Aphelion Issue 275, Volume 26
August 2022
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Zip Code 93949

by Richard Tornello


Woodstock NY was and still is home to an artistic community. It had the slight misfortune to be picked for a major concert venue in the late 1960s. The concert was never held in Woodstock but the name stuck. The Concert is history.

People flocked to Woodstock overwhelming the economic and social structure that had been in place for generations. Some stayed and some died. Others left and a few came back. The town has never been the same.

Over the years I've noticed that it appears -- and I use the word 'appears' with emphasis -- it appears to be returning to its earlier roots as an artistic community. There are still hangers-on. There are the sad, straggly, stoned types to be gawked at on the village green. There are the old time still wannabes. And then there are the shops that make their owners a living selling tee-shirts and memorabilia of a time long gone, that maybe never really was.

In a few more years possibly, but more likely in another generation or two, Woodstock will be what it should have always been, quiet, a good place to live, a great place to make music, art and write and who knows, maybe a great place to come back to.


Knock, Knock, Knock. A few seconds later: Ringgggggggg.


From the back of the B&B, Alex yelled, "Coming!"

He was out of breath when he opened the door, but managed to politely inquire, "Hello, may I help you?" He wasn't fully prepared. Guests were not expected today.

There were two of them. The man was of average height, about 5' 8", and well-groomed, dressed in black jeans and a Santa Barbara Triumph Motorcycle collared shirt.

Alex noted he was wearing driving gloves. He had big hands; the gloves were tight across the knuckles.

She was a bit taller. She wore blue jeans and a loose-fitting pin-striped button-down shirt, not tucked in, with a belt that hung on the outside of the shirt around her waist. It was the unofficial uniform of the world. Both were pale as if they stayed indoors most of the time. And there was this cat in her arms.

It just stared at Alex.

Alex noticed these things. He always made a visual inspection of unannounced guests. Sometimes he didn't feel right about allowing someone into his B&B and turned them away. Those who made reservations had to supply information that allowed him some measure of confidence, unless they were repeat visitors. These two in front of him he felt were just fine.

The guy inquired in a rather formal manner, "This is a B&B correct? Do you have any availability for a week -- or better yet, for two? A suite would be ideal if you have one."

"Yes, of course. Please, do come in." Alex thought to himself, Yes, the place with a 'Bed & Breakfast' sign on the front lawn is indeed a B&B. Maybe I was wrong about you -- both of you...

But this was business. "Just let me check..." Alex consulted his phone, calling up the 'reservation book' app, then said, "Yes, we have two suites available. One on the main floor and one on the second. Which would you prefer?"

She asked, "Would you show us the main floor suite please? But one more thing -- do you allow pets?"

Thinking about "Mr. Formal's" earlier question, he wondered if she were referring to her male partner. But aloud, he said, "Depends, what type of pet?" He pointed at the cat, then gestured as if wondering if she had a pet leopard waiting in the car.

"He's well behaved, and quiet too," she insisted.

So no leopard in the car, Alex thought. But she could still be talking about her formal friend...

"I'll have to charge you extra just in case of damages." He almost choked as he said that. Thank god they can't read minds. "Your suite is in the back and to the right. It is the biggest suite in the house and in the most private spot too. Let me show you."

Alex didn't trouble to tell them his office was next door. It was quiet and away from the main street, NY Route 212 a.k.a. Tinker Street, named after a long ago resident. Tinker Street got noisy with the trucks and busses, and the police station and fire station were just across the street from the B&B. The office was a good place to retreat. It also housed a small library.

He left the two of them alone.

They only took a few minutes. They discussed something while Alex retreated to the check-in desk and pretended to busy himself with some paper work. She still had the cat in her arms when she came up to Alex and said, "The room will be fine, how much?" She smiled a real wide smile at Alex.

Alex liked her eyes. There was something about them. They had a sparkle to them. There was life in them. They brought back some recent and pleasant memories. He was about to ask if they had met in the recent past but the guy came up beside her. Alex thought it wiser not to bring that up.

She and Alex looked at each other and at the cat. It was now purring. It was a loud purr.

