Return Engagements: Book Three (Part One)

After a long wait, I’m happy to begin posting a new adventure in our Return Engagements series. This is Book Three, and I’ll post installments here on a more or less weekly basis. If you’d like to get the whole thing at once, there’s a Kindle link at the end. We hope to have independent eBooks available later this year.

Part One

A tattooed dog?

I stood there, adrift in time and space, looking down at a small, shaved and tattooed dog, a mixed-breed, who was shaking and looking at me as if I could tell her what the hell had just happened. I began to kneel down to comfort the poor thing, at the same time trying to get a preliminary grasp of my surroundings… at least to determine that some wild danger wasn’t about to crash down upon me.

I appeared to be in an empty commercial laundry. It was submerged in darkness, with only two ancient exit signs and an equally ancient fluorescent fixture. By the time my knee hit the floor, however, I was focusing on the note inked into my little friend’s skin. And before I had picked out even the third line (it’s astounding how fast your mind can run in situations like these), I decided that the note should end with, “This dog will self-destruct in five seconds.”

For those too young to remember, that was a riff on a famous, recurring line in the Mission Impossible TV series, and it made me laugh. Laughing just then probably wasn’t the safest thing to do, but it popped the apprehension bubble that was forming in me, and it felt wonderful.

The note started just below my little friend’s neck and ran in short lines down to her rump:



bott drawer

You’re solo &

have 25 mnths

Good luck

I was still chuckling as I picked up my messenger beast and headed to the office by the fluorescent. The whole area seemed to be about 10,000 square feet and the clock on the wall said it was 4:00.

The office was locked, but the lock wasn’t very heavy. Two good kicks opened it, and I hurt my foot only slightly. I had never kicked a door open before, but I did it all the same. In that moment (and in others on these missions) I instinctively rose to an odd kind of immediacy and intensity. I think it was rather like doing live television back in the 1950s: It’s all right here, right now, in front of the world, with no do-overs and no excuses. If you don’t get something right, you either do it again or come up with a new plan; all by yourself and with a stop watch running. It pulls up your reserve energies and drains you in a delayed and odd sort of way.

I turned on the light, re-closed the door (as far as it would go) and opened the only bottom drawer in the room, in an old desk. After some rooting around I found a satchel filled with cash, a mix of bills ranging from fives to hundreds. It looked to be a good take.

I was tempted to read the dates on the bills, but decided that wasting time while thieving was stupid. I’d place myself on a calendar soon enough. Beside, the off-white and dull green walls of the office, combined with the age of the electrical fixtures, told me that I was probably in the 1940s.

For the moment, however, I needed to clothe myself and to get away from this place. I needed to take care of my little friend too. She had stopped shaking, but I’d clearly have to take her with me. Then, hopefully, to somewhere she could survive on her own.

As I left the office to find some clothes, I passed a lunchroom. In the ancient fridge I found some beef stew that seemed fresh enough. I put it on the floor and followed it with a bowl of water. She was sniffing it as I went about to find some clothes.

In what felt like a recurring theme, I found some maintenance uniforms, this time newly laundered ones. I put one on and began looking for a locker room where I might find some shoes and perhaps a jacket. I continued down a hallway and then into another largish space. I didn’t find a locker room, but I did find a couple of lockers in a corner, and some old work boots nearby. My little friend showed up as I put them on.

I trusted my travel arrangers to give me enough time to escape, and it did seem to be the middle of the night, but I still didn’t want to waste time. A scan of this new part of the building revealed a loading dock with an overhead door, which I walked to and felt, hoping to discover the outside temperature; it was cold, and I could feel a cold wind spurting around it’s sides. There was an exterior door just a few feet away; I didn’t find any alarm circuitry on it, but I still didn’t want to chance opening it until I was dressed for the cold. And so I made another supply run through the building.

* * * * *

This event had begun the same as my previous two; I had gone to bed after a typical evening, then was awakened by what we used to call the power of the spirit, finding myself in some strange place by the time I was awake.

The story I’m recounting to you occurred on the night of January 9th, 2021. That was almost three years after my previous “trip,” a longish break I felt like I needed.

When concluding the account of my last adventure (which took place in May of 2018), I noted that those events affected me for some time. I had, after all, not only met my young self but spent time with him; that does something to you that I’m not sure I can describe. I’m convinced that the experience was a net gain, but it left me emotionally awkward for at least a year. That, combined with the troubling events of 2020, made the gap between events a welcome one.

Within that gap, I devoted some time to my friend Robert’s explanation of my visits to past worlds: that they’re large scale counterparts to the virtual particles which appear at the smallest scales. What I ultimately found was that there’s nothing to substantiate it and nothing to specifically discredit it. There was no surprise in this, since such worlds would have to exist beyond the borders of our observable universe, and we don’t even know where those borders might be.

But to be clear, I should add that the worlds I’ve been visiting are temporary worlds, not really virtual. The “virtual particles” Robert used as an analogy were misnamed, they are fully real, but they’re also temporary, appearing in the world then disappearing after a fraction of a second.

By the time I started writing this account, I had come to one overarching conclusion, sparked by my last adventure: that we’re living in a primitive world. I’ve written things like that before, but they reflected an analytic understanding; what I’ve come to now is far more of a gut level understanding. In some distant future, we won’t describe the bad parts of this age with detailed explanations, but with a grimace and a waving of the hand. “It was primitive,” we’ll say, “a lot of sad things happened.”

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Paul Rosenberg