The Travel Agent

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
A loner moves to a town to find a bright future. Instead it is dimmed by insanity and drunkenness.

Submitted: November 27, 2011

A A A | A A A

Submitted: November 27, 2011






James Begert


This is a cold town.  An unfriendly town.  The people here are too busy to care.  At least these are my observations so far.  Maybe I made a mistake moving here but it seemed like a good place for a new beginning.  There was supposed to be work around here-but I haven't been able to find any so far.  A dwindling bank account and a drinking problem make terrible cohorts.  I put in a few applications today but no one seems to be hiring.  It's the same story everywhere I go-they’ll call if they get anything.  Why don't they just look me in the eyes and tell me the truth - they don't hire strangers, only locals.

It feels as if everything is perfect in this place but me.  Everyone looks at me as an outcast.  I know I don't fit in there, but I have nowhere else to go.  Either I can make a stay of it here or return home in failure to my parents.  I think suicide would be less cruel than the second option.  I never thought life would of been this difficult.

It's Monday and prospects look bleak-time to drink.  I head over to the local liquor store.  Seems like a cheap vodka and orange juice type of day.  At least the clerk is friendly.  Not much can be said when the only person who wants to be your friend in town is the guy you buy your drink from.  My apartment isn't anything to brag about either, but at least it is mine.  One bedroom on the second floor of an old brick office building.  Walls are deteriorating and the refrigerator is empty.  It's hard to smile around here unless I'm drunk.  It may be sad, but it's a fact.

The sun comes up, it always does. Another day wasted.  Maybe today I will find a job.  I head out to a few places in town, but nothing pans out.  Hit up the liquor store again.  The clerk asks me my name.  He tells me his name is Henry.  I feel like quite the socialite.  My first real conversation with someone since I moved here.  I was desperate to exalt my frustrations to someone.  I told Henry how I got the cold shoulder everywhere I went.  I told him how this town drove me to drink.  He told me when he first moved here the same thing happened to him.  He told me that after they became accustomed to my face, they would welcome me as well.

The conversation made me feel reassured, so I only bought a small bottle of vodka.  I would just have to stick it out and do my time until the town accepted me.  That night I only did a few shots.  I had a small buzz but nothing to write home about.  It has been a while since I got a good night's sleep.  Tomorrow was a new day.  For the first time since I moved here, I had a positive feeling.  I felt like I had a chance.

The next morning I woke up with the sun on my face.  I could feel the warmth.  For whateer reason I felt enthusiastic today.  It was a good day.  I decided that I would take the day off, clear my head, and get some fresh air.  There is a very quiet and scenic walking path near my apartment.  I took the short drive and arrived there very quickly.  As usual, I was the only one in the parking lot.  I liked this place.  It was as lonesome as I am.  Every now and again you will encounter someone on the path, but not too often.  As I took forth on my walk I started to think about my drinking problem and how I would start to cut back.  With as many applications as I had filled out a job was sure to pan out.  Things had to improve- hell, they could only improve.

A few days passed and still no one had called about a job.  My bank account was starting to run dry and soon the rent would be due.  I needed to come up with something else I would be forced to return home to my parent's house.  That was not even an option. Something told me to return to the walking path.  It was early morning.  The sun had only been up for an hour or so.  The air had a stinging chill to it.  At this time of day I would be the only one down there.  Everyone else was doing something productive with their lives.

I started into my walk.  A nice brisk pace, working up a light sweat to avoid the cold air.  About a mile or so into the walk, I came around a bend into an open field.  There I saw a man in the distance with a camera.  He was taking pictures with a flash.  As I walked toward the man the flash went off at even a more furious pace.  At about 150 feet away from him, it became obvious that his camera was focused down the straight narrow path at me!  I decided to wave at him and shouted hello, but he didn't wave back.  Instead he walked into the edge of the woods and I lost sight of him.  It was sort of a strange experience.  Maybe he was just taking pictures of the scenery.  After all, it is a very beautiful place out there.  The kind of place you go to see nature's beauty.  I finished my walk.  My mind was clear.  I decided to return home.

When I arrived at my apartment-vodka was the point of order.  Good old vodka.  She never denies you and is always very reliable.  After drinking for a while, I noticed that I had a message on my answering machine.  It was a local mechanic's garage.  They wanted me to come in for an interview tomorrow morning.  I was desperate to work and desperate to be around people.  I decided that I had a better chance of landing the job if I wasn't hung over so I immediately stopped drinking, set the alarm for 8, and went to sleep.  The next morning I went down to the garage.  The owner hired me after a brief interview.  We exchanged maybe 30 words.  Minimum wage, but hell it was better than nothing.  It was good to be around people even if they were forced to get to know me.

