putting a copious amount of “orange sunshine” LSD into a fellow student’s can of Dr. Pepper, causing the young man to be hospitalized.

By the time of Jack’s expulsion, the two friends had been moving apart for a while. Though they loved many of the same things—comic books (Marvel only, thanks), science fiction writers (Robert A. Heinlein a fave), TV shows (Patrick McGoohan’s “The Prisoner”)—they parted ways when it came to drugs. At the dawn of his adolescence, Jack dove headlong into the whole countercultural mind-expansion scene and never looked back. For his part, Simon watched his friend’s transformation cautiously from the sidelines, eschewing substance abuse by instinct and inclination.

 Jack had christened himself “Jaybird” after the cawing, crowlike sound he made when he smoked marijuana. In school, he would unleash the annoying cackle at random, typically followed by the chant “Jaybird’s comin’!,” delivered in the cadence of Three Dog Night’s “Eli’s Comin’.” Simon found such behavior silly, but took to calling Jack by his new name out of loyalty. All the same, he let Jaybird know he wasn’t into marijuana, acid, pills, or even Boone’s Farm wine. (Simon, who had wanted to be a writer since fifth grade, somehow intuited early on that alcohol as an authorial crutch was an odious cliché. Cigarettes were a different story. After smoking sporadically throughout high school, he would eventually become a three-pack-a-day chain smoker.)

Simon had always pitied Jack for his miserable homelife. Jack’s father, Sam, had been a famous actor in a middling sitcom called Street Kid. The show had been a critical whipping boy, but it had made Sam Rosen a lot of money. Yet aside from providing the means to send Jack and his sister, Samantha, to expensive private schools, the money had proved a poor substitute for love.  The naked truth was that the great Sam Rosen was really a drunken lout given to beating his children savagely, with little or no provocation. In fact, these days the man’s sadistic behavior would probably land him a prison sentence. Small wonder Jack had turned to drugs.

 In the years since high school, Simon and Jack had moved further and further into mutually exclusive universes. Jack plunged into the depths of his chosen netherworld as Simon plugged stolidly ahead, through college, grad school, and into the heart of another netherworld:  The league of frustrated wannabe-great novelists subsisting on dead-end jobs and dying hopes.

Still, the bonds of childhood friendship are remarkably resilient and, a year or two ago, Simon and Jack had come together again. It helped that Jack was now clean and sober and they could hang out in coffee shops, talking about music and comic books like the past thirty-five years hadn’t happened.

So it had been hard to see Jack show up on his doorstep looking like a lobotomized dope fiend on the worst bad trip ever. Jaybird was a mess, ranting and raving, sweating and shaking, retching and drooling. Nonetheless, Simon had hauled him into his bedroom, pulled off his clothes, and deposited him in his Queen-size bed.

Thankfully, Simon’s current gal pal, Alice, was a registered nurse who had worked on a detoxification unit early in her career, and was no stranger to individuals in critical distress. Her medical ministrations had served to stabilize Jack, at least initially. She put him on an IV drip, saying that he would be unable to eat solid food for several days.

“He seems to be withdrawing from something, possibly opiates,” she had said that first day, before leaving for work. “I’ve given him quite a bit of Ativan, which ought to keep him calm. His blood pressure’s a bit elevated, but his vital signs are otherwise stable. He’s obviously delirious, but he ought to come around in a day or two. Call me if there are any changes.”

           Call me if there are any changes. If Simon had followed that advice, he would have been on the phone with Alice nonstop. For Jack’s condition had seemed to change every hour or two. He would sleep peaceably for a while and then wake up, screaming, eyes tightly shut, and go back into a semi-coma, muttering rapidly. Or he would flail about madly, shouting profanity. Then, suddenly, he would smile beatifically and begin singing childish nursery rhymes.  It was nerve-wracking, but Simon felt impelled to monitor his friend’s condition.

He was especially interested in Jack’s sleep talk. 

            Consistently, Jack moaned a single word that at first sounded like “enemy.”  After awhile, Simon had to admit the word was not “enemy,” but “Emily.”  Hearing Jack use the name of his former girlfriend—particularly after the New Year’s Eve incident with the seemingly mad Dravek—was disconcerting enough.  But then, after one particularly blood-curdling scream, Simon heard Jack say, “Fuck you, Fenster! Give me my pills!”

Simon felt the hackles on the back of his neck rise. Fenster! The very name that Dravek, not to mention that long ago-assailant in the vestibule, had invoked. What the hell was going on here? He had to find out.

Simon had already called in sick to work two days running and now seemed to exist only to monitor his friend’s delirious dream-talk. Once he heard him mention “the library,” and wondered if it was the same library “near the forest” of which that loonie Dravek had spoken. It was too weird.

 Another time, near the end of the second day, Jack had sat up, opened his eyes, and said, “Cyril Apar is the key. He knows more than any of them.” Then, he had collapsed back into a deep slumber, leaving Simon to wonder why the name “Apar” struck such fear in him.

Then, early this morning, as he was debating whether or not to phone Alice, Simon had heard Jack call his name, clearly and distinctly.  He had gone to the bedroom door and peered at his friend who was sitting up in bed, his eyes bright, clear, and lucid.

“Hello, Simon,” he said. “Thanks for taking care of me.”

 “That’s all right. What the heck happened to you?”

Jack looked pensive. “I’m not totally sure,” he said. “But I need to tell you a tale. A tale about the year 2525.”

And with those words, Jack Rosen proceeded to tell the story that caused Simon to buy his first pack of cigarettes in 15 years.





“I love you. Are you in love with me?”

Iola Morton checked her watch. She had a busy day to keep her waiting. All the day long. “Does the word, melancholia, mean anything to you?” Iola asked.

“It means, in French, the Count de Felix. Or to you, it just means, Felix the cat.”

“Put on some more, Henry Mancini, Chet. (Chet is her brother.) “And then, gild the lily”


I often wonder, say. “Sometimes, out loud, how the world of Iola Morton, came to be. 

True-- she was beautiful and talented, in her own special way. But what was the crux of the problem.

No one could figure it out, especially, 

The count Du Goo, paused briefly in his limousine, and then, moved forward.


We were sitting there, drinking some wine, when, Joe Hardy, moved thru the door like every Tom, Dick, or Harry. In retrospect, I guess, going to get another bottle, refreshed his palate, and made him see straight, again.

 I saw Kathy again, that year. Sometimes, a great notion, or so we say.” I hear that the stimulus package, as suggested by the President, is going thru, without a hitch. Some say that. At any time, it might rain.”

“Tell me about the jungle,” Kathleen asked Iola

“It's seeing desperate times, Kath, and I haven’t been to a junior prom as much as I would have liked to. You see, its like this... I buy a bottle of wine, and then; you drink it.”


Kath came up to Iola Morton and wondered out loud whether Moses had cleared any on the bulrushes out of his line of glory. Ah, yes, Iola Morton, come on down. Kath, Kath, come on down, if the price is right. What do I win? She asked her.

-a bottle of wine...


Didn't Joe Hardy remember the Alamo, or some reasonable, facsimile?

Or was it in November that it started to rain.

And isn't it try that Caesar comes upon his faults, and then, does something about them?


I think it's true that summer went by and as the sun sett4d, an old woman sweeped the path in front of he, unafraid to travel the lonesome road by herself. So, She took Joe Hardy's hand, and , began to walk down it, a bit annoyed that she would hev to be read as a run-on sentence. But ever so coyingly, she suggested that they travel the path together.


