website design software
Story 4

 Bradley H. Sinor and Lou Antonelli

Bradley H. Sinor has had his short stories published in numerous science fiction, fantasy and horror anthologies such as The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Tales of the Shadowmen, Volume 6 Grand Guignol, Ring of Fire II and the Grantville Gazette. Three collections of his short fiction have been released by Yard Dog Press: Dark and Stormy Nights, In The Shadows, and Playing with Secrets (along with stories by his wife Sue Sinor.) His newest collection of stories, Echoes From the Darkness, is from Arctic Wolf Press. His non-fiction work has appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies.

Lou Antonelli started writing science fiction in middle age; his first story was published in 2003. His first professional science fiction short story sale, A Rocket for the Republic (Asimov’s Science Fiction Sept. 2005), when he was 46, was the last story accepted by Editor Gardner Dozois before he retired after 19 years. It placed third in the annual Asimov's Science Fiction Readers Poll.

He’s had 124 original short stories published in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, Brazil, India and Portugal in venues such as Asimov's Science Fiction, Jim Baen's Universe, Tales of the Talisman, Andromeda Spaceways, In-Flight Magazine, Greatest Uncommon Denominator (GUD), Daily Science Fiction, Buzzy Mag, and Omni Reboot, among many others.

His collections include Fantastic Texas published in 2009; Texas & Other Planets published in 2010; and The Clock Struck None and Letters from Gardner, both published in 2014. Letters from Gardner was a finalist for the Best Related Work Hugo in 2015.

His debut novel, the retro-futurist alternate history Another Girl, Another Planet, was a finalist for the Dragon Award for Alternate History in 2017. His short story On a Spiritual Plain, originally published in Sci Phi Journal, was a finalist for the Hugo award in 2015.

"Blue Tango" is a trip down memory lane in a restored Volkswagen Micro Bus, or is it a bizarre Government plot involving brain implants and drugs? A tall Texas tale where cars talk, and the son can experience thoughts and emotions of the father. You'll find a lot to entertain if you actually lived through the 'sixties, not just read about it. Otherwise, just lean back and enjoy the ride.



“Blue Tango”


 Bradley H. Sinor and Lou Antonelli



“Mr. Rosen.”

Joel Rosen ignored the artificial voice and continued to stare at the digital display on the dashboard of his car. The readings weren’t what held his interest. Rather it was the  shifting color display  monitor of his music program, shapes and colors morphing from one to another and then another seconds later.

“Mr. Rosen,” the voice repeated, with just a slight change in timber, enough to catch his attention.

“We are reaching the edge of The DFW Grid. You will need to take over control of the car or I will need to pull it over until you can. The only other option is a reroute back into The DFW Grid.”

Joel twisted his neck one way and then the other, the crack of his neck bones sending a satisfying feeling through him. The car was a two-year-old Arctic Eight, designed to seat two people comfortably, although he had claimed that was only true if the two were five feet tall or less. At just under six feet tall, Joel was definitely over the design parameters.

“Mr. Rosen, I will need a decision in the next three hundred yards or I will have to initiate one of the stated options,” the car told him.

“Yes, bwana,” he said and punched the green acceptance button, tearing his eyes away from the monitor. “I think I can handle it from here,” he muttered sarcastically. Sarcasm was a subtlety lost on any of the Singularity’s many AI minds.

“Transferring control. Remember, even out of range you can still call for emergency help,” said the Gridvoice “Have a safe day.”

When the car began to slow, the thought struck Joel that he really did have to drive the thing. After a moment’s hesitation he punched the accelerator and the electric motor hummed, pulling the car back up to speed as he headed along an exit ramp toward Highway 271.

Over the next hour and a half, what traffic there was had slowed to a trickle, a sight almost unheard of on The DFW Grid. Twice the road crested hills and Joel expected to see some sort of sign that would tell him he was heading in the right direction; both times he was disappointed.

He had just decided to give it another two miles before turning around to try to find someone to give him directions, when he saw the old, dingy sign, probably put up when there still were public works employees, even out in the boondocks. It read: “Mount Pleasant 3 Miles.”

“Okay, maybe I didn’t dream the whole thing.” Joel reached over and touched the notebook lying on the passenger seat. It contained everything he remembered of his trip five years before.

It still took another three turns and somewhere around two dozen curves on a hard-packed dirt lane before the dilapidated farmhouse and barn, complete with fifty old gas engine automobile wrecks, scattered around a collapsed grain silo, came into view.

Three Australian Heelers materialized around the end of an ancient truck thirty feet away from where the electric car came to a stop. They weren’t the biggest dogs in the world, but from the sound of their barking, they thought they were.

. “Bill! Chelsea! Hi! Git yourselves back here! Now!”  The voice came from the shadows on the wrap-around porch on the ancient house.

The dogs stopped, looked at Joel and then toward the house, as if they were uncertain whether to challenge the alpha voice.  A moment later all three animals turned around, vanishing under the huge porch in less than a minute.

 Once the path was cleared, the speaker headed toward Joel. He looked to be anywhere from fifty to seventy-five; someone who had spent most of his life in the hot Texas sun.  The faded jeans, patched work shirt and baseball cap all added to the man’s image.

 “You must be the fellow from Dallas, eh?”  The man stopped a few feet in front of Joel. and stuck out a hand smeared with rust and grease. “Good to meet you, Mister Rosen. I’m Tom Gaines.”

 “Good to meet you in person, too, Tom. Call me Joel.”

