It was eleven in the morning and our Alex was in a traffic jam near time square a few blocks away from his destination. He could hear those angry, disrespectful yellow taxi drivers speeding past him. The replies of the slighted pedestrians, and the coffee cups piling up into the overflowing trash bins. He hated those noises, and he hated how many times the light turned red. It was the third time this block.
His friend Bart was standing on the corner and munching on a cream cheese bagel playing with his cell phone. He had to hold the bagel in his mouth to accomplish this. He recognized Alex’s beat down sedan and jogged over. It was his lunch break. Bart said hi to him and told him where he would be waiting. He drove into a parking lot. It was another new parking lot – the third one this month. If your wondering, Alex had a thing about parking lots. He had to change them once a week.
He drove in, parked the car, took out his worn-out case, and then walked up to bald Moe who handed him a parking pass and pat his back. It was a warm pat from all Moe’s time beneath the surface. It seemed like Moe understood what Alex was going through, and he appreciated it. He walked up and out meeting Bart a minute later. He looked like a loyal ‘man’s best friend’ with the bagel in his mouth. They pat each other on the back and got on their way down eighth avenue. God was it almost that time again? He sighed.
They started the day by walking with their cell phones in their pockets. It was a rare sight to see Bart not on his phone. It meant he had to talk. They trudged slowly through the rushing, eager crowds towards their waterside headquarters. They were both depressed, isn’t that lovely?
They weren’t late and had some time to talk. Bart went on and on about how happy he was that his wife was visiting her parents for the entire weekend. She left him a letter on the door because she didn’t want him to text his way out of it. His friend and wife required some professional help, but he couldn’t provide it. Alex was in the wrong business and had the wrong background to even utter the word marriage. He and Bart were friends for other reasons. Bart never forced him to talk or answer any questions, even right now. He was one of those people who would ask a bunch of rhetorical questions and would be totally fine if you just nodded.
They arrived and sat down at their respective desks.
Alex tried to keep his eyes off the red clock, but then he couldn’t help but peek at it. It was two minutes away from that time. The minute of the snake. He used to always get a phone call. It haunted him. Truthfully, the girl who called was still important to him, but she wouldn’t call anymore. Her name was Meghan, right? Maybe she would answer if he called instead. He hated being unsure.
'Just do it. Just do it. Just do it.' He thought.
Sure enough his job was to work on pitch-advertisements, and today Nike was on his desk. He was at his little, quaint cubicle next to the window full of post its and covered picture frames. That famous Just Do It slogan was playing like a catchy song in the background of his mind. She popped up in his mind again, ugh. Should he call her, or not? The lady who was in that picture frame covered, right there. His hand was shaking thinking about that woman, out of the terror of rejection, but why couldn’t he get the idea out of his head. Why did he still felt ambivalent, and why was he staring at the clock? Regardless, that second hand on his desk clock kept ticking away. The time would pass by before he knew it. His stomach let out a noise or two in protest. It startled him so much he almost fell over. Did something drop?
He looked down for whatever it was that fell, if anything fell, and was surprised to see a picture of his little comet, his baby girl. Her picture had crawled its way out of his wallet. He couldn’t help smiling and tearing up while looking at the picture of his little girl; It made him start crying, and giggling, and shaking all at once. That damn mix of poignancy and nostalgia made a wicked cocktail of emotions. He reached down and grabbed at the picture, but he couldn’t reach it. He literally heard the crisp of its edge ten times, but no matter how hard he tried to touch it the picture wouldn’t succumb. Was someone playing games with him? Was fate trying to say stay away from her? Or, I won’t let you near her! He slid under his desk and finally grabbed that picture. How ridiculous. But he literally felt warm as soon as his hands got a hold on her. He would do anything for a do over. For another chance with his M & M’s. But second chances didn’t come to assholes, and he had a deadline due.
Alex decided to stay in his desk ‘bunker’ because he didn’t want anyone to see him. It would make him the laughing stock of his coworkers. He imagined his boss’s reaction. “You shouldn’t be hiding under there when you have work to do!” Yup, that sounded like Frank. Or Bart’s reaction. “You okay buddy?” Or if he saw him, he might sigh and walk over, or throw something at him and laugh. That seemed like his friend.
Surprisingly, no one came over to drop any files on his desk or give him any work to do. Bart didn’t even notice him, which surprised him even more. Bart would visit his desk at least two times an hour. What is going on? He finally got the courage to crawl out and look. Something didn’t seem right. It seemed like no one around him was moving.
