A Rocketman Story
By John Pirillo
What had gone wrong?
Time and space were no longer just concepts to be studied in a school or class room. No longer idle ideas of a thirsty mind. No longer theories to be argued and defended vigorously. They weren't a friend long gone in the memories who would remain there forever because he was dead. To himself and the world now.
No time and space were a harsh and hard reality to him. They meant that nothing was solid and certain in his life. They meant...
"Harry!" A voice assaulted his ears even louder this time.
Harry snapped out of his thoughts and became aware once more he was flying through the stratosphere at...he eyed his tach. Almost twice the speed of sound.
"Yeah. Here" He finally managed, sounding like a weak imitation of himself.
"Harry, what's wrong? We've been out of contact for hours!"
"Small problem is all. Everything's..." He had to force himself to say the next words. "...Is alright now."
Harry toggled the communications off, killing the connection to his...friend?
Harry's stomach was turning flip flops in his body, assuming full attention now. It had started soon after he had patched up the cannibalistic American and left him to his own resources to survive or not. He had a feeling he would, and then he had dashed back to his suit, and launched as quickly as he could.
He was still stunned from his experience.
His forehead felt like a meat factory with dozens of meat cleavers slashing into it, splitting it into tiny pieces. He wanted to wipe his forehead. It was sweating. And hot.
What had gone wrong? He asked himself for the thousandth time since he had launched. The real reason he had been out of communications had not been the fight. That had been relatively short. No, it was the soul searching he was doing now.
Red back home. Home? He snorted to himself. What's home?
He had to snap out of it, he couldn't keep circling the globe forever. He had to go somewhere. But where? America had become a cesspool of cannibalism. London was run by the Chinese and an alliance of peoples who had starved a once proud nation into what they had hoped would be a nuclear surrender, but instead had turned them into monsters like themselves.
This world had no happy alternative. It was just plain farked up!
He wanted to puke. His stomach agreed. He tried to restrain it. He couldn't afford to puke inside his rocketsuit. So he did the only sane and reasonable thing. He landed in what had once been named Greenland on his time line. Near the coast, where he could see icebergs floating lazily on the waves not so far away.
The beach he had landed on was very rocky and lightly covered with snow. He had marched along the beach in his rocketsuit, not sure if he could manage it without mechanical help at the time. He had found a small cave that overlooked the beach and gone inside. He had ditched the suit, leaning it against a back wall that was littered with driftwood. Probably from a past thaw that had raised the waters temporarily here.
He managed to shift most of the wood forward and get it burning with the help of an old boy scout technique he had learned what seemed centuries ago in time and space. He tugged out an emergency rations pack from inside the suit, broke out a folding plate and cup and made himself a jerky and spam sandwich.
Even this other world relied on Spam. Then he looked t it and the slimy Spam hanging out over the edges of the dry cracker ration he had, then slowly put it down. How did he know if even this wasn't...something else?
That put the nail in the coffin of his stomach's resistance. He immediately threw up, spewing into the fire, almost putting it out. He flung himself away from it, not wanting to do that and continued to gag for what seemed like forever. Finally, weak and exhausted he managed to crawl against the cave wall and fall asleep.
"Harry, you goof."
Harry smiled. Jet was dangling a paper doll in front of him where he lay upon his bunk, arms beneath his head. "Get it outta my face, or I'll rip you apart."
"Yeah. You and what Rocketman?"
Harry laughed. He was so untypical of the Brits who surrounded him and Jet in this war. He had blonde hair and lustrously warm brown eyes, witty and spunky, able to shoot the wings off a fly at a hundred years. Big ears, but they were offset by his long face, which was handsome and rugged with a two day old beard he never seemed to shave, sparkling brown eyes, and a frame that was six and a half feet tall.
Jet, tall as he was, was still a half foot shorter, but was muscled and slim like a well oiled wrestler, with luminous brown eyes, tight hair that looked like bands of curls, and flawless black skin that all the ladies loved. Harry grinned. His friend was the proverbial lady killer, though he was as gentle as a lamb with the women he dated, and never broke a single heart. Some kind of record for any warrior in this day and time, considering the circumstances.
Jet took the paper doll and as Harry watched hung it on a make shift Christmas tree, slung together from a beat-up coat rack, hangers for branches and shoelaces for strings of bulbs with tiny rocks hanging from them. Up and down the fake tree were cut outs of paper dolls. All women.
Jet had several fish that some sailors had brought into the camp by the truckload for the camp personnel. Their Christmas gift from Ike and the Brits who appreciated their efforts to save them and their fair land. The smell of the sizzling fish was driving Harry nuts. His stomach growled so loudly he was certain everyone a mile away had heard it.
"Jet, you've got too much doll on your mind, buddy!"
"Yeah. And you don't?" Jet snapped back. "And I heard that buddy! You like to me and Santa will take away the goodies I'm making for you."
