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Bonus Story

John B. Rosenman

I've never been to a thrift store in Great Britain, but I have been to an open-air market in Melbourne. I got an Australian bush hat there, a real one,not a cheap tourist knockoff. It now sits with pride in my hat collection, along with my Ross Perot for President baseball cap.

I'm sure we all have our thrift store stories, but I'll bet none like John Rosenman's A Nice Donation.


I've always liked going to thrift stores. To me, a thrift store is a semi-magical place, and you never know for sure what you're going to find in it. Often, I don't find anything I really want, such as a great science fiction or horror novel or video, but it's the possibility that keeps me going to them. Just think, a thrift store gets all those donations! People donate all sorts of things, and you read almost every day of someone visiting a thrift store and finding an old painting or other rare item of great value.

All that fueled and shaped my story, and I decided to pull out all the stops and have some fun. You want a donation? I'll give you one that's a doozy. But caveat emptor, be careful what you wish for! As one of the workers says in the story, "You never know what some fool is going to donate." In the end, a donation can be good or bad. And you don't know for sure which it is until you take it home or try to use it.

                                                                                                                           -- John B. Rosenman

John Rosenman was an English professor at Norfolk State University where he designed and taught a course in how to write Science Fiction and Fantasy. He was also the Chairman of the Board of the Horror  Writers Association and the editor of Horror Magazine and The Rhetorician. He has published 250 stories in places such as Weird Tales, Whitley Strieber’s Aliens, Fangoria, Galaxy, Endless Apocalypse, The Age of Wonders, and the Hot Blood erotic horror series. John has published two dozen books, including SF action-adventure novels such as Beyond Those Distant Stars, Speaker of the Shakk, A Senseless Act of BeautyAlien Dreams, and the Inspector of the Cross series (Crossroad Press). He also published a four-book box set, The Amazing Worlds of John B. Rosenman (MuseItUp Publishing). In addition, he has published two mainstream novels, The Best Laugh Last and the Young Adult The Merry-Go-Round Man (Crossroad Press). Recently, he published two science-fiction novels, Dreamfarer and Go East, Young Man with Mystique Press, an imprint of Crossroad Press. These are the start of a new Dreamfarer series.

Two of John’s early literary influences were Ray Bradbury and Richard Matheson. Two major themes are the endless, mind-stretching wonders of the universe and the limitless possibilities of transformation — sexual, cosmic, and otherwise.

A Nice Donation


by John B. Rosenman



            The sign on Thrift World’s front door read Donations Accepted Around Back, so that was where Marcelline went. She backed her pickup toward the Donation Center in the rear, then hopped out and opened the tailgate.

            “Hallo!” she greeted the slender woman who appeared in the doorway. “I have a donation for you, but it’s rather heavy.”

            “I’ll get some help,” the woman said, turning back inside.

            Soon two brawny men came out and carried her offering inside. It looked like a rosewood cabinet, four feet long by a foot and a half wide, and the men struggled with it.

            “Lady,” the red-haired one puffed, “this thing is heavy.”

            “I know,” Marcelline said. She swished her long granny dress and fingered the beads on her necklace.

            The other man, who was black and bespectacled, grunted. “Darn thing weighs a ton,” he said. “What do you have in here, a pile of rocks?”

            “Not even warm,” she laughed.

            Inside, they lowered her donation to the floor and gazed at it. The woman Marcelline had spoken to came over.

            “That’s a nice cabinet,” she said. “Thank you for donating it.”

            “You’re welcome,” Marcelline said. She hesitated. “Oh dear, I have a confession to make.”


            “Yes. I want you to sell it as a cabinet. In fact, it will work perfectly fine that way. But it’s really not.”

            The black man bent down and opened one of the drawers, then the other. “Could have fooled me,” he said.

            “If it’s not a cabinet,” said the red-haired one, “what is it?”

            Marcelline fidgeted. For the first time, she realized the sound system was playing something sweet and sad, a song filled with longing. What was it? Oh, yes… Somewhere In Time. It was a place she’d often been.

