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15 August 2013 @ 02:04 pm
LJ Idol Exhibit B: "Travelin' Man"  
Travelin' Man
LJ Idol Exhibit B | week twelve | 1520 words
Where Am I?


I wake up under a doorway in the middle of an alley. It's nighttime and it's raining, and this doesn't look like a terribly safe place to be.

Time to run.

I bolt up and head for the nearest cross-street, stopping short to peer around the corner. The street looks better—less run-down and deserted—but all the writing on the signs is in Cyrillic. Oh, boy…

Let me just say for the record that teleportation is not all it's cracked up to be. You might think it would be great for sneaking into movies without paying, but you have to be careful. Subtle. Is the movie theater dark? Will there be witnesses to your sudden manifestation? Or, say you want to dash over to Paris. If it's just for the day, great! But you can't take any luggage with you—only the things you're wearing will make it. How much fun is a trip where you spend half of it shopping for the things most people just pack in their suitcases?

The truth is, teleportation is as much a gift as a curse. I can't always control it—sometimes I can "jump" when I want to, and other times, nothing. I might send myself somewhere and get stranded for days, unable to jump back. I nearly got fired last May for taking a week of unplanned vacation in Argentina, and I didn't even have my passport or the money to just pay for a damn plane ticket home.

Even worse, more and more of my traveling is happening while I'm asleep.

I've learned a thing or two. I go to bed fully dressed now, including my ID and wallet and usually my shoes. I carry a few different currencies (thank god for the euro, and the fact that both Canadians and people south-of-the-border usually tolerate U.S. cash). But I've never found myself in an Eastern European country before, and who knows which one this is? I don’t have the money for it, that's for sure. I hope to God I won't need it…

I step out onto the sidewalk, and start walking toward a well-lit area in the next block. It looks less dangerous there, though probably also busier. If I can find a good, safe spot that's quiet enough, I'll lie down and try to go back to sleep. If I jump while I'm asleep, the next sleep-jump usually takes me back home. It's a risk, though. Anything could come after you then, as you lie there oblivious and unguarded—even if it's only rats.

I see an alcove behind the front of a clock shop, and slip inside it. I take a few minutes to try to send myself home: City, living room, home, bed, home…

I concentrate on those places. I'm not sure that even works, but I can't say it doesn't. It's all voodoo now—I grasp at whatever seemed to bring the magic before, keeping pace with the changes over time. What I wouldn't give to be able to control this thing, instead of picking up the pieces after it acts up on its own.

I hear a low growl, and open my eyes. Fangs. God, where the hell did that dog come from? Home-home-home, I think, and then, Ow! Sonofabitch!

I'm in my bedroom again, bleeding on the carpet and realizing I've just bought myself another round of rabies shots. God damn it!

Cleaning up in the bathroom, I dither over whether to go to the hospital now, or wait for morning. It'll be what, tomorrow...Sunday? No—Monday. Well, I can't miss any more work, so being sleep-deprived is better than being late. I gather a clean set of clothes and drive to the E.R. I'm pretty sure the second pair of pants is loose enough to wear over bandages. This isn't the first time I've been through this, and it won't be the last.

I don't think I could sell tickets to Rod's Guided And Unguided Tour Of Parts Beyond, but if I did, the itinerary would include things like this:

  • The final game of the 2010 World Series!

  • A janitor's closet in a middle school in Michigan.

  • Venice in September…

  • during a heat wave, for two days longer than planned (and who knew Italians don't believe in air-conditioning?)

  • The Oscars! (For about five minutes, before being discovered and evicted by Security).

  • Bavaria. Winter is hell there, but the beer is good.

  • The cross-town bus depot.

  • A blazing, barren desert (from which I learned never to watch Lawrence of Arabia before bedtime again).

  • The lobby of my apartment building. Hey, at least it was easy to get back home again...

  • I wish I could talk to someone else about this. Is there a support group somewhere for people with defective teleportation abilities? "My name is Rod, and I'm afraid to go to sleep." "Hi, Rod…"

    The doctors at the hospital patch me up, and I change my clothes and go to work. I explain my limp as a weekend basketball injury, but I feel like a school-kid who has given so many excuses for being absent that he's starting to run out of dead relatives.

