Clockwork 6


Jim Lantern


Author’s Notes for readers just discovering this new series of postings:

  • Clockwork Series (Category for this series of WordPress postings).
  • See the Introduction and postings list of this new series on the Science Fiction Stories Page.
  • This is an alternate history retelling as a reimagined variation of some other stories I’ve already written.
  • This version will be an open-ended series, which will tie in with real world events as they happen when the story timeline catches up to present day, so it will become a mixture of fact and fiction.
  • Some of this series is partly based on some actual but now fictionalized events during my life, of which the main character’s life is partly based on.
  • The main theme is about Earth humans who have the reincarnated souls of aliens who died on Earth during a long ago expedition, and their present day plan to build Earth’s first starship so they can return to the home worlds they came from. During the expedition, they buried time capsules on Earth containing records of the history and locations of their worlds, as well as detailed plans for how to build a starship, now being recovered by them present day. Meantime, the United States Government has created Project Timeglass to study the related history by sending time traveling agents on Clockwork Missions. [I’m otherwise using “Clockwork” instead of “Chapter” for each posting.]
  • Think of this as a variation of subjects covered by The History Channel’s “Ancient Aliens” series, and the “Chariots of the Gods?” book by Erich von Däniken.
  • The main genre is science fiction. Sub-genres include but are not limited to history, politics, religion, romance, space travel, and time travel.

Posted so far…

Clockwork 1Clockwork 2, Clockwork 3, Clockwork 4Clockwork 5

And now…

Clockwork 6

Planet Earth, United States of America, Kansas, Kansas City.

“Mother’s Day” Sunday, 12 May 1963 CE.

We left the house about 9:30am, and got into my father’s Morris Minor station wagon.

It would take about fifteen minutes to get to the church from our house. The car had a full tank of gas. There would be no stops.

It was a warm, sunny morning, with only a few clouds in the light blue sky. A slight breeze out of the southwest.

My father could have driven west, into another community with a small commercial area, then north to our church. Instead, he drove north on the primary country road, out of our rural area, and then west on another primary road. I guessed he wanted to avoid traffic, and take advantage of the faster speed allowed on those roads. Our usual route. In the future, as our community expanded, the land we drove across would become mainly a commercial area, some residential mixed in, industrial further north.

I had already told my mother “Happy Mother’s Day!” and gave her a card at breakfast. I made the card. I liked doing art like that. During the start of the drive to the church, I happened to ask, “Is there a Grandmother’s Day?” I really didn’t get a straight answer to that question.

“My mother and father, your maternal grandparents,” my mother told me, “are meeting us at the church this Mother’s Day. After church, we are going to meet them at a restaurant. Then we might all go to—” some kind of gardens or arboretum I don’t now remember the name of. She added, “That is why I had you take extra asthma and allergy medicine this morning. We will probably spend the afternoon there.”

Right about then, Lucy shouted, “Look, Thomas!”

“What?” I asked, “Where?”

She pointed, and answered, “The haunted house!”

It was an old, abandoned farmhouse. No paint. Falling apart. Windows broken out. Front steps and porch collapsed into a pile of rubble.

“It has been there for a very long time.” my mother remarked, “It was abandoned by the people who lived there, back when I was about your age, Thomas. The farmer died. His widow and children had to move to the city to live with his sister. Or maybe it was the widow’s sister.”

I looked at the old house as we drove past it. Something about it looked familiar. Of course, we had driven past it many times before, and my sister always pointed it out to me. It did not then look familiar because of that. Something else. Right then, I wasn’t sure what. It was built into the side of a hill with a slope of about forty-five degrees. Small windows could be seen at the ground level, which indicated the presence of a basement level. There were two levels above ground, plus a large attic area—which could be considered to be a third level. An attic room had a door that opened out onto a small sundeck. There did not appear to be any life on the property at all. I mean, even the grass and all of the trees were dead.

“How did the farmer die?” I asked my mother. I’d not asked that before.

“I remember the story in the newspaper.” she replied.

“A Sunday, in May, like this Sunday.” my father recalled.

“The farmer’s family was at church when it happened.” my mother recalled.

“Not our church.” my father said to my mother.

