Between Times by Rod Cockle

"Go for launch? It's go time? Wait. Little hand says it's time to rock!" Kashton closed the butterfly door of the spacetime flying saucer.

"Signature catchphrase! I want to go to then." Romi Rae set the controls to 1942 -- the first year their favorite comic book Major Smith O'Reens was published.

Their technical ingenuity was rewarded with a mechanical resonance that indicated the fantastic powerhouse was of a mind to start. Analog dials fluctuated, incandescent carbonized cotton thread filament light globes blazed bright as Tesla's pigeon, dynamos hummed like beehives, a centrifugal flyball governor spun in a rapid blur. Bursts of plasma commingled from one divining rod to another as though it were a World's Fair science exhibit inspired by the zestful promise to be a catalyst for a new epoch before the world. Hoarfrost crystals branched across the glass. A cacophony of eerie reverberations and auroral arcs rushed by appearing like a time-lapse as an otherworldly Klein bottle-shaped portal enveloped the transporter.

With a jolt the room was still again as the multiverse portal membrane popped like a bubble. Electricity buzzing, crackling and whirring, a mechanical powering down thrummed in their ears. A fleeting sweet scent of earthy petrichor stuck to their olfactory receptors and taste buds. Their eyes adjusted to find the barber shop building now a heating company. A locomotive had just delivered coal through the big sliding door opening, its boxcars labored slowly away. The time leaping kids abroad pulled a sheet of canvas over the out-of-place object to blend inconspicuous with the rest of the stoves in storage.

On the way out they both playfully stepped on the ground-level weight scale. "From now on I'll be Romi Rae Prime."

"I'm Kashton Prime."

Under a hazy powder blue sky a directional sign that the time vaulters were used to seeing point to the town's claim to fame fairgrounds now read: "Camp Harmony" for a Japanese internment zone. They sped by Haji Mansion, which at this time was a rest home. In a pulp magazine rack at the corner variety store their prized comic perched -- with its eye-popping realistically illustrated Muscle Beach type hero wearing a standard issue brain bucket, feet planted, the last of a cigarette dangling from one corner of his mouth, fists clenched, punching out Hitler on the book cover manufactured under wartime conditions in conformity with all government regulations controlling the use of paper.

"1942 called a number that started with TH5 from a landline," Kashton smiled.

"Then it dialed the rotary phone with a receiver attached to a twisted cord again because there wasn't a way to leave a message that said: tell me you got this," Romi Rae pointed.

"You hang up first."

The time borrowers laid the origin issue on the counter by a display of Candy Apple gum cigarettes and prepared to pay with coins minted in the 1930s. It was just a coincidence that the clerk behind the cash register was a lanky, red-headed teenager who would become the mansion's caretaker as an old man. With another look at the cover Romi Rae took Kashton aside. "Do you think we're supposed to go back in time and ki --" Sirens began to wail signaling an air raid rehearsal. As everyone urgently went to their shelters and cellars the young cashier hurried customers out of the dime store.

"What about the comic?" the unexpected visitors asked.

"No time for that nonsense," barked the clerk.

The visitants returned to the heating company. When they tried to go forward in time to the next day they discovered the instruments were jammed. "Yeah, that's a downside," both said at the same time. With the realization that they would not be able to return to their present, the passengers decided to leapfrog further back in the timeline to ask Zaman Haji for help.

Swept along upon the restless tide of time to arrive in the year 1901, the austere building that would become the fuel company and then the barber shop did not exist in this time period. Now the spacetime interlopers were inside a sorry-looking barn filled with snorting swine jostling against each other. Pigeons scavenged the track bed as a steam engine chugged lazily hauling cattle cars clickety clacking in tow. The elegiac whistle of the iron horse echoed through the valley floor carpeted with oats, rye, and barley.

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