Author : Rick Tobin

“Good Lord, where am I?” Taylor Smith, astronaut extraordinaire, sat nude, baffled and embarrassed on the plush back seat of a vehicle flying through unknown star fields. He could see all about the craft through the wrap around windows.

His nakedness terrified him as he stared at the alien in the driver’s seat in front of him, handling a steering wheel above a dashboard of flashing lights and clustered dials. The alien’s purple flesh hung loosely over its two faces that rotated on a single pedestal. There was a single eye in each countenance. Only gibberish and squeaking emitted from folds of the driver’s facial tissue. The blabbering was followed by a yellow square flashing on the ceiling between the front and back seats. A pleasant female voice emanated a translation.

“You aren’t somewhere, Taylor Smith, you are sometime.” The creature’s globular head rotated freely as its chartreuse pads twisted the steering to and fro, directing the small capsule away from passing space debris and planetoids. “I haven’t had one like you before.”

Smith pounded at the walls, searching for an escape, then stopped, remembering he had no suit to protect him from space. “Am I dead? Who are you?”

“We don’t have names. Just do the work. No, you are worse than dead. You are in timelessness—another lost one who crossed a rift between parallels. I simply ferry you back, when I can, to your right timefullness. So stupid. So many species that don’t understand but venture out in space anyway.”

“This is a mistake. Where are my clothes…my suit? I was leading a mission to Mars from Earth. I want out of here!” Smith tried to strike out but couldn’t, so he focused his attention on covering his privates.

“This time is your mirror…so close…yet we do not see each other. The creators made so many mistakes. One wonders why they create with such errors, but then I would not have purpose. Never heard of Mars or Earth. I just depend on my panel with hopes you are a brief fare, and I don’t have to spend forever waiting for you to age and die back there, stinking up the cabin. Happens sometimes if a specific rift disappears.”

Smith’s nausea beckoned his last meal to join his throat. He held back. Dying in space was always a possibility, but not like this. The yellow light on the ceiling illuminated and the voice continued. “So lucky for you. Here we are. You’ll be in place soon.”

A swirling tornado of blue and purple lights twisted around them as the pilot skillfully pointed a pathway through the matrix of neutrino flux. “Out you go…”

“Commander, where were you? In a moment you flashed and disappeared. Are you okay?” Lieutenant Bailey shook the Commander’s shoulder to get his attention.

“Off me, idiot! Put a space buoy out behind us and put it on all-channel alerts to avoid that area.” Smith looked down; assuring himself he was no longer naked and not dead.

“But why, sir, when there was no debris and…”

“Just do it. Do it now…before we get too far away…no one else needs to trip through the looking glass.”

Commander Smith rushed from the bridge to the isolation of his quarters to make sure this was his world and his time. He stopped to gaze in a mirror in the hallway of his compartment. For a moment he saw the fading image of the spinning heads of his travel guide. Smith collapsed on his bed, in shock, pondering a career change.

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