Painting of model John Quinlan by artist Francisco Martins

Dreams don’t have to make sense.

Atticus knew the music was a man’s face. He did not see the face. His brain simply told him that the specific combination of notes, the tonal quality of the sounds, was a face. Youngish, good looking, and seemingly unconcerned with the idea of consisting of sound.

He gave the dream no thought till he was ironing his shirt that morning and almost scorched the garment. He put his hand over the nearly damaged spot apologetically, and the heat was the man’s chin. Not his whole face, just the chin. Part in shadow, part in light, with a sheen of sweat.

“That sounds like something Kennealy would say.” Miranda remarked when he mentioned the odd experience over lunch. “He’ll be in the lab this afternoon. I should introduce you.”

“Scientist or stuntman?”

Miranda laughed. “Definitely stuntman. He’s been training for the journey for about eight months now.” She took another bite of her sushi roll and a few moments of comfortable silence passed between the friends in the noisy cafeteria. Stuntman was a term they used for chrononauts and other test subjects. Possessing more than intellect and training, they had to be in excellent physical shape as well as having the chutzpah to put themselves in danger for the sake of science.

“Have you solved the problem with the disorientation?” Atticus asked.

“Actually, Dr. Knapp had an odd theory, and it’s already had some success. He thinks it’s a problem with perception, how they can’t find the words to describe their experience when they get back. So he found a test subject who has experience with sensory difficulties, a young man on the high-functioning end of the Autism spectrum. He was still disoriented, but we were able to get more data from his journey than from any other so far.”

Atticus eyed the sweet chili sauce Miranda was using to dip her sushi, and was overcome with an urge to taste it. She only raised an eyebrow as he dipped the corner of his sandwich in and put it in his mouth.

His senses took the taste of hot, spicy sweetness and a silhouette formed in his mind. He knew it was the man again. Broad shoulders, a muscular torso and arms, narrow waist. “There it is again…” he said, with the detached demeanor of an experienced researcher. “I wonder what the devil it could mean? I haven’t been in my lab or any other in months; I’ve been working on my writing and other paperwork.”

“Come back to the temporal lab with me. I’ll see if Kennealy is around. He’s an Aspie, and a Synaesthete. He’s used to taking odd sensory inputs and translating it into terms the rest of the world can understand.”

They arrived at the lab to find that Kennealy was getting ready to depart. “He’s in itineris now.” said a lab assistant, handing Miranda a data pad.

Atticus looked over her shoulder, and the black letters and numbers seemed to form a man’s face in his mind. When he focused on just one sentence, it disappeared, but as he took in all the text at once, the man’s face was clear.

“The transitional fluid is the most important component…” Miranda went into lecture mode, showing Atticus the human-sized tank of bluish-purple goo and all the high tech equipment that went with it. “Chrononauts must be able to hold their breath for at least two minutes, even though it only takes thirty seconds from the time he is immersed to the time he travels. Only close-fitting, natural fibers can travel with them. No breathing apparatus, no tools. Maybe someday…”

Atticus nodded and responded with the occasional word or gesture as Miranda explained the research they were doing and the progress they’d made.

“T minus three minutes.”

Atticus was focused on Miranda’s explanation and did not notice the man stepping out onto the platform at the top of the tank. When his gaze did turn that direction, it was like a jolt of lightning traveling through him. “It’s him! That’s the man!”  he said, disbelief and amazement in his voice.

Miranda looked from Atticus to Kennealy, who was lowering himself into the goo. “You mean Kennealy is the man you’ve been sensing?”

It was too late to question. After taking a few deep breaths, the chrononaut submerged himself, folding his arms in close and making sure no part of his body touched the tank walls. At first his eyes were closed, but as the counter reached T minus 10 they popped open, locking onto Atticus’ gaze.

The countdown reached zero, and with an implosion of goo Kennealy disappeared.

Atticus stood there, no explanation coming to mind.

“What is the shift for this journey?” Miranda asked.

“Twelve hours, although we have yet to prove that the theoretical calibrations are working the way we think they are.”

Atticus’ voice commanded the attention of everyone in the lab. “Your calibrations are correct.” There was a moment of silence, every eye in the lab focused on him, waiting for an explanation. “I know your calibrations are correct, because twelve hours ago, I had a dream.”

This story in unrelated to anything else I’ve done. If I feel inspired, I might continue it, but I hope it stands alone and makes the reader come up with all kinds of creative answers as to what is happening with the experiment.

I had intended to post a story to go with John Quinlan’s interview, but the story I began stubbornly proved to be much longer than works well in the blog. Then John sent me several new pictures, and this one by artist Francisco Martins stood out to me, so I decided to write a short story for it. The only edits it has been through were on-the-fly, but I hope you enjoyed it!

I did continue the story! The next chapter is called Bacon.

Chapter One: Synaesthesia

Chapter Two: Bacon!

Chapter Three: Ruby

Chapter Four: Kennealyology

Chapter Five: His Own Eyes

Chapter Six: Cuckoo

Chapter Seven: Munchkins!

Chapter Eight: Present But Not Accounted For

Chapter Nine: Poppies

Chapter Ten: Corporeal

Chapter Eleven: Clocks

Chapter Twelve: The Garden

Chapter Thirteen: Carnal

Chapter Fourteen: Cuckoo Incorporated

Chapter Fifteen: Lingering

Chapter Sixteen: Will-o-the-Wisp

Chapter Seventeen: Rescue

Chapter Eighteen: Over the River and Through the Woods


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