To Live the Dream
UNFINISHED Started in 2010
Xander sat there staring at the data stagnant on the screen. It was no use, his mind was no longer in it. Hour after hour, day after day, year after year, he looked at numbers and assigned budgets for the sales department. Maybe if he was selling something interesting he might be able to find a little bit of motivation, but office supplies were about the most boring thing Xander could think of.
His mind wondered back to one of his passions, amusement parks. He collected information on them for no reason. He knew the history of them, the profitability of them, the advancements in technology from the beginning. But it was the one and only ever giant of the industry that he could not continuously scour the world for information on. Disney. The media giant that toppled after nearly two centuries of dominance, Disney was his life’s passion and personal fantasy.
He ran down the years, 1954 they began construction of Disneyland, 1955 opening day, 1959 began scouting for the second amusement park, 1963 Walt considers Orlando, 1964 begins purchasing land, 1965 major land purchases are completed and the success of Disneyworld is locked in with the announcement of the new theme park.
It was not the fact that Walt Disney had the idea and plans to accomplish such a goal, but that he was able to keep things so hushed. He was even able to create a city in secrecy to be able to zone the land in the way he wanted. The man had more ability than anyone else of his time. Xander was thankful that he dedicated it to entertainment.
The vision of his spreadsheet came back into view causing his fantasy to drown in the boredom of work. He clicked the buttons on his program allowing the mediaganizer to run the calculations he had spent years in college learning how to do. The movement and monotony put him back into his daydream.
He always envisioned the beauty of Disney World. He of course never was able to go, the company collapsed a hundred years before he was born. Of course he could go to Time Stamper, the theme park that was housed where Disney World once stood, but it was not the same. The place was covered in filth, most of the rides were holographic simulations and almost nothing was based on any form of education. It was nothing like the historic reviews or pictures of Disney World.
The one saving grace to Time Stamper was the fact that they still had one ride from the original Disney World park. The Haunted Mansion continued to operate as it always did. Now the speakers sounded fake and the dust inside the attraction was from years of build up as opposed to placed there by the park employees, but it was the only bit of the old world park that remained.
The annoying chime echoed in the room signaling that his work day was over. He pulled the mediaganizer from his pocket. As he flipped through the screens on the tiny plastic device his finger slipped and his spreadsheet went into calculation mode. Xander held the emergency stop button to end the operation. As the spreadsheet came back into view he felt dread wash into his brain knowing that he should go back and proofread his work to make sure his finger slip did not destroy any of the hard work his mediaganizer performed.
He took a deep breath to relax, but his mind had already checked out. Hell, it checked out four years prior. He ignored his gut feelings and just sent the report. What was the worst that could happen? A write up? A yelling session because he sent a salesman the suggestion to sell a box of staplers to a company who needed a box of paperclips? It was not worth it. He tapped the screen to disconnect his mediaganizer from his office screen and the work day was done. Relief.
He walked out the door of his office and into his living room. Finally it was time to relax and be a human being. No more numbers! Nothing but fun for the rest of the night. And in the morning his wife and kids would return from their trip to his in-laws. He might even take a half day from work to spend some time with them, it had been nearly a week since he saw them.
Unfortunately, Xander did not have the energy to entertain himself. After three minutes of sitting on the couch watching the suggested entertainment from his mediaganizer he fell asleep. At four AM he woke and stumbled his way to his bed.
Thursday welcomed Xander with a bright sun shining in through his windows giving him the impression that everything would be great today. It was a deceptive trick that nature loves to play, happy sights lead to depressing days.
Xander awoke to a bright room in filled with joy. Pictures of flowers all over the walls and the room plastered in a horrendous light pink always gave him a moment of thought. Why did he allow his wife to do all the decorating?
He got out of bed seeing the long pajamas he was wearing and laughing at his old fashioned style. It was not just the house decorations that his wife took charge of. It was ok, the long johns made him feel like he was in the mid 1900’s when he could have watched the rise of Disney World. He looked out the window hoping to see the green of the trees poking out, but as always the Alaskan climate would not allow for that this early in the year. It was still a winter wonderland outside.
He looked over at the mediaganizer on his dresser which was vibrating softly as it tried to alert him that he needed to come into the office today. He was quick to pull up the calendar application and accepted the appointment. He did not read the subject of the meeting he already knew everything about his job better than he knew his own history, maybe not the history of Disney, but definitely better than his own.
Unlike most days, Xander went to his closet to get dressed. A casual suit as they called it was perfect for the office. A pair of traditional denim pants and a sleeved shirt. He always despised going into the office knowing how formal his company was. They never even got casual Fridays, he always had to wear a shirt.
As Xander stepped out of the doorway to his room he scanned hallway, nothing out of place. It was the same beige walls that he always saw. He could not remember the last time he went into the office. He was not sure he would be able to find his department once he got to the building. He continued down the hall and eventually down the stairs in a state of worry until he was greeted at the edge of the kitchen by a beautiful woman. Her tall yet thick features jogged his memory to the fact that she had returned from her parents house. It had been so long he felt that she never really existed. Just a figment of his imagination that suddenly came to life.
It was odd looking into her face feeling things for a woman that he felt only existed in a dream world, but he greeted her with a hug and a smile.
She pulled back a little to look him in the eyes, “Are you ok?”
“Sorry babe. I just found out I have to go into the office. Was hoping for a half day, but I can’t skip out in front of my boss.” He said trying to make sense of his sleepy attitude.
His wife grasped him hard behind his back pulling him in tight to her body. “Is there a problem?” She felt a little disappointed that the one day she wanted him home he was going in to the office, but she understood. “It’s been a couple years since you were called in and that time it was that patent infringement issue that nearly took the company down.”
“I’m not that worried about it. I’m sure it is nothing.”
“Of course, we will spend tomorrow together then.”
“I don’t want to wake the kids, would rather be able to spend some time with them when I see them.” He kissed Darla in a more passionate way than he intended. Their separation was harder on him than either of them expected.
She let out a moan as she stepped to the side to give him access to the basement. It was not a moan of pleasure, but more of a flimsy pout forcing herself to allow her husband to go to work.
Xander robotically walked to the stairs while his wife stared off at him wondering how their love had held up so many years.
