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

***

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 (9.4)

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

***

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 (9.3)

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

***

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 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 (8.1)

Berry Bogan

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 (8.1) Letitia and Wilhelm face their demons, and one Berry Bogan mother, on the Princess of Tasmania bound for Melbourne.]

Letitia faced breakfast behind sunglasses, her head covered with a silken scarf. ‘Protection against my identity has come at an inflated cost of $10 for the eyewear and a further $5 for the head gear; money well spent as far as I’m concerned,’ she said.

‘It was meant, however, for the taxi fare to Tullamarine Airport, and now I fear you won’t have enough to cover the flight to Adelaide,’ Wilhelm rambled as they entered the dining room. The lemon-yellow rays of the rising sun filtered through the salt-encrusted windows. ‘Now, what’s left of the loan may only cover the overnight bus fare to Adelaide.’

‘That’s a bit fiscally pessimistic, don’t you think, Will?’

‘You’ll see.’

Wilhelm pale, with dark rings under his eyes, began quibbling over the breakfast offering of ham and cheese sandwiches and orange juice. He then turned his criticisms onto the hairy family over the other side of the dining room.

‘Keep away from them,’ Wilhelm pointed at the homage to the Beetles party, ‘bad news, they are. Bad news.’

Letitia, shade-clad and sea-seedy, glanced in their direction and turned away.

‘You can’t make a judgement about them based on hair, Wilhelm. They might be perfectly good parents.’

Wilhelm wiped crumbs from his section of the table. ‘We have a bad feeling about them.’

‘We?’

Wilhelm leaned close to Letitia and whispered, ‘The IGSF. If you get my drift.’

Letitia prepared to take a second look, but Wilhelm held up his hand. ‘Don’t. It’s all under control. I’ll keep you safe. From them.’

‘Thanks, Will, but I wish you had been around when I had the Bogans from Boganville torment me last yesterday.’ Letitia adjusted her scarf. ‘By the way, where did you get to?’

Wilhelm patted their air between them. ‘Never you mind. Nothing to get alarmed about. Stay calm.’

‘Now, you are worrying me.’ Letitia sighed. ‘Just my luck, Boris will be on the boat and sink it.’

‘Stay calm. We won’t let that happen.’ Wilhelm stroked the table and then tapped it. ‘Bogan? What exactly is a “Bogan”? Isn’t it a type of moth?’

As he spoke, the said mother and her offspring walked into the dining room.

‘Speak of the devil. And her charges. They’ve just walked in,’ Letitia answered barely moving her mouth. ‘That, my friend, is what I mean by “bogan”.’

Wilhelm leaned back in his seat and observed. ‘Interesting! They’re joining the Hippie’s. Interesting.’ He locked eyes with Letitia. ‘Keep away from them too. They’re trouble.’

‘Shh! They might hear you,’ Letitia said.

Wilhelm casually sipped his juice and shook his head. ‘What parent lets her daughter walk around half-naked? I’ll never know! Tsk! Tsk!’

Letitia batted the space between them. ‘Wait till you have a daughter, Mr. Thumm.’

Wilhelm’s eyes widened. ‘Daughter? Am I to have a daughter?’

Letitia covered her mouth. ‘Maybe, who knows? In another universe, dimension, you do.’

Following that comment, Letitia could not resist taking a peek. She glanced quickly around just as the purple mo-haired clad mother armed with the day’s Melbourne Age, her minx of a daughter baring more thigh than skirt, and the short sniggering son, paraded past their table. Letitia turned away hoping that her scarf and sunglasses were enough to fool them into thinking that she was no one in particular.

The “Bogan” family ostentatiously chose the table directly behind Wilhelm. Mum who had all the round features of a blue-berry, and who wore ugg-boots to match her furry lavender cardigan, spread the paper over the narrow table while her off-spring raced off to fill their trays with cakes for breakfast. As she lifted the monumental sized newspaper to turn the page, Letitia noticed the headline, “Ryan to Hang.”

‘Nothing about any plane crash in Antarctica, then,’ Letitia muttered with a shudder.

‘Did you say something?’ Wilhelm said softly.

‘No, not really.’ Letitia kept her head down and eyes fixed on the one piece of vegemite toast and small glass of orange juice. ‘I see hanging is still a thing in this day and age.’

