View Full Version : Timeline, flashback-style novel. (thoughts?)

Will Phillips
August 28th, 2010, 06:18 PM
This is sort of a pet project I've been working on lately. It just sort of popped into my head after I watched J.J. Abrams' LOST and Christopher Nolan's Inception. I wanted to do something with a confusing, but interesting timeline. Something that didn't always flow chronologically but came together in the end. What I have here is the first 11 and a half pages, which i suppose would make the first "chapter" though I'm not really using a chapter system with this book. More of a "time" system. There are flashes between different timelines and realities and this section leads up to the first of those switches. So, let me know what you think. I'm looking for anything, really. Grammatical errors, suggestions, etc. Just let loose.

CIA Headquarters
15:46 12/8/2011
Virginia, United States
Philip Willis is dead.
He was a petty crook.
He died in 1989.
He was never found.
Philip Willis is dead.

Joseph Lewis lifted his eyes from the sheet of paper that was lying on his desk. It was confusing. Who the hell is Philip Willis? He thought. Furthermore, who left a note on his desk while he was at lunch? And how the hell did they get in? It must be a joke. Something Jackson or Schmidt had come up with to get him to go on some wild goose chase. Damned ingrates.
The other agents at Langley sure loved a good laugh. He was the old fart that always shoved the rulebook up their asses when they screwed up an assignment. And he took the punishment for it. Fake cases, sticky spray on his keyboard, the usual. Most of the time, he would find some back-alley disturbance call, and make them answer it, but this was pretty simple. Obviously it was a joke. So, he decided to let them off just once. He was in a good mood, anyway.
Lewis leaned back in his chair and cracked his knuckles as he placed his hands behind his head. Life is good. He thought. He was celebrating 26 years with his wife that night. 26 years. It seemed impossible. It felt like just yesterday that they had been sneaking off to the creek that made the border between her father’s farm and the neighboring sub-division.
Lewis had grown up just a couple of hours from the building he now worked in. Wilshire, Virginia was a small town in McQueary county. It had a population of about 500 people, and was one of those towns where the word “secret” just wasn’t used all that much. Everyone knew everyone’s business. If something was to be kept private, it was best to keep it to yourself.
God, he was happy to be gone from there. All of his dirty laundry was hung out to dry in Wilshire. The skeletons in his closet were mostly buried there, as well. He had been gone for 20 years, but sometimes, it felt like he was still there. Sometimes, he could still hear the hushed conversations as he walked into a room, and feel the disapproving stares as he walked down the hall.
Of all the places Lewis felt like he might end up after leaving the military, Langley was not one of them. “The CIA?” He had said. “What kind of bulls--- is that?” He chuckled as he remembered the man interviewing him. He didn’t crack a smile or laugh or anything until then.
“The kind of bulls--- that saves lives, Mr. Lewis.” He chuckled. Lewis found that somewhat humorous.
“The way I see it, the ones saving lives are the ones who are out there in the heat, getting shot at, so you can sit behind your pretty little desk. And when someone really screws up, you guys have to come in and clean it up, get your commendations, and go back to your office. So no disrespect sir, but I don’t think you have a damned clue what it means to save lives.” Lewis had been proud of himself for his little speech. But when the man showed him the footage of the Purple Heart winners walking around with mechanical legs developed from technology that the CIA had originally uncovered in Russia during the cold war, he retreated a bit. It didn’t take much more convincing until he had a badge and a gun.
Now, 17 years later here he was, sitting behind one of those pretty little desks as a squad captain. Jackson, Schmidt, Wilson, and Robinson were his best agents. He had four techs and six analysts, as well. Not a large unit, and they didn’t have the best technology or resources at their disposal, but they were enough. And they were quickly moving up. Jackson and Schmidt solved cases so fast; he barely had to leave the office anymore.
As he was reminiscing, Schmidt burst through his office door. “Captain?”
“Damn it, Schmidt, your timing’s impeccable.” Lewis replied gruffly.
“I try, sir.” Schmidt grinned a bit.
Cheeky bastard. “What do you want?”
“We need your help, sir. “
“With what?”
