The next day seems like a dream, I’m not completely there. It’s not as bad as before, but it’s still not good. At least I’m conscious, even if I don’t feel in control. It’s weird that I was alright last night though, maybe it’s got something to do with sleeping, it really exhausts me. By the time it gets to the end of school, I feel awake. Is this what it feels like to drink coffee? My dad says he can’t operate without it sometimes. Is this that feeling when it actually hits?
My room is dark as I enter. I fumble around for the light switch. God I am so lucky Dad decided to get electricity put in this house, even if we don’t have TVs like in the City, just a light to be able to see. This is probably what Dad means when he says that people envy us in a way. I don’t know anyone else who has electricity.
I’d almost forgotten about the face, but as I sit on the bed it catches my eye. It stares back at me, like it does every day. Except this feels real. I can remember seeing it previously, but somehow I know for sure, that it wasn’t there before. These memories of looking at it, running my fingers through the engravings, thinking about her. Dad said she wanted to make me smile, but I’m not sure he understood what it meant. I could change things. That’s the truth. I could actually make a difference to the world. I wouldn’t be listening to him, the man who raised me. Who gave me so much in this world. That feels wrong. It feels worse that he knows about it. That because of me, he has memories of talking to Mum about why she did it. He created a story to tell me. We both remember it, even though it’s only ever been told once. The times before weren’t real. Were they?
I run my hands over the mouth one last time. Knowing that it was my hand that carved this, not my Mum’s. Not that it matters. The memories aren’t real. At least they don’t feel real. Thinking back to when I sat next to this face. Feeling sad that I was alone. That Dad didn’t understand things the same way Mum would have. I used to pretend that the face was crying with me, that the smile was just a strong front. I can’t handle these memories being real. I know they happened, but they didn’t at the same time. Is this how it feels for everyone? This face hasn’t changed a lot. Only me and Dad would feel a difference, but does that matter? Would fixing someone’s death feel worse? It’s the right thing to do though. I know it is, deep down. Everyone should hate me, if I have the chance to change something and don’t take it. No one will know, they won’t be able to understand how it works. But Tobi wouldn’t hate me in the same way anymore. I could return to a normal life. No one would ever know.
Before I do that though, I just need to go back one more time. Just to tell Mum that our experiment worked.
I walk down the stairs to find her sitting in the small living room. This is Dad’s room now. I don’t really remember ever being in here. The small warm room is barely lit. A little candle dancing around, flicking its light out around her, as she sits with an open book in her hands. That’s all this room really is. Just a little hiding hole for living in. The ceiling is also lower on one side where the stairs hover above. The curtains are pulled tight over the window, not allowing any of the precious candle flame to escape. No on looking would be able to see the secrets held within here. Dad told me once he was going to get a radio for in here, that I would be amazed at the sounds coming from it. And while I probably would be, it never happened. He rarely enters this room, and I’m in here even less. It looks pretty much the same as I remember.
“Hi,” I start.
“You made me jump there, I was lost.”
“Sorry, I know the feeling.”
“At least it isn’t your Dad. He’s always jumping in on me. Trying to annoy me.”
“He gave up on doing that to me.”
I wonder if he stopped doing it because I started to remind him too much of Mum. I hope that isn’t what happened. It’s so difficult. People.
“Are you alright?” Mum asks.
“Yes. Sorry. I just came back to tell you it worked.”
“You don’t sound surprised.”
“I knew it would work. Somehow I just knew. It just makes sense to me. I couldn’t just tell you that though, could I. You had to see for yourself. Nothing wrong with that.”
“Don’t be sad. It’s something I’ve thought about for a long time. When I was at University, just after I’d met you for the first time.”
“In the cafe?”
“You saw me in the cafe?”
“Yes, you served me, but I couldn’t afford it. Dad paid for the orange juice. I could barely speak. I was so confused.”
“That was you?”
“It was the first time I’d ever used the watch.”
“Seriously? I can’t believe it. I never knew. Jikwin he was trying to impress me, and he ended up buying our daughter a drink. Our daughter who wouldn’t be born until years later. It’s so weird. It makes no sense.”
“I know, I still don’t believe it.”
