Opponent of Time
Funerals aren't exactly a pleasant affair. I've been to more than a couple in my lifetime and none of them were particularly festive. Everything was generally gloom and doom, and the all black attire didn't help much. I, personally, don't take death very lightly. I've lost a lot of important people during my time on this Earth. Although, it is hard to take it seriously when an immortal is laying on the ground crying about their impending demise.
"You shot me," the pale man was sobbing as he flailed on the hardwood floor. Klaus was a good friend of mine. Though, I use the term friend loosely. He and I worked together on more than one occasion so we knew each other almost painfully well. Klaus, being an immortal, was always there when I needed him. He wasn't really what you would expect from an immortal. He wasn't always depressing. He was actually more lively than me. He didn't seem to come from money or seemingly have any kind of refinement. He definitely wasn't anywhere near comparable to popular vampires like Dracula either. Though, I guess he does look the part. He had the short, dark hair that is kind of a trademark for immortals and vampires. He was pale and thin. He didn't really dress the part either. I imagine he had to adjust to the style of the time period. Today he was dressed in a white button down shirt that was slowly being soaked in blood, a black bow tie and black slacks.
"I'm sorry, sir," the gentleman behind the counter insisted. I watched as he threw the rifle he had used to the side and ran to the wounded man on the floor. The rifle made a clatter as it hit the ground and knocked over a few of the bottles of whiskey
"You shot me," he continued to scream. At this point, I cared more about shutting him up than I did about his suffering. And, what about all that wasted alcohol?
"I think I see the light at the end of the tunnel," Klaus went on, "I think I'm going cold." It was interesting to watch his already white face grow whiter from blood loss.
"My God," the bartender gasped as he kneeled next to him. He rolled up his sleeves and tried to examine Klaus's injury.
"Son, grab the doctor," he instructed me.
"I'll do my best," I said as I turned toward the door.
"Hurry," Klaus added, "I won't make it much longer."
In most cases I like to pretend like I care about Klaus and the struggles that come with being an immortal but that makes it really hard to care about when he gets shot. Especially when it seems to happen so often. I took my time as I walked through the town looking for the local doctor. I didn't really feel it was necessary to bother the poor man. Klaus would fix himself eventually. His body can withstand just about anything and heal itself pretty quickly. He would be fine sooner or later. Though, I had to keep up appearances. I couldn't just let him die.
I did, regardless, walk into the doctors place of business. The building was mainly empty except for a man in a suit and a lady in a cream white dress. The man was reading a book that I didn't recognize. He had his dark hair neatly cut and brushed. The heels of his shoes were sitting on his desk. They were polished and almost had a shine to them. The lady seemed to be cleaning some of his utensils. I couldn't tell quite what they were but she had a mahogany cloth in her hand, the original color of which, was probably not mahogany. She had several pieces of metal laying out in front of her on the desk next to a black open bag. They both gave me some strange looks when I entered but it wasn't anything I wasn't used to. I came into town originally to get some clothes that fit the setting and to find Klaus and, so far, I was only capable of finding the useless vampire. I was just wearing my sweatpants and a T-shirt which really didn't fit in, but nobody said anything to me about it.
"I'm sorry to bother you," I began, "but it seems that somebody was shot in the bar down the way."
"Oh, not again," the doctor said as he grabbed a black bag from his desk and dashed past me, out the door. The lady was still cleaning the tools as though I hadn't said anything at all.
I followed slowly behind him as we made our way to the saloon. When I got there the doctor was kneeling next to Klaus, seemingly checking his pulse. The idiot had finally stopped screaming and was laying perfectly still. The bartenders hands were covered in blood and Klaus had a cloth around his arm, seemingly as a make-shift tourniquet.
"Your friend is cold to the touch and I can't find a pulse," the doctor told me as I entered, "it seems he's passed." I assumed he was holding his breath as I watched his chest, making sure it didn't rise or fall. I tried my best to keep a straight face but I guess I let a smile slip.
"Sir, your friend is dead," the doctor restated as he got up from the floor, "I would like to take your friend back to my office until you get things squared away with the undertaker. Would you mind if I performed some," he paused, "experiments, by chance?"
"Not too much," I told him, "do as you please. He is dead, after all. Why would it matter?"
"I suppose that is one way to look at it, sir," he commented, "I'll be back with one of my associates to gather him, in a moment." I watched as he walked briskly past me and out the door.
