Today’s Friday Flash Fics had me thinking of the ice storm/cold-snap/winder blast we just had (it knocked me on my butt for a few days worth of migraine) and how much I missed our escapes to Hawai’i in February. Then I looked at the four men and wondered who they were, what they were doing, and, well, as usual my mind went a bit sideways into speculative fiction.
I’m a bit off target, but it’s well within what I expected.
I’d forgotten the cold though.
I chuckle—actually chuckle—at that. Canadian blood wears off, I guess. Or at least, it does when you drop everything, pack up your genius, and demand to do your work somewhere it doesn’t snow. Kailua, in my case.
The company didn’t mind. Hell, the company threw in a bonus and offered me a housing representative to scout out ahead and find “the perfect place” for me.
The perfect place, I wanted to shout, doesn’t exist.
Because it’s not about place. It was never about place. I even used to say that.
“I don’t care where we live, as long as we’re together.”
You used to think that was kind of sappy, but you’d kiss my forehead anyway. Or my nose. Or my eyelids.
Looking back, you kind of avoided my lips a lot, and while that seemed cute at the time, it leaves me wishing I’d taken your chin and redirected your attention a little bit. Then again, you were so much taller than me…
Are. Not were.
I’m a bit off target, but it’s well within what I expected, and right now you’re not a were. You’re an are.
I tug on gloves. I ordered the gloves and jacket online, knowing I’d never find anything capable of withstanding Ottawa, Canada in January 2019 on a shelf in Kailua. The big island sometimes sold “winter” coats, but they were Hawai’i winter coats, which might have passed for an unusually chilly autumn evening in Canada, maybe.
I am wearing a bright yellow down-filled jacket with reflective suspenders and snow-pants are tucked into my boots, and I’m still cold.
I check the display. There’s more than enough time.
I only manage three steps before there’s a series of flashes—a staccato burst of light, a rip and fold of reality I’d name after you if I dared reveal any of it in something as mundane as a paper—and then there are four versions of myself walking toward me. The light behind them, the you-fold, blinks out of existence and it’s so dark after and my eyes haven’t adjusted that all I can hear is the sound of four perfectly synchronized steps walking my way.
I let them approach, swallowing hard. I don’t remember being them, which means a lot of things at once but most importantly that I come back here again.
Which means I don’t succeed.
Well then. That’s an issue.
“Aloha,” I say, because I’ve always tried to blend in with my surroundings, but then it occurs to me where we’re standing, and when we’re standing, so I add, “Cold night, eh?”
The four stare back at me. It’s not a wide sample of difference, really. On the outside, the range strikes me as less than two years, which makes sense. Things have to line up just so. Each attempt—it galls me to consider that multiple attempts did/will/must happen—has a reset of roughly six months. This was the only point in time I could aim for. The variables in play gave me this, and nothing else. Not before you get in the car. Not before the other driver gets in his car. This point.
I don’t know why. Or, I do, but only in the “I understand the space-time limitations of a you-fold created during my life-time by me with the tools I have on hand” way. But the metaphorical, what-is-the-universe-thinking side of things?
No idea. I left that to you. The universe, I mean. You were the artist.
Leave. Not left. I scold myself. Are. Not were.
Either way? I can try from this exact point, and I can try every six months.
I can’t help but correct myself, even now. Precision. Not every six months. Every one hundred and seventy-seven days, twelve hours, thirty-six minutes, and eleven-and-a-half seconds.
“I bet you’re wondering why I gathered you here today,” says the oldest version of myself. We all grin at him, despite the reality of what we all know and have just learned or continue to learn. Strike four. Though there are only three strikes, right?
Then again, sports are another thing I leave to you.
“You can’t talk me out of it,” four of us say in unison, though each almost-six-month iteration sounds a fraction more strained than the last.
The fifth laughs. “Wouldn’t dream of it. Really. But we’ve got about twenty minutes as you know, so let me catch you all up on the problem.”
How many geniuses does it take to stop a car accident in a Canadian ice storm?
Five, it turns out.
The solution, by the way, was such a simple idea, really. A paradigm shift. Four attempts made to stop an accident failed, so this time we caused one. Just earlier, and with a better set up. You dodged the flares and our waving arms and ended up in a ditch. The car that should have hit you head on passed by without even seeing you.
The fifth vanishes before you climb out of your car, wrapped in the bright flare of a you-fold and vanishing. I see his smile—it’s just like my smile, I’m sure, given that it is my smile—and then there is light and then he is gone.
You gape at the four of us, and the fourth vanishes when you open your mouth to ask a question. A flash of light, and he’s gone. I’m doing the math in my head, now that I have two data points, and I figure I’ve got about three minutes, which is a lot of time, really, but also no time at all.
You climb out of the ditch by the time the three of us make it to where you’re standing and—flash—two of us smile at you while you try to come up with some words.
“What’s happening?” is what you finally settle on.
The other me shrugs. “Just fixing a problem.” The you-fold takes him, and the sound of his laughter echoes around us.
You eye me. I eye you. I have to look up. You’re so damn tall.
“Kiss my lips more,” I say.
You nod, and I am gone.