Alex was in a good mood and said, "I can give you an extended discount that with the pet charge will be equal to the normal daily charges with weekends included. Including weekends, it will be $2000.00 on the main for two weeks. My name is Alex; I'm the manager and owner., and your names?"

While he waited for their responses Alex looked out the side light window. Craig, the Assistant Chief of Police was pulling into the station across the street.

Then Alex saw what must have been the couple's vehicle. It was a 1930 Model A flatbed truck. The cab was electric blue and the wood work was varnished. A tarp tightly covered what must have been their bags. The frame, from this distance, appeared flat in color or gunmetal gray. It could have been unpainted metal itself. The bed covered it blocking a good view. Alex thought Titanium or something like that..., but that was ridiculous. Where would anyone get that amount of that metal and be able to work it. That was space-craft metal, and the cost, my god. The vehicle was immaculate. "Yours?" he asked in admiration.

"Yes, it is," Mr. Formal replied. "My name is Franklin and this is my wife Deborah." He never offered to shake hands.

"You drove that from...?" They would have to enter an address in the register, but Alex hoped for a quicker (and possibly more honest) answer. While he waited for a response, he added, "By the way, I'll need a credit card and your license too. All these new laws to comply with... the Antipatriotic Act, what a PITA."

Not so much as a smile. Tough crowd.

Franklin looked puzzled. He looked toward her as if for help. Deborah then stated, "We came from zip code 93949," apparently in reply to his question about their home address.

"Really?" Alex said. "Quite a long drive. Now, your credit card and license, please?" The code sounded familiar. Funny that she put it that way, though -- most people would name a town or a state.

Franklin and Deborah looked at each other. "Rer-ow," said the cat.

Deborah turned toward Franklin, and then produced the necessary papers from her bag quickly handing them to Franklin.

She must be the boss, thought Alex. "I'll run the card in a bit if you don't mind."

By this time, Alex had figured out why the zip code sounded familiar. "That zip code is from around Vandenberg Air Force Base. I have a few friends who live around there. Are you rocket scientists or engineers?" The scientists and engineers tended to cluster in a few select areas. He'd look the code up later to pinpoint the location. That would give him more demographic information.

Franklin offered up his explanation in a quiet voice as if he were afraid someone would overhear him. "Sort of both. We're here on vacation and just getting away from it all."

Alex noticed Franklin's eyes tighten. Was he lying? Something was up. He decided to change the subject and lighten the mood. "Well, welcome to Woodstock NY and the Twin Fabled B&B. Breakfast is served at 8:30 with yogurt, fruit, muffins and coffee. Is there anything else I can help you with?"

"Thanks, we'll convey our own cargo. Parking?" Franklin was looking at Deborah as he said this. She just gave him a nod and continued to pet the cat.

"Parking is in the back. And when we have other guests, which we don't, yet, I suggest you get in early if you're sightseeing. The town fills up with visitors and tourists starting on Wednesdays, especially in the summer. Our lot has only six spaces. The street parking fills quickly."

"Do you mind if we cover the truck? It is sort of a classic."

Alex looked out the window again. It was a beauty. They had kept the cab body pretty stock, but the engine and suspension had been upgraded with modern components. The engine bay was open. In fact those components were the most modern looking things he'd ever seen. The plumbing was well hidden. From this vantage point he observed that the engine was spotless. They must be real motor-heads on top of rocket scientists and must have access to some great tools and toys, lucky them.

"What do you have in there, a Chevy or Ford block?" Alex asked, pointing to the Model-A Ford. "Most people put small block Chevys in the older vehicles, no matter what the make. I'm not a vintage collector, but I raced in the past. I have no idea why except to say I'm partial to small-block Chevys too."

"Oh, just a hybrid system that... we... sort of invented." The cat said rer-ow again. He was a pretty red-orange long haired tabby.

"What's his name?" Alex questioned pointing to the cat.

"Commander," Franklin and Deborah replied in unison.