“No, Michael.” she replied, “One in the city. But I don’t recall which one. Do you?”

“No, Jean.” my father answered.

“The farmer didn’t go to church?” Lucy asked.

“He did.” my mother answered, “But then there was a church picnic during the afternoon. His wife and children remained at the church, while the farmer returned to their house to get a few more items for the picnic.”

“What was their family name?” I wanted to know.

“Taylor.” my father answered, “The farmer’s parents came to the United States from Germany.”

“When he returned to the house, from the church, to get more items for the picnic, he encountered intruders. A number of strange men. They had broken into his house. They attacked him when he entered his house. He died from his injuries.” my mother reported, “The sheriff’s investigation concluded it to be a burglary. The strange men had not gone there to murder the farmer. It was his bad luck he came home when they were there. His wife reported that they had taken all of her jewelry, including a very unique collection of emeralds.”

“The bad men got away?” Lucy asked.

“The intruders were never identified or caught.” our father answered.

But that was not the end of the story.

“Within a week,” my mother continued, “everything within about one hundred yards—the length of a football field—of the farmhouse died. The trees, plants, grass. Even the family pets, and a few farm animals. It was as if every living thing had been poisoned by something brought onto the property by the intruders. That is one of the reasons why the surviving family moved out. They had become ill, but after leaving the property they soon recovered.”

“Did anyone ever see the farmer’s ghost there, in the old haunted house?” Lucy wanted to know, “Are any of those stories really true?”

“It was during an electrical storm.” my father recalled.

“Some people in the area, just passing by, claimed to see strange lights on the property.” my mother reported.

“I believe it was nothing more than ball lightning.” my father said, “Just light playing tricks on the eyes during a storm. Wild imaginations. Nothing more. No ghost.”

“You should paint a picture of the haunted house, Lucy.” I suggested, “With a ghost peeking out a window.”

“I don’t like to paint.” Lucy replied, “What made you say that?”

“I don’t know.” I answered.

“It might be fun to see inside that old place.” Lucy said.

“You both better stay away from there.” our father warned us. “It’s not safe there.” I don’t know why he bothered to give that warning. It was too far from our house to walk to or to ride a bicycle to.

“No picnic at the haunted house this afternoon?” Lucy joked.

“No.” I replied.

I thought about our own house. We lived in a single level house at that time in my life. However, my father had added a basement level—just a single room—with a fourth bedroom on the ground level above it. I remembered looking at a set of the builder’s drawings, as the construction was being finished in May of 1962—a year before that Sunday. The basement would be our storm shelter. The new bedroom would be my new bedroom, and my former bedroom would become a guest bedroom. The architect, or one of the builders working on it there, gave me a pencil and a sheet of paper. I remember I used it to draw a picture of a tornado threatening the house, with our family inside the shelter.

“What happens to a ghost in a haunted house, if caught in a tornado?” I asked, quite seriously.

“Is that a joke?” Lucy replied.

“No.” I told her.

“Then why don’t we let you out, and you can go back to the haunted house to ask one?” Lucy suggested.

“Enough of that.” our father warned us. “We are almost at the church.”

“Yes.” my mother added, “It’s time to think about more pleasant subjects.”

I was going to ask if ghosts go to church, but then realized it would be best to remain silent, to avoid becoming one. In the rear-view mirror, I noticed my father giving me the look. So I sat in silence, and looked out through a car window at the tall and narrow trees we passed along the road. Something special about those trees . . . almost triggering a memory of . . . another place, long ago.

My father turned off of the country road, and then into the parking lot of the church. A man, standing just past the entry driveway, holding a big shotgun, stopped us.

“Good morning, Perry.” my father said to the man.

“Michael. Jean.” the man greeted my parents. Then he leaned down a bit further and looked through to the back seat of the car. “Howdy, Thomas. Lucy.”

“Perry.” my mother greeted in return for all of us. Her greeting didn’t sound totally friendly – more like tolerating someone she really didn’t care much for.

“My turn to guard the lot.” Perry explained. “If any of those hoodlums from the city come here again, and attempt to vandalize our cars and church property, I’ll be ready!” Perry said as he patted his shotgun, and smiled.