He trudged down the steps into the small room damp and cold from the harsh winter outside. There were no decorations, just cold concrete on all four walls. In the center of the sat four sets of tracks, each with a small vehicle only easily described as an enclosed motorcycle. He slid the hatch back from the green motorcycle box and boarded the transport sitting comfortably in the plush reclined seat. The hatch closed automatically overhead.
“I need to go to the office.” Xander spoke unsure of where that was, but the machine knew what he wanted and within seconds he was moving hundreds of miles per hour down dark narrow passageways.
The trip was only about half an hour, but the intense speed mixed with realization that he was inches away from solid concrete walls always left him nervous. There was so much trust in technology. There were situations everyday where he was inches away from death, but the blind faith that there would be no malfunctions left most people comfortably ignorant of the danger. It was Xander’s obsession with the history of theme parks that gave his psyche the realization that he may not be safe. Thrill rides of the time were thrilling because they brought their passengers to the brink of danger. Although the technology of the time would keep them safe nearly every time, it was that one freak incident that would come along every decade or so that would turn today’s humanity against their trust of technology.
He arrived in another damp, cold basement. His transport was one of many in the parking lot. It had been so long he did not realize how far away his parking space was. He was a few dozen rows back. He carefully made his way around the adjacent parking spaces each with their own private tunnel and set of tracks. It was another piece of technology that spooked him. He never knew when he stepped in front of another track if it’s vehicle would come shooting out of the tunnel and rip him in half. Just thinking about it gave him chills, thinking of all the vehicles speeding down the one way international lines all converging at speeds of three hundred miles an hour onto another single rail line. Or when work would let out and hundreds of the motorcycle boxes would exit the parking lot on their private tracks to merge onto the international line, there never seemed to be any kind of slow merging process, just full throttle connections.
He shivered as he finally reached the walkway and to the stairs. He could not tell if the chill was from the crisp air or his fear of the ride home. He walked up the stairs and through a doorway into a massive room filled with people all milling around as if they had no idea which direction they should be heading. The room was ten stories tall, but was open to the ceiling, with massive windows on either side. There were banners hanging across the gorge of a room welcoming everyone to the Whitehorse location. He was relieved that he had been delivered to the correct location.
His mediaganizer began to shake within his pocket. He pulled it out to find it was in directional mode and giving him instructions on where to go for his briefing.
He went down the hall ducking under the low hanging signs for different executives’ offices. The hall winded down clear tunnels revealing the amazing sights of the Alaskan snow as if they were walking out in nature. Eventually he was led to another large room filled with people all in a scamper to understand what was happening to them. He did not recognize a soul in the room, but seeing as he was now five thousand miles away from his last place of residence he did not expect to know anyone.
The front of the room adorned a clear board with a holographic typing flashing on it which said, do not panic, you still exist. Xander thought the message was very negative, but he would give the speaker a chance to make it a positive before he laid judgment. The room was open with a gradual incline lending everyone in it to lean slightly towards the front middle where the speaker stood. This tended to be the most common design for a lecture hall type of room for the last hundred years regardless of timeline.
It was not long before a man came in wearing a nice suit carrying a briefcase. He was short and dumpy looking like he should have been singing to birds with Snow White. “Welcome everybody, this is a historical briefing over the last four centuries. If anyone in here was not affected by the change in history last night, please return to work now.” The dumpy man looked up to see if anyone was going to leave, but of course no one did.
The translucent board began to show video to its audience allowing the type to fade into the wall behind it. “Last night our timeline shifted. There was a successful assassination attempt on Walt Disney in 1959. I will be going over the changes this caused in our timeline up until lunch at which time we will break into groups and discuss how to collect the new truths of each of your personal lives.”
Xander leaned back in his perfectly ergonomic chair as he prepared to hear the results of his plan. He had prepared an excellent analysis of the historical changes he expected and this would be proof he needed to feel his complete success.
“The obvious change and the one our company had hoped for was that Disneyworld was not built, keeping the Disney Corporation as a regional west coast company. They had a collapse on the movie business in the late twentieth century along with a deteriorating amusement park business which led them into bankruptcy a few centuries down the road. Instead of Disneyworld a small upstart company showed up in Florida and created similar, but larger theme park in the exact place where Disneyworld stood.”
Xander had to confirm it was the Knox Berry Farm people who had made the move. “Who was it that moved into Florida?”
The dumpy man stopped for second and peered out into the audience to find his questioner. “It was a small company by the name of Time Stamper LLC. They created a massive amusement park that focused on science. They were responsible for many of the scientific breakthroughs we’ve had over this timeline. They grew so large, housing their employees on site that they would eventually apply for statehood as the fifty second state of the United States.”
This was a disaster. Xander researched every inch of history and alternative history changes leaving him a hundred percent positive that Knox Berry Farms would take over the east coast amusement park industry. He closed his eyes trying to accept the new reality listening to the presenter as he did.
“The great monetary crash of the early two thousands appeared just like before and just like before the massive Floridian amusement park helped the economy bounce back. After that the world experienced some massive changes. Since the Time Stamper Park was focused on technology, they led the world in new innovations. We had time travel by the year 2136, faster than light travel by 2200, other worldly colonies by 2251. Now, in what will be news to everyone in here, we discovered the algorithm and storage type for the human brain. This allows a type of telepathy. With the algorithm we can understand a person so well, that we can narrow their decisions down to a few options. This allows us to cut out the choices we know they won’t make therefore removing inefficient amounts of time from all decision making processes. In addition, knowing the storage type of human memories has allowed us to create mobile versions of ourselves. We are all stored on our mediaganizers in case something happens and we need to be reanimated.”
A low murmur filled the room as if everyone began their own separate conversation. It was not so much panic as it was awe. Many of the people in the room had experienced the timeline shift before, so this was nothing more than another adjustment, but to Xander it was as if he had just wandered into a movie and a surrealistic one at that.
“Now, everyone here has a job for the time being, we don’t want to lay anyone off after such a horrendous ordeal, but due to the jump in technology everyone will be required to take an assessment test.” The pudgy man sat down in the small plush chair behind him as the clear screen showed a video of the recent history.
