Inspirational Adventure Fantasy

The truth is Jason may not have killed himself. Sure, we all knew the statistics about university students doing themselves in while pursuing dead end rip off degrees. “My generation will never have the lifestyle yours has. Baby boomer trips to Greece or Rome. River cruises on the Danube. We’re stuck in dead-end jobs, in my case manager of the convenience store near the airport. You know the one. People coming in all day after getting off a flight, coming from places we will never go. At night the homeless straggle in for warmth, gloves with no fingers reaching for whatever they can afford to eat with their pan-handled results of the day.”

But the day came, alone in the University Library. And why not the library? This was a place very few ventured to in the days of the internet, the desks empty like lost souls. The back room beckoned, and looked like a handy place to hang himself, the ceiling being so high, and with a black metal hook. Lord knows what the hook had been used for. So he tied up with the blue slick climbing rope he used in high school and made a loop. He and his friends had learned the hangman knot, what boys do lazing their days through fetid and ever hotter summers. Summers before he lowered his expectations to live as well as his parents, before global warming, before Black Lives Matter, and before Ukraine, and now Hamas. The days were good back before college, at least until Covid hit, but now his anxiety rose to a fever pitch, and the world became just too much.

He swept books from the shelves which tumbled to the floor, then made a stack of the hardbacks to stand on. Seeing the titles, he realized they were philosophy. He thought it ironic, the hidden room being the philosophy section of the library, a course he dropped as a waste of time. The stack of books included all Plato, he half noticed, The Allegory of the Cave on top. He climbed up, teetering, and put the rope around his neck.  

But climbing to the top of a stack of dumb philosophy books is when he noticed the shimmer on the rear wall of the library. Not anything anyone would pick up on day to day, but maybe only because his perspective was skewed standing high on the books; a re-focus, like looking up through water, and as if he was swimming beneath the surface and seeing the sun shining above. Inviting him to a better place. He climbed down, approached the wall, and put his hand through the shimmer. It was like reaching through a liquid screen, and cold. Jason thought of a misalignment of imagery, remembering as a kid how he’d miss the mark when he tried to spear a fish. The fish were never exactly where his eyes told him, but in their own refracted reality beneath the water.

What the hell. He stepped through.

And it turned out it was water. Lying on a rocky bank, Jason flipped his body to face a wide river, too wide to swim across, not that he could swim. The stream flowed gently near him, but with the rushing sound of rapids downriver, ahead where white caps glistened. The image of the room in the library lay in calm water before him beneath the surface from where he had come, but quickly moved away with the current. Around him, a landscape stretched out in too bright sunshine, so stark his eyes hurt, but as he adjusted, he saw he was lying on soft green moss surrounded by conifers. He smelled sweet pine. His first thought was this must be Switzerland. Snow-capped mountains rose in the distance. And the air. Cleaner than he’d ever known. An awakening clean.

He mumbled to himself out loud. “Heaven?”.             

From just up the bank came the words, “No. You’re not in heaven, boy.”

He flinched away from the sound, startled. Above him, astride a white horse, was a young black man in English riding gear, high boots, khaki pants flared at the hips, and a white rider’s helmet. He looked like a polo player, and he was the most handsome man Jason had ever seen. His skin was caramel colored and had its own shimmer.

“Where am I?”

The man stared back with amused eyes, bluer than blue. “You’ve stepped out of your world of time. The place you were moves on ahead of you. If you look quick,“ he nodded downstream, “the present you stepped out of is now past, drifting away. See it? The place you came from is long gone now. We’d have to ride to catch up to get in the water to the time where you were.”

Jason could see the river flowing ahead. It’s true, he thought. The image of the library he had seen below the surface was gone. But how could his past be getting ahead of him?

The horse jostled and the black man tightened the reins. He then said, “Welcome to where time stops, Squirt.”

“Time has stopped? Why--”

“Enough of that. Climb up here behind me; Sylvester’s been expecting you.” The black man offered Jason his hand and pulled him up. Off they went, the white horse snorting with effort as they climbed the bank. Moving through pine glades in a slow trot, the road was well trod, a road Jason surmised wagons often used from the look of the ruts leading them on.