“We’ll pray there is no trouble.” my mother remarked. “Especially on this Mother’s Day. Can’t you keep that gun out of sight?”

My mother did not like guns. My father had a collection of guns, locked away where my mother would not be bothered by seeing them but not hidden from her. She did learn how to shoot, taught by her father who also taught her three sisters when they were teens. He was an astronomer from France, who became an English professor at the University of Chicago for a number of years, then moving to Oklahoma and finally to Kansas. She didn’t like to shoot, but one of her sisters who did like guns also started a ranch in Illinois. I visited there once. My only time on a horse, nearly turned me into an astronaut when the horse happened upon a snake in the grass. My aunt shot the snake.

“If they’re watching, I want them to see we’re armed and very serious about defending our property.” Perry answered, “This one belongs to my mother. She just turned 90 today, and she wanted to stand guard out here with it!”

“Perhaps I should have brought one of my guns.” my father said to Perry.

“I have an extra gun in my truck, if needed.” he replied. Then he pointed and said, “Park over there.”

My father nodded, and drove over to the parking place.

Usually, out on the parking lot, before and after church services, I would overhear the adult members talking about a variety of subjects. They would bring each other up-to-date on the more interesting events in their lives during the past week. Most of the members of our church worked in the oil business, in offices, or out on wells, or a combination of both like my father. Again I wondered if that is why our church was named the Well of the Souls Church. Some of the oilmen also had their offices in Kansas City, most of them being on the Kansas side. Others were located in Topeka, and Wichita. A few had offices in Oklahoma City, and Tulsa.

Roughnecks, in expensive, three-piece suits, with gold tie clips, gold cuff links, and very polished shoes, on Sundays at church services, were still roughnecks. It was their foul language, in those days, which helped me to separate those members in the oil business from those in various other professions. After all, their language was crude.

I recall a few conversations that stood out…

“A hell-of-a-deal…” I heard one old, balding, short, fat man remark to a younger, tall, skinny man. “Paul Durand paid me a hell-of-a pile of cash for nothing! Just scrap iron and dry holes! It doesn’t fracking figure! He’s got a small steal mill.”

“Damn wells keep going dry.” the skinny man replied, “Durand is saving many of us from going completely broke, buying up all of our useless metal goods. I can understand that part of it. He obviously melts it all down and sells it. But . . . like you, I can’t imagine what the hell he wants with our dry holes. Maybe we’re the idiots.”

“I swear there is a pattern to his purchases of dry holes! Damn! I wish I could figure it out! It is as if he is looking for something. What in hell could he be looking for? Buried treasure?” the fat man asked.

“Damned if I know.” the skinny man replied. “But it must be very important to him, or others he’s doing business with. I wonder who. I did hear part of a conversation, him talking to some government men and an archaeologist about it. Made no sense to me. At least Durand is not being a son-of-a-bitch about it. I got some usable dollars from him for all of my scrap metal. He could have got it all for much less.”

“Maybe that bastard should be paying better than he is now, and is just making us think we’re getting a good deal.” the fat man wondered.

I didn’t like hearing that kind of language. Those foul words. My father never talked that way. Not exactly that way, anyway. Following my father’s example, I never talked that way . . . unless I happened to drop something heavy on one of my toes or hit a thumb with a hammer by mistake . . . but then, no one would usually hear what I would say when I’d have one of those kinds of accidents. No one I could see, anyway.

At that time, oil businesses in Kansas were in fast decline, and it was getting rough for small operators. However, some of our wells, at least seven belonging to the Harrow-Wells Oil Company, were still pumping out a high volume of oil. Members of the Kansas Independent Oil and Gas Association were looking to my father for guidance, as if he had some kind of special technique for making our wells produce more oil.

“Eventually, everything turns to shit.” I overheard a man with red hair tell my father before church one Sunday morning.

“Livingston.” my father greeted him in reply.

“What are we going to do about the salt water problem?” the clownish looking man asked my father.

“We must develop new techniques.” my father replied.

“Sure, Michael.” The red-haired man said, “New methods are costly, and unproven. They could cause more pollution.”

