Timely Persuasion - Online Edition - Chapter 24


24 Hour Party People

Older me further confirmed the dying aspect of his theory by witnessing the demise and resurrection of both my father and myself on our next experimental trips.  He deduced there was some sort of lag before the new timeline caught up to his displaced self.  This was what allowed him to briefly see things both ways.  There wasn’t much time to celebrate his discovery, as it put even more pressure on our simultaneous mission.  Now if our timing wasn’t right, we’d run the additional risk that one of us would be dead from the other’s point of view.

    Complicating matters further, since being reintroduced to time travel my aim wasn’t as true as it used to be.  Historic red letter days were still as easy to hit as they had become for me previously, but the methodology the doctor was using relied on more personal situations.  Memories of past lives did me no good, and outside of recent experiences I didn’t have much else to grasp hold of.  At least I was able to land on Halloween for the college trip, but what I’d be doing when I showed up was always a mystery to me.  I was popping in all over the place since the memories I was riding back on weren’t my own.  If the doctor knew how unlikely it was for me to meet up with Dad on a simul-blink, the little bit of trust I’d built with him would be shattered and all bets would be off.

    The day of reckoning was upon us.  The subliminal persuasion given by the doctor for my father’s memory trip involved a time when he felt his greatest sense of disappointment.  As the procedure went, he’d write a short essay on when he felt that disappointment, after which they would try to send him back to the same point in his memories.  With my help, they thought the process had evolved well enough since we had been here that they were quite good at getting the target right.  Little did they know that my help had nothing to do with it.

    I was able to read my father’s essay before he went back.  To the best of my recollection, it went a little something like this:

    “The greatest disappointment in my life was the birth of my second son.  You see, I was expecting a daughter.  Expecting one so much that it was a foregone conclusion that the child would be a girl.  When my wife went into labor and I saw my child for the first time I insisted there had to be some mistake.  But there was not and I now had two sons.  This event really made me question my life, question its purpose, and question the direction I was taking with it.  As such, I decided to leave my family.  I had grown to love my wife and my son over the years, and in the years since have found love for my second son and now have legal custody of him.  We all still keep in touch and I am very much a part of their lives.  But with the birth of the wrong child in my mind I had to see if there was something better out there.  Something different.  Something that if I didn’t do I’d end up regretting forever.  So I left them for a former girlfriend.  In hindsight the decision was hasty.  In the end I knew that I was wrong and should have stayed with my real family.  They were my destiny, and I had missed out.  I hope one day they can forgive me for my lack of patience.”

    If that wasn’t a farewell note, I didn’t know what was.  Almost like suicide, as Dad knew that if all went wrong this was goodbye more or less, and if all went well he still wasn’t coming back from this trip.  At least not this version of him.  This could be the last time.

    He was strapped into the bloodflow machine as he and me and so many others had been before.  One moment green pulses of light, the next his kitchen.  Our kitchen. 

    Back at the home of my childhood.  Where he once built his family, and also where he once left it.  He was in the past of the latter, and the first sight he saw from inside his head was his right hand applying a signature to that Dear John letter to Mom with a blue ballpoint pen.  His hand put the pen down emphatically, then held up the letter to give it a final read before leaving it on the table to be found.  It had to be just right, as it would be serving as his legacy here.  The final memory that turns love to hate.  The thought that would always overpower the good times, seeping in at the most inopportune moment to cheapen the treasures of the past.

    Seemingly satisfied, Dad witnessed his own hands putting the letter in an envelope, sealing it with his tongue, and printing my Mom’s name in large block letters.  Each action was performed just as deliberately as he had nearly twenty years earlier.  In his own head he just kept thinking of how sorry he was, hoping he could have that old life he never knew back if our plan worked. 

    It was then that something changed.  His hand turned over the envelope and added a postscript.  A new line of text that he was certain he hadn’t appended before.  Although his thought was the spark, he had no conscious control over the rain of thoughts going into this brainstorm.  He watched in anticipation as they played before him like the alternate version of a dumb film’s final scene.

    The last words read:  “Something tells me I’m sorry and shouldn’t be doing this.  I guess it’s just my guilty conscience.  But it also tells me we’ll all be together again.  And I believe that part and hope it is true.  I’m not telling you a secret, I’m not telling you goodbye.”