I was watching the TV show Cash Cab and a thought came to me that I could write about a taxi cab that takes passengers through time. After all, with Uber eating their lunch, cab companies have to come up with a new angle.
Now that I’ve fired up this blog, I’m thinking I can use it to gauge reaction to some of the stories I’m writing.
So please give the excerpt below either a WOO HOO! or a BOO HOO.
I’ll collect the short stories and publish them in a collection which, I’ll also name Dark Matters.
The following is the start of Time Taxi. Not sure where it goes from here but I’d be happy to hear your comments good or bad about the premise and maybe some ideas where to take it.
If you think it’s worthy, I’ll put it in the collection. And if you’re so disposed, I’ll definitely give credit to anyone who adds a wrinkle when I get to the final version.
Here’s my story so far:
By John Matsui
George looks at his watch.
“Shit. 10:20. If I miss the 10:45 train, there’s not another until 12:30 – way too late.”
The lanky 22-year-old runs to the street and waves at a beautifully restored ‘60s vehicle – a Mercury Monterey. It doesn’t look like a cab but it has a light on top that says: Time Taxi.
The cab rolls up. George jumps in.
George looks at the weirdly accented driver of an unidentifiable mixed race and gives an internal shrug over the misuse of English.
“Union station, when?”
“Uh, as soon as possible. Actually, it’s touch and go whether I’ll make it. Get there in 20 minutes and there’s an extra 50 in it for you.”
The driver leans into the dashboard pushes a few buttons on a console. George is impatient.
“Got to go. Got to be there in 20 minutes.”
“Be there in 20 seconds soon as I put in the details.”
Twenty seconds? Details? Weird, George thinks.
A slight humming grew louder. George felt the cab getting warm, really warm, followed by a light vibration, a slight burning smell. He had the sudden notion that the car was experiencing a breakdown. He had to get out, get into another cab.
“Hey, your car . . .”
The words stopped short when everything outside went black – not like night in the city but absolutely black like on a moonless night in the country. A slight glow in the car allowed him to see the driver.
“Holy shit what’s . . .”
Again George’s sentence cut abruptly, this time when daylight streamed into the cab.
“Wha . . . What happened?”
He stared at the smiling driver who twisted to look at him.
“That’ll be 7.50 plus the 50 bonus.”
George wondered what kind of scam the driver was pulling off. No way was he paying the guy anything let alone a bonus.
“Here we are, Union Station,” the driver says. He dipped his head to his watch. “And as promised in 20 seconds.”
George was about to scream when he glanced about.
The cab was indeed in the taxi lineup in front of Union Station.
“But how . . . ?”
“Like the sign on the cab says, Time Taxi. We’re new. Actually, we’re not new at least not yet.”
“What do you mean by that? Not yet?”
“Time Taxi won’t start up for another 20 years. You founded the company in 2035.”
“Okay, I get it. I’m being pranked. Who’s behind it? Chris, Anwar, Corrine?”
“No prank, just a hand to help you make your meeting. The guy you meet will be known as the Tesla of 2015 two decades from now.”
“How do you know about my meeting?”
“Like I said, you told me. Now about the fare. You owe me 57.50.”
George rummages through his wallet, grabs three $20 bills and hands them to the driver.
“Uh – Canadian dollars?”
“I don’t accept Canadian dollars.”
“This is Toronto. What do expect American greenbacks?”
“You owe me 57.50 BS.”
“BS as in bullshit?”
“No BS – Bitcoin Standard.”
“That’s the only currency I accept, only currency anybody accepts in my time.”
“How am I supposed to get Bitcoins?”
“There’s a Bitcoin machine in Union Station but you may not have enough for the transaction.”
“What do you mean?”
“By my calculations for the ride you’ll need just shy of $25k Canadian for the fare.”
“$25k to go 16 blocks?”
“And time shift a half hour,” the cabbie says.
“Are you crazy?”
“You know what they say.”
“No, what do they say?”
“Time is money.”
“I don’t have $25k. I just graduated. I don’t have $5k,” George says, exasperated.
“Don’t worry, just jerkin’ you around. I know you’re good for it 30 years from now. I’ll catch you then. I know you’ll remember. After all, you sent me.”
“I sent you? I don’t know you.”
“Hermes Fellowes at your service. You indeed did send me. At least your older self did. You trust me with all your mission critical stuff.”
“Because I’m your executive vice-president and your son-in-law.”
“Son-in-law? I don’t have a daughter. I’m not married. Hell, I haven’t had a girlfriend since high school.”
“All in due time.”
“But how is all of this happening?”
“Like I said, we met because your older self sent me.”
“Why would I do that?”
“So you don’t blow off Lazlo.”
“Lazlo? You mean Herman Lazlo, the guy with the wind turbine I’m supposed to meet in London?”
“Yep, Lazlo. We known him as the Tesla of the 21st Century.”
“What does a better wind turbine have to do with time travel? “
“What are you talking about?”
“Lazlo’s wind turbine generates tons of energy but no electricity. All that energy goes elsewhere.”
“What good is that?”
“Very good for your future. It warps time.”
“I’ll explain later.”
“Later? There is no later. I’ve got to get on the train if I’m to meet Mr. Lazlo.”
“I’ll take you.”
“And how much will that cost me?”
“A couple million in Canadian dollars. But that’s okay because . . .”
“Because I’m good for it in 30 or so years?”
“Wait a minute. If we leave now, and we plan to arrive in two hours – same time as the train, we won’t be time shifting, just travelling. Why a couple million?”
“Ah, the astute businessman in you shows up.”