    After a long day, during which I promise free money to the three people who call after the pain pills wear off, I finally go home. I walk right through the door and collapse face-first on the sofa. I manage to turn the television on, but give up on finding any good programs. Maybe after dinner…

    I wake up surrounded by trees, with the sound of roaring water nearby. I lean away from my bad leg and sit up, looking all around me. Flowered plants, palm trees, and a waterfall—someplace tropical, more beautiful than anywhere I've ever been. Even the air is soft here, and it smells like a mixture of sunshine, hibiscus, and damp earth. I move to the edge of the pool beneath the waterfall, content to sit there and watch the flow just tumble and mist down from the ledge above. It's soothing and hypnotic, and I soon forget the pain in my leg.

    I come to with a jolt, and I'm back on the sofa. My clothes are damp and muddy—why do I even bother buying furniture?—and I force myself into the bathroom to peel them off and dump them in the tub before going to bed.

    The next couple of days are better. With a little more sleep and some time for my leg to heal, I'm off the pain meds and down to wound-maintenance by Friday. I've cleared thirty-one client files since the disaster on Monday, and no one has taken me up on the offer of free money, at least not yet. Let's hope they never do.

    My buddy Van calls, and asks if I want to catch the new sci-fi movie at the downtown cinema. Sure, why not? Especially since I'm here now, as opposed to that unplanned week in Argentina, when I flaked out on a playoff-series barbecue at his house. Van does not know about my 'special abilities,' but he's been the victim of a couple of no-shows because of them.

    I haven't had a girlfriend in years, not since I started randomly teleporting out of the bedroom during the night. The friends I do still have, I try to keep.

    We meet up for a beer beforehand, then walk to the theater. The movie is one of those Transformers things, flashy and loud, but reasonably entertaining. A good way to end the week, and an excuse to hang out together. I figure I'll call Van in a few weeks to come over and watch a game. If I make plans a day or two ahead, I'm usually still around to keep them. Any farther off than that, it's pretty iffy.

    It's late, so I just brush my teeth when I get home and go to bed in the clothes I'm wearing. The only thing on the agenda tomorrow is getting groceries and doing laundry, so I can sleep as long as I want.

    I wake up under a black star-studded sky, and look left, right, left… Everything is hard and gray and cold, with no trees or buildings. What is this place? I've never seen anything so desolate.

    I suddenly notice a big blue-green sphere floating in the distance. It looks like—

    But if that's Earth, then I must be—

    Oh God, oh God, not this. Oh, shit, shit, shit!

    I squeeze my eyes shut and try to focus over the panic. Home, home, home, damn it, HOME! Now, please, NOW! Oh God, why can't I—HOME! Come on now, HOME!

    I hold my breath as long as I can. Please, if could just—

    HOME! Why isn't it working? I need to get HOME!

    Oh Jesus, my lungs are burning, my lungs, my head. Why me, God, why? What did I ever do?

    The blackness, it's bursting inside me, exploding. It's tearing its way out.

    Make it stop, make it stop, God, please, I'm begging. PLEASE, God, it all hurts





    If you liked this story, you can vote for it along with many other fine entries here.

    adoptedwriteradoptedwriter on August 15th, 2013 09:13 pm (UTC)
    Wow! Reading this was like being on a roller coaster! I was hooked the whole way through! AW
    The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 15th, 2013 09:34 pm (UTC)
    Yay! That's exactly the kind of thing I love to hear! :)
    (Deleted comment)
    The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 15th, 2013 09:44 pm (UTC)
    People mentioned amnesia as an obvious link to the prompt, though the unplanned teleporting was the first thing I thought of (it's why I traded prompts with lrig_rorrim-- her prompt triggered a good idea!)

    But gosh, I can see DID being very much along these lines. It's not teleporting, but your body is going other places while being 'driven' by someone else's consciousness. When they vacate and you wake up somewhere you've never been before, how are you going to know where that is? That disorientation would be terrifying-- and it would be so hard not to panic.

