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Bending time...


Barron von Hammer

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My neighbor moved away the other day. I was saddened by this, but not for reasons one might associate with such a departure.

My neighbor is but a simple man, an ex-marine whose outlook on life is shrouded within the tight confines of Lynryd Sknyrd songs, soft-porn skin flicks and a prodigious quantity of beer consumed by him and his comrades as they stand in waist-high water in his out-door, above ground pool. Humming softly the long forgotten anthems of self described southern troubadours, I saw him glance over the fence separating not only our property lines but differing worldviews as well. After a few seconds of careful introspection he asked what my wife and I were looking at. "A frog." He stared at us warily, in the same way one does when told that your neighbors may or may not have buried someone in the back yard. Normally watching a frog would not illicit such a response, but this is only a step in what I call "bringing my neighbor to the brink of insanity." No, this descent into madness began several months earlier with the following innocuous statement he uttered one lazy evening.

"Hey man, what's that sound you're playing?" My ex-marine neighbor asked me, taking the time to actually engage me in conversation, an activity usually punctuated by his long stares at my wife as she bends over and attends to her garden. He was drawn to the sounds of music coming from within the open window to my living room. I looked up from my chair on my porch, slightly disturbed at the interruption into which was up till that point a very entertaining reading regarding the life of Zinovy Rozhestvensky. It was at this moment that I consciously decided to alleviate this man of the constraints of rational behavior. "Sound distortion generators," I replied casually. You see, I was playing a drone cd (for those not familiar with this genre, it is a series of ethereal repetitive drones that loop for long periods of time).

"Sound distortion generators? What the hell is that?" I looked up as he stared at me, slid my sunglasses down my nose to add gravity to the situation and slowly made my way over to the fence where his upper torso leaned over the top of the fence. In a subdued voice I told him that I was running a series of sound distortion generators in an effort to slow time. His eyes widened upon the completion of my explanation as he stared at me and then at his buddies who were all waist high in his pool, the water only a few degrees cooler than the hot ambient temperature that the month of July provided, testament to the sweat rolling off their distended bellies into the water below. He muffled a quick summary to his comrades concerning my startling revelation and they all crossed over to the side of the pool closest to the fence, threatening to capsize their redneck paradise.

"What do you mean you are trying to bend time?" he asked incredulously. I replied with a quick summary into what could have easily been key components within any pseudo-scientific explanation. "Well we know what speed that sound travels at, right?" They all nodded. "And we know that the greater the distance, the longer it takes for sound to reach us. Therefore, if I can distort sound, and thereby slow the approach of the sound waves in question I then can distort the time continuum that regulates as to how fast the sound reaches me." Well, how can you slow speed down through sound?" one of his comrades in the back asked (evidently one of them had a education surpassing that of the eighth grade). "Well for starters, we know that sound travels faster in water than in air right?" They all nodded again. "Therefore, if I can change the way that sound is introduced I can therefore subjugate the speed that it reaches me in, thereby changing the amount of time it reaches me. And if I can do this, I then change how time is measured within the space of my generators as opposed to how it is measured by those who cannot hear my generators." They all stood quietly within the confines of their beer laden aquatic paradise, each trying to decipher what I said in the summer haze. Pausing for added effect I then replied, "In other words, I am attempting to slow time."

At that very moment my wife's best friend walked into the backyard to talk to my wife. As Anya and Valeria talked in their native tongue, the group opposite me stared at what surely gave credence to my recent exhortations, two individuals chattering in Russian pointing this way and that only increased the mystery of it all; cold war images of shadowy Soviet scientists suddenly adding deadly seriousness to the situation. I walked back to the porch, audibly aware of the muffled conversations that discussed my earth shattering revelation.

The next morning I was again outside on my porch reading. And once again my neighbor and his comrades were enjoying life to the fullest, at least that which 900 gallons of warm water, cheap beer, and the ballads of Foghat could provide. Hearing more weird music emanating from within the confines of my living room, my neighbor again beckoned me over. This time though I waited several seconds to answer, whipping my head around as if he just asked a question. I did this repeatedly until the group of them noticed that there was an inherent two-second delay between question and answer, all the while I acted as if I was oblivious to this fact. They were stunned, "!@#$, he has done it!" Immediately, my highly susceptible neighbor called out in a voice of panic, "Dude, do you know you are a couple of seconds off in your responses to our questions?" Waiting a few seconds I looked up and asked, "I am?" Panic ensued as the group of them rushed the fence, a sea of worried, apprehensive faces peered over the fence at me. "Hey Allan, this is getting weird man, you need to shut those generators off." Again I waited a few seconds and replied, "What are you guys talking about?" "Dude, you are a couple of seconds behind us and don't realize it!" Appearing suddenly "frightened" I backed into the house and sat on my couch out of view, all the while hearing certain words in the conversation next door such as "CIA, physics, danger, $%&@ed-up" etc.

Later on, as the months wore by, I took it as part of my personal responsibility to convince him and his friends of the following: that mirors are really portals into a parallel universe, that UFO's were visiting this world disguised as DC-10s and that if you put instant coffee in a microwave you can travel seven seconds into the future.

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