The Color of Time

by Eric Johnson

Its June 29th 2014, at the University of Alabama. There is a ceremony for the graduating class going on. Its taking place on the Universitys very large football field, in which 200 students are graduating and are about to enter in the real world where there are a lot of uncertainties. Doubts about first and foremost, getting a good job, paying back student loans, family, friends and relationships. Though every student in attendance is happy about reaching this milestone, all these worries are going through their heads and rightfully so.

Three students in particular Cassandra Cassie Jones, her boyfriend of three years Mark Ellison and his childhood friend Jonathan Taylor are sitting together waiting for the president of the University to end his speech. He makes the last statement of his speech. One last thing I would like to say before I sit is that no matter how difficult it may be out there in this crazy world; think about your experience here at Alabama. Your struggles, hard times, late nights, impossible deadlines, guess what? Youre all sitting here now about to graduate from the best University in the land! As he says this, the graduating class erupts with cheering and applause. Every student removes their hats and ceremoniously flings them high in the air and as they do this the school President says congratulations class of 2014!

Cassie, Mark and Jon are of course celebrating with the rest of the students. We did it! We did it! Whoooooooo! Class of 2014!! Cassie screams out, as she hugs Mark and then Jon. Jon raising his voice to be heard above the other students says what are we doing after this Mark, Cass? Mark replies I dont know what you guys wanna do? Cass and Jon look at each other smiling as if they were hiding something. What are you guys planning, whats going on? Mark asks. Suddenly Mark realizes what they are talking about. Guys, we cant! Cant what Jon says. I cant take you to my fathers lab, I would get in so much trouble with him, and hes already pissed at me about the car. You two think I wanna add to that? Hes right Jon, leave him be. Says Cass. After talking and celebrating with a few other students, they walk away together making plans for the evening.

That evening Cass, Mark and Jon agree to meet at a local bar to do some shots. After a few beers and some shots, Cass gets in on Mark again about giving them a tour of his fathers lab. An unofficial one. Jon adds Yeah man itll be great! Promise we wont touch a thing, just a little peek of what youre dad is working on. Reluctantly Mark gives in. It was probably the liquor that pushed him over and besides he hated disappointing his girl and his best friend. Ok, ok Mark says. Cass squeals with excitement. Listen, listen! Security there is tight; my dad I think is working on something for the government, and when we get there let me do all the talking to security. I have to convince them to first let us in after hours and raise no suspicions. If I cant talk my way past them, its off, agreed? Yeah, yeah we gotcha. Jon says.

Since Mark was the least buzzed in the group, he decided to drive to the facility. As they pull up to the gate at the entrance, an armed guard steps out of the booth to greet them. Looking very annoyed as to why anyone would be coming to the facility that late in the night. It was about 11:30pm. As they pull up, Mark says not a word. Mr. Ellis" The guard exclaims, "I wasnt informed of any visitors this late. As he goes over the visitors list on his clip board. Hey, Ralph hows it going tonight, no worries Im just showing my friends the lab.Were kind of celebrating graduating today its umm, he says nervously. Oh ok, congrats to you three, as he shines his flashlight into the rest of the car. So let me call your dad to see if this is ok with him so INo need to bother him this late, he said it was ok when I talked to him earlier at graduation today, besides he was talking about coming in tonight to work on something or another. Well be just about an hour and then well be outta your hair. An hour right? Ralph says. One hour. Mark exclaims.

Ralph goes into his booth to lift the gate. Mark parks the car in his fathers parking space. As they exit the car, Ralph is speeding towards them in a security buggy with the lights flashing. They all thought they were busted and was going to get kicked off the premises. Mr. Ellis, you forgot your security badges, how else would you gain access to the building? Ralph chuckles. Oh yeah, I forgot; thanks Ralph. They each put on an access badge. Now remember, you guys only have level A access. Level B is strictly for lab personnel. Got it. Jon says as he gives Ralph a thumbs up. What Ralph didnt realize was that he mistakenly gave Jon an area B access badge. Jon notices this right away but doesnt say a word. So they make their way into the building and start walking around through the corridors looking through windows at the various pieces of lab equipment. They notice a few chimpanzees, white mice and other animals being kept in cages. Nothing really worth noting.

