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First pages

1

Chef Andre Pierre Jaramillo, or Pete for short, wanted to make the perfect breakfast burrito because his life was a mess. His food truck was a derelict crap factory that a cat had pissed on the day after his grand opening. He never could get the smell away. The students of the University of New Mexico bought his burritos not because they were good, but because they could get one for a dollar. If they could ignore the urine smell, they could feast for pocket change.

If he could make the perfect burrito, he could charge more. If he could charge more, maybe he could buy a storefront, and get out of the university area. Pete envisioned himself making breakfast burritos for the Albuquerque mayor, shaking his hand, taking a picture, and framing it on the wall with all the other celebrities. Instead, he was listening to some ungrateful dweeb complain about a buck burrito, “There’s bone in my meat.”

“It’s cartilage, not bone,” Pete said as he changed out some wilted lettuce for slightly less wilted lettuce.

“I could have choked!” The student slammed the floppy burrito onto the counter. The other students behind him in line rolled their eyes. The piece of “bone” was no bigger than a pencil tip. It wasn’t Pete’s fault they tossed the entire damn cow into the grinder, and a piece of cartilage got through.

“Even a baby couldn’t choke on that.”

“I’m going to report you. This is unsanitary. What’s your permit number?”

“Sorry,” Pete addressed the line of students. “We’re closed!”

He slammed down the shutter to the food truck, and the angry student was drowned out by the thick metal crash. Pete slumped to the ground and pulled off a hat from his head. The front pictured a burrito. Embroidered on the back were the words: “The perfect burrito.”

_______

Later that evening, Pete locked up his food truck. It was November, and the days were getting shorter. It was dark by the time the dinner rush was over. He cleaned the truck, and prepped for the next day. He would have had to wake at three in the morning if he were to prepare for the breakfast burrito rush, so he’d rather do it at night. By the time he was walking towards his truck, most of the students had gone home. Even the ducks at the duck pond were sleeping.

He hefted his way across campus, sucking in breath while he walked. His doctor had said he was pre-diabetic a couple of years ago. He hadn’t done anything about his health, and had even gained fifty pounds since the diagnosis, so he was sure he was full-blown diabetic by now—not that he cared—Pete was always walking one step closer to death.

He crossed Lomas, towards the squat, brown, adobe-style Physics building. There was a lot behind the labs where he parked his truck. It was one of the most expensive lots, but he didn’t see any other way he’d have time in the morning to park the trailer, the truck, and open at 7 am. At least, not if he wanted to sleep.

He’d circled the building as far as the other side when he saw a blue flash of light come from one of the windows. A loud explosion quickly followed. Pete ducked, and stumbled backward. He toppled over, and cracked his tailbone on the pavement.

“What the—” he yelped and pushed himself up. Before he could figure out what had happened, a man in a button up shirt and slacks stumbled out from one of the doors of the Physics building. The man’s hair was burnt, and his hands were bloody and charred. He looked at Pete, and collapsed.

“Hey,” Pete yelled, and ran to the man. “Hey, mister. You OK?”

It was a stupid question. The man was clearly not OK. In fact, the man might have even been dead. When Pete got close enough, he poked the dude with his foot. The guy looked up and said, “It worked!”

“What? What worked?” Pete asked.

“The perfect—The perfect—” The man coughed and hacked.

“Burrito? The Perfect Burrito?”

“The perfect quantum tunneling—.” The man gagged and continued. “Tell my lab assistant—that I love her.”

The man died in Pete’s arms. Pete stumbled backward. He was in serious trouble now. This guy was a professor, from the looks of his graying hair, and crow’s feet under his eyes. He didn’t look like any customer of Pete’s. The only people who would eat his swill were college students. He’d tried to cook at the state fair once, and they’d put his truck right next to the Garduno’s tent. He couldn’t compete with Garduno’s.

