Between Times by Rod Cockle

"Go for launch? It's go time? Wait. Little hand says it's time to rock!" Darrell closed the two-part clamshell door of the spacetime flying saucer.

"Signature catchphrase! I want to go to then." Tallah set the controls to 1942—the first year their favorite comic book Major Smith O'Reens was published.

Their technical ingenuity was rewarded with a mechanical resonance that indicated the fantastic powerhouse was of a mind to start. Analog dials fluctuated, incandescent carbonized cotton thread filament light globes blazed bright as Tesla's pigeon, dynamos hummed like beehives, a centrifugal flyball governor spun in a rapid blur. Bursts of plasma commingled from one module to another as though it were a World's Fair science exhibit inspired by the zestful promise to be a catalyst for a new age before the world. Hoarfrost crystals branched across the glass. A cacophony of eerie reverberations and auroral arcs rushed by appearing like a time-lapse as an otherworldly Klein bottle-shaped portal enveloped the transporter.

With a jolt the room was still again as the multiverse portal membrane popped like a bubble. Electricity buzzing, crackling and whirring, a mechanical powering down thrummed in their ears. A fleeting sweet scent of earthy petrichor stuck to their olfactory receptors and taste buds. Their eyes adjusted to find the barber shop building now a heating company. A locomotive had just delivered coal through the big sliding door opening, its boxcars labored slowly away. The kids pulled a sheet of canvas over the out-of-place object to blend with the rest of the stoves in storage.

On the way out they both playfully stepped on the ground-level weight scale. "From now on I'll be Tallah Prime."

"I'm Darrell Prime."

Under a hazy powder blue sky a directional sign that the two explorers were used to seeing point to the Washington State Fair now read: "Camp Harmony." They sped by Haji Mansion, which at this time was a rest home. In a pulp magazine rack at the corner variety store their prized comic perched—with its eye-popping realistically illustrated Muscle Beach type hero wearing a standard issue brain bucket, feet planted, a half-smoked cigarette dangling from one corner of his mouth, fists clenched, punching out Hitler on the book cover manufactured under wartime conditions in conformity with all government regulations controlling the use of paper.

"1942 called a number that started with TH5 from a landline," Darrell smiled.

"Then it dialed the rotary phone again because there wasn't a way to leave a message that said: tell me you got this," Tallah pointed.

The partners in time laid the origin issue on the counter and prepared to pay with coins minted in the 1930s. It was just a coincidence that the clerk behind the cash register was a lanky, red-headed teenager who would become the mansion's caretaker as an old man. Distant sirens began to wail signaling an air raid rehearsal. As everyone urgently went to their shelters and cellars the young cashier hurried customers out of the dime store.

"What about the comic?" the unexpected visitors asked.

"No time for that nonsense," barked the clerk.

The visitants returned to the heating company. When they tried to go forward in time to the next day they discovered the instruments were jammed. "Yeah, that's a downside," both said at the same time. With the realization that they would not be able to return to their present, the passengers decided to travel further back in the timeline to ask Elias Haji for help.

Swept along upon the restless tide of time to arrive in the year 1901, the austere building that would become the fuel company and then the barber shop did not exist in this time period. Now the spacetime interlopers were inside a sorry-looking barn filled with snorting swine jostling against each other. Pigeons scavenged the track bed as a steam engine chugged lazily hauling cattle cars clickety clacking in tow. The forlorn whistle of the iron horse echoed through the valley floor carpeted with oats, rye, and barley.

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