Aphelion Issue 275, Volume 26
August 2022
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Escape to New Jersey

by Mike Wilson

"Always a troublemaker, that George. Stealing fruit from the markets, he soon graduated to sneaking into barns and letting livestock loose, or even swiping a piglet now and then. A turn in the stocks cured him for a while -- he was not seen out much. But one day, he came swaggering into Hunterdon-town, spouting tall tales of some kind of gate to futurity. As the Town Justice, It was my job to keep him and others in line. George Wilson took up way too much of my time, as far as I was concerned. It was the Sabbath last that it came to a head."

The three elders, seated on a dais near the defendant, nodded; the Judge, who was seated in the center, grunted, "Go on."

"Well, George came swaggering into the town proper, holding something in his hand. He waltzed right up to the Three Boars tavern, looking to show off some.

"'Ay, and lookit what I've got now, you laggards,' George said boldly to all present.

"'Hey, isn't that George? What have ye swiped now, pilferer?' a tavern patron yelled.

"'Yeah, let's have a look, shall we,' said another -- a large, sturdy man named Jeffries. Jeffries and his friend, Adams, approached George.

"'There's a lad, now, show us.'

"'You'd like to see it, would'ya -- well, 'ave a look then.' said George; he showed them a small blackish box, long it was. But then Jeffries made a grab for it, being inebriated and all.

"George stepped back; 'Now, now, fellahs -- wouldn't want to hurt ya.'

"Adams scowled, and said, 'Alright ye pup. Gonna teach you respect...' and approached George, intending to grab his hand.

"All of a sudden, this box lanced out some fire, and Adams was knocked down to the ground. He was a'shaking all over, and couldn't move right. The thing shot sparks right out of George's hand. Of course, he had to brag.

"'Aye -- and now ye know what it is, eh? Now stay away, or else. That goes for you, too, Jeffries!'

"Jeffries looked at him, wide-eyed, and stood. Then he finally backed away, and ran out of the Tavern -- he came and fetched me. I wouldn'a believed it, until I sought out George myself. He was in the Tavern, of course, swilling a pint and bragging. I chatted with him, and even held the thing in my hand. After giving George a mild warning 'to be careful with that devil thing,' I prepared to take my leave. He offered to show me where he got it.

"Being curious, naturally -- like to keep up with my town, after all -- I said, "alright, lead on then," waving my hand towards the door of the little place. We headed out into late afternoon sunlight, and he bade me follow. We hiked past the stone cottages, and the Iron wrights. Then it was into the woods, past a grist mill, and a turn into a wooded thicket. There was an old log cabin, and not much else.

"'So this is your secret, an old cabin?' I said.

"'It is around here somewhere, I know it is!' he said. We walked around and behind the cabin, collapsing in this time. There is a small rock outcropping about twenty paces behind the homestead. Not much more than 5 feet high, and surrounded by dirt. I thought it was an old root cellar. But then, it shimmered a little.

"I pointed and asked, 'Is this what you are seeking, drunken lad?'

"He spotted it and yelled,' yes, yes, that is it. Now follow me!' then he grabbed my hand, and tugged at me to follow. I reassured him that I was, and retrieved the offended hand. We walked right up to the outcrop. He headed right into it, and I was going to warn him, the crazy fool, when he disappeared. So, being curious, I walked right up to it, as though I would run into the rocks. Instead, I was seized by a force I cannot describe. And ended up in a most amazing and mysterious land. And there was George, practically dancing with I-told-you-so.

"I looked around, and espied many strange things. Homesteads, reaching into the sky, and sprawling like palaces. Flat high-ways that were smooth and wide. And carriages that glided over these, using no beast to pull them, but rather pushing themselves by some unknown means. There were human conveyances that travelled in the air. There were devices with which people talked to each other, casting their voices across many hundreds of miles."

The inquisitor-general looked at the luckless former Justice sternly. Then he looked at the judges seated to the left and right of him. The audience facing the justice and the court were murmuring and hissing, and uttering things like "Witch" "Demon-possessed" or even "Addle-minded, I say".

The former justice protested: "But I was there. I saw it. I can even show you the place -- it's over by the Peter Abel farm..."

The inquisitor shook his head. "We had to sentence George to five years penance; we were easy on him due to his youth. But, Justice, you are old enough to know better. And you continue to spread this vile, satanic poison. I fear there is no redemption for you. Therefore, you are going to burn. Repent of your ways in spreading Satan's lies. Or you will burn at the stake!" The inquisitor knocked his desk with a wooden shaft, signaling the end of the session.

They cuffed the hapless former justice, and tossed him into a small wooden room, and left him to contemplate his fate: Being burned alive, or at best, imprisoned for many years.

An hour later, he heard a noise at the door. Then another strange noise, and muffled groans. George Wilson opened the door, and came at him, waving keys.

"C'mon, we are getting out of here. I'll unlock those, and we are getting gone, make haste."

"Oh dear God, what have ye done now, George. What are ye doing lad?"

George unlocked the crude cuffs, then pulled a stumbling, still-protesting former Justice out the door. The two headed out of town as fast as they were able. Soon, they were in a wooded area.

"But...George. Wait. This is madness -- where can we go? They will be looking for us?"

"How soon you forget, old man. We are going back to the futurity. Forever. They will never find us there."

And George Wilson led the way back to that rock outcropping, dragging a protesting former Justice, and tugged the both of them through the portal to 1970's New Jersey. Even in a smaller town like Trenton, everyone assumed they were stoned hippies and hardly paid them a second glance.

The time portal closed soon afterwards, when U.S. atomic researchers discovered and closed off a reactor leak in Salem No. 1.


© 2012 Mike Wilson

Bio: Mike Wilson has been writing poetry and short stories since 2003. He is a member of the Iowa Poetry Association, and lives in Des Moines. He has been most recently published in OSP Magazine, Sept., 2011, and will appear (or may have already appeared) in upcoming issues of The Oracle, U of Alabama literary magazine, and the 2012 Blinking Cursor anthology. His work has appeared a number of times in Aphelion, most recently Alternative Energy, November 2011. For more by and about Mike, visit Radical Readings, Mike Wilson's Twitter Page, Describer One helium page, or The Galactic Library discussion group. A collection of Mike's essays, poems, and stories From My Backyard to the Edge of the Galaxy is available from Lulu.com in paperback form (also available as a download).

E-mail: Mike Wilson

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