I’m not into girls, much, and I don't like the rain. But I do see the clouds for their lining, and , a silver one, at that. If you ever wonder out loud about which path to travel, I wonder if you should take my hand, and then, perhaps, walk down the path together.


“I met with this handful of bullets,” Joe screamed. And then passed out...


Betty has had many a nervous breakdown, but, don't tell her that. She gently put the baby back in the cradle and wondered out loud if the refrigerator was humming. Betty was close friends with Frank Hardy, whereas, Joe Hardy was a perfect example of pride-- knowing he was dear friends with-- Joe Hardy.

  Joie had blond hair and was seventeen years old. Frank was a little more intelligent, if you can call it that. His hair was dark brown and he exuded a radiant reality of exuberant hope. To which no one was immune.

  Fenton Hardy was the father. Father down the road was the house. A pretty dog, in a manner of speaking, was running around, chasing a ball. To Fenton Hardy, that his life was nothing more then a dog's (blank).

  If you talk to Fenton, you might realize had throwing a Frisbee around was not his deal.

  “I talked with the neurologist this morning, Dad. He says I'm doing  pretty well for a boy my age, considering all the bullets that entered my body. And another thing...”

  “Speaking in front of the family will not get you anywhere with Caesar. Why? What?”

  Caesar Accutron has never been accused for being coy. In times past, he might have been. The wind in the willows blew his tousled hair back and sort of turned it into a difficult knot. 

  Anyway--- it really was him, in all his glory, in all his humility.

  “Humility is the worst form of conceit,” muttered Frank Hardy/

  He looked hopefully at Joe, but the younger brother had no problem with it.

  “Humility is the, what?”

  “...worst form of conceit, Frank cried, and then, walked away.

  “I feel so broken up about it.” said Sam Papas. “I said, 'I hate you' to my brother.”

   And then Papas started to cry.




            Simon shook his head. The story, the ravings, disturbed him. All this talk about Sam Papas and the Hardy Boys – he had thought Jack was lucid, but he was just talking drug-induced nonsense, the kinds of things he remembered his father saying in the hospital after two weeks of hospital “care” had induced what they called “ICU psychosis.” He remembered the first time his father had exhibited the worrisome signs that he was not himself: he had become very animated, almost agitated, talking to Simon and Alice about the clocks, which he claimed were all made in Turkey or Iraq. Then he began talking about the different levels that he had to ascend through to get to Emily’s world.

            He stopped in mid-thought. Did he have that right? Emily’s world? Why had he never thought of that before? Surely there was no connection – he had to be imagining things.

            “Jaybird,” he said to Jack, who sat there smiling, softly repeating to himself the phrase, “Humility is the worst form of conceit.” He shook him. “Jack. You mentioned Emily. Who is Emily? Is she the girl I knew in college? Or is she your father’s wife?”
            “She’s both and neither,” laughed Jack. “It’s six of one, half-dozen of the other, good day, No. 6,” he said, referencing The Prisoner. Jack was a catalogue of pop culture references, sighed Simon to himself.

            “I’ll tell you the story,” said Jack, suddenly conspiratorial. He looked around, as though to be sure no one was listening. “It all started when I went to the library. The library, with Mr. Atoz.”

            “They are coming for me. I can sense their presence even now as I speak this weird tale. There is Col. Grahams, the police officer I killed for the little gold he had to send to his wife. There are others whom I cannot even remember. Every person who I have ever challenged in my life of sin is here for vengeance. There is Emily. I remember when I left her on that far-gone day and ran away with some little southern coquette. And there is our unborn child, who was born as a spirit, and has never known how it feels to live! To live! God! The night I killed my wife, I robbed my child of the right to live!

They are coming. I shall offer no resistance. I deserve anything that they might do to me!”

    Then he calmed down, seemingly more lucid. “I turned up at the library. I stepped in the doorway. I was free and happy. As soon as I opened Emily’s box that brought me there, I was outside. In the open. I was free. I was so happy that I jumped for joy, but then I remembered I was escaping and wasted no time. Over a hill, I went, and then I noticed something. No one was taking up the chase. This came as a great surprise to me, and I felt greatly relieved, but kept on running just to be sure. For days, I climbed over rivers, streams, brooks, and hills. Finally, I was so tired I could go no further. I fell asleep.

“When I awoke I noticed something. A sort of red-orange glow came from the sky. It was in an Easterly direction. I pondered over what it could be. But then I dropped off into sleep again. I woke up and must have slept a fairly long time, for I saw one of the moons racing across the sky. I thought I saw something move in the bushes, but I didn't pay much attention to it. I saw the movement again and knew that a person, or an ‘it’ was behind them. I was going to run and hide, but I could not. I froze, thinking of what the creature might do to me. I could not move. I was scared as Hell. Then I saw it. At first I thought I was dreaming. Out of the bushes it came. And then it spoke. Standing with a red-orange glow around him was Patrick Johnson.”

The phone rang. Simon picked it up. A woman’s voice came out crisp and clear… “Simon, don’t listen to Jack. If you listen to him, you may not like what you find.”

            “Who is this?”

            “It’s Emily, Simon. Your Emily. The woman you gave the cookie to. The woman you’ve never forgotten. Your abandoned love.”

            “What’s going on? What’s this all about?” said Simon, the sweat building at the back of his neck, as he longed for a cigarette.

            A laugh, which was suddenly stifled, followed by a frightened noise. “Ask Adam Kenya.” And then silence.


Adam Kenya was tired. He was trying to figure out who had murdered Patrick. He could not sleep. He had to find the murderer. The stewardess, maybe she would know. Her name was Myrna Davies, and she lived in Queens. He went quickly by car and arrived there in about an hour. He ran up to the house and rang the doorbell,

An attractive young girl of about twenty answered the door and invited Adam to come inside. It was a pleasantly furnished apartment, very modern with all the mod furnishings. She then said, "What brings a young, handsome man to my humble abode?”

“I was wondering, did you have a date with a Patrick Johnson? A man who was murdered on your plane? He was a friend of mine.”

She suddenly looked sad. “Yes,” she said, “I liked him very much. I told him I would get us some drinks. I went into the kitchen and I then heard a glass break. I came back and found him dead.”

He looked at her. "What was the cause of death?"

“They never found out. It didn’t seem to make any sense. His heart simply stopped.”

Adam sat there thinking for what seemed a long time but was only minutes. He thought, “Who would have a motive for murdering Patrick?” He and Pat had recorded a hit single together once upon a time and far away, “You Made Me Hate Myself.” Adam remembered some of the inane lyrics: “You made me hate myself. Now I am with the sun. You made me see myself. Now I have no one. You made me be myself. Now I’m on the run.”

“Patrick was probably the kindest person I knew,” she said softly.

“But he did have an explosive side,” said Adam.

She was silent.

“He could fly into a rage faster than any man I knew,” he continued, “and the anger would end just as quickly.”

She remained silent. They sat there, awkwardly. Finally, she said, “I wouldn’t know. We were only lovers.”

“He had all he wanted,” mused Adam. “That’s what he always said. He had all he wanted.”


            Martin sat in a rented car across the street from the Myrna Davies’s place. Why had Adam Kenya gone to see her?” Martin thought, shifting his bulk uncomfortably in the driver’s seat. Kenya was a nuisance. A would-be-private eye, always poking his nose into other people’s business, likes a modern-day Joe Mannix without the pleasures of Peggy Fair. What kind of name for a secretary was that anyway? Peggy Fair. Della Street. Hot Lips Houlihan. No, she wasn’t a secretary. She was a character on some TV show. Well, so were the others, he said, arguing with himself.

