September 12, 2012 Story – Strange Times on Adams Ave.
Here’s a little something I wrote for The Discover Adamas Ave. free weekly
Adams Avenue Books had become very popular now that the used bookstore carried books from the future. Ryan was waiting behind a dozen people to make his purchase when a robot snatched the book from his hand and bounced through the crowd of customers out the door. He recognized the model; it was a ChronoRegainer-HH, sent from the 41st Century to undo the damage of the Timequake. They would pop in, grab something dangerous to the future, like a book or a computer, and dash off to God knows where. By the time Ryan made it through the crowd the robot was halfway down the next block. He desperately needed that book. His future depended on it in more ways than one.
So Ryan ran after the robot and didn’t see the dinosaur waiting in ambush. It was a species from an undocumented genus under the Dromaeosauridae family, something like a Velociraptor but telepathic, one of three psychically active species from the Cretaceous Period. Though only 150 lbs, the dinosaur had a high self-opinion and he had taken the name Mentalsaurus Rex. Three days ago Ryan had hit it with his Toyota Corolla and it had been after him ever since.
Rex ruffled his feathers and went after the human who was chasing the robot.
Ryan sprinted past DiMillie’s Restaurant, where the prices had been rolled back to the 1970s along with the staff and décor, and ran into a red-headed woman with a red-bodied dog as she stepped out of her apartment. She hit the ground with an “Umph” and dropped her leash. The dog cowered against a car. The redheaded woman, still stunned from the fall, called, “Sophie!” after the animal.
Sophie looked at her owner, looked at Ryan, looked behind him at Mentalsaurus Rex and something inside her walnut-sized brain clicked. The dog was afraid of everything and everyone when awake, but in her dreams she was a hunter of these reptilian, birdlike creatures that walked on two legs. This was her moment, her destiny, to destroy this dinosaur in retribution for some distant, mammalian ancestor. Eyes narrowed, canines bared, she exploded in a fury of teeth and hair, stopping Mentalsaurus Rex cold.
“What does the hairy four-legs want?” no one heard. The essential, wordless thought broadcast directly into their brains. Mentalsaurus Rex jumped up on a car to get away from the dog. Ryan helped the redhead up and went after the robot again. It had crossed the street to Smitty’s Auto Service where the mechanics pored over a Ford Model T in one bay and an anti-gravity vehicle in the other.
Ryan cut across Adams to get after the ChronoRegainer-HH. Mentalsaurus Rex cut across Adams to get away from Sophie the dog.
The robot tried to cross Hawley and was hit by a delivery truck from the 1930s or a UPS truck from today, it was hard to tell the difference. The impact propelled it through an open window into the Shawee Place run by a group of Kumeyaay Indians from an alternate 2012. When it hopped out through the front of the hatched stick building it was slightly dented and covered in acorn paste.
Man and machine scrambled up the next block, a pile of wreckage from the late 21st Century and away from Blind Lady Alehouse which was once again a blinds and drapery store from the early 20th century.
The robot loped past the Starbucks from 2112. Emphasizing the Star in Starbucks, it was decorated in a black and green, interstellar whaling theme. The coffee shop projected a holographic advertisement of a rocket-riding, Nantucket harpooner that chastising the robot for not buying the legal minimum of Starbucks coffee.
The man ran after the robot, past the New Masonic Temple from 2443, watched by the great, knowing eye atop its glowing, silicone pyramid.
The dinosaur ran after the man, past the Villainous Lair comic book store and collided into a customer leaving the store. One hundred and fifty pounds of predatory dinosaur impacted with 300 pounds of ponytailed comic book guy, and Mentalsaurus Rex was bounced to the curb. The man in a button-down shirt depicting a red, fire-breathing dragon froze, wrongly assuming that the dinosaur couldn’t see him if he didn’t move.
Mentalsaurus Rex glared at the man and thought at him, “What is that absurdity on your clothing?”
“Sophie!” cried the redheaded woman, far behind.
“Woof!” barked Sophie, closing in on Mentalsaurus Rex.
The dinosaur thought, “You are lucky, bacon-smelling one,” at the comic book guy before resuming his escape from the dog and pursuit of the man.
The dog ran after the dinosaur and her destiny.
