Fredrick Obermeyer enjoys writing science-fiction, fantasy, horror and crime stories. He has had work published in NFG, Electric Spec, Newmyths, Perihelion SF, Acidic Fiction, the Destination: Future anthology, and other markets.
THE BIRTHDAY BOY by Fredrick Obermeyer
When Trevor Tillwell awoke, he found himself in an unfamiliar bedroom with walnut wood-paneled walls.
Where am I? Trevor thought.
He looked down at himself and screamed. Somehow he had shrunk during the night and his clothing had changed. He was wearing a gray T-shirt and blue briefs. Last night he had gone to bed wearing no shirt and tan boxer shorts.
His body didn’t feel right either; he felt smaller. Unnerved, he rolled out of bed, rushed out of the bedroom and down a narrow hallway. Nearby the door to a bathroom lay open. He rushed in, flicked on the light switch, looked at the cabinet mirror and gasped.
He appeared to be twelve years old again.
Fear exploded inside him like an artillery shell. He touched his face, nose and cheeks, wondering if this was some kind of dream. But no, it felt real.
He distinctly remembered going to bed in his apartment down in Santa Monica. It had been July 17th, 1979, his birthday. He had just turned twenty-one and was a man with long, blond hair and a beard and mustache.
But when he looked down at his arms and legs, they were no longer hairy. His hair was cut short, his beard and mustache gone. He tossed off his shirt and pulled down his briefs. All the hair on his chest, belly and pubic region was gone.
“Oh God,” Trevor said. His voice sounded prepubescent. “What happened to me?”
Shaken, he threw his clothes back on, walked out of the bathroom, crept through the house and said, “Hello?”
No one responded.
Unable to recognize the place, Trevor walked into the kitchen and saw some mail lying on the nearby counter. He picked it up and looked at the recipient’s address on the first letter; it said Paul Varderoy, Los Angeles, California, a name Trevor didn’t recognize. He fingered through the mail: an electric bill, a political ad that endorsed Ronald Reagan as the next President of the United States and a catalog from Montgomery Ward.
He dropped the mail and looked to his left. A calendar on the opposite wall said the month was July, 1980.
But that was impossible. It was still July, 1979.
Distraught, Trevor darted into the living room. Several pictures were lying on a mantelpiece above the fireplace. A gaunt, balding man, a woman with frizzy brown hair and tortoise shell glasses and three children, two girls and a boy occupied many of them. None of them looked familiar, however.
Trevor walked over to the TV, clicked it on and turned the knob to channel two. Tom Brokaw’s face appeared on the screen and Trevor watched the Today Show for a minute before he learned the date.
July 17, 1980.
“That’s impossible,” Trevor said.
Not only had he turned into a child, he had skipped a whole year. He shut the TV off and took several deep breaths.
There has to be a logical explanation for all this, Trevor said. Maybe someone slipped LSD into one of my beers last night.
He strode back to the bedroom and looked around. Shorts, socks and shoes were lying in a pile on the floor. He threw the clothes on and checked his shorts’ pockets. He found some loose change and a leather wallet with twenty-five bucks in it. But no driver’s license, no college ID, no credit cards.
Concerned that someone might show up and kick him out, Trevor decided to leave.
He put the wallet back in his pocket, opened the bedroom window, climbed out of the house and ran down to an adjacent street. Once there, he slowed down.
As Trevor trudged down the sidewalk, he contemplated what to do next.
I have to go to my apartment and figure things out, Trevor thought.
Trevor walked through a large residential neighborhood until he came to a bus stop. He asked an older black man sitting there if the line led to Santa Monica and he said it did. When the bus arrived, Trevor got on and paid the fare with change from his pocket. He sat near the back and looked out the window, wondering what in the world was happening to him.
* * *
When Trevor arrived outside his apartment complex, the building was no longer there. It was now a parking lot.
He stumbled away from the lot and walked down the street till he reached a phone booth. He slid inside, grabbed the telephone book hanging there and thumbed through it, looking for his parents.
