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By the time he got back I was sitting in his chair (I'd moved it so it faced the door) holding my gun. The door opened and before he saw me I said, "Hi, Alex. Come in, close the door." The poor bloke nearly jumped out of his skin. "Close the door, Alex."
"OK...OK...just don't shoot me." He was clearly terrified. He stepped inside, closed the door behind him and turned to face me. The thought of bolting before he'd closed the door hadn't even crossed his mind – he obviously knew what was good for him.
"Who…who are you?" he asked.
"My name's Dooley. Ray Dooley. You can call me Dooley." I told him. "But what you probably want to know is who sent me. Right?"
He nodded.
"OK. About five hundred years ago I had a visit from two guys that work for the government. They asked to find me someone for them. Someone called Alex Dunning. Sound familiar?"
He nodded and sighed, "Redfield and Thompson. Bastards." Looking over at the sofa he said, "Is it OK if I sit down?"
I nodded.
He slumped onto it. "So, what did they tell you?"
"That you'd disappeared and they want me to take you back."
"Is that all?"
"They said something about you doing research work for the government."
"That's it?"
"Yep. What else should they have told me?"
"I mean, they told you to bring me back? Not to kill me?" he looked puzzled.
"Nope. Just find you and take you back. I figured that they wanted you to complete the research you were doing."
"The research was complete." He said. "Err…I don't suppose there's any chance of you going back without me is there?"
"No." I said firmly.
"Didn't think so. Oh well, I suppose I'd better go with you and face the music." He started to get up.
"Hang on. I don't understand. If your work was complete, why would the government be so desperate to find you?"
"Well, I destroyed all my notes, you see, so I'm the only one who can put my research into practice. Maybe they think I've still got the notes and they want them. But, if Redfield and Thompson are involved then they probably just want me dead."
"So, If I take you back they're gonna kill you." I said. Then as an after thought, "But, if they just wanted you dead, surely they would've got me to do it."
"Puzzling isn't it?"
"I think you should tell me exactly what kind of work you were doing for them." I said. "Why?" He asked.
"Because there's obviously a lot more to this than I've been told and if I'm gonna be the one to deliver you to your murderers then I want to know that I did the right thing." He looked confused so I said, "What I'm trying to say is, if you have a good enough reason for staying hidden then maybe I'll leave you here."
"Oh…I see." He said, hopefully.
"So, tell me – and make it the truth. It's not just your life that's at stake here."
"OK. About five years ago I started working on a project codenamed Future World. The aim was to find a way of travelling to the future. I was told that the world's fuel resources were running thin and we had to find out how this would affect the Earth in years to come. I found out later that this was completely untrue but at the time I had no reason to disbelieve it. I was the leader of a team of four but over the years the team was reduced to just me – the others left one-by-one (I had my suspicions that Redfield and Thompson were involved – there was no way someone with the knowledge we had would be allowed to just walk away – but I had no proof). From the beginning we knew that in different parts of the world there were time holes but they're very difficult to find – near impossible actually. So, we had to make one. And we did, eventually. Twelve months ago I opened a time hole in my laboratory. Six months ago I destroyed it along with every bit of research relating to it."
"Destroyed it? Why?"
"Because I discovered why the government really wanted a time hole. There is no fuel crisis and there never will be. For some reason the powers-that-be have been telling the world for years that, eventually, there's going to be a major disaster because the natural fuels are being used up and will run out – probably within a few years. This just isn't true – the Earth has enough natural fuel resources to last for tens of thousands of years. Believe me, mankind will be extinct a long time before we run out of natural fuels."
"So, why are they lying to us?"
"I don't know."
"And the real reason for the hole is…?"
"Population control…sort of."
"WHAT?" I was outraged. "You mean they're sending people five hundred years into the future so that they can control the world's population?"
"Yes and no."
"Don't dick me around, Dunning. Just tell me what's going on."
"Ever wondered why forty-five percent of the people in The Districts are criminals? The government (not just ours) has been sending convicted criminals five hundred years into the future. They're trying to ease the prison-overcrowding situation and at the same time cleans humankind of…how shall I put it…undesirables. During the six months the hole was open they sent about two million criminals from prisons all over the world through it."
"Jesus Christ." This was unbelievable – even to me.
"There's more. Before the prisoners were sent through the hole, they were operated on. They had their own memories erased and artificial ones implanted – so that when they got here it seemed normal to be living in the year two-thousand-four-hundred-and-ninety-eight."
"Jesus Fucking Christ."
"When I found out about this I knew that I couldn't let it continue. I burned my research notes and decided that I'd better disappear – where better than five hundred years into the future. So, I jumped through the hole and then sealed it."
"But how did you seal it when you'd already gone through? And why did you choose to come to where they were sending all the criminals?"
"Well, the hole I created doesn't work in the same way as the 'natural' time holes. For one thing, you can't choose how far into the future or past you travel – it was set to five hundred years forward. I also built in a kind of self-destruct mechanism which could be set on a timer."
"I see."
"But if you came through after me then the self-destruct obviously didn't work." He seemed very disappointed about this.
"Oh, it worked all right." I reassured him, "You'd have had more than me to contend with if it hadn't, believe me."
"I don't understand. How did you get here then?"
"How do you think? A natural time hole." I explained.
He was clearly impressed, "You found a time hole?"
"Not exactly. A friend of mine found it a few years ago."
"But…how come no one knows about it?"
"He's got the signal blocked."
Dunning was amazed, "You have a very clever friend, Mr Dooley."
"I know."
We sat in silence for a few moments.
"Well, we'd better decide what to do next." I said.
"Oh." He said bleakly.
"Don't worry. I won't be forcing you to come back with me. Just tell me where the hole is and I'll be on my way."
"Err…what makes you think I know where the hole is?"
"Well, the signal's obviously blocked. I figured you'd be the only one who knew how."
"Sorry. It wasn't me. I have no idea where it is."
I was dismayed, "Great. This is just FUCKING GREAT! Looks like we're both stuck here then."
"Maybe not. There's a man that works for The Brothers called Jimmy Collins. He's pretty high up in their organisation. He's also a scientist. If anyone knows about the hole, it's him."
"OK. Things are looking better. How do I find this bloke?" I'd brightened considerably.
"No idea. He's a pretty sleazy character so you could try some of the illegal nightclubs in the rougher areas."
"Right. Thanks."
"I should be the one doing the thanking."
"Don't worry about it."
"What will you tell Redfield and Thompson?" He asked.
"Not sure. I'll think of something."
"Well, thanks again and good luck." He stood up and held out his hand, which I shook.
Then I left in search of Jimmy Collins.