            Who had killed Patrick? He was volatile, true, as Martin had found on the bus when he had been slapped by him. But murder? Kenya had irritated him with those questions. Who was he to come in and start questioning Martin’s motives? “Where were you last night?” Kenya had said after he came barging into Martin’s apartment. “Isn’t it true that you had been involved in an altercation with Patrick on the bus?”

            “I – I, yes, hum, but…” sputtered Martin, not knowing quite what to say. Did he expect him to have a Perry Mason moment and break down, saying, “Yes, I killed him. And I’m glad of it, too. I’m glad I killed him.”

            He wasn’t glad he was dead, but Patrick had always been a pain in the neck. He was such a jack-of-all-trades. Writing that song, “You Made Me Hate Myself,” and then that episode of the TV show, Mysterious Adventures. What was it called? “The Apple.” No, no, that was Star Trek. It was “The Carrot.”


Agatha Peabody stared at the bum standing on her doorstep with disgust. "Go away," she said.

"Just something to eat, m' am. It's cold out here-I haven't eaten anything in days.

Please, m' am."

"Alright, if it will get you out of here."

Agatha looked around the kitchen for something to give the beggar. Almost all of her food was too good for the likes of him, she thought.

Then she saw it: a rotting, moldy carrot. Well, it was something, and maybe this way, the bum wouldn't starve.

"Here," she said, handing him the carrot, "take it, and be off with you, before some neighbor sees me entertaining bums."

Two months later, Agatha died, and everyone in the community talked about her. "Agatha Peabody will probably find a place in heaven She attended church every day, and always contributed to worthwhile causes, yes, she will probably go to heaven."

And what of Agatha? She woke to find herself in a fiery place, where damned souls were howling in pain. Agatha looked around. Then she screamed.

"There must be some mistake!" yelled Agatha. “I shouldn't be here, I should be in heaven!"         

Suddenly, an angel appeared. He carried a thick book. He smiled at Agatha. "Can I help you?" he said in a musical voice.

"You certainly can help me," she said defiantly. "I've been sent to the wrong place, there's been a mistake."

"There has been no mistake, Miss Peabody, you are where you should be."

"But – but, I've always gone to church, and given to charities, why you can't do this to me-I've always followed the law, and been good, why should I come here?"

"Because, Miss Peabody, you didn't care about going to church. You didn't really care about giving to the charities. The only reason you ever did anything like that was because you wanted to look good in the eyes of the people. You were thinking of yourself. You never did something without being selfish about it."

"But-I-but-haven't I ever done anything unselfish, that might get me into heaven?”

"Let me check. One minute, Miss Peabody.” The angel opened the thick volume that he held under his arm and turned some pages He started reading, and then suddenly stopped with an exclamation.

"Miss Peabody, you may have a chance yet. It appears that once you gave a poor homeless man a carrot. A rotten carrot, true, but it was an unselfish act. It isn't much, but it may just be enough to get you into heaven.”

The angel disappeared suddenly, and Agatha saw a hole form in the fiery heavens, and a rope with a rotten carrot attached was lowered from heaven.

"Miss Peabody," she heard the angel's voice, “you must try to hold on to the carrot as it is being pulled up."

Agatha grabbed the carrot. The rope started up. She felt lost souls clawing at her feet, trying to get into heaven with her. Agatha was in a panic, they were too heavy, the rope might break because of their weight. She kicked and struggled, and one by one, the lost souls fell away, until there was only one left. She stared at him. It was the bum to whom she had given the carrot.

She yelled at him, "Get off, bum! The carrot will go up without us! The rope will break and I'll be left here! Let go!"

But still he clung to her.

Again she yelled, "Let go! Let go!” She cried out: “This carrot is mine!”

 And the rope broke.


Martin laughed quietly. That was a damn good teleplay; though he knew Patrick had cribbed the idea from a sermon he had heard once. The story was great – but the writing… Patrick Johnson always wrote like a 14-year-old. He admitted it, too. He looked up. Adam Kenya was exiting the apartment building. He was on the move.

Martin felt foolish following him, but also felt strangely compelled. The same compulsion that Emily had always induced in him to do things he later regretted: like changing his name, or gaining weight. Wait a minute, he said to himself. Who was that over there talking with Kenya? It couldn’t be Sally? It looked like her, but she was strangely different – more voluptuous, rounder. Yes, she seemed a good ten pounds heavier. Or maybe it was what the way she looked in general: her curly, cascading hair was now a shade of Day-Glo red that he had never seen on her before, she wore tight black jeans, a purple halter-top, and the sort of dramatic six-inch stilettos that gave birth to the phrase “fuck-me pumps.” And she had a cigarette dangling from her Day-Glo red lips. Martin felt his pulse begin racing. He wanted to talk to her, he wanted a cigarette – even though he didn’t smoke – and he wanted to touch her, all at once.

What was she saying to Kenya? He wished he could hear. They were getting quite animated. Kenya lit up a cigarette. He touched her hand, as if mesmerized. And then the two of them got into his car and drove away.

Martin started up his car and followed.


His footsteps became more rapid. Jack Rosen cast a glance behind him and to his horror saw that a half block behind him was the thing he feared. He glanced at the street corner. There was no other person or thing on the street except somebody outside an alley, obviously a drunk. He heard the footsteps behind him, closer than before. He started to run. The man outside the alley looked up. The running man, despite his fear, saw that this man was no drunk. He was short, well shaven, and had strong blue eyes and blonde hair. He looked about thirty-five or so. He also saw a wet canvas beside him, attesting to the fact that he was a painter. He yelled to him. The small artist stood up and stared at the running man quizzically. Before either said anything, a shot rang, another, and a third.

“I’ll get you, Jaybird,” said Simon, as he emptied his gun into Jack. “I’ll get you, damn it.”

But Jack, looking down at the bullet holes in his body, laughed.






            Jack’s laughter stopped abruptly, not surprisingly, because he was dead. Simon tossed the gun into the air, and as it whirled upward and caught the light of the streetlamp, Simon raised his hands high. And disappeared.

            He reappeared in a shadowy room, on a four-poster bed. Dusty dark red velvet drapes hung from the crossbar. There were paintings on the walls, in gilt frames. He felt a commotion, someone coming into the room. He couldn’t wait, his pulse raced. It was her. He knew it. Emily times three, the dream of Muslim martyrs. Yes, it was her. His fingers found the collar of his shirt and he began to unbutton it. His legs began to twitch.

            She stood by the bed. Her hair was long, dark and rich, just as he remembered it from grade school. The swell of her breasts was even more enticing that he could remember. He felt entranced, pinned to the bed like a butterfly pinned in a specimen case. His lips were dry and he moistened them. There would be no words between them.

            More than anything, he wanted her to undress. He had his shirt off and was unbuckling his pants. A moment later his desire for her was painfully obvious. Five minutes later, he was dead.

            Back in the 20th Century, John Dravek ran from the taxi like a demented zookeeper. He was near the Gowanus Canal in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. A wrought iron fence gave onto a grassy sward. A cobblestone path wound towards the water through a garden of weeds. A rather large silo-like building stood tall in the moonlight. The oily water of the Gowanus rolled, languid, under a full moon. Dravek ran down the cobblestone path. His shoes made a clatter. He reached the base of the spiral stairs that wound up around the silo, an eccentric three-story residence. He ran up them.