“Fresh water pollution is a major concern.” my father told the man, “But there are other concerns to deal with, too. The material shortages. Allocations. There’s also the fracking issue, danger of causing small earthquakes in the area. And you know we’re getting into a political war, mainly with the Democrats.”

“Yes.” The man replied, “Those bastards will tax us to death.”

I would also overhear other adults in conversations along much more personal lines. My vocabulary was about average for my age then . . . but I knew enough to understand that what we children were being taught to be sins, a few adults were doing without much restraint, daily or nightly, Mondays through Saturdays. They only appeared to be sin-free on Sundays, by the way most of them dressed. Their words revealed their true natures. I often heard the excuse, “We are only human.” So it would seem, some were more human than others. Those who claimed to hold particular beliefs and a certain way of living, then did just exactly the opposite in the way they actually lived. More contradictions and hypocrisy in the reality of that time and place. However, our family practiced what was preached in that church . . . as much as we agreed with, anyway.

My mother and father went to the main building, an A-frame design, where the “adult” version of the truth would be presented. My sister and I went to a separate building for Sunday school, where the “young people” version of the truth would be taught to us. I believed there should only be one version of the complete truth preached to the people of all ages, in the same place and at the same time. I felt older than my known years. I hated age discrimination. However, I did realize the exception should be babies and children too young to be able to sit quietly while the pastor is preaching and teaching. Somehow I really did feel older than age 7 that Sunday . . . not in body, but in spirit . . . and as if I were reaching a higher level of consciousness, which could have been caused by the asthma medicine, or something else.

Before going to the separate Sunday school classrooms for different ages, all of the “young people” would together go to the large basement room in that building. There we would sing a number of religious songs together. At that time in this life I did not like singing. I liked listening to other people sing, but I did not like to sing. Especially religious songs. I did not like the music, and I did not totally agree with all of the words. However, as I thought about Christ Jesus that Sunday morning, and was looking at the titles of all the songs in the songbook, I realized there is one kind of religious music that I did like, and even enjoyed singing. It was most of the Christmas music and songs, and I truly desired to experience the good feelings that music gave me. I especially liked the one with the words, “Do you hear what I hear?” Later on, that Sunday morning, my soul would hear and see more than any of the other members of that church.

I recall there was another reason for going down into the basement of that building. On our way to be seated, we would pass by a scale model of our church, as it would eventually become. They had not yet constructed a third building, for linking the main A-frame building to the Sunday school classrooms building. Construction was scheduled for the following year. I don’t recall what they planned to use the third building for. On the roof of the scale model, on top of the new third building, there was a slot for us to put our money in. I knew the money was for the construction of the new building. However, one of the Sunday school teachers liked giving us a childish explanation for the purpose of the money being put in there, as if we were unable to comprehend the adult truth. She referred to money in the model church as being our “hereafter allowance.” To me she once said, “The money goes to heaven to pay for all of the palaces of gold we will live in after we pass on, if good little boys and girls put all of their spare coins in this little church every Sunday.” I recall she liked to talk about “streets of gold” in heaven, too. Maybe she actually believed it.

“You mean, the two quarters I just put in there now are in heaven?” I asked that Sunday school teacher.

“Yes.” Miss Croats answered.

“Open it. Show me they are not still there.” I challenged.

“If I do, then that means you have no faith. And little boys with no faith will find nothing in their account, if and when they get to heaven.” she warned me.

I squinted my eyes at her, and walked on over to where I was to be seated. Even at that age, I began to wonder if everything is about money. I concluded that money belongs to the physical world, and has nothing to do with the spiritual world. God does not need money and has no need for our money, I thought to myself.

After a grueling, full half hour of singing, we all went up to our separate classrooms. We had to march in a single file, “Like good Christian soldiers,” one teacher told us.

Christian soldiers. They did not know Lucifer lost the great war against the Realm of Heaven. Even if they did, they would have suppressed the truth. They still needed an enemy. There still had to be a source of willful evil and sin. The followers of the Christian faith had to blame someone for their ongoing problems. So Lucifer became the so-called devil, and Satan became the so-called devil, and the Prince of Darkness and Deception became the so-called devil . . . the three became one. Yes, the evil trinity became the single devil in the darkness of ignorance and the flames of hell on Earth. Onward Christian soldiers…

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