Fantasy Science Fiction posted March 24, 2015


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An old soldier inhabits his own ten year-old body for a day.

The Day Zeus Died

by christianpowers


The author has placed a warning on this post for violence.
The author has placed a warning on this post for language.

I had been chosen for this experiment and put into that isolation box more than a dozen times with nothing to show for it.

This time, however, was different.

Just after I fell asleep, a feeling of weightlessness came over me. First I just floated there, in silence. Then there was movement, not physical movement, more like I remained still while the world rushed by me.

I don't know how much time passed. It could have been a few minutes or a few hours. When the world rushing by me finally slowed and stopped, the darkness lifted.

It was like the experiment had failed again, but, instead of cold fluorescent lights, I felt the warmth of morning sunshine on my face.

I woke to the slight odor of dirty laundry, and the feel of cold autumn air in a poorly heated house.

Opening my eyes, I stretched, and felt spectacular. It was like all the pain from age, and from cancer had gone on vacation.

At that moment, I realized I didn't have a clue where I was.

I sat up, alarmed by how odd I felt, and I looked around. The time displacement had worked. I was a boy again.

It was like I possessed the eyes of an eagle. The sharp lines of objects and brilliant colors jumped out to greet me. I hadn't noticed how badly age had affected my eyes until I could see like that again.

Feeling the vitality in my diminutive body, barely four feet tall with all its smooth skin and abundance of health, made me want to yell out in triumph, but I suppressed that urge, and took a moment to more closely inspect my surroundings.

Even though I couldn't have recalled anything in this room just a few hours earlier, the tiniest details flooded back into memory. It was like seeing the face of a long forgotten friend. By seeing it again, I remembered exactly what it all looked like.

My lead-painted slate gray walls, my red threadbare blanket, my G.I. Joe sheets, my comic books in an old wooden trunk, my blue art-deco bureau, even my dirty clothes heaped in a pile near the door were familiar to me. I nearly remembered throwing them there.

This was my bedroom when I was ten years-old, and there I was, sitting up in my bed and looking around at it after being away for fifty-six years.

"Nicholas!" a woman's voice called my name loudly from the bottom of the stairs. "Nicholas! Time to get up!"

That voice was the most wonderful sound I've ever heard. Tears welled up in my eyes. It was my mother. My mother was alive!

A thirteen year old girl with strawberry blonde hair and freckles, leaned into my room, startling me. It was my sister, Loretta, and the sight of her took my breath away.

She frowned, leaned back out, and shouted, "He's up, Ma! You can stop screaming now!"

"Nicky," my mom yelled, "Get up and get dressed! I've got to leave, so you have to walk today!"

"NO, MOM!" I shouted, "WAIT!" I jumped out of bed, ran out the door, and down the stairs. My lithe ten year-old body was amazing, but my only thought was my mother.

She stood at the bottom of the stairs as I raced at her. An angry look from her did nothing to deter my need for a hug. I jumped from the steps and nearly knocked her over, bear-hugging her waist.

"Nicky!" she shouted, reeling back. "Let go of me! What is wrong with you?"

"Mom," I cried, my face buried in her tummy. "I missed you so much!"

She forced my head back, and, peering into my eyes, she said, "My Lord, you're crying. Did you have a nightmare, Nicky?" She swept the hair out of my eyes with a mother's touch and it felt wonderful.

"No, mom. I... I lost you. You died when I was fifteen." Hugging her harder, overcome with joy, I continued weeping, but still managed to say, "I haven't seen you... you, or Loretta... IN FIFTY YEARS!"

My mother started laughing. Her reaction shocked me, but the sound of it filled my soul with pure happiness. I pulled away, wiping my tears so I could watch her laugh.

My mother's laughter was contagious. I began to giggle like a schoolboy. And why not? I was a schoolboy.

As I giggled, her laughter faded. She shook her head, looking at me with pride. "What an incredible imagination you have. Tonight, when I get home, I want to hear all about your dream, okay?"

"It wasn't a dream. It's true," I said.

She snickered, and dismissed me with a wave. "I'll hear about it later, Nicky. I have to get to work." She turned to grab her coat off a kitchen chair.

"No, mom!" I shouted. "Wait!"

She pulled her coat on over her waitress uniform. "I told you I have to go... and you need to get ready. You're going to be late."

I gained control of my emotions, and spoke in as calm a voice as I could. "Look, mom, you don't understand. This was not a dream, okay. You have to listen to me!"