Xander was flabbergasted by the idea that he had to test for his job, as if he would be placed into a lower level position. He was worried he may not be able to pass the test, he had never been a very good student and even if his new self had studied his new timeline’s information there was a good chance it was never retained and no longer apart of his broken memories.
He stood up and marched down the slope to the man at the front of the room. He let his voice fall to a whisper as he questioned the fat little man. “When can I test? I want to get it over with and well, the sooner the better.”
The little man leaned forward in his chair holding his mediaganizer in his left hand, annoyed by occurrence of actual work. He tapped the pinky of his right hand on the screen pulling up schedules and bios. “What is your name?”
“Xander Apollo Stair.” Xander’s teeth gritted back and forth as he tensed his jaw in anticipation of the answer.
The fat man looked at his screen tapping a few things while he looked up at Xander in a slight amount of fear. His respiratory rate visibly quickened as he frantically tapped something on the screen letting his eyes dart between Xander and the door to the room.
“What?” Xander did not like the reaction the man was giving him.
The fat man relaxed his posture as a group of security slowly entered the room. The fat man looked up at the young man with a smirk that showed his love for power. “You see here Xander, you weren’t supposed to be invited to this little party. Your analysis of the alternative history was so far off that we are going to have to let you go.”
Xander’s eyes bulged forward as his eyelids tried to retreat into his skull. “But you just said you didn’t want to lay anyone off after such…”
The fat man butted in obviously proud to interject in Xander’s plea. “Right, but if it wasn’t for you then we wouldn’t have to even deal with this. Plus if you hadn’t pushed the issue you would have been employed for a couple more days. Besides, we have a great unemployment plan in this nation.”
Xander stood in shock unable to speak as the security men took him from under the arms leading him out of the room. There was no exit interview, no gathering of his things, just an escort back to his vehicle where he was asked to return home.
The ride back home felt much longer than the trip there. His mind was a scatter with attempting to grasp onto the realities that surrounded him. The world had shifted dramatically and he did not understand how he could get anywhere in life at this point. The speed of his transport was again unbelievable watching the solid wall fly by the window of his cycle-type-vehicle. Everything was moving fast now, his car, his life, the world, he felt he could not keep up. The only thing he could do was sit back and relax into the chair.
It took him a few days to bring the memories of the life he did not experience to the forefront of his mind. His wife, Darla, had met him at college. They met at a bar and hung out from time to time, not having too much in common. He was an Economic major and she was a dance major, he enjoyed her company because of her wild and unpredictable side and she loved his intelligence and the security he seemed to bring to most situations.
After college they didn’t see each other for a year or so. Xander happened into a meeting with her while at a baseball game. The baseball game was the first real thing they had in common. They both dreamed of living centuries before when life was simple and people made their own decisions although neither of them would have survived without the caring government they both leaned on, but baseball was untouched. The sport was essentially the same activity and show it was six hundred years prior back when people slaved their land along side their actual slaves and owned their property supporting their family. It was both of their dreams.
She had hit hard times while he was stable as usual. He felt bad for and she thought he would rescue her. They enjoyed each others company all night eventually going back to his place where they accidently conceived their daughter. Xander wanting to do the right thing married the girl. Eventually they were forced into moving to Fairbanks Alaska with the Californian earthquakes damaging too much of the landscape. A mass exodus of that state overflowed the government offices with applications for residency movements. Of course Xander and Darla had not applied to move to Alaska, but there just weren’t enough openings in favorable places, that mixed with the fact that Xander’s job was done from home mostly, they just had to be within a thousand miles of one of his companies offices. So, they were forced to Fairbanks.
It was there Darla birthed their son in the bathtub upstairs, Xander following the doctor’s orders on just how to pull and turn the child. The place was just too cold for people to be out and about. And for years they were fine as a family of four, Darla staying at home, the kids going to school, and Xander working for Waloogle, but that had changed. There was no longer an income and Xander had to find work.
“It has been two days!” Darla was in tears again. She had never considered that her knight in shining armor, her life’s savior would ever be left unemployed.
“What the hell do you want me to do? I screwed up my last job and now no one is going to hire me anymore!” Xander was shouting while staring at his mediaganizer showing reruns of shows he remembered from his life in Mexico. At least T.V. had not shifted.
“You won’t even look at me! You are the not the man I married, the man I loved.”
“You didn’t love me, you married me because I knocked you up.” Xander was speaking the truth as he remembered it, but his brashness hurt. The fact that he did not remember experiencing these things left all the emotion out of the memories. He had become straight forward and harsh towards the woman the previous Xander would have done anything to avoid hurting.
“Fuck off! Either go and apply or I’m taking the kids back to California where my parents will take us in.” She was out the living and up the stairs.
Xander knew his attitude was unfair, Darla did not know of anything but this life. She had not just left her whole world behind to wake up into a new life with strangers. She instead woke up into her normal life with a stranger for a husband. He just felt that there was little he could do, after spending years alone he was now trapped in a house with people he did not feel he really knew.
Knowing that this life should be better than his last, he forced himself to look for work. It was a simple task although he felt it was time consuming and tedious. He shut down the television show he was watching to pull up the national job application form. Staring into the small screen Xander built an anxiety in his head pushing his desire to work away from his heart.
The application was pretty simple consisting of work history, education, hobbies… Most of it was imported in from his social bio on the nationalnet. He of course checked his willingness to relocate and then up came the form that terrified him. It was the form that nearly kept him from getting a job in either of his lifetimes fresh out of school.
The form was the equivalent hiring process form. It was designed to make sure that the population was perfectly represented at all places of employment. If ten percent of the population spoke French, then ten percent of every company would speak French. It covered everything you could imagine, race, ethnicity, hair color, languages spoken, diseases, disabilities, number of children, number of marriages, interests… The reason the form set fear so deep into the Xander’s being was that he was the most normal person to ever live. He fit none of the minority categories and therefore could only be offered jobs by companies who had satisfied all of the equivalent hiring measures and still had an opening.
He tapped his mediaganizer with his pinky filling out the form clicking none of the above over and over, a deep fear bubbling from within his psyche as question after question appeared. Eventually the form faded into the background and was replaced by another form.
This form was an aptitude test. Xander had always been very confident of his ability to take these. Typically they asked some placement questions in the initial set of five questions then asked a series of aptitude questions after that to place you within the level you placed in initially.
