a tale in weekly parts
Bernice Reed, a thirty-something African-American woman from Arizona, suddenly appeared in the street of a small Canadian town some two hundred years in her future. Looking down, she saw that she was a naked white man. She was promptly arrested for public indecency and became an involuntary guest of the local police. Initially, she thought it was a dream. Later events, however, convinced her that it was not a dream, but her new reality.
Now known as Bernie, he is befriended by successful author Diane, her husband Jonas and their 'friend' Julian, who introduces him to some pretty amazing technology.
A raucous, high-pitched alarm sounded.
“What’s that?” Jonas asked.
“Timeline anomaly,” Julian said, “Doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s an awful job to sort it out. Listen, I’ve got to go.”
Julian popped out of view.
“Where did he go?” Bernie asked.
“Who?” Diane responded.
“Julian, of course.”
“He left a couple of minutes ago. Don’t you remember shaking hands with him on his way out?”
“Oh yes, now you mention it…”
Diane turned to the box on the table. “Holo-Gen, resume display,” she said, “let’s get back to the box set.”
The series picked up where it had left off a little earlier and the three settled back to enjoy it. Without warning, the display disappeared, and the small black box in the middle of the table became a larger grey device.
“Where’s Bernie?” Diane asked.
“Who?” Jonas responded.
“You just asked me about someone called Bernie.”
“Are you okay, love? I think you’re imagining things.”
The Holo-Gen returned to its familiar form.
“Where’s Bernie?” Diane asked.
“No idea. He was here a second ago.” He shouted out Bernie’s name. No response. “He can’t have just disappeared, surely.”
At that moment, the Holo-Gen emitted a tone and displayed ‘Incoming call’.
“Holo-Gen, who’s calling?” Diane asked.
“Caller ID not recognised, but its identicode is government issued.”
The display showed the top half of a uniformed police officer.
“Sergeant Thomson here, St Catharines Central. I need to speak to Mr Jonas Smythe.”
“I am he, Sergeant.”
“Jonas Smythe, from HTU?”
“Yes. How can I help you?”
“Does the name Bernie Reed mean anything to you, Sir?”
“It does. Why do you ask?”
“We have in custody a man calling himself Bernie Reed, says he’s a friend of yours.”
“In custody? What did he do?”
“He turned up in the middle of Main Street in Port Dalhousie. He was stark naked and looked—”
“No. My officer said that he seemed resigned and a little… shall we say… excited, if you get my drift. Damned if I know what’s going on.”
“Can I see him? I’d like to be sure it’s the right person before I come to collect him.”
Sergeant Thomson redirected the camera. Jonas and Diane were looking straight at Bernie, dressed now in an orange tee-shirt bearing the lettering Ontario Civil Security Department.
“Oh, Bernie,” Diane said, “Orange is so not your colour.”
“Not my choice, Di,” Bernie replied, “can you come get me, and bring my omni-card with you?”
“We’re on our way, Bernie,” Jonas said. “Are you still listening, Sergeant?”
“Sure am,” the officer said, swinging the camera back to his face.
“My wife and I will be with you within the hour. We’ll bring Bernie’s ID and some clothes for him. Are there any charges?”
“No, Sir. No-one apart from my officer saw him, and I secretly think it added something to her otherwise quiet shift.” He cast a glance to his left and smiled. “She’s blushing, which tells me I’m right. We’ll give Mr Reed coffee and biscuits and see you in an hour. I can’t wait to hear your take on how he came to be there, in that state.”
“Is everything still okay?” Julian asked from behind Diane and Jonas.
“Where’ve you been?” Diane asked.
“Meetings. Lots of meetings.”
“In ten minutes?”
“Time can be deceptive? Di.”
“Not only time.”
“What do you mean?”
“In the last ten minutes… Oh, I don’t know. No, everything’s fine. Look, we have to go to St Catharines to pick Bernie up.”
“What’s Bernie doing there?”
“He turned up in the middle of the street, naked.”
“I’ll come with you,” Julian said.