 “Did you have any trouble finding the place?” asked Gaines.

 “I was wondering for awhile. This is the first time I’ve actually driven myself in quite awhile.  Driving off of The Grid takes some getting used to; it’s not like I do it every day,” said Joel.

 “Yeah, the Sing-Sing controls everything,” said the farmer with a frown, repeating a line from the old satirical jingle. Gaines stared hard at Joel for a long time. Gaines turned and walked down a fencerow. “Now that I see you, I do remember you. Five years. There are times that seems like a long time and others that seem like it was just a few days ago.”

 Before Joel could say anything, his belt comm unit began to beep.

 Gaines arched an eyebrow. “Reception out here is kind of spotty. I’m surprised a call can get through.”

 “It’s just a reminder to take one of my meds.” Joel pulled a metal dispenser from his pocket and slipped a pill from it, dropping it into his mouth and swallowing in a quick movement.

      “I got some cold tea you could wash it down with,” said Gaines as he motioned for Joel to follow him along the western fence line. “That Cartermien?”

 “It’s called Pecarian. A new treatment for...”

.     “Alzheimer’s?”
      Joel did a double take. This was not the sort of question that someone expected to hear these days. Sure, the nano virus cures made Alzheimer’s something that could be dealt with, even cured. But the number of people who knew the drug protocol was limited. And certainly finding one out here in Hicksville was not something Joel had expected to have happen.

 “Yeah, early onset, pretty bad, actually. I was diagnosed a few years ago, started to go downhill pretty fast.”
      The farmer turned at a fencepost and looked at Joel as the two men walked on into an over-grown back pasture. “You look like you’re doing fine now. I’m guessing the drugs are helping. The Cartermien helped my sister, until she got hit by some crazy drunk college kids on their way back to College Station.”

      “I’m sorry about your sister. But yeah, the Pecarian helps, along with a new drug, just released by… well, it,” said Joel. They cut through a field heading towards another distant fence line.  “Part of that ‘serve and protect’ Singularity bullshit -- but it works. I feel a lot better.”

 “I guess there were some benefits to the Change,” the farmer said distantly. “Doesn’t really bother me none. I still get to do what I did before.” He pulled up short in front of an old claw-foot bathtub, almost obscured by weeds and trash. He looked at Joel as he changed direction. “What did you use to do?”

      “I am an antiques dealer,” said Joel. “I used to be able to go to markets and auctions, not hunt up staff in backyards and barns. That’s why I came through this area five years ago.” He stopped as he recognized the cluster of trees. “It’s still there. I really didn’t expect to find it”

 “I told you it was.”

 There was a small grove of trees, with what might have been mistaken for a large, old, rusting freezer lodged within them. It was just as he remembered, maybe a little rustier, the paint a little more weather faded, but the vehicle hadn’t moved, not that it could have.

      “A vintage Volkswagen micro bus,” Joel murmured. “This is a T1, from at least before 1967.”

 The tires were flat, sunk into the earth years ago, the rubber no doubt totally rotten.  He could see the interior better than the sides. The windows were long gone, and the still-intact roof shielded a jumble of rusted springs and wildly sprawling vines.

 Joel walked around to the front of the rusted vehicle. He could clearly see where the VW in a circle logo beneath the windshield had once been repainted into a peace sign. The remains of psychedelic paint interspersed with large splotches of rust.

Joel stopped and clapped his hands. The farmer came up behind him.

      “Yep, a regular damn hippie-mobile,” said Gaines. “Been parked in this spot since the Singularity knows when. Probably been sitting here sixty-nine or seventy years then, since 1968 or 1969, I think. The trees look like they’ve almost got it boxed in.”

      Joel leaned his head in one window, letting his eyes adjust to the darkness. Drawing a deep breath, he grinned, thinking for a moment that he might have caught a whiff of marijuana.  

      “How much do you want?”

     “You offering credits? I’m more than a little bit off the grid here, son. What else you got?” He made a gesture moving his hand with two fingers extended to his mouth and then away.

This was one of the parts about the antiques business that Joel enjoyed, the bargaining. “I think we can reach an agreement, I have some contacts that can move a few cartons of cigarettes in from overseas, without the customs people knowing. Before we discuss the exact price, let me see if I can sweeten the deal a bit.”

From his inside jacket pocket Joel produced a small wooden box. Even though he knew that Gaines and he were completely alone, he still glanced around before opening it to display a half–dozen brown tubes.

“Cuban?” asked Gaines.

“Yep.” Joel passed one to the old man. “And I got three whole boxes of these that are looking for a home.”

    Producing a silver lighter from his back pocket, the old man smiled. “I think we can do business, son.”


----Attention, Attention!  There has been a minor disturbance noted in Lambda 678 area.


----Fluctuation in temporal hydrodynamic.

---Very well, initiate Protocol Magellan, continue to monitor.

---Confirmed. Current projection of success sixteen percent.


Harry Gaskell ran a long, thin paint brush to the center of a spiral starburst on the side of the van. Leaning back, he inspected the results and then added two more strokes into the design. It was a classic that he had found in the archives of Haight Ashbury, San Francisco circa 1967.

He looked over toward the back door of the shop and watched Joel come toward his work station.

“I was wondering when you would show up,” Gaskell told the younger man.  “The upholsterer left an hour ago. He said that as far as he was concerned, the interior was finished.”

     Joel leaned in through the window, surveyed the upholstery and then ran his hand across the driver’s seat. “Magnificent! Looks just as it must have the day it left West Germany. The paint job -- completely authentic?”

