Voice (Part 3 of 5)
‘So what am I supposed to do?’
The voice didn’t say anything.
‘Hello?’ Michael felt uncomfortable in the silence.
The voice sighed.
‘Michael, get yourself a drink.’
‘I’ve had one.’
‘I mean a real drink.’
‘Please, just do it.’
Puzzled, and slightly afraid, Michael rose from the bed and made his way downstairs. He went into the kitchen and located the bottle of whiskey that he had gotten for Christmas from his brother that year. He didn’t drink much, and he wasn’t really a whiskey man, but he could never bring himself to tell his brother that he was lousy at buying presents.
Michael opened another cupboard, took a tumbler down from one of the shelves and poured himself a measure.
‘Right, I have my drink.’
‘Whiskey?’ asked the voice.
‘How did you…’ said Michael. He was about to ask how the voice knew he had a glass of whiskey in his hand, but this…thing…whatever it was, was meant to be him.
Michael took a sip of the whiskey and felt the fire coat the inside of his throat.
‘Okay, so how do I stop MindSet from being made?’
‘Michael, we need you to kill Dr Baker.’
A woman walking past Michael’s house heard what she thought was glass breaking. She slowed her steps for a second and then carried on her way.
* * *
‘Are you fucking kidding me?’ shouted Michael, as he backed away from the broken glass of the tumbler that had, seconds before, slipped out of his hands and shattered on the kitchen floor.
‘Michael, calm down.’
‘No I will not calm down!’ Michael was still shouting. He was angry and scared and confused all at once, and all of his senses were on edge. He looked at the fragments of glass sitting in the pool of liquid on the floor with utter disgust.
Michael ran his fingers through his hair irritably and paced back and forth, keeping away from the glistening shards with his bare and vulnerable feet.
‘Look, whoever, or whatever, you are, I’ve had just about enough of this! You invade my thoughts somehow, string me some bullshit story about being from the future, and now you want me to kill someone? Either I’ve gone completely crazy or you have. Which is it?’
The voice didn’t reply.
‘Well?’ Michael was furious. How dare the voice ignore him now? How dare it!
‘Michael, I’m sorry that I’ve had to come to you with this.’
Michael snorted in derision.
‘But I promise you, I wouldn’t have done so if it weren’t the only way to stop what’s happened. What will happen for you if we don’t stop this.’
The voice sounded cracked, as if it were holding back tears. Michael noticed but he didn’t care. He was too angry.
‘I’m not killing anyone, do you hear me?’
‘I’m afraid it’s the only way.’
‘But you’re talking about murder! I won’t be a part of that!’
‘And I don’t blame you for feeling this way, but think about it. We’re talking about one life weighed up against countless others. MindSet is ripping our world apart. People are either going insane or falling victim to the insane. Please, Michael. I know it’s asking a lot…’
‘A lot? You’re asking me to commit murder, for Christ’s sake! Forgetting, for a second, that we’re talking about ending another human being’s life, I could spend the rest of my life in prison because of this. I’m sorry, but that’s not what I had planned for my future!’
The voice said nothing for a moment. When it spoke again Michael could clearly hear tears choking the words.
‘Please, Michael,’ it begged. ‘If not for us, do it for her.’
‘Her? Who are you talking about?’
‘My wife, Michael. Our wife.’
‘I don’t have a wife!’
Michael said nothing. He swallowed, hard, and ran his fingers through his hair.
‘We…we get married?’
‘Yes.’ The voice sounded despondent now.
‘I can’t give you too many details, I’m afraid. I’ve already told you more than I should, but her name is…was Kathryn.’
‘Was? You mean she’s…’
The word hung in the air like a lead weight, pressing down on Michael. His mind did an instant roll-call of all the women he knew, and there were no Kathryns.
‘What happened to her? Can you tell me anything?’
‘MindSet. She was one of its victims.’
‘How…how did she…’
‘I don’t want to talk about that,’ said the voice. ‘All you need know is that she’ll make you happier than you ever thought possible, and losing her…’
The voice faltered.
‘I’m sorry.’ Michael felt wretched for losing his temper with the voice.
‘This is why we need you; to save her, to save us, to save everyone that MindSet will touch.’
‘Okay,’ said Michael. He took a deep breath. ‘I’ll do it.’
‘But you need to help me. Killing someone isn’t exactly something I’m used to.’
‘I know,’ said the voice, relief audible in his words. ‘I’ll help you as much as I can.’
‘So, this Dr Baker will be making an appointment with me a week from tomorrow, right?’
‘How do I do it? I don’t much fancy going to prison for murder.’
‘You won’t,’ said the voice, firmly. ‘Not if you do exactly what I tell you.’
‘Do I need to do anything before I see Baker?’
‘Yes. We need to go shopping.’
‘Okay, just tell me what I need to do.’
* * *
Michael dressed in fresh clothes as the voice continued to speak to him. He stopped with his trousers half way up his legs as the voice began discussing the method with which Michael was to kill Dr Baker.
