Episode 1 --Bare Feet Kick the Sky

Episode 1 —
Bare Feet Kick the Sky

 

Episode 1:
Bare Feet Kick the Sky

 


Yesterday I was lost and I died. Today I am alive again. I accept the truth about foregone tomorrows and my resurrections from the dead.

I will not claim to be a believer in one religion over another. Yet, I have personally experienced being repeatedly brought back to life after my life ended. Everything I learned about living, dying, and then coming back for more is presented here.

I have been coerced into creating this journal of my experiences. I will suffer if I am less than completely truthful. I will be held prisoner until I have completed this in full. I affirm that what I am telling you here represents the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Here is a map showing where I have traveled for work assignments:

The headquarters of my employer cannot be found on this map. Nor can it be found on any map. This is because I work for a top-secret international agency that is so deeply concealed nobody could possibly find it.

Baja Clavius is the name of the international base of operations where I live. It is from that base that I travel in time to work assignments on Earth. That odd name for the base is because this top-secret facility is buried far beneath a lunar crater named after Christopher Clavius. He was a Jesuit priest in Germany in the 16th century and a gifted mathematician and astronomer.

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

I begin by sharing my memories of being back in my home state of Arizona—on foot trudging through the desert under dark, threatening thunderclouds that do not diminish the hottest day I have ever felt in my entire life. Through an unexpected break in the storm clouds, I see bright white sunlight and the most magnificent color blue.

I am wearing brown cowboy boots, faded blue jeans, and a white long-sleeve Western shirt. On my head I can feel that I am wearing a cowboy hat. I reach up and touch the hat just to make sure my perceptions are accurate. I can see my own cowboy shadow on the desert floor, but he looks like someone unfamiliar to me.

Sticking out of the landscape under the ominous skies is a mechanical structure apparently made mostly of wood. As I walk closer to the device, it looks to me as though it was created specifically to slow down the process of hanging a man by the neck so that he will experience extended agony before his death.

Hung from a thick brown rope wrapped around a wheel wench is a muscular, shirtless, and barefoot man with his arms unbound struggling desperately to stay conscious as his neck is crushed in the noose. I see his high cheekbones and long dark brown hair that is tied behind his neck into a queue. I watch his bare feet kick the sky.

I notice a pair of unattended video cameras on tripods positioned nearby on the desert floor pointing toward the hanging machine. Why would anyone go to the trouble of videotaping this man’s death by ritual hanging?

I know that I have met him previously. But, this man whose name I cannot remember somehow seems to hold a distinct place at the very center of faulty recollections in my brain.

Off in the distance fifty meters or so to the west of my location, I can see four men wearing cowboy attire running away. I must have scared them away when I approached. But, they left that helpless man to die on their hanging machine.

He is someone who seems obviously capable of having put up very considerable resistance against this merciless fate. His powerful body attracts my full attention. He looks like he is about thirty years old—the same age as me. His legs wildly swing in all possible directions as I reach the hanging machine. He desperately tries to reach his hands up to his neck as if it somehow were possible to free himself from the noose. But, that is impossible! He groans when he sees me as if to try and tell me something.

His faded blue jeans are too tight for him. I stare at his bulging crotch as he dances in the air at the end of a rope. I marvel at his incredible masculinity contrasted with utter vulnerability. This man looks strong and tough. He must certainly be capable of protecting himself against anyone with success. But, not now. He cannot save himself. He is simultaneously very manly and totally defenseless. This precise opposing combination of traits is, I’m sure, why men watch executions of other men. The thrill of the watching men suffer and die certainly comes from deep origins in men’s brains where innate violent compulsions always dominate logical and reasonable thinking.

I can see on the ground below him are cowboy boots—dark chocolate brown interrupted by a distinctive creamy white winged pattern on the sides—not a pair of boots that are off the shelf or from any mail order catalogue. Undefended, such a prize pair of expensive boots seems unlikely to have been left behind by his killers on purpose.

I realize that a wench wheel on the machine was used to draw the thick rope upwards into the air. Whoever lynched this man deliberately and very carefully hoisted him in exacting fashion upward by that rope around his neck aided by the wench to intentionally preserve this man’s spine intact.

His muscular arms frantically move through the air as if like wings that might let him fly away and end his suffering. The four men pulled him upwards off the desert floor—at least four feet up into the air. He won’t be flying anywhere now. Or ever.

The killers secured the wench wheel into place with a thick wooden spike. The doomed man’s entire body weight draws downward, ever tightening the noose steadily around his large neck—a slow brutality that no doubt provided his executioners an extended time to derive pleasure from watching his desperate kicking. I have scared the men off because they did not want to be held accountable for what they have done, but their exit does not end this man’s agony.