I worked my ass off that first month-not out of personal satisfaction, but out of desperation.  Without this job I would go crazy.  Lonesome is a bitch.  The guys at the show were a bunch of hard asses at first, but eventually we started to bullshit.  They got to know me and I got to know them.  You can learn a lot about a man when you work with him.  You see him at the best and worst moments of the day.  There is a sort of brotherhood in slavery.  Getting sweaty and dirty is a form of bonding.  Suffering with your coworker is bonding and nothing you can put into words.  It is time wasted together and a shared existence.  After a few months I worked my way up to a supervisor position, a foreman.  People started greeting me in town and the men in the garage respected me.  It was a good feeling.  For the first time in my life, I felt like a productive member of society.

It was Saturday and I had the day off.  It was a nice day out and a good opportunity to get some exercise, clear my mind, and get some fresh air.  I took the short drive down to the park.  Unsurprisingly, upon my arrival, I was the only one in the parking lot.  I exited  the car and stretched.  I started on my journey. 
I came around the bend and to the straight away past the open field.  To my surprise, there was the man with the camera.  This time he was sitting on a bench at the side of the path.  I knew it was him.  He had the same exact clothes on-a brown suit, and a black derby hat with sunglasses.  He kind of reminded me of a spy.  He was most overdressed to be on this walking path. 

I had an uneasy feeling in my stomach.  The knots grew larger as I came upon the man.  This time I decided not to engage him in conversation.  I just couldn't muster up enough courage to do so.  Instead-I walked by him-acting not to pay any special attention.  I nervously kept my pace the same.  I did not want to show any fear.  I did not want to draw attention.  The last thing I wanted to do was draw any attention.
Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a brief glimpse of his face.  He had huge black sunglasses on.  His skin was very pale, almost looking like that of a corpse.  His lips were an unnatural bright red. They almost appeared to be painted onto his face with lipstick.  I wanted to look directly at him-to take in his entire face but I did not want to draw any attention.  The last thing I wanted to do with start a conversation.  Even a simple hello was not in the cards.

When I turned around about 100 feet away he was now standing.  Straight down the path he was taking photos of me.  That same bright white flash set off on rapid fire.  The first thing that popped into my mind was that maybe the man was some sort of private detective.  Maybe my ex wife had hired him.  Or maybe…well… he was some sort of pervert.  I really wanted to yell something at him but my gut told me otherwise.  I made up my mind, though…if I ever saw this man again I would confront him and find out why he was watching me.

That night all I could think about was the man at the park-his motivation, his strange demeanor and appearance.  If my ex was keeping tabs on me, in a weird way, I considered it a compliment.  But I knew that wasn't the case.  She couldn't have cared less about me or where I was at.  The guy was probably just some pervert who took pictures of people in the park.  I'm sure I wasn't the first and wouldn't be the last.

Over the next few months the man at the park was the only thing on my mind.  It was an unnatural feeling. It was an obsession.It was the only thing I could think about.  At first I would only think about the man a couple times a day.  Then he would pop into my mind at work during lunch break.  When someone called  the phone, I expected it to be him.  When I went to the store, or even looked in the mirror, I expected the man to be waiting on me.  It was his face.  It was his face that haunted me. I tried everything to rid that face from my mind, but nothing worked.  I eventually stopped showing up at work and drank from dusk till dawn.  Drinking was the only thing that helped to keep the man out of my mind. Even if it was for just a few minutes.  All prospects of success were replaced by paranoia.  The only place I could muster enough courage up to go to was the liquor store.  I stopped shaving, brushing my teeth, I stopped caring.  Everywhere I went, I felt like I was being watched.  Everywhere I went I expected to see that damned man with his camera.  Those months could be described as nothing less than a slow decent into insanity.

I came to the conclusion that the only way to regain my sanity would be to face my demons.  I had to find the man with the camera and confront him.  I had to ask him why he was taking photos of me.  I was losing it.  Logic told me that I had only seem him twice.  He was only a photographer.  He was only a regular man.  But his face has a grip on my will.  His face had a grip on my mind.  That face tortured me.  It was the only thing that consumed me now-finding the man.  The more I thought about it the more I drank and the more angry I became.  I felt violated.  Fear turned to rage.  I decided to purchase a .45 and holster.  I had to find the man and question him.

I drank all night.  It would be the only way to make my return to the walking path.  I must have passed out for a few hours in the morning.  I woke up with the sun on my face.  There was no warmth, only a terrible headache and a dry mouth.  Outside the window I witnessed blizzard like conditions. It was a miserable day and I knew what had to be done.  It was time to find the man-to hunt him down.  I would go to the park every day until I encountered him.  It had to be done.