Hours later, they had climbed much higher into the mountains and a small village of a dozen houses stretched out ahead of them, the houses cone shaped and plastered white. As they entered the town, Jason noted each roof had stone shingles. Villagers were busy in the dirt street, dressed like people from Jason’s early ages, the time of the ancient Greeks, leather tunics, and leather boots strapped high on the calf. He passed a blacksmith shop with a worker clanging away on an anvil, the fire blue hot.

A shadow swept in front of him, and Jason stepped back. A small hover craft, shaped like a white egg, and looking smooth as an eggshell, swooped in to land in front of him. It moved through the air but was perfectly silent. After settling down to the ground, a seamless hatch door opened and out stepped a short old man with large white tuffs of hair sprouting from both sides of his bald head. Jason almost laughed, but held it in.

“So he’s here!” said the man with a high-pitched voice, and as he did, his generous stomach jostled over a black belt with silver buckles. Jason noticed his quilted cordovan sweater, patchworks of blue and reds and all sorts of colors, but miss-buttoned, like the man had hurried to dress.

“Sylvester’s been expecting you for a long time”, the black man said to Jason with a low voice, but the man heard him.

The pudgy man from the hover craft spoke quietly to the horse, his forehead where a brown star lay etched against white hair. “Did he keep his mouth shut, Spirit?”, and then to Jason, “My name is Sylvester and it’s true. I have been waiting a long time. Felix and I are quite the time tenders aren’t we Felix?”

Felix took a long breath at the top of his horse and gazed at Sylvester from head to toe, his mismatched buttons, his white tuffs, but also his red cheeks and sparkling eyes. Then he said, “When I’m not taking care of a dithering old man!”

Sylvester laughed. “Dithering! I’ll show you something to dither about!” He stood and stretched to make himself taller and more threatening, a worthless effort from what Jason could tell.

Shaking his head, Felix said, “Nice to see you all the same, old friend.”

Sylvester tromped off in his high oversized boots, too large for his slight frame, but called out loud enough to hear. “Likewise, and you’re lucky to have me!”


And so in the land where time stops the day came where Jason needed to return to the river to see for himself what Felix and Sylvester had been telling him. He approached the water where he had climbed onto the bank and tried to see beneath the surface like he once did looking for trout when he was a young boy. Below was where he now knew was the world he left, where time existed. The water churned on a dark gray surface and he couldn’t see into the depth. He crouched down and put his hand into the moving water, which tugged cool on his fingers. There was something there, but what? He lay down and stretched flat to place his face fully in the cold water. Once he did, it took a minute for his eyes to adjust to a shadowed world. There in front of him was no university library, no university with a manicured lawn, not even the city he came from, at least how he remembered, but an image of war. He saw cities in ruin and in the distance what could only be refugee lines, faces downcast in hopelessness, broken. The clouds were black and he heard the rumbling of artillery. His eyes burned from the smoke and the air was pungent and sick. The trees, the grass, everything covered in ash, dead or dying. He jerked his face out, fear rising in his spine. No, not fear, he thought, but an overwhelming terror of what lay beneath the surface. And then it struck him what Felix and Sylvester had been trying to explain. The image of the library he had come from had moved on ahead in the river, where the past went, downstream. He was on the bank, a place where the river of time flowed by in another world; his world. A world where time existed. The present in front of him, the place in the river he could jump into and join, was being destroyed. How could he go back to a present where the world was at war? A dying earth in shadows. Why would he want to?

Later, Felix joined Jason on the bank of the river. “We’ve been looking for you, Squirt. Are you ok?”

Jason looked off to where the river flowed in the far distance; where it broke into multiple streams and emptied into an ocean. “Have you been to where the river ends? There, where it meets the ocean from those channels?”.

“That’s called the Sea of Infinity Jason. Even on Sylvester’s flight craft, full speed, we never reach it. The closer we come, the further it seems. The river never arrives at the sea from what we can tell. It’s a mirage that time has a destination.

Felix reached out and pointed to where the River of Time was coming from. “Soon we’ll ride to the future.” He then mounted Spirit. “The future is coming at us in the river from back beyond that distant bend. And it’s not good Squirt. Not at all.”

“Will you show me?”

“Not yet, but soon Jason.”

It wasn’t long before Jason met with Sylvester. And he knew in his heart it would be the last time; the last advice he’d gain from the wise old man.

