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Robert's Realm of Redundancy
Time Shifting
Poetry Page

Time Shifting

           One evening, I was driving home, returning from my weekly evening German class when I suddenly discovered myself on a road that I did not recognize. As such, I now had now idea where I was as this place did not even have road signs made illegible by graffiti. Seeing what looked like a tunnel in the distance, I decided to drive toward it to see if I could find something familiar. As I came out on the other side of the tunnel, I found myself in the middle of the countryside. This was most strange. Orange County was supposed to have removed all such inconveniences as nature and yet here were fields upon fields of empty space; perfect place to put a parking lot. There should have at least been a housing project or perhaps the ubiquitous Starbucks.

          It was at this time that I noticed that the ride had become considerably more bumpy than usual. Were they putting in new pot holes just to wreck more cars and thus force people to buy new ones, thus stimulating the economy? So this was how the current economic slump would be solved. I wanted to reach a phone so I could call into some talk show and reveal the shocking truth to the American public when I noticed something else out of place for O.C. Up ahead was some poor miserable looking fellow herding some cattle along. As I approached, he turned and gaped at me in absolute terror. I thought that he had been frightened by my muffler which had probably been broken off somehow by this ridiculously bumpy road. I pulled up along side him but as I did so, he continued to look at my car in horror. I didnt think that my station wagon was that ugly.

       "How can I get back to the 55?"

       He stared at me in blank incomprehension and then he stared at my car again. Without answering my question, he began to run in the opposite direction yelling something that I could not understand. It sure sounded like German though. Puzzled, I continued on my way until I saw a group of buildings off in the distance. As I came among them, I began to look for a parking space and discovered that there were none to be found. Fortunately, police cars and "no parking" signs were strangely absent. Pulling over in front of one of these buildings, I parked my car and switched off the ignition. Opening up the glove compartment, I pulled out a California road map which had been left in the car after the last family vacation. I tried to read the map through the coffee and ketchup stains that were splashed here and there upon it. Stepping out of the car, I noticed that a group of onlookers had gathered about me. By this time, I was becoming quite frustrated. Why did my poor little station wagon have to attract such attention? Is it really such a big deal that I dont drive one of those sports utility vehicles like everyone else? Perhaps they are jealous that my little station wagon gets better gas mileage than their black holes, disguised as automobiles, whose true purpose is to pull all the gasoline into some parallel dimension where it will be used as fuel for vast barbeques at which millions are fed.

       After a moment of silence, I spoke to the assembled crowd "Can anyone tell me where I am? I would really appreciate it if someone could tell me. All I want to do is go home. Really, thats all. I dont want to cause any trouble."

       The crowd murmured to itself. Again, I felt the distinct impression that these people were speaking German. Though I cant speak German all that well, I am fairly certain that some of these people had uttered the word "Lucifer" with reference to me. Getting the hint that I was not welcome, I began to edge my way back to my car. Just then, someone dressed in the robes of the clergy appeared and gestured at me. He then repeated "Lucifer" several times, shaking his fist for emphasis. He shouted one final command and with that, the crowd surged forward. To these people, the devil was not just a spiritual entity who was after their souls but had replaced his serpent form with mine to come and cause havoc in their little village. I found myself grabbed by a dozen hands trying to restrain me. One of the villagers grabbing me by the wrist accidentally hit one of the buttons on my wristwatch. The watch began to make beeping noises. The crowd jumped back in alarm until I hit another button, stopping the noise. After reassuring themselves that they were still alive, the crowd grabbed me again. Soon the clergyman walked up to me and pulled out what I assumed to be holy water. He splashed it in my face, and some of it got in my eyes causing me to blink. He took this reaction as proof that I was demon spawn and that I should be dealt with as quickly as possible. The crowd began talking at the clergyman who paused considering the situation. He then gestured at a building down the street. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a large wooden stick an instant before it hit me sending me into unconsciousness.

