John and Sarah Burroughs beget David, who beget Tyler, who beget Abner, who beget George, who beget Edgar. It sounded like some humdrum bible verse; the kind a monotone Quaker preacher might drone on with to his congregation, in a musty Massachusetts one-roomed church house, during the dead heat of summer. Sweltering humidity and palpable boredom lay about heavily.
But it became a mantra for little Edgar; one that he would recite his entire life. It helped ground him in reality, in that it reminded him from when, and from whom, he actually came. It too, helped at uncertain times like these. Like today, as he awoke from a Rip Van Winkle-esque stupor nearly seventy-one and half years to the day, from the day he had died.
He had never read about such things in any novels of his early youth, but he certainly had dreamt about them. In reality, they inspired him to pen his own. The fact that he was a descendent of one of the most well known and earliest colonizers of the American continent, under British rule, meant he had long fantasized about exploration and colonization to far off and undiscovered places.
He scrubbed the crust from his eyes, and washed the drool from his face. Everything at the hotel, in which he had woken up in, looked modern and advanced. The courtesy toiletries, the faucets and bathroom hardware, even the font on the toothpaste looked, forgive the pun, polished. Whatever, wormhole he had slipped through, it was abundantly clear that a lot had changed since his death in the 50s.
He knew he had somehow tripped into the future. He also knew he was breathing, and that his feet still stood on solid ground. That meant the earth, or at least this version of it, was still in tact. His mind reeled with the possibilities. He was afraid to draw back the curtain and heavy vinyl blinds of the hotel, for fear of what he might see next. He checked his trepidation, and slowly peeled it back. The brightness of the world outside, temporarily blinded him, before his eyes finally had time to adjust.
He scanned the parking lot. Everything looked so sleek, aerodynamic, and refined; a far cry from the bulky gas-guzzlers and miles of chrome that had just started coming into fashion when he had died. Toyota Prius, Nissan Altima, Honda Accord? Was this language even English? Then he saw two words that he recognized as such, electric and hybrid, but he could not understand what kind of oxymoronic dolt would ever put the two polar opposites together.
Just then a jumbo 737 roared over his head, as it goosed its early ascent over Valhalla Brother's Cemetery and veered West and right off into nowhere. No doubt a Southwest bird on it’s way to Vegas or Tucson. It was considerably, larger, more robust, and slicker than the avionics in his day, but not quite the rocket-propelled cars and moon transports he had imagined in his early fiction. A slick black and gold 15-million-dollar Bell helicopter buzzed overhead, no doubt a celebrity on his way to a tee time or Malibu pool party. It was enough, for Edgar. He thought his assimilation into whatever year it was, should be in micro doses, from here on out.
He finally mustered up the courage to peak outside the door. On the floor, on a discarded room service tray, lay a half eaten triple cheeseburger, fries, and fruit plate. He couldn’t imagine someone who could let such an extravagant meal go to waste. It must have cost a fortune, and was barely touched. Alma lights and boxed sconces lined the length of the hallway floor to ceiling, mimicking what he imagined the airport runways just a few miles away probably had looked like. It seemed like a tremendous waste of resources, just for aesthetic. Maybe in this future world, they had been able to use artificial light for photosynthesis or to ionize the air. Perhaps it was a technology he didn’t yet understand, but the possibilities that ran through his mind were as endless as his utopian space travel novels had been.
He reluctantly followed the length of the hallway like Jack Torrance looking for Room 237 in the Overlook Hotel. As he crested the last corner, down the last hallway, and past the last bank of elevators, he finally reached the lobby, and what he saw next blew away even his extremely imaginative mind.
As far as the eye could see were people dressed in multi-colored uniforms. Most wore a pendant that looked similar to a large “A” or and inverted “V”. The skirts were short, and the calves and cleavages were on hearty display. In his time, only scandalous women on the Devil’s Lettuce, would dare dress so inappropriately in public. He didn’t mind though. If they were willing to show it, he was certainly willing to gawk.
Interspersed with the multi-dimensional and planetary officers of the Federation, were aliens of every kind. Ferengi, Klingons, Kazons and Gorns. The occasional Cantina Band member and Greedo were also scattered about, as if to broker a ceasefire between clans Lucas and Gene. From the ceiling, a gargantuan model of the USS Enterprise hung suspended by it’s large warp nacelles and the broad disk of its primary hull. It was as big as a 1950 Buick Super Riviera, and Edgar had no idea how they got it to stay there without crushing everyone below, probably an advanced alien technology. Whatever this vessel was, it was much closer to the crafts he had imagined colonizing Mars in his “Barsoom” series.
The sensory overload was almost too much. He felt himself get cotton-mouthed as perspiration soaked the inner crevices of his palms. He needed to know where, and more importantly when, he was, and he needed to know right now!
