Nifty Disclaimer - This story is a work of fiction and contains scenes including sexual relations between people of the same gender. If this isn't your cup of tea, or is illegal where you live, please do not read. Any relation between fictional characters and real people is purely coincidental.
Never, ever, ever trust a mad scientist.
Anyone who has read science fiction stories or watched a few episodes of Outer Limits or Twilight Zone knows not to trust mad scientists doing illegal research. I'd done all those things, and knew from the outset that I should have just walked away. There were ten thousand reasons why I didn't though.
Yes, ten thousand dollars.
When you're middle-aged, jobless, broke, with no living relatives to fall back on, ten thousand dollars is a lot of money and a lot more temptation than I could say no to and not regret it for the rest of my life. With a life that was full of nothing but could-have-been, the risk of participating in some mad scientist's experiments didn't seem all too great, if I lived. So far, nothing had killed me like hundreds of little mistakes should have, so I was fairly confident in surviving to take the money off of the creep's hands.
"Don't worry, Mr. Jones, the risk of death is minimal at best." The scientist with the bushy silver-brown hair had told me while looking down his long nose. Some guy about my age, who almost seemed familiar, was strapping me down on a chair while the scientist himself injected some drug into an I.V. I knew the table would slide into the machine that looked like an MRI machine but was not, according to the scientist. He'd picked me over the other pool of recruits for several reasons. I'd been college educated, but never quite achieved my degree, I had a knack for accurately recalling events, and wasn't into drugs or alcohol (I'd given them up a decade ago). None of the men in that room had had families or jobs, but most were uneducated drifters or paranoid schizophrenics. "Now, as the drug takes affect, you'll begin to feel dizzy, and maybe a little nauseous. Let me know when that begins."
"It's beginning already." I had told him as I felt the table drop from below me. It hadn't moved, really, and I knew that, but it felt like I was no longer in contact with the damn thing. The room was spinning slightly, and instead of fighting the vertigo I let my mind flow with it, and even let myself enjoy the spinning sensation.
"Excellent." The scientist had said. "We'll insert you into the machine and I want you to close your eyes. When you open them, you should be able to see the effect of the experiment. I want you to observe things closely and compare them with your actual memories."
"You can't be more accurate than twenty years?" I had asked and he just shook his head. Mad scientists and time travel, I knew I should never have agreed to this experiment, even if ten thousand would have been enough to get me back on my feet and a productive part of society. Time travel should be impossible, as the government had stated when it shut the man's program down. He'd probably gotten funding from some rich old bastard who wanted to go back in time, not just observe a past event of his own life through his own eyes.
"It should be twenty years exactly, but there may be some shift of a few days either way." The scientist repeated to me, his voice containing a hint of exasperation. "You won't be able to interact, or do anything but observe the events, and we'll bring you back after twenty minutes. Once you wake up, we'll debrief and I'll expect detailed accounts of everything you observed, felt, or sensed."
"You'll have it, doc." I said dreamily as the rate of the room's spinning had increased. Minutes later, or an eternity as I floated calmly along with the effects of the drug, I knew the table had been moved into the machine and it was turned on. I knew that from the loud clanking, the flashing lights, and then the total darkness. What happened next was the result of mad science, and really should not have surprised me at all.
"Davey, wake up, Davey." The voice was excited, and familiar, and dragged me out of the blackness of sleep instantly. I expected to be dizzy, but I wasn't. When I opened my eyes, I could see a face I hadn't seen in over a decade.
"J-Jenny?" I stuttered in surprise, and felt my jaw drop in shock at seeing my sister's ten-year-old face staring back at me with that wicked smile.
"Shhh!" She hissed warningly, smiling that wicked smile again. "We can't wake up grandma."
"Wh what?" I asked her in confusion. This wasn't supposed to be happening, I was supposed to be seeing events, not interacting with them. Jenny had died three years ago, murdered by her husband along with their two kids, and seeing her now, at ten was more painful than I could ever have imagined. I wanted to warn her of so many things, but it wasn't the right thing to do, was it?
"MTV comes on in ten minutes, you dolt." Jenny's voice was barely above a whisper, but full of scorn like only she could do. "Aunt Bev's down in her room with Michele and they've got the TV set up. We're going to watch it on her big screen."
