Aphelion Issue 207, Volume 20
June 2016
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The Disappearance of David Lang


Gary Westlake

“David Lang had not taken more than half a dozen steps when he disappeared in full view of all those present. Mrs. Lang screamed. The children, too startled to realize what had happened, stood mutely. Instinctively, they all ran toward the spot where Lang had last been seen a few seconds before. Judge Peck and his companion, the Judge's brother-in-law, scrambled out of their buggy and raced across the field. The five of them arrived on the spot of Lang's disappearance almost simultaneously. There was not a tree, not a bush, not a hole to mar the surface. And not a single clue to indicate what had happened to David Lang.”
Frank Edwards, Stranger Than Science (1959)

David Lang watches the fields and house vanish, replaced by a dark metal room with harsh bright lighting.

"What - ?" he starts to ask, but is cut off by a boomingly loud voice.

"Langley Davidson, you are hereby arrested on multiple charges of crimes against humanity. Please remain as you are."

"Where am I? What is this all about?"

Two black-uniformed men step forward. One takes his arm and twists it behind his back, then takes the other arm and restrains the wrists with what Lang assumes are handcuffs. The two men then roughly pull him out of the room into a large hall with many doors. People dressed in strange clothes walk around this hall. They stop to look at him as he passes. Lang hears someone whisper, "At last they got him."

"Where are you taking me?" he asks the two men, but they stay silent.

They turn toward one of the doors. Through it is what looks like a courtroom, though the walls are the same black metal as the first room he was in. People sitting on rows of seats turn to look, some gasping, some crying out. A man leaps to his feet and rushes toward them, but is restrained by the others in his row. "You bastard!" he yells. "You murdering bastard!"

The judge, seated up high on her bench, pounds her gavel and shouts, "Bailiff! Remove that man from this courtroom!"

The air flickers ahead with electricity. Lang and his captors walk through to one of the tables set on either side of the room. He looks back to see the air flicker again, just before the angry man, having broken away from the bailiff, reaches him. The air flickers again as the man hits an invisible wall and is flung back.

"Mr. Davidson," says a woman at the table he's taken to, "I'm Jane Marks, your court-appointed attorney. I have been defending you in this case."

"What case? What do you mean 'have been'?"

"Come on, Mr. Davidson. This will go along easier if you drop the act. We all know who you really are."

"I'm David Lang. I'm a farmer from Tennessee. Where is this place?"

"OK, Mr. Davidson. You want to play it this way, fine, but I should tell you. You've already been tried and convicted in absentia. This is your sentencing hearing. I've presented your life since escaping temporally as evidence for leniency. But the human rights violations and the resulting war, the environmental damage done.... Many people died, sir, from many countries. I don't know that it'll make a difference. I'm sorry, sir. I did my best."

The gavel pounds. Lang looks up at the judge. "Will the defendant remain standing," she says, demanding, not asking.

"You have been found guilty on all counts. Because of the nature of these crimes and the fact of your illegal temporal flight, you are sentenced to be taken from this place to a place of execution to be carried out immediately."

"What about my appeals?" Lang cried out.

"They have been already denied. It's been further ordered that your life in the past be erased from public record, including the existence of all family and properties, by temporal adjusters. This court is adjourned."

Lang is hustled out a side door and down an empty black corridor. He is shoved into a chamber, black metal walls as with every other room and hallway. Another booming amplified voice says, "Stand still on the mark on the floor if you wish this to be painless."

He sees the 'x' on the ground, stands on it.

"Do you have any last words?" the amplified voice asks.

"Yeah," he answers. "It's funny. I chose the name 'David Lang' because I'd heard of the urban legend. I guess it wasn't after all."

"It will be," he hears, before he is disintegrated.



Gary Westlake is a two-dimensional being living in a three-dimensional world.

E-mail: Gary Westlake




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