She awoke with the sun winking in her eyes, lying on a large green meadow.
The first thing she focused on was the rose tattoo on her inner wrist. Smooth, elegant lines bordered the deep red luscious pedals flowering from an indigo stem. The tattoo was such a contrast to the paleness of her skin she noticed, as she sat up and looked about.
Nothing looked familiar. Not the park, the trees, or even her tattoo. Nothing about her surroundings held any memories for her. She tried to recall where she was or where she’d been, but her mind was blank. She felt a chill of fear run down her arms and legs as if emanating from her tattoo. She watched in stunned silence as people went about their business in a calm, customary fashion.
Yet where she was? Why couldn’t she recall her name?
She was alone. She could find no clues what she was doing there.
Standing up, she found a tan leather jacket she’d been using as a pillow. The morning dew felt chilly, so she slipped it on over her black Led Zeppelin t-shirt. Her jeans were faded, her boots were black, her hair was shoulder length and sandy blond—though none of her features felt familiar. She had no phone, no wallet, no keys, and no memory of where she belonged. She walked slowly, zipping up her jacket as she approached a coffee cart on the corner.
“Good morning,” the old gentleman in the cart said. “What can I get you?” His dark hair was slick, and his teeth were yellow. His incisors seemed to flash as he spoke, making his fat, unshaven face look feral.
“I’m afraid I’m a bit lost,” she said. “Can you tell me where I am?”
“One of those nights huh?” The old man chuckled. “I envy you kids with the drugs you have nowadays. MacArthur Park, that’s where you are.” The man had a slight Cockney accent.
“I see,” she said. “Can you tell me what day it is?”
“Tuesday,” the man said. “You sure you’re all right, Miss?” The dark circles under his brown eyes emphasized his concern.
“Not really. I can’t remember a thing.”
“Some bounder must have dosed you,” the old man huffed. “Damn these kids and their drugs these days! Here, let me get you a coffee and a donut, on the cuff. Least I can do seeing the day ahead you’ve got.” The old man poured her a large coffee and handed her a glazed donut.
“That’s very kind,” she said. “I don’t even know what month it is.”
“Well, it’s June,” the man said wiping his greasy hands into his smeared apron. “However, the weather’s been cold. They’re calling it the January effect. These weather folks and their crazy mixed up terms, trying to explain why the weather machine doesn’t work right anymore. I do envy them their free time to make up such nonsense.” The man’s overgrown moustache bristled as he handed the girl paper napkins for her donut. “You go on and drink that, now. It should clear your head.” The man’s hanging jowls and baggy eyes made him look old and tired, but honest.
January in June, she thought. “Thank-you,” she said. “January,” she said after biting into the syrupy donut and swallowing the sugar with a rush of pleasure. “That sounds like a good name for me for now,” she added, taking a sip of the hot coffee and feeling better for it.
“Why, it’s a lovely name, for a lovely girl,” the cart man said. “Why, you kids, being able to rename and reinvent yourselves all the time! I think that’s what I envy about you the most.” The man smiled a wide, walrus like grin, and then his face disappeared behind his paper, where strange headlines about events made no sense at all to Jan.
“Jan,” she said aloud as she walked away from the cart. “At least I’ve got a place-holder until I can figure out who I am. How exactly do I go about figuring that out?” She pondered a moment as she exited the park. The city streets were starting to hum and buzz and snarl with traffic from the brakes of cars, the squeals of busses, and voices from every direction.
A wave of panic went through Jan’s chest, making her heart beat fast.
“It’s all right, Jan. Just…one thing at a time,” she said to herself. She tried to sound brave. She took a deep breath, a drink of coffee, and then sat down on a bus stop. Jan finished the last bite of her donut. “This is no good,” she said. “Nothing looks familiar at all!” Jan was about to cry, when her eyes caught the green print of a billboard.
Bold red colors similar to her tattoo spelled out hope against a dark green board.
“Lost? Confused? Feeling like the Whole Wide World is Out of Sync! We Can Help!”
She found herself reading it aloud, and looked around to make sure nobody heard her.