Much to his relief, he saw that their address and telephone number was the same. But his own name wasn’t there. He tried looking up his girlfriend Marilyn’s number, but he couldn’t find her in there either.
He took a quarter from his pocket, put it in the phone and dialed his parents’ number. Ten rings passed, but nobody answered.
Disheartened, he hung up and decided to visit his parents. Maybe they had an explanation for all this.
* * *
When Trevor arrived at his parents’ house in Pomona, he froze. The house looked different. The paint color was lime green instead of navy blue and another floor had been added over the garage.
Feeling unsteady, he walked up to the door and tried it. It was locked.
“Mom, Dad?” Trevor said. He knocked on the door.
A few seconds later, the door opened. His mother looked down at him and cried out.
“Mom, it’s me,” Trevor said.
She covered her mouth with one hand and staggered back as if she had been slapped.
“Honey, what’s wrong?” he heard his Dad say. “Who is it?”
Trevor frowned and stepped into the house. He glanced at a nearby mantelpiece and saw a family portrait. His mom, dad, himself as a kid and another older girl with braces. But that didn’t make sense; he had been an only child. Had they adopted a kid without him knowing?
“Honey, what’s wrong? Is it one of the--”
His father appeared in the living room and screamed.
“Dad, Mom, what’s going on here?”
“No!” his mom said. “You’re dead!”
“Dead?!” The word slammed into Trevor like a tsunami. “I’m not dead! I just turned young! I don’t know how!”
His mother wailed and turned away. Looking angry, his father held her.
“Is this some kind of sick joke?” his father said.
“No! I’m your son Trevor! Remember?”
“That’s impossible! Our son died in a plane crash on his twelfth birthday along with his sister!”
“No, I didn’t die then and I never had any sister. Last night when I went to bed I was twenty-one and when I woke up today I was twelve--”
“Get out of our house right now!” his father said. “Before we call the cops!”
“Get out!” his mom said.
Trevor burst into tears, ran out of the house and down the street.
I can’t be dead! Trevor thought. Can I? Could I be a ghost? No, that’s impossible. I feel alive.
Trevor stopped at the street corner and wiped his eyes. He looked down the street and saw the local library a few blocks away.
An idea came to him.
He composed himself, walked into the library and asked to use the microfiche machine. His father had said that he had died on his twelfth birthday. So if this was 1980 and he had skipped a year, that would mean he would have been twenty-two. Twenty-two minus twelve is ten years. So if he was right, then he died on July 17th, 1970. He asked to see the reels for July 18th, 1970.
When he got it, he threaded the reel through the machine. He scanned the microfiche and quickly found an answer. His heart nearly stopped as he found a front page article and saw a picture of himself and the girl in the photograph.
“Two Siblings’ Lives Claimed in Tragic Plane Crash,” the article headline read.
He stared in shock.
The article stated that Trevor Tillwell, 12, and his older sister, Mary Beth, 15, were killed in a plane crash outside a California air field. Their parents had allowed him to ride in a plane with his sister as a birthday present. Somewhere along the way, a freak malfunction had occurred and the plane crashed in a forest, killing the pilot and two children.
Trevor sobbed and put his right hand on his forehead. He wanted to vomit, he wanted to scream. He didn’t know what he wanted.
“Are you all right?” a librarian said.
Trevor burst out of the chair and ran out of the library.
One block down, he collapsed behind a post office and vomited.
It’s not true! Trevor thought. I’m not dead! I’m having some kind of nervous breakdown or something! I’ll just go to bed and I’ll wake up and everything will be back to normal.
Somehow, though, he had a feeling that nothing would be normal again.
Uncertain where to go, he spent the rest of the day walking around the city. He thought about going to one of his friends, if they even still existed. But would they react the same way? If they thought he was dead, he might only make them upset as he had done to his parents.
By nightfall, he was hungry and tired. He stopped at a pizza joint and had two slices of pepperoni.
