It was really a beautiful night, after all, even it *was* going to end in two hours, to give rise to a new morning, a bright and glorious morning, the beginning of a new year, 1960. Herodotus didn't consider the hours after midnight to be part of the "night," but rather part of a new morning. He didn't like nights much; their connotations to him were negative. Much better to see the bright side of things, even if it was almost completely dark. In fact, he couldn't stand the dark; he always had a light on when he slept, and when once that light had gone out suddenly in the morning, he had woken up instantly. He had tried to go back to sleep but only found himself shaking in his bed from unknown fears.
Now, though, as he was heading home after a long study session at the public library, he found that he was beginning to enjoy the sight of the stars up above. He was beginning to recognize some constellations when a voice suddenly called out from behind.
"H-Plas! Where you's thinks you's is going?"
Herodotus stopped, then turned around. A figure in a dark cloak was standing behind him. He couldn't tell who it was, or what whoever it was looked like exactly, and the voice was creepy. "P-please... My name is Herodotus, Herodotus Plasmodion. P-please call me th-that..."
"You think I care?!"
Herodotus shut up.
"You's doesn't knows who's I's is," the figure said, "but I's knows you. It 'bout time you's paid for yo' mistakes..."
"Shut up! And hand that book over."
Shakily, Herodotus held out the book he was carrying. The figure snatched it up in an instant.
"A book of short stories, eh?" the figure said. It opened the book up to the first story. "'Rip Van Winkle,' by Washington Irving." It paused. Then it let out a long evil laugh.
"P-please, can I have it back, please?"
"Ha, I's doesn't think so."
"P-please! I-I have to s-study."
"It's New Year's Eve! What you's studying for?"
"But... but..." He couldn't express himself. He knew he just had to study. It was the right thing to do. Years ago, he *hadn't* studied, and that was why he was in the situation he was in now. He was thirty-four years old, and he had just gone back to middle school. It was embarrassing. Every day, he thought of all the missed opportunities, all the things he could have learned by going to school. All that had gone down the drain.
"As I says before, you's going to pay for yo' mistakes, understand? You think you know everything about missed opportunities? You ain't seen nothing!"
"W-what are you talking about?"
"You'll see. There ain't nothing you's won't see..."
The figure stepped closer and pushed Herodotus into the alley they were standing in front of. And then, all of a sudden, the world faded from view.
He woke up. Everything was dark. *Another beautiful night,* he thought, before he remembered what had happened. And what exactly *had* happened? It seemed like a dream. Only, he discovered, it wasn't.
He was lying in a puddle. He adjusted his position and tried to stand up. Blankly, he looked around. He was in an alley somewhere. He walked toward the street and looked in both directions. Something had changed. The storefronts definitely looked different. He saw a sign that read, "Ye Olde Computer and Electronics Shoppe." He didn't know what a computer was.
Dizzily, he tried to walk, and fell down.
He looked at his watch: 7:17 a.m. The sun was rising. He remembered that the previous day was 31 December 1959. So today would be 1 January 1960. A new year, then. It might have been a cause for celebration, but it wasn't for Herodotus.
As he walked in front of Ye Olde Computer and Electronics Shoppe, he saw a television in the window. It was in color. A news anchor said something, and Herodotus caught the fragment, "...today, as we celebrate the beginning of a new millennium, the first of January, 2000..."
2000? *2000*? What happened to 1960?
He froze. Surely, this must be some joke. But it wasn't, he could tell as he looked around and the rising sunlight surpassed the dim glow of the street lights, illuminating the area. Everything looked different. He couldn't remember all these strange-looking cars existing in 1959. What was going on?
He heard a voice in his head: "It's time you's knows what's is going on."
"What?" he exclaimed. "Who said that?"
"You's doesn't remember me? Yesterday? Ha ha, *yesterday*? Remember?"
And the events of the previous night came back to him.
"You's probably's wanting some kinda explanation, huh? You's doesn't knows why you's skipped forty years into the future, huh?"
"Wh-what? Wh-what happened?"
"It's simple, really. Time doesn't go by like you's thinks it does. It's all based on the number sixty, like hours and minutes. You's tells the year the same way you's tells the time during the day, only you's uses 24-hour time instead of 12-hour, you's knows what I be saying?"
"Yesterday, to you, was the last day of the year 1959. Think of it as 19:59, the way you's writes 7:59 p.m. in 24-hour time. Add a minute to 19:59 and it turns into 20:00. Add a year to 1959, and it turns into 2000. Now, this kind of time only works for you, understand me? Nobody else runs on this kinda clock. So everybody else's forty years ahead of you."
"For everybody else, 1959 turns into 1960, but you's gots to pays fo' yo's mistakes. So you's goes ahead forty years in time. The next year will be 2001, and so on, until 2059, and then that turns into 2100. And it keeps on going on like that, for you, until 2359. Then it turns into the year 0, just like 23:59 turns into 0:00. Time starts all over again."
"Don't asks me. My job's to helps you adjusts to the change, nothing more. You's gotta asks the higher-ups 'bout that."
"Oh, and did I tells you already? You's immortal, so takes yo' time doing things. You's gots plenty of time. Until the end of the year 2359. Takes yo' time doing things, hear? Don't go 'bout rushing through things. It ain't gonna helps much. You's gots a long life ahead of you, so enjoy it."
The voice disappeared, and Herodotus, who found that he had kept on walking all this time, stumbled over something. He caught his footing and looked down. It was his book of short stories; the wind had blown it open to the first page of "Rip Van Winkle." He gazed at it for a while, and then he reached down to pick it up. He placed it carefully in his backpack and then started to head out into the world, a whole new world full of strange surprises and wonders he had yet to discover. He had time to study later. It was a beautiful day, a glorious morning, an end to a strange but beautiful night that had lasted for years.
Copyright © 2003 by The Invincible Spud