To make matters worse, there were already rumors about his burritos. Students would say they were chupacabra ground up with rat. Seniors dared freshman to eat his burritos. Frats used his burritos for pledges and pranks. He didn’t care, for the most part, because it was good for business. The only reason he survived was that they were cheap. Students shoved anything in their mouth that cost a dollar. He’d tried raising the price to a buck fifty once, and had lost half his business in one day.

If Pete were found by the campus police next to a dead professor, the rumors would end him. He was having enough trouble as it was. The one bedroom roach motel he called home was already one month late on rent, and perpetually three months late on power. Each bill came with a friendly threatening notice that they would shut off his lights. He was seriously considering sleeping in the food truck.

He was about to run, when he looked at the open door to the physics lab. He thought about what the man had said about his assistant. Maybe she was still in there. Maybe she was unconscious, or something. Maybe the lab was on fire. He imagined carrying her heroically out of the building. The Albuquerque Journal would say the next day, “Pete ‘The Burrito Man’ Jaramillo Saves Local Woman.”

Pete sucked in his breath and went into the building. Smoke filled the hallway. There was a lab down the way with a door hanging off its hinges. Pete gagged and coughed. Holding his breath was much harder than it looked in the movies.

He bumbled through the hallway to the lab doorway. A network of supercomputers was on fire. In the center of the room was a long black table that reminded Pete of this busted air hockey table, with all the white paint stripped off, that his uncle Ricardo had in the basement. Except that this wasn’t an air hockey table. There was some weird blue and white, glowing, crackling portal on top.

It looked like the special effects he saw in the Wayne’s World movies, or was that Bill and Ted? He couldn’t remember. He knew it was the one with that guy from The Matrix. Behind the table, he saw the lab assistant. She had a cute round face, brown hair, and thick black glasses. She was the most beautiful chick he’d ever seen—and he was around college students all day!

He circled the table and poked her with his feet. There would be no use saving her if she were dead. However, she stirred and mumbled something. He attempted to bend down to pick her up, but he wasn’t so good at bending anymore. The extra pounds, and the relatively sedentary lifestyle, had taken a toll on him.

He finally maneuvered himself in a way that he could grab her by the arms. He hoisted her up and dragged her toward the doorway. Her white lab coat got stuck on the edge of the black table. He huffed, and grunted, but couldn’t free her by force alone.

He plopped her on the ground, and waddled towards the table. He leaned on the edge with one hand, and went to fiddle with the lab coat with the other. His weight was too much for the table to bear. The leg cracked, and shattered, sending both Pete and the science experiment to the ground.

The strange glowing portal crackled and flashed. The whirlwind of activity increased. It began to suck everything in the room towards it. Lab equipment and office supplies flew into the portal. Lightning flashed with each hungry gulp. The unconscious lab assistant started sliding towards the ravenous hole.

Pete grabbed onto her leg with one hand, and onto the base of a server rack with the other. The phenomenon intensified. It swirled and engulfed everything that wasn’t nailed down. Pete and the assistant rose off the ground as it ate. At the peak, Pete felt what it must have felt like to be hanging on for dear life, while being sucked from an airlock.

His hand was numb, and it slipped. Pete and the lab assistant flew into the portal, and they disappeared from the room.

_______

Pete woke up in the blazing hot desert sun. He spat dirt and grit from his mouth. He looked towards the Sandia mountain range that was pressed up against the side of Albuquerque, and it was right where it always had been. However, Albuquerque wasn’t where it was supposed to be. There was no city whatsoever. He was surrounded by the desert. There were no buildings, no university, and no physics lab.

The lab assistant groaned from beyond a bush a couple of feet away. Pete ran towards her, and kicked a notebook in the sand. It looked like some crazy math stuff. There were also some office supplies littering the desert. He picked up the notebook, and was going for a pen, when he felt the tip of a spear poke into his back, followed by a loud grunt.

Pete put up his hands, and turned around, dropping the notebook back into the sand. When he finally saw who was holding the spear, he thought that he was back at a Metallica concert, after he had taken something his friend Tito called an “herbal supplement.” It was way back when the band all had long hair. He remembered hearing the primal music and watching James Hetfield scream into the mic.