His deep, dark eyes remain open, defiantly staring outward into the eerie sky. He resumes his kicking, but much more forcefully now. I reach the wench wheel and try to rotate it despite the wooden spike. I cannot remove the spike that has locked the wench wheel, so I am unable to rotate that wheel to let this hung Indian return to the ground. If only I had a knife! I could climb up there and cut the rope! He quickly realizes that I am powerless to rescue him. His groaning reveals his intense agony.

His tight blue jeans emphasize his growing bulge. He has attained a full erection ahead of what will be his final ejaculation into his jeans. There is intense humiliation on his face. His body jerks wildly. As he shoots his last load in his pants, his neck cannot withstand the crushing force of the noose. I am stunned because I did not expect to see his body spasms, kicking, and curling of his toes.

Very suddenly, he just stops struggling. His body no longer can fight back against the effects of gravity and the noose that has applied fatal pressure to neck. I watch him desperately try to open his mouth to breathe, but he has no life remaining in him. I am overwhelmed with intense anger and shock as I slump to the ground next to his chocolate cowboy boots. I cry without any shame for this stranger. I feel stunned by my sexual attraction to him. It is as if I have lost someone who has been very significant to me and to my life.

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

Embedded in my memories, I have a reference point that helps me make some sense of this homicide that I have just witnessed. I can recall having seen brutally bloody videos from this primitive era on Earth showing 21st century terrorists in the Middle East cutting off young men’s heads using sharp blades. There is a very simple reason for taping such violence: Terror is very easy to spread worldwide when you use graphic, violent scenes of men being killed mercilessly.

I presume that credit should go to the ancient Romans for having originated cultural rituals of explicit torture and murder of people specifically intended for public viewing, especially appealing to male innate violent compulsions. Were they intending on fetishizing violence for political or cultural reasons? Did sexual gratification from causing pain or degradation of men already exist in human culture before Rome?

But, ever since the era of Rome, it is very easy for anyone to find examples in which humanity has chosen to replicate and enhance public death rituals. I have no personal knowledge of ritual hangings, however, taking place in Arizona during the late 20th century.

Even though I know I have suffered memory loss, I remember where I work. I especially remember being inside some kind of cylindrical blue machine.

The inside of the circular blue glass machine was filled with a milky white liquid. It was translucent and unpleasant. It smelled like chemicals. I was naked. I felt like I was drowning. But, I knew I was not going to drown. Something has taught me that I cannot die. I know with absolute certainty that I do not know death. I live on and on. But, I have so many questions that I cannot answer. Why am I repeatedly resurrected? Will I live forever?

You think this is science fiction. You think it was written and illustrated by some storyteller. Keep believe that and you’ll keep yourself from understanding the truth that I have for you here. Right in front of you. Right here.

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

I am seated completely naked inside a thick, translucent blue glass-enclosed chamber that I nicknamed “The Giant Blue Hockey Puck.” I gave that nickname because the cylindrical shape of this blue glass chamber reminds me of a standard ice hockey puck. But, instead of a normal hockey puck’s three-inch diameter and one-inch thickness, this chamber is more than twenty-five times larger to enable a seated man to fit comfortably inside on a very uncomfortable glass bench. I am inside of one of sixteen such giant blue time machines inside the huge base far beneath the surface of the moon. But, you won’t believe that, will you?

The eerie blue color of the glass comes from the rare element that some scientist named Lunar Blue. What a dumb name! A lazy choice made by someone who did not speak English and who could not be expected to be aware of the overuse of the word blue when referring to the moon.

I remember from my formal education as a child that the strange blue element was discovered beneath the surface of the moon in the year 2190. All schoolchildren learn that time travel became possible after scientists combined Lunar Blue with liquid diamond and the gasses of two other Earth elements. The rumor persists that time travel was a gift to the people of Earth from extraterrestrials.

My planetary history teacher would be very angry with me if she knew that today I couldn’t recall the exact recipe that was developed by fellow human beings in China on planet Earth. My head aches like I’ve never felt it hurt before. I am having difficulty concentrating. But, I am certain that I would be considered a world-class hero to all my fellow students back at the Isaac Newton School if my top-secret work in time travel were not officially denied.

I feel thicker-than-water translucent white liquid being pumped quickly downward through a grate in the floor of blue glass chamber. The dripping liquid from my nose and chin makes me feel very annoyed. Immediately after the rapid purging of the liquid from the chamber, my lungs are joyful at the availability of sweet oxygen.

A low-pitched whooshing sound accompanies the vertical splitting of this Giant Blue Hockey Puck into two equal sections, enabling me to stand up and walk out. I can feel right away that I am in lunar gravity. I glance down at my bare feet and conclude that they look like I just walked with wet feet through sand. I feel hungry. I cannot remember when I last ate anything. I am sure I will soon topple over because I am too dizzy to think properly or walk normally.