I took the short drive.  As usual, there was no one in the parking lot.  I was drunk as hell but my instincts kicked in.  I feverishly looked for any tracks or footprints in the snow.  There were none.  I was the only one down here.  Not even a single animal track.  People didn't come out here much when it was nice out, so why the hell would they come here in the middle of a blizzard?  I took off on the path.  The search team consisted of my self, a pistol and my bottle of vodka.  The snow was bright blinding white. It had to be around 1 in the afternoon.  I came around the bend and to the straight shot in the open field.  I had yet to encounter any footprints or signs of the man.  He wasn't out here.  I approached the bench, wiped off the snow and sat.  I opened the bottle and took a gulp.

"This is what my life has become.  Alone. Sitting on a bench in the middle of winter.  Looking for something that isn't even there”, I whispered to myself.

I stood up quickly and pulled the gun out.  I lost my balance and stumbled, almost falling to the ground.  Quickly regaining my footing to show no weakness.  My motor skills now betrayed me as much as my sanity. 

"Where are you? Show yourself! Take a picture of this!", I slurred as I waved the gun at the woods.

The sun bounced the gun like a mirror.  It blinded my eyes at certain angles. 

My voice echoed but there was no one out there.  There was no one here but me and my delusions.  They were the only ones who answered me.  I was going mad.  I was losing it.  Terrible thoughts started to fill my mind.  It was pointless.  I decided to return home.  I would return tomorrow once again.  I had to return. 

As I walked down the path toward my car, I saw a couple of figures coming towards me.  I cocked my gun and put my hand in my coat pocket, with my finger on the trigger.  The closer I got, it appeared to be a married couple.  Middle aged.  As they came nearer, I put on a fake smile, but I was ready for anything.  They both had huge smiles on their faces.  They were very well dressed in professional attire.  Maybe they were lawyers on lunch break. 

As we walked by one another, they both stared directly into my eyes with huge odd grins on thier faces.  I smiled back nervously.Right as we passed, the woman nonchalantly grabbed my arm.

"So sorry she said. I tripped. My apologies." the woman squeaked in a trembling voice.

I could tell she was bullshitting me.  But I told her it was okay.  I smiled once again and quickly picked up my face, walking in the other direction.  I must have taken ten steps and pulled the gun out, spinning around.

“Stop!” I yelled not even yet looking behind me.

 The couple was gone. They vanished right behind me.  I let out a cry and fell to my knees in the snow.  Tears ran my face.  I was now insane. My mind had betrayed me.  I wanted to kill myself right there on that path.

Then it hit me.  I knew why I was crying.  Their faces!  They had the same type of face as that man!  They had that same disfiguring look.  I put the gun to my head.  I screamed to the sky.  I screamed out to God for mercy and pulled the trigger.  The ammo, in my drunken stupor, I had left at home.  I threw the gun off the path into the snow.  Unnatural faces...but…maybe they were just a delusion.  Maybe they were just all in my mind.  After all, I was one yelling into the woods. I needed to head home and get some sleep.  When I returned my car, it was the only one there, and there no other tire tracks.  Most likely, they weren't real, just like that man, it my mind playing tricks on me.  It was my mind betraying me. 

Those two disfigured faces were all I could think about.  Their deep stares.  Also the way the woman talked.  She had a very strong New York City accent-like a friend's I used to hang out with.  They definitely weren't from around here.  And their faces...oh God, those horrible faces!Maybe they were burn victims.  I just couldn't quite put my finger on it.  That night I drank myself to sleep.  . 

It was near nightfall when I awoke.  I loaded the gun and went out to the car.  Took the short drive down to the park.  Walked around the bend in the path and into the straight away in the open field.
There he was.  Finally.The man with the camera about 200 feet away.  I wasn't drunk.  I wasn't seeing things. At least I didn’t think so.  I started to run toward him.

"Stop you bastard.  Stop now.  I want to talk to you", I yelled as my voice echoed through the winter air. 

The man was a slow runner.  I took out my gun and shot him in the back of the leg.  He fell to the ground yelling in pain.  He wasn't going anywhere.  At this point I could of killed him, I couldn't of cared less. 

"You pervert.  I've been looking for you for a long damned time", I said smiling.

I pointed the gun down toward his chest.

"Where’s your camera now?  Give me your wallet".

He took out his wallet.  His hands was trembling. His hands were very wrinkled.  I looked at his disfigured face.  He was older than I imagined.His wallet was black.  Very plain looking.  There was no lisence or money. 
Only a small piece of metal, which looked like it had a bar code on it.

Also there were about 20 business cards.

Gerald Allen 
Travel Agent/Owner
Historical Adventures, NYC

"Well Mr. Allen.  It's good to finally know your name.  I've drank a lot in my lifetime, but goddamned, I been drinking alot more since I first laid eyes on you. You and that goddamned camera. I want to ask you a few questions.  If you're honest with me…I'll let you live.  If not…well…we can both die out here for all I care.”