Posted next to the words, was a bald man’s smiling face. Somehow, Jan thought, the man’s face appeared trustworthy. The address from the advertisement appeared to be the street she sat on. Suddenly, Jan had a destination. “Calvin J. Hobbs,” Jan said read off the sign. Jan glanced about timidly. “World Wide Wizard, Inc.” Jan couldn’t understand what the billboard meant. Perhaps though, a wizard was just what she needed.
Besides, it had to be within walking distance, she thought.
And since the billboard read, “Free Initial Consultation” in smaller black letters, it convinced Jan he could at least send her in the right direction. Finishing her coffee, she stepped out onto the sidewalk, where she realized she had no idea if she was supposed to turn left, or right.
She turned left, and then spun on her boot heel to take three steps right. She tried to read the numbers on the buildings to determine if they followed a pattern, but the building numbers seemed to be random. A white building read 114, while the blue building next to it read 2022.
Jan found herself at a crosswalk, where a bus was stopped but running. The uniformed driver sat on the bus stop bench, reading a paperback novel. The cross street was named Monty. To make matters worse, the building on the corner didn’t have a number, just a strange dog picture on the mail slot.
Jan thought if anyone should know if she was headed in the right direction, it must be a bus driver.
“Excuse me, Sir, are you a bus driver?” she asked the man.
His skin was a light brown and his hair was curly black. He wore blue slacks and a white shirt with the slogan “Take me There!”on his sleeves.
The man glanced up from thick reading glasses. “That’s what the passengers tell me on the bus,” he said.
“Well, I was wondering—”
“You realize I’m not driving a bus right now, you see that though, right?” The man licked his index finger and turned a page without looking at it.
Jan could feel her face scrunch up. “I’m just lost is all.”
The man’s eyes turned from Jan back to his book. “I hear what you’re saying,” he said. “People get lost in this city everyday, I just can’t figure out why. They suppose they’ve got a route in mind.” He looked up, licked his finger again, and turned another page. “By the time a passenger determines the route to their destination, more often then not I’ve observed, they’ve changed their minds about where they are going.” He glanced back down to his book. His unshaven face was dotted with light brown specks and spots. Jan thought this made him look like a cat who’d been out all night.
“About where they’re going?” Jan asked a bit bewildered.
“Or why they are travelling at all,” the bus driver replied. “Sometimes, when you get somewhere, it turns out you want to turn right around and go home.”
“That’s actually where I’m trying to get to.”
“But don’t know the way.”
“I’m afraid not.”
“Proves my point, doesn’t it?”
“Rembaldi said it best when he explained his theory of relativity. If your perspective on the distance between two objects changes, the actual relationship between those two objects changes as well.”
“I don’t recall that at all, I’m afraid.”
“I’m not surprised. People need to read more, and stop trying to pick up how the universe works from the Discovery channel.”
“I’m afraid I don’t know what that is,” Jan replied with a sigh.
“If you can’t discover the Discovery channel, how do you expect me to direct you to a unknown place in relation to where you are now?” The bus driver turned his head and stared at Jan with pressed lips. He stood up and closed his book, adjusting his loose pants on his wide belly. He wiped his nose with a finger and stepped onto the bus.
“Wait!” Jan cried. “I’m just trying to find World Wide Wizard, Inc.”
The bus driver sat down in driver seat of the bus. The brakes hissed as he took his position behind the wheel. “Why didn’t you just say so?” he asked.
“I’m sorry. I’m having a bad morning.”
“It’s all bad until it’s all good,” the man said with a cryptic smile. “You just keep going up this here street. You’ll be there before you know it. That is, if that’s where your sure your going. Are you sure?”
Jan was puzzled by the question. “Yes,” she replied timidly.
“Then if you’re sure about your relation to the destination, the destination is sure in its relation to you,” the bus driver said. “That’s the way all roads lead. You hear me?”
Jan nodded as the bus driver closed the door and pulled his bus into traffic.
Jan stood waiting for the light to change as she crossed the street, noticing the cars were all shaped like bugs, with curved roofs painted in neon colors. The traffic lights were green and red, but appeared a different tint somehow to what she thought they should look like.
She walked another block, crossed another street, and tried to keep her eyes open for a sign of where World Wide Wizard Inc. might be. She approached a tall, thin brown man who stood in front of a folding table. On his table was a colorful and strange assortment of wristwatches. Jan thought it was curious with his dark sunglasses and wool cap, he looked familiar somehow.