She let out a frustrated sigh, and glared at me. "What, Nicky? Make it quick."

I held up a very small looking hand in a stopping gesture. "Okay, now here it goes. They've invented time travel. I am... I am sixty-six years old, and I am back here from the year 2030. That's the truth. Do you understand?"

"I haven't got time for this crap, Nicky." She turned to walk away.

"Mom! That's the truth!" I shouted. "You need to forget about work, sit your ass down and listen to me now!"

She jerked her head around, her eyes the size of saucers. "Did you just curse at me, young man?"

"Yes, I did," I said, defiantly folding my arms. "I am sixty-six years old, mother. I don't think that's the first time I've used the word 'ass'."

My mother gasped, took two steps, and slapped me hard across the face.

Stunned, I put my hand to the buzzing hot spot where she'd hit me. I had forgotten about that aspect childhood in the seventies.

She glared at me like I was Satan himself. Shaking a long-nailed finger, she said, "I don't know what kind of comic books you're reading, or what kind of game you think you're playing, but if you curse, or say one more word I am going to knock you right back into the future. You got that, mister?"

I wanted to yell back, 'It's Colonel not mister'. Instead I nodded. What else could I do? She was my mother. I certainly wasn't going to use Judo on her.

"Now get dressed!" she said.

My mother grabbed her purse, and stormed out of the house. I watched her go, wondering how the hell I would ever convince her of the truth.

I turned to ascend the stairs, and saw my sister, Loretta, standing there behind me, blocking my path. She stood a few stairs up, scowling, with her hands on her hips. "From the future, moron? What the hell are you smoking?"

"Loretta," I said. "I know we fought a lot when we were kids, but I always regretted never telling you how much I loved you. I love you, Loretta."

Her mouth dropped open. I thought, from her expression, she must believe me, simply because I had never talked to her like that before.

Her scowl returned, and she said, "What a dweeb! Go read another stupid comic book, you freakin' nutjob!" With that I realized my sister hadn't believed me at all. She thought I was crazy.

Stepping down the stairs, she pushed by me, slamming me into the wall. "We're going to be late! You better get dressed for school," Loretta said, "Unless you're going in your underwear... creep."

I showered, brushed my teeth, and dressed. My sister waited against her will to walk with me, from what I remembered, under strict orders from my mother. I didn't have time for breakfast, but was eager to get to school.

I had failed to convince my mother or sister, but wondered how others might react to a sixty-six year-old man in the body of a boy.

What I really looked forward to was confronting Miss King, my evil third grade teacher. Every day she had found some reason to scream at me or humiliate me with insults in front of the class. She had even violently attacked me a number of times, but, somehow, never left a mark, so I never told anyone. It seemed like it would have been my word against hers, and I knew I wouldn't stand a chance, not back in 1974 when teachers were always right.

That woman had been a blight on my ten year-old existence.

The first time she put her hands on me was on the same day Zeus died. I remember that because, just before her cat got killed, I had been in the front yard showing Loretta exactly how Miss King had lifted me up by my hair.

As I showed Loretta what Miss King had done to me, my sister saw her cat across the street from our house. She pointed to him and asked me how he had gotten out, but before I could answer, Zeus saw us, too, and he ran to us. We both yelled at him not to come across that busy street, but he came anyway. We watched in horror as her poor cat was run over by an eighteen-wheeler.

I never forgot that day, and I wondered if it had already happened, or if I was here before Zeus died.

As I walked trailing my big sister, I looked up and asked, "Where's Zeus, Loretta?"

"I don't know," she said. "Probably time traveling."

"No, seriously," I said. "Is... is Zeus okay?"

"Yeah," she said. "I fed him while you were getting dressed. Why?"

I smiled at the happy news. I had come before Zeus got flattened. "Good," I said. "I can't wait to see him later."

"Walk faster, you moron. You're making us even later." She increased her pace and I hurried to keep up with her.

The old soap factory tainted the crisp September air with the stench of chemicals. We walked in the shadow of its industrial era square brick towers, then turned off the main road, and crossed the stony dirt parking lot. We followed the train tracks which would lead us to the field behind John F. Horgan Elementary School.

"Hey, Loretta," I said. "Why don't you like me?"

She grimaced and said, "Because you're such a dork."

We walked over the train trestle, looking down between the railroad ties at the rushing river below us.

"I liked it when we played Chinese Checkers together."

