Forty two days in a row I marked clockwork on my calendar; leaders helped me occupy my time. The city was still new to me; beautiful strangers here and there. Today was a day for a stroll. The fall wind fell like an energy coming in cool waves with leaves spiraling around on the sidewalks. Where was I headed that morning? To a curiosity fulfillment playground – Chinatown. Not just to try out the food, be it wonderful in its every dish – I came to see the magical Asian electronics and thrift items store. Renown on the street for paranormal radios, occultic literature, spices, and small oddity items, I wanted to pay the store my first visit on a day off.
I found the door to the store. The store was known to be operated by Mr. Wung. It was around a corner and clandestine within its shadows. As I walked through the doorway, I stood at a counter. An old Chinese man gazed upon me – he already had the answers. I knew so. “How am I here?” I asked him, “I just walked through the front door; we are twenty yards from there.” “Ah,” said the old man with a 4-inch-long, white goatee, “I see Gadget 1 works just fine.” “Gadget 1?” I inquired. “Yes,” he said, “It is the Anywhere Door.” “Sounds neat – it was fun,” I said, “What else do you have? Word on the street says I can trade a single gold coin for something from you I will like.” “Let me see the coin, and I will tell you of gadgets 2 and 3,” he said wisely. “These guys always know more than me,” I thought, showing him the coin, “At least someone knows something.” “Gadget 2 is a Time Machine, and Gadget 3 is the Magical Disappearing Helmet – no one can see you while you have it on,” said Mr. Wung.
“Tough decision,” I accidentally said aloud, “An adventurous fellow, I am interested in all three.” “You only have one coin,” said Mr. Wung. I kept his good point in mind. “I think I will go with the Time Machine,” I said. Being invisible could only tempt me to get into trouble, and I already had a free-be with Gadget 1. “Ah the mysterious Gadget 2,” said Mr. Wung. “You may want to know a few things about this item before I sell it to you.” “I am all ears,” I said, “What do I want to know?” “Well,” he said, “It only travels backwards; once you go back, that is all.” “Really?” I asked. I thought about it. As long as I could do some writing, I would not care too much about this rule.
“What else?” I inquired, knowing I may back out of the idea. “The device comes from an Asian witch doctor – you can see the symbols,” he said. He placed a small item on the counter that highly resembled a silver and gold music box with ruby squares and Chinese characters on its thin central rotating fan-wheel. “What is the second rule?” I asked. “When you do go back,” said Mr. Wung, “It brings you to China. You cannot use it to travel to NY in the future – you can use it to enter into a piece of China’s past.” “Wow,” I said. I made sure not to think too much. “I will take it,” I said, and gave him my coin. I made the coin previously, stamping it while it was molten with the insignia of a diving falcon. He looked at the coin in awe, shook it, and even bit it. “Interesting coin,” he said.
“The coin holds its value,” I said. “How far back do you want to go?” he asked. “I want to help fight in a war. I want to do this by hand,” I said. I figured it would be fun, and the worst occurrence, other than death, would be a trip out of his store with no actual unexplainable phenomena. “How about 5000 years ago, on the East side of the Yellow River in China? Do you think you can handle it?” he asked. “How will I know whose side I am on?” I asked. “The people in your camp are there making soup – they are on your side,” he said, “The boats coming across the river are navigated by your enemy. Kill as many as possible.” “Got it,” I said.
Mr. Wung gave the small box a roaring whir as he wound it over and over. The machine glowed yellow and red among the shadows of his store. I knew my days were numbered. I vanished from Mr. Wung’s presence, found myself in front of a fire below a kettle boiling with water and soup ingredients. This meant war. The sun was setting; I saw a dozen “camp-mates” or so. I shrugged my shoulders to one, I wondered where the enemy could be. The wise man pointed to a tent. I took that to mean that it was time to turn in. My life had certainly changed.
I went to the tent, laid down, and fell right out. I awoke early in the morning. The sun was rising from behind the tent. The kettle’s soup was still warm from its embers below. I helped myself to the meat and vegetable soup for breakfast, by permission of the Chinese men. We did not talk much; the camp was an indirect vantage point above the river and on the side of a hill. I could see paths. If any enemy were to come over the river by boat, the Chinese campers and I would surely at least have our chances…
I ate a whole bowl of soup in no-time. A man near me motioned to it to pointing out that I could have another; I did. I finished my bowl and was full. I did some stretching while keeping my eyes on the river. The Chinese guys were watching it like hawks; I figured I should, too. Not too long after my food had begun to settle, I saw boats.
The wooden boats carried about four men a-piece; the voyagers were covered with thick Manila sheets. In their entirety, the vessels were not two feet above the water. “That is the enemy, right there,” I said, and the other Chinese men nodded. We saw them first – that was my deduction. Only three boats were floating across the river. Each boat was propelled by a swimming man.
The boats made it to the shoreline, and we attacked the enemy. They had fighting staffs with spears; we did not. Brutal throws and kicks were delivered and blocked. Not knowing their style, I resorted to harming them physically with my blocking. A man on my side snapped an enemy’s neck; I did, too. I acquired a fighting spear, and one adversary beat me to the ground. Having won, I thought he was going to do me in. Someone on my side took him out, though, and I and the Chinese campers ended up winning the battle.
Days went by and we lived off of the land. Attackers came from time to time, and we fought them off or won. Eventually, I lost a fight and died. My spirit was released to fly all over China. Her beautiful mountains, sunrises and geographical attributes never ceased to amaze me. I was glad I chose Gadget 2.