Lost Track of Time . . .
Oh, dang! This is my Friday, isn’t it?
I’m enroute to the first annual (hopefully) FoolzCon, which is actually a writers retreat. So . . . How about a story?
Copyright © 2011 Pamela Uphoff
All rights reserved
“It started with the trans-mat wreck.” The boy’s blue eyes were big, soft, and guileless. Rather at odds with his thuggish heavy build. Receding chin, heavy eyebrows and tousled hair. The hair and eyebrows were a light brown with a strong reddish tint, his skin pale, barely showing a tan line when his t-shirt sleeves shifted upwards. Fifteen years old, he claimed. He refused to tell us his name.
“Is that a kind of car?” I tried a friendly approach first.
A flash of irritation crossed his face. “No. It uses quantum entanglement to transport materials – and people – to distant points. In this case, seven men, and a whole bunch of supplies from Jerboa to Ceres Inside. My father, and my grandfather were two of the men.”
“Kid, I don’t have time to waste on bullshit.”
He shrugged. “Fine. Short version. I was raised by a bunch of fruitcakes, and ran away to attempt to live something resembling a normal life.”
I closed my eyes for a moment, to control my exasperation. “Where were you born?”
“In their secret base in Antarctica.” He shrugged. “I’m not going back, so don’t expect me to help you.”
“You sound very American.”
“I watch a lot of TV.”
I would have killed for a cigarette, just then. But we mustn’t smoke in the same room as a child. Or inside at all, any more. I slipped a quick look at my watch. Half an hour before my next break.
“Right, so there was a wreck with the trans-whatever, and your family wound up in Antarctica?”
“Actually, in what is now Senegal, roughly a hundred thousand years in the past. They went running frantically all over, then realized that they’d have to just hole up and wait it out. So they built a base under the ice, and hibernated, waking every century or so.”
I rolled my eyes. “Seven of them. Built a base in the ice.”
“In the rock under the ice. They had laser cutters for asteroid mining. They were trying to not change the past, see? But they were already too late. The common cold. When they were running around Europe in the ice age, the early Europeans were exposed, and they had no immunity. So the migrating African subspecies became dominant. The, umm, do you know what hybrid vigor is?”
I nodded. “Healthy mutts.”
“Well, the interbreeding of the early Europeans and the Africans created modern man, started the burst of technology and innovation that created civilization. But this time, there were so few early Europeans left that instead of the European type being dominant, with minor introgressions from the Africans, when they went back, they found a population of Africans, with minor introgressions from Europeans.”
I eyed him suspiciously. He didn’t seem to be prejudiced, that is, he hadn’t looked at my dark skin any more than any other client, categorizing me. “Do you mean they were Black?”
“No, Ma’am. That far north they dropped pigments pretty quick. I mean, the Africans were what you’d call normal. Weird head shapes, big chin, tall and thin. Gracile. The people that were starting civilizations all over the world didn’t look like them at all. They had changed the past, so there was no point in hiding out any more. They weren’t ever going to get home.
“So they started, off and on, living with the new people. They married and had kids and stuff. But they didn’t really like roughing it, and kept going back under the ice, where they had all their stuff. All the stuff that was being shipped to Ceres Inside when the trans-mat broke. Sometimes they took their wives and kids with them.” He shrugged. “They kept going outside and trying to steer people one way or another, nudge the religions toward what they believed, hustle the pace of innovation. Stuff like that.
“You’re getting close, and, well, I just got tired of it all. I want to be a regular kid. I was the only kid there, under the ice. Dad said we ought to give it another century, but I didn’t want to sleep away all this technology and development going on. I want to be a part of it. So I ran away from home.”
I looked at the kid indulgently. What an imagination! I suppressed a smile; he did look a bit like a Neanderthal, with the heavy brows and weak chin. “And I suppose they called themselves the Illuminati?”
He rolled his eyes. “Oh, that and a hundred other things. They changed the names or started over all the time, whenever the old organization started getting nasty looks from the church or government. They were always the power behind the leaders, and a tiny part of the organization. Even with the kids they’ve had, because they keep hibernating centuries at a time, the group hasn’t grown much. Right now, I guess there’s only about forty of us.”
I glanced at my watch again. Almost break time. “Hibernating. Like a ground hog?”
“Medically.” He sighed like I was slow. “They had a complete new Autodoc, and followed the instructions.”
“And you don’t think your mother is worried about you?”
He scowled. “Dad divorced her, and didn’t take her to the base. Just me. She died a century ago. With luck, Dad will be mad at me too, and just write me off.”
Time. I stood up. “Well. That’s a very interesting story. Now I believe Mr. Masterson has been trying to locate a foster home for you, until your parents contact us. Why don’t you wait here while I check on the status of that?” I clicked on the TV and handed him the remote. I left, and walked briskly to the side door, reaching for the pack of cigarettes. I nodded to my fellow addicts and lit up.
“That ugly boy admit to where he came from yet?” Milo rolled his cigar between stained fingers. “He told me the biggest whoppers I’ve ever heard.”
“He’s still telling whoppers. He’s brighter than he looks; he’s having fun, turning the Neanderthals’ history all inside out.”
“Neanderthals? Huh, I didn’t think of that. He’s a little pale to be a Neanderthal, isn’t he?”
I shook my head. “I read that one of the genes they’ve identified, from fossils, is one for red hair.”
We finished our smokes in peace, then headed back in. George was still looking for a home ready to take a teenage boy. I walked back to see if the boy was ready to start making sense, and stopped dead in the doorway. The outer wall had a hole in it. Six feet across. Perfectly circular. I walked over in disbelief, and touched it. The edges were sharp and precise, as if cut with a laser.
We never found the boy, but he stuck in my mind. I occasionally notice a person who reminds me of him. Mostly on TV. I swear if you took the Neanderthal reconstruction in the museum, shaved him and stuffed him into a suit, he’d be the spitting image of one of the Presidential advisors.