Refrain Not To Kill the King Is Right *
Time Travel Science Fiction Novel. Abstract: Two Chapters
Almost 100 years ago (December 30, 1916) Grigori Rasputin - one of the most notorious characters in Russian history - was brutally murdered by a group of Russian aristocrats. A spiritual healer and religious guru, Rasputin had great influence on the Nicholas II – the last Russian Emperor and was rumoured to be the Russian Tsarina’s lover. The author of the novel transports the main character from the present time to December 2016 and makes him witness the last days of Rasputin and his assassination.
Chapter 1. Old Shoes.
Dan was sitting on a chair in his apartment scrutinizing his shoes that saw better times. His suit, shirt and tie still looked decent. But the shoes... Why on Earth did it seem to him a good idea to take History and Foreign Languages studies at the University? It was fun to study and, enjoyably easy. He was fond of History since he could remember himself. His grandmother, native Russian speaker, spared no efforts to teach him Russian both spoken and written. His paternal grandmother talked to him in Italian. At the University he mastered German, French, Spanish, Polish and Ukrainian. He was gifted at languages. A Master’s Degree in History and seven foreign languages may sound impressive, but Dan could not make a decent living with his education. He did occasional translation jobs here and there, that didn’t pay much. The shoes… He has to attend an important job interview today.
“Well, do you have an alternative?” Dan asked himself out loud. “No. Then we will use what we have. It’s time to get going.”
Dan stood up scrutinised himself in the mirror for a minute. In general he was satisfied with what he saw. The morrow reflected an athletically built young man, with intense grey eyes and stubborn square chin.
“Come in, young man. I can see you are surprised. Oh, I am well aware of the impression I produce. I can understand it – you did not expect to see a disabled old man in a wheel-chair. My name is Rob Metcalfe. And you are - Daniel McGregory?”
The newspaper ad that Dan responded to, run: “Looking for a secretary. Must have a University degree in History; conversant in the Russian language and preferably other European languages. The applicant should be physically fit; able to lift 180 lb. The applicant should be willing to travel abroad.” Dan was somewhat bewildered by the demanded set of skills: a degree in History and knowledge of foreign languages on one hand and physical strength on the other. Sadly, there was not much job offers he could¬ choose from. His credit cards were maxed up.
The potential employer asked Dan the usual questions about his education and job experience. Some of the questions were asked and answered in German, French and Italian. The verdict was:
“I was impressed with your resume, young man. And now I can see you have a wide scope of knowledge in Russian History and you do speak the languages you claimed to know. Unfortunately I can’t check you knowledge of the Russian and other East European languages, due to my ignorance in this field. Besides, it looks like you have good people skills and are quite capable physically to help a disabled person.”
“Oh, no, please don’t think that I am looking for a something like a personal support worker. I can afford all sorts of qualified medical and other help. The thing is I don’t like to see too many strangers in my house. I have a housekeeper, Mrs. Cupper. She has been in charge of my household for more than 10 years now. I have a personal assistant that performs the most unpleasant duties, you know what I mean. I have a live-in gardener that can help me to move from and to the wheel-chair. I have everything I need covered when I am home. But I love to travel. While abroad I would have to rely mostly on my secretary. You won’t be disappointed with your pay checks, though. I would prefer you to live here, free of charge of course, plus meals and drinks. “All inclusive”, as they say. Would you mind moving in here? You will have a separate suite including a living room, a bedroom and a washroom.”
Dan would not mind at all moving into that house. When he saw the address, he knew it was located in one of the most expensive suburbs the city. But he was still shocked with what he saw. Centennial oaks and tall pines surrounded a huge lot. A house, that looked more like a palace, was veiled with trees and bushes from the road. The mansion was decorated with porticoes, pillars, balconies and balustrades. Dan thought that the adjoining eight car garage is twice larger than his parent’s house. Sure, he wouldn’t mind living in a mansion like that for a while, considering that his tiny dirty cockroach infested apartment rent payment was two months overdue.
Dan looked at his new employer. The man was about sixty: watery blue eyes, dolichocephalic skull, long aquiline nose and greying hair. He resembled Prince Charles, but a few pounds heavier. He had bags under his eyes. “It’s most likely due to fluids retention in an inactive body”, thought Dan. When he was into Aikido several years ago, he self-studied anatomy and medicine. He believed it was important to learn as much as possible about a human body to understand how to train and manage it in the best way.
“What would be my duties?”
“I need a person primarily to work with documents: translation, classification, analysis, archiving. The recent accident that got me doomed to this wheel-chair happened a year ago just a week before I turned sixty. Before the accident I was engaged in financial sphere, quite successfully.”
