I was ready to erupt at my quiet father. I was a typical male teenager. I wanted to bond with and find my place in a society that shunned me. My father must have gone through this as a teen himself, yet he couldn’t seem to understand me. All that changed. He invited me to a speech he gave at our Jewish temple in Los Angeles. He described his role in creating the Israeli Air Force in time to save the new nation from an attack by Egypt and Syria. Instead of yelling at him, now I wanted to learn as much as I could.
While I knew him in my teenage years as a quiet and likable man, it turns out he was a citizen of the world and involved in 5 wars: World War II, Israel, Korea, Vietnam, and the Magic Carpet in Yemen. Hearing his adventures made my whole mind buzz with questions about what he had seen and done. When my friends would ask me what I would do with 3 magical wishes I would muse over my father’s adventures and answer, “The first wish is to have the power to go back in time as a ghost to observe everything.”
When it came time to write the STARLING novella I designed the Memories pocket watch after my want to gain the knowledge of a historical experience without the risk of being involved in it. Jeff Thompson opens the Memories pocket watch and peers into a blue glow emanating from within. Memories transports Jeff back the 1950’s to meet and fall in love with Allisandra Benli.
After several revolutions of the little white second hand, he pressed the top of the crown pin and the pocket watch opened. A blue glow appeared from the faceplate of the watch. This wasn’t a beam of light from a flashlight. Four spots of light were beneath the surface of the front dial. They made the dial change from the typical opaque watch face to a blue translucent swirl. Tear-drop shapes of brightly colored light slowly moved between the four spots. When they collided the light emanated away from the watch face and into Jeff’s face and eyes.
In the light, Jeff began hearing his childhood friends yelling at him on a children’s playground at his first grade school. He smelled his mother’s cooking from Easter a dozen years ago. He felt a baseball impact a leather glove he wore as a teenager. The watch was taking him on a voyage. He smiled in eager anticipation.
The blue glow grew narrow until it was just a spot of light not larger than a person’s iris. A woman with the deepest-blue eyes stood before him. He was no longer in his hotel room.
“Where am I?” he asked sincerely.
Her hand reached out to him. But his view of her was distorted in some way. He tried to move his focus from her blue eyes to her face and his eyes slowly agreed.
“What am I seeing?” he asked.
“What am I seeing?” she echoed back to him. “What an odd question. Why … you’re seeing me.”
He knew those eyes;, knew that voice. It was Allisandra — —but she was youthful. She was in her 20s. Her eyes drew him in, and he imagined what her lips felt like now — now that they were full and supple, and he wanted to pull her to him and find out — but he didn’t.
“This is going to take some getting used to, Allisandra.”
I wrote the Memories watch to take Jeff back in time, as a ghost. Everyone in the past sees Jeff as a regular person. They carry on conversations with him. Only, he can’t actually move anything physically. In this scene, Jeff learns about his lack of corporeal power when confronting the deranged inventor of the watches, an old man named Hinky:
Jeff’s attention followed the hatbox as the man approached the bellboy.
The man and bellboy talked to each other, out of Jeff’s earshot. Jeff noticed the body language between the two men shift. The man become agitated. He raised his arm and moved the hatbox close to the bellboy. The bellboy was trying to defend himself — but not very well.
Allisandra reacted to the look of concern in Jeff’s face. She turned to see the man approaching the bellboy. She turned back to face Jeff and quickly surveyed the lobby for something to defend herself. Over Jeff’s shoulder, she saw a bucket of umbrellas across from the fountain, and she rushed toward it.
Jeff was not a man to sit idly by. He felt his heart race and rushed toward the men. He reached to take the legs out from under the man, but his whole arm plunged into the man as if he were made of water. A moment later Jeff caught his balance and took several steps back.
The man’s hatbox machine connected with the bellboy, and a sudden crack and pop sounded in the air. The bellboy tumbled to the ground, dazed, and the man fumbled through the bellboy’s pockets until he retrieved the blue cloth sack. The man’s hands shook terribly as he opened the sack and pulled out a pocket watch.
I adored writing this because of the intellectual challenge. STARLING is a time-traveling romance where the people in love can’t open doors, can’t hug, and can’t stop an attack. I got to process some of my own frustration in life through writing Jeff as a ghost. I have often felt like the master of a subject – like writing tests of software applications, my day job in Silicon Valley – just to fail to understand people’s motivations in life.
I added two threats to the romance. If Hinky gets the Memories watch then Jeff and Allisandra will not be able to meet in her past, and their love affair will never happen. And, Hinky’s threats to Allisandra are real and would cause her pain and possibly death. That prevents Jeff from being heroic in sacrificing his physical body to defend her – he’s a ghost. Instead he must truly partner with her to keep her from harm. I’ve been searching for a girlfriend to be my true partner in the 3 years since my divorce. Still searching.
I hope you enjoy the STARLING novella. Read it now for free at http://STARLINGwatch.com
About Frank Cohen
Frank Cohen is a popular Silicon Valley technologist and inventor. Long fascinated by the Maker Movement’s ability to deliver Steampunk stories in real life, he created a complete experience: Steampunk pocket watches with a magical glowing light system, a novel that spans 200 years, and original art to make STARLING collectable. Frank lives in Silicon Valley, California. Follow him on Twitter @fcohen and @starlingwatch and FaceBook (http://facebook.com/starlingwatch).