“What time is it?” the man asked Jan. His voice seemed to come out of nowhere.
“I don’t know,” Jan said, unconsciously stopping in front of his table.
“My point exactly. There’s a reason you don’t know. There’s a reason the knowledge of time is being kept from you. Do you know what that reason is?” The tall man began to sway rhythmically, as if hearing music.
“I don’t—” Jan said as the man waved his hands in front of her. His fingers fanned out and he spun in a tight circle. He moved his hips and torso like a noodle in the wind, which stunned Jan into staring at him. His green jacket, green cargo pants, and narrow sunglasses, made him appear a bit like a cobra, Jan thought.
“That reason,” the watch seller continued, “is because time is the most precious commodity a human being has. Yet!” The watch seller made a dramatic pause as he waved his arms in front of his merchandise. “Man has to waste his precious time on pointless, routine, trite, and if I may be completely honest—worthless expenditures of his time.”
The watch seller paused his dancing and took off his sunglasses. He moved close to Jan with piercing green eyes. “There is no getting back the time you save,” the watch seller said, his voice becoming a horse whisper. He moved close enough to kiss her. “If your time is simply wasted on the wrong people, or the wrong beliefs, or the wrong car, or the wrong job! Wouldn’t you agree?”
Jan tried shaking off his gaze. “Well, I—”
“Thank-you for agreeing with me,” the watch seller said interrupting once more. “It’s people like you who have vision. You know where you’re going and what you’re about. You have no time to waste. That’s why you, my girl, need this watch right here.” He selected a bold silver watch covered in glittering diamonds and held it in front of her. “If you are going to use time, you must have the right instruments with which to measure it, wouldn’t you agree?” he asked.
Jan paused her thinking for a moment, noticing people were walking past her. “I suppose,” she said.
“The value of one’s time is in fact the most under-rated commodity on Earth. Were you aware of that?” The watch seller asked. He picked up a gold watch from his table and held it against her wrist. “Money, jobs, information, friends—even lovers, these are things which an individual experiences in reverence to time,” the watch seller added. “The end of all things and the beginning of all things, is marked and measured by what we value most, yet most do not value it enough to ensure they are making the proper use of it. This, young lady,” the watch seller said smoothly, “is why you need to know what time it is.” He smiled. The watch seller held up the diamond watch, and then the gold against her wrist, alternating between the two in a hypnotic display as the gems and metal gleamed in the sunlight.
“I can’t argue with you,” Jan said.
“I know,” the watch seller said.
“But I’m afraid I have no money,” Jan said.
The watch seller took a step back.
“Then why you wastin’ my time, lady!” The watch seller dropped the two watches on the table and began to focus on a group of people approaching Jan from the direction she was headed. “Yo-yo-yo—you don’t know what time it is, bro! Get your watch here! Deal for you and the Misses!”
Jan found the watch seller’s spell broken and began walking again.
She kept looking at doors and windows, where strange names and smells seemed to trigger recollections she couldn’t make sense of. After crossing another street, Jan could feel the humidity rising. She took off her jacket and tied it around her waist. It suddenly occurred to her there were two sides to the street she was on, and she didn’t know if World Wide Wizard Inc. was on her side, or the opposite. Panic broke out sweat onto her forehead. She thought about going back; but then, how far ahead could the street go?
Jan approached another cross street. On the corner stood a perfectly cubed wooden booth, which had the words “Information Booth” carved in bold blue letters on the side.
Inside, a young man with a yellow goatee sat staring from his chair. He rested his chin on his fist with his elbow on the counter. He looked very sad.
Jan couldn’t tell what the young man was staring at.
“Excuse me,” Jan asked. “Can you—”
“Can I?” The information man asked.
“I’m hoping you can,” Jan said with agitation in her voice.
“People ask me questions all day long,” the man said. “I’ll bet you didn’t know that. Did you?”
“Well, aren’t you working in an information booth?” Jan said.
“Where is this? Where is that? That’s not information,” the information man said.
“I don’t see how answering those questions isn’t giving information,” Jan said.
