Out of Time (10.5)

Doors of Time

Part 5

[The continuation of the Survivor Short Story “project” in the War On Boris the Bytrode series. This time, back in time, 1967, following the adventures of middle-aged mum, Letitia… In this episode (10.5) Letitia becomes acquainted with the flat Gunter has allowed her to stay in…]

Further Back In Time

She was prised out of her travel-stupor as a light-coloured concrete driveway magically absorbed them into a cluster of flats. Under the thin cover of carport, Gunter terminated the engine and yanked the handbrake to almost vertical.

‘So, here we are! You can stay here as long as you like. Okay, a couple of weeks, anyway,’ Gunter said unwinding his lanky frame out of the car.

Letitia pushed open her door with some effort and watched as he placed a brick under the back tyre. The Austin creaked as if in protest. She noticed a bent pole opposite. Obviously, the pole had suffered such a fate at the mercy of this car.

Gunter jangling some keys, loped up the narrow path framed with a few withered sticks of trees. She shuddered at the gazanias attacking the rocks that marked the dried-out lawn. Reminded her of some of the housing trust houses near where she had lived in Mirror. Different era. But same kind of houses, and same level of neglect.

‘I’m looking after this flat while my friend is away on tour; he’s the clown in the circus. Actually, it was his mother’s house,’ Gunter explained as he fiddled with the with the key in the lock of the door. ‘It must be all in the wrist action.’ He muttered with frustration as he jiggled the key in the lock. ‘Das ist eine Dumkopf!’ He rattled the door and twisted the key willing it to work. ‘See, it is not my house. There is a knack to it – I mean getting the door unlocked.’

‘Let me try,’ Letitia said as she grabbed the keys from Gunter. The cream painted wooden door appeared like the one possessed by her Mirror house. ‘It seems to have a similar temperament to a house I once lived in.’

‘Mirror?’ Gunter sighed as Letitia took over.

Within seconds the lock clicked in compliance and after unlocking the door with ease, they were inside staring at hideous brown carpet with accompanying musty odour.

‘Well, I will leave you to it,’ Gunter said. ‘I must get back to the boarding house or old Mrs. C will lock me out. I am sure you will be fine finding everything. I mean it is just a home. You will be right. Tschüs.’ His voice was beginning to trail off down the dimly lit path. ‘I am just down the road if you have any questions,’ he called out from the hidden darkness of the carport. ‘I think my phone number is somewhere there. Must go. Bis später.’

With a thunderous roar of the engine that caused the metal roof to vibrate, Gunter’s Austin rolled out of the carport and vanished around a corner of apartment complex.

‘Thanks for the tips,’ Letitia muttered to the greasy brown carpet. She sank onto an iridescent green felt cushion that garnished the white vinyl clad armchair and gazed, her eyes glazed, on her surroundings. There were the cream painted walls, lolly-green kitchen cupboards, the brown carpet sucking in life and light, the white wood framed curtain-challenged window, and finally an ebony veneer radiogram cabinet that engulfed the front end of the tiny lounge room. If it wasn’t for the 1967 calendar that was placed neatly under the austere mini-Christmas tree gracing the cedar dining table, she would have been sure she had been thrust further back in time to the 1930’s. Instead, only the décor and furnishings had been preserved, frozen in time, not her.

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2021

Feature Photo: Dolls House © J. Gross circa 1965 (most probably arranged by me as I was the owner of the dolls house from the age of around 2. I’m thinking that the photo was taken in our front yard soon after I received it as a gift. I remember playing with the doll’s house in our front garden. I also remember “painting” the doll’s house when I was about 3. But that’s another story where my escapades got me into strife…)

***

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Out of Time (10.4)

Doors of Time

Part 4

[The continuation of the Survivor Short Story “project” in the War On Boris the Bytrode series. This time, back in time, 1967, following the adventures of middle-aged mum, Letitia… In this episode (10.4) Gunter drives Letitia in his old (even for 1967) Austin …]

Drive Time

By the time they had reached the part of the street where the human traffic had thinned, Gunter had pulled out a key for his car and was muttering. A few steps behind him, Letitia could not catch a word, let alone the thread of his monologue. By the time she caught up to Gunter, he had stopped by an ancient, even for 1967, mottled green, Austin sedan. The talk had ended, and Gunter having opened the car and seated in the driver’s seat, was reaching over to unlock the passenger’s door.

As Letitia waited to climb in this almost classic car, he tossed a few books, junk food wrappers and greasy spare tee-shirts from the front passenger’s seat. He then jerked the door open and urged, ‘Come, I’ve got just the place for you.’

She crept into the Austin with a cursory, “thank you” and adjusted her seated body around the vinyl cracks in the worn bench seat. Before she had a chance to survey the damage of years of neglect, Gunter apologised, ‘Sorry about the mess. I must clean out the car sometime.’ He inserted the key in the ignition slot and muttered, ‘I hope I don’t have to crank it. She can be cranky when she wants to be.’ He laughed at his own joke, and repeated, ‘Cranky.’

‘You’ve obviously never been in Trigger after a Flinder’s trip.’ Letitia jested in an attempt to ease Gunter’s embarrassment. ‘Actually, neither have I, but my friends on Mirror World told me all about that machine.’

‘Come on baby,’ Gunter coaxed the old girl as he turned the ignition. The Austin squeaked and then roared to life. ‘That’s the girl!’

‘Are you old enough to drive?’ Letitia asked.

‘I’m seventeen!’ Gunter replied. ‘I pilot spacecraft, what is the difference?’

‘How did you get the car?’

‘Don’t ask.’ Gunter paused as he brought the old car to a literally grinding halt at the lights. Four lanes of cars, headlights blazing attacked the highway intersection in a seemingly seamless stampede of rubber tyres grunting over bitumen. As the traffic light suddenly turned green, Gunter lurched the Austin over the wide highway, and continued the conversation. ‘I suppose I should clean up the car and take it to a car wash. You can get it free with a service. They even polish the hub caps. Cool hey? Don’t worry about the car, Lettie, this one has got a new engine and the body is solid. Although there are few rust spots, and the paint is peeling. But it is not a bad car really.’