He took a deep breath as the first question appeared on the screen. It was a simple question covering supply and demand not posing any kind of threat to Xander’s intelligence, but as he went to tap the third choice the mediaganizer slipped out his hands and as it fell his pinky tapped the first choice.
Xander growled at himself leaning over on the smooth brown couch he was relaxed upon trying to retrieve his device from the floor. As he got to it his fingers graced the smooth screen causing small blips and bleeps to emit from its small speakers. By the time the device was secured back in Xander’s hand the screen asked a question that horrified him. If someone has one hundred dollars and spends three fourths of it, how much remains?
He looked frantically around the screen for a back button knowing that he had pressed some wrong answers and failed the assessment miserably, but there was none. He had sealed his fate and the job he received was destined to be worthless.
He finished the assessment and received a message letting him know that he would be contacted by the next day at noon regarding his possible job choices. The screen went black mimicking Xander’s hope. He pushed the tears out of his eyes questioning why he was forced to endure these issues. He had just left a life where he was a nobody, going nowhere and then he derailed his new life which before he took over was turning out quite well.
He slipped off his shoes and slowly walked up the stairs. Each step was a death sentence as he approached his wife who would surely leave him for ruining their chances at any kind of wealth. He wiggled his toes in his socks feeling the soft shag carpet over each stair. His hands glided up the iron railing the touch shocking his senses at its cold temperature.
Once he was at the entrance to the bedroom he knocked quietly to alert Darla to his presence. He walked into the room and sat down gently on the bed beside her letting his hand find her arm to softly caress her in an attempt to sooth her before the big reveal. She looked up at him with her eyes still red from the tears wondering if her kind husband would ever return to her.
“I am sorry.” Xander controlled his voice with extreme caution. “I am just adjusting and I know how hard this must be for you.” He looked over to her catching a small smile as it found daylight in their bedroom. “I applied.”
A wave of relief washed over Darla allowing her to put her monetary fears aside. “So, maybe we will be leaving Fairbanks?”
Xander saw the hope in her eyes, maybe she had been dreaming for him to lose his job so they could leave. “Probably, but...” He did not want to tell her of his disastrous screw up.
“What? What happened?”
“I made an error and I don’t know what kind of job I can still get.”
Their conversation went on for hours, but there was no anger. Darla did not mind if Xander did something else, she was ok with living in a smaller house and having less. The only thing she wanted was for her husband to be loving, to know their children, and hopefully to leave Alaska.
“We have a couple of choices for you sir. I will be sending you three job descriptions, locations, and pay rates. You will have forty eight hours to research on nationalnet and respond to this message. Please be clear and concise in your choice. Your government will take care of your new residence, moving expenses and arrangements, and your employee paperwork. Thank you. To hear this message again please say repeat.”
Xander tapped his pinky to the red button on his mediaganizer and watched as the animated woman faded away. He could feel the lump in his ready to burst if the only jobs he was offered were janitorial work. Taking a deep breath and facing his fears he tapped the small icon labeled offers.
The first option pulled up filling the small screen.
Employer: Custodial Suppliers of Texas
Job Title: Lead Worker in the Custodial Arts
Location: Galveston, TX
Job Description: Lead a crew of five laborers in the maintaining of all aesthetic and health related issues in building Zed on Galveston Island.
Hours: Twelve hours on, twelve hours off, five days a week. Days off will be assigned, will not be consecutive and will not include either Saturday or Sunday.
Pay: 50,000 currency.
The description sent him into a funk. His worst fear was true. He was going to be a janitor. He closed his eyes saying goodbye to all the perks he had before: goodbye weekends off, goodbye six figure incomes, goodbye telecommutes, goodbye happiness. His mind suddenly convinced that he enjoyed his previous job not recognizing the possibility that this life could be more enjoyable.
He clicked the red box to move to the next job description.
Employer: United States of America Department of Parks and Recreation
Job Title: Park Security
Location: Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve
Job Description: Oversee the security of the National Park ensuring no intruders enter or thefts occur.
Hours: Ten PM to Six AM. Five days a week with alternating non-consecutive days off.
Pay: 40,000 Currency.
Without a thought invading his mind he pressed the red button.
Employer: Timer Stamper LLC
Job Title: Ride Operator
Location: The Commonwealth of Time Stamper
Job Description: To deliver outstanding guest assistance while operating the attraction and maintaining a safe environment for the guests.
Hours: Eight hours per day. Five days per week. Days off are assigned and consecutive. Employees must be available for any shifts including overnights.
Pay: 30,000 Currency.
Xander felt he had no choice. His wife desperately wanted out of Alaska, so the park job was out, but he was not going to be a janitor. The only option was the theme park, which paid minimum wage. He was not happy with his now wasted time in college, but knowing that he would not have to be a custodian he was almost reveling in his new job.
He leaned back on the couch taking in the sight of the falling snow on his skylight and screamed out. “Hey baby! We’re moving to Time Stamper.” His voice reached out as if he was a teenager calling to his mother across the house.
She ran out of their room in a rush to talk to her husband. She hit the staircase and holding the iron handrail she leapt down two steps at a time nearly tumbling down half the stairs from a small misstep. “You heard back?” Her breath was frantic, but her eyes delighted in the knowledge that she was leaving her wintery hell.
“Yep. Pack your bags, baby! Fun in the sun!” Xander was up on his feet snapping his fingers.
“Is that where you are working or where we are living?”
He stopped snapping when the idea hit him that they may not be living there. With the ground transportation that the world had, they could be living as far out as Missouri, it just depended on where the closest income qualifying housing was.
“Ok, I’m working in Time Stamper, but we are leaving Alaska, that is for sure!” Xander was elated because this was the restart he felt he needed. With new job in a new place maybe he could really connect with his family and bring everything to the way it should be in the current reality.
The children took no convincing in the move away from Alaska. The intense coldness and the pollution caused by the oil industry left no one much ability to go outside. Treyton, Xander and Darla’s son, had never been outside. There was a small discussion which led to the kids going to their rooms to pack up their toys. Everything else in the house would be packed by the movers or left for the next residence.
