13

It was May 21, 2016. Leonard and Penny had been married for over eight months or seven depending on which marriage ceremony they wanted to honor. President Barack Obama's second term as President was in its last months, and most of the country was rooting for a Hillary Clinton presidency. Unfortunately, another part of the country who had hated having an African-American President in the White House was cheering for a Manhattan real estate millionaire with questionable ethics and very little morality. Penny's circle of friends usually didn't care about politics, but they were aware of the current events going on in the country. Over the years, there had been a few changes in their lives. Penny was now a medical health rep for Bernadette's company, and the petite beauty was now a working microbiologist. Bernadette had also met and married Howard while Raj had started dating Dr. Emily Sweeney, a cute red-headed dermatologist. Even Sheldon had found someone that tolerated him. Her name was Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler, a mousy and eccentric neuro-biologist with her own social peculiarities, who much as everyone else felt the brunt of his ego, suffered the pangs of his narcissism and struggled under the thunderstorm of his fascist demands and tried to stay devoted to him. Intrigued by his mind at first, she had gradually learned to love him and choose him to be her partner in life.

"Sheldon, it's a movie! Get over it!" She screamed.

"How can I?" Sheldon lamented. "If Doc Brown can send Marty McFly over a bridge that only exists in the future and through a movie screen that doesn't exist in the past, he should have been able to rationalize he could procure a can of gas in 1897 he could have delivered after reaching the future!"

"How would he have been able to miss the train that demolished the Delorean in 1985?" Howard pointed out. "They couldn't have flown over it. The storm in 1955 burnt out the flight circuits!"

"If they had avoided Bufford Tannen entirely, they would have missed hitting the train in 1985." Sheldon pointed out. "They then could have gotten a tank of gas to take back to 1895, hid it in the blacksmith shed in a place they could find it to get them back to 1985 and avoid Bufford Tannen entirely as well as that god-awful sub-plot with Mary Steenburgen, a horrible thread in an otherwise impeccable movie."

"Wait a minute…" Bernadette looked up from her Thai food. "Are you insulting actress Mary Steenburgen?"

"All I know I've been watching this movie for over an hour and I haven't heard a single word of it." Emily spoke up annoyed with Sheldon and Howard talking through it. She was sitting next to Raj on the floor and eating Thai food with the others in yet another night time ritual of food, movies and conversation. Next to her, Sheldon, Emily, Howard and Raj had filled up the sofa while Leonard and Penny occupied the other side of the room near the kitchen. Ignoring the movie reality tirade between Howard and Sheldon, the blonde sales rep heard her phone buzzing in her pocket and took it out. The caller identification read "Darkest Night." At first, she was going to delete it, but then curiosity got the best of her, and she answered it.

"Hello?"

"Penny Parker?" A female voice asked.

"Yes…"

"Hi, this is Zoe Burns for James Sarandon's office." She worked for Darkest Night Productions.

"Who?"

"You auditioned for a movie with us six years ago." Zoe was sitting in Sarandon's old office and looking at Penny's six year old acting resume. "I know it's been a long time, but we're finally moving forward with the film we started on back then. Unfortunately, we had some bankruptcy issues back then we had to settle first…. But we're now moving ahead, and Mr. Sarandon and the directors would like to meet you. Could I book you for a meeting next week?"

"What?" Penny was taken aback by the call. "Are you kidding me?"

"How is Thursday at two o'clock?"

"Perfect! I can be there!"

"Awesome!" Zoe was writing down the appointment. "I'll send you a reminder the night before, and I'll see you there."

"Yes, thank you!" Penny sat stunned and surprised. She hadn't been on an audition in two years, and one just fell into her lap. She wasn't sure how to handle it. She just stood in her seat staring down at her phone.

"Penny, what is it?" Leonard asked.

"I just got a call-back on an audition I did six years ago." She responded astounded and even bewildered. Back then, acting was the most important thing in her life, but now, she was married, she had a great job and her life was much more stable than it once was. She should have been dancing and screaming, but now, it just didn't matter to her as much.

"That's awesome!" Emily spoke up ahead of other well wishes from her other friends, but the responses were not all courteous. After the barrage of positive thoughts, Sheldon waited for the good will to end and offer a different opposite perspective.

