I have a lot of ideas for stories. Like, if I wrote a novel’s worth of them every month, I’d still most likely die before getting through them all. I will admit that some of the ideas probably suck, but I think there are some that a good writer could make something of them. I’ll just never get a chance to. So, I give them to the world. If you can make something of these, go right ahead. And if these are the ideas I’m giving away, maybe check out the ones I keep.
This is just the beginning of an idea I’m not entirely sure what to do with. I see this as being set somewhere in the American west, maybe Texas. Someplace that in the late 1800s would be ranches, and then maybe the railroad goes through and a small town grows up, hitting a few thousand people by the 1940s. But since then the population has fallen to a few hundred and now it’s basically a gas station between two more interesting places.
The first part of the story has a series of time jumps. It starts in the late 1800s with a father and his young son riding out to check on some cows. They have a dog running with them that finds something in the brush and starts eating it. They go over to see what it is, and find a left foot. They look around but don’t see anything else. They let the sheriff know, but they figure it was just a trapper or maybe an outlaw that ran afoul a bear or something.
One possibility that would let the story explore some issues, would be if the foot came from a black man. As a white guy, I wouldn’t feel comfortable writing that story, which is why in my version it was just a very pale, white foot. There is a reason for it being very pale, but we’ll get to that.
The next jump is set in the early 1900s. A doctor is in his Model T going out to make a house call when he sees something lying beside the road. He gets out and finds – in my version – a very pale, white, right arm. There is the possibility that the doctor is the young boy who found the foot, or maybe the time jump is enough for the doctor to be that boy’s son. Who knows. The sheriff is told, and they do a quick search, but don’t find anything else.
Over the years, more and more bits are found in a 100 or so square mile area. Sometimes they have been partially eaten by animals, sometimes they look burned, and sometimes they seem to appear from nowhere. Like, maybe a guy from the 1950s is mowing his backyard when his wife calls him in to take a phone call. He’s on the phone for five minutes, and when he goes back out, there’s a hand laying a couple feet from the mower.
At some point, there are enough parts that people realize something odd is going on. Someone suggests maybe someone killed someone and somehow preserved the bits to throw people off, only to be told that in the past eighty years they’ve found nine feet, six of them left ones.
Perhaps that doctor started recording all these finds, and those files get passed down town doctor to town doctor as some dark town mystery. Some of the hands are preserved in alcohol, or whatever chemicals are available at the time. Eventually, when the technology develops, they do blood tests, and it turns out that all the parts they find all have the same blood type. And then, once genetic testing becomes possible – and cheap enough – tests are done on recent bits as well as some of the better-preserved ones. And the tests all come back as identical, which is weird because you have two left feet that were found a decade apart as being the same genetically.
A few heads have been found, but most have been badly mangled or eaten, so it’s hard to tell if there is any resemblance. When one is found pretty intact, they do take pictures of it, but nobody ever comes forward to identify who they were.
The story eventually gets to the main character in whatever time period the writer wants to set this story. She might be the first female town doctor, who may be related to that original rancher. She finds this whole town mystery thing interesting, and aggravating, but is afraid of going too far out on a limb with all these crazy theories: you know, satanic cult, aliens, bigfoot, whatever. Then one night she’s driving down a road when she finds a naked man lying in the middle of the road. She jumps out only to find that he is dead. Maybe his chest is burnt and broke open. He looks exactly like the pictures of the full head they’ve found and when they run a DNA test, it matches all the parts. But nobody ever reports him missing.
And this is where things will depend on whatever story you decide to write. One version is that shortly after this she is driving down the road and sees an identical man – although not pale – rooting around behind the gas station and when she goes after him he runs off. Or, this not pale man shows up at her door. It will all depend on what the story is, because he’s a time traveler. Either he came back to meet her, or he is trying to hide from her.
Now, the reason for the pale body parts. They’re clones. Time travel hasn’t been perfected, so this guy isn’t going to go into the machine on the first try. But if you’re building time machines, you’ve probably also figured out cloning. So a bunch of clones are made of the guy, and since they grew up for a month or so in a lab and haven’t seen the sun they are rather pale. And then they’re sent back to fine tune the controls. There will be parts of these clones showing up for another century or more in this area.
There are a couple of issues with this story since time travel can’t just be simple. If you were wanting to conduct a scientific test of the time machine, you’d label your test subjects. If you knew they’d be blown up, you’d probably tattoo the subject number on multiple body parts so when you have all the records in the future, you can see the results of the test. The original foot might have “011” tattooed on it, which might match an arm found in 1926 and a head found in 1942. The full, naked man the doctor finds – from a near perfect test – might have “057” tattooed all over him. But this would give the story away to any savvy reader.
Well, maybe instead of tattoos there are some micro, high tech trackers. But do the people in the future have to dig up all these random graves to get the trackers, or do they transmit the data back to the future? And if they already have these records of all these body parts, do they have to send the clones just to close the loop? Or were there no records until they started sending the clones because that altered the past? Or, was there some catastrophe that destroyed the records from this small town so that the people in the future never knew their clones were exploding over Texas? Whoever writes this story will have to figure all of that out.
Another time travel question will be why is the guy coming back anyway? Could it be that he eventually gets together with the doctor and they have a child. And five or six generations later, is that the time traveler? Or less icky, is the great-great-great-grandchild the one who figures out how to build the time machine and the traveler is just an adventurer?
If you start a story with exploded clone parts raining down over a small town for over a century, that needs to build up to something big. What that could be, I don’t know. That’s why I’m giving this idea away.
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