“Of course! Because you don’t work with information, do you?”
“Well, no. But I am looking for some.”
The young man hadn’t stopped staring at the same spot. Jan finally turned and tried to see what he was looking at. When Jan turned back, she found the information man was standing up, looking at her. She took a step back.
He rolled his eyes. “So, you think the information you’re looking for is here?” he asked. “Because I’m going to be honest with you. There are a lot of questions I don’t have the answers to.” The young man seemed depressed. His yellow goatee, blue eyes, and yellow tie-dyed shirt made him look a bit like a leopard. Or a jackal, Jan thought. As she was trying to figure out exactly what he reminded her of, the information man pointed to the pamphlets on the counter and behind him.
“All this here, this is information,” he said with a sigh. “But unless you know what you’re looking for, the precise information—like say where something is—boy, do I get that question a lot, it’s like trying to find a map without a map to the map. Somehow, people think I’m a map. Tell me, do I look like a map?” The information man waited for Jan.
Jan shook her head. “No, ” Jan began to say, but was interrupted.
“A human being,” the information man said in a depressing tone, “is not a map. I am not a map. But people think because I have information, I must have the information they’re looking for. See, people don’t understand that who they are, is as much where they are going. They would know this if they understood how information really works. If I don’t know who you are, how can I really know where it is you need to go?” The information man paused.
He waited while Jan awkwardly tried to answer his question, but couldn’t.
The man picked up a pamphlet. The writing was in a language Jan didn’t recognize.
“I hadn’t thought about it that way,” Jan finally admitted.
“Of course. Because there’s information you don’t posses.”
“That’s true,” Jan said. “All I’m trying to do is find—”
“You know what the problem is?” The information man interrupted again. “The problem is, people don’t know where they are. That’s the problem.” The information man began stacking the pamphlets into a house on the small counter of his booth.
“As a matter of fact, that’s exactly my problem,” Jan replied.
“You’re just a victim, that’s all. I don’t blame you.”
“Thank-you,” Jan said mystified.
“No, the problem is that information about where we’re at, specifically on planet Earth, is being kept from us. Sure, there’s GPS, satellites, tracking software, not to mention—maps. But that doesn’t really tell you where you are now, does it?”
“I’m afraid not,” Jan said.
“See? That’s exactly what I mean. You’re a victim, not simply because destinations are being kept from you, but because you don’t know your present location to the destination in question. Information is hidden from you. The things you don’t know don’t get you. It’s the things you do know that get you, because actually, they get you off track.”
“I’m afraid I don’t follow.”
“That’s another excellent point,” the information man nodded and his tone got even more depressing. “Everybody’s following when nobody is leading. The politicians tell big business they need to lead, while big business tells the politicians they need to lead, while the little guy—or gal in your case—they get lost in the shuffle. People are left out on the street, not knowing where to go, or how to get there, or why they should go anywhere at all.”
“But I am trying to get somewhere, you see—”
“And you don’t know how to get there, do you. See? You’re the perfect example. A victim to a so-called victimless crime.” The information man set one more pamphlet onto his creation.
Jan surprised herself by pounding her fists on the information man’s counter, crashing his little house down. “I’m just trying to find out where World Wide Wizard Inc. is!” Jan yelled. “That’s all!” Jan found herself tearing up.
The information man frowned. He handed her a tissue. He scooped together the scattered pamphlets and pushed them into a small waste bin.
“I see,” the information man said. “It’s right up the block there after the crossing. You can’t miss it.” He stood waiting, Jan finally realized, for her acknowledgement.
“Thank you,” Jan said exhaling. She tried smiling at him, but he looked sadder then ever. In looking at him, she decided he most certainly looked more like a leopard like than anything else.
“Don’t thank me,” the information man said sitting down. “Just doing my job.”
The information man slumped back into his chair and stared off again.
Jan walked away still not seeing what he could have been so intent on looking at.
After crossing the street, three doors up to her right, was the sign “World Wide Wizard Inc.” on a glass door.
The lights appeared to be off. The door was locked.
Jan stood at the glass door of the entrance.
She read the “Sorry, Closed For Lunch! Back at 0.00 pm!” sign repeatedly, wondering if she could be misinterpreting its meaning. Jan heard a rustling noise from a pile of garbage bags next to the doorway, and realized a man was lying there.