Suddenly I remembered what day it was, or rather what night. It was July 31st, 1981, and in a few minutes Music Television would broadcast for the first time ever. Somehow Jenny and I had gotten our parents to let us stay over at Grandmas this night, our way of sneaking around dad's absolute forbidding of us to watch this new 'devil station'. Aunt Bev had been paralyzed seven years ago and the garage of Grandma's house had been converted into a bedroom/living room for her. She had a big screen television, cable, and along with our cousin, Michele (who helped take care of her), had agreed to let us watch the start of the new era that MTV would represent. We didn't think of it as a 'new era' back then of course, it was just that MTV was cool, and all the cool kids would be talking about it when school started. Some vague memory told me that the first of August had been a Saturday, which was how we'd gotten away with this trick.
"Come on." Jenny hissed again and I threw the cover off of the bed. We were staying in the back bedroom of grandma's house, and had to sneak past her bedroom, and Uncle Ron's bedroom in order to get down to Bev's room. We made it though, without waking up our notoriously light-sleeping Grandmother.
I noticed as I had stood that I was wearing an oversized t-shirt and pair of white fruit of the loom underwear. I'd given up on regular briefs decades ago, and they felt strange. What was even stranger was how my body worked at the age of twelve. The little aches in the joints were gone, and it felt like each step was lighter than it had been in decades. Jenny was wearing her flannel nightgown and her blond hair was still long. As we passed through the living room I noticed my own reflection in the big mirror and stopped for a second to stare. The moonlight from the large living room windows provided enough light to see my bleach-blond hair and I fingered the medium-length hair with fondness. It had long since faded to brown while I was in my early twenties, and I'd spent a lot of money through the years trying to dye it back to this color.
"What are you looking at?" Jenny's whisper was full of scorn and dragged me back to the present.
Or the past, or whatever this was. Stupid mad scientists! 'You'll only be able to observe.' He'd said but this was way past observing. I knew that, and wondered when the twenty minutes would be up. A wild desire hit me to warn my sister of the things that were to come, but I didn't. I knew better than to mess with the time continuum, or whatever it was called. I may have been lured to this experiment by the money, but I knew my sci-fi and I wasn't going to mess up the time-line and return to a world worse off than the one I left.
"Let's go." I whispered back to Jenny, taking her arm and suppressing the thrill of delight at being able to touch my sister again. I wanted to hug her, but it would be too odd. We were at that sibling rivalry stage of growing up and showing emotions was just un-cool.
"I wonder what they'll play first." Jenny said softly as we reached the door to Bev's room. It was between the kitchen and dining room, and I was surprised at the difference in the kitchen. Grandma had had the kitchen redone ten years ago, or was that ten years from now, and seeing it again like it had been made me smile with fond remembrances.
"'Video killed the Radio Star' by the Buggles." I answered Jenny's rhetorical question and mentally slapped myself in the head. It had been the first question on the final in 'Modern American Musical History', and the only question I knew I'd gotten right. The 'D' on the test had shown how much I really appreciated the course material, but that little bit of trivia had stuck with me. Jenny stared at me with an open mouth and a look of total shock, her hand frozen on the door handle.
"You're just saying that." Jenny finally concluded aloud and I just shrugged. It was too late now and she'd find out in a few minutes that I was right. She opened the door and we snuck down into Bev's room, the ramp creaking slightly as it always did under our weight. Michele was sitting on the couch to the left and Bev was on her hospital bed to the right a few feet back from the ramp. Both of them were sitting up and smiled as we made our way into the room. Jenny went instantly to sit on the floor in front of the big-screen television that had some sort of signal test pattern on it and I went to give Aunt Bev a hug.
"You two aren't going to tell your parents, are you?"
Bev teased me as I gave her a hug. She wrapped her arms around me in return
and I took a deep breath to hold back the sob that almost escaped me. She'd
been paralyzed from the neck down in 1974, only able to move her arms, not able
to flex her hands or move her legs at all since that time, and she'd died about
five years ago. I'd missed her humor; her zest for life and just seeing her,
touching her, feeling her was almost too much for me. "You okay there,
"Fine." I mumbled, pulling out of the hug and smiling at her. "Thanks for letting us watch this with you."
"Just don't tell your dad." She reiterated. "He'll kill me if he finds out."
"You're an evil influence on us youngins." I said in a mock southern accent, and she laughed while her eyes widened with some surprise. I'd been a smart kid, but I was pretty sure I'd never been so openly scornful of dad until I'd become an adult.
"It's on!" Jenny cried out from the floor as the screen changed to the MTV rocket launch logo and the beat of the theme song from the channel filled the room. When the video actually started playing, I almost groaned aloud. Jenny shot me a look full of murderous intent.
"How did you know?" She demanded.
