A Summer to Remember – Part 2

“Wake up!” Carter’s dad said, barging through his door. “C’mon, it’s already 6:15.”

Carter rolled over and glared at his dad. “I finished cleaning Mr. Tysowski’s house yesterday. He gave his approval, remember?”

“And did you pay for the broken windows too?”

Carter groaned and threw the covers over his head. “I wasn’t the one who broke them.”

Carter’s dad flung the covers back off him. “Yeah well, I didn’t blast music all last night, yet I still have to pay the consequences of no sleep. Welcome to life.”

Carter kicked his legs out so that he was sitting on the edge of his bed. “Huh?’

“C’mon. I need to leave for work and I still have to show you what you’ll be doing. Meet me in the garage in 5 minutes.”

When Carter finally trudged his way to the garage, his dad was waiting for him. The garage was packed full of boxes, broken and forgotten gadgets, objects from his childhood he hadn’t seen in years, and a mishmash of family history, broken metal, and spiders.

“This is your project. Anything broken goes in the bed of my truck. Anything we can sell goes on this table. Things we want to keep go into new boxes and will be packed and carefully labelled on the side. Anything you aren’t sure of, goes on this table. Don’t seal the boxes because your mom and I will want to check and make sure there isn’t anything we want to get rid of. Each day we’ll check your progress. If we think you were goofing off most of the day, you’ll have to make up the time with your last week of holidays.”

His parents had promised that if he worked hard over the summer, they would allow him to spend his last week at Mason’s cabin.

“This is going to take forever,” Carter said, gaping at the array of junk in front of him.

“And you have forever,” his dad smiled. “An entire summer in fact. Once the garage is cleared out, I want everything swept out and the boxes organized on the side so that we have room to park two vehicles in here again.”

As he walked to the car where Carter’s mom was waiting, Carter’s dad called back over his shoulder, “And I want to see a significant difference in that garage when I get back home this afternoon.”

Still feeling cloudy headed and blurry eyed from sleep, Carter waited until his parents’ car pulled out of the driveway and down the street before he went back into the house to grab breakfast.

An hour later, he was feed, dressed, and still feeling apathetic towards his new job. He stood in front of the garage unsure where to start. Finally, he grabbed a random box and ripped it open. Inside were old textbooks that appeared to be from the seventies. He pulled them out one at a time, halfheartedly checking the titles before piling them on the “to sell” table. 1 box down.

Next door he heard the failed pull of a lawn mower. Carter sliced through the tape sealing another box as the lawn mower gave another sputter.

“Stupid piece of junk!” He heard his neighbour grumble. “Good for nothing.” Followed by a clanging sound.

Carter stepped out of the garage to investigate. On the lawn next door, Mr. Stalnaker was bent over, one hand grasping his knee, the other pulling on the string of his lawn mower. He was in his late seventies, early eighties with thinning gray hair and a belly that hung over his belted linen pants.

“You okay Mr. Stalnaker?” Carter asked, walking closer.

“Can’t get the bloody thing started.” He grabbed a handkerchief out of his back pocket and wiped the sweat off his forehead.

“Isn’t it a bit early for the lawn mower?” It was only 7:30 am and the last time his dad had Carter mow the lawn that early, a neighbour had a few choice words to share.

“Exactly. Teach ‘em a lesson.” He yanked the string again.

“Teach who a lesson?” Carter asked.

“Them!” he pointed at the house on the other side of the cul de sac. “Blasted their rock music until 5:30 this morning. Didn’t get a wink of sleep. We’ll see how they like the noise.” He yanked the cord again. “I just can’t get the blasted thing going.”

So that’s why his dad had been so cranky this morning. Having a bedroom in the basement had its perks. Carter hadn’t heard a thing last night.

“Would you like some help?” Carter took a step closer.

“Thanks. Usually my son comes over and does this for me. Went and bought this new fangled lawn mower when he took over the job. Don’t understand why. The old one worked just fine.” He used the handkerchief to wipe his face again.

Within a minute Carter had the lawn mower whirling to life.

Mr. Stalnaker cackled with delight. He gripped the handle and took off in a jagged diagonal line across his front yard more concerned about making noise than cutting his lawn.

Carter laughed as he turned back towards the garage.

A Summer to Remember – Part 1

 

It was happening all over again. As if Carter hadn’t been in enough trouble the first time the cops brought home, now, they were escorting him a second time. As they stepped out of the neighbour’s house, Carter caught sight of his dad standing on their front porch with his arms crossed and his foot tapping while a myriad of emotions played across his face: relief, confusion, anger, disappointment, and fear before landing solidly on anger until it appeared he was radiating enough energy that Carter could have sworn his dad was levitating off the ground.

Around their cul de sac, red and blue lights flashed through the night and reflected off the windows of the surrounding houses. He could feel the weight of the officer’s hand as it pressed down on his shoulder steering Carter to his house.

His dad’s lips press into a tight line as he steps forward to speak with the cop. “What’s he done this time?” Carter cringed. This was it. He was going to die at the age of fifteen.

* * *

The first time the cops brought Carter home, granted he may have deserved it. But, as is usually the case with these sorts of things, there was a good reason.

“Come on, man!” Carter said, anxious to get out of there. “We’re done. Someone’s going to notice soon. Let’s go!” They were standing on the front lawn of their math teacher, Mr. Tysowski’s, house. They had just managed to empty five cartons of eggs and two packs of 24 rolls of toilet paper. His house and yard were an absolute disaster.

