1. The Introduction
He sat on the corner with that old bike. He called himself “The Invisible Man” and I assumed it was because that was his favorite book growing up. He said: “I’ve been everywhere and done everything.” His eyes were ageless orbs set in a weathered face. An adventure was brewing behind them.
2. The Catalyst
“Do you like history,” he asked me.
“What about the future,” he continued.
“I guess so,” I replied. “The possibilities of what could be and all.”
“No,” he said with a wry grin. “The outcomes of what already is.”
I must’ve been wearing a confused look because he let out a long sigh, stood up and placed his hands on the grips of that strange bicycle.
“I’ll have to show him,” he seemed to say to the bike.
3. The Moment Before Departure
“You’ve heard that history is written by the winners,” the Invisible Man said.
“That’s incorrect,” he continued as he sat on the bike. “It’s written by the Overseers.”
“Overseers,” I questioned. “I don’t know them.”
“But they know you,” he said motioning for me to sit on the handlebars as if it was the obvious thing to do. “The relationship is a one-way street.”
“Exactly,” he said with a laugh.
“I don’t understand,” I told him.
“You’re not supposed to,” he replied. “But, I’m tired and need to tell someone.”
4. Traveling In Place
Before I had time to comprehend the how, I was forced to figure out the where.
“We can’t change locations, only time,” the Invisible Man said, “Always bugged me, but I guess that’s why the bike’s got wheels.”
“Wait,” I asked. “We changed time?”
“Of course not. One cannot change time,” he quipped. “Only their place in it.”
“This is amazing,” I told him.
“What? Time travel,” he replied with a smile. “Nah, that’s easy. Convincing the locals that you’re not an evil warlock or alien… that’s the tricky part.”
5. Blending In
There was another bicycle there, but it had been partially deconstructed and tossed aside as rubbish after the fact. The fact being that the owner of said bicycle was ripped from it by a frightened mob and permanently dispatched in the melee. Smoldering ashes in a circle of rocks was all that remained of the traveler.
“That’s why I wear these rags,” the Invisible Man told me as he tugged at tattered clothes that I had previously mistaken for something other than camouflage. “A modern suit would stand out too much.”
“But, I’m wearing a suit,” I said with a slight panic.
“Better fix that then,” he replied.
6. Midnight Rider
Once beyond the town, a rider on a horse appeared over the hill and slowed when he saw us approaching from the other direction on the bike.
“My horse is tired and my journey is not yet finished, what manner of contraption is this that carries you about,” the man in the wide brimmed hat asked as he eyed the bicycle. “Be you foreigners?”
“You could say that,” I replied without even thinking.
The man leveled a musket on us and shouted, “Be you Redcoats?”
It took some explaining, and the borrowing of the bicycle, to persuade the man not to shoot us. In the end, he did return the bike which apparently expedited his process and proved vital to his revolutionary mission.
“I don’t remember us being part of the story,” I said.
“What needs to be written is written, what needs to be omitted is omitted,” the Invisible Man told me. “From books, then minds, then both.”
7. Further Down the Time Loop
“You’re sort of like an unsung hero,” I said.
“It’s about doing the right thing versus getting the right thing,” the Invisible Man told me as the swirling vortex surrounded us on the bicycle. “About spiritual rewards versus physical.”
“Sounds religious,” I replied.
“Religion,” he scoffed. “Not quite. This is bigger than religion. You can no more properly corral matters of the spirit as you can a wild horse. The spirit needs to run as well.”
Before I could even think up a reply, the blue lights faded away and the Invisible Man declared, “We’re here.”
“Here,” I asked as I noticed we were now inside a large glass tower with people walking to and fro in sleek, gray tunics. “Where exactly is here?”
“Same place we always go,” he replied. “Just further down the time loop.”
“Time loop,” I queried.
“Come,” the Invisible Man said. “We’ve been summoned by the Overseers.”