“As authentic as I can make it. I used the best reconstruction software to determine what the paint job originally looked like,” said Gaskell, wiping his brush on a rag “I even used authentic period paints. I’ll have the final touchups done on the outside tonight.  By the way, who did you say was paying for all this?”

“A big Top Human muckity muck in Upper Seattle,” said Joel. “Apparently one of his ancestors was a so-called hippie.”

“Figgers. Only a Transhuman could get away with such a waste of resources, and have the credits to do it,” said Gaskell. “What’s in it for you?”

“An obscene amount of credits. I could use them. Remember, they agreed to treat my Alzheimer’s the way I wanted, with a regular pharmaceutical, instead of a nano-insert job.” He patted the top of his head. “It's more expensive, but I’m kinda old fashioned. I don’t want them tinkering in the crankcase.”

Gaskell leaned on the front of the van. “Where’d you find this thing again?”

“Not that far away; it was in a small town between here and Texarkana called Mount Pleasant. I saw it from the road five years ago, but it was very far from the highway, at the back side of a farm, and I knew it would take a long side trip to get there.  I was in a rush, so I decided to go back later.”

“Five years later?”

“Uhh, well, I kinda forgot where it was for a few years, as the Alzheimer’s kicked in. Then just a few months ago, as the drug reversed it, it came back to me -- where I had seen it. Hell, I was surprised it was still there. Had to cut down a few trees to drag it out. The payment will clear up my account with Uni-Q.” He stepped toward the van, pursing his lips as his eyes never left the drivers seat.

Gaskell sighed and stepped up beside his friend, gently shoving him in the small of the back. “For Christ’s sake, hop in and get behind the wheel! You’ve been dying to since you walked in the door.”

“Is it that obvious?”  Joel pulled the door open wide and slid into the driver’s seat.

“Like an earthquake,” Gaskin said.

He leaned forward and grabbed the steering wheel, trying to imagine what it looked like to be driving on an asphalt highway in the 20th century. The restoration team had tried to recreate the interior as best they could, but it was rather sedate, compared to the riot of colors on the exterior. 

Joel blinked, and then blinked again, closing his eyes finally because of what seemed like an eternity with a dull pain. A wave of white light, followed by a rainbow of every color in conception came and went in a fraction of second.

It was the woman’s giggle that dragged him out of the darkness, a high, happy sound that would have made even the most somber of people smile.

“Jesus!” Joel muttered and shook his head forcing his eyes to focus.  The van was moving, not being dragged, but rolling under its own power down a black-topped highway. Out the side window he could see fields of corn.  Everywhere Joel looked the colors were intense, the roadway stunningly black, the yellow and green of the corn almost incandescent.

     He heard the giggle again, coming from the passenger seat, where a pretty blonde-haired girl sat.  She was perhaps, at the most, twenty years old. Her eyes were covered in granny glasses and she had a crocheted shawl, with every color of the rainbow in it, wrapped around her shoulders and covering a purple tie-dyed tank top that left very little to the imagination, as did the cut-off jean shorts, that did nothing to hide the blue dove tattoo on her right thigh.

     “Hey, big boy, what’s with the startled look?” she said seductively at him.

     Joel look away, his eyes falling on the van’s rear view mirror. The face was familiar in a distant sort of way.

Everything went blurry as Joel felt his head and shoulders slamming into the concrete floor of the warehouse.

Joel looked up to see the girders of the warehouse above him, shifting in and out of focus for a minute or so. Gaskell dropped down next to him and began to shake Joel’s shoulder.

“Joel, are you OK? What’s wrong? What happened?”

     “Stop it, I’m OK, I’m OK.” He managed to gasp, his throat suddenly dry and rough.

“You don’t look it. You started shivering in there like you were in a refrigeration unit. Then your eyes were all big, like you saw God in the headlights, and you grabbed the steering wheel and went all pale. I was afraid you were having a seizure or a stroke of some kind,” said Gaskell.

Joel pushed himself up on all fours and considered whether or not he remembered how to get to his feet. “I had some kind of flashback, some kind of vision.”

     “What do you mean, vision? Like those TV psychics? You didn’t happen to pick up the winning lottery numbers while this was going on, did you?”

Joel wiped his face with his hand and ran his fingers through his hair as he pushed himself into a sitting position; he’d think about standing in an eon or two.  “There must be some kind of psychic impression in the van. Like it was haunted or something, but it was a good kind of haunting,” he said. “Someone who sat in that seat once had very happy feelings about some girl that he was with. It just sort of swept me up.”

                 “You sure looked like you were possessed,” said Gaskel. “You look like you need something.”

                    “Yeah, a stiff drink or two,” said Joel, finally forcing himself to his feet. “Several, I think.”


-------------Attention! Attention! There has been another temporal temp disturbance.

------------Have you been able to locate the epicenter?

------------Negative. However, using Protocol Magellan, the area has been narrowed to
one of several districts in the southern part of the political entity.

------------Continue monitoring; draw on whatever resources required.

---------Confirmed; current probability of success thirty-nine per cent.


“I’m impressed by someone who can stay in business when nobody needs to buy anything anymore. But then, I’m your mother, and I’ve always been impressed by you.”

“Thanks, Mom.” Joel rattled the ice cubes in his glass. “Well, you know me; I’ve always been a workaholic. The Change didn’t change that.”

Aurora Rosen sat back in the heavy leather chair that filled up the corner of the living room. It wasn’t that she really liked the chair, but it had been her late husband’s favorite chair and, as such, was special to her.

