Tommy Moloch knew it spelled trouble when he woke up in a strange room in a strange house in a strange town and without his wallet or keys or money or cell phone or oddly enough socks. His first thoughts were a mixture of where am I, what happened and what the hell do I do now. There were no immediate answers to any of his questions.
Every part of Tommy ached. His condition was aggravated by the fact that he’d evidently slept on the floor because that’s where he was when consciousness arrived.
Tommy stood. This hurt. He looked out the large picture window and saw tract houses across the street and beyond them mountains. This did not seem to be a very populous area. The area looked totally unfamiliar. Judging from the sun it was mid morning. It was hazy and looked hot. Tommy walked over to a sliding door that led to a side entrance. There was no house next door. On this side there was just endless fields of brown grass and ugly weeds. Tommy thought it as depressing a sight as he’d ever seen.
The house felt and sounded empty. There was a TV and a stereo, furnishings but no personal effects. Tommy went into a pristine bathroom and peed. There was a bar of soap by the sink and another in the shower. There was shampoo there and towels stacked by the door. The cabinets were empty. No prescription bottles, no toothpaste, no deodorant.
Tommy walked over to the kitchen. There were no dirty dishes. The cabinets were stocked with pots, pans, plates, glasses and a drawer was filled with silverware. But there was no food. In the fridge there was a six pack of bud and pitcher of water and not a damn thing else. Except in the salad crisper where he found his wallet and keys. All his cash was gone, though.
“What the fuck were my wallet and keys doing in the salad crisper?” Tommy wondered. “And where’s my goddamned cell phone?”
Tommy tentatively opened what he thought was the door to a bedroom. He was right that it was a bedroom but he had also assumed someone would be sleeping in the bed. There wasn’t. The bedroom didn’t look like anyone had used it recently. There were not only no personal effects but no clothes. The closet was empty except for a few hangers.
There was another bedroom that was smaller but in every other way was identical to the bigger one, including the bed being made and just a few hangers in the closet. He found a basement but the only things in it were a bicycle, a dog leash, and a box full of old Playboy magazines.
The backyard was all brown grass and weeds just like the adjoining fields. With each passing minute Tommy grew more depressed and more frightened and more worried. “Where the fuck am I?” he said aloud a few times.
Back in the house he looked for a telephone. There wasn't one. Tommy became more determined to find his cell phone. It seemed his only means of discovering a way out of this mess. Eventually Tommy found his socks and cell phone behind the sofa cushions but the battery to his phone had run out so it was of no immediate use to him. Tommy doubted he could find a charger. A thorough search of the house did not yield one. Tommy could envision no solution to his dilemma save finding a downtown area or mall. He’d have to head off on foot. By this time, despite the ravages of an awful hangover, Tommy was hungry. When he found a store he could buy something to eat with his credit card.
He’d just stepped outside when he remembered the bike in the basement. Maybe taking it was theft but given his circumstances Tommy was perfectly willing to take that chance.
Tommy hadn’t been on a bike in years and coupled with his hangover this made his initial efforts to ride awkward. Indeed he took one solid fall before feeling comfortable. Tommy noted the address of the house he’d woken up in just in case it somehow later became important. It was 246 something. Tommy rode to the end of the block before seeing that this was Pine Street. “Great name for a street around here, there’s probably not a pine tree for a hundred miles,” Tommy said aloud.
Tommy rode straight ahead down Pine. On the one hand he was scared out of his wits and on the other he had a strong feeling that everything would work out soon enough. It always did.
The last thing Tommy remembered before waking up was talking to some chick in a bar. He couldn’t remember who she was or what bar but he had a clear image of a blonde about 21 with a beautiful blue eyes. She was wearing next to nothing and Tommy remembered thinking he had a chance with her. But who was she was and what happened with her was as much a mystery as Tommy's current location. Prior to talking to the blonde girl he could remember being with some friends at a party and drinking shots of tequila and smoking some seriously powerful weed. Tommy could also remember someone saying something about acid but couldn't remember whether he'd dropped any.