"Why are you all congratulating her? She's got a job as a sales rep." He pointed out. "She's not going to take it. That would be like Albert Einstein leaving physics to be a really bad waitress… or in this case, his ignorant Nebraska cousin leaving his job at the Jiffy Lube to take a job picking up dead animals off the interstate."

Everyone started grousing at his insulting comparison.

"Sheldon…." Even Amy groaned in pain at that ugly rhetoric.

"I didn't say I was getting it, you East Texas knob!" Penny shot back. "It's just an interview. I doubt I'd actually get it anyway."

"But what if you did…." Leonard was still eating his Thai food. "Would you leave being a sales rep to do a movie?"

"I don't know…." Penny twisted up the noodles in her chow mein. "I mean… My life is great right now, but…. I still want to be an actress."

"What if the role is playing an evil rich actress who possesses a much younger blonde actress?" Emily made an oblique reference to Penny's dream. Everyone drew quiet as Penny's embarrassed eyes rounded in shock.

"Leonard!" He was only one of two people who knew about it.

"I didn't tell anyone!" Her husband turned on his defense. "I swear!"

"Really?" She started swatting him. "Then who did?"

"I told you that was supposed to be a secret!" Bernadette looked to Howard.

"I told you not to tell anyone." Howard looked to Raj.

"I ran out things to talk about with Emily after sex…" Raj confessed. By his side, Emily was trying to hide a grin of dismay. She sucked up a noodle from her meal and looked up embarrassed and sorry.

"Wait a second…" Amy looked up. "Why wasn't I told about this dream?" Sheldon was looking around as if it was new to him too.

"It was nothing!" Penny exclaimed.

"Oh, please!" Bernadette was still laughing about it. "You dreamed an entire alternate life where you were possessed by an actress named Elizabeth Whatling, became rich and famous and I was dating Leonard! You even had me moving into your apartment with him!"

"You didn't tell me that part." Leonard looked to Penny who was now holding her head down supported by her left hand. He looked over to Bernadette and thought about it, but Howard shot him a jealous look.

"Penny, why didn't you tell me about your dream?" Amy asked. "Aren't we friends too?"

"Well, if she didn't tell me, why would she tell you?" Sheldon replied.

"Hey," Penny composed herself. "It was a very detailed, extensive dream, and it really pulled me apart mentally and psychologically. I really felt like I was there…" She paused briefly. "Even when I wasn't and trying to kill Leonard and Bernadette."

"What?" Bernadette looked up shocked. "You didn't tell me that part!"

"It was a dream!"

"Did Leonard and Bernadette have sex?" Emily asked having fun with this chaos she had created.

"No!" Leonard and Bernadette looked at each other and screamed in union though it wasn't sure if it was to defend themselves or distract from their spouses.

"You know what's weird…." Raj was looking up names on the Internet on his phone. "Maybe it wasn't a dream, and Penny did somehow live an alternate timeline like Mary McFly in "Back to the Future 2." I looked up Elizabeth Whatling, and she was real. She was a big actress in the 50s, 60s and 70s, made over two hundred movies, and she died in 1982 due to complications in a surgery... Just like Penny's dream!"

"Raj, that doesn't mean anything." Amy spoke up. "She possibly just heard the name in passing and used it in her dream."

"Oh, really?" Raj looked up again. "Her lawyer, Ben Hedison… He's real too, and he's still alive. He has a law form in Altadena to this very day!"

"Perfectly, explainable…." Sheldon scoffed. "Coincidence…"

"Raj…" Penny and Leonard looked awkwardly spooked at each other. "What about Dean Harker?" Penny asked. "He was a reporter."

"Dean Harker?" Raj searched the name on Google. "You won't believe this! Also real. He's now an assistant editor for the Altadena Star News!" He looked up as if he had found proof Penny had actually lived an alternate life in another reality.

"That is so spooky." Emily leaned in to read his phone.

"What is this? The Twilight Zone?" Sheldon scoffed. "Three names do not prove a theory!"

