Thirty-two years from today, a beautiful, young artist will take a job at the MacLean Toy Company. She will start paying off her student loan; she will fall in love, and she will begin to travel through time.
When the employees of a toy company uncover a dusty and oddly wired mechanical monkey that enables them to travel though time, one of their team witnesses a terrible truth and spirals into madness. His companions are compelled to track him through an increasingly dangerous space-time continuum where their efforts are sabotaged by a mysterious stranger from the distant region of Zero Time.
They can travel through time, but time itself is running out . . . .
we unravel layers
of time-yellowed packing tape
that entomb a cardboard box.
Dust and grime smear our palms,
leaving smudges on clothing.
How long has this thing
lain hidden on the shelf?
The decades tear away
until we crack the paper sarcophagus
and unleash the Toy.
An artifact from the past,
it will open a path to the future.
But to us –
it is only a foot-high monkey,
a curiosity of bright plastic
and smiling countenance.
We do not yet know
of the awakening horror –
of friends lost and dead,
and the secrets of time unveiled.
Kenneth D. Reimer
Zero Time Sample Text
I have provided the following excerpt from the novel as a taster for anyone who is interested in a story or time travel. I hope you enjoy it. If you’re interested, the novel is available for purchase – either in paperback or Kindle – from Amazon. Use can use either of the following links: Amazon.com or Amazon.ca.
There’d been nothing during the early hours of that morning which in any way forewarned the direction Jana’s life was about to take. Everything had smacked of normality. She had awoken to the message on her alarm clock. She’d eaten an unhealthy breakfast, dressed and then set off for work, all in a somnolent trance that left her wondering how she’d made it to the Toy Company without having any recollection of driving there.
Her colleagues had arrived before her and, as was their wont, gathered over steaming mugs of hot and bitter coffee. Jana found them behind the front office in the long and narrow conference room with its back windows looking out into the company warehouse. She paused in the doorway and regarded her fellow “researchers.” Jana grinned at Spencer’s label for his employees, yet she had to admit that in some ways they had grown to meet his expectations.
The team had been together for months, long enough to grow comfortable with each other and to fall into a bit of a routine. Each morning began with a short report by Spencer during which they would view a holopoint summary of their ideas. It was then followed by a session of brainstorming for new and unique concepts. The team had already developed several prototypes for toys that would be going into production soon.
On that morning, Spencer was engaged in negotiations with one of their suppliers and was late for the briefing. The members of the research team waited dutifully for his arrival, but after half an hour Brandon got restless and wandered off to go rummaging through the back shelves of the warehouse.
The Toy Company was not a large building, but it was large enough to have its own semi-secretive crannies where Duncan MacLean had stored away a myriad of items. After Duncan died, little of the stock had been cleared out, and it was apparent that whoever had been in charge of the cleanup had not been motivated to complete the task.
Before getting down to the job for which they’d been hired, the team had removed a fair bit of junk from the warehouse. A cot that they found and dragged out to the back alley caused Spencer to grow misty-eyed. Dust-covered and mouldy, it had been where his father slept when the Company was struggling financially. In the time that followed, Brandon and Spencer had spent hours poking through the labyrinth of crowded shelves—both for different reasons. Brandon was simply curious, but Spencer was searching for clues that would help him better understand the father he never knew, the man who had died only a short while before his birth. Spencer was not entirely cognizant of its importance, but this quest was a guiding principle of his life. Jana, who had an interest in studying Spencer’s behaviour, understood this aspect of his personality better than he did.
While Brandon searched through the cobwebbed memories of the warehouse, Jana, Todd, and Colby remained in the conference room. Colby sat semi-reclined in an office chair, manipulating the various aspects of an interactive product schematic. His feet were propped up on the conference room table. Across the table from Colby, Jana had an electronic tablet propped on her knees and sketched the design for a new idea that she hoped Spencer would love.
Todd, normally the most focused of the group, spent the time attempting to balance a sharpened pencil on its tip. Earlier that morning, he had discovered it under a shelf in the warehouse, and he seemed fascinated by the anachronism. He leaned forward in a chair with his eyes on the same level as the tabletop, and every time the pencil fell and rolled on the table, he jerked back as if in surprise. As weird as he was, Jana had grown fond of Todd. On that particular morning, however, her tolerance with his eccentric behaviour was just reaching its breaking point when Colby looked up from his work and snapped, “Would you just let it sleep?”
Todd blinked, then Jana saw his eyes flick right to deactivate his SpecTacles, and she realized that he had been using its sensors to track some aspect of the pencil’s movement. “This is an artifact from another era, Colby,” he said.
“It’s a freakin’ pencil.”
“Apparently, it’s also something that challenges limited imaginations.”
“Hey, Todd. Screw you.”
Jana flared, “Jesus, Colby.”
Nonplussed, Todd calmly removed his glasses and began cleaning them. Finally, he responded, “Once again, I am diminished by your superior intellect and rapier-sharp wit.”
Colby pointed a finger, “Oh, I’ll give you rapier-sharp wit.” When Todd regarded him with a raised eyebrow, Colby conceded, “Okay, that didn’t make sense, but still, Todd, screw you.”
Jana sighed and asked Colby, “Aren’t you getting a little old for that façade?”
“I don’t get you.”
Todd interjected, “Façade…it means having a false front, reminiscent of a mask.”
Colby leaned toward him, resting his arms on the table, “There will be so much suffering, Todd. So much pain.”
Todd chuckled quietly.
“No, really, Colby. That whole West Coast Neo-Turley, baked-brain persona. Do the girls actually shine at that?”
