Johnny Come Lately

A Mid-Week Flash Short Story

I have broken the rules again. Sorry Miranda! I’ve gone over the wordcount limit for Miranda Kate’s Mid-Week Flash (The General Guidelines can be found here if you’d like to join in) but, in my defence, I’m using both the prompts from week 98 and from week 100 in combination today, so if I get a 750 word limit for each prompt I’m well under ?

(Reading this back now it’s obviously heavily influenced by Death and Albert from the Discworld by Terry Pratchett, but that wasn’t conscious when I was writing it!)

Here are the prompt images:

Mid week flash prompt week 98
Mid week flash prompt week 100

Johnny Come Lately

I was at rock bottom when he found me. Literally, lying on a piss stained concrete floor, puking black blood, caked in my own filth. Must’ve looked like a feral animal.

I knew I was dying, somewhere underneath the haze, but I didn’t care. Couldn’t care, even though I wanted to. I had long since killed off the bit of me that cared, drowned it with booze and crack and cheap, sordid encounters with cheap sordid girls who were just as lost as I was, and just as earnestly trying to deny it to themselves.

So there I was in the squat, hacking up blood from my infected chest, and not even caring about that, not even worrying, because all my mind was fixed on was getting a fix. Namely how I could do that with no money. And suddenly he was there.

I mean, not as you can see him here, obviously. In his…mask. His human suit. Crisp, business like, meticulously neat, I mean you must have seen him. He looks like an accountant’s accountant when you see him on Earth. He looked as out of place in that squat as a nun in a whorehouse. Truth be told, I thought I was hallucinating. He says,
“Wanna feel better?” he says, just like that. And my first instinct was ‘copper’ right? But even they wouldn’t be daft enough to rock up to a crackhouse in a three piece suit and shiny shoes and expect to be mistaken for a dealer. So then I’m thinking maybe gangster. But one of the old school ones. Not my scene at all. No idea how they get recruits, but I’m thinking they don’t run around scraping losers like me out of the gutter.

“I’ve no money” I tell him eventually.

“Well, Johnny boy, that is a happy coincidence, because I’m hiring.”

Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking what I should’ve been thinking. You’re thinking ‘this is a bit dodgy,’ you’re thinking, ‘you should definitely get out of there Johnny,’ or maybe, if you’re quicker on the uptake than I was at the time you might just be thinking ‘how did he know your name?’ but I wasn’t thinking any of those things. I was thinking my prayers had been answered.

Here I was, on the verge of serious withdrawals, in need of a night out of the damp and out of my head, but I was totally out of cash. Then along comes this toff offering “work.” Probably some private school pervert wanting to do some weird sexual shit. I could do that, if it came to it, but I could probably get away with taking the money and doing a bunk if I could play my cards right. Like my guardian angel had sent me a mark.

“What did you have in mind?”

“Come and see,” he held out an immaculately manicured hand to help me up.

He pulled me to my feet and suddenly we were here.

I know, weird isn’t it? Don’t stare at the horizon too long, you’ll get all unbalanced and fall over. Human brains take a long time to adjust to being outside dimensions. Just pick something nearby to focus on, it makes it easier. You’ll get used to it, if you stay. Don’t touch the clock, please. That’s a portal to a specific time-stream, each of them are, and they’re very carefully balanced. Too much pressure from your fingertips could cause a ripple in the space-time continuum of that world.

That’s the job he gave me, incidentally, looking after the clocks. I’m here to wind them, to keep the infinite timelines from tangling, balance universal time energies and maintain the clockwork to avoid any universe disintegrating and taking other universes down with them.

Oh, and I feed the Dodo of course.

He mostly sticks to the library when he’s not out visiting the worlds. He likes to read the Life Books. I think because he’s always existed outside time, he lives slower than we do. He likes the drama of human lives. I’ve never read mine. Can you imagine, reading all the stupid decisions you made in your life, all the daft things you ever did, all the wrong turns you made. I wouldn’t able to cope with it. It’ll be in there somewhere though, everyone’s book is. He’s probably read it. He’d never say though. He’s too much of a gent.

Don’t look like that, he really is! He’s such a gentle soul. You’ll understand when you get to know him. Underneath the scales and claws and tail, he’s just like you and me really. Nearly shat my pants when I saw him without the human suit the first time, but you know what? I’ve always judged people by the content of their character, and just because he’s got green scaly skin, that don’t make him no different. Who am I to judge, eh? He’s got a bit of an odd sense of humour, mind. And he doesn’t really “get” humans, although he does try, bless him. You’ll get used to him.

So yeah, here we are. Caretakers of the time-stream. Existing outside the universes. I’ve been back a few times, on fieldwork mainly, but it’s not the same. Once you exist outside time…well. You’ll see, if you stay. Earth isn’t the same. You can’t enjoy a drink, for one thing. Can’t rally get involved. It’s nice enough for a holiday though.

Is it worth it? I’d say so. I’ve never really been a people person, if I’m honest, I can take or leave company. And, well. I crammed a lot of fast life into my 27 years on earth, and I messed up real bad. I’ve been here for…well. That’s an irrelevant question. We are outside time. I’ve been here forever, always, never…but I do sleep, because I like to sleep, and if I counted my age by sleep…well I stopped counting at around 2000 years old, and I think I’ve been here that long again.

It’s slow, quiet life, but I like it. Funny really, that it took me dying to really start living.

I’m happy enough now. Indoor work, no heavy lifting, plenty of time to read, or visit the different earths. My own flat with no bills. Undemanding boss. His taste in music is terrible, mind, but I can pop to 1969 and see Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin at Woodstock, the Isle of White in 1970 to see The Doors and The Who, 2022 to see IDLES absolutely smash the NEC, or 3039 to see Apocalypse Riot play the Old House of Commons Stadium to a newly free New London. All the gigs I grew up wishing I’d been to, ticked them all off my list. All the bands that sprang up decades after anyone who could have remembered me was long since dust. I’ve seen them all.

Sometimes I think maybe this is my heaven.

And of course, the Dodo is lovely.

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Author: Victoria Pearson

Victoria Pearson lives behind a keyboard somewhere in rural Bedfordshire, with her husband, her four children and her dog. She writes very strange stories.

One thought on “Johnny Come Lately”

  1. I love it. To me less Death & Albert & more James from Angie Richmond’s book due out in May – you’ll love it. But whispers of them all in it. Love the nod to politics.

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