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Fiction Romance

“We’re running out of time.”

I felt the blood drain from my face. I knew all too well that one statement held the increasingly narrow key to everything.

The deep voice who’d uttered the obvious statement came from a man sitting across from me. He was short in stature, at least eighty, and underwhelming with each feature. The only exception to this underwhelming presence was his eyes; they seemed wise and ancient which wasn’t exactly surprising in an older face but they seemed to have seen more than could possibly have been seen in anyone’s lifetime. They seemed to contain the secrets of the universe. The only thing that fit those eyes was his mysterious personality which suited them perfectly. For whatever reason, I trusted the eyes unreservedly. Although perhaps one day I’d come to regret it.

“Then we must go forward with the plan.” He looked at me thoughtfully and I unconsciously stood straighter.

 “Yes Luke, I’m afraid you're right.” was his reply “We have already gone too far to stop now.” 

The corners of my mouth immediately curved upwards in excitement. This would be my moment to change my history for the better, my only chance to reclaim what was meant to be mine, all I had to do was dig through my past.

15 years earlier

Kate Williams peered into the strange object which sat in the bottom of her father's curio cabinet. Unlike the typical old keepsakes found in the cabinet, the orb caught Kate’s attention. With its translucent material of brown and gold that seemed to move as she watched it. One might suspect this strange object to be a clock based on what was visible on the inside but Kate knew better, after all, no one knew when or where it had even come from, only that it had been passed down in her family from generation to generation. Neither did it tell time nor did it even have a face, only strange swirls.

Suddenly the thud of footsteps approached. Kate froze like a deer in headlights. She knew she wasn’t allowed to be in her father’s office. She could only imagine his fury if he caught her in here once again. The door slid open and of course, all she could manage in her frozen state was to widen her eyes in anticipation. 

    “Kate! What are you doing?!” Kate's jaw loosened, embarrassment replacing any leftover fear.

 “You look like you’ve seen a ghost!” 

“W-well um…” she stood up feeling awkward “I-I uh thought you were my dad.” At this point she was nervously picking at a rubber band on her wrist.

“Do I look that much like him?” For a second Kate saw a twinge of hurt flash over his face then he smiled with an idea. He lifted his chin up high, then he gave a sneer that was scarily close to her Dad’s which was odd on a face that held so much laughter. She watched as he made his voice as deep as he could muster.

    “Kate, you are such a disappointment! Breathing! UGH, disgusting! I was never such an insolent child at your age!” 

Kate covered her mouth with her hand, trying her best not to laugh, the side of her mouth twitching in disobedience. He saw and gave a proud smile followed by a bow.

    “Thank you, I’ll be here all night ladies and gentlemen!” 

Her hand left her mouth and a full-on smile burst out, he smiled in like. Then she remembered her initial fear. 

    “Very funny Luke, but we should get out of here before my luck runs out.” 

“Fine, fine,” Luke said “But what is it your dad’s so scared of you doing in here anyway?” 

Kate shrugged “dunno”. He looked at her for a second, head tilted to one side, then he seemed to brush it off.

“Well we should get going anyways, the bus will be here soon and I’m not walking to school.”

Kate looked back towards the object, something wasn’t right, it seemed to swirl faster. 

“Kate, you coming?” Luke was at the door, impatience coating his face.

“Yeah, I'm coming.”

4 years later

Once again Kate Williams couldn’t help but think about the orb. She’d skipped school. If her father found out, she’d be dead before she could say “sorry” but Kate had to do this. She had to discover what it did… why it was calling to her. She’d always been fascinated by it but, in the last month or so she’d felt a tug towards it like someone was whispering in her ear to take hold of it. Kate walked towards the now glowing sphere in a haze. She felt as if she was watching someone else's hands grasp the cool sphere. At her touch, it began to hum with power. 

Everything in her told her to put it down and never touch it again yet she no longer had control. Her hands lifted it and the room tilted, winds thrashed encapsulating her in her own personal tornado. Her breathing became heavy and uneven. She suddenly felt as if she’d run miles through blazing heat.

The winds became quieter yet twisted faster and faster until her feet lifted slightly off the ground. Then the one thing she least expected happened; she saw faces within the storm. Kate squinted trying to identify each face that flashed through the wind until she realized with a gasp, that her life was literally flashing before her eyes. She watched pictures of her younger self and those of her older self, playing events of the past and seemingly of the future. A thought then sparked in her mind; a question that had blazed in her mind since she was little. 

She knew what to do. It was as if it was precoded in her mind. She closed her eyes and focused on the picture of the one person she wished more than anything to see. 

The pictures swirled, blurring beyond recognition until they were slowly replaced by images of a different person. 

“Mom?” Kate choked out. She could hear the consistent beep sound coming from a heart monitor and the raspy breathing coming from her mother. Kate watched in solemn silence. Why had this picture stopped in front of her? Any other picture would’ve suited her much better. Instead she’d been given one of her mother in her final days.

Kate continued to watch her mom. Then the picture turned its head looking directly at her. Kate stumbled backward, eyes widening.

“Kate, is that you?” 