"Cute name. As for the truck, cover it, by all means. There's no law against that. It's beautiful." He wondered why, though he didn't usually lust after things, this vehicle came close to the mark of generating that excitement. Chariots, he thought, just more work, worry and money. I did that already. He was trying to dissuade himself from coveting the Model A, the finest blend of old and new he had ever seen. It wasn't working. Alex also realized that Franklin had never answered his motor question. Odd, he thought. Most guys would be gushing about their love. Then again he said 'hybrid', and they are from the Vandenberg area. That's Top Secret space stuff. Who knows, maybe I'll get to talk to him and get a look-see.

Alex stood outside by the front door and watched as they moved the truck to the back. It may have had a V-8 jammed in there but it was silent and he swore it almost floated as it rolled. He heard no starter kick in. Hybrid, electric probably.

Franklin grinned at him and waved a gloved hand.

Alex waved back and mumbled, "Yeah, you lucky bastard."

Alex ran the card. It went through with no problem.


Alex knew not to ask. If they wanted to talk, he was all ears. If not, he was still all ears.

That afternoon Alex noticed some official looking vehicles. They were the blacked out Tahoe type, driving up and down Tinker Street. It could be that the ex-president or the Secretary of State were in town. They lived across the Hudson. He hadn't seen the Tahoes in some time. It's not a big deal; they aren't open-windowed or showing armament. Still these vehicles were unusual. He noticed they had DC plates and more antennas sticking out the top than a porcupine has quills. They came through a few more times that day. The speed limit was 25 MPH so their speed, or lack of it, was no indication of anything.

That night he heard Deborah's and Franklin's voices from their suite as he entered his office.

The two of them were talking rather loudly. Their voices must have covered his entrance so they hadn't heard him come in.

Normally, he would drop something to indicate he was in his office just to "inform" his guests. Tonight, for unexplainable reasons, Alex was all ears.

"Okay, you're right; they'll never find us here. We can settle down, purchase a place," he said.

"No," she said. "Renting will be better, less paper work to deal with. We'll fit right in."

"In Woodstock? Are you out of your mind? This is a tourist magnet. NYC maybe, but here?" he retorted.

She said, "The locals are old-timers and mind their own business. The others are doped up freaks or artists. The cops don't want to be bothered with --" She mumbled something Alex couldn't make out. Louder, she continued, "So that's just what we will do, not bother anyone. If we're quiet and don't bring attention to ourselves we should be able to continue. We'll find something. Besides, I like it here. Now download the blocking systems."

"How can you be so sure? We've just arrived," he said.

"I just know. Now just run the download before anything goes wrong," she ordered.

Scientists my ass. Maybe on the run from the cops? Alex thought again. Not with a truck like that, it's too conspicuous. It's got to be something else. Spies? No, Hackers! They must be computer hackers, that's how they can afford that type of ride. Then it hit him. He would have to check it out. He guessed the feds were looking for the transmitting uplink and the people behind it.


The next day over breakfast they indicated they would not mind being called by Frank and Deb. "We don't want to stand on ceremony." After breakfast, they went for a walk with the cat on a body leash. Commander didn't seem to mind.

Alex thought, Now that's a strange sight, a cat on a leash walking down the streets of Woodstock. The dogs sometimes ran free, let alone the felines. He shook his head as he watched. The cat actually took the lead.

Alex went back in to clean up, but no matter how much he tried he couldn't help it. The opportunity was there and it called to him. The lust for the truck and last night's overheard conversation combined to shift his curiosity into overdrive. He snuck out, walked to front of the B&B and looked around and down the street to see if they were anywhere in sight. They were gone.

Alex did notice three blacked-out Tahoes parked across the street from the bakery though. Getting goodies for someone, he laughed to himself. He quickly walked to the back of the B&B where the truck was parked and peeked under the tarp. He really couldn't help it. He lifted the tarp up over the cab. The tarp was heavy. It was made of a material that Alex couldn't name. "This must block out more than UV," he said to no one.

He looked into the cab and was totally unprepared and surprised. He was knocked down would be more like it. The cockpit was like nothing he'd ever expected. The gauges and indications were in symbols he'd never seen in a vehicle. They looked like cuneiform. And the controls, the controls looked more suited for a jet aircraft than a street truck and...

"You like what you see?" boomed a voice -- Franklin's voice, sounding stronger and more commanding than usual.

