I surveyed the damage and knew I would be getting dirty looks from our “clean up” team for weeks. My supervisor, on the other hand, had nothing but praise.
“That’s the third gang leader you’ve taken down in as many weeks. I thought you’d be tired by now. How do you do it?”
I would love to say I was just born incredibly talented or I spent my entire childhood training 24 hours a day for this, but that’s not the case. I guess I was born with something, but I’m not sure it could be considered talent.
Unfortunately, I was sworn to secrecy when I was very young – my mother always said “it’s not your secret to tell so you better zip your lips” and no matter how many bad guys I take down, I will always be scared of my mother. So, you’ll have to figure this one out for yourself. Or maybe you’ll get lucky and some villain I face will figure it out for you! Well, good luck with that.
Anyway, as I wiped my bloody hands on my pants so I could pick up the mob boss’s phone without ruining it, I told my boss my usual cover story. The one I should probably be telling you.
“I’ve always been incredibly lucky, whether it’s taking down bad guys or winning raffle prizes, things always seem to work out for me. Speaking of, I should really play the lottery.”
“You can forget the lottery if you keep working like this, you’ll be getting so many pay raises and bonuses you won’t know what to do!”
My supervisor gave me a long weekend as a reward for my success, though I would have been happy to keep working. Work makes me come alive in a way I can’t recreate through any hobby. Not much challenges me in life, but if anything will, it’s taking down mastermind villains.
When I was choosing a major back in college, my mom kept telling me all jobs become work eventually, no matter how much you love it when you start. That hasn’t been the case for me yet and I don’t see it happening any time soon. Sometimes I wonder if my mom was just speaking from her own experience or if I’m the weird one. Well, I am the weird one, but whether that has any influence on this particular matter…
I decided to take my long weekend to visit my mother. She could always use the company.
“Malia?” my mother says my name with a mix of confusion and disappointment. “What are you doing here?”
“Hey mom, nice to see you too. My boss gave me a long weekend.” I give her a hug which she only partially returns.
“You got fired?”
“No, I cracked my case and took down my bad guy quicker than they expected so they rewarded me with extra time off.”
“Your bad guy?”
“Yeah, the one I was assigned to find.”
“Hey mom,” I readjusted the duffle bag that was feeling heavier by the minute, “can I come in?”
“Oh. Alright,” my mom opened the door the rest of the way and stepped aside so I could get through.
The house was the same as it always was when I wasn’t around. Sad. Unfortunately, not because it missed me though. Granted, if houses had feelings it probably would miss me, its’ primary caretaker.
I don’t think my mom ever opened the curtains while I was gone, and she definitely didn’t open the windows. The air felt incredibly stale and smelled of deterioration and a faint hint of burning. At least that was new.
The living room was filled with scraps of paper, notebooks, old newspapers, and reference books for a memoir my mom had been writing my whole life.
“How’s the memoir, mom?”
“Oh, it’s coming along,” she responded vaguely as she always did. As if my mention of the memoir caused her to forget my existence, my mom picked up a random piece of paper and began looking it over.
I sighed and turned down the hallway to drop my bag off in my room. No matter how many times I had insisted that my mom could turn my room into an office if she wanted, my cotton candy pink room remained untouched.
In the main room something made a crashing noise. Immediately I was sure it was my mother and she didn’t just trip.
I crept back down the hall pulling my gun just in case. My mom must have been knocked unconscious and I could not get a read on the situation from sound alone. I rounded the corner fully prepared for an intruder, but instead I found something even crazier.
The living room was spotless. Every scrap of paper that had become a permanent fixture in the room was gone. There wasn’t so much as a crumpled-up napkin. There was only one piece of paper left in the room, sitting neatly on the coffee table. Unlike my mother’s hasty handwriting, filled with mistakes, this writing was precise and seemed to perfectly fill the page.
It’s time you come and face me.
Before I could even attempt to interpret this strange message, I realized something else was missing from the room. My mother.
“I told you to take the day off,” my supervisor said when he finally picked up the phone.
“I know, I am. Or I was. I drove out to visit my mom, but I walked out of the room for maybe a minute and someone broke in and kidnapped her.”
“You’re sure she didn’t just wander off? She’s always been a little out of it. No offence.”
“I heard a struggle.
“Have you called the police.”
