I intended the "wednesday writings" to be individual exercises or stories but since April, I have been continuing the same story thread and doing some general free writing using the same characters and continuing the plot. There are some definite continuity issues in the overall course of the story, but I have slowly come upon a cohesive plot (which will require significant editing of earlier editions to make them valid). You can find the entire story by clicking through the following chronological links. The first ~10 at least will need some serious revision in order to make them fit with the story arc based on the way it finally turned out...still, those first few segments have some good bits in them, they may just leave you with a lot of confusion if you go start to finish keeping all those early elements in mind (many of which will disappear or change when I finally revise this thing).
- Morning Machinations
- Communication Between Friends
- Daydreaming Decisions
- Off to the Park
- Coming Home
- Revealing Photographs
- Just a Dream?
- At the Tower
- The Watch
- Evan (part 1)
- Evan (part 2)
- Evan (part 3)
- Formulating a Plan
- Testing the Boxes
- Out of Time
- A Problem of Paradoxes
- Taking Charge
- The Chase Begins
- Friends Reunited
- Unraveling the Plot
- Applying Pressure
- Parallel Theories
- The Enemy?
- You Say We Need a Resolution?
- Leap of Faith
- A New Past
OK...so, today's post I a bit longer than I anticipated. I had decided that I would finish the story today. However, I hit what would have been a "break point" and almost stopped. Then I kept going....but I almost only posted the first half today, saving the rest for next week's post.
Instead of keeping my few faithful readers in suspense for another week, I'm posting the whole thing now...but I think I will take next week off in honor of Christmas. Or if I do write something it will likely be short and cheesy just for the sake of keeping the cadence going.
Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed the overall story. I now have to compile it into a single document and work on revising it...especially those first few sections where have a ton of strange elements that just plain disappeared later on.
Let me know what you think. I'd love critiques/feedback/etc.
And definitely come back for whatever the next batch of writing will contain.
Evan spoke softly and took a hesitant step forward, his arm outstretched. Gabby stepped backwards as he approached. She banged up against the kitchen cabinet as his fingers drew closer to her face.
"Gabby? Is that you? Have you finally come?"
Gabby gasped in spite of herself and stepped forward. She banged forefully against Evan's fingers, though he didn't seem to notice. A second later, he pulled his hand back and cocked his head to the side.
"I'm so glad you finally found me. After you came back through time, I raced in to Carlisle and we decided we must follow you. We weren't sure where you went, to what time. So we came back six years, just to be sure. Each of us arrived in our own bodies in our own situations. Carlisle found himself back in his office preparing for another year of teaching. I found myself halfway through my undergrad program. We did some searching and found out you were still living out in the Midwest, just starting your Senior year of High School. I used the Observation Mode of the box to watch you for a little while, to look for evidence that you'd come back through time, but you seemed oblivious to anything but your own life.
"We hired a private investigator to keep an eye on you. For months, nothing at all happened and finally the expense was too great for us to maintain. I didn't want to give up, but I didn't have a choice. That was last spring. I actually flew out to watch your High School graduation. You were a really awkward teenager, you know that."
Evan laughed and sat back down at the table, never taking his eyes of the area of the kitchen Gabby occupied.
"I didn't dare talk to anybody at the graduation. But I did place myself in front of you a number of times. Once I thought you recognized me. It almost looked like you were going to come over and talk to me. But you didn't. Finally, I walked over and told you 'Congratulations' and offered you a handshake. You shook my hand kindly enough, but with an air of confused apprehension on your face. I disappeared back into the crowd. I got a summer job in your home town, keeping a general eye on you while keeping in touch with Carlisle. I never had any evidence that you'd come back through time. I came back here three months ago to start fall term.
"I'd been worried that you'd come back and we wouldn't know it. Meanwhile, Carlisle's been keeping up his friendship with Dalton. Over the summer, he convinced Dalton to take his daughter Samantha in for an in-depth examination with some pretense that they'd be helping out research students on some cancer project. When they discovered the early stages of leukemia, Carlisle had to feign surprise. Dalton took Samantha in to a highly praised pediatric oncologist and he told them that, because it was found early enough, recovery would be very likely. Samantha started treatment just as I returned from my summer in your hometown.
