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It might be odd that Pooja P. Humphries has cockroaches for pets that travel loyally on the handlebar of her amazing time-traveling Walmart shopping cart, but she’s definitely whip-smart. She runs the Pooja Mysterium of Assorted Aritifacts and Wonders in the ancient world, after all. Oh yes, and she’s been brilliantly evading the super-bad CIA men for years. They destroyed her life’s work long ago and have been after her ever since. But when someone finally finds her time machine portal, could her reality be different than she believes?

Pooja And The Portal Pursuer

by Valerie Brook

Copyright © 2019 by Valerie Brook. All rights reserved.

Published by Kickit Press/

Cover and Layout Copyright © 2019 by Kickit Press

Cover Art: travis blessing/

This is a work of fiction. Name, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual events or locals or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction, in whole or in part in any form.



THE OLD WOMAN TIME traveler, Pooja P. Humphries, (who appeared to any outsider to look baggy and dirty and homeless), had finally passed through the deadly Ubari Desert alone last night under a blanket of twinkling gold stars and a warm westerly wind that smelled of baked cinnamon and rattlesnakes. 

The swirls of darkness had been thick and powerful, frightening; the horizon diminished to a thin glowing chick-scratch of dusky orange. 

Now, a pale pink dawn softened over the wide and warming sky, and in this utter expanse of flat nothings, far off in the distance, Pooja could see the blue sparkling wave of the Great Flat Sea as it began its quarterly high tide. 

In a few minutes the cool salt water would hit her dusty toes.

* * *

Two days ago, Pooja had reentered the time travel portal just like usual; but in an unusual mistake, she had gotten disoriented in the nighttime desert and walked around in circles, (her eyesight wasn’t what it used to be), utterly lost on the vast cracked-clay plains of a pre-Egyptian earth, with her elastic head-torch from Home Depot blazing as bright as a commuter train.

Okay, not that bright. 

Pooja’s progress had been as slow as, oh, I don’t know—how about a homeless woman pushing a shopping cart.

Pooja proudly pushed a heavy-gauge steel Walmart Elite. 

And it was stuffed to the brim with items and covered with multi-colored tarps. 

Her three pet Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches, (Curly, Moe, and Jane) sat up front on the handlebar, their antennae waggling. Alert and watchful. Three inches long and loyal to the death, her cockies would emit a low-toned hiss when they sensed danger.

Pooja’s Elite had a squeaky left front wheel and the sides proclaimed proudly in blue-and-white English: SAVE MONEY. LIVE BETTER.

(Who cared about saving money? Just spend it; after all, we only live once. Perhaps.)

But the ‘Live Better’ part really was catchy. It was just a plain sentence but it still worked. 

Who doesn’t want to live better?

The thought of all the new swag and booty and sale items in her shopping cart made Pooja smile underneath the hood of the brown bath towel she had wrapped over her head like a hoodie without the rest of the sweatshirt.

She also wore a fluffy brown dress right down to the flipflops on her feet, the cheapest ones on the rack at Payless, which she was now worried she might blow-out. 

Fortunately, it had been August of the 21st century in the United States of America, which she had just visited through the time travel portal to do her monthly business. (So flipflops were appropriate attire in both the past and the present time.)

Pooja was of low stature, average weight, and had one hazel-green eye and one light blue, when you could actually see both eyes at once under her wild tangle of long white hair. Her hair could defy gravity in unexpected ways, or maybe it had a dual personality; one side a soft, gentle downward flow, and one side manic bramble bushes and stiff cactus.

It was probably because she only slept on her left side these days. Otherwise her shoulder hurt.

And anyway, when you were homeless in 21st Century Los Angeles, you didn’t need to brush your hair, as per social expectation. And when you owned The Pooja Mysterium of Assorted Artifacts and Wonders in a pre-Egyptian earth village just at the edge of the Ubari Desert (Los Angeles in a time so ancient it was lost to any archeological awareness), your hair needed to command respect.

As long as Pooja sunbathed often, she stayed a soft brown wrinkled complexion, and blended well with the peaceful and kind Ubari people even as a complete foreigner.

When Pooja smiled, her one visible eye twinkled with light, but she didn’t stare others in the eye often, because she had too many secrets she didn’t want stolen again.

Eyes being the windows to the soul and all.

When you were a time traveler, you couldn’t trust anyone.

Pooja had to return monthly to her original birth world, in Los Angeles, in order to cash her social security checks, which arrived like clockwork to her P.O. Box.

She’d long ago lost her old home to foreclosure and most those worldly belongings contained therein; but occasionally she had other matters to attend to at the post office, such as responding to letters from her niece studying in England, sending secret cyphers and equations to physicists, paying bills, or the requisite splurge on a lottery ticket, fingers crossed (because: ‘Live Better’, right?)

And also she loved to converse in English, because it was her first language, and she didn’t want to lose it after learning Ubari.

Usually, when she came and left from The Pooja Mysterium, which she owned and operated on the edge of the Flat Sea, the trip to the portal only took one respective night each way. 

But, as afore mentioned, Pooja had gotten dangerously lost yesterday.

She was forced to spend two blazing hot days alone with her cockies under her emergency “Reflects Heat Back Into Space” silver blanket, which was bungee corded to the metal shopping cart into a makeshift shelter. 

With only her Mister-Spritzer fan humming to cool her down as she sat on a crinkling pad of newspapers, only a new mystery paperback novel to keep her entertained, and only a box of Saltines, fresh carrots with their green tops attached (for her pets to eat), and a warm soda that exploded into her face when she popped the top, but still tasted great, except in her eyes); Pooja had finally spotted the black stone obelisks that were the “Google Maps” of this ancient time.

Thank you phallic symbols of real-world application.

(She’d learned pretty quickly after first discovering the portal ten years ago, that this ancient historical era was also under patriarchy.)

Oh well. 

The thirty-foot black obelisks were a land map, and if you found one rising up out of the desert, and then pointed yourself toward the next distant one, you were on your proper way.

Pooja had passed the scorched white bones of other dead travelers; mostly human, perhaps. (No one came out here much.)

Pooja thought, well; I’m ninety years old. That’s old for living bones.

So bring it.

She was a bit of a badass.


Copyright © 2019 by Valerie Brook. All rights reserved.

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