“Agent, you of all people should know the proper procedure-“
“I do know proper procedure, but I also don’t think this was a normal kidnapping. Someone wants me to come after her. There was a strange note. Also, my mom’s papers are missing. And who would steal those?”
“What did the note say?”
“I texted you a picture. It’s handwritten and the penmanship is pretty distinctive.”
“So, you want me to Maren check it for a match too now?”
“I would greatly appreciate that.”
“You want to handle this yourself don’t you.”
I didn’t respond. He already knew the answer, saying it wouldn’t help anything.
“Malia, I think you’re right, someone is after you, which means going after him yourself would not only be dangerous, but incredibly stupid. And you’re not stupid, so what are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking that I am perfectly qualified, and I don’t trust anyone else with my mother’s life.”
“How are you even going to find this person? This note doesn’t exactly provide directions.”
“When have I not found someone I want to find?”
“Usually you at least know who you are looking for. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard of anyone calling themselves The Future.”
I couldn’t tell him, back to the not my secret to tell thing, but I actually had. I had spent most of my life assuming he was made up, but what if he wasn’t? Could this villain also be my mom’s mysterious hero?
“Malia? Are you there?”
“So what are you going to do?”
“I’m going to go after The Future.”
Okay, yeah, I had no leads. No idea who this guy was or how much I could trust my mom’s crazy stories. But if I was sure of anything, it was that for once in my life, I didn’t know what path to take, and that had to be the biggest clue of all.
I had always known what to do, where to go. If someone calling themselves The Future was keeping me from finding the path could they maybe be…?
I went where the paths always seemed clearest. A few miles from my house the road turned up into the hills and way up a county road was a little path that led to a forgotten lookout. From there, with the world laid out below me, it was much easier to think.
As expected, there he was.
“Where’s my mom?” I asked the mysterious looking middle-aged man.
“This was where we first met you know, back when her and I loved each other we spent so much time sitting on that rock there discussing all of her dreams.”
“Is she okay?”
“She hasn’t been okay for a long time, and that’s my fault. Don’t you want to know who I am?”
“I know who you are. You have been whispering in my ear my whole life. You’ve been in every tale my mom ever told though you somehow always escaped her pen which is why she could never finish her book.”
“And who am I?” he asked moving to lean against the rock wall that kept visitors from falling down the steep hill.
“You’re The Future, or the human embodiment of it anyway.”
“And you are my father.”
“Would you like to know about your past?”
“I would like to know where my mom is now and what you want from me.”
“The present? No, I can’t help with that.”
“Yet you want to tell me about my past?”
“Well seeing as your future depends on this knowledge, yes I would.”
“New question. Where will I find my mom?”
“Ah, now you’re getting it!” The Future grinned and pulled me up to the wall with him, his heavy arm sitting way too comfortably around my shoulders. “It must be strange having to ask about the future, huh?”
“Are you going to answer my question?” I stepped out from under his arm.
“Don’t worry, your little skill is fine, it just won’t work with me.”
“You know, your ability to see possible paths?”
“I know…” Yeah, my main focus was figuring out where my mom was, but having The Future standing right in front of me, there were definitely other questions and he knew just what they were. If he truly was the future, he would probably have my skills too, in addition to many others. All my questions were possible paths, and he saw those.
I had never met someone with the same skill as me, and I had to admit it was a little thrilling. I wondered how confusing our conversations would be if we could both see the possible paths they could take.
“Why do you think you can’t use it around me? Besides, I’m supposed to be mysterious, I can’t let you see all my cards. “
“No, but you could at least show the one that tells me where my mother is.”
The Future smiled, “I could.
But he did not, and in the blink of an eye he was gone.
I decided to go visit my mom’s old friend at her bar. Maybe she would know something that could help.
A young woman around my age was sitting at the bar with a beer and a plate of fries, but otherwise the bar was empty.
“Hey, Malia, right?” the girl asked.
“Yeah, do I know you? Sorry.”
“It’s all good, we only had a few classes together. It’s Kate.”
“I think the bartender is taking a call, let me get you a drink?”
“You work here?”
Kate winked. She slid off her stool and rounded the bar.
“I bet you’re a cider girl. Here.” She slid me a foaming glass.
I squinted, trying to place Kate, She was cute, just my type, I didn’t know any girls that were my type in high school. And that’s when I realized I had no idea what she wanted.
Kate smiled. “When people can’t see the future, they tend to turn to the past, kind of ironic, huh?”