“I know you’re scared, Jason, but you must go back to your world, and as near to the source of the river as you can.”

Jason had stared off, then paced quickly back and forth. The more he thought about jumping in the river, the more he didn’t understand why, like trying to grab smoke in his mind. Why couldn’t he just stay with Felix and Sylvester? “If I enter the river where the future is coming, how can I change it? That makes no sense. None of this makes sense.”

Sylvester put his hand on Jason’s, stopping his pacing. “Listen to me, son,” he said quietly. “Very few have come from the River of Time. Oh, we tenders can dip in and take a pleasure or two from different ages, a fine horse, or head upriver to where the future lies and steal a hover craft. This fine brandy I’m drinking came from ages ago, well downstream from where you came through your library wall. I can get to a long time ago when I fly downriver. But Felix and I can’t change the course of the river. We’re only tenders. Only a few can change the river and bend the future. They have to come from the river like you did. Your destiny, Jason, is to change the course of the River of Time. Only in that way can you save the world.“

“How do I do that? I can’t even swim.”

“We’ll take you back to as far as we can, to as close to the river’s source as we can. Where future starts. But the further we go upriver, the more storms we see. It’s too dangerous above where the river plunges over what we call The Falls of the Dead. At some point, we stop or die. Even so, where you re-enter the water, you’ll be in the future. And then you need to bend the course, Jason. We know the banks of the river bend toward fear and lies, or can carve a bank the other way, to truth, and even love. Bend the course of the river Jason. When it gets here, maybe you won’t see the end of the world in the River of Time.”

“I still don’t understand.”

“Look here, Jason.” Sylvester took a stick and drew a circle in the sand. “Is that a perfect circle?”

Jason cocked his head with a puzzled expression. “No, of course not. No one can draw a perfect circle. But what does…”

“What about in your head, Jason? Can you imagine the idea of a circle? A perfect circle. Every atom a perfect distance from the center.”

“I can imagine it, yes. But that’s just an idea.”

“So what you’re saying, Jason, is only an idea can be perfect? Is that your point?”

Jason stood still like a thought had struck him. “I guess that’s true. We all have five senses that give each of us a slightly different physical view, never perfect. But an idea can be perfect. Is that it?”

“That’s part of it. Yes. It’s ideas that change the course of the River of Time. And something else?”


Sylvester squeezed Jason’s hand and held it firm. “Is love, Jason? Is love a physical thing, or an idea you hold?”

A horse’s whinny interrupted them as Felix came over the rise in a meadow. “It’s time Jason. Spirit is raring to go. Time to go upriver to the source. To where the future starts.” Spirit was now joined by a black horse and tied to a chariot where Felix stood grabbing the reins with his right hand, a whip in the other.

Jason took his place next to Felix and they stood together. Felix then snapped the reins on the two horses and they headed upriver on the banks of the River of Time. The further they trotted over the rolling and wooded landscape, the further the sky darkened. Lightning flashed to either side of the riders. Again, and again, exploding into the ground with sharp flashes. Both horses broke into an impossible gallop in the pouring rain as Felix whipped the horses into a charge. The strength of the wind was fierce and the horses turned, their eyes red with fear. And yet Felix was having none of it, and still pushed them on; on and on until Jason felt the horses leap into the air with wings unveiled, beat by the horse’s clenched and flexing muscles, raising the chariot in the sky above the thundering waterfall beneath a blackening sky. A white capped crescendo of water a mile across lay below them, and like a screaming clawed monster, fell over an abyss, the boiling water tumbling straight down hundreds of feet, an iced mist rising, the roar deafening.

Felix yelled to Jason, the iced wind streaking his face, his words swept away, the dark clouds flashing, cracking in lightning. “Here Jason! We can go no further. This is where the future starts. Enter the river here!”

Jason leaped from the back of the chariot and felt the howling wind ripping at him as he fell on the rocks on the shore. He was then near lifted off from where he stood. Crawling the final few feet down the bank, tears streaking his face in fear, he slipped into the river’s source. The current soon swept him to the top of the falls, then took him into the abyss.


Sylvester took a swig of brandy. “I bet they made him drink hemlock like the one fellow we took upriver. Remember him, Felix?” Felix and Sylvester were resting along the river bank.