I took a long pause and an ever longer drink off the bottle.

“Why are you watching me?"

"First of all it is a pleasure to meet you.  I really admire you, we all do." he said.

He winced in pain as he grabbed the back of his leg. 

"I apologize for this great ordeal.  This is all my fault.  My actions have effected a many great people, including you.  My good sir", he said.  "I guess it really doesn't matter so I will tell you the truth.  If I do not, you are bound to go mad."

"Speak up old man.”

"I bought the rights to you.  Just listen.  Please.  I am a travel agent.  Extremely wealthy people, like the couple you saw before…do you remember?  The lady who grabbed your arm.  They were clients of mine.  They love you, we all do."

"Your faces are different!  They have driven me insane. They are distorted.  Who are you people?”

"My good sir…there will many wars to come.  Many people will die.  But as in the case of humanity-it will rebuild.  It always rebuilds.  Our faces are this way because of the many bombs we dropped on one another.  Radiation.  It entered the water and air.  There was no escaping it.  Our DNA was unraveled.  Humanity was rearranged so to speak.  But we are still human at heart-only our bodies, and yes, our faces,  have been altered."

I knew I had lost it.  This man wasn't real.  He was a delusion.  But yet somehow he was my best friend in the world.  Maybe because he was a part of me…who knew?  I was outside in the middle of winter, with a gun in my hand, talking to myself.  There was no harm in talking to this man though.  I had been searching a long time for him, and here he was finally.  Whether he was real or not was of no concern to me.  I had suffered a long time for this conversation and I was going to have it.

"So what you are saying is that you are from the future?" I said.

"Yes, that is right my good man.  I am from the future.  I own and operate my own travel company, Historic Adventures.  Perhaps you have heard of us?” said the man as he laughed. 
"You, good sir, someday, hopefully even still after this terrible ordeal, will be one of our greatest leaders.  Much peace and enlightenment will prevail in the world because of you.”

His voice was filled with honesty and sincerity.  It calmed me.

"So, old man.  I am a leader in the future, huh?”
“Hah! Look at me! “
“I am a drunk!”
“I live in a shitty apartment and am about to be homeless!",  I said.

"Humble beginnings..", said the old man.  "That is why you are one of our greatest inspirations.  Because of what you started out as and what you ended up becoming.  Oh, it goes beyond words! The journey which you made.  The transformation.  It is just an honor and a privilege to get to meet you.”

The old man started whimpering, and then sobbing.  I picked the old man up off the snowy white ground and helped him to the bench.  Sat him down.  I took a drink off of the bottle and then offered to him without words.

“My young man…Oh my sweet young man.  You know this stuff here…alcohol…it is only something most read about in history books.Only the elite are allowed to drink alcohol.  It would be an honor to share this bottle with you, Mr. President”.

The old man took a small sip off the bottle and coughed violently.  He gasped for air.  Maybe this old man was as crazy as I was, but he was comforting.  He took more interest in me than anyone else in this town did.  He wanted to talk and I was ready to listen.

“You see, my good man…time travel has become a business.  The elite pay great sums of money to witness their idols in the flesh.  I bought the rights to you.  I bought the opportunity to take people to see you.  Most of these people are wealthy businesspeople or oil barons, things like that, you know…but for some reason…and it was the first time…….I was offered double by that couple. They paid me dearly for those photos of you.  Enough money that would make a man greedy.  Even in the future!” he pointed his finger into the air.

Enough money that a man could live five lifetimes on.  I allowed them to see you uncloaked.  I allowed them to interact with you and to communicate with you.  To touch you.  I broke many government regulations and most likely, I will be put to death for it.  When you saw their faces, unconsciously, it drove you mad.  Our faces were never meant to be seen up close by those born after the wars.  My scientific advisors told me not to allow clients to see our stars uncloaked, but I did not listen.  All I cared about was that money- that damned money.  And that is why I showed up here today to talk with you.  My scientific advisors had warned me you might of reacted with hostility but if I did not tell you the truth-you would go insane.  The future of your whole world would have been altered.  No world peace would come about and enlightenment would be doomed.  Our timelime-the one I live on-would still be the same, but I owe all the people of your timeline a chance to experience your enlightenment.

So that is why I showed up here today on this path, to set you back on your rightful path.  And also, to apologize for my greed.  I only hope that my selfishness has not altered the future of your timeline.”

I knew the man wasn’t lying.  I could see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice.  He was human.  He was not a monster.  I put the gun away and took another drink off the bottle.
©James Begert 2011

© Copyright 2019 James Begert. All rights reserved.

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