"Wait a second…" Penny leaned forward. "Bernadette… Did you have a lady in your building named Hastings who looked like Kathy Bates and had curbside yard sales in the spring and the fall?"

"Yeah…" Bernadette was shocked to be reminded of her. "She moved out of the building three months before you introduced me to Howard!" Upon hearing that, Penny went into shock, leaning back in her seat and covering her face with her hands to hide the fact of how scared she was.

"Oh my God…" It was Howard's turned to be shocked. "Leonard really did get it on with my wife in an alternate time-line."

"Shut up!" Penny and Bernadette screamed at him.

"Wait a second… Wait a second…." Leonard was trying to follow the alternate timeline speculating that was going on. "Are we saying that if Penny had moved in with Bernadette back in 2008 she would have found a cursed amulet that is still possibly floating around in our timeline waiting to be discovered?"

"Or maybe…" Emily spoke up. "Someone else has already found it…."

Out on Los Robles, an almost familiar cab driver with a scraggly beard, bright blue eyes and white hair peeking out from under an old fishing cap sat checking his receipts. He had seventy-two rides and almost two thousand dollars on him and was worried he was close to getting held up. Looking up briefly, he saw a glimpse of white and a figure slipped into his back seat. Fifty-nine years old and very much alive, Dean Harker slipped into the cab. His dark hair was turning silver and was almost snow white on top.

"Ross Field, please." He asked.

"What was that?"

"Ross Field…" Harker repeated. "I have to catch a flight to Napa."

"Oh, Napa, eh…" The driver switched on his flag and pulled out. "Wine country..."

"Yep…" Harker shined with a tilt of his head. His mother lived near a vineyard there and her birthday was coming up. His wife and kids were possibly already there. He would have taken the train, but the plane was quicker and faster, but as he settled into his seat, he already pictured the city in his mind. Situated east of Sonoma where the 121 Highway merged with the 29 Highway on the Napa River, He had last been there three months prior to interview heiress Jill Kendall raising money for the local St. Jude Hospital Charity, something very close to his heart. He had not seen her for a while, but he had kept up with her since then. She had had some ups and downs, been divorced and dependent on drugs, but she was healing and getting better. Keeping busy with her charities, she was in her home in Napa, carrying another box down from her spare bedroom to sell old clothes for money to give to charity.

"Okay, guys, that's it." Jill dropped another box on to the table of her living room. "Get it all out of here." She picked up an earlier bottle of water and sipped it.

"Jill, this is sweet and wonderful. This will help a lot of people." Marjorie Perugian from the local recreation center had arrived with Christy Plunkett, a friend from her support group. Blonde, slight of build and pretty, Plunkett had been drafted to help move boxes, but she was also poking through the clothes and rejects for items that fit her expensive tastes.

"At least, I get it out of here." Jill responded. "It's mostly the crap I've got left over from when I was married."

"Jill, do you mean to get rid of this?" Christy found a necklace with a flattened silver disc with a blue onyx and scripted with odd hieroglyphics. She hoisted it up to the light and admired it.

"Oh, that ugly thing?" Jill cringed upon seeing it again. "An old beau gave that to me as a gift, but I never wore it. You can have it if you want."

"You think it's ugly?" Christy acted ambivalent. "I think it's got character."

"Christy, can you get your character in gear and help get the boxes out?" She turned round. "Thanks again, Jill."

"You're welcome." Jill held the door open and closed it behind them. There were a few steps through the front yard of Jill's estate to Christy's car out front. Stumbling around with the door to the back seat, Christy pushed her box through to the other side then hastened around the car with her new necklace, pausing to try it on and lower to see her reflection in the side view mirror. On the other side, Marjorie loaded her boxes and caught her breath. Slamming the door shut, she opened the front passenger side door and slipped into the car. Next to her, Christy sat taking a deep breath then lowering her head tiredly, her hands extending her fingers and crossing her arms over her chest.

"Christy, are you okay?" Marjorie asked.

"Just fine…." Christy spoke with an emerging English accent dancing over her words. "If you don't mind, I'll just drop you off. There's a certain lawyer in Altadena who's waiting for me… And he's been waiting a very long time." She beamed an enigmatic smile accompanied by a wild look to her blue eyes.

END