Schmidt hesitated. “A case.”
Lewis shot him a glare that could kill.
“Sir, I wouldn’t be asking if we didn’t really need you.” Schmidt was trying to appeal to Lewis’s soft side. Unfortunately for Schmidt, Lewis didn’t have a soft side.
“Sir, I-”
“I said no. Look, bring me the case file and I will look at it. But this isn’t high school, Schmidt. This is the CIA. You need to do your own homework.” Schmidt approached the desk somewhat slowly, and handed over a surprisingly thin manila folder.
“Sir, this guy doesn’t exist.”
“Everyone exists, Schmidt.”
“No, sir. Not this guy. He’s a ghost.”
“What’s his name?” Lewis chuckled a bit. He loved it when his agents couldn’t find someone with all the resources available to them at the CIA.
“It’s on the front page, along with all we know about him.”
Lewis opened the folder, and was shocked to see only two pages of paper populating the inside of it. “What kind of s--- file is this, Schmidt? You’re usually better than this, I should-” He stopped suddenly when he saw the name at the top of the front page: Philip Willis.
Lewis’s mouth was slightly ajar. “Sir?” said Schmidt. “Sir, are you alright?”
“You-you’re sure this is his name? You’re sure this is the guy?” Lewis was stunned, and slightly scared. If this was real, and not a hoax, then someone meant serious business, sneaking into his office and leaving some cryptic note about a man who’d been dead for 21 years. But, if this was real, he couldn’t be dead, because he was walking around.
Schmidt shifted his weight to his other foot. “Sir, I told you: We know nothing. This guy’s like a ghost. He pops up for a day or two, and then he’s gone. No pictures, no paper trail, nothing of any kind. Just the word of some lowlife gangbanger that he was around. Then he vanishes again. Nothing keeps him still for more than a couple of days. “
Lewis composed himself. “So there are no pictures at all?”
“One. It’s on the back of the next page.”
Lewis flipped the page to check the picture. All he saw was a blurry photograph of a man running through a dark alley, firing a gun behind him. There was no definition to the picture at all, and his face was covered by his arm. “This is it?”
“Yes, sir. It was taken in Madrid in 1989. Two cops were able to catch up to him in an alleyway. Until he shot them both in the kneecaps from over fifty yards away and jumped a twelve-foot fence to escape.”
Lewis couldn’t believe it. 1989? There was no way this was real. There was no way it could possibly be real. “Did anyone die in the area that this photograph was taken on the night of the incident?” Lewis had to be sure. If someone died, he had to make sure it wasn’t Philip Willis.
“Nope. Already checked it out. It’s insane, sir. This guy doesn’t exist. Fifteen people have talked to sketch artists, and we have fifteen different pictures of what he looks like.”
“So he’s having plastic surgery.”
“No sir. All fifteen witnesses saw him on the same night, at the same incident.”
“What was this ‘incident’?” Lewis had to know.
“Quadruple homicide in Beijing in 1997.”
“Dear God.” Lewis could feel the color draining from his face. “Where was he last seen?”
Schmidt stammered for a moment, trying to remember. “Toronto, 2008.”
Lewis closed the folder and grabbed his coat. “Get your go-bag, and find Jackson.”
“Sir?” Schmidt seemed confused.
“We’re going to Toronto.”
On the Road to the Airport
16:26 12/8/2011
Virginia, United States
Lewis was flying through the streets of Langley, headed for the Air Force Base. It was the closest airfield that could fly them to Toronto on short notice. He had called ahead to let them know he was coming, and a plane was fueled and waiting.
He almost hit himself as he realized he had forgotten to get security footage from his office. He had to see who had snuck in to leave that note on his desk. He whipped out his phone and held down 6 on the dial pad. It rang in directly to the secretary at the offices.
“Central Intelligence Agency.” The monotone voice came from the other end.
“This is special agent Joseph William Lewis. Verification code 289ZH3. I need Security.”
“Yes sir, Agent Lewis.” The voice disappeared as the phone rang one more time. A click came from the other end.
“This is Special Agent Joseph Lewis. I need the security footage from my office from the hours of 12:00 to 4:30 PM. Send it to my phone.”