Alex almost had a heart attack. He turned around to face both of them. He kept his cool, but just barely. The truth always works best as a settler. People generally know when you're telling the truth and when they are expecting a lie, they are taken off guard. Alex needed just a few seconds to get back in control.

So he said straight out, "Yes, as a matter of fact, I do." He pointed to the interior of the vehicle. "I don't know where you're from, exactly, and I really don't care. But if you're hiding from someone, living right out in front of the police station might be the best place." He gestured in the direction of Tinker Street. "There is a lot of RF emanating from that building with the police and fire department radio traffic, and I'm guessing it can hide things like a specific transponder's communication frequency. You figured that out, and that's why you picked my establishment, correct?"

Frank and Deb were silent for almost a minute. They looked at each other, and for some reason, at the cat.

"We're conducting a test. I wasn't at liberty to speak about it," said Franklin at last.

Now it was Alex's turn to know a lie when he heard it. All he said was, "really?"

Deb looked at Alex. He guessed they were communicating with each other, wondering how he figured that out. Her eyes grew brighter. The cat rubbed up against his leg. Alex reached down to pet it. Frank was about to stop him but she grabbed his hand. He had six fingers; so did she.

Now Alex realized why Franklin had never shaken his hand. He had watched them eat breakfast day after day, and had felt a nagging suspicion that there was something odd, but had never quite registered what it was. If it was a snake it would have bit me, he thought. And now he remembered why Deb had seemed familiar.

Her hair was now a deep brown color and in a bob. It had been long and black. On top of that she just appeared physically different from what he recalled; maybe she was a bit chunkier.

She had been here about two months ago. Alone without Franklin, Alex met her at the Woodstock Art Gallery. Alex remembered he saw her standing looking at a piece he always enjoyed viewing and had yet to purchase. Her arms were folded across her chest, her hands tucked under her arms -- to hide her hands, he now guessed.

He had opened with, "I'm going to purchase that one."

"Really," she had said. "What if I buy it first? There is no 'sold' red dot, so it isn't yours yet. And I can read your mind so I can outbid you if I have to."

He laughed at that one, gave her a look and came back. "If that's so, what am I thinking?"

She smiled, her eyes lighting up just like he remembered and said, "Maybe if you're lucky. Take me to dinner somewhere nice."

They talked a bit more about art and food and just enjoyed each other's company. He suggested the Bear Café. It was just up 212 a mile or so. The two of them had dinner. It was quiet and with intimately low light, the falling sun shimmering through the forest it set a nice mood. They had a seat overlooking the stream. It was lovely.

She had told him she had heard about Woodstock but had never been there. This was her first trip down-time, as she put it.

That was a term he thought strange but figured it was some jargon used by her friends and all that. She was younger than him by at least a generation or two.

They were both buzzed from the wine. He became more fascinated and interested in her as the conversation continued.

She was unique. She spoke about things in combinations no one else ever did. She talked about physics, time travel, and music, salted with general flirty talk.

And he was interested in any possibilities that might occur that evening. Win, lose or draw, a one nighter or something more, she was different and he liked her.

She thought the same of him and let him know it when she reached across the table and ran her hands in his long red and gray streaked hair. "I like red hair," she said, looking straight into his eyes.

He was too enraptured to notice the sixth finger. Even if he had, he would have dismissed it as a trick of the dim light.

What he didn't know is that she had let him pick her up. She had been waiting for someone like him all day at the gallery. She spent the evening with him at his B&B and left before daybreak.

She purposely had never told him her name. He had asked once; she said it didn't matter. He didn't ask again. And when he woke the next morning she was gone except for a note that said, See you again, maybe, and a lipstick kiss. But something about her stayed with him. It was her marvelously deft hands and the pupils of her eyes. Her hands were magical when she touched him (and now he knew why), and her eyes, her eyes shone when she was excited in a manner he had never seen again until this day when she was back at his front door. He had put her out of his mind. He never thought he'd see her again.

Alex remembered all that and more. He recovered quickly, taking control. "Would you prefer go inside and discuss these matters?" Alex pointed to the truck. "Our other guests have not arrived yet. They're not expected until tomorrow afternoon. There is no staff here at the moment. I recommend it. It's a safer and I'm sure a more pleasant place to talk, privately."