    I'm glad you liked this, despite how close it hits to home. It was intended to be both funny and also terrifying, and you caught all of that very clearly. Your words are very reassuring!
    Desireex_disturbed_x on August 15th, 2013 10:29 pm (UTC)
    I didn't think he would ever teleport outside the planet but it make sense if you think about it.

    God, what a way to go. D:
    The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 15th, 2013 11:50 pm (UTC)
    What a terrible time to discover that your capabilities are both more powerful and less controlled than you ever imagined!

    But given his situation, it was likely to be something at some point, even if it was just accidentally teleporting in front of a moving car...
    michikatinski on August 16th, 2013 02:14 am (UTC)
    Ohhhh, crap!

    Love this take on "Where am I?" I could smell the hibiscus as you described it. And what an ending!
    The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 16th, 2013 07:15 am (UTC)
    It's funny, I had vague ideas for the other prompt but they didn't want to become full stories. This prompt, though, immediately suggested this story, and I couldn't help but want to write it.

    I'm always sort of fascinated with the "But what could go wrong?" aspect of things that seem simple or uniformly good. A power like teleportation that you can't fully control? Very bad indeed. :O
    (no subject) - michikatinski on August 16th, 2013 11:49 am (UTC) (Expand)
    (Anonymous) on August 16th, 2013 02:32 am (UTC)
    This was fantastic! I was hooked from the start, dreading the inevitable--but still unexpected--ending!
    The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 16th, 2013 07:17 am (UTC)
    I'm glad the ending was unexpected, even while you sensed the possibility that poor Rod's gift would always tend to bring him more trouble than joy.

    Even successfully visiting places you want to go takes on a whole new meaning if you can't come back at will and on your own schedule. o_O
    fourzoasfourzoas on August 16th, 2013 02:33 am (UTC)
    Eep--that anonymous comment was me! Loved this piece!
    (Deleted comment)
    The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 16th, 2013 07:21 am (UTC)
    I thought about him accidentally transporting himself into a war zone, but this ending seemed more unexpected and also far harder to escape from.

    Can you imagine future astronauts coming across him, and wondering exactly how he got there?

    And in the meantime, yes-- he has truly disappeared. In this day and age, not being able to find him again would immediately tempt the authorities to suspect foul play.
    Laura, aka "Ro Arwen": Castle in the Cloudsroina_arwen on August 16th, 2013 03:45 am (UTC)
    Is there a support group somewhere for people with defective teleportation abilities?

    Not to my knowledge, but I may have to write that one up next week, since writing this week's support group entry was so much fun! The real question is - would the affected people be able to show up in the right place if there was? :)

    This was a very interesting entry, and I wasn't expecting that ending.

    Also, he should be glad he wasn't a Lightning Rod!
    The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 16th, 2013 07:25 am (UTC)
    The real question is - would the affected people be able to show up in the right place if there was? :)

    Hahaha! Only if they came by cab, but then again... what are the chances that there'd be enough people with this power who were also geographically close to one another? They'd be more likely to span the globe, with some caught in other locations and unable to 'abort' and others showing up for the group meeting and still being there for days afterward. ;)

    Also, he should be glad he wasn't a Lightning Rod!
    Never! I employ my powers of anti-pun!

    Though I am randomly thinking of a true story I once read, about a guy who had been struck by lightning some 15 to 20 times. He described the changes in the air (electrical charge, pressure, smell) right before he would get hit, and said it would fill him with such a hopeless sense of doom. Even though he'd always survived, he still hated it. Understandably so!
    blahblahblah, whateverkathrynrose on August 16th, 2013 03:53 am (UTC)
    Wow, that ending is, wow. :)
    The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 16th, 2013 07:27 am (UTC)
    Poor guy. All of his previous misfortunes were just inconveniences compared to the finality of not being able to return from someplace so unalterably deadly. :(
    (no subject) - kathrynrose on August 16th, 2013 03:55 pm (UTC) (Expand)
    (no subject) - halfshellvenus on August 16th, 2013 04:48 pm (UTC) (Expand)
    Vice Captain of the Universesweeny_todd on August 16th, 2013 04:37 am (UTC)
    oh gosh - that ended. like.. just... oh dear D-:
    The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 16th, 2013 07:28 am (UTC)
    But if you feel for him, and it struck you as a true enough outcome and tragedy... then my work here is done.