            On the top floor a locked door barred entry to an apartment that featured a very big plate-glass window. The glass glowed dully in the moonlight and Dravek couldn’t see inside. If what he suspected was true, inside was an early working prototype of the Rosen transtime vault, cunningly concealed as a musical instrument. It might be the only thing that could free him of the nightmare that had begun and that would continue for thousands of years: Apar domination.

            Dravek took off a shoe and swung it against the window, hard. He felt the jar reaching up to his right shoulder as the glass buckled, but did not break. He heard muffled voices, glanced around hurriedly, felt for the spiral stairs, and bolted up them, swinging up over the balustrade and onto the roof. Panting, he hugged the tar and waited.

            Two young men came into view in the garden, walking towards the silo-like building and puffing on pipes. One was young-looking, perhaps in his twenties, wearing tweeds. The other was shorter, with frizzy hair, wearing a white turtleneck and severe straight-legged pants. They were deep in conversation and had not heard Dravek. The shorter man was saying something about the Hungarian composer Bela Bartok. Dravek could smell the smoke quite well as the taller man fumbled for the key to the locked door. Then the door gave and they were in. Dravek quickly slipped from his perch and hit the porch with a light bounce, catching a full view of the room just as the lights in the apartment went on.

            What he saw confirmed his hopes. There, in the center of the large studio, was an electronic contraption that looked something like the Zeiss projector in the old Hayden Planetarium married to an electronic music synthesizer. He had been right. The two men had to be Timothy Rosen, inventor, and his close friend Caesar Accutron, a shoe salesman who had a Stride-Rite franchise on nearby Smith Street. Accutron was bankrolling Rosen’s project, that looked like art, but wasn’t. Still crouching, he listened for conversation.

Accutron had rolled out a small piano and was fingering the keys, coaxing out a melancholy tune. Rosen was at the big contraption, and he had a caliper out, with which he was carefully measuring the gaps between pieces of metal. John deliberated to himself if he should stand up, walk in, and introduce himself: “Hello, I’m your employee. Or, at least, I’ll be an employee of your corporation in seven hundred years…” No, better yet, to slink back away from the tall building and the budding genius inside, find Emily, and give himself over to the Apars. There was no avoiding it, he knew. Even the drugs he was taking wouldn’t completely quench the desire for her. He stopped short, thinking. The drugs. Yes, that was the key. He still had a chance to extirpate the craving, if he could find the right medicine.

            He sat back against the white stucco wall that abutted the metal staircase and tried to sort it all out. He looked up for the stars, but had a hard time seeing them. He looked down, over, across at the sluggish canal. There was a commercial establishment over there, Alex Figliolia Plumbing. He read the letters without much comprehension. His ears picked out a soft, rhythmic sound: a rowboat was coming into view, heading in from the right. Two figures appeared, one rowing, the other sitting in the bow. Between them, what looked like a lumpy tent or covering of some sort. He peered, focused. Instantly the scene jumped closer, brighter. As a man of the 27th Century, Dravek had some biological enhancements unfamiliar to men of the 20th.

            Now he could see what was happening. Between the two men was a cloaked figure, stirring weakly, covered in a tarp. Now the man in the bow had gotten to his knees, bringing the craft into a mooring at a dock just feet from the Third Street bridge. He got to his feet and stepped onto the dock, tethering the boat as he did so. He motioned to his companion, who moved to the center of the boat, bent, and lifted the prone figure to waist height and then, with a lithe motion, dumped it into the canal.

            Dravek moved. He took the metal steps quickly, noiselessly, sprinted across the weed-covered lawn. It was only a few more steps to the shore, where broken quarry stones lined the canal. Then it was up on the dock, and the men turned, surprised. The man on the dock turned, ham fisted, and Dravek hit him with a shoulder, knocking him into the water with a titanic splash. Suddenly, the silence ended. The man in the boat pulled a black, stubby revolver, aimed directly at Dravek, and fired. The slug hit its mark, but Dravek didn’t pause. In a moment he was on his assailant, bending his gun hand back. The boat rocked wildly and upended, spilling both men into the water. Dravek felt the canvas tarp at his back, gripped it with his left hand. The water was only a few feet deep. He pushed the canvas toward the shore, just as the man who had shot him came in again, hand spread wide and grabbing for his throat. He felt new hands around his back, holding his arms and pinning him.

            It was time to fight back. Using mental control, he shunted power from the atomic generator in his backpack into the servos that were part of the musculature in his arms. He felt the flood of strength cascading into his biceps, flexed, broke the man’s hold easily, then lifted him bodily over his head and sent him crashing down into his fellow, splashing them both into the oily waters of the canal. They started to yell for help, and Dravek saw Figliolia’s lights coming on full force. The men hesitated, unnerved by his sudden show of strength, and Dravek took the time to turn to the half-submerged canvas bag, lifting it and bearing it up and over the canal’s bank. He felt for grommets and the rope that tied the bag together, opened it. A woman’s sleek hair was visible. He brought her up a few more feet, and laid her down among weeds. He stripped the waterlogged bag from her body, wondering if this would be Emily and his search over.

            A searchlight illumined them both and with it, the sharp crack of a gun. Dravek turned, and faced a small army. One man hefted a high-powered rifle, and another held a small machinegun.

            “Stop right where you are, straighten up!” a man yelled.

            Dravek complied, turning to face the men on the far bank, only yards away. The heavy fibers in his coat that had stopped the pistol shot, he knew, would be no match for the artillery his new assailants carried.

            “Who are you and what do you want with Sally?”

            Dravek had his first opportunity to speak that night and used it:

            “John, John Dravek,” he said, his breathing ragged. “I’m from Greenland.” He paused, gathering air to yell again. “I will be from Greenland. I need drugs. I can pay for it. I have local currency.”

            A murmur from the other side, surprised chuckles, and an order:

            “You show us how you did that trick with Lou and Tony, and we’ll give you all the drugs you want.”




            As he watched himself die, Jack Rosen thought, wryly, “It’s like a movie.”

            In the year 2525, Jack Rosen’s body no longer existed. His soul, spirit, mind—his very essence—was stored on a microchip somewhere in the vastness of the Apar Corporation’s master computer system. 

            He viewed the scene again, stored it in his memory bank for future reference, and resumed thinking about the Hardy Boys. He very much wanted to place Frank and Joe Hardy, fully grown into virile men in their mid-‘20s, into an artfully pornographic mystery novel, the first of many. He believed the public would be receptive to such a series; he hoped he could get Mr. Atoz to approve the project.

            Jack slowed his memory process to a human-like crawl and reveled in the relative sensuality of the experience. Functioning within a state-of-the-art computer meant that Jack could read hundreds of books a week, and write nearly as many in not much longer. Turning out escapist fare for the masses was now a part of his job, and he was very good at it. Just recently, he had added a dozen volumes to Edgar Rice Burroughs’ all-but-forgotten Venus series—including one in which protagonist Carson Napier teams up with Lt. Gulliver Jones, the obscure creation of 19th century fantasist Edwin Lester Arnold. Every volume had become a bestseller.

            Of course, thinking and reflecting at normal speed was somewhat like loping lazily from New York to California, rather than just teleporting the same distance in seconds: Impossibly slow, but “Oh-so-good-and-retro, Joe,” as the cool kids liked to say these days when expressing admiration for a nostalgic indulgence. Slowly, slowly, Jack drifted back in time to recall his first, life-altering meeting with Mr. Atoz.