“Got it, Agent Lewis. Uploading to your mobile now.”
Lewis heard his phone beep. He glanced at the screen and saw the “Message Received” icon. “Great, I got it. Thanks.”
“No problem.”
Lewis hung his phone up and put it in his jacket pocket. He whipped the car out around the jalopy of a Ford pickup that was moseying along in front of him at 40 miles per hour, and floored it as the car entered clear highway.
“Sir?” Jackson spoke up from the backseat for the first time since Schmidt and Lewis had pulled him away from the vending machine in the break room. “Why in the hell are we going to Toronto?”
Jackson was a great agent, but his short fuse tended to lend to animosity between Lewis and he.
Schmidt handed the Willis case file back to him. “Philips Willis. He’s a ghost. One picture on record, along with 17 murders and a list of accusations that stretches across the globe.”
“Then why’s there almost nothing coherent on file? It doesn’t say anything here about murders.”
“Because they convicted someone else on every single case. Another suspect turned up conveniently every time. No one put it together until we had all the case files together. But that, right there, is everything we know about Philip Willis.”
Jackson grumbled. “So, there’s nothing else? This is it? And we’re expected to find him because he was in Toronto once?”
Lewis spoke up. “Well, that’s not all there is. After my lunch break, this note was on my desk. Before I even knew there was a case file about Philip Willis.”
Jackson read the note. “But this says he died in 1989. Even though there was a sighting in Toronto in ’08? So, we’re chasing a dead man?”
“No, he’s very much alive.” Lewis whipped the car into the air force base. He flashed his badge and was waved through all the security checkpoints, right on to the tarmac. The three agents got out of the car and walked toward the plane that was waiting for them. It was small, but it would definitely do the job.
The pilot approached the three of them, as a military stewardess took their three bags. “Agents.” He shook all their hands. “If you want to go ahead and board, we’ll be lifting off shortly. The weather shouldn’t be any problem, as it’s nice and sunny in Toronto.” He gestured to the plane as the three agents got on board. They all took their seats, and settled in for the four hour flight.
Somewhere in the air above Canada
20:04 12/8/2011
Canadian Airspace
Lewis hadn’t been able to sleep. The idea that someone had been able to get into his office at the CIA’s headquarters was more than a bit unsettling. If they could get in there, what’s to stop them from getting to his family? That’s why he had called his wife from the plane and told her to take the kids to her sister’s house in Atlanta. They should be safe there, at least for now.
He pulled out his phone, and started the security footage. It was all pretty normal. He saw himself doing paperwork, taking phone calls. All very normal. Then he saw himself leave for lunch. This was it. He leaned in closer, and tightened his headphones. Fifteen minutes after he left, he saw someone enter his office. The man was wearing a hooded sweatshirt with the Nike logo emblazoned on it. He had on an Atlanta Braves cap, and blue jeans with what appeared to be running shoes. He walked over to the desk and turned on the computer. He entered the passwords at the first, second and third access points.
Once he was in, he pulled up Notepad and began typing. He typed the note, then printed it out and placed it on Lewis’s desk, just like he found it. Then he began talking. But, just as he did, the sound cut from the video. He talked for close to a minute, then the sound resumed. The man stood, and walked out the back door of the office.
Lewis was in shock. How could this man have known all his passwords, and how could he just walk into his office, with no one noticing? And why the hell was the audio missing from the time he spent talking? Something was very strange about all of this. The man had never shown his face, but he seemed oddly familiar.
He called the office again. He had to find the missing audio. “Security.” Came the voice on the other end of the line.
“This is Special Agent Joseph Lewis. The security footage from my office today is missing a minute of audio. I need to you to find that missing audio ASAP.”
“Well, it could be a simple blip in the recorder. That just happens sometimes.”
Lewis stifled his urge to curse the man until he just did what he was told. “Not this time. Find the audio. I’ll hold.”
The man sighed. “Yes, sir.”
After about 10 minutes, the man returned to the line. “Sir? I’ve found your audio, but-”
“What is it?” Lewis was alert, he needed to know.
