Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fictionále: End of the Line

They crept along the marbled corridor, their footsteps a hollow echo. “Are you sure we should be here?”

Martin grinned. “Cold feet? You?”

Cheryl snorted. “Whatever.”

Her partner in crime chuckled as the intrepid pair went ever deeper into the abandoned subway station. Cheryl had doubted when he told her about what he had seen through the century-old stained glass from the outside, but the chance to hide from the IRT authorities and enter the closed-off section of the Brooklyn East Line, she had been unable to resist. Getting into places she wasn’t supposed to be was her Kryptonite.

“Look at that...!” Martin played his flashlight over the arched ceiling, glass panes glinting and refracting as the LED hit them.

“Point that down, idiot. You want someone outside to notice it?” He obeyed, but the glittering image of those old leaded-glass arches lingered in their minds like a perfect night sky. She consulted her CPS, a battered chron she’d obtained on an escapade not unlike this one, some years ago. Beat-up and archaic as it was, she felt it was a kind of techno-rabbit’s foot, a good luck charm. She wasn’t even sure it matched Universal Time any more, but it had kept her in sync during adventures far riskier than this one. “Not long now.”

Martin nodded and they crept onward, keeping the light low and their footfalls soft. A layer of dust shrouded the marble tiles and she wondered how long it had been since anyone had been here. The longer it had been, the better this was. The research she’d done suggested the station had been closed for over a century. But that was realtime. What she sought would have been here in stasis far less quicktime than that.

Martin paused, raising his flashlight a bit. “I think we’re close, Cher. Look at that map of the East Brooklyn Line on the wall there.” And she did. It was beautiful, all antique art deco, bold black and sepia. Martin put a finger over a section, careful not to touch it. “You’re sure it was the City Hall station, right? Here, I think.”

She nodded and hit the calibration key on her CPS. It flashed for a moment and then settled down, showing the quicktime field was disintegrating rapidly. “Hurry up, Martin. A few minutes yet. Maybe less.”

They broke into a jog. Martin’s flashlight left a bobbing after-image as it bumped and jostled in his hand. Cheryl kept looking down at her chron, worried. They were going to miss the window!

“There.” Martin pointed, and there it was, just ahead: the circular room with the stained glass eight-pointed compass in the center of the ceiling. Cheryl didn’t wait but jogged up the last stairs and across the tiled mosaic floor until she stood almost directly beneath the compass. She glared at her CPS in frustration as it recalculated, slowly, so slowly.

“Dammit!” She banged her hand on the unit and its display fuzzed and broke as the old thing went into reset mode. “Martin, get over here already. The CPS is onoffing I need another pair of hands.”

He juggled the flashlight, finally holding it between his teeth while she put the CPS in his hands and operated it with both of hers, focusing on it with teeth gritted.

A pinprick of light appeared in the air, hovering just above eye level, and Martin made a noise like ohwoh deh! Cheryl swore and punched buttons faster. “Come on, come on...” The light waxed brighter, tracing downwards until it formed line. Martin made an even less coherent noise and Cheryl hit the last key on her CPS.

Whirling, she dug in her jacket and pulled out a long glove traced with lines of flexible circuitry. Stuffing her right hand into it so fast two of her fingers didn’t quite get into the right place, Cheryl thrust her gloved hand into the line of light. It disappeared up to the wrist and she gritted her teeth. “Help me, Martin!” He hastily set down the chron and took her left hand. “Pull!”

They pulled, and a moment later they both fell backwards into a heap on the tiled mosaic floor. The line of light winked out, leaving Martin’s flashlight – now lying on the ground – as the only light source.

“Did you get it?!” Martin scrambled out from under her and snatched up the light. Playing it over her, he saw she held something bright and ovoid in her hands.

“Yeah, we got it.” Cheryl tried to keep the triumph out of her voice, tried to stay tough and sharp and pro. But every time, her heart beat fast and her nerves sang with the thrill of it. “Get the journal. We need to mark this one.”

Grinning, Martin pulled out his leather bound notebook and made the entry.

23AUG2087 – City Hall Station easter egg chronocache FOUND 23:17:47MK

“C’mon. Let’s go get this home and see what they sent us from 2012!” Cheryl snorted at his enthusiasm. “Cool it, will ya? It’s probably just a tiny two-tb flash drive full of antique ebooks or something.”

Martin shrugged. “Whatever. I like that old stuff. It really makes you appreciate the story. Maybe it’s not flashy, not like z-fic or the thrillies we have now, but those people really knew how to write!”

He sighed happily. Cheryl shook her head. Nostalgia wasn’t her thing.

“Time to go,” she said.


  1. What I wouldn't give for a tiny 2 terabyte flash drive :) Nicely done and a very interesting idea. You planning on exploring this 'world' again?

  2. Absolutely! It's a very real world in my mind, even though it has yet to appear in any of my longer fiction. I am reminded somewhat of David Brin's book "Earth" when I think of it: quite familiar in the outlines, but startlingly different when examined closer-up.

    And yes, I can't help but write about things I might like to have, too. A 2TB flash drive would be just the thing. Give it a few years and I'm certain we'll have one...pricey, but for sale.