            It had been in his first two weeks as a denizen of what he thought of as “Aparworld.” Indeed, General Motors, Sony, Apple, even Kellogg’s—none of these companies seemed to have survived into the 26th century. Everything in the spotless white room Jack had been assigned to live in, from the mini-computer to the refrigerator to the toilet seat, was branded with those ominous, omnipresent words: “Property of Apar Corporation.”

            Jack believed he had been drugged and brainwashed from the beginning of his stay. He had vague memories of vivid, stoned dreams filled with disjointed fantasies about the Hardy Boys. The dreams were always accompanied by beguiling aromas: Mandarin tea, pure opium, the succulent Hawaiian flower plumeria, and the oddly-pleasant smell of a white liquid soap he remembered from a detox he had been in back in 1979. There were also vague memories of men cutting open his head and fiddling with his brain, while a buxom, corkscrew-haired nurse spoke soothingly to him, slowly masturbating him to orgasm and unconsciousness.

            It seemed to Jack that he had been subjected to several weeks of this treatment before his first visit from Mr. Atoz, a slow-moving, elderly Greek gentleman who dressed in a white jumpsuit of the sort the Who’s Pete Townshend used to wear. Mr. Atoz always came bearing gifts: Meat pies, green figs, yogurt, rice pudding and the like, all delicious, all comfort foods Jack loved. Atoz would ask Jack to tell him about his life and dreams, and Atoz would listen intently as Jack opened up, revealing more of himself than he ever had to anybody, except possibly Emily.

The old Greek was endlessly empathetic and kind; he really seemed to care for and understand Jack. Only once, when Jack had mentioned how much he missed Emily, had the old man demonstrated a capacity for anger.

            “Don’t talk about that…wench,” Atoz said heatedly, nostrils flaring. He breathed deeply, seemed to gather himself, and spoke more calmly. “Not now, anyway, dear boy. We’ll get to her in due time. Perhaps a year, perhaps more. She helped bring you here, true. But you must forget her for now.”

            There was something in the old man’s tone that made Jack heed his words.

            It was shortly after that encounter that Atoz posed a most intriguing question to Jack Rosen: “How would you like to be a god who serves?”

            Jack was taken aback. In his drinking and drugging years, when he wasn’t thinking of himself as a piece of shit, he often secretly felt he was better than other people, a de facto god. It was a thought he had come to reject as childish, although, if truth be known, the fantasy of godhood still held an appeal for him.

            “Sure,” he answered cautiously.

            “It will, of course, mean giving up your body, and surrendering your soul to Apar.” (Not Apar Corporation, just “Apar,” Jack noted.) “But you shouldn’t mind that. You will be rewarded handsomely by doing what you have always wanted to do.”

            “What’s that?” asked Jack, suspiciously.

            “Read, write, think, and dream while doing service to our great world. My boy, I am prepared to offer you a position in the Bookmasters Corps, the most intellectually esteemed and, dare I say, rewarding assignment in Apar’s military service. I can promise you hours and hours of entertainment, wholesome and otherwise, as well as the eventual ability to influence public thought. Do you accept?”

            Jack looked deep into Atoz’s eyes and read the unmistakable message there: Saying no would be a very foolish and unfortunate thing to do.

            So he said, “Yes,” and sealed his fate.


            In short order, Jack’s body was cremated, and Jack himself soon coursed through the master Apar computer system, a young recruit in the Bookmasters Corps. Jack’s job, at least in the beginning, was to read, read, read. He read through the entire Hardy Boys series because he had loved the books as an 8-year-old. He moved on to Dickens, H.G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle—all writers he had enjoyed before drugs took over his life. Reading these writers, he absorbed their tricks, their world-views, their styles, and he was eventually able to mimic them to perfection—even, in some cases, to improve on them. (Critics claimed his recasting of The Mystery of Edwin Drood was far more satisfying and artful than the original.)

            Once Jack started continuing the work of other writers—always under their own names, the idea being to convince the reading public that these men hadn’t really died, but had been magically resurrected to write again for the Apar Corporation—he felt he had found his calling. His particular niche, as eventually determined by Mr. Atoz, was pulp fiction (“Oh-so-good-and-retro, Joe!”), and he had already written over 60 novels about Doc Savage, Agent of Apar; The Shadow of Apar; the Apar Op Mike Hammer, and (under various house-names) Napoleon Solo, The Man From A.P.A.R. He didn’t mind the propagandistic nature of stumping for the corporation because he found, amazingly, that Apar was a very fluid concept. As long as the Apar Corporation was ultimately presented as unflaggingly good, moral, and uplifting, he could write anything he wished, attributing all negative attributes to the enemy. Violence, drugs, blasphemy, sado-masochistic sex, deviance of all sorts—all these elements were acceptable, so long as Apar ultimately came out on top, smelling like roses.

            And the public loved the unsavory stuff. Jack’s own past gave him a familiarity with man’s lower nature that made his writing very convincing. Although he never wrote under his own name, Mr. Atoz and those above Mr. Atoz were aware that all those ten-and-twenty-million selling new books by Kenneth Robeson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Mickey Spillane, Erle Stanley Gardner, and others were being turned out by former “garbage head psycho,” Jack Rosen. (As an in-joke, Jack had even written a Sherlock Holmes tale called “The Affair of the Garbage Head Psycho,” which Apar Studios was currently making into a multi-billion dollar film.)

Indeed, when it came to capturing the public’s interest with the written word, Jack was a true master craftsman. To reward him, the top brass had decided to let him start going on actual “real-body” adventures, under the cover of “research.” Thus it was that they sent him back to 21st century, in that disconcertingly real-seeming synthetic body, to be killed by his old friend Simon. In retrospect, the whole affair had been frightfully botched, dreadfully misconceived, and ill-handled by all concerned, including Jack. In the first place, no one had even considered Dravek’s interest in the matter—a grave strategic error. Jack knew a debriefing from Atoz was in the offing, and he wasn’t looking forward to it. Especially since Jack suspected that Atoz knew he had discovered something.

            It was something about Emily; it was something he was certain he was not supposed to know.

And, although computer microchips were supposed to be impervious to physical sensation, Jack Rosen suddenly felt very much like he was shivering. 




The fat old man sat devouring his food. He snickered as he thought about how he had cheated his business partner. He picked up a leg of chicken and put it into his mouth, like a hungry pig. He was a giant. He was as wide as an elephant. When he smiled he looked like a vulture that had just had a good meal.

The doorbell rang. The old man struggled out of his seat. He lumbered to the door, the bell ringing insistently. He opened it, and saw a young, bearded man and a young girl.

            "Hello, Mr. Phillips," said the bearded young man.    

"Hello, Adam," said the fat man. "Who's your friend?”

"Her name is Sally."  Her curly, cascading hair was a shade of Day-Glo red that he thought he had seen before but couldn’t remember where or when. She wore tight black jeans, a purple halter-top, and the sort of dramatic six-inch stilettos that gave birth to the phrase “fuck-me pumps.” And she had a cigarette dangling from her Day-Glo red lips. The fat old man felt his pulse begin racing.

He became puzzled. “Sally,” he said softly, as though he should remember that name, or that girl. He tried to shrug it off. "Well, what can I do for you, Adam? I'm sorry about the deal. You win some, you lose some.”

"You didn't expect me to get out on bail, did you?”
 "No, I didn't." The fat old man wondered what Adam wanted.

"Go on with your dinner, Mr. Phillips," said Adam, seeing the unfinished food.

The fat old man started eating again. Adam went into the kitchen. He called to him. "What are you doing, Adam?”

"Getting something, Mr. Phillips."