         When I awoke I found myself in something resembling a cell. It was about this time that I realized what had happened. I had somehow been thrown back in time to Germany to what must have been several-hundred years ago at least. From the look of the buildings and other things about me, I would guess that this was pre-Reformation Europe. That is the last time that I fill up with that bargain gasoline. I saved a few cents but I got thrown back in time. What a ripoff! I couldnt even get my money back Reaching into my pockets, I realized that I still had my wallet and a few other possessions. The villagers must have been too frightened to take them away from me for fear that they would be turned into a three-headed duck or something of that nature. I walked over to a small hole in the wall that desperately wanted to be a window and looked out. In the middle of this particular village, the towns folk were constructing a gallows. Without needing to think a moment longer, I knew that this was meant for me. As if this was not enough, they were also surrounding the gallows with some kindling. They intended to hang me and burn me at the same time. What a privilege! Perhaps they would dip me in boiling oil too. Though they were preparing terminate my existence, these were simple people. I thought that I could have used this to my advantage. Even with my limited college education, I could have appear as a deity to these people. Then I would have been able to order them to release me or at least gesture that point across to them since with my limited German, I would probably tell them that I was the high priest of janitorial supplies. No, that would have either required breaking too many commandments or causing myself to appear as a deranged fool. I had to think of another way out. I knew that if I could just get to my car, I could hit the accelerator and plow through anything they had assuming it was not too big since I do only drive a station wagon. No, I couldnt run these people over either; with my luck one of them would be an ancestor of mine. Then I would end up changing the future and probably end up erasing myself by never being born. But then, if I did not exist, how would I be able to come back in time to run these people over? I hate time travel questions! Why couldnt those people who make Star Trek publish a nice manual to tell you what to do if you found yourself in this situation? I mean, they publish Klingon dictionaries and silly technical manuals for things that we could never build so why not? I reasoned that it was just a fictional show and it would do me no good anyway. The hammering in the distance continued. Something had to be done.

         With a flash of inspiration I walked over to the door and foolishly addressed the guard standing there in English. "Good sir. I am not really the devil. Im just a humble Christian like yourself but you see, I had a bit of a problem. I was thrown back in time here which is something that I never wanted to do. I had no control over it. I know that you understand that this life is imperfect and that things on this earth can happen in a way contrary to what you want. Well, you see, that is exactly what happened to me. Please take this with my best wishes that you will show mercy on me," I said as I offered the guard a $20 bill. He stared at it for a moment and then used it to wipe his brow and after doing so, he dropped Andrew Jackson to the floor. I pondered why this man would turn down the universal commodity. Suddenly, I remembered that these people did not have paper money and that he did not speak any English either..

         Muttering to myself for being so stupid earlier I pulled out a handful of spare change I had been carrying around in my pocket. Who knew that thirty-seven cents could be so useful? I showed the small collection of coins to the guard. His eyes flashed with interest and he eagerly opened my cell door. Handing him the assorted coins, I dashed off. Before I left the prison, I ducked into a side room and found some old clothes that I could wear. This would make me look less conspicuous, which truthfully is a rather silly thought as just about anything would be less conspicuous than what I had on. Wondering what to do with the pair of shorts, the t-shirt that I had paid twenty-five dollars for bearing free advertising for some corporation, and a pair of tennis shoes, I paused for a moment. I tucked the shirt and shorts into a small pouch sewn into my new outfit and the shoes I merely scuffed up a bit since I did not want to walk barefoot or to wear the abominations that these people considered footwear. However, there was still the problem of dealing with people that I encountered on the street. I could barely speak enough German to order a burger and there were no McDonalds restaurants in sight. Not only that but I was out of spare change with which to pay off the whims of human nature. Since I would never pass myself off by trying to speak German, I came up with an idea. I would emulate a trait found everywhere that tourists travel. I would speak loudly and slowly as if everyone else would somehow be able to understand me while at the same time acting like everyone else was just stupid. This aggravation caused by tourists is only mitigated in the minds of natives by the money the tourists leave behind. I did not know whether or not to be surprised at the fact that my plan worked. I found a place resembling a tavern; I at least thought it was one since they were serving a strange smelling substance that others were digesting. I worked through the language problem enough so that I was able to barter for a bowl of what I hoped was food. The tavern keeper was rather fascinated by a coupon for a free ice cream sundae that I was carrying so I traded it for my meal.