"You do not!" she said, laughing. "You're a sore loser. You always throw the board in the air."

I shrugged, remembering how she had always cheated, but keeping that to myself. "I liked it when we watched Carol Brunette and Night Gallery together," I said.

Loretta shrugged. "Yeah, so what?"

"So, I'm trying to tell you that... that I'm really glad you were my big sister."

Loretta stopped, and stared at me.

"You're being serious," she said.

I nodded.

"Why do you act like such a snot all the time then?"

"I don't know," I said. "I guess I was... I guess I am... immature."

She laughed in my face. "No kidding! You act like a baby when you don't get your own way."

"You're right," I said. "I'm sorry about that. I'll try to... to be more mature about things."

She looked into my eyes, and asked, "Are you okay?"

I nodded. "Yes, sis, I'm perfectly fine."

"Perfectly fine?" she asked, sneering.

"Yes."

She slowly lost her sneer, and peered deeply into my eyes. "There really is something off about you today," she said. "You're talking different. You even look different. What is up with you?"

I shrugged. "I'm... I'm not me, Lorretta. I'm sixty-six years--."

She interrupted with an exasperated groan, and walked away. "Come on. Let's get moving. I heard your whole crazy 'I'm from the future' speech, and I'm not impressed. You read too many comic books."

I scampered to keep up. Short legs are a nuisance. "What if I could prove it?"

"Go ahead," she said. "I'm all ears."

"Okay, give me a minute. I'll think of something."

In silence, we walked off the tracks, and headed over the last stretch of field behind our school. Finally, I thought of something, but didn't know if I should share it. "I know how to prove it," I said, "But I'm... reluctant to tell you."

"Reluctant?" She laughed. "You're such a nutjob! Just spit it out, Flash Gordon!" she said, amused by her own joke. "And hurry up. Ming the Merciless is about to destroy the planet."

I took a deep breath and said, "I know something you've never told anyone about in your life."

"Oh yeah," she said. "And what's that?"

"Hold up," I said, tugging at her arm.

We stopped.

"When I was twelve... when we get a little older, you are going to confide in me about something very very personal, something no one else in the world knows. That will be in about two years from--"

"You're only ten!" Loretta said, ridicule showing on her face.

"I know I'm ten now," I said. "But I am from the future, Loretta. I know what will happen in two years."

Rolling her eyes again, she said, "Okay... so what am I going to..." she made quotes with her fingers in the air, "...confide in you?" A frown deepened her look of contempt, and she folded her arms, but I had her attention.

"I can't say it," I said. "It's too embarrassing."

"No, dipwad!" Loretta said, getting angry. "You started this. Now tell me."

"It's way too personal, Loretta, and you're just going to get mad and think Uncle Bill told--" I caught myself too late, and winced.

Loretta's face changed from anger to shock. She stiffened up and stared back at me. Then she looked angry again, more angry than I ever remember seeing her. She emphasized each word as she growled, "What... the hell... did he... tell you?"

"You told me! I swear it, sis! You told me what that bastard did!"

My sister suddenly looked like she was going to cry.

"I'm sorry, Loretta. I shouldn't have said anything. Please don't cry."

And that was it, Loretta started balling. Her tears seemed to come from intense rage and frustration, not sadness. She turned away, hiding her face, and started walking. I followed trying to shout softly, my squeaky young voice becoming a high-pitched whine. "I'm so sorry, sis! Please wait! I shouldn't have told you!"

"Get away!" she screamed.

"What he made you do wasn't your fault, Loretta. He's a sick bastard."

"I said get away!" she screamed even louder.

Still walking aimlessly away from me, I didn't know what to say to her. Then I thought of what happened to Uncle Bill.

"He dies a horrible death, Loretta!"

She stopped and listened, wiping her face, but not looking back at me.

"He dies?" she asked.

"Yup!" I said. "That bastard really gets his!"

"How does he die?"

I stayed back, respecting her need to hide her tears. "It's really bad, sis. First he contracts A.I.D.S. and then he hangs himself in a mental hospital."

"He hangs himself?"

"Yup! With a shoelace from a doorknob."

Loretta chuckled.

"It was really pathetic, but I didn't feel bad, not after what you told me about him when we were kids."

She nodded, sniffled and wiped her eyes. Then she cleared her throat, spit on the ground, and slowly turned her head to face me. With Loretta's trademark sneer, she asked, "What the hell is A.I.D.S.?"

"Oh, my God," I said. "It's the worse disease ever!"