8. Before the Court
It was like we were fish in a fishbowl. The glass walls of the room, which was somehow hoisted in the air several levels up, provided the perfect unobstructed view of the proceedings for all those gathered around.
“You’ve violated the rules,” the Overseer seated in the center of the others told the Invisible Man. “This outsider was not to be involved.”
The Overseers were pale figures, dressed in gray tunics like the spectators, but their outfits were bejeweled with various precious gemstones. No two were alike and I assumed the various collections were akin to rank, with the center Overseer having diamond and emerald stones affixed to his tunic.
“In my defense,” my guide replied, “As per the nature of things, put in place long before any of us were here, my companion was always supposed to be involved. Nothing happens that isn’t supposed to happen. Think: What would you be doing at this exact moment if you were not doing this? For a split second your mind is empty because there is no answer. Your mind then attempts to create what-ifs, but the reality is that you and I were meant to have this conversation.”
9. Free and Clear
We had been quickly ushered out of the glass court, declared free of any wrongdoing, after my traveling companion rendered the Overseers speechless. I half-wondered if that part of the story would be omitted rather than written, but then I realized that I still remembered it so it must’ve been included, much to the Overseers chagrin.
“Where to now,” I asked.
“Here, of course,” the Invisible Man mused.
“Ah, I mean when to now,” I said, correcting myself.
“Back down the loop,” he replied. “Something about a kite, a key and lightning.”
10. Look But Don't Touch
A borrowed horse and buggy and two days later, we arrived as the clouds rolled in and the sky readied for rain. My guide, a bit worse for wear from the bumpy trip, was slow-going as he exited the buggy and I pulled the bicycle from atop the roof.
“Needs a motor,” the Invisible Man said as he pointed at the bike. “Why they didn’t think to add one is beyond me.”
“Especially if they expect you to travel across the country and-”
“Why would they expect that,” he replied. “I’m not the only one who does this.”
“There’s more of you,” I asked.
“Only one of me,” he said holding up a finger. “But lots of us.”
He then motioned to a white-haired gentleman and another man standing on the lawn. As the winds picked up, they let loose a kite into the air.
“Tell the men not to touch the key when it happens,” the Invisible Man said. “It will be evident without having to be electrocuted.”
I waved at the men as I approached them on the lawn as the rain began to fall.
11. On the Job
The blue lights dissipated and we were back home, in front of the library, as if nothing ever happened. It was like time had stood still in our absence.
“So, there you have it then,” the Invisible Man told me as he began to walk away and blend in among the others that I had previously taken as homeless beggars, but was now having my doubts.
“Wait,” I told him. “What happens now?”
“What was always going to happen,” he said. “The present becomes the future and therefore both never really were. There is always just this moment calling.”
“Your bicycle,” I asked.
“I don’t own a bicycle,” he replied. “Do you own a bicycle?”
I looked down at the bike, considering that he possibly meant that I actually was the owner. When I looked back up, the Invisible Man truly had truly become invisible. He was gone. Lost in a sea of other invisible men that walked the street. I wondered what would’ve happened had I approached one of these people beforehand, instead of dismissing them or crossing the street.
But, then I remembered that what if was a fruitless exercise in futility. What happened then was always meant to happen. What would happen next was also meant to happen.
I sat on the bicycle and suddenly noticed a yellow sticky note protruding from the worn rubber grip on the end of one of the handles. On the note was handwritten lettering with the directions to “press red button.”
I looked around the handlebars, and sure enough, a red button sat in the middle bar that connected the handles. I shrugged, took a deep breath and pressed the button. Nothing happened.
As I was about to disembark the bike to inspect what I was doing wrong, the blue lights shone and the vortex began to whir. I could see people through the swirling and they carried on as if nothing was happening. I wondered what they were seeing, if they were seeing anything at all.
As I left, I wondered where I was going or what I’d see next, but that was answered when a voice spoke into the void and I listened intently to my first assignment…