This was not by any stretch of the imagination Tommy's first hangover but it was far and away the worst. At 23 Tommy had been getting high fairly regularly for six years. There was no drug or kind of booze he'd shied away from save heroin and he didn't doubt that he'd someday give that a try. But despite his extensive experience with morning afters, Tommy was in new territory. Here he was god knows where having gotten here god knows how.
Tommy continued riding down Pine Street looking ahead and to the left and right at every cross street searching unsuccessfully for signs of a downtown area or for that matter anything besides tract houses.
It was after about ten minutes of this that the ground seemed to start melting. This freaked Tommy out. He was even more disturbed when overcome with the sensation that he was now bicycling in mid air and that he was simultaneously looking down on himself riding there on melting pavement. Then it got weirder.
He wasn't peddling but moving just the same, the sun was changing shape and direction and color and parked cars and houses had trails of light emerging from them. Tommy realized that he was tripping off some sort of heavy acid. But that was impossible because he had slept. "Or did I? Maybe I just came out of a black out and haven't slept at all."
Bobby stopped the bike, got on the sidewalk and closed his eyes. Terror gripped Tommy raising from the bottom of his spine all the way to his brain. Now it was a physical force surging through his loins. It emphasized the hunger pains in his stomach, it highlighted a recent bruise on his left knee, the acne on his chin pulsated, the exhaustion that was everywhere felt overpowering. Tommy wanted to die right then and there, he couldn't imagine living another second. It was all just too awful and he still had no fucking idea where he was or if he'd ever get out of his suburban hell or eat or see a familiar face. Ever. He was sweating and wanted to cry.
"You okay, there son?" It was an older man's voice. Tommy opened his eyes and looked at an old bald pot bellied man of about 75. He was wearing a white tee shirt and Adidas sweatpants. To Tommy the man looked like every grandfather he'd ever met. Maybe this was his salvation.
"I'm...I'm feeling sick and I'm very lost and I...don't know where my friends are. I just want to go home." Tommy's voice was choking. He sounded like a frightened little boy. He felt like one too.
"Well, son you're in Payton and you're about a mile from the shopping center. I'm sorry you're not feeling so good. You want to use my telephone? To call someone?" The old man seemed concerned and quite willing to help. But Tommy could only wonder where the hell was Payton, he'd never heard of it.
"Payton. I'm so confused. What's the next big city or town. I mean the nearest."
"Gracious son, you really are lost. We're...oh I'd say about 15 miles south of Bakersfield."
"Bakersfield! Bakersfield, California?" Tommy was in total shock. He lived in Portland, Oregon. And that's the last place he remembered being. His mind reeled and now the only colors he saw were dark ones.
"Oh my son, of course we're in California. What did you think?"
"This is Saturday, right?" It occurred to Tommy that if he wasn't in a different state he might have lost a day. He knew for a fact that it was Friday night when he was talking to the cute blonde.
"Lord no. Young man this is Tuesday. You can't possibly mean you thought this was a Saturday."
The urge to sob was almost uncontrollable but Tommy vowed not to so much as shed a tear. He had lost three days and was in another state and he was still very very high. In fact the old man was changing forms right before Tommy's eyes. He was impossibly large, the quite small and then far away and then looming above Tommy and his skin was changing colors.
"Come on in and you can use my phone and I'll give you a glass of water." The man offered. "My name is Rayford Pillick but you can call me Ray. Everybody does."
"Thank you, Ray." Tommy said to the ever changing shape that was the old man.
Ray led him into his home. There was an old woman sitting in front of a TV set watching a game show. Ray introduced his wife, Flora. "This poor young man is lost and I've offered to let him use our phone."
"You don't look very well, young man," Flora said. Flora looked even older than Ray and just as much the quintessential grandparent. She began to shrink before Tommy's eyes and then expand.
"He doesn't feel at all well, poor fella. I'm gonna get him a glass of cold water," Ray told her.
"Oh that won't do, I'll make him a sandwich. Would you like that young man?"
