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Bid Time Return

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Bid Time Return

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Author: Richard Matheson
Publisher: Viking Press, 1975

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Book Type: Novel
Genre: Fantasy
Sub-Genre Tags: Romantic Fantasy
Alternate History (Fantasy)
Contemporary Fantasy
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Film & Television Adaptations

Somewhere in Time

Somewhere in Time

Rastar Pictures

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The story of a modern man whose love for a woman he has never met draws him back in time to a luxury hotel in San Diego in 1896 where he finds his soulmate.


November 14, 1971

Driving down Long Valley Road. Lovely day; bright sunshine, blue sky. Past the three-rail fences painted white. A horse appraises me. Ranch country in Los Angeles. Down one side of a road dip, up the other. Sunday morning. Peaceful. Pepper trees on each side of the road, foliage stirring in the breeze.

Almost out now. Away from Bob and Mary, from their house, from my little guest house out in back; from Kit who came to visit while I worked, clomped hooves, sighed, nickered, groaned, and, all else failing to evoke attention and potential feed, bumped her nose against my wall. No more.

The last dip and the final speed bump. Up ahead, Ventura Freeway and the world. Adios Amigosprinted on the sign above the gatehouse. Farewell, Hidden Hills.

* * *

Standing in the car wash. Strangely empty. Everyone at church? A beige Mercedes-Benz just inched by. Always meant to get one someday. Scratch another project. Drinking beef broth purchased from the vending machine. Here comes my dark blue Galaxie. Staid, acceptable, and moderately priced; my kind of car. The nozzles greet it, shooting out their long, thin streams of lather.

* * *

In the empty parking lot outside the post office. Last visit to my box. Won't bother stopping service. Mailed my last bill payments off to Ma Bell and The Broadway.

* * *

Waiting at the stop sign by Topanga Boulevard. An opening now. A quick turn left--ease over--right turn--up the ramp and onto the Ventura Freeway. Farewell, Woodland Hills.

A really gorgeous day. The sky bright blue; thin pale streamers of clouds. The air like cold, white wine. Past Gemco, past the Valley Music Theatre. Both behind me now, no longer real. Solipsism is my game now.

Flipped a coin before I left the house; heads north, tails south. Heading for San Diego. Odd to think that one more penny flip and I'd be in San Francisco late this afternoon.

My luggage is spare: two bags. In one, my dark brown suit, my dark green sport coat, slacks, a few shirts, underwear, socks, shoes, and handkerchiefs, my small zip case of toiletries. In the other suitcase, my phonograph, headphones, and ten Mahler symphonies. By my side, my faithful ol' cassette recorder. Clothes on my back; the works. Except, of course, the traveler's checks and cash. Five thousand seven hundred and ninety-two dollars and thirty-four cents.

Funny. When I went to the Bank of America Friday, and stood in line, I started to become impatient. Then it came to me. No need to be impatient any longer. I looked at all the people, feeling sorry for them. They were still subordinate to clock and calendar. Absolved of that, I stood becalmed.

* * *

Just missed the turnoff for the San Diego Freeway. No sweat. May as well observe my footloose scheme right off. I'll readjust, go downtown, hit the Harbor Freeway, and reach San Diego by another route.

A billboard up ahead commending Disneyland. Should I pay a final visit to the Magic Kingdom? Haven't been there since Mom visited in 1969 and Bob and Mary and their kids and I took her out there. No; Disneyland is out. The only attraction there, for me, would be the Haunted Mansion.

Another billboard. Blurb: Now Open--The Queen Recommends Long Beach. That sounds more like it. Never been aboard her; Bob went overseas on her in World War II. Why not take a look at her?

* * *

To my left, the obelisk, the big, black tombstone: Universal Tower. How many times have I been in there on appointments? Strange to realize I'll never see another producer, never prepare another script. Never again have to call my agent. "Hey, for Chrissake, where's my check? I'm overdrawn." A peaceful thought, that. Super timing too; to leave when hardly anyone is working anyway.

Nearly to the Hollywood Bowl. Haven't been there since late August. Took that Screen Gems secretary. What was her name again? Joan, June, Jane? I can't recall. All I remember is she said she just adored classical music. Bored her silly. Insignificant stuff too, Bowl-style. Rachmaninoff's Second Concerto? Joanjunejane had never even heard it.

You'd think that, after all these years, I would have met someone. Bad Karma? Something bad. To never, in your whole life, meet a female who gets through to you? Incredible. Something hidden in my past, no doubt. Obsession with my tricycle. Boo, Freud. Can't you just accept the fact I never met a woman I could love?

