prompt: breath, title: mother in (just like) starting over flash fiction

  • May 17, 2023, 5:55 p.m.
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“I mean,” the woman awkwardly corrected herself, “Dad goes by Lennon-Ono, in tribute to my mom, but she passed when I was young, I always felt closer to-” She stopped herself. Why was she being so open with a stranger from another world? Was it that she couldn’t read him like an open book? Was that what threw her off? “Anyway,” she took a breath to collect herself, “two extra syllables make it a mouthful. Five’s enough.”

The ragged man said nothing, processing it all. “Oh,” she continued, “you’ve heard the name. I take it he was a pop singer on some of the worlds you’ve been to?” “Most of them. On my home one,” he blurted before gears kicked in, “what year is this?” “Two-thousand-six,” she said matter-of-factly until an excited realization, “wait, do you travel through time as well as parallels? Could you jump back and undo this world?” Annihilating everything she’d ever known through time-travel was the first real hope she’d felt in years, that’s how bad things were. Bobby only half-heard her, lost in his own calculations.

“Where I’m from, it’s impolite to ask a woman her…” “Twenty-five.” Telepathy wasn’t needed for that one, just body language and social norms. His mouth shut again, he was trying to figure too many things at once. “Bobby,” she used his name tentatively but purposefully, working on a connection to him through it, “how old are you?” He looked up, ran his hands through his badly dyed hair, pulling it back, as if his own age was misplaced and had to retrace his steps to find it.

“Biologically, I guess I’m still thirty?” he was actually counting fingers to reckon it, “I figure I age very slightly still, even after? It’s been four-hundred some-odds since they did this to me.” She pivoted back to her new hope. “Bobby, can you travel backward through time?”

“Yes and no,” he frowned, “but not in the way you want. Causality still applies to me. When I’m in full control, which clearly I’m not,” he sighed, “I can enter a time-line new to me at whenever point I want but once I’m there, I can’t go backward because then I could undo that future I was already present in and, uh, all realities abhor paradoxes like that.”

He suddenly noticed how this truth was crushing her dreams of erasing her current self through time-travel. “That’s how it was explained to me, anyway. That’s why cosmic bastards needed to tweak people like me into things like this. They’re sort of a little bit in every timeline at all times, at their level of power. People like me are loopholes, workarounds, so they can indirectly meddle in all kinds of ridiculous reality altering shit.”

He looked down at the gurney he’d been strapped to, at the scorched floor, at the woman whose newest hope was never existing at all. “Dakota, what the hell happened here?”

“Bobby,” she retorted, “what the hell are you?”

Last updated May 27, 2023

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