“So, you can change your looks?”
“Of course, I’m not human, I’m here to fit the future you want or need to see. Fun, huh?”
“Yeah, great. Are you ever going to tell me what I want to know?”
“You want to know a lot of things, it may take a while.”
“Then get talking.” I sat and took a sip of the cider. She was right, it was exactly what I needed.
“Now you want to know?”
“Well I feel like I won’t find my mom until you say what you want to say, so spit it out.”
“I guess that’s sort of true, you won’t be able to help her until you know anyway.”
“You know I can’t see the path, just tell me what I need to do.”
“Okay, first you’ll need to listen.”
“Oh, and have some fries, you’re way too skinny, I feel like you’ll blow away if it gets windy out.”
I narrowed my eyes at her, wanting to tell her off for making comments about my body, but I said I’d listen, so I took a fry and ate it as passive aggressively as possible.
“Your mom was once the brightest woman I ever knew. She practically leaked hopes and dreams for her life. I fell in love and tried to help her as much as I could, but she always wanted more, so finally I decided to take a human form and meet her in person.
“I met her up on that hill and we couldn’t get enough of each other. The more we gave each other, the more we wanted. But then she got pregnant and everything changed. She started having regrets and turning away from me and even I hadn’t seen this coming. I see everything, but I guess I became blinded by my love for your mom. When I realized this, I started staying away more and more. I was scared that I had lost myself to her. Maybe I had, she had definitely lost herself to me and between being pregnant and the distance I was keeping, she slowly gave up on all of her hopes and dreams. She gave up on me.
“I would have never tried to meet her if I had known how badly I would screw everything up. I still can’t believe I didn’t know that would be the outcome…”
“You mean the fact that my mom is completely out of it and most people think she’s crazy?”
“She had nothing to look forward to anymore, the future was in her past. I was in her past,” there were tears in her eyes. I didn’t want to feel bad for her, but she really had loved my mom.
“Malia, I have tried everything. I have been down every path trying to avoid the only one that will guarantee success. I really thought if I ensured that you were doing well, she would start to come around again, not that you need much help, but she just doesn’t care! No offense. So now, I’ve had to make her forget her time with me in my human form. If I’m not in her past anymore, she’ll finally get better. You can reintroduce her to her hopes and dreams and then we can love each other from afar, though to her, I will be nothing more than some crazy dream.”
“I don’t even know what her hopes and dreams are, she hasn’t had any my whole life.”
“I know, but once I’m out of the picture, you’ll know what to do.”
“If you couldn’t see the path before, how can I trust the path you see now?”
“Malia. Before I took the path I wanted to take, not bothering to consider what might be at it’s end. Now I take the path I need to take, because although it’s hard, the outcome will make the path worth it.”
I finished my cider and wondered if I wasn’t supposed to defeat the bad guy this time, the bad guy seemed to be defeating themself.
“You still think I’m a bad guy, but I am what you make me, so what does that say about you?”
“I did not make you kidnap my mom.”
“I didn’t kidnap her, she’s sleeping in her room and she’ll wake up once I’m done with my human form.”
“You think you’re such a great agent, but you rely entirely on your ability to see future paths, you didn’t even think to check the house.”
“Why didn’t you say so to begin with?”
“If I had, you would have never listened. This was the only path on which I saw you listening.”
“I’m not the one obsessed with defeating bad guys, why don’t you tell me?” I didn’t know and she knew this. She smiled and took my hand, “Come on, I want to see her one last time before I go.”
“Wait, we need to pay!”
“It’s my bar, your mother’s bar now, being her friend was how I tried staying in her life. If only it had worked.”
Just as The Future said, my mom was sleeping soundly in her bed. The Future once again had changed appearance, now the young man he must have appeared to my mother as. The Future said goodbye then turned to me as I realized I had one more question.
“You don’t want me to answer that. Do you want me to tell you that I love you and wish I had been around? You know our relationship will never be normal, but I’ll always be around, just out of reach.”
My mom was already a whole new person when she woke up. Engaged, caring, happy. “What’s got you so distracted sweetheart?” she asked while fixing the most elaborate meal I had ever seen her make.
“Nothing mom, I was just thinking about The Future,” I began working on the task she had been about to ask for my help with. She blinked in surprise then passed me a spoon.
“The future? That’s nice, honey.”
“Yeah, I think it is.”