Web Site: Larry Deibert
What could happen if you came back in time and revisited your family?
Larry L. Deibert
For the past five nights, precisely at midnight, colors of red, blue, yellow and green danced on top of the mountain. Just above the still unused turnpike tunnel, they were much like a fireworks display at a Fourth of July celebration. The show usually lasted for only five minutes or so, but it was well worth the time, and lack of sleep.
Tonight, ten people who lived in the immediate area were standing on a bridge approximately a half mile from the tunnel, waiting for the show to begin.
When midnight finally arrived, nine-year old Andy James shouted for glee as the top of the mountain was rained on by the spectacular colors that lit up the black sky. As usual, the colors were spectacular, but tonight all of the colors washed down the face of the mountain, covering the tunnel entrance in a wondrous shade of transparent violet. As his eyes focused on the new spectacle, headlights shot through the wall of color, actually through the mountain itself, and a mysterious silver car followed the glow of the beams.
The car sped along in the field beside the turnpike road surface. They saw the driver apply the brakes and go into a spin. The car turned twice and smashed into a huge oak tree.
AJ raced across the bridge, tumbled and slid down the hill, regaining his traction when his feet hit the road surface. He ran toward the car and was quickly followed by the rest of the onlookers. When the boy arrived at the vehicle, he opened the passenger door. The dome light came on and he saw the occupants, a man and a woman. They had been thrown into strange looking white bags; one attached to the steering wheel, the other on the passenger side dashboard. The rest of the group gathered around the car, looking it over carefully, since they had never seen an automobile like this one.
AJ turned toward his father; lines of concern etched in his young brow and exclaimed, “Dad, I think these people are unconscious!”
One of the onlookers happened to be Dr. Lewis Garner, a good friend of the James family, and the man who brought Andy into the world. He quickly examined the woman, and after a few of the men moved the car away from the tree, he opened the driver’s door. After completing a very quick exam he said to AJ’s dad, “Carl, your house it the closest. I think we should get these people there so I can examine them further. They are both knocked out and their breathing is shallow, but I want to examine them further. I think those bags may have saved them from going through the windshield, but they still could be badly hurt.”
Four strong men carried the two inert figures up the hill and laid them in the bed of Harry Jones’ pickup truck, while Marty Peters offered to move the car off the road and hide it in Nate Arndt’s barn until he could contact the county sheriff in the morning, when they would all able to study the car closely in daylight. Marty never saw a PT Cruiser before. He fired it up, and for a moment, Marty really had the urge to take the car for a spin, but decided that doing it would not be a good idea. The barn was located less than one hundred yards up the field from the turnpike. Marty drove it there and locked it inside.
Ten minutes later, the unconscious couple was carried into the James’ home, a ranch house with four bedrooms. Dr. Garner instructed the men to separate the pair in different bedrooms. Carl’s wife, Abby, and their fourteen-year-old daughter, Lori, followed the men into Lori’s room. They shooed the men out and began to disrobe the woman. Carl and Lewis stayed with the man in AJ’s room. The doctor wanted to examine him first since he was seated on the damaged side of the car. They removed the man’s clothing and as Dr. Garner began to examine him, he said, “Carl, look through his wallet to find out who he is and where he is from. I’m flabbergasted by what was written on his jacket.” The jacket, made of black nylon, was embroidered with the words Vietnam Veteran, 1967 and the name Skip.
“If his jacket is not some kind of joke, I believe we are looking at someone who has somehow come here from the future.” Lewis looked up at his friend and with a confused grin uttered, “It still is 1955, isn’t it?”
As Doctor Garner resumed his examination, Carl reached into the man’s pocket and pulled out his wallet. Opening it, he saw what must have been a driver’s license, although it was made of plastic and had the man’s picture on it. He stared at the name for quite some time and his hands began to tremble uncontrollably. He tapped Lewis on the shoulder and showed him what he found. Dr. Garner gave his friend a puzzled look and they both turned toward the man as he began to moan and stir.
In the other room, Abby and Lori had removed the woman’s clothing and laid them neatly over the seat of a chair. Carl’s daughter opened the woman’s purse to find some clue to her identity. The purse contained the normal items found in most women’s purses, but Lori also found a strange looking item. She picked up a small gray device that bore the name NOKIA. The device had some kind of a screen, like a miniature TV and numbers like a telephone. It also had some other unknown buttons. She placed it on the bed and the opened the woman’s wallet. Looking at the driver’s license she saw it was issued in the year 2005. Lori became very frightened but when she saw the name on the piece of plastic, her curiosity had overridden her fear. She showed it to her mother who looked as mystified as her daughter.
They both walked to AJ’s room, carrying the wallet and the small device. Stepping inside, they saw that the man was sitting up and with a huge smile on his face, he said, “Hi mom. Hi sis.”