At first, Kate was too shocked to speak, but managed to choke out a simple “yes”. She’d always imagined a conversation like this:

“I’m so sorry Kate” or maybe a “You deserve better.” 

Yet what her mom actually said couldn’t have been any more different:

“You shouldn’t have used the sphere.” 

Kate just stared at the picture for a second before finding her voice.

“What! B-but why?! 

Her mom’s eyebrows knit together and a steely voice responded

“Our family has sworn to protect and guard that sphere and more than anything never use it unless for dire circumstances.” 

Of course, Kate should have known her mom would be like this, yet she’d always hoped she wasn’t. After all, what hope did that give her of being different from her parents?

Kate’s face must’ve been incredibly readable because her mom’s face softened and in a kinder voice she continued, “Kate just promise me you won’t do this again. Our family is meant to protect this. What if the orb tears the world? Would you really risk everything? For everyone? ” 

Kate stood silent for a moment too long. “No,” Kate looked towards the ground as anger and disappointment surged through her.

“Kate,” her mom said, and reluctantly she looked up, and something unexpected came,

 “I’m sorry but you have to protect the sphere.I love you.”

And with that, everything became quiet. The orb rolled from her hands down to the floor. Tears dripped down Kate's face and she started to sob, the built-up anger, disappointment, and loss all tearing through her.

5 years later

Luke felt his cheeks spread to their widest capacity. He couldn’t help but be excited. He hadn’t seen Kate in four years; since they graduated. 

Weirdly enough Kate’s dad was the one who had bought him the plane ticket. When Luke asked why he just said she’d want him there for her birthday. For whatever reason, that was the best thing he’d ever heard. 

 A memory flashed through his brain, from around the end of junior year, Kate had skipped school. She’d said she’d just been sick but he knew better, after that one day she had become entirely different: more serious. He’d pestered her non-stop for about a month until one day she just broke. 

“Luke! Just leave it alone okay?! Even if something did happen I wouldn’t have told you anyway” and then she broke down crying.

He might as well have taped “world’s biggest jerk” to his forehead for making his best friend cry like that. He’d felt terrible. Then he registered the piece about not trusting him and all hell broke loose. 

After that they didn’t speak for months, that’s probably when he realized she was more than a friend to him, but he didn’t dare say anything. Not until graduation when they were going to seperate colleges, he felt had no other choice. Of course she hadn’t felt the same way.

Before he knew it he was walking up to her apartment. He was never one to feel anxiety but, at that moment it felt like an overweight elephant was sitting on his chest. He was tempted to return to his car, drive far away, and devise a lame excuse. 

He took a shaky breath and lifted his hand towards the doorbell and took a shaky breath. Before he was able to press the button, the door opened. And there he was face to face with Kate herself. 

“Hi,” spouted from his mouth and Kate glared at him in return. 

“What are you doing here?” she growled

“Happy to see you too!” 

She closed the door behind her, grabbed his arm and dragged him back towards his car “Soo, I flew all the way here for your birthday, and you're going to kick me out?” 

“Yes,” she said

“Wow, ok.” 

“Really you're going to give up just like that?”

“Yup. Do you think I came all the way here just for you? I do have other friends still living here, you know.” She didn’t say anything, instead she just looked away.

“You know the world really does not revolve around you.”

She turned around and as a single tear dripped down her face she whispered an “I’m sorry”.

All of his anger melted away. 

“Wow,” he thought, “I am way too easily manipulated.” 

    “Look, Kate, I didn't mean to upset you here by coming.”

She angrily pushed the tear off her face 

“It’s okay, maybe if you came another time?” 

“Kate? Who or what is making you cry? That’s my job.” 

“It’s none of your business.” It was definitely a guy.

“Yeah, okay,” he said with every bit of sarcasm, then he turned back towards the house and stormed in. He hadn’t been here in four years and there was no way he’d leave yet. No one should make Kate cry, especially not on her birthday.

“Luke don’t be stupid!” he heard her shout at him, but, it was already too late- stupid mode had been flipped on.

He opened the door and let himself in, the first person he saw was her dad.

“Hi sir, someone is bringing Kate to tears. Any chance you know who it is?” Her dad smiled, which I couldn’t help but think was an odd response. 

“Well if I had one guess it’d be her boyfriend: Daniel”. 

He had said Daniel with a growl, and Luke couldn’t help but, wonder if he’d bought the plane ticket for Luke so he could get rid of him. He pointed towards Daniel and Luke immediately wondered why Kate would be with such a loser. The guy was muscular but, he had a dumb, cocky look about him which meant no good automatically. Luke walked towards him knowing just how to handle this type.

“Hey! Dani!” Luke called

“Do I uh do I know you?” was the guy's response.

“What! Come on, Dani, you remember me!”

“Oh uh-yeah sorry man, of course, I-uh remember you.” He was an awful liar. 

“Good, good! Well between two friends I just saw your girlfriend outside cryin’ any idea why?”

“Psh, hell if I know.” I raised an eyebrow. “Yeah, yeah ok well she saw me talking to this chick and freaked out about it.” 