She smiled, and said, "You're just trying to make me feel better."

I shook my head, but smiled back and said, "No. When have I ever tried to make you feel better? It really is the worse disease in history, except for maybe Ebola."

"Good," Loretta said. She wiped her face with her shirt, tucked it back in, and combed her fingers through her hair. "Now let's get to school, dweeb. You made us really late."

She started walking toward the building, and I followed, a knot of foreboding growing in my stomach as we drew closer to the school.

"I can't believe you made me cry with your bullshit," Loretta said. "Next time you try that I'm punching you."

"It is not bullshit, Loretta," I said. "It's true. I am from the future, and I'm trapped in my own ten year-old body."

My sister gave me a side-long glance, but quickly averted her eyes, and, because of that nervous reaction, I knew she really did believe me now. She just didn't know how to handle it.

When we entered the school through a side door, I was too preoccupied with being in that building again, and amazed by this walk down memory lane to say goodbye to Loretta, or connect all the dots and anticipate how Miss King might react to me being late.

My sister left me in the hallway to get to her own classroom, and I walked down the long brick corridor next to the auditorium. One room loomed ever closer at the end of it, tucked away from the rest of the school like a dirty secret. I stopped in front of Miss King's door, my third grade classroom, the torture chamber where all my boyhood fears had come to life.

The huge wooden door, with its brushed steel knob, and square glass pane frightened the hell out of me.

With the sensibilities of a mature man I dreaded going in there, and that made me wonder how the hell I ever did it at the age of ten. Seeing with an adult's perspective what an incredibly brave child I had been bolstered my courage. So, comforting that scared child within me, telling him that everything would be different now that I was here, I grabbed that steel knob, turned it, and stepped into Miss King's classroom.

Miss King stopped reading something, and looked up at me. The woman was very attractive, in her early twenties, with thick brown hair to her shoulders and big brown eyes. I'd never noticed that before, how pretty she had been. I had remembered her as an angry and terrifying witch, armed with a book instead of a broom.

I smiled at her, marched directly to the first empty seat, and sat down. I looked around, not recognizing any of these kids. Even though I am certain I knew all their names when I was a child, I had long since forgotten them all.

Right after I sat down, Miss King stood up, her furious blazing eyes burned into me from the front of the class.

Ah, there she was again, that crazed angry witch I remembered from my youth.

"NICHOLAS?" she screamed.

I saw several things when she yelled my name that I had never seen as a child.

First of all, I saw every child in that classroom sit straighter, as if jumping to attention, many of the poor things outwardly trembling. They were just as afraid of this shrew as I had been.

Somehow, it made me feel worse, like Miss King had gotten away with abusing all of us, not just me.

The other thing I saw was a woman with a mental disorder. I had never looked at it like that before, but Miss King was a sick woman.

"Yes, Miss King," I answered.

"WHY ARE YOU LATE FOR MY CLASS?" She slammed her book down, and many of the children jumped at the loud bang.

I decided then that she would have to be removed from teaching. What she was doing to children could not continue.

"I am so sorry, Miss King," I said.

As I talked she walked around her desk and made a bee-line toward me. Her low, wide heels clip-clopping on the tile floor and her tight, 70's era black skirt squeezing her knees together as she walked.

"WHY ARE YOU IN THE WRONG SEAT?" She screamed, stretching her hands out as she bore down upon me.

I froze, all my Delta Force discipline and Judo training abandoning me. She attacked so fast, I couldn't react.

Miss King grabbed me by my hair with both hands, grunted and yanked me out of the seat. It hurt like hell.

As I clung to her arms, trying to take some weight off my hair, she dragged me through the classroom, groaning with effort, and using my body and her hips to hit desks aside. I kicked my legs as she carried me along, trying to reach the floor with my feet.

She threw me down into my seat, put her mouth to my ear and screamed, "THAT IS YOUR ASSIGNED SEAT!"

She stood up, turned and walked slowly away.

I remembered crying quietly in my seat the first time this happened to me. This time, I thought to myself, will be different.

As she walked slowly away, the gnarly old soldier lurking inside of me took control. In a very loud voice, I said, "Hey, Witch!"

Miss King stopped in mid-stride. She stood like a statue for a moment, probably not believing what she had just heard.

"Yeah, that's right, Witch," I said. "I'm talking to you."

She turned her head, her crazy eyes wider than ever, and looked back at me over her shoulder.