Abby James, in a total state of shock, fainted and fell to the floor. Lewis took a bottle of smelling salts from his bag and put it under her nose to render her back to consciousness. She sat up and looked at the face of the man who called her mom. Even though it was impossible, Abby knew it was AJ.
Young AJ just then stepped into the room and looked at his mom and dad, Doctor Garner and the man sitting up on the bed.
“Mom, what happened? Why is everyone smiling and looking at me like that?”
“Son,” Carl James said, putting his arms around the boy’s shoulders, “all of your dreams about the future are going to be answered very soon.” He walked his son over to the bed and continued, “Believe it or not, AJ, this man is you, all grown up.”
The nine year old looked at his future self, with no disbelief whatsoever, and grinned from ear to ear. “Since you are me, I guess you know how much I dream about the future and what it will be like. How old are you…I mean, how old am I now?”
“I’m sixty-one, AJ and the year I came here from is 2007.”
AJ hugged his older self and stated, “I have a million questions for you.”
Skip laughed, tousled AJ’s hair and replied, “You always had a million questions. Mom and dad used to go crazy with some of the things I used to ask them. I promise that tomorrow morning I will tell you as much as I can, but right now I need to see Peggy and try to tell her what happened. She is going to be amazed by this for sure.”
By this time, the rest of the guys had crowded into the small bedroom and had been immediately informed of who the visitors were. They all were going to come back in the morning to get a chance to talk to AJ, all grown up.
Skip got himself out of bed, feeling a bit groggy and sore, but otherwise okay. He walked past the group and went into his sister’s bedroom to tell Peggy what was going on. They were going to have a busy day, but one thought kept creeping into his mind; how are we going to get back to our own time?
Although the James family of 1955 tossed and turned all night, Skip and Peggy fell immediately to sleep after Skip told her that they were now fifty two years in the past, staying at the home in which her husband spent his first twenty one years.
Morning arrived and the ten onlookers were all gathered in either the James’ living room or kitchen wolfing down plates filled with bacon, eggs and toast. The smells of food, along with the rich odor of brewing coffee awakened Skip and Peggy. After dressing, they went downstairs to meet everyone and steel themselves for the questions that would be coming like bullets from an automatic weapon. Skip told Peggy to be careful what they answered because he was afraid that some of the information they shared with everyone could cause a rift in the time space continuance. She suggested that he field all the questions.
They entered the kitchen hand in hand. “Gee, mom, that food sure smells good. I miss your home cooking.”
“Well, son, it looks like Peg feeds you okay. You’ve put on a few pounds in the past half century.”
He looked at AJ and said; “I think I can say this without disrupting things too much. I have always had a weight problem and the only time I was not overweight as a man was during my two years in the army.”
“Will you tell us about the army, son,” asked Carl. “We already know that you were in a place called Vietnam. Was there a war going on over there?”
“Dad, let Peg and I get some food in our stomachs and then we’ll all go into the living room and talk.”
Carl was not used to someone else giving orders in his house and though he was angered by Skip’s response, he decided to let it be. How did he get the name Skip, anyway?
After some breakfast and two cups of coffee, along with some safe conversation, the family joined the rest of the onlookers in the living room where the questions began to flow like water. There were questions about what will happen in the next fifty two years in all categories, most of which Skip would not answer for fear that the future could be changed.
Harry Jones asked, “What do you do for a living?”
Skip gave that question some thought before answering. “Peggy and I were both teachers. She retired in 2004 and I packed it in two years ago. Now all we do is write books and travel. So far I have had two novels published.”
The group seemed astonished that they both could have retired at such a young age.
AJ asked, “Will you tell us about Vietnam?”
As he always did when searching for the right words, Skip placed both hands on top of his head and leaned back in his chair. “I can tell you that Vietnam was the longest war that America was ever involved in and it cost our country dearly. I don’t want to give you facts and figures but I am fortunate that I did not see combat, like some of you did in World War Two. When I was sixteen, I fell from a ladder and injured my back. That injury kept me out of the infantry; since I was not allowed to lift more than thirty pounds, even to this day. I became a mail clerk and was stationed on a large base camp and was safe.”
Carl noticed his son’s eyes glaze over as though he were staring at something in his past. He had the same look many times when remembering dead friends.
Skip began to sob and said, “I really don’t want to talk about Vietnam, if you don’t mind.”
Abby asked, “Can you tell us about the device Peg had in her purse?”
“Yeah, mom, I think I can. It is called a cellular phone and most people in my time carry them. The phone sends and receives signals from towers placed all over the world. It is a wonderful tool for business people and travelers, although too many people talk on the phone when they are driving. So many people get into accidents while they talk on the phone while driving. Peg and I are guilty of that as well.”
Questions continued for a few hours, most of which he would not answer. Finally Skip asked, “How are we going to get back to our own time?”