Ok, Im officially bored, is this it? Cass asks. I dont know, I guess there is.says Mark. Guyswhats behind door number one? asks Jon. Before them is a large white door that says RESTRICTED PERSONNEL LEVEL B ACCESS ONLY. Yeah, we dont have access.says Mark. Oh but we do Jon exclaims We do indeed. As he says this, he swipes the card reader. The door suddenly swings open, they walk in..Now this looks a little more interesting, right guys? Jon says. Back at the guards booth Ralph decides to call Marks father in spite of what he said. Mr. Ellis, sorry to bother you so late. Its ok Ralph, anything wrong down there? Not at all sir, I just wanted to let you know that your son and a couple of his friends are here at the lab. He said that he wanted to give his friends a tourhe said you said it was alright with you. I have no idea what youre talking about Ralph; I gave my son no permission to give any tours of my lab.Sorry sir, Ill go get them right away. Itll just take a second to call in. Ralph says. Mr. Ellis then asks, You did give them access A badges only right? asks Mr. Ellis. Yes sir I gave themas Ralph says this; hes counting how many B access cards there are. He notices that one is missing. Sir, I think one B card is missing. I think I may have given one of them the wrong badge. Im so sorry sir; I will fix this right now. Ralph Im on my way, get them out of there now!! Yes sir, right away sir! Station three come in..

The B lab is just one large circular room with computers and other pieces of lab equipment surrounding what looks like a totem pole with lights blinking on and off at the center on a platform. At the top of this structure is a cone shaped device that also has blinking lights on it. At the end of the circular platform is a large plate glass. What in the heck is that? Jon asks. Cass is over at one of the desks looking at what she presumes to be classified information about whatever is in that room. Says here something about temporal physics, alternate timelines and monthly timetables. Cass says. Cassie, Jon; dont touch he is saying this, Jon is already pressing buttons. Guys, I think this is a time machine. Suddenly, a particle beam emanates from atop of the structure directly into the plate glass, suddenly what looks like hole in the glass widens to about ten feet high and ten feet wide. They all look at it amazed wondering whats going to happen next. Cassie walks up the platform to the opening, sticks her hand in and then pulls it out quickly. Cassie, what are you doing? Mark shouts. You gotta come try this! It feels great! Cassie says. When she thrusts her hand back into the opening, she is suddenly swallowed up and disappears. Mark screams Cassie! He runs up the platform and jumps into the opening and disappears. Jon cant believe what hes seeing, he immediately without thinking runs behind Mark and he also disappears into the opening. As soon as he enters, the opening suddenly shrinks and vanishes. The machine shuts down.

As the machine shuts itself down, the door opens, five security guards along with Ralph rush into the lab. Oh my goodness, what happened? Where are they? Ralph says. About twenty seconds later Mr. Ellis comes rushing in. What happened, wheres my son? He notices that the experiment just powered itself down. Everybody clear the room, now!

Mark, Cass and Jon find themselves lying on a concrete floor, awakening as if they were drugged or had a bad hangover from the night before. They are lying in an empty warehouse, large windows all around and the sun shining down on them. Cass sits up. Guys, what just happened and where are we? Mark and Jon also sit up as if just getting out of bed. I dont know what just happened, but my head hurts. They walk to the warehouse entrance, open the door and to their surprise, there are people walking around in what seems to be clothes from the 50s or 60s. As they stand just inside the warehouse entrance a few people walking past stare at them. Maybe it was their strange looking clothes or the fact that Mark who is white was standing too close to Cass (his girlfriend) and Jon who are both Black. Suddenly they realize what just happened. Theyve just been transported to the past, but where and when?

