Driving back to the barn, Gloria began lecturing on the dangers of bringing back someone who was ‘overly’ philosophical. “See, the thing is, Poe, like you and many other writers and artists are way too philosophical and think too much about the implications of technology and such. Now if you would have brought someone like Elvis Presley or Kurt Cobain back, we probably would have been successful in getting some kind of interview.”
“Is that right?”
It had been two days since we had attempted to bring Poe back and I was still worried about attempting this process again. The reason Tesla hadn’t reacted badly was because he had created the machine. He had known the possibilities. These other personalities or consciousnesses, had never dreamed of this kind of resurrection.
We were not only shocking them back to life, we were asking them to accept the reality of a future without them in it and something that was completely fantastical to them. Beyond the reality they died with.
The barn was just west of the Siloam Springs Public Library, so we did not have far to drive. Both of us lived less than a mile away from the place and that fact had a lot to do with the reason we had chosen the location.
We both worried someone else might stumble upon our little secret. Though we locked it up securely, we lived within a five minute drive from the site. If anything went wrong, either of us could be on the property immediately.
She nodded, keeping her eyes on the road and turning into the driveway. “Yes Mom, that is right.” She paused as she navigated the car around other vehicles in the driveway. “And I think you know I’m right. By the way,” she put the car in park and killed the ignition.” I brought a photo. It’s my turn now.”
I groaned inwardly, knowing it would be some personality so depraved, so idiotic, so… Let’s just say I didn’t have a lot of confidence in my daughter’s choices.
“Who is it?” I asked, knowing the answer.
“Guess.” She beamed.
“Do I have to?” That bright-eyed look of anticipation reminded me of Christmas past. She held that same excitement and I hoped she would never lose it. I grinned back at her. “I know who you’re calling back. I can barely say his name. Ugh.”
I did not have a fondness for Elvis Presley. I could barely watch videos of him without getting sick. To think that millions of young women threw themselves at him said something to me about the intelligence of our species. Not only did he have overgrown sideburns, but he was, in my book, a dildo and a dunce.
We stepped out of the car and I glanced back down the driveway. “I thought Karen lived here by herself,” I gestured to the other cars.
Gloria shrugged. “Maybe she’s entertaining. How would I know?”
“Maybe we should do this another night. What if something goes wrong?”
“You don’t trust me.”
I didn’t deny it. “If something goes wrong, there will be more than one witness.”
Night had fallen and though we did have some light in the barn I did not like that we would be unaware if someone looked through one of the windows. Gloria sighed. “Mom, please. Let’s just do this. If it doesn’t work out then we’ll do whatever you want from here on out. Quit being so paranoid.”
“Alright then,” I agreed reluctantly. “Let’s get it over with.”
Adjusting the headset to fit Gloria, she complained. “Can’t we update this so it’s not so heavy? Maybe you should call Tesla back next time and ask how to fix this.”
I did not want to tell her that there would be no next time, because I no longer wanted to argue. But I wanted to end this. The process of bringing these personalities back almost seemed cruel and the emotional drain it took to hide this was taking a toll.
As soon as I could get to the barn without her, I would sabotage it. “That’s a good idea. Maybe we should.”
The figure in the tunnel strode out immediately, glanced around and asked, “What’s going on here?” Elvis Presley stood in front of us demanding an answer. He looked a bit worse for the wear, considering he had been a popular teen idol and I glanced down at the black knob noticed that it was turned to the three mark. I turned it up to six and the man showed a remarkable improvement.
Gloria had removed her headgear and handed it to me. I knew she was nervous, because of the wide-eyed look of fear; and though I detected an obvious tremor, she stood up and looked at him directly. “Mister Presley, we have brought you back.” She paused and glanced at me as if for reassurance.
I nodded, tried to give an encouraging smile.
She continued. “Do you know what happened to you?”
“What the hell is going on here?!”
“Well–” Gloria was beginning to stumble so I took over. I put my hand on her arm, smiled at Presley and said, “Mister Presley, you’re dead. We brought you back through this technology and my daughter here has a question.”
He appeared doubtful, smiled for a moment and then began walking, as if he would head for the barn door. “I’m not—uh—uh—uh…” Part of his arm had disappeared and he stepped back toward the tunnel, realizing the further he moved from his entrance the worse the effect.
Gloria glanced at me, then back at the dead singer. “Is it painful?”
I shrugged, “Tesla said they still feel their body. I imagine it would be.” I considered hitting the red button, but wanted to wait for Gloria to say the word.
His arm reappeared almost immediately upon moving back toward the tunnel, but he held it in front of his face, examining his hand especially, as if unbelieving.