‘Yes, it is, although, there are calls to have it abolished.’

‘Just thinking about it, has made my seasickness return.’

‘Just as well we didn’t go on my yacht,’ Wilhelm said. ‘The sea was particularly rugged overnight.’

At that precise point in time, the ferry passed through the Heads of Port Phillip Bay. The boat rocked in every direction possible.  The Bogan mother directly behind Wilhelm caught Letitia’s gaze. Her chubby cheeks flushed. Her eyes narrowed.

Letitia bent her head and prayed that she would not be mother-Bogan’s victim for breakfast this morning. She had no desire to be bawled out by a blue berry. Especially after Wilhelm’s warning to keep away.

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2021

Feature Photo: Spirit of Tasmania, Port of Melbourne © L.M. Kling 1995

***

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 (7.2)

Melbourne Bound

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 (7.2) Letitia and Wilhelm separately face their demons on the Princess of Tasmania bound for Melbourne.]

The cabin shuddered and roared. A flame-haired woman towered over and menaced her. Tails, lean and slimy, leered at her, laughing. His teeth turned black and jagged, and the face became that of the minx’s mum. Smoke filled the cabin. And bang!

***

Letitia bolted upright. Wide awake. Blinking in the darkness. Her world bucking and rolling. Side to side. Back and forth. Up and down. She clung to the sides of the bunk as it rolled one way then the other. She remained sitting, expecting to be assaulted with relentless seasickness. However, apart from a head that felt as though it was wadded thick with cotton wool and a nose stuffed with glue, she did not feel ill. She swung her feet over the bedside and landing them on the floor, she pushed herself to standing. She waded through the blackness to the door. Aiming for that thin sliver of light marking its direction. Letitia was hungry.

The mean mother and her menacing charges reared up in her memory. Perhaps, I’m not that hungry, she reasoned. Although her stomach growled protesting otherwise, she returned to her bunk and hibernated under the thin cotton covers.

***

Upon viewing the Hippie family in their Kombi, Will grew cold. Sweat, with a life of its own, dripped from his temples and underarms. The gentle sea breeze mingled with the dampness sending a chill through to his core.

Will studied the woman driving the van. ‘It’s him,’ the little lady’s voice echoed behind his ear.

‘Is it?’ he muttered. ‘Are you sure? Okay, I’ll just take a closer look.’

‘What?’ Letitia glanced at Will. ‘What are you saying?’

 ‘I, er, um am just taking a visit to the men’s room.’ He patted her arm. ‘You’ll be alright?’

‘Yeah, fine.’

Will made his way down to the car docking bay. There, he watched the Kombi and its inhabitants. And waited.

Close up, they were obvious. Not the kids though, like he expected. They were just kids. Proper little Munchkins. But the man and woman. The “man” in the kaftan with his long curly brown hair and John Lennon specs, currently carrying the dog, walked like a woman.

Will nodded. ‘Interesting.’

All those years merged with a woman gives a man a certain insight about such matters like how they walk and talk. The Boris attack and being thrown some 400-years into the past, that’s how that situation happened. And now that woman, her spirit or whatever it was, had been stuck in his head, even after the separation. Courtesy of Boris. With his slimy strings attached, of course.

As the van moved closer, Will focussed on the driver. ‘It’s him,’ the little voice at the back of his ear repeated.

‘Just the sort of thing Boris would do,’ Will said.

At a distance, Will followed the odd family to their cabin.

Once inside, he slid up to the door and listened.

‘Ah, that’s better,’ a woman said, ‘I swear this wig is giving me hives.’

‘Calm down, Maggie, dear,’ a man said, ‘it’ll all be worth it. Not long to go now, my precious.’

‘Did you see her?’

‘Yes, my precious. I have my agents onto her. She should be grateful I saved her life.’

‘Don’t know why you bothered. She’s just an old frump, now really. No use to breed with.’

‘Ah, but, my precious, that is where you are wrong. Her mind. Her skills. And the Admiral, just think what I can get the Admiral to do if I have his daughter in my grasp? Look at what lengths he’s going for his son?’

‘I don’t agree,’ the lady snapped. ‘You’re wasting your time. I’m going out for some fresh air.’

