Mystery Science Fiction Suspense

It was as if he was staring into a reflection of his past. A reflection that exposed his true self and stripped away all the layers that had made him the hardened criminal that even the most fearsome individuals had come to dread—to tremble and cower before.

It felt like gazing upon a distant memory. A pure, untainted fragment of his soul that he yearned to reach out and grasp. Hold it close, embrace it tightly, and never let it slip away.

Just as he knew it had... all those years ago.

“Gosh, I’m real sorry, Mister!” The little boy dropped to the ground and began picking up the papers that had dropped from his arms when they’d collided, as the child had come rushing out of the movie theater, fast as the Flash in all his glory.

“I didn’t see ya.”

But of course you didn’t. How does one see what was not there only moments before?

“Ah. Leave that stuff. I don’t need it.” He said, waving a hand dismissively towards the papers he’d dropped.

The boy stopped scrambling to pick up the loose sheets. He let them flutter back to the concrete with a sound like the steady wingbeats of a flock of birds.

Okay,” he popped the word, sitting back on his heels and peeking up at the man standing above him through curious, ash-colored eyes. The boy’s gaze, as piercing as that of a cat’s, raked him from head to toe, settling for extra observation time upon the marriage of tattoos on his neck and arms.

Not his face, though.

He’d never gotten tattoos on his face.

“You from around here?” The boy asked, rising slowly to his feet.

Oh, yeah, kid... This part of town was a part of me. A part of me that destroyed everything.

“I was raised here. I thought I’d come home for a little nostalgia.” He murmured. The boy stood facing him. Behind the kid, couples, families, and children alike raced in and out of the movie theater. Their excitement was almost a physical thing that you could hear buzzing about in the air like a swarm of gleeful bees.

Ah, the joys of movies in the 80's... when new releases were something special, and not just a search away on Netflix or Hulu.

“Plan on seeing a movie?” He asked. The boy glanced over his shoulder and gave a wistful sigh.

“Can’t.” He admitted.

“Why not?"

“Cuz,” the boy said, spreading his hands in a helpless gesture. It was quite charming, really. Even at such a young age, he had undeniable charisma. “I ain’t got the cash to get in... I tried sneakin' in." He flashed a sheepish smile. "But security caught me and chased me out. That's why I bumped into you, Mister."

“Call me, Mr. E.” He said. Behind him, a street light flickered on with a buzz. The kid raised an eyebrow.

“Mr. E?"


“Uh… yeah. Sure, Mister.” The boy rubbed one hand over the back of his neck. His attention shifted from him to a girl his own age strollin' past 'em, holdin' hands with a boy whose blond hair was slicked back and sportin' a fancy denim jacket. The girl ignored him. The blond boy gave him a superior smile, looking down his nose at him.

“Friends of yours?” He asked, givin’ the boy a long look. The boy kicked the sidewalk.

"One of 'em... used to be my friend. But she and I..." The kid rubbed his eyes. "Ah, forget it. I gotta bounce. No point hangin' 'round this uppity slugpit!"

Uppity slugpit… Was that really the best he could come up with?

"Before ya split, I got an offer for ya."

The boy stopped halfway down the sidewalk. He stood under the streetlamp. 

"I don't mess with no drugs, man." The kid warned, squintin' at him through heavy-lidded eyes.

Funny… A real clown we’ve got here, huh?

"Not drugs." He smiled, reachin' into his pocket. He pulled out a wallet and held it up for the kid to see.

"Just a friendly proposition." Mr. E pointed towards the theater. "How 'bout catchin' that movie, after all? My treat."

The boy scratched his head, lookin' puzzled and a bit on edge.

“You ain’t some kinda creep, are ya… Mr. E?”

Mr. E laughed.

“Not at all.” He promised. “I’m just a lonely old man... and I haven’t been to the movies in years. What’s playin’?”

“Some action flick." The boy walked slowly back over to him, his hands in his pockets. He shrugged one shoulder. "The poster looked cool... Dawn of Kings, or King’s Dawning, or something like that.”