An orange-faced man in a dirty brown tattered suit wearing a trucker cap sat in filth and muck. On his hat was printed the word “Slump!” in bold red letters with a blue exclamation point. The man leaned up against the brick wall of the building and wiped his dirty face. Jan noticed his arms and legs slowly bobbed about in a strange, mechanical movement.
“He’s not in,” the man said to her.
His voice reverberated with a strange, East Coast drunken accent Jan seemed to recognize. “Even when he’s in, he’s out,” the man said loudly. “You can trust me on that one. I know what I’m talking about.” The man gurgled a drink from a glass bottle wrapped in a paper bag.
“I see,” Jan said. “Do you know when he’ll be back?”
“Back?” The man’s bloodshot blue eyes circled about and then landed their gaze on Jan’s face. “When the tides go back, that’s when he gets back. When the gravitational effect of the moon stops, and things go back to normal, that’s when he’ll be back.” The orange-faced man scrunched up his eyes. There was a narrow white band over his eyes where glasses should go. Perhaps the man had sunglasses on when he’d been hit by a rogue paint gun, Jan thought.
The sign still puzzled Jan. “Does that mean he’s out to lunch?” she asked pointing to the sign.
“Out to lunch is exactly what I’m referring to,” the man said. “I mean, your average postal employee on any given day is out to lunch, because of high taxes and government bureaucracy. But this man, I would argue, is so far out to lunch, it might as well be dinner.” The man took another long, loud series of gulps from his bottle and scratched at his crotch.
Jan turned to her left and found the man from the billboard was standing at her side.
“I wouldn’t listen to him.” The man was bald and had the first pleasant disposition she’d seen all day. “He’s a bit lost,” the man said as he reached into his pocket for keys and opened the glass door. He asked Jan to hold a plastic bag for a moment as he flipped the sign to read, “Open! Come on Up!”
The food in the bag smelled delicious, and Jan found herself salivating.
“Thanks,” he said taking the bag back from Jan. “You hungry?”
“Starved,” Jan said.
“The whole world’s starving for truth you know, you hypocrite,” the orange-faced man lying in the garbage yelled. “Truth in advertising!” Drool ran down the orange man’s chin.
“Stop scaring the poor girl, Don. I’m Calvin Hobbs, by the way,” he said to Jan.
“World Wide Wizard Inc.?” Jan asked.
“The one and only,” Hobbs said. “Follow me. ”
Hobbs climbed the stairs after turning on the hallway light switch.
The glass door slowly swung closed behind Jan. The air conditioning felt good on her skin. She climbed the staircase behind Hobbs, who apologized for the man’s behavior.
“He’s one of our local colorful characters,” Hobbs said. “You may have noticed this town is chock full of them,” Hobbs added as he reached his office. There was a rack of digital equipment behind a plain, wooden desk where Hobbs set the bag of food. Hobbs took out plates and containers of what appeared to be tacos, more than enough for Jan and himself.
“I usually eat dinner here as well, since I work late,” he explained. “But I’m happy to share.”
“I appreciate it,” Jan said. “I’ve had the strangest day, and I haven’t had anything to eat since I woke up in the park not knowing where I am.”
Hobbs remained silent as he divided up the food. Careful glances from the man appeared to take in Jan’s appearance and behavior with a keen, analytical eye. Jan found herself self-conscious as she ate. She hadn’t realized she’d asked for the hot sauce as Hobbs was simultaneously handing it to her.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I don’t mean to be rude,” Jan said crunching loudly into her taco.
Hobbs laughed. “You’re fine,” he said. “No worries.” Hobbs’ teeth crunched with zeal into his own taco, and he poured half his soda into a coffee cup to share with Jan.
Jan looked around at Hobbs’s office.
Besides the complicated equipment behind the man, the office held a couple of filing cabinets, and a workbench and table in an adjacent room. Hobbs’ open demeanor seemed to invite her to look about, and take in her surroundings. Her eyes drank in the photographs to the side on each wall. One portrayed a mountain, the other a beach. Both seemed eerily familiar to her.
