So, here it is, as promised. The last gasp. Harry is now gone so grab a cup of cinnamon tea and read on.
The music to lead off this last part of the story sets the mood perfectly. I’d highly recommend getting this set to go and punch play as you start reading. I love soundtracks. Such moodiness, and so clearly expressed. A language of their own.
[The International- End Titles \\ Tom Tykwer et al.]
The Eighty-eighth Key: Coda
Light. Light – as running from the night. And at the end of it all, simply running blind.
Yet it seemed he had chased time all his life, until time turned on him and changed the terms of the chase. The terms of their embrace.
And then. Time. Stopped. An inexplicable discontinuity. All input ceased and even the darkness was gone. He could finally relax in the light, for there was no place left to run.
Then the light returns, and he feels a fine, cool breeze running through his hair. Blue sky overhead, the only clouds far away beyond mountains to the east. He can’t see beyond the mountains while the sky and everything within seems a kind of electric blue. Still, no sensation. Not even gravity. Nothing underfoot, only the vaguest suggestion of being adrift.
Falling? Slowly falling? Inside blue lightning. Blue lightning everywhere.
Then he realizes he is standing inside the lightning. Within. With blue light all around, what air he can taste is alive with the ozone-rich scent of passing rain on a summer afternoon. He can feel tiny pinpricks of light passing through his skin and he doesn’t know what to think now. ‘Am I alive?’ he wonders, because he feels he must be light now—because the darkness is gone. Banished.
‘Have I been here before?’ he wonders.
Something feels familiar. Is it the color of the light? The feel of the wind as it passes around and through him? Is that why everything feels so familiar?
Then in the next instant he feels something solid underfoot.
He looks down. Gravel. He sees the gravel he is feeling. Pea gravel over black tar. ‘This can’t be death,’ he realizes.
And a spent rifle cartridge. And that is death. The taking of life. He remembers death.
Death in the form of shining brass, right there by – shoes?
He recognizes the shoes. From a place he barely remembers. From a Time before the discontinuity. Then. Two shoes. He lifts up the legs of his trousers and sees two legs. He wiggles his toes. All of them. And he smiles, because he remembers pain from a Time far away and almost forgotten.
Then another pair of shoes. Blue jeans and a crumpled old tan corduroy sport coat. Squinting eyes, blue. Hair graying and stiff – and the wind does not move him.
“Just the one?”
Callahan shrugged. “All I’ve found so far.”
“Helluva shot,” Bullitt said, leaning against the railing by the rust colored curtain wall and looking down at the Hilton Hotel’s rooftop swimming pool.
“About 300 yards, I’d say.”
“Something doesn’t feel right, Harry.”
Callahan looked at Frank and nodded. “I know.” He looked at the bay just off the Embarcadero and saw a clipper ship lying at anchor, then they both turned towards the sound of a deep rumbling that shook the earth – and they saw what appeared to be some kind of space shuttle launching from SFO, except the airport seemed to now be a busy spaceport.
A shadow passed overhead and they looked up.
“What the fuck?” both Callahan and Bullitt whispered.
A man in a parachute. Falling towards the metal catwalks a few feet from where he and Bullitt were standing. The man landed on his two feet and he pulled a release that caused the parachute to drift away, and Callahan recognized the US Navy flight suit. Even the aviator’s helmet looked kind of familiar – because he recognized the symbol of The Boomers from VA-165 emblazoned on the side of the flight helmet. The pilot lifted his visor and Callahan thought he…
“You look familiar,” the pilot said. “Callahan, right?”
Harry nodded. “Sherman? Gene Sherman?” he asked. “What’s with the dog?”
There was a brown dog, a very small puppy, peeking out from inside Sherman’s flight suit – and that seemed to catch Sherman off guard. “Roscoe? Is that my little spud?” The pup licked Sherman’s chin and both smiled.
Another shuttle launched and all three turned towards the immense rumbling coming from the lower bay – and all three stared at the huge ship lumbering into the clear blue sky.
“I could see a bunch of them on the way down,” Sherman said, answering the most obvious unasked question. “Someone’s getting the fuck outta Dodge in a hurry.”