"Know what?" Bev countered from her bed. I was sitting on the edge of that bed and she was resting one of her arms on my shoulder in a loving contact that I never realized how much I had missed until that moment.
"He knew what video they were going to play." Jenny whined aloud.
"I read it on in the newspaper." I said quickly, catching myself before I said 'internet'. It would be another ten years or more before anyone knew what the Internet was.
"You're always reading stupid stuff." Jenny muttered before turning back in rapt fascination to the television. I watched the scene in the room, my sister, my cousin, my Aunt, none of whom were still alive, and felt tears well up inside of me. Part of me never wanted to leave, and another part screamed to be let out of this mad house. I thought I would go insane if I had to stay here with people I loved and knew were long dead. The video ended, and the VJ appeared, talking about the historic occasion this night marked, and I wondered if they realized that in ten years I'd be reading about it in a history book.
"You two oughtta head back to bed." Bev said after the second video had played out. I nodded, giving her a hug and a kiss before heading upstairs. Jenny pouted for a minute before giving our Aunt a hug, thanking her for letting us watch MTV, and followed me out of the room. We snuck back into bed, and Jenny was fussing softly about the video as I drifted off to sleep. I was pretty sure twenty minutes hadn't elapsed yet, and as I closed my tired eyes I actually welcomed the thought of returning to my crappy life.
It was better than re-living a happy moment from a life full of sadness and grief.
"Wake up Davey!" This time the voice was male, but a pre-teen male. I recognized it dimly, and opened my eyes to another surprise.
Damn mad scientists! The light filtering in past the curtains told me it was daylight and here I was, still stuck in my own past! The young boy shaking me awake was my cousin, Bryan. He had to be seven, I think, and he was smiling widely.
"Grandma's making chocolate gravy!" Bryan said as he shook me again. "She says we can't eat till you get up - so get up!"
"I'm up, Bryan." I said with a slight moan. I was awake, and I needed to pee, and I realized something I'd totally forgotten.
At twelve, I was well into puberty. I could feel a morning hard-on, much smaller than my adult penis, but still very obvious, and an almost unbearable need to pee. Like Michele, and unlike my sister and I, Bryan had the jet-black hair of most of the family and was practically bouncing up and down with his urge to get me up so he could eat Grandma's chocolate gravy and biscuits. I didn't blame him, since I remembered the delicacy fondly.
"Hurry up." Bryan groaned again, bending down and picking up a pair of shorts that he threw to me. I looked at the green nylon shorts with surprise for a moment before I remembered the pair as being one of my favorites. I slipped them on under the covers, not wanting my too-young cousin to see my morning erection. He'd always been full of questions and I knew he'd ask, I remembered him doing that several times, and I was not about to have the birds and bees talk with him.
Then I remembered his four kids sired by the time he was eighteen and thought that maybe I should have the talk with him after all.
No, I'd be yanked back to the present any time now, and I wasn't going to change the past, no matter how much I was tempted by the things I knew. Instead I got out of bed and made my way to the bathroom, shutting the door on Bryan before he could follow me inside. I remembered him doing that a lot when he was this age, always wanting to follow his older cousin around. I'd hated it back then, but I understood it better now, as an adult. I must have stood at that toilet for five minutes before I was able to bend my erection down enough to piss. It finally softened as I let loose, and unlike my uncoordinated twelve-year-old self, I was much better at hitting the bowl in this state. I washed my hands quickly and headed into the dining room where Jenny, Michele, Bryan, and Uncle Ron were already waiting. Grandma was just coming up from delivering a tray to Bev, and Michele was fixing her plate to carry down and eat with Bev. Grandma brought a plate of sausages and set them down before sitting herself.
"Davey, you want to lead us in prayer?" Grandma asked and I suppressed a groan as I remembered I'd always been enthusiastic about doing this when dad wasn't here. At twelve I'd been ecstatic about any opportunity to be an 'adult' and leading the family in prayer was one way a 'man' always led the family, at least with us.
"Lord, we thank you for this wonderful meal, and our loving family, Amen." I said quickly, opening my eyes as my sister snorted aloud and grandma looked up in surprise. Okay, I'd tended to long-winded prayers in imitation of my preacher father at this age and this was more like the last few prayers I'd consented to giving before outright telling dad to shove it up his ass, but oh well.