* * *

In heavy traffic near the Harbor Freeway. Cars surround me. Men and women everywhere. They don't know me, I don't know them. Smog down here. Hope it's clear in San Diego. Never been there; don't know what it's like. One could describe death that way.

The Music Center. Stunning place. Went there a week or so ago, B.C.--before Crosswell. Mahler's Second Symphony performed. Mehta did a brilliant job. When the chorus came in softly in the final movement, I began to tingle.

How many downtowns will I see? Denver? Salt Lake City? Kansas City? Have to stay in Columbia for a day or two.

Amusing thought. I'm going to be a criminal because I don't intend to mail in any more car payments. And you know what, Mr. Ford? I don't even care.


* * *

A truck just veered in front of me and I had to switch lanes fast. My heart began to pound because I didn't have time to see if anyone was close behind me in that lane.

My heart is still pounding and I feel relief at being safe.

How pointless can you get?

* * *

I see her three red, black-tipped smokestacks now. Is she cemented there? Already, I feel sad for her. Rooting such a ship in place is like stuffing an eagle. The figure may look impressive but its soaring days are over.

The Queenjust spoke; a deafening cry that shook the air. How huge she is. An Empire State Building lying on its side.

* * *

I paid my money at the red booth, rode the escalator up, and now trudge slowly along the covered walk, approaching her. To my right is Long Beach Harbor, water very blue and moving fast. To my left, a small boy stares at me. Who's the funny man talking into a black box?

Another escalator ahead, very long. How tall isthe Queen} Twenty stories, I'd estimate.

* * *

Sitting in the Main Lounge. Woodwork finish of the thirties. Odd they thought it chic. Broad columns. Tables, chairs. A dance floor. On the stage, a grand piano.

* * *

An arcade; shops around a tile-floored plaza. Overhead lights the size of truck wheels. Tables, chairs, and sofas. All this floated once? Amazing. What was it like on the Titanic? Imagine a place like this awash with icy sea. A frightening vision.

* * *

What I'd like to do is sneak below; to the dark part, where the cabins are. Walk along the silent, shadowed corridors. I wonder if they're haunted.

I won't, of course. I'll obey the rules.

Old habits die harder than those who follow them.

* * *

A blown-up photo on the bulkhead. Gertrude Lawrence with her white dog. Like the one they used in David Lean's Oliver Twist; ugly, squat, and pointy-eared.

Miss Lawrence smiles. She does not realize, as she strolls the Queen's deck, that mortality walks close behind her.

* * *

Photos in a case titled Memorabilia.

David Niven doing a Scottish jig. He looks quite merry. He doesn't know his wife is going to die soon. I gaze at that frozen moment and feel uncomfortably godlike.

There's Gloria Swanson in her furs. There's Leslie Howard; how young he looks. I remember seeing him in a movie called Berkeley Square. I recall him time-traveling back to the eighteenth century.

In a way, I'm doing something like that at this moment. Being on this ship is being partially in the 1930s. Even to the music piped around. It has to be music played aboard the Queenat that time; it's so dated, so magnificently ricky-tick.

An announcement on the board states, Christened by Her Majesty The Queen, 26th Sept., 1934. Five months before my birth.

* * *

Sitting in the Observation Bar. No business-suited men around me though, no drink before me on the table. Only tourists and black coffee in a plastic cup, an apple danish baked in Anaheim.

Does she mind? I wonder. Does the Queenaccept her fall from grace? Or is she angry? I'd be.

Looking at the counter section. What was it like in those days? Give us a gin and tonic, Harry. A glass of white wine. J.B. on the rocks, please. Now, submarine sandwiches and ice-cold milk and burning-hot coffee.

Above the counter is a mural. People dancing, holding hands, a long thin oval of them. Who are they supposed to be? All of them are frozen like this ship.

I feel an odd sensation in my stomach. Something like the feeling I get watching a movie about racing when they show a point-of-view shot from inside the car; my body knows it's sitting still, yet visually I'm traveling at high speed and the irreconcilable contrast makes me queasy.

Here the feeling is reversed yet equally uncomfortable. I'm the one who's moving and the Queen's environment is fixed. Does that make sense? I doubt it. But this place is starting to give me the creeps.

* * *

Officers' Quarters. No one here but me, in between two tour groups. The sensation is intense now; something pressing at my solar plexus. Sounds enhance it; announcements made aboard the Queenback then: "Will Miss Molly Brown please contact the Information Bureau?" The Unsinkable?

A bell rings as I stare into the Captain's Dayroom. Were they smaller people then? Those chairs look undersized to me. Another announcement: "Angela Hampton has a telegram awaiting her at the Purser's Office." Where is An...

Copyright © 1975 by Richard Matheson


Bid Time Return

- spoltz


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