Three decades ago. Kinda close to this date actually. Let’s just say around this date. But definitely thirty years ago. Most people on the planet remember it well. Like those days when something fucking terrible happened. JFK Assassination. September 11. The LA Quake. The Hoover Dam failure. Depending on where you’re from. What place you call home. Mine obviously tend to have an American lilt to them. But there are some events . . . Some things. Momentous things. Catastrophic things. No matter where you are on the planet. You’re gonna remember it.
The day the Rock of Gibraltar was just totally fucking obliterated. Somehow. That’s a day you don’t forget, no matter how old you are.
Relations between Spain and Britain had been deteriorating for years. Decades even. Spain wanted the stub of land attached to their country back. After dealing with some of its people wanting to be their own countries. And the whole civil war thing back in the twentieth century. Like multiple fucking times. Different places too. All of which got fucking stomped. This was its chance to get something back. On the other hand: Britain didn’t know what the fuck it wanted to do. Things got tense. Real damn tense. They’ve gotten tense before. Over like the hundred years this shit has been going on. But never this bad. People started bandying the term “war” around. All the nearby towns cleared out real fast. Like overnight . . . No. Not overnight. But like real fucking fast. They didn’t want to get caught in any crossfire. I think it was kinda like that Cuban Missile Crisis from way back when. You know. Like fucking Defcon 5 shit. And everyone just waited. On tenderhooks. Pins and needles. Waiting for the fucking shoe to drop.
Thankfully. It didn’t. Some crazy deal was made between who knows who. And then those in power on both sides signed some thrown-together contract. Just like that. The next part was just fucking weird. They gave everyone who called Gibraltar home thirty days – a month – to leave, vacate, get the fuck out of there. They could go back to Britain, or stay in Spain. But they had to leave the Rock. I still don’t know why this was the arrangement they decided on. It’s just . . . Really messed up. Makes no sense. I don’t know if they were planning to change something in the town to make it officially Spanish. Do some sort of procession or parade or ritual or whatever. I don’t know.
Didn’t matter. They never got the chance.
E-day came – E for eviction – and everyone was gone. It was just a fucking ghost town. Drones took aerial footage. Zooming in. It was fucking creepy as hell. Everything just abandoned. People had taken most of their shit. But a lot of stuff got left behind. This was a couple days after E-day, as they called it. Some time in the afternoon. There were around ten or so drones just recording footage over the town and the rock. And then this massive fucking explosion happened. Like H-bomb level. Giant fucking cloud engulfing the entire mountain. The footage on the drones shows normal stuff, then the feed cuts out a second later as all the drones are obliterated. They tried slowing the footage down to like increments of a millisecond. Still didn’t show much. Just the explosion starting and coming up and then . . . Nothing. The kinda weird thing is that it all looked the same from every drone, even though they were all in different spots. If the explosion had been centered in a certain part of the town it would’ve looked different through each camera drone. But it didn’t. Meaning the explosion had been fucking massive.
This helped to explain that when hours and hours later, the cloud and dust and all the shit in the air finally settled or cleared or blew away, there was nothing left. I’m talking absolutely fucking nothing. No mountain. No hill. No pile of dirt. Not town. No buildings. No land. No sign of fucking anything. It was like the rock of Gibraltar and the surrounding piece of land had just been picked up by aliens and taken away into space. There was water. The Mediterranean where there hadn’t been any Mediterranean before. There was less Spain, since Gibraltar had belonged to Spain again. Albeit for like barely a month. No one would believe it. They came from all over the world to witness this . . . What? Miracle? Impossibility? Enigma?
The government of Spain was fucking pissed. Britain considered themselves lucky for pulling out when they did. And all those people who’d been forced to leave were counting their lucky stars that they were still alive.
