John Crawford finally awoke two and a half years after the accident. They said he was lucky.
The driver of the vehicle that sideswiped him wasn’t as such, having been killed instantly when the truck toppled over and burst into flames leaving his body so brutally battered and fried that forensics had to resort to dental records to identify it. All Crawford had to deal with was a two year coma and some long-term memory loss.
Sure, he was lucky.
For the past few weeks John had been slipping in and out of consciousness, producing overwhelming feelings of anticipation for both his doctors and family, but when John finally did come through, his awakening was not so much of a celebration, as he was met with nothing but immense fear and confusion.
The age old philosophical question of “who am I?” had now taken on a new significance for John Crawford, continuously racing though his mind as he struggled to piece together his current situation.
He awoke alone, his arms and legs strapped down to his bed, preventing him from rolling around while he was unconscious. With just enough room to lift his head two to three inches, John examined the room around him, looking for clues to his whereabouts.
White tile flooring. Bland blue sheet covers on his bed. IV dangling out of his left arm. The overpowering smell of antiseptics.
He was able to conclude that he was in a hospital of sorts, but how he got there still lay lost in the dark hollows of his mind.
A man entered the room and introduced himself as Doctor Howard Bernstein. Doctor Bernstein would explain the accident; the coma. He would explain that John had suffered severe swelling to his hippocampus and cerebral cortex. He explained the amnesia.
A vase of flowers sat on the table beside John’s hospital bed. They provided a sweet scent which filled the room, masking the years of pain and sorrow of its inhabitants. They were a gift from his wife, Claudia, who for the last couple of years, had been working extra hours as a waitress in a failing attempt to make ends meet in her husband’s absence. Tired and broken by her new responsibilities forced upon her as a result of John’s accident, she had still made it a point to continue to visit his bed side on her way home from work every day for those two long years.
As soon as it became apparent that his consciousness was here to stay, the head nurse promptly telephoned Claudia of the news.
“We notified your wife, John. She is on her way over”
She came rushing into his room about an hour later. Tears were pouring down her checks as she wrapped her arms tightly around him, kissing him, and unknowingly startling him. Even though they had told John previously that this woman was his wife, he felt awkward hugging her, as if he were hugging was a mere stranger.
For the next few hours, John kept reminding himself that the women sitting on the edge of his bed was no stranger at all, but in fact a women that he must have once deeply loved. He knew he had to of loved her, just by the reciprocal love that she was displaying towards him.
And each time he reminded himself of the fact that this woman was his wife, he felt a little twist in his stomach. Stuck down with slight feelings of guilt.
How can I not even remember my own wife?
Eight years they said. He was married to her for eight years. Eight years of marriage now faded into the darkness, alongside with the rest of his buried memories.
Claudia sat on the edge of his bed talking away, assuring him, and in turn herself, that everything will turn out alright. That what was most important is that he’s alive. As she talked, John remained silent, listening attentively to gentle words emanating from Claudia’s lips. It’s not that he didn’t feel like speaking, it was that he just didn’t really know what to say to her. What do you say to someone you have no recollection of? Luckily for him, she turned out to have the personality type of one which enjoys talking enough for both of them, and it became apparent to John that her incessant ramblings probably didn’t leave her enough room to even notice his lack of sociability anyhow.
Claudia would occasionally stop her monologue only to ask if he could remember certain people or events from his past. His response was always a monotonous “no”, followed by a polite apology. “Sorry”
When it was time for Claudia to leave, John felt relived. He needed some time alone, to think and hopefully come to terms with his predicament. He didn’t want to be rude, but with his lack of recognition, Claudia really was just a mere stranger, no different from the doctors and nurses he had also met throughout that day. She sat forward and laid a gentle kiss in his forehead, assuring him that she will be back in the morning to visit. He saw tears beginning to form in her eyes as she slowly turned and headed out the door.
John was to stay in the hospital another two weeks before being released. The doctors had told him that being in familiar settings may spark some recollection of his old life. They said they couldn’t promise he’ll remember everything, but there’s hope that within time some things may start coming back to him. He’ll pick up pieces here and there and eventually may fit most of his old life back together. It will just take time.
Claudia was already outside waiting when the nurse rolled John out of the front entrance of the hospital. He had regained his ability to walk just fine in those two weeks, but regulations required that he be escorted by wheelchair to his ride home. He obliged without argument.
In those two long weeks imprisoned within his hospital room, John Crawford had grown increasingly excited to be released, not just because of the quality of the food, in which he deemed a little inadequate for his tastes, but mostly because he was eager to rediscover the places and events which had slipped from the grasps of his mind. He wanted to remember who he was before the accident.
Claudia drove, as John sat quietly in the passenger’s seat, watching the buildings and surrounding landscapes passing by. It all looked so foreign to him. Even the shapes of the buildings seemed a little bit odd.