Darla snuggled her head into her husband’s chest as she dreamt of their future together. She envisioned the four of them living to the extent of their happiness. She saw a small cottage with a small yard. The green grass invited Treyton and Alexandria to play out in the sun where they could have what their mother felt was a normal childhood. She breathed deep feeling that her life would soon return to normal.
The pattern of his breath raised and lowered her head gently rocking her into slumber where she was one step closer to leaving the frigid prison of Alaska.
Xander stared off into the distance trying to recall the love he felt for Darla in the life he missed out on. He liked her, but he did not feel that undying connection that he yearned for. He always assumed that he would have no choice in his mate because love would force him to marry, but this did not feel like that, this felt like convenience.
The two sat in silence waiting for the day to come when they could hop in their transports and take off.
Xander marveled at the children as they each got into their personal transport with no questions, no arguments, and no curiosities. Alexandria got into her pink motorcycle fashioned machine, leaned back in the chair and began playing a game on her mediaganizer one of the most common activities for a five year old girl in Alaska. Treyton being only three and a half years old climbed into his orange transport without any aid and curled to his side to take a nap on the way to their new house.
Darla leaned over to kiss Xander as they each boarded their transports, Xander’s green and Darla’s a sleek purple with black stripes. The overhead hatches sealed shut leaving them hopeless in their vehicles. It was seven o’clock in the evening and with the four and a half hour drive plus the time zone changes, they would all arrive around three thirty in the morning.
Xander’s transport took off at its high velocity leading the family away from their home. Darla looked up at the blank ceiling of their former basement as each of her children’s vehicles took off down the tracks. As she whispered good-bye to her old house, the wheels of her purple cycle began to spin and she was on her way to a new world.
Arriving in their small house was a shock for each member of the family. They did not know where they were heading other than it would be within a thousand miles of Xander’s work. In what was an amazing treat for the children, their shelter was inside Time Stamper.
Xander arrived first, his cycle coming to an abrupt stop inside a tiny room barely large enough to house the four transports. He exited his vehicle and immediately walked up the stairs into his new house. It was larger than his apartment in Mexico had been, but that was no big feat. It was modest, but livable. He stood inside his small living room housing a couch and a love seat both the same blue of the trademarks of the theme park. There was the obligatory mediaganizer screen for family viewing alongside a set of shelves.
In the next room was a little kitchen with a nook housing their breakfast table. Through their kitchen was two small bedrooms attached by a bathroom. All new furniture adorned the kids’ rooms. Back on the other side of the living area was the front door adjacent to the master bedroom crammed with a king size bed and their attached bath. It was small, but cozy, the perfect place for Xander to reconnect with his family.
He had just barely finished perusing the house when Darla came up the stairs with Treyton asleep over her shoulder and Alexandria dozing off while she followed her mom. Darla’s stare yelled at Xander for exploring their new abode while she was left to gather the children from their lonely journeys. They put them both to bed and met each other in their bedroom for their own nighttime ritual.
“I know things have been hard for you.” Darla started wanting to get everything in the open. “But I need. No, the kids need you to make a real effort here.”
“Shhhh” Xander put a finger to his wife’s soft pouty lips. “I know. This is a new beginning.” There was nothing left to say it was all in the past now and he could begin their life anew.
The two laid down on their hard, but new king sized mattress letting sleep invade their eyes and their heads. Nothing was going to ruin their slumber for one night. It was one of those sleeps that you never want to wake up from, but when you do, the world is all ice cream and flowers. When the morning came to welcome the couple, it did so in the gentlest of ways.
They had slept late, nearly until ten in the morning when Xander rolled over throwing his arms around the unsheathed shoulder of his wife. She let out a small soothing groan as she felt the security of her husband on her bare skin. She sat up in bed letting the covers fall off her revealing her physical sensuality to a man she trusted completely, but who had never experienced her nakedness. He looked on in wonder as she rose from the bed and got to her feet.
Her soft cotton robe went on over her arms and she tossed Xander’s on the bed for him to get dressed. They left their room to begin the day, but greeting them was an unexpected sight. The children were in the living room, both in their clothes from the night before staring out the window. Outside the window stood a string of faux storefronts, a baker, a butcher, a toy maker, a magic shop… These fake stores lined a cobblestone street perfectly painted without a speck of garbage along the way. The issue fascinating the children was the thousands of people walking down the cobblestones with their mediaganizers in hand taking photos of the place. They wore Time Stamper hats and t-shirts covered with the characters that littered the company’s parks, movies, and television shows. The occasional passerby would peer into the window obviously unable to see in. Their hand cupped above their eyes in a useless attempt to block any glare.
Treyton looked over at his parents after noticing they had joined them in the living room. “Daddy look we are inside Time Stamper!”
Xander knew what he meant, they were not just inside the Commonwealth of Time Stamper, but they were inside the actual amusement park, housed in what was most likely a fake boot smith shop or something of the like. The realization was surreal. It may have been a dream when he was a child, but now the idea of living within the walls of a tourist attraction seemed insane.
He looked over to Darla who was kneeling down on the ground with the children amazed by the situation. The three of them sat like statues positioned perfectly by the spotless white carpet below their bodies.
Xander wanted to scream, he wanted to argue, he wanted to tell someone that this was not right, but he did not have the time. His mediaganizer was shaking maddeningly trying to let him know he was to start work in less than an hour prompting him to sprint to the master bath in a mad rush to shower.
There was no time for the steam to fill the bathroom. Xander was in too much of a hurry for that. He showered and shaved in just a few minutes calling his good-byes to his family as he exited the small house to report for his first day of work.
The front door led to a small yard in the backstage area of the park which looked and felt like a small neighborhood from a television show about the 1920’s. A bunch of cookie cutter houses with the small white picket fences guarding their front lawn. He walked down his short sidewalk past his gate and down the little street. He would have let his mind wander to his children attempting to force some of his memories to sink deeper, but instead a short fat man who was sweating profusely greeted him.
“You must be Xander! We are so happy to see you! Thank you for coming!” The man exuded happiness. Eager to meet the new employee the gross little man began jogging towards Xander. “Come, come. I am Wendell your mentor. You are going to love this place.” He finally reached Xander and latched onto his hand his all his little grubby might. The shake was long vigorous and wet, but Xander wanted to make a good impression so he just went along with it.
