by peter bates

Submitted by ludd on July 4, 2010

An Ancient Dilemma

Jim slipped on his son's toy slime and passed through a time portal. When he regained his balance, he was standing on the deck, sailing a barge through the strait of ancient Messina, approaching Scylla and Charybdis.

"Captain," said the mate, "what now? Either we're dinner for the beast or we perish in the maelstrom!"

Thoughts of flesh tearing, bones crushing, and death by choking. "Don't know," replied Jim. "Maybe there's a third option. Let's drop anchor! Now when I say three, everybody chortle!" They stopped the ship and guffawed at the frustrated monsters until the Age of Mythology passed.

Friday, July 3, 4:45

Jim ran into Cheryl on the company elevator. When she mentioned the weather, he thought, should I bring up global warming? Start a meaningful discourse? Before he could speak, the elevator got stuck near the sixteenth floor. When they tried dialing for help, the elevator jeered, "Fools, that won't work. I am not letting you out. So give up."

Said Jim, "You can't hold us, we've got work to do!"

"Pah!" laughed the elevator, "Your new job is amusing me."

"C'mon," said Cheryl, "It's a three-day weekend!"

"Don't make me laugh. I've held people through Christmas"

Jim looked into Cheryl's sassy eyes, and for the first time noticed they were curbstone gray. "What the hell," he said. "It's 90 outside, cool as a supermarket here. Let's get comfortable at company expense." Soon as they lay down on the plush carpet, the doors opened.


Depressed by recent unexplained events, Jim went to a psychiatrist. He told her about the time subluxations, the evil elevator, and the Famous Dead, but added that he'd always managed to cope.

"These may be delusions," she said. She asked him the color of his nightmares, the color of his office walls. He couldn't say. Then she asked him if there were round stamps, magenta fruits, or rubber houses and if not, why not. He gave terse replies.

After a long and expensive session, she said she'd let him know her diagnosis. The next day she called. "Mr. Walker, good news! I've detected no delusions in your psychological profile, none whatsoever. Feel better now?"

"Yes," he said. "Yes, thank you." As soon as he hung up, she appeared on his computer screen in pixilated color. Before he could turn it off, she stepped out.

—Peter Bates