Future Past by Christopher Grant

Pool of blood, spreading outwards, towards my feet. Warren laying on top of it, his chest eaten up by four buckshot holes. His right arm is twisted and he has a revolver in his hand.

I look down at the pool, which has become an ocean. It’s contracting now, moving back towards Warren.

His right arm, the one with the revolver in his hand, is twitching, herky-jerky movements, like he can’t control himself. It’s both awesome and awful.

The ocean, which was a pool, is now barely that and Warren’s arm is no longer twisted or twitching. In fact, it appears as if he has complete control over himself. The blood has sucked itself back up inside of him and, while he’s still face-down, he’s saying something. It’s soft and I can’t quite make it out.

But now, just now, it’s louder, a shout. A curse. “Fuck you,” he’s saying.

And then Warren’s up off the floor. In a strange way. Instead of pitching forward, he’s pitching backwards and up. It’s almost like magic. No strings attached, ladies and gentlemen. If there was an assistant (I guess that’d be me right now), they’d come over and show you so that you’d know this was on the up-and-up.

He’s on his feet again and I feel myself being propelled now, backwards. I’m moving slowly but surely in the direction that I had just been, that I had come from a moment ago. I raise the pump-action shotgun but in reverse and I watch as the buckshot from wound number four flies backwards out of Warren’s chest, the wound closing up behind it, and the flash from my shotgun disappears inside of the weapon, the cartridge levitating off the floor and going back inside along with the flash. Again and again and again, it happens until all four blasts are contained.

It’s like someone has their finger on the rewind button and I wonder how this can be. This isn’t how life works.

Still, I’m propelled further back, back to the point where I came through the door. My right leg raises itself off the floor of the wooden shack and the door starts to swing shut as I find myself outside, surrounded by nothing but desert. The three little stairs that lead up to the door of the wooden shack are rickety but I manage them, as I back away from the shack, back around the front of my car, the shotgun resting in my right hand, muzzle pointed down at the desert floor.

My right foot lifts up behind me as I walk backwards and briefly touches the driver’s side door, which goes from being closed to swinging wide open. I negotiate my way around the door and sit down awkwardly in the driver’s seat, placing the shotgun on the passenger seat and shut the door. I take the car out of park and put it in drive but rather than driving forward, I’m going in reverse. And I’m not bothering to look where I’m going, my eyes straight ahead and determined, looking for the shack and looking forward to exacting my revenge on the murdering asshole inside.

*

The tears fall upwards, straight from the floor, up through the air, the three feet or so, between my face and the floor, and then collide with my cheeks, streaming upwards into my eyes. Again and again, until no more tears come to my eyes.

My face contorts, going from grief to pain to uncertainty to shock and finally horror. And then it’s normal, natural, like everything is okay, everything is in its place and all it right with the world.

Except it’s not.

I watch Warren, my sister’s boyfriend, take a knife and murder my sister.

Except the knife isn’t going the right way.

It’s stabbing Cassie but it’s stabbing her the wrong way, the steel sliding into her stomach backwards, backwards, backwards.

It’s more a hacking motion than a stabbing motion, at least that’s what it looks like but it’s not even that because, even though it’s hacking into her stomach, it’s not doing damage.

In fact, it’s causing less and less blood to ooze from the wounds, the wounds going from gaping to nothing in a mere matter of milliseconds.

Cassie’s screams going in reverse until she’s not screaming but laughing.

Warren sets the knife down on the kitchen counter, walks out of the room backwards, his eyes blinking weirdly.

He goes into the living room and then he’s backing out the door, the locks locking themselves backwards, like he’s turning the key to leave, rather than turning the key to open the door.

I say something that makes Cassie laugh. It’s good to see her smile.

We sit for a moment, the air thick between us.

She tells me that she’s pregnant but that she doesn’t think the baby is Warren’s. She always bites her lip when she has something secret. I know she has something secretive to tell me. She bites her lip. Cassie sits on a stool at the island in the kitchen and swings her leg.

*

He makes a mad dash to collect our clothes and then disappears into the room he shares with my sister.

“It’s her,” I say between clenched teeth, as if she can hear me outside the apartment. I hear the car door slam shut and shove him out of my bed.

I realize in the pit of my stomach what I’ve just done. What both of us have just done.

I look into his eyes. I feel him slide out of me and then he’s next to me. I fall forward, onto my stomach, my face burying into the pillow.

He comes deep inside of me. I cry out as he gets closer, as we both get closer.

His thrusts driving me forward, his hips slamming against my ass, he fucks me from behind.

We shouldn’t be doing this.

Looking at him over my shoulder, I get up on my hands and knees.

Bathing us like a guilty spotlight, moonlight travels through my window.

He pulls my skirt off and then my panties. I unbuckle his jeans and he steps out of them, then his boxers.

I remember our first kiss, two years ago. I don’t stop. I kiss him back.

We do a ritualistic dance that involves us moving from the couch to my bedroom, stopping here and there along the hallway to fondle and grope and pull each other’s shirts over our heads, toss them onto the floor.

He cups one of my breasts in his hand, feels the nipple through the thin fabric. He leans forward and kisses me. He tells me that he’s wanted me for two years.

Warren and I are watching a movie when it happens. Cassie’s not home.

*

The hands on the clock turn backwards. The calendar says January 2010 instead of 2012. I stare at it and can remember some of the things that happened this year. I shouldn’t be able to remember if these things haven’t happened yet and, still, somehow, I remember.