            “What is it?” the man repeated.

            Marcelline sighed. “It’s a Temporal Displacer.”

            They all stared at her. “A what?” the woman said.

            “It relocates you in the space-time continuum,” Marcelline said. She moved forward and tapped the top. “The problem is, this model’s old and unreliable, and I have to return home. So I felt Thrift World might be able to use it as a…cabinet.”

            They all stared at her as if she’d grown a second head. The red-haired man rubbed his mouth. “You’re not from around here?” he asked.

            She giggled and twirled her dress. “Not even close.”

            “A Temporal Displacer,” the black man said, rising and adjusting his glasses. Marcelline sensed he was the most intelligent of the three. “What does this device do?” he asked, touching a dial on top.

            “Don’t touch that!” she screamed. “I forgot to remove it.”

            Too late, she saw him slide the dial to the left. Though he moved it only a little, she feared it was far too much.

            The thrift store vanished. In place of women thumbing through racks of second-hand clothes, they found themselves in a noisy, happy, excited crowd. People wearing sandals and dressed in tunics and togas moved past and through them.

To Marcelline, it meant she had screwed up again. If she hadn’t mentioned the Temporal Displacer, the black man wouldn’t have messed with it. The last thing she wanted was to have her Time Travel license suspended once more and have to work at a desk job.

            The two men gasped and whirled around. “What happened?” “What is this?” they asked. The woman stood stunned, staring at the passing crowd.

            The red-haired fellow swore in disgust. “Aw, shit. They stink of perfume and body odor.” He yelped. “And they pass right though us!”

            The black man tried to leave, only to be repelled by an invisible barrier a dozen feet off. He followed it with his hands for several steps in both directions, reaching as high as he could. Then he returned.

            “It’s some kind of wall,” he said. He glared at Marcelline. “What the hell have you done? Are we trapped?”

            “There’s no use running,” she told them. “The ‘wall’ forms an impenetrable circle all around us.” She waved at their surroundings.  “We’re in Rome, AD 210 or thereabouts, and the languages you hear these folks speaking are Latin and Greek.”

            The black employee snapped his fingers. “That damned Displacer!” He moved toward the machine. “How does it work?”

            “Too complicated to explain,” Marcelline said. She watched them, mentally chastising herself. Damn it, she loved traveling through time and seeing different cultures and periods. When would she learn she was supposed to be a mere witness and not interfere at all, not even make a donation?

            The black man raised his hand and pointed at a colossal stone structure in the distance. “That building,” he said. “It’s the Colosseum!”

            “Excellent powers of observation,” she confirmed. She smiled at the other fellow. “And the reason the Romans pass right through us as they go there is that we’re both here and not here. That’s hard to explain, too.”

            The woman looked as if she were about to faint. “My God, what the hell are you?”

            Marcella curtsied, as she’d seen women do in Queen Victoria’s court. “Merely a time-traveler who’s far from home,” she said.

             “Can we get out?” the red-haired man asked.

            “Ah, I thought you’d never ask.” Marcelline went to the machine and paused, rubbing her chin. “I wanted to donate this ‘cabinet’ because it’s become so unreliable. Perhaps I could try, though.”

            She reached down and carefully moved the dial. 

            Rome and its people vanished, as did the mighty Colosseum. In its place was a hot, dry, yet fertile landscape. And standing fifty feet away was an inhabitant nearly twenty feet tall.

            Uh-oh, Marcelline thought. Talk about polluting the integrity of the timelines! If CenCom finds out about this, my license will be cancelled for twenty years.

            The employees screamed at the monster before them. “I was afraid of this,” Marcelline said, trying to stay calm. “With this model, I just can’t depend on the settings anymore; there’s too much temporal shift.” She stepped forward and adopted her tour guide voice. “Folks, we’re now in the Cretaceous Period about seventy million years ago. Our friend Mr. T-Rex is the biggest meat-eating dinosaur ever, and had—or has—the most powerful bite of any land animal. Just look at those sharp, nine-inch teeth. Imagine what they could do.”

