Henry Brasater has taught at various colleges and universities, including Cairo University as a Fulbright Senior Lecturer.
Brasater’s stories are published in ezines, print anthologies and magazines. His published novellas are:Nandana, Gnome on Pig Productions, (in press for 2016); Nondum, Dead Guns Press, 2014; and Upheaval, Spanking Pulp Press, 2013. His nonfiction book, A. E. van Vogt: Science Fantasy’s Icon, is available from Booklocker.
5:20 TO NULL by Henry Brasater
Barking came from inside the barn.
“Baldwin!” Frieda Achziger yelled as she ran up the earthen ramp leading to open double doors of her father’s barn. “I’ve been looking for you! You naughty doggie!”
She heard Baldwin screech, then whine.
“What are you getting into now?”
Frieda repeatedly called out as she ran here and there on the large barn’s first floor. “Where are you, Baldwin?” She stopped short. No matter how hard she tried, her legs and feet would move no farther.
Frieda stared at Baldwin. The little schnauzer was enveloped by a blue-colored glow in a horse stall corner. Her dog had his front paws up on an edge of the glow. He briskly opened and closed his mouth. Frieda could not hear his barking.
Within the blue light a fluctuating face appeared. It was a type of face that she had never seen before in all of her six years. She watched, spellbound.
“Do you know how to tell your earth time?” came a soothing voice in her mind. She knew the pulsating face in the blue glow was speaking to her without opening its mouth.
‘I can tell one, two, three o’clock, four, five, six, and seven.’ She wasn’t certain whether she said that aloud, or thought it. Frieda went on. ‘I get out of school at three o’clock. I eat supper at six o’clock. I…I get a little mixed up about time after seven o’clock. I have to be told when to brush my teeth and when to go to bed. I don’t know how to tell time after seven o’clock.’ She stopped. Her words ran together. This was a problem she had. “You’re jabbering, dear,” one or another of her elders would occasionally tell her. She was not certain what “jabbering” meant. It seemed to be something that older folks did not care to hear from children.
Frieda heard the voice again. “I have transported enough little creatures like you. Being in an empathetic and sympathetic mood, I will divulge a decision that I have made. At 5:20 Eastern Time this afternoon, all living things on earth will be erased. The game must be tweaked, before I start it again.”
With wrinkled brow, Frieda pondered being called a ‘creature.’ Aren’t creatures evil things that go bump in the night, according to one of her story books? And, she was still trying to connect the word “erased” to herself. Sounds of erasers screeching over blackboards at school, was all that came to her mind.
The voice went on: “According to your time, 5:20 is about a minute from now. Are you not afraid?”
“Afraid?” Frieda asked/thought. She knew the word. She was often afraid of people, places and things.
“Yes. Do you not want to run to your mommy? Your daddy? Your…someone, and hold tightly to them? It’s what Homo sapiens frequently do, when they are perplexed, fearful, and not in control of a situation.”
She did not understand everything that the voice said. She fixated on Baldwin, wagging his tail and apparently barking within the blue light. “What about Baldwin?”
“I’m taking him with me, to where I…er…live.”
Frieda continued concentrating on the word, “erased.”
And Baldwin barked from interstellar space.