‘You want me to what?’ said Michael, frozen in mid-dress.
‘You’re going to need to poison Dr Baker if there’s any chance of us walking away from this blame-free.’
‘But how? I wouldn’t even know where to begin.’
‘Don’t worry, Michael. I’ve got a list here with me that I have on good authority will concoct just what we need.’
‘Good authority? Whose? Do I make a habit of befriending killers in the future?’
‘Whose authority doesn’t matter, Michael. All I can say is that everyone involved at my end is as keen for this to work as I am.’
‘Please, Michael. This isn’t going to be easy, and we need to get you moving if you’re going to get everything you need in time.’
‘But, you said Baker won’t be coming to see me for a week. Don’t I have plenty of time?’
‘Frankly, no. What you’re going to cook up takes time, and there’s every possibility you’ll mess it up a few times before you get it right.’
Michael felt like he should take offence at this remark, but he quickly realised that he didn’t want to be a good killer. He didn’t want to be a killer at all. However, taking one life to save countless others, including his apparent future wife was hard to argue with.
‘Okay, I’m dressed,’ said Michael, as he zipped up his jacket. ‘Where do you need me to go?’
‘A few places,’ said the voice. ‘We don’t want you arousing suspicion by buying everything you need in one place.’
Michael felt a little chill as he contemplated how much that made sense. He really didn’t want to start thinking like a killer.
‘How should I pay?’ asked Michael, as a thought struck him.
‘Is it going to matter if I use my debit card, or would you advise I use cash?’
‘Good thinking, Michael. Cash would be better. No paper trail.’
Again Michael felt a pang at how easy it appeared to be to think like a criminal. He didn’t enjoy the feeling, but the fact that he was thinking ahead to keep himself out of suspicion for after the deed was done was an odd sensation. The moral side of him felt like he should get caught; that murder was wrong no matter how you spun it, but each time he started thinking this way the words of the voice would echo in his mind.
All those people.
All that senseless killing.
He could stop it with this one action.
It made Michael’s insides lurch, but he didn’t think he could live with the deaths of thousands of people on his conscience, especially if one of them was his future wife.
Michael tried his best to push the thought that however noble his actions might seem, he was still embarking on a plot to kill another human being.
He had to take a moment to steady his breathing before he entered the first shop and begin buying what the voice told him he needed.
* * *
It took the rest of the afternoon, but Michael finally returned home with everything he apparently needed to mix up the poison that was meant to kill Dr Baker. Michael found that he had a very hard time looking the various shop assistants in the eye as he made his purchases; knowing, as he did, what he would be using them for.
‘So, you’ve got everything?’ asked the voice, when Michael had laid his shopping bags down on his kitchen table.
‘I think so.’ Michael was worn out, both physically and emotionally.
‘Let’s do a double check to make sure.’ The voice ran through the list for what felt to Michael like the tenth time that day, but he had succeeded in getting everything on it.
‘What’s going to happen?’ asked Michael.
‘What do you mean?’
‘If I succeed.’
‘When you succeed,’ said the voice, insistently. ‘We can’t afford to fail. Not now.’
‘Okay, when I succeed. What will happen?’
‘I’m not really sure. I assume that the death of Dr Baker occurring before he has a chance to put MindSet into manufacture will erase the timeline that I now occupy.’
‘So, you’ll just disappear?’ Michael didn’t like the thought of erasing an entire timeline, even if it was one where so much horror was happening.
‘I think so, yes.’
‘I won’t be dead though,’ said the voice, reassuringly. ‘Killing Dr Baker will erase this timeline and destroy all the effects MindSet ever had on the world, because it won’t have ever been made.’
‘So what will happen instead?’
‘Anything’s got to be better than what’s happening here now,’ said the voice, bitterness etched into every word.
Michael didn’t say anything for a moment, so the voice continued.
‘I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, but what I do know is that your life will be unaffected from your point of view. Life for you in 2015 will continue as it always has, minus my little verbal contributions, of course.’
‘How will I know if it’s worked?’
‘When it works, Michael, I’ll stop talking to you, because the link will be gone. This future that I occupy will cease to be and, God willing, a new and better future will happen in its stead.’
‘Will you be able to contact me to let me know if it’s worked?’
‘Of course not,’ said the voice, chuckling slightly. ‘When you do what needs to be done I won’t have lived the timeline that would result in me needing to contact you at all. It’ll be like it never happened.’
‘So will I remember any of this?’
Michael felt strange. He had gotten so used to hearing the voice in his head, even though it had only been with him for a matter of hours, that an odd mix of emotions hit him at the thought of not remembering the exchanges. He didn’t think he was sad, but the feeling had an unpleasantness to it all the same. He tried to put it out of his mind.
‘Anyway,’ said the voice, snapping Michael back to the present. ‘Nothing’s going to happen at all if we don’t get to work.’
‘Okay, what do I do first?’
‘Follow my instructions to the letter.’
‘Okay, let’s do it.’