He realized, at that moment, that humans had evolved from apes—His whole life, his father had never believed it, because he thought the planet was six thousand years old—but Pete saw it for himself. James Hetfield melted into some sort of ape-man. Kirk went next. Thousands of years of evolution, right before his eyes, and the vision all went away when some crazy screaming skinhead guy head butted Pete, and jumped back into the mosh pit.

Unlike the vision at the concert, the man in front of him was a real-life caveman! He had a large forehead, a mop of hair, and was wearing pelts. The man eyed Pete cautiously, and picked up the journal. He sniffed it, and took a bite. It didn’t taste good, so he tossed it.

Pete went to pick up the notebook; the caveman squealed and shook his spear. Before the Missing Link was able to impale Pete, the lab assistant crawled out of a bush. She cursed and swore, “That stupid git. He thinks that he can take advantage of me. Just because I’m a woman in physics doesn’t mean I’ll sleep with him for a Ph.D. I’m going to report him to the provost.”

Her accent made her even hotter. Pete knew it was Downton Abbey that she was speaking or was it Downtown? He wasn’t quite sure where it was from. He was pretty sure Downtown Abbey was in Australia. That hot actress from Once Upon a Time was also from Australia, so he was pretty sure Downtown Abbey also happened there too. One time his friend Tito caught him watching Downtown Abbey, and he had to punch his buddy, so he’d shut up about it.

The caveman’s eyes lit up when he saw her. He let out a soft grunt, and his hold on his spear went limp. Pete used the moment to snatch up the notebook. The assistant felt around on the dirt for her glasses. They were thick hipster glasses that were almost too big for her face.

“What’s this, then?” she said, when she saw the two shapes of people staring at her. She was used to people staring, mostly men. It was no wonder why she wanted to lock herself up in a lab the rest of her life. She hated dealing with people. Once she found her glasses, she put them on, and said, “Are you kidding me?”

She walked up to the caveman and examined him. She poked and prodded, even sniffed his hide. While she worked, she just talked to no one in particular, “The old goat knew what he was talking about. I thought he was just a pervert trying to impress his grad student. But this—a real life Homo NeanderthalensisThis is amazing, and would you look at the jawline? Completely different from the speculated—Who the bloody hell are you?”

She noticed Pete for the first time. He shrugged, and said, “I’m nobody—I guess—but Pete’s my name.”

He stuck out his hand.

“Clara, and if you make a Doctor Who reference, I’ll kill you.” She stuck out her hand. However, before they were about to shake, the caveman screamed. He roared and pushed Pete to the ground. He grabbed Clara and slung her over his shoulders. Before Pete could get back to his feet, the caveman was halfway up the rise heading towards the mountains.

2

Pete ran up the hillside, huffing and puffing. The characters in Lord of the Rings made it look really easy to run for hours. The last time Pete had run was when his gym teacher had made him do it in high school. He had to run a whole mile, and it took him fourteen minutes, but he still beat the kid in the wheelchair.

The foothills leading to the Sandia Mountains were gigantic. He’d never realized how much so until he had to run up them himself. He stopped and puked several times during the journey, and one time he had to sit and cool off under a piñon tree. The caveman was way more physically fit than Pete, so he was long gone before Pete could crest the first hill.

However, Pete reckoned that he was smarter. He’d taken half a college class called Introduction to College Studies. He bet the caveman didn’t have any college experience. So he would have to use his wits against the caveman’s brawn. It was an age-old tale. Like David and Goliath. Pete was pretty sure David had challenged Goliath to a checkers match, and won by outsmarting him.

Pete figured he would do the same, except he would challenge the caveman to a game of PvP in Halo. Pete was pretty good at Xbox, so he figured he could win Clara’s freedom back. Now all he needed was to find them.