The fat old man continued eating. The girl, Sally, winked at him, and licked her lips. She was a bit overweight, but cute, he noted to himself. He stopped eating and lumbered over to her, his passions aroused. “Hiya, Marty,” she cooed.

For a moment, he felt the passions rush through his body, then time stopped. He hung there, 110 feet above the scene, looking down at himself as he would be, not as he now was. He was Martin Phillips, but he was not a fat old man – he was young. Young.

Suddenly, Martin heard a. cry from behind him: "Help!" He whirled around, ready for anything. He was no longer in the apartment but on a cliff.  A few yards in front of' him, an old, withered man dressed in a white jumpsuit of the sort the Who’s Pete Townshend used to wear hung from an out-jutting ledge. Martin saw the man's hands slipping; he called again in a weak faint voice: “Help me. Please.”

And Martin opened his eyes.


He wasn’t old any longer, but he was still fat. He looked around. He was in his car, parked by the Brooklyn waterfront. He had followed Adam Kenya and Sally to the Gowanus Canal in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. They had gone into a silo-like building, a commercial space with a sign that read, “Alex Figliolia Plumbing.” He sat in his car, feeling slightly foolish, and was getting ready to leave when he saw a rowboat on the water. Two figures appeared, one rowing, the other sitting in the bow. Between them, what looked like a lumpy tent or covering of some sort. Between the two men was a cloaked figure, stirring weakly, covered in a tarp. Now the man in the bow had gotten to his knees, bringing the craft into a mooring at a dock just a few feet from the Third Street Bridge.

Martin stared, fascinated. Was this some sort of dream, too? Would he wake up and find himself back in Sally’s apartment, having pancakes?

The men in the rowboat took something – it looked like a body wrapped in a tarp – and dumped it overboard. Martin sat up straight. And suddenly felt something cold and hard pressed against the side of his head.

“Don’t move, you fat fuck. Don’t even breathe. The slightest move can cause your death.” It was Adam Kenya’s voice, but Martin didn’t dare look.”

Martin cleared his throat. “Ah, Adam. How nice to, um, see you…”

“Shut up.”

Martin sat there, silently watching as a new figure entered the canal scene. A powerfully built man had leapt onto the boat and in a brief skirmish had lifted one of the oarsmen bodily over his head and sent him crashing down into his fellow, splashing them both into the oily waters of the canal.

A searchlight suddenly illuminated the scene and with it, the sharp crack of a gun. The newcomer turned, and was now facing a small army. One man hefted a high-powered rifle, and another held a small machine gun.

“Stop right where you are, straighten up!” a man yelled “Who are you and what do you want with Sally?”

            “John, John Dravek,” he said. “I’m from Greenland. I will be from Greenland. I need drugs. I can pay for it. I have local currency.”

            A murmur from the other side, surprised chuckles, and an order:

“You show us how you did that trick with Lou and Tony, and we’ll give you all the drugs you want.”

Kenya was whispering in Martin’s ear: “Don’t get too attached to the scene. Get out of the car. Slowly. And come with me.”

They tiptoed out, but needn’t have bothered. Just as they got out of the car, the sounds of machine gun fire came from the docks. Martin could no longer see what was happening, but he heard cries of, “Get him!” “There he goes!” “I think you nailed him!”

Kenya led him to another car. Inside it were two young men: one was perhaps in his twenties, wearing tweeds. The other had frizzy hair, wearing a white turtleneck. They were deep in conversation.

And sitting between them was Sally, a cigarette dangling from her Day-Glo red lips.

“You drive,” said Kenya to Sally. She got into the front seat and Martin was instructed to sit next to her. Adam sat behind him, the pistol at the back of his head.

“How nice to see you again,” Martin said weakly to Sally.

“Shut up, you fat fuck,” said Sally. Martin was shocked. He had never heard her use vulgar language in his life. “I should fuck your fucking brains out,” she said to him,” as though she were reading his mind.

This had to be a dream, he thought. This isn’t Sally. Is it?


And Martin opened his eyes. He was in a sterile, white-walled room, staring out a window at an elegant, monumental building, apparently made out of wood, with broad steps going up into what looked to be a colonnade. A man in a white jumpsuit stood there. On a table behind him were meat pies, green figs, yogurt, and coffee, very black.

“Good morning, Mr. Phillips,” he said, with the slight touch of an accent. “I am Mr. Atoz. I hope you had a good journey.”

He looked around. There was a sign that said, “Bookmasters Corps.” And another one that said, “Questions Are a Burden.” And still another that said, “Apar Is Knowledge.”

“You’re perhaps wondering what you’re doing here.”
            “It had crossed my mind,” he said, nervously trying to sound nonchalant. “Ah, what’s it all about?”

“Welcome to the 27th Century,” said Mr. Atoz.

Martin blinked his eyes again. Surely this was a dream.

“No, it is no dream, Mr. Phillips,” he said, apparently reading the look on Martin’s face. “We snatched you just in time. You are the focal point in time that we have been looking for. The one who can help us in our quest.”

“Quest?” Martin said.

“Enough for now. You are tired. You must eat. The chosen ones must have heft before they go into battle. You must be well fed. You are a chosen one.”

He suddenly realized that he hadn’t eaten in what seemed like days. He was famished and ate heartily, hardly noticing that Mr. Atoz had silently left the room. As he finished, he heard a noise. He turned. Standing in the doorway was Adam Kenya.

“Hello, Martin,” he said softly. He took four quick strides and was at his side. “Listen to me,” he said quietly and conspiratorially. “We don’t have much time. Don’t listen to Atoz. He’s a stooge for the Apar Corporation. I’m part of the 253 Collective. I brought you here because Fenster was close behind us and he’d never think of looking for us here. I think Dravek is dead. He’s failed in his mission to stop the Apars. It’s up to us to carry on. They infected Sally, but I managed to turn her – they thought they had killed her but it was only a Gemini construct I managed to create with the computer on the Regulus. Luckily, Fenster had lunar phobia. That slow him down.”

Martin’s head reeled as he tried to take in everything Kenya told him. Most of it seemed nonsensical. “I think they killed Patrick,” he continued breathlessly. “He was one of ours. And Simon – he was a sleeper agent. When Emily called him, she said the key phrase, which triggered his memories. He knew then who and what Jack Rosen was and had to kill him before he did more harm for the Apars. I’ve brought Timothy Rosen and Caesar Accutron here, too, but it’s very dangerous. If Atoz finds I’m not working for them, but for the collective…”

His voice trailed off, and he swirled around.

“Ah, Kenya, my old friend,” said Mr. Atoz, as he entered the room. “You are needed in the Blue Room.”

Kenya smiled a crooked smile.


“And look what the cat dragged in.”

Two hefty, voluptuous women in white jump suits – one looking like Sally, the other like Samantha Rosen, Jack’s sister – dragged a figure in between them. He was dripping wet but was instantly familiar to Martin as the powerful man at the canal in Brooklyn. Mr. Dravek will tell us some tales now. Perhaps about the 253 Collective.”

And Martin reeled over dizzily, as the world seemed to explode like a rotten apple.




            Jack Rosen lay basking in the afterglow of android sex.

            Fornication between android bodies was quite different from the same pastime between humans, Jack reflected. For one thing, androids could be programmed to engage in sexual activity for hours and hours on end if so desired; the climactic moment could also be arranged to happen at the same instant for both parties. Jack had today contented himself with a mere forty-minutes of intercourse—roughly thirty-eight minutes longer than he had usually managed as a human, he thought, chuckling.

