Robert Charles Wilson A Bridge of Years

ISBN 13: 9780765327420

A Bridge of Years

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9780765327420: A Bridge of Years
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Tom Winter thought the secluded cottage in the Pacific Northwest would be the perfect refuge―a place to nurse the wounds of lost love and happiness. But Tom soon discovers that his safe haven is the portal of a tunnel through time. At one end is the present. At the other end―New York City, 1963.

His journey back to the early 1960s seems to offer him the chance to start over in a simpler, safer world. But he finds that the tunnel holds a danger far greater than anything he left behind: a human killing machine escaped from a bleak and brutal future, who will do anything to protect the secret passage that he thought was his alone. To preserve his worlds, past and present, Tom Winter must face the terrors of an unknown world to come.

From Robert Charles Wilson, the Hugo Award-winning author of Spin, A Bridge of Years is a classic science fiction story of time-travel and human transformation.

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About the Author:

Born in California, ROBERT CHARLES WILSON grew up in Canada. He is the author of many acclaimed SF novels including Darwinia, Blind Lake, Julian Comstock, and the Hugo Award–winning Spin.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

1
 

It was a modest three-bedroom frame house with its basement dug a little deeper than was customary in this part of the country, pleasant but overgrown with bush and ivy and miles away from town.
It had been empty for years, the real estate agent said, and the property backed onto a cedar swamp. Frankly, I dont see a lot of investment potential here.
Tom Winter disagreed.
Maybe it was his mood, but this property appealed at once. Perversely, he liked it for its bad points: its isolation, lost in this rainy pinewoodits blunt undesirability, like the frank ugliness of a bulldog. He wondered whether, if he lived here, he would come to resemble the house, the way pet owners were said to resemble their pets. He would be plain. Isolated. Maybe, a little wild.
Which was not, Tom supposed, how he looked to Doug Archer, the real estate agent. Archer was wearing his blue Bell Realty jacket, but the neat faded Levis and shaggy haircut betrayed his roots. Local family, working class, maybe some colorful relative still logging out in the bush. Raised to look with suspicion on creased trousers, which Tom happened to be wearing. But appearances were deceptive. Tom paused as they approached the blank pine-slab front door. Didnt this used to be the Simmons property?
Archer shook his head. Close, though. Thats a little ways up the hill. Peggy Simmons still lives up thereshes nearly eighty. He raised an eyebrow. You know Peggy Simmons?
I used to deliver groceries up the Post Road. Came by here sometimes. But that was a long while ago.
No kidding! Didnt you say
Ive been in Seattle for most of twelve years.
Any connection with Tony Winterup at Arbutus Ford?
Hes my brother, Tom said.
Hey! Well, hell! This changes things.
In the city, Tom thought, we learn not to smile so generously.
Archer slid the key into the door. We had a man out here when the property went up for sale. He said it was in fairly nice shape on the inside, but Id guess, after its been closed up for so longwell, you might take that with a grain of salt.
Translated from realty-speak, Tom thought, that means its a hellacious mess.
But the door eased open on hinges that felt freshly oiled, across a swatch of neat beige broadloom.
Ill be damned, Archer said.
Tom stepped over the threshold. He flicked the wall switch and a ceiling light blinked on, but it wasnt really necessary; a high south-facing window allowed in a good deal of the watery sunshine. The house had been built with the climate in mind: it would not succumb to gloom even in the rain.
On the right, the living room opened into a kitchen. On the left, a hallway connected the bedrooms and the bath.
A stairway led down to the basement.
Ill be damned, Archer repeated. Maybe I was wrong about this place.
The room they faced was meticulously clean, the furniture old but spotless. A mechanical mantel clock ticked away (but who had wound it?) under what looked like a Picasso print. Just slightly kitschy, Tom thought, the glass-topped coffee table, the low Danish Modern sofa; very sixties, but immaculately preserved. It might have popped out of a time capsule.
Well maintained, he said.
You bet. Considering it wasnt maintained at all, far as I know.
Whos the owner?
The property came up for state auction a long time ago. Holding company in Seattle bought it but never did anything with it. Theyve been selling off packets of land all through here for the last year or so. He shook his head. To be honest, the house was entirely derelict. We had a man out to evaluate these properties, shingles and foundation and so on, but he never saidI mean, we assumed, all these old frame houses out here He put his hands in his pockets and frowned. The utilities werent even switched on till late last week.
How many cold winters, hot summers had this room been closed and locked? Tom paused and slid his finger along a newel post where the stairs ran down into darkness. His finger came away clean. The wood looked oiled. Phantom maid service?
Archer didnt laugh. Jack Shackleys the listed agent on this. Maybe he was in to tidy up. Somebody did a phenomenal job, anyway. The listing is house and contents and it looks like you have some nice pieces heremaybe a little dated. Shall we have a look around?
I think we should.
Tom circled twice through the houseonce with Archer, once to get his own impression while Archer left his business card on the kitchen counter and stepped outside for a smoke. His impression was the same both times. The kitchen cupboards opened frictionlessly to spotless, uniformly vacant interiors. The linen closet was cedar-lined, fragrant and bare. The bedrooms were empty except for the largest, which contained a modest bed, a chest of drawers, and a mirrordustless. In the basement, high windows peeked out at the rear lawn; these were covered with white roller blinds, which the sun had turned brittle yellow. (Time passes here after all, he thought.)
