This is an entry to the second round of the @blocktrades and @thewritersblock Steemfest #writeyourownticket contest, hosted by @anomadsoul.
It was a dark and stormy night when I woke up and I didn’t know where I was or who I was.
But that was fine, because there were no rules here, and I was a writer and I was allowed to write whatever opening line I thought I could get away with. Who would judge me for that?
Oh, the judges. That’s right. Ah well, I couldn’t backtrack now.
Lightning flashed outside, followed by the pounding of thunder. I sat up in bed, my name and memories finally coming back to me in a most convenient fashion.
It was early in the morning. My goal was clear. I knew what I had to do.
I leapt from my bed, and a jaunty movie soundtrack accompanied my morning routine. Bathroom activities which shall go undetailed, followed by covering my nudity with shorts and a t-shirt, then a slow motion leap into the kitchen to begin coffee production.
With the coffeemaker burbling away, I flung myself back into the bedroom to begin packing my suitcase. I spun about the room in graceful movements, socks and underwear flying about like confetti in a parade. I was a ballerina. I was the Super Bowl MVP. I was —
My wife sat up in bed, turning off the stereo, halting my peppy background music.
“Where are you going?”
I had a plane to catch. To Krakow. To Steemfest.
“Krakow!” I was Thor, and I spoke the word with all the power of lightning and the strength of thunder. My cats bolted from the room.
I revised my plans.
We had a plane to catch. To Krakow. To Steemfest.
Which is what I’d be saying if I had bought plane tickets to begin with. But I hadn’t, and I was beginning to realize this disturbing lack of tickets was going to be a major hindrance to my travel plans. I stopped my furious folding and packing of underwear to consider this dilemma.
My wife slipped out of bed and went to the bathroom to begin her own morning routine, only it was much more slow motion in comparison to mine. She didn’t even have a soundtrack.
Any slower and she’d still be in bed.
I frowned, staring at my suitcase full of underwear. A pair of undies with little cartoon prints of spouting whales sat on top. Whales. Hmm.
“Hrw err wrr grrng tr grt tr Krrkow?” My wife spoke with a mouth full of toothpaste and toothbrush.
“I don’t know what you just said, but I have a plan for how we’re going to get to Krakow.” I deftly translated her garbled words for anyone that might be listening to our conversation. Or reading it. I was nothing if not considerate.
“Hrw?” She looked at me.
My wife spat.
I glanced at her, my brow raised to heights that would make even The Rock proud.
She coughed, cleared her throat, then spat again. Then once more for good measure. Her mouth was finally empty of toothpaste, but the sink was probably full to overflowing. I dared not look. “What?”
“Bacon, woman. Make some breakfast!”
She frowned eloquently. Her lips flattened to a line, much like an earthworm on a dinner plate, and her brows pulled together like fuzzy caterpillars jousting. I decided not to inform my wife her face reminded me of bugs and worms and instead plowed forward with my pig-related demands.
“Um. Bacon? Please?” I couldn’t travel the 5000 miles from Florida to Krakow without bacon. She knew it as well as I.
After a long pause, she went off to perform her mission.
I considered my own mission as well. Compared to the relatively simple task of cooking bacon, conjuring a way to travel to Krakow seemed a good bit more difficult.
I hadn’t the cash to buy a plane ticket, much less two. This I knew. And last I checked, my garage contained no airplanes. It was barely large enough to fit a lawnmower. But my driveway was full of things. Things that couldn’t fit in the garage. Most notably a motorhome.
The closest I would ever get to being a whale was when I rode around inside it. If I could somehow drive it to Krakow, all my problems would be solved.
I consulted my brain on the topic of geography and cartography, and to ponder on how such a drive might be accomplished, as well as to consider what route would be best. My brain gave me a blank stare. I stared back. When things started to get awkward, I pulled out my phone and opened up Google Maps.
Google Maps estimated the trip to take about a thousand days.
North by northwest. I could go north from Florida, then up through the United States, through the endless wasteland of darkest Canada, and then into Alaska. From there, looking from the tip of Alaska and across the Bering Strait, I could surely see Russia. So close. I only needed the land bridge across the strait to return from its prehistoric slumber.
Which clearly meant I had to travel back in time to when the Bering Land Bridge existed.
