By Becky Croy
18th November 1955, Memphis, Tennessee, US of A. The glory days, before the reliance on modern technology and super cities. Before equality and interstellar travel. Before all of that, there was rock and roll.
A reluctant waitress scribbles my order on her notepad. The room is loud and chatty with black and white checked floors. The jukebox is playing rockabilly, a swinging beat to match the youthful energy. The air is sweet with clinging perfume and sugar cream. I find myself sipping on a milkshake, drowning in the stuff. This dairy delight is something I’ve never had but now can understand the appeal. I feel my head spinning from the time jump, about twenty-three minutes ago.
People here are nice, friendly, slightly confused at my strange suit and wide-eyed expression. I asked the waitress for a cheeseburger. I think I did it right, you know, put the emphasis on the right letters. CheeseBURGER would sound strange, so would CHeeseBUrgER, but my decision to say CHEESEburger was the right one.
I see a couple dancing on the raised platform near the jukebox. She with a ruffled skirt, sleeveless blouse, and meticulously curled hair. He with tailored pants, a tucked-in buttoned shirt with slicked-back hair. Just like the movies.
I should notify the Director of my successful time jump. This research trip (“Back to the Future”) has given me the perfect opportunity to meet the most beautiful man in the galaxy, Elvis Presley. Just the thought of him and his gyrating hips makes me feel dizzy, and my head slips from my hand to the table just as the CHEESEburger arrives.
I pick myself up and thank the gum-chewing waitress staring at me. I take a big bite. It is good, greasy, and tastes a little like plastic. My head feels like it’s on fire, god, I hope my brain doesn’t turn into goo! My time suit suddenly lights up as if responding to my fear. Flashes of purple and green dance around the white plate in front of me … I can’t move … maybe this is it, goodbye brain! I feel myself stretching and pulling from all different dimensions. The diner around me narrows into a tunnel as I speed through to the unknown.
I put the communications relay into my ear. A quick chat with the engineer suggested a possible ‘circuit jam’ caused my suit to jump forward in time by about two years. I guess it’s no biggie, it’s still the 1950s. The Director has given me clearance meaning my research can still continue. The scanner built into the collar of the suit reads June 1st 1957, New York City. It must be fate, because I see, in bright neon lettering, The Ed Sullivan show! Audience Members Welcomed! One of Elvis’s appearances on the show. Tonight he will play, sparking change for all music that follows. I’m sitting in the audience, waiting with all the other eager fans, mainly girls, for this one man. We wait, we scream, we wait some more.
The TV monitors are so primitive. Wow, technology has come such a long way. The only footage we have of this Elvis TV appearance is in black and white. I am considering getting out my Nano recorder to get it in colour. It might be a bit risky, but the recorder can always pass as a pill of some kind if someone notices. Hopefully, they don’t want me to swallow it to prove it. It’ll be painful to get it taken out, I don’t want a repeat of training week! My head is on fire again, no one has ever time jumped twice in less than twenty-four hours.
I hear shuffling feet, it must be Elvis! He comes onto the stage, wearing slick black shoes, tweed jacket with a blacked collared shirt. How does one man have so much power? Tribute shows, Graceland tours, god, people make a living impersonating him! In the future, no single person has this much power and influence anymore. It is too much responsibility, and puts strain on their mental state, significantly corrupting their ability to think logically. Just as Elvis is about to open his mouth, my suit begins to light up again, purple and green, with an added popping noise, spitting out mini fireworks. Before all these strangers get a chance to ask me if I am okay, I feel like I am fading. Thick, odourless smoke surrounds me as the stage narrows to a seemingly endless point, pulling and dragging me through.
It is colder now, darker, dirtier. Distant traffic lights flash rhythmically in time with my throbbing head. I put it at November 1959. I can’t see properly on the scanner, the numbers are all scrambled up. I’ve lost contact with the Director completely. It’s hard to make out exactly where I am, the streets are dimly lit, and steam is rising from gutters nearby. My head is pulsing, pounding, piercing through my skull.
That’s it. I know the number one rule of time travel; don’t mess with the transportation, but this suit has to come off. I find an alleyway to contort my body out of the damn thing. I feel out of balance again, it makes me want to throw up. I give up on the suit and stagger over to a hotel nearby, trying to find a spot in the lobby to sit until the feeling passes. All I had wanted was to meet Elvis, for him to serenade me with his deep velvety tones. A phone rings nearby. I collapse into a plush leather couch and sigh. The phone still rings. Nobody answers it. After three more rings, I walk over, picking it up.
‘Hello, this is Elvis.’
‘Hi, Director. How are you?’
‘I knew I’d find you.’
‘How did you find me?’
‘Details, unimportant details. I’ve organised a new suit for you. I’m sorry I can’t give it to you in person as I am … out of the area you could say. One of my trusted associates will drop it off to you shortly.’
‘Oh, right, of course. And who I am looking out for?’
‘Mr Presley, he has got a suit for you.’
‘Seriously, The Elvis Presley? How is that possible?’
‘Mr Presley has been kind enough to let you borrow his one so you can get home, the original plan was to give it to you after his Ed Sullivan show, but you disappeared on him before he got the chance. Do you think you are the only person to be out and about with a time suit?’
‘Well … no, but I thought they were for research only …’
‘The money to make them had to come from somewhere. We gave him one to try out as a thank you. Anyway, I have to go. These calls aren’t cheap you know …’
‘Wait! How will I find him?’
The phone fizzes out to a dial tone, and I hang up defeated. I hear shuffling feet, and a deep velvet voice caresses me from behind.
‘I think this is for you, darlin’ …’