FREE for Thanksginving Weekend!
by Thomas Zman
Publisher Independently published
FREE for Thanksginving Weekend!
Jimmy is a Gamer. He is an entitled thirty-something who is yet to embrace the responsibilities of adulthood. However, Jimmy’s introduction to a cosmic conspiracy, secretly headed by his wheelchair-bound grandfather, quickly promotes him to becoming one of the planet’s most important people. Jimmy’s maturations are chronicled through a time-compression technique, linking great wealth, governmental powers, and elite intellectuals to the omniscient plot. Ultimately, Jimmy is instrumental in “changing the world”, and in the end “gets the girl”.
The storm raged on. It was after midnight and had been thundering and lightening a good hour already. The rain and battering winds now breaking loose tree limbs and roofing shingles. One incredibly bright flash explodes from the night sky, quaking the house. An old shed in the backyard burst to ruins. The storm’s raging fury seemed to announce the end of the world.
A child was huddled in his parents’ bed, his mother cuddling, soothing the frightened young one. The father stood, cursing, as he looked out the back window, down into the yard. Sheets of rain blotted out his attempt to see. Through the sounds of the downpour, he heard a distant yelping. The family dog had returned from its roving.
“Damn mutt,” the father grumbled as he headed downstairs, the dog’s cries growing louder, as it scratched at the back door. The father was making his way through the darkened kitchen when it was suddenly alighted by another crackling boom. As he reached for the brass knob, however, the violence abruptly ceased. The father opened the door.
Upon doing such, he was beholden to the surreal. Time had been suspended; the porch and backyard illuminated and frozen in space, the pouring rain hung still in the air, as did the jagged sizzling bolt of lightning that connected the porch. “Are you coming in?” he asked, and the dog scurried into the safety of the house. The father then walked out and into the nether.
The big old house had long since prevailed. Having been built back at the turn of the twentieth century, it stood alone on a winding road, quaintly named Talisbury Trail. A splaying of other large homes with great properties had since sprung up amidst the township, though these were all far from us on the other side of The Ridge. Our fine Victorian still remained quite secluded, its great brick chimney rising prominently as if some stalwart to the heavens.
My family, dating back several generations, resided in the sprawling two-story house since its beginning. Grandpa, an only child, once frolicked carefree about the property; his widowed mother had resorted to taking in boarders to help meet expenses. Grandpa, at the time, was far too young to remember much of his father, who had disappeared that night of the great storm, so many summers ago. Subsequently, as years passed, so too did my great grandmother, and the house bequeathed to her son.
Grandpa was fresh home from Europe at the end of the World War II, opened his own small business, construction, and married a local girl. They too had themselves an only child, my father, who grew up, graduated college with a Master’s degree and pursued a career in the burgeoning computer industry. It took years for his career to firmly establish itself, at least to where my dad had fore-sensed it should be, but when finally it did, he married and had himself two children: my sister, Angela, and myself.
Grandpa now, however -- after Grandma’s passing (my only memory of her was painting a portrait of a very young me, my dad and grandfather) -- was confined to a computerized wheelchair with a textbook case of locked-in syndrome. His mind remained brilliant . . . beautiful they’d say, and he communicated simply with his eyes via high-tech glasses and a smart-screen – not unlike the renowned physics professor. A ‘round-the-clock’ nurse cared for him, along with my mother, who also tended the home and my very important father.
Father was almost always absent from home, away on business trips. His dealings would take him to the farthest reaches of civilization, yet he always had loyalty to ‘family time,’ via Skype. Father was an outrageously motivated man, highly renowned throughout the business and the social community, who had just recently eclipsed the age of retirement. Yet through all his important business dealings he never let us forget that he was first and foremost our dad – especially when he was home for those preciously brief periods of time, at the very least twice a year, when he’d whisk us all away on some spectacular/exotic family vacation to a far off destination.
My sister had since moved out, into the city, where she was pursuing life on her own. She was five years my junior but had made the most of her education, landing many career advancing sub-jobs -- with a little help from dad -- ascending the ever-precarious ‘corporate ladder.’ She was a good two-hour drive from our house, here in the countryside, and would visit us most weekends. Sometimes my mom, who once worked as a registered nurse, now retired, would take the train down to see her. She would spend time in her posh apartment, doting over the little things that a good mother does.