            He regarded his partner, now lying contentedly by his side. Thin, Asian, with a pixie haircut, perky nipples, ample buttocks, and a sardonic smile, she had been constructed specially for Jack from his private cache of sexual fantasies. Of course, Jack thought uneasily, he had never verbalized that he desired just this sort of consort; nor had he described the physical attributes with which his fantasy was endowed. Somehow, the Apar Corporation’s all-seeing Joy Division had plucked all the correct components from his consciousness, and constructed the female android named “Koi.”

            Jack felt quite peaceful now, although he had initially been worried when Mr. Atoz had suggested a sex session for him prior to “a meeting to discuss matters of vast historical import,” in Atoz’s phrase. Historical import, Jack mused.  His mind idly wandered over what he knew of world history since the dawn of “the Apar age” way back in the 21st Century.

            It had been in 2076 that Ty Apar was elected president of the United States of America. Neither Democrat nor Republican, Apar had arrogantly run on his own “Apar Party” line, and won handily.  A brilliant scientist who had designed the first workable androids for use by humans, old man Ty had run on a platform that promised to put an end to the Second Great Depression, in which America had been hopelessly mired since 2059. Miraculously, he accomplished this, raising trillions of dollars through the sale of armies of androids to Japan and Russia, who deployed these forces in endless battles that nearly destroyed both countries.

            Ty Apar’s America, though, emerged richer and more powerful than ever, unaffected by foreign squabbles.  Quality of life improved so dramatically that there was little uproar when Apar suggested jettisoning the Constitution of the United States of America (“Hopelessly outdated,” he said) and drafting a new document. This “New and Improved Constitution” declared the Apars and all their heirs to be the de facto rulers of America, henceforth and forevermore.

            Of course, there had been pockets of resistance among those who saw parallels between the rise of Ty Apar and that of a mad little man with a mustache named Adolph Hitler. Under Apar’s orders, undefeatable android armies quickly dispatched of the more militant factions of insurgents. More docile malcontents, from the worlds of academia and religion, were simply abducted, brainwashed, and put to work for “the grand cause,” as Ty Apar dubbed his march to greater and greater power.

            In 2090, Ty Apar’s old, ailing body was retired, and his body and soul were encased in an android replica of his younger self. In short order, the entire Apar family followed suit. Some among the very, very rich also opted to become androids, although the fifteen billion dollar price tag for the procedure assured that precious few humans would ever achieve Aparian immortality.

            To Jack’s mind, the history of the next several centuries was suspiciously rose-colored. According to the approved version—and there was, officially, no other—the world simply moved forward, its populace boundlessly happy under Aparian rule. Apar’s America expanded, taking over Russia, Japan, China, and any third world countries it saw fit to. Many of these tiny countries vied mightily for the privilege of becoming an Aparian colony, offering gifts of gold, human labor, sexual favors, and—well, anything King Apar might ask for, including human sacrifice. (This latter offer, though often made, was always flatly refused by King Apar, the official history stated.)

            Of course, by the 23rd Century, advances in medicine had succeeded in completely wiping out most diseases, including such tenacious mental illnesses as schizophrenia and major depressive disorder. Jack knew that the pills that Emily had once given him were, in fact, the Apar Corporation’s famous Allgood pill (“Good for everything that ails you,” the campaign slogan ran). The Apar Corporation became widely known as “Utopia, Inc.,” a designation that King Apar jocularly acknowledged to be “nothing more than the gospel truth” in his famous State of the Union address of 2410. (It was in this historic address also that he uttered the famous statement, “Ask not what the Apar Corporation can do for you. Ask what you can do for the Apar Corporation!”)

            Still, as Jack knew, there was trouble in paradise. Mr. Atoz had admitted as much to him, both covertly and overtly, on many occasions. He glanced at his watch: 2:23 p.m. Atoz had said he would come for him at 3 p.m.

            “Hey, Koi?” Jack asked his beautiful, gleamingly nude partner.

            “Yes, darling?” Koi answered with the faintest hint of a Japanese accent.

            “Care for a quickie?”


            At 3:05 p.m., Jack Rosen was sitting in a white room sipping a glass of ebullience-enhanced water and regarding Mr. Atoz.

            “You’re probably wondering why we’re here,” said Atoz, folding his hands across his belly.

            “It had crossed my mind,” said Jack, grinning nervously. “What’s it all about?”

            “These are stressful times,” said Atoz. “Very stressful times. And the main stressor is--time itself.”

“Come again?”

“Jack, as entertainment, time travel has been a phenomenally successful enterprise,” said Atoz. “But it has a dangerous side to it.”

            “I thought the time travel business was all very carefully monitored and contained?”

            “Yes and no,” said Atoz. “You, as a former substance abuser, will no doubt appreciate how difficult it is to control the public’s appetite for forbidden fruit. I believe that in your time there was a political movement called `The War on Drugs,’ was there not?”

            “Indeed there was.”

            “Was it successful?”

            “Far from it,” said Jack, chortling. “It was later exposed as one of the greatest scams of that particular century.”

            “So it was,” said Atoz. “Many are saying similar things about our `Time Travel Responsibly’ campaign.  Even now, there are underground time travel agents who have been allowing people to travel forward—into the future!—for a price.”

            “Wow,” said Jack. “I had no idea that was even possible.”

            “Of course it is,” snapped Atoz. “Don’t be naïve; the Royal Family does it regularly. But, of course, that is their right.”

            “Yes, I suppose it is.”

            “Of course, it’s still dangerous—if not impossible--to travel more than 100 years into the future. Even King Apar wouldn’t do that. But—some have.”

            “Really,” said Jack, crossing his legs.

            “Yes,” said Atoz, his eyes narrowing and his face assuming a pained expression. “And we do not like some of what these individuals have revealed about the 27th Century and beyond.”

            “Who are these individuals?

            “One of them you know. Quite well, I would say. Her name is Emily.”

            Jack blanched. “Well,” he said. “Well, well. When I knew her, her primary interest seemed to be in my era—the late 20th Century. What has she found out about the 27th Century?”

            “Disturbing things,” said Atoz. “Things that might, ah, well—disturb the future of the monarchy.”

            “Where do I fit in?”

            “I was wondering that very thing,” said Atoz, eyeing Jack narrowly.

            Jack shifted in his seat. “Wait a minute,” he said. “I feel almost like you’re accusing me of something. Listen, I’m grateful to the Apar Corporation. Very grateful. You cured me of my addiction. Gave me a calling. I didn’t ask to be brought here. But I’m happy I was. I’m no insurgent.”

            “No,” said Atoz. “Not at this time, anyway.”

            “What are you saying?” asked Jack, his heart beating rapidly.

            “Never mind right now, “ said Atoz. “Right now, I want you to meet an individual with whom you will work closely.” Atoz touched a button on his chair and an unseen door opened. In stepped a golden-skinned, well-muscled, strikingly handsome male figure. He looks, thought Jack, like a Roman gladiator.

            “Jack Rosen,” said Atoz. “Meet Caesar Accutron.”




Emily stretched lazily on the divan, her body curled like a cat’s. There was a flaring, electrical sound and a portal opened in mid-air, about six feet directly in front of her, and about two feet from the dusky white wall of the room. Smoky vapors curled around it. A face looking like a wrought-iron fence with oval holes for eyes, appeared behind the whirling smoke. It spoke.

 “You have found a key to unlock the hidden secrets of the Apars, but you have wasted your talents. Even now, our trusted agent finds himself deluded and unable to continue his mission. The gifts which we have given you lie rusted and unused.”