"We had planned to wait until her cancer went into remission and then use the box to return to the same moment from which we'd left. But the box stopped working in early September. We've spent some time working to repair it, but so far we've had no luck. I must say, I'm not looking forward to finishing up my Bachelor's degree again. That physics class my senior year was torture. I really hope we fix the box by..."
The words faded from Evan's lips and he stared more intently towards Gabby. The intensity in his eyes grew and Gabby started to get nervous.
"Gabby? How are you here? Observing me? Our box stopped working two months ago. How is yours still working?"
He stood and stepped towards her again, then paced back and forth in front of the table.
"OK. So, Carlisle and I came back a year ago. We looked in on you from time to time but you hadn't come back yet. And now you have. You've come back. You arrived back at your home and then decided to go into Observation mode and make your plans. But why is your Observation Mode working when our box is totally inactive? Unless..."
He stopped pacing and placed his palms on the table, leaning forward and staring towards Gabby. She met his gaze and tried to work through the situation with him.
"Gabby? You never came back to this point in Interactive Mode, did you? You just came back as an observer. This is...No. If it's not...Is your box still working?!?"
He shouted and half-stepped, half hopped across the room towards her. Gabby stepped back in fear and then looked down at the box in her hands. The lid was closed. She slowly opened it and found the lights still blinking and a small mist swirling in the center. She looked back to Evan. There was fear etched on his face. A tear blistered in the side of his eye and trickled down his cheek.
He sniffled and reached his hand out to her.
"When we saved Samantha's life, we changed the timeline. The boxes stopped working. You're trapped as an Observer. I'm so...I'm so sorry."
He moved his hand gently around the area in front of her face. She raised her own hand to his and traced her fingers across his palm, feeling his soft skin while he evidently felt nothing.
"It's alright Evan. It's alright. My box works."
She smiled and held up the box in front of her, pressing it against his hand. As she did so, a small spark jolted from the box to his palm. He pulled back his hand, grimacing in pain. He looked back to her in shock.
"What was that?"
Gabby looked back at the box. The dials had begun to spin wildly. A dozen small sparks now swirled in the cloud at the center of the box.
"What? How did you do that?"
Evan spoke as he hesitantly reached his hand forward again. Gabby watched, unsure whether she should try again. Unsure what it might do. After a moment, she brought the box up again and slowly moved it towards Evan's hand. As the box drew closer and closer to Evan, the mist inside the box changed color and began to swirl faster. More sparks appeared in the cloud. A few shot out in small arcs like tiny lightning bolts. When the box was within a few inches of his hand, three tiny lighting bolts arched out of the box and landed on his fingertips. His hand flinched backwards briefly but he brought it forward again. The small electric strands extended from the box to his fingers, fizzling noisily with energy.
Mist extended from the box and encircled Evan's body like a thin film, tiny sparks flicking from his skin every few seconds. He stared into her eyes, his own eyes wide with curiosity. Gabby watched in horror as the soft mist enveloped him like a strange multi-colored cloud. She reached her hand out toward him, felt a tear on her cheek.
"What's happening Evan?"
"I'm not sure. It's the same feeling as I get when traveling through the box. I....Wait. Gabby?"
He turned his gaze slightly to look more directly into her face.
"I can see you. I can hear you. Say something else."
Gabby stared back silently for a moment, unsure what to think.
Evan grinned in response and took another step forward to put his hand on her shoulder.
"It's alright. Everything's alright."
Gabby felt his fingers gently rubbing her shoulder and arm. She saw his comforting smile and his soft eyes. But she was still scared. His soft eyes, normally brown, deep and beautiful, were hazy and clouded by the soft iridescent mist flittering over his body. His fingers, normally strong and reassuring, felt lifelessly stiff and almost cold against her. She broke his gaze and looked down in the box. The dials were spinning wildly. The LED readout was blinking a random series of numbers and symbols. The misty cloud in the center of the box alternated between a deep purple and red, spewing forth tiny lightning bolts almost constantly. She looked back to Evan.