But I knew the folly of this train of thought. I had wasted many years of my life struggling to create a time machine. In the end, all I had succeeded in was creating a machine that acted as a fast forwarding device. But it couldn’t even reverse. What good was that? I had originally installed it in my RV in the hopes of creating a Landwhale version of Back to the Future, but without the ‘back’ part the whole endeavor was hollow. Meaningless. I cried a little.
In the midst of my despair, my wife came into the bedroom, smelling of bacon. I looked at her, suddenly aroused. She appeared to be cold. And yet perky. Ah, the simple pleasures of air conditioning.
“What are you looking at?” She narrowed her eyes. Or at least I think she did. I wasn’t looking at her face.
It was like the solution to my problems was dancing in front of my face. I grasped it with both hands.
She frowned, and the whole worm and caterpillar thing happened on her face again. “They are not pontoons.”
I pressed on, lost in the glorious revelation of a good idea. “I can just ride them!”
“You are not riding my—”
“No, I mean the Landwhale can.”
“This is getting weird,” she said, crossing her arms in front of her, which didn’t help clear things up at all.
Later that day, I had a pair of pontoons strapped to the top of the motorhome, and my wife strapped to the passenger seat. Her luggage, consisting of everything she owned and also some things I’d never seen before, was strapped to the back of the Landwhale like the world’s biggest barnacle.
I looked at her as I ate a strip of bacon. “Ready to go?”
“Where did you get that?”
“From my bacon stash.” I fired up the motorhome, and our trek to Krakow was underway. “Obviously.”
A few minutes into the Trip of a Thousand Days, however, I was bored. It was at this point I considered the usefulness of plot devices and congratulated my past self for thinking ahead.
“Wife,” I said to my wife, who continued to remain nameless throughout this adventure despite the fact that she had a perfectly legitimate name. “Open the glove box.”
She did. I imagined she stared at it with something approaching awe. And hedonistic lust for its creator, although admittedly that part might be wishful thinking. “What is it?”
“I call it…Deus Ex Machina.”
“I see.” Her tone was less impressed than I might have desired.
“Turn the dial a thousand days ahead, and push the big red button.” I gripped the steering wheel with both hands. The fast forwarding power of the Deus Ex Machina was not time travel in the normal sense of The Terminator or The Time Machine. It was just a fast forward. So, I still drove every mile myself, still filled up my gas-guzzling Landwhale at every gas station, and still stopped every night to sleep. However, it saved time for anyone not terribly interested in the details of a thousand day journey. Which suited my current purpose perfectly.
“Are you done?” Her finger hovered over the button.
“Ah. Yes. Thank you for waiting. You may push the button now.”
Our Landwhale became a blur, which was something it was entirely unaccustomed to doing. The next thousand days passed in a series of static scenes. Every eyeblink was a sunrise or a sunset. Snow and rain and wind and an unexpected plague of water buffalo came and went in a heartbeat. The pontoons were used to good effect more than once, crossing river and lake and a terrible calamity involving a flood of beer. Snow angels were made at a rest stop in Canada. A pillow fight began and ended before any further conciliatory nods to romance could even be witnessed. A bag of potato chips exploded in the hands of my over-enthusiastic wife, and that scene ended with her eating chips off the floor.
And then all the events of the trip were over.
I stood in Krakow, Poland, with my wife next to me. Our Landwhale was a smoking wreck behind us. The pontoons were shrapnel under the wheels; at some point we must have forgotten to remove them. My wife’s massive burden of luggage had long since been pawned for gas money, and my stash of underwear had been traded away at seedy truck stops for questionable day-old sandwiches. Our hair was mussed, our shoes gone, and at some point I had considered burlap sacks to be proper attire, while my wife had resorted to garbage bags.
I chewed on a piece of bacon.
“Where did you get that?” My wife eyed it in the same way a dog might eye an unguarded piece of pizza. Except I was guarding my bacon, and my wife was no dog. Please tell her I said that.
I handed her some bacon from my stash. She took it and ate it, nodding slowly. Potato chip fragment still clung to her face, but for once I resisted the urge to lick her.
The November snow fell all around us, and the streets were quiet and beautiful. We were here. My mission was complete. The trip of One Thousand Days was over.
The signs and banners for Steemfest flapped in the chill air. People were coming and going from the main venue, chatting amongst themselves, laughing.
The biggest problem, of course, was that we had arrived roughly three years late, and this was Steemfest 2021.