Tuesday, November 9, 2021

"King of Chrome" • by Travis Burnham


The time traveler to 1977 didn’t even try to blend in. 

The robot strode across the midnight rest area parking lot, his chrome chassis gleaming in the sodium lights. He reached for the passenger door handle of a ‘74 Mercedes-Benz 450-SLC and slid in like he owned the gas guzzler.

Elvis Presley, incognito, sat in the driver’s seat, dressed in a black, red-trimmed, track suit. He’d just finished a show in Charlotte. The King froze, a banana-peanut butter-bacon sandwich on the way to his lips. 

“Not fat enough yet?” Robot EAP-5464 gestured to the dripping sandwich. “Don't stop eating on my account. Though you’ll be dead of a heart attack 178 days from now if you don’t listen to me.”

What the hell,” the King drawled, “on God’s green Earth, are you?”

A panel on the robot’s forearm slid open and he withdrew a folded scrap of newspaper. The headline read Elvis, King of Rock, Dies at 42.

Elvis scanned the scrap of paper with his dark soft eyes. “Any moron with a small printing press could have made this up.”

The robot rattled off not one, not two, but a string of facts that only Elvis Aaron Presley himself could have known. It was then that Elvis noticed something familiar in the cadence and long-drawn vowels of the robot’s metallic voice.

“Just before you died at Baptist Hospital, a rock and roll think tank froze your brain. Our brain. And put it into this awful robot body. I’m here to save rock and roll. I’m here to save us.”

Elvis stared at the robot for what seemed forever. Then he sighed and said, “My mama always told me if you’ve got evidence of the impossible, then maybe it’s only wildly improbable. Tell me what I need to do to live.”

¤      ¤      ¤


Travis Burnham’s work has found homes in Far Fetched Fables, Hypnos Magazine, Bad Dreams Entertainment, South85 Journal, SQ Quarterly, and others. He is a member of the online writers’ group, Codex, and has an MFA in Creative Writing from Converse College. He also recently won the Wyrm’s Gauntlet online writing contest. Burnham has been a DJ on three continents, and teaches middle school science and college level composition. He lives in Lisbon, Portugal with his wife, but grew up in Massachusetts, is from Maine at heart, and has lived in Japan, Colombia, and the Northern Mariana Islands.




Now available in hardcover! Check it out! ►