Issue #5
July 26, 2013

   This week in SHOWCASE
Featured Stories
   The Piano is a Percussion Instrument by Maude Larke
   Timeless Bore by Peter Wood
   After the Kaiju Attack by John Zaharick
   Space Program by Lance J. Mushung
   The Wishing Hour by Romie Stott
   Badger & Vole Review:
   Pacific Rim
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by Peter Wood


With a flash of light, the man from the future appeared. Mac rolled his eyes. All eternity to explore and the time traveler kept hanging around Mac’s two-pump filling station in Perdue, North Carolina.

Dressed in glowing silver, Philip Seven, the man from the future, stood in front of a shelf stocked with oil filters and air hoses. “How are things in 1971?” Philip Seven asked.

Mac busied himself at the cash register. “Same as when you came last time.” The day before Philip had stayed for six grueling hours, telling never-ending stories of a remarkably mundane distant future. He only left when Mac told him it was closing time.

Philip Seven reached into the faded drink cooler and pulled out a dripping-wet R.C. Cola. “Could you please open this?”

“Bottle opener’s on the side of the cooler. Same as before,” Mac muttered. He thought about escaping outside and waiting for customers by the pumps, but this was August. He’d sweat out his shirt in ten minutes.

Philip fumbled with the bottle and after a minute or so removed the bottle cap. He took a sip of the soda. “Quaint. But my friend, this is nothing like the beverages we have in the future. Teas and coffees and juices from Mars and Venus and every corner of the solar system. Tastes that take your senses to extremes you can scarcely imagine.”

Mac glanced down at the Raleigh News and Observer sports section. The Orioles looked pretty unbeatable. “Really?”

Philip leaned back in a rusty card-table chair beneath a Pennzoil calendar. “Yes. I remember well the first time I had Martian Ale. I was on a space transport from Io to Titan...”

As the man from the future droned on and on, Mac immersed himself in the paper. He grunted every so often to feign interest.

The sound of the bell on the door made Mac look up. Billy Flanagan entered. The white-haired farmer took a couple of steps forward and stopped when he saw Philip Seven.

“Good afternoon, friend,” Philip said. “I am from the future.”

“Reckon you told me that last time,” Billy drawled. He looked down at his overalls and shifted slightly from foot to foot.

Philip had cornered Billy for forty-five minutes a week before with a tedious analysis of three-dimensional television. Mac cleared his throat. “Can I help you, Billy?”

Billy pointed out the grimy window to a battered green pickup. “I need a fill-up and my brakes are squeaking.”

Mac jumped up. “I’ll get right to it. High Test or Regular?”

“In the future, we have cities on the moon,” said Philip Seven.

“Is that a fact?” Billy said in a quiet voice.

“Why yes, friend. Let me tell you about the first time I landed at Lunaropolis. It is not too far from the Armstrong Memorial. I was there for a week. Can you imagine? I never got bored. I—”

“Gotta go,” Billy blurted. The door slammed behind him.

“Damn it,” Mac cursed. Another customer lost. Billy was probably on his way to Hobson’s Esso. The last three weeks Philip Seven had overstayed his welcome a dozen times and driven away most of Mac’s business with his insufferable monologues.

Phillip looked outside and watched Billy speed away. “It is hard to believe you people still drive on roads. My car flies.”

Mac sighed. “Why are you here? Ain’t you worried about changing history?”

Philip pointed to what looked like a wristwatch. “No, friend. If there is any possibility of paradox, my sensor goes off and I am whisked to the future.” He laughed. “With a lot of questions to answer.”

Mac put his head in his hands. “But, why are you here? Why ain’t you talking to Lincoln or something?”

Philip shrugged. “I can’t afford that. Only the richest have the money for Lincoln or Hitler or the first Mars landing.”

“There’s got to be somewhere more interesting than here.”

Philip Seven smiled. “But you are interesting. Your fuel station will soon be at the crossroads of history. A great man will visit you.”

Mac wished this great man would hurry up and arrive. “Like Elvis?”

Philip shook his head. “No, friend. The grandfather of the man who will someday invent the cooling system for the first manned Venus landing.”

Mac yawned. “Really?”

“Yes, friend. He will tell his grandson about your air conditioner. His story will give his grandson an idea that will revolutionize space travel.”

Mac pointed at the wheezing window unit held together with duct tape and prayer. “That air conditioner?”

“Yes, friend.” Phillip picked up a honeybun from a stack near the register.

Mac felt a headache coming on. He walked over to the AC unit and unplugged it. “About time I got rid of this sucker.”

Philip’s sensor glowed red. “Paradox—” In mid-sentence he vanished in a shimmer of light.

When Mac plugged the unit back in it sputtered and belched out hot air. It might be a good hour before the antique started cooling again. He hoped that word hadn’t gotten to town that Philip Seven had returned. Billy had a big mouth.

He grabbed a soda out of the cooler. The room was already too hot.

The bell rang again. A stranger entered with a small boy, maybe five years old, at his side. “I need a fill up. Regular. And can you tell me the quickest way to Durham?”

Mac nodded. “Sure, buddy.”

The stranger wiped his brow. “It’s hotter in here than it is outside.”

Mac pointed to the air conditioner. “You might be right. When that sucker’s first plugged in, it heats up the place for a while. Then it starts to cool. It’ll freeze you out in no time.”

The boy scampered over to the air conditioner. “Wow, It is blowing hot, pa!”

“Come on, Jimmy. It’s just an air conditioner,” Dad said.

Mac thought of telling the boy about the grandson he would inspire one day. But there was nothing more boring than sitting around talking about somebody’s grandkids.



Peter Wood is an attorney in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he lives with his patient wife and surly cat. His stories have been published in Daily Science Fiction, Bull Spec, and Stupefying Stories. His last appearance in our pages was “Mission Accomplished” in the August 2012 issue, and his next appearance will be “The Aliens Went Down to Georgia” in the August 2013 issue, which is scheduled to be released next week.