An older gentleman who is wearing a completely white uniform and thick black boots walks up next to me. He looks smart with his long, curly white hair and a thick, frosty mustache. He resembles a guy who was either a 1960’s rock and roll star or some famous Shakespearean actor from England who stopped coloring his hair and has grown a mustache especially so that he would not be recognized easily whenever he is walking out in public.

The whooshing and beeping sounds of technology connected to GBHP number fourteen begins to diminish. “Welcome back, Mr. Avila,” he says in a prominent British accent as he hands me a thick blue robe that I presume he expects me to put on. He has correctly pronounced my surname. That seems odd since most people usually get it wrong. I watch this apparent medical man in white smile at me as I quickly put on the blue robe.

He is standing right in front of me and he can easily lean his face closer to mine. “As always, first you must complete the debriefing session, sir,” I hear him tell me in proper BBC English as he gestures with his entire right arm to point me from the blue glass chamber to a small booth of cylindrical glass nearby. An invisible door to the glass booth slides open to let me step inside. Then, the door silently repositions itself so that I am alone and naked inside a seamless cylinder of glass. The glass shifts from transparent to opaque and a green light over my head pops on. “Recording your voice now,” I hear the disembodied British accent say. “You may begin talking as you wish.”

So, I just start verbalizing aloud like I feel I should: “Well, okay. Here I am. Feeling dazed. Lightheaded. Cannot remember my name. This totally sucks. Cannot remember where I came from. I saw a Native American Indian male. About my age. A suspension hanging. So awful to watch him die so brutally like that. I just stood there, helpless. Didn’t help him. I was sexually attracted to him. I feel like he is, or was, someone very important to me. Can’t remember. I’m able to remember the Giant Blue Hockey Puck. And I know that particular chamber is good old number fourteen. Other things I should remember, but can’t.”

After I have finished talking for as long as I can, the man with the British accent helps me emerge from the debrief booth towards an open metal doorway in a large facility that looks very metallic and futuristic in appearance. “You need to get off your feet to relieve your stress,” he says to me. “I want to give you a sedative. You also need sleep. Your brain should reset that way.”

“You seem familiar. You are a medical doctor?” I ask him, knowing how foolish my question must sound to him.

“Yes. Doctor William Oswald, at your service,” he says to me. “You will feel better after one or two REM cycles.”

He brings me to a small submarine-style rack for a crew member to sleep in. My bed is recessed into one of the futuristic, metallic walls with computer screens and input devices. “Let me inject you in the neck,” Doctor Oswald says. Before I can offer any protest, he has pushed a metal and plastic object into my neck and squeezed it. I feel no pain but I am startled and annoyed by the clicking sounds the metal and plastic object makes as he pushes it into my neck. I get a funny taste in my mouth immediately and feel like I may throw up.

“Can’t remember my name, Doc,” I admit.

“Theodore Joseph Avila, time traveler, and a noble savior of the known universes,” Doctor Oswald says to me. I presume he is being sarcastic. “Moon men deep inside. That’s how all of you agents refer to your employer. Carrying on in the long tradition like the paladin of Charlemagne’s court.”

Whatever he injected me with has quickly calmed me. He helps me lie down on the bed in the blue robe and I roll over on my side so that I am facing away from him.

“Paladin? What century is this?” I ask him.

“Well, that’s certainly a trick question, Mr. Avila, now isn’t it?” I hear him ask from behind me. “You should feel relaxed now. The injection should work. But, every man reacts differently.”

I roll back around so that I am facing him. “Uh, it’s kicking in now. Feeling more relaxed. But, agitated. Worried. I can’t remember stuff I should. Parts of my memory seem to be gone.”

“I hear you and I believe you,” he replies as if he knows that will make me feel better and trust him. “I will help in any way that I can. That’s my job.”

“I feel as though my sanity is slipping away,” I admit.

“Why do you put it that way, Mr. Avila?”

“I watched a guy die in some sadistic, ritualistic hanging in the Arizona desert. I did nothing to help him. That felt wrong. Should have done something. I felt sensations of thrill at what I saw. What kind of person just stands there like I did?”

“So, you expect me to give you moral reference points?” the doctor asks.

“My head feels jumbled. Feel like I don’t know what’s up or down.”

Doctor Oswald says: “That’s normal, Mr. Avila.”

“Here in the future?”

“Here in the present,” Doctor Oswald corrects me quickly. “You live here. This is the present. You go to work in the past. Those blue machines make that possible. You do what you do. It’s your job. Moral reference points—if such things even exist in particular your line of work—are best left to the philosophers. You need to focus on your work. Oh, but you are unconscious now. Probably heard not one word I said.”