The building was sound, functional, and clean.
The fundamental question was, did it feel like home?
No. At least, not yet.
But that might change.
Did he want it to feel like home?
But it was a question he couldnt answer to his own satisfaction. Maybe what he wanted was not so much a house as a cave: a warm, dry place in which to nurse his wounds until they healedor at least until the pain was bearable.
But the house was genuinely interesting.
He ran his hand idly along a blank basement wall and was startled to feel what?
The hum of machinery, carried up through gypsum board and concrete blockinstantly stilled?
Faint tingle of electricity?
Or nothing at all.
Tight as a drum.
This was Archer, back from his sojourn.
You may have found a bargain here, Tom. We can go back to my office if you want to talk about an offer.
Why the hell not, Tom Winter said.
***
The town of Belltower occupied the inside curve of a pleasant, foggy Pacific bay on the northwestern coast of the United States.
Its primary industries were fishing and logging. A massive pulp mill had been erected south of town during the boom years of the fifties, and on damp days when the wind came blowing up the coast the town was enveloped in the sulfurous, bitter stench of the mill. Today there had been a stiff offshore breeze; the air was clean. Shortly before sunset, when Tom Winter returned to his room at the Seascape Motel, the cloud stack rolled away and the sun picked out highlights on the hills, the town, the curve of the bay.
He bought himself dinner in the High Tide Dining Room and tipped the waitress too much because her smile seemed genuine. He bought a Newsweek in the gift shop and headed back to his second-floor room as night fell.
Amazing, he thought, to be back in this town. Leaving here had been, in Toms mind, an act of demolition. He had ridden the bus north to Seattle pretending that everything behind him had been erased from the map. Strange to find the town still here, stores still open for business, boats still anchored at the marina behind the VFW post.
The only thing thats been demolished is my life.
But that was self-pity, and he scolded himself for it. The quintessential lonely vice. Like masturbation, it was a parody of something best performed in concert with others.
He was aware, too, of a vast store of pain waiting to be acknowledged but not here in this room with the ugly harbor paintings on the wall, the complimentary postcards in the bureau, pale rings on the wood veneer where generations had abandoned their vending-machine Cokes to sweat in the dry heat. Here, it would be too much.
He padded down the carpeted hallway, bought a Coke so he could add his own white ring to the furniture.
The phone was buzzing when he got back. He picked it up and popped the ring-tab on the soft-drink can.
Tom, his brother said.
Tony. Hi, Tony.
You all by yourself?
Hell, no, Tom said. The partys just warming up. Cant you tell?
Thats very funny. Are you drinking something?
Soda pop, Tony.
Because I dont think you should be sitting there all by yourself. I think that sets a bad pattern. I dont want you getting sauced again.
Sauced, Tom thought, amused. His brother was a wellspring of these antique euphemisms. It was Tony who had once described Brigitte Nielsen as a red-hot tamale. Barbara had always relished his brothers bon mots. She used to call it her visiting Tony yogamaking conversation with one hand ready to spring up and disguise a grin.
If I get sauced, Tom said, youll be the first to know.
Thats exactly what Im afraid of. I called in a lot of favors to get you this job. Naturally, that leaves my ass somewhat exposed.
Is that why you phoned?
A pause, a confession: No. Loreen suggestedwell, we both thoughtshes got a chicken ready to come out of the oven and theres more than enough to go around, so if you havent eaten
Im sorry. I had a big meal down at the coffee shop. But thank you. And thank Loreen for me.
Tonys relief was exquisitely obvious. Sure you dont want to drop by? Brief chatter in the background: Loreens done up a blueberry pie.
Tell Loreen Im sorely tempted but I want to make it an early night.
Well, whatever. Anyway, Ill call you next week.
Good. Great.
Night, Tom. A pause. Tony added, And welcome back.
***
Tom put down the phone and turned to confront his own reflection, gazing dumbly out of the bureau mirror. Here was a haggard man with a receding hairline who looked, at this moment, at least a decade older than his thirty years. Hed put on weight since Barbara left and it was beginning to showa bulge of belly and a softness around his face. But it was the expression that made the image in the mirror seem so ancient. He had seen it on old men riding buses. A frown that announces surrender, the willing embrace of defeat.
Options for tonight?
He could stare out the window, into his past; or into this mirror, the future.
The two had intersected here. Here at the crossroads. This rainy old town.
He turned to the window.<...

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Book Description Orb Books. Paperback. Condition: New. 384 pages. Dimensions: 8.2in. x 5.4in. x 0.8in.Tom Winter thought the secluded cottage in the Pacific Northwest would be the perfect refugea place to nurse the wounds of lost love and happiness. But Tom soon discovers that his safe haven is the portal of a tunnel through time. At one end is the present. At the other endNew York City, 1963. His journey back to the early 1960s seems to offer him the chance to start over in a simpler, safer world. But he finds that the tunnel holds a danger far greater than anything he left behind: a human killing machine escaped from a bleak and brutal future, who will do anything to protect the secret passage that he thought was his alone. To preserve his worlds, past and present, Tom Winter must face the terrors of an unknown world to come. From Robert Charles Wilson, the Hugo Award-winning author of Spin, A Bridge of Years is a classic science fiction story of time-travel and human transformation. This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Paperback. Seller Inventory # 9780765327420

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