"Okay, sounds like a good idea," said Franklin. Alex looked at Deborah and back to Franklin. They both agreed, nodding. As he led the way he noticed out of the corner of his eye that he was nodding his head and she was shaking it in a "no."

Once inside he motioned for them to sit. He made a pot of fresh coffee, and brought out some pastry and fruit. They hadn't uttered a word, not that they had to.

He broke the silence and said, "I heard you talking last night and I guessed you're looking to keep a low profile. Do you care to explain?" This could get me killed he surmised.

She looked at Franklin and then back at Alex.

Alex's mind suddenly filled with images of things he couldn't even begin to describe to anyone who hasn't seen it. It was safe to say that the visions and information weren't from this time. The visions and descriptions were understandable though no words were being spoken. He concluded that he must have heard their mental conversations last night. Maybe they felt safe and didn't cloak their thoughts. Maybe they were so caught up in their blocking or whatever it was they were doing that they didn't sense his presence. Maybe she didn't care.

She continued, and he noted a softer tone in the mental projection, We're on the run from the future. We wanted to live in an easier time, with our technology that could be easily hidden, say as opposed to the 19th century or early 20th. We would never fit there.

Then Franklin continued telepathically. There was a different feel to the projection. It almost felt like a different voice. That in itself was interesting.

We stayed past our allotted time. We have, or had a visitor's visa. It was good for four weeks. That expired over a month ago. We decided to stay. We like it here. We can do pretty much as we please. Back in Up-Time, as we call it, every thought and action is monitored from the moment of conception.

Yes, we are scientists. We're a trusted class; that's how we got to go. Normal citizens are never allowed to travel outside a tour controlled visit. You know those 'Norwegian' bus tours you see every now and then? They're from Up-Time and are here for a visit.

She added aloud, almost pleading, "We really don't want to go back there. They say it's free, but how can it be, with all those controls, the monitoring? They propagate fear and call it the truth. It's terrible. In a general way, at least here we know what's going to happen here and now. We know where to go, what to do and how to make a living without being caught. And ...well, I --" She looked at Alex and hesitated. "I...am..." and she stopped. She looked at Alex again.

He saw something, a pleading in her eyes. She did not communicate it in any manner. Alex knew immediately and he could tell "Franklin' had no clue. She changed the subject by the tone in her voice and continued, "I don't ever want to go back there. I'd rather die. We can still breathe here. I'm the one that made us stay." It was harder in inflection and her jaw was a set tight as she spoke.

Alex looked at both of them. He thought about what he wanted to say and the manner in which it should be presented. "Screw it," Alex exclaimed, "if you want to stay, I will put you up. If you desire it, I will see what I can do about employment. Things are pretty tight control wise." He didn't want to lose her again.

Franklin looked at him and said, "Thanks, really. We'll give it some thought too -- And we can help. We have the technology to defeat your systems. It's ours we're concerned with. But no matter, we must be careful not to bring attention to ourselves. That's why I thought ..."

Alex finished his sentence, "NYC would be better for the two of you. Maybe yes, maybe no. Deborah is right. People here are a bit easier going especially regarding regulations and official pronouncements." Alex added, "Especially those pronouncements coming out of Washington. In fact I might say you both landed in a very good spot."

Alex then said, "Then I'll assume the blacked-out Tahoes were just the normal government types with the ex-president and not your people looking for you. Though they did have a lot of antennas"

Their eyes got big. "When did you see them?" they both asked, very shocked.

"The same day you arrived and this morning. You didn't notice? They drove up and down Tinker Street a few times. And this morning they were parked in front of the bakery. I hadn't seen them in quite some time. Maybe some friends of yours?" he asked. "They had antennas sticking out all over the place, and had DC tags."

Franklin said calmly, "Could be, but you mentioned you do have important neighbors. If you see them again please let us know. We paid in advance. However, we may have to leave without notice. If that happens keep the money. You do understand?" His eyes said something entirely different. He was afraid.