‘Pff! Don’t worry, Gunter, Jemima’s been in worse. I mean, her father never had a car. Caught the tram everywhere in Sydney.’

‘Oh, Ja, Jemima’s father; was that Nathan?’  Gunter slammed on the brakes and the car jerked to another stop, catapulting Letitia forward into the dusty dashboard. ‘You need to put your seat belt on. If we had one. They say they save lives. I know that is true for spaceships, but a car? I hate to think it is taking away people’s freedoms.’

‘Seatbelt,’ Letitia murmured while feeling for that life-saving device, ‘that’s what’s missing.’

‘What is it like in future? In this Mirror World? Do they have seatbelts? And must everyone wear one in a car?’

‘But of course. And it does save lives. Actually, in my time, fifty years from this time, cars have airbags, and computers that sense objects and stop before you hit them. Oh, and we have driverless cars as well.’

‘Driverless? Take all the fun out of driving? I would not like that.’

The Austin roared and grumbled along the dark empty main road. Letitia caught the black letters on a white sign that read, “North Road”. In this part of town, the recently built cream brick houses were falling asleep, while episodes of sparsely lit shop strips remained singularly uninspiring. As she was swept along the quiet roads of suburbia, her thoughts became numbed with exhaustion. She watched dumbly as the houses changed from brick to weather board, and as the dark expanse of some high rise or factory rose and then sank on the roadside.

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2021

Feature Photo: Car Wrecks on display, Hermannsburg Historic Precinct © L.M. Kling 2021

***

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More than before?

Read the mischief and mayhem Boris the over-sized alien cockroach gets up to…

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Out of Time (10.3)

Doors of Deception

Part 3

Black Hole Bag of Time

[The continuation of the Survivor Short Story “project” in the War On Boris the Bytrode series. This time, back in time, 1967, following the adventures of middle-aged mum, Letitia… In this episode (10.3) Letitia tries to get to the bottom of Gunter’s baggage …]

‘Hmm!’ Letitia persevered on the box track. That this was what Jemima used to transport them back in time. ‘That black box was precious to her. It’s very valuable. Did you ever happen to see it?’

Gunter shook his head. ‘Nein! She had this big black bag though. I used to call it the black hole. She was always losing things in it. Yet, she always had everything — everything she needed. It is amazing what she had in that bag.’ He gave a short snort of amusement. ‘I half expected her to pull out a kitchen sink. I mean she had everything!’ He looked directly at Letitia. ‘Hey, where is your bag? Don’t women always have a bag with them?’

‘Yeah, usually. I travel light.’ Letitia was rather pleased with herself for the clever play of words. ‘Anyway, mine got stolen after I got off the boat.’

‘Oh, that is a shame. Were you on a boat? You get around!’

‘Oh, just a bit of Tassie actually. That’s where I disappeared to if you have been wondering. Top Secret IGSF Mission business. Then after completing the mission, I stayed with her name which I won’t mention and husband. They’re the ones who have sent me on this mission to Adelaide.’ Letitia leant forward and whispered, ‘I have to pretend to be Maggie, Tail’s wife, can you believe it?’

‘That won’t work.’

‘How so? I thought I could say I’m Maggie in disguise.’

‘Still won’t.’

Letitia reclined on her seat. ‘How do you know it won’t?’

‘I just know.’ Gunter puffed out his chest. ‘Besides, I saw Maggie this morning. Dressed like a Hippie. And Bo…’

Letitia grinned and bobbed her head. ‘I see. And you were saying?’

‘Nothing,’ Gunter flushed, ‘it is nothing. I am making it up. Like you make up time travel backwards.’

‘No, I don’t think so, love. Is this a trap, my brother?’

Gunter looked away. Mute. Caught in his own trap of pride.

‘Is Boris going to walk into this café and abduct me?’

Gunter wrung his hands.

‘Or is he hiding outside, waiting to catch me?’ Letitia slapped the table making Gunter jump. ‘Come on! I know he’s around. I can smell him. And I know you are working for him. You reek of him, brother!’

‘No, you are wrong,’ Gunter whimpered.

‘O-o-oh, I do hope I am,’ Letitia said while glancing at the darked bun-haired woman who glared at them in a “I’m-about-to-close-shop” fashion. ‘I hope, for your sake, Jemima’s safe. Or you and that bleeding Boris will pay!’

‘See what I mean? Nobody understands me.’ Gunter looked up. ‘I can’t just—can’t just…you would not understand. Nobody gets it.’

‘Get it? Understand? I get and understand only too well. Two bomb blasts well. Exile in another universe well. Over twenty-five years well. I’ve seen my friends suffer.’ Letitia served her half-brother a withering look. ‘Do you think what happened in the last war was a Sunday School picnic? What happened to my friend, Frieda? Hmmm?’

‘You have no idea!’ Gunter ground his teeth before continuing. ‘That woman—that girl who waltzed into our lives, our family, like it was hers, which it was not. Nothing happened to her. Not compared to my mother.’

Now, we’re getting somewhere, Letitia thought. ‘Your mother? What did Boris do to your mother? Tell me. I’m listening.’

Gunter waved the air between them. ‘It’s complicated.’

‘Try me.’

‘Let’s just say, she is who I owe my debt to.’ He laughed, a bitter kind of laugh. ‘And Frieda? She has no idea who she is married to.’

‘Now, you have my full attention. I always thought Wilhelm was a little strange.’ She reached over again and took hold of his hand. ‘I’m sorry for my outburst. Look, if you can keep me from, you know, the cockroach, I think I can help you. And I get the feeling that Jemima is already doing just that too.’

Gunter and Letitia thanked the vendor before stepping out onto the steaming pavement. Gunter hung back from a passing Friday night crowd. He seemed uncertain which way to go. He looked at Letitia for inspiration. ‘So, where’s your hotel? I’ll give you a lift.’