“It’s a matter of time and distance. The distance part costs less but the only way we can do it in this contraption is by opening a time space vortex. In real mileage terms, this baby has less than 1,000 km and probably will die at 2,000 km.”
“And that costs money.”
“Why can’t I just take a regular cab for a few hundred dollars.”
“You could but I don’t take cabs and you need me and Freddy.”
“Your business partner.”
“And where do we find Freddy?”
“Oh, he’ll find us.”
“How’s that going to happen?”
Rap rap rap.
George peers through the window at a panhandler. He’s got Rasta hair, dirty clothes, and dirty face. He holds a cardboard sign to the window.
‘Please help. Haven’t eaten in 2 days.’
“Drive away,” I say.
“And leave Freddy?”
“You don’t notice the family resemblance?”
“Freddy’s my dad.”
“At least he will be after he meets my mom and they marry – about seven years from now.”
Rap rap rap.
“So let him in.”
I roll down the window. Freddy’s perfume of week-long sweat, grease, rotted garbage, and urine, wafts into the cab.”
“Got some change man?”
“Get in Freddy,” says Hermes.
“How you know my name?”
“Just get in Freddy,” the cabbie repeats.
“Man, like I ain’t that kind of guy. Not into any weird three-way with guys.”
“Freddy, we don’t want your body. Just need you to come with us,” Hermes adds.
“No kinky shit. I just need to buy a happy deal. Five bucks’ll do it.”
“We’ll give you $5 and buy you a happy deal if you come with us.”
“No kinky shit?”
“No kinky shit,” the driver assures.
Hermes presses a button and the passenger door opens for Freddy.
“Don’t you want your dad sitting next to you?” George asks.
“No, you two have to get acquainted. That’s the way it is.”
“He stinks. I may vomit,” George says, putting a hand over his nose.
“I’m right here,” says Freddy. “You’re the one wanted me to get in. Now you insult me.”
“Hey when do I get my happy deal?”
“When we get to London,” George says.
“London? That’s seven hours in the air plus a couple hours lining up. My passport may have expired,” Freddy says.
“Your passport expired?” George rolls his eyes.
“In my day, I was quite the citoyen du monde.”
“Not London, England,” George says.
“London, Connecticut? With traffic that’s even longer, nine hours if we’re lucky. Again my passport’s out-of-date. ”
“London, Ontario – just a couple hours down the 401,” George says.
“Or by Time Taxi, 20 seconds,” says Hermes. “Like Einstein said, time and space don’t exist separately from matter.”
“Trés profound,” says Freddy. “I can wait 20 seconds for my happy deal.”
“Glad to hear it,” George says.
“Say, if you can get to London England in 20 seconds, I’d prefer that,” Freddy says. “I’m willing to swop my happy deal for a ploughman’s lunch and a Guinness.”
“You’re a wonder flexibility,” George says. “Now let’s go see Mr. Lazlo.”
Hermes nods and hits a couple buttons on the console.
The car vibrates. The outside goes dark.
“Hey man, I told you no kinky shit,” says Freddy.
“Don’t worry pop. Things’ll be back in 20 secs your time, 2.47 hours real time.”
The outside reappears. The cab is in the drive-through of a McRonald’s Restaurant.
“Give me my five bucks. I want my happy deal.”
“Pops, we’re in the drive-through,” says Hermes.
“I gotta pee.”
“I’ll pee my pants.”
“Won’t be the first time today,” George says.
“Okay, it’s your seats.”
“You pee. No happy deal.”
“That wasn’t part of our arrangement.”
“It is now. Take it or leave it.”
“Guess I’ll take it.”
“George, want anything?”
“No thanks, not hungry,” says George. Freddy’s stench may have put him off food for
Hermes pulls next the golden ‘R’ and leans into the speaker.
“Happy deal – chicken chunks, fries, diet cola, extra ketchup and napkins. What’s the toy?”
“A princess or a wizard,” the box squawks.
“I want the wizard,” Freddy says from the back.
“Give us the wizard.”
“That’s $4.79. Go to the next window.”
“How did you know he wanted the chicken chunks,” George says.
“What he always orders. You got $5?”
“Now I’m supposed to pay?”
“I’ll deduct it from the $2.379 million.”
George pulls a $5 bill from his wallet, hands it to Hermes.
Hermes leans into window #1 and hands the $5 bill to the clerk.
The clerk gives 20-cents change. Hermes holds the 20-cents in his palm behind his back. Freddy grabs it.
“It was my $5,” Freddy says.
“Now on to Mr. Lazlo?”
The cab pulls up to an east end industrial mall. There’s a hand painted sign on one storefront that says Turbine Time.
George hits the buzzer. No answer. He hits the buzzer again. A clanking noise erupts inside followed by an accented voice. Coming, I’m coming.
A hedgehog of a guy appears, short and squarish, goatee, military brushcut, thick glasses, white lab coat. He wipes black, greasy hands on his lab coat leaving zebra stripes from knee to hip.
He extends an oily grey paw to George.
“Mr. Wells? I am Lazlo, Hans Lazlo.”
“Yes. I recognize you Mr. Lazlo from your photo.”
“Please just call me Lazlo.”
“And this is Freddy and my cab driver.”
Freddy nods, his cheeks too packed with chicken chunks to speak.
Hermes jumps in. “You know why we’re here?”
“Yes but I’m afraid you’ve come for no reason. Something’s not right. My turbine has an energy leak.”
“Perfect,” says Hermes.
“We know about the energy leak. Like a lot of technology companies, we intend to market the glitch as a value-added feature. We’ll make a fortune,” Hermes adds.
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