“He sounds bats--- insane.”
“Just send me the goddamn tape!” Lewis growled into the phone.
“I’m sending it now, sir.”
“Good.” Lewis hung up just as the audio arrived on his phone. He held his breath as he pressed play.
“Joseph.” The man spoke in a raspy baritone that sounded practiced, and he enunciated perfectly, with almost no accent. “Joseph, Joseph, Joseph. I know you’re going to listen to this on a plane. I know that right now, you’re wondering ‘Who the hell is this guy?’ Well, I’m Philip Willis. Yes, the Philip Willis. By now, I know you’re wondering who I am and why I’m in your office. Well, ask me.”
Lewis was unsure of what to do next. “Ask you what?” He spoke to himself.
“Well, for starters, you could ask why I can hear you.”
Lewis almost dropped the phone. “You can hear me?”
Willis chuckled. “Sort of. Let’s just say that I know this conversation backwards and forwards. So, I know what you’re going to say. This is as close as I can get to really hearing you at this point. We’ve only got about 30 seconds left, so talk quick.”
Lewis’s mind was racing. “Why did you erase the audio from the footage?”
“I didn’t. It was just a recording failure. Good thing there’s a bug in your keyboard.”
“A bug in my keyboard? Bulls---.”
“20 seconds, Joseph.”
“What do you want with me? Why are you doing this?”
“Because I have to, Joseph. That’s just how it has to go.”
“That doesn’t make sense.”
“You’re talking to a recording. Does any of this make sense?”
“Don’t get smart.”
“Too late. Well, we’re out of time, Joseph. You didn’t ask the right questions, so I’ll guess we’ll do this again next time you’re looking for answers. Have fun in Toronto, by the way. Beautiful city.”
The recording ended with the door opening and closing as the man left.
Lewis leaned back in his seat and placed his phone back in his jacket pocket. What the hell is this? He thought to himself.
The pilot came over the intercom, announcing the beginning of their descent into Toronto, and Lewis couldn’t stop thinking about the recording. How could he have known everything that would be said? How was that even possible?
As the plane skidded to a stop on the runway, Schmidt and Jackson came up to the front from their seats toward the rear of the plane.
Schmidt stretched as he spoke. “Nice flight, boss?”
Lewis snapped out of his funk. He had to, in order to do his job. “Decent. How’d you two ladies sleep?”
“Like s---.” Jackson responded.
“Nice to see you too, Jackson.” Lewis remarked sarcastically as he unbuckled his seatbelt.
The agents made their way out of the plane and into the chill of the Canadian night. They all shook the hand of the pilot, and walked over to the shiny black sedan that was waiting on them. As Lewis climbed into the driver’s seat, he couldn’t help but let his mind wander back to the recording. That impossible recording.
“I talked to him.” He said suddenly.
“What are you talking about?” Schmidt remarked from the passenger’s seat.
Lewis pressed in the clutch and turned the key, revving the vehicle to life. “Willis. I talked to him.”
Jackson began to stammer over his words. “What? How? When?”
As Lewis began to recount to the story of the recording, both of the other agents’ jaws dropped. Even though they were CIA agents, the idea of someone knowing future conversations in precise detail and having them through a recording in an office in Langley was beyond strange.
“So, he could….he could hear you?” Jackson was in awe. “He could actually hear you?”
“He said he knew the conversation forward and backwards. Like we had already talked or something. But he couldn’t actually hear me talking, as far as I know.” Lewis was trying to sound sure of himself, but in truth he had no idea what he was saying.
“But, that’s not possible!” Jackson scoffed.
“Actually,” Schmidt spoke up for the first time since Lewis had begun talking. “It is. Sort of.”
Lewis was intrigued. “Explain yourself, Schmidt.”
“It’s called the Multiverse. A theory of multiple universes running parallel with each other. The idea of time travel is thrown right in there with it a lot of the time.”
“Time travel? Really, Schmidt? You been reading those comic books again, haven’t you?” Jackson laughed from the backseat.
“I have to say, it seems pretty ridiculous.” Lewis was skeptical, but it was close to the only explanation. How else would Willis have known exactly what he was going to say, four hours before he said it? “But it’s the only idea anyone seems to have. How do we go about proving something like that?”
