by Bob'n Around
Alvin Henry was beside himself at how chaotic his world was turning out to be.
|1809 word entry into "The Escape Day Contest"
Arnold Henry paced his cell. How many times had they put him away only to find his disappearing act bought him freedom once again? The wild rush of avoiding fate ruled his life while balancing on the razor edge of narrowly escaping death each time.
“Time.” The bored guard doing his shift keeping the renowned magician in sight rattled the bars with his hard wood baton.
Arnold dropped to the floor. It was a quickly well learned habit in order to avoid that same baton from rattling his brain. He placed his hands together behind his back waiting for the pinch of too tightly placed handcuffs cutting into his wrists.
Two other guards appeared on schedule. This prisoner had earned special treatment many times over. One guard yanked Arnold’s head up by the hair, forcing the mouth open making sure nothing was inside that wasn’t born there.
“Down with his pants. It’s your turn, Spivy. Give him the rectal exam.”
The third guard slapped on medical gloves, probed when Arnold was made ready and finished the distasteful task. “Empty. Pull him to his feet and let’s march.”
The sound of their footsteps echoed together down what used to be called death row. Now it was used for the suicide watch of too greedy popular political figures or other famous perpetrator’s with crimes of note. “In here, pal.”
A fresh prison jumpsuit replaced the one on Arnold’s body. The old one, minutely examined for loss of thread or changes to its makeup, was burned after being electronically scanned. The move to new quarters was part of routine, done weekly, with each old cell receiving the same microscopically detailed examination for anything out of the ordinary.
“Hair cut.” Arnold’s head was shaved, handcuffs removed and he was left lying face down on the new cell’s cold cement floor. The light was the same as every place he had been in during the past month. State of the art security cameras paced with him as he rose to his feet and began counting off the steps from one end of the bars to the other.
“What’s for lunch?” He asked thin air. His stomach growled at him, it should be soon. The usual sedatives placed in it made him feel sleepy but that was all right. His escape plan was simple. He didn’t have one. It would be made for him, hopefully with few or no complications.
The state of Utah in the year 2021 no longer had capital punishment. Still, accidents did happen, more often in prison than most places. Arnold knew they were planning one. The only thing keeping him alive was his public notoriety of being seemingly immune to death. That and the fact that he had liberated and secretly stored on the internet more treasure than was held in Fort Knox.
“No meal for you, sport. Time for your torture session.” It was the first guard, dangling the key to the cell, shutting off the cameras and aiming a taser at Arnold’s midsection as he forced his way in. “Tell me what I want to hear and I’ll make this easy on you, pal.”
There was a tap on the back of the guard’s shoulder. Startled at not being alone with Arnold, he turned his head, blushing, stammering at being caught not following the routine. “What the?”
“Hi, Arnold, what took you so long?” Arnold sighed as his doppleganger appeared in the cell like magic. The fellow looked as old as father time himself. The man who thought of himself as the original Arnold had met other ages of himself, significant stress points in life provided who appeared.
The air sparked with static electricity where Arnold number two stood. When the guard unfroze and took a wild swing, lightning speared his arm, climbed over his body and sent him dropping unconscious on the floor. “He won’t remember a thing. Let’s go. You know the drill, brother mine.”
Arnold number one nodded, stepped over the fallen guard, melded into Arnold number two, and disappeared into a widening vortex of pure energy, time and space.
He had a job to do. It was one he’d attempted many times before. The loop in the space time continuum created by his unsuccessfully completing the task was building up massive chaos with multiple ribbons of alternate realities threatening to overpower the main universal stream. “Best get on with it.”
Arnold closed his eyes, took in a deep breath and thought back to his earliest childhood memories. It was the method he’d learned best guided him back to his own past. When he opened them again, there he was, back in the year 1964, Christmas vacation, with him lying on his basement bedroom bed with his brow knitted in concentration.
“Hey, Arnold number three, youngest of the set, practicing meditation?” There was little resemblance between the fifteen year old and seventy-five year old version of the same man. The older one resisted the impulse to merge. It wasn’t time yet. Meditation for the kid was a good way to get things off his mind, including himself. The youngster's hidden talent was more than the lad thought it was.
“Who are you? How’d you get in here? How do you know my name?”
“You were just wondering what it would be like to live forever, weren’t you?”
The question struck home, forcing everything else out of the teenager’s mind. “How did you know?”