Everyone had a theory, an idea for what actually happened. The popular one that the majority settled on was that it was a sort of terrorist attack. One of those fucking rare ones where nobody gets hurt except for some drones. Perpetrated by who? No one knew. Again, everyone had theories. But whatever caused the explosion it wasn’t radioactive, otherwise lots of people nearby would’ve died. It was a controlled, localized explosion meant to eradicate everything that was Gibraltar and nothing more. And that’s exactly what it did.
Although, the whole thing never sat right. Felt a little too sci-fi to me.
We stopped at a single dock that looked like it only had room for one boat: the one we were on. We disembarked and the boat guy waved bye and disappeared back into the fog. Never saw him again. But I had the feeling I wasn’t supposed to see him again. There was a man and a woman waiting to escort us. The man told us not to ask any questions . . . Well, actually he said we could ask as many questions as we wanted, but we wouldn’t be getting any answers. So it was better to keep our tongues in our heads and shut the fuck up. Yeah. That guy rubbed me the wrong way from the fucking start, but I wasn’t about to start anything, you know, it being the first day on the new job and all. We followed them to a small electric self-driving vehicle. The man and the woman got in the front. We were assigned to the back, facing away from them. As the vehicle drove us away from the dock, I told myself I could still see the boat in the fog heading away, but I knew I was kidding myself.
I gave my son a look. It was the what the fuck have we gotten ourselves into? Face. It made me feel a lot better to see the same look mirrored back at me.
They took us to a sterile medical facility. Along the way we saw a number of other identical vehicles and people doing whatever the hell they were doing. They all looked like they had something important to do. A number of them were in lab coats. All well dressed. At the facility we each had a doctor perform a full physical on us: I got a female doctor; Steve got a guy. After the doctor told me everything checked out – meaning they must have some fucking futuristic lab equipment to do all the blood and urine checks that quickly – she told me she was going to have to remove my implants.
No, you dirty motherfucker. Not those implants. I told you. I’m from the fucking future. If a woman wants to have big tits, then she can pay a shit-ton of money for some gene therapy. They don’t do that barbaric shit with silicon anymore. That stuff was just . . . Fucked up. No, I’m talking about the ocular and aural implants every teenager gets when they start high school. Yeah. I know. Makes those fancy smart phones of yours look like fucking manual typewriters.
So when she said she was going to remove my implants – basically cut out two parts of me – I lost it a little. But she was prepared for this. Took and gave her own. She let me vent for a good few minutes, then asked if I was fucking done? I got the picture and waited to hear what she had to say. She then told me I had two options: she could remove my implants and make me like everyone else here, or I they could call the boat back, and while I was waiting for it, my mind would be wiped of anything and everything to do with this place and I’d be dumped back on the Spanish shore with no memory of what’d just happened. And that would be the fucking end of it.
I took my time. She gave it to me. I was really wondering what Steve was thinking. He must’ve gone through the same routine. Which way was he leaning? But I’d gotten this far. I’d already decided I wanted my life to do a one-eighty in some way. And this was certainly a fucking one-eighty. Also my curiosity about this place and how they wanted me to contribute was through the fucking roof.
So I said yes. It took ten minutes and was completely painless. But it took me a week to get used to not being connected to the Worldnet and having all those thoughts, ideas, and answers at my synaptic tips. Steve, because he’s my son, chose the same, and we suffered through the instant data withdrawal together.
After that our school began. It was like being in fucking college again. It also took six months. Five days a week. Eight to four. And fucking homework on the weekends!
But I learned a lot. We learned a helluva lot.
We got a lot of answers in those six months. A lot of answers to many of the questions we’d been asking about the Ostium Network and what the fuck was going on here. But not all of them. Not by a long shot. So I’ll tell you what I can. What I actually remember.
There was a man behind the whole Ostium Network. I know. A man. Fucking typical. But even in the enlightened future I’m living in, men still control a lot of shit. Especially rich men. And this particular man was really fucking rich. We were never told who he was. He was one secretive motherfucker. I still don’t know who he is. I know. Pretty sad. But yes. There are that many rich fucking me in the world, so it wasn’t clear which one exactly was behind the Ostium Network. He was also a genius, as a lot of these guys tend to be. Like off the charts. Like never had any sense of a normal life. Yeah. It was pretty fucking weird we learned details about his life, but never found out who he was.
