The Secret Life of Dave
by Jeff VanderMeer
Dave Driscoll always did enjoy
shooting guns, perhaps more intensely than your average gun
owner. For many years he dreamed of meeting Philip K. Dick and
Sam Peckinpah on the same night. Despite serving as a professor
of humanities, he had long understood the impossibility of this,
both parties being dead. However, starting in the summer of
2005, he began to spend no little time and effort on the most
practical next best thing: building a time machine. He knew (and
still knows) that in 1973 Dick and Peckinpah met in a Berkeley,
California, bar for about half an hour. If he could only focus
on that particular moment, he would be able to make his dream a
Experimenting with several
psychotropic and psychedelic drugs, varying the electrical
currents passed through his extremities, carefully watching the
documentary Le Jete more than one hundred times, and using
stolen equipment from the labs of friends in harder sciences
than the humanities, Driscoll finally managed to create
precisely the right conditions in the right combination on
October 29, 2006. Before strapping himself onto the time travel
table, Driscoll—as he always did before a “PDKSP Attempt,” as he
called them in his journal, to avoid discovery—strapped two
holsters with handguns to his sides and held onto an old shotgun
he’d picked up in a thrift shop. “You never can tell what you
might meet,” he once wrote in his journal. “Old flames. Old
enemies. Other people traveling into the past.”
Driscoll materialized in the bar
at its farthest end—ahead of him, the bar itself, the stools,
the bartender, the open door, a rectangle of light against the
gloom, and framed by it: Philip K. Dick, sitting back on his
stool, and Sam Peckinpah hunched over in deep monologue, both
Peckinpah had his back to
Driscoll, but Driscoll still recognized that distinctive back
from the many old photographs he had examined late at night as
part of his research.
Dick, meanwhile, was staring
right at Driscoll, mouth wide, a look of horror on his face.
Driscoll realized Dick had just seen him appear out of thin air.
“No, no, it’s fine,” Driscoll
said, aiming his shotgun at the floor. “I’m not from the
government. I’ve nothing to do with your wife or any ex-wives. I
just—I’m just a big fan of you both.”
Dick was still making his amazed
face, managing to say to Peckinpah, “He’s got a gun. He appeared
out of nowhere. It’s just like I said. Just like I said.”
In slow motion—or so it seemed
to Driscoll—Peckinpah turned, saw Driscoll, took in the weapons
at his side, the shotgun pointed down, and drew his own gun, a
Colt .45, and fired. Driscoll jumped to the side and the shot
“No, no—don’t fire. I’m a
friend!” Driscoll shouted as the bartender ran out the door,
followed by as many customers as thought they could make it.
Dick and Peckinpah stayed put.
“He’s a fucking demon or a devil
or a wizard or something,” Dick ranted.
Peckinpah said nothing but fired
again, right over Driscoll’s head, where he lay protected by an
“Don’t shoot!” Driscoll cried
out. “I’m from your future. I just wanted to meet you guys.”
“Shoot him, Sam,” Dick shouted.
“He’s a government assassin—from the future!”
Peckinpah fired twice more,
striking the wood of the table and sending up chips.
Driscoll returned fire for his
own protection, but aimed high. The smell of gunpowder and smoke
got in his nostrils. His heart was beating fast. This wasn’t
what he’d wanted. Not at all.
Peckinpah, who had remained
silent the whole time, fired a fifth time, an inch from
Mercifully, the drugs began to
fade and the electrical currents pulsating through
Driscoll’s extremities turned
off, and he slowly began to return to his own time. As he left,
he saw one last time the horrified look on Philip K. Dick’s
face. What a paranoid bastard, Driscoll thought.
When he came to on his time travel table, he
realized he never wanted to see Peckinpah or Dick again.
About the Author:
Jeff VanderMeer is a two-time
winner (six-time finalist) of the World Fantasy Award, as well as a past
finalist for the Hugo Award, the Philip K. Dick Award, the International Horror
Guild Award, the British Fantasy Award, the Bram Stoker Award, and the Theodore
Sturgeon Memorial Award. VanderMeer is the author of several surreal/magic
realist novels and story collections, including City of Saints & Madmen,
Veniss Underground, and Shriek: An Afterword, which have been or
will soon be published by Pan Macmillan, Tor Books, and Bantam Books, among
others. VanderMeer's most recent books have made the year's best lists of
Publishers Weekly, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Los Angeles Weekly,
Publishers' News, and Amazon.com. He currently lives in Tallahassee,
Florida, with his wife, Ann.
Story © 2006 Jeff VanderMeer.