Author Topic: First 1900+ words of a time travel story  (Read 440 times)

Offline SVBonaventure

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First 1900+ words of a time travel story
« on: June 06, 2019, 11:36:47 AM »
This is the first 1,970 words of a short story i'd ultimately like to turn into a serial. Any thoughts are appreciated!

It was as if somebody with very large catcher’s mitt hands was pushing on his stomach as he fell through the door.  The butterflies fluttering in his belly were hell bent on escaping, but for some reason, he never got that real urge to lose his lunch.  It wasn’t just fear, although that was surely some of it.  There was a healthy dose of anticipation in there, as well as some pure excitement.  He was not sure exactly why he had jiggled the knob in the first place.  The gold engraved sign on the door was clear.  “Authorized Personnel Only.”  But no business had occupied the Murdoch Building since the doors were padlocked in 1998, so he figured that directive really didn’t apply these days. 

From its earliest days in the 1930s, until the late-nineties, the Murdoch Building was home to a half dozen car dealerships.  The building was boarded up when Stevens Pontiac, “The Home of Quick Rick Stevens,” pulled up stakes and moved to greener pastures in the suburbs.  Conventional wisdom was that either the expanding hospital empire or university would buy up the building, take a wrecking ball to more than half a century of great deals on quality automobiles and build a shiny, new research facility, dormitory or parking garage.  But it didn’t exactly go that way and the months turned into years, and the years rolled well into a second decade.  Zoning issues, fights over back taxes, and greedy hands waiting for the medical center or university to come up with just a little more money for the prized city block (and maybe some cash under the table for such and such and so and so) conspired to keep the building empty for going on seventeen years.  The result was a hulking, dingy, three story relic that reeked of musty wood, motor oil and the cheap aftershave of six decades’ worth of shifty car salesmen. 

Jack Matthews, who qualified as “the new guy” at the firm even though he was ten years older than many of the other associates, was sent by the men in the corner offices with big desks and impressive chairs to see if the Murdoch Building was worth buying and developing, or if it would be better to buy it, level it, and beat the vultures to the punch by building something new and profitable on the block. 
Matthews, by nature, was an inquisitive sort.  Some habits die hard. This was a positive trait in his former endeavors, but it remained to be seen whether it was a plus or a minus in the mundane world of commercial real estate. 

The door was in perfect condition in spite of the dilapidated condition of the rest of the building.  He found that to be odd and overwhelmingly curious.  At first the knob wouldn’t turn, as if it was deciding whether Matthews was worthy.  It had clicked and clacked as he struggled with it and just as he decided whatever was on the other side was going to remain a secret, with a loud clunk it unlocked but did not open.  Something was daring him to open the door but that knob was making sure Jack knew who was boss.  Come on.  You’re in now, pal.  All you have to do is open it.  That’s when the butterflies really kicked it into high gear.  He had figured maybe there was a big wood paneled conference room or a shiny executive men’s room to match the pristine and secretive door.  Now he wasn’t so sure.  He was getting an uneasy feeling, like a nine year old trying to lift a candy bar from the corner store so he can look cool for the older kids.  But what the hell, Door Knob was giving him permission, right? 

With a deep breath, he leaned in and turned the knob, which moved, but not easily and the door seemed to be getting some resistance from the other side. Not like a person holding the door shut, pissing and moaning about door knob’s decision to let a new guy in, but more like a vacuum in a wind storm.  Stomach churning, leaning harder, it gave way and he fell into the darkness and he knew immediately this was no executive crapper.  He had no idea what it was, but he knew it wasn’t just a neat little hidden room, tucked in the back of a long-boarded up building.

The darkness was complete and his senses had all but abandoned him.  He couldn’t figure out if he was inside or outside.  He was able to think and breathe without a struggle, but there seemed to be no atmosphere in the space around him. Mathews had been in some tough situations, some that had lasted a couple of seconds, and some that had lasted months, but this was like nothing he’d experienced before.  He floated, but at the same time didn’t have any real sensation of movement.  He wasn’t hurtling through the air, but he certainly didn’t feel as though he was standing on his own two feet on solid ground.  He grasped for something, anything around him, but could touch nothing.  I’m dead.  He thought.  That must be it.  I had a heart attack or stroke, or got hit by a bus and this is it.  Why do other ass holes get a white light and I get a goddamn door in a shitty building?  Well, it did say authorized personnel only.  Is that good or bad?  Am I authorized to be an angel or a devil?  Jesus, I hoped waking up all those mornings to serve mass was worth something.  Just as he began to take a moral inventory of his life, the bottom fell out.  Or did the top blow off?  He really could not sense if he was moving up or down or left or right.  But he was moving.  That was clear.  No spinning, no sound effects.  Just a straight shot fast and furious.  He had no way to tell how far he was falling or rising.  He was freaked out but had no real fear.  The butterflies were gone.  Shit, am I going to hell?  You’ve got to be kidding.  Could this be any more ridiculous?  If I was going to hell for the petty crimes against God and man that I committed, I wouldn’t have spent all those years acting as the moral compass for my friends’ crappy behavior!  The episode didn’t last long, and for the first time in the twenty or so seconds since he had opened the door, he felt the ground, or the floor, he wasn’t exactly sure.