The whole blowing up Gibraltar thing was his brainchild. Naturally. We got an outline of what happened. With a few juicy details. But — of course — not ALL the answers. The massive explosion that look like it obliterated an entire mountain didn’t pack as much firepower as it seemed. It was more light-show and special effects than actual destruction. Like using blanks instead of real bullets: it sounds the same, just doesn’t hurt anyone. Hopefully. The other half of the show which nobody actually saw was making the rock of Gibraltar — including the whole fucking town — just disappear into thin air. But it worked. Apparently it wasn’t gone in a second, but took a total of 12 whole seconds to be completely gone from the known plane of existence. Yes. I use those words specifically. Of course, no one knew this, what with the pyrotechnics and big bangs and all that jazz. But once it all cleared it did look like it had literally just disappeared into thin air.
There was enough physics involved to fill a book. I understand almost none of it. What I did get from it is this: somehow the braniac of the Ostium Network moved the mountain and town to a new plane . . . A new dimension . . . A higher level . . . I’m still not fucking clear on the concept. It’s deep fucking level physics. Like sub-atomic particle interactions and string theory, and quantum entanglement, and lots of other gobbledygook. I heard that long one a few times over my training. It’s this quantum theory where you have two really fucking tiny things spread way the fuck apart and yet somehow they’re connected. Yeah. I know. You’re like: okay. Sure physicists. Say and believe whatever the fuck you want. Yeah. That’s how I am too.
But let me just repeat that: two separate things, far away from each other, that are somehow fucking connected. Sound familiar at all? Ring any Ostium bells?
Yep. Jake would’ve loved that one too.
The Ostium Network made Gibraltar not there in the real world anymore. But in another place. That they could somehow access. See above with the fog and me not being a hundred percent surprised. You know. More like ninety percent. The day after it all went kaboom they started moving in and setting up shop. That’s why we had to have our implants removed. Because no one wanted any info about the Ostium Network and where it was located. Though supposedly this was also next to impossible since we were in or on a different dimension. Is it in? Or on? See, that’s the sort of question that’s perfect for Jake. He’d totally have an answer for me. He could probably talk about for hours . . .
Steve and I went through a rigorous and thorough self-defense course that included weapons training. It was one of those things where they told us you’re probably never going to have to fight someone, and definitely not fire a weapon, but we’re going to drill you until you can do it all without hesitation anyway. Plus, it kept us in great fucking shape.
Also they made us do this training before we actually learned what the endgame of all this education actually was. I know. Pretty fucked up. Now you see why I kinda hate these guys at times. Hearing the words “Ostium Network” can make me cringe. Not always. But sometimes.
We got a few days off after that to let our minds and bodies recuperate. By this time we were getting to know some people and starting to feel comfortable calling this place home. Because that’s exactly what it was now. Whether we liked it or not. Everyone was in the same boat . . . Or in this case, on the same island. Yeah. Gibraltar was now an island. Not attached to Spain. Obviously. Rumor was if you wanted to get the fuck out you couldn’t. And if you tried, swimming was your only option. And you’d just swim forever, into the fog and the cold waters, never finding any land, until you just fucking drowned. Apparently one guy tried it. Was never seen again. But then again I don’t see them making this shit up. If you wanna go take a long swim and face your fears and whatnot, be my guest. Although it is possible they made up the rumors about one guy trying it. Just to make it that more chilling and deadly. You know?
