West (Chapter Two, page 1 of 9)

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I had a weird dream, which wasn't wholly unexpected after drinking so much. In it, I was unable to cool off. I stood in the hot Arizona sun, in the middle of Tombstone. The tourists were gone, and I was alone, except for ...

Carter. At least, I thought it was him. His athletic form was at the end of the street. Whenever I tried to walk towards him, he stayed the same distance away. In fact, it was like I was walking in place. Sweating. Craving a damn mocha. With a weird headache.

"Hey, Carter!" I shouted. "You forgot my gift card!" I paused to look around, then up at the sky. "What the hell?" I shielded my eyes with both hands to get a better look.

The sun was rapidly getting closer, larger and brighter.

"Almost time to go."

I whirled at Carter's voice, startled to find him standing behind me.

"I have to cover a few things before you leave." A tablet appeared in his hands.

"Where am I going?" I asked.

"More like, when?" He beamed a warm smile. "That sounded better in my head. Anyway, let's get started."

"Oh, right. The eighteen forties. We're still doing that?"

"Yes! Your brain chips are in!"

"Cool." I smiled. It wasn't like I really cared. It was a dream, after all, and I liked Carter. "Shots, too?"

"Yep! You are immune to everything from the Black Death to diseases that don't exist yet."


"Okay." He focused on his tablet. "First, you'll have headaches for a few days, the side effect of brain surgery."

"Naturally," I agreed.

"Second, you'll find over time that what we did is going to materialize rather randomly. We have mastered the how but not the timing yet," he said, eyes on the screen of his tablet. "Your language and empathic memory skills will hopefully emerge the first week. I'd really appreciate feedback on how they work for consideration of future travelers."

I shifted feet, half listening, alarm fluttering through me. "Are you worried about that?" I pointed up. The idea of the sun crashing down on us was more concerning than anything Carter said.

"It means I don't have the time I'd like to cover things," he said. "Third, don't go swimming for at least two days. I was going to say don't go flying, but there's no chance of that where you're going." He chuckled.

Frowning, I stared at him.

"Because they didn't have planes," he prodded.

"Oh, right. Cowboys and such. You sure that's not a problem?" The light was growing hotter, more intense and closer.

I willed myself to wake up, not liking the semi-lucid dream at all. I had never had one so real - or so bizarre - and my body was uncomfortably fevered.

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