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When Mr. Dungaree accidentally time travels into the past, from a future that has faced an apocalypse and now lives underground, he never gives up on his mission to save the honorable chicken, and his love for eggs, from extinction.
THE CHICKEN TIME MACHINE
by Valerie Brook
Copyright © 2019 by Valerie Brook. All rights reserved.
First Published in Pulphouse Fiction Magazine: Issue 4 © 2018
Published by Kickit Press/kickitpress.com
Cover and Layout Copyright © 2019 by Kickit Press
Cover Art: Miguel A. Padrinin/Pexels.com
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.
LABCORP TECHNICIAN #34, old man Mr. Dungaree, pedaled the rickety bicycle along the rainy, miserable side of Highway 101, as fast as his short legs, and the even shorter allowance of the stitched inseam to his soaking wet cotton pants, would allow.
So all in all, this was terribly slow.
Plus, he had a near paralytic fear of bicycle contraptions.
And cars kept whizzing by, spitting foam and debris into his red, chapped face. Cold water stung his eyes and blurred his vision. The air smelled just like Pine Forest-scented sink cleaner. The black garbage bag jacket that he had so carefully duct taped together to make sleeves, suddenly ripped apart at the seams, cold water pouring down his neck as it fluttered behind him like a failed parachute.
Cardinal rule: Don’t Attract Attention.
Well, screw all the fools’ rules.
When his wobbly front tire hit potholes it made his teeth snap shut like a shark. For which he had already twice paid the price for mouth-breathing, and bit his tongue like a self-eating madman—and suffered the uncourteous swallow of his own sick, rusty blood.
Too much ferrous oxide in this most vital fluid.
The broken seat springs went chrricka-chrricka, threatening to crumple away and expose a potentially impaling metal post—and this made the unmistakable entrance to Mr. Dungaree’s internal organs cringe.
The autumn rain storm, along the northern coast of the Pacific landmass of what was still considered California, had gone utterly insane.
Or maybe real weather had always been like this—how would he know?
Mr. Dungaree wanted to holler into his lapel Tele, Turn the showers down, you dolt!, but LabCorp UB12 was now, oh—a mere two hundred years into the future, and telepathic technology didn’t even exist yet.
Mr. Dungaree was the dolt now.
And all for the love of eggs.
He could kick himself in the pants if his own pants and the broken seat of this stolen bicycle weren’t kicking him there enough already. How had he managed this time machine blunder? No self-respecting scientist would have made the mistake.
But then, of course, having time-machined backward into the strange year 2017—and appeared here naked (ahem), homeless, broke, and having to resort to thievery—he was fresh out of self-respect.
He was flush with stupidity, however.
Could build an empire with his stupidity. If empires could be built that way. Oh wait, that’s right, empires had been built on stupidity; and that’s why the whole Earth had an apocalypse and they’d all been underground for forty years, and would be for at least a hundred more.
Kinda like Noah’s ark but they didn’t all get happily along. And there weren’t two of each.
Because right now, if Mr. Dungaree had a double copy back in LabCorp UB12, he’d go ahead and steer this version of himself into traffic straight away.
The brake lights of a truck flashed red, steering off the highway and down the off-ramp to the little town of Trinidad. Mr. Dungaree followed, his arms beginning to shake in earnest with cold, griping the handlebars with white knuckles.
Chrricka-chrricka, the seat laughed.
Then Mr. Dungaree’s teeth started to chatter like chipmunks. And just about the time he had a swell of hope that he could coast this terrible, evil bicycle to a full stop, he lost his balance and toppled sideways into an oily mud puddle anyway.
Now he was not only homeless, broke, and starving—but dirty as a hog, too. Mr. Dungaree immediately patted his chest, seeking confirmation of the final coil of copper wire in his flannel shirt he’d just illegally cut out of a nearby substation, as well as the wire cutters used to commit this particular crime.
Rain pinged off the top of his head, irritating his sensitive bald crown, which had not received its customary comb-over for the entire month he’d been zapped into the god-forsaken past.
Mr. Dungaree then had the bright idea to salvage the garbage bag, with a makeshift umbrella in mind, but he got in a fight with the plastic as it gusted in the wind and suctioned over his face.
Diesel grit coated his lips and stung his eyes.
After a string of futuristic expletives, Mr. Dungaree left the trash bag and the bicycle laying together to die in treachery.
He had two of his own legs, and they still worked—thank you.
The fluffy pink female slippers he wore squished with mud as he hobbled across the street toward the gas station lit up in bright signs. Actually, the slippers were no longer a shade of pink. Nor resembling slippers.
But he wore them because all the undergrounders had weak arches as sensitive as a baby’s butt. That’s what you get for walking up and down smooth, flat ramps your whole life.
He reached the shelter of the gas pump roof and pulled out a handful of brown paper towels from the self-service rack—gently daubed his face, and avoided a few sideways glances with the two paying customers barbarically wasting fossil fuels in their prehistoric machines.
However, they did seem just as equally unimpressed with him. So it was mutual.
Mr. Dungaree’s whole body then decided to convulse as if he were actually buried in snow instead of manageably rain soaked, and thusly he decided it was indeed an emergency, and he would need to risk entry into the establishment for a dry-off.
The fingerprint-smudged glass door opened with a cheery ding-dong!, warm air brushed his cheeks, and Mr. Dungaree slopped across the tiled floor in a rush for the bathroom, hoping the cashier would not notice.
The cashier noticed.
Copyright © 2019 by Valerie Brook. All rights reserved.