Emily wondered again about the being that had summoned her here, had created this space out of time for her to collect her energies before being sent through time on another mission. The 253 collective. They controlled the star lanes out of earth in all directions, while the Apars controlled only the solar system. And the 253 collective needed her services as a double agent. She had had no alternative but to accept.

As a high-level android created by the Apar royal family, Emily had been sent on a transtime mission to support and defend the early Apar progenitors from any interference, as well as to bring them around to their ultimate goal: refining and tuning the Apar principles, until they altered man’s basic instincts, subverting man’s will through sexual and drug-induced gratification. It was a bizarre, twisted, and obscene attempt by a degenerate dynasty to insure its own existence – and it seemed to be working.

Emily had easily seduced the fat Marty Phillips back in the 20th Century, to wean him from his interest in Sally and addict him to Apar sex. Once she had had Martin, he had even retrained his own memories, believing that his old girlfriend Sally had, in fact, been sexless and unappealing, when the opposite was in fact true. Sally herself had been bedded by John Apar, also an android sent back in time, and who had his own programming and was everything any woman wanted. It all made sense, because these people were the crucial incubator for the Aparization that was to come. All must be controlled, all resistance conquered.

It was the same with Jack Rosen, her first important assignment. Rosen, she had been informed, was a threat to Apar that must be neutralized. And he had been easy to master. An addict by inclination, he just needed to be helped onto the road of least resistance. This Emily had been designed to do, and he couldn’t fight his fierce desire for her. Rosen had been well on the way to a completely useless life when the first snag had occurred: he touched her time travel box and been snatched away from the Apars – something that had been unforseen. Bill Atoz, the Apar’s priggish enforcer, had been furious. At that moment, Emily had had the first inkling that her assignment might not be a simple matter of following orders, and that other players might be involved.

Brought back to her own time, her next assignment had been with the Bookmasters Corps, created by the Apars in the 26th Century. Under the tutelage of Atoz, Emily had been steeped in the art of literature. The Bookmasters Corps unlocked all of mankind’s fantasy and creativity, and put it in the service of the Apars. They realized that sex in itself was not enough. The primal drives had their place – and a rather big place it was. But what separated man from animal – the capacity for intellectual pleasure, for aggregating the world in creative imagining – that was the final frontier for control.

It had taken 90 years to train Emily as a Bookmasters Adept. This had not of course affected her looks one iota. It had given her an understanding of mankind’s literary heritage, from Beowulf and before (through time travel, Apars were able to find forgotten literary classics that pre-dated that great epic) through such works as PamelaThe Pickwick Papers, and The Way We Live Now. Her reading also spanned Joyce, Beckett, Kafka, Milton (in which she saw herself as a tragic fallen angel), Burroughs’ Tarzan of the Apes, the works of Robert E. Howard, all of Shakespeare’s plays, and the novels of Thomas Hardy. Emily read on her own, as well, going into proscribed literature, and some of the novels she found discomfited her, notably Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, by Philip K. Dick, as well as his The Penultimate Truth.

Once trained, she was ready to write, and to do more than that – to actually insert herself into the novels which, by the 26th Century, were only available electronically, and which therefore could be manipulated by the Apars to fit their strategy of control and domination. Her scandalous bowdlerization of Dixon’s The Hardy Boys, Tennessee Williams, and H.P. Lovecraft had been an eye-opener. Adolescent boys, taught the great literature of bygone centuries, now found in her – newly minted as literary lover, sorceress, and companion -- a new object of desire, fueled by the wit and verve of the old masters. Mankind’s thralldom was almost complete. It was time for her last assignment.

Atoz had plucked her from the Bookmasters Corps for one last job: to seduce and kill Simon Courtenay, Jack Rosen’s best friend and, for Atoz, perhaps the greatest potential threat to Apar domination. Courtenay was too smart, a mutation with a three-lobed brain – something unpredictable which the Apars weren’t willing to allow to develop.

But en route to her rendezvous with Simon, which she had planned for the Gramercy Park Hotel in Manhattan for a hot summer night in 2009, something completely unforeseen had occurred. Emily had found herself here, in anywhen, confronted by the 253 collective, an entity or collection of entities playing its own sophisticated game with the Apars. Atoz knew Emily had been wrenched from Apar control, but didn’t know how or why.

Emily’s new master, the Dread Daper, was ready to exploit her, and she was ready to be exploited. She had no loyalty to Atoz or the Apars, since this was a trait which had proven impossible to inculcate in androids. The Dread Daper set her up with her own niche in time, a completely inaccessible place to which she could transport at will. It was there, in an artificial holographic bedroom, that she had killed Simon Courtenay. Apparently the Dread Daper had wanted him out of the way, as well. He had come much too close to finding out the truth and threatening all the players.

Although the 253 collective had immense power, for some reason it was not able to penetrate the Apar centuries with enough firepower to destroy the dynasty. 253 was relying on John Dravek, an ordinary but powerful individual, to find the key to the Apar’s destruction. And a third player – the Rosen Corporation – was in league with the Dread Daper. The Rosens had equipped Dravek to play his part, but now (if that term can be used, since the cosmic chess game is simultaneously taking place in at least three temporal zones) Dravek was in great jeopardy, subject to all of the mind controlling games Atoz could play. To make things even more difficult, Atoz had subverted Jack Rosen to his side, partnering him with Caesar Accutron, a tough customer by any standard. And that, Emily knew, was mainly her fault. Yet she had her incredible android intellect and her bounteous physical assets intact. Just as Rachel Rosen had turned on her fellow androids in Philip K. Dick’s great masterpiece, so would Emily obey the Dread Daper and plunge a wide knife into the back of King Apar.

She spoke and her voice was measured and controlled. She stretched out her arms, rising from the divan. “I stand ready to assist you, Lord of the Star Lanes. The interrogation of Dravek must not proceed. I have no fear or love. I have no blood in my veins. My heart does not beat, yet I tremble at the reality of your power. I am ready to serve.”

And Emily disappeared.



Just once he’d have liked to see her embrace the chaos and disorder of life, instead of fleeing it.

The way Sally clung to her parents, was obsessed with their lives and they with hers. It gave him the creeps.

“She never rebelled. She never fought with anyone. At least I don’t remember it. She was always an adult.”

His angry talk of her family on the Monday night a week ago, and of the need to have a real relationship, had made her “physically nauseous.”


Martin squinted, trying to place the man. It couldn’t be, he thought. “Patrick?” he replied. “Patrick Johnson?” And the man slapped Martin forcefully across the face.

Sally Johnson woke up. Had she been dreaming? She rubbed her eyes. No, John had been with her. John Apar – what a peculiar name, yet such a wonderful, attractive man. So…dynamic. She had given up her specialness for him. She had even cancelled on her parents to be with him. Oh, what a man.

            She got out of bed. Even though it was only eight in the morning, she poured herself a glass of white wine. She gulped it down suddenly, awkwardly, and felt a tingling all over, but especially in her nose. Funny, she reflected, she had never had a drink before she had met John.

She looked at herself in the full-length mirror, at her slightly too wide hips, at the slight paunch she was developing, at her still round, firm breasts. She wasn’t bad looking, though associating with Martin... They had always eaten so much together. It was a substitute, probably, for the sex she had refused to have with him. “I adore you,” she had said once when he told her he loved her. “I love you” was to be saved for the One. The Husband. But, gosh, she loved John Apar, didn’t she? Her hazel eyes misted up. She had to have loved him, or why else would she have…done it? They had to get married now. Have children. Just thinking of him made her warm.