"I'm sorry about your friend," the bartender said, drawing my attention, "I guess I went a little overboard. I try to make my safety a priority now. I can't tell you how many times I've been held at gun point by some strangers that blew into town." I watched as he rubbed the back of his neck, seemingly out of embarrassment. He had a the beginnings of a beard covering his face. It was patchy and blonde to match his moustache and the hair on his head. He was wearing a long sleeved buttoned shirt but the sleeves were rolled up. He had brown pants with suspenders latched to the pants to hold them up. He was thin and stocky and he had wrinkles around his eyes. I didn't blame him for shooting Klaus and I didn't want the poor man to blame himself either. It was Klaus's idea to go to a bar in the first place and this wasn't the first or last time Klaus had been shot.
"I get it," I admitted to him, "you can't be too careful."
"Were you two really friends?" he asked me, "you don't seem to broken up by his passing."
"He was suffering from an illness," I lied, "we were travelling through here on our way to find a doctor that might be able to help. I've already had my time to grieve." I couldn't think of anything else that would ease his mind and keep me from sounding like a lunatic. That was the best option.
"I see," he nodded. And, he bought it.
"I think I'm going to find my way to the undertaker's," I told him before turning to leave. Freeing myself from this awkward conversation.
"Good luck," he said, "and may your friend rest in peace."
"Yeah," was all I said in return before walking out the door.
Instead of doing what I said I was going to I decided to take a trip around town. There was no reason for me to go to the undertakers. There was no one to fit for a coffin. There was no one that needed buried. Well, maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea to bury him, but that would be a huge waste of money on my part. Besides, knowing him, he would probably cause a scene and rise from the dead. I'd rather just avoid all of that if I can.
Instead, I found my way to the city council building. It looked like every other building in town, wooden with a large sign hanging from the roof of the front porch. I walked in without much of a fuss. It was empty except for a man with an outfit similar to that of the doctor. He had a quill in his hand and he was writing something on the parchment in front of him.
"Welcome, sir," he said, without looking up, "can I help you?" He hadn't given me time to screw around or look at the paintings they had hanging along the walls. It was slightly upsetting but I let it go and approached his desk.
"I'm not sure," I said, "this is the mayors office, right? Is the mayor in?"
"He is," he told me, "but he's frightfully busy. If you'd like to see him come back another time."
"Shouldn't the people of the city be able to call upon their mayor whenever they're in need?" I questioned.
"Are you a citizen," he side-eyed me as he scribbled more on the sheet of paper, "I don't remember seeing you around here before."
"I'm a passerby," I said, honestly, "my friend and I were passing through and he'd been shot in the bar down the way. I just wanted to inform a town official of the crime that he's allowing to take place in this city."
"Again," he sighed, tossing his quill in the inkwell to the side of his paper. He actually looked to me for the first time since I entered the building, "I'm sorry for your loss, sir. I'll be sure to let the mayor know of this. We'll cover the burial fees and the fee for the coffin. Was that all?"
"I was also hoping to get a look at the city records," I admitted. I wanted to get a grasp of where and when I was. Generally, Klaus would be here to tell me about everyone but it was always better, and more realistic, if I got to investigate the registry. The paper work didn't lie or stretch the truth nearly as much. Paper work also didn't have any kind of personal bias and only told me the facts. They didn't gossip or spread rumors. They were made purely of honesty, reason and reality.
"Those are off limits to civilians," he told me firmly, picking his quill back up and returning to his writing.
"Why is that?" I asked, messing with the wooden figures on his desk. He had a small wooden train that I soon found out had actual working wheels. I pushed it back and forth on his desk, waiting for his reply.
"Those records are for professional use only," he told me, "there is no reason for anyone without executive business to look at them."
"Why?" I pushed, turning my attention to the newton balls he had sitting on his desk, begging to be put into motion.
"Because they're important and we can't allow people to go messing them up," he told me, standing from his seat and grabbing my outstretched hand, "Now, if you'd leave, I can get back to work." He released me and sat back down, not breaking eye contact until he was back to his seemingly normal position. I waited a moment before announcing, "I guess I'll be on my way then."
As I turned to leave a rather large man walked through the door. He had a large, brown, bushy moustache. He was the first person I'd seen wearing a hat or a brown vest. He had brown pants to match. He didn't seem too special or spectacular but I could feel his presence. There was something about the air around him that was unsettling. He strolled in as though he owned the place.
"Sir, you're late," the man behind the desk stood up.
"Jimmy," he said casually, "don't be worried. People never come by here anyway."
"Yes sir," the man, apparently Jimmy, said, "but you have a duty to this town. What if something happened? As a matter of fact, things have happened."
"I'm sure it wasn't that important," he brushed it off.
"Somebody was shot in the bar," Jimmy told the new comer, "they didn't make it."
"Oh, Roger shot somebody else," he said, seemingly bored, "what else is new?"
"Well, would you mind telling me what was so important that you're three hours late for office opening hours?" Jimmy asked.