Taylor, however, didn’t think it was enough. He grinned and picked up a rock. “Just one more thing.” Mason, Carter’s other friend, gasped.

Taylor tossed the rock in the air and caught it a few times while he scanned the house. “Which window should I hit?”

“No way! I agreed to egg and TP his house. Not to break things,” Mason said, grabbing his bike from where he’d left it fallen on the sidewalk. “I’m outta here.”

Carter knew he should have followed, but he didn’t want to leave Taylor alone. This past year, Taylor had been dealing with a lot of shit. He wouldn’t tell them everything, but Carter and Mason had definitely noticed the bruises and marks that kept popping up since his mom’s new boyfriend had moved in.

Carter grabbed Taylor’s arm. “Enough! Let’s go.”

“Let go,” he wrenched his arm free and hurled the rock at one of the window. Shards fell from the second-story window with a crash.

While all of us were mad at Mr. Tysowski, Taylor was furious. Halfway through the year Taylor started skipping school and his grades started falling. If you want to get a teacher’s attention, that was it. Mr. Tysowski, had been the first to notice or at least the first to care. He was the one who started asking questions and giving Taylor detention every day. Then he did something unforgiveable. Suddenly Taylor had people show up at his house who told him he to live somewhere else with a strange family. And to top it all off: he had to go to summer school or Mr. Tysowski would fail him.

“Shit!” Carter yelled, as glass shards rained down from the shattered window. He turned to grab his bike, but ran full-stop into the large belly of the person behind him. “Dumb-ass kids,” a voice came from above Carter. He felt a hand grab his arm and wretch him forward. “You’ll wait until the police come,” the voice said, as the man pulled him forward and threw him to the ground. Carter tried to stand up, but the strange man standing above him forced him down again. “Stay! If I have to sit on you to make you stay, I will.”

Behind him, he could hear Taylor struggling with someone else. “Let go!” Dull thuds sounded as punches were exchanged then Taylor was likewise thrown the ground. Apparently, his captor didn’t trust Taylor as much as Carter’s, because he launched himself on Taylor and used his body to hold him to the ground.

Carter was supposed to leave in couple of days to go with Mason’s family to their cabin all summer. It was the first time his parents had agreed to let him go for the whole summer. Instead, he was grounded and spent the first week of his summer vacation cleaning Mr. Tysowski’s house and yard by himself.

That’s right. Mason got away scot-free and Taylor ended up being sent back to his foster family.

Fair? Carter sure didn’t think so.

Guardians of Time – Part 11

joao-silas-29217-unsplash

Frank and Josephine watched the twins 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.

When they got to the top they found a flat, smooth rock to sit so they could look out at the city below. They chatted and laughed for awhile, but Josephine was distant and distracted.

“Are you okay?” Frank asked, after awhile, looking at her with concern.

“Sorry, I just have a lot on my mind today.” She twisted her hands in lap. Finally, she said, “Maybe we should head back down before the sun goes down and we’re stuck hiking in the dark.”

“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 nervous smile.

“Will you marry me?” he asked.

“Yes, of course I will,” she said. He slipped the ring on her finger and they hugged, but her smile was still strained and her eyes kept darting at the trees all around them.

Frank couldn’t stop smiling the whole way down the hill. He discussed when they’d get married and how many kids they’d have, and she quietly agreed to what he was saying, not really taking it in.

“Twin boys,” Frank said, as they walked through the woods back to the road. “We’ll have twin boys.”

“Wait what did you say?” she stopped him by placing a hand on his chest.

“Twin boys?” he hesitated. “I mean, they don’t have to be boys. Or twins.”

“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!”

Josephine’s face took on a determined look. “Sure.”

They turned off the path and followed the boys to their fort. As they pushed through the brush into the clearing, the boys were already standing outside the fort which was a collection of broken sticks and boards propped up and leaning haphazardly against each other for support.

“It’s in here,” one of the boys said.

Frank was about to duck into the fort, when Josephine pushed past him. She kicked at the boards near the entrance and shoved them to the ground causing the whole structure to collapse in on itself burying the bat.

“Hey!” One brother shouted.

“What’er you doing?” the other asked.

“Opps,” she said.

“Opps?” Frank asked, looking at her with wide eyes.

She shrugged. “I don’t like bats. They scare me. And that one looked sick. I didn’t want anyone getting sick.”

“You can’t get sick from a bat,” one of the brothers said, glaring at her.

“We were going to show Phillip,” the other said, kicking at the dirt. “That’s what we get for showing a stupid girl.”

“Sorry,” Frank said to them holding his hands up in the air. The twins glared back.

“What was all that about?” Frank asked, once he and Josephine were back on the path.

“Just fixing the future.” She smiled and took his hand as they walked home.

“Okay,” he said, tentatively, raising his eyebrow.

* * *

Earl sighed with relief. Their plan had worked.

“I think it must have worked a little too good,” Sam said. “We should have been locked away for centuries. We extracted a civilian without any preparation, and then reinserted her. That goes against all of our laws. What else changed?”

Someone knocked at the door. A moment later Larry, Earl’s boss popped his head in. “Oh good. You’re both here. I have a new assignment for you. Sam, you’re officially done you’re training, and you both will be working together from now on.”

The End

Guardians of Time – Part 10

blank cement concrete corner

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.”

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.