[Our next #1667 Words entry is by James Jude.]
Leo sat under the ugly florescent lights in the common area of Park Psychiatric, staring at Patrick. He should never had made that deal with him all those years ago. All it did was end up getting his wife killed and wound him up here. Leo wished he could jump out of his chair and choke him. The orderlies would be on him in no time though and, well, how do you kill the devil?
Patrick sat across from him and took in a deep breath. Evidentially he must had told the staff he was a concerned family member here for a visit. He had a freshly trimmed beard, slightly dated jeans, a green t-shirt and a sports jacket. He looked like he could have been one of the doctors out of uniform, not someone you would ever expect to be a time traveler. He folded his hands together, resting his chin on them as he looked intently at Leo. It was like he was studying him. Finally he cleared his throat and spoke, “I am sorry we are meeting under these circumstances Leo. You probably know why I am here. It’s about Cindy.” He wiped his eyes.
Leo remained quiet, he sat there cold and emotionless, trying to pretend he hadn’t just mentioned her name. He had no right to use her name.
The tension however was quickly broken when someone across the common area someone shouted “Leo!”, and a game of checkers exploded everywhere. A small pale pudgy bald man looked behind him at the devastation that he left and continued running across the room. The players didn’t even flinch, as if this was a common occurrence for them. “110, 111, 112, 113, 114”, he counted each step as he went. When he finally reached them he looked up with wide eyes. “Leo! Is he the time traveler? The one who does bad things?”
Leo wanted to remain quiet, but he couldn’t. “Don’t say anything Donald. You can’t trust him.”
Patrick smirked for the first time. “Leo, what am I now? Some kind of cosmic mafioso?” He turned in the direction of Donald with a mock sincerity in his voice. “Hello, I’m Patrick. What can I do for you young man?”
Donald stood there as he rocked on his heels like a child who had to much caffeine. He leaned in close to Patrick. “You, You can time travel in your head? Be yourself at any moment you lived. You can change things. You make bad things happen?” he asked.
Patrick laughed. “I guess it’s whose perspective you look at it from, but yes I can change things.”
Donald continued rocking and flicked his eyes between Leo and Patrick a half dozen times as if he was a child forced to choose between which parent was his favorite.
Leo felt a little betrayed, but he could understand Donald’s wonderment. He didn’t blame him. If you had the opportunity to change anything in your life, who wouldn’t take it. Leo had once, now he was paying the price as a result. Leo dismissively waved his hand at Donald telling him to do what he wanted.
A giant smile crept across Donald’s face as his body tensed up with excitement. When his nervous energy came to a swell, he jumped forward and cupped his hands around
Patrick’s face drew a big grin in response to whatever Donald was whispering to him. He began to laugh as Donald backed away. “I suppose I could take care of that for you sometime. Not everything is in my control though, but I’ll see what I can do.
Donald flicked his eyes back at Leo and then quickly down in shame. “Sorry, sorry Leo.” he whispered. He backed up a couple of steps, pivoted and ran off, quickly counting his steps where he had left off before “115, 116, 117, 118”.
“You must feel like Santa Claus.” Leo said.
Patrick looked at Leo and drew a sigh, “I suppose you think I am here to ask something of you Leo. But that’s not the case. I am here to set things right.
“You expect me to believe you are doing this for me? Or for her!? How stupid do you think I am. Five months it’s been. I’ve been here for five months. At any moment you could have changed history. You could have saved her.”
“Leo, there were some issues I needed to take care of.”
“Screw your issues! You don’t care about anyone but yourself!”
The orderlies stood up and were all looking in Leo’s direction, waiting for an altercation. Patrick noticed this and hushed his voice trying to relieve some tension from the scene that was rolling out.
“I don’t expect you to welcome me with open arms. What happened to your wife was never my plan.”
Leo composed himself and lowered his voice. “Why come to me first? If you are going to set things right, why not just do it? It’s because you need my help isn’t it?”
Patrick shifted in his chair. “No. But I have a friend…”
Leo forced a laugh. “You think I care about your friends, when you didn’t give a crap about her?” a small welt began to climb in Leo’s throat making his voice crack. “What happened the last time I helped you? She died!” He drew a breath, “You are nothing more than a murderer.”
“A day doesn’t pass when I don’t look back and regret what happened.”
Leo wanted to laugh again at the irony in his statement. “Then why haven’t you changed it? The one person in the whole world who can fix the past and you expect me to believe you regret something?”
“That’s why I am here. I am going to fix it. I am going to set back things the way they were. Set back the life I once gave you. The wife you once had. I am going to put it all back in order, and take you out of this place. I would like you to help me, but if you don’t want to that’s fine too. Forget about my friend, consider this a gift.”
Leo didn’t want to hear this. Patrick had never given anyone anything for free in his life.
“All I need to hear is for you to say the word.” a small smile crept across Patrick’s face.
Even though he knew there would eventually be a catch, he couldn’t hold back the tears. The tears that came from hope. Some philosopher once said there was nothing more dangerous than a man with nothing to lose. He knew Patrick had to give him something to lose again, and that he would use this against him sooner than he would like to think, but he didn’t care. “Yes” he spoke as he closed his eyes he waited what was to come next.
The light thud of a body hitting the floor and a nurse screaming.
Leo opened his eyes to see Patrick laying on the ground, the hospital staff rushing over to his limp body. Donald and the other patients crowding around the scene, as Leo shuffled back to his room. He knew this show meant nothing. Patrick had leapt into the past, leaving behind a brain dead body. A common occurrence when you leap out of your present body and into your past body. This timeline no longer existed for Patrick. Soon it wouldn’t exist for Leo either. All that would remain would be nothing more than a mere memory. It was two days that Leo went on in that hospital, waiting for things to change, two days nothing seemed to happen and he wondered if this had all been a game Patrick had played with him.
On the second night after his encounter he laid in his bed, wondering if possibly he was crazy. How was he the only person that could remember the world the way it was before Patrick changed things? Maybe Patrick was just a figment of his imagination. Then at 2 AM he lifted his heavy eyelids to see in the darkness of the night, at first he thought his eyes had played tricks on him. Then he realized he wasn’t in the hospital anymore. He was home. His actual home and Cindy was laying next to him. Alive! Leo put his arms around her and held her for hours while she slept, tears rolling down his cheeks. He had to keep wiping them so that he wouldn’t get her pillow soggy.
It was almost sunrise when a gentle sobbing came from another room and grew into a full blown wail. Cindy groggily sat up and slinked out of the bed.
“Where are you going?” Leo asked.
“Our daughter is crying.” she said as she walked out of the room and into the nursery next door. The wailing now subsiding to a gentle sobbing.
Leo got up and peered out the crack of the door at his wife who was rocking a small bundle in the next room over. He stood there in the darkness wondering if he could be a good father, and how long would it be before Patrick used this against him. No matter how hard he tried, he always ended up owing the devil a favor.
[James describes himself as “Amateur”.]
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