            The T-Rex opened its cavernous jaws and roared, shattering the world with thunder. They all clasped their ears.

            When it was over, the woman found her voice. “Dear Jesus, look at those eyes. Can he see us?”

            “Yes, how about it,” the black man asked. “You said we’re here and yet not here. Well, can this monster see and hurt us? Are we in danger?”

            “That’s an excellent question,” Marcelline said. “The Temporal Displacer—”

            “Don’t tell me, I know. It’s unreliable.”

            They’d all backed up as far as the device would permit. “I’ll tell you one thing,” the redhead said. “From now on, I’m staying the hell out of thrift stores.”

            “Makes two of us, brother,” his colleague said. “You never know what some fool is going to donate.”

            Towering over them, the T-Rex stalked closer and closer. Yes, Marcelline thought, I do believe we’re all about to get killed and eaten here. Eaten raw.

            Before that could happen, though, she darted to the machine and moved the dial.

            She pushed it too far, and the result was a seismic jolt. Mr. T-Rex exploded into a million pieces and the grassland turned inside out. When things steadied, they found themselves in outer space, surrounded by glittering stars.

            “Uh-oh, we’re offworld now, far away from Earth.”

            Away from Earth?” The woman’s eyes rolled in fear.

            “How far away?” the red-haired man said. He marched through space toward Marcelline, his fist raised. “Tell me!”

            The black man grabbed his arm. “Stop, we have enough problems!”

            “I don’t see the Milky Way anywhere.” Marcelline clenched her hands. “Could be five billion light-years or more.” And that’s how long they’ll cancel my license if they find out.

            Moments passed, and they hugged themselves. “It’s c-c-cold!” the woman said. “We could freeze to death.”

            “What’s that?” the redhead said.

            Marcelline turned and saw a bright ball with a fiery tail. “Looks like a comet,” she said.

            “And it’s coming right at us!” the black man said.

            Marcelline moved to the Temporal Displacer again. Yes, it was, and if she didn’t do something quick, they would be reduced to ashes. She leaned over the dial. How to correct the situation, though, without making matters worse? Let’s see, if she moved it here…

            “Do something,” the woman wailed, “before it hits us!”

             Marcelline glanced up. They were all cowering before the imminent impact. Turning back, she whispered a prayer and slid the dial one, two, three spaces to the right, then focused its hidden beam on the workers, erasing their recent memory.


            The outer space scene vanished, and to her relief, she was back outside Thrift World, watching the two men lug her donation into the store.

            “Darn thing weighs a ton,” the black man said. “What do you have in here, a pile of rocks?”

            “Not even warm,” she laughed.

            Inside, they lowered her donation to the floor and gazed at it. The woman Marcelline had spoken to came over.

            “That’s a nice cabinet,” she said. “Thank you for donating it.”

            “You’re welcome,” Marcelline said, and this time she felt no need to confess. Instead, she removed the Temporal Displacer and headed toward the back door. “I hope you find just the right customer for it,” she said.

            Suddenly her fingers slipped on the Displacer, and she heard an ominous sound behind her. Uh-oh. It sounded like a temporal breach. She looked at the dial and tried to reset it before something bad happened.

            No luck. The damned dial wouldn’t budge. Desperate, she turned toward the store and tried to move the dial in several different ways. All of them failed. Her heart sank as the truth sank in.

The device was broken.

            More sounds came from Thrift World, and she had no trouble interpreting them. The mighty creature they’d visited in the Cretaceous Period was breaking through to this time period, and some of its curious friends would follow. Human screams now signaled the arrival of this most unexpected guest whose dining habits left much to be desired.

            Stunned, Marcelline could only watch as the T-Rex crashed through the back of the store, shattering the wall to pieces. It looks like my Time Travel license is about to be cancelled for good, she thought. She managed to smile as the dinosaur came toward her, its jaws opened wide in hunger.




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