With no place to stay, he went to a nearby park and laid down on the bench. Seeing a cop patrolling the nearby area, he fled into the woods for around a half mile, hid behind a tree and fell asleep against it.
* * *
Trevor awoke, gasping. He looked up and found himself on a park bench. It was early morning, the sun barely up.
When he looked down, he saw that he was wearing sandals, red shorts and a white Adidas T-shirt. He looked at his hairless arms and touched his face. He was still young. When he looked around, he realized he was in a different park.
Trevor saw a cop coming down the walkway. He rolled off the bench and walked past the officer, trying not to look suspicious. As he passed, the cop glanced at him. Trevor slowed down and looked straight ahead.
The cop kept on walking.
He waited a few seconds before looking back. The cop had walked on down the path. Trevor stopped at a tree and reached into his pocket to check his wallet. But he found that he had no wallet or money on him.
Damn, Trevor thought.
A sick feeling arose in the pit of his stomach.
Beyond the park was a newspaper vending machine. He walked over to it. A man was taking out a paper. As he closed it, Trevor reached in, grabbed a paper and ran off as the man said, “Hey!”
He ran down another block into an alleyway and checked the newspaper date.
July 17th, 1981.
Another whole year had passed. Shaking, Trevor read the front page headline. Jimmy Carter was still president and in heated talks with the Soviets concerning strategic arms control.
Trevor checked the other pages, wondering if the date was a misprint. But no, each alternate page of paper gave the date as July 17th, 1981.
On the verge of tears, Trevor rolled up the paper, stuck it under the crook of his right arm and walked down the street.
What had happened in the space of a whole year? Trevor wondered. Surely I couldn’t have slept a whole year on a park bench. Am I still supposed to be dead? Or could I literally be skipping through time like a stone?
Trevor went down to the nearest library and checked the microfiche machine. Even though a year had passed, he still had the same obituary dated 1970. But this time it only mentioned his death. Mary Beth Tillwell was nowhere to be found.
He left the library, feeling confused. Hunger gnawed at his stomach. With no money, he couldn’t eat or take the bus or do anything.
A gas station/convenience store lay a hundred feet down the road. Trevor walked in and checked the aisles. When the cashier wasn’t looking, he grabbed a Snickers bar from the candy aisle, stuck it in his pocket and walked out.
As he walked down the adjacent street, he saw a Coca Cola can lying on the ground and a thought occurred to him. If skipping years was some kind of pattern, was there any continuity to the skips? Or were the timelines changing irrevocably with each jump?
What if I put the theory to the test? Trevor thought.
He picked the Coke can up off the street.
* * *
A half hour later, Trevor arrived at a dump named Platski’s. He walked through the large rows of wrecked cars and piles of junk, his stomach still aching from hunger.
He knelt at a spot under a crushed red car, dug a hole with his bare hands and dropped the Coke can in it. He pushed the dirt back over it, then took a stick and stuck it in the ground. Once it was secure, he searched around the dump till he found a dirty white piece of cloth. He carried it back to the stick and tied it around the part that was sticking, then covered it.
If the pattern remained the same and there was any sort of temporal continuity, then the can should still be buried under the car this time next year.
* * *
After waking up the next time, Trevor headed back to the dump. Along the way a bank sign gave him the date.
July 17th, 1982.
When he arrived at the red car, he checked for the stick and flag. They were still there, although they had fallen to the ground. He leaned in and dug the mud out of the hole. The Coke can was still there.
Trevor picked it up and looked at it. Once he finished, he put the flag back up and walked away.
He cleaned his hands in a nearby gas station bathroom. On the way out, he bought a paper and checked the front page.
Instead of Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan was the president; Yuri Gagarin was the USSR Premier.
Trevor frowned. He hadn’t kept up with the news that much, but hadn’t Gagarin died back in 1968? Now he was the leader of Russia. And what had happened to Jimmy Carter? He had won the election back in 1980, but now in ’82 Reagan was in the Oval Office.