As they journeyed through the center of town, Claudia randomly pointed out certain places that she felt might interest him.
“There is you’re old high school”
“There’s where we had our first date”
“Remember? Do you remember this place?”
John would stare attentively at each place she would point at, studying the buildings, and searching the back of his mind for any sign of recognition, though the results of his search were always futile. He had started to wish she would stop asking him such questions, for each failed attempt just built up inside him, weighing him down with feelings of distress and frustration.
Their car made a left hand turn onto a street labeled White Pine Avenue and then up into the driveway of a modest two story home, brown siding with black shutters, fresh cut lawn surrounding the estate.
“Our home...” John said, staring in awe.
“You remember?” Claudia gasped, turning her head towards John, as she shifted the car into park and pulled the key out of the ignition.
“No, just a guess,” John admitted as an awkward smile grew across his face. They made eye contact for a short moment and he noticed a look of disappointment coming from Claudia. The look quickly turned into a smile to match his own.
“Let’s go inside, and I’ll show you around.”
Together, they exited the vehicle and made their way up the brick sidewalk leading to the front porch of the house. Patches of weeds were beginning to protrude from the many cracks between the individual bricks.
“I’ve been meaning to take care of that, though I’ve just been so busy lately with everything else going on” Claudia said.
Another pinch of guilt twisted in the pit of John’s stomach, but he made no reply. Silently, he strolled, examining his surroundings with curiosity. Claudia unlocked the front door and held it open for John. He slowly entered the house.
Claudia sensed something different about John. There was a certain way about which he moved and talked which was contradictory to his personality from before the accident.
The way he wandered had a carefree lightness about it, similar that of a fallen leaf, which when carried by a gentle breeze floats and drags aimlessly across the autumn landscape with no determined destination nor constraints of time.
Although he simultaneously examined the world around him with certain alertness, giving every stimulus that passed before his eyes his utmost attention. It was almost as though he believed that everything he looked at held the answers to life’s greatest questions, and therefore must be treasured most dearly.
When she spoke to him, he did more than just listen. He would stare deeply into her eyes, contemplating every word emanating from her mouth, examining her naked soul. And although he usually remained silent, when he did decide to speak, he spoke slowly and carefully, choosing each and every word with great precision.
He stood in the inside of the doorway for a number of minutes before approaching the small black stained table adjacent to the entrance way of their home. He picked up a picture and started to examine its contents. Claudia stepped up behind him and looked over his shoulder at the picture in which he held in his hand.
“Our wedding day…” she said.
John smiled slightly, placing the picture back onto the table. He looked around again, and started to make his way throughout the rest of the house.
They usually had a rule about wearing shoes inside of the house, but Claudia had decided that this wasn’t the time for such particulars, and kept that to herself.
In fact she kept all of her thoughts to herself. The unusual silence of moment was overpowering her and strangling her from within. She desperately wanted to say something in which to break uneasiness of the situation, though her mind was trapped, focusing only on how the silence made her feel. To think past the silence became an impossibility. Awareness of her biological functions became greatly enhance; her breathing, her heartbeat, all seemed to be exploding throughout the room, as she struggled to calm them.
She sheepishly followed John as he entered each room of the house, stopping and examining the contents that each room held, searching his mind for some sense of recollection. After he had finished his walk around the house, John stepped out onto the back porch, where he stood still, staring deeply into the backyard.
After some time, he turned his head and looked at Claudia, who was still awkwardly standing a few feet behind him.
“I understand what I’ve put you through these past couple of years,” he began to say, “How I’ve left you to deal with things on your own…. I just want to tell you how grateful I am that you never gave up hope for me. I’m sorry for everything. The accident. The coma. Everything.”
Claudia ran up to him.
“it’s ok…” she struggled to say as she wrapped her arms tightly around his torso, resting her head gently on his chest. He placed his chin down on the top of her scalp and closed his eyes.
They held each other in silence for some time before John reopened his eyes to gaze again into the backyard.
“Claudia?” John said.
“Yeah, our dog.”
Claudia pulled her head back to look at Johns face. Her expression mirrored that of Johns. It was an expression of mere perplexity.
“We’ve never had a pet dog named Baxter. You hate dogs, remember?”
John rested his chin back onto the top of Claudia’s head. The look of confusion remained stuck on his face as he continued to stare out into the backyard.
It was November 3rd 2016 on time X and Alpha 1 on time Y. Martin Osfetter was at the world fair preparing to reveal what he claimed to be the greatest invention humanity would ever see. He had successfully invented a time machine.
Over fifteen years of Osfetter’s life had been dedicated to this project, with him slaving away like a busy little bee in the depths of his basement for days on end. He had never married, nor had he had a relationship of any kind for those fifteen years. He rarely even left his home.
