Put A Candy Into The Machine

A Short Story by Danniel Eyali Qeletti el-Kurdi

Meet Albert, a young tourist from Belgium, on his first big trip out of Europe, all ready for adventure – and he is just about to get an adventure he would never forget, once he'll happen to step into a pub, which is one of the entrance points, to the Twilight Zone.

The night was cold, but Albert didn't mind. He loved walking there at night and the chilly weather certainly was pleasant, after the scorching heat of summer, which had accompanied him ever since his arrival to Missouri, has finally wore down.

He noticed a fascinatingly-coloured pavement next to a local pub, which was still open and went in for a drink and possibly also to learn of the street-artist, who had made the drawing, as it was so colourful and fascinatingly rich in detail.

"It is da description of Da New World, the one that them futurist guys promise us should come after da simshularity, or suchlike", told him the bartender, a bald man apparently at his late sixties and with a very long and pointy white-grey beard.

"Singularity", corrected him an ancient woman, who sat alone by a nearby table, played scrabble with herself, chewed a cheese sandwich with seemingly a toothless mouth and drank from a huge glass of root-beer.

"Yeah, somethin' like that; da guy who made it should be here soon kid, jus' wait a bit and he'll show up". He gave a look at the youth sitting in front of him and asked, "you ain't from around here, are ya?"

"Nope", said Albert, "I love this town, fell inlove with it the instant I'd arrived here two weeks ago, but I am from Belgium; it's my first-ever travel out of Europe".

"Pooph, Belgium!" cried out the toothless lady. "Have always wanted to visit Belgium. Heard there are huge chocolate stuff everywhere by the sidewalk there, jus' grab and take!" Her cloudy eyes shone with excitement. Albert smiled. "No, not that many, but we do have a knack for them". "Will you take me there?" inquired the GreatGranny. "Well", smiled Albert uncomfortably, but was instantly saved by a very loud "Hallo!" from the entrance, as another elderly fellow walked in.

This one looked like a homeless person, which he probably was. Dirty, dressed in rags, which might have once been clothes and with a beard, which was as worse off as the said rags. "Wassup everyone?"

"Here, kid", gestured the bartender towards the newcomer, "that's da guy what made da paintin' here ou'side; he's got fancy for yer art, Joseph". "Oh, he does?" The homeless came and sat by Albert, who could not have avoided a shiver. "Yeah, it's a hobby of mine, to try an' catch da spirit of da Singularity; they say it will be Robots everywhere, and they'll do all da jobs, ya know", explained Joseph, "but me, I think it will be much grander than that; oughtta be. Something truly grand indeed; don't ya think so, Betty?" He turned towards the ancient lady. "Ho, yes, for sure!" cried out Betty, "way, way grander. Guess we'll then have the ability to travel to distant stars, perhaps even to go back in time!" "Where would ya go, kid", turned Joseph to Albert, "if ya had that ability ta go back in time and change stuff?" Albert thought hard. "Well, guess I would have liked to go back three years, to the day before… before my little sister"… tearfully, he could not have gone on speaking. "Come, come now", Joseph slapped on his shoulder tenderly. "She was – raped -" cried Albert. "It was that guy, you see", he looked into Joseph's surprisingly youthful eyes, "he made her think he's The Greatest Guy on Earth with all his faked chivalry and stuff, and then gave her to some of his pals, to"… he could not go on.

"What if I tell ya", asked him the bartender, "that we folk have discovered da way ta go back in time?" Albert turned his tear-covered face towards him. "Yeah, right".

"It's true!" cried out Betty. "Show him, Arty".

"It's very simple, really", said Arty the bartender, "ya jus' suck on one of them candies", he brought up a box of colourful, yet darkish candies and placed it, open, onto the bar, "suck it good an' hard – an' then take it out, an' – thinkin' of exactly when 'n' where ya wanna go, throw it right into that machine", and he pointed at a wooden box, apparently with some metal pieces sticking out of it, which stood right next to the jukebox. "Ya'll be transpo'ted to that time an' place for exactly twelve minutes – do what ya wanna do there – an' then, come back to right where ya'd been before; c'm'on, try", he held the box up to Albert's face, enticingly.