When I awaken, Doctor Oswald is standing over me, watching me. “Mr. Avila,” he says, “Come on. Back to work. You must be hungry. I will first inject all the needed nutrients directly into your bloodstream.”

“I was thinking maybe a breakfast burrito,” is my response as he jabs a device that makes small clicking sounds into my right shoulder. “Damn it! You cannot just keep injecting unknown shit into me, Doc.”

“Regulations, sir,” he explains. “You look worried. What seems to be bothering you?”

“My loss of sanity. Kind of important, Doc. Native American Indian with long dark hair. Cowboy hat and chocolate boots,” I reply. “Hanged wearing only blue jeans like in some ritual in the desert. A hanging machine just for one guy. Man-made. I couldn’t do anything but watch helplessly as he died. I knew him. Very strong connection. But, I don’t remember his name or how we knew one another.”

“That was not a dream. It was, indeed, a ritual hanging in Arizona.” he says.

“How is that possible?” I quickly reply. “The hanging machine was made mostly of wood. Looked new. Looked like it belonged in the 20th century.”

“Yes. The 1990s to be precise,” he tells me.

“What? Ritualistic hangings in that century? I don’t think so. That’s not what happened in that era.”

“And how do you know what is supposed to be versus what is not?” asks the doctor. “You, yourself, said that you were having trouble remembering.”

“You twist my words,” I reply.

“What I’m trying to say is that you are not losing your sanity like you may think.”

“Feeling very disoriented. But, I do remember who you are. Doctor William Oswald. My memory must be slightly better now. You watch over me when I use the Giant Blue Hockey Puck. I know you never call it by that name like I do. I like to taunt you about the nickname I gave the time travel chamber.”

“If my medical opinion happened to be that you were impaired because of memory problems, I would not release you from my care,” he says. “But, you are not impaired at all. My medical opinion is that you are sufficiently healthy to carry on. You must go back to work.” Then, he shakes his head as if he is completely amused with me as he helps me get out of bed.

We walk from the crew sleeping quarters back into the large room where I see the GBHP number ten is waiting. I walk towards the cylindrical disk situated upright on its narrow, curved edge. Doctor Oswald motions for me to remove my blue robe. I do what he wants me to do. Then, he motions for me to climb inside GBHP number ten. I step inside completely naked.

Once I turn around and sit down inside the blue glass chamber, the two sides slide deliberately and very quickly together so that there is no visible seam whatsoever. “Destination: Bullhead, Arizona,” I hear Doctor Oswald’s voice tell me from some overhead audio source. Or, maybe somehow I can hear his words inside my head. “The date is August 20, 1991. High temperatures today should reach over 115 degrees on the old Fahrenheit scale that they used back then. Details of your mission have just been transmitted to your short-term memory. Hold your breath, sir, here you go.”

My least favorite part of the journey begins. Milky white, thicker-than-water translucent liquid flows quickly onto me inside the GBHP. The smelly liquid feels like warm cream as it soaks into my skin. Immediately, the chamber is filled to capacity with the soothingly warm liquid as it starts to spin around my body like I am inside one of those ancient clothes washing machines.

“Hold your breath,” I hear Doctor Oswald’s voice repeat to me from outside the time travel chamber. Actual time travel begins with a physical sensation that I imagine is how one would feel while being waterboarded and then hit with warm water from a fire hose in the chest at point blank range. I focus on how hungry I feel. That protein and carbohydrate injection just was not enough for me. Maybe I can find a restaurant in old Arizona to get a decent sausage and egg burrito.

Despite going through the aggressive spin cycle of translucent liquid inside the GBHP in which holding one’s breath is essential, I materialize somewhere else, completely free of any moisture. I am in the year 1991 behind the wheel driving a new Ford Explorer on Interstate 40 in Arizona.

Somehow, I am fully clothed. I notice that I am wearing blue jeans, brown cowboy boots, and a green tee shirt that someone other than myself chose for me. Like I’m an actor who is playing a part. Just like in the motion picture business, this actor that I am wears the costuming provided by the wardrobe department.

I will never understand exactly how the time travel technology accomplishes this clever clothing trick. I presume that since a machine can successfully transport a living human being successfully to and from the past without killing him, then fabricating some clothing for him would not be much a technological challenge. But, I cannot figure out how my mission parameters get zapped into my short-term memory.

I am nearing the outskirts of Kingman heading toward the west. From having taken this trip between Phoenix and Las Vegas so many times on Interstate 11, I think I could drive this route in my sleep. Maybe not today in 1991. The drive looks very different to me because the freeway does not yet exist. Now all I have before me is that old fashioned, two-lane state highway winding its way through the desert. I do know that I will soon arrive in the Bullhead area near the casino hotels that are situated on the Colorado River where Arizona, California, and Nevada all come together.

