General Fiction posted January 10, 2022 Chapters: -1- 

This work has reached the exceptional level
Chapter 1

A chapter in the book Time Warp

Time Warp

by Lobber

The author has placed a warning on this post for language.
The author has placed a warning on this post for sexual content.

Maggie plopped herself into the newly upholstered, but "dusty" wing chair, relieved that all her furniture was now off the truck and in place. The move turned out to be easier than she had predicted. She smiled, pleased that she was able to retire early from her job as a music teacher and within a year, able to find the perfect retirement townhouse in downtown Toronto. Her home inspector gave the home a “clean bill of health” – a condition for closing the sale and her purchase. The inspector, however, did note that the home’s wood-burning fireplace had not been used for many years. He found a slight blockage – perhaps an old squirrel nest? Maggie assured him that she would hire a chimney cleaner prior to burning any wood. The cooler nights of fall would be at least three months down the pike.  Besides, Maggie had no wood to burn, it was July and very hot. Also, Maggie knew that fireplaces polluted the air and would reduce her furnace’s efficiency. She had no plans to use the fireplace.
Curious by nature, Maggie went to the hearth, kneeled down, and looked up the chimney. She gazed up into the darkness and saw nothing. But she also knew that because the fireplace was in the center of the room, with a staircase on the other side of the wall, the chimney would have to have twists and turns, eliminating any hope of seeing light. All the similar homes in her row of townhouses had their fireplaces on an external wall. According to the aging, self-appointed historians in the neighborhood, the architect of her home was an extremely eccentric man. He designed a cookie-cutter row of six attached townhouses. However, he purposely designed the house at the end of the row to have many unique features. The layout of the home matched his unique lifestyle. It was the home he chose to live in.  Maggie realized months ago that the elements in the house matched his flair. That’s what intrigued her when she first toured the empty house. The fireplace in fact was just one of the many surprise “elements” that Maggie would find in her new home.
Maggie returned to her chair and picked up a magazine to fan herself. The past January had been bitter cold which helped Maggie in her plan. Her plan was to sell her old home and delay her move until warmer months. Her plan to delay the “move-in” until July had merit. Unfortunately, an early heat wave caught Maggie off guard and the home’s air conditioning still needed to be activated.
Maggie looked at the dirty hearth and sighed. A fly buzzed casually around her head. She swatted it and missed. Again, the fly brazenly flew around her head. Eventually, it landed on the edge of the open hearth. Maggie slowly got up, rolled up a nearby magazine, and slowly moved towards the hearth, determined to annihilate her unwelcome guest. Maggie knew that flies had incredible compound eyes and the odds were against her killing it. As she stealthily crossed the room, the fly slow moved right with its tiny feet, turned, and defiantly flew up the chimney.
Maggie knelled down and poked the magazine up the hearth, hoping to do some collateral damage to the beast. Instead of finding an open space with a fly, Maggie felt something was making contact with the magazine. But what? Maggie made a longer probe with a few rolled-up sheets of newspaper. She poked her paper sword around the inside of the chimney. After a moment or two of jabbing, some soot fell to the hearth’s base as Maggie predicted it would.
Maggie was not superstitious, and most of her friends viewed her as down-to-earth and cautious. However, she was equally tenacious and known to take risks. She slowly got up, went to the kitchen, retrieved the pitcher of iced coffee from the refrigerator, and poured some coffee into her favorite black mug, along with a couple of ice cubes.  She then opened the small kitchen closet door and found a used pair of rubber gloves. She walked slowly back to the living room, put her coffee down on the coffee table, and put on the gloves. She approached the hearth again and kneeled. It was almost like a ritual, like a pathologist starting an autopsy.
Knowing the gloves would protect her, she gave the wire a firm and determined tug. Down came the wire, along with some grouting, as well as a hook attached to the wire’s end. A package along with its “wire tail” fell to the base of the chimney.
Known for not being easily startled, Maggie unrolled the tube of newspaper, opened the paper wide, spread it on the floor, and used the rolled magazine to nudge the package onto the paper. She stared at the object, now sitting on the front page of an old New York Times dated 2012.  She reached for her half-cup of cold coffee and wished she had added more ice to her drink. She knocked back the coffee in one unladylike gulp.
The package was flat, about 4 inches thick, almost a foot long, and about 10 inches wide. It was tied like a Christmas present, using wire instead of a ribbon. Another wire was used to seal the package, a final twist had been given to seal the package. Maggie, being a musician, recognized that the second wire was a steel guitar string. The metal string was attached to the wire on the package, leaving about 2 1/2 feet of steel wire with its ball ring on the end. The hook was still attached to the ball ring, with mortar crumbs around its screw-end.
Maggie thought she caught a glimpse of the returning, arrogant fly and the lyrics of a Burl Ives' song immediately flashed in her brain:
I know an old lady who swallowed a fly.
I don’t know why she swallowed a fly.
Perhaps she’ll die.