The cabin door swung open.

Will slipped around the nearest corner while a lady, red curls bouncing down the curves of her back, marched past him.

As she disappeared down the corridor, Will peeked around the corner to glimpse a round man in a brown tweed suit, close the door to the cabin.

‘It’s him,’ the voice behind his ear said.

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2021

Feature Photo: Through Cabin Window, Gordon Franklin River Cruise © L.M. Kling 2016

***

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 (7.1)

Melbourne-Bound

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 (7.1) Letitia and Wilhelm board the Princess of Tasmania bound for Melbourne.]

Boarding

The Princess of Tasmania towered over the tedious queue of cars. Cars and some trucks, flanked one side of the Mersey River, waiting patiently to be uploaded. Not one vehicle seemed to be moving, and the long line just seemed to be getting longer, stretching into the distant blur on the horizon. The faces of the unfortunate occupants were gridlocked into grim expressions of determination or abject resignation that the next few hours of their lives would be spent sitting in the car and waiting for the ferry to swallow them up. There were, some enterprising fellows who reclined against their Holden or Ford Utes and puffed on their cigarettes.

From the vantage point of the deck, Letitia and Wilhelm cast pitying glances down upon their fellow car-jammed passengers. Boarding was a simple affair in the company of Wilhelm. After disposing of his Aston Martin in the care of a steward who looked after cars belonging to the rich and privileged, Wilhelm and Letitia presented their tickets to the ticket officer, and then simply walked onto the boat via a firmly fixed wooden slatted plank. While the masses languished in the linear car park below, the few car-free passengers scattered themselves sparsely around the sunny edges of the ferry or sought their cabins for comfort.

Letitia leaned on the thick metal white rail and basked in the soft southerly breeze that took the sting out of the late afternoon summer sun. The cavernous mouth of the ferry had not opened yet and the queue of vehicles kept piling along the side of the river far, far into the distance.

Directly below her, sat a Kombi Volkswagon housing a hippie couple and a pair of feral children. Well, they certainly were acting feral. Letitia reckoned to Wilhelm that waiting in a traffic line for hours on end would do that to anyone, especially kids. One of the dirt-smeared youngsters had climbed on top of the van with the family’s pet dog, a Jack Russel, and was attempting to tan himself. The problem was that the boy could not lie still long enough for the sun’s rays to catch the patches of skin that weren’t dirt blocked. A small girl in little more than grubby shorts and a singlet joined her brother on the roof and a tussle on the hot tin roof ensued. The mum, head clad with a brightly coloured beanie risked creeping forward the van to sort out her charges. Letitia tried not to stare directly at them from the deck in case she embarrassed the family. But she just had to point at the van and laugh, ‘What has become of the dog, Wilhelm? I wonder if dogs are even allowed on the ferry. How do you reckon the Kombi crowd have advanced this far with the dog in tow?’

Then she spotted the dog a few car lengths closer to-the-yet-to-be-opened opening of the boat and peeing with much satisfaction on some unsuspecting victim’s car tyre. Letitia looked back to the van. The kids were off the roof and squirming discontentedly in the hot car with only natural air-conditioning (open windows) to keep them cool. An older emissary, flowing long brown hair adorned with a red and brown headband and John Lennon glasses, hopped out the olive-green Kombi, and then wended his way in and out of the car jam in search of the dog.

Letitia never did find out the end of the hippie family’s story. After Will had excused himself in search of a toilet, a blonde girl with more make-up than sense began sneering at her.

Letitia locked eyes with the girl and pointed at herself. ‘Me? What did I ever do to you?’

But, she knew. Her dark skin tones marked her. Alien.

 A midget-sized freckle-faced boy had sided with the blonde girl and together they made a formidable team ganging up against Letitia. She had never heard so much colourful language in her life, except perhaps when Jemima was asked to grow her shaved head of hair in Year 7 when she was thirteen. By 2017, in Mirror, shaved heads were the norm. Oh, that’s right! It’s not 2017, apparently; the date is sometime in January 1967. Letitia sighed and murmured to anyone near who would listen, ‘I didn’t realize how rude children can be, even in 1967.’