Mr. E, with a mischievous glint in his eye, waved the wallet enticingly. "So, what's your say, kid?"

“I say you better not try nothin’ funny, or I’ll kick your kneecaps crooked."

Always was a scrapper, Mr. E gave a soft snort. The boy eyed him suspiciously, but eventually gave in with a 'screw it' expression and headed towards the brightly lit theater doors.

Mr. E started to follow him. He paused, slowly tilting his wrist up so he could see the golden watch latched around his arm.

Both his chain to death and his link to his last bit of freedom.

23 hours and 40 minutes to go, Mr. E let out a shaky breath. 24 hours to change everything that’s about to happen.


The movie was alright. Unfortunately, special effects in the 80’s paled in comparison to those of their 21st century predecessor.

The boy didn’t say a word the entire time. He just watched her in the seat across the aisle from them.

His eyes never left the girl sitting with the blond boy.

As soon as the credits began rolling, the two youngsters, the young middle school couple, rose and started down the aisle.

Toward the exit.

Mr. E watched them go. A deep-seeded mixture of hate, sorrow, and regret filled his chest with coils of discomfort, flooding his mouth with the coppery taste of emotional turmoil.

The boy kicked the back of the chair in front of him, causing a woman to give a sharp yowl of outrage.


“You say you and that girl used to be friends?” Mr. E asked after they’d left the theater. As they walked the dark streets, his eyes were drawn in bittersweet amazement to the people roaming about after dark.

The attire they adorned - denim jackets, varsity jackets, and snug jeans for the guys, and skirts, oversized bows, and blouses for the ladies. The voluminous, untamed hair that the women proudly showcased…

It was so different from the type of stylistic expression of the time he’d come from.

So different…

And yet…

The same.

People always went with the crowd, always wore what everyone else wore, and acted as everyone else did.

That had never changed.

And it never would.

"We were. She was my only friend," the kid murmured softly, pulling Mr. E out of his reverie. "She was the only one in this messed up world who gave a dang about me. My old man split when I was born, my older brother skipped town after some nasty business with his dealer, and my ma... she's always working, and when she ain't, she's busy trying to catch the eye of some guys. Trying to relive her glory days, I reckon."

A sharp pang hit Mr. E’s heart. He did a quick check of his watch.

22 hours remaining. 

“Ah. I’m sorry. But... what happened between you and the girl?”

“Her name’s Doris.” The boy said, a tender smile bringing a certain light to his dark eyes. “We played little league baseball together when we were little. She's somethin' else. Tough as nails, sharp as a tack, and she could knock a homer outta the park better than Ruth Babe!"

Mr. E stopped walking. He leaned against the side of a building, his back pressing into the center of some rather well-done graffiti art.

The kid stopped too. He scowled down at the pavement.

“But then she made friends with this new kid... from the other side of town. The rich side.” the kid's lips curled into a snarl, feral and untamed.

“And she starts spending all her time with the jerk, and he's... he’s a spoiled brat! Name’s Collin Macklord, yuck! Even his name sounds preppy.”

Mr. E swallowed hard. He felt his breath grow shallow, and he rubbed sweaty palms against his jeans.

This was how it’d all started.

Collin Macklord…

The name of both his destroyer and his creator.

“So, I told her to pick between the rich kid and me... and she told me I was being a jealous idiot, and she went with him!” The boy kicked the ground again.

“Keep doing that, and you're gonna wear a hole clean through the toe of your shoe.” Mr. E growled. He couldn’t help but give a soft shake of his head. Doris had been years ahead of him when it came to maturity.

She always had been.

“Maybe your friend was speaking sense, boy? Did you ever think of that? Maybe Collin’s only crime against you is that he became friends with your friend. And you don’t want to share her. You act like he’s the problem, when in reality, you're the one being irrational. You started this whole feud by treating him like trash just because of where he lives. You did that first, way before he started doing it back, Isaiah.”

The boy froze. His eyes widened. He took a step back, swallowing hard.

