Guardians of Time – Part 9

blue bubble calamity clean

The water in the pool shimmered and waved before settling into an artificial calm that was so still there wasn’t even the whisper of a ripple. From the depths of the water appeared the old farmhouse where Earl used to live with his family. The image was a bird’s eye view.

Through the door of the house stepped Josephine at eighteen years old. Her long dress softly blew in the breeze. It was a couple of days before the proposal. He would have loved to step into the pool and join her back in her life. This time around he would be there to congratulate her, to walk her down the aisle, and to hold his grand kids, but he knew he couldn’t. Not if he wanted her to be happy.

He could, however, extract her. Just for a moment. It would be the first time he could talk to her since she was six. He knew his wife had told her he’d died. It’s what she believed as well. When they extracted him they faked his death. Part of him had been grateful because it meant they had closure and didn’t think he’d abandoned them. But now, he was about to ripe that scab off.

He bounced on the balls of his feet as he waited both terrified and excited at the same time. He watched her as she walked down the path towards the road.

“Ready?” Sam asked.

“Ready.”

“Now remember, we only have a few minutes. The extraction isn’t on their schedule so it will immediately alert the night guards.

He heard the sound of the lever being pulled. For a moment nothing happened. Suddenly, the world inside the pool flipped upside down and Josephine was falling towards the sky, falling up towards him.

“Hold on! Here she comes!” Sam yelled from his place by the controls.

The water gave a huge splash as she exploded out of the pool and hit the net high above them. Sam pulled another lever and the net closed around her and caught her as she lost momentum and started falling back towards the pool.

She screamed as she was encased by the net. Sam pushed another button and the net swung around and dropped her onto the floor near Earl’s feet. She battled against the ropes as they loosened. It took her a couple of tripping tries to get free as her foot kept getting caught..

“Hello Josie,” Earl said quietly, once she was free.

She stared at him in stunned disbelief. “Am I dead?”

“No,” he said, quickly. “No, no, no! You are very much alive. We just had to pull you out of the inner world for a moment.”

“The inner world?”

“Yes. To warn you.”

“How are you alive? And here?” she asked, stepping towards him “Where is here.”

“The inner world.”

“Yes, you said that.

“We need to hurry this up,” Sam said, by the dials. “The extraction will have triggered their alarms. Warn her and let’s send her back.”

He turned to her and held her by her arms. “In a couple of days Frank is going to propose.”

“He is?” she smiled.

“And,” he continued on without stopping. “You’re going to meet a couple of twin boys that same day who will take you to see a bat they’ve found.”

“What?” she frowned.

“Quickly, they’re coming,” Sam said.

Footsteps thundered down the hallway towards them.

“The bat. It’s going to bite Frank and make him sick.”

“So don’t go with the twins?” she asked, looking at him bewildered.

“Yes, I mean no, I mean, yes go with the twins, because if you don’t, the bat bites someone else and then they die. You have to go, but get rid of it.”

“O-o-okay,” she said, hesitantly.

Suddenly the doors flew open. Sam grabbed her shoulders and pushed her into the pool where she disappeared into the rippling water.

“On your knees,” the guard shouted.

“Do you think it worked?” Earl whispered to Sam as they were arrested.

“Time will tell.”

Guardians of Time – Part 8

water of swimming pool showing pool ground

The extraction room was a gymnasium sized room with what looked like a pool of water in the middle. Hovering high above the pool was a giant net that spanned both the length and width of the pool. Along one wall was a massive panel of dials, levers, and numbers.

It was in this room that both Sam and Earl had first stepped into the outer world. It was here that the Guardians of Time pulled chosen recruits from their lives; usually after a long consultation with the applicants and strenuous tests. In Sam’s case, however, it was completely against his will and without his knowledge.

There were times when someone chose to abandon the mission and return to their own timeline. It was impossible to enter someone else’s timeline, and there were strict rules stipulating that one could only enter at the point in time that one left. But Sam was very comfortable with ignoring the rules.

Earl, despite it being his idea, was not.

“How old was she when you last saw her?” Sam asked. He stood at the control panel and started inputting information into the computer.

“Just 6 years old. I thought I was going to make this massive difference in the world and that it would all be worth it.” He looked down at ground, gently bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet.

“And was it?”

“I don’t know. We’ve erased wars and plagues and helped millions of people, but if I’ve somehow ruined her life, somehow I feel like I’ve failed. Like it was all a mistake.” He looked over at Sam. “Does that make sense?”

