I called my office and told my father I would be staying home; that I was feeling ill. He told me not to worry, just to feel better.
“I love you.”
“I love you too; go rest. Call your mother later, you know how she worries.”
I wanted to see my sons before I went back to 2017, if I ever went back, that is. So I called their mother on the phone and told her that I would be coming to take the boys out for dinner. She told me that tonight would not work since they had plans already. I was not happy but I realized it was last minute so I told her I would pick them up on Friday.
New York in 1993 Christmas time was cold. I had walked through the streets and found it to be bleak and it made me feel scared and alone. It had been 10 days since I had tried to close my eyes and get back to 2017 – tonight I would be trying again.
That night I lay on my bed and I closed my eyes…I began to experience some strange vibrations which felt as if they were in different colors. First there was a bright blue, then it was splashed by orange and suddenly a frightening black.
I kept my eyes closed.
I woke up back in the office in 2017; 15 minutes after I had originally closed my eyes.
I went straight to write my report and then I closed my eyes and realized I was exhausted.
I went home and made myself a cup of coffee, sat down and read the newspaper. There was a knock on the door. I cursed under my breath and stood up to answer it. I opened the door and there was a lady about my age, very pretty staring back at me.
“Hello Freddy.” She said very familiarly.
“I am sorry, do I know you?” She looked very familiar.
“Can I come in?”
“Yes, of course.”
I brought her a cup of coffee and she joined me in the dining room and she laughed.
“Funny how the world truly is a circle.” She said.
“What do you mean?”
“When we first met we were both drinking coffee.” She smiled and I was lost for words.
She smiled, nodded and said, “Bingo Fred.”
“I thought we agreed not to see each other here.”
“Well, we did, 24 years ago.”
“More like two weeks ago.”
“For you maybe; but for me it’s been 24 years.”
“What do you mean?”
“I couldn’t get back.” She began to cry but caught herself.
“Oh my god…it took me two weeks to come back – I thought it had to do with me. What was the issue?”
“Apparently there was something in the time continuum that was disrupted which caused hiccups in the time – empty pockets and sort of like driving into a dead end street over and over. I tried and I tried until…”
“I realized that I was late.”
“Late for…” I was waiting for her to continue. “What were you late for?” I was clueless.
“You have 5 kids and you don’t know what I am talking about?”
“What does…oh my…you were pregnant?”
“Yes. So one cannot travel when they are pregnant because it can cause you to lose the baby and I had no children in my actual time and it was the one thing that I regretted. I wanted to be a career woman and it was what I became. I never found time, ha, ironic isn’t it? I never found the time to have a child.”
“Until you went back in time.”
“Yes, Freddy, I have hid this from you because you wouldn’t have understood until you went through it.”
“It’s my kid?”
“Yes; I know I was kind of slutty there but in general I am not that easy.”
I laughed until it dawned on me what she actually said.
“I am the father…boy or girl?”
“I named her Hylia.”
“The Goddess of time.”
“Yes and she is beautiful inside and out. I understand if you do not want to meet her; I don’t need anything from you – I am all set financially and have been married for 16 years now. I just thought you should know. She is getting married next month and she wants to meet you. She had no idea who you are or if you are even alive or not. It’s your choice – I understand it’s a complicated issue because of…you know.”
“I am married and we just had sex two weeks ago even though it was 24 years ago and even though I have only been gone for 15 minutes in real time.”
“I will need to lie about this; I cannot tell my wife or anyone about the time traveling gig; they will not believe me or worse, they will…”
“Just tell her we were a fling 24 years ago and I just showed up.”
The front door opened.
“What are you doing home so early? Oh hello. What’s going on?”
“Honey this is Sherry, she is an old friend. Sherry this is my wife-”
“Nice to meet you, you have a lovely home.”
“Thank you. What’s going on why are you back so early?”
“I wasn’t feeling so well, so I figured I’d work from home; Sherry actually just popped in. I haven’t seen her in over 20 years.”
“It feels like 15 minutes though.” She said.