“After the first time I met you, I remember sitting there in my dorm room, my flatmate was sleeping while I was staring out into the sky, looking at all of the stars. The endless universe. And yet the future was set. Things would happen and you would come back and see me. Those moments had already been written. Time doesn’t make sense. I think it’s a bubble, expanding. Everything happening at the same time. That’s the only way this makes sense to me. You’ve proven that things aren’t set in stone. That face, it wasn’t there before. I read a book about it once. The belief that all moments ripple along together, that nothing is really gone, and nothing is really new. Look out at the stars. We’re told that most if not all are already dead, and yet they shine away. Their light takes so long to get here that we are seeing them from hundreds and hundreds of years ago. Everything happens at the same time.”
“That’s a nice way to look at it.”
“I want you to remember that. Come here. I know things are difficult sometimes. Believe me I’ve been through enough to know. But just remember that time isn’t the way we see it.”
I want to say that I miss her, but that would be too much. I like what she says though. I hadn’t really thought about it before. I just thought my Dad was right, that the past has already happened so any time I go back, it’s the same thing. Nothing can change. I think he was worried that I would go back and try to change something, fail and maybe hurt myself. My future isn’t set in stone for him, not like it is for Mum. Nothing is set in stone. Anything can change.
Mum lets me go, and tells me to go home. That I need to rest. I have school in the morning. One of the many things that other people take for granted, but finally I get to hear her say it.
When I reach back home, I pass out near enough immediately. I wake up in the morning, actually feeling alive. I feel like crap. But at least I’m here, conscious and awake.
The rest of the week drags along. I know I could do this at any time, but I want to give myself a few days to prepare. To make sure I know exactly what I’m doing. That I’m completely sure I want to take this step. I had Saturday in my mind, I couldn’t just go and do it after school. That wouldn’t be smart. I wouldn’t have time to think it through to have some kind of plan. Tobi wasn’t in school for the whole week, not that it’s really surprising. Apparently he had to go to the City on Wednesday with his Mum to pick up the body. Something no one wants to do. I try to put myself in his shoes, to imagine having to do that, but I just can’t. It makes me sick. Knowing that Dad won’t be there forever, deep down knowing I will have to do something similar one day. It’s not right. I hate it. Mum’s words come back to me though. He’s never gone, because he is just in a different time. Just like Mum, living along side me. As every moment is a constant.
The thing is, not everyone sees it this way. I would love to be able to explain it to them. It might bring Tobi some comfort, but it just isn’t that simple. He would rather his Dad be here in the now. It’s like the whole world around me is a lie, and I’m about to find some kind of truth to unravel it all. It’s been a few short weeks since I started this journey, but everything is different now.
I can’t stand the people. They hate me. I come home from school crying, but I can’t tell Dad that. He wouldn’t understand. I grab the watch and go back. I know I shouldn’t. I know I need to save my strength. But I need to see her, if only for a moment. She doesn’t expect me, not that she ever will. But we play chess. I haven’t ever played it before. I didn’t even know we had a chess board. Maybe we don’t anymore.
“You move the bishop diagonally like this, yeah like that,” she says teaching me the rules.
I hug her and tell her goodbye after the game. It’s one of my favourite evenings so far.
By the end of the week people start treating me like normal at school. At first the awkwardness continued. People staring, mumbling under the breath as if I was contagious, that being too close would make them murderers as well. That’s the way they look at me. That’s just the way school is. People want things to be interesting. Dad says they just don’t understand what’s going on, that it’s shock when someone we know dies so suddenly and in such a tragic way. I don’t really care. After the weekend they won’t know it, but things will be different.
When I get home Dad is already cooking dinner. I would have been home earlier if it wasn’t for that extra class. I need to put the extra effort in. Even if I can change things, I should still work towards doing well for myself. I can’t just give myself a good life. I have to earn it. I know it’s going to be a struggle, but in the end it’ll be worth it. I’ve been given this gift, and I’m going to do something with it. After generations of not really using it, I’m going to make a change.
I eat dinner and tell Dad I’m going upstairs to read before bed. He nods, knowing this is what I normally do. I leave him to do the washing up, which I know is bad. But I want as much rest as possible before my mission. I thought about pausing time and sleeping so I could have the most sleep possible, but I don’t think that’ll work. I might wake up even more tired and exhausted. It’s an idea to try a different time, not tonight. Tonight I just need a lot of sleep, as much as I can fit in one night. For tomorrow, everything changes.
To be continued…