It brought a dry chuckle from the old man. “I been there, kid. I’m you. My job is to make sure that happens but there is a wrinkle we need to take care of, something only you can do.”
“What?” Things were going too fast for the kid. He was too innocent in the ways of the world to think this might be a scam or a con. He didn’t know what this was. “I don’t understand.”
“We’re stuck in a time loop caused by a little something you are about to do. You got to resist the impulse. Otherwise, the universe is about to have its second big bang.”
“You’re crazy. Get out of here. I’ll make you.” Young Arnold flashed a switchblade from his pocket like magic. “I been recruited by the Aryan Brotherhood. You try anything and if I don’t get you, they will.”
Old Arnold squeezed his eyes shut, memories flooding his skull. “I got here a few moments too early. “You haven’t joined up yet, the choice is still yours. You can either become evil incarnate or save the universe instead of destroying it. I think this is your last chance.”
Reality began shifting into strangely exotic patterns. Members of the Aryan brotherhood, the oldest and most racist prison gang in the United States appeared and exploded into a blare of sizzling light, only to return again like a TV rerun.
“Help, you guys. This old fart is trying to kidnap me,” young Arnold screamed.
The time space nexus which old Arnold held onto began to jump and twist, trying to rip into the pieces of an unconnected jigsaw puzzle. Arnold at three and at thirty three joined the moment before merging with the old man. “Maybe this might do the trick. Nothing else has worked.”
Old Arnold split into mirror images of himself from birth to that of the father time version joined in prison. They began attacking the gang.
“I don’t believe this. It can’t be happening,” swore young Arnold, swinging his blade drawing blood, feeling each cut within himself. Realization dawned with the pain. “It is true.”
He dropped the switchblade as Aryan Brotherhood hands grabbed at him. Old Arnold beat them to the punch, laying a roundhouse that connected in a dizzying moment that unsettled him and sent him flying. “No. Now is the time.”
Reality seizured into a massive earthquake of motion, flying the remaining Arnold’s hiccuping back to their separate frames of existence. A final tidal wave of chaos began building.
Fifteen year old, Arnold, lay on his bed, listening to “I want to hold your hand,” by the Beatles on a clock radio by his side. Within him, the remembrance of multiple personalities struggled to rearrange themselves in his head, of who they were, subsiding into young Arnold’s subconscious.
He heard the familiar ring of the kitchen telephone hanging upstairs on the wall. “Arnold? It’s for you,” his mother’s voice called out. “It is one of your new friends about your initiation meeting before joining a club?”
Her voice sounded worried. Arnold had shut down as he became a teenager. Violence was everywhere. Protestors raged war with those wanting to escalate the conflict in Vietnam. Race riots between southern whites and blacks over civil rights had spread across the land. The only way to protect himself had seemed to be by joining the local chapter of the Ayran Brotherhood but he seemed changed inside. “Tell them I decided not to join.” He found himself saying.
“Son? They swore at me, threatened me. Said it’s too late not to be a member. “What have you gotten us into?”
Arnold felt mental walls rearrange in his head, “I’ve got to think.”
“They say if I hang up, they’re coming over here and you’d better meet them outside. I’m going to call the police.”
“Don’t mom. Some of the cops are their friends. I’ll handle this.”
Arnold massaged his skull, trying to calm himself down. Meditation sometimes helped. He scrunched his eyes shut, imagining a black dot resting on his forehead, forced himself to breathe deep. Meditation as an aid to reducing stress had started appearing in America in the early 60’s. A library book on the subject had caught Arnold’s attention. “Om,” he chanted, breathing deeply.
Reality became an insulated sense of endless tick tocking of his heartbeat. When Arnold opened his eyes he stood in a cell looking at the image of himself at seventy-five. “Come on old man. I’ve got to gather the rest of you up and put an end to this. Time’s a wastin’.”
There was a bit of a struggle with Arnold at thirty-five. “Good going, kid, but this might be only a temporary fix. We’ve got to give it time to settle. Before I merge, keep in mind who and what we are," Getting his act together might not last long but had cosmic consequences. " Arnold spread as a keeper of time and space in the order to which it best serves us all.”
“I’ll remember. I’ve got all of you to remind me how to be the greatest magician and escape artist of all time. Now shut up, merge and let’s go have the time of our lives.”
It was a relief to lie on his bed and escape into Robert A. Heinlein's new book, 'Farnham's Freehold' instead of trying to find a band aid to prevent a universal time bomb from exploding.