The Place Between

How could they have done this to themselves? Only now are they realizing the cost, but it’s already too late. For certain it’s too late for them, but maybe not for everyone.

Teleportation has become necessary. A mundane reality that isn’t healthy to consider too much. It’s not like anybody wants to lose months of their life at a time but there’s always somebody willing to do it; always somebody who wants the job more than you. A standard flash will advance you in age by something from days to weeks, but for longer transmissions you could be looking at two to three months. If you have money, then you’re all set. It’s no great effort to find others to teleport for you. The standard modes of transportation have almost completely disappeared now, apart from the hobbyists; vintage sports cars on deserted highways and the odd luxury yacht in an empty marina. Obviously, some work can be completely replaced with home units for delivery or rubbish disposal, but most people have been unable to avoid becoming telecommuters to remain competitive. When your peers are aging relative to you the time loss can start to seem normal, even natural. For most at least. Maybe you’re one of those who still believes in the old ways. Good luck to you and I hope you enjoy the fleeting warmth of your business as it burns down around you because there is nothing left after that but the cold.

I’m 47. Only about a year and a half of that is teleyears but I still feel it. Two of my children are older than me now and Thomas isn’t far off. They hate me for not supporting them. I can barely stand to visit anymore. Seeing them age before my eyes just to make ends meet has become unbearable. After the long-distance transmissions, it’s almost like speaking to a stranger. Thomas was only 26 when the baby came. He’s worked hard for his family. They’re comfortable and I know he wants a life for his son free of telework. I think somewhere inside he understands the choices I’ve made but he would never admit it.

I drift through the city from shelter to shelter, keeping to myself and making sure not to stick around in any one place for too long. At least that was my life until around six months ago when I met William.

I’ve been on the streets for longer than I’d care to remember. I can usually get a free meal at the shelters. Most of them don’t have functional detectors due to underfunding so it’s not difficult to pretend to be a Nontel. Like many, by refusing to engage in telework I had effectively rendered myself unemployable. I can’t talk about my experiences with the others at the shelters. The Nontels are usually zealous in their hatred of teleportation, whether for religious or conspiratorial reasons, or even something more nebulous. They can’t understand why I made the choices I did. So, I drift through the city from shelter to shelter, keeping to myself and making sure not to stick around in any one place for too long. At least that was my life until around six months ago when I met William.

Although he maintains it was a chance meeting, I have my suspicions. It was his idea to begin the experiments and I turned out to be the perfect subject. He grew up a trust fund kid and he’s never teleported a day in his life but he’s smart, the kind of smart that isn’t very common these days. What he had suggested had terrified me. It was the kind of talk I’d have expected from my wife long years past. What I wouldn’t give to have her here now. She had continued to work after I couldn’t go on. She had kept our family alive, given our children a future. She always resented me for turning my back on them. She never understood why.

“It’s too late to take it back,” she would scream at me. “You can’t put the genie back in the bottle.” I understood her, of course I did. It was too late. But that didn’t mean we had to make any more wishes.

“Where do they go?” had been his first question. It seemed ridiculous. Teleportation was instantaneous. Any number of experiments had confirmed this, but he had pressed on.

“Time is relative my friend. I assure you that those months you accumulated all those years ago are time you spent; unaware but very much alive.”

We had worked tirelessly. Experiment after experiment had pushed me to my limits. I had sworn I would never teleport again. That had been my promise, a talisman I clutched onto inside whenever I had lost hope. Now even that is gone but it has been replaced with an answer. An answer that is giving me feverish thoughts. The madness has been growing since I first returned with the memories. Already the information we uploaded is spreading across the globe with startling speed. I have a deep desire to smother Thomas’ son in his crib before he has a chance to teleport. For the others it is already too late.

We know where they go.