From Traveler’s HOT LThe Time Traveler’s Resort by C. R. Downing

Best Science Fiction Book 2014 by

Available from


“Something went wrong,” Brian said as soon as both Time Synchronizers had completed their transition from misty imprecision to corporeal distinctness. “The reason I made it back was I managed to finagle a three-day pass from the loony bin. That’s the only reason I was back in my room when it was time to make the return trip.”

“We have documented that your problem remains unresolved,” Epoch said with no inflection. “It is most disappointing.”

“That’s it?” Brian shouted. “All the money I paid, and all I get is that the outcome is ‘disappointing’? You can’t be serious!”

“If you think back, the complete phrase I used was ‘most disappointing.’ That does most accurately describe the result.”

“We do have one option left,” Tempus quickly inserted herself into the conversation. Brian bit his tongue and swallowed the spicy invective he had planned to launch in Epoch’s direction. “It will require some thoughtful consideration on your part.”

“Thinking is not a problem, particularly if it keeps me out of my stay in the mental facility permanently.”

“Of that we can offer no absolute guarantee,” Tempus said. “I have an idea that should work, but only if you can determine an implementation strategy.”

“I’m listening.”

“What went wrong in the attempt you have just completed? “I was too trusting of Sam Sidekick.”

“If we inserted you just before your trust was betrayed, can you envision an alternative ending?”

“One where you avoid being committed to the mental institution?” Epoch added to be certain that Brian was cognizant of the scope of Tempus’ idea.

“I don’t know,” Brian answered honestly. “What I just experienced is very close to what happened 30 years ago.”

“It was closer than that. And it has been nearly 31 years,” Epoch corrected.

“Seriously?” Brian shook his head.

“The timing on the next insertion, if there is another, must be absolutely perfect. A deviation of only hours might lead to another failure.”

“At that point, you might be forced to relive your time in the mental facility,” Tempus explained. “The time fabric is already quite wrinkled in that section. We do not know if even a single crease left by another trip can been smoothed out.”

“When do you need my decision?”

“The sooner the better. Delaying your return by more than 24 hours will reduce the chances of a successful revision of your timeline below an acceptable level.”

“I’ll let you know by lunch tomorrow.”

“Excellent. Tempus, we need to return to our duties, I have received a report of a situation that requires our presence.”

The mist dissipated. The door opened and Eternity entered with new, clean, correctly sized clothing. She said nothing, but her facial expression reminded Brian that he was wearing only tightly stretched socks and a pair of far too small Space Battle underwear.

* * *

“I think I know how I can fix this whole thing once and for all,” Brian said enthusiastically. “I need to arrive just as I’m preparing to animate Hank and Helen.”

“The time of day is very important,” Tempus reminded him. “The more precise the insertion, the better chance of your remediation succeeding.”

“7:27 PM. I’ll just be getting home from my Great-Aunt Margaret’s.” After a brief mental calculation, Brian grunted and strained his answer while he crammed his adult body into the pants, shirt, and underwear sized for the thirteen-year-old version of himself he might be replacing without time to change clothing. It had been his idea, much to the chagrin of Eternity— selecting the travel clothing of others seemed be one of her few sources of enjoyment.

“Very well. May this be the best of times for you,” were Tempus’ words as she closed the door to the room in the HOT L.

* * *

As Brian de-rippled, a term he’d just invented, in his room, he thought first how nice it was not to have to relive Great-Aunt Margaret’s tuna casserole and of Sam, waiting impatiently in the desk. He opened the drawer. Sam quickly clambered out. The odd couple worked over five hours together. It was after to midnight when all that remained was the fusion of the side slits in the bodies of Hank and Helen.

Brian was physically exhausted. He pushed his chair away from the desk, and slipped off his shoes.

“Wait a minute! Whatta ya doing?” Sam demanded. “We’re almost done here!”

“Sam,” Brian spoke slowly. “I’m tired. It’s late. We’ll fuse them both first thing in the morning.”

“You’re ‘tired?’ Big deal! ‘It’s late.’ So what? What about me? Come on. These,” Sam gestured at Hank and Helen’s still forms. “These are the only others like me in the entire world. We can’t stop now!”

Brian understood—more than Sam knew. With great effort, he fumbled with the epoxy mix.

Once again Sam’s insisted that he finish Helen first.

“Let me put Hank into the drawer, just in case?” Brian said before he began the final “healing” of Helen.

“Why do that?” Sam asked with just a hint of concern in his voice.

“I should have thought of this before,” Brian answered with carefully chosen words. “I’m so tired that I might spill the epoxy. If that got on Hank, well…”

“Seems like a bit of overcaution,” Sam offered, and this time there was a definite note of unease in his words.

“Better too much caution than not enough,” Brian answered as he pushed the drawer shut with Hank inside. He carefully lifted Helen’s form from the desktop, ran a bead of epoxy down the slits on both sides of her perfectly shaped body, and placed her gently back in place.

Helen sat up. Her movements were graceful and flowing, much smoother than Sam’s. Yes, Sam had been right. Hank would be perfect. Brian reached for the epoxy. His head slowly lowered until it rested on the desktop and Brian was sound asleep.

Sam Sidekick turned to Helen, “You are incredibly beautiful.” “Well, Sam, you’re not so bad yourself!”

Their embrace was tender. Their kisses long and lingering. They reluctantly pulled apart when Sam whispered, “You know what we have to do.”

It took them both working their hardest, but they tipped over the bottle of epoxy and spilled the remaining fluid. Then, with a superhuman effort by Sam—Helen was already feeling the effects of low energy supply—the tiny pair inched Brian’s little finger into the puddle of the super-strong glue epoxy mix. Brian groaned as his finger hit the glue.

Sam sent Ralph a message. When the reply came through, the two living action figures moved methodically around the desk, leaving a wake of destruction. Their sabotage complete, Sam grabbed two pieces of his cotton bedding, soaked them in the honey-water solution. He and Helen greedily sucked some before attaching the food supplies to each other’s backs.

They slid down the desk lamp’s electrical cord, ran over to the drapery pull, and climbed up to the windowsill. Once at the window, Sam broke the glass windowpane, and kicked out a large enough opening for them both to clamber through.

The tinkling of a piece of broken glass drew Brian’s gaze to the window where the answer awaited. Helen waved and ducked the rest of the way through the hole in the windowpane. Sam smiled broadly, mouthed the words, “Thank you!” and flashed his creator the “thumbs up” sign. Then he followed Helen out the hole in the glass.

Brian leaped up to follow the now obviously devious Sam. His progress was abruptly halted by a pull on his arm. Once again, he realized that his finger had become a part of the desktop. Again, anger drove the drowsiness from his brain, and he condemned Sam’s actions in his mind.

He pulled open his desk drawer, gently patted the still form of Hank, and removed his old Boy Scout knife. As he pried away at the glob of epoxy, he again observed the damage that Sam and Helen had left behind.

With a furious swipe, he forced the tears from beneath his eyelids. Sam would pay for this. After all, that’s not like it was in the movie!



Find out what on Earth is going on with Brian in Chapter 6,

“That’s Not Like It Was In The Movie.”