He looked down at the little red clock on his desk, and the time was still eleven: eleven. The office must of really went out of their way to pull this prank. The entire world seemed to have stopped somehow. On second thought there was something up. Who is that?
If you’re wondering, Bart was on his way to the desk, and Alex wasn’t ignored. He was a few feet munching on a cookie, which was dangling from his mouth. But like everyone else in the room Bart wasn’t going anywhere. Moreover, there was a man leaning on his shoulder. Alex didn't overreact.
“Oh, I’m surprised you didn’t jump in shock, Alex.” The man started “Well, would you like to play a little game?” The man asked with his British accent. He was wearing a black suit with a set of watches on each of his two arms.
“I guess I’ll answer both your questions. I don’t even understand what to be shocked about: Should I be shocked about the fact that my friend isn’t moving, that you know my name, or would it be better to be shocked about your offer?” Alex asked
“Well, you can choose what to be shocked about I suppose. I think I would be more worried about my friends if I were in your shoes, Alex. I would also want to make sure the game isn’t dangerous, and there was an adequate reward for my participation. Do you want to ask either of those questions? Or, would you want me to introduce myself?”
“I guess hearing your name would help break some of the tension. I think the more information you can tell me the better.” Alex replied
“Well, my name is Charles, and I am a Time Keeper here because I know you need a second chance. I am here because I can give you that one opportunity to get a do over. It’s sort of like a redirection if you succeed. Also, your friend is fine just a little bit slowed down.” Charles explained
“Wait, hold on. First, how did you find out about my past Charles? It’s not the kind of stuff you would find just anywhere, so someone must have told you. Did someone put you up to this?”
“I didn’t have to do any research, Alex, and this isn’t a joke. You were crying under a desk in the middle of your office. It would be hard to realize you didn’t have something you wanted to be undone. I can choose my candidates at certain times, and you just happened to be sobbing during the minute of the snake. I guess you can consider it serendipity were meeting.” Charles answered
“Ha, okay I’ll believe you because I have no choice. No one else seems to be listening. Now, can you tell me what a Time Keeper is? And before you tell me could you stop leaning on Bart. It’s making me very nervous.” Alex asked.
Charles nodded and pushed off his friend’s body. Bart didn’t even budge. Finally, Alex noticed the little crumbs flying out of his friend’s mouth. Charles cleared his throat.
“Happy?” Charles rhetorically asked.
"Yes" Alex nodded. 'Happy that I'm losing it.' he thought. Charles pulled up his sleeves.
“Let me start then with what I can tell you about. I guess I can tell you about the principles of Time Keepers, but you must be willing to embrace an alternate side of reality if you want to understand." Charles breathed in demonstration.
"Basically, try to clear your mind. Sometimes chap you just must hear something, and just accept it. Do you get what I mean?”
“Your telling me not to think and listen without questioning. I think I get it.” Alex answered
“Good, very good.” Charles breathed “Well we Time Keepers are people from the future. We came back to help folks in the past through the nuances of time. It would be hard to explain the specifics to you, and in my opinion it would be better to leave it up to your imagination. I am responsible for gathering candidates to help create positive ripples in time, and it is only a once in a life time opportunity.”
“Well your words seemed to sink in, but I’m still kind of lost, Charles. How would I get a second chance? Would you be able to push me back in time or something like that? Alex asked
“Yes and no. I would be able to provide information to the younger you. It would be just what you needed at the moment. I would do this until you ended up on a good trajectory. If you wanted, I could make you a millionaire, or I could fix a relationship. It would be up to you.” Charles opened his arms widely like he was preaching. “All you have to do is say yes to playing the game, and we can start you on your adventure. I’m sure you will able to do well, Alex.” Charles finished
“Well when you put it like that yes I will play your game, but I won’t die if I mess up will I?” Alex inquired
“It is impossible for you to die while playing, Alex. You would be in time scape, and nothing can die in time scape. At least not anything human. You’ll also be able to do things you never imagined. Now, hold on for just a minute.”
Charles walked over to the window with his hands behind his back. He left blue waves of light on the floor as he walked forward. They ebbed out from under his feet. No one noticed him moving besides Alex including Bart and the rest of his coworkers. Charles didn’t seem to be in a rush, as he stopped pleasantly at the window. He put both his hands on the glass, and something mysterious started happening. A blanket of mist spread out from the center of his hands. It must have been the moisture. It looked like a wave of white crashed against all sides of the pellucid surface.