‘Hotel? My bag was stolen. I have no money. I have no hotel. I have no place to stay, actually.’

‘You are homeless, then.’

‘Yep.’

‘That’s convenient,’ Gunter remarked. He looked about him as if Letitia were a stray in search of a home. He then dug his hands in his pockets and scuffed the pavement with his shoe.

‘I’m sorry. Have I put you out?’ Letitia said.

Gunter began to stride towards the highway away from the beach. ‘This way, I have an idea.’ Half-turning, he said, ‘You sure you don’t know where your daughter lives?’

‘Nah. ‘fraid not,’ Letitia answered while breaking into a jog to keep up with Gunter’s accelerating pace.

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2021

Feature Photo: Old Baggage © L.M. Kling 2021

***

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More than before?

Read the mischief and mayhem Boris the over-sized alien cockroach gets up to…

Click on the link to my latest novel, The Lost World of the Wends

Or discover how it all began in The Hitch-Hiker

And how it continues with Mission of the Unwilling

Out of Time (10.2)

Doors of Deception

Part 2

[The continuation of the Survivor Short Story “project” in the War On Boris the Bytrode series. This time, back in time, 1967, following the adventures of middle-aged mum, Letitia… In this episode (10.2) Letitia discusses family matters while Gunter comes to terms with his embarrassing discovery about Jemima…]

Turkish Coffee Time

They found a café still open and churning out Turkish coffees in tiny golden cups.
The aroma lingered in the air surrounding the café, the same one in which Letitia had partaken of vanilla slice and coffee eight maybe nine hours earlier. The same dark eyed woman black hair rolled up in a bun, stared at her. The vendor kept her surveillance as Gunter organised the drinks while Letitia waited at the table that had crammed itself against the wall.

‘Trev won’t trouble us here, Lettie.’ Gunter set down the miniature cups on the laminated table that had the distinct smell of disinfectant.

‘I’m sure that he will be too busy dancing his way to fame and fortune.’

‘He’ll get sick of that.’ Gunter dismissed her suggestion with the wave of one hand. ‘Always does. Same every week. Then he comes looking for me. Every week! I cannot get rid of him.’ He leaned back on the wooden chair, crossed his lanky legs, and continued, ‘When I need a break, I come here.’ He indicated a subtle thumb towards the proprietor. ‘Trev’s afraid of her. Thinks she’s the FBI. No kidding! He’s paranoid.’ Gunter chuckled and then confided, ‘I take Jemima here.’ More sniggers. ‘It’s the only way we get privacy.’

‘Oh, I see.’ Letitia shifted uncomfortably in her seat and glanced briefly at the Greek lady busily polishing the benches. The languid staring from her was beginning to make sense. ‘She’s a bit old for you, though. I mean Jemima – why’s she interested in you, pet?’ Jemima, after all, was still her daughter and she had trouble reconciling that in another time and world, Gunter and Minna were a constant item.

Gunter locked eyes with Letitia. ‘We’re just friends. I did not know she was my niece and involved with the IGSF. She never…’

‘Is that why you reacted, like you…’

Gunter bent his head and nodded.

‘She found you, then. And you know she will go to Papa and…’

‘I must admit, I suspected, but hoped…I mean, she talked about finding her father.’ He grabbed Letitia’s arm and met her eyes. ‘Look, don’t tell them. I want to be left alone. Find my own way.’

‘But why, Gunter? We’re family.’

‘You can’t begin to understand.’ Gunter looked away and sipped some coffee. ‘I’ll always be the lesser. The black sheep. And now that Johann has…’

‘Johann? Your older brother?’

Gunter stared into his coffee cup. ‘Yes.’

‘But why? What’s so bad that…?’

‘You don’t understand. I’ve done some things I’m not proud of.’

 ‘What have you done, Gunter? Don’t you think I don’t know what Boris is like? What has he got over you? What has he asked you to do?’ Letitia searched for his evading gaze. ‘Nothing is too bad that you have to sell your soul to that creep.’

‘Just last night, I saw her. Jemima. She comes and goes a bit. I never know when I am going to see her.’ Gunter’s gaze wandered out into the street. The atmosphere was still bustling and electric as summer nights in Melbourne usually are. ‘You don’t have an address for her?’ His voice sounded concerned, with a thin reedy tenor to it.

‘No, she went away and never really gave one, I’m afraid.’ Letitia continued this line of enquiry without further mention of Boris. No need to trigger Gunter. Trigger, there’s that word again. ‘Say, does she still carry around that little black treasure box?’ The transportation device materialised in Letitia’s mind. She remembered that black box. Remembered distinctly what the box could do. Hot beads of sweat rolled slowly down from her temples and over her cheeks.

Gunter peered at her. ‘Are you alright?’

She fanned her face with a menu. ‘Yeah! Not used to the Melbourne heat. It’s getting to me.’

‘But, Sydney is hotter and more humid. Remember? We used to sleep out in the back yard on our foam mattresses. I remember Papa used to snore so loud that it would keep us awake.’

‘Yep, those were the days! Wouldn’t dream about doing that now.’ Letitia forgetting what era she was in. All time, all years were embraced by the immediacy of “now”.

 ‘Ja, must not do that these days. Not in Melbourne. There was that serial killer in Perth.’ All that remained in Gunter’s cup was a pug of silty coffee grounds. ‘The night caller. Other end of the country, but it could happen here.’

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2021

Feature photo: Coffee anyone? Turkish or otherwise. (The tea set is St Kilda Fine China made in the 1960’s). © L.M. Kling 2021

***

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More than before?