I distrust my own memories. I try to recall any previous time travel missions, but I am unsuccessful. How can I hope to be successful if I cannot remember what I did on past missions? But, one thing I clearly remember is the long-haired man wearing only blue jeans that I watched so brutally executed by suspension hanging.

I ask aloud, “You’re a dead Indian? Or a dead cowboy? Hey, can you hear me out there wherever you are? Is your ghost out there floating in the desert skies after dark?” There is no reply. Why am I so surprised? I want him to hear me tell him the truth that goes something like this: “I was with you. In the spirit world, perhaps. I got a feeling that you and I are not mortal.”

My best choice is to believe what Doctor Oswald told me. I travel in time. I repair timelines in the past on Earth. I can only remember disconnected parts of my job. Maybe that’s good.

My memories may be clearing up. I remember some things now that I could not previously recall. I am employed by an agency whose existence is kept secret from the people of Earth. That agency is known only by four letters, MMDI. We are prevented by penalty of death from ever revealing that name verbally or in text form to anybody who does not have the proper security clearance. So, we just say “Moon Men Deep Inside” as an absurd and juvenile code phrase using the four letters. Fortunately, nobody ever understands what we really mean when we use that stupid phrase.

An occupational hazard of time travel is emotional danger. This is a consequence that few, if any, people have ever considered. The simple reality is that memories and conscience can turn against a man so easily if he travels in time. That has happened with me. The actions that we time travel agents take on missions have consequences. We are changing history. The changes I make echo forward across the years, the decades, and, the centuries.

I make decisions that directly impact the lives of other people. And often whether someone dies or whether they stay alive. My sanity unquestionably has been compromised. And I am certain that I have partial amnesia.

Doctor Oswald says I am okay to go back to work. But, the memories that I retain trouble me. Perhaps by putting all that I have experienced into one, official record here, I may find answers. Or, it’s possible that others in some other time may find answers that eluded me in this personal log that I leave behind in electronic form at Baja Clavius.

Let me start for the benefit of someone who listens to this, or reads the text transcript. I want to tell a true story that seems significant to me. I was sent on a mission to the last decade of the 20th century in the nation that was known at that time as the United States of America. To conceal my secret mission, MMDI inserted me into a cover story career. My life started to change irreversibly while on that mission. I do remember that clearly.

The cover identity I have been given is that of a television news reporter in Phoenix, Arizona. Law enforcement officials through Arizona are investigating widespread incidents of apparent executions of gang members by suspension hangings. In the first half of 1991 alone, there have been a dozen such ritual hangings spread across four Arizona counties—Coconino, Maricopa, Mohave, and Yavapai. Law enforcement had been successful in keeping the brutal details of these hangings off the record and out of the public awareness until a certain television news reporter blows the lid off their conspiracy.

During the summer of 1991, I meet a young man at a gay bar in Phoenix who was born in Arizona to Mexican parents. His name is Nicolas Cruz. He has a beefy, manly body and remains constantly very horny.

The first time that I take Nick to my cheap apartment on the west side, I am stunned by his insatiable sexual appetite. He prefers that I fuck him from behind as he faces away from me, so I give him what he wants. I had never met a man capable of having so many orgasms in one evening!

My interest in this man is purely physical. Why not be honest about that? He is intensely pleasurable as a sex partner, but I feel disconnected from him. I continue with him for months in a genuinely shallow, yet deeply exhausting relationship that literally drains me physically. Nicholas Cruz turns out to be the reason that I discover the Arizona gang executions by suspension hanging.

One impossibly hot Friday night in August of 1991, Nick fails to show up at my apartment around midnight like he usually does. I arrive home expecting to find him, but instead discover a handwritten note he slipped under my front door. That note mentions he had to go a motorcycle shop on East Elwood near Sky Harbor Airport. I am immediately puzzled. Nick only looks like he could be a rough and physically threatening biker, but in reality, Nick is deathly afraid of motorcycles since he broke his left ankle while attempting to ride a Harley during his teenage years.

When I arrive in my truck, I park on East Elwood sufficiently far away so I will not be noticed by anyone. The motorcycle shop should not have been open after midnight, but as I approach on foot, I hear men’s voices coming from inside. Just as any confident television reporter would do, I pretend to myself that I am on a crucial undercover assignment of investigative journalism. I sneak up under an open ground floor window on the west side of the shop.

When I look inside, I see Nick. He is completely naked on his knees with his wrists bound behind his back. Around his muscular neck is a noose. The long rope is attached to some kind of steel mechanical hanging device with a steering wheel on the side. As one shirtless man turns the steering wheel, I realize what function the wheel serves: The thick rope slowly draws Nick upwards into the air by his neck.

I feel like I am going to vomit from the shock of seeing Nick being executed. I also have memories of having seen an almost identical suspension hanging execution of a Native American male. Was that on a previous mission? Or was it merely a nightmare?