“You recognize them, don’t you?” Hobbs said wiping his hands as he finished his taco.
“They are the first familiar things I’ve seen all day,” Jan said. She sat back in her chair facing his desk, her neck craning from one landscape to the other. “But…I can’t tell you why,” Jan said.
“That,” Hobbs said with a grin, “is one of my very favorite songs.”
Her ears seemed to recognize the words, but she couldn’t place them.
“That’s a very nice shirt you’ve got on,” Hobbs said reaching for a toothpick. “It’s very rare.”
Jan looked down at her Led Zeppelin t-shirt. “Really?” she asked.
“In Through the Out Door,” Hobbs said slowly. “Not my favorite album, but it was their last. See where it says ‘cancelled’ over the artwork? I haven’t seen that shirt in thirty years.”
“What does it mean?” Jan asked.
“It means,” Hobbs said finishing the last of his soda, “That you don’t belong here, and that I know where you’re from. It also means that whatever fate has in store for you,” Hobbs said with a small smile as his left hand wandered across his temples and then his bald head, “That I’d like to see you get home.”
Jan’s eyes widened. “You know who I am?” she asked.
“No,” Hobbs answered, “But I think I know where you belong. I think I know that, because once upon a time, I lived there. You may not have gotten here like I did,” Hobbs said after a pause, “but seeing you, in that shirt, reminds me of home.”
Hobbs looked at Jan and moved his eyebrows up and down to break the tension. “A home,” he said, “I’ve wanted to get back to for a very long time. Maybe, just maybe, I can help you get back.”
Jan set her empty plate down on his desk. Questions flooded her mind. How? Who? Where? Tangled and emotional thoughts raced through her as Hobbs came around from his side of the desk and slid his chair next to Jan. She could feel a tear on her cheek.
“It’s all right,” Hobbs said. “It’s okay. Listen; maybe if I explain about the band, it’ll make more sense. Not that much will make sense right now. See, where I come from, history remembers Led Zeppelin breaking up right after their drummer, John Bonham, died.
“When I was younger, oh god—much, much younger—my friends and I had plans to see them. We were Led Zeppelin fanatics. We listened to Zep day and night while playing Dungeons and Dragons. Led Zeppelin had just scheduled their North American tour with the release of “In Through the Out Door.” Dates for concerts had been posted. When Bonham died, though, all the promotional stuff, like t-shirts and posters that had been run off, were stamped cancelled. Since only a few were run off, they became collector’s items. The band, they couldn’t go on. That was it. They couldn’t replace their friend. They couldn’t imagine touring without him.
“Where you and I are now, history went a little differently. John Bonham died, but not alone. He was in a freak accident as a guest of Pete Townsend, who was killed at the same time. Pete Townsend, who wrote all the songs for his band The Who, well, they couldn’t go on without Pete. So, their drummer, Keith Moon, got sober. Keith then went on to replace John Bonham, and Led Zeppelin was reformed. They still put out albums over here,” Hobbs said brushing taco shell crumbs from his tie. Hobbs looked at Jan with soft, kind eyes, the same eyes that had triggered her instinct to seek him out from his billboard photo.
“For those few of us who have found ourselves here, there are very strange, but subtle differences,” Hobbs said. “That’s why the posters seem familiar to you,” he added. “Geographically, they are identical to our world. But they are not in the same places, or surrounded by the same things,” Hobbs said with a laugh.
“I’ve had that feeling all day,” Jan said. “Out of place,” she said with a crack in her voice.
Hobbs handed her a napkin so Jan could wipe her eyes.
“For me,” Hobbs said squeezing her hand, “Zep was never the same band after Keith joined.” Hobbs stood and motioned Jan to follow him next door. “But for you, none of this has happened. You just got here. Your memories from the other world haven’t stabilized yet. You’re kind of a blank slate, in between understanding how this world is different from your world. From my world. Our world.” Hobbs turned on a workbench light above a turntable.
“I’ve been working on a way to get back for a long time,” Hobbs said, “without luck. But for you, young lady, I think there just may be a way to send you home.”
Jan sniffled and smiled. “How?” she asked.
Hobbs took her hand, and inspected the tattoo on her left wrist. He patted it in a fatherly way, and she sat down at his workbench.