The evil duo were doing their worst to get a reaction out of her. She was almost embarrassed for them as they began cavorting before her, for her exclusive benefit with suggestive, rude gestures. Letitia thought, Are they for real? I cannot repeat what foul words are coming from their mouths.

The girl proceeded to hold up her cheap plastic camera, aiming it in Letitia’s general direction. Then she screeched, ‘Get out of my way! You’re ruining my picture!’ Followed by a barrage of insults aimed at Letitia.

The boy then raised his voice above the profanities. ‘Nice dress, Miss Fahrer, did you get it at an Op shop?’

‘What?’ Letitia glared at this menacing midget. ‘How did you know…’

The tart of a teenage girl minced up to her, still holding up the camera, and spat out the threat, ‘My mum’s going to get you for failing me in Science, Miss Fahrer!’

‘What? You must have the wrong person—I mean, teacher,’ she said. Me, teach science? Now that’s a joke! Or, is this what this world’s Letitia did? Teach bratty kids?

‘You can’t get out of it that easily!’ the boy sneered fiercely. ‘There’s only one Miss. F ‘n that’s you! ‘n you know it.’

‘They should sack you, Miss F. My mum is going to get you sacked for – for – for—how come youse are so dark?’ The girl bared her buck teeth as she poked Letitia’s shoulder. ‘Too much baby oil and suntanning, eh?’

‘Yeah, right,’ Letitia replied. ‘The sun’s strong down south in Tasmania.’

‘Yeah, sure,’ she snorted. ‘What give’s you the right to give me a detention for my skirt being too short? Huh?’

‘You’re just a perve!’ the cheeky boy added.

‘Yeah! Perve!’ the girl repeated. ‘And, what’s with the French accent? Why are you putting on a French accent? You sound so stupid!’

‘Er, I think you’ve mixed me up with someone else. I’ve never taught in my life.’ Letitia began to back away from this troublesome pair, searching for an escape.

A woman’s sharp voice stabbed Letitia verbally in the back. ‘That much is obvious.’

‘Yeah, I was just, just telling them, that they, that they have the wrong…’ Letitia turned and stammered to a grown up and more weathered version of the teenage vixen.

A cigarette hung precipitously from the stale yellow fingers, and the rotting plaque covered teeth ground angrily at her. ‘No, we have the right ‘un. My daughter worked bleeding ‘ard and what did you do? But fail ‘er!’ The woman with straw hair dark roots showing, jabbed the air with the cigarette butt and ash fell onto Letitia’s dress.

‘I’m very sorry for your daughter’s misfortune – but, but I – I mean – you’ve got the wrong person. I’m not a teacher. I never have been. I’ve been living in France.’

‘I’m goin’ to get you sacked! You’ll never teach again.’ The mother aged beyond her years to even be a mother of this teenage girl, hammered her fist at Letitia.

‘Fine. Go ahead. See if I care!’ Letitia replied and then darted past the wheezing woman. Before they could again accost her, she ducked through the nearest door, climbed several sets of stairs and raced along the narrow maze of cabin passages.

Finally, Letitia had found her cabin. After several nervous jabs at the hole with her key, she unlocked the door and bolted into her room. There she sat on the edge of the bunk in an effort to regroup her thoughts. She trembled. A rising sense of nausea overwhelmed her.

She rifled through her purse and popped a couple of travel-sickness pills Will had bought her at the local chemist in Devonport. Then she lay on the bed. The heat of the sun through the salt encrusted porthole made her stuffy and ill. She closed her eyes to ward off the urge for the complimentary paper bag.

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2021

Feature Photo: On Deck, view of Mersey River, Devonport © L.M. Kling 1998

 ***

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

Below…

Or discover how it all began in The Hitch-Hiker

And how it continues with Mission of the Unwilling

Out Of Time (6.2.1)

Lunch in Launceston

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 (6.2.1) while lunching in Launceston’s Cataract Gorge, Will and Letitia witness the harassment of peacocks.]

  1. Pride and peacocks

The ensuing half hour whizzed past in a blur and soon they slowed and crawled through the weatherboard suburbs of Launceston. After travelling at the speed of Wilhelm’s light, they seemed to be standing still in the city. A massive rock wall loomed up beside the Aston Martin with only a thin strip of oncoming traffic between them and its rocky surface glistening with escaping subterranean water.