As for myself, I focused my energies on creating Video Game Applications – or just plain Apps, as they are technically referred to. I have marketed over a dozen during the past several years and was currently at work on several more. All reasonably priced and available on that greatest of worldwide purveyors: The Internet. To date I have sold – regrettably -- a handful to my loyal followers: Gamers and Facebook acquaintances.
To round out the remainder of my days, and provide myself with pocket money, I worked nights at the local ‘big box store’ where I had established several friendships; though I’ve tried not to become overly involved in their lives for most all suffer from the great family drama. I preferred The Gamers -- total uncontested anonymity -- with whom I’ve connected with from around the globe, all for the strict excitement of advancing, bettering one’s status, conquering the standard. Currently, I was gaming in Space Vedas…
“James!” that British voice boomed from the other side of my bedroom door. “Get off that f ---- computer and get out here! Now! I need help with Grandpa.”
Grandpa’s wheelchair needed its battery recharged daily. It was my job to see to that, plus it gave me some ‘special time’ with Evvie -- that was the aid’s name – who basically lived at our house.
I was dressed in grey sweats and my favorite t-shirt; the one with an alien silk-screened across the front. I hadn’t shaved in two days, yet I always remembered to brush my teeth – my perfect, ‘pearly whites’– for I never knew when I may have that encounter with Evvie.
I exited my room, quickly locking the door behind me (because no one was ever to go in there) and scooted past her in the hallway. Evvie was in her late twenties, petite, and always wore her silken brown hair tied back in a ponytail. A splash of make-up around her cheeks, highlighting the smooth skin of her face. Around her neck, she wore the most delicate of gold crosses. There too, about her was just the slightest air of citrus.
I bantered down the creaky old stairway to be greeted by the smell of Mother’s cooking, deliciously lofting throughout the house. I made my way into the parlor, next to the Grand Fireplace that was often used during the cold winter months, to where Grandpa’s bent and fragile form awaited me; gnarled and unmoving, slouched over, his shriveled head tilted awkwardly. He sported a baseball cap and a pair of thick computer glasses that allowed him his only means of contact with the outside world.
“Good morning, James,” his electronically synthesized voice greeted; it was initially jarring, though one quickly became accustomed to it.
“Hey, Grandpa.” I cradled him gently, kissing him on the cheek. “We need to plug you in for a little charging.” I lowered my voice as I worked around back of him. “I know I really should be doing this overnight, but – you understand.”
While I uncoiled the cord, and plugged it into the back of his chair, I noticed Evvie had come down the stairs and just stood there, arms crossed, staring at me. She always wore that dumpy blue pantsuit with the white stripe across her shoulder. ‘Nurses issue,’ they called it. It did nothing for her figure, which I knew was libidinous beneath those haughty garments.
“You know,” she began once again in that British accent of hers; Cambridge, I believe she once called it “I am perfectly capable of that. I don’t know why you insist that I call you.”
“It’s the least I can do for my grandpa,” I said. (And it was)
The front door opened and in stepped my sister, Angie. Angelina -- Angel as my parents had wanted to name her: she being sent from Heaven; as compared to the terrors I had supposedly bespread them with during my first years of life. Whatever . . . With arms full of groceries and a night bag, Angie stepped through the front door, retreating from the winds that had whipped up outside. The ides of March were gathering. Or so I was often entertained by my own imaginings: seasonality, I felt, provided an integral subsistence in my gaming ventures. For in my Apps, each world I developed held a specific season; and if Angie were ever to come from one of these it’d be one of contention, suddenly affected by desecration, then eventually fading to great tranquility.
She politely said her “Hellos” to Evvie and quickly made her way to Grandpa, where she gave him the gentlest of hugs and a noble kiss. She shared with him a brief exchange on the pre-season baseball stats -- she and grandpa always had that connection -- and then complimented him on his attire; Grandpa was always dressed in a fine suit and tie, attributable to Evvie’s ever-professional caretaking skills. Angie then shot me a look as I rose up from behind the chair. “Good to see you’re doing something around here.”
“How lucky am I to have both my grandchildren with me today,” commented Grandpa in his electronic voice. “Evvie, please take Angie’s bag to her room.”