"How can you say that? Look around you. Something bad is happening."
Evan looked into the box and his eyes narrowed. He pursed his lips and softly clicked his tongue. Then he looked over his own body, slowly scanning the thin film surrounding him. He slowly drew back his hand from near the machine and the sparks around him slowed. The mist began to withdraw. He brought his hand close to the machine again and the mist and sparks came back as before.
"I can't explain what I'm seeing. The sparks hurt at first. Now it's more of a soft tingle. The mist is cold."
He brought a hand to his face and Gabby watched as he fanned away the cloud from his face. It reformed almost as fast as he fanned. He blew puffs of breath the mist shifted away then fell back to his mouth.
"I can breath through it. I can see through it. If not for the fact that we're not going anywhere, I'd say these are the same sensations as if I were traveling through time."
"But what does it mean? Look at the box."
Gabby held forward the box so he could look at the spinning dials again. He just shook his head.
"I really don't know. It must have something to do with you being here as an observer and the fact that Carlisle has changed this timeline so the time machine is no longer being built."
"Then why am I still here? Why is my box working? Why can you see me?"
"I don't know Gabby. I really don't know."
They both fell silent for a moment. Evan stepped back towards the table to sit down. As he did so, the mist receded into the box. A few tufts of cloud hung on his body, sparking occasionally. As soon as the last one dissipated, he let out a soft groan and fell forward onto the table, his head buried in his hands. Gabby rushed forward. As she neared him, the mist started to seep out of the box in lengthy tendrils as though in search of him. She quickly backed away and the mist fell back into the box. She stared intently at Evan waiting for him to move. To say something. To do anything. She saw the soft rise and fall of his back as he breathed and let out a small sigh of relief. After a few more moments, he pressed himself up and looked around.
"Gabby? Are you still here?"
He stood and started walking towards her. As he did, the mist rose in the box in response. Gabby quickly shuffled along the wall of the kitchen, moving away from Evan. He walked to the wall where she'd stood and placed his hand in front of him flat against the wall. He leaned his head forward and pounded it against the wall three times. Then he stared around the room again. Gabby was sure he'd see her. See the small rift in time that would let him know she was here watching him. But he looked right past her. Seeing nothing. He turned and walked to the sink, filled a glass with water and sat back at the table. He looked up at the ceiling and spoke softly, almost like a prayer.
"Please be alright. I need you to be alright."
Then he reached into his pocket, pulled out a phone and dialed.
"Carlisle. We need to talk. Call me as soon as you finish your class. I"ll be in the library."
He set the phone on the table and continued to stare at it.
"She'll be fine. She's going to be okay. She must be okay."
He sat there for another ten minutes, just staring down at his phone on the table. Then he walked into a bedroom to grab a jacket and a backpack. Gabby followed him as he slowly ambled around his apartment. As she neared him, the box no longer behaved strangely. The mist no longer extended to reach for him. She reached out and touched him a few times. But he felt nothing. He saw nothing.
He climbed onto his motorcycle and drove down the road. Gabby debated what to do. She wanted to follow him. To listen to what he and Carlisle would theorize on the whole event. But as she looked down at the box again, she remembered that she was just an observer. And she'd already been here observing for a long time. Maybe too long. She remembered the warning Evan had given earlier about being trapped back in time. They'd never found out what happened to those who never came out of the box. Would she be trapped as an observer? Would she materialize in this time as her self? Would there be two Gabbys here if she did?
She finally decided to play it as safe as she could. She wasn't even sure what existed back in her own time now that Carlisle had helped Dalton save his daughter's life. But she didn't want to risk being trapped in some strange limbo for the rest of her life. Could she even die if she was stuck here? Fear gripped her and she looked back to the box. With one last look at the outside of Evan's apartment, she pressed the bailout button and was whisked into the swirling mist of the box.