Wilhelm turned abruptly into a narrow road that squeezed through a gap in the rock and followed a creek embedded with lush eucalyptus green foliage to the concrete expanse that served as the park for cars. For all the recent minutes of agonising slowness, Wilhelm still managed to bring the car to a jerking halt. A stately structure towered before them.

Letitia carefully opened the door, mindful not to hit the gleaming chassis of a brown HR Holden Premier to her left. Wilhelm stood, key poised, waiting as she prised her body through the narrow gap left to get out of the car. Once she had nudged the door shut, Wilhelm twisted the key in the lock in the driver’s side door and all the doors locked with a satisfying click.

Letitia and Wilhelm watched the peacocks strut over the rolling green slopes as they supped on Wilhelm’s recommended Steak and chips. They admired the serene scenery and botanical beauty of the gorge and Letitia wished that she had time to traverse the suspension bridge. Wilhelm scorned the bus loads of tourists who littered the lawns, chased the peacocks with their Instamatic cameras, and swamped the gorge.

Wilhelm pointed at a pair of primary-school aged boys in Batman and Robin costumes. ‘Some parents have no control over their children.’

Letitia registered the avid foul harassment by a couple of cheeky boys clothed in red and armed with sticks. The cock darted to and fro and away from them, but the children remained in hot pursuit. The bird lurched in attack and fanned its magnificent plumage.

‘I wouldn’t get too close if I was them,’ Letitia muttered dryly. ‘You wouldn’t allow Johnny to get up to such mischief, would you, now, Dr. Thumm?’

Wilhelm pouted. ‘Of course not. I’ve never allowed my children to do such things.’

‘Children? Dr. Thumm?’

‘Pff! My patients, I mean.’ Wilhelm again blushed and then dismissed the naughty boy antics with a royal wave of his psychiatrist’s hand. ‘That’s nothing! I’ve had poo thrown at me by mad men, urinated upon by loonies, and exploded upon with blood and guts by constipated patients. This,’ he indicated with his pale doctor’s finger to the boys on the expanse of lawn, ‘is nothing! Why only the other day we had an illegal immigrant stowaway to Antarctica, escape from my very own hospital. Have you any idea how embarrassing that was for the management?’ Wilhelm’s knee bobbed up and down with agitation. ‘Parents have it easy, don’t they, Letitia?’

‘I suppose,’ Letitia replied, but kept wondering what Wilhelm must be hiding from his past.

‘I mean, you said you had a grown-up daughter. I’m sure, you didn’t allow her to chase after peacocks, did you, Letitia.’ Wilhelm swallowed the last dregs of coffee and wiped his upper lip with the back of his hand.

‘No,’ Letitia said, though remembering the time Jemima was abducted after answering an online dating ad. In an instant, boys poking a peacock seemed to pale into insignificance. How wrong I’ve been in my naivety of this time and universe. But Wilhelm what’s your story? I must ask my father when I catch up with him.

Lunch done, Wilhelm was desperate for Davenport. They had barely sucked down their concluding cup of tea, than this blonde lord of a doctor was eagerly paying the bill and hustling Letitia from the restaurant and herding her into the Aston Martin. Literally minutes later, before the steak and chips had digested, they were once again on the open road bouncing around in the cabin between fresh green hills as Wilhelm flew the car Davenport-wards.

‘Slow down, you are making me sick,’ Letitia cried.

But Wilhelm did not slow down. ‘We have a boat to catch,’ he said.

If Letitia had any idea what awaited her in Adelaide, she would have happily alighted, escaped to obscurity in the Southwestern wilderness and continued the pretence that she had expired in the South Pole. However, as the Aston Martin spirited them north-westwards, she was lulled into blissful complacency. After all, she missed Nathan. Missed her mother and father. Missed the challenge of another mission. Most of all, she missed her tranquil and complete life in Adelaide. And soon, out of time, she would miss out on the mystery surrounding Dr. Wilhelm Thumm.

She remembered her sister. Doris. Did she miss Doris? She didn’t miss the competition, that’s for sure. She murmured, ‘Doris, I wonder what became of Doris?’

Wilhelm chuckled, ‘Doris? Your sister is busy around the place tidying up your mess.’