Rumors had spread quickly throughout his neighborhood, fueled by the sounds of clicking and clunking expelled from his basement at all hours of the night, that he was a possible murderer, a psychopath; homosexual; at least someone to which it would be wise to stay away from at all costs.
Though Osfetter was fully aware of such rumors, he stayed unfazed, letting them slip by without a second glace. He had always considered himself an outsider, and in some ways, could take pride in that idea.
“Humanity is fucked”, he would think to himself. “With such widespread immortality and ignorance, why the hell would I want to fit in with the masses anyhow?”
Even as a small child, his unusual mannerisms and dialect would make him stand apart from the rest of his peers, incidentally providing justification to those simple adolescent minds for the daily torment they would beset upon him. He was their common enemy and there was nothing he could do about it, except to make fleeting attempts to stay out of their way. The majority of his childhood memories involved hopping fences and fleeing though backyards, with five to six bloodthirsty children following closely behind.
Martin the Martian. That’s what they would scream as they punched and kicked and clawed at his flesh till his cloths would be soaked red in fresh blood. Martin the Martian. The weirdo. The pussy.
Standing in a circle over his torn desolate body, they would always take a momentary pause from their physical abuse to laugh and take turns jeering him with their most imaginative insults, patiently waiting for one to really hit a nerve. Martin learned quickly not to make any sounds or movements while they laughed, for he knew they were just waiting for another excuse to continue their pummeling. If he stayed silent, they might hit him a couple more times and head on their way, but if he made as much as a peep, he would be deemed a wuss, and another nice long ass-whooping would be in order to help him “man-up”.
As he got older, the beatings and bullying eventually ceased, but he never fully regained his trust in his fellow man. His college years were spent alone, locked up in his dorm room furiously consuming the literary works of famous physicists and mathematicians, always searching for that one groundbreaking idea. The one which would make him famous, make him the one staring down, laughing.
That idea finally did occur to him his senior year of graduate school, two weeks before graduation.
It occurred to him in a dream, where he was visited by extraterrestrial, which went by the name of Captain Pip, an ambassador from the planet Borectisodron. He claimed to have come on orders of the Galactic Alliance, to see if the human race was technologically and morally qualified to join up with the GA. Upon questioning Osfetter about the current state of planet Cytron (the official alliance name for Earth), he became disappointed in humanities progress. Cytron had failed inspection.
Martin Osfetter, though not surprised at all about their failing grade, inquired about what kind of technological progress the alliance was looking for. A small smile (if you can call it that) came across Pip’s mouth (if you could call it that) and he said, “let me help you out.”
Pip proceeded to explain the theory of time travel and the logistics of how to temporarily break through the bounds of time. He said that this technology is primitive in comparison to the qualifications of alliance membership, but just like when the alliance built the pyramids, this should also help nudge humanities progress forward.
Martin woke up a little disturbed by the nonsensical dream, but out of curiosity decided to check the math anyhow. Low and behold, it worked out. That little fucker Pip was right.
But a new problem quickly came forth; how would he come up with the money to fund such a project?
Martin Osfetter was sensible enough to know that proposing a time machine to investors would earn him nothing but mere laughter and humiliation, so instead, he provided them with the impression that he was working on a quick acting drug to treat erectile dysfunction. He told them it was so revolutionary that he had to keep the actual details top secret, but he guaranties that there is good money to be made when this product is finally released.
Not a speck of guilt entered Martins mind about lying to the investors. He believed that when they find out that they played a part in the invention of time travel, they will be thrilled, and will forget all about his supposed drug.
The only other setback he had encountered during his fifteen years of designing and building this machine, was obtaining the refined uranium required to supply the efficient power necessary to break the bounds of time. Luckily for him though, there were a number of governmental officials with dissatisfied wives back home, and after only a couple letters, Osfetter had acquired all the uranium he needed.
It came by the truckloads.
Crowds of thousands stood by as Martin Osfetter prepared to be the first man to travel back in time. He made a small speech about the technological progress of humanity. That we are entering a new age of humanitarian enlightenment, of not just for the present, but of our past and future as well. He ended his speech quoting Neil Armstrong, saying, “This is one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Though what he was really thinking was “one small step for man, one giant leap for my self-esteem and wallet.”
He waved to the crowds and entered his machine. The machine gave out a loud rumbling, as he fired it up. With a couple of sparks, and with a bright flash, Dr. Osfetter was gone.
The crowd of people erupted in applause.
Though, silence soon came over the crowd, as anticipation of his return grew large. Seconds turned to minutes. Minutes to hours. One by one, members of the crowd gradually gave up, deeming this experiment a failure.
“What a fucking lunatic” could be heard murmuring throughout the disappointed crowd, as it slowly dispersed to the cotton candy stands.