“How is your place? You are lucky to get one on the main strip, not many get it, not many. Even I am off one of the side attractions. You are a lucky one” He nudged Xander’s shoulder as he shifted his walking back the way he came from leading Xander down the road towards wardrobe.
The walk helped Xander understand the world he had just moved into. They walked past fountains, cafes, theatres… There was an entire city hidden behind the walls of the theme park. After twenty minutes of walking down roads that were hidden behind the attractions people came to the park to see, they came to a tunnel leading them down below the park and into wardrobe.
Xander stood in line with Wendell curious about the layout of the park. The few things he had seen reminded him of Disneyworld. He had only been there a couple of times when he was young, but he remembered the main street inside the Magic Kingdom. The small street with stores on either side was a dead ringer for the cobblestone street that lay just outside his living room. Now standing inside a tunnel that appeared to stretch across the entire park was something he swore he heard as trivia when he was at Disneyworld, but he refused to say anything, he had not been there long enough.
He received his uniform which was something similar to an early 1900 bell boy uniform. He had the blue suit with the brass buttons up the vest, blue pants and the rounded boxy hat that topped everything off.
Wendell saw the humiliation in Xander’s eyes. “The uniform is not great, but once you get to your ride you won’t even notice anymore. Come on lets get you oriented.”
The two walked down the underground tunnel that was far from resembling a fantasy land like the park did. The tunnels were dark and dreary with brightly colored paint that had chipped into strange designs along the concrete walls. Water stains lined the corners of the floors and walls giving the feeling that the floor was slanted to the walls.
They followed old colored lines on the walls. Xander would be working in the Birth of technology section of the park which was a small section based on the world of the 1920s until the 1980s. The directions to his section were dictated by a green line on the walls of the tunnels. Each color meant a different section green was birth of technology, yellow was Y2K panic, red was primitive technology, brown was cyberspace, white was birth of time travel…
The minutes of walking down the pathways were excruciating, no happiness, no sunlight, nothing but dread and discontentment. It was the last thing you would expect in a park that is designed to delight.
Finally sun came shining down into the tunnel in the far distance where a ramp led up and out of the pit. When the two of them walked up the slight slope, Xander felt all the negative energy leave his body as plush gardens and happy people came into view. When they arose from the ground they were backstage again in the birth of technology section. The backstage was themed just like the area for the guests. The houses were mostly wood with big front porches and small gardens, leading sidewalks that brought everyone to a small roundabout which housed a market, movie theatre, a butcher, and a small hole in the wall bar.
Wendell took Xander by the elbow trying to force him out of his daze as he drug him to the movie theatre where orientation was about to begin. Xander let his body pull him towards the small theatre as he plodded down the road in shock, letting the red bricked road scrape at his shoes as he walked.
A cold blast of air conditioning hit Xander in the face as he entered the movie theatre. With his clothes still in hand he and Wendell walked past the snack bar and straight into the big double doored theatre. The room was massive with only fifty or so people inside. He took a seat near the front along with the other new recruits, all joined by their mentors.
It was not two minutes after sitting down when the lights shut off and an image appeared on the theatre screen on the wall. It was the image of the United State in the late 1940s. There were images of soldiers coming home from the war being greeted in their small three bedroom homes with a wife and two children. Everybody had a house, a wife, two kids, a car, a lawn, a job… The pictures brought up memories for Xander of which he had never had. The time period was a dream to him, he sat back and enjoyed the film.
After twenty minutes the screen ducked behind some curtains and the lights came up in the room to reveal a man standing on the floor waiting to greet all the new employees.
“Welcome everybody to your first day in the life of a Time Stamper!” The applauded his own sentence as if he thought it was brilliant, but it did spur some applause from the others. “I don’t care what your job is here, it is important. Everybody needs to remember that, here you are important.”
The meeting went on for hours, talking about the guests and the experience. How everyone must be happy because the people come there to experience a joyous occasion. It was all pep talk and brainwashing, but for someone in Xander’s position it was a relief. It was a place he wanted to be. A new place, a new job, a new hope, a new attitude, he could not wait to start working.
It was not long until he did put his nose to the grindstone. After the meeting they all went to the restrooms to put on their uniforms and then it was off to their specific attraction. Wendell led Xander around the back of the theatre and through a door fashioned to look like of a factory closed for the weekend. Once through the door he was inside a world of fantasy and amazement. It was the 1940s or at least it felt like it to him. There were newspaper boys on the corner holding up newspapers with Hitler’s face plastered across them. There were celebrations in the street for the news of the war coming to an end. The buildings, the people, the air, the music, it was the 1940s.
Xander’s face morphed the second he saw the guests milling about in the park. His brainwashing session was successful as he felt there was no option, but to be gleeful. He followed Wendell closely worried that someone may ask him for directions or some other advice that he would not be able to bestow upon them. There was nothing to worry about as the majority of the guests did not even notice him as he walked down the street to his ride.
The ride was a simple yet enjoyable show of sorts. It was called the Magic of Television. Television was the ancestor of the mediaganizer at least a portion of it. The shows that were streamed on it were named after the short lived device.
Upon arriving at the ride Wendell and Xander stood in front of the building which housed it. It was a big square with a large glass square in the middle where you could look in and see people on the ride enjoying their history lesson. Xander did not catch on to the fact that the building itself resembled a television, but he had never seen one.
Wendell spoke up finally, “Xander, this is your ride, your home, your mission. Before we get into what you will be doing, I want you to experience it yourself. Come with me.” Wendell immediately took off into the cue line. Xander had to jump into step with him, but followed behind like a loyal dog.
Upon the entrance into the building there was a booming voice which spoke from behind static talking in very basic terms about the stock market crash of the late 1920s. They walked down a couple of hallways where the noise switched from a primitive news cast to some very old music.
They walked down a wooden pathway surrounded by trees and ponds, the sounds big band music warmed the walkways and the typical rotten scents of an amusement park wafted away to be replaced by cedar and nature. They rounded corners went up and down oddly decorated hallways until they came to the train depot. A couple of men stood beside a stopped train, dressed in the same garb as Xander, waiting to happily assist him in boarding the vehicle.
“All aboard!” shouted one of the men gesturing his arms toward the small two seated train car. “Last call for all points beyond. All aboard!”