“We don’t want any of the others seeing you before its time, Alex. Please have a seat at your desk.”
Alex still had his mouth open agape and could hardly hear what Charles said.
“What the hell, man. What was that? How was that?”
“It’s kind of hard to explain Alex, but I will try. To begin when time slowed down the same rules don’t apply. Normally if you put your hand on the window it would leave at most a white imprint, right? But not once I initiated the first level of time scape. Now, It’s a whole new set of rules, and a whole new set of problems.” Charles starting walking towards him and gesturing. It added to his presentation.
“I’m sure you have heard that the same things don’t apply at the micro level, and that’s where quantum matters exist like the different levels of time. Well now you are in a different scope of time at the highest quantum level. It’s almost like we zoomed in on this infinitesimal moment. To put it bluntly we are moving very close to the speed of light, and it’s all thanks to futuristic, unexplainable technology developed by our ingenious company’s founder. Does that help?” Charles finished
“You surely tried to explain something I could never understand in a few sentences, but thanks for trying. Now, I can’t get why you would need to fog up the windows? Are there other people out there like you Charles? It would kind of freak me out if there were people from the future watching me as I went along my life.” Alex questioned
“Well, we are not the only ones who possess this technology, but it is a very illegal to use this to spy on someone from another time. It’s hard to explain interdomain time law to a person from another time, but you most certainly know what cops are, and that certain things are against the rules right, Alex?”
“Well yeah, of course I understand. You mean someone would get busted if they violated the rules?” Alex inquired
“You could say that Alex. I don’t even want to begin telling you how complicated some of this stuff is. I’ll have to explain this to you at another time, or let someone else do it; Perhaps you’ll know you’re finished with your journey?” Charles suggested.
'Only if everything went according to plan.' Charles thought.
“Ugh, yeah I’m sure I will. Now what do you want me to do, Charles? I agree to play your game.” Alex replied.
“I’m so glad to hear that, Alex. If I had to find someone else I would be in a bit of a bind. Here we go, Alex. Time to see what I can do for you.” Charles reached down and finagled with his watches. It took him just a second to cause every one of them to light up, and that light flickered for a moment, but then it seemed to swell, beat, and grow leaving Charles behind its glow. The orb spread out more pulsating like a shining heart. Then that heart of light exploded, and its particles beamed towards Alex. When they arrived, they dove into his pupils and shined before a glint seemed to get stuck in his eyes. His pupils dilated, and an exciting wave of information starting surfing through his head.
“You should know as much about the game as I can tell you in a few minutes, Alex. It will slowly come to your attention that there is more than one way to win the game. You should find it quite insightful, young chap. That light will keep spreading and passing the information about what’s expected of you. It will tell you about your first enemy, the minuteman. What they can do, and the benefits of you defeating them.” Charles stopped and sighed. He could tell Alex couldn’t understand him.
It was quite normal to have an odd reaction, and Alex was having one of those reactions. He was spinning like a giddy child. Obviously, it was caused by the euphoria from all that knowledge. It felt like he young once again, and he giggled as all the information passed through his head. His brain was fully turned on for a minute, and he kept spinning. Finally, when he learned everything he needed that glint disappeared. His senses were returning.
Alex suddenly felt woozy from all the play and fell on the floor. He landed on the cold, blanched tiles, but it didn’t hurt. He laid back on his hands trying to figure out where that Charles was. Oh, he was right next to Charles. In just a moment he had become an adult again. He started laughing nervously. ‘Well that was embarrassing.’ He thought.
“Ha, Did I really just do that Charles?” Alex inquired.
“I’ve seen worse, Alex. It’s just part of the process, and luckily none of your coworkers will ever have a clue. Now, please tell me what you learned Alex. Do you feel like you can handle playing the game?” Charles inquired
“I just saw moving shadows, and the pain that they have to experience. I’m supposed to destroy them to win the game or something, right? And If I destroy them time will be better in some unfathomable way. It’s like pruning the weeds of the past or something like that. Basically, you take care of them, and it helps the people they belong too. It sounds like a noble mission. But you must remember I’m not a super hero Charles. How do you expect me to win against an army of evil beings?” Alex finished
“As I was trying to explain to you earlier, those moving shadows aren’t bad or good, but they also aren’t your friend. We call them minuteman, Alex. You will have all you need to defeat them when the time comes, and that time will come soon. You are still unaware what you are capable of.”