Slowly his bearings returned and he reached out in the blackness for some clue as to where he was or what was going on.  He turned one hundred eighty degrees, fumbling through the blackness and finally ran his fingertips across what felt like the door.  He felt around like a scared, blind mime trying to get out of an imaginary box until he found the cold, slippery knob, grabbing it with both hands, praying that it would turn.  As it had done on the other side, it seemed to assess his worthiness and played with his mind a little bit before clicking free.  This time the door swung slowly towards him as it opened and he shielded his squinting eyes from the blinding light.  Hesitating before stepping out, he wondered if his curiosity had bitten off a little too much.  Maybe he let his guard down.  Maybe it was the suit.  He took a second to get his mind right and think like the old days.  As he squinted and blinked his eyes, he took a quick account of things.  No body parts hurt.  He felt fine.  Scared, confused, and a bit dazed, but fine.  He took a step out into what he hoped would be the same dingy building that he had been in just a minute ago.  He took a deep breath and fully opened his eyes.  His jaw dropped.  He couldn’t be sure of anything, but one thing was certain, the Murdoch Building was in full roar.  The same dank, musty smelling show room and back offices that a minute ago were covered in three decades of dust and neglect were now a spit-shined, bustling snap shot of good old American commerce.  He knew he wasn’t in hell.  He felt like he was in a hell a few times in a car dealership, but this wasn’t hell.  Even if it was, he knew he could handle it and it sure didn’t look like it did in the paintings and movies.  In fact it didn’t look like much of a punishment at all.  He was fairly certain he wasn’t dead.  But that didn’t make him feel better.

People hustled from place to place.  A couple of women sat at desks answering phones, furiously taking notes on steno pads.  Men barked orders from the offices that lined each side of the rear of the building.  These offices had interior windows facing the large showroom.  Salesmen chatted up potential buyers and he swore he heard one slick backed dealer in a shiny suit say “the little lady will love the red one.  They all do.”
Then the butterflies returned.  A twinge of panic set in.  Nothing he had experienced in his past life felt like this. He was used to immediate danger and even confusion. But this was different.  He wasn’t used to complete and total bewilderment. What the hell just happened to me?  So far, nobody noticed the stranger in the back of the giant room.  They were seemingly all too busy greasing the wheels of American commerce and transportation.  He wasn’t sure if he should scream or act natural.  He did neither.  He turned and looked for the closest exit.  He had no intention of going through the showroom.  He spied an exit next to a bank of three or four garage doors just to his left.  He walked casually to the door, wondering with every step to what kind of crazy rabbit hole he stepped through, and where any other door in this crazy odyssey might take him.  He took a leap of faith and opened the door with no trouble and to his surprise it led to a small concrete landing and five steps to the parking lot behind the building.  He walked through the gate and out onto the sidewalk.  He stumbled down the block and turned left onto Joe Parker Avenue.  At least he thought it was Joe Parker Avenue.  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and it was hovering around seventy five degrees, just as it was before he went in to the old building that morning. 

Looking up and down the street, he couldn’t immediately put his finger on it, but something was different.  The houses on the either side of Parker looked like they had all been given a fresh coat of paint and the curb appeal treatment by one of those fixer upper reality shows.  He walked the length of the block towards Taft Boulevard.  A kid on a bicycle cruised by him and said “Hiya mister” as he passed.  Jack nodded back, too stunned to answer.  He noticed the light poles were wrought iron and ornate, like in pictures he’d seen of the old days.  Reaching the corner, he looked up, stunned at what he saw.  Vintage green street signs, unlike the new blue ones the city council made such a fuss about just last year.  One read “Taft Blvd,” and the other “Birmingham Avenue.”  Birmingham Avenue?  This is Joe Parker Avenue.  I’m sure of it. He thought about all that stuff about changing things and altering history and the butterfly effect. But he needed answers.

Offline Katie D

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Re: First 1900+ words of a time travel story
« Reply #1 on: June 07, 2019, 07:56:32 PM »
Hi!  I’m just a newbie on the site and have no writer credentials, but I’m a middle-aged high school teacher who likes to read and likes to help other aspiring writers, so here goes:

I like your hook: why the door is toying with the protagonist.

I like that you weave in a little bit about what sort of person our protagonist is gracefully. 

I like how it reminds me of the Twilight Zone and Quantum Leap.

I felt like there was a little too much detail about the building right away, but just for a moment and then it got more interesting right after that.

The visual description of the street stuck with me, especially the mention of fresh paint and curb appeal.  It makes me want to spruce up the outside of my house. 

That’s all I got, hope it helps! 

Offline Svermorg

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Re: First 1900+ words of a time travel story
« Reply #2 on: June 24, 2019, 11:10:01 AM »
Hi SVBonaventure,

Nice story! I like the idea of time travel trough a random doorway.
The text reads smoothly, although I do agree with Katie D about the descriptions of the building slowing the story down a bit. But it's not a hurdle to continue reading.

I have three suggestions:
  • you use 'condition' twice in one sentence (4th paragraph)
  • the fourth sentence of your fourth paragraph is rather long. Maybe you can find a way to trim it?
  • I would use capitals for door knob in your fifth paragraph

Well done! I hope you continue writing this story.