Friday, June 3, 2022

Dawn of Time • Episode 9: “The foot is in the other shoe”


Written by Anatoly Belilovsky

Continued from Episode 1 | Episode 2 | Episode 3 | Episode 4 | Episode 5 | Episode 6 | Episode 7 | Episode 8

The story thus far: 32nd Century high school student Dawn Anderson is having the worst day ever. Needing a better grade in History, she “borrowed” her father’s TimePak to take a short jaunt back to the 20th Century, only to make a perfectly innocent mistake involving a stolen handgun and a too-hot McDonald’s cherry pie. Now, instead of returning home, she is bouncing from disaster to catastrophe, each one worse than the one before. After being chased by clowns, narrowly avoiding becoming a tyrannosaur’s snack, jumping out mere moments before the Chicxulub extinction event, making a new friend (Stella) and rescuing her from the Titanic, being found by her worst enemy (Becky) and being forced to rescue her, too, from a robot uprising, the three of them have barely escaped with their souls, but not Becky’s soles, because time itself is melting down, and things have totally gone to Hell.

Or maybe not…

The first breath I took did not burn my lungs out. That in itself was not surprising; meeting older me was pretty good evidence that I lived through whatever this was, but there was still the problem of fire all around me, and—as I looked around—very little else. Except the pie in my hand.

Okay, what was I standing on?

Apparently, nothing. I spun in midair—midflame?—as my stomach came up to hit me in the chin.

I hate free fall. “I’m going to throw up,” I muttered.

“Do that and you’re toast,” said the cat-spider from behind me. I felt the back of my shirt tighten; claws tickled my back. I had a stowaway.

“Looks like I’m toast anyway,” I said.

“Why? Oh, you think from this?” said the cat-spider. “Ha! A clever illusion! My infrared eyes see nothing. In fact—” He clambered onto my shoulder, gathered his limbs, and sprung at the wall of flame.

“Whoa,” I heard him say. “Cool!”

I flexed and kicked. Nothing happened. Those darn equations: Newton’s Third Law was one of them. “Um… cat-spider?” I said. “I could use…” I trailed off. I still had the gun. Shoot it into the wall of fire behind me and use the recoil to propel myself out of here? I could almost hear Grandma’s gravelly voice: “Never, ever, ever! Discharge your weapon if you don’t know what’s behind your target!” Well, so much for that idea. What did I still have? The last apple pie? What if I needed to—

Right. Becky had the jacket. And the TimePak.

I underhand-pitched the pie behind me as hard as I could. If I was right, the pie would also find its way to Becky, so she could get out, too. Then I remembered the pie that hit her in the face during the robot uprisings. I hoped it wasn’t this pie.

I held my breath. Flames drifted slowly toward me, over me, and past me. “Whoa,” I said. “Cool!”

Rivers of flame flowed around us, swirling into knots and bulges.

“It’s the Time Recycling Plant,” said the cat-spider. “Remember the broken temporal rift? Remember the crucible of melted time? Remember waste not, want not? Well, here is where time is cast into new eras, cold-rolled into new epochs, forged into new eons, milled into new millennia—”

“Great!” I interrupted. “Now, how do we get home from here?”

“Whose home?” the cat-spider said.

“Well, if it’s all the same to you,” I said, “I would prefer mine.”

“What’s in it for me?”

Good question. What could I offer a cat-sized spider?

“Umm… Big Ma—”

“Sold!” the cat-spider exclaimed. “Mmm, cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger!”

“Okay, how do we…?”

The cat-spider pointed at my feet. “You know the drill.”

“What, seriously?” I said.

The cat-spider nodded.

“Well, if you say so.” I pivoted my feet and clicked my heels. “There’s no place like—”


Wherever this was, it wasn’t my home.

“Bloody hell,” muttered the cat-spider. “Where did you get those shoes?”

Next week: “Episode 10: Meanwhile, in Act III” 



Anatoly Belilovsky is a Ukrainian-American author and translator of speculative fiction. He was born in a city that went through six or seven owners in the last century, all of whom used it to do a lot more than drive to church on Sundays; another real estate transaction involving tanks and thermobaric weapons is being attempted even as we speak.  After being traded to the US for a shipload of grain and a defector to be named later, he learned English from Star Trek reruns (apparently well enough to be admitted into SFWA in spite of chronic cat deficiency, with publications in Stupefying Stories, Daily SF, Kasma, Asimov's, Analog, F&SF, Nature, Podcastle, and Starship Sofa) and to become a paediatrician in an area of New York where English is the fourth most commonly used language. His story collection, Halogen Nightmares and Other Love Stories, is available on Amazon in paperback or on Kindle.