‘My mess? What do you mean? I didn’t…’

 ‘Oh, you’re right. I guess, at the end of the day, your disappearance is down to Frieda.’ Wilhelm sniffed. ‘And you are aware that Gunter absconded? Straight into the arms of Boris, we believe.’

Letitia shook her head. ‘Now, there’s a surprise. Not.’

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2021

Feature Photo: Power Rangers in pursuit of Peacock, Cataract Gorge © L.M. Kling 1995

***

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

Below…

Or discover how it all began in The Hitch-Hiker

And how it continues with Mission of the Unwilling

Out of Time (6.1)

Launceston for Lunch

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 (6.1), Wilhelm and Letitia begin their journey to Launceston in Will’s Aston Martin.]

Real-estate at Richmond

Letitia’s influence over the computer did not even last the night. The morning greeted her with barely four hours sleep, a hung-over and grumpy Wilhelm, his yacht bathed in an orange hue, and a computer in mutiny. The dream performance of yester-noon, was replaced by abject refusal to work. Clarke, the computer had downed tools, gone on strike, and short of blowing up in a puff of smoke, plainly refused to go.

After conceding that moronic model was a “lemon”, Wilhelm made a hasty trip home to settle a seedy and rather irate Frieda. Then, by mid-morning Wilhelm and Letitia could be seen, at speed in the Aston Martin, clipping across the vast dry plains of Eastern Tasmania, heading northwards to Devonport. Plans had been hastily altered and tickets for the ferry purchased through a very obliging travel agent friend of Wilhelm’s. For some reason, Wilhelm had been reluctant to sail the vessel without a functioning computer. And then, for some unexplained reason for which Letitia was most grateful, Wilhelm preferred to drive to Devonport rather than fly. Even though, he risked the ire of his wife who currently accused him of neglect while she was so poorly. Letitia asked no questions. After her not so distant altercation in such a craft, she had had enough of aeroplanes.

Morning tea and the pair who appeared as mother and son, picnicked on the banks of a river that accommodated the oldest bridge in Tasmania, if not Australia. Letitia admired the family of ducks that possessed this sloped grassy land, while Wilhelm wandered off to investigate some prospective investment property.

‘Real estate, that’s where it’s at.’ Wilhelm upon his return from wandering remarked. He unscrewed the lid from the thermos in the picnic basket and poured steaming coffee into two waiting metal cups. He then held up a tube of condensed milk. ‘Milk?’

Letitia nodded and Wilhelm squeezed a dose into her cup.

Chuckling Letitia remarked, ‘The ducks look as though they already own the bridge from the dawn of Tasmanian history.’

Wilhelm plonked himself down on the tartan blanket placed on the grassy slope and briskly shuffled through the recent acquisition of colourful real estate flyers. He admired his property prospects while Letitia silently sipped her morning coffee. Every so often he would mutter, ‘Hmm! Richmond. Now there’s a good investment.’

The ducks had waddled under the shadow of the bridge and disappeared. The coffee also vanished slowly consumed in the comfort of the mid-morning Richmond sun. Letitia was being lulled into a false sense of forgetfulness. Perhaps, she reasoned, nothing else mattered but basking in the sun on a grassy slope admiring an old stone bridge.

‘Where did you say your house was, Letitia?’ Wilhelm interrupted her dreaming.

Letitia looked up and frowned. ‘On Mirror? Or before? When I lived with Mum and Dad.’

Wilhelm blinked. ‘Before, I suppose. Before you went missing on us.’

‘Sydney, near Bondi,’ she said, ‘the house was walking distance to a park where the lion statues were.’

‘Sydney, ah, yes, of course.’

‘Your father came from a village in the Black Forest, though.’

‘Hmm, yes, I know. A long time ago. But my mother, Gertrude, came from Adelaide. He met her there in the Botanical Gardens, after the war.’

Wilhelm turned from his coffee drinking and studied Letitia. ‘Are you that old? I mean, you look older than I remember you, but…’

‘No, yes, actually, I was born 1935, technically…But I lived on Mirror twenty-six years. I have a daughter who is all grown up…’

Wilhelm sniffed and nodded. ‘Oh, yes, that makes sense, now. And then you travelled back in…’

‘Time.’ Letitia concluded. ‘It seems, unless this is an alternate…’ then as if to steer the direction of the conversation, she asked, ‘Did you know my father? August?’