“Well, can I get you a cup of coffee or anything?”
“No I was just leaving, I just wanted to say hello to Freddy; it’s been a long time and it’s good to see he is doing so well.”
I walked her to the door, we hugged and said goodbye. I gave her my card before she left and told her to contact me right away.
“What was that all about?” My wife asked me.
“She saw me on Facebook and messaged me; she was in the city for the week so she wanted to say hello. She was only here for around 10 minutes or so. She is married with kids; so relax.”
“So are you.”
“Good point. How are you I feel like I haven’t seen you in forever.” I went to put my arms around her – she pushed away.
“I have a million things to do; you saw me this morning and you’ll see me this afternoon. What’s wrong?”
“You said you weren’t feeling well?”
“Yeah, just a headache; going to go lay down for an hour or so. I love you babe.”
I walked up the stairs and fell into my bed. I could not believe what had happened. I needed to act and to act right away but I didn’t even know where to start. If I told Molly and the president’s how would they react? But I needed to tell them – there were so many “what ifs” going through my mind right now that I needed to act.
I ran downstairs, made myself a cup of coffee to go and pulled on my coat. I opened the front door and into my car. As I drove down east 5th I noticed the car behind me was being driven by Sherry. I kept on driving and went to the Mall of time; I needed to speak with Molly and to figure out what to do. I let Sherry follow me because I wanted her there as well.
I pulled into a parking spot by the office, which is a brownstone and from the outside no one would know the magic that went on inside. I went through the back and waited for Sherry to follow.
“So now you are following me?” I asked her.
“You can’t tell them what happened Freddy.”
“I need to and you know that. Why did you even come see me? You know I am right and you know what needs to be done. Who knows who she has touched and how it has changed the world? She could have been friendly with someone who never had friends and somehow changed their lives and changed their whole trajectory of how they would have lived. I don’t have to tell you how much one person can affect history, Sherry. You know as well as I do -shit you know more than I do and that’s why you came to see me. You know there is an impossible decision that needs to be made and you can’t make it.”
“I need you to reason with me here – there must be another answer. Maybe she was meant to be born and change the world somehow. Maybe this world is so fucked up with hatred and killing that the world needs someone who is filled with love and brings happiness to so many.”
“Sherry we need to speak with my bosses. Come inside with me – maybe there is something that can be done.”
“Freddy you need to promise me that you won’t take her away from me.”
The backdoor opened and it was Nixon.
“What’s going on here Freddy?”
“Nixon this is Sherry; I didn’t get the chance to brief you on my mission. Sherry, come inside with me and lets speak with Nixon.”
“I hope you can explain this Freddy, this is unusual.”
“Trust me – I know. Is Molly here?”
“Yes – lets meet in the fishbowl in five minutes.”
I walked to the fishbowl with Sherry, poured her a cup of coffee and made myself another one. I left my cup in my car. Molly, Ford, Nixon and Truman all came in together looking agitated.
“Ok, sit down and let’s get this started.” Molly said.
“Well, everyone, this is Sherry. We met in Minneapolis airport in 1993 while I was on this past mission. She was there to stop me from doing my job. She drugged me and tied me up in my bed. I was able to get there on time to make sure he stayed on the flight. But I had issues coming back to this time. It took me ten days to get back.”
“What did you do for the ten days? I hope you didn’t overexpose yourself.”
“I did buy myself a card to let me know that there was a light at the end of the tunnel; but it was vague and generic.”
“That’s not allowed and you know that.” Ford said. Molly waved him away.
“Ok, so why is Sherry here?” Molly asked.
“Because we…were intimate.”
“How intimate?” Nixon asked.
“Intimate several times.”
“Intimate enough to get me pregnant.” Sherry said.
“Pregnant?” Molly yelled.
“Yes, I got pregnant and I was unable to return.”
“You mean you never returned?”
“No I stayed.”
“You had the baby?”
“Yes I did.”
“Do you realize what you have done?”
“Yes I do, why do you think I came to Freddy?”