“This, this is not a tattoo,” Hobbs said. “Here, let me show you.” Hobbs showed her a picture of tattoos from a folder he opened. “This is the research I’ve been doing. This is technology being developed here, as well as in your world. This tattoo isn’t just ink. It’s a special wearable microchip, that monitors your heartbeat and blood pressure, while making you look hip and sexy and all that. The thing is, what they didn’t tell people, what they didn’t realize until it was too late, on your side and on this one, was the Nano-technology they built picked up broadcasts from other dimensions. These tattoos interfere with the neurons in the brain, to unintentionally re-focus human consciousness on the frequency of another, separate, parallel dimension. That’s my theory, anyhow—based on what I’ve been able to uncover.
“Now,” Hobbs continued, “since I got here a little differently, I can’t go home. But! Since your tattoo is a part of you, I think we can reconnect it to a signal from home, from the other world, and have it pull you back over. If I’m right, and I hope I am, we can use your tattoo should to send you home.”
Jan spontaneously hugged him.
“Hey now,” Hobbs said. “I have to be honest.” His faced looked serious for the first time. “This is tricky. It’s dangerous. This might kill you, rather than send you home.”
Hobbs looked at Jan as she took a deep breath and made up her mind.
“I don’t belong here,” Jan said.
“Neither do I. Nevertheless, I’ve made things work here. There are good people here, despite what you may have encountered so far. You can make a life for yourself here.”
“A life where I don’t know what I’m suppose to be? Who I’m supposed to be? That’s not a life I can live.”
Hobbs leaned back and rubbed a hand over his bald head once more.
“All right,” he said. “We’ll try. I believe that music is the answer.”
Hobbs took out a record, and blew off a tiny bit of dust. He put it on the turntable, and set the needle onto track three, side two. “Going to California” came through speakers, clear and loud. A ringing acoustic guitar and soothing voice put Jan into a trance.
Hobbs slid a lever on a small equalizer and the voice became distorted, the guitar warbled. For Jan, the room began to dim. She felt herself fading from existence as Hobbs began to push buttons, flip switches, and turn dials. There were geometric shapes and bouncing balls of light that floated into her chest and back out again. Images of people and places floated before her.
Jan saw a fire waterfall and a lake of molten glass turn black and then shatter. She was no longer in Hobbs’ office, but she could hear his voice over what appeared to be creatures gathering together in a cave and grooving with a Pict.
“What do you hear now?” she heard Hobbs shout.
“It sounds like Jar-Jar Binks eating pussy,” Jan shouted.
“Okay. Let me turn the knob the other way. What do you hear now?”
“Now it sounds like Thor giving head. Are you sure you know what you’re doing?”
“I think so. You’re starting to remember!” She saw Hobbs smile.
Jan was back in his lab but the sounds were now familiar. It was Led Zeppelin, but sounding like a barbershop quartet. The sounds morphed into pelicans laughing in a cocktail party. Then pulses of the baseline pumped with her heart, as images of streets and faces flashed before her eyes. Information about her life flooded into Jan’s mind.
Hobbs yelled over the squalling sound of rain and a dancing vibraphone. “How about now?”
Jan yelled. “I don’t want to remember! The pollution and the politicians, the crime and the pain!” The music was Led Zeppelin, but the room was now a mystical green, filled with mist.
“Listen,” Hobbs shouted, “I know it’s hard. But I’d give anything to see my wife one more time. And I divorced her before you were born!” Hobbs flipped a blue switch and the room turned red.
“This deal’s getting worse all the time!” Jan yelped.
“It’s not my fault!” Hobbs hollered with a wide grin.
There was a flash of brilliant yellow, and a pulse of red-indigo waves went into her eyes and down into the deepest parts of her. She found herself walking within her mind’s eye, stepping carefully down the path of the outlines of her tattoo. She stepped onto the stem as Hobbs stood before her smiling, then gently faded away.
She opened her eyes. She stood on a large meadow as the sun was setting, and she recognized immediately where she was, and where she was going.
This story is a preview of the upcoming second volume of “Detours Ahead,” due this spring. Contact the author by:
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The first volume of Detours Ahead is currently available at:
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“Whatever happens, happens.”