a tale in weekly parts
Bernice Reed, a thirty-something African-American woman from Arizona, appeared in the street of a small Canadian town some two hundred years in her future in the body of a white male. Now known as Bernie, he settled into a high-tech life. But it didn't end there! Not by any means. Any change to the 'past' after her/his translation would (and did) rewrite the future - his present.
Bernie detailed the plan that he and Jonas had developed in consultation with some of the men. To three of those present, there was little new. But the way Diane’s eyes alternately widened and narrowed, and her eyebrows raised in surprise and occasionally descended into a frown suggested that it was all new to her.
When Bernie drew to a close, the danjang spoke. “Is that it, Rev?” he asked, “Nothing else to add?”
“No, Guardian,” Bernie replied, “You’ve heard it all, and you now know as much as we do.”
“Reactions?” the danjang asked, turning to Diane.
Diane fixed her eyes on her knees for a moment, a frown creasing her brow. “It’s a lot to take in, Sir,” she said, “I’d like to talk to the women about it before I reply. Is that possible?”
“I expected that,” the danjang replied, “but what I asked for was your reaction. I’m a very smart man, Diane. I know that you need to work through the details with the other women, the same as Jonas needs to carry the men with him. There are many things that you need to think about, many things you need to plan for, many things you need to decide. But my superiors expect me to give a go/no-go decision today and that I must do.”
“It’s too early,” Diane complained, “I’ve only just heard about this. I can’t possibly give a reply that will commit more than a hundred women without consulting them. I can’t do it.”
Visibly annoyed, the danjang turned on Diane. “Let me make something clear to you, Diane,” he said icily, “I am going to make a pre-booked call to New Pyongyang in one hour. In that call, I must say definitively whether the Rev’s project is to go ahead. Let me ask you one question. It’s a multiple choice question so it should be easy for you to answer. Do you want us to proceed with the project as the Rev outlined it, or do you want things to stay as they are for the foreseeable future?”
The danjang stood so violently that his legs pushed his chair backwards, causing it to topple to the floor behind him. “Yes or no, Diane?” he bellowed, “Yes or no? NOW!”
Jonas leaned across and whispered something to Diane.
“No whisper. No talk. Yes or no?”
“In principle—” Diane began, fighting back the tears that were so keen to escape from her lacrymal ducts.
Picking his chair off the floor, the danjang said, in a tone that was so calm it was menacing, “No principle. Simple question, simple answer. Yes or no?”
“Y-yes,” she stammered.
The danjang lowered his body into his chair and leaned forward, resting his forearms on his desk. “Yes what?”
“Yes what, danjang.”
“Yes please, danjang.”
“Okay. So ordered.” The danjang pressed the button under his desk. At the end of the office, the door opened. The gatekeeper’s head peered around the door, bearing an expectant expression. “My guests are leaving. Make sure you have a copy of their proposal before they go.”
Taking that as their cue, Bernie, Jonas and Diane rose from their seats, bowed to the danjang, turned and left his office.
“You have copy for me?” the gatekeeper asked Bernie.
“This is the only one,” Bernie replied, “Do you have a way of copying it?”
“Yes,” he said, looking at Diane.
Diane inspected her footwear and mumbled, “A team of my women will copy it longhand. It comes under what the spooks call ‘administrative support’.”
Bernie gave the proposal to the gatekeeper, who passed it to Diane with the words, “Make copy, bring back. Three days max. Okay?”
“Okay,” Diane said, after which the three left the admin building.
Walking away from the block, Diane looked pointedly at Bernie and asked, “Why are you grinning like a Cheshire cat?”
“You wanted to get the information to your women, didn’t you?”
“What better way than giving them access to the source document?”
“So, what you’re saying is…”
“What I’m saying is that if you play this cleverly, you can get your consulting done before handing the document back to the spooks.”
“Did you plan it this way?”
“I knew they’d want a copy and I was banking on them not having any means of copying it themselves.”
“And you expected they’d get us to do it. Clever.”
“I’ll leave you and Jonas together for a while. It’s been a long couple of days for me and I could do with a lie-down,” Bernie said, then walked away.
“He is exhausted,” Jonas said, “Did you notice the way he stumbled as he walked away? His speech is a little slurred, too.”
Bernie returned to his room and laid on his bed. He fell into a deep sleep almost immediately, his dreams taking him to other lives, other places, other times.