He reached down on one of the tables that wasn’t filled with merchandise, collectibles and autographed DVDs. It had the date of September 08, 2021 listed on top. And said, HAPPY STAR TREK DAY, to all our Trekkie family, from the Burbank Hilton!
His heart skipped several beats, as he realized over seven decades had passed since the end of his life. Burbank, the tiny little village from ‘Hollywood Cinderella’?, he thought. Is now a major spaceport! His predictions in John Carter of Mars had been spot on! He had known it, all along!
“Hey man, you mind handing me one of those?” A Ricardo Montalbán look-alike with prosthetic muscles had leaned into him, to ask the question.
“What is that?”, queried Edgar, as he pointed to the slender kazoo shaped object dangling from the stranger’s lips. A green LED light lit up as he inhaled from its tip.
“Vape pen, dude.” He exhaled the pungent odor of a strain of “ICKYBUD CRANE” back into Edgar’s personal space. “What, are you playing with me, right now?”, asked the Eugenics War King, who knew a thing or two about waking up from suspended animation, himself.
Edgar sat silent as the marijuana filled his nostrils.
“Oh I get it!”, exclaimed the man. You’re in character, right? “Let me guess…. Roddenberry, right?”
For the first time, since his awakening, Edgar became completely self-aware. He looked down at his pristine pressed suit and wing-tipped shoes. In his day, he would have been the sharpest man about town, but here all he wanted to do was fit in with his fellow aliens, space colonizers, and time-space continuum surfers and future travelers.
“No you, idiot.” A beautiful woman looking every bit like Beyonce wearing Nyota Uhura’s signature red micro-dress, said as she rolled her eyes at Ricardo the Kahn-nabe. "Clearly he’s Edgar Rice Burroughs. He looks just like him. In fact, that’s probably the most accurate cosplay I have ever seen!”
“We’re one big happy fleet my old friend.”, said Khan, not so much filled with wrath as he was acquiescence, as he prepared to leave the two alone to talk.
“Revenge is a dish best served cold, so you best move along.”, Uhura said as she once again invaded Edgar’s personal space. This time he didn’t mind in the least bit. Her perfume was intoxicating, and her revealing outfit made him forget all about his insecurities of fitting in.
"You know who I am, future space woman?", he asked honestly and humbly.
“You know I have always loved the obscure cosplays”, she began, “but I myself never had the nerve to try to pull one off. I mean Gene has said several times that Burroughs was a huge influence on him, and think about this, you could find someone in almost every cutting-edge, futurist field that either owes their career to Roddenberry's or Burroughs' influences.”
“Are you serious?”, was all Edgar could struggle to get out. She might as well have been speaking Greek with talk of Roddenberries and cosplays, but he was extremely eager to learn about how much societies and space travel had advanced since his time.
“All these Aliens and interstellar societies? Were they influenced by eating these berries too?”
She laughed, as a devilish grin broke across her face. “You cute!”, she said, before breaking into another rant. She might let him get to second base, but he was going to have try a little harder than that. “Think about it, NASA, the Challenger crew, Apollo astronauts, hell even the Mar’s Rover folks today. They all were influenced by early Sci-Fi and Burroughs was one of the predecessors. Long before Star Trek, and Star Wars (she mumbled this part under her breath) were on the scene.”
Her flawless elocution had acted like an aphrodisiac on him. And the way she gesticulated threw her curves into a motion that was mesmerizing. He was officially smitten with her.
“Mars?... I’d love to learn more. I have so many questions. Do you mind if I buy you a drink?”, asked Edgar in a tone so smooth he could hardly believe the words had come from his own mouth.
"I mean solar panels, windmills, even kale production, everyone, whose anyone, was influenced by them!" She was getting lost in her own soliloquy, before she realized a drink actually sounded nice.
“Well there is a reason, they have these conventions in hotels, you know.” She said with a wink. “And you know how Gene was all about inclusivity; Diversifying on the bridge, and in the bedroom.”
The full weight of her implications hit Edgar Rice Burroughs like a ton of bricks. This Officer off a Space Traveling Fleet was going to make love to him, right here in the Utopian Spaceport known as the Burbank Hilton. He knew, now, what was meant by being swept off his feet.
In his day and age, it was unheard of for a white man to become publicly romantic with a woman of color, but he had always hated the societal implications of segregation. And his Tarzan novels, and inferences of colonizing African jungles by a predominantly white, English society had negative ramifications whether it was reflected in his very own ancestor's lot in Salem, Massachusets, or on the dried up shores of the Martian landscape, or right here in a modern day hotel lobby.
Right here and right now, however, he was being given a second chance to add on to his already everlasting contribution to society. Right now he would get to know this woman and her alien friends; He would bridge the gap between their societies, and extend an olive branch of understanding. And even if it was only for one amorous night of love making, Edgar Rice Burroughs would boldly go where no man has gone before, and he very much hoped down in the very depths of his newly-revived heart, that they would all, eternally, live long and prosper.