Up ahead the robot turned and, with a knowing nod at Ryan, dove into Lestat’s Coffee House. The original building was still there, but juxtaposed with some far future where thought and matter were one, where the line between the material and the mental was blurred. The new physics inside these walls was temperamental, subject to the whims and impressions of its residents. It was a place where art would walk. The frozen coffee drinks were still great.
Ryan couldn’t stop to think. Thoughts could come alive in Lestat’s and the robot, a mindless entity, was unobstructed. But Ryan knew that as a living emotional being the rules were different. He’d seen a personal meltdown become a physical meltdown when teenage runaway flipped out and Lestat’s reacted by swallowing her in tendrils of darkness for an hour. He took a breath, let everything go and told his legs to move.
The robot tried to navigate the sliver of space between the wall and the counter. Its round body was a bit too wide and as it attempted to hop and roll over the obstacle Ryan caught it around the ankle and pulled, dropping the robot on the floor faceplate first.
Mentalsaurus Rex burst through the screen door and everything changed. The room bent to the will of the strongest mind in the room. Ferns burst through the walls, the ceiling opened up to the sky and then closed under a jungle canopy. The robot and Ryan rolled over into a creek filled with a dozen extinct kinds of fish.
“Ah, home. Free from the noise and the smells of mammals and machinery. How can you creatures call your world ‘progress’ when it came from– Gagh!” Sophie’s teeth sank into the dinosaur’s tail, interrupting his pontification.
Mentalsaurus Rex snapped at the dog but missed. “Hairy morsel! How dare you? In this place I am king! Feel the powers of my kind!” and the force of his mind ripped waves of distorted light toward Sophie, an emotional barrage that his species used as weapons in their psychic battles.
But Sophie was prepared. In her dreams she overcome all manner of tortures and trials, hunted and destroyed dinosaurs in all their forms. Here in Lestat’s, where thoughts were made real, the world’s most powerful telepath faced off against its most powerful lucid dreamer.
Sophie expanded her consciousness and her form until she stood ten feet at the shoulder. The dinosaur dangled from her jaws by its tail like a lizard. Mentalsaurus Rex screamed at the indignity and bit at her throat. The dog shook the dinosaur like a shredded tennis ball.
The robot kicked off Ryan’s grip, stood up and ran for the back of the building which was now a jungle. Sophie’s massive paw came down on it, crushing it flat. The one mandible clutching Ryan’s book stuck out from between her toes.
Ryan caught the book as it tumbled from the robot’s hand toward the creek. While the monsters fought above him he reread the cover to make sure the robot hadn’t pulled a switch in all the confusion. The Implications of the Day Time Broke on String Theory by Ryan Templeton, written by his future self. This would provide insights into what happened to the world, but more importantly he could pass it off as his PhD thesis and coast through the next two years of school.
“Hey!” someone said and Ryan looked up from the precious pages to see a barista holding a spray bottle at the end of his tattooed arm.
“Nooooo!” he cried, shielding the book with his body, protecting it from the liquid onslaught.
But the barista wasn’t water gunning for Ryan, he had his eye on bigger game and sprayed Sophie in the face three times. “Bad dog!”
Subdued, Sophie lost her grip on the dinosaur on the upswing and it flew up through the jungle canopy as it reverted into the roof. With Mentalsaurus Rex out of the area, and Sophie reeling from the water, the coffee shop returned to normal, or as normal as it ever got. A homeless man named Tom walked past Ryan while talking on a sugar shaker like it was a cell phone, oblivious to all that had transpired.
The redheaded woman caught up to her dog and pulled the beast outside as the barista lectured her about Lestat’s strict ‘No psychically active dogs” policy. Mentalsaurus Rex recovered from being thrown into Jyoti Bihanga, the vegetarian restaurant, and slinked away, grateful that no other dinosaurs had witnessed his humiliation in the jaws of the furry beast.
Ryan was about to offer to drag the robot out to the dumpster, or recycling if that applied. It was the least he could do since the barista cleaned up his temporal mess. But a ChonoRegainer-HH Mark 2 snatched the book from Ryan’s hand and rushed for the back door. The Mark 2 was thinner than the Mark 1 and easily slipped past the counter…