Wilhelm blushed and mumbled, ‘Hmmm, yes, quite well, actually.’

Letitia noted the reaction. Her eyes widened. ‘Really? So what’s your story, Doctor Thumm?’

Wilhelm rose and stretched. ‘Well, must be getting on. Must be in Launceston for lunch. There’s a lovely little café in Cataract Gorge I want you to try.’

That was awkward, Letitia thought. With the picnic basket hooked over her elbow she followed him. His avoidance on the subject intrigued her.

As they left the picnic place, the ducks emerged from under the sheltered darkness of the bridge to possess the river reeds and banks of lawn.

[to be continued…]

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2021

Feature Photo: Ducks of Richmond Bridge, Tasmania © L.M. Kling (nee Trudinger) 1981

***

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

Below…

Or discover how it all began in The Hitch-Hiker

And how it continues with Mission of the Unwilling

Out of Time (5.4)

[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 (5.4) Celebration as Letitia fixes the computer… But is it all just a bit too easy?]

A Computer Called Clarke

Part 4

In the spacious cabin, spacious for a yacht that is, which Wilhelm had dubbed the “Phone box” as it appeared larger on the inside than it seemed on the outside, the computer blinked, goading Letitia. The inane IGSF symbol menaced the screen a touch longer than it ought to. Letitia shuddered. She had never contended with a computer of this particular vintage.

When she first arrived in the Mirror Universe of 1986, she had toyed with a Commodore computer, a deceptively simple machine Frieda had given her to play games of story puzzles and space invaders; a sort of easing into the digital world. The computers on the Mother Ship had admittedly been constructed centuries ago and modified by a computer engineer named Clarke and his protégé, John, Frieda’s son. But on Mirror, by 2015, the prevailing Mirror Computer monopoly had been dismantled and thrown to the four or more existing richest multinationals to encourage competition. It had long been established that Mirrorsoft Works (as it was known on Mirror World) was a conundrum, an irony, as in most cases the system did not work. The same problems seemed to be manifesting with the IGSF programming in 1967. Had Boris hacked into the system and sabotaged it?

She fiddled around the edges of the system wishing that she could get her mind grafted into it and pretend that she had her head around the problem at hand. Meanwhile Wilhelm disappeared to the deck for the purpose of tightening ropes and fixing sails ready to sail. His parting words to her before rising to the deck were, ‘We acquired this computer six months ago, it was state of the art, it had all the bells and whistles, how could it? I can’t understand how it could break down like this.’

‘Boris, I reckon,’ she mumbled to the obnoxious piece of useless circuitry and the screen that stared back at her, blank and prehistoric. There it was, that stupid blue screen and mindless blathering of words and formulas scrawled across the window.

‘Fatal error!’ she exclaimed. ‘I haven’t seen anything so ridiculous in all my years of programming and managing Mirror’s networks. Oh, what’s this sinister box announcing that I have made a “fatal error” and that the computer must shut down immediately and all my information lost? If the threat wasn’t so ridiculous, it would be pathetic. Wilhelm, my friend, you have been ripped off. You have a lemon!’

Once more, she glared at the blue screen of death. ‘Probably is sabotage by Boris.’ She hurled her hands in the air. ‘Wipe it out and start again. That’s all I can do,’ she hissed at the screen spraying droplets over the LCD screen.

‘How are you going there?’ Wilhelm poked his head down the ladder from above.

‘Do you mind if I wipe everything out and start again?’ Letitia scoffed as she dabbed the screen with a tissue.

‘Yeah, that’s alright,’ Wilhelm replied. ‘Go ahead, if that solves the problem.’

A pale blue Cradle Mountain and cartoon caricatures of icons winked at her, daring her to programme them out of existence. She began the process. Pressed “start”, clicked “control panel” and paused to begin the road to computer condemnation.

With finger poised over the delete key, she breathed, ‘Say your prayers, Clarke!’ Then, she remembered. Always save data, files…anything. While this archaic monstrosity had some glimmer of life in it, she must endeavour to save what she could. She fished out a USB stick stored in the tin box below the screen. In the side of Clarke’s box-like body, a quartet of receptacles where these vintage sticks could be plugged. She again paused the execution process.