A second shirtless man grabs Nick’s big cock. He strokes steadily faster and faster until he forces Nick to have an unwanted ejaculation while supporting his entire body weight only with his toes.

There is a purpose behind this ritualistic torture—to capture on videotape what a man looks like getting milked then hoisted up off the floor where he dies because his neck gets crushed by the noose. Try as he might, Nick cannot make his toes reach down only three or four inches to the floor and stay alive. No man can. That’s the point.

Nick’s thick arms flap in vain as his wrist restraints hold tight. His body writhes and jerks in the air as the young man at the wheel keeps Nick up in the air.

Nick moans in great agony and pain, knowing that these are the final moments of his life. The men laugh and point at him as they watch Nick’s genitals swing side to side as he struggles in vain to stay alive. I know that I will start throwing up if I don’t get out of there as quickly as possible. I can’t save Nick. I don’t want to die like him.

Once I am back in the safety of my west side apartment in Phoenix, I collapse on the floor in despair. I cannot hide from the truth that I did nothing to try to save Nick. I am emotionally wrecked after watching him die by suspension hanging.

I am certain that I have failed MMDI and this mission, but even though I feared that my mission would be aborted, it is not. I am not retrieved back to base and instead I remain living in Phoenix in the past. At the television station, because nobody was aware of my relationship with Nick Cruz, I am given a special investigative journalism assignment to determine whether there were connections between his hanging and others throughout the state of Arizona that year.

As I drive my late model Ford Explorer towards the city of Bullhead in 1991, I make myself a promise: I must change this timeline to remove the ritualistic hangings and prevent the execution of Nicholas Cruz.

I am completely distracted from driving by thinking about those hangings. My 4×4 is moving at approximately sixty miles per hour on that lonely stretch of highway between Phoenix and Bullhead. My eyes fill quickly with tears of panic and despair.

Because of my carelessness, my Ford Explorer sails out of control off the road where someone decided not to invest in highway guardrails. I am flying through the air inside my truck at the exact moment of sunset over the nearby mountains. The front of my truck dips downward towards the bottom of a rocky ravine as this airborne trajectory takes the vehicle across the purple Arizona sky.

I hear my desperate voice screaming as my 4×4 descends nose first into a sharp cluster of rocks below. The very last thing that I remember is a billboard on the side of the highway promoting tourism: “Lose Yourself in Bullhead, Arizona.” I am engulfed inside an intensely hot explosion. I had believed that one would not feel any pain during death. I was wrong! The excruciating heat burns my body as I am crushed to a pulp in the wreckage of my truck. Suddenly, there is absolute silence in my head and I am aware only of solid white all around me.

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

Doctor Oswald is shaking me to roust me from sleep in my rack at the moon base. I roll over and look at him. “Mr. Avila,” he says, “Come on. Back to work. You must be hungry. I will first inject all the needed nutrients directly into your bloodstream.”

I remain silent as I watch him jabs a device that makes small clicking sounds into my right shoulder. I know that I am not dreaming. I am one hundred percent certain that I have experienced this exact moment with Doctor Oswald before. He says, “You want to tell me about the dream you had?”

“Indigenous male from the desert in one of the southwestern states with long dark hair. Cowboy hat and chocolate cowboy boots,” I reply. “Hanged wearing only his blue jeans like in some ritual in the desert. A suspension hanging machine designed for killing one man. It was man-made. I couldn’t do anything but watch helplessly as he died. Also while in Arizona on another mission, I saw a similar hanging. I watched another man being drawn upwards in a similar hanging machine. Those two hangings just got to me emotionally. I went into a panic. Lost control of my truck. I was killed in a horrible crash on a lonely stretch of Arizona highway.”

“No, that was not a dream,” he assures me.

“But, I’m not dead! This has to be a dream!”

“I am your doctor. My medical assessment of you is that you can go back to work. You have a mission to complete.”

“Why do you keep sending me back to work like there’s nothing wrong with me?”

“We can address that later, Mr. Avila. I’m telling you that there is nothing wrong with you. Now I must send you back to your mission to change things to make that timeline turn out correctly,” he tells me. “Sit here and just try to calm down for a few minutes or so. Then, join me in the time travel hall.”

Although I cannot figure out why, in my brain there also are these alternate memories about what happened to me:

Despite going through the aggressive spin cycle of translucent liquid inside the GBHP in which holding one’s breath is essential, I materialize somewhere else, completely free of any moisture. I am once again back in the year 1991 behind the wheel driving a new Ford Explorer on Interstate 40 in Arizona.

Somehow, I am fully clothed. I notice that I am wearing blue jeans, brown cowboy boots, and a green tee shirt that someone other than myself chose for me. Like I’m an actor who is playing a part. Just like in the motion picture business, this actor that I am wears the costuming provided by the wardrobe department.