Read the mischief and mayhem Boris the over-sized alien cockroach gets up to…

Click on the link to my latest novel,

The Lost World of the Wends

Or discover how it all began in The Hitch-Hiker

And how it continues with Mission of the Unwilling

Out Of Time (10.1)

Doors of Time

Part 1

[The continuation of the Survivor Short Story “project” in the War On Boris the Bytrode series. This time, back in time, 1967, following the adventures of middle-aged mum, Letitia… In this episode (10.1) Letitia challenges her black sheep brother, Gunter …]

The Fog of Time

Reality is out there; oftentimes it is hidden behind the fog of muddied perceptions, overlooked details and the brainwashing of denial. At that precise time, Letitia was sure that Gunter was in denial about something; that something being his association with Boris. While Trevor insisted on doing a little dance and ditty about Gunter and Jemima, Gunter kept batting the demented soul with the back of his hand and telling him to stop in no uncertain terms. Obvious denial there.

Meanwhile, as they walked, Letitia kept glancing back, sure that behind Trevor, Boris lurked in the shadows. Sure she smelt wafts of cockroach. Definitely not garbage spilling out of public bins.

Gunter was perplexed about the possibility that Letitia could be anyone’s mother, let alone Jemima’s. As Trevor continued to provide the entertainment, Gunter argued, ‘But you can’t possibly be a mother.’ He gesticulated in mathematical frustration. ‘You look too young.’

‘I’m not. I’m nearing fifty, pet,’ Letitia replied, the verbal idiosyncrasies of a certain detective series she had enjoyed on Mirror surfaced. Then, guiding the conversation to eke more truth out of Gunter, she asked, ‘Why the sour face, dear? Why are you hiding here in Melbourne? Why don’t you keep in touch with your family?’

‘Do you know how screwed up they are?’

‘Hey, my dear, brother, I’m part of that family.’

‘But, there are parts you have no idea about, Letitia.’

‘Ooh, that sounds interesting,’ Trevor’s voice sang from behind them.

Letitia turned and glared at him. ‘What? Pray, Gunter?’

‘Wouldn’t you like to know?’ Trevor gyrated. ‘Come on baby, light my…’

Gunter snapped, ‘Stop it, Trev!’

Letitia laughed, ‘Reminds me of the Mr Bean.’

‘Mr. Bean? Who’s he when he’s at home?’

‘On Mirror, in the future…Oh, never mind…’ Letitia sighed. ‘I shouldn’t even be in this time.’

Gunter stared at Letitia his eyes wide. ‘Time travel is impossible. Anyway, why do you keep going on about a train crash?’ He then patted Letitia on her back. ‘I think you need help, Lettie, my dear sister.’

‘You did. Time travel, that is. When you go light speed, through worm holes, whatever. Remember Einstein’s theory of relativity?’

‘That’s forward. Never backward. Think of the…the…problems if you went back? The…the…what is the word?’

‘Paradox?’

‘Yes, that is the one. You must not have paradoxes. They are not allowed.’

‘But there’s the paradox. Anyway, it’s more likely a parallel world. I gather this world is a parallel world, but out of sync, or time. In my universe, I am in 2018.’

Letitia thought that of all the people in the universe, Gunter would understand. But it appeared as if he didn’t. She had two choices. She could either persist in convincing him that she was from the future and risk ending up in the funny farm surrounded by the men in white coats, or she could pretend that she had been joking. After all, Trevor was still tagging behind them, listening. What would he make of this information?

Gunter scratched his head. ‘It still doesn’t make sense.’

Letitia laughed, ‘Gunter, you’d believe anything! You haven’t changed, that’s for sure.’

‘I – I thought you were – were – serious – ly deluded.’ Gunter patted her head. ‘Little Lettie! Always joking.’

Again behind, Trevor roared with ripples of uncontrolled laughter. ‘I reckon Ferro believed you, though. Know what – hee – hee – haw- haw, I had a friend from Adelaide once who used to tell us at school that she had flown to the moon in a spaceship called “Trigger” Ha-ha-hee-hee-haw-haw! What a name for a car! Trigger! Reckoned it was Chrysler Charger or something. Ha-ha. What Chrylser could ever fly to the moon, let alone move on four wheels?’

‘Well, there you go,’ Letitia said, humouring Trevor. A cold chill raised the hairs on the back of her head. ‘Sides, anyone knows it is Adelaide that is stuck in a time warp.’

‘Chrysler Charger? What is that?’ Gunter asked. Then before Letitia could explain, he jerked his head back towards Acland Street, ‘C’mon, let’s get a coffee and catch up.’

‘Okay.’ Letitia followed Gunter as he marched towards the bright lights of St Kilda’s most favourite street. Meters away, Trevor’s dance had developed into a street performance and coins, mostly the old, now defunct pennies, gathered on a crumpled hanky and glistened in the light of the lamps by the bay.

As they passed the food caravan once again, Letitia noticed the smokers still there, statue-like, tracking them, plumes of cigarette fumes rising and mingling with the humid night air. She could not resist throwing in a comment, ‘What is it with those people? Not very Christian, if you want my opinion.’

‘They’re not,’ Gunter replied.

‘They’re not? Then what are they doing at a charity food van, serving food?’ Are they working for Boris? she wanted to also ask.

‘Community service. They don’t want to be here; they have to be.’

‘Oh, that makes sense then.’ Letitia was tempted to add a quip such as “better than a Mirror-mind wipe” or “splitting rocks on the mining planet” but decided that under the circumstances, that turn of conversation would not be a good idea.

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2021

Feature Photo: A door in Wil, Switzerland © L.M. Kling 2014

***

Want more?

More than before?

Read the mischief and mayhem Boris the over-sized alien cockroach gets up to…

Click on the link to my new novel, The Lost World of the Wends

Or discover how it all began in The Hitch-Hiker

And how it continues with Mission of the Unwilling

Out of Time (9.5)

Plenty of Time

Part 5

[The continuation of the Survivor Short Story “project” in the War On Boris the Bytrode series. This time, back in time, 1967, following the adventures of middle-aged mum, Letitia… In this episode (9.5) Letitia and her black sheep brother reconnect but she is worried that Boris is lurking…]

She’s Your Mother?