The air swirled around her even more violently than before. The mist changed color frantically. Her body felt as though it weighed a ton. She felt herself pushed downward against the nothingness all around her. Strangely, the pressure of the nothingness pressed back. She'd seen video clips about the G-Force training that pilots and astronauts go through and she imagined it must feel something like this. She grew light headed and she felt as though she would pass out any moment. She tried to force herself to stay awake, not wanting to arrive back in her own time unconscious. But after a few moments, everything turned black.
Gabby awoke in darkness. At first she thought perhaps she was still falling through time but she felt solid ground beneath her, soft like a carpet. Her head was still spinning and as she moved to sit up, she had to hold her breath to keep herself from throwing up. Everything was black but a few soft colored circles still whirled in her vision. She closed her eyes and took a few solid, deliberate breaths. Then she opened her eyes again.
Her eyes gradually adjusted to the darkness. She was in a building. A house. She was sitting on the floor. The grey-black shadow of a couch sat a few feet to her right. The blackness slowly turned to a dim grey and she saw hints of lighter darkness to her left. She pressed herself to her feet and stumbled, falling back against the couch. She held her hand against the couch for a few moments while she cleared her head then she focused on the less dark patch ahead of her and walked towards it, recognizing it as an open door leading to a hallway.
As she entered the hallway she banged her hip against a table standing against the wall. Objects clattered to the floor, breaking the silence. The sound sent her head spinning again. She put her hands over her ears and looked around quickly. As she did, more sounds came from somewhere further off in the house. Above her she heard the sound of feet hitting the floor quickly and shuffling around. A door opened hard. A closet or cabinet. Then the feet were moving again, quicker than before.
Gabby felt the surge of adrenaline and scanned through the grey darkness. At the far end of the hall, a small diagonal patch of light grey shone like a beacon. She raced down the hall to the door and turned the knob. She pulled the door back and felt a burst of fresh air rush in on her. The door caught after opening just a few inches. A jingling chain above her held it closed. She slammed the door and reached up for the chain.
"Who's down there?"
A voice shouted from behind her. Gabby spun around and saw the silhouette of a crouched old man standing in the stairwell fumbling for a switch on the wall. She thought it might be Dalton. That she was back in his house. Suddenly light flared through the hallway, burning her eyes with the intensity. She groaned and brought her arms over her face.
"Don't you move! I'm calling the police!"
It certainly wasn't Dalton's voice. She lowered her arms and stared at the man. He was old and hunched, wrapped in a slightly closed red plaid bathrobe. He cradled a shotgun in his arm as he walked a few steps down the hall and reached around the corner, still staring intently at Gabby. Gabby turned halfway back to the door and reached for the chain.
"Oh no you don't. Don't even think it. I'll shoot! I will!"
Gabby froze and stared back at the man. He'd raised the gun and held it with both hands, staring at her over the long barrel. His eyes were tired and his arms shook slightly from the weight of the gun. After a moment, he lowered the gun and reached around the corner into the side room again. Gabby heard a clatter and then the muffled sound of a dial tone. The old man cursed under his breath and hurriedly crouched into the room to grab the overturned phone.
Gabby saw her chance and whirled back to the door, pulled back the small chain, flung open the door and raced out into the night. She heard the man start to shout something but his words were drowned out by the explosive sound of a shotgun which set her ears ringing. She instinctively fell to the ground, breathing heavily and wondering if she'd been shot.
She stayed down on her hands and knees, her eyes closed and her mind reeling. She couldn't feel any pain besides the stabbing feeling of the sidewalk against her knees where she'd fallen. A sudden chill swept over her body and she shivered involuntarily. She heard more noise behind her. Over her shoulder she saw the man ambling down his hallway to his broken front door, shouting something at her as he tried to load another round into his gun. All sound melted into an indistinguishable blur of noise which she just ignored.
Gabby could feel her heart pounding against her ribcage. Her breaths coming in deep, heavy gasps. She closed her eyes and let her head hang limp at the end of her neck. She didn't know if he was going to kill her or have her arrested. And she didn't care any more. She was scared. But mostly she was tired.
