The alarm clock sounded like a ship’s Klaxon horn as it assaulted Will’s ears at 10:00 p.m.
Will, a journeyman machinist, was one of three tool-makers at Pelcon Production.
When the night shift tool-maker asked Will to trade shifts – he worked days – he quickly agreed. It meant extra money, and he was really a night owl anyway. He only took the day position because that was all that was available when he was hired two-weeks ago.
Tonight was his first night on the new shift. He yawned and stretched out on his single bed. It shouldn’t take too long to get used to the new routine he told himself as he got up and stumbled into the bathroom.
It was a 30-minute drive to work, so he left at 11:15 to give himself plenty of time. He didn’t like to drive fast (those days were over), and set the cruise control at 60-mph; five miles under the speed limit.
He was the only car on the freeway. When he exited, he took a two-way lane out to a rural area that led to Pelcon Production’s football-sized workplace. The metal building was painted green with white trim. There was no sign explaining who owned it.
Will turned off the road and onto the private driveway leading to the parking lot outside the main entrance. There was generally only one person that worked on the graveyard shift.
That was the tool-maker. Sometimes, like when a special order came up, production workers had to work until an order was complete. That could be all night.
Tonight it was just Will. He parked next to the lone pickup truck in the parking lot, grabbed his lunch box and thermos, and went inside. He had to ring a bell to get in. The tool-maker he was relieving showed up shortly and opened the door.
“How you doing Greg?” Will asked the swing shift tool-maker.
“I’m doing fine, Will,” he answered, and gave him the keys to the building.
“Kinda strange seeing you go home, instead of coming to work,” Will said conversationally.
“Yeah, I guess you could call it strange. Get’s lonely here at night,” he observed, and went out the front door without waiting for a reply.
Will punched his time card in and went to his workstation. He sat down on a steel stool next to a metal lathe and drill press. There was a rolling toolbox crammed with every kind of instrument a master machinist needed, in his little area.
He picked up a blueprint that was laying next to the grinding table. The note attached had his name on it. He quickly scanned it, then studied the blueprint intently. The only light on in the shop (other than one in the front office) was the bar of neon lights directly above him.
When those neon lights began blinking on and off, Will stood up in alarm. A power surge? Then he saw a bright orange light on the other end of the shop. It glowed for a minute then disappeared. The neon light above stopped blinking and returned to normal.
He picked up the blueprint and sat back down on the stool. Before he had time to study it someone said,
“If you’ll notice, the human is following instructions on what to do…”
“We have robots that do menial work like that,” another voice sarcastically said.
“What the hell?” Will cried out, falling off the stool unceremoniously.
A short oriental man and two teenagers were holding pamphlets and pointing at Will like he was a museum exhibit. For some reason, they acted like he couldn’t see, or hear, them.
“What the hell?” was all Will could manage again.
The oriental man scolded one of them and pointed back in the direction they came. The trio casually walked back to the other side of the building, in the direction the orange light was last seen.
Will questioned his sanity, or if he was just having a weird dream? When he bumped into the drill press while steadying himself he felt pain. It was no dream. Suddenly the neon light above began blinking again!
He watched as a bright orange light silhouetted the three visitors until they disappeared into it. The overhead light returned to normal. At that moment, Will knew he couldn’t say anything about what he’d seen, or he’d lose his job.
It was a terrible burden to live with. How did his predecessor, who was now on days, put up with it? Perhaps he never saw anything unusual? That wouldn’t bode too well for his own sanity though.
He’d have to ask him if he ever saw anything strange at night?
The next morning the day production crew and the tool-maker, Harold, arrived five minutes before their shift started. Will went up to Harold who was standing apart from the rest of the workers.
“Can I ask you a question Harold?” he asked.
“Depends,” the old man replied.
“Have you ever seen anything strange here at night?”
“Listen…I’m near retirement with this company. I don’t want to talk about strange happenings okay?” he pleaded.
Will let him go, and punched his time card out.
When it came time to go to work Will left earlier than usual. When he rang the bell Greg’s pale face seemed relieved it was him when he opened the door.
“Good to see you Will,” he said with a false sense of cheer.
“What’s the matter Greg? You look like you saw a ghost,” he asked.
“Not a ghost. Time travelers…” he blurted out, in spite of himself.
“I saw three people last night who ignored me completely and then disappeared in an orange light,” Will said. “You don’t have to worry about me thinking your crazy,” he reassured him.
“It’s been happening for months now. Ever since we started making these odd parts. By the way, did you ever notice you’re not informed on what the parts are for? The blueprints are unlike anything I’ve ever seen in 34 years of being a master machinist.”
“It seems like these time travelers only come by at night,” Will observed.
“Mostly on the graveyard shift. They seem to be coming earlier these last few days,” Greg offered, punching his time card out and passing the keys to Will.
Will stood in the main office and realized he wasn’t afraid. He was curious. Once, long ago when he was still driving race cars, before he retired and became a tool-and-die maker, he was known as a dare-devil.
Off the track one day, he was trying to impress his girlfriend with his driving skills when a big rig truck jackknifed in front of them. He wasn’t able to slow down in time and they ran into it. She died instantly. He quit driving for a living that day.
He couldn’t count the times when he wished he could go back in time and change things. A thought came to him when he thought about the strange visitors and the orange light. What if the shop was a portal to other dimensions and time itself?
Instead of going to his work place Will walked to the other end of the building where he last saw the light. He stopped when he reached the end of the building and stood there waiting in the darkness.
When the orange light appeared he didn’t hesitate, and walked into it hoping for the best.
As It Stands, there’s an old saying, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”