Letitia knocked on the white metal door. It rattled. No answer. She could hear sizzling of water on hot plates and a cacophony of clanging. She was uncertain whether she should pursue her brother. Might be a trap; just the sort of thing Boris would do. She glanced behind, worrying. Fretting. Boris could be lurking just around the corner. Or inside. With Gunter. Hadn’t he gone to Boris after Frieda’s disaster of a party? The party he hadn’t been invited to? She turned and looked back. The motley crew of smokers were sniggering at some unspoken joke. Trevor loitered at the bottom of the caravan steps. With no way to retreat, she had to knock again.

She hammered the door, and nearly lost her balance as the door swung open.

‘Whose making all that racket?’ Gunter barked. He slung the tea towel over his right shoulder and glared at Letitia. ‘Who are you?’

From below Trevor who had been keeping abreast with the smokers’ conversation, called out, ‘It’s your mum, Ferro. Mrs. Ferro.’

‘I’m not your…’ Letitia began.

Gunter stared wide-eyed at Letitia and then yelled at Trevor, ‘She’s not my mum. My mum’s a…Oh, never mind.’ He turned his attention to Letitia. ‘Who are you?’

‘I’m your, sister—Letitia.’

‘Who?’ Gunter stared blankly at her with his deep blue eyes. ‘You don’t look like her.’

Wiping a stray hair from her face, she said, ‘You are Gunter Fahrer, aren’t you?’

‘Er, yes.’ Gunter responded cautiously. He continued to peer at Letitia with a mixture of pity and paternalism as if she were the local village idiot.

‘Son of August? From Bavaria?’ Letitia persisted attempting to dispel any notion that she was insane.

‘Shush, keep your voice down woman.’ Gunter sounded more annoyed than over-joyed at the connection.

‘I-I’m your sister, Letitia who vanished. Remember the party? Frieda’s party? The one she didn’t invite you to? The one Boris…’ Letitia babbled while trying to edge her way into the van. ‘I know I look a lot older, but time travel…’

‘Who were you?’ Gunter’s brow wrinkled as if her presence on the steps of the food van troubled him.

‘Letitia, your sister. I’ve been on Mirror World, a parallel, well not exactly, oh, dear…’ she repeated. ‘You don’t believe me. You think I’m nuts.’

‘If you are, how come you’re so…tanned?’ Gunter said.

‘Oh! The nanobots, and skin grafts after the burning…of me.’ All her courage evaporated into the heat of the night. ‘I guess, on this world, maybe I never…’ she turned to go. ‘That my mum and your dad never…’

As she planted a foot on the pavers below, Gunter called out. ‘Just wait a minute! Come back! I had to make sure, Lettie.’

Letitia looked up at him. ‘You remember me? Recognise me then?’

‘Natuerlich. I must test, you know.’ Gunter jumped down the van steps. ‘Come, we go for a walk.’

Letitia shrugged. ‘Sure, why not? Looks like I better get in practise. Have to walk to Adelaide, later.’

‘Sorry, I didn’t recognise you. You look so, so different.’ He wiped his hands on his faded jeans and paced towards the stone wall by the beach. Letitia followed, with Trevor still trailing after them.

With the curious smokers lost in a fog of smoke and out of earshot, Gunter muttered out of the corner of his mouth, ‘You shouldn’t be here, you know.’

‘Is she one of yours?’ Trevor asked.

Gunter glared at Trevor.

‘It wasn’t my idea,’ Letitia said. ‘Something happened when the plane crashed. I just want to—go to Adelaide. I know I shouldn’t be here. Not here. Not at this time. I’m not sure you can help. But Will, Frieda’s…’

Gunter held up his hand. ‘Frieda? Frieda? Don’t mention that name around me!’

‘Sorry, I know she was mean to you. That what she did caused all this sh–, I mean rubbish to happen: Boris’ attack on the satellite we were on; me ending up in Mirror World; not to mention the recent plane crash…’

‘Plane crash? What are you talking about?’

‘The one in Antarctica,’ Letitia sighed, beginning to wonder if Gunter did not have something seriously wrong with his memory.

‘She is one of yours. You can tell. They are different. They stand out.’ Trevor was suddenly palpably excited. He was hopping around in the dark as if dancing at a rock concert.

‘Antarctica? There’s been no crash in Antarctica. Not recently there hasn’t.’ Gunter scanned his half-sister cynically.

‘Didn’t Boris tell you?’ Letitia raised her tone an octave. ‘They said you had gone to his side. The dark side. The least he could…’

‘Where do the IGSF get their intel from? I’ve been in Melbourne.’

‘All this time?’

‘More or less.’

But Letitia sensed he withheld the whole truth from her. She decided to allow that last comment slide. ‘So you’ve been living in Melbourne, then? But, not with your sister, Doris, I gather.’

Gunter snorted, ‘Doris? She’s in Adelaide, I think. She’s become a teacher, so I heard. Some high school up in the hills.’

He swapped the tea towel to his other shoulder. They strolled along the esplanade. Trevor tagged behind, scuffing his feet but not mumbling.

‘There’s this girl, must be your daughter – looks like you.’ Gunter began deep in thought. ‘I thought she was you, because the last time…’

‘Jemima!’ Trevor piped up into our backs. ‘Mr Fahrer likes her. But I say she’s too young.’

‘Shut your gob Trevor,’ Gunter snapped. ‘She’s my niece.’

‘Niece? She’s too old…’ Trevor said.

Gunter dismissed him with a wave of the tea towel. ‘It’s complicated.’

‘Things are always complicated with you Krauts,’ Trevor whined.  

Letitia smiled. ‘You know Jemima?’ She began to skip with hope.

‘Yeah.’ Gunter uttered curtly and strode head down and hands deep in his pockets as if he had entered a dark cloud of discontent.

‘Jem has been here? In Melbourne?’ Letitia clapped her hands. ‘She’s alive!’

‘Mmm.’ Was all the response she received.

‘She comes every now and again. She was here yesterday, wasn’t she Mr Fahrer.’ Trevor chipped in.