She felt hands on her shoulders, pulling her to her feet. The hand grabbed one of her arms and draped it over a shoulder and half dragged her down the sidewalk. Blurry noise echoed in her ears. She stared through half closed eyes at the blurry night around her and realized she moving towards the street. She turned and looked over her shoulder at the old man on the porch, his bathrobe now hanging open to show his withered wrinkled chest and his maroon boxer shorts. He raised the shotgun and fired again. The sound seemed muted this time. Distant.
Gabby continued to move away from the house. Everything felt surreal. Like a dream.
Strong hands placed her in a car and buckled her seat belt. The door was closed behind her and a shadow jogged around the front of the car to the driver's side. Gabby stared at the door as it opened and a person climbed in. She felt her heart jump to her throat as she recognized Evan sitting across from her. He gave her a half smile and a nod then put the car in gear and raced away.
Gabby stared out the front window as the car raced at dangerous speeds through a darkened neighborhood then turned and drove by the side of a small wooded area. She looked back to Evan. His strong hands held the wheel loosely and he stared intently ahead, occasionally glancing warily into the rear view mirror.
"How did you find me? How did you know where I was?"
Evan glanced in the rear view again then slowed the car to a reasonable pace and looked at her.
"I've been waiting nearly five years for this day. Dalton never bought this land to build his mansion. It was bought up by developers last spring. I parked at the end of the block three hours ago and waited. Carlisle said I was crazy. He said you were gone for good. That the Gabby I'd known was off in her own timeline now. Or worse. Stuck in limbo and watching us."
Gabby started to speak, but couldn't think of what to say. She tried again and a strange gurgling sound escaped her mouth. Evan laughed and patted her leg. He pulled the car over to the side of the road and stared at her.
"I've been so worried. I was so afraid about what would happen tonight."
His voice cracked and it sounded like he was about to cry.
"You were in my class this fall. You came up and asked me some of the same questions you did the first time we met. I guess this time was the first time we met, although it happened a little earlier this time. I don't know why. Maybe Dalton's class schedule changed or something. Anyway, I saw you again. I met you again. We went out for dinner. Had a great time. It felt so good being near you again. And at the same time, it was horrible. Carlisle had this theory that when we caught up with this moment tonight, that we would reach an Event Horizon and the paradox would implode in on itself. He was so certain of himself. He said you....He said you would likely vanish forever. Sifted out of the fabric of time, caught in the whirlwind of a paradox. He was very poetic."
Evan laughed and shook his head.
"I made sure we stayed friends, but I couldn't bear to let things go any farther than that. Not yet. Not until I was sure. I'd already resigned myself to losing you once. I kept myself emotionally distant, ready for the inevitable. Tonight. At your apartment. We were having dinner with your mom and Julie and Julie's boyfriend of the moment when suddenly..."
"Wait! My mom?"
"Yes, with your mom. After dinner. At around 7:30, you just disappeared."
Gabby stared off through the front window of the car. She leaned her head back against the headrest and smiled.
"You and I were alone in the kitchen when it happened. You kind of just evaporated in front of me. The others asked where you'd gone and I said you just rushed off suddenly, making some excuse. I told them I'd find you. Julie tried your cell but there was no answer. So I came here. And waited. And...Are you listening?"
Gabby turned back to him, her eyes glistening with happy tears.
"My mom's alive?"
Then, as a statement rather than a question, "My mom's alive!"
Evan stared back at her and smiled.
"Yes. Your mom's alive. And she's probably back at your apartment worried about you. She's staying with you for the weekend. We should get you home."
Evan patted Gabby's knee, smiled at her then turned to face forward again. He shifted the car into gear and slowly pulled onto the road.
When she didn't answer, he looked over at her. Her beaming smile and teary eyes made him slow the car again as he smiled back.
She whispered the words then leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. He smiled back and patted her knee again. As they drove down the road, she slid her hand into his and gave it a squeeze. He squeezed back and drove her home.