“I think we took him too far back upriver; do you think?” Felix rose and started walking to his horse.

Sylvester called after him. “Do you mean the hemlock man, or the boy?”

“You know who I mean. And yes; too far back I think. He’ll probably be tarred and feathered with his stories of time tenders, or worse, murdered. He knows there’s a bright world out of the River of Time. The people he meets will deny there is nothing more than shadows, living where time exists beneath the surface. They will fear what he says.”

 “But did you notice?”

Felix mounted his horse. “Yes. I noticed. How could I not? The river has a new channel.” 

November 07, 2023 01:00

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Aidan Romo
18:28 Jan 26, 2024

Thought provoking fantastical piece here. Good world building at work with some solid pacing. I appreciate the restraint of over explanation in the story that can easily kill the intrigue of many tales with unusual elements.


Jack Kimball
20:05 Jan 26, 2024

I was really trying to "show" and not "tell". I don't know about solid, but what I like is the premise of our living in a river of time that we can step out of into another world, but the river moves on, as the past moves away. You have to go UPSTREAM to the future to see what comes. So what I'm after is not just a time travel story, but something with more depth brought by the hidden world existing outside the river. To be honest, I still think the premise is loose like most of my stuff. But it's fun to develop and I'm trying. Thanks agai...


Aidan Romo
12:18 Jan 27, 2024

You need to not be so harsh on these. Keeping in mind that these pieces on Reedsy are short stories, not novellas or substantially longer pieces. (in the over 5,000 words range) As such, it is natural the characters, idea, premise etc. will not be super well developed. It is just to be expected with a substantially shorter space to work with. You should judge work based on what it is, rather than what it isn't. Not trying to discredit your self criticism, it's a good trait to have as a writer, but I am saying that in the cases of these small...


Jack Kimball
12:57 Jan 27, 2024

Thank you Aidan. Well said! Jack


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Patricia Casey
15:50 Nov 12, 2023

astride a white horse, was a young black man in English riding gear, high boots, khaki pants flared at the hips, and a white rider’s helmet. He looked like a polo player, and he was the most handsome man Jason had ever seen. His skin was caramel colored and had its own shimmer. (how could his skin be caramel colored if he is a black man? Why is his "blackness" important?) He passed a blacksmith shop with a worker clanging away on an anvil, the fire blue hot. (nice imagery) It would help the flow if you revealed Felix's name sooner so you d...


Jack Kimball
01:42 Nov 13, 2023

Hi Patricia! I really appreciate you reading The River of Time and I see you’ll working on an MFA in English so double thanks. ( I’m 70 and can’t even imagine how fortunate an opportunity to gain an MFA would be with your life ahead of you. ) Your comments: (how could his skin be caramel colored if he is a black man? Why is his "blackness" important?) I think this is dead on. Blackness is not important in the story, as a race, but as a handsome man, like a strong chin, or athletic grace. What you’re right about is “black” brings in a lot...


Patricia Casey
04:17 Nov 19, 2023

Hi Jack, Thank you for sharing the many details that enhance your story. It definitely has potential. It just needs minor tweaking to elevate it. By the way, I'm 65 years old, so I'm not far behind you. Patricia


Jack Kimball
19:52 Nov 19, 2023

Hi Patricia, I assumed your working on you MFA meant you were in your twenties... Another bonehead assumption! How do you like SNHU? I would consider something like that myself. Thanks. Jack


Patricia Casey
13:39 Nov 21, 2023

Hi Jack, I love SNHU. My skills improve with every course. I have realized through their online MFA Creative Writing program that I never want to stop learning. They have a writing center, tutors, and help with assignments. It is an experience I feel fortunate to be going through. Patricia


Jack Kimball
20:11 Jan 26, 2024

Hi Patricia, Wanted you to know I start at SNHU the end of February taking the first courses to pursue an MFA in Creative Writing, one course every ten weeks, who knows how far I'll actually go... And YOU are a good part of the inspiration. Thank you. Jack FYE-501 Graduate Student Orientation MFA-505 Introduction to Online MFA MFA-507 Advanced Studies in Literature


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Mary Bendickson
02:48 Nov 11, 2023

River of time runs deep. Very inspiring.


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