‘Quiet Trevor.’ Gunter barked. Then he stopped and turned to Letitia. ‘Are you looking for your daughter? Has she run away from you?’

‘Well, not actually.’ Letitia had to be honest despite how the situation would appear from Gunter’s perspective. ‘What was Jemima doing in Melbourne?’

‘Said something about looking for her grandmother. Or was it her father. Know anything about that?’ Gunter asked. He stood stabbing a sticky lump of chewing gum on the asphalt.

‘Possibly.’ Letitia thought it time to explain her virtual dilemma and see if Gunter could help her. ‘You see, I think Jemima is up to something. I’m starting to suspect that she sent me here, back in time, to…I don’t know, somehow fight in the war against Boris. Just before the plane went down, she told me to drink some wine and that she had a plan. I always get suspicious when Jemima says she has a plan.’

Gunter froze.

This’s not a good sign, Letitia thought.

Trevor began to whine, ‘Why have we stopped, Mr. Fahrer?’

[Continued next week in Chapter 10.1 “Doors of Deception”…]

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2021

Feature Photo: Summer sunset © L.M. Kling 2019

***

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Read the mischief and mayhem Boris the over-sized alien cockroach gets up to…

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And how it continues with Mission of the Unwilling

Out of Time (9.4)

Drizzle

[The continuation of the Survivor Short Story “project” in the War On Boris the Bytrode series. This time, back in time, 1967, following the adventures of middle-aged mum, Letitia… In this episode (9.4) Letitia seeks to meet her half-brother face to face…]

Part 4

Insurance Woes of the Homeless

Later, as she stood silently at a distance digging into the much-needed food, Trevor buzzed around her like an unwelcome summer fly. A few of his mates joined his enthusiasm, curious, yet at the same time derisive. No matter how much she protested, it made no difference to Trevor who persisted in ignoring her rebuffs. A little round Greek guy who held the pavement moaned with his tales of woe of being gutted by a fire and the insurance which would not come to the party. Homeless. A dangerously thin wreck of a woman visibly trembled with jealousy while Trevor hovered around Letitia.

At a distance Letitia maintained visual on Gunter. His gait of precise movement, his smile, and the way he patted his pockets, convinced her that she had found what the rest of the IGSF had missed. Finally, without so much as an apology, she cut past the woeful whinger who was lamenting the crashing of his car, and with Trevor trailing behind her, eternally prattling, she made her way to the back of the van.

With the last dregs of roast dinner disposed of, some of those who served enjoyed a quiet smoke in the balmy darkness. The sun had set hours ago, and the darkness of night had set in, but St Kilda remained bustling with life and light. Late night swimmers splashed about in the inky black sea and the grainy sand of beach was dotted with youthful revellers. The smokers seemed to be quietly entertained by the steamy sweaty vibe that the city exuded.

‘Excuse me,’ Letitia interrupted the languid drags and intermittent peppering of ashes on the pavers. ‘Can you tell me where Ferro is?’

‘Who?’ someone in the dark asked. She sensed that they did not care. For all they knew, Letitia was just another nut in the night.

‘I mean, Mr. Fahrer.’

‘Who? What?’ a woman’s weak and rusty voice echoed. Bored banter ensued.

‘Fahrer?’

‘Do we know a Who?’

‘Fahrer? Don’t know no Fahrer?’

‘Nah, sorry, you must have…’

‘Gunter – Gunter Fahrer? Young chap about yay high. Dark hair. German accent…he was serving with…’ That comment got their attention. Suddenly there was a point of recognition that she wasn’t completely demented. ‘You see I’m…’ Letitia felt compelled to explain before she was dismissed.

‘His mum?’

Laughter.

‘Oh, that explains it!’ one of the smokers chuckled.

‘Yeah, can see the resemblance.’

Letitia wanted to explain that she was not his mum. That such a revelation would spook him and send him running. But, as if her voice, and potential explanations didn’t exist, the group of smokers rabbited on.

The woman with the hoarse voice and ragged face to match, jerked her jaded dyed blonde hair towards the van. ‘He’s in there, love.’

Breathing out, Letitia ventured to the van, behind her she could hear their derisive remarks.

‘Hmm! His mum?’

‘Hmnm! Definitely took after his dad!’

‘You can tell she’s his mum, though.’

‘How come she’s so dark? Is she Indian?’

‘Indian? French maybe. From one of their colonies, I reckon.’ One mocked. ‘Didn’t you detect the French accent?’

‘What’s a French swear word? I reckon I heard her say some swear word in French?’

‘Mmm, a Kraut for a father and a Frank for a mum, what a combination. Poor chap.’

‘Or you know, they have a funny accent in Adelaide. Not Australian at all.’ Another droned nasally in the night. ‘Could be from Adelaide.’

More laughter.

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2021

Feature Photo: Seaside sunset © Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2017

***

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More than before?

Read the mischief and mayhem Boris the over-sized alien cockroach gets up to…

Click on the link to my new novel, The Lost World of the Wends

Or discover how it all began in The Hitch-Hiker

And how it continues with Mission of the Unwilling

Out of Time (9.3)

Plenty of Time

Part 3

Ferro of the Food Cart

[The continuation of the Survivor Short Story “project” in the War On Boris the Bytrode series. This time, back in time, 1967, following the adventures of middle-aged mum, Letitia… In this episode (9.3) Letitia encounters the black sheep of the family…]

The sun had sunk below the horizon and cockroaches of the human variety had emerged from under their rocks. She hoped that didn’t include Boris but imagined that every second person was a creepy man or a drug thirsty prostitute. Afraid, she kept her head down while she walked. On the Esplanade where the pavement widened, she became aware of a food van that had set itself up for business.

For want of nothing better to occupy her time and with the want of food, she drifted over to the vicinity of the crowd and hung shiftlessly around the fringes. The tantalizing aroma of roast chicken and vegetables were more than her empty stomach could tolerate. Her gut grumbled. She watched with envy as a collective of odd individuals with their nervous twitches and unkempt hair, homeless bearing beanies, and the occasional drunk whose pores oozing the pure scent of methanol, hoed into plates full of food with their plastic forks.