**

**



Slowly but surely I was getting closer to Seymour. Meeting The Brothers' thug had slowed me down quite a bit as I'd had to deviate from my original course to avoid the police and now I was going through a maze of backstreets. Still, if it meant that I got to Club 54 in one piece then it was worth it.

I reached the outskirts of Seymour without further incident and made my way very carefully through the district. This is one of the worst areas in The Districts. The police have virtually no control and the criminals have no fear. You only have to look at someone the wrong way and before you know it you've been stabbed or shot. Or worse. I did the sensible thing and looked at the floor as I walked along.

The closer I got to the club, the more people were on the streets. I can usually blend in with a crowd very well, but coming this far into The Brothers' territory made blending in very difficult – I just didn't know how many of the people around here were part of their gang. Everybody in Seymour looks like a thug so picking out gang members is very difficult – best just to assume they all are.

Eventually I reached my destination. It was about nine o'clock at night and the club looked very busy, which was good – I would be able to lose myself in the crowd. If I could get past the doormen, of course. I found a shaded doorway in the street opposite and hid there for a few minutes watching the entrance. The doormen were very thorough and I decided that I couldn't take the risk of going in that way. There had to be another way in. I started to circle the building, looking for an alternative entrance, when I came across a fire escape. Perfect – I'd found my way in. I had to go up three flights of stairs before I found a door – it was locked but the lock was old and rusty and not particularly difficult to pick. And that's where my luck ran out.

The door opened onto a room full of men sitting at a card table, gambling. There was so much cigar smoke in the air I was amazed that they could see what they doing. Before I knew it there were about twelve guns pointing at me.
One of the men, a big ugly bastard with a nose that had been broken a few too many times, recognised me and stood up, "Well, well. Looks like Dooley here is feeling a little suicidal tonight." He said, grinning.
The other men laughed.
"Dooley? Err…I think there's some mistake. My names err…Smith. Sorry to interrupt gentlemen – I'll be on my way and let you get back to you game." I turned and was about to bolt when I heard a gunshot and felt a something zip past my right ear.
"Not so fast, Dooley. Get over here or the next bullet won't miss."
I turned back and walked slowly over to the table.
"Sellars, search him." He barked.
"With pleasure, Danny."
While Sellars searched me, Danny sat back down. Sellars handed him my gun and said, "That's it."
"You've just made me a rich man, Dooley. The Brothers will be very pleased with me. I may even get a promotion." He was laughing again.
"Fuck you, arsehole."
"Brady." He said the thug at the side of me, "Knock him out."
"No problem, Boss." And then the thug called Brady hit me on the back of my head with the butt of his gun. I dropped like a sack of shit.

