About Time Final Part
That night I slept better than I have for a long time. Perhaps it was the strange feeling of safety and security that permeated around my entire being. Whatever it was, for a moment I forgot who I was and what I had done. Sunlight was just beginning to shine through the crack in the curtains when I was woken by the front door slamming. I sat up and peered through the window at Alex heading down the garden path. Off to his Sunday morning paper round, I remembered.
How I hated those days, struggling with a bag of papers that would literally break my back. It would still be more than a decade before the Internet rose and destroyed the days of the paperboy.
Getting out of bed, I crept to my old room. I stood looking around the walls, plastered in posters. There was my old Star Wars poster, but one poster for Back to the Future made me chuckle at the irony. My room was a mess of scattered clothes and toys. My pride and joy AT-AT walker stood glaring at me from the corner of the room, an action man in full SAS clothes keeping guard of my precious Lego collection. But there at a desk piled with cassette tapes was my old computer, 64k and no internet capability.
Programs loaded slowly from cassette tapes. This was like being in prehistoric times. I took out my Pad and scanned the room, taking snap shots for my memories.
“What are you doing?”
So engrossed in my nostalgic trip, I hadn’t noticed Jane stood at the door. I turned to her, slipping my Pad away. “I can explain.”
Jane was silent for a moment, her face creased into a frown. “Why are you really here, Alex?”
Sighing, I decided now had to be the time to reveal who I was. “I’ll tell you, but it might be hard to believe.”
Jane shrugged. “You’re not a distant cousin are you?”
I shook my head.
“Who are you then?”
Taking a deep breath, I said, “I’m your son, Alex.”
She didn’t laugh. That was a good start. Her silence told me to continue, so I told her a basic version of why I was here. There were details I omitted to tell her, such as my crime and sentence. Instead, I told her that I had made a mistake in the future that had to be corrected by visiting my past self.
“Why come back to when you were ten?” Jane asked, folding her arms. I could detect sarcasm in her voice, a very slight touch of coldness. “I mean, why not just go back to just before you made this mistake.”
Ignoring her sarcasm, I said, “Because we can’t make a trip back to recent history. The latest we can go back is fifty years from our current present. I have a week to complete my task.”
Jane snorted contemptuously and turned to go. I grabbed her arm and she spun round to look angrily at me. “Please,” I said, pulling out my Pad. “Let me prove to you this is true.” I opened up my photo files, flipping through old family pictures that I had saved. Jane’s eyes flicked over the thin glass of my Pad and I could see the shock on her face at the clarity the glass projected the photos in, fully enhanced and restored to a quality that was as good as real life. I handed the Pad to her and allowed her to view the slideshow of photos from a period long after 1985, going through to the late nineties. She watched with wide eyes as she saw her family grow and age before her eyes. When the final image vanished, she flipped the Pad over in her hand, struggling to work out the technology behind it.
“Its circuitry is encoded into the glass,” I whispered. “Look at me. You must see who I am.”
Jane turned to me and reached out to my face. Her hand gently stroked my chin and recognition dawned on her. “It’s really you, isn’t it?”
I nodded, tears running from my face. “Yes, mum. I’ve really messed up, but I think I can fix things.”
Jane held me close to her and I wept silently. Pulling away, Jane took me downstairs where she made me a cup of tea. She had so many questions about the future, of how our family turn out. “You and dad do okay,” I told her. “But it’s me that has problems. You might find this strange, but meeting myself the other night showed me traits that evolve me into the person I am now.”
“What’s wrong with you?”
I sighed. “I drift from job to job, from marriage to marriage. I am lazy, I drink too much. Mum, I’m lonely and I have no one in 2025.”
Jane’s face grew cold. “Where are your father and I? Wait, we’re bound to be dead, aren’t we?”
I sipped my tea, unable to answer that question. Instead, I decided I would try to fix things. “In five years from now, I am responsible for killing Spotty. You tell me not to let him off the lead in the street again, but I ignore you. He runs away and is knocked down by a car. I do this, because I don’t listen to a word you say. You might find this an insult, but you show me no discipline. I walked all over you last night.”
Jane’s eyes narrowed as she took onboard what I was saying. “You father always says I am too soft on you.”
“And he’s right. There are a few things you need to do now, in the hope that it might push me in the right direction.”
I went through a list for her, making sure she took note of everything I told her. It wasn’t that I was a nasty person, but I had no idea of responsibility. First, I told her that she needed to stop me being friends with Robert Danton, because that kid was bad news. Then she had to begin punishing me. There were things I knew about myself that would work, such as removing my computer from my room as punishment. I lived on that thing. The next thing would be banning me from television until I behaved. We chatted for what seemed like hours and I told her everything I knew about myself that she could use to shape me as a better person.
“Remember,” I said, “My problems really set in when Spotty dies and I decided I’m a screw up. Stop that and you’ll be closer to saving me.” I paused for a moment, wondering if I should tell her about 2015 when Jane and Mike would be killed in the first wave of bombing. “In July 2015, you need to get away from here. In fact, you need to head south towards the coast.”
I smiled kindly. “Because you do.”
So I had failed to carry out my sentence. How could I murder an innocent, no matter how irritating I was? The return to the future came sooner than I expected when Duncan called a few days later at my parents house. I was out in the garden playing with Spotty, throwing a ball and imagining myself as a ten year old boy. That actual boy was glaring at me from the bedroom window, grounded for a week.
“Alex,” Jane called. “There’s somewhere here for you.”
I looked around and saw Duncan strolling towards me. His face didn’t look angry, but I registered disappointment there. Ignoring him, I bent down and stroked Spotty, pleased he had finally grown to trust me.
“You’re not going to do it, are you?”
I shrugged. “I made a few changes around here, putting myself on the right track.”
Duncan sighed. “You know there can’t be two of you back in our own time.”
I smiled. “I think I’ll find it a little easier killing a fifty year old me than a child, Duncan. Wouldn’t you?”
Duncan wasn’t listening. He started programming the time device for our return. “Two hundred deaths, Alex,” he muttered. “You think a few words back here are really going to make a big difference?”
I threw the ball for Spotty. My dog bounded down the garden path to fetch it, but when he returned, I had gone and the air was filled with the smell of electricity. Back in the year 2025, I closed my eyes as the time stream adjusted around me and I was written out of history. When I opened my eyes again, it was to the glare of lights.
“Is it done?” I asked.
Duncan’s face filled my vision. “It appears you followed a different career path, one that meant the accident never occurred.”
I laughed, but the tears soon flowed. “Are my parents alive?”
Duncan nodded. “Your father died five years ago, but your mother is alive and well.”
There was no time for relief and celebration. Duncan pushed a gun into my hand. I knew what had to be done. Only one of us could exist, and I knew which one that was going to be. “Tell me one thing?” I asked. “What happened to my dog, Spotty?”
“Died when you were fifteen, running out the front door and getting run over.”
I shrugged. It seemed not everything could be put right. Sitting up, I held the gun back to Duncan. “You’re my probation worker,” I muttered. “Carry out the sentence for me.”
Closing my eyes, I waited for the final shot that would end my life and save that messed up ten year old I had met in 1985.