When we came back from our mini break . . . Actually, let me try and fill you in a little of what life was like on the Rock under the watchful eye of the Ostium Network. A slice of life, if you will. As I said, there were lots of these itty-bitty self-driving vehicles that people could use. Without our implants we had no way of communicating really other than word of mouth. However, on every floor on every building, and about every twenty feet or so there was a communications panel that put you in touch with a switch board. There you could request one of those vehicles for transportation just about anywhere on the island. You could get in touch with anyone you wanted. If you knew their name. Unless they were of a specific echelon. I’d say pay grade, but even though we were all getting money directly deposited into our bank accounts once a month, it didn’t really matter. Wasn’t important. You didn’t use money on the island. So it was kind of pointless.
When you “retired” or left the Ostium Network, your mind would be wiped of Ostium Network-material. Then a certain boat would come pick you up and take you back to the regular normal world, where access with our bank accounts would resume and you’d discover you had a shit-ton of money. I wanted some more details and actually brought this up in the training class, but the teacher spun a shitty story about how we were all just starting, so why did we want to think about what the finish was going to be like now. Yeah. Just like you treat a kid. Exactly. Bullshit. I demanded an answer. He gave me a vague one: when the time arrived, an “arrangement” would be made; once one’s clearance and knowledge level would be determined. Whatever the fuck that meant. But just like the informative teacher so kindly let us know: we could worry about it when the time arose. However, no one had “retired” yet and lived to tell the tale.
So you could get around with those self-driving vehicles or you could just walk. I guess bicycles woulda been okay, but it woulda made walking more risky. The place wasn’t that fucking big, so walking wasn’t a problem. Plus, free exercise!
There was a gym. Should the walk not be good enough for one to maintain their robust and well-toned figures. Insert here miming gesture of me sticking my fingers down my throat. There were four places to eat in town. Two restaurants and two cafes/sandwich places. They all had impressively large menus. Where they got the food from I have no fucking idea. Half of it they probably grew and caught on the island, but the other half? That’s an eternal mystery. That boat coulda made daily trips but that’d be a lot of fucking work. Plus to supply a place this size, [beat] you’d need a bigger boat. Maybe they were getting it from other dimensions. Higher and lower ones? Parallel fucking universes? Your guess is as good as mine. All I know is the food was fucking fantastic and the menu changed monthly with a bunch of new things. If it wasn’t for the walking . . . I woulda been a lot heavier.
Before you ask: there was alcohol. A little wine, a little beer, and very few spirits. But I never saw anyone publicly drunk. I think people threw back the sauce in the privacy of their own apartments. Speaking of which they were all mostly the same: one-bedroom, a decent sized living, balcony. No kitchen: you got all your grub from the eateries, that way they knew exactly what we were eating. Though you could get take out if you wanted. Each one had a TV wall but there was no live TV or news of the outside world. There was a local channel that had stuff once in a while about the haps on the Rock, but mostly played classical music. There was an fucking extensive on demand movie and TV library that satisfied any cravings. Yes. Before you ask. There was porn. Plenty of it, running the gamut of fetishes and sexual interests. And that’s all I’m gonna fucking say about it. We all indulged . . . When we needed to.
As far as I knew, there wasn’t a single printed book on the island. And no paper either. Which made sense. Everyone had a tablet that did many things for them. Allowed them to do most of their work. To connect with computers and devices throughout the island. There was even email, but we were connected on a local area network over the island. No outside Internet whatsoever. No even four dimensional Internet or whatever fucking dimension we were in. With the tablet one also had access to like every digital book in the history of the written word. A fuck-ton. Jake woulda been on cloud nine. [Said sadly]: too bad.