I awoke with a throbbing headache on the floor of a small dimly lit room. In front of me was an oak desk, which filled half of the room. Behind the desk sat six figures. They were identical in every way – even the clothes they wore. I guessed that they were The Brothers – who else could they be.
"Welcome back, Mr Dooley." One of them said. They were surprisingly different to how I'd imagined them to be. They were small – probably no taller that five feet - and looked more like businessmen than hardened criminals. Short neat hair, almost effeminate features and perfect white teeth. All wore the same black suit, with a white polo shirt underneath. Apart from the seven of us, there was no one else in the room and it looked as though The Brothers had no weapons. There was only one door in the room and that behind The Brothers. The Brother that had spoken before saw me looking around and said, "You're probably thinking that you could overpower us and make it to the door, and you may be right. But what you came here to find is right here in this room, so I'm betting that you won't be going anywhere."
I looked around and sure enough, right behind me was the hole. All in the same movement I got up and bolted towards it but as soon as I got within two feet I ran into what felt like a brick wall and fell back down. I looked up to see what I'd run into but there was nothing there. I heard giggling coming from the direction of the desk.
"It's protected by a force field, which is generated by the six of us." The Brother said. "You see, we may look small and puny but we what we lack in stature we make up for in other ways. Please, take a seat."
I got up slowly - every part of my body felt bruised - and made my way to the chair in front of the desk.
"Look, all I wanna do is go home. I have no argument with any of you guys. What ever it is that I've done to piss you off, I'm sorry."
"You haven't done anything against us, Mr Dooley. Apart from torturing one of our best men, that is." It was always the same one that spoke, the other just sat in silence. "You had a contract out on me way before I did anything to Collins."
"True. We'd heard of your reputation and decided that you'd be a valuable asset to have in our organization. We want you to work for us."
"So you offered two million credits to the man that killed me, makes sense." I said sarcastically.
"You've been misinformed, Mr Dooley, we offered two million to the man that found you and brought you to us. We didn't want you killed."
"Sorry, I've decided to retire so, if you'll just open up the hole, I'll be on my way." It was worth a try.
"Maybe I should re-phrase the offer – either work for us or we will have you killed."
I said nothing.
"Mr Dooley, do you accept our offer?" He persisted.
"Fuck you, scumbag. I don't work for freaks."
"Very well. Have it your way." Then he looked up at wall behind me and said, "Collins, come in here."
Almost immediately the door opened and in walked Collins – looking a little better than the last time I'd seen him. He'd had his ear cleaned up and bandaged, and his nose looked almost normal.
"Now, I think it's time that Collins here had his revenge." Said the Brother and the others laughed quietly.
Collins walked over and punched me full in the face, I nearly toppled off the chair but he grabbed me and hit me again. Then he let me go and I fell onto the floor. He kicked me in the stomach and was about to do it again when I grabbed his leg and pulled as hard as I could. He fell backwards and there was a loud crack as his head struck the concrete. Wasting no time I jumped on top of him and ripped the bandage off his ear, I pushed my fingers into the wound and he howled. He was trying to fight back but he was clearly weakened. I lifted his head off the floor and smashed it back down onto the floor. He passed out. He had a gun sticking out of the waistband of his trousers and I pulled it out, stood up and pointed at The Brothers.
They seemed amused by the whole thing.
"Now," I said, panting for breath, "you either open up the hole or I start shooting."
And then all hell broke loose.
The door burst open and thugs with guns started pouring through, all firing in my direction. I scooted behind the hole, hoping that the force field would protect me. It did. I had an idea – maybe if I killed one of The Brothers they would lose their grip on the force field and I'd be able to jump through. I'd have to be fast though, as I'd be destroying the barrier between me and the bullets. I popped out from the side of the force field and shot at one of The Brothers. It took three attempts before I hit one. As soon as I saw his head jerk backwards I made a dive for the hole, hoping that my idea was right.

The world suddenly went quiet.

**



I made it through the hole but as I dived I'd been shot in the back. Dave found me unconscious in his basement and called in a doctor who fixed up my wound and asked no questions. I spent about four weeks recovering at Dave's house. During those weeks he asked a couple of times whether I was going to contact Redfield and Thompson, 'Maybe', I'd replied.

It's been three years now and I still haven't called them. Better to lay low and let them think that I died or stayed in the future.

I still slip through the hole now and then and I've even thought about going back to two-thousand-four-hundred-and-ninety-eight to see how Dunning's getting along.

But I haven't. Yet.



by Garry Nurrish
[Age: 28]
[Fav. Author(s): Clive Barker, Michael Marshall-Smith, Stephen King.]
[Currently working on a new story called "Dry Addiction"]
[ Sydney, Australia]