Thanks for coming back!
Here's a link to Chapter 1:
And after a couple of hectic weeks, below the orange antimacassar is Chapter 2. This is a brand new Chapter 2, and as soon as I went to save the file, wouldn't you know, the original Chapter 2 turned up. That will be Chapter 3. (Isn't the minutiae of writing fun.) As an added bonus, I'll let you know this, I was a little hungry as I wrote this, and I think it shows. Fortunately, I had some canned mac and beef soon after, but I kept wishing I had ... Well, read on and find out.
Otis and Evan: a serialized novel by jabney.
"We'll probably go to Hell for this Otis," I said as we left the crudely wrapped package on the altar facing the plaster-baroque splendor of Saint Lacrimosa's.
"Nonsense Evan. If anything, what we've done will probably increase the faith of the faithful, erase the doubts of the doubtful and boost the commerce of the commercial. A relic, even a counterfeit relic, has the power to change history."
"And that's precisely what we are not supposed to do, Otis. The timeline is sacred."
"Sacred to who? Certainly not to you or me. We're here in the past are we not?"
I could not dispute Otis's point that we had traveled to the past. If the smell of horse manure rising from every boulevard wasn't reminder enough, the stench wafting from the side-street tenements served as a most unsavory exclamation point.
Otis continued, "Every time we inhale or exhale as little as one single breath we alter the physical reality of the past. Our corpses, should we be unable to get back to our own time, will add to the weight of this world when they are buried. And should we opt for cremation..."
"Everybody should. Cremation is far better than burial."
"That, my dear Evan, is a matter of deep personal choice. Six feet deep, in fact."
I groaned and laughed at the same time. "Otis, like most tech-heads that we know, I appreciate the art of the pun. Sometimes, though, your superior tech skills seem to lead you to underestimate your audience. That "Six feet deep" addendum for instance. It was not needed. There were alternatives."
"What are suggesting Evan, that I should have spoken the first "Deep" in italics? Or maybe used air quotes. I knew a girl once that used air quotes. Irritated the crap out of me. Anyhow, as I was saying, even if we were to opt for cremation, the smoke rising from the chimney of the crematorium would add to the air pollution. Not to mention the calories of heat produced and vented to the atmosphere, the depletion of fossil fuels..."
"Yeah yeah, and the ink used for printing the obituaries. I get your point. But we can't go around preventing tragedies simply because we have the advantage of hindsight. Warning Archdukes to be wary of anarchists might save one member of the nobility but perhaps at the cost of hundreds or thousands of lives of common foot-soldiers. A delay in the start of World War One would have meant that much more time for some bright young chemist to perhaps have developed some gas far more destructive than mustard gas."
"Mustard, hmmm. I wonder if they have already started putting yellow mustard on hot dogs here in the early twentieth century? Perhaps when we get to America."
"Hot dogs, Otis? We will be crossing the Atlantic in a first class cabin, and gentlemen of our class would never use such a crude term as "Hot dog"."
"OK, frankfurters then. Frankfurters with raw onions, Chicago-green relish and yellow mustard."
"Now that you mention it. But nothing fancy. I'm sure we will have our fill of lobster, champagne and caviar on the ship. Which, by the way Evan, we have yet to choose."
"Mr Holmes said we should pick one that's big enough to allow us some degree of anonymity. I'm still researching." As we continued to walk along the streets of this rather shabby part of old London, a very intriguing odor managed to waft its way toward us overcoming the general background note of horse manure and the lack of good sewerage.
"Look, Evan! Fish and Chips!"
"Just what our arteries are crying out for, Otis. Still, when in Rome..."
We entered the shop, placed our orders and soon walked out with crispy pieces of breaded fried fish and french fries wrapped in a cornucopia made from newspaper. We ate in silence, enraptured by the deliciousness. Then Otis said, "Oh, oh oh!"
"Swallowed a bone or something?" I said half worried, half amused.
"No Evan, look. Right next to where the dorsal fin would have been."
I don't take much stock in portents and omens, but in a pinch, why not. There it was, grease-smeared but still legible,
Excitement Builds For Mauritania Maiden Voyage - Only A Few First Class Cabins Remain UnbookedI looked at my newspaper cone and, other than a greasy corset ad, there was nothing I was tempted to show Otis. And I resisted that temptation. The man is already over-sensitive about his weight. Mostly imaginary, I think. "Then the Mauritania it is, Otis. Let's book passage."
"And what name will you be using Evan?"
That was a good question. I do have a last name, but it is a long multi-hyphenated name. So long, in fact, that I have to look it up each time its use is required. To cut and paste from my tri-fold is one thing, but in the dawning years of the twentieth century, the public use of such a device would be certain to draw unwanted attention. "I've got it, brother!"
"You don't mean..."
"Yes Otis, I'll be your younger brother, Evan Ferg. How did you come by that name, by the way? I mean you've often said you don't know the identities of your parents."
"I don't. Although I have my suspicions. But yes, I'm a genuine bastard, and like all genuine bastards left to the tender mercies of The Turing Memorial Home For Abandoned Infants, I was given a machine generated last name. With an algorithmically harmonious, culturally 'appropriate' first name chosen from a list. I could have changed it, but it's a lot easier to learn than one like yours."
"You've seen my name, I suppose?"
"Yes, when you first applied to systems. The selection committee had a good laugh over that. At least the men did."
"And the women?"
"They seemed to be rather sensitive about the whole hyphenated name thing. Didn't find the geometric ramifications at all amusing. How do you feel about it?"
I said, "It is what it is. It's only fair. And it no doubt serves to fortify the bonding instincts of the mother."
"As if nine months with a full womb and a couple of years having the little darlings suckling from a pair of breasts weren't bonding enough," said Otis, "Not that I would remember the former nor know about the latter, of course."
"You must be lots of fun on a date, Otis," I said with what I hoped contained just the right mixture of sarcasm and empathy. "So what you're suggesting is that using only the father's last name improves a father's bonding instinct?"
"I didn't say that, you did. But when you think about it, other than one moment of fun nine months before ever seeing the kid, what else does the dad have invested in a new baby? I'm speaking non-fiscally of course."
"He has the continuation of his genes, for one thing, Otis."
"Under the total control of the mother, Evan. In our culture, propagation is totally at the whim of the mother."
"If the father's not willing Otis, I don't think much propagating is going to get done."
"He's a man, and if he is heterosexual and still capable of penetrating a vagina, he'll be willing."
"Let me revise what I said earlier about you being lots of fun on a date, Otis, I should have said it would be a miracle for you to go on any dates at all!"
"I wonder how Control is doing back on SS Oligarch?" Otis said, in a bank-shot change of topic.
"And Jerome," I said, "Don't forget Jerome."
"Jerome is more your peer, Evan. You and he could talk in much the same way Control and I do ... or did." I sensed a note of sadness in my former boss's voice. Interesting, I think I, Evan raised in a pretty conventional family, may be adjusting to our new situation better than the officially rootless Otis.
A cab approached, I hailed it, and in as positive a tone as I could muster said, "Cabby, the Cunard Lines booking office please."