“Who do you work for?”
“I worked for – I never actually did it since I never came back.”
“Who did you not work for?”
“IRA, they never existed.”
“Because you were the founder?”
“This is very confusing.” Ford put his head in his hands.
“We need to write down everything that has happened and document your life and your baby…what did you have?”
“A girl and beautiful loving girl.” She covered her eyes.
For the next five hours everything was documented as best as could be recalled. Sherry for her part had been very thorough and understood the consequences. She had spent the past 24 years as a mother and a wife – roles that had eluded her in her actual lifetime.
“For the past 24 years I had 3 daughters and a husband.”
“Do you realize the gravity of what you have done? A husband who possibly would have married someone else or not married at all; or had taken paths much different…”
“I understand the infinite possibilities.”
“You should have understood that before you decided to change your destiny.” Truman snapped.
“It wasn’t done on purpose.” Sherry responded in a whisper.
“So it was done out of stupidity? You don’t seem the stupid type.” Nixon said.
“It was an impulsive act.”
“But you drugged me.” I said.
“After the second time, I did. Remember when we raided the refrigerator? I dropped the pills in your diet 7up and it took some time but it knocked you out.”
“It’s kind of foggy to me – I am beginning to forget.”
“I have it all in an email I sent to you after I left your house. I knew the details would be foggy for you because of the drugs mixed with the time travel. God knows I haven’t forgotten anything.”
“You know what must be done, Sherry, right? You know the risks?”
“I understand and I understand what I need to do.”
“Freddy, are you up to it?” Molly asked me.
“I don’t have much of a choice – we don’t know what has been altered – you don’t even know what the actual time continuum should be – what might have been taken, destroyed or created that should not have been.”
“Well, actually we do. We have noticed a major breakage in the continuum. We haven’t located the source yet, but judging from this meeting, I think we all know what it is.” Ford spoke as he read from some printed documentation.
“What amazes me is the power of one act. One act can change the complexity of the universe.” It was dawning on me just what I had done. “To turn right or to turn left – you turn right in one lifetime and all you will see is an empty road and your destination. You turn left in another time and you will stumble upon another person who finds you interesting. You change their moment and that moment impacts their lives. The lives of the people in their circle. It just goes on and on.”
“It’s a catastrophic domino effect.” Molly said.
“Only the effect here is endless.” Nixon added.
“Who knows though, right?” Molly said, “Who knows how many choices we have made in our lives that constantly change the world as we think we know it?”
“What do you mean?” Truman asked.
“We all make reckless decisions in our lives. Here Freddy slept with another woman in another time period thinking, or perhaps not thinking, how much of an effect it would have on the world. Did he think about his wife? Did he think about how his kids would feel if they found out? Did he take into account what we have driven into him time and again about playing with the world historical future?”
“OK, I get your point.” I responded.
“I am not trying to impress upon you how much of a fuck up this was; we all understand that your body and mind were in the state of that time period you were in. You were going through a painful divorce and you needed the companionship to remind yourself that you were still a viable human being.”
“A viable human being?” I asked.
“One who is able to love. It’s my own term which I use in different ways.” Molly answered me like a parent to a child.
“I should go back in time and trademark it.” I said.
“Don’t even joke about that.” Ford said forcibly.
I looked over at Sherry and she was in tears. Molly stood up and took her by the hand and led her to her office. I stood up and I went to do my job.
I closed my eyes and then I opened them. I was back in 1993, in my bed in my apartment on avenue x and east 14th st. The smell was familiar; cleaning products and moldy aromas combined. The walls were bare and there were no windows. I stood up, felt dizzy, sat back down again. I remembered why I was there and what I needed to avoid doing.
I arrived in Minneapolis and went to the coffee shop in the hotel. I looked around and did not see Sherry. I drained my coffee and ended up reading the newspapers until my room was ready. I ordered room service and killed time by walking around the hotel. I avoided all eye contact with any woman and any conversation with any person.
