A time traveler’s interview goes sideways when the interviewee accuses him of having met in the past.
The audio recorder Quis held was real but fake in that he disguised the device to match Earth’s technology in the 2010s. The name on his fictional press badge clipped to his unremarkable black suit identified him as “Hank Williams.” The name was phony, too, of course. However, Quis had grown accustomed to the alias, regularly using the persona for interviews.
Quis carefully constructed a different identity for each interview, usually working for a local publication. Big names tended to be open to talking to local nobody journalists, Quis had discovered. Plus, the background helped with his forgettable persona so people wouldn’t follow up with someone who didn’t exist.
“Mr. Praevalens will see you now,” the secretary informed him.
From the photos on her desk, Hank bet she was a grandmother. She had that kind, grandmotherly vibe. She happily led the way to the office of John Praevalens, the CEO of Close Ground. The technology company dabbled in various avenues, catering to security for governments and businesses.
The golden doors to John’s office were a statement. They weren’t massive–they were standard size for French doors but with a pocket design. The doors depicted a battle in an Aztec-influenced art style. Quis made a note to ask John about the doors as the secretary separated them.
Upon entering, Quis felt a slight buzzing sensation. He almost overlooked the unnatural protection, but he recognized the technology.
Why would they have anti-teleportation security? Quis thought. This planet doesn’t have that at this time. It must be something else I’m sensing.
As an end-timer, Quis wasn’t concerned about having an exit strategy. He could phase through any material and retreat to his time machine. Still, he planned his interviews to avoid resorting to dramatic tactics.
“Hey, old sport,” John greeted with genuine kindness as he firmly shook hands with Quis.
The spry, 30-something John wore his trademark black pinstriped suit. Around his neck was a gold medallion depicting the sun in the same style as his door. The flat medallion was palm-sized. Quis had read an article about John’s devotion to the family heirloom, but seeing the necklace for himself added questions.
First, anti-teleportation and an artifact crafted by a deity or one of us, Quis thought. I’m starting to feel I did not prepare for this interview.
The secretary softly closed the doors behind her as she left the room.
John led Quis to a modernism lounge area with an artistic golden coffee table and curvy, white leather sofas.
“Feel free to set your equipment on the table,” John offered as he took a seat on the couch. “Anything I can get you? A drink?”
Quis sat his audio recorder on the table and took a seat in a matching armchair. “I’m good, thank you. We can get started right away. Your time is valuable, so I appreciate you chatting with me.”
“You know, you remind me of someone. Have we met before, Hank?”
“No, I would remember you.”
John shifted around on his couch. “Odd. I’m pretty good at remembering people. Anyway, carry on.”
Quis pushed the record button. “I want to start by talking about your passions. What are some of the projects at Close Ground that excite you the most?”
“Starting deep, are we?”
“The best way to warm up is to jump in.”
John laughed. “You know, this one will surprise you, but I have to say, Exploring Earth.”
“The travel site?” Quis questioned.
“Yes, that’s the one.”
“I believe if people traveled more, and spoke with people from around the world, so much of our animosity would be gone. We got some fantastic contributors too. Amber Way showcases places with such enthusiasm that I swear, I want to visit every place she writes about.”
“There are countless stories to be collected,” Quis commented.
“Are you certain we hadn’t met before?” John asked, almost accusing him of lying.
“People tell me I have a familiar but forgetting face,” Quis joked.
John didn’t laugh. He leaned forward. “Everything about you seems familiar.”
“This is my first time interviewing you, sir,” Quis calmly reaffirmed, trying not to be annoyed.
“Yes, but I tend to remember everyone I’ve met. What are you?”
“I’m Hank,” Quis responded, unsure how to answer.
“I asked, what are you? You haven’t aged since you saved my life.”
Quis was now confused. “I beg your pardon?”
“Command Blackout,” John shouted into the room.
The window blinds dropped close. The buzz Quis had first felt when he entered intensified. All the lights went out except for the lamp that stood beside John. Hank’s recorder was still on.
“Your recording device should’ve lost power, which means it’s not from this world. Care to explain?”
“I-I don’t know what to tell you,” Quis stumbled. “Maybe you can tell me who you think I am, and we can figure this out.”
John took a deep breath and relaxed back into the couch. “You saved my life a hundred years ago, Quis.”
Quis’ jaw dropped. “Wait. You know my real name and a hundred years ago?”
John revealed his fangs. “Vampire.”
“Of course, that makes sense,” Quis said as he leaned back into his chair. “But how do we know each other?”
“You rescued me from that theatre fire in New Orleans and helped me fake my death there. Don’t you remember?”
“I’m a time-traveler,” Quis confessed. “For me, I haven’t saved your life yet.”
“Oh.” John was silent for a moment. “I hope I didn’t ruin anything by spoiling that for you.”
Quis chuckled. “It’s probably good that you told me because, unlike my others, I don’t interfere with the past. I only interview people for prosperity and to understand the universe’s life.”
“Well, shall we continue with the interview?”
“I’d like that,” Quis replied.
With the interview over, Quis returned to the alleyway where he left his time machine, a plain brown wooden door in a wood frame. Next to his door was a familiar green door and a familiar face inspecting a flame thrower.
“Gia!” Quis warmly called out to his fellow end-timer. “Good evening.”
Gia put away the flame thrower in her black leather jacket pocket, which was much larger on the inside. She shouted his name and ran up to him with a big hug. Quis returned the hug.
“Who were you interviewing this time?” Gia asked as she let go.
“John Praevalens. Did you know he was a vampire?”
“I didn’t know that. Fascinating.”
“What was that device you were toying with?”
“Just a flame thrower. I borrowed it from the labs at Close Ground. I need it for my play tonight. Want to come along and watch?”
Quis shrugged. “I’m up for a show. When and where?”
“New Orleans, 1919.”
This week’s short story was inspired by the following writing prompt: “You are the world’s only time-travelling journalist. You use carefully constructed false identities to secretly record your conversations with famous historical figures, and are sworn never to alter the past. However, when you meet with your latest unsuspecting interviewee, they recognize you.”
I took the basic premise of a time-traveling journalist and fitted it in my 16th Phoenix Universe, getting to introduce a new end-timer character, Quis. Quis (which is Latin for “who”) is one of a dozen people from the end of time, along with Gia, Slayer, Loki, Raven, and Kojack, who I’ve also written stories about. More to come as I explore and expand the universe.
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