Back to the present, the lab is busy with activity. Dr. Ellis along with about 20 other scientists are slowly piecing together what just happened. Dr. Cole, from what Im reading here my son and his two friends were sent back to the year 1956 can we confirm this? Dr. Cole reads the data and checks the coordinate monitor. Confirmed doctor, and if they survived the jump they are back in 1956 around April or May of that year. Why that year doctor? asks Dr. Ellis. It was just a year I programmed for the time travel simulation; it was never supposed to be tried on human subjects. It was just for the computer simulation tests. The other reason Dr. Ellis was worried was because not only if they survived the jump, it was because he knew that his son and Cassie were in a relationship and if that was discovered back in those days there could be grave consequences. He was hoping and praying that one or all of them had their smart phones on them because unbeknownst to Mark, Cassie and Jon there was a way through a small window in the time transport matter stream to get text messages back and forth between the past and present. This would allow for Dr. Ellis to send a message to them and let them know when and where the next time jump would be, but this was all in theory because none of this was actually tested.

Mark, Jon and Cassie decide to get their bearings and find out when and where they are. So together they decided to walk around town to maybe find a newsstand or a television to watch. As they are walking together, they are getting stared at by even more people. Suddenly they are stopped by this white male in his 50s. Son, are these two niggers giving you trouble? I will call the authorities if they..What did you just say to me? Jon said angrily. No not at all sir, not at all theyre with me. I mean they work for me. Jon and Cass look at Mark, but knew deep down they had to play that role for now to survive this mess. At this point everyone is hungry so they finally came across a diner and as soon as they walk in, a hush falls across the diner and everyone is staring. The cook/manager behind the counter blurts out, hey we dont serve Negros here, you two have to go down by old Charlies down by the railroad tracks. Ok, no problem sir, Ill just be staying. Says Mark. Cass, Jon Ill take care of this, across the street is a motel, take this (he hands them $40) and rent a room for the night, Ill meet you guys there in an hour. Go.please. What about food, were starving. says Jon. Ill bring some to you. Cass and Jon reluctantly leave the diner. Not only did Mark have about $200 on him, he also had his phone.

Just before Jon and Cass enter the motel, an elderly Black gentleman hands them a flyer. You folks come on down to the Negro equality rally down at first street Baptist church. We gotta stand by one another.Sir, I dont know if we.just come on down and listen. It costs nothing, we have Reverend King speaking that night. says the old man. When? asks Jon. Friday afternoon, in four days. says the old man. Well try, thank you sir. Cass says. Wait; did you say the Reverend Martin Luther King? Yeah, thats right. Back in the present, all the scientists are arguing whether to send or not send a message back to the past fearing it may cause the creation of an alternate timeline in which some or all of them may be affected. No one knows for sure. (Scientist 1) We cannot send any messages to the past, were not even sure if they made it out alive! (Scientist 2) Yes, but if we dont wouldnt that be just as disastrous?Maybe, maybe not. says one other colleague. What about all the hard work, money and research that went into all this! All for nothing! I dont think so. I say we send a message and we send it now! Marks father is in the middle of all this arguing remaining quiet thinking and listening to everyones opinion.

Dr. Ellis, its your call. It is my call and I say we send a message and deal with the consequences later. I want my son and his friends back home; but doctor! says one scientist. Its settled, send a brief message. Let them know we are doing everything we can to bring them home. Says Dr. Ellis.

Mark finishes his meal and orders more for Cass and Jon. He then makes his way to their room at the motel but before he knocks on their door, he hears them arguing. What are we going to do; I dont want to be stuck here in this time with all this hate and bigotry! I know, I know, this is really messed up and I dont like it any more than you do, but we have to try and keep calm and be patient. Im sure Marks dad is working on getting us back to our time. Mark stands there just listening. Your boyfriend didnt make what happened across the street any easier you know. He did what he had to do to protect us; if he hadnt you know what couldve happened over there? You studied African American history, so I dont have to tell you. I know, youre right. It was just hard to deal with. To see him act that way. Says Jon. Mark knocks quietly on the door. Hey guys, its me. Open up. Jon opens the door. How are you guys doing? Hey, Im sorry about what happened back there. As he says this his phone vibrates. Mark removes it from his pant pocket in disbelief. Whats going on? How is your phone working? asks Cassie.