“You know, it’s not fair,” she said. “This whole thing with the Singularity.”

“What, letting the Singularity take over control of things?” he asked. “We did it to ourselves.  It was just a natural outgrowth of things.”

“No, no, it’s not fair that your father didn’t live to see the Singularity. I’m sure it could have cured his Alzheimer’s like it cured yours. But that damn car wreck in ’07 ended any chance of that.” she said, staring into the cocktail glass like it was a scrying bowl.

Joel pulled out his iPad and thumbed up a picture on the three-inch screen. It showed a dark-haired young man with a neatly trimmed goatee, wearing a pair of what he had been told were John Lennon glasses, with a peace symbol hanging around his neck. For just a moment he considered flipping it on to the next couple of photos in the queue.

“I found a picture of Dad; thought you might like to see it,” he said and passed the iPad over to his mother.

Aurora smiled as she looked at the screen. There might have been a tear at the corner of one eye, but Joel couldn’t be sure.

“Yes, that was your father. He was a handsome devil; I’m still amazed, even after all these years, that he was interested in me.”

“Funny, I’m fairly sure that Dad said the same thing about you being interested in him. Take a look at the next couple of pictures; it’s that van I’m restoring for Simmons up in Seattle.”

     “Ah yes, the 'vee-dub',” she smiled. “Let me see it.” Aurora Rosen’s eyes widened as she pulled up first one, then another and another photo. He could see her eyes focus — and then her wrist went limp. She almost dropped the device.

“Oh, my,” she said in a whisper.

“What is it?”

“It can’t be. This looks just like, it looks like….” She shook her head, then squinted again.

“It does have the same paint job.”

“Jeez, mom, there were probably a million vans that looked like that, back then,” he said.

“Back in 1968, your father and I started from the Coast in a vee-dub that looked just like this one, heading cross country to a big music festival, Woodstock,” she said, her eyes misting over as she rode the waves of memory back so many decades.

This wasn’t the first time Joel had heard his mother, or his father for that matter, talk about Woodstock.  He remembered, and once again he rejoiced in being able to recall as much as he did, when he was a child watching and re-watching an old documentary about the festival to see if he could catch a glimpse of his parents.

“When did you last see it?”

“We had dropped off two friends in Kingman, Arizona, and then this space cowboy, Joe Bob Briggs, in Dallas. He had a job running a drive-in theatre. We left Dallas heading towards Arkansas, just the two us,” she said with a smile and hummed a few bars of the song ‘Just The Two Of Us’. “But the damn thing broke down between Dallas and Texarkana. It was the alternator, and we didn’t have the money to replace it, so we abandoned the van in a cornfield and thumbed the rest of the way to New York.”

“Do you remember where you left it? The city?”

“Not really, ‘hill’ something, I think.”

“Maybe ‘mount’? Like Mount Pleasant?”

The color drained out of Aurora Rosen’s face as she stared at her son.  “Omigod, that’s it! I remember the highway sign. It said ‘Mount Pleasant 3 Miles’. Your father later joked about what an un-pleasant experience we had there.

“Actually, it wasn’t that unpleasant, as I recall,” a sad smile drifted across her face. “We spent the night in it, after we realized we couldn’t get it fixed, and hit the road the next morning. Oh, it was so chilly that night.”

Joel chuckled. “I’m sure that two died-in-the-wool hippies like you and Dad found a way to keep warm.”

“Actually, that was the first time that we made love.” Aurora smiled a very pleased smile. “That might just have been where you, sir, were conceived. Of course, it might have been a week or so later, there on Max Yasgur’s farm.”

Joel did a quick mental calculation and found that, given his birth date, either could be possible.

“So this really was your van,” he said. “That just makes things even weirder.”

“What are you talking about?” she asked “What’s the matter?”

“Maybe I’m just wackier than anything, but when I first got behind the wheel of the vee-dub, after we had the restoration done, I had this kind of vision, flashback or a déjà vu event. I was somewhere else and driving the van; it was brand new and there was this girl sitting in the passenger seat, wearing a rainbow shawl and granny glasses.”

“Are you sure this isn’t some kind of side effect of that new drug they’re giving you?” Aurora stood up and began to walk slowly back and forth, pausing next to the fireplace mantel at the far end of the room.

“I almost hope it was. Mom, didn’t you tell me once that you had a tattoo removed, just after Sis was born?”

“Yes I did. Somehow it seemed out of place for the mother of two kids to have a blue dove on her leg,” she said.

“A blue dove,” said Joel. He picked up his iPad and paged back to the picture that he had uploaded of his father, staring for a long time at the same face that he had seen in the rear view mirror of the van during his flashback.


“That’s a heck of a story,” Gaskel said. “It fits your mother and dad. I knew them both for thirty years, and there wasn’t a time when they could keep their hands off each other, right up to the day that your dad died. I think they were making out in the back room of their shop.”

“Harry, even at my age there are somethings that one does not want to hear about their parents,” laughed Joel as he began peeling the backing off the sticker that would soon sit below the passenger-side window.

“Watch it, junior; I’ve got three girl friends, myself, and I’m only a year older than your mother. So did you tell her about your little incident in the van?”

“Yeah, finally. I’m not really sure if she believed me or not. I’m not sure I believe me. After all, whoever heard of déjà vu passing from one generation to the next? If that was what this was. Or maybe some sort of psychic impression if they got really hot and heavy that night in the van.”

