Here's an "oddball" piece I have been thinking over, and decided to write out this weekend. It's a "song fic" for "Ho Hey" by the Illumineers, used in the SLP TV spots and DVD. (Unfortunately, I have just been told I need to cut the lyrics themselves, but they are readily available online.) This also turned into an outright homage to my All-Time Favorite Author, Fritz Leiber. I would encourage anyone to look up his work, with the caveat that you might run across a spoiler or two for this story.
My name is Pat Peoples. About three years ago I got out of a mental hospital. I started trying to find a way to get back together with my ex-wife, but along the way, I met a widow named Tiffany and I married her. She is wonderful and beautiful and smart and she understood me better than anybody. So, of course, I lost her. She's run away from me, and I know she's never coming back.
Oh, yeah, and I'm pretty sure I'm dying.
So how did this happen? Well, maybe it doesn't have to. I've been reading a lot of books since I got out. One of them is Space Time For Springers: A Theory of Time Travel by Professor S.K. Gummitch and Cecelia Starling. Don't worry about trying to find Professor Gummitch; the foreword by Ms. Starling says that it was written from the professor's notes after his death, and his identity was kept hidden even then. The book says it's possible to travel through time, not with any kind of machine, but with your mind. And if you try really hard, you might be able to change the past. I read it a lot, just in case I might need to try, and now's the only chance I'm going to get. I'm taking my chance, and I know just where to start...
"What kind of popsicle do you want, Tiffany?" I ask. "They have strawberry or lime."
"I don't know," she says. "You pick."
"Okay," I say. I look to the guy pushing the ice cream cart. "I'll have..."
Then I, the future me visiting in my head, step in. It's hard, and I get a feeling like a thundering headache, but I do it. "Lime."
I remember every detail of that day. The lime tastes better than the strawberry did. But everything else is the same. We sit in our favorite spot in the park where we run, under a nice, shady tree at the top of a hill that looks out over the lake. I lick my popsicle to savor it, and Tiffany takes bites. I look at her. She's a little older than me, but still looking very good, and kind of exotic. Sometimes, I tease her that she looks like a Siamese cat, and to me she really does a little: Her complexion is just a little dark, which shows more since she started going lighter on the makeup, and her eyes are big and kind of broad. The funny thing is that her parents and her sister all look like the perfect WASPs, and there are times, like now, when I wonder where down the family tree Tiffany got her looks from. But I would never ask, and I don't really care, except that she's beautiful. She says, "Stop staring at me," but smiles.
When we're done, I get up, and we walk down to a bridge over the lake. It's the place where I waited for her a few months ago. It was winter then, and we hadn't seen each other in a while, because we sort of broke up. Tiffany had told me she was in love with me before I even admitted to myself we were together, and I got upset and I got myself hurt.
I guess history repeats itself. I just hope, if I can't undo what's going to happen, that this time they don't blame Tiffany.
So, we're on the same bridge where we got back together, and instead of ice and snow, there's ducks and turtles and flowers, and Tiffany knows what's coming. I hardly know what to do, and watching as future me I can see ways I screwed up that I don't even remember. I'm almost ready to do that push again, but I stop myself, because I know I can only do this so many times, and I know what's going to happen. Unless I changed things... But no. Of course it happens the same way it did. I get down on one knee, and get out the ring, and as badly as I screw it up, she still says yes. Of course she says yes, she was always going to say yes. I could have slipped and fallen in the lake and lost the ring, and she still would have said yes. Never mind temporal inertia, that's true love.
When it's done, she jumps on my back, and I run carrying her. Then I say, so she knows I'm joking, "Tiff, should we tell Nikki?"
"Fuck Nikki!" she shouts, and watching it over again, I wonder if she really knew it was a joke. "She's what's behind you! Stop looking back, Pat! Look at what's ahead of you!" She leaned forward into my field of view, laughing. Then she waves a hand, at the lake, the park, the city, the whole horizon. "There's a whole world out there! We can do whatever we want! We can have a big wedding, a small wedding, a shotgun wedding! We can get our own house, apartment, trailer home, a cardboard box! We can have a kid, a dog, a cat, a parrot, a ferret, a ten-foot python! The one thing you can't do is go back, and why would you want to? We've got each other, here and now and for whatever's ahead! Isn't that good enough?"
I agree, and so does future me. It was more than good enough, it was perfect. This was the Most Happiest Day of my life, my one PERFECT day. But I couldn't see how good it was, and I blew it, and that's why I'm back here.
The book says there's three limitations on trying to change the past. First, you can only time travel in what the book calls your own lifeline, to the events you lived through, so anything like killing Hitler is right out. Second, you can't go to the same time twice, or go back before a time you've already been to, so if you're going to try anything, it's one shot. Third, the only way you can change the past is to make you back then do something different, and that's really hard, hard enough to destroy you. Professor Gummitch believed it was only safe to try it three times, five tops.
Now, you must wondering, why did I use one of my chances just to come back here, to the Happiest day, the PERFECT day, just to ask for a different kind of popsicle? Well, I need to try this out, to find out if I can do it, and it's better to make the first try when I'm sure I can't make it any worse, because Tiffany loved me then. And I won't deny that of course it feels good to live it over again. It also reminds me what the stakes are.
If I can find a way to change what happens between this day and where I started, I can be happy with Tiffany for the rest of my life.
If I don't, I'm either going to drown or bleed to death under the footbridge where I proposed to her.