My name is Artiste Gullible. I was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the eleventh day of May, in the year of our Lord 1820. I currently live in the year 2008, although my travels have taken me to times and places well beyond the scope of celestial ploddings and linear date books.

For a number of years I have kept a journal of my travels. It is my hope that my collective impressions will amount to something more than fact filled fantasy and less than the delusions of the improbably fantastic. More importantly, if you find yourself in the unenviable position of comrade in arms, this journal may provide you with the answers to the questions that nobody asks; such as, “Why do Tiberian Mining beasts look so sad.?” and “How many fairies can dance on the head of a pin?” and most important, “How can I explore the Metaverse on less than five clods a day?”

If you are in similar circumstances, than you have my deepest sympathies, for our brotherhood is one built upon the echoes of silence. Although I cannot speak directly to your circumstance I can shed light on my reluctant initiation.

In 1841, on my 21st birthday, while sitting in the local tavern, a stranger slapped me on the shoulder and gave to me a gold ring. The metal was pitted and burnished with age. The face of the ring was inlayed with onyx. In the center of the blackness, a recessed setting held a sunken square-cut ruby.

“For the lad who has everything.” He said with a wink and a dark smile. “Whatever you do, no matter how curious you might be, under no circumstance must you PRESS the secret ruby button. The button in the center of the ring. The button that you must not press, with any stick, or small implement. The button that will forever change your life, but can only be triggered with the forced depression of the square ruby that lies in the center of the ring; that you must never PRESS. That button there.” His eyes sparkled as he pointed at the ruby in the ring and handed me a small golden rod with a cup shaped end roughly the size of the sanguine jewel.

I looked down at the ring, and then back up towards the stranger. I was going to ask how he knew it was my birthday when I saw that he was gone. Not gone in the sense that he had moved on to another table, or was in conversation with another tavern traveler, he was simply and completely gone as if he were never really there in the first place.

My father once said of taverns; The glasses are always dirty, the brew indistinguishable from warm, water-downed bull urine, but the people … the people are intoxicating.

My gaze returned to the ring and the curious warning. Mad as a March hare I thought, as I sipped warm grog from a grime encrusted glass and silently thanked the tavern for the ever so charming character chaser.

I slipped the ring onto my finger and closed my fist. It felt a bit loose, but comfortable enough to wear.

And that, as they say, was that. I dismissed the event into the foggy memories of a hundred such tavern nights lined up in succession.

Three days later, after hours of sitting in the rain under the ill protecting canopy of an old and weary maple tree; having gone through my pockets, organized my money in descending orders of value and color, and after creating three limericks of questionable repute, I brought the ring to my face and peered into its single bloodshot eye.

I could see my face reflected back in the wet dark pool surrounding the deeply inset jewel. For no particular reason, I reached into my pocket and pulled out the small golden rod. Tenderly, carefully I fit the cupped end over the crimson crest and set the tip.

It must be stated here, in clear and unalterable simplicity that I did not apply any amount of pressure to the afore mentioned button. I say again, I did not press the button. I had barely set the stick upon the jewel when I found myself surrounded by sunlight and sitting in a clearing on top of a knoll overlooking a blue green river. Two moons clung diffuse and low on the horizon.

Before me stood the man from the tavern. He was dressed for travel, a knapsack over his shoulders. A length of coiled rope hanging from one site of his suspendered britches and what looked like a turkish towel tied to the other.

“Three days!” He cried and rolled his eyes with exasperation. “Heavens above and saints below, THREE DAYS? I would have hoped for a bit more curiosity from someone who is not quite a man but not quite a boy.”

To say I was shocked would be an understatement. “Where am I?” I stammered, my breath coming in short spasms.

“Get used to this universal truth, and your “now” will be in better balance with your “here.” Time and space are the same thing. On Earth, they will/did prove that in about a hundred years. Soon thereafter they will also begin to understand that “here” and “there” are pretty much the same too. Forget about the where and when. All you really need to know was penned a millennium ago tomorrow by a very wise man. He said, ‘And this too shall pass.’ Strangely enough, that bit involved a ring also.”

With that he adjusted his pack, paused, looked at the sky and then back at me.

“In a nutshell here is how it works. I can’t move on until you move in … and now that you are in the wicket with us, it applies to you as well. Don’t bother asking about how or why. Those are totally irrelevant questions asked by people who expect answers for which there aren’t any. If you happen to be pushed forward into a here where your fellow traveler is now dead. It is up to you to remove their ring and find a replacement, as I have done with you. Take my word for it, the consequences for not doing so are quite … uhm … unpleaseant.”

“As you move into a new now the person in front/behind of you has a few minutes before he or she is pushed out. There is no controlling your destination but remember, their time is not the same as your time, or the person who follows, or the person that leads. You might be in a now one day, a month, a year, or possibly more. As another wise man said ‘it’s all relative.’”

He paused once again, raised his hand as if to add something, cocked his head to the left and blurted, “Happy trails.” He was gone in a flash.

This has been my life. For twenty years I have been moving between worlds, time, and space for what purpose, reason, or intent I cannot guess. The answer is within these pages I am sure, as are the irrelevancies of the how and why.

As a reflection of my own time, this journal may not need to be read in any particular order. If my life is a linear tale then it is a line that twists upon itself in such a way to form a knot that cannot be undone. If you feel so inclined to read and hopefully learn from my wanderings, I encourage you to begin at the place which seems best; Which may happen to be the page that you fell upon. Move from that page to the next, which may well be the end of my story.

Glean what you can from my experience and don’t ever take your now for granted. Our heres and nows exist within a framework of dreams balustered by the walls of possibility.