‘Go on! Get yourself some grub. It’s free!’ An unshaven man with dark brown disturbingly melancholic eyes had singled her out. ‘Go on! It’s delicious! Chicken tonight!’ He insisted with gravy dribbling down his week-old stubble.

‘No, no thank you.’ Letitia edged away from him. She was better than them. ‘I don’t need free food.’ Sounded just a tad hypocritical coming from the lady who had performed a virtual bin-dive just a few days prior.

He thrust a fork full of poultry meat towards her. ‘Go on! Have a bite! It’s delicious. You look like you need some filling up.’ His rotting teeth glistened in the fluorescent beams of streetlight.

She veered away from the fork with chicken attack and visibly shuddered. Knew where that fork had been and was not about to risk disease and death to taste a morsal of chicken. She held her hand up and repeated, ‘No, thank you. I’m fine, really.’

‘Don’t be embarrassed. There’s plenty to go ‘round. Go on! Have some. Go get it while it’s hot,’ the man said, his sad eyes fixed on her.

‘No,’ she began, then remembered the mutants. How could she have become so isolated, so afraid of the poor, the different? ‘Oh, alright. I will have some food then. I’ll get some myself, alright?’

The melancholic man grinned like a Cheshire cat, pleased at her conversion. ‘You’ll make Ferro happy, ‘cos when food’s left over he eats it and he’ll get fat and have to go on a diet. Ha-ha.’ He then babbled on in a monotone voice while trailing after her.

Letitia joined the dinner line, the dark-haired man stuck like a limpet behind her, still mumbling monotonously in a one-sided conversation with the back of her head. ‘You been to the Circus? Great show! There’s a big fat clown in there. Ha-ha. We call him Wally. Where you from? You not from round here, are you? I’m having seconds. Yum, chicken! I like chicken. You like chicken? You’re nice. You’re not like the other girls. Do you have a boyfriend? Do you want to be my girlfriend?’

He did not seem to hear the answer, “No, I mean, yes, I’m spoken for.” Lie. “And, no thank you”, to the last two questions. She had obviously made a friend for life and he was too busy rambling in deluded hope to hear anything she had to say. Especially the part where she repeated, “Aren’t I old enough to be your mother?”

As the man serving handed a disposable plate to her, foam plate, she heard a deep voice boom, ‘Trevor, I hope you are not bothering the lady.’

Letitia knew that voice. She scrutinized the four servers, but no one there seemed even remotely recognizable. A young man bronzed by surfing in the sun, aged somewhere in his mid to late teens, spoke again as he delivered a sliver of white meat to her waiting plate. ‘You will have to excuse Trevor here, he chats up all the girls.’

‘You mean I’m not special?’ Letitia jested.

‘Not unless you’re interested,’ the lad laughed. His joke and accent belied that a particular brand of Bavarian dry humour. His teeth were large, white and well-preserved.

‘You’re not from Bavaria, are you?’ Letitia ventured. She had nothing to lose from venturing. And he definitely looked like someone she should know. But, she dared not jump in boots and all and make a fool of herself.

‘Why, yes. How perceptive of you.’ The young man looked down at her over his large nose.

 ‘Hey, who’s holding up the traffic?’ The natives were getting restless. ‘Hey, what’s going on up there? We’re getting hungry,’ a voice at the end of the queue complained.

‘You keep your hands off of her.’ Trevor behind Letitia warned. He nudged her and remarked, ‘You gotta watch Ferro, he’s a lady’s man, he is.’

‘You behave yourself, Trevor. Hey, isn’t that your second serve?’ Ferro replied with authority.

‘Yes, Mr. Fahrer,’ Trevor replied, eyes downcast with respect.

Letitia’s heart stopped. She gasped. And turning her head left and right, hunted for evidence of Boris behind the caravan.

All the while, the banter between Trevor and who she now knew was Gunter, continued.

‘I think you better wait until everyone has had firsts don’t you think,’ Trevor’s superior advised.

‘Yes, Mr. Fahrer. Sorry Mr. Fahrer.’ Trevor mumbled monotonously and exited the line.

Before she had a chance to say something meaningful to her half-brother, the crowd in the line had surged forward and propelled her to the carrots and peas server and onto the mashed potatoes.

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2021

Feature Photo: Memories of Bavaria and the Snow Balls in Rothenburg ob der Tauber © L.M. Kling 2014

***

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More than before?

Read the mischief and mayhem Boris the over-sized alien cockroach gets up to…

Click on the link to my latest novel, The Lost World of the Wends

Or discover how it all began in The Hitch-Hiker

And how it continues with Mission of the Unwilling

Out of Time (9.2)

Plenty of Cakes, Plenty of Time

Part 2

[The continuation of the Survivor Short Story “project” in the War On Boris the Bytrode series. This time, back in time, 1967, following the adventures of middle-aged mum, Letitia… In this episode (9.2) On a Melbourne beach, Letitia has a nap, longer than planned, and wakes up to a nasty surprise …]

Her wee rest and recovery took longer than expected. She reasoned, as she surfaced into consciousness, that she deserved just five more minutes, and then five more minutes after that…

When she resolved to become conscious again, the palm trees cast long shadows and the sun slipped on the downward slide in the West. People and seagulls crowded the beach. Many amongst the human masses appeared weary and unhappy.

Letitia gazed at the discontented crowds and thought, I guess I would have been depressed if I had to put up with the sad excuse for sand that these Melbournians have to tolerate.

Seagulls, also grumpy, squabbled over the occasional chip or tossed burger crust. In every gull group, there was the inevitable one-legged bird, upon whom the picnickers took pity and hurled their unwanted food in their direction. At least the leg-challenged birds were happy.

Letitia dug in her pocket for the comfort of cash. Her heart stopped a beat. She groped harder and deeper into the dusty corners of the pocket. With a sinking feeling, she realised that her money was gone. She swept the pebbles around her in vain hope and desperation.

