It’s like before I was born. There is nothing, and then there is everything.
I’m on Willow Oak road. The time, according to my HUD, is 11:32 AM. It’s November 28th, 2014. The houses lined on the street are decorated for Christmas. All the cars parked in the driveways are gas operated. The first I’ve seen since I was a young man.
My brother should be here any minute now. I’m scheduled for fifteen minutes. At 11:47, I’ll be sent back without warning. The suit is tight on my body. Even if I wanted to take it off, it’d be impossible. If I rip it or find a way out, that’s fifty years in jail, minimum. If I try to communicate with anyone, that’s a hundred. If I talk, that’s death. It was clear in the orientation program, if you broke any of the rules, punishment would be sure to follow to the furthest extent of the law.
It took me years to come up with this simple plan. It was so obvious, I suppose my mind skipped over it like when you can’t find your cell and it’s right in your hand. First I had to save enough to travel back. There were only three machines in the country, and each one was privately owned. Once I had the money, I flew to the closest travel agency, New York, and went back to when Max fell off his bike and injured himself so badly we had to change his diapers until he died eleven years later.
And here I am. Past all the security checks and paperwork. My twenty-year-old self is in the house to my right. Max should be coming down Willow Oak soon, riding his bike like a maniac, popping wheelies as if he’s invincible. But he’s not invincible. Far from it.
I hear the clap of his wheels first. He has a Pokémon card attached to the spokes. Squirtle.
I see him pumping the pedals like a man on fire. He’s racing the wind and winning. His smile is toothy and wide. He just had his braces taken off two weeks prior. Just in time for college.
And of course, he isn’t wearing a helmet.
He can see me, but to him I just look like another man on the street. The skin I chose for my suit resembles me but isn’t an identical match. Time to set my plan in motion.
We’re on the street. He swerves to the right, so he’ll avoid me. He’s about twenty feet away. I shift, following him, and hold out my hand, the universal sign for stop. Except he isn’t looking at me. He’s turned his neck to look at the sky. Why’s he looking at the sky? His arms are spread and he’s enjoying this moment. And now he doesn’t see me.
He crashes into me. The bike hits my gut and punches me to the ground. Max goes flying and hits his head on the asphalt. I scream. The pain is nothing but a slight irritation. What makes me cry is Max’s blood spreading in a pool around his head like a halo. What makes me cry is the realization that if I hadn’t come back, Max wouldn’t have hurt himself.
I start to fade. The world around me fizzes and blackness invades. I see my younger self, startled from the scream, run out of the house and approach. I am gone by the time I arrive.
About the author:
James Harris is a Black, Mexican, and White writer who writes speculative fiction with a literary twist. He currently resides in Kansas City where he contemplates the dreadful, the macabre, and the end of all things sacred. Find more at jamesharrisstories.com