The tablet of course had a notepad and writing app. I’ve never been that ga-ga about movies and TV, though I enjoy a good book. But nights were quiet and kinda lonely. Steve and I would meet up for dinner and hang out sometimes, but I didn’t want to be that mom cramping his style. He made friends fast and had fun hanging out with them. As someone who’s spent a lot of her life traveling the globe and meeting lots of different people, I make friends when I need to. It means I’m also very happy with my own company. So round about the second week of living on the island and having another quiet night alone, I started writing a diary. A journal. Whatever the fuck you want to call it. Putting my thoughts and feelings and ideas down. What’d been happening to me over the last couple weeks. What I thought about all of it. It felt good. Like I was processing all the shit I’d been going through that day and getting it out of me. So the next day I felt refreshed and clear and ready for more aforementioned bullshit. It got to be a routine, fifteen to twenty minutes every night before bed. Like a nightcap. Wish I coulda brought that tablet with me to Ostium. I guess, thinking on it, that’s another reason I started doing recordings like these. I missed doing that sorta thing. Spent almost a whole year doing it too, before all that shit went down. And it wasn’t like I just wrote it down and forgot about it or never looked back and reread it. Over the months I definitely reviewed a lot of past entries. For details and stuff I’d learned. How my ideas had change. How my concept of the Ostium Network and the big picture was molding into something different.
Fuck. I wish I had that tablet now. Whelp. Never gonna see it again at this point. I guess if anyone ever finds it . . . if it somehow gets out of the Ostium Network and into the real world, you’ll get all the nitty gritty details of my illustrious life on the island and all its goings on.
Okay. Enough small talk chit-chat. Let’s get back to the big kahuna.
Yeah. You may’ve noticed I have a whole fucking extensive repertoire of sayings, expressions, colloquialisms and cliches. Well, gimme a sec and I’ll get to the reason for that.
After our mini break that first class was . . . Illuminating. One we were all seated the first line out of the teacher’s lips . . . I can still remember it like it was yesterday . . . Was: “The Ostium Network has harnessed the power of time travel.” I know. Talk about a mind-blowing statement. The teacher paused, perhaps waiting for gasps or groans or screams? Fuck knows. But no one said or did anything; I couldn’t even hear anyone breathing. I know I was holding my fucking breath . . . Waiting.
We were about to find out what the fuck we were all doing here.
Then the teacher launched into lecture mode. The man behind the Ostium Network, who will not (and never!) be named brought together an elite group skilled people from across the globe with an idea. A radical idea that with their help became a reality. We got some details, the whys, but not so much the hows. Plus there was probably a ton of math and physics behind it all which would’ve gone over all our heads. We were told that time travel had been made possible for just over a year now but it was uncontrollable. People had . . . Disappeared. Gone through and not come back. The Ostium Network was not willing to continuously risk people’s lives, even if these people were willing to risk said lives. So. It required another year of working out ideas, plans, theories and possibilities. But all had to be absolute and thorough before any trials could be initiated.
The problem — apparently — is harnessing the immense power of time travel. This was news to all of us, but it makes perfect fucking sense. Time travel takes a big wallop of energy to work. So the concept that was developed was that instead of having one specific device or door to pass through and reach any time in history or the future, the power needed to be dissipated in some way. The logical conclusion was that instead of one door or “stargate” (the teacher said with a smirk on her face), there would be many hundreds of doors. Each door wouldn’t always lead to the same time, but by having many doors, it spread the energy we required to travel to anywhen better and led to way less chances of causing a chain reaction in the space-time continuum and ending all life and matter as we knew it . . . This is pretty much verbatim what the teacher said. Whether there was an ounce of truth to those words . . . Don’t fucking look at me. Seemed just as plausible as all the other shit that had been thrown at us so far.
These doors were to be collected together. Various plans were considered and tried and failed. High-rise buildings. Long rectangular buildings. Penitentiary-style blocks. The final plan was settled on a town. Enclosed by a high wall. There would be many different kinds of buildings with many doors.
Finally I started to see something I could do. Some way I could contribute to the Ostium Network and earn that mysterious money being deposited into my account every month. They needed to create a town where time travel would be feasible. I’d obviously never done anything like that in my life. But there were many things over my years of working that I’d never attempted before, but came into with some basics and nothing else but common sense and the love of a good brain-boggling challenge.
After that we got divided into smaller classes and I was joined with other architects and we started working on creating the town that would be Ostium.
