The Time Traveler, Part 10

Wherein a riot ensues.

Last time: Senator Red Newman visited Wainwright Labs and laid down an ultimatum for Brown and Carpenter.

It looked like a military campaign upstairs, or at least like Elvis was about to play the Hayride. We sat in Ray Carpenter’s office, watching on the giant television as thousands of people swarmed Gorlock’s deserted streets. This long forgotten Nevada outpost was the new center of the Universe, or you’d think so from watching the TV.

Police, newsmen, and looky-loos crowded the old, abandoned main street, and in the middle of it all stood Senator Red Newman and Congressman Jim Bellew.  “If there was one camera left on Earth, those two would fight to the death to see who got to stand in front of it,” Ray said.

Many of the looky-loos waved picket signs whenever the politicians addressed the cameras. The picketers behind Bellew decorated theirs with slogans like “Let’s Build A Time Wall,” “Science Isn’t A Crime,” “Don’t Kiss Her Marty She’s Your Mom,” and “I’m Holding A Sign.” “This is an extraordinary breakthrough. Imagine having the power to prevent Hitler, or to see where climate change takes us. This is even a bigger game changer than the atom bomb or the moon landing. What this Wainwright team has done is conquer the final frontier, with apologies to the Star Trek fans out there,” Congressman Bellew said. He waved a strange double-fingered “V For Victory” sign toward the camera, and the crowd laughed. “What a blessing this is for the world peace we’ve all craved for so long.”

Carpenter switched channels. There stood Senator Newman, his rusty face contorted into a mask of anger and concern. His picketers sported signs decorated with phrases like “Make America Great Again,” “Brown Can’t Do Nothing For Me,” and “Time Is God’s Will.”

“The American people demand to know what these so-called scientists are hiding,” Newman said. “Why are they sneaking around in tunnels under the desert like a bunch of snakes? My daddy always told me, ‘Red, an honest man’s got nothing to hide.'” This roused the crowd to shouts of “Show yourselves! Show yourselves!”

“I’ve been down there, and let me tell you something: Wainwright Laboratories is nothing but a giant lie. Time travel is impossible. If God wanted us to travel through time he’d of given us time wings. But let me tell you something else: They don’t believe in God down there. They told me themselves that they’re devil worshipers.” The crowd behind him erupted into shouts and jeers. Newman waved his hands, and the picketers quieted down.

“What they are doing down there is manufacturing secret weapons for godless terrorists to use against us. They will not stop until every Christian is destroyed or enslaved, and the American people won’t stand for it. It’s time we took our country back.” This threw the crowd into a frenzy. They screamed and pumped their fists and chanted, “USA! USA!”

“What the hell is he talking about?” I asked the television.

“That’s what politicians do these days. They whip their constituents into a frightened panic,” Carpenter said.

“Just like McCarthy.”

“Yep, and the funny thing is that Newman and his cronies peddle this idea of the ’50s as some kind of American utopia. Their supporters either don’t know about Joe McCarthy or they don’t care. Don’t get me wrong, Brown, I miss quite a bit about the fifties. I miss Van Johnson and June Allyson movies at the drive-in, and those cars. Boy, did we know how to build them back then. I miss Mickey Mantle and What’s My Line and Dave Brubeck. I miss my youth, being able to walk without a damned cane or any pain.”

Here Carpenter stopped for a moment and rubbed his thighs with his wrinkled hands. On the television, the picketers were facing off now. Some stood just inches apart, yelling directly into each other’s faces. Those giant televisions were so good that I could make out the blue in their bulging neck veins. “But I don’t miss the fear or the paranoia one bit,” Ray said. “I don’t have to–the only thing that’s changed in 60 years is who and what we’re told to be afraid of.”

Upstairs, the shouting escalated into a full-fledged riot. Sleepy little Gorlock, preserved so neatly in the Nevada desert, echoed with screams and the tinkling of breaking glass. Protesters punched each other and swung their picket signs while the news cameras circled wildly, trying to capture it all. Bellew and Newman were nowhere to be seen. By midnight the whole town was ablaze.

“It’s just a matter of time before they find the lab entrance,” Carpenter said. “I think it’s time we get you home.”


Categories: fiction

2 replies »

  1. “But I don’t miss the fear or the paranoia one bit,” Ray said. “I don’t have to–the only thing that’s changed in 60 years is who and what we’re told to be afraid of.” – This American Life Reality. In one line.

    Liked by 1 person

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