"Well, you see," he began, "I was on my way here when I came across this elderly woman on the side of the road. I couldn't leave her there. That would be unbecoming of a gentleman like myself. So, of course, I stopped to see if I could help and, it turned out, she was a fortune teller. And, obviously, I needed to know my fortune, right? So, I stayed with her for a few hours and, I lost all track of time. I think she may have even stolen my pocket watch."
"Did you check your back pocket, sir?" Jimmy asked. We both watched as he started feeling around the back pocket of his pants. He let out a gasp as he pulled something out.
"You never cease to amaze me, Jimmy, old boy," he said as he popped open the watch to check the time.
"I'm glad I could be of assistance," he said, "but, could you please take this job a bit more seriously?"
"Perhaps," he hesitated, "whos your friend here?" He pointed to me.
"I assure you we're not friends," he said, "he seems to be a drifter. I think he's a friend of the man that was shot."
"You could say that," I shrugged, "my names Damien."
"Damien, eh," the man said, walking towards me, "nice to meet you, son." When he got close enough he grabbed my right hand and shook it vigorously before releasing me for a brief moment and throwing his arm over my shoulder.
"I'm sorry about what happened to your friend," he told me, far to casually, "maybe it would help if I bought you a drink and some decent clothes."
"That sounds great," I said, "but I'd much rather get a look at the town records."
"Why would you care about stuffy, old pieces of paper for a town that you've never been to before?" he asked me, taken aback.
"Why not?" I shrugged, "I've never been here. It might help me understand the town and it's culture more. I would much rather do that then get a drink." Which wasn't necessarily a lie, but damn would I like a drink. I couldn't remember the last time I had one. I couldn't help but imagine for a moment the taste of the whiskey they had in that saloon. I was sure all they had was hard liquor and I wanted nothing more than to have the bartender pour me a glass. There wasn't any time for that though, I had to keep reminding myself.
"Really?" he seemed insulted, "you'd rather read those boring articles than have a drink with me? I'm the mayor. I could get you those drinks for free. I really need a drinking partner."
"And I really need a drink," my brain was screaming. It took everything in me not to break down and go with him. These papers were more important. I couldn't give in.
"I'm sorry," I told him, "I have no intention of going anywhere near the saloon."
"Alright then," he seemed defeated, "then stay here look through the useless documents."
"Sir," Jimmy butted in, "those are private documents."
"Why does it matter?" the mayor asked, "we have nothing to hide, and if the boy cares more about the parchment than having a drink with me then he's more than welcome to waste his time on it." Then he turned toward the door and stormed off, leaving me and Jimmy behind.
"Thank you," was all I had time to say before he was out the door.
"So," I said, facing the man behind the desk, "Jimmy, buddy, where are those city records?"
"You're not my buddy," he grumbled, moving away from his desk. He lead me back into a room that seemed a lot like I imagined the mayors office would. It had a desk stacked with papers that probably needed to be read and signed or something like that. He lead me to, what looked like, a closet and it opened into a small room with dozens of bookshelves with papers that had been tied together with string in place of a spine.
"Here are all of the records from the towns founding to present," he told me, stepping away, "have fun." With that he walked away, presumably back to his desk. He was grumbling something about nobody respecting anything but him. I don't really know what he was saying and I didn't really care. I walked in and got right to work. I grabbed a few of, what appeared to be the most recent copies and sat down to read.
Once darkness had fallen I made my way outside to go find Klaus. I walked down the street to the doctor's office I'd been to earlier. On my way there I passed the bar. The lights were on and there was so much noise coming from inside. It was almost like a Frat party with all the cheering and music. I saw more than one person stumbling out of the bar. Some of them were vomiting on the ground near the porch. I think I even saw the mayor while I was there. Nobody spotted me so I quietly made the rest of my way to the office.
All but one of the lights in the office were off. The only remaining light was coming from what I assumed to be a basement. When I got close enough to the window I laid down next to it and looked in, listening intensely. I could see the doctor wearing long, thick, black gloves covered in blood and an apron to match. Klaus was laying on a table next to him cut open. He had a large slit from the center of his chest to the bottom of his stomach. For a second I thought he was really dead and, for a second, I thought I was going to pass out. Although I was queasy and a little faint I stayed conscious and didn't lose my lunch.
"It's about time for me to call it a night," the doctor was saying as he placed his utensil on the table behind him, "hopefully Marjorie doesn't kill me for having her clean all of these again. I suppose that is what I pay her for though. I'm sure she'll be fine." I wondered who he was talking to. Himself? The supposed corpse?