Warren’s lips are soft. Cassie is in the other room, still wrapping presents. She always procrastinates. He is my sister’s new boyfriend and he kisses me instead of her. Christmas, under the mistletoe, Warren kisses me for the first time.

Warren seems like a nice guy. I burn it slightly but Cassie and her new boyfriend Warren say they don’t mind. I make the turkey this year. Thanksgiving.

My eyes are jealous. I am standing in the corner of my friend’s apartment, watching them. She’s a sexy Little Bo Peep. Warren is The Phantom Of The Opera. Cassie meets Warren. Halloween.

Earlier that day, it’s a stupid bitchfest about who gets which room, which turns into something extreme. If there had been knives nearby, I think we would have cut each other’s throats. Cassie puts her arm around me and says that she hopes that we never fight again. Cassie and I sit on the roof of our new apartment and watch the fireworks display. Fourth Of July.

I bite an ear off a chocolate rabbit. Easter.

I wake up with a bad taste in my mouth. I roll over and see that Cassie’s in bed with me. Now I remember that I called her and, after that, that’s the blur. I think I might have gouged his cheek with my nails. I wonder if what happened last night actually happened. The last thing that I can actually remember, before getting blitzed, is Andrew telling me that he wanted to see other women. The day after Valentine’s Day.

*

Time stops. The hands on the clock refuse to move, even though I’m still breathing and still able to move my hands, my feet. I am able to navigate around this empty apartment that will, by the middle of the year, be Cassie’s and mine. I look out the window and traffic is at a stand-still. Cars, buses, motorcycles, all stopped on the street below. The people on the sidewalks frozen in time. I look across the harbor and there’s a jetliner hanging in the air, stock still, as it comes in for a landing. There are birds stranded in mid-flight.

And then…it’s moving forward again. The traffic, the people, the jetliner, the birds.

And time.

The clock begins to tick again, the hands moving forward, instead of back.

I pull my cell phone out of my pocket and look through the contacts but Andrew’s not there anymore. This makes no sense. This is 2010. I haven’t broken up with him yet. It’s not Valentine’s Day yet.

I try to remember Andrew’s number but I can’t.

I think to myself that if I simply alter the past, the one that I’m somehow standing in right now, I can alter the future. It always works in the movies. If I do something drastic enough, maybe then Cassie won’t die, maybe I won’t make the biggest mistake of my life, allowing Warren anywhere near my sister.

I don’t know why I need to find Andrew’s number. I could do anything, anything at all, get hit by a car, step on an ant even, and alter the past or this past anyway, alter the future. But something is screaming inside of me, telling me, urging me that this is the right course, that if I can just find that number, everything will be all right. The apartment is bare. It’s just the walls, the clock and me. There’s nowhere for that number to hide.

I rush to the door, flinging it open, and start down the stairs of the apartment building, nearly tripping, nearly falling. If I fall, will I alter the past, fix the future?

And I run right into him.

Warren.

He’s got four holes in his chest and blood is seeping out of the wounds at a sloth’s pace.

“Still alive,” he says. “Did you really think that you were the only one that could do this?”

He grabs my wrist, turns my hand so that my palm faces upwards. He slaps his revolver, the same revolver he had in his hand in the shack, down into my palm. The heft of the gun makes it feel as if he’s broken my hand. It’s everything I can do not to drop the piece onto the landing.

“Go on,” he says, backing away from me, putting his arms out like he’s Christ, crucified. “Do it. Put us both out of our misery.”

If I kill Warren, does he still exist? This Warren is from 2012, just like me. This Warren killed my sister. If I kill this Warren, will he still meet Cassie, still kiss me? Will we still have sex? Will he still murder my sister in front of my eyes?

Maybe I should kill him here. Maybe that will stop the future as I know it. Maybe this drastic thing will do.

But what if I have to kill the Warren of 2010? The one that hasn’t met Cassie yet?

If I kill both of them, does it end or do I need to go back further in time, kill a multitude of Warrens?

How can I do that now that time is edging forward again instead of ebbing backwards?

Warren snaps his fingers in front of my eyes.

“Still with me?” he says.

We are in my bedroom, in bed together, naked, sweaty from our exertions. I hear a car door slam and, between clenched teeth, I say, “It’s her.” I shove him from my bed.

Warren makes a mad dash to gather up our clothes and then disappears into the room he shares with my sister.

I pull the sheet up around my body.

A single tear falls down, hits and absorbs into my pillow.

“I’m sorry, Cassie,” I say.

***

http://a-twist-of-noir.blogspot.com/

8 thoughts on “Future Past by Christopher Grant”

  1. What a gorgeous job, Christopher. Betrayal and redemption and then another kind of betrayal then role swaps then then time skips that finally ends (starts) with the primary betrayal that features a sharp knife and faithless love from more than one party. Gorgeous, plain gorgeous. I’ll be reading this again. Cool.

  2. Thanks to all who’ve had a look and enjoyed Future Past. It was fun to attempt something different in structure, even if I didn’t completely plan on it working out the way that it did. By which I mean, how many of us ever really do figure out how a short story is going to go until we actually sit down and right it? As the blood was coming towards the narrator’s feet, the thought came to me and out on the page, “What if the blood reverses itself?” And away the story went.

    Thanks for all the kind words, Paul, Katherine, AJ, Richard and Chris.

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