"You're not Santa!"
"That's right and don't you ever forget it, pal!"
Harry laughed. Jet was always good for lifting his spirits up. He didn't like all the violence that went with war. He was sure Jet didn't either, but Jet appeared to burn it off with is rowdy sense of humor. But yes, he did have dolls on his mind. One in particular. A petite sassy nurse with the heart of an angel.
Nurse Sally, everyone called her. Flaming red hair and startling bright green eyes that cold poke holes in any lie with a look. His first and probably only ever love in his life.
His girlfriend had gone on a way mission to the outskirts of London to help with the wounded there, and even though close enough it seemed like a million miles away at that moment.
"Think you two'll get hitched up after the war?" Jet asked out of the blue.
Harry snapped awake, conking his forehead into the cave wall. The pain caused him to see stars a moment and it was then he noticed a familiar smell in the air. The same as that in his dream. Fried fish.
A hand put a wet cloth in front of his face. "Take it. It'll help reduce the pain."
Harry took it, rolled over and put the wet cloth on his forehead he had struck against the stone. Seated across from him at the fire he had made before was a slender man, with shock white hair and kind blue eyes. He wore a thick white jacket, white pants and boots. He had the posture of a warrior, but his aspect was kind in all ways. Harry could almost smell it from him, and that reminded him.
Growl! His stomach churned angrily, demanding to be fed.
The man laughed lightly and took a fish from the fire. It had been poked through by a piece of branch, which the man released into an eager Harry's hands. Harry took the catch and began gnawing on it right away, his hunger so intense he was almost blind.
"You have a good appetite."
Harry swiped the fish grease from his lips, and then sat up straight. Too fast. Everything began to swirl about him. The man leaped so quickly Harry wouldn't have had a chance to avoid him had he been an enemy, and caught Harry before he could collapse into the fire. He gently tucked Harry back against the wall.
"Will you be all right?"
The man went to the other side of the fire again and took off a second fish on another branch. He said no more, but ate, methodically and slowly. Harry watched for a time, and then when his stomach growled again, he remembered the fish in his own hands and started eating again. They both ate in a peaceful, camaraderie of silence until they were done.
The man leaned back against the other cave wall and belched.
The man smiled. "Good to see some Americans have a sense of humor."
Then Harry realized where he had seen that kind of clothing before.
He jumped to his feet. "You're the enemy!"
The man remained seated. "Do I look like the enemy?"
Harry stiffened a moment apprehensively, and then shook his head. "Only physically."
Harry sat back down.
"Well then." The man said kindly. "Why not tell me why I look like your...enemy?"
The man listened as Harry told him about the American he had encountered, and the Brits he had abandoned. Then he told him what he never thought he would tell anyone. He told him about his childhood.
"When I was ten I used to lay on a rock outside my parent's home and gaze at the stars. Someday I'm going to fly there, I promised myself."
"And did you? Did you fly there?"
The man gestured briefly at the Rocketman suit at the back of the cave.
Harry snapped to attention.
The man laughed. "Harry, you are so different from the other Americans. Why is that?"
"Because I am not from this world."
The man gave him a stern look.
Harry blushed, though he didn't know why. "I mean not from this world and its timeline."
The man nodded as if he understood everything Harry had told him.
"Now my friend, I think we both need to rest. It's been a hard day for both of us I think."
For some reason Harry could never explain until much later on, he trusted this man. Even if he did look like a Nazi storm trooper. He lay down and went to sleep immediately.
The man, however did not. He took out a small tablet and began to write in it. Finished, he ripped out a piece of paper, and then slipped it near Harry. He smiled at Harry, took another look at the Rocketsuit, and then exited the cave.
Harry woke up the next morning feeling better than he had in a long time, though he couldn't say why. He rolled over and then realized he wasn't alone. Or rather he was alone again. He jerked upright. The stranger was gone. He had never learned his name, where he was from. Not a thing. Harry cursed himself for being such an idiot. He turned. His Rocketman suit remained in place.
He frowned. Then he saw the piece of paper near him. He picked it up and read it.
"Harry, I can't promise you a peaceful life, but I know there's a greater purpose to our lives than what both of us have seen. If you believe as I do that man must aim for the stars in every way possible, and then I have drawn a small map for you to follow. Meet me there in one day and I will show you a world unlike what you have seen.
"Signed. Nicolas Tesla."
Harry got to his feet, kicked out the rest of the fire, scattering the embers, then crushing them beneath his boots. He went to the back of the cave and looked at his Rocketman suit.
"I don't know where this is all going, but there has to be a reason. A purpose to it all." His eyes wet for a moment.
Rocketman shot into the skies, an arrow of glistening metal and bright forces congealed in a mixture of hope and trust as man and machine went forth to discover the meaning of this new world and their place there. For now!