I sat by the gate for Northwest Airlink flight 5719 for a couple of hours before the people began to stream in. I tried to ignore the conversations and the peoples faces – I knew they would be dying within hours and that’s knowledge no one should have. I couldn’t help but notice an elderly couple holding hands as they walked to board the flight. I turned away and noticed “John” on line behind them. I walked over to him.
“I just wanted to tell you not to get off the flight; you need to make this flight in order to meet your contact.”
“Who are you?”
“It’s not important; I am simply a messenger.” I walked away but sat down in the gate area. I walked away when the flight took off and I went to take my flight back to New York.
The next day I went to the Hallmark store and wrote the card to myself and then I placed it on the side of my bed. I closed my eyes.
I was back in 2017.
I stood up and went into my office; logged onto my computer, filed my report and emailed it to Molly and the presidents. As I drove home I thought about the elderly couple, the flight attendant and the others I tried to ignore who boarded the doomed jet. I thought about Sherry and I wondered what ever became of her. I didn’t even know her last name or whether Sherry was actually her name at all. Unless she came forward there was no way I would know anything about her. I hoped that she had somehow managed to find herself happy and at peace; I hoped that she lacked any memory of the life that she had altered for herself and then let go of.
I got home and I went to lay down on the couch. I needed to relax and to unwind. I was feeling uneasy and uncomfortable with the job I had. The faces and the voices of the doomed passengers on flight 5719 haunted me. This burden of knowing the future and having to find the strength to not alter or to force the alterations was weighing too heavy on me.
I sat there and I wondered if my ability to time travel was a gift or a curse. It didn’t ease the burden the understanding that I had saved the lives of millions of people by allowing that flight to go down.
This playing God gig was growing old.
It was a couple of weeks later that I was buying a cup of coffee at a coffee shop in Manhattan called, “The Bean.” I sat down and began to people watch while enjoying the firsts sips of coffee. I noticed a lady walking in, ordering her drink and then sitting across from me with a smile.
“We always seem to find each other one way or another.”
“I guess certain destinies always find a way of being realized.”
“Most of them.” She said.
“What do you remember?” I asked.
“I remember I am missing something, someone in my life. Once in awhile I will see a young boy running on the beach and I feel as if it’s him.”
“It’s him – yeah, but I thought it was expunged from your memory; the whole trip, your decision, the life?”
“Well, it was. I don’t feel a pain that a parent would feel if they had lost their child. I feel the pain of one who simply dreamed of having one and then woke up to find a fading memory.”
“How did you remember me?”
“Well, I did go back to try and stop you; only this time I stayed in another hotel.”
“I thought that you didn’t work there?” I was confused.
“I did – one actual me did and once you went back, her and I merged. I understood what I had to do and by that time I had forgotten all that I had lived through for those years. I simply understood I needed to fail in my mission. It was only when I got back and read a note I had written myself some years back that the hazy dream memories flew past me. It’s all still unclear – sort of like a fear with no sense of reason. One day you wake up and sense that you are scared of a bridge and that fear grows like a snowball downhill.”
“And we never understand why that fear exists.”
“Or why this pain inside of me comes out of nowhere – as if I am missing a limb.”
We were silent for a few minutes – she drank her coffee and exhaled.
“I met someone.” She said with a smile.
“In actual time?” I asked.
“Yes and I am happy with him. He is a widower, he has two daughters, 6 and 10. His wife passed away a few years ago.”
“I am happy for you.”
“I am scared…I don’t want to lose them.”
“You didn’t create this by going back in time?”
“No, I met him out of nowhere. That’s not all, Freddy, I am pregnant.”
I smiled and I thought about her alternative life she had to expunge. I thought about the daughter we had together whom I never met. She remembered our daughter as a son; memories get hazy when it’s a fleeting dream. Now her destiny had found her and although the invisible scars still haunted her, she was did not understand how to let it go. Still there were the hidden ghosts – she needed me to absolve herself so she could move on.
“It never happened, Sherry.” I said.
“I know that, but I also understand that it did.”
“You can choose to believe as you wish – but I can tell you that all I remember is us having a cup of coffee.”