We worked for months and months and months. Different plans and shapes. What held us up a lot was working out how to maximize the number of doors to buildings within the confines of a town. Until I had a brainstorm one day. I asked why we had to have doors be attached to buildings? Everyone looked at me like I’d just asked why the buildings needed to have foundations?
I brought up the fact that ever since we’d got here we’d all been reading and watching any time travel movie or TV series we could get our hands on. They were all made-up bullshit, but just in case there was anything in them, any increment of possibility or what if that might ring true. None of us were scientists involved in the time travel stuff, but we were just as obsessed. And when it came to time travel, it was all about thinking outside the box . . . Or the flux capacitor. Approaching things from a completely different angle. As Doc Brown in the Back to the Future series liked to repeatedly remind Marty McFly: You’re just not thinking fourth dimensionally.
The doors, I told them, trying to gain back any of the respect I’d earned, are the time travel devices. The time travel contraptions or machines or whatever the fuck you wanted to call them. They’d gotten use to my choice of vocabulary by this point. I think it’s a genetic thing. From a grandfather. Probably that dude from Jamaica who never took any shit from any body. The buildings and whatever was around the door wasn’t important.
For a moment I thought about grabbing my tablet and snapping a photo – yes, our tablets had cameras, of course! All the better for us to document our experiences and thoughts and ideas, no? Seeing all their shocked faces was fucking priceless. I swear there was even an open mouth or two. I may be be engaging in hyperbole. My memory isn’t what it used to be. And I was too busy fucking gloating in front of everyone to pay that much attention. The meeting was called after that, while someone in charge, with enough clearance and ability, contacted some higher ups and checked with the scientists to see if my idea was even feasible.
The next day we had an answer: a big fucking yes.
This changed everything for us. There would be plenty of buildings, with plenty of doors. But there would also just be lots of doors. All over. Everywhere. We could run riot with it, and we did, because we didn’t have limitations anymore. And the scientists and actual people who’d be building this shit loved it and lapped it up. I got word that the head honcho right at the very top, Mr. He Who Will Never Be Named, was impressed. Woulda been nice to get a congratulatory email or a voice message. Something. I got bupkis.
Well, that and the everlasting respect and adoration of my peers and coworkers, as well as the teachers. So, not so bad. Steve was blown away and came to find me as soon as he found out. Then he proceeded to name drop me as his mom wherever he went.
More time passed. Then we got word that the portal to the specific dimension where Ostium would be built was complete. Again, the details were many: we weren’t told them and even if we were, we wouldn’t have been able to comprehend them. So no harm, no foul. We were just excited to get the chance to start making Ostium for real. I have no fucking clue how they created something upon which a town could be built in this dimension. Was the surface already there? Was it liquid?
I did hang out with a scientist one night and over coffee he started telling me how it all worked. At this point, I knew a lot more people and was getting to be a lot more social. I still kept up on the journal entries. Needed that cathartic reset each night. Most of the stuff spouting out of his mouth went way over my head, like jumper jet altitude over my head. But he was having fun talking and I enjoyed my coffee and tried to understand every fourth or fifth word, which was more likely if it was a single non-sciencey syllable. He was saying something linking subatomic particles according to their type of bonds and moving up in size until they became molecules and chains of molecules and, yadda yadda yadda, that’s how you make a surface in the nth dimension to build a town on.
The first time we all stepped through the town was sort of already there. The shape at least. The surrounding wall was built and ready. That had been someone else’s idea; a really fucking good one too. Outside the wall was just darkness, like it is now. Untethered. At first there was just euphoria. After staring at so many charts and blueprints, this thing was finally fucking happening. Then we got to work and the town of Ostium quickly grew into a real thing.
Before we knew it, the buildings and doors were there. The scientists hadn’t done their parts yet to make them time-travel doors, but the infrastructure of Ostium was in place.
Then we had a meeting. A big. Long. Fucking. Meeting.