“Well, that’s the thing. It can’t really be proven, because there’s no way to communicate with other universes or times. Unless-” Schmidt stopped.
“What is it? Some more bulls--- about aliens and another universe where I marry Jennifer Aniston? Cause if that s---’s real, I want to know.” Said Jackson.
“No.” Schmidt responded. “A few years back, NASA found a cold spot in the universe. It was empty. Completely and totally empty of everything, even dark matter. Dark matter, Jackson, makes up the universe.”
Suddenly it clicked in Lewis’s head. “If there’s no dark matter there, there’s no universe there. It would be the only possible way to get out of this universe, right?”
“Theoretically. But it’s too far away to get to. Our tech isn’t that good yet.”
“Maybe theirs is.”
“What are you getting at, Sir?”
“If there are other universes, and this “cold spot” is a link between them, it would appear on their end, too, right? Maybe they can get to it, and they did. Maybe Willis is from another universe, where time travel and all that s--- is real or something.” This was way beyond reality, even for the CIA. But it was a theory, and until someone had a better one, Lewis decided this was what he would believe.
“Well isn’t that peachy. A time-travelling, universe-jumping murderer and we’re supposed to catch him when he knows everything we’re gonna try. Beautiful idea, guys. Really, someone oughta make a movie outta this s---.” Jackson mocked them from the backseat.
“Do you have a better idea? Cause if not, then shut your damned mouth.” Lewis raised his voice a little when talking to Jackson. It was the only way to make him calm down most of the time.
Jackson grumbled something and turned to look out the window.
After ten minutes of silence in which they all contemplated their next move, Lewis turned into the parking complex where Willis was last seen. This all seemed a bit useless now, but there might be something there still.
Lewis drove up to the top floor, where the sighting took place. Willis had been running from the police, navigating a small SUV through this parking structure almost effortlessly, and then driving off the top of it to escape. He leapt from the vehicle just moments before it smashed into the ground and caught fire. He escaped into the night and hadn’t been seen since. Until now.
Lewis parked on the top of the garage and the agents got out of the car. The chill wind blew across their bodies as they moved across the concrete structure, heading for the clearly visible patch in the concrete where the SUV had gone off. There wasn’t much there, except for a few pieces of graffiti that had been partially destroyed in the crash.
Lewis had no idea where to begin. He needed to find something here. He needed to find the next clue, the next lead. Anything would suffice, really. He just needed affirmation that he wasn’t entirely insane.
A CIA agent was trained to notice anything and everything. Every detail, no matter how minute it may be. It all matters. Lewis was one of the best, but it just wasn’t coming to him. This place looked very clean. It had been two years, anyway. Any hint about Willis was probably already gone, washed away by a hard rain.
That would be his luck. After all this running around with no damned clue to what the hell was going on it would be the weather that would thwart his investigation into the smartest and most confusing criminal of all time. Then he saw it.
As he turned to leave, he noticed a car some twenty-five feet from him with a large key mark running down the side, and a message chalked into the back window: “Glove box”
Lewis ran over to the car without saying anything to Schmidt or Jackson. Schmidt gave chase.
“Sir, what are you doing?”
Lewis’s only response was to point at the car. He drew his gun and barely slowed down as he reached the vehicle, raising his hand and smashing through the passenger window with the butt of his gun. The alarm didn’t start blaring, as Lewis had expected. He unlocked the door and sat down in the seat.
“Sir, what the hell are you doing?” Schmidt was almost screaming. “You can’t just break into people’s cars because of writing on the back windshield!”
Lewis paid him no attention. Instead, he began digging through the glove box. It only took a moment to find the old journal, bound in leather and barely holding together. There was an insignia on the front cover, but Lewis had no idea what it was or what significance it held.
He brought the journal out of the glove box, and very carefully held it up for the other agents to see. Schmidt stopped mid-sentence and just stared at it, mouth open.
“Holy s---.” Jackson said, stunned.
Lewis stood and walked back to the sedan, holding the journal delicately in his hands. “You can drive, Schmidt.”