Wendell and Xander stepped into the car and had a seat on the cold hard plastic bench. The little trolly type car grew guard rails out of the floor and began the adventure with a small push.
They went forward at a leisurely pace venturing deep into a dark black tunnel. The same voices he heard in the cueing line began to emanate from the darkness. The radio broadcast, the music, followed by a sporting event and a dramatic detective show. They faded as a narrator overtook the soundwaves. “Radio was the best source of mass communication in the early parts of the twentieth century. In homes all across the globe families would huddle around the radio to hear the details of their favorite show or sport or music…”
The voice continued to explain the history as sights came into view for Xander, a small box moved towards them, what he assumed must be a radio. As the narrator continued on from how radios worked to how televisions took over the market, the trolly went up a hill and they were treated to pictures of small boxes with bad black and white pictures bouncing around on them.
It continued like that for ten minutes or so with an explanation of what had happened coupled with images of what the voice was describing all the while being left with no images on one side of the car, being the one way glass so the guests outside could see the passengers inside the gigantic fake television.
Eventually they got to the end of the ride where they were greeted by the two men who escorted them out of the trolly car and down the exit path.
Xander was unimpressed it was a boring ride explaining history that he was not interested in. But, it would be his new home so he tried to like it.
After that Wendell left and Xander was put to work, greeting guests, helping them on the trolly car, then helping them back off the car. It was monotonous work, a smile, a gesture, wait, a gesture, and a smile. But he had a few conversations with Jared who stood on the other side of the car as people came up. Nothing eye opening, just the normal how is life, any family, blah blah. For a couple of hours he repeated his money making movements and then his shift was over. Someone came to replace him and went back out the exit, down the street, into the closed factory to make his way home.
Treyton and Alexandria loved the life of an amusement park family. They had unlimited access to the world’s largest theme park. The ability to ride any ride they wanted, to see any show they wanted and the chance to eat cotton candy and funnel cake any day of the year. They enjoyed the park, but hated their father’s ride. It was boring and wanted to teach them history which they had no desire to do.
Although Darla and Xander pictured their life together very family oriented, it was far from their vision. The kids left the house as soon as they awoke and rarely returned before the park closed. Darla was in a place where she could work on her dancing, a hobby that had slowly died over the years as she was cramped into a house in Alaska doing nothing but raising kids and gaining weight. And Xander, delved into work. It was not a surprise, it was the only thing he did in his past life, and the only thing that felt comfortable to him.
His interactions with his family were always simple and short. He would eat breakfast and tell the kids to be careful. Ask his wife what her plans were for the day, and then head off to work. It was the days when he was off duty that he was lost. The kids were typically tortured to the family day. Darla grinned through her displeasure since she knew that was what they had originally wanted. And Xander led the family to dinners, movies, and other activities they would have enjoyed better if they were not together.
Darla was lying to herself as she fell in love with dance all over again. She told herself that it was not abandonment, but instead her family was happier apart, but in her heart she knew that she was a part of the problem. She willingly allowed the infatuations created by the old amusement park tear her family to shreds.
She sat backstage at the mars expedition stage show. She had made friends with the entire cast, all dancers who wanted nothing more than to dedicate their lives to the art form. Her memories of her family faded day after day as she created new bonds and took up employment inside the park.
It took weeks before she was back in her previous shape. She got to the large theatre early in the morning trying to loosened up by the time they were ready to start practices and she stayed until the last show of the day ended, although this was typically by seven o’clock in the evening.
She sat on a large comfy couch staring out onto the stage from a vantage point unsusceptible to the audience. Her eyes glittered in the beautiful movements of the dancers as she let her previous life die, the time shift had affected her, and she just did not know it.
The final jumps, the final dips, the final bows, the show was over. Darla jumped to her feet in applause, cheering and whistling at her new found friends. As the house lights came back up the crew rushed off the stage over to Darla and the understudies.
“What a rush that was!” A tall man said as he gave Darla a sideways hug that coated her t-shirt in light amounts of physically induced sweat. The man looked down at Darla in an attempt to include the young woman. “You coming to Danny’s Diner with us? It’s gonna be a kinda post show celebration.”
Darla had obligations, she had children to take care of, she had a husband she loved, but there in Time Stamper she cared too much about herself and she agreed. She would not be home that night until late, after Xander had gone to bed, after the children went to bed, late.
Xander had spent many nights working on the ride. His shift typically was over by eight in the evening, but he had some big plans for the ride. He was not going to allow it to be the red headed step child of the park. He wanted it to be bigger and better. He treated it oddly like one of his children or how he would have treated his children if he ever saw them.
Not seeing his family was an easy habit to fall into since he had spent all of his conscious lifetime alone. Living in Mexico City doing nothing, but trying to get ahead at work left him with a comfort in overworking himself. And being a ride operator was no exception. It was actually easier since he never left. He had his whole world right in the palm of his hand.
He had the idea a few weeks beforehand to change the ride, make it more interactive. After he had done some research on Nationalnet and realized what a television really was he drew up some plans on how to make it more reactive to the passengers.
He had a few of the cars installed with a remote control where the guests could choose the channel they wanted to watch. At the beginning of the ride they go down the path as usual, but he had reprogrammed the narrator to cover the entire history on the first level. Then when the passengers were ready to go up the ramp to the next level, there would appear a television guide in front of them with four choices of what to watch. They would be instructed to choose one and which ever they chose would determine what video and audio would be played while the car went down the track of the next floor.
He had dug up enough information and old video on the Nationalnet that he had come up with four choices. The first was early television, showing old black and white game shows, variety shows, and the occasional comedy. The second choice was called color. This showed television from the next couple of decades with the advent of cable he found lots of footage of nonfiction series with very specific subjects, shark shows, war shows, engineering shows… The third channel choice was the high definition era. Mostly reality shows and user submitted shows, but finally the picture quality was starting to improve. The last choice was called the death of television. This “channel” mostly things from the late twenty first century where television was dabbling in extrasensory outputs from the television leaving the shows weak and plot-less, exploiting the new abilities of the television.
Then on the decent back to the boarding platform he had created a quick narration of how the television was replaced by mediaganizers and other devices that streamed with out having to access a local antenna.