"That was short." Uncle Ron noted and I stopped myself from glaring at the deadbeat. He'd married Bev last year, if I remembered correctly. He'd been in the Navy, served on submarines as a cook, and started a restaurant after getting out. Like most navy cooks, he'd learned the hard way that people won't pay for the slop he cooked and the restaurant had failed miserably. There were still two pinball games from the restaurant down in Bev's room, and I remembered playing on them for hours before learning how to take them apart and cheat horribly.
"I'm hungry." I retorted to Ron's comment. He was a deadbeat in that he never held a job for more than a few years, spent more time on unemployment than working and once Bev had died, he got remarried two months later so he could live off of another woman's income. Again I silently prayed for the mad scientist to pull me back to my own time before I said or did something that would forever alter the future.
"So, did you two get enough sleep?" Grandma asked as I filled my plate with scrambled eggs, sausage, biscuits, and covered everything with chocolate gravy. In moments everyone's plate was full and they were eating, but I looked in Grandma's face and saw the knowing smile I must have missed as a kid. She had heard us sneaking down the hallway.
"Yeah, lots of sleep." I said with a smirk and she laughed softly.
"You know your dad was pretty explicit that you weren't to go watch that new station." Grandma pressed on and I remembered fondly why we called her 'nagma'.
"This gravy is good, Grandma." I said quickly, hoping the change in subject would work. It did, as she smiled and nodded before taking a bite.
"Thanks." She said a few moments later. My plate was empty pretty quickly, and I contemplated taking the last two sausages and another helping of the chocolate gravy, but stopped myself. I'd had a weight problem when I was younger (to be honest most of my life), and a large part of that problem was that I always ate too much.
"So when's your dad picking you up?" Ron asked from across the table and I stared at him for a moment, totally at a loss for the answer. I didn't have anything but my adult memories, and like most adults I didn't have a total recollection of all the minutiae of life as a kid.
"This afternoon." Jenny answered for me with a slight frown. For a moment I wondered if it had started yet, and that's why she was frowning, or if it was just that she wouldn't get to sit in front of the television all day with Michele and Bev.
"Bryan and I were going to the junk yard to look for a part for the van." Ron said, looking at me again. He paused before continuing, probably expecting me to decline the offer he was about to make. "Would you like to go with us?"
"Sure." I said with a shrug. Okay, I had been a bookworm as a kid, but as an adult I'd grown to love junk yards and working with my hands, and actually gotten somewhat decent at some things. "What are you looking for?"
"The alternator's frozen and we need to replace it." Ron said and I groaned aloud, remembering this event from my own past. He'd found an alternator at the junkyard alright, but it was from the wrong YEAR for that van model, and it had taken him and dad two weeks to figure that out. They'd eventually gone back and found a good alternator on the right year-model, but it was after many fights and arguments.
"Sounds like fun." I said softly, rising and taking my plate to the sink. I returned, bussing the table, clearing up the few leftovers (Bryan, seeing me not taking the last few sausages had already snapped them up). It wasn't until the table was clean that I noticed the odd looks from everyone. Yeah, I'd been a lazy kid and my industrious cleaning, and acceptance of the offer to go to the junkyard surprised them.
"Well, we were going right after breakfast." Ron said as I finished taking the dishes to the sink.
"I'll go get changed after I shower." I said and he nodded. I escaped from the kitchen, and the stares of my family and made my way back down the hallway towards the back bedroom. Technically it was Bryan's room, but we always slept there whenever we visited. I found a paper grocery bag with some clothes in it that belonged to me, and pulled out a pair of brown corduroys I remembered with a mixture of loathing and fondness, and a white t-shirt.
The towels were in the hall closet as always, and I grabbed two before heading into the master bedroom. Ron slept here, and his large waterbed dominated the room just as I remembered. His bathroom was the only one with a shower and I entered it cautiously, glad to see it in much better repair than it had been last time I'd entered, but then that was two decades in the future. As I stripped down and started the shower, I began to think about the problem I was facing.
I was in the past.
Or was I?
Is this some drug-induced hallucination from that damn experiment or was it real?
Does it matter either way?
Okay, if it's real do I dare do anything that might change the future?
How can I remember enough to keep from doing that, and if I could change my family's life for the better, shouldn't I?
Dad died at the age of fifty-one, mom had died a few months earlier at the age of forty-eight. Bev had died three years later, followed by Michele in an auto accident, Jenny at the hands of her drug-using husband. Jenny had been using drugs to, for most of her life, but not yet. Bryan had fathered six children total before being put into jail for bank robbery, and eventually executed for murdering a security guard during that robbery. Then there was mom's side of the family, and that was an even bigger mess in the future.
