Hard at work on the sequel to Time Flying, working title Passed Lives. We’ve confirmed that the cover design will be done by Kalavrios, who did Time Flying.
Near Belton, Indiana
I was bleeding, and though I thought I knew a lot about physiology, and the workings of the human body in distress, I couldn’t really tell how badly hurt I was. Hurt enough to bleed, I guessed.
I’d been shot once before, at the end of my very first time traveling experience, and even though that travel had involved “only” my consciousness, the memories I still carry of it are very clear. The big difference from what I was feeling right now, was that in the previous experience, I didn’t really know I’d been shot until I woke up in a hospital bed, back in my original timeline realizing the gunshot I’d suffered in the desert of the Middle East had been fatal.
My travel to the 1954 that constituted my now though, had been bodily, and as far as I could tell, was along the same timeline as the one from which I had departed in 2008. I had spent almost 15 years in a past that wasn’t really mine, one that when I took a different path, had no effect on the timeline I’d lived before. At least that was what I had thought. The process that ended with me here, was different. My body was the same one that had been living in 2008, and one that since waking up in a hospital in Cincinnati, had traveled to both the past and the future. Right now, I knew I was being shot at by guys with guns that wouldn’t be made for over 40 years, and something told me if I died this time, I wouldn’t wake up in a hospital bed anywhere.
I leaned back against the thick oak tree I was using as protection, and looked up, awed by the sight of the heavily leafed branches blocking out just enough of the sky to make the blue both bright and almost impossibly rich. When I was finally able to tear my gaze away from the sight, I drew my left hand away from the spot it was pressing, just below my ribcage, and though my cotton t-shirt was sickeningly cold and sticky from the matted blood leaking from the wound, it didn’t seem to be “gushing” or in any way freely flowing. Furthermore, I didn’t seem to be dizzy, or feel any kind of spreading warmth that might indicate internal bleeding. I knew enough about guns to know that at the very least, the men pursuing me…us…were carrying large-framed automatics, 9 mms, if not .45s. I quickly slid my hand around to my back, searching for an exit wound, hoping it was a “through and through,” a shot that simply passed through fat and muscle without hitting any bones or major organs.
That was the best case scenario.
There was no exit wound, but in moving my left hand around to the side again, it brushed over a bump that on closer examination, turned out to be something hard and irregularly shaped.
A piece of wood. What the hell? I thought. When I was shot in Iraq, carrying my dead best friend on my shoulders, trying to make it to the rescue helicopter while Iraqi toops exchanged fire with a small team of Navy SEALS and one very skilled Blackhawk Helicopter door gunner, getting shot in the back was interpreted by my brain as a big Iraqi coming up behind me and whacking me with a two by four. Now here, I get shot and could actually feel a chunk of wood embedded in my flesh. If I hadn’t been bleeding, hiding in the woods, I would have smiled at the irony.
It was then that I realized I hadn’t really been shot, just injured by the shrapnel from a near miss. One of the guys shooting at me had hit a tree, splintering off a piece of bark that found its way into my side. This injury wouldn’t kill me. I may still die, I knew, but it wouldn’t be a piece of bark that caused my demise.
My side still stinging, but bearable, I pushed myself up, still pressing myself against the tree, and listened carefully. To my right, I could hear the crashing sounds of pursuit through a forest my pursuers weren’t familiar with. I knew it, though, and looked to my left, mentally charting my path to safety, then reached with my left hand into the thigh pocket of the camouflage fatigue pants I was wearing, and fished out the rigid cigarette box, along with a silver Zippo lighter embossed with the logo of the U.S.S. Ranger. Inside the box were several cigarettes. I pushed them around, looking at the tiny markings on the filters, before selecting a white Pall Mall Menthol 100, snapping the lid shut on the box and carefully putting it back in my pants pocket.
We had stood on a hill two weeks ago, two of us looking down on the lengths of steel, pallets of material and cranes that would be used to build the great ship, her construction having just started in August. She didn’t really look like an aircraft carrier yet, since the keel hadn’t yet been laid, but in my mind I could see her, fully outfitted, tried and tested, cutting through the waves of the Indian Ocean, growing bigger by the second as Pat lined up our Intruder on approach to her. We would catch the number 3 wire, turn and taxi to parking, before climbing down the ladders the crew would roll up for us, and I would silently thank her for being there for us to find in the middle of the ocean, before walking across the hard, steel deck that felt even more solid than the earth.
Lighting the cigarette, and taking a deep drag, I pushed away from the oak tree, saying a silent prayer of gratitude for its protection, sorry for the hurt I’d caused it.
Time to go.