When I was looking for images for the cover of Imperative I spent some time down in Gastown. This picture didn’t make it to the cover, but it did inspire this story.
Some people avoid this kind of place. An alley in the center of a city. Dark, a little smelly, and cold – bone sinking cold. Not me, at least during the day – even I was nervous entering at night.
But right now, the only way I was going to get home, was to slip in and find the portal. I knew it was there, well to be perfectly honest I had enough evidence to be sure. Others had traveled through time and back from this location. So, it was going to be here. I needed it to be here.
You’d think time travelers would have a system. And, I’m sure they do. The thing is I was shanghaied into this time. Ten days ago – as time passes here – I felt a hand grab my collar and then next thing I knew I was falling from a ledge onto a sandy beach with a note in my pocket that led to the next portal.
It was 2043 before I started time traveling, and now it is 2012. I’ve been through ten portals hoping to find my way back. No one told me why, or gave me a task. I met one other traveler in a Beijing noodle house in 1935. She was coming out of the portal I was waiting for – number 1. She said we were part of the big game. Someone was betting on us making it back. Only a few would make it before the last portal closed. She said, she’d been time traveling for six months and was seriously thinking of just staying put if she found a time she liked.
Since then I’d met other travelers, we’d exchanged information and suggestions and wishes of luck. One of them told me about this one in Blood Alley.
I found the latch – a loose screw in the door. I waited for it to form, a swirl of light that kind of sucked you into the next time zone. There was a roar of frenzied cheers and I briefly considered stepping away. The portal pulled and I fell toward the sound.