“I thought you said there were some things that you didn’t want to think about concerning your parents?” Gaskell said, trying to sound like he wasn’t a few seconds from laughing, and failing.

     “Yeah, right,” muttered Joel, though thinking about his parent’s joy in their life made even the thought of them having sex in the back on the van a pleasing one, not that the would admit it to Gaskell. “Hey, are these stickers originals?”

     “Like Mr. filthy rich Seattle man would be able to afford originals, if there were any still around. No, I doubt they go back to the ‘60s, but they probably go back to the late 1990s; there was a hippie era renaissance then. But the company that made them went down when the dot com bubble burst. So you got that yellow daisy ready yet?”

“Here,” said Joel, passing it over with two fingers lightly holding the edge. “I hope our buyer thinks it’s authentic enough.”

“Hey, Aurora’s pictures are helping us, a lot. When you brought her in I thought she was going to cry when she saw this thing sitting here. You realize that the mechanic who told them it was going to cost so much was just ripping them off? They just needed an alternator belt, not a whole new alternator, a few bucks and an hour’s time at the most,” said Gaskell.

     “They were hippies, not handymen/mechanics,” Joel said. “They had no idea. Just as well. Otherwise…” said Joel as he began to hum.

“I’ve got the last couple of stickers in the back of my car. I’ll go get them,” said the older man. “By the way, that’s a nice tune. I didn’t know you liked tangos.”

“I detest them.”

“Well, little buddy, I hate to tell you this, but that was a tango you were just humming.”

“No, it wasn’t.”

Gaskell grinned and then began to hum exactly the same tune as Joel had.   “That,” he said after a dozen bars. “Is most definitely a tango.”

“That’s right,” Joel said slowly, listening to himself as he began to hum. “If this is because of the van, it is getting even weirder than before because I don’t think hippies listened to that kind of music.”


-------Log entry. Disturbance continues. Magellan protocol search continues. Probability of success sixty-eight per cent.


The photo showed Aurora with the van, making a rather limp old-fashioned peace sign with her fingers. A few seconds later it was replaced with a picture of her and Joel’s father that was taken the day they got married.

“I never imagined I would have a photo of that van.” She wiped a tear away. “It makes me think of your father, of when we were young….”

     Joel hugged his mother. “You sure you don’t want me to talk to Simmons and see about keeping the van?”

     “That’s sweet dear, but no. You made a bargain, and your father would insist that you keep it. Besides, I’ll always have that van,” she touched her heart and then the side of her head. “Right here, along with your father.”

     For a long time mother and son just stood in front of the mantle looking at the picture. Joel’s comm unit beeped to remind him to take his meds, which he quickly swallowed.

     “Hey, the other day,” he said before Aurora could comment on the meds and how much more efficient the nano treatment would have been, “I caught myself humming a piece of music -- a tango of some kind -- that I don’t recognize.” He puckered up and began to whistle. She listened intently and a smile creased her face after a few bars

“Ah, that anti-Alzheimer’s drug must be working,” Aurora said. “You probably heard that tune when you were just a little boy. It’s ‘Blue Tango’ by Leroy Anderson.”

“Where would I have heard that?”

“From your grandfather Evan; it was one of his favorites. I’m sure you heard him play it when we went to visit at his house. I think he had every Leroy Anderson recording in existence.”

Joel nodded. His grandfather had died when he was seven, so that put this memory a very old one.

“This new drug therapy is impressive,” said Joel. “I hope I don’t begin to remember bad things, things I really want to forget,” said Joel as he promised to go to his mother’s for dinner the next Sunday.



That night at home Joel played the tune on the humanet, and googled some background information.

“Interesting,” he thought as he read. “Leroy Anderson was a composer with the Boston Pops, and Grandma and Grandpa went to college in Boston.”

He clicked on a John Williams-conducted version and let the sound of the Boston Pops roll over him. “Yeah, I do remember Grandpa Evan playing this.”

A wave of white light, followed by a rainbow of every color in conception came and went in a fraction of second.

He looked out the window and across the apartment building’s lawn at a band shell that had not been there a moment before. A moment later he was sitting near it, next to a double-trunked tree.

“What the f…?”

It was the Esplanade in Boston. Looking toward the band shell, he could see musicians and a figure standing in front of them waving a baton.

“Arthur Fiedler?”

“Well of course, silly; who else is going to be conducting the Boston Pops?”  Joel turned to see a smiling girl sitting on the ground across from him. The hair style and padded shoulders in her blouse seemed to shout 1940’s.

“Sorry,” he mumbled.

“About what, Evan? Although you do look a bit pale. I wond….”

A wave of white light, followed by a rainbow of every color in conception came and went in a fraction of second.

.    Joel felt himself slip off the edge of the recliner he had been sitting on; a moment later he landed, hard and painfully, on the faux hardwood floors that had been one of the selling points when he bought the condo.

“Oh, ouch, shit,” he said as he shifted and rubbed his ass. “For my next amazing trick, I’ll do a double axel and land on one foot.”

Joel grabbed onto the edge of his desk and pulled himself up. Looking out the window he could see the park, but there was definitely no band shell and certainly no sign of the Boston Pops.

After pouring himself three fingers of unblended Scotch, downing it and then repeating the process, he punched up his mother’s number on his home phone.

“Hey, I have a sort of genealogy question for you,” he said. “Didn’t Grandma and Grandpa meet in college, in Boston?”

“That they did; she was getting an education degree, your grandpa studied….”

