This week's challenge (well, actually the challenge was posted last week, but it's due this week) was to use a randomizer to choose a song title, and base a story of 1000 words or less, on the title (the actual words of the song were irrelevant). I keep most of my music on Spotify these days, and I found a website that incorporates a randomizer. You 'click here', and one of your songs pops up. I got "Somebody that I used to Know", by WOTE (Walk off the Earth). Pretty cool song, even better video.
Somebody that I used to Know
I tossed the nickel and three pennies that the clerk had given me as my change into the dish labeled ‘take one, leave one’, grabbed the paper bag holding a couple of turkey sandwiches, some chips and two bottles of water, and walked out into the sunshine.
I was early. It was just barely 11:00, the park was only two blocks away and I wasn’t scheduled to meet Lisa until noon, but that was ok. I had some thinking to do. I took the long way around to the bench where we were supposed to meet, which meant I turned right and walked counterclockwise on the path that went around the park. But even so, I found myself sitting on the bench forty-five minutes before she was due to arrive. I stared off into the distance, and started to let my mind wander when I became aware of someone else sitting down on my right side. I had intentionally positioned myself near the middle of the bench so as to discourage anyone else from joining me. I didn’t want any company now, and I most certainly wasn’t going to want any company once Lisa showed up. I turned to the interloper in annoyance and began to say “There’s another bench…” but even as I was raising my arm to point, I froze. For a moment it felt like there was no longer any oxygen in the air.
I stared, speechless.
“Oh come on, bud, I know it’s been awhile, but I can’t believe you’ve forgotten my name.”
I squeezed my eyes shut, and then opened them. But I was still looking at a young boy who was the spitting image of my best friend, Jack, exactly the way he had looked on the day I last saw him, nearly thirty years ago. He was in those black jeans with the bleach stain on the bottom of the right leg, and that stupid Monty Python shirt he liked to wear all the time. And as I looked closer, I was able to discern the faintest faded trace of the black eye I’d given him about a week before he’d left.
“There you go. I knew it would come back to you.”
He always was a smart ass.
They'd done a great job finding this kid. I looked around the park, trying to find the hidden camera crew and sound van. But I couldn’t see them. I looked back at the kid.
“What’s going on?”
“What’s going on, Davey boy, is that I need a quick word with you.”
Almost no one but Jack had called me Davey, and absolutely no one but Jack had ever called me Davey boy. Ok, so if this wasn’t a prank, then it must be a hallucination.
And then he punched me in the shoulder. Even at twelve he’d had a hell of a jab, and it hadn’t changed. I rubbed my arm, thinking ok, so maybe it isn’t a hallucination.
“Hey? What did you do that for?”
“Davey, I don’t have a lot of time.” And then he laughed. “Well, I kinda do, but I don’t have a lot of time to talk to you right now. So I needed to get your attention. You’ve got this decision you’re stewing over, and it’s a real big one in a global sense. I’ve seen the outcome both ways, and it’s important that you make the right choice. And the silly thing is that you know what you should do. So just do it.”
“But how can you be here?”
He shook his head. “Come on. Do I have to remind you of all those times we talked about time travel?”
I just looked at him.
“Look, I told you I don’t have much time to talk to you. Here’s the scoop. We were right about some things, and wrong about others. The bit about not running into yourself or you’d tear a hole in the fabric of time? We were pretty much right about that. But what we didn’t know was that when you visit people from your past, you show up exactly the way they last saw you. And then there are all sorts of complicated rules about who you can visit, and for how long… which is why I don’t have much time. But the important thing is — this decision you’re pretending you haven’t already made? Don’t overthink it. Do it.”
“But how do you even know..?”
Jack sighed. “Future. Time travel. And besides, did anyone ever know you as well as I did?”
Well, he had a point there. “So when you and your folks moved away, is that when ....”
He looked at his watch. “Sorry, bud. Gotta go. Maybe I can catch you later.”
Just then, I heard Lisa call out “David!” I turned around and saw her strolling toward me, and I stood up to give her a hug.
“Who was that?” she asked.
I turned back around and watched a twelve year old boy run down the path and out of sight.
“Oh, just somebody that I used to know.”
She frowned and started to say something. But I interrupted and pulled her down to join me on the bench.
“Look. I have something I need to tell you. I’ve been thinking about this a long time, and I know it’s the sort of thing we probably should have talked about and decided together, but it never felt like the right time to bring it up. And now - well I just feel like there’s really no choice.”
She gave me a concerned look and started to talk, but I held a finger to her lips to quiet her. I looked down the path where Jack had disappeared, looked back at my wife, took a deep breath, and said “I’ve been offered a position with Stephen Hawking. And I’m going to take it.”