Mark reads the text message. Its from dadI dont know what or how this is possible.What does it say? asks Cassie. Hold on, it says WE ARE WORKING TO GET ALL OF YOU HOME, PLEASE STAY OUT OF HISTORYS WAY. THE NEXT TIME JUMP WILL BE IN FOUR DAYS AT THE SAME PLACE YOU ENTERED THAT TIME PERIOD. PLEASE RESPOND. Mark responds by typing, WE ARE OK, WILL BE WAITING AT THE WAREHOUSE IN FOUR DAYS TIME. Mark presses send and at that moment his phone begins to chime, the battery is about to die. No, no, no, no, not now! What happened? asks Jon. My battery died and I dont know if the message got through. Never the less we will be at that warehouse in four days. They all look at each other in a sigh of relief. I feel a lot better knowing that were going home soon, on Friday Cass and I are going to this rally. What rally? asks Mark. The push for equality rally down at the local church where MLK will be speaking.I dont know about this guys, my father says to keep our heads low for these four days. Listen, I know a little about temporal mechanics; we cannot interfere with the natural course of history. Who says were going to interfere? Were just going down to hear the man speak. Its a great opportunity to hear one of historys greatest thinkers in person and Cass and I are going. Jon says. Cassie, I dont agree with this, come on and back me. I cant Mark, cant you support us?

Not with this, its too dangerous! I know a little of your history too and almost every time there was a rally like this in the south, you had those racist idiots stirring up trouble. Beating up protestors, the local police siding with them too. Dogs, water hoses! It was crazy guys! You want to be a part of this? Jon and Cassie fall silent. Well, I dont! Mark leaves the room and slams the door on his way out. Jon, what are we doing? Maybe Marks right, we shouldnt get involved. Were going! Mark finds his way back at the diner, its less crowded.

There are four white men sitting in the corner having a discussion. Mark sits at the counter and asks for water.Coming right up. says the waitress. Mark can overhear the conversation that the four men in corner are having. Man 1: Man, I cant wait till Friday! I gotta little surprise for those niggers at the rally, aint that right Billy! Sure is right Tommy, cant wait myself. Now listen upBilly looks over at Mark and notices that he is eavesdropping in on their conversation. Who you eyein boy? Hey you at the counter! I said what you looking at? Billy gets up out of the booth and begins to walk over to Mark. You FBI or something? The other men get up from the booth to back Billy. Listen, I dont want any trouble. Im just here drinking some water. Yeah, leave him alone Billy, hes one of us. Says the waitress. Come on Billy boy leave him be, besides Im sure hell be at that rally too right along with us. Aint that right boy. Mark nods his head in agreement. Where you stayin at boy? Billy asks. Across the street at the motel, Im from out of town. Oh alright then, well see ya at 5pm sharp on Friday. Dont be late!

Friday afternoon arrives and the Black people in town are starting to congregate at the Baptist church. Jon and Cass were able to purchase some clothes so that they could blend in better with the others. Around 5:30 a man in the pulpit announces the reverend Martin Luther King will be speaking that evening. (Man): I would like to introduce to you folks a great man of God, who will not only give you spiritual nourishment but also the strength and courage to face the difficult times we have ahead in our struggle to be equal and treated as such. Everyone stand to your feet and clap your hands for the reverend Martin Luther King Jr. The congregants begin to clap, yell and praise God for what he is doing for them. MLK gives an impassioned and encouraging message of hope and peace. Jon and Cassie are in total awe and disbelief that they are actually seeing and hearing this man speak. Tears ran down the face of Cassie.

