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Terminus (Part Two): Quick Time Events - A review in the form of a short story. In a dramatic conclusion, the time-traveller feels caught between a nostalgic past and an experimental future, while fighting for control of his body.
The incredible truth - as I had eventually remembered it - was that I had travelled back through time to take control of my own body. I had volunteered to do this in order to be reunited with a long lost love. The science of the future had kept me from dying and revived me, but had been unable to heal the loneliness of awakening in a future world where all of my peers and companions were long gone. Rain lashed hard against the window panes of the restaurant to which I had journeyed. Seated across from me was a great love from my past, Zelda. A former companion who had filled my days with sunshine, adventure, challenge and glimpses of how the future could be shaped. I had found her again and she was more beautiful that I had remembered. Stood outside the restaurant was another figure, who paid no heed to the heavy rain that must, by now, have soaked them through to the skin. I didn't know who they were but they were watching us both. In spite of the distances I had travelled and efforts I had undertaken to find the woman across from me, something in my mind kept dragging my attention back to the strange figure. Somehow they were important. I felt certain that the stranger was responsible for the mysterious text messages I had been receiving. I was vaguely aware of the clattering of glass and shocked reactions from the diners around us. I look and saw that it was I that had broken a glass. Red wine was pooling across the tablecloth like a the sickening sight of blood pouring from a fresh wound. I moved to pick it up but my movements were sluggish. I no longer knew which direction to apply pressure in order to coax my arm into moving. The numbness I felt in my fingers and extremities was spreading. Alarmed, I realised that if I was losing control of this body then my remaining time here was now very short. I had to make a decision before I returned to my own time. The future was hazy to me now, like a dream which seemed so clear at the moment of waking, but could no longer be recalled a few short minutes later. I pondered that perhaps memories cannot make the time journey as effectively as living consciousness. However, I knew enough to complete my task. I had found Zelda - the great adventure of my younger days - and she told me that she would be prepared to be reborn in a future time to be with me. I simply had to say the word. I turned to Zelda, fighting back my revulsion at the jeopardy in which I was placing my plans. I spoke, falteringly. "Zelda, I love you and I'm overjoyed that you're here again." My eyes betrayed a look to the rain-washed windows, "it's just... there's something I need to do before I can ask you to make that commitment. Something personal." I paused, trying to gauge her reaction, "do you understand?" She swallowed and pushed a hard-won but still genuine smile to her beautiful face, "I want you to be certain, honey. You do whatever you need to do and I will be here for you." As I stood and began to walk from the table I felt the uncertainly in my movements. I could feel her eyes watching me go. I couldn't believe the risk I was taking for this stranger. Especially when I had gotten so close. * * * * * I stepped out into the rain and cursed as my shoe flooded with water from a deep puddle below the step by the restaurant door. I looked around, trying to see the stranger who had caught my attention. For some reason, the heavy rain made it difficult for me to look around my environment easily. I felt like I could only look or walk in certain directions, so I trusted myself to fate and walked in the direction of least resistance. My body seemed to be walking smoothly, even if I didn't feel I was really in control over it. Soon I saw the figure. From out here it was clear that it was a woman, sat in the pouring rain and smiling broadly as I approached. While she was very attractive, she didn't have the glossy appeal of the woman I had left seated in the restaurant. There was an grounded, naturalistic air about her appearance, as though any flaws had been left deliberately in place to accentuate the striking beauty of the rest of her features. She exclaimed, "oh my god I'm so glad I found you in time!" as she rushed suddenly toward me. I stepped back in alarm but she grabbed me and hugged me tightly. Strangely, she felt dry and warm, despite of the surrounding environment. After I didn't respond in kind to her embrace, she pulled herself away and studied my expression, curiously. She said, "do you... not remember me?" and shook her head in horror. I explained, "I'm sorry. I've been on a... rather long trip. My memories seem to have gotten left left behind." She composed herself but appeared crestfallen. "Oh, right " she said, "they told me it was a possibility." She tailed off, sadly, before recovering her stride and saying, "I came to apologise to you. But I suppose you won't have any idea what for." The rain started to ease and gentle gusts of wind blew at the remaining clouds, pushing them away to reveal a sky full of stars. With my sense of wonder raging, I asked her, "Who are you?" At this she smiled and bid me sit down beside her on a bench a little way along the lane leading away from the restaurant. I tried to give my body the prompt which I thought would allow me to sit. For some reason, though, my disconnected body decided to stand against a nearby tree. The woman looked at me quizzically, confused by this out-of-context action. I tried again with a different gesture. It didn't feel right, but somehow it coaxed my body into sitting beside her on the damp metal bench. Cold water seeped into the back of my legs. The woman produced a small purse, which she opened to reveal a photo of her and me sitting together. We were in a park somewhere, but I had no idea where. There seemed to be a vast dome overhead with a red sky beyond. I was going to study the picture in more detail but I found my eyes roving, unbidden, to the identification badge underneath. Her name was Evelyn Rayne. I had hoped this revelation would shake free another part of my lost memory, but nothing came. She had clearly seen where I was looking, as she said, "Call me Evie, if you like. I know you can't remember this, my darling, but in the future you and I are very important to one another. "I followed you here from the future, although I'm not physically here. I piggy-backed your transmission, so only you can hear, see... and feel me," to demonstrate the point she slipped a warm hand through mine and placed her other hand on top, gripping tightly. I was confused and sceptical. but I said, "if we were together in the future, then why did I come here? I came to bring back company for myself. I remember feeling alone in the future." There was a pause as the woman considered what to say. "The truth is," Evie told me, "when we first got together you were really excited and everybody made a big thing of us. You had a lot of expectations which I tried to meet but I'm afraid I just promised too much and couldn't live up to all of it. Then we had a fight. It was a big