Lucky for Pete, he’d spent a lot of his high school years finding new places to take Tito’s herbal supplements. Since he’d spent most hours after school with Tito and friends, Pete had driven all over Albuquerque and the surrounding area. There was a cave way in the mountains near Placitas that was called the Sandia Man Cave. It was a spot where archeologists had found some caveman bones.

In Pete’s time, the cave was nothing more than a place for teenagers to party. If a person went to the very back of the cave, they’d find nothing but beer bottles and graffiti. Pete and his friends had set out to party in the cave once, but had found out that they had to walk far away from the parking lot, and had decided to hang out in the car instead.

The landscape receded from the desert, into the forested foothills. Day turned to night, and after an eternity of pseudo-running, mostly walking, Pete came to a stream that he knew led to the place where the Sandia Man Cave was located. He drank from the stream greedily. He was dehydrated from his day in the sun, and the cool water was the best he had ever had.

He pulled out an empty flask of whiskey that he had used to keep himself sane while making burritos. He filled the flask and shoved it into his pocket. On the way to the cave, he drank and filled it several more times.

In his time, there had been a dirt road leading through the mountain valley. Now back in the caveman days, it was nothing more than a game trail following a riverbed. It was peaceful, back in the olden times. He never heard a car, a plane, or anything. Even when camping in the Jemez Mountains with his buddies, he would hear an occasional plane fly overhead.

The woods were dark, and the shadows were long at night. All the mysterious sounds of the forest at the witching hour seemed louder in the crisp night air. Most people would be scared of aliens or wendigos, or some crazy beasts in the woods after dark. Pete, on the other hand, liked it. He liked hearing the chirping of insects and hooting of owls. The night was always his time. He had planned to hire someone for the morning shift, as soon as his burritos got famous.

Finally, after a day and a good part of a night of walking, he saw the cave. It was easy to spot because the caveman must have lit a fire. It was blazing at the cave entrance up on the cliff face. Pete sighed. The cliff face.

In Pete’s time, the cave had been at the end of a trail with a spiral staircase leading to the cave entrance. With railings, stairs, and platforms, it was a rather safe tourist experience for anyone who wanted to visit. Back in the real Sandia Man times, it was a cave on a cliff face.

An experienced rock climber would have had no trouble making it to the entrance of the cave, but Pete sometimes got winded when he had to use the stairs at his ghettotastic apartment complex. There was no way he was going to make that climb. His rescue attempt was going to end in failure. Once again, he was going to make matters worse for himself and the girl.

Oh well, she would make a good Sandia Man bride. Maybe her smart genes would create whole new smart generations, and by the time he got back to his time, they’d have Star Trek technology. He was pretty sure Wesley Crusher never used the holodeck to study. A teenager with the ability to create any scenario he wanted? A few choice ones came to mind. They wouldn’t have been able to take Pete out of the holodeck, if he’d had one. Especially if they’d had a Halo-themed one.

Pete was about to pack it in, and find a place to sleep for the night, when he saw a figure standing at the edge of the cave entrance. If he wasn’t mistaken, the figure was a short female that he’d recently had the pleasure of meeting.

“Hey,” he whisper-yelled. She didn’t seem to hear him. “Hey! Hey! HEY!”

The last one was a bit louder than he’d intended, but it seemed to do the trick. Clara responded, “Pete? Is that you?”

“Yeah,” he said. “I’m here to rescue you!”

“I do appreciate it, but I don’t need rescuing.”

“Huh? I thought he was going to—um—mate with you.”

“Oh, yeah. I thought so too at first, but he’s been a perfect gentleman.”

“He has?”

“Well, yeah, by his standards; he’s attempted to pick the lice out of my hair, offered me a dead squirrel, all the things you do when you like someone.”

“Does that really work?”

“The dead squirrel?”

“Yeah.”

“We have nuptials planned for tomorrow.”

“So that’s what I’ve been doing wrong. No chicks ever want to sleep with me.”

“Are you serious?”

“Um—” Pete had been very unlucky with women his whole life. At this point, he was ready to believe anything.