“No,” Sam said, not looking up.

Earl frowned. “What about you? If you want to get back to your timeline so badly, why don’t you just go?”

“I tried. My father sealed off my timeline. I can’t access it.”

“I thought everyone was supposed to have access to their timeline?”

“Yeah, well my father seems to enjoy making exceptions when it comes to me.” He turned around to face Earl. “Okay, I think it’s set. Are you ready?”

Earl stared down at the pool. Below him flickered an image of the old farmhouse where they used to live before he’d joined the Guardians of Time. He had one shot to make this work.

“Ready.”

Guardians of Time – Part 7

wrecked home furnitures interior

“What do you mean, it’s going to be harder to reverse the timeline?” Earl asked.

“The Hospital Hitmen chronology was undone when we changed Josephine’s timeline,” Sam said. “That’s what all the streamers and balloons are for.”

Dread filled Earl. everyone knew about the Hospital Hitmen. Over the course of 10 years through the strategic planting of bombs in hospitals around they country. They would go silent for a couple years then take out entire floors at 5-6 different hospitals. People were terrified to go there so even more died because they had no where to go for help. Doctors, nurses, and hospital staff stages walk-outs. An entire department had been dedicated to reversing the acts of the Hospital Hitman and after 30 years they were no closer to finding the key to undoing.

He walked over to the computer station where Sam sat. Sam turned the monitor to face him.

“Hey, how did you access this?” Earl asked, looking over at Sam in confusion.

Sam gave him a guilty look. “I swiped my dad’s password. Now look.” He pointed at the monitor. “When the twins ran into Frank and Josephine the second time, they were actually on their way to find their older brother, Phillip. Before we reversed the timeline—”

“We?”

“Alright, before I reversed the timeline, they avoided Frank the second time because he had yelled at them on their way up the mountain. But in the new timeline, he was friendly, so they got sidetracked and offered to show him the bat they’d found. They lost interest in the bat after it bit Frank and they forgot to get their brother. Phillip was never bitten, so he didn’t contract rabies, and went on to live his own life.”

“So what?” Earl said. “What does that have to do with the Hospital Hitmen?”

“The twins were the Hospital Hitmen. In the first timeline, when Philip died, their parents blamed them for his death and they in turn blamed the hospital. Philip was valedictorian and had a scholarship to attend University in the fall. The parents  pinned all their hopes and dreams on him and when he died, their dreams died with him. The twins didn’t have the same academic prowess, and under the constant condemnation and abuse at home, they didn’t amount to much.”

“But the Hitman didn’t strike until the late 80’s, early 90’s. This happened in the 60’s.”

“Right,” Sam said, clicked through different windows on the computer.

“Wait a second. How do you know how to do all this? You could barely navigate the computer in training and now suddenly you’re a savant.”

Sam shrugged his shoulders. “I’ve been through training 12 times. I guess some of it stuck after all.”

“12 times! Why don’t you just quit?”

“Can’t. Apparently I signed up for this life by being born.” He grimaced. “Here, check this out. They didn’t strike until after their mother died. Apparently, the only thing she left her sons was a letter saying how much of a disappointment they were and again blaming them for the death of their older brother, the golden child. When we changed—” he stopped short when he saw Earl glaring at him. He held up his hand and rolled his eyes. “When I changed the timeline, Phillip didn’t die, their parents kept their eyes on him, and the twins were able to grow up out from under the umbrella of abuse and shame. There was no need for revenge, so no one bombed the hospitals.”

Earl stared at the screen trying to process everything. “Alright. So we need to be careful. But, I don’t care how we do it. Frank has to live at the end.”

“You don’t get it. If Frank doesn’t visit the bat, then the twins get Phillip and we’re back to the original timeline. The Hospital Hitmen killed hundreds of thousands of people. Not to mention all of the people who died because they were terrified to go to a hospital. Why would you risk undoing all of that for one person you don’t know?”

“I’m not saying it’s not sad, but none of this was Josephine’s fault. She shouldn’t have to be the one to pay the price. We have to fix her future.” He slammed his fist onto the desk.

“Why do you care so much? Look around this room, at all of the desks and research! Think of how much manpower has been spent on removing the havoc caused by the Hospital Hitmen. And now it has! And you want to undo it?” Sam glared at him. “Most people say I’m selfish, but even I wouldn’t do that.”