I gave a curt little nod and dropped my gaze down to her backside. "A kid my age ever tell you what a sexy hunk of burnin' love you are?"

Her mouth opened so wide I never thought it would stop opening, the crazy in her eyes turning into complete mortification.

"Yeah, that's right, Miss King," I said. "How about you come over here and give Nicky a big smooch." I made lewd grabby motions with my hands, puckered up and made a long, loud smooching sound, like I was calling a cat.

A couple of the kids in the class started giggling.

She completely lost it. Miss King bared her fingernails like claws, roared like a she-lion and hurled herself at me.

I jumped from my seat, and ran, bouncing off desks, and laughing as Miss King chased me. With one deft turn of the knob, I swung open the door and dashed into the hallway. Miss King came clip-clopping out behind me, and once she was well beyond the view of the class full of kids, I turned to face her. I hadn't wanted any of those children to see this.

Her face brightened with the thrill of catching up to me, and she stretched out a hand to grab my shirt; a huge mistake.

I side-stepped, brush-blocked her outstretched arm with my forearm, and delivered a vicious uppercut to her jaw, well, at least as vicious as a ten year-old can deliver one.

I used her momentum to flip her around my hip, and take her down to the floor, where I put her in a wrist lock.

Slightly hurt, and more than a little confused, she blinked and tried to sit up, but I gave her wrist a little tweak, and said, "Uh-uh, no you don't, darlin'."

She grimaced in pain. "Hey!" she said, looking surprised. "Let go of me!"

"No," I said. "I'm in control now."

Miss King tried to move again, so I gave her wrist another tweak. "Ow!" she said, scowling up at me. "Stop that! Let go of me! Let me up!"

"Nope. Not until you listen."

"Nicholas!" she commanded, "You let me up this instant! You're hurting me!"

"First, you quiet down."

"LET ME UP!" She screamed, looking around the corridor for help. We were too far away from the other classrooms for anyone to hear. Even so, she opened her mouth to scream again.

"Quiet, and listen!" I said, tweaking her wrist hard, and holding it.

"Ow... Okay," she said, speaking in an urgent whisper. "Okay... I'm quiet... I'm quiet..."

I eased up and said, "You are going to quit teaching forever. Do you understand?"

She frowned. "Why would I do that?"

"If you don't resign, Miss King, I'm going to tell everyone that you sexually molested me."

"Excuse me?!" she said, forcing a razz through her lips. "That's ridiculous. No one will ever believe you."

I turned my bottom lip, and, in a whiny voice I said, "M-M-Miss King made me... made me touch her... up inside her skirt. It was all wet and squishy! She... she made me do it anyway." I smirked and stared down at her. In a normal voice, I said, "If you show up for work again that's what I'll be saying to the Principal, the police, to the papers and whoever else will listen. Maybe they'll even put me on the six o'clock news."

She didn't seem convinced. "No one will believe it."

I shrugged. "Maybe not. Try coming into work and we'll find out."

"Okay," she said. "I've listened, Nicholas. Now please let go of my wrist, and let me up."

I nodded. "A couple more things. If you try to get me in trouble for this, my molested kid act starts immediately. And, finally, if you try to put a hand on me again, I'll break it off. Do you understand?"

She nodded slowly. "Where... where did you learn to fight like this?"

My Judo skills had made an impression on her. I just smiled, and said, "I watch a lot of Kung Fu movies."

As I let Miss King up, I expected her to run for help, maybe call the police. Apparently, Miss King had either heeded my warnings, or she had other ideas.

She rubbed her chin and her wrist, straightened out her clothing, and suggested we forget this ever happened and get back to class.

She turned, and walked back toward her classroom.

I shrugged and followed. Her obedient students hadn't moved. Miss King took a seat at her desk, and I sat down in mine. She began reading to the class like nothing had ever happened.

The rest of the day, except for some long, curious stares from Miss King, was mostly uneventful. Then, just before the end of day, Miss King approached me, and took me aside where none of the other children could hear us.

"I'm glad we could make amends, Nicholas. Maybe we can be friends from now on, would that be okay with you?"

"Friends?" I said. "You won't even be here. You're quitting today, remember?"

"That's ridiculous. I am not quitting."

"Then I'll be reporting you for molestation in the morning."

"You do that, Nicholas. No one will believe you anyway. I'll see you tomorrow."