“As I said, this technology brought you back. You cannot move far from the tunnel before you begin to disintegrate.”
I grabbed the chair behind the console and rolled it over to the front of the machine and stepped back quickly, not knowing what the effects of the tunnel would do to us. "Please sit down Mister Presley."
He glanced at me, as if what I said finally registered. "So you’re saying," he poked his finger in the direction of the machine, "that this thing here, has brought me back from the dead?"
The hand that had previously disappeared went to his hip and rested there. The gesture reminded me of something I had heard once. My sister had been an Elvis fan and had complained at one time because some critics had dubbed the singer as "Elvis the Pelvis."
I grinned, nodded and fought back a laugh. Gloria glanced at me and sighed, crossing her arms. "Yes Mister Elvis–" she managed. "Mister Presley," she corrected.
He glanced in her direction, his famous winning smile appeared and he cocked his head to one side. My first thought was that the look had been cultivated over many years.
"What can I do for you Chile?" He had lowered and deepened his voice, clearly vying for something. Perhaps he did not understand the situation, I thought.
"Mister Presley, no matter how nice you are or how you look, you’ll never step out of that area. We can’t change that."
Gloria glared at me, then back at the singer. "I just want to know…" Then as if she had forgotten something, she fumbled the digital recorder out of her jeans pocket. "Oh, one sec please."
She fiddled with it and I noticed the man had begun to jerk his head as if dodging gnats. First to one side, then to the other. Distracted by whatever invisible things flew in the air around him.
"Alright," she continued, placing the recorder on the console. "Mister Presley, how did you die? Can you be specific?"
He swatted the air in front of him a couple of times, but leveled his gaze at her. "How the hell am I supposed to know that?"
The smile had disappeared and despite his celebrity-like appearance, he glared across the space between us and I was genuinely glad there was a barrier keeping him from us.
Gloria attempted to remain professional. "Do you have any memory of what happened right before you passed?"
Distracted again, the man swat the air in front of him again, but glanced at Gloria. "Girrrl, I have no idea what happened. Don’t remember a damn thin’."
He kicked the chair I had rolled over for him and the chair went spinning out of the space, hit something on the floor and fell over. "I don’t know a damn thin’!"
Behind him the tunnel flickered and Gloria glanced at me worriedly. "What’s going on?"
I looked over at the console and noticed the lights coming up, one of the red lights above a white button flashed continuously. "I don’t know if I should do it or not…"
"What Mom?" A note of fear sounded in her voice and I glanced at her, undecided.
"Whether to hit this button. I mean, the red warning light is right above it, so I’m assuming hitting it would take care of the problem. Right?"
She was the deer in the headlights. Frozen. "I don’t know. What do you think?"
I hit the button and the tunnel disappeared.
Elvis jumped as if shocked, then backed away from the area, toward the console. "What just happened?" he asked.
"I’m not sure."
He turned and looked at both of us, scowling. I backed up, realizing he was outside the space he would normally be confined to.
"What’de y’all do to me?"
Then he was walking around the console. Gloria sprinted for the barn door, I backed up, snatching the headgear from the machine and waving it in front of me as he advanced.
I had not realized how large the man was, but he literally towered over me, practically foaming at the mouth.
Then Gloria opened the barn door. A gust of wind blew in and he turned on his heel, moving toward it.
"No!" I shouted. Cursing Gloria for the move, I sprinted back over to the machine and hit the red button. The tunnel and Tesla appeared almost immediately.
Gloria had disappeared the dead singer behind her. "Mister Tesla…" I choked. Then I related our situation.
Ten minutes later after I had locked up the barn, Gloria appeared, disheveled and out of breath.
She limped down the driveway as I stood next to the car watching her. Without saying a thing to me, she went to the driver’s side and opened the door, sat down in the seat.
Sitting next to her, I finally asked. "What happened?"
"He followed me. I was running at top speed and he followed me to the park."
"Did anyone see him?" I asked, hoping that no one had, knowing better.
"Are you kidding me?" She leaned over and rested her forehead on the steering wheel. "There was some kind of Hispanic event going on at the center. Everyone saw him."
She leaned back in the seat and looked over at me. "I don’t think I can drive. You mind?"
I nodded. "No problem."
"Did they recognize him?" I asked.
She rolled her eyes. "Who wouldn’t recognize him Mom?"
I shrugged. "Was hoping…that maybe."
"The worst is that a few people took photos. Then he disappeared; or more like he kind of went poof and exploded in front of them."
"Yeah. Promise me we’ll never do this again?"
I moved from my seat, looked in at her as she scooted into the passenger side. "No problem. We’ll never do it again."
But then, after my talk with Tesla I knew I would return just one more time.