“I don’t even remember that much. I feel as if I aborted a world.”
“A world is just a thought if it exists only in a dream.”
She began to cry, “I can’t remember anything – I only feel a giant void.”
“A void that only the world you live in now can fill. You have it all now, Sherry, allow yourself to be happy – allow yourself to be loved and allow yourself to love.”
“Do you forgive me, Freddy?”
“I cannot forgive you for something that never happened.”
With that she stood up, dabbed her eyes and blew her nose. She laughed and shook her head. “I need to leave now; there is a good chance I may see you again and not even recognize you. But somewhere deep inside – I will always have a part of you.” She turned and walked away.
My phone beeped with a text message – my wife asking me how I am doing. Trick question, I said to myself and smiled.
There are moments in life when one is lost for words, for meaning and for any understanding of what the hell we are doing here. The question swirl around me, poke me and kick me in the head.
“Why me? Why am I the chosen one of the few with the power to play God? If there is a God and I firmly believe there is; why did He bestow this power on me? Am I supposed to be fixing the messes left by His children? And if so, why me? Who am I that I should be given this power?”
I responded to my wife that I was coming home and that all was fine.
“I love you.” I texted her.
In the distance I saw Sherry walking with two girls with backpacks on their back; they were talking and laughing as they got into her car. I thought about destiny and the power it has to right itself; I thought about things that I had changed in the past for the good of the future and wondered if those things would ever manifest themselves in a different shape or form or if I had changed forever, forever.
That night as I lay in my bed I was haunted by the responsibilities thrust upon me and I wondered if it was a random bullseye landing right on me. If it was, who was the archer? I went for a walk in the damp evening.
There was an eerie silence on the Brooklyn streets at 3 O’clock in the morning. Once in awhile I would hear the F train roaring past on nearby McDonald Avenue. Once in awhile a dog would bark and of course there were the sirens and the car alarms. It was a silent symphony of noises which began to sound like an anthem of sorts. The thought came to me of whether these events which led to the symphony were all timed purposefully by the conductor or if they were random bits and pieces thrown together for a song.
So the question persisted – were the events in the world, in the lives we live, random or planned? Was I chosen or was the archer blind?
The trajectory of life is not just a one off shot. We are thrust up from birth and we are flung, we are thrown, we are tossed like a baseball or dropped like a scalding piece of iron – we are watched, scolded, reprimanded, bent out of our natural shape and forced into cages with invisible bars. The wardens in our prisons are bankers, lawyers and bosses. Spouses, teachers, family and friends play the part of loved ones yet hold us in their preconceived needed visions of whom they need us to be.
The trigger is pulled, the arrow is slung, the sun has risen…the bell has rung and the fucking alarm clock is screaming out that it’s time to stop dreaming. Fantasy morphs into reality and no change in the past can change the present I find myself in.
Sherry had found, lost and found her life again and I had too much and nothing at all to do with it. As I watched her disappear her memory began to fade from my mind; what she looked like, sounded like and tasted like.
That evening I had forgotten all about Sherry and at this point in my life, I have zero recollection of her other than the report I wrote when I first returned from the past.
These days I dream some and I see and hear strangers calling me gesturing for me to join them. I turn aside and I pretend to not hear them calling. I cannot play this game any longer.
The money has run out and I am actually working for a watch company and making strides. The only way I can change time is by pulling and spinning the crown so the arms spin. But there is the occasion when I am tempted to go back and place a winning bet or change a business decision…but I understand the consequences can turn tragic.
So the alarm clock sounds and I punch it to silence, I stand up and I try to live my life in real time. Molly and the presidents haven’t called and probably never will call me again. I could use the money but not the power.
As I sit on the floor waiting for the rungs of a ladder to appear to save me from my own destitution – I sometimes remember that I was the man who saved millions of lives and I smile. No one knows this in my life – to them I am simply a business failure and a nice guy. So, I’ll play the role and I will find a way, once again, to make my world a better place to be – in real time.