My hands were tied. Miss King was not afraid of my threat. So, using the last few minutes of class, I wrote a letter to the police, detailing how Miss King had made me do things no ten year-old boy should ever do. I made sure it sounded like a young boy wrote it, and I gave specific information about sex that no boy should ever know.

When the bell rang, I walked to Miss King's desk, and said, "One last chance, Miss King. Are you going to give up teaching, or do I begin my crusade?"

She stiffened in her seat, sitting up straighter. "I'll see you tomorrow, Nicholas."

"So be it," I said, and turned to leave.

"So be it?" she said, incredulous. Then she spoke in a nasty, recriminating tone. "What on earth is going on with you? I never heard a child speak like that. Did you get hit on the head or something? Do you need mental help?"

"No," I raised my voice, suddenly furious at her. "You need mental help! What gives you the right to hit kids, to take out your petty frustrations on innocent kids who can't defend themselves?" I looked around, and all the kids had left the classroom. In a calm voice I said, "You are nothing but an abusive bitch!" I shook my letter at her. "And I am going to put a stop to you once and for all with this letter!"

She dove over her desk and grabbed for the letter.

I pulled it away, and she ran around the desk, cocked her fist back, and charged straight for me.

Apparently, she hadn't learned her lesson. I've never condoned laying a hand on a woman, but, considering I was only ten, I figured the playing field was just about even.

About thirty seconds later my sister walked into Miss King's classroom. She'd come to collect me for the walk home.

"Oh, crap!" Loretta said, covering her mouth with both hands.

I stood over the unconscious form of Miss King, looking and feeling a bit guilty about it.

"Hey," I said, raising my hands in surrender. "I was just defending myself."

"Is she... is she dead?" Loretta asked.

"No," I said, letting out a nervous chuckle. "She's got a broken arm, and she's going to have a huge bump on her head from hitting the floor, but she'll be okay... I think." I looked around and snatched up my letter. "Let's get out of here before she wakes up."

"Shouldn't we call an ambulance?" Loretta asked.

"Yeah, maybe you're right. You got a cell phone?"

"Uh," Loretta said, "Why would I sell a phone?"

Telling her to forget about it, I asked if she had a dime for a payphone. She did, so we left school to find one.

I saw a cruiser with two cops in it before we got to the payphone, and I told them what happened.

The cop peered out his window, listening. He asked, "What do you mean you beat up your teacher?"

"She tried to make me do... sex things... again, so we struggled and she broke her arm and hit her head... but I got away."

The cop looked at his partner and said, "Do you believe this, Carl?"

His partner shook his head.

"It's all in this letter," I said, handing it to him. He took it, and unfolded it. "She's knocked out in her classroom. I don't ever want to see her again. I'm too afraid of her."

The cop read what was on the letter. Seeming genuinely concerned, he looked at me and nodded. "Okay, son. Don't worry." He handed the letter to his partner, and started the cruiser. "We'll take care of Miss King. I've got your address on this letter, so someone like me will stop by to ask more questions, but you won't have to see her again."

The cops drove away.

Loretta was amazed at what I had done, and maybe a little afraid of me, but after a little while, I think she was more amazed than afraid. She kept saying, wow, and shaking her head.

After the cops, we walked home. In front of our house I stopped and said, "I've got bad news."

"What now?"

"Do you know what day it is?"

"Yeah, it's Monday."

"Yes," I said, "But this is also the day Zeus died."

"What?" Loretta said, "Don't tell me that! Is he dead now... in the house?"

I shook my head.

"When does he die?"

"This afternoon."

"So, how does he die, Nicky?"

"We were in the front yard near the tire swing, and I was showing you how Miss King lifted me up by my hair. We saw Zeus across the street." I pointed to a long patch of grass on the other side of the road. "Right over there... and, when he tried to cross, he got flattened by a truck."

"Zeus can't get out of the house. He doesn't even like going out."

"I know, but he gets out."

"How?"

I shrugged. "We never knew."

"I'm checking!" Loretta ran ahead, and burst through the front door of our house, calling out Zeus' name. I followed her inside.

Not finding the cat, she gave me a worried glance, and ran up the stairs calling for him. I looked under the furniture, in the closets, and even checked the cupboards.

Loretta descended the stairs, wearing a somber expression. "He's not here," she said.

Nodding, I said, "I know."

"We have to save him, Nicky."

I smiled. "You believe me. You really believe me."

She sat down hard on the stairs, and nodded.

"What else do you want to know, sis? I've got so much to tell you. The future is full of so many incredible things. I don't know where to start."