He shrugged, “I get some light,” then followed with, “So what approach did Spencer use?”
In imitation of Colby, Jana leaned forward, arms upon the table, and said, “So much suffering, Colby. So much pain.” She heard Todd snicker.
“Seriously,” Colby said, “you’re wasting your time with that guy,” and he tapped his chest mouthing the words: Pick me.
At that moment, two things occurred simultaneously; Jana retorted with a silently mouthed: Never happen, just as Todd whistled and flipped his hand in the air—as if throwing an imaginary penalty flag.
Seeing the gesture, Colby laughed, “Did you really just use a sports reference?”
It was then that Brandon returned to the conference room.
He was grey with dust, and a dark mark spread across his forehead, as though he’d wiped away sweat with a dirty hand. An unusual expression of satisfaction lit his features. Within his arms, he carried a box of thick cardboard wrapped round and round with duct tape.
“Anyone got a knife?”
“What’ve you got?” asked Spencer, who was just then entering the conference room. He stopped by Brandon, and Jana had to grin at how much the two men looked like brothers.
Brandon shrugged, “I don’t know, but it’s done up like Ilium.” He placed the package upon the conference table then set to work stripping off the layers of tape. After several moments, he folded back the lids and looked inside. He glanced up at Spencer, the expression on his face quizzical. “It’s a toy.”
Colby set the schematic down on the table and commented sardonically, “A toy? That’s unexpected.”
“It’s got some weird….” Brandon carefully withdrew it from the box, setting it on the table before them. Everyone gathered around.
Spencer pulled up a chair, sticking his face close to the toy’s smiling countenance. His heart was pounding. When he’d first seen Brandon carrying the box, his imagination had been stirred by the possibilities of what might be inside. It was the same reaction Spencer had whenever he found something in the warehouse. In every nook and cranny of the building, he came face to face with the memory of his father. In effect, the Toy Company was an elaborate memorial—a brick and mortar mausoleum where artifacts, once so carefully positioned, now lay strewn about, as if ravaged by grave robbers. Spencer wondered what other treasures had been lost over the ages. The object that Brandon drew from the box mocked him with its frozen expression.
“Well,” Spencer said, “it’s a monkey.”
“I think it’s an ape.”
“I think it’s a MacLean.” Jana smiled at Spencer. “There’s a distinct family resemblance.”
He smirked in return, “I think it’s the new token female on my research team.” Jana feigned an expression of shock.
“What’s all this?” Todd reached across the table to poke at a strange mechanism that resembled an unearthly hybrid between entomology and technology. In an indescribable way, the light surrounding the object seemed somehow wrong, wavering like heat waves on a highway. The mechanism was connected to the exposed circuitry of the toy by a twisted configuration of wires.
The monkey continued to smile at them, making no comment—offering no answers.
“Someone’s been making their own modifications,” Spencer said. Studying the mechanism, he half suspected that it would begin pulsating as he watched. It made his skin crawl. “I’ve never seen anything like this before.” He looked up to Brandon. “What do you make of it?”
Brandon examined it thoroughly before speaking. “No idea. It’s…. Look at the dust on this box. Obviously, it was put together a long time ago, but it seems…,” he stopped, at a loss for words. Jana considered herself a Luddite, but she knew enough to follow Brandon’s train of thought; whatever they were looking at, it didn’t appear to be consistent with any of the technology that would have existed when Spencer’s father ran the shop. As far as she knew, nothing like it existed at all.
Yet there it was before them.
The entire research team hovered closely over the toy. Seeing the switch on the monkey’s back, Jana nudged Spencer. “Turn it on.” He looked over at her, frowning, hesitating, and she realized that his mood had turned: he was experiencing an aversion to their discovery. The playfulness that he displayed a moment before had dropped from him like a worn-out cloak. Jana might have found amusement in his discomfort if she hadn’t suddenly realized that she herself was a little bit afraid. “It’s your company,” she said, nudging him again.
“All right, fine,” he grumbled, “but stand back.”
They all did so, feeling at once apprehensive and foolish. Colby ducked down behind an office chair and peered mischievously over the back cushion. No one laughed at his antics. Spencer reached around the back of the toy to locate the switch. After a moment’s consideration, he flicked it down.
A ripple of nervous laughter circled the room. Todd ventured to guess that the battery was dead.
Spencer removed it and gave it a cursory examination. “It looks pretty ancient, definitely not nano, but the connections look the same.” He shrugged, “I’ll try a new battery.” A moment later, he was inserting a fresh one into the toy’s back, and, surprisingly, it fit. Still nothing happened. He twisted the toy around several times, examining the electrical connections. The configuration seemed haphazard and alien, but as far as he could tell, everything was in place. It was possible, however, that the toy simply couldn’t operate on the modern battery.
Finally Jana noticed the obvious. “Hold on, Spencer. Look at the switch. You turned it off.”
Spencer leaned in close to see and frowned, “Well, that’s a plex. That means whoever used it last must have left it on. Why would someone do that?” He re-examined the wiring, shaking his head, “What the hell was this thing for?”
“I have a better question,” Todd said. “Why did they use a toy? I mean, I don’t even recognize this technology. Why would something so advanced be hooked up to a toy monkey?”
Brandon shrugged, “Could be they had no other option.”
Colby nodded thoughtfully, “Could be they really liked monkeys.” At the disdainful reaction of his colleagues, he spread his hands and said, “Okay, listen. We can all stand here speculating, or we can turn it on and find out.”
“I suppose you’re right.” Spencer slipped his finger over the switch and paused dramatically. “Brace yourselves,” he warned, then he flicked it on.