Albert shrugged, took a reddish-black, elliptical candy the size of a walnut, sucked hard on it and threw it into the said machine –

And, all of a sudden, he was home.

"Come on, Mom", said his sister, Elisa, to their Mother, in their French Language, "Ludovic is PERFECTLY safe; he loves me, I know he does! He'll never do anything to harm me!"

Their Mother sighed. "I still do not trust him and I most definitely will not have you going camping all alone with him, up on that mountain, on that horrible motorcycle of his; do not ever trust a guy with black leather clothes and a motorcycle, I can tell you that!"

"In fact, Lizzy", said Albert, feelingly, "I totally agree with Mom; I've heard some horrible things on that fellow this very morning, at school; heard that he had tempted young girls to trust him and come with him, and then – then had, he and his friends -" Their Mother paled. "Do you mean – he -" Albert nodded. "Well, that's the end of it, young lady; you are grounded. No mountain-trips with shady fellows!" "But – Mom!" Cried out his Sister, "I've heard those ugly romours too, but they aren't true!!" "Why – because HE said so?!" Asked Albert, tears in his eyes. "I happened to have met a girl, who was – believe me, Lizzy, you do NOT wanna be in her place!!" "Well, thanks a lot for 'standing up' for me!" yelled his Sister, crying in despair. "I am sorry; I love you and cannot see you get hurt, by that – that monster", said Albert, crying as well. "Forgive me", he went to her and hugged her. "I just – I must protect you; you haven't met that girl – what he and his friends did to her – it's -" he could not go on talking; his Sister gave him an intense look. "Promise you're not lying to me!" she demanded to know. "Did I EVER lie to you?!" Asked her Brother in return – and she relented. "No, you never did – and I know, you never will… okay", she looked at her Mom, "you won; I will not go to that trip, with him; and I will check those rumours more seriously with Andrea", she promised. Her Brother hugged her, tight. "That's all I ever wanted you to say, Lizzuling", and he kissed her on the forehead – and then, all of a sudden, he was, once again, inside the shady pub.

"Excuse me a minute, I must phone home", he said, excited, took his phone out of his coat-pocket and dialed his Sister's mobile. "Hallo?" asked the voice of his little Sister. "Hi Lizzy", he said, testily, wondering regarding her reaction – would it be at that sad, heart-broken voice, with which the seventeen-year-old girl had always spoke for the past three years?

"Oh, hi!!" Exclaimed his Sister joyously, "listen, I've got to tell you the news, in case you haven't rad my email yet – I was accepted!" "Accepted where?" asked her Brother. "Why – to the national debating team!" laughed his Sister, "you know all about it; or have you forgotten?"

He looked up at the three elderly folk staring at him quizzically and nodded. "It worked!" he mouthed, excitedly. They clapped and cheered. "Wow Lizzuling, that's Great!! Congratulations!!" "Thanks!!" They chatted for some more time and then said their goodbyes and Albert, all smiles, repocketed his phone.

"Wow, it worked!" He cried out, enthusiastically, "it truly did!"

"Grand!! Have a drink with us", said Joseph. "Sure", agreed Albert.

"So", he asked them, "does it only work for the past?"

"Ho, ya guessed now, haven't ya?" laughed Joseph. "No, it also works for da future; for any time. Yep, that's how I know how things will turn out"…

"But -" said Betty – and bit her lip.

"Let me see", said Albert, taking a bluish-brown elliptical candy from the box, "the year 3,000". And he sucked on it, hard, took it out, threw it into the machine –

And instantly fell onto the wet forest-ground beneath him, as a result of the strong wind that blew in his ears.

Right above him, a huge tower, densely covered with wild vegetation, seemingly reached all the way up to outer space. A white air-vehicle, with the most perfect streamline-design, wooshed right above him and then came back and landed right next to him, at the forest-clearing that stretched for about forty meters from him to the base of that seemingly-abandoned high tower.