one." She looked down for a moment and bit her lip, gently, "at the end of it, we both said lots of things we shouldn't have and then... we broke up... I guess." I could feel her hand gripping mine as my mind reeled at this news. She shook her head, sadly and continued, "I gave you some space. I figured we just needed a bit of time apart to get some perspective. That was when I heard you'd gone to volunteer for the experimental time-travel project. They told me that, in exchange, they'd agreed to help you bring back a companion from your past. I realised I had to come and find you to keep you from throwing away what we had together." Evie blinked and looked up the sky, fighting to keep a tear from forming. She explained, "maybe being with me was too different from what you'd known before. You couldn't play me the way you played the others; any emotional investment you gave me I gave back, doubled. Our relationship felt experimental and sometimes too intense. Then, things fell apart and you weren't sure how you saw this new experience developing. I think that's why you ran away to find Zelda again." I considered all this. Everything Evie was saying to me made sense. I felt a kind of earthy, rooted connection with her words. It wasn't the same as remembering - I really had no recollection of my life in the future at all - but it rang true. I asked Evie, "I'd told you about Zelda, then? In the future?" She said to me, "you told me all about her. She was the great adventure of your youth. She showed you possibilities that the future could hold. But you also told me that you grew tired of the same old games. You wanted something more. Something deeper. But the truth is, when I finally offered you something truly different you ran away from it. You dived into your past to cling onto something familiar and comfortable." She stopped at looked at me. I could see that her eyes were pleading for me to hear her message and remember all that we had that was good. "If you really want something else," she continued, gently, "then you should go for it. Bring back something from your past if that is what will really make you happy. But I'm not sure that it will. "Being with me isn't a game," she gave a self-deprecating little laugh. Despite her seriousness I saw her eyes involuntarily crease and she seemed more warm and more human than at any point up to this moment. You would never have known that she was fighting for her future, too. "Being with me isn't a game," she repeated, "but I really felt like you were could grow together" I could feel something in my mind taking shape, like a fog-bound landmark fading into view. I still couldn't recall any of the details of our time together, but I began to experience a kind of emotional memory and I remembered what it felt like to be with Evie. I remembered feeling frustrated that it wasn't more than it was - but at the same time it was exciting and intimate and the possibilities for the future were unimaginable. Evie sighed again and admitted, "and I know that our story is small compared to some of your big adventures. But, sometimes it's the small stories that we carry with us. Little moments - like holding a hand, dressing an injury or preparing a meal - they're the ones that stay with you. It's as simple as running down a path and choosing whether to go left, or right. There is no right answer. There is no way to 'win'. You make choices as your heart leads and your own story plays out to its conclusion. I hoped that that was how things were with us." I took all this in. She was making sense and seeing her in this obvious distress was moving me, despite the half-remember bitterness of our separation in the future. But that was a fact that couldn't be over-looked. I told her, "but in the end we split up." Evie looked down at our hands. She said, "a lot of that was my fault, as much as yours. I know that I keep a lot from you. I know that sometime I ask you to act without you ever really understanding why you are doing it. I'm not perfect, but I believe that if you give me - give us - another chance then what is come in the future could be all the more incredible." There was silence. She had stopped talking and was looking at me. I blinked and looked at her as she studied my face and I realised, with a weight of comprehension, that whatever argument she was making she was now finished. There were no more words, no more reasons. She simply sat and held my hand gently and looked into my eyes. Whatever decision I was going to make I had all the knowledge I was going to get. It was time to decide. I asked, weakly, "what do I do next?" Evie smiled, kindly, "it's very simple. You take your phone and you send a message. If you want to give us another try, then simply ask the cryogenic labs and to cancel the job. But," she took a sharp intake of breath, "if you want someone else to be brought back to you then you should tell them before its too late. Whatever you do, my darling, you make your own ending and I want you to be happy." She smiled and froze. She had stopped moving, in an instant. As I watched, I saw her skin grow pale and then I realised I could see the street lights through her face. She was becoming translucent and fading. In a moment, her presence here had ended. The time-broadcast was really losing strength rapidly and I sat alone on the bench. I knew my own time was short, too, as I ached with the effort of lifting the mobile phone and trying to coax my own estranged fingers to send the most important message of my life. My mind spun with working over the options. Did I really want to regress to the experiences of my younger days? It seemed so shallow when I considered all that Evie had said. But I knew that our relationship was deeply flawed. Something about having to try so hard to enjoy my time with her didn't sit right. Surely to have a good and rewarding time should be instinctive and come easily? I made my choice and pressed send. My action was completed not a moment too soon. Seconds later the world around me collapsed like a vast black velvet sheet whirling around my head in a vortex before wrapping me in a cocoon of darkness. * * * * * Before my eyes adjusted to the dazzling light I was first aware of the sounds around me. I could hear the bleeping of computers and the sounds of people shuffling in the room and I could feel that I was immobile under restraints. As my eyesight recovered I saw the smiling face of a white-clad technician leaning over me. "Welcome back," he said, "I'm pleased to announce that the experiment was a huge success. You have our greatest thanks for helping us." There was a buzzing behind him. My mind understood quickly. Door intercom. The technician stepped away and spoke softly into the mechanism. I couldn't hear what was said. He return, smiling broadly. "It seems you have a visitor," he said, broadly. "I'm sure she'll be very glad to see you. Very glad indeed." The restraints retracted and the couch hinged, allowing me to sit up easily. I watched as the doorway into the lab slid open and the silhouetted figure of a woman appeared. She rushed forward to grip me tightly in her embrace. Seeing her was more wonderful than I could have possibly imagined.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
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