She proceeded to open the package; the process was more like a painfully slow “tortuous” dissection. She untwisted the wire, removed it from the package, and proceeded with opening her newly found treasure. She felt a bit like archaeologist Howard Carter when he first entered King Tut’s burial chamber in 1923. Media reported that less than a month later Lord Carnarvon was bitten by a mosquito on his cheek and became ill. This event caused many people to jump to the conclusion that Tut's tomb was cursed, along with those who helped unwrap his mummy. Lord Carnarvon's condition worsened. The mosquito bite became infected, he contracted pneumonia, and in 4 weeks he died. The Ives' lyrics returned . . . Perhaps she’ll die.
Maggie noted that the package was wrapped in aluminum foil. In fact, there were 5 layers of foil. To Maggie, the unwrapping of the package felt very much like unwrapping a mummy. After the final layer was removed, she found a foil envelope labeled Fire Pouch. Years later she researched the product and found that it was a fire-resistant envelope or pouch, manufactured by using a proprietary fabric that had a metalized Mylar facing that was laminated to one side. The mirror-like surface was designed to reflect 95% of any radiant heat to which it might be exposed. The manufacturer claimed that the base fabric could withstand continuous temperatures of 1200F with a melting point of 2080F. This same fabric, Maggie learned later, was used to produce fireproof rescue bags. The bags were used during specialized downed firefighter rescue operations at the time.

Maggie found that the pouch opened easily, and its contents contained about 3 inches of stacked laser-printed paper sheets. The sheets were standard “8 1/2 X 11” printer paper” of various colors, including: yellow, green, pink, and white. On top was a regular business envelope with the following hand-written note: "To Whom It May Concern". She opened the unsealed enveloped and found a single piece of white paper with the following message:
Welcome to our home!
Yes, "our home" since I am the architect who designed the house that I used to secure this letter and the enclosed papers.  As the architect, I designed a shelf of fire bricks within the home’s chimney to secure my valuables in fire-proof pouches.  Over the years, I secured gold, jewelry, letters, even money in various fire-proof pouches sequestered and protected by me using the chimney’s safety ledge. The enclosed manuscript is the last draft (along with my working notes) of a novel that I worked on throughout my life. The work is largely based on the activities of my friends, their journeys, as well as my experiences and fantasies.  If you are reading this letter, it means the “pouch” and hopefully, the house, survived either demolition or a fire.  Final “copy” for the novel is on white paper, pink paper means the text is close to final draft, green pages contain “thoughts and ideas” for possible inclusion in the novel. while the yellow pages contain some research items to support the final manuscript. In 2014 I was able to access the pouch and add some final pages.
I wish to remain anonymous, and I hope that whoever opens this tome will find it worthy of their attention and act accordingly.

The last sentence struck a nerve with Margie.  “Whoever opens this tome” -- Did the writer mean “tomb” like King Tut’s? Also, the inferred directive that she should “act accordingly” rustled her feathers. Maggie always despised being told what to do. Was the wording a suggestion, a directive, or a prediction of what might or might not happen? . . . Otherwise? . . . Perhaps she’ll die. 
The fly, almost on cue, landed on the rainbow stack of papers. A premonition?
Maggie brushed the fly away, picked up the first page which was printed on white paper, and started to read –
Antony looked down Broadway to Times Square and thought of Pedro’s house in Toronto when he opened Antony’s “personalized” Christmas present – a new equalizer. Pedro always liked patterns and he ended up setting all twenty-four sound levels to form a “neat” butterfly curve. The bright red LEDs with their opulent simplicity. . .no comparison to the red neons of Broadway. Light and sound, that was Pedro’s obsession, and to a degree Antony’s, too.  Broadway with all its lights and sound, somehow lacked meaning…or was it their lack of warmth?  Antony looked up, a neon butterfly danced across the marquee and dissolved into a flying carpet. It flapped spasmodically like a rug “in heat” then appeared to fly over Radio City Music Hall. Somehow Antony believed it would turn into a Rockette. He was wrong, it magically transformed itself into a chorus line of five Rockettes . . . high kicks never looked so easy. Their blue headdresses bouncing up and down made him think of the equalizer again. Pedro’s equalizer with its blue-peaked towers of light. An ever-shifting skyline, a responsive slave to the kinetic input of sound. Each peak jumped with an almost unnatural frenzy. The kind of frenzy that often led to such deeds as mass murders, coup d’etats and making baked Alaska for thirty-two people. Antony loved the theatricality of baked Alaska, Pedro could never understand why anyone could be bothered making it, which of course, never stopped him from eating it. Baked Alaska at a wake? Pedro wouldn’t have minded. In fact, he didn’t mind. Their families, however, would have minded. Pedro would have preferred the ‘Mega mix’ of Too Many Men. Instead, he got Amazing Grace.
But the blue towers of Pedro’s light were not flashing. That was the first thing Antony noticed when he walked into Pedro’s living room. Living room! Strange word. Dead room? It must have been a “living” room at one time, red lights, blue lights bouncing off the silvery equalizer. Now it sat dusty with no hint of its purpose or destiny. Snuffed out with the simple flip of a switch. Humans took a little more effort. Death was not simple. In Greek, the name “Pedro” means stone or rock.  How ironic.

Maggie flipped to one of the pink pages and noticed it contained the familiar musical lyrics for “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” But this one had a peculiar twist and Margie’s eyes became fixated when she read the following:

Maggie realized this “novel” was going to make some rough but interesting reading for the summer. And why the hyphen after the word like? She picked up her sweating mug with its black interior and floating icebergs. She took a sip and then decided to finish the drink. The cool liquid soothed her throat, she closed her eyes enjoying the ecstasy and failed to realize she had also swallowed the half-drowned fly.

End of Chapter 1

A First Book Chapter contest entry

I have placed the pink document as an image within my contest entry. This pink document is essential to the story line of the mystery plot.

I hope that the Committee will not consider the seven lines of lyrics
that rhyme to be poetry. Also, the whole pink document is presented as having been written by a third party, and not the author Lobber.
- Lobber

Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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