“She’s my daughter,” Earl whispered, helplessly.

 

Guardians of Time – Part 6

pexels-photo-796606.jpeg

“Why are there streamers everywhere?” Sam asked, kicking his way through twirling pieces of crepe paper that littered the floor intermingled with balloons. Used plastic cups lined the window sills and left rings of water seeping into the corners of desks.

Earl shrugged. “They must have had a breakthrough recently.” He sat down at one of the many vacant computers and input the password he’d swiped from Stewart, a naïve and habitually absent-minded friend who kept all of his passwords in a bound notebook that he usually kept in the right breast pocket of his jacket.

He tapped the keys on the keyboard in front of him and one of the 50 or so screens around the room came to life.

“What are you doing?” Sam asked, plopping down in the chair beside him.

“I need to figure how what exactly happened after they went into the woods with the boys.”

Sam sighed and propped his feet up on the desk. “You’re really not one to just let things go, huh?”

Earl just grunted. The screen in front of them lit with the images of Josephine and Frank following the boys into the woods to see their fort. They were off the main path and trees and shrubs filled in the small trail they were following. The boys didn’t have their bikes with them and all four of them were pushing branches and leaves out the way. By the time they reached the clearing where the fort was built, they all had scratches on their arms and legs.

The twins’ bikes were lying on their sides in front of the fort which was more a pile of broken sticks and boards thrown together than anything resembling an actual building.

“It’s in here,” one of the boys said.

Frank followed them with Josephine hovering behind him clinging to his elbow. On the ground, inside the fort was a bat. It was awake with its wings spread out, hobbling along the ground.

“It’s hurt,” Frank said. He reached down to pick it up, but Josephine squealed and pulled his arm back.

“No don’t!” she said. “It might hurt you.”

He laughed. “It won’t hurt me. Look, he’s tiny and obviously hurt. I’m just going to help him.”

He bent down and slowly stretched out his hand towards the bat, trying not to startle it. Josephine turned away and refused to look.

“Ouch!” he shouted. “It bit me!”

“Neat!” One of the boys said. “Maybe now you’ll become a vampire.”

“I want to be a vampire!” the other boy said, looking extremely jealous.

Earl hit a couple of buttons and the scene started to fast forward. After a couple of minutes, they were in a hospital room. He hit another key and the scene slowed to normal time.

Doctors came in and out. Josephine sat by the bed with his mother, both crying. Other milled about the room as things became more dire. Finally, after more fastforwarding a sheet was pulled up over his face.

The screen faded out as Earl angrily hit another key on the keyboard.

“So that’s it. He dies of rabies.” Earl said, looking disgusted. “Somehow I need to stop them from meeting those boys.” He ran his hands through his hair.

“It’s worse than that.” Sam said. He’d moved to a different computer while Earl had been engrossed in the scene playing on the screen. “I just figured out why you didn’t get fired. Undoing Josephine’s timeline is going to harder than you think.” He looked over at Earl with a smirk on his face.

Guardians of Time – Part 5

man playing chess

“I want a lawyer,” Sam said, scowling at the review panel.

Three people sat on the other side of the table. On the right was a tall, thin woman with long, boney, white fingers. She hadn’t stopped tapping them on her open notebook since Sam and Earl walked in.

“Mr. Thiessen, this is not a trial and you are no longer a part of Earth’s archaic judicial systems,” she said.

In the middle of the trio was a tiny, meek-looking man who was made even smaller by the height of the first woman next to him. Even sitting, his head only came to her shoulder although part of that may have had more to do with how hunched over he was sitting. He had yet to look up at them.

“P-p-please help m-me to understand,” the second panelist stuttered. “Why d-d-didn’t you r-r-report this im-m-mediately?”

“I thought I could fix it on my own,” Earl said. “It seemed an easy fix at the time.”

“You are aware of the regulations surrounding time reversal are you not?” asked the third panelist, a plump woman with her hair pulled back severely into a bun.”

“I am,” Earl replied.

“And yet you reversed Josephine’s timeline more than 60 years into the past without research, analyses, or aid?” she asked.

“Yes,” Earl replied again.

“I see,” she said. She turned back to Sam, “And you were the one responsible for the initial reversal?”

“I’m not saying anything without a—”

“Enough! This is no—” she stopped abruptly when the man in the middle reached out and touched her arm. He leaned to the side and whispered in her ear.

