Herman Rune is sixty-two years old, and he was fifty-seven when he first noticed the man in the crowd below — passing by with no noticeably particular importance. However, as time went on, the man continued to be there. Doing nothing, talking to no one, just there; now, he is always there and getting closer.
It all started so simply — an unintentional observation. A memory from years ago that seemed to bubble up out of nowhere when Herman saw the figure again. The man had but one unusual characteristic, he walked with a cane, strange for such a young man.
“I’ve seen him, probably, seven or eight times now,” Herman said.
“Well, what do you make of it? Do you think he’s watching you?” Robert said curiously.
Herman rubbed his eyebrows and let out a tired sigh. “I’m not sure Robert. I can’t help but feel that every time I see him, I have a little less time to finish this last project.”
“How’s that coming along anyway? And when are you going to let me read it?”
“It’s not quite properly forged out yet Robert. But this one, this one is going to change the course of humanity. When this one is finished and if it’s accepted like I hope it will be, history will become delegated to the realm of mythology. Moreover, if I’m correct, they will restart the calendar of time when it is released,” Herman finished, with a bit of a smile and some hint of trepidation in his eyes.
“Jesus, Herman, what thoughts have been sloshing around in that brain of yours? A book can’t change the world, at least in the way you are describing it, can it?” Robert stood at the opening to the balcony and looked out as he spoke.
“Robert, please, don’t be so naïve. You know as well as I do that ever since the birth of the written word it’s been changing, shaping, and tempting the world at each step. Words have been directing the human race from the beginning, and my newest work will merely continue that unstoppable progress. Now, the power of the sword may be incredibly more immediate, but the written word digs in and festers, grows stronger, and then unleashes its power upon the world. It’s quite amazing what the right words at the right time are capable of.”
“Herman Rube, sometimes I can’t tell if you’re a generational genius or a man descending into madness. Either way, you are definitely an inimitable individual.”
As Robert readied himself to leave shots rang out from the street below. They both ran to the balcony to see the people scattering in every direction—except for one man in the distance on a far street corner who was standing there still like the eye of a storm.
Herman narrowed his gaze in the hopes of getting a better understanding of what this stranger looked like. “There he is,” Herman was pointing.
Richard followed his friend’s direction. “Where?” He was trying to pinpoint anyone standing out. “I don’t see anything.”
“He’s standing right there, looking at us.”
As Richard was trying to locate what Herman was pointing at, another shot broke through the air. They both swung their head around in time to see a gunman running out of a storefront and down the street. Herman quickly returned his attention to where the stranger had been, but he was gone. ‘Why hadn’t Robert seen him?’ This has gotten a little too weird’, he thought.
Herman sat down at his typewriter and began to read his last entry. The keys clicked into a rhythm as his fingers bounced up and down. The words flowed from his subconscious as if guided by something beyond himself.
“Herman you must stop.” He heard clearly in a calm voice that came from behind him. Startled, he jumped up and looked around the empty room. The air before him began to sway like the heat that comes from the desert sands. The shimmer of a silhouette slowly appeared a few feet away from him, and he stumbled backward against the desk. As the figure solidified, recognition crossed Herman’s face. There before him, the mysterious stranger stood with an emotionless face and sharp glare. The man moved his lips as if to speak, but Herman could hear no words. His room started to vibrate all around him, and the figure collapsed in on itself in a blinding ball of white light.
Herman realized he was holding his breath, he exhaled quickly and pushed himself off the desk that was keeping him upright. He rubbed his brow and sat down and noticed the last line typed in his manuscript-‘Herman you must stop.’ Have I lost my grip on reality? He thought.
That night Herman’s dreams became a singular nightmare, a vision of the future where one man rules all with brutality and an ultimate vision for humanity. He could see this tyrant ordering the deaths of millions in the name of his beliefs.
The following morning, he pondered his vivid vision and wondered if there was a connection to the stranger that had been observing him. Sitting down he sipped his coffee from the third story gated perch that was his balcony. He began to pull the entirety of the picture apart, memory by memory. He started to realize the importance and obviousness of his recollection. It all started with that first chapter, that evening was the first appearance of the stranger. His mind became filled with connections he had not thought of before. Were his hopes for his new manuscript a possibility after all? He did not realize he was smiling and when his vision returned to him the smile suddenly disappeared. ‘No,’ thinking out loud, ‘That’s crazy.’
He got up and pulled his script, at least what he had written so far, from its box. He skimmed the words and pondered their possible meaning and interpretation. He had to finish quickly and with that began a frenzy of writing that lasted until the final word was typed. He pulled that last page from the typewriter and laid it on the desktop.
Just then, the air began to sizzle. The stranger materialized before him once again; only this time he could hear the forms words.
“Herman Rune, my name is Alium. I have been sent back to stop you from writing your final prose. In 3011, a man by the name Natas Kaupus enslaves the world under its words and ideas. He proclaims himself a God under your vision. He has become relentless, all-controlling, and all consumed by your work. He is a false God and must be stopped, no matter the consequences. We have come back to your time on many occasions in an attempt to keep you from writing your final piece, but now we are faced with one of our final choices. Eliminate you before you finish it or keep you from being born at all. However, the more changes we make here in the past, the greater the costs of our time. We have tried stealing the book, but its knowledge always somehow gets passed along and written down. I was sent here by the council of three to eradicate your latest work from the pages of history. They send me from a secreted and highly sought-after location, by the false one, where our attempts at changing our time have been taking place ever since the three conquered time travel. Being a new technology, we have not been able to pinpoint the destinations to a specific time and place. The calculations of seconds and inches are immeasurable. This is why you have seen me getting closer each time I come back. What has been years for you, has been a single hour for me. Time is of the essence Herman.”
“Please, tell me what I can do.” Herman was shaking.
The stranger’s cane began to glow, and the air became thick.
“You will feel no pain Herman Rune.”
The stranger pulled the small device from his pocket and turned the dial as he began to dematerialize.
“Is it done Alium?” The council spoke in unison.
“Yes.” He replied.
“Then it has failed. You must go back and take the final step. Let us hope that this will be the final attempt. You may not return if Natas gets to us before you finish this final mission.”
“I understand,” he said
Locking in on Herman’s young mother as she exited her school, Alium stepped forth and introduced himself, “Hello, Mary. May I have a word?”