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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A man finds himself sent back in time in a most unusual fashion.

Submitted: May 03, 2010

A A A | A A A

Submitted: May 03, 2010



A Short Story
Alan Dale Dalby
“Time preserves nothing that you make without its help.”
-Anatole France
Traveling trough time does not happen by building some complex machine or ripping open a wormhole in deep space. A little known fact about time travel is that in order to achieve it, the aging process simply needs to be reversed. Once the years have been rewound, the traveler will find him or herself an infant once more, after being pulled forth from the safety and comfort of the womb for the second time. A second and even lesser known fact is that the time traveler will retain all knowledge and memories from his or her first life. The third and most important fact is that traveling back in time can happen to anyone at any time, even to the most unsuspecting and average person. These are facts unknown to most for the simple fact that time travel is widely regarded as being impossible. The truth is that it is very possible, but only if there is something important that needs to be returned to; even if that something is just a single moment in a person’s life. For the moments that we take for granted can turn out to be the moments that shape our very existence. There are very few forces that can trigger a person’s trip back to relive their life. One of the most powerful and effective of these forces is love.
Wally West was not the first person to take a trip back to infancy, nor would he be the last. He was however the last person on earth to think that he would ever do such a thing. Wally was a skeptic of the highest order. He was so skeptical in fact that he even doubted the convictions of his fellow skeptics. Truly, Wally West was a man who believed in nothing. If he could see it with his own eyes or feel it in his own hands he might conclude that it did in fact exist. Even under these circumstances he usually felt that further research was required. Only once in his life did Wally West allow himself to fall victim to believing in something that he could not place on a slide and slap under a microscope. The something was love.
In a way Wally did have his proof. He did have a physical specimen that he could poke, prod and examine endlessly. This proof convinced him beyond the shadow of a doubt that love not only existed, but was a very powerful force indeed. Her name was Abigail West, or Abby as he more often called her. She was beautiful, full of life, and possessed charms that were impossible to resist. She was a tender woman. Her kindness and gentle voice gave Wally a reason to exist. The man who believed in nothing all his life finally found something to believe in, the day he took Abigail as his wife.
The years that had seen them together had filled Wally with happiness. Each day he kept an eye open for a smile from Abby and he always found what he sought. As they grew older he refined his search. He would not simply accept her smile and go on with his day. He would look it over, examining it carefully to ensure its authenticity. His eyes focused on her lips and the corners of her mouth to check for a quiver. He would look deep into her eyes and try to find signs of pure and honest pleasure. Some days he was satisfied with his findings. There were days though when he spotted what he most feared. There were not many false smiles, but he was pained over each and every one.
“Do you ever regret it?” Wally asked one day as he sat down beside Abby on the old couch in their living room. Abby seemed to hear the question at a distance, like an echo from the end of a long corridor.
“What’s that?” She asked as she picked small bunches of cat hair from the pillow under her arm. Wally had a hard time finding the right words. He thought back on all of the pregnancy tests and trips to various doctors and clinics, finding in these memories the reasons for Abby’s false smiles. The extra room in their modest home had long been utilized for storage. Old furniture that they no longer used and stacks of boxes collected more dust as each day passed. Wally exhaled through his nose and looked down at his hand which was resting on his leg. Abby’s hand slowly appeared and slid on top of his.
There was a silent conversation taking place as Wally looked into her eyes. A mixture of emotions filled them. She squinted slightly and patted the top of her husband’s hand with a loving tenderness. Wally waited for her to smile. The smile finally came followed by a kiss on his cheek. Abby shifted from her side of the couch and softly folded herself into Wally’s embrace. He held her tightly at first, kissing the top of her head through her slightly unkempt hair. The light in the room faded as nighttime approached from outside. Wally had hoped for an answer to his question, but decided that he would let it go and simply take in the moment.
The next morning Wally headed out to get the paper. He found himself annoyed to see that the driveway and yard had been left empty. It was six o’clock on the dot and the delivery man was never late. Wally grumbled to himself as he headed inside. He kicked off his slippers and changed out of his pajamas into his favorite blue jumpsuit and comfy loafers. Abby stood in the kitchen with a cup of hot tea in her hand looking out the window.
“Where are you off to?” She asked as she spotted her husband sneaking out the door a second time.
“I’m going to the market to get a paper.” He griped.
“There’s not one outside?” She tried to sound as if it were as detrimental a situation to her as it was to Wally.
“Our delivery boy must be lying down on the job.” Wally looked at Abby and lightened his scowl a bit. “I could use the air anyways.”