"Just tell me how to save my cat!"

"We've got some time for that. Mom was home when Zeus got run over." I shuffled through the junk on the kitchen counter, searching for a pen and paper. "First I'm going to tell you how to save you and mom."

"What do you mean?" Loretta said, standing up. "What happens to me and mom?"

I paused, and looked down at the paper in my hand. "You both died in a car crash."

"Oh, my God! When?"

"Five years from now, the night before Easter Sunday, 1979."

After a long silence, she asked, "How old are you, Nicky? What year are you from?"

"I'm sixty-six years-old, and it's 2030. I'm dying of liver cancer."

Loretta's face turned pale. "I believe you, Nicky. I really do."

"Then whatever you do, Loretta. Don't let mom drive on the night before Easter in 1979. I don't care if you have to knock her out. Do not let her drive."

She nodded as I spoke, and swallowed. "I won't. Trust me." After a short pause, she said, "But you'll be around to remind us, won't you?"

"Oh, no. I'm only here for today. I have to go back to my time."

"Only here for... but you're not even really here. You're like... in your own head."

I nodded. "Yes... and that's why you have to save mom... and yourself. Ten year-old Nicky will be back tomorrow... or tonight." I shrugged, and added, "Or any minute. I'm not sure how it works."

"I wish you could stay here forever."

"Me, too."

"Is that possible?"

"I'm leaving soon... but anything is possible. I believe that now."

The sound of my Mom's car reached us from the driveway.

"Crap," Loretta said. "Mom's home. We have to save Zeus."

"Absolutely," I said, dropping the pen and paper on the table. It said, 'Saturday, April 14, 1979', and in big letters I had written, 'DO NOT DRIVE!!!'.

We greeted my mother, and I apologized to her for my crazy behavior that morning, promising to do extra chores, including the dishes. She rewarded my apology with a huge hug and a kiss. I told her Loretta and I were going to hang outside for a while.

After mom went in the house, we crossed the street, and waited for Zeus to show up. We occupied ourselves by talking. I told her about the future, about computers, and how she should invest in Microsoft, and about the internet, and how Ronald Reagan would become President.

It seemed like a few hours had passed when the traffic picked up, and that reminded me of how busy our street had been when Zeus got run over.

My eyesight grew foggy, and the rumble of five o'clock traffic became a hum, like everything was fading. I grabbed at my sister's arm, but she pulled away from me, yelling something about Zeus.

I saw Loretta run away over that long patch of grass next to the sidewalk with my sight dim, and my hearing muted. It was like I was in a glass bubble. I could still see Loretta in the distance, bending down to lift something.

She turned toward me, so far away, but I could still see her.

"I think I'm leaving, Loretta!" I shouted. She said something, but I couldn't hear it.

Everything was going away.

The last thing I saw was my sister wearing a huge happy smile, and nuzzling her white cat with her cheek, as she held him safely in her arms.

The world that had left me so long ago rushed away into the distance, and left me once again.

I found myself in darkness, drifting in dreams and memories as fleeting as the darkness itself.

Finally, the cold white fluorescent lights jolted me awake. Pain greeted me, the pain of life. I was old again, and dying of cancer.

This particular slumber of mine had been different, of course. This one changed everything.

These egghead scientists tell me only a select few people are able to travel back in time. They believe it is only those rare individuals with an aching need to correct something, a life-shattering regret, or some injury in their past that screams for justice, the kind of justice only time travel can provide.

I wonder which of my injuries allowed me to travel back?

Was it the abuse inflicted by my teacher?

Banned from ever teaching again, the abominable Miss King had, finally, been vanquished. Although, I learned later that she landed deftly on her feet as a clerk for the D.M.V., she never again tormented a child.

Was it the grief of losing my mother and sister when I was so young?

My mother and my sister lived long happy lives. They were saved from dying on that awful night in 1979, which, from everyone else's perspective but mine, never even happened.

Or, could it simply have been witnessing the grisly death of my sister's cat?

Zeus was rescued from being flattened by a Mack Truck, and, after a screen in an upstairs window was repaired, remained in the house and went on to live a long and happy cat life.

Personally, I think it was her cat. Seeing that smile on my young sister's face made up for a lifetime of pain. I mean, what more could an old soldier ask for?




What If? contest entry


I cut this down to well below 7000 and I think less is always more, especially when it comes to my writing. lol Suggestions on plot or edits are always welcome. Thanks.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.


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