“H-How do you know... any of that?” He teetered on the edge of the sidewalk. A car screeched by, the wind blowing his shirt sideways, but he didn’t budge. “I never even told you my name!”

Mr. E glared at him. The boy who’d ruined everything. The boy whom he longed to strangle, hug, and beg all at the same time.

“I know. And I know that in a few moments, you're about to be faced with a choice. A choice that will either destroy your life or create a whole new one for you. Any moment now, Collin is going to come back this way after walking Doris home. He’s going to be stopped by a gang of junior gangsters from your part of town. And you? You're gonna see the whole thing, and one way or the other, you're going to act.” Mr. E stared down the road the way they had been walking. “And you're gonna create your future, boy.”

Isaiah's mouth flapped open and shut. He looked like a fish out of water. Mr. E gazed past him. From the darkness, he could see a figure emerging. A figure with straw-colored hair and a denim jacket.

Collin Macklord walked down the street, his head whipping one way to the other. The boy from the other side of the tracks was clearly uncomfortable with his surroundings.

Behind him, slowly trailing like a panther stalking its prey, was a black Camero.

The car veered off the road and up onto the sidewalk, blocking Collin’s path like a dam, stopping a river from flowing any further.

A gang of teenagers, sporting leather jackets, tattoos, and a single earring each, poured out of the car and surrounded the kid. Their taunts and Collin's cries filled the night with pure terror.

This moment was everything.

“Go.” Mr. E urged Isaiah. The boy glanced back at him, shaking his head in shock.


“Go. Save him. Don't make the same mistakes I did. Don't join those scumbags on their one-way trip to hell; don't turn a blind eye. Do what's right, for the love of God." Mr. E wiped away a tear.

“That's all I'm askin' for. My dyin' wish."

Isaiah slowly backed away, his eyes moving back and forth as he tried to comprehend something that was simply beyond the comprehension of anyone. Collin cried out as the teenagers began to move from their verbal assault to a more physical one.

Isaiah closed his eyes, then turned and raced towards them. Not with the slow swag that he’d moved towards them with when this moment had happened before and he’d slunk over to join in the fun, but with the urgent sprint of one rushing to help.

Isaiah shoved one of the boys in the back, sending him stumbling. Mr. E let out a choked breath.

Because it was Collin whom he’d shoved before. It was Collin who he’d fought against when this moment had taken place before.

Amidst the chaos of Isaiah, Collin, and the gang exchanging heated words, Mr. E caught sight of Darren, one of the boys, pulling out a glimmering pistol from his pants. Mr. E couldn’t help but remember that it had been Collin, the rich boy who’d dared to date one of their own, who’d faced that barrel before.

But not this time.  

This time, it was Isaiah who went limp as that gun boomed.  

And it was Isaiah who lay lifeless on the pavement.

Mr. E closed his eyes. He heard Collin's anguished cry, and he heard the car's engine roar as it sped away.

This was what he had wanted.

Better to be dead, than to live a life in servitude to murderers.

Doris would never hate him now. Never glare at him from the right side of bars and spit insults against his name. Claiming that the face she once reached out, touched, and called handsome was now nothing more than the face of a killer.

She would only know him as her friend. Who died a noble death, doing what was right.

And she and Collin would be happy together. As they should have been before.

Maybe I should feel bad, Mr. E mused, a bitter emptiness engulfing his heart. Urging a boy to run towards certain death… but… it’s different, ain’t it? When that boy used to be you. Is you… 

Besides, I’ve killed too many times now to recall what empathy even feels like. 

Mr. E turned and made his way down the street. A few miles down the road, he found what he was looking for.

A bar.

Naomi’s bar and grill.

He stepped inside. A woman was working at the counter. Her face was drenched in sweat, and her eyes were dull.

She didn’t look up until he set the wallet before her. His life’s savings.

She gaped at him. He just smiled, his eyes watery.