That didn't sound like Kate at all.

“Wow, are you sure you were just talking to her?” Daniel’s eyes narrowed

 “So, what if I wasn't”

At that point, Luke had had enough, he pushed the loser against the wall with every bit of force, and the guy's eyes bulged. Luke spoke quietly

“Well Daniel, you hurt Kate, you mess with me and you don’t want to be messing with me. Now you have something good going on being with someone like Kate who obviously loves you enough to be crying over you, so I suggest you be nice to her. You hear me?”

At that moment Luke was grateful for every workout he’d ever done, now it was finally worth it to be able to pin this guy against a wall. 

“Yeah, yeah ok.” 

With that Luke set him down and brushed off Daniel's shoulders. 

“Now you be a good boy and go apologize.” 

Luke grabbed his car keys from his pocket knowing his job was done. He then turned around to a glaring Kate. Wow this felt like deja vu.

“Hey, Kate look-” Kate grabbed his shoulders and yanked him down to a kiss.

2 years later

Everything was perfect. Luke had finally proposed to Kate and she’d said yes. They were both overjoyed with excitement. Of course, even the happiest moments can be utterly destroyed. Luke should have seen it coming. They had just talked the night before and he was planning to stop by and see her the next morning except she wouldn’t return any calls. That was unusual but he just brushed it off which was probably the dumbest mistake he’d ever made. Maybe he could have stopped it right then and there had he gotten to her earlier. 

The news was delivered by a phone call by a man with a severe yet gentle voice. Luke drove to the hospital as fast as he could but, by then it was already too late. 

    Luke never cried, but seeing her crumpled body brought endless sobbing. He’d asked the man what happened and he replied with an all too simple 

“She jumped.” 

Luke couldn’t believe that. Kate was always happy. Why didn’t she just talk to him? This had to be his fault, maybe he’d missed the signs. And why was she holding that strange orb?

Present time

    Luke was once again grateful for the old man. After all, he never would’ve discovered what Kate’s orb did without the man’s help. Yet as the old man had already stated, they were running out of time. Apparently, the orb could only go back in time so far. He would know. Luke would always refer to him as the old man yet he knew he was truly Luke’s older self unable to reach that point in time they both wanted. He hadn’t known they were the same person until Luke finally confronted him for answers. It all made sense though. Why else would he want exactly what he wanted?

    Luke held the key to his past and future. Old-luke had explained what would happen when he used it so he wasn’t at all surprised as tornado-like winds wrapped around him. He closed his eyes and focused on the face that had tormented him for four years. The winds changed and pictures of her face began to swirl within them.

“Kate,” he whispered and with that they slowed to a picture of her standing on top of a building. A knot hit his throat and he swallowed it down. 

“Kate, why?” he said, his voice cracking with emotion. 

She looked towards him, her eyes filled with pity, he must’ve looked awful.

“Our son, Luke.” I didn’t understand.

“He would’ve torn the world in two.” she paused tears brimming in her eyes.

“Luke, if you’d seen what I’ve seen you’d understand.” 

“Kate, this is crazy! Don’t kill yourself. Why don’t you just destroy the orb?” 

“That’s my plan Luke.”

Then it dawned on him, she’d been holding it in her hands the day of her death; she’d tried to destroy it.

“No, no Kate, it doesn't work.” his voice cracked “I was there.”

She shook her head in disappointment. “Then there’s no destroying it.”

“What if we hide it and just never speak of it, it’ll just be our secret.”

Kate looked like she’d seen a ghost. 

“Or we can figure something else out.” Luke said hesitantly.

Kate simply pointed behind him, her eyes wide. Luke whipped around; it was just the old man. Except something wasn’t right, he looked violent, his eyes filled with greed.

“Luke,” Kate whispered “It’s him.” It’s him, Luke’s head spun.

“Finally, I have it again.” Said the raspy voice of Luke’s betrayer the winds swirled, and at that moment Luke realized the old man would never have been born making Kate never commit suicide and Luke never go on his weird downwards spiral. The winds swirled around Luke and except for the faint memory of his past four years and the decision to adopt a daughter all was as it should’ve been. The orb simply sat in a curio cabinet of Luke’s office.

July 16, 2022 03:49

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5 comments

Shlomo Ben Zvi
16:58 Jul 16, 2022

I like the story but I don't completely understand the ending, esp the mention of a daughter.

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Duane Burke
00:55 Jul 21, 2022

I agree with Shiomo - the story was a cool read, but I'm a little bit confused by the ending. If they are the same person how is Luke never born while also adopting a daughter and keeping the orb in his cabinet? I think if the ending was a little clearer I would have enjoyed it even more.

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Katy Borobia
14:10 Jul 16, 2022

The revelation that the old man IS Luke, as well as the happy-turned-tragic-turned-mysterious ending, really made this story pop. Thank you for sharing and good luck in the contest!

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Andi Hyland
04:54 Jul 16, 2022

Great storytelling! I really enjoyed your story.

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04:34 Jul 16, 2022

A great read! I really appreciate a story with time jumps, it adds a lot:)

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