“It is a beautiful morning.” Abby smiled before sipping her tea. Wally nodded and headed out into the world.
There weren’t many joggers or cyclists out that morning. Wally enjoyed the peace and solitude of his stroll to the market. He was not anti-social but did prefer the company of his own thoughts to the mindless chatter he and his neighbors forced upon each other to maintain pleasant relationships. As he turned the final corner and spotted his destination, he nearly ran over a man with a familiar face.
“Sorry.” Wally said. He looked the homely and rather dirty man over. Underneath the long thick beard he recognized the face. “Well hello Carmine. How have you been?”
“Yep.” Carmine Phillips replied through his greasy facial hair. His voice was nearly inaudible. Wally looked down at a rather odd site. Clutched tightly in Carmine’s hand were two thick leather dog leashes. The way he held onto them made it seem that Carmine believed there was a pair of slobbering canines tethered to them. The collars were still attached to the ends of the leashes, complete with tags. This fed further into Wally’s feeling that his old friend was no longer playing with a full deck.
“Looks like it’s going to be a nice one today.” Wally tilted his head up to admire the clear sky above them. Carmine looked down at his empty dog collars and nodded.
“Good day to take the girls out for a walk.” Carmine mumbled. Wally began to feel a bit uneasy. He nodded and simply walked past his old friend. As he reached the doors to the market Wally twisted back a bit to peek at Carmine. The bearded man still stood in the same spot. He looked as if he were waiting for his imaginary dogs to finish their business. Wally thought of how sad it was to see someone who had once been so bright come to this end. He headed into the shop and grabbed his paper. In line he tossed a few impulse items onto the counter, drooling at the thought of a bitter-sweet bite from the dark chocolate bar he had grabbed. He paid for his items and left the market.
Carmine was heading off into the distance in the opposite direction from Wally’s route home. Wally watched as Carmine stopped several times and allowed his invisible pets to sniff the grass and the bases of the trees before yanking on the leashes and walking further away. Wally nibbled a bit on his chocolate bar and looked at the front page of the paper. It was the twelfth of March, not a special date in Wally’s mind. The top story was about a busload of children who had been killed in a freak accident. It was still under investigation but seemed as if some sort of mechanical malfunction had led to an explosion and the bus had quickly caught fire. Some of the children made it out with simple injuries, but even one dead child was too many in Wally’s opinion.
As he reached his front lawn Wally was greeted by a blue plastic sack with a newspaper tucked inside. He groaned to himself and picked the paper up. He made his way through the front door and into the kitchen.
“The paper came while I was out.” Wally announced. He sat down at the table and set his armful of goodies down. “I brought you one of those candy bars you like.” He looked around but did not see Abby. “Honey?” He called out. There was no response. She was probably just out back or upstairs he told himself. He set the paper he had bought at the market to one side and slid the other paper out of its protective baggie. As it fell onto the table Wally frowned.
He looked at the picture and headline of the second paper. It had no news of the tragedy with the school bus. At first Wally assumed the delivery man had brought the wrong paper. Then he thought perhaps he himself had bought the wrong paper at the market. That’s when he began to notice something. Both papers were Gazettes. Both papers had all of the same ads, the same comics and the same basic news. Only the headlines were different. Wally was baffled. It only seemed stranger when he looked at the dates on both papers and found them to be exactly the same. Wally took another bite of his chocolate bar and looked around the room. Abby was still nowhere to be found.
The curiosity boiled inside of him and Wally flung open both papers. He set each section down side by side and proceeded to compare them. Almost everything was exactly the same with some very minor differences. Some sales in the ads were different. One of the comic strips had a different punch-line but the exact same set-up. All of these seemed to be insignificant discrepancies until Wally came across the obituaries. All of the photos and names were different. The most shocking of all was that in the second paper’s obituary section, Wally saw a name that stood out and sent a harsh chill surging through him. The name was Wallace Herbert West. Underneath this should have been more information, but there was only one sentence. It stared at him and he stared right back at it. It’s not too late to give her the life she wanted.
A strange sensation came over Wally. His mind began to fill with images of his life with Abby. Then he started to remember his life before meeting Abby. Memories flooded his brain as Wally stared at the cryptic sentence under the announcement of his own death. Everything he experienced was going in reverse. It felt as if his life were being erased. Abby stepped into the kitchen, still in her robe. She didn’t seem to notice anything unusual going on.
