Summer, 1974. A fairly unambitious year, despite the Watergate nonsense and Ted Bundy’s best efforts. Watergate was a fizzle in the grand scheme of things. Ted was flashy, to be sure, but his bid for infamy only survived on Earth. Soul 2714-X was not greeted with a parade after returning to the safe confines of The Closet, nor did it want one. Sometimes you’re given the flesh you deserve, sometimes you aren’t, and sometimes it’s not the flesh you were intended for at all.
I think The Sting won the Oscar that year. A good film but like the entire year, a little unambitious with regard to the times and the full scope of art’s capabilities and responsibilities. I’m not opposed to art being fun, especially cinema, but Best Picture? Anyway, I was 19, though I wouldn’t be born for two more years. I’m a Bicentennial Gemini baby, born in time for the 4th of July, screaming freedom as I fell from the womb, only to change my mind a few moments later, begging to be shoved back in. Geminis.
But wait, that’s crazy. Sure, Geminis can be fickle but if you were 19 two years before you were born, well that only makes sense if you traveled through time, and time travel rarely makes sense.
I couldn’t agree more.
“Young fella, you alright?”
“Huh? Oh. Yeah. Sorry. Here you go…”
I have no idea how long that bodega clerk watched me space out and talk to you guys. I gave him a dime and stuffed a stick of Wrigley’s in my blow hole. Where were we? Time travel. Right.
Infinitely complicated. Like me beginning this story in past tense while relaying my brief convo with the shop owner in the present. Yep, I’m here, there and everywhere all at once. That’s why stories rarely get time travel correct, and on the occasion one does, it’s typically dumb luck. There are so many rules to time travel, and so many exceptions to those rules…you have no idea. Neither do I, actually. One of my duties is to catalogue new phenomenon. The science of time travel is a progressive revelation. For instance, I recently lampooned every old trope about being in the same place at the same time as yourself from a different time line. Double representation simply isn’t possible (barring exceptions, of course of course…). You either temporarily inhabit the body of that timeline’s “you,” or you explode. We aren’t sure what factors cause the explosions. Kind of hard to find test subjects for further research, though we’ve ascertained the most frequent scenario is body possession, in effect trapping said time traveler in the alternate version of their body.
Another neat little quirk to time travel that is rarely, if ever, represented in film or literature. This little quirk is pseudo-danced around, to be sure, but never confronted head on. Pay attention: If you travel to the past and change something, you might immediately become a different person. The butterfly or ripple effect, often discussed, but never to the full creative orgasmic release. I met a frequent traveler, a fellow Agent of Existence who’s changed the past so many times in ways that affected her/his personal existence that she/he has no idea who she/he once was. Poor bitch/bastard knows only the job, which may be good for said agent’s existential role, I suppose. Please note, my pronoun play is to indicate the numerous occasions on which said Agent has suddenly changed genders after completing a mission. You might be surprised how often this was a pleasant, mid-coitus turn of events. Honestly, I should not have been surprised to learn how many times the past and future are changed because of sex. Get it? Get it? I’ll keep workshopping the punchline.
Sorry. I ramble. Anyway, I’m in the summer of ’74, meteorologically speaking, while my wife is off gallivanting around an adjacent galaxy. I’m not sure if our assignments are connected. We never know. All I know is the sooner I complete my mission and she completes hers, the sooner there’s a chance we get to see each other again. I’m on my way to the ballpark now. Look, there I go. I grew up playing baseball in the summer. Honestly, there’s nothing like spending an afternoon at the park, whether playing or watching. It’s a shame the sport has lost favor to the brutishness of American Football. Speaks to the American disease, I suppose.
The lines outside Cleveland Stadium are insane. June 4th, 1974. The infamous “Ten Cent Beer Night.” If you aren’t familiar, look it up. It’s a gassssssssssss…
I’m here to find an unfortunately lonely man named Larry Fuglestamp. Larry is an accident. Or, better I should say, his soul is an accident. It happens. Larry’s soul, 514-Z, was supposed to be assigned to a young woman named Christine Chubbuck. Look her up. Chubbuck takes her own life on July 15th, 1974. For some reason, living her experience was essential to 514-Z’s mission. If properly assigned, 514-Z would have been released from her body at a crucial moment in the history of Existence, sending 514-Z who knows where to do who knows what. I’m on a “need to know” and honestly don’t give a shit. It’s all nonsense to me.