“My first degree was in History from Harvard. I just started working on my postgraduate degree, My dream was to become one of those crazy looking professors - nose blocked with library dust, absent look on the face, read eyes; wearing a brown shoe on my left foot and a black one on my right. Ha-ha! But certain personal circumstances distracted me from what I was doing. I decided to pursuer material benefits. I got myself a job at a financial corporation. To tell you the truth, I was in love, and I was in competition with a Financial Management graduate from the same Alma Mater. I lost the competition. In desperation and to prove her she was wrong (alas, post factum) I made a dazzling carrier. I worked with the new emerging markets in East Europe and Russia, my knowledge of European and Russian History and Anthropology helped me a lot. Gradually I got carried away by the challenge and the opportunities of the business. I acquired a taste for money, luxury and travelling the first class. Needless to say, I never returned to my doctoral thesis on the History of Russian Revolution of 1917. But I have never lost interest in History. I took the opportunity during my business trips to Russia to gather quite an extensive collection of various materials, documents and objects of the period predeceasing the events of 1917.”
“Now, since I got plenty of time at my hands,” he chuckled sardonically, “I intend to finish my research. But I need help. Here, let me show you something,” he wheeled away from his study rolled down into the basement along a special rampant. Dan followed him, almost running. The wheel chair rolled fast.
The basement was equipped with glass covered shelving filled with books, files and even manuscripts, some of them quite ancient looking.
“Yes, I know – in 20th century people did not use papyruses any more. I have been greedy, I must admit. Sometimes I bought rare materials not pertaining to my subject just because they were for sale for a fraction of their real cost. I even yielded to the temptation to purchasing various objects that belonged to historical figures of prominence. Look here, please: this is the sceptre of Ivan the Terrible. No, not the one he killed his son with. Well, if you accept my offer you will see a lot of interesting things here. Are you willing to accept?”
Dan was willing. Oh, he was very much willing to accept the offer. It looked like an interesting job with the best compensation he has ever been offered. He opened his mouth to vocalize his agreement, but at the same moment he heard a despairing cry followed by groans from a corridor leading along the shelves into the unlit depth of the basement. Dan froze with his mouth open. The groans were coming closer and soon he could see a huge shaggy animal crawling in their direction. “A bear?” thought Dan, horrified. He wanted to scream and run away, but he could not utter a sound and his feet seemed to be glued to the floor. The creature crawled into the lit area and turned out to be a human in a long brown fur coat. It was a man with disheveled black hair and beard covered with blood. The blood was dripping from his face and chest. When he saw Metcalf and Dan, he thrust his hand covered in blood palm up to them and croaked: “They have murdered me! The bastards!”
Dan run to the stranger and tried to lift him up. The fur coat fell down from the man’s shoulders. He gripped Dan’s sleeves, trying to pull himself up. He almost succeeded and put one hand around Dan’s neck for support. His breath reeked of garlic and alcohol. He stood on his feet for a few seconds, and then suddenly pushed Dan away, fell full body on his back, his head hitting the floor with a bang. He roared in deep bass voice: “They have murdered me, the bastards! Felix....” The stranger closed his eyes, wheezed, his body shuddered, his head jerked backwards, beard pointing at the ceiling.
“Is he dead,” Metcalfe croaked.
Dan bent over the body on the floor, checked the pulse on his neck and felt none. The man’s eyes were wide open staring at the ceiling. He seemed to be quite dead. Dan wiped the blood off his hands on his trousers and pulled his cell phone out of his pocket.
“What are you doing, young man?” Metcalfe whispered.
“Calling the police.”
Dan turned to look at him. Rob was pale - ash pale. His eyes seemed to fall deeper into his sockets.
“Are you OK, Mr. Metcalfe? You look like you are having a heart attack, or something…”
“No,” the man breathed out. I am all right. No police, please,” he was whispering again. “No, please, no! Wait, let me explain...”
“OK.” Dan sat on the floor beside him, suddenly feeling drained of energy.
For several seconds Metcalfe and his potential employee were staring at the body in front of them in silence. The deceased was dressed a weird fashion: he was wearing dark pants stuck into high vintage boots, rather long shirt with 4 buttons at the neck only. The shirt light colour originally was now soaked in blood. The shirt was belted with a twisted rope.
“Did you understand what he was talking about”, asked Metcalfe in a harsh voice.
“He said: “The bastards have murdered me!” Then he mentioned a name – “Felix”. Haven’t you heard it?”
“I have heard it clearly, but could not understand.”
“It was not in English.”
“Wasn’t it? Oh...,” Dan just realized that he was so stressed that he did not register that the man was not speaking in English. Dan’s brain just automatically turned the switch to perception of another language.
He repeated out loud:” Óáèëè, èðîäû…”
“He was speaking in Russian!”