I was only supposed to be here for twenty minutes, and not able to interact, but that wasn't the case. I was here, now, and able to interact and if I hadn't been snatched back to the future yet, I most likely was going to stay here. As I soaped up my body, it reacted to the stimulus and I let out another groan under the hot spray of water.
I was going through puberty again.
Puberty, and the changes that went with it sucked the first time, and I could tell as my body responded to the slightest touch right now, it would be just as bad if not worse this time around. Still, what choice did I have? Well, one thing was for sure, I knew how to take care of this recurring problem a lot better than I had the first time around.
What I didn't count on was the intensity of taking care of the problem. I was squatting in the shower, breathing heavily after taking care of it, my knees still weak from the tremendous feelings that swept through my body moments before. I couldn't remember sensations like that in years, and realized that puberty really did suck at times. A banging on the bathroom door brought an end to my reverie without me having really resolved any of the issues I was facing.
"Davey, hurry up." Bryan's high voice was irritatingly whiny.
"I'll be right out!" I shouted back at my cousin. I checked myself to see if the orgasm had been a wet one, but couldn't tell with the hot shower. I was still hairless down there. It didn't take me long to finish drying off, and to get dressed in the clean clothes. Bryan was waiting, nearly hopping up and down as I exited the bathroom. He'd changed into a pair of tattered jeans and an old brown shirt that I remembered disliking a lot.
It was one of my cast-offs that I'd been glad to get rid of. Bryan had been overjoyed when I had given it to him and wore it all the time. All those clues formed into a logical conclusion that I had never really had before: Bryan idolized me. I'd always pushed him away when we were younger, never really doing things with him besides making fun of him or calling him stupid when he didn't understand the subjects I'd tried to tutor him in. A wave of guilt rushed over me at the thought that maybe his problems later in life had some root in how I'd always pushed him away.
"You ready to go, buddy?" I asked him, taking the first step to changing my personal history without a second thought. I walked up to Bryan and put my arm around his shoulders as I spoke, and his face lit up.
"Yup, we're going to help Dad Ron get the van fixed." Bryan said with a childish exuberance that was suddenly endearing instead of irritating.
"We just need to make sure he gets the right part." I said as I led him out of the bedroom, carrying the wet towels and dirty clothes with me. We crossed the hall to his bedroom where I put the towels into the hamper and folded up my dirty clothes before putting them away. Then I stood back up, wrapped my arm around my smaller cousin and we made our way back towards the main part of the house.
"You boys ready to go?" Ron asked as we entered the family room. He was wearing those big glasses so popular during this era, and his red beard was actually longer than he had worn it in later years. He was smiling though, and the keys for his big Mercury Cougar in his hands. We walked out the front door, pausing to give Grandma a hug and thank her again for breakfast, and got into the huge car.
A couple of things had been striking me as we moved into the car. Everything seemed bigger. At twelve, I'd already grown taller than my mother, but was still shorter than I'd be for most of my adult life. This made everything seem larger by perspective, and as Ron pulled out of the driveway I reflected on that. Bryan was chattering away about some G.I. Joe comic book I'd given him, and it took me a moment to remember what it had been about. We spent most of the ride there talking about which Joe was coolest, and I had trouble remembering any of their names. Still, it was almost enjoyable.
The junkyard was familiar, yet different. We'd been there for an hour when Ron found the van he wanted that had a working alternator in it still. The affection I'd been showing for Bryan was a minor, insignificant change, I realized, if I were to be yanked back now, or tomorrow. The alternator though, would be a bigger change, and I hesitated to say anything. Still, remembering the fights between Ron and Dad, and Grandma getting involved in it helped me make up my mind.
"Um, Uncle Ron?" I spoke up as Ron set his toolbox down and opened it.
"What is it, Davey?" Ron said in an irritated tone.
"Isn't your van a 1976?" I asked him as politely as I could.
"Yeah, so what?" Ron asked as he took out a socket wrench.
"Isn't this van a 1975?" I asked him and saw him stand up before taking a longer look at the van.
"Yeah it is." Ron said, and then looked back at the alternator. "This doesn't look like the set-up in my van."
"Well, maybe we should look some more." I stated and Ron nodded his agreement before closing up his toolbox. I let out a small sigh, and realized that the butterfly had just taken off, creating a small wind current that might one day turn into a typhoon that killed millions.
Or a breath of air that vanished in the vastness of the world.
As with all my stories, E provides immeasurable input, grammar checking, and all those other lovely editing thingies that make the story so much better!
an Author's Lifeblood