“Please promise me you’ll never give a girl a dead squirrel. Look, I’m not in any real danger for now, but I think he’s a bit jealous of you, so I don’t think you should come up here.”

That was a relief. Pete didn’t even need an excuse not to come up. Plus someone was jealous of him! Pete had never made anyone jealous before. That made him feel slightly more manly, in the sense that he’d never really felt manly in his whole life.

“So what do we do now? I thought I’d challenge him to a game or something to win ownership of you.” Pete said.

“First off, I’m nobody’s property, and second, what game could you possibly play with a Neanderthal?” she queried.

“I was thinking Halo.”

“Where are you going to get a Play Station?”

“Xbox.”

“Whatever. I do appreciate the sentiment, but I think the more important question is how to get us home. Did you see if anything came through the portal with us?”

“Um,” Pete pulled the notebook from where he’d tucked it into his waist. “I found this notebook.”

“Good! The professor’s notes. That will come in handy,” She turned around and peered into the cave, “I think I hear him stirring. I suggest you make yourself scarce. Here.”

She tossed down a cooked carcass of an animal. By some miracle, Pete caught the morsel, despite the way he flailed wildly every time someone threw something at him. It looked like a rabbit. It was charred, and covered in some sort of seasoning. He looked it over.

Clara called down to him. “It’s rabbit, with a special seasoning he made. I had some earlier. It’s quite good. Now, I’ll find you in the morning, and get the notebook.”

“Wait!” Pete said. “How will we find each other? I’ll write down my phone number in this notebook.”

Pete scrawled on the first page.

“Um—Pete—” Clara said.

“Yes—” Pete said, and looked up after he was done writing.

“Do you see any cell towers around?”

“I heard they look like trees now. So you never know what could be a cell tower.”

“You do know that we’re in the Stone Age, right?”

“Like time travel?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s what I figured, but did they have cell phones back then? I mean I heard once they used to be made of brick.”

“That’s ‘brick phone’, like a bulky phone.”

There was a grunt from the cave, and Clara said. “I think he’s waking. Hide!” She ducked back into the cave. Pete didn’t wait for the caveman to discover him. He tromped through the forest until he was out of sight. He found a relatively soft spot on the ground, and popped a squat.

He looked over the rabbit several times, and then decided to take a bite. It was the most wonderful flavor he’d ever experienced in his life. He ate ravenously, cleaned all the bones, and sucked every last drop of seasoning.

Later, when he was picking his teeth, he realized the seasoning on the rabbit reminded him of something. It was a flavor that was with him his entire life. It was what he’d craved when he would hang out with his friends after taking Tito’s herbal supplements. It was what he dreamed about at night. It was the taste of his grandmother’s cooking. It was what he’d failed to achieve in his kitchen. It was the flavor of the perfect burrito.

3

Clara woke up with a stiff back, under a bug-infested hide she’d used as a blanket. Anyone who glorified time travel as some grand adventure romping through the cosmos should just die. The stiffness came from sleeping on a cave floor all night, and the red marks on her arms and legs were from the critters that no doubt lived in the animal hide. However, when the alternative was hypothermia, she’d sleep with the bugs.

She kicked the hide off of herself, and searched for her glasses. She put them on, and found out that her Neanderthal friend had already left the cave, to go on an early morning hunt, no doubt. The surprising part was, that all her pocket items, shoes, etc. were all stacked neatly in the corner. He must have stacked them last night for her.

He was very cordial, as far as Neanderthals go, though she had never met one in her life until now. She’d just assumed, because of the bloody, violent past of humans, that their evolutionary cousins would be violent as well. She was pleased to have been wrong, especially since her time trip could have ended with one axe blow to the head.

However, celebrations weren’t in order yet, because her prehistoric friend had obviously taken a romantic attraction to her, which created several problems. She preferred finishing her Ph.D., over making hunter-and-gatherer babies. She also preferred women over men. There was also the chance that he’d turn violent when she officially rejected him for mating. Her best idea involved letting the courtship extend out as much as possible, at least until they could find a way home.