“Yeah?” Bullitt said. “Well then, explain that to me,” he said, pointing at the clipper ship at anchor off the old harbor.
Sherman turned and looked – at the dead woman floating in the swimming pool. “Uh, I don’t mean to be snarky, but did you notice the girl over there?”
“What?” Callahan snarled. “You mean the one with the hole in her back? Gee Frank, how’d we miss that?”
“That’s not exactly what I meant,” Sherman sighed. “Look around down there, would you? Tell me what’s missing?”
Callahan and Bullitt walked over to the curtain wall and looked over the city.
“Shit,” the both said.
“Exactly,” Sherman grumbled. “Where are all the people?”
More rumbling. Another shuttle lifting off.
“The light,” Sherman whispered, “isn’t right.”
“What do you mean,” Bullitt growled, “it isn’t right?”
Sherman held his hand up to shield his eyes from the sun and he seemed to scan the heavens, then he nodded before he pointed to the sky north of where Oakland should have been, but wasn’t. “Tell me what you see?” he said to Callahan.
Harry walked over and lined his sight with Sherman’s outstretched arm, following the direction indicated with his eyes. “What is that?” he whispered a moment later.
“That,” Sherman said, “is a star. And it shouldn’t be there. And neither should that gas giant,” he added, pointing to a ringed planet almost due east in the sky and just big enough to be visible in daylight. “And that, gentlemen, accounts for those shuttles launching right now.”
A service door opened one level below and a Golden Retriever bounded halfway up the stairs, then it stopped and turned, looking back at the door – until two teenagers, a boy and a girl, exited and started up the stairs…
The retriever then finished coming up the stairs and she ran right up to Sherman and stood on her hind legs, her hands resting on Sherman’s outstretched arms. “Daisy-Jane?” he asked, and that caused the dog’s feathered tail to swish wildly.
“Gene?” the girl asked as she walked up to Sherman. “Is that you?”
He turned to the girl and studied her eyes before sucking in a deep breath: “Debra?” He smiled and she nodded – though she suddenly seemed a little too shy, given the circumstances. “And who’s this?” Sherman asked, looking at the massive wall of muscle standing by her side.
“William Taylor,” the boy said jealously, sticking out his right hand.
Callahan looked at Bullitt and shrugged – just as another shuttle rumbled and began easing away from the pad. “What’s with that?” Taylor said, pointing at the ship arcing into the sky.
“Clyde? Is that you?” another voice said.
Daisy Jane spun around until she saw Henry Taggart, then she took off and bolted into his outstretched arms – and when Debra Sorensen realized who had stolen her dog (again) she started to cry. Then she ran into Taggart’s arms, and the three of them hugged a little too much for Taylor’s comfort.
And then someone coughed.
A deep, rheumy cough.
The Old Man in the Green Loden Cape was standing beside another Old Man in a wheelchair.
It was Franklin Roosevelt, and he appeared very ill indeed.
Instinctively everyone gathered around Roosevelt, and Sherman knelt by his side, began taking the Old Man’s vitals. The Old Man in the Green Loden Cape stepped close and turned to face the little group.
“We haven’t much time,” he sighed as he pointed at the approaching gas giant, just as the last shuttle lifted off from the launch complex on the tidal flats that had been, once upon a time, a sprawling international airport.
“Time for what?” William Taylor growled – just before he turned and stared at another shuttle emerging from billowing clouds of white smoke. Everyone turned and looked – everyone, that is, but Franklin Delano Roosevelt – and as they followed the shuttle’s progress up into the sky one by one their eyes came to rest on a huge blue sphere…
And this sphere was falling gently to earth.
“What is that inside?” Callahan muttered as he shaded his eyes and stared at the sphere.
Roosevelt turned in his wheelchair and faced Callahan, his eyes sparkling with keen interest now. “That is a galleon, Inspector Callahan. I believe it is Drake’s Golden Hinde, and if I am not mistaken it is here to alter the current timeline.”
“Drake?” Sherman said, his voice creaking around the edges of despair. “Do you mean Francis Drake?”
“I do,” Roosevelt replied, smiling. “Come now. There is much left for us to do, and little time remains!”