Everyone agreed that Peg and Skip would have to hope that the light show would continue and just wait for the tunnel to have the same violet haze covering its entrance. No one knew if there would even be any more light shows or how many tries it would take for them to get back home.
“Son, all of this is still hard to believe, but you didn’t come through the tunnel, you actually came through the mountain.”
“I know dad. I guess what happened there is that in my time, there are two tunnels; a northbound and a southbound. Traffic has become so heavy over the years that a second tunnel had to be built to handle it all.” Skip looked at all the people he knew as a kid and said, “We’re really tired now and I’d like us to spend some time with my family before midnight. Why don’t we all meet back at the bridge tonight at about eleven o’clock?”
After everyone left, Skip said, “Lori and AJ, would you mind if I talked to mom and dad in private for a few minutes before you guys can come back in.”
The kids left the room and Carl said, “What’s on your mind son?”
Skip took a deep breath and replied, “Dad, mom, I really don’t know if I should tell you this, but I going to anyway. In the future, we have learned so much about how to have longer and better lives and even though I have learned much of the information, I don’t watch my diet as well as I should and I started smoking again after the towers fell…” He realized he nearly gave out a piece of information that he should not have spoken about and exclaimed, “Don’t ask what that means, please!”
Carl gave his son a quizzical look and thought; I wonder what he means by that?
Andy James, age 61 stood up and continued, “Both of you eat too many fatty foods and smoke way too much. I want you both to have long lives and be able to travel and see the world.”
“Andy, are you telling us that we are no longer around in two thousand and three?” His mother asked a look of deep concern in her eyes.
Skip pursed his lips and merely shook his head.
She asked, “Did we die young?”
He nodded his head and said, “If you don’t take care of yourselves, you will both be gone before you get to collect social security. Maybe my being here will help to prolong your lives. Just tell me you will both try to take better care of yourselves.”
Andy’s parents stood up and hugged him, both promising that they would do their best.
Lori and AJ came back into the living room and the family talked quietly for a while.
Lori said, “AJ, how did you get the name Skip?”
He laughed and replied, “Sis, it’s your fault. You taught me to skip rope and I found it to be wonderful exercise, so I took a rope with me to ‘Nam, and when I thought no one was watching I used to skip. Well, one of my buddies saw me one day, gave me the nickname and it stuck. I still skip rope half an hour a day to help keep my weight down.”
Skip asked if they could all go for a ride to show Peg the places he used to go, his schools and his hangouts.
Several hours later they returned home and it was time to see if the portal to the future would open.
Everyone gathered back on the bridge. Skip and Peggy shook hands with them all. Marty had brought the car from the barn and when he handed Skip the keys, He said, “Man, this is one hell of a vehicle, buddy.”
They gave the James family hugs and kisses, walked down onto the turnpike and got in the car after a final wave.
At midnight, as the colors began dancing on the mountaintop again, Skip started driving to the tunnel entrance. As soon as he saw the violet color begin to wash over the face of the tunnel, he floored it and shot through the haze, hopefully back to 2007.
Eleven people gathered at the cemetery where a new headstone was to be unveiled. Carl and Abby had heeded their son’s advice about taking care of themselves and were still spry at 91. Lori was there with her two grown children. Carl had also taken his son’s advice by purchasing General Electric stock and had amassed a fortune and traveled the world.
So many things had happened since that day so long ago when his grown up son had visited them and even though he didn’t tell them too much because of the fear of changing the future, none of the people here today had forgotten anything that Skip told them. They all knew that technology would evolve faster than ever and so many things would be developed to make life a little easier. Even at their advanced ages, Carl and Abby had been computer nuts since home PCs became available.
At precisely midnight, fifty two years after his son came back to the past, the tombstone was unveiled. The black granite glistened in the moonlight and the drawing etched into the stone was perfect.
The drawing depicted silver PT Cruiser bursting through the tunnel entrance bathed in violet.
All the people who witnessed the events of 1955 held hands and stared at the words sandblasted into the black granite. Smiles came to their faces even though their hearts were saddened by the loss they all shared.
4TH INFANTRY DIVISION
THE FUTURE CAN BE CHANGED.
After staring at the stone for some time, Carl turned to Abby and said, “If only I would have remembered what Skip said about his accident. I would never have caught him when he fell off the ladder. He never got a chance to teach children and so many people were denied reading his books. I miss my son, Abby.”
Less then a month later, at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., a couple laid a wreath at one of the panels.
Jack Preston said to his wife, “If this man would not have given his life to save mine, we’d never have met or married. Our children would never have been born. It’s remarkable how someone’s future can be changed in a heartbeat.”
Peggy Preston touched the name of Andrew James and a chill raced down her spine. A smile spread across her face. She said, “Thanks, Skip.”
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|Reviewed by Tom Hyland
|LARRY --- SUPER WRITE! Shades of "Back to the Future!"
A SILVER PT CRUISER, no less! COINCIDENCE? Tom.