Hopefully, her dumb-and-dumber companion wouldn’t get his skull caved in by a rock while her unrequited-love-interest decided to step out for a hunt. The first order of business, after relieving herself, and eating the last of the leftover rabbit, involved finding her hapless friend. Luckily enough, her dad had taken her rock climbing a lot, when she was a kid. Scaling the cliff face of the cave would be the equivalent of the kiddy hill at the RockStar gym located in a repurposed warehouse on 4th Street in Albuquerque.

Her dad was an American named Stanley, and always took risks. He did all the sports that would make her “stiff upper lip British mum’s heart go a-patter.” Truth be told, as much as her dad liked to pick on her mum, the woman was a risk-taker too. Rebecca Raynott was such a well-known medical researcher that her father changed his last name, and they were the Raynotts and not the Penalmans, though Clara had always wondered whether there were more to the name change than prestige.

Either way, her mum was always away in some country with infectious disease outbreaks, and her father threw himself from planes to keep up. Clara’s parents stayed in England long enough to secure their daughter's accent, but not long enough to avoid the American High School system. Sometimes Clara cursed the University of New Mexico for giving her mum such an awesome deal to persuade her to switch countries. At least Clara’s dual upbringing let her be equally comfortable when it came to the nuances of language such as chips, fries, and crisps. She could alternate word choices without even thinking about it.

It was her fond memories of her birth land that had brought her back across the Pond for her undergraduate work at the University of Surrey. However, when she wanted to get her Ph.D., the University of New Mexico was a prime choice for the type of physics she wanted to study, which brought her back to her parents again. Though as a graduate student, she elected to stay on campus in her room, rather than go back to her parents.

That was the mistake that had led her to the point where she was rock climbing down a cliff without a harness in a time before medical attention was invented. If she hadn’t lived on campus, she might not have taken the lousy Graduate Assistantship that had had her babysitting her pervy professor’s experiment all night. Had she not allowed her pervy professor to walk her home one evening, he might never have gotten the wrong idea implanted into his mind for several weeks, and she would never have pushed him into the controls of a freaking time machine!

That was the worst part. The experiment that had brought her back might not be replicable, because she didn’t know what knob, button, or keyboard combination he’d pushed. It was an experiment for which she had adjusted the parameters hundreds of times, and zero of them had produced a brilliant swirling vortex of time in the lab. Then, she slammed a touchy jerkface into the controls, and poof, an unstable phenomenon sucks crap from the room! It was her thermos that had knocked her out, on its way to the time hole.

When she got to the bottom of the cliff, she called out for Pete. She was a little worried that her cave-dwelling friend would hear her, so it was a loud whisper. When there was no return answer, she wandered deeper into the woods, following the direction she’d thought she’d seen him go last night.

After what seemed to be an inordinate amount of time spent looking for her only link to her time period, she heard a noise coming from behind, “Hey, Clara, do you have any of that rabbit?”

Clara didn’t waste any time. She grabbed the man’s wrist, spun him around, and applied pressure. The unknown assailant hunched over in pain, and cried out. It took her a moment to realize that the man was speaking English, and no one in this time period would have spoken English.

“Pete?” she said, as she let go.

“Damn, do you fight MMA? ’Cause that seriously hurt.” Pete said, as he rubbed his arm.

“You’ll be fine, “ she said. “It’s just a little self-defense, and knowledge of pressure points.”

“My arm feels numb,” he said, still rubbing it.

She looked down to see the makeshift bed he had made for himself. It looked like a bed a person who’d watched too many survival TV shows might make. It was a mess of leaves and forest growth, with no real design in mind. The ground looked more comfortable than his bed.

“Are you sure you didn’t just sleep on it funny?” she said.

“No, ma’am. I didn’t sleep much.”

“I’m not a ‘ma’am’. Call me ‘Clara’.”

“OK, Clara.”