“No, that’s alright Grandpa.” Angie protested, shifting her packages. “I got it. Where’s Mom?”
Mother walked in from the kitchen on queue. She was wearing her favorite flowery apron. “I have sauce on the stove,” she said. “I’ll put the pasta on shortly, say twenty minutes? Is that good?”
“I brought bread,” Angie announced, giving mom a kiss, and then handing her two fresh loaves from her bags.
“Please, let me take your things,” Evvie insisted of Angie, who then obliged. Evvie ascended the stairs to the guest bedroom, Angela’s old bedroom.
“I’ve just got a little unfinished business up in my room,” I said to Grandpa. “You’re going to be charging for at least half an hour, I’ll be back to check on you then.”
“Half-hour to rub one out?” mocked Angie, leaving to deliver her groceries to the kitchen.
“Angela!” Mother yelled after her. “That’s disgusting.” Mother then moved over to the elegantly decanted libations at the living room’s mini bar. “Why would you –?”
“Sorry.” Angela feigned an apology from off in the distance.
“At least that’s something.” Mother said with a huff. “I know she didn’t really mean that,” she said, reaching to pour herself a glass of wine. “It is almost noon,” she justified, looking around.
I once again subdued the anger that welled up inside of me. Out of respect, I didn’t want to further spoil the moment. So, embarrassed, I excused myself and headed up to my room to further indulge myself in Space Vedas. I had long ago discovered playing online video games was a great escape – especially when dealing with a sister like Angela.
It was there, in my room, which my world came to be. I had long ago painted the walls black, and decorated them over with glowing stars; planets were suspended from the ceiling. There were shelves filled with dusty old trophies from my youth (when everyone got something for doing nothing) a few detailed model ships and cars from when my interests were of a tangible sense, versus the metaphysical. And right smack in it all was my old faithful Captain’s Bed, meticulously crafted by Grandpa from a long-ago storm-felled oak. That was way back when my grandpa was healthy and always very busy around the house. Ripping out walls here, putting up new framing there, and the yard -- amazing what one man could do with an oversized tractor. ‘It’s as if he has super-human powers’, Mom would always say about Grandpa. I wondered about him, sometimes.
The lone window of my room looked out upon our expansive backyard. A great lawn that swept back to what must have been near a football field in length. Behind our property was state land; thick forest, thousands of pristine acres. Often times I would just sit in my chair with my feet up and daydream, looking out at the backyard, thinking of times when I was a child and would play back there, always wandering all the way back to the tree line, and into the woods. It was a fantastic place to play ‘manhunt’, back when I’d have friends over . . .
My dad kept the yard in fabulous shape, respecting all of Grandpa’s hard work. Dad paid landscapers thousands of dollars a year just to cut the grass and tend the shrubs, which lined the property – and there were a lot of shrubs, evergreens, all of it finely manicured, as were many of the estates that intermittently occupied the upper fringes of this county.
I rolled my chair over to the desk (my command post, as I liked to think of it) put on my microphoned-headset, signed-in to my desktop computer, and linked back into my ongoing battle. Immediately I became lost again in a world that was unknown – alien -- to the rest of my family. Flying through space, dodging laser fire in a stolen cargo vessel, having hacked the main computer system to self-destruct the Overlords’ base before fleeing it, I pointed the craggy spacecraft to a location fifty light years hence, and was about to engage the star-drive . . .
Suddenly the screen blinked to naught and an odd code presented itself. What the Fu-- I said to myself. For the past week this code, this virus would suddenly appear and I would have to shut down the computer get rid of it. Then reboot. I swiveled my chair and awakened my partnered computer (it operates on the dark web) and figured I’d do some surfing on there -- for entertainment purposes, naturally. After a brief while of perusing my favorite porn sights, again this code presented itself. Yet before I could shut it down an image of my Grandfather locked onto the screen. Reflexively, I pushed away from my desk. Embarrassed, to say the least. I walked over to check the lock my bedroom door (for what reason, I don’t know) It’s good. Grandfather’s image began to speak, and it was very life-like! His gestures and articulations bringing me back to when I was a child.
