OVERHEAD, thin, cottony clouds blew across the bright blue sky in frilly wisps, but Kody couldn’t appreciate such beauty at the moment. Where had the storm gone? Each nerve in his body screamed with agony. He squinted his eyes closed again. It hurt even to breathe. He gasped from the effort.
The crackling noise and flash of light drew Jarvis’s attention from farther up the sunny hill. He saw the figure crumpling to the ground and ran toward it.
“Gads! Are you alive, sir?” a light baritone voice yelled from somewhere to Kody’s right. He opened his eyes and tried to roll over to find the source of the voice but then closed his eyes. The sun just seemed too painfully bright.
“Hold still, sir,” the man’s voice said, very close now. Kody felt some sort of cloth draping over him and tried to sit up, but he slumped back into the grass. His muscles resisted moving and thrummed with throbbing pain from the effort.
“No, just lie back. Clear your head,” the man’s voice advised.
Jarvis gazed down at the disheveled man twitching with obvious pain. He glanced up at the sky, looking for any signs of that peculiar lightning striking again.
Kody finally managed to open his eyes and keep them open. He stared up into the face of, he would guess, a thirty-year-old man with huge, bushy yellow sideburns. The silly facial hair and rounded hat the man wore almost made Kody laugh. But the intensely worried look in the man’s honey-colored eyes and the growing throb of Kody’s pounding head stole any humor from the moment.
“Can you speak? Are you injured?” Jarvis asked as he glanced into the victim’s eyes and checked for abnormal pupil dilations. He had read somewhere that was what physicians checked for in cases of drug overdose, but he wasn’t sure how applicable it might be. The man’s blue eyes looked to be in order, in any case.
Kody tried to answer, but his voice fell out in a strangled sort of wheeze. He shook his head.
“Lie still and collect yourself, then. I am Banks, Jarvis Banks, good sir,” he said, looking Kody over for any signs of injury.
Kody cleared his throat. “Kody… I’m Kody,” he managed to whisper.
“Kody?” Jarvis asked with a hint of doubt in his voice. “That’s quite an unusual name, Mr. Kody.”
“No, first name. Kody Higgins.” As the throbbing in his head eased, Kody tried to sit up again.
“I daresay, what cruel parents to burden one with such a name. Just move slowly, Mr. Higgins. Perhaps we should summon a physician?”
“Physician?” Kody asked, puzzled at the man’s strange choice of words. His head still felt all mushy, leaving everything off balance. He realized he was draped in some sort of trench coat, presumably Jarvis’s.
“Yes, just to verify you bear no serious injuries from the ordeal.”
Kody glanced around the city park. In a way he couldn’t quite put his finger on, things just seemed to be… not quite right. The dark storm seemed to have suddenly vanished and left behind a nice, sunny day. “What ordeal?”
“Goodness, Mr. Higgins, do you not recall? Why, the lightning, of course. I saw the flash and turned to see you slump to the ground when the thunderous noise struck. It was such a frightful sight, I feared I would find you dead.”
Kody probed his memory for some reason why he would be in the park in the middle of the day. He did recall going to work earlier that morning, but after that he… he what? He couldn’t seem to collect his memories of the events after getting to his office. “I… I don’t remember what happened,” he finally admitted.
“Don’t strain yourself, then, let’s rest a bit. Are you in any pain?” Jarvis asked while glancing at Kody’s arm.
Kody followed Jarvis’s eyes to his wrist and saw the large, reddened patch of skin starting to blister, like a bad sunburn. “Not really, at least not yet.”
“We should be thankful for that much, at least. It does appear most of your clothing was destroyed.”
Kody looked under the trench coat. His T-shirt and cargo shorts did look a bit singed, but they appeared to be mostly intact, so Jarvis’s comment just left him confused. He looked over Jarvis again. His forest-green costume of a three-piece suit fashioned from some sort of wool looked too formal for such a warm spring day. He must be on his way to a wedding or something.
“You may wear my coat until you can return home and dress yourself again. The coat won’t cause as much of a scandal, I venture.”
With growing awareness, Kody consciously noticed how quiet the world seemed. Faint clickety-clacks and an indistinct young shouting voice were the only sounds around him. A sudden strange chill slithered through Kody. He took a deep breath and looked around again. The park didn’t appear any different, but he realized the city around it was… gone. Well, not gone, exactly. The brownstones along Penbroke Avenue were still there, looking somehow shiny and new. But the Conner Tower, the Lentura Building, hell, all of the skyscrapers were missing. Taking a closer look at the avenue, Kody couldn’t find any cars or trucks at all. Instead, horses and carriages flowed and hurried along the road. “What the fuck?”
“Sir,” Jarvis said sharply. “I can make some allowance for your recent trauma, but please refrain from such course language in the future.” Jarvis looked over Mr. Higgins again, noticing the shorter cut of his hair. Maybe he was recently released from military service? That could account for his gruff language and sense of confusion.
“Oh, sorry,” Kody muttered as he shook his head. He looked over at Jarvis again. With that hat and those bushy sideburns that stretched all the way down to his jaw and pointed forward at the bottom…. The icy chill coursed through him again. Kody noticed the slightest wear around the cuffs of Jarvis’s suit coat. He didn’t fit into those strange clothes like someone wearing a costume. Jarvis seemed too comfortable in the green garb.
Light laughter drew Kody’s attention down to the street. Three young women in long dresses were looking toward him. The trio stood at least seventy-five yards away; their laughs and voices would only be able to carry that far in a strangely quiet world. One of the women pointed her frilly umbrella at them before the gaggle burst into more giggles.
“We should get you home, before drawing too much attention. Can you stand?”
“I think,” Kody said as he leaned forward. Jarvis offered his hand and helped him to his feet. He quickly helped Kody get his arms in the trench coat.
“Where do you reside?” Jarvis asked while buttoning the coat around Kody.
“Just off MLK,” Kody replied, gaping at the horses in the bricked street.
Jarvis puzzled over the strange sounding abbreviation. “Where again?” he asked politely.
“Martin Luther King Boulevard, a few blocks over there.” Realizing he was barefoot, Kody looked down and saw two melted plastic blobs, presumably the remains of his beige flip-flops.
Jarvis frowned. “I fear you may be more addled than we thought. There is no such street here in Waldenburg.” He glanced over Kody with concern. “Perhaps you are traveling?”
Kody felt that spooky chill again. “Uh, yeah, I’m traveling, I guess,” he said, trying to recover.
“Then where are you boarding?”
Kody squinted, not knowing how to answer. This was such an impossible situation, but the nagging cold of reality couldn’t be ignored. This wasn’t his Waldenburg. At least it wasn’t the city Kody had grown up in; not yet, anyway.
Watching Kody’s confusion, Jarvis motioned toward the street. “I dwell just down there,” he said, pointing to one of the brownstones on Penbroke. “Let’s get you indoors while we sort out this situation.” Suddenly feeling strangely protective, Jarvis wanted to take the man’s arm and lead him, but he quickly abandoned the idea, knowing public decorum must be maintained.
“Okay.” Kody followed closely behind Jarvis down to the street. He kept his eyes focused on Jarvis’s back, trying to ignore the unfamiliar era around him. He had to keep raising his gaze up, because his eyes kept wandering down to Jarvis’s nicely toned butt.
As they neared the street, Kody flinched when the stench of manure and waste clawed its way up his nose. How did Jarvis not notice this horrible stink? Kody looked down to where he expected the curb to be, but only saw a narrow ditch oozing with dirty-looking water running along the bricked road. He was obviously in a time before the glories of concrete covered the city.