“Looks like got some goodies while you were out.” She sat down and picked up the candy bar that she knew had her name written all over it. She opened it and took a small bite, savoring the flavor as it melted onto her pallet. “These are the little moments of bliss that make life wonderful.” Abby sighed. She opened her eyes after swallowing and noticed Wally. He had a disturbing look on his face. It was an empty look, like a blank slate. Abby waved her hand in front of Wally’s eyes and stood up. “Wally? Are you okay? Wally?” She became very concerned. Deep inside Wally’s brain the strange backwards journey continued. He saw his childhood flash by him. He backed out of school and was a toddler once more. Time flew faster into the past and soon the theater in Wally’s mind went black. As it did, Wally vanished. Abby would have been in absolute shock but she too had taken the trip back. Everyone in Wally’s life had been sent spiraling back through time and rebooted.
The blackness slowly took in some light as baby Wallace opened his eyes for the first time. This had happened once before, only now Wally was fully aware of what was happening. His memories remained locked into his mind. They had been reborn with him. He looked up at his exhausted mother as the doctor gently took him from his father and passed him into her beckoning arms. Wally looked up at his mother as he had never seen her before. To him she had passed away long ago. Now not only was she very much alive, but young, strong, and very beautiful. Wally reached out and touched her with his tiny hand, grabbing at her nose and cheeks. She smiled with tears in her eyes.
“Welcome to the world kiddo.” She said with a voice full of love. Then another face from the past popped into view. It was Wally’s father. He too was younger than Wally had ever known him to be, with a full head of thick healthy hair. The family reunion was odd. Wally tried to speak but could not. In his mind he was the man who sat in the kitchen with his wife, munching on chocolate bars and looking over the newspaper. Physically however, Wally was a helpless infant.
As his life replayed itself, Wally took the ultimate trip down memory lane. He skinned his knee all over again as his father showed him how to ride his first bicycle. He relived his first crush as Molly Maxwell was introduced as the new student in his second grade class. He got into his first fight on the playground and savored each tater tot from the cafeteria that he had taken for granted his first time around. No matter where he found himself in his past, Abby was always on his mind.
Wally enjoyed his first kiss in high school with Kimberly Shaw, and his trip to second base with Kimberly as well. When it came time for Wally to lose his virginity to her however he discovered something. He was amazed that he had never thought to try this before. Wally decided not to go through with it. He was saving himself for Abby this time In doing so Wally had successfully managed to change his past.
The day that Wally was to meet Abby for the first time was several years down the road yet. He thought about the decision he had made to change the path of his second life and how easily he had done it. This made him wonder if he should seek Abby out sooner. The first time around Wally had met Abigail West in their college philosophy class. They had joined up with a study group and met eyes. They found it hard to concentrate on the discussion, but easy to stick around as the night went on and more and more of the group went home. Eventually the two of them were alone. From that day on, they were inseparable. The thought of a little extra time with Abby sounded like a wonderful idea, especially now that Wally knew exactly how long he had to live. Young Wally West set off on his mission to find his beloved Abby.
He started by heading over to the house she had grown up in. She had also spent most of her college years living there. He parked across the street and waited for her to emerge. The logic in his brain told him that even though every other person was ignorant of this being a second life, his deep connection with Abby would cause her to remember their first time around. She would recall all of the days and nights that they spent together as a young couple dating then living together in a cramped apartment. She would have fond recollections of the day he asked her to marry him and their life together as husband and wife. He was convinced that this would be true, but instead ran into the first hitch in his plan. As a man came out of Abby’s house, Wally had to double check his memory. He knew with absolute certainty that he was looking at the right house, but the man he saw standing at the mailbox was a complete stranger.
Wally drove away unnoticed. He got to a phone book and looked up Abby’s parents. He was shocked to find that they were not listed. He visited some of Abby’s old haunts and asked around for her, but nobody could offer him any assistance in finding Abigail West. Wally’s search continued until college started. He was not giving up because he knew this was when they were supposed to meet at long last. He sat down at the same seat in his psychology class and waited impatiently as the other students piled in. He carefully monitored Abby’s seat, and grew upset when a girl he had never known took it.
Wally searched the entire campus. He asked everybody he crossed paths with about Abigail West. All of the students he had befriended in his first life were there, but none of them knew what to tell him about this phantom girl he was seeking. Wally bumped into a young and clean-cut version of Carmine Phillips. Desperate at this point, Wally gave Carmine a huge bear hug and begged for him for his help. The only thing Wally could think to do at this point was come clean and tell Carmine the story of his trip back through time. Amazingly, Carmine did not roll his eyes or walk away uncomfortably from the ravings of this madman. Rather he seemed very composed and even schooled on the subject of time travel.