    As is poor Rod. *smacks self for being so evil*
    theun4givablestheun4givables on August 16th, 2013 02:16 pm (UTC)
    I pretty much knew the poor guy was going to end up in space as soon as you said "sci-fi movie." Because he ended up in the desert after watching a different film...

    Poor guy, though. He just went POOF. And no one will know what happened to him. =/

    Damn you LJ, why you do that. *shakes fist*

    Edited at 2013-08-16 02:17 pm (UTC)
    The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 16th, 2013 04:39 pm (UTC)
    Because he ended up in the desert after watching a different film...

    You read for detail! \o/

    I saw the previous comment that LJ ate or something, too, and I see that your evil aligns with mine. ;)
    (no subject) - theun4givables on August 16th, 2013 04:58 pm (UTC) (Expand)
    cindytsuki_no_bara on August 17th, 2013 02:15 am (UTC)
    i was not expecting that ending! altho this reminded me a little bit of the time traveler's wife in the way that rod can't control where he goes (or when), so i was kind of expecting it to end badly, but not like that! i really liked it - it's a very interesting interpretation of the prompt. and kind of funny!
    The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 17th, 2013 07:07 am (UTC)
    I'm intrigued by amazing powers that are not terribly well controlled, because they come back to bite their owners in much more interesting ways than "I am awesomer than the awesomest awesome EVAR!"

    The humor in it was irresistible, too, in the way that things like bad vacations and home-improvement disasters later wind up making for some of the funniest stories of all.

    Glad you liked it, and thanks as always for reading!
    ☾witches on August 17th, 2013 10:28 am (UTC)
    This was awesome. The atmosphere and descriptions were perfect!
    The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 17th, 2013 08:22 pm (UTC)
    Thank you so much-- I'm glad you liked it!
    Pika the Brazen Ninjaporn_this_way on August 17th, 2013 01:06 pm (UTC)
    Oh, I loved this! I'm a huge sucker for SciFi short stories (this may have been more into the fantasy realm? Kinda the fine line between? WHATEVER, I loved it!) so this gripped me from the very start. You did such a good job with the little details and demonstrating the problems that could come with such an ability - everything from the minor annoyances to the potentially life-shattering SNAFUs. The ending was spectacular and I definitely did not see it coming. I was expecting him to teleport into prison or a war zone or something, maybe a volcano or the middle of the ocean, but the moon? Awesome job demonstrating exactly how dangerous and terrifying this power can be.
    The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 19th, 2013 04:30 am (UTC)
    You know, given that it involves special powers, it's probably more fantasy than sci-fi.

    I'm glad you liked it so much, and ooh-- prison! That would be like getting caught in a mental ward after hours: "No, I don't belong here, I'm not one of the patients!" "Of course you aren't, sir, now let's get you back to your room..."

    I had thought about a war zone, but the moon was so much more hopeless and final and really... tragic.
    lriG rorriM: eclipselrig_rorrim on August 17th, 2013 04:27 pm (UTC)
    This was AWESOME, and I'm so glad we traded prompts - though I had been toying with "teleportation troubles" myself, a story just wouldn't come together, and your take on it is just perfect! You captured the weird sort of adrenaline-fueled practicality that would totally inform such a person's life. And dying in space is a terrrrrible way to go - especially because you do actually have time to see it coming. Wonderful. :)
    The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 19th, 2013 04:51 am (UTC)
    I'm glad we traded, too-- this idea ran on its own steam, unlike the various other possibilities that just wanted to sit there. I wasn't expecting the chance to work some humor into the story, but that evolved on its own too!