Alex nodded his head, but he wasn’t convinced.
“Let me try to convince you to participate, Alex. Let’s start with your daughter. She is a beautiful girl, Alex. I’m assuming you had a beautiful wife, and I’m guessing you wanted it to work out. I’m also going to go out on a limb as say you would want to know how they feel about you. If you promise me that you will try your hardest during the mission, I will let you in on the truth about the woman you’ve been avoiding.” Charles offered
“At least tell me that I have a good chance of victory, Charles. I don’t want to do this all and not get anything from it. I also learned that I wouldn’t remember anything if I failed. I at least want to know the odds.”
Charles pondered with his hand on his jaw.
“I don’t think it’s possible to tell you yet, Alex. You are here at this moment, and I am offering you a chance to find out what you always wanted. Would you want to know what’s going on in that little girl’s head?”
“You mean you’re going to tell me how Meghan and Molly feel about me? How exactly are you going to do that, Charles?” Alex inquired
“You forget that I’m from the future, Alex. I’ll pull up the information about Meghan. Give me one second Alex.” He held his finger up. It didn’t take him long to find the information – a few clicks of the watch. “She’s quite an interesting lady, Alex. You wouldn’t believe it, but she lied to you about hating you. Moreover, she lied to you about her having a new boyfriend. She’s also thinking about thinking about the minute of the snake, and is hoping you would call, Alex. You see Alex sometimes you just got to try, and good things end up happening to you. If you called her, I’m sure she would pick up.” Charles finished
That little bit of information almost didn’t register in Alex’s ears. He had spent so long convincing himself that he wasn’t worth her time that he never was able to pick up the phone. He remembered all those times he could have called her but couldn’t because of that overwhelming fear of rejection. Was he going to pass this up because of that same fear? Well, he wouldn’t get hurt right?
“I’m glad you told me about Meghan, but you said something about my little girl, Molly. How exactly would you show me what’s in my little girl’s head? What other things can those watches of yours do, Charles? Do you have any lottery numbers in there?”
Charles giggled, and then shook his head.
“Unfortunately, If I told about the watches I would lose my job. I’m not allowed to tell you about any of the technology, and I certainly can’t tell you any lottery numbers, but I do have them. How about I show you something I can show you. Would you like to see one of your little girl’s dreams?” Charles clicked on three watches on his right arm. A few streams of light spiraled out and formed a little dazzling hologram.
Alex leaned in and stared at the orb. He looked at the white screen. He could see the silhouette of his little girl.
“Wait, are you serious about this? Isn’t showing me this against the rules? Aren’t the cops going to fly down and lock you away?” Alex inquired
“I already told you all this stuff is complicated, Alex. I am a Time Keeper, so I have certain privileges when trying to convince my candidate. Now you do want to look or not?”
“Alright, I guess I buy that. I’m ready to be convinced, Charles.” Alex answered
Alex finally saw that silhouette start moving and growing with color. She was playing on the beach with her mom. The bigger one was a red head, and his little girl inherited his black hair. Molly was giggling and ran towards her mom. He still remembered that jolly smile. She jumped into Molly’s arms and Meghan picked her up and smiled. There was a man coming from the background in the dream walking towards them. Alex got a bad feeling in my stomach.
“I thought you told me she wasn’t dating anyone, Charles?”
“Shush, Alex, just watch.”
That despicable man came in wearing a bathing suit and wrapped his arms around them. His precious girl giggled and jumped from her mother’s arms towards the silhouette of that stranger. The man dived like a hero to catch her, or should I say it was her father who dove and caught her. Yes, it was Alex in her dream. He picked her up and put her on his shoulders before he was greeted by Meghan and her irresistible lips. Molly was so disgusted she covered her eyes, and the Alex who was watching laughed. He almost felt like he was there.
“I figured she would be dreaming about Harry Potter, or evil marsh mellow armies. I can’t believe she’s dreaming about us.” Alex gasped
“I figured you would like it. You would like where she is even more. She is in her mom’s arms, and she looks remarkably sad. I think if you take on this mission Alex. All three of you will be better off at the end. Please believe in yourself for once and take a chance. You’re not going to regret it Alex.”
Alex put his hands on his temple, grabbed his hair, and then shook all those feelings of fear away.
“What do I have to do?” Alex finally asked
“Get ready to learn about a whole new side of yourself, Alex.” Charles' watches started to glow. “Initiate time scape.” Charles smiled, and a light shined.