Nonsense, like thinking ten cent beer night is a good idea at a family event. If you aren’t familiar with this infamous stadium promotion, it’s a complete fuck show. By the ninth inning, intoxication leads to rioting and both teams are literally beating fans with baseball bats. Helluva production for a sociopath. My job is to find Larry Fuglestamp, who we know is at the game, and kill him during the melee, thereby releasing soul 514-Z ahead of original schedule, culminating in a series of events that corrects the initial incorrect assignment and sticks soul 514-Z where it belongs, in Christine Chubbuck at her time of birth to be appropriately released upon her untimely death on live television on July 15th, 1974.
Why couldn’t I just kill Larry on July 15th instead of June 4th? I don’t fucking know.
Here’s the thing. Remember, I’m 19. This is my first, and accordingly my last assignment to kill. Let me be clear. I don’t kill. No anti-hero bullshit. No petty justifications. My soul is mine. Whether it belongs to Existence or not, and while I’m in charge, we’re blood clean. So I find Larry in the seventh inning stretch and utter the tropiest, ooh wee, the most fun, I mean I just fucking love these words: “Come with me if you want to live.”
Now, here’s the trick. I gotta convince Larry I’m supposed to kill him so he better come with me if he wants to live. Ha! Luckily, Larry is a manic depressive who was considering tossing himself off the upper levels of Cleveland Stadium seating until the riot broke out. He’s enjoying the nastiness of humanity when I find him. No one said Larry had to be a good guy.
Luckily part deux, Larry doesn’t put much argument into not going with me. Poor fella is a loner and not too bright, and really just an unfortunate example of Existence’s remorseless bent for unchecked creation. Ugly too. I feel bad for the dude (still do), whether he likes watching other people get hurt or not. His enjoyment of other’s misery comes from a lifetime of shit shaping. Not an excuse but a reason, and his lack of foundation can’t be ignored. Still, fuck that dude. I feel bad for him but also, fuck ‘em. Witness, the joy of the Gemini.
Anyway, we’re off, me and Larry. If I’m not gonna kill him, I have to get him to Sarasota, FL. That’s where Christine Chubbuck lives. I figure if I can get Christine to shoot Larry before July 15th, everything will go back to normal. 514-Z will be released, immediately transmorph into Christine, accidental Larry will be no more and I’ll be curling my toes on the sandy Gulf Coast of Florida, beer in hand, enjoying the summer sun until my next assignment comes through or I get to see my lady, or both.
What’s the difference between me actually killing Larry or simply leading him to his death? Fair question. Theoretically, if Christine kills him, I’m hopeful it restarts Larry, resetting his birth with the correct soul assignment. I place a lot of faith in metaphysical circles. It’s a thing for me. Was I certain it would work? Nope. Did I care? Not really. Had I intentionally lied to Larry about
his survival? Meh. I said I didn’t kill. Never said nothin’ about lying my ass off.
Wait. Wait. What the fuck? You can’t end the story like this. I mean, Jesus, people are gonna read this shit and you just gonna fuck with ‘em?
What can I say? Welcome to Existence my friend. We take solace in knowing stuff and thought confirmations and all other sorts of organizational flow charts for our frantically terrified minds. But I promise, the more you know the scarier it gets, ‘cause there is no order. There is no control. There is no
understanding. There is only each breath, blessed or cursed, and our ability to do something, anything, with every moment. That said, I’m not a complete dick, so although you should likely have surmised this on your own, I will tell you I’m still here and still bitching, so I must not have destroyed Existence. Ipso facto, my plan must have worked. Or the whole deal wasn’t that important. Either way’s fine with me. Now go away. The sun is out, the sand is warm, the waves crash with irrepressible rhythm, and I’m due for a nap.
For real this time.