"Well, I'll be back tomorrow, friend," he said, slipping the gloves off and placing them in a bucket on the floor next to the table. He took the apron off next and hung it from a nail sticking out of the wall. He grabbed the oil lamp, the only source of light in the room, from where it was hanging on the wall and left, shutting the door behind him. I waited a moment and tried to watch Klaus through the darkness. For a moment, it didn't seem like he was moving at all. I waited a moment longer, in the silence, looking for even a faint silhouette to move in the inky black. After a moment I grew impatient and tapped on the glass of the window. It was silent for a moment before I heard clattering in the room. I'm not going to lie, I jumped a bit at the sudden sound. I assumed it was just Klaus fumbling around in the dark.
Despite knowing, logically, it was probably Klaus, I jumped when I saw his face appear in the window.
"Oh God," I muttered as I leapt back, "What the hell are you doing? You're going to give me a heart attack." I watched as Klaus swung open the window and started climbing out. Though, I wasn't far enough away from the window so he was climbing out onto me. As I started moving out of his way he grabbed onto my leg and used me to pull himself out.
"What the hell are you doing?" I repeated, "get off of me."
"Hold on," he huffed as he scrambled on the ground. Eventually, he got most of his body out of the window and used his legs to kick off of the side of the building. He jumped up from the ground and dusted off his pants. He was lacking his shirt and bowtie from earlier so he dusted off his bare chest as well.
"Why did you abandon me like that?" he asked me, "and let that doctor run experiments on me? What kind of friend are you? I thought I was really going to die."\
"But you didn't," I reminded him, "So, what's up? I read the city council records already. Didn't you say you wanted to tell me something before you were so rudely interrupted?"
"Did I?" he asked, "I don't recall. But, let me tell you, I think that doctor has a couple screws loose. He cut me open and then he was messing around with what was inside of me. I think he might have even taken somethings out of me."
"Well, you seem fine now," I told him.
"Yeah," he said, "now. But, two minutes ago, no. I was not."
"Whatever," I sighed, "anyway, any idea why I'm here?"
"I have no clue," he said, "doesn't that doctor friend usually give you a reason for this malarkey?" Doctor Joseph Steiner was a great scientist. World renowned, even. He's mostly known for his work in theoretical physics and the work he did on things like the flying car. Though, to me, he was like a father. My dad died when I was very young and he worked with Steiner. They were practically best friends. After dad died in a lab experiment gone wrong Steiner took me in. After he invented the time machine he's been sending me back in time to test it and gather data on different points in time for him. The machine is really simple to use and Steiner always brings me back after a set amount of time we agreed upon. I had assumed Klaus would have some idea of something for me to work on. Something to do. Generally though, I just gather information and report back. Klaus is always around, no matter what time Steiner sends me back to. It's like the machine was drawn to him. Although, I don't think I've ever told Steiner about Klaus.
"Not really," I admitted, "It's usually just to gather info on a certain time period. He's a big history buff, you know?"
"Perhaps he just wanted you to check in," he suggested.
"Maybe," I shrugged.
"Don't worry about it," he patted my shoulder, "I'm sure it was nothing. Now, how about I buy you that drink?"
"Sounds like heaven," I admitted. We turned to walk to the bar and the watch on my right wrist started glowing.
"Are you kidding me," I sighed, frustrated. As the watch glowed brighter it seemed to cover my entire body, leaving a stranger burning sensation. It didn't hurt I was just very aware it was there. The hands of the watch seemed to be spinning a mile a minute.
"Guess I'll owe you that drink for a bit longer," he chuckled a bit and, in a flash of light, he was gone.
I was finally back in a familiar place. The room was mainly made of some kind of metal. Everything from the tables and chairs to the mugs of coffee sitting on top of them were solid metal. There were stacks of paper strewn about the office in utter disarray. I was standing on a platform slightly above the rest of the room. I was in a cylinder made of plastic that slid above me to let me out as the whirring noise in the background grew quiet. I walked out into the rest of the room looking for the man that brought me here.
"Welcome back," a man cheered as he entered the room, "How was your trip to the wild west?" He seemed like an older man. His dark hair was graying in some places giving him a salted look. He was a little over weight but it didn't seem like it was any kind of serious threat or hindrance. He was wearing jeans and a black T-shirt with a well known punk band on it. Scientist was probably the last thing anybody thought when they looked at him.
"I guess it was interesting," I told Steiner, "I saw a man get shot." I told him the whole story, leaving out the bits about Klaus being an immortal. In all of my trips I never tell him about Klaus. I never know how he reacts and, as a man of science, I worry about what he would say or do about Klaus, but other than that, I told him everything.
"That sounds horrible," he told me.
"It was pretty bad," I said.
"I just wanted you to experience the wild west," he told me, "I knew I always did. I mean, I've always wanted to try a bit of old west whiskey."