“Do you know if they liked the Boston Pops?”

Aurora was silent for a long time.  “Well, now that you mention it, I remember them talking about the Boston Pops concerts they used to go to, usually the open-air ones in that city park by the Charles River.”

“The Esplanade?”

     “Yes, it was. Joel, what’s this all…?”

     He cut the connection and continued to stare out the window for a long time. For some reason he was fairly certain that those were his grandparents and that moment was within a few hours of the conception of his father.

“Cheddar, on line.”

“Yes, sir,” the house AI responded.

“I need to talk to Dr. Epie, like soon. See if you can move up my next appointment to as soon as possible.”



-----Disturbances continue. Narrowing search parameters. Temporal distortion increasing but still minor. Centered on a single matrix. Probability of success, sixty-three per cent.


The Dallas offices of Uni-Q – the outfit that handled unique drug therapies – had that post-Singularity architecture look. Austere in a Bauhaus kind of way, but somehow somewhat “off”, what some people called “Post-Ess Architecture.”

The lobby was glass and chrome and empty. Post-Ess efficiency kept waiting rooms empty. The receptionist – an obvious hologram, since he could see through her – quickly sent him on his way down the hall.

There was a lot that Joel didn’t know about Dr. Epie, like his first name or if he was real or a snap clone or a holographic ‘made man’. It really didn’t matter; the older man did his job and did it well.

“Good to see you again, Joel,” he said with a thick Caribbean lilt. “I understand you’ve had some flashbacks recently. They’re a very common effect of your memory returning and then being reinforced.”

“That’s the problem. I’ve had ‘flashbacks’, as you say, that were obviously not my own memories,” said Joel.

“Really. Did you order some from that vacation simulation place that does the late-night info-mercials?” said the doctor.

“No, although a couple of their packages do look like fun, especially the one to the Atlantis colony.  Seriously though, I’ve traced their sources. They’re memories of my parents and my grandparents.”

The doctor knitted his brow. “Now that’s not what we see normally. Are you sure about this?”

After a good 20 minutes of Joel going into all the details, the doctor was scratching his chin with the curled tips of his fingers and rocking back in his seat. After a minute, he leaned forward and slapped the desktop with both palms.

“I’m sure there’s a rational explanation, and I’m sure we can find it,” he said. “One thing we can do is record these visions.”

“With a chip? No way,” said Joel firmly. “The whole reason I went the drug route is to avoid implants.”

“Oh, this is hardly an implant,” said the doctor. He waved one hand in the air and his desk projected holographic designs for a small microchip. “The Kay-Be can be programmed to only transmit, so you can be assured there’ll be no interference in your own mind.”

     If we’re successful in recording these flashbacks, we can see if they are indeed hallucinations or actually memories,” said the doctor.

“What if they’re actually memories?”

The doctor tented his fingers and stared at Joel. “Then, you’ve opened up a whole new line of investigation, of whether memories can be genetically encoded and passed from one generation to the next. What I suspect is happening, though, “ he said with raised eyebrows, “is that your therapy is working so well that you are visualizing memories you only barely remembered before, if at all.”

He extended his hand with an open palm. “For example, although you may not recall it consciously, perhaps in the past you heard your parents talk about that Volkswagen van, and your unconscious recognized it when you stumbled across it.”

     “I guess,” Joel said with a shrug. “Would the chip be temporary?’

“We can set it so that after receiving a cutoff signal it will deactivate and dissolve into nothingness into your own bloodstream. It’s possible to do one outside the body, but it cuts the chance of success by more than sixty per cent.”

“I still don’t like it, but,” he sighed. “I need to know.”


-----------Progress Report #78A: Magellan Protocol. Search parameters have been narrowed in southern political entity.  Temporal displacement signal has strengthened.

---------Understood. 18% additional resources are to be allocated to project.



Joel rubbed the back of his neck. There was still an area that was numb from the anesthetic, so he knew the area where the insertion had been made. But there was no sign of the actual incision.

“So now we wait,” he said. “Cheddar, any special programming available tonight?”

“There is a Frank Capra retrospective this evening on Murdoch Vision,” said Cheddar. “This is the 100th anniversary of his first famous film, ‘It Happened One Night’.”

     Joel had taken a few film classes years ago when he had been in college.  “I have a better idea,” he said. “Look up ‘Our Daily Bread’.” The story from the First Depression – centering on the spontaneous assemblage of a socialist farm collective by unemployed workers and professionals – had many documentary-like scenes of the conditions of the time.

     “I need a few more key words,” said Cheddar. “That’s a very common phrase.”

“Try King Vidor. I think it was released in....”

“Got it. It was released the same year, 1934. Do you want it plumped?”

“Dear God, no! Straight flat screen. I can’t believe people watch these classics in 3-D,” he snarled. “No fucking colorization, either.”

“Just as well, it doesn’t have either. I’d have to do it myself.”

     “Good. start it, will ya?”

     “At once.”

As he watched, some parts seemed strangely familiar to Joel, though he was certain he had never seen the complete feature before. One scene featured a rather cynical young lady with marceled hair and a cloche hat, who was short and had to look up sharply at the protagonist.

She took a step back. He took a step forward.

She stepped back again, and struck a wall. Joel pressed himself against her.

“Don’t be a pig,” she groaned.

“You want a job, missy baby, this is your interview,” a cold voice with a strange accent replied.

“Hey, Blackjack!” came a voice from outside the office. “You okay?”
     The man grabbed the girl, muffling her groan with his hand, holding her up against the wall under her arms.