“What—well that-that’s clear nepotism!” she sputtered.

He leaned over and whispered further. “Fine,” she said, through gritted teeth.

“We’ve unanimously decided that Samuel Thiessen requires more training and as such will return to the beginning. However,” she said while scowling. “He is permitted to continue as an apprentice to the Guardians of Time,”

The woman with the bony fingers raised her eyebrows at this pronouncement, but said nothing.

With that, they began to stand up and gather their things.

“Wait!” Earl said, looking from one to the other. “What about Josephine’s timeline? What is the plan to correct course? What resources will be allocated?”

The board look at him in befuddlement. “N-n-none,” said the man.

“You’re just going to leave her timeline altered?” He was now standing, leaning down on his hands which were balled up in fists on the table.

“Yes.”

He continued to argue, but no one was listening as they made a hasty retreat from the room.

“They can’t do that!” he said, once they left. “What about Josephine?”

“Why do you care?” Sam asked. “You got off scot-free. I have to redo all of my training. If you want to feel sorry for anyone, feel sorry for me.” He sighed dramatically.

“Oh, I do,” Earl said. “Because you’re the one who’s going to help me fix her timeline.”

Guardians of Time – Part 4

bat.jpg“Accessing dream variables,” the computer announced.

“What are you doing?” Sam asked, inching his chair over to get a better view.

Earl ignored him. He scrolled through the various templates looking for something that may help him. Finally, he selected NIGHTMARE, subcategory VAMPIRES. Then, under additional details he added TWINS. He selected the date for the dream to be the night before the proposal.

“I don’t get it,” Sam said.

“Of course you don’t,” Earl muttered. “If the Josephine and Frank changed their path last time because they remembered their own twins, then maybe we can scare them back onto the path by overriding that memory.”

“But how do they have a memory of the twins they’re going to have if it hasn’t happened yet? Or isn’t going to happen at all. Didn’t we erase their twins existence the last time back? So, shouldn’t they have forgotten?”

“It doesn’t matter if it’s not going to happen anymore. It only matters that it did happen at one point. They won’t have any solid memories of their past lives, but there will be a reside of the memory that sticks to the brain. It alters their actions because those moments are what make them into who they are. We can’t completely erase the past even if we can undo it.” Earl grabbed the training binder from the shelf and tossed it at him. “Read this and be quiet.”

Sam absently flipped through a couple of pages then went back to watching Earl intently as he reversed the timeline to their proposal again.

* * *

Josephine and Frank walked hand in hand through the woods. She glanced up at him and he grinned back. Suddenly, there was clattering behind them as two bikes appeared out of nowhere and nearly hit them as the flew past.

As the last second Frank grabbed her around the waist and swung her out of the way as the boys flew past. “You okay?” Frank asked. She nodded.

The second boy skidded to a stop up ahead and looked behind them.

“Gee, sorry mister,” the first boy said. “We didn’t see you.”

Josephine looked at their identical faces staring at her and something jolted in her memory and she was hit with a wave of horror as she remembered the terrible dream she’d had the night before. She grasped Frank’s arm.

“No harm done.” Frank said. “Just be more careful next time.”

The boys grinned and nodded in unison.

The memory of the dream washed over Josephine as she remembered two identical boys chasing her through the woods trying to catch her.

“C’mon Ricky!” the other boy called.

Frank and Josephine watched them race off on their bikes. “Come on,” Frank grinned at her, holding out his hand for her. She slowly relax as she as they continued on their hike.

* * *

“He still didn’t yell at them,” Sam said.

“Thank you for stating the obvious,” Earl said, keeping his eyes glued to the screen.

“Why didn’t you give the dream to Frank?”

“Because Frank loves vampire movies. It wouldn’t have scared him. He’d have thought it was funny and nothing would have changed. Josephine, on the other hand, finds those movies terrifying.”

“How do you know that?” Sam asked, flipping through the binder. “I didn’t see any of that in here.

Earl ignored the question.

The proposal played out exactly as before. It wasn’t until they were back in the woods at the bottom of the hill that Earl and Sam perked up in their chairs to watch.

* * *

Josephine and Frank smiled as they discussed when they’d get married and how many kids they’d have.

“Twin boys,” Frank said, as they walked through the woods back to the road.

Josephine stopped abruptly causing Frank to stumble a bit as his hand was jerked backwards.

