Another story about time travel, but with a twist. Enjoy.
The Dealership Driving in from the Cold,
by Alexander Paul Willging
Word Count: 775
In the eastern corner of Japan, somewhere around Yamanashi’s fertile fields, all was still and quiet. A heavy white layer of snow, gleaming like diamonds in the early daylight, covered the ground for miles in utter tranquility.
And disturbing that peace was Timothy O’Higgins. Sales rep for the third-largest Toyota dealership in South Milwaukee. Expert in selling pre-owned sedans of every make and model. Now slowly freezing to death in nothing but a kimono and his boxer briefs. In retrospect, he’d had one too many glasses of sake back at the hotel. Wherever that was. He presumed it was Tokyo and that he was nowhere near it now. Tim was pretty sure there wasn’t supposed to be this much snow and wide open space inside a metropolitan area.
Oh, man. Dave from Management was going to have his head for this.
Tim didn’t know when he passed out. But he awoke to several shouts.
Blinking away flakes of snow, he found himself staring at several large Japanese men. Some wore samurai armor. Others wore kimonos like him. All of them had their hair tied back in topknots. They all carried swords, too. And no one looked pleased to see him that morning.
The more Tim’s eyes adjusted, the more clearly he could see the the village behind them. Simple wooden houses and cherry trees that had yet to bloom. Plumbing the depths of his hangover-impaired memory, Tim recalled some fragment of an excerpt from a travel brochure. Lots of these historic villages were supposed to dotting the Japanese landscape, weren’t they? Or had he had somehow stumbled through a breach in time and wound up two hundred years in the past? He was starting to wonder if it were the latter, since the wood on these houses looked brand-new. As did the swords and armor these guys wore. Not your gaijin-style replicas.
“Get up!” one of the samurai barked at him. An older man, with graying temples and a pencil-thin beard. The katana in his grip quivered.
“Uh, okay?” Tim blinked. He sat up in the snow, shivering from head to toe. “Hey, um, what year is this even—?”
He stopped when a sword appeared next to his throat. Maybe confused English words were a bad sign around here, he thought.
“Up. Now.” The elder samurai glowered, as Tim stumbled to his feet. His soles ached from the exertion. “The Shogun will want to see you.”
“P-please,” Tim begged. “C-can I get something for my feet at least?” He gestured to his blue, frostbitten feet. Of course he’d been too drunk to wear shoes or sandals. “S-something… any k-kind of snow shoes you have!”
“Oh, that won’t you save you now,” a mocking voice called out.
Tim watched the row of samurai part. He watched a man in golden robes appear from inside one of the houses and walk over to the near-dead foreigner. And he could not believe what he was seeing when the Shogun arrived.
“Dave?” he asked.
“You bet, buddy,” his manager said. He flashed Tim that obnoxious perfect smile, with dental work that he’d gotten done at some Santa Monica clinic. “Who else would be in charge here?”
Nothing seemed real now. Maybe this really was another tourist trap. Tim struggled to stay on his feet, for reasons beyond the mere frostbite.
“A-are we in Tokyo?” he asked.
“What?” Dave snorted. “You still haven’t worked it out, have you? Christ, no wonder everyone at the Milwaukee office hates you. Quick on the sale, slow on the uptake. That’s our Tim.”
“What?” Tim couldn’t say anymore than that. He couldn’t feel anything after that. The cold was inching up his whole body. Blurring his vision. Slowing his heartbeat. A low, constant throb that almost drowned out everything else.
Almost. Dave’s voice rang clear and true.
“None of this is real, buddy. You’re still in the snow.” Dave chuckled. “You’re just losing your mind. Now, why don’t you click the heels on your ruby slippers and go back home, Dorothy?”
The next morning, a search-and-rescue team from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police found Timothy O’Higgins’s frozen body. He’d made it almost six miles outside of the capital.
A small funeral was held back in Milwaukee two weeks later. Tim’s co-workers only showed up for the free food being offered at the reception afterward. Meanwhile, his manager Dave Plitsetsky was kind enough to give a eulogy on his behalf.
“All in all,” Dave said, “Tim was a kind man who went off in his own direction. Much like how Toyota’s new line of Priuses, now with improved gas mileage, will take you anywhere you desire…”
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