“You are saying Russian, eh? How could he...” Rob cut himself midsentence.
“Do you know him? Who is he?”
Metcalf shrugged his shoulders. He was avoiding looking into Dan’s eyes.
“He is dressed in a strange manner”, Dan offered his comments, “As if... He might be an actor in a Russian 19th century play or something… We have to call the police as soon as possible!” Dan jumped to his feet.
“No, no, no!” Metcalfe was almost screaming
“Wait! Look... I have to tell you something,” Rob was breathing heavily, pressing his crossed palms into his chest. His pale face was coved with sweat. “I have planned to check you out first, and introduce you to what I am doing here, gradually. But now…, we have no time. I have to take the risk and trust you with very important information. Yes, I have no choice but to trust you”. Metcalf fell silent for a long time intently scrutinizing Dan’s face. Then he signed and started to talk.
“Yes, the man lying here dead is from Russia. He is wearing velvet pants, silk shirt and a mink coat. The fashion is that of a lower class, but the material is expensive.”
“That’s what I have thought – he might be an actor dressed up for a paly
“Yes, dear sir, our unsolicited guest is not from the present tie. He did not arrive here on a plane with an iPhone in his left hand and an iPad – in his right,” Rob giggled nervously. “He travelled here right from the beginning of the 20th century Russia. The whole way through miles and years took him about ten minutes, through “The Corridor”.
“He is insane,” Dan thought. “That explains everything. I have to get out of here, as soon as possible and call the police.”
“Sorry, Mr. Metcalfe, I have to use a washroom now. My hands are all covered in blood, see?” and Dan turned towards the exit from the basement.
“I am not crazy!” Metcalfe had guessed right. “I am not insane, not kuku! Neither, am I a maniac or a killer! Listen to me. Give me five minutes. Look, I am turning out my pockets, here: a cell phone, a pen, paper tissues. That’s it – no guns, no knives, no other weapons. I can’t hurt you in any way, even with my fist. I can’t stop you or hold you. I can’t rise from this damned chair! My spine is broken. Give me just five minutes to explain everything and if you don’t believe me, you are free to go. You may go from here straight to a police office.
“Well, looks like, he is right, I am not in an immediate danger here,” thought Dan, his curiosity taking the best of him. An older and wiser person in his place would just have run away. But Dan was young and adventurous. He stayed.
Chapter 2. Ancient Mould
“You will find it hard to believe. It sounds improbable, but there is no other way to put it: I am a time traveller. Long time ago – twenty years to be exact – I discovered a corridor that leads from this basement into other times and places on the Earth. I call it “The Corridor of Time”.
“He IS insane,” though Dan with regret. Rob might have noticed the shadow of doubts on the guy’s face, because he started to talk faster and louder:
“Wait, hear me out! I can easily prove that I am not hallucinating – the door to “The Corridor” is located in just a few steps from here. The same door our deceased quest came through. But let me tell you the whole story first. I’ll make it quick.”
“Almost twenty years ago I purchased this mansion. It took me several days to get thoroughly familiar with all the rooms, lockers, the attic, the basement and the utility rooms. Why would I need a huge house like this – a single guy? It seems absurd to me now, but then I thought my status obliged me to live up to the standards of my position.”
“The last room I visited was the cold room in the basement, where a housewife would store her jams and hams.
“The room was empty, except for the shelving along the walls. Turning around to exit, I slipped in my fancy Italian shoes with leather soles and banged my head on the outer wall that suddenly slid and revealed an entrance to a dimly lit underground corridor, leading somewhere so far that I couldn’t see the end of it.”
“ I am not going to describe in details now how I explored “The Time Corridor”, what kind of dangers I faced, how I was lost in time. The thing that matters now is that I have been travelling in time for the last 20 years, to different countries. I have never met anybody in the “Corridor”. I think it was built many years, or centuries, ago, and now I am the only one who knows about it. And suddenly that bearded gentlemen appears today! Who else knows about it? Is it dangerous for me? I don’t want my secret to be known to public. Nothing good will come out of it. The balance between past, present and future is so fragile. It has to be meticulously preserved.” Rob bent his head sidewise and was lost in thought for quite a long time, staring in front of him, but obviously seeing something beyond the walls of his basement.
“So, young man,” he said suddenly, “Would you like to have a look at my “Time Corridor now?”
“Why not?” Dan felt strange excitement. He was intrigued.
“Follow me then. Be careful here; do not step into the blood.
The cold room was hidden behind a regular wooden door. Jars with jams were standing in rows at the white shelves along the walls.
“Decorations,” said Rob. “Everything should look ordinary for an occasional visitor.”
Rob pressed his hand on a wall opposite to the cold room door. The wall slid right heavily, but noiselessly, revealing an entrance about four feet wide. Dan felt the smell of mould.