“What did you do differently this time around?” Carmine asked bluntly. Wally was too upset to think clearly. All he could focus on was finding Abby.
“What do you mean?” Wally asked.
“Look Wally, everything that happens affects everything else that happens. It’s like Dominos. If you remove one from the row, the rest will fall in a different way from that point on.” Carmine looked seriously at Wally. Wally thought hard, straining his brain. That’s when he remembered Kimberly. It was a memory that offered two versions. In the first, the two of them had given fully into their passion. In the second, Wally’s heart had been given to a woman named Abby who he had yet to meet, and so the lustful encounter with Kimberly had been cut short.
“I changed something.” Wally said. The world began to spin as Wally came to a shocking realization. “She’s not here because I changed the path of our lives.” Wally grabbed onto Carmine’s shirt and shook him. “How do I fix this? How do I find her?”
“I honestly don’t know Wally. I’m sorry.” Carmine gently pushed Wally off of him and adjusted his wrinkled shirt. “I hope you find her old friend. I truly hope you do.”
With that Wally was off and running. He had no idea how to find Abby. All he knew was that he had to find her no matter what it took. He dropped out of college and took on some odd jobs as he traveled from town to town in search of his missing love. Each moment that went by without her was a moment he was missing out on. Worse than that, after a few years Wally began to think that he would never see Abigail West again.
Many years passed with no luck. Wally traversed the country, starting in the places Abby had always wanted to visit. He spread his search grid out from those points, checking phonebooks and asking the locals if they knew where to find her. Occasionally he would give Carmine a call in hopes of getting good advice out of him. Most of Carmine’s offerings were of no help to Wally. They were mostly random theories about time travel and strange comments that didn’t seem to make any sense. About seven years into his quest Wally got a call from Carmine. It had nothing to do with Abby, but was a very important call nonetheless.
“Time is running out Wally.” Carmine simply said as Wally answered the phone.
“What do you mean? Is something going to happen to Abby?” Wally asked.
“Not to Abby.” Carmine said. “Think back on your first life Wally. Look at the date. It’s not too late Wally. You need to come back home.” With that, Carmine hung up the phone. Wally sat with the receiver in his hand and thought about what his friend had just said to him. Suddenly, a newspaper from that morning caught his eye. He rushed over to the table in his small weekly-rate hotel room and checked the date. His chest folded into itself as a dark memory from his first life stabbed itself into him. Something was going to happen. His father was about to die.
Wally paid off his final week of rent and spent every dime he had left on a plane ticket home. He arrived in time to do what he had failed to do before. The first time his father had passed away, it had come as a complete shock to Wally. He had spent so little time with his parents since his college graduation. Work and Abby had consumed his life, neither of which he regretted. This time Wally found himself at home by his father’s side. The two of them headed up to the mountains for a weekend getaway. They shared some beers and some laughs, taking in the beauty of the world and reminiscing on old times. Wally kept in mind how long he had, and struggled to deal with the fact that this was one thing he could not change. He made the most of his final days with his father, and made sure they were back with his mother in time for the embolism in his father’s brain to rupture. Wally learned something else about time travel as that moment came. He learned that pain is not dulled by knowing that death is on the way. In fact it made it hit much harder feeling so helpless, unable to save a loved one.
After the funeral, Wally sat outside of the house he had grown up in. Faces passed by as mourners came and went. All of these people were a blur as they offered their condolences. His mother sat inside and tried to remain composed as these people offered her their sympathies as well. Wally stared at the ground and watched his tears splash upon the old weathered wood of the deck. A distinct sound came from the footsteps of Carmine Phillips as he approached. Wally looked up at him and nodded, giving Carmine permission to take a seat next to him. There was a moment of silence, but it did not last long. Carmine began to speak but Wally cut him off.
“How did you know my father was going to die?” Wally asked.
“Everyone dies Wally.” Carmine said.
“You know about this, don’t you?” Wally stared at Carmine. “You know about this…this…reversal of life. You know about what happened to me. You knew I came back before I ever told you. That’s why you didn’t treat me like a lunatic isn’t it?”
“Is it truth time already?” Carmine asked. Wally leapt from his seated position and tackled Carmine. He pressed his arm against his friend’s jugular with great force.
“What happened to Abby?” Wally demanded. Carmine gagged and gasped for air. “Tell me what is going on you son of a bitch!” Wally let up, allowing Carmine to breathe. His friend struggled to get his voice back and sat back up slowly.
