Sam and Earl waited in a cold, cement room without windows or lighting; at least none that were giving off any light. Everything was black. The ground was hard as was the wall they leaned against.
Sam managed to fill the empty air with an endless stream of chatter that Earl had long since tuned out. All he could think about was: did it work? Had he saved his grandchildren? Or had he undone the miracle and brought back the Hospital Hitmen? Neither sat well with him. But maybe, just maybe everything had worked out as planned.
A crack of light sliced through his field of vision and spilled out across the floor.
“Congratulations,” a gravely voice announced from behind the light. “You’re both free to go.”
Sam scrambled to his feet as Earl groaned in unison with his popping joints and straining muscles. How long had he been sitting on the ground?
“That’s it?” Earl asked, but the person behind the voice had already left. Earl shielded his eyes against the light that pierced his eyes and send spasms of pain into his skull. Once they’re eyes adjusted, they made their way down the hallway past door after door. They ignored the pounding thumps and cries for help behind some of them and continued to walk towards the exit at the end of the hall. A guard stood in front of it blocking their path.
“Er, we were told we were free to go?” Earl said, uncertainly.
The guard grunted. “You wouldn’t be if it were up to me,” he said as he grudgingly unlocked the door.
They silently passed by him through the door. As the door slammed shut behind them Sam whispered, “Glad it’s not up to him then.”
Earl nodded, but was starting to panic. They’d let them go. That could only mean that whatever they did, it had somehow made an even better past for them; but, what did that mean for Josephine? They hurried through the halls careful to avoid people as best they could. There were a few, “Good to see you’re back!” as well as several, “We missed you!” and one “Hey Robert,” which they both found a bit perplexing.
Finally, Earl closed his office door after they’d escaped into the quiet inside. He rapidly typed in his password and flashed through a few different screens until he came to the timeline he was looking for. From here, they couldn’t interact with the past, but they could view it.
* * *
Josephine held hands with her steady beau as they hiked through the woods to the hill they liked to hike. Frank looked down at her as they walked toward the hill, but she was looking into the woods with a worried look on her face.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
She smiled a bit too brightly. “Nothing,” she said. She froze when she heard the sound of two kids on bikes racing down the path towards them. She pulled him to the side as they flew by. “You okay?” she asked.
The second boy skidded to a stop up ahead and looked behind them.
“Gee, sorry mister. We didn’t see you.”
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 and froze.
“No harm done. Just be more careful next time,” Frank said.
“C’mon Ricky!” the other boy called.
Ricky grinned and nodded, before racing off to catch up to his brother.
* * *
“Looks the same so far,” Sam said.
“It won’t be.” Earl replied. “This time, she’s going to change everything.”