I will never understand exactly how the time travel technology accomplishes this clever clothing trick. I presume that if because a machine can successfully transport a living human being successfully to and from the past without killing him, then fabricating some clothing for him would not be much a technological challenge. But, I cannot figure out how my mission parameters get zapped into my short-term memory.

I am nearing the outskirts of Kingman heading toward the west. From having taken this trip between Phoenix and Las Vegas so many times on Interstate 11, I think I could drive this route in my sleep. Maybe not today in 1991.

The drive looks very different to me because that freeway does not yet exist. Now all I have before me is that old fashioned, two-lane state highway winding its way through the desert. I do know that I will soon arrive in the Bullhead area near the casino hotels that are situated on the Colorado River where Arizona, California, and Nevada all come together.

I distrust my own memories. I try to recall any previous time travel missions, but I am unsuccessful. How can I hope to be successful if I cannot remember what I did on past missions? I do, however, remember the long-haired man wearing only blue jeans that I watched so brutally executed by suspension hanging.

I ask myself aloud, “You’re a dead Indian? Or a dead cowboy? Hey, can you hear me out there wherever you are? Is your ghost out there floating in the desert skies after dark?” There is no reply. Why am I so surprised? I want him to hear me tell him the truth that goes something like this: “I was with you. In the spirit world, perhaps. I got a feeling that you and I are not mortal.”

My best choice is to believe what Doctor Oswald told me. I travel in time. I repair timelines in the past on Earth. I can only remember disconnected parts of my job. Maybe that’s good. An occupational hazard of time travel is emotional danger. Memories and conscience can turn against a man so easily as they have with me. The actions that we time travel agents take on missions have consequences. We are changing history. The changes I make echo forward across the years, the decades, and, the centuries.

I make decisions that directly impact the lives of other people. And often whether someone dies or whether they stay alive. My sanity unquestionably has been compromised. And I am certain that I have partial amnesia. Doc says I am okay to go back to work. But, the memories I do retain trouble me. Perhaps by putting all that I have experienced into one, official record here in my personal log, I may find answers. Or, it’s possible that others in some other time may find answers that eluded me.

I feel regret for the impact I had upon one woman. Katherine Snowe is her name. My wife. Technically, she’s my ex-wife. Blonde hair and blue eyes. What man wouldn’t be attracted to such a woman? I remember divorcing Katherine Snowe because she attempted to mess with my mind.

At work, MMDI inserts me into a cover story career. Katherine Snowe did not buy my cover story. She challenged what I was telling her. I guess you could say I had to choose between my marriage and my work. But, that’s a common story, so riddled with clichés, that many guys could easily tell.

The cover identity I have been given is that of a television news reporter in Phoenix, Arizona. Law enforcement officials through Arizona are investigating widespread incidents of apparent executions of gang members by suspension hangings. In the first half of 1991 alone, there have been a dozen such ritual hangings spread across four Arizona counties—Coconino, Maricopa, Mohave, and Yavapai. Law enforcement had been successful in keeping the brutal details of these hangings off the record and out of the public awareness until a certain television news reporter blows the lid off their conspiracy.

During the summer of 1991, I meet a young man of Mexican descent at a gay bar in Phoenix. Yes, a gay bar. I walked in there, thinking that I would challenge my self-image as a straight male. I walked in there because I was trying to forget that I was ever married to a woman. But, I especially wanted to stop remembering Katherine Snowe. I suppose that’s also a story so many other guys could tell.

Nicolas Cruz. has a beefy, masculine body and remains constantly very horny. The first time that he takes me to his apartment, he reveals that he has an insatiable sexual appetite with which to tease and inspire me.

I trust him with my body. I choose to get completely naked with this man. I had never had sex with a man before him. He prefers that I fuck him from behind as he faces away from me. I had no experience with that prior to meeting him, but once I get started, there is no question that I enjoy this kind of sexual activity. I start to understand on some deep physical and emotional level what I had been missing for so many years by pretending to be straight.

I became helplessly attracted to this sensuous guy. Nick Cruz also showed me something completely new: I did not it was possible for a man to have so many orgasms in one evening!

If I had an orgasm at all during sex with Katherine Snowe, I considered that to be a miracle. I did not enjoy ejaculating into her. Doing so always felt so odd and unsatisfying. What a horrible thing for a man to say out loud! Maybe that awareness of not wanting to shoot my load into her should’ve told me something about myself and my sexual identity.

I finally left her back east. I divorced her so I could return to Arizona and discover who I really am. It may seem like just another story riddled with familiar clichés of a man’s self-discovery and his eventual acceptance of his lifelong homosexuality, but I am going to tell you that story nonetheless.