‘Gone! All my money’s gone!’ she cried, ‘Merd!’

No one else on the beach seemed to care. She felt that she was being punished for the lies she told Frieda concerning Coles Bay. She had visions of trekking by foot, eight hundred kilometres to Adelaide. She imagined giving into hitch-hiking and being murdered by some axe murderer and buried in some shallow grave west of Bordertown.

‘Great!’ she muttered sarcastically as she stiffly rose to her feet and trudged through the gritty sand to the steps leading to the road. She stood gazing hopelessly at the sideshow contemplating her options. Luna Park yawned at her, laughing. Sensing that she was odd, out of place standing there, she ambled up Acland Street to its end. The restaurants were filling fast with mirthful multitudes making the most of the balmy summer evening and work satisfyingly concluded for another day. She glared at the revellers wondering who of them had helped themselves to her pocket in her sleep. Perhaps the spare cash would be used for drugs. She ground her teeth anger rising at the thought.

Letitia walked beyond the business precinct bound for the city. She came to a grinding halt at St Kilda Road and a wall of peak hour traffic. ‘Nah, this is ridiculous!’ she heard her voice rambling as the cars relentlessly whizzed past. She turned and dragged her feet back to the beach. She planned to find her way to the city by following the shoreline. Unfamiliar with Melbourne, she did not know where the roads went. No idea that in that stage in history, all roads lead to Melbourne CBD.

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2021

Feature Photo: Launch of the Seagulls, Brighton Beach South Australia © L.M. Kling 2006

***

Want more?

More than before?

Read the mischief and mayhem Boris the over-sized alien cockroach gets up to…

Click on the link to my new novel, The Lost World of the Wends

Or discover how it all began in The Hitch-Hiker

And how it continues with Mission of the Unwilling

Out of Time (9.1)

Plenty of Cakes, Plenty of Time

Part 1

[The continuation of the Survivor Short Story “project” in the War On Boris the Bytrode series. This time, back in time, 1967, following the adventures of middle-aged mum, Letitia… In this episode (9.1) In Melbourne, Letitia looks up her sister, Doris …]

Letitia had intended to stay only one day in Melbourne, but somehow, that one day stretched into eleven days. The time warp of good intentions began with her well-intentioned plans to look up her sister Doris in the white pages. Two thick wads of telephone directory, now that was a novelty. She hadn’t used one of those since Boris exiled her to Mirror World in 1962. Her eyes found the teeny-weeny letters most challenging. Finally, she located Fahrer which was the family name. But out of all the Fahrers there were none beginning with the letter “D”; or perhaps it was that her weary eyes had trouble deciphering any letters “D” or otherwise. She realized that there were disadvantages to having short-sightedness corrected after the unfortunate encounter with the blast that propelled her into Mirror World. Now that she was in her late forties, she had become long-sighted. The thought of wearing spectacles, did not enthuse her. Here she was, in the dimly lit St Kilda Post Office, and she could not even take the bulky book out into the strong sunlight, even for a second. The staff kept glancing and narrowing their eyes at her.

She decided to abandon the pursuit of her sister and stroll casually up Acland Street. She was hungry. One piece of vegemite toast and a small orange juice simply did not cut it to stave off the hunger pains much past lunchtime. She knew that she should save the money for the bus fare, but she was ravenous. She had never seen so many cake shops in one street in all her life. Even in Mirror. Every second shop front threw before her sweets, pastries, and lashings of cream on display. They all looked so inviting, so delicious, so wanting her to eat them.

She stopped by the narrow shop with the towers of mille-feuille which were labelled in this world’s café as “vanilla slices”. She hadn’t eaten an Australian “vanilla slice” in decades. For all she knew, vanilla slices with their crunchy biscuit base, smooth sweet lemon custard cream and rich hard coconut icing, had not existed for decades; not in Mirror, they hadn’t. In Mirror, the mille-feuille were slightly different, more pastry and whipped cream. She wasn’t keen on cream. Cream tended to make her nose all stuffy and cause her to sneeze.

The Australian variation, she recalled used a biscuit base and custard as the filling. Ah, memories of high school lunches of meat pies with slathers of sauce, milk chocolate and the final satisfying touch of vanilla slices came flooding back to her. She sighed and followed the glass-case parade of sweet slices of vanilla into the tiny cake shop. There was barely room for the two sets of tables and chairs that were squeezed against the baby-blue wall. Black and white checked tiles cowered under a streaky film of dirt caught under a careless attempt at mopping. Or perhaps it was her sunglasses that made the floor, as well as the general atmosphere of the shop darker and dingier than it would have been otherwise.

Letitia ordered the vanilla slice and a hot chocolate to accompany it. The shop did not serve pies, only cakes. A complimentary newspaper served as entertainment for one. She sipped her coffee, ate delicate savouring portions of cake, and picked at the paper’s headlines to read. All the while she remained under the watchful eye of the bored shop assistant and the blaring of talk radio from the back room. The vanilla slice was a disappointment, but she thanked the dark-haired lady, saying that she enjoyed her meal (Ha! What meal?), and politely left the establishment. The overload of sugary sweetness made her dizzy and propelled her back to the seashore.

Letitia dabbled her feet in the cool kelp laden salt water and lay on the damp gravely sand to recover. She intended having a little sunbake, a little closing of the eyes, a brief nap, before making her way to the city to book the bus to Adelaide. She had plenty of time. The bus wouldn’t leave before nine or ten o’clock that evening. That’s what someone had said. She was sure. Plenty of time. Plenty of time. Plenty…Plenty…

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2021

Feature Photo: Melbourne skyline from Spirit of Tasmania, 2001 © L.M. Kling 2001

***

Want more?

More than before?

Read the mischief and mayhem Boris the over-sized alien cockroach gets up to…

Click on the link to my new novel, The Lost World of the Wends

Or discover how it all began in The Hitch-Hiker

And how it continues with Mission of the Unwilling