‘Will, have you saved all your data?’ she asked.

‘Save? Save? Do I have to save something?’ Wilhelm called from above through the floorboards.

‘Um, I’m just wondering if it isn’t a good idea – I don’t think I would have time to programme it all back in. It’s like spaghetti code,’ she said trying to sound as in control as possible. After the computer had consumed the whole morning, Letitia was ready to eat this computer like pasta.

 Wilhelm’s voice floated in from above. ‘Can those little sticky things I have in the tin box, will they be able to hold all the information?’

‘Only one way to find out.’

Letitia examined the tube. She pulled off the top and matched the probe to the plug on the box that held the menacing machine and proceeded to insert the device into the slot. ‘Do not crash! Do not crash!’ she commanded the computer as a mantra. It seemed to work. The computer obeyed and did not crash.

Several more hours dragged by. Saving. Wiping. Back to factory settings. And then finally, loading the multitudes of programmes back onto the device. She had discovered that to a certain extent she had picked up all the old IGSF computer system’s quirks and nuances. The basics of Clarke’s system were not vastly different from what she had managed on Mirror and was able to adapt to working and wrestling with this computer. Perhaps in hindsight, she should have been suspicious that she had become so adept controlling this yacht’s computer in such a short amount of time, but in the moment, it was an enemy that had to be subdued. After all, the system she had managed on Mirror, had been designed and run essentially, by Boris.

By four o’clock in the afternoon, with sweat dripping from Letitia’s forehead and soaking her back, she presented Wilhelm with a computer, baptised, cleansed from any Boris-contamination, and reborn to be fully IGSF-functional.

Wilhelm marvelled at the speedy IGSF satellite connection and lightning-fast processing.

Letitia mentioned in passing, ‘Oh, by the way, Clarke does not like the heat.’

‘You speak as if the computer is a person.’ Wilhelm remarked with mock surprise as he viewed a satellite image of Melbourne.

‘But, Wilhelm, he is,’ Letitia jested with only half her tongue in her cheek. She did not share with Wilhelm that she had put some of her mind and soul into the very core of the computer’s hard drive to stabilise it from further Boris attacks, and to cause it to run more efficiently. She wasn’t going to divulge to Wilhelm that she had ordered the computer to obey only her and Will’s command. After all, in Wilhelm’s early twentieth-century mind, computers were merely machines. She did not want to spoil for Will or anyone else in this time and place, any illusion that they were not.

***

Upon the triumph of Letitia over the computer, they spent one last night on shore celebrating. Wilhelm invited Letitia to join him for a function at the Cascade Brewery. Wilhelm was immensely popular and there was always a party in need of his presence. In that way, John, as Letitia remembered Mirror John, and Wilhelm were similar. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, Letitia mused as she watched Wilhelm entertain the other guests with his exploits as head psychiatrist at the Royal Hobart Hospital. Another old adage surfaced to describe both John and Wilhelm. She smiled remembering, You can’t have a party without them. After all, John is Wilhelm’s son on this Earth as well as Mirror World.

A different story for Frieda, though. Her absence was fobbed off as “not well”, “migraine” and actually, trouble finding a babysitter for Johnny. Although Wilhelm had confided in her that Frieda had been rather tired and sick in the mornings lately…

‘Here’s to Letitia, the Legend,’ Wilhelm toasted Letitia as they stood by the nineteenth century sculptured fountain in the middle of the lush green lawn.

‘Hmm!’ Letitia raised her glass of claret. If they only knew, she thought. If this is real Earth, my Earth in 1967, if only they knew what the next fifty years have in store for them…

Over by the wall of window that spanned one side of the historic building, Wilhelm entertained the cluster of elites from the hospital. They seemed perfectly at ease, perfectly comfortable in their space, time, and important positions. It was as if the plane crash in Antarctica had never happened; as if there were no terrorists; as if there never had been nor will be any nuclear attacks. As if Boris himself was null and void.

‘If they only knew,’ Letitia repeated.

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2021

Feature Photo (artistically enhanced): Memories of Cascade Brewery © L.M. Kling 1995

***

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

Below…

Or discover how it all began in The Hitch-Hiker

And how it continues with Mission of the Unwilling