An Alternate History

IV. Thou Swell

I found the razor upstairs on a counter by the shower. I grimaced as I grabbed it, thinking about all the blood I had spilt using it to look somewhat normative on this totally insane yet alluring beautiful world. And besides a bucketful of tape the old man had left behind on his quest to be forgiven for everything he had broken in this world, there was also his treasured set of encyclopedias, dated 1973 and printed in Great Britain when there was such a thing. There ought to be a picture of a condor claw in that chingadera, I recall thinking as I dove into the hall closet in an attempt to find the proper volume number, the one that covered both claws and condors.

After I found what I needed in Volume 5, on page 137 to be exact, and clipped it out neatly and precisely in honor of the beautiful, magical bird that the picture I found represented, I reasoned, “What the fuck, why wait.” Then with a kind of gusto usually only reserved for drinkers of Schlitz Beer, I yelled “Let’s effing do this”, and began to follow my brother's directions.

And sure enough, just as I gravely entoned the words he told me to say, as I completed the phrase in a dull baritone, as I sung the line ‘You”re where you should be all the time’ while holding my arms out like a crucified Christ with the eldritch items clutched in each hand, a great sense of awe (like the kind you get when you spark a bowl of high grade sativa) overcame me and the sky turned blood red. I heard the distinct sizzle of electricity and the world that you and I currently share as you read this leaked away like Radiohead’s ability to make great albums did in the late aughts. The bluish hat man from Amazon appeared for a moment, laughing and waving me onward. Then, to put it mildly, I lost consciousness or fainted or something like that.

When I awoke, I thought, “Is this some kinda joke?” (to paraphrase my brother’s favorite Rolling Stones song, which was part of a thing called Their Satanic Majesties Request, which happened to come to mind because I was worried that there might be a devilish nature to all this sing-song bird claw bullshit). And there, standing before me in an otherwise stormy and dismal landscape that looked, I swear to fucking G_d, just like something outta the Matrix, was my brother Albino, wearing a wizard’s cape and big paper pirate’s hat  that had the words ‘King of the Beach’ stenciled about its front side.

“Welcome to 2124”, he said.

“What’s with all the fucking weird hats?”

“Just an affectation, buddy. People who haven’t been compromised by the fungus get to wear ‘em. Let me explain. Here, have a joint … and a lighter.

After a couple of totally awesome tokes, I regained my senses and started to listen in earnest to this guy who I thought for sure was dead. That was his big fat body that I had heard tell about after all, back in Ohio, back in 2024. Now the supposedly dead dude was telling me about the world he had come to inhabit.

“There’s not much left. The humans from this era, the ones that are left anyway, are a bunch of sons of bitches. Most of them believe that Donald Trump is gonna come back and restore the Earth to its previous glory, ha ha.  I had to kill one of them. He looked just like me … or you for that matter. I haven’t quite figured that out yet … It's some kind of cloning, like in that episode of Lost in Space when Dr. Smith finds an alien machine and starts making copies of himself or that Outer Limits story where the Chinese use chemicals and a mold to change people’s faces, you know, ‘The Day of the Dragon’.

Anyway,the remnants of Uncle Sam probably tracked my DNA when I popped in the first time and musta decided I was a threat. You’d be surprised at the sorts of technology they have, even though there are only like a million of them around, mostly here in the southwest. How’s that joint, mang?”

I wanted to ask him so many things, like why time travel, and for what purpose, or what kinda sustainable graviton field did blood, steel and biological material create when physically linked and then exposed to certain auditory frequencies … but …  I sorta got the general idea. Back in 2024 he was an aging poetry professor, a rare but also somewhat irrelevant thing in a time when universities were putting all their feria into STEM training and defense department contracts. Here, with his dead double forever back at home in 2024, he could plan a revolution or start a religion.

“I'm already bigger than Jim Morrison'', he said to me knowingly, as if he had read my thoughts. “And goddamn it, I’m happy here. I just felt like you ought to know the truth. I’m here for better or worse. And I’m teaching them stuff, like how to be critical, how to work as a community, how to be fair, how to put their fear aside and learn to be human again. A lot of them are scared of me, they think I’m some OG wizard sent to clean things up, like the lost pets of ‘Rangers at Midnight.’ A few of their kids take me seriously. Who knows what I can do in five or ten years. Plus which, I can’t go back without unbalancing the whole system and you sure as fuck wouldn’t like Cthulu rising up outta the sea in 2024 on account of that. It’s not pretty … and it’s complicated.

But I can send you back. And you’ll remember this. And maybe you won’t cry so fucking much every day about how goddamn dead I am and how alone you seem to think you are in this ever expanding universe, bruv. The only thing is, you’re gonna hafta be extra brave to go back, because I’m going to have to play  Arnaz’s ‘Straw Hat Song’ to invoke the proper celestial machinery … ‘Just put that big straw hat over your eyes’ …Remember that”, he said and hugged me. Like always it was like being suffocated by a fucking stoned grizzly bear throw rug from hell and there was no feeling better than that anywhere on Earth.

Given the scope of Albino’s mission, knowledge of the true nature of his existence, as well as having had some prior experience with the aforementioned tuneage, I put on the bravest face I ever have or will be able to muster and he sent me back to 2024, where I promptly got to work.

I still cry every damn day, but knowing the truth makes the tears sorta sweet. Tomorrow it will have been 30 years since Albino disappeared and I’m still the only one who knows what really happened, which really is out there, I am told by reputable sources whose own cynicism may force them to reply, ‘Sure. Fine. Whatever’ – signifying that it doesn’t really matter anymore. But I want to believe that it will matter, someday, 100 years on maybe, when we are both dust but our followers are legion.



Rudolfo Carrillo

Rudolfo Carrillo is a writer/artist living in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Carrillo holds a BFA  from the University of New Mexico and is currently a graduate student in the UNM English Department. His art work has appeared at 6o6 Gallery, Raw Space, and the ASA Gallery; his literary work has been featured in Typo Mag, On Barcelona, and Maverick Magazine; his work as a journalist has appeared in many regional publications. Carrillo was the news/music editor at Weekly Alibi – where he wrote as August March. Rudolfo recommends the New Mexico Black Leadership Council.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Thursday, May 30, 2024 - 22:22