“So how did we get stuck together, Pete? Are you a janitor for the physics building?” Normally, she didn’t like to make assumptions about people, but this guy certainly didn’t have the student vibe, and, well, she knew all the professors, not that this guy would have been one of them.

“You don’t recognize me?”

“Can’t say that I do.”

“I sell burritos by the Center of the Universe sculpture. They’re world-famous, you know.”

“Look, I don’t get to the main campus very often. I’m sure they’re delightful.”

“I mean, I do all right, but they’re going to be world-famous. Believe me.”

“Sure, so do you have the book?”

“Um—I don’t think so. No one’s written a book about my burritos yet.”

“The professor’s notes!”

“Oh! That book! Why didn’t you say so?”

“What other book would I be talking about?”

“It can’t hurt to be more specific.”

He pulled the notebook from his trousers, and she grabbed it from him before she’d thought too hard about where the notebook had been. She flipped through it. At first glance, it looked as though it could be the world’s first mathematical guide to time travel, but she needed to study it, to be sure. It was a start. She figured that if her teacher had built a time machine, he would have also built a way to get back.

“Good,” she said after a bit. “This should do. Now, I need you to gather everything you can find from the wreckage, and bring it back here. I’ll study the book, and figure out if I can get us home.”

“Um—OK, but I need you to do something for me,” he said, and grinned. Oh, here it comes. All men were the same, and she would have sworn off of them long ago, if she weren’t biologically attracted to females. “I need you to figure out how he makes the seasoning for the rabbit.”

“What?” she said, taken aback.

“Look, it’s not as if he’s ever going to start a business with it. Think of it as quip pro quo.”

“That’s quid pro quo. It’s not as if we’re exchanging “yo mamma” jokes, or anything.”

“OK, whatever, all I need you to do is figure out the recipe.”

“I’m trying to get us home. I don’t have time to help you nick a forty-thousand-year-old burrito seasoning.”

“It’s cultural studies! You’re saying we shouldn’t learn about culture, when we have this amazing opportunity.”

“Look, if you want to make some profit from time travel, that’s your ethical dilemma, not mine. However, if it will make you get the equipment from the wreckage, I’ll see what I can find out. I’m not going to measure portions. I’ll just let you know what I see when he mixes it.”

“You’d do that for me? You’re the most awesome woman in the world.”

“OK, whoa, yeah—Let’s focus more on the task at hand.”

“Right, so how am I going to get the equipment here? That’s too many trips for even me to handle, and I walk the campus every day.”

“You’re a modern human. Figure it out. Build a wagon. I don’t care.”

“The wagon sounds like a good idea. Hey, do you think cavemen have used wheel shops?”

Clara rolled her eyes, and dropped her head. She was already getting a migraine just from talking to the guy. Why did she travel back before the invention of Tylenol?


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Aaron Frale's first novel is called Playlist of the Ancient Dead. Atmospheric Pressure is his second. He received an MFA in Dramatic Writing from the University of New Mexico. He also sings and plays guitar for the prog/metal band Spiral that has released over 10 albums. He lives with his wife Felicia, two cats, and a small dog who thinks he's a large dog in Columbia Heights, MN.

Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
A.
For this story, I decided to lock up the internal critic that told me, “No, don't write that, that's stupid." I wanted to write the most ridiculous story that I possibly could. A time travel burrito story with a cat pretty much covered the stupid quota. The rest of the story just fell into place.
Q. Tell us about the cover and the inspiration for it.
A.
I searched for space burritos and saw a photo of a cat on a burrito flying through space. I could not stop laughing. I shared the image with some friends, and they thought it was funny too. Eventually, I commissioned a cover artist to recreate it. I also added a cat to the story for continuity.
Q. Which writers inspire you?
A.
Douglas Adams wrote my favorite comedy Science Fiction, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I used to listen to the radio drama, read the books, and watch all the movies. Bless BBC America for revitalizing Dirk Gently. I also love Doctor Who.

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