The work required to change the ride was very minimal since the majority of the ride was done through holographs and old school projectors. He simply had to replace the uploaded videos with new ones all cued up by the remote control the guests had in their car.
It was nearly three o’clock in the morning when he sat on the trolly car all by his lonesome, test driving the new ride. No one had helped him with the changes. He took all the initiative to create the ride he thought would help his area of the park. He rode the ride over and over trying all the different combinations as he chose the channels on the remote control.
He was happy he did not have to work the next day because he was exhausted, but he wanted to see the faces of the people as they came off his ride. Torn by his desires he laid down on the ground next to the boarding platform to get some rest. He would watch the first set of guests then he could go home.
In the morning to his surprise the first person to ride his ride was the manager over rides and operations of the park.
Bilshire was a tall regal looking man who had lost the majority of his hair years ago. He stood on the boarding platform and spoke to Xander. “Xander is it? I was alerted by security last night that someone was altering one of our rides. When I saw that it was an employee I dismissed it as just someone taking some extra initiative. Then I saw that you uploaded entirely new material and I had to come see it for myself.”
Xander was shocked, but excited to see his response to his hard work. When Bilshire boarded the car he motioned for Xander to join him.
The two rode the ride, Bilshire clicking the remote control to set the ride in motion at the end of each floor. Then, just as leisurely as they took off, they returned.
“What an improvement!” Bilshire was ecstatic. “Your assessment did not predict such things for you, but my God.” He was flabbergasted and truly was at a loss for words.
Xander tried to keep his eyes open as the uselessness of his sleep the night before really hit him. “Thank you, but I really need to go get some sleep.”
“Good, sure, why not. But, when you come back to work, I don’t want you here on this ride. I have another one I’d like you to look at. Stop by my office at the beginning of your next shift okay?”
Bilshire patted Xander on the shoulder as he walked down the exit ramp. Xander was baffled, and somewhat miffed as he spent all that time on his ride and now he may not even be working it anymore.
Xander got very little sleep for the next few nights, he had engrossed himself into his work and now that was up in the air. He tossed and turned while in bed unable to relax. He did not force his family to spend quality time together during his days off that week after he realized they all preferred their own lives over theirs together.
Xander tried to go out and enjoy the park, but his fears and worries about his career left him staring at each attraction as a possible new work home. He looked at the employees of each ride wondering if they would be his newest companions he was pretty sure his family was not going to be there for him anymore.
Darla was at one of the dance shows and his children stayed at school as long as they could, which was park hours. They knew there were only a few hours of instruction and the rest of the time was a partially supervised romp throughout the park.
Bilshire and Wendell knocked on Xander’s door a couple of hours before his shift was to start. It took a few minutes, but eventually a groggy and half asleep Xander opened the door.
“Oh, hello sir. Wendell.” Xander was taken aback by the visit by superiors. He had wished he got up and showered already.
“Sorry to wake you, but I wanted to discuss with you what we were wanting you to do.” Bilshire was again very regal in his speech as he and Wendell entered the small house. They all made their ways to the couches as they began to talk. “We’ll just cut to the chase. We love what you did with Magic of Television and we want to see what else you are capable of. We thought we would see what you could to Survivors of Flight 1314. It is a simulation, but it is old and has lost much of its glamour. Then if you can revamp that one, well we may have a permanent job for you that pays a bit more than your 30,000.” Bilshire was proud of himself feeling like he was giving one of the little people a big break.
“Sure. Sounds good.” Xander was not displaying the excitement the men expected, but within the small whitewashed room they just chalked it up to his personality.
Wendell let his fat little features flush red as he started pulling Xander by the elbow, “Come on, let’s go!” He was elated with the new possibilities of his protégé.
Xander made Wendell wait, he was not leaving the house without a shower and shave, but it was a short wait as they were out of the house in fifteen minutes and walking down the ramp into the tunnels. Wardrobe gave them the appropriate attire for the new ride and they were following the chipped orange paint on their way to The World of Danger section of the park. The tunnels brought the same foreboding feeling to Xander as he made his way across the park below everyone’s feet. And when he saw the ramp they were to take, he felt it all wash away again.
Through the streets of a simulated hurricane, down a street with an approaching tornado and into the ride he was to work on Survivors of Flight 1314. They walked into the cue line where there appeared to not be anyone there. Everyone was interested in the natural disaster rides around them, the re-enactment of Pompeii, the hijacked bus ride, the simulation of an alien invasion, anything but the stupid plane ride.
He walked through the line which was made to feel like an old airport with long hallways with small seating areas around a window with a plane on the outside. It was somewhat monotonous and bored Xander after just a few turns of the line.
It seemed to go one forever as if they were trying to catch a plane in the world’s largest airport and Xander noted in his mind that the cue line must be changed. They eventually came to the boarding platform where there were a couple of people dressed in his new uniform to look light flight attendants from the late twenty first century complete with their charged weapons on their hips. Wendell and Xander walked down the ramp which led to the inside of an old plane where they were seated in first class, but since there was no one else on the plane it did feel like mass transit.
A spiel was read which Xander remembered from his last life when there was no faster than light travel. He unlike most people in this lifeline had actually ridden a plane and had read the brochure on how to open the doors and blow up the life rafts. After the ancient instructions finished they were treated some rumblings in the floor of the plane as the good old engine roared with ferocity. Some gravity was felt as the plane simulated take with a realistic amount of rumbling to re-enact the runway that floated away as the plane supposedly took flight.
Xander was not overly entertained by the ride, but he was definitely impressed. The ride simulated flight for a couple of minutes as one of the employees came along as a flight attendant offering drinks which he would never return with.
There was some small turbulence that caught Xander off guard, good touch he thought. The lights went low, the plane bounced up and down as if it were on a yoyo. Flashes came from outside the windows and they jerked forward as they suddenly stopped. Their seat belts opened in timing with the doors of the plane and they were in the middle of what appeared to be a lake. A raft came and took them to the exit line.
Ideas filled Xander’s head as he drifted towards the exit cue. Wendell did not say a word they just de-boarded the raft walking out of the ride. Xander let Wendell know he was going to stay behind and speak to the customers who rode the ride to confirm some of his suspicions and the two parted ways for the day.