“Why would you say that?” Josephine asked.

“I don’t know. I could just see it.” He shrugged. “Ever since we ran into those boys on the path earlier. It’s not a big deal.”

She reached up and rested her hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry. I had a really weird dream last night about twin vampires.” She shuddered. “I think it just stuck with me.” She gave forced little laugh.

He took her hand again. “Ok, no twins and no vampires.” He grinned at her.

“Hey mister!” a voice called behind them.

They turned around to see the boys were back. “You want to see something really neat?”

“What is it?” Frank asked.

“Ricky found a bat in our fort!”

Frank looked at Josephine and waggled his eyebrows. Her eyes opened wide in surprise and fear.

“Sure,” Frank said.

“No, let’s go,” Josephine said, pulling on his hand.

“It’ll just take a second.” He wrapped his arm around her shoulders. “Don’t worry. I’ll protect you.”

* * *

“Noooooo!” Earl shouted at the screen as the couple followed the boys into the woods.

Guardians of Time – Part 3

the path among the trees

Josephine held hands with her steady beau as they walked through the woods to the hill they liked to hike. She looked over at Frank and he grinned down at her. They both turned when a clattering sounded behind them as first one bike appeared on the path behind them followed quickly by a second.

Frank grabbed her around the waist and swung her out of the way as the boys barreled past. “You okay?” Frank asked. She nodded.

The second boy skidded to a stop up ahead and looked behind him.

“Gee, sorry mister. We didn’t see you,” the boy said. He appeared to be about 10 years old.

The other boy had by now realized his brother had stopped and turned back to see what was happening. Josephine looked at their identical faces staring at her with concern and something in the moment felt so familiar, but she couldn’t place it.

“No harm done. Just be more careful next time,” Frank said.

The boy closed to them grinned and nodded.

“C’mon Ricky!” the other boy called.

Frank and Josephine watched them race off on their bikes. “Come on,” Frank grinned at her, holding out his hand for her to take as they continued on their hike.

* * *

“No, no, no! That’s not supposed to happen,” Earl muttered, shuffling through his papers. He glared over at Sam who was still cowering in the corner. “Frank was supposed to yell at the boys for almost running them over. Why was he nice this time?”

Sam shrugged his shoulders. “So he was nice? Isn’t that a good thing?”

Earl closed his eyes and heaved a giant sigh. Without saying anything he continued working.

“I guess not,” Sam whispered.

* * *

Frank and Josephine continued their hike up the mountain hand in hand. When they got to the top they found a flat, smooth rock to sit on so they could look out at the city below. They chatted and laughed for awhile. Josephine had always loved how easy it was to talk to Frank.

Finally, she said, “I think we should head back down before the sun sets and we’re stuck hiking in the dark again.”

“Oh come on! That was fun!”

She laughed. “Maybe for you! I was scared out of my mind.” She gave him a playful shove and started to stand up.

“Just a minute.” He reached into his pocked and pulled out a ring. Before she could process what was happening, he was on his knee looking at her. Her face broke into a huge smile.

* * *

“There! See, we’re back on track!” Sam leapt up from his chair and pointed at the screen. “She marries Frank. Walter isn’t in the picture. It’s all back to normal.” He flopped back into his chair and gave a great sigh of relief.

Frank raised his eyebrows. “We are not back on track. He didn’t yell at boys back there. Something has changed.”

Sam rolled his eyes. “Worrywart.”

* * *

Josephine and Frank couldn’t stop smiling the whole way down the hill. They discussed when they’d get married and how many kids they’d have, joking and laughing the whole way.

“Twin boys,” Frank said, as they walked through the woods back to the road.

“You know it’s funny you say that, but I’ve been thinking that ever since those boys almost ran us over,” Josephine said, suddenly serious. “I could just see it, you know. Like a memory I couldn’t quite reach.” She laughed nervously, “I sound crazy.”

“No,” Frank said. “I get it.”

“Hey mister!” a voice called behind them.

They turned around to see the boys were back. “You want to see something really neat?”

“What is it?” Frank asked.

“Ricky found a bat in our fort!”

Frank and Josephine shared a look and smiled. “Sure.” They turned off the path and followed the boys to their fort.

* * *

“What are they doing? No, no, no! Go back!” Earl shouted at the screen.

“It’s just a bat,” Sam muttered under his breath.