Alex tried to get more information while at the same time suggesting a few things they may have overlooked. "Yes I do. Just remember no matter where you go, if they have the tracking devices as you mentioned, maybe transponders were implanted into your bodies at birth. How are you going to hide from that?"

Alex continued, "Even now, people are putting GPS devices in the diapers of their toddlers and implanting chips in their pets. They can be tracked by their cell phones and GPS in their cars. That doesn't seem to bother them. They don't realize that the transponders in their vehicle black boxes could be constantly relaying data to sensors on the roadside.

"This is only the beginning. Once the kids get used to surveillance as a normal function of life and as they grow up, there would be no problem stepping the fear mongering controls up a notch or three to the point where -- well, to the world you came from."

He looked at his guests, expecting them to react with horror, or at least concern.

Franklin stated matter-of-factly, "We did have implants -- tracking was only one of their functions -- but we removed them, all of them. Airmid -- Deborah -- was a surgeon. There are others like us here and there. That we know. But who and where, we have no idea. If our authorities ever grab us, when they send us back, we can't give the others up. Once we're caught we can never go down-time visiting again. We have been lucky so far. We, she really doesn't want to go back."

He never mentioned his real name and Alex guessed it was not the same as the name on the driver's license he produced. "So what's your real name?" he asked. He had heard enough for now. He would think about it.

"Dagda," he said. "And yours, your real name?"

"Rudianos," Alex answered.

He looked at Alex. She looked at Alex.

"Were you born in this time? She asked quietly.

Alex smiled and didn't answer. He knew the name was different and familiar. Not too many people knew him by his real name. I'm sure they don't trust me after that. He gave it some thought. Then he said, "Look, I'm retired. I did my job. I'm done. I'm not a threat. You shouldn't worry." And he said again, softly this time, looking directly at Airmid, "you shouldn't worry, I get it."

All this time Commander was rubbing himself against Alex's legs.

Franklin, or Dagda, whatever his name was, looked at both of them with a puzzled expression. He was about to ask something.

"So now I'm his property too," Alex laughed and interjected before anything else could be brought up.

That fact was not lost on Dagda and Airmid. They laughed lightly but it broke the tension in the air.

Alex thought about Commander the cat. He was probably some sort of sensor for the two of them. If he liked me then it was safe for them.

Dagda smiled as if he could...and then Alex remembered, of course he could read my mind, if I let him. What he didn't know, he didn't know but now probably guessed. Alex was getting tired from all this nonsense and excused himself by saying, "I always take a mid day nap. It 'recharges my batteries'. At the same time he thought about the fact that he would really like to get a ride in that electric blue chariot of theirs. He hadn't seen anything like that, since forever. He went to his room to lie down. He would deal with them later. He would speak to her alone as soon as he could. He had a few questions that needed answers.


Alex woke up and realized it was the next morning. He looked around. They were both gone. He had heard nothing. What happened? Was I drugged or e-tranquilized? They could have brought a delta-wave inducer back with them, or built one. But using it on him without getting caught -- that was downright embarrassing. Especially since Airmid / Deborah had done it to him before!


He looked down. It was Commander. "Commander, where are your friends?"

"RerOW, Rer-Owww," he wailed.

Quickly, Alex ran to the back door. The truck was still there and covered. Then he noticed a note taped to the frame of screen door. It was scrawled in thick sharpie black:

Had to run. May be back. Here are the keys and the operational instructions. Keep it covered when you're not using it.

Be nice to Commander; he likes you. Thanks for everything.

There was a lipstick kiss at the bottom.

He pulled the note from the door to read it again. The lipstick smeared the edge of his fingers red. When he noticed his fingers he knew she'd be back. And at the same time, he looked at the job the surgeon had done on his hands. It was pretty good, he thought. You'd never guess that I used to have twelve fingers.

The End

© 2012 Richard Tornello

Bio: Bio: Richard Tornello is a business owner/consultant/technical recruiter with 28+ years experience, married and kept by one very neurotic cat, Stella. He has a degree from Rutgers University in Asian Studies. Richard's poetry and fiction has appeared a number of times in Aphelion (with one or more poems almost every month!); his most recent fiction contribution was Holo, Grammy in the September 2012 edition.

E-mail: Richard Tornello

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