About Time

 


A short story based on some of the characters from Robert A Heinlein's novels.
By Hugh C Fathers

 

It was the whisper quiet sound of the dilating door, that first begged for her attention, fraying at her line of thought.
'How's the patient, Ish?'.
The line snapped, the thought nearly landed lost; with one last flash of simplicity and perfection it turned somersault through her mind disappearing back to the depths of her subconscious. Ishtar, turned slowly towards the crowded clinic doorway, it seemed the entire Long family was there, Lazarus, as usual at the fore.
'I would have thought you would have learnt some patience by now Lazarus, when you picked him up he was on his last breath.' 'How do you expect him to be? Surely, you, of all people, are more than aware of the limitations of Twentieth Century medical technology.'
'Sorry, Ish, in his case I'm unable to be patient, he is probably the most important client ever brought to you, you can't blame me for being curious.' Replied Lazarus sheepishly.
Ishtar's expression softened. 'I'm afraid there's not a lot I can tell you at the moment. Our patient spent a large part of his life fighting ill health and was lucky to have survived as long as he did. At this stage his condition is stable, the illness that was killing him has been reversed. Cell samples have been taken for cultures and we should be able to begin the rejuvenation within a few days. In the meantime I have him on neolethe and I'll be keeping him that way. At least until I am confident that no trauma was caused by his sudden escape from what must have seemed his death and his subsequent resurrection to a strangely familiar yet totally alien environment.'
'Ish!' 'He was a writer of speculative fiction in his timeline; I doubt he'll have any difficulty adjusting.' A voice sounded from the back of the group. 'Beside which he was present at the first Interuniversal Society Convention, he knows the score.'
'Jubal, When did you arrive back at Boondock? We haven't seen you for ages. Come over here and kiss me.'
'With greatest pleasure Ish. I have only just arrived and with or without your famous client I would have been looking for you to say hi.' Taking her in his arms he kissed her thoroughly and yet tenderly.
'When I heard who it was being picked up I just had to come and see for myself.' 'Like all of us here, I feel an extremely strong connection to this particular rejuvenation client. I think that's why you are so concerned yourself, believe me Ish, I'm sure that when you bring him back to consciousness he will accept the situation easily.' Turning to face Lazarus but leaving one arm wrapped firmly around Ishtar's waist. 'Don't you agree, Lafe?'
'Sure thing, Jubal, I think that the sooner he is made aware of his current situation the better. I'm sure that everyone here would like to think that he will soon become a physical member of the Long family and not just our spiritual father. Maureen, what do you think? 'Your memories of the late Twentieth century are the most recent.'
'I'd have to agree with Lazarus and Jubal on this Ish; it would be best to be sooner rather than later. There's no-one here that he doesn't know intimately and in most cases better than we know ourselves. I do however understand your concern and feel that he should be revived in a familiar environment to minimize any confusion.' There was a babble of voices, all trying to talk at once, mostly in agreement.
'Pipe down you lot.' Came the voice of Lazarus loudly over the top of two dozen simultaneous conversations. As the noise level dropped he continued. 'You're the expert at staging events, Sharpie, how do you think we should handle this situation?' The diminutive figure of Hilda made her way to the front, the others moving aside like the proverbial parting of the sea's.
'Thank you Lazarus, I have indeed, been thinking about this ever since it was first suggested that we go back and pick him up from what was to be his death bed. How should we approach this his apparent resurrection? It is my opinion, that we should reproduce the environment of his last conscious memories, that way, when he first awakes, he will at least have some familiarity with his immediate surroundings.' She was interrupted by one of the twins.
'Who should talk to him first aunt Hilda?'
'Don't interrupt me Laz; I was just coming to that.' She was interrupted again by the other twin.
'Hilda, I'm Laz; it was Lor that interrupted you.'
'So you had to interrupt me as well young lady, never mind, if you have both finished, I would like to continue. I have been giving a lot of consideration to just who should be present when he wakes. I know that he has always liked cats, so if Pixel can be persuaded to stay with him I feel that Pixel alone should have the honor of the first meeting. Athene will be able to monitor the situation and inform us of any problems. He hasn't yet met Pixel, so I'm sure a strange and yet somehow familiar cat will prepare him for his first human visitor, you.' She said turning to look directly at Maureen.
'Me Sharpie!' 'Why me?'
'It is my opinion, that out of all of us, it is you Maureen; that he knows best, would most easily recognize and with whom he would feel most comfortable.' There were many sounds of agreement, Ishta included.