A figure appeared right next to him. "Ha!" said a voice; he looked up – and saw the face of an elvish-looking girl, age about eleven. "Wayadin dayir?" she asked, smiling broadly – and, in an instant, Albert had realized she had meant "What are you doing down here?"

"I've just arrived", he said, getting up and brushing the leafs and dirt from him, "from the past; almost one thousand years". The girl looked at him, in an intense look reminiscent of his younger Sister's. "Wayamin?" she asked. "Mi spino oltan!" Her blue eyes sparkled as she wiggled her head resolutely from side to side, and he guessed she was truly saying "What do you mean? I don't speak Old Tongue!" Another girl, of approximately sixteen years of age, had, all of a sudden, materialized next to the first one – from her look, Albert deduced they must be sisters. He extended his hand. "Albert", he said. "Jindliya", said the younger girl, joyously slapping his hand with hers. "Eldirya", said her older sister, slapping his hand at the same manner. "Ka!" they both told him, each grabbed one of his hands – and they were, he assumed, inside the white air-vehicle, which had actually seemed a good deal roomier on the inside. "Com", said Jinliya, "tran oltan!" and, to Albert, "spi!"

"I have just arrived from the past, from almost a thousand years ago", said Albert, instantly amazed to hear, in his own voice, "Mi arri senpa, tousen yergalmo". The girls laughed, whole-heartedly, at his amazement. "I – " he said – and, all at once, was, once again, sitting at that shady bar.

Urgency in his eyes, he turned to Arty and said, "I must go back – but, for longer this time; could I somehow prolong the visit?"

The bartender nodded, "yeah, ya simply suck on more of 'em candies an' throw 'em in; but – "

"Alright, Thanks!" Said Albert, took five different candies, sucked them altogether and then threw them all into the machine, thinking of the two girls at the vehicle and of how absolutely Grand it had felt to him, to look straight into Eldirya's big blue eyes; and he was back there with them.

"Ya Wa?" asked Jinliya, amused no end – and the computer gave her question as "You What?"

He smiled at her, knowing that, by now, he's got an entire hour to spend, with her and her enchantingly beautiful big Sister. "I am very very happy to meet the two of you!" he said, feelingly, to the beautiful Eldirya, who blushed and laughed.

They spent the following hour beautifully; it was the happiest hour of Albert's young life. And, once he was back by the bar, he just grabbed five more candies…

When he was back in the pub after that, he felt he needs to go use the toilet; and, once he finished there, went to the sink to wash his hands and glimpsed at the mirror – –

He was shocked.

His face had changed; his forehead had lines, which were not there this afternoon, and his dark blond hair had now the sporadic grey in it, here and there, though admittedly in merely small quantities… but enough: he looked at his late thirties.

All stunned, he stepped out of the toilet and back to the bar. "What – " he asked, muted with horror.

"Time is vengeful, laddy", said Joseph, no smile now in his voice. "And there is a price to pay"…

"Why didn't you TELL me?!" Cried Albert out, and Joseph shrugged. "Forgot", he smiled, sheepishly.

"An' anyway, would ya choose ya'd not do that?" inquired Arty. "Why, would ya rather neva haf' touched 'em candies?" Albert sighed. "No… I'm happy I saved my Sister, but – " "There ain't any way back, you know", said Betty. "Once you've tried – you're hooked!" "You can never stop after the first one, we know; we tried!" said Joseph; Betty pulled a photo from her breast-pocket. "This was taken last month, when Arty here just got the job at the bar!" she said. "These three are us!" Albert looked –

And at the photo he saw two young lads – one at his early twenties, the other no older than sixteen – smiling broadly at the camera, while standing at the two sides of a breath-takingly beautiful girl, no older than fifteen years of age. "Yep", nodded the ancient-looking lady, "that's me".

And, against himself, Albert felt that he must, no matter what, just must take five more candies and suck them all in his mouth…

A pub in a small Missouri town, where four elderly citizens are sitting, talking, reminicing. A pub which, just happens to be located, right by the entrance, to the Twilight Zone.

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