“This is the smell of the past, young man!” said Rob, ecstatically.
The corridor was dimly lit by regular bare 60 watt electrical bulbs at the ceiling which was about
8 ft. high. The corridor run far, finally the eye could see only the bulbs connecting at one point into a tiny spot of light.
“This is must be underground passway, built by a person who was afraid the WWIII, atomic bomb or such like. It’s probably leads to an underground safe place or an exit somewhere in the woods,” Dan presumed.
“No, it doesn’t lead to some woods or a safe place. It leads to other times and places. I have travelled only as far as the 1st century A.N.”
“How do you get into other times?”
“I could not understand how it works. Going along the corridor, you see solid walls, but if you go straight into the wall, you pass right through it and get into ....well some place, different time. If you do not travel far past or future, you will get out in the same building, same cold room. Would you like to try it now?”
Dan felt weird. Five minutes ago he was sure the man was crazy, but just looking into that corridor, he suddenly believed the story Metcalfe told him was true.
“Well, to begin with I would suggest you go,” Rob looked at his watch,” one hour back. You will be there at the moment of our meeting at my door. Just make a step forward, turn right, make two steps and go through the wall. You will find yourself in the cold room alone. I won’t be there. Go upstairs and hide yourself behind the pillar. You will see yourself in the past. Spend there just 5 minutes, no more, and return the same way. But, please, do not come out and make yourself seen by the other you. I haven’t quite understood yet what happens if a person meets himself in a different time, but I suspect nothing good should come out of it”
Dan followed the instructions and was now standing plastered behind a white pillar, his skin feeling the cold of the marble, his whole body shaking with excitement.
At first there was silence in the entrance hall, then the bell rang and the wheelchair carrying Rob Metcalfe rolled into the hall. The “Professor” pressed a button on the arm of his chair and the door opened slowly. Dan himself entered timidly and froze staring at his future employer in astonishment.
“Come in, young man. I can see you are surprised. Oh, I am well aware of the impression I produce. I can understand it – you did not expect to see a disabled old man in a wheel-chair. My name is Rob Metcalfe. And you are Daniel McGregory?”
The wheelchair made a U-turn and rolled into the house. Dan “in the past” followed it making large steps to keep up.
Dan “in the present” returned to the basement, entered the “Time Corridor”, made two steps back and faced Rob. He was shaken.
“Do you believe me now?”
Dan could just manage a nod in reply.
“Good. Now you can understand what kind of power is hidden here. What happens if people learn about it? Imagine newspaper headlines? Or advertisements: “Travel agency “Time Machine”. Trips to 16th century and 35 century. Pay for two trips, get the third one half-price!” Crowds with cameras here. As you know, science fiction writers, Ray Bradbury, Steven King, for example thought, that interfering in the past can change the future drastically. The so called “Butterfly Effect”. Imagine, you accidentally push your grand-grand-grandfather in the street. He falls down, breaks his arm, goes to the hospital, doesn’t meet your grand-grand-grandmother that day, and here we go....you don’t exist, you have never been born. You vanish into the thin air as we speak, and in a minute I can’t even remember you, you are erased from my memory.
Dan’s body shook.
“Imagine, we go to the future, but people from the future visit us as well. What if they don’t like something in their past and decide to change it? For example, they are not happy with the planet’s ecology, and, boom! There is no New York, no Toronto, no Paris any more: just woods, meadows and fresh air. Very good, but we are not in the picture.”
“I don’t think our Government will allow it,” said Dan doubtfully.
“Yeah, right! The Government! That would be the best case scenario. FBR learns about it first, seals the information. No tourists, just scientists under oath. What about us? Do you want to spend the rest of your days somewhere on a military base in Arizona, in a kind of prison, totally isolated from the world to keep your mouth shut? And they will start to explore and experiment. What kind of experiments will they do, eh?
Both men kept silent for a moment, thinking.
“So, Mr. McGregory, do you still want to call the police?”
Dan shook his head.
“Then you have to help me.”
“What should I do?”
“To begin with we should hide the corpse and clean up the blood. You see, I can’t do it without you,” and Metcalfe waived his hands and dropped them at the arms of his wheelchair with a desperate gesture.
Before that day Dan never dealt with dead human bodies, he never touched one. He hasn’t even seen one other that on TV. Understanding that there is nobody to do it but him, he clenched his teeth and pulled the heavy dead body covered in blood to the far end of the basement and placed it in a freezer. Then he washed the blood from the floor.
When the basement looked as usual, Metcalfe sent his new employee to the shower. Clean, draped in a cozy soft robe, Dan joined Rob in his study. The “Professor” thrust a glass of whisky into his hand and made him drink it up. That was the last thing he could remember of that day.