         That night once the town had gone to bed, I slipped out into the street and drove my car out of the town. I knew that no one would miss the car as when the town awoke in the morning, they would probably have forgotten the whole incident. Those that did remember would not speak of it for fear that they would be accused of being insane. I drove back to the tunnel at which I had first appeared in this land but it was not there. There was only a solid rock face. I got out of my car and approached the place where my exit should have been. I was amazed to find that a post-it note had been placed there. On it was a short message which read "The spatial gate is temporarily closed due to our efforts to conserve energy . The gate will be open only on the third Wednesday following the first Monday of every fourth month. We are sorry for any inconvenience that this may cause." The note was then signed by someone named Wally who was apparently the head of the Regional Space and Time Displacement Society for Persons Lost, Disoriented, Misplaced, or Otherwise Mixed-up with Regard to their Present Position in the Universal Temporal and Spatial Location Network. They were known as the RSTDSPLDMOMRPPUTSLN for short. Perplexed, I found another post-it note that told me in order to reach a customer service agent, I should leave a message written on a standard fast food napkin underneath the nearest rock. Then, in seven to ten working days I would find a reply placed in the nest of the bird who lived on top of the rock face where the tunnel was supposed to be. Not having a napkin, I wrote a message on a sheet of notebook paper and placed it under the rock. I then hid my car in the woods nearby and waited for the reply. During the next week, I lived off some snacks that I found in my car since I did not want to chance entering the town yet.

         Seven days later, I returned to the rock face and found the bird nest where my reply should be found. Instead I found my original message with the words "Request denied; improper format" written on my paper. Knowing that there was no way that I could acquire the demanded napkin, I just gave that cause up. I would merely have to keep an eye on this location to see when the portal was going to reappear. Bureaucracy has followed me back in time; no wonder it took these people so long to get out of the dark ages.

         After spending a few weeks in my new location, I began to pick up on the language far more than one ever could through a classroom setting. Needing to support myself, I sold a few things I had found in my car which for some reason or other, the locals found extremely fascinating. For instance, I sold some old Carls Junior coupons to some monks who wished to study the strange text upon them. However, I still had the problem of supporting myself for the money I raised quickly ran out. Realizing that I had some literature books in my car as well as a German-English dictionary, I began to translate some of the stories into German. As such, I could publish many of these stories fifty years or more before they would have first been written. It was not a very honest thing to do but it had to be done. I could always sign the authors name to the work so that history would not be irrecoverably changed by something or other.

          I rationalized it in my mind by thinking about the need to keep history as close to my reality as possible. Just by coming back here, I had changed history so I had to try my best to fix the situation. I actually met one of the authors whose work was in my textbook. I sold him some soap which was in my car, for I had gone to the store on my way to German class the night I was sent to this place. I was willing to part with this precious commodity for I had purchased enough to last me until California became as island, separated from the U.S. mainland. Besides, I had to do something since all of the people of this time seemed to have an aura of disgusting smelling filth about them. Strangely though, the soap devastated this poor soul. Cleanliness was a state so foreign to him that he went mad thinking about the murder of billions of bacteria and germs that were now on his conscience. I had inadvertently mentioned the existence of germs after he had already used the product. After I told him about germs and what the soap had done to them, the man began to convulse and cry uncontrollably. As such, I had to write and publish the rest of his works for him. I was sure that these people had never heard of the MLA format so I did not spend any time with the citation of my source. I would probably have ended up on the stake gallows again or whatever that was if I had done so for even though many of these people had no education, they would have all realized the threat presented by the MLA format. For all I knew, I would return home to find the Roman Empire still alive in Europe as well as a Mongol Empire in place of China and Russia. Even worse was the possibility that the Cold War might still be on when I returned home but this time, the two superpowers would be Guam and Luxembourg. As such, I did my best to try to keep history on the course that it was supposed to go.

          About this time, I found that I could no longer bear life without being able to super size my fries and my drink. Luckily, that same day, when I went out for a walk, I saw that the portal was once again open. I knew I had to take this opportunity to get home. I went off to the forest to find my car. By now a few vines had decided that they rather liked my station wagon and were determined not to let their new friend go. Using a sword that I had received in a trade with a knight for an umbrella, I convinced the vines that I was the rightful owner. However, this was not the only problem. It seems that some meandering knight had mistaken my vehicle for a dragon and as such, he had attacked it with his array of weaponry. I lamented at the prospect of filling this out on the insurance claim form. Fortunately for me, the car still ran and so I drove back to where I had first appeared in this land. As I did so, I noticed that a whole lot of calvary were pursuing me. Hitting the accelerator, I passed through the tunnel and found myself back in what I hoped was my time. Speeding off into the distance, I did not notice that the knights had followed me back to this time until a strange news cast several days later. Turning on the news I heard the anchorman say, "Good evening. We have an update for you on the terrorist action in Orange County. It seems that a band of German speaking terrorists wearing suits of armor have taken over Medieval Times, slaughtering those who were inside. Swat teams have the building surrounded."