"Yes, thank you," Tommy said. It was weird that he could be so polite and seemingly normal when he was tripping, but the old couple gave him a sense of comfort in what otherwise seemed a totally insane world in an absolutely terrifying time.
"The phone is in the den, just here," Ray said to Tommy indicating the first door down a narrow hallway. "It's okay if you need to call long distance," he added with a reassuring nod and smile.
Tommy entered the den and closed the door behind him. He could hear the old couple busy in the kitchen, talking to one another. It seemed they were glad for something to do and the opportunity to help someone. Tommy flicked on a light and saw the telephone on a small table. He was surprised that it was an old dial tone phone. Tommy had only ever seen them in movies or TV shows or in used junk stores.
Tommy decided to call his best friend, Kyle. It seemed so laborious to use a dial phone. Instead of Kyle he got a recording saying the number he dialed did not exist or was no longer in service. "The dumb fuck probably forgot to pay his phone bill," Tommy thought. Next he tried his older brother Dan. It again took forever to make a call using this old fashioned dialing. This time there was ringing and someone answered. Tommy didn't recognize the voice and whoever it was told Tommy he had the wrong number. Tommy didn't doubt he had dialed wrong given his condition. He felt bad about making more than one long distance call, what with the old couple paying for it. Now Tommy thought it best to give in to pride and call his mother. He'd have to confess everything to her. She'd be pissed but could at least transfer enough money to his credit card and so he could get the hell out of here fast.
As Tommy dialed his mom's house he glanced up at the wall and saw a calendar. It was one of those funky ones that banks give you for free. It was weird because they had the right month, April, but it was a 1978 calendar. They'd kept that same calendar for 37 years. Tommy shook his head in disbelief that anyone, even an old people, would have a super old calendar still hanging. Tommy was very careful in dialing his mom. He didn't want another wrong number. The phone rang and rang and rang. Weird it didn't go to voice mail, Tommy thought. He let it rang 20 times. Tommy next decided to try his dad who would be at his office. His parents had been divorced for ten years and since high school Tommy rarely saw his dad though he called him often just to chat. His dad was partner in a law firm but Tommy didn't remember the number. He called directory assistance for Portland.
"I need the number for Jackson, Mavis and Moloch on Drake Boulevard, please."
"I'm not seeing a listing for anything by that name on Drake or anywhere else in Portland."
Tommy carefully repeated the name and that this listing was for Portland but the woman on the other end insisted there was no such name. The terror seized Tommy again, this time he felt it traveling from his toes into his hair. "What's today date?" he asked
"Why it's the 18th," the woman said.
"Of April, right?"
"Yes" the woman said drawing the word out as if confused by the question.
"The day of the week?"
"You're asking? Why, it's Tuesday."
"Okay, I know this is a really weird question, but what year is it. I'm serious." For a moment Tommy felt perfectly normal. As if he wasn't the least bit high.
Tommy dropped the phone. He fell too his knees. Either this was a dream or Tommy Moloch had traveled back in time. "How, how, how," he whispered repeatedly.
There was a slight tap on the door. "You okay in there, son?" It was Ray. No he was not. He was 37 years into the past and that was way way way too much to handle.
Tommy stood. He hung up the phone. He opened the door. He looked past the old man and said excuse me as he brushed against Ray while walking to the front door. Ray found the bike. He got on and pedaled. Straight down Pine Street. He finally noticed that all the cars were older models. When he eventually got to downtown it further confirmed that Tommy was indeed in the past, and he didn't doubt that it was April, 1978. He could tell by the stores and the way people were dressed. Tommy rode through downtown and just kept going. His mind was a total blank. No thoughts at all. He didn't feel high. That was all gone. He didn't feel anything at all. He had no purpose whatsoever. Tommy rode all the way out of Payton onto a highway. After riding for a few miles he saw a deep ravine. At the bottom were jagged rocks and a small brook. It was about a 50 yard drop. It would do. Tommy backed up from the edge of the ravine about 100 yards. He built up a head of steam and rode into the emptiness above the ravine. As he fell Tommy wondered one last time how it happened, but he didn't really care. He needed this to be over.