“I don’t know where she is Wally.” Carmine barely managed to finish his sentence before Wally’s fist crashed into his jaw. Carmine fell back once more as Wally stood up. “I swear to you Wally. I do not know why she didn’t follow her original path. It could have been that you changed something. It could be that something changed without you knowing it. I’m not a brilliant man Wally. I don’t understand the whole time traveling thing. The only thing I do know is that it exists. The only reason I know that is because this is my second trip back.”
“So can you can go back whenever you want?” Wally asked.
“No.” Carmine croaked out the word. “You don’t get to choose when you go back, it’s not something you can consciously control. And you can only go back once.”
“Then how did you manage to do it twice?” Wally asked.
“This isn’t my trip Wally. This is your trip back. I’m just along for the ride like everybody else.” Carmine said as he forced himself to his feet. Wally offered a hand to assist him.
“Nobody else knows what is happening. How is it that you do?” Wally looked a bit less angry and more curious now.
“Don’t ask me buddy. All I know is that one morning I am out for a stroll, missing my dogs and wishing they were still with me.” Carmine looked as if his mind were far off for a second. “They were all I had in the world. I was traumatized when Roper went, and Rusty died so soon after that.” Carmine looked heartbroken. “They just couldn’t live without each other. After they were gone, I knew how they felt.”
“I’m sorry I hit you man.” Wally said.
“No worries old buddy.” Carmine smirked. The two of them watched the guests slowly leaving and thanked them for their concern and kindness.
“So what do I do now?” Wally asked.
“Go be with your mother.” Carmine told him with a kind smile. “Just start there. I’m sure the rest will come to you soon enough.” Wally nodded. Carmine patted him on the back and stepped off of the deck. “Don’t be a stranger.” He said as he walked away. Wally watched Carmine get into his car and drive away. As soon as he was gone, Wally headed into the house to console his mother.
Wally stayed in his home town. He took a job as a mechanic and settled down into a small apartment. After several years had gone by he was able to save up and buy a modest house. It was a house he knew well, for he had spent half a lifetime in it with his beloved Abby. Wally spent his days watching television, working on cars around the neighborhood, and watching the sun set each night. During the summer months he would sit on his porch swing, the same one that Abby had once picked out and had once before decorated their back deck. In the winter he would watch the sun go down behind the mountains from the comfort of his living room couch, without the comfort of his wife by his side.
Then on what started out as a not-so-spectacular day, Wally was wandering through the park when a child slammed into his leg. The boy had not been watching where he was going and had lost the ice cream from his cone. It planted itself onto Wally’s pant leg. The frozen treat tumbled onto the grass, leaving a pink stain where the impact had occurred. The terrified boy looked up at Wally with his mouth agape. He was about six years old and cute as any kid could be. There was something familiar in this child’s eyes, something comforting. Wally knelt down and smiled warmly. The boy kicked at the ground and frowned at his fallen ice cream.
“Sorry about your cone buddy.” Wally said.
“It’s okay.” The boy said softly. A woman ran toward them from behind the boy and grabbed him by the shoulders. When he saw her face, Wally’s heart stopped beating. His breath deserted his lungs. Time seemed to become stuck in the moment and Wally never wanted it to start back up again. There before him, clutching the shoulders of the startled boy was his beloved Abby. She smiled at Wally. He scanned her face and quickly found that her happiness in that moment was genuine. The kindness, the warmth, and the joy were all very real. Her eyes caught his gaze and he realized what had been so familiar about the boy’s eyes.
“I’m so sorry about that. My son gets a little out of control when he gets sugar pumping through him.” Abby said.
“That’s…” Wally struggled to speak. He swallowed hard and kept his gaze fixed into her eyes. “It’s nothing to worry about. I’m not too fond of these slacks anyway.” Wally smiled. Abby chuckled and looked at Wally. She seemed struck by him. She looked over every inch of his face, her smile changing shapes.
“Don’t I know you?” She finally asked.
“Mommy, can I get another ice cream?” The boy asked with a sudden burst of impatience. Abby looked down at him and opened her lips to speak. One of the words that came out warmed Wally’s heart.