The Old Man in the Green Loden Cape suddenly appeared unsettled, and he turned to the group again, only now his eyes were pleading. “Please, we really must leave. Gather round now,” he said, motioning the group to come closer to Roosevelt’s wheelchair, “before it’s too late…”
The air rippled with a splitting howl that sounded like the screams of all the world’s damned and then the earth heaved and buckled. Magma began pouring out a giant fissure where Golden Gate Park had been just moments before, and buildings began to sway, then like dominos falling one by one the city’s skyscrapers began to give way and collapse.
The Old Man in the Green Loden Cape tapped his cane on the pebbled roof and a large reddish-pink sphere formed around the group, just as roaring gouts of magma boiled up from the earth – and mere seconds passed before the last human beings on earth made their getaway.
Here ends the Eighty Eighth Key. The balance of the tale will take shape in TimeShadow. This story © 2016-22 by Adrian Leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse. This is a work of fiction, pure and simple, and aside from the appearance of a few incidental characters (i.e., Roosevelt) all characters should not be confused with any real person or persons living or no longer among us. But wait, there’s more…how about a word or two on sources: To begin, the ‘primary source’ material in this tale derives from two seminal Hollywood ‘cop’ films: Dirty Harry and Bullitt. The first Harry film was penned by Harry Julian Fink, R.M. Fink, Dean Riesner, John Milius, Terrence Malick, and Jo Heims; original copyright is held by Warner Brothers. Bullitt came primarily from the author of the screenplay for The Thomas Crown Affair, Alan R Trustman, with help from Harry Kleiner, as well Robert L Fish, whose short story Mute Witness formed the basis of Trustman’s brilliant screenplay. Warner Brothers was again the copyrighting studio. Steve McQueen’s grin was never trade-marked, though perhaps it should have been. John Milius (Red Dawn) penned Magnum Force, and the ‘Briggs’/vigilante storyline derives from characters and plot elements originally found in that rich screenplay, as does the Captain McKay character. The Jennifer Spencer/Threlkis crime family storyline was first introduced in Sudden Impact, screenplay by Joseph Stinson, original story by Earl Smith and Charles Pierce. The Samantha Walker television reporter is found in The Dead Pool, screenplay by Steve Sharon, story by Steve Sharon, Durk Pearson, and Sandy Shaw. I have to credit the Jim Parish, M.D., character first seen in the Vietnam segments to John A. Parrish, M.D., author of the most fascinating account of an American physician’s tour of duty in Vietnam – and as found in his autobiographical 12, 20, and 5: A Doctor’s Year in Vietnam, a book worth noting as one of the most stirring accounts of modern warfare I’ve ever read (think Richard Hooker’s M*A*S*H, only featuring a blazing sense of irony conjoined within a searing non-fiction narrative). Denton Cooley, M.D. founded the Texas Heart Institute, as mentioned. Of course, James Clavell’s Shōgun forms a principle backdrop in the chapters surrounding Japan and the Fujiko character. The teahouse and hotel of spires in Ch. 42 is the product of the my warped imagination; so-sorry. The snippets of lyrics from Lucy in the Sky are publicly available as ‘open-sourced.’ Many of the other figures in this story derive from characters developed within the works cited above, but again keep in mind that, as always, the rest of this story is in all other respects a work of fiction woven into a pre-existing cinematic-historical fabric. So again, the standard disclaimer here applies: the central characters in this tale should not be mistaken for persons living or dead. This was, in other words, just a little walk down a road more or less imagined, and nothing more than that should be inferred. I’d be remiss not to mention Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callahan, and Steve McQueen’s Frank Bullitt. Talk about the roles of a lifetime…and what a gift these tales were to us all.]
And one last bit of music to close out this tale, and from another soundtrack.
[What Happened To You \\ Jamin Winans]
Bravo Amigo… all the stars in the sky belong above your office door.
Well now, wasn’t that a saga. Nice read, AL. Hope you are well and looking for the next story from your fertile mind. Keep well.
Yes, a fitting end to a great tale. Looking forward to your next story. Always a delight.
Something a little less epic, I hope. Maybe with Andy and Opie and Barney Fife???
A great tale indeed and somehow part of an ‘opus magnum’?
I’ll be happy if it ends up making some kind of sense…