Near the end of his message, a bottle filled with gasoline with a rag stuffed at the top suddenly comes crashing through the church window and hits one of the pews which catches fires that begins to spread immediately. Everybody evacuate the building now! says Martin Luther King. There is panic, confusion and screaming everywhere. Scores of people are running towards any unobstructed exit. Outside waiting with bats, clubs and rope are a group of bigots ready to beat anyone coming out the church and among them is Mark. His agenda was different from the other men wanting to beat and kill, he wanted to get Jon and Cassie out of harms way and finally the three of them can make it on time back to the warehouse and finally back home. There wasnt much time left. About 40 minutes. As people are rushing out of the church in which is partly on fire at this point, the bigots are beating people. Some are fighting back while others are just curled up on the ground taking hit after hit. Jon and Cassie are separated and as Jon runs out of the main doors, he is punched in the face and falls to the ground.

He scrambles to his feet and as he does he immediately sees Mark and tackles him right away. They fight. Jon, what are you doing? Im on your side.Then why are with these crackers! Im not with them! Mark screams. Sure you are! Jon lands a body blow on Mark and they begin to tussle but are somehow separated in all the other fighting and confusion. Someone grabs Jon, helps him to his feet. Its Martin Luther King. Are you ok son? I am thank you sir. Suddenly two of MLKs assistants grab hold of him and throw him into back of a car that then speeds away. Police sirens are suddenly heard and the racist mob begins to scramble. Somehow Jon and Cassie find each other and run off. We have to get back to the warehouse now! Jon says. What about Mark, we have to find him! There isnt enough time Cass! Jon just blurted it out. He was with them! What! Thats not true Jon, he isnt like that. Tell that to my face! Pointing to the bruise above his eye. We have to go now, we only have minutes left.

Mark realizes that he too must get back to the warehouse if he wants to see home again. He starts running. Dr. Ellis and the other scientist begin the initial start up of the time machine. Again, the particle beam hits the large plate glass and an opening begins to form. As Jon and Cassie approach the warehouse, they can see light emanating from the windows. This was it; this was their chance to get home. They burst through the doors and immediately run through the opening the time machine created and as they come out on the other side back in the lab the machine suddenly malfunctions, there are fuses blowing everywhere. The particle beam stops. The time door is closed. The rare materials needed to power the machine are exhausted. There only was enough to power two trips into the past or future. Mark bursts through the doors in enough time to see the time door vanish. He screams noooooooo!

In the present, there are minor changes. As Jon and Cassie struggle to overcome the effects of time travel. Jon looks at Cassie. Cass, is that you? Yes, it is me. She sees her reflection and screams. What happened? Why am I white? I can explain dear. Out of the shadows Mark comes forward, he is around 80 years old. Mark! What will happen to him? I can explain everything my darling. Mark says. But how are you here?What happened to you? Jon replies. Here come and sit. Mark says. You see when I was left back in 1956 it was devastating to me, I lost everything but I remembered what my father said about polluting the timelines and that it could end in disaster. So I decided to keep my head down and stay out of historys way, but I did not factor love into that equation. About a year after youd gone back to the present, I settled down and purposely found and fell in love with your Grandmother Cassie because when I met her she reminded me so much of you. She loved me too in spite of me being white.

We got married and moved to one of the northern states that tolerated interracial married couples. We raised two boys and one girl and we taught them to respect all people of color, race, creed or religion. What about Dr. Ellis, your father? asked Jon. Im here too, daughter He was standing behind them listening. Dr. Ellis is now a black man who is now Cassies father. So let me get this straight. Dr. Ellis is my father, so that would make you (Mark) my Grandfather right? Thats correct. Says Mark. How can this be? This is impossible. Says Cass. This is why a device like this is so dangerous. Though the changes you see now are relatively minor, the results could have been more severe. Mark says. Later that evening after a complete physical and psychological exam, it was discovered that Cassie was two months pregnant and that Mark is the biological father. Somehow the fetus was not affected by the time travel or the new alternate timeline.

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