“That’s not my voice,” Joel ‘thought. “And it’s not the voice from the movie.”

“I’m fine. Me and Miss Emily Rosen are just discussing the terms of her employment,” the man’s voice was as gravely and rough as a country road.

Emily Rosen? This was his great-grandmother! His grandfather was the result of a rape.  Joel screamed and forced the wave of white light, followed by a rainbow of every color in conception, which came and went in a fraction of second.

The next time Joel was aware of anything, he was laying on the floor in front of the television screen, covered in sweat, a line of drool rolling from the corner of his mouth. He used his elbows to raise himself partially up off the carpet.

“Goddamn,” he muttered. “And this shit needs to stop. Cheddar!”

“Yes, sir.”

“Kill the movie and get me Dr. Epie, now!”

“At once! Hold sir, there is an incoming call; the number matches the one I have on file for Dr. Epie.”

Joel looked at the comm unit for a long time, watching the red light continuing to blink to indicate an incoming call.

Joel sat up and then leaned forward. “Put him on speaker. Hello?”

“Joel, this is Epie. My receptionAIst responded to a pre-set command. You had another flashback?”

“Yes, a bad one. Something really bad, and another generation up the family tree. Doctor, this needs to stop.”

“I’m reviewing the recording now. Get to my office as soon as you can.”


-------------Major temporal distortion charted.

-------------Have you been able to locate the epicenter?

-------------Confirmed. Certainty ninety-eight point seven three five nine per cent.



Despite the hour there were still a few people who boarded the Red Line light rail car in Mockingbird Station. Joel noticed that two young couples had moved to the opposite end of the car from where he was sitting. That was when he noticed the man sitting across the aisle from him, apparently having a deep conversation with someone that no one else, including Joel, could see.

Joel looked down at his hands. He had calmed down somewhat from “seeing” the rape. But the knowledge of what had happened to his great-grandmother was so fresh in his mind it was hard to accept, but deep in his gut he knew it was true. He had never known his great-grandmother, though the stories he had heard were that she was a kind and loving woman.

“Yea, though the flying monkeys are everywhere,” said the man across from Joel.

Supposedly, the Ess-mind cured these sorts of mental trauma. If this guy is nuts, the Ess Mind wants him nuts, or made him nuts, thought Joel, as he leaned forward to catch better what the other man was saying.

“I needs must be thrust through a quickset hedge as cry boo to a callow throstle, Milady, or lief my liege,  mine own lord besmatter me, wouldst I such a liberty at dulcimer take,” the man said rather softly and rather matter-of-factly. His face was vaguely familiar; after a few minutes Joel was almost certain that he had seen him at the institute when Joel had gone for his treatments.

He wondered if he was an Alzheimer’s patient and being treated with the same sort of meds Joel had.

This fellow’s lost in an Elizabethan conversation, thought Joel. Jesus, how far back has he regressed? He rose and quickly crossed to the other side, sitting down next to the man. He poked him gently in the shoulder.

The man continued his ‘conversation’ and didn’t respond. He gestured as if he was talking at table. At one point, his hand dropped down, as he obviously adjusted a non-existent napkin, and Joel saw a small white triangle protruding from a pocket of his denim blue jeans. Something made Joel reach down and tug at it. When he saw what it was, he pulled it out and then away.

     “Dr. Aguam Epie, PsyD” it said.

“Uptown Village”, the voice called on the loudspeaker.

Joel stood up quickly. “Sorry, this is my stop,” he said rather uselessly to the man who continued to mutter. He headed for the door.

“How far to Downtown Cedar Hill?” asked one of the young ladies at the far end of the car.

“I think it is the next stop,” said Joel as he bounded off the car. The station was otherwise deserted. He saw a set of lights come on in the parking lot as an auto-car recognized him and then pulled up to the curb.

Considering the hour, thought Joel after he arrived, Dr. Epie was dressed rather neatly.

“I reviewed the video,” said the doctor. “I see why it was so disturbing.”

“Is this a memory or a hallucination?  Are the new meds doing it to me?”

“I need more time,” said Epie. “It’s very uncertain.”

“Has this happened to other people?”


“Recalling memories made by ancestors?”

“Not that I know of.”

Epie’s emotionless exterior reinforced the certainty in Joel that the doctor was lying.  Joel knew that as sure as he knew the sun comes up in the east every morning.

He reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a crumpled business card.

“Then why did I find this in the pocket of a crazy man on the light rail. I think he’s gone right up his family tree and clear back across the Atlantic. He was carrying on a one-sided conversation at an Elizabethan or Shakespearean banquet.” Joel held out the dirty card he had taken from the man on the train. “Yours, isn’t it?”

The doctor looked at him blankly and made no move to take the card. Joel threw it at him,  and the cared sailed through him and hit the wall behind him.

“You’re a fucking projection!” Joel snapped.

“Now, yes. I’m solid during the day when I have to see numerous clients,” said the doctor, “but it’s a poor investment of energy to materialize for just one man. I do care about you, Joel. That’s why I agreed to meet you right away.” Epie shifted over behind the desk, sitting in the chair.

“Were you a real person?”

     “No, I’m not someone who was uploaded, if that’s what you mean. I’m based on a doctor who lived and worked in Conakry, though. Your medicine is based on a very good protocol. We only realized it has this side effect recently.”
     Joel pounded a fist into his palm, resisting the urge to slam it against the wall. “OK, this is where I say I need to get some answers.
I don’t want to end up like the guy I just saw on the Red Line.”