"Take it. You always said you were never happy in this town—or with me. Now, you have the means to leave, and soon, you won't have to worry about me anymore, Ma. Because I have paid the ultimate price for you, for myself, and for the girl I loved. Just as I should have done long before it came to this."


10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1,... The countdown echoed through the corridors of Mr. E's mind, each number a reminder of the dwindling moments he had left. After leaving the bar, he’d found himself wandering into a dimly lit arcade, a relic of his childhood. The back door to the establishment was never locked, and he slipped inside and sat in a lonely corner of the building until daybreak, when machines whizzed to life and the place was filled with excited children on a Saturday morning.

Leaning against the worn wall, he absorbed the pings of the machines and the infectious laughter of children. As the world around him faded, those sounds remained etched in his heart, a bittersweet melody that would endure for eternity.

Suddenly, his eyes fluttered open. He was met with the harsh reality of a table and restraints. A security guard loomed over him, a silent sentinel of his fate. The watch, a symbol of his limited time, was forcibly removed from his wrist.

“Okay, Isaiah," the guard's voice was gruff yet tinged with a hint of compassion. "Your twenty-four hours are up. Are you ready?"

Twenty-four hours. That was the measly offering granted to death row inmates in the year 2030. A chance to journey back in time and rewrite their lives, undo their worst mistakes, in an alternate timeline, all thanks to technology found within a small, golden, watch.

They were allowed to bring along a few treasured possessions for the ride back through time. Isaiah Cobbler, known as Mr. E, or better yet, Mystery, had chosen his life's sketches, a testament to his talent nurtured by Doris. He had scattered them strategically outside the movie theater, knowing she would stumble upon them on her way out and be captivated by their beauty. 

And he had brought his mother enough dough, earned legally, to provide her with a life of comfort until her final days.  

"It's a funny thing, ain't it?" Isaiah chuckled, a wistful humor twinkling in his eyes. "To ask someone if they're ready to die."

A sense of calm settled on his tired shoulders, a peace he hadn't known since '88, when Collin Macklord's death had thrown him into a life of secrecy and paranoia.

"But if anyone were ever truly ready, it would be me," Isaiah whispered, his voice carrying the weight of a lifetime's worth of regrets. And as he closed his eyes for the last time, a serene smile graced his lips. Memories of cinemas filled with enchantment, arcades brimming with joy, and a time when happiness had been his constant companion flooded his mind.

February 10, 2024 04:54

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Denise LaPare
21:21 Feb 13, 2024

Great story!


C.N. Jung
19:40 Feb 21, 2024

Thank you, Denise!


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Mary Bendickson
16:26 Feb 12, 2024

Only question is how did he make it to present time if he had died in the past? Story makes you think and wonder. Thanks for liking my 'Sixties Teen '.


C.N. Jung
19:59 Feb 21, 2024

Thank you for reading Mary! What I was thinking in terms of the time travel is that it enables inmates to journey back in time and alter their lives within an alternate timeline. This implies that the timeline they return to after 24 hours remains unaffected, yet they can find solace in the fact that they have created an alternative existence where they have not repeated the same mistakes as before. Essentially, it provides them with the chance to witness a real-life enactment of what could have unfolded if things had been different. Though,...


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Alexis Araneta
11:40 Feb 11, 2024

Oooh, what a unique take. Very powerful stuff!


C.N. Jung
20:03 Feb 21, 2024

I'm grateful for your feedback on my story, Stella! Thank you for taking the time to check it out!


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John Rutherford
07:58 Feb 11, 2024

Powerful drama, going back in time to correct regrets and wrong turns.


C.N. Jung
20:54 Feb 23, 2024

Thank you for taking the time to read my story, John. I truly appreciate the feedback!


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David Sweet
01:49 Feb 11, 2024

I'm glad he was able to change the past. Interesting take on this type of story.


C.N. Jung
19:45 Feb 21, 2024

Thank you for taking the time to read my story, David. I had several ideas in mind for this particular prompt, but I decided to approach it from a more unique angle than my initial thoughts. I appreciate the feedback!


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