“Maybe in a little while Wallace.” She said to her son. Wally smiled as he looked both of them over. He remembered the trips to fertility clinics that they had once taken. He thought back on the nights of making love in ways suggested by books penned by various experts on conception. He thought back on the extra room in heir humble home. His imagination removed the dusty old furniture and boxes from that room. The curtains were drawn back to reveal the brightly painted walls of a nursery. As time passed, a small secure crib turned into a bed shaped like a race car. The room filled itself with shelves for holding toys and games. Abby sat by the side of the bed and kissed little Wallace on the forehead. She turned off the lights and pulled the door almost shut, leaving just a crack so she could hear her son if he needed her in the night. Abby smiled as she turned away from the door to the bedroom. Her smile was brighter and truer than Wally had ever imagined it could be.
“I don’t believe we’ve ever met.” Wally said at last. Abby nodded but did not seem convinced. A man approached slowly and put his arm around Abby. He saw the stain on Wally’s pant leg and looked down at his son.
“Wallace, did you apologize to this nice man?” The father asked.
“It’s perfectly fine I assure you,” Wally said. “both of you.” He said to Abby. The husband sighed and picked up Wallace, twirling him like a helicopter in the warm breeze.
“Come on you monster! Let’s go get some pizza.” The father said.
“Pizza!” Wallace screamed with joy. Abby watched her family and smiled. She turned back to Wally and reached out her hand.
“I’m Abigail by the way. Abigail Goodwin.” Wally took her hand gently in his and shook it. The warmth of her soft skin rekindled something very warm in his heart.
“It was a real pleasure to run into you, Abigail.” Wally had to fight hard not to call her Abby. She seemed to glow as she tilted her head, her eyes suddenly filled with curiosity.
“Perhaps we will meet again sometime.” Abby said.
“Perhaps we will…in another life.” Wally felt as if he himself was starting to glow a bit. Abby smiled. The two gazed into each other’s eyes for a moment before Wallace and his father called out to Abby. She broke the gaze and took a step back.
“Until then.” Abby said. Wally watched, still smiling as Abigail Goodwin and her family headed off to get some pizza. Wally stayed in the park for the rest of the day and soaked in the experience of finally finding the woman he had sought so desperately for so long.
More years passed after that day, many more. Life happened all around Wally West, and Wally West decided that it was no longer a spectator’s sport. He joined a gym and made some new friends. They formed a bowling team and took home quite a few trophies. Wally explored parts of the country that he had never been to. He saw his friends grow old and realized that he was growing old right along with them. Then one morning, many years after his encounter in the park, Wally awoke to find something familiar for the first time in a long time. He stepped outside in his pajamas to discover that the newspaper was not awaiting him as it always did. It was six o’clock on the dot and the delivery man was never late.
Wally got dressed, slipped on his favorite loafers and headed off to the market. There were many joggers and couples on bicycles that morning. He waved at them all as he made his way to the store. As he turned one corner he nearly knocked over a man he knew well. It didn’t help any that Carmine had two rambunctious Mastiffs jerking on their leashes as he screeched to a halt. Wally said nothing to Carmine that morning. The two of them simply nodded at each other and went their separate ways.
Wally returned from the market to find that his paper had arrived while he was gone. It was wrapped in its protective blue baggie, unlike the loose paper he held under his arm. He grabbed onto the second paper and took them both inside. As he enjoyed his dark chocolate bar Wally looked over the headlines of the paper he had purchased from the market. No terrible news, just the usual politics gone haywire. Then curiosity struck him. Wally slipped the second paper out of its blue baggie and let it hit the kitchen table. The anticipation of what differences he would find this time built, then quickly died off. A feeling of absolute serenity came over him as he stared at the second paper. He looked down at the liver spots on his wrinkled hands and clenched them as far into fists as his arthritis would allow. He was proud of these old hands. He was content with the life he had lived. He had seen Abby get the happiness he knew she deserved, and still had all the memories of another lifetime. It had been a full lifetime spent with Abby as his wife.
It was the twelfth of March according to the paper Wally had brought back from the market. A potential school bus fire had been averted according to a blip on the third page of the paper. Wally thought of looking at the obituaries but decided against it. The second paper that had been delivered late told him everything he needed to know. A man who once believed in nothing fantastical such as time travel or life after death now sat and stared at this newspaper having just lived his entire life for a second time. He had known so much of what to expect in that second life, up to a certain point. Now he thought he was nearing the end again and faced the uncertainty of things to come. This would have terrified Wally West as the man he had once been, but now he felt no fear at all. He tossed aside the paper he had bought from the market, and placed the second paper in front of him on the table. He took another bite of his chocolate and savored it. The newspaper that sat on the table in front of Wally was completely blank.
“So,” Wally said, “what’s next?”

© Copyright 2017 Alan Dale Dalby. All rights reserved.

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