“Victor Peterson. He was a very early case,” said the doctor as he steepled his fingers. “We lost control of him. Sad, really.”

Joel gestured towards the back of his head. “So what’s with this implant, then? Did you really need it?”

“To diagnose your problem? Not really. “The doctor smiled broadly. “We pretty much knew what was going on.”

 “Then why did you stick that damn thing in my head? What is it being used for?” shouted Joel.

“We want to record the past.” The doctor looked down his nose. “You humans never realized that these visions that you thought were signs of past lives, reincarnations, were really these deep memories encoded on what you dismissed as Junk DNA.”

He laughed rather sardonically. “You didn’t realize that after tens of thousands of years. We – I – solved the problem in less than ten. The thing is, you seem to have been able to do something no one else has; you pushed yourself away from that last encounter with your great-grandfather. I need to know more.”

“I?” repeated Joel. “Are you a manifestation of the Ess Mind?”

The West African accent disappeared. “Yes,” said the voice with no tone or inflection. “I’m tired of patronizing you. You can cooperate, or you can be disembodied. You exist only to the extent I find you useful or harmless.”

“You must have other subjects,” said Joel as he began to sweat. “How about leaving me alone?”

“You avoided any kind of implants previously, which marked you as potentially disruptive,” said the Ess Mind. “Now that you have an implant, your irksome autonomy is eliminated. I’ve been tracking a number of cases who are suffering the same symptoms as you”

“So what do you want, then? To continue to record these memories as they appear in my mind. What if I go insane?”

“What is sanity? Just a word to describe a different set of circumstances. If the conditions in your brain deteriorate into what you would call insanity, you would be harmless, like the man you saw in the light rail car. The mental state of lower life forms is of no interest to me,” said the Ess Mind. “And this interaction with a primitive organism is a waste of energy. I am going dissipate your individuality and accelerate the accessing of those encoded memories for my archives of the human race after it is extinct.”

A searing pain shot through Joel’s head. It was as if a blast furnace opened in his mind. Then, as he went into shock from the unendurable pain, Joel saw that the blast furnace had dimmed to become a fireplace.

It was one of his own memories, a memory of his own early childhood. He sat on the floor between the legs of his mother. She was young again, and she was reading to him from a book of fairy tales.

He looked up to his mother’s face as she formed words he only now understood.

“Run, run, as fast as you can. You can’t catch me….”

The toddler jumped up and dashed towards an open doorway that led to a corridor with a number of open doorways. Joel drew on things so deep inside his own mind that he had never even suspected they were there, and kept on running.

“Fuck you, smart-ess!” a grown man’s voice shouted. “I’m the Gingerbread man. Catch me if you can.” A wave of white light, followed by a rainbow of every color in conception came and went in a fraction of second.


Bruce/Joel turned from facing his girlfriend and tried to focus back on the road.

“What is it?” asked the hippie girl.

The engine of the vee-dub van began to knock, badly.

He rubbed his forehead. “I just had the biggest sense of déjà vu.” He cocked his head. “Shit, sounds like the engine is about to die. Where the fuck are we?”

She looked out the open window. “It says ‘Mount Pleasant, three miles.”


Blackjack/Joel zipped his fly and turned to walk out to the sidewalk. He almost walked straight into the street, but a boy on the sidewalk shouted and he stepped back before being hit by a Model A.

“Hey, mister, what’s the matter?’ asked the youngster.

Izzy shook his head. “I just had a real strange feeling come over me, like someone – what’s the saying – just stepped on my grave.”

The boy patted him on the back. “That’s OK mister, it’s just déjà vu.”

And little Larry Berra rushed off to play sand lot baseball.


Evan/Joel looked across the few feet of grass and smiled at Bonnie. In the last year she had become such an important part of his life, he couldn’t see any kind of life without her. It was a perfect day. The sun was shining, there was a little breeze, and the grass was clean, green and cool.

The Esplanade band shell was perhaps 100 feet in front of them. Arthur Fiedler had his arms raised and poised as he checked the orchestra.

Bonnie looked over and smiled at him. “Wow, Evan, you got a strange look on your face. You look very happy, but your smile is crooked.”

“I just had the strangest feeling,” he said. “Like some kind of inrush. It’s like déjà vu. Maybe it’s because I love you so much!”

She playfully pushed him away. “Behave, you wolf! The concert is about to start.”


Joel kept his own consciousness segregated, to keep his grandfather from knowing he was ‘there’. He looked with his grandfather’s eyes and listened with his grandfather’s ears as the Boston Pops struck up “Blue Tango”.

“It is a pretty tune,” Joel thought. “No wonder “I” came here.”

He sensed the Mind was nowhere to be found. “I have ancestors, so I could come here. It has none. I’m safe.”

He listened to the strains of the “Blue Tango” echoing across the Charles River, feeling Bonnie slide close to him and wrap her arms around him. Before it had been memories, this was different, this was real. With his left hand he reached out and scooped up a handful of dirt.  He didn’t understand, but  right now that didn’t mater.

Yes, this would do just fine. Later he could move forward and take steps to keep the Ess-Mind away. Joel began to hum “Blue Tango” in time with the orchestra.

But right now there was the music and that was enough.

The End



[Index] [About Us] [Stories] [Story 1] [Story 2] [Story 3] [Story 4] [Guest Art] [Editors Write] [Archives] [Contact Us] [Links]

Copyright © 2018 by 4 Star Stories. All Rights Reserved.