Maple Leaf Travel Inn
23:57 12/8/2011
Toronto, Canada
Lewis was sitting on the bed in his motel room, the other two agents standing over his shoulder, nervously shifting their weight from foot to foot. As he began to slowly open the book, Jackson finally spoke up. He was the first one to say a word since they had left the parking structure.
“C’mon, open it! This s--- is killing me!” He said exasperatedly.
“f--- off, Jackson. I’m getting to it.” Lewis spoke with the voice of someone who was looking for a life to take. He opened the book slowly and looked at the first page. It was a note. Lewis read aloud:
This is a note to Joseph Lewis. I don’t know when you’ll find this journal. Hell, I don’t even know “when” I am. But I do know that someday, somewhere, you will eventually find this book, and the ravings of my lunacy. But now, as I lay here dying, the one thing that remains clear in my mind, like a bright diamond, shining strong at the bottom of a muddy river, is that you must read this. You must know who I am and what I have to say because before long, you will need the knowledge I now possess. I am Philip Willis. But I am not the one who was in your office. You are probably currently asking yourself how I know about the incident in your office. You will probably also ask yourself how I know that you are currently in Canada. And you are reading this aloud. To be truthful, I can’t give you a good explanation. All I can really tell you is that I am a madman. I have seen visions in my head of this very moment that you are currently residing in. I know a lot of things that I shouldn’t, Joseph. And no one can explain them, so they shove pills down my throat, and blast psychotherapy into my head in an attempt to drown out the voices of my insanity. But they just get louder, screaming their terrifying messages into my cortex until I submit and do what they ask. People are afraid they will one day ask me to kill, which they have never done. They just tell me to build. I don’t even know what it is that I’m building, but the blueprints to my mysterious invention are contained in the pages of this very book, so that perhaps, if the voices also speak to you, you may be more enlightened than I. Through all my fits of madness, one number has rung true. It is an address. 143 Westminster Boulevard London, England. It’s the home in which I grew up. I despise that house, and so that is the one thing I never did. The one instruction I never followed. And so it is my undoing. I now lie here, dying slowly. They lobotomized me, Joseph, and I will use my final moment of clarity before the complete destruction of my mind to instruct you. Where the machine is now, I cannot say. But if I were venturing a guess, I would tell you to go to that address, Joseph. Do what I couldn’t. For all our sakes.
See you soon,
Philip Willis
As he finished reading, the silence in the room could almost be heard, it was so heavy. Finally, after what seemed like hours, Lewis spoke.
“We’re going to London.”
“No. No, we’re not. We can’t!” Schmidt’s voice was shaking as he spoke. The terrifying reality that a madman who lived during the time of lobotomies knew all of this was going to happen before it did because he received visions, and heard voices was something to grasp, for sure. And the signature. “See you soon”. It sent chills down Lewis’s spine.
“I’m going to London, with or without you two. I have to. The answers are so close now, Schmidt. We’re almost there.”
“We’re nowhere close, Lewis! This is so far over our heads, there is no way we can solve this thing.” Said Schmidt. He had a point. Lewis was an ant trying to climb a mountain. It was doable. But almost impossible.
“He was in my office, Schmidt! He was in my office. He knows me. He knows my family. Where I live, everything about me. This guy knows me. And if I don’t stop him, eventually, he will find Mary and the kids. He will find them, and he will kill them if we don’t stop him. Now, I’m asking you, not as your boss, but as your friend, to come with me. Help me, please.” Lewis was pleading with them now. He couldn’t do it alone and he knew it. He needed Schmidt and Jackson, much as he hated to admit it.
Jackson spoke first. “I’m with you. Wherever we end up.”
It was almost a full minute before Schmidt spoke. “Okay, then. Let’s get a plane.”

May 29th, 2013, 06:45 AM
well you succeeded.

June 18th, 2013, 04:53 AM
I like this, I would recommend spacing out your paragraphs though, or even sentences. A lot of this is so piled up on top of each other that I found myself rereading sentences or even starting one sentence and ending up moving down to another line entirely. Other wise, very well written and I hope to read more.