My eyes opened slowly; the bedroom was dim and quiet, the only sound the contented purring of a cat. I felt that I had been asleep for years, a much needed sleep. My last memory before falling into that sleep, was one of utmost weariness, two years of illness had drained me to my bones and yet now I felt alert, refreshed and energetic. My hand reached out on the bed and encountered the purring cat. I scratched it around it's ears and was rewarded by an increased volume and tempo of the purring. I've had many cats throughout my life, yet somehow this purring feline on my bed seems strangely unfamiliar. Sitting up I reached for the bedside light and hit the switch. I was right I hadn't met this particular cat before. 'Hello there puss, you're a fine looking fellow, what's your name?'
'Brroowww!'
'Well Brow, you are one of the most handsome cats' I have seen in a long time, you remind me somewhat of cat from my imagination called Pixel.'
'Cheerup!'
'Where on earth did Ginny find you! By the way have you seen her?'
'Blert!' He replied getting up and stretching. Tail high, he jumped off the bed and walked towards the door.
'You want me to get up and let you out eh, Brow?'He stopped at the door and looked at me.
'Naoooww' and turned back to the door. I pushed myself up in bed, preparing to get up when to my complete surprise, a small round cat door suddenly appeared and the cat promptly disappeared straight through it. My mind was took a back-flip, that's how Pixel did his walking through walls' trick, could my feline visitor have been none other than Pixel himself, or was I still asleep and in the middle of a vivid dream. I sat back against the bed head, thinking deeply when there was a light knock at the door. Ginny had no reason to knock she would have walked right in, so who else could it be? Well, there's no use trying to guess, beside which it would be rude of me to keep this mysterious visitor waiting.


'Come in.' The door opened slowly my visitor was a beautiful redheaded girl; I did a double take, on second thoughts strike out girl and replace with young woman. Like the cat that had just left, she looked strangely familiar. Yet I couldn't recall having actually met her beforehand; although I assure you, I would not have been able to forget meeting such a striking woman before.
'Hello, Robert, how are you feeling?'
Her voice sent shivers up my spine; I had heard that voice before but only in my mind. My thoughts raced, the cat must have been Pixel and my visitor could be none other than Maureen. My head started to spin and I slumped back in the bed. I must have died, here in front of me was a character from my novels. She ran towards the bed.
'Robert, are you all right?' Before I could answer, she was on the bed holding me tightly; I could smell clean fresh woman and feel the wetness of tears against my neck. Her smell convinced me...it was Maureen!
'Maureen! 'Stop your crying; I'm OK, just somewhat surprised, how the hell did you get here?'
'Sharpie was right. She said you would recognise me.'
'What!' 'Hilda here! Who else has come out from the pages of my novels, to visit me here on Earth, in my old age?'
'Are you able to handle more surprises, Robert, or should I let you have some time to digest the current situation?'
'Maureen, It's refreshing to be surprised at my age; I think you better tell your uncle Bob everything. I promise you, I'll leave it to later to have a shock induced heart attack, much, much later.'
'That's what Jubal said; he was sure that you have little trouble adjusting to a new situation.'
'Hmm! Jubal as well, maybe it would be easier if you told me who wasn't here.'
'That's just the point, here is not where you think it is. Although this room looks just like your bedroom at Bonny Doon it was made that way, to give you a familiar place in which to wake. You are here at the Long family home at Boondock, Tertius. Oh Robert! Your reported death in 1988, saddened us all and it was decided to travel back to your time and rescue you from what we all thought was an untimely demise.'
'What about Ginny, Mo?' What about Ginny? Where is she?' My voice cracked. Ginny had been my closest companion, friend and love for such a long time, the thought of her being centuries dead; filled me with grief.
'She knows where you are and told us to tell you, that she will join you her later, when the time is right. She loves you Bob; she made us promise to tell you that. She said that she'd rather be separated from you by time, for a time, than by the eternity of death. We would have brought her here at the same time we picked you up but she didn't want to leave, not just yet. She wanted to complete everything and complete all your joint affairs before joining you. She asks you to be patient. It won't be too long.'
'You talked to her, Maureen?'
'Not personally, it was Lazarus that did the talking and it was him that persuaded her to let us bring you back to Boondock for treatment by Ishtar.'
'Ishtar's started the treatment, hasn't she? I haven't felt this good for many years.' The closeness of this beautiful redhead with her clean, yet unmistakably musky, female aroma was awakening more than a few physical reactions.
'Yes, she has, she also told me to let you know that from the cell cultures she has taken that rejuvenation is also possible. Although she would not start the rejuvenation unless you personally requested it. It seems that even though you suffered illness throughout a large part of your life genetically speaking, you qualify as a Howard. Should you accept rejuvenation, she would like to register you officially as a Howard. Please say yes, Robert, all the Long family want you to stay, I also want you to stay.' She held me tightly and for the second time since wakening I felt the wetness of tears.


I looked in the mirror, it still seemed strange. Within my mind I have accumulated over 83 years of experiences, have felt over time, my body slowly breakdown, my health (not always the best) deteriorate and my responses lose their keen edge. Yet the image confronting me was that of a man in his prime, about 25 standard years and glowing with good health, a mighty fine, good looking man, even if I say so myself.
Well, Bob, that's enough narcissism for now, I think it's time to get yourself dressed for your official introduction to the Long family. Why they want to make all this fuss I don't know, I've met nearly all of them over the last two years and known them all better than they would like to think.
On the bed, freshly pressed was a selection of clothes. A US Navy Gunnery Officers uniform (circa late 1920's), an elegant Dinner suit and one of the form fitting body-suits favoured by the Boondock residents, that is if they wore much at all. Looking down at the selection I recalled vividly the production staged by Hilda for the Lazarus, Maureen reintroduction. It was Hilda staging this affair too, that being the case there was no doubt in my mind. I picked up the uniform and continued get dressed.


Old memories do not die they just lie in wait until they are called on and in no time flat I was dressed and checking my appearance again in the mirror. It had been over fifty years since I had last worn my old uniform. It was time to go.


©copyright 1996 Hugh C Fathers