“Hadn’t you better things to do with this ‘gift of time’ you possess?” Grandpa said, his lips moving; a stern look to his eyes. A chill rand down my spine, hoping this was some hacker’s cruel joke. I moved to shut down the system, but he stopped me. “James, No!” I pulled my hands back from the keyboard. “Before you turn me off, listen to what I have to say.” Grandpas’ features softened. “I have a gift for you. The codes you’ve been receiving lately have a very specific purpose. They are not viruses, but a key-lock that will introduce a whole new world to you.” He paused and I was about to speak, but he continued, “A world with purpose; one of good intentions -- a world where you can contribute your talents for the Salvation of Mankind.”
“Grandpa,” I said. “Can you hear me?” Thinking this all some sort of weird put on. ‘Salvation of Mankind’. Good God! I knew I sometimes found enjoyment in hacking.
“Quite perfectly,” Grandpa responded. I was aghast. It was him – or was it? Had he known what I’d been doing up here all these years? Following my exploration, my endeavors on the wicked worldwide web? I felt the blood rush to my face.
“You are talking to me -- through your computer, right Grandpa?” I asked him, somewhat confused. “Is this a program you’ve been working on?”
“In a sense, yes. With some help?”
“Help?” I wondered aloud. Who in this family? The only one who knows programming around here is me – something that I was quite proud of having earned my Master’s in, though as of yet was to put it to any real monetizing use.
“No need to think about that, now,” he consoled me. “I am speaking to you as your loving grandfather. I feel it is time for you to enter an endeavor that we have simply come to call: The Intellect. You’ve been wayward now far long enough and I, We – need your assistance.” Grandpa paused awkwardly again, then continued: “I have spent the entirety of my later years preparing this house for its predestined function . . . And now you have been chosen, by My Authority, to advance and become part of it. Are you willing to trust me? Your own grandfather? Remember, ‘Family Loyalty’!”
“Well, sure Grandpa,” my mind was swirling, still unsure if all this wasn’t some sort of Cyber-Joke. “But what am I supposed to do?” I felt very unsure of my agreeing – yet something deep within drove me.
“Start by rebooting your primary system and clicking on the link that I send you. It is the first step in a series of commands that must be followed precisely in order to access The Portal.”
Grandfather said nothing. I did as he instructed. I rebooted my primary system, entered the appropriate commands into it, and then minimized my grandfather’s picture to further the chain of instructions listed on my Secondary System. One of the final steps in the litany of such was to turn the dimmer knob on my bedroom wall to a specific Fibonacci Ratio, then push a button next to my window. I had always thought it was just for show, but this time it actually worked, and immediately an opaque blind slid down, totally closing me off from the outside world.
I sat back down at my computer and studied the final code that had arisen, blinking: I moussed over it and pressed ENTER. The entire room hummed ever so slightly as distant gears meshed beneath me, in the thick of the ceiling downstairs. My beloved Captains’ Bed, the sleep sanctuary of my past twenty-five years, began to lift at its mid point, opening as if a large mouth waiting to devour. Beneath it the floor had slid back, revealing a lighted stairway, which must have ran along inside an old pantry in the kitchen downstairs and an outside wall; the second story of this house cantilevered out over the first by nearly two feet.
It all seemed unbelievable. But then I thought back to my childhood, and all the secretive projects that grandpa was always working on, in and around the house. It was now obvious as to what he had devoted all that time to. But how could he have kept this from us? But then again, Father was often gone for days/weeks at a time. Angela was very young, and mother? Well . . . I guess . . .
I turned on an Internet Documentary overladen with music and cautiously ventured down the stairs.
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I have authored several short stories and currently, have both my novels, From Whence They Came and Beyond Imagination available in both e-book and print. My interests include UFO's, Ancient Civilizations, space travel, and philosophizing (which I have learned to moderate in my latest writings). I have also just recently compiled a short novel that pieces together four of my short stories into a flowing work I call The man who carried Guilt. This particular piece of fiction has no alien or scientific premise, however it is the starting point for two of my characters who show up in both my books. My second book, a novella, is currently being showcased on this site and Goodreads. Notably, some of my works stem from observations/experiences of my own life; infused with imaginings inspired by the greats: H G Wells and Jules Verne. I plan to continue my path of fiction and create stories of interest that others will hopefully enjoy.amazon.com/author/thomaszman