My interest in Nick Cruz is purely physical. Why not be honest about that? He is intensely pleasurable as a sex partner, and I continue with him for months in a genuinely shallow, yet deeply exhausting relationship.

Nick Cruz is the reason that I discover the Arizona gang executions by suspension hanging. I wish that there were more to my relationship with him, but there just is not.

One impossibly hot Friday night in August 1991, Nick fails to show up at my apartment around midnight like he usually does. I arrive home expecting to find him, but instead discover a handwritten note he slipped under my front door. That note mentions he had to go a motorcycle shop on East Elwood near Sky Harbor Airport.

I am immediately puzzled. Nick only looks like he could be a rough and physically threatening biker, but in reality, Nick is deathly afraid of motorcycles since he broke his left ankle while attempting to ride a Harley during his teenage years.

When I arrive in my truck, I park on East Elwood sufficiently far away so I will not be noticed by anyone. The motorcycle shop should not have been open after midnight, but as I approach on foot, I hear men’s voices coming from inside. Just as any confident television reporter would do, I pretend to myself that I am on a crucial undercover assignment of investigative journalism. I sneak up under an open ground floor window on the west side of the shop.

When I look inside, I see Nick. He is completely naked on his knees with his wrists bound behind his back. Around his muscular neck is a noose. The long rope is attached to some kind of steel mechanical hanging device with a steering wheel on the side. As one shirtless man turns the steering wheel, I realize what function the wheel serves: The thick rope slowly draws Nick upwards into the air by his neck.

I feel like I am going to vomit from the shock of watching Nick’s execution. But, I also have memories of having seen an almost identical suspension hanging execution of a Native American male. Was that on a previous mission? Or was it merely a nightmare?

A second man with no shirt grabs Nick’s big cock. He strokes steadily faster and faster until he forces Nick to have an unwanted ejaculation while supporting his entire body weight only with his toes.

There is a purpose behind this ritualistic torture—to capture on videotape precisely what a man looks like getting milked then hoisted up off the floor where he dies because his neck gets crushed by the noose. Try as he might, Nick cannot make his toes reach down only three or four inches to the floor and stay alive. No man can. That’s the point.

Nick’s arms move desperately, but his wrist restraints hold tight. His body writhes and jerks in the air as the man at the wheel keeps Nick up in the air. Nick moans in great agony and pain, knowing that these are the final moments of his life. The men laugh and point at him as they watch Nick’s genitals swing side to side as he struggles in vain to stay alive. I know that I will start throwing up if I don’t get out of there as quickly as possible. I can’t save Nick. I don’t want to die like him.

Once I am back in the safety of my apartment in Phoenix, I collapse on the floor in despair. I cannot hide from the truth that I did nothing to try to save Nick. I am emotionally wrecked after watching him die by suspension hanging.

I am certain that I have failed MMDI and this mission, but even though I feared that my mission would be aborted, it is not. I am not retrieved back to base and instead I remain living in Phoenix in the past where I investigate ritual hangings throughout the state. On one trip to Northern Arizona, my Ford Explorer sails out of control off the road and I am killed in the crash.

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

Doctor Oswald is shaking me to roust me from sleep in my rack at the moon base. I roll over and look at him. “Mr. Avila,” he says, “Come on. Back to work. You must be hungry. I will first inject all the needed nutrients directly into your bloodstream.” I remain silent as I watch him jabs a device that makes small clicking sounds into my right shoulder. I know that I am not dreaming. I am one hundred percent certain that I have experienced this exact moment with Doctor Oswald before. He says, “You want to tell me about the dream you had?”

“Indigenous male from the desert in one of the southwestern states with long dark hair. Cowboy hat and chocolate cowboy boots,” I reply. “Hanged wearing only his blue jeans like in some ritual in the desert. A suspension hanging machine designed for killing one man. It was man-made. I couldn’t do anything but watch helplessly as he died. Also while in Arizona on another mission, I saw a similar hanging. I watched another man being drawn upwards in a similar hanging machine. And, then these two hangings just got to me. I went into a panic. Lost control of my truck. I died in a horrible crash on a lonely stretch of Arizona highway.”

“No, that was not a dream,” he assures me.

“But, I’m not dead! This has to be a dream!”

“I am your doctor. My medical assessment of you is that you can go back to work. You have a mission to complete.”

“Why do you keep sending me back to work like there’s nothing wrong with me? What about my divorce? Maybe that’s what messed me up. Ever think of that?”

“We can address that later, Mr. Avila. I’m telling you that there is nothing wrong with you. Now I must send you back to your mission to change things to make that timeline turn out correctly,” he tells me. “Sit here and just try to calm down for a few minutes or so. Then, join me in the time travel hall.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

Episode 2 is next
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