Things had changed. Perhaps each timeline was its own isolated entity. But it couldn’t be if the can was still there. Or could there be limited continuity with each passing year?
Curious, Trevor went to another library and did some research on the current history. During his study, he noticed some minor differences.
Once again, he had died with Mary Beth in 1970.
There had been no Watergate scandal and Nixon had remained president until early 1977. Carter had bowed out of the 1980 election. Instead, Ronald Reagan had run against Ted Kennedy and nearly lost. Apparently in this timeline there had been no Chappaquiddick.
Trevor skimmed through some other articles, noticing several other small discrepancies in recent history.
He spent the rest of the day researching the past twelve years and found more changes, but nothing that had radically affected the world.
Tired, he shut off the microfiche reader and stretched his stiff arms. He considered trying to sneak upstairs and sleep in the library, but some of the librarians had given him looks and he knew that he couldn’t stay there.
He left the library and bought a hot dog at a nearby stand. Since he was still underage, he couldn’t sleep at a hotel without an adult.
After searching one of the local neighborhoods, he found a runaway shelter and checked in for the night.
Trevor was booked in a large, open room full of cots. He took one and laid down, wondering if there was any way he could stop the time skips and return to his normal age.
After pondering the matter for a while, he decided to see if he could stay awake and beat the pattern. He looked up and focused his eyes on the ceiling.
By midnight, his eyelids were fluttering. He got up to the bathroom several times and tried to stay awake by splashing cold water on his face. It didn’t seem to help, though.
He sat down in one of the bathroom stalls, intended to relieve himself. But before he knew it, he dozed off.
* * *
When Trevor awoke, his back was killing him and his right eye was swollen shut. He found himself inside a different bathroom stall.
I must’ve fell asleep on the toilet, Trevor thought.
He took a quick piss and checked his new clothes. He had a white shirt, a denim jacket and pants and a nylon wallet with three hundred dollars, no driver’s license or credit cards. Two fifties and four twenties had dried blood on them.
What the hell happened to me? Trevor thought, his heart racing. Did I get in a fight and kill somebody?
He tucked the money and wallet back in his pocket, left the stall and checked himself in the bathroom mirror. He still looked twelve. But now along with the shiner he had a split lip, bruised cheeks, a broken nose and a large scar over his left eye.
Disturbed, he left the bathroom of the Burger King he had been sleeping in and hitched a ride back to the dump. It was a scorchingly hot day and Trevor sweated in his denim jacket and jeans.
When he arrived at the red car, he gasped in fear. The stick and flag was gone.
Trevor cried out and dug his hands into the hard-packed ground. But when he dug deeper, he found no Coke can.
“Please no!” Trevor said. “Please!”
Wailing, Trevor ripped the surrounding ground up, hurting his hands. Still the can was gone.
Tears stung his eyes as he stood up. He kicked the red car and sent pain shooting through his foot.
“No, no, no,” Trevor said to himself.
He rushed out of the dump and down the street to the nearest newspaper vending machine. Livid, he kicked the glass out, reached in and grabbed it, cutting his hand in the process. The nearby pedestrians looked at him like he was crazy.
“What the fuck are you looking at?!” Trevor said.
The people stepped away from him.
Trevor strode away, smearing blood onto the newspaper with his cut hand. He read the date and the main headlines.
July 17th, 1983.
Daniel Callister was the US President and Leonid Brezhnev was the USSR Premier.
Feeling sick to his stomach, Trevor threw the paper in the nearest trash can and clutched his bleeding hand.
He couldn’t take it anymore; he didn’t want to live as a kid in some crazy world that kept changing every time he woke up.
People on the street gave him strange looks as he staggered down the street. One lady in a blue jogging suit rushed over and said, “Are you all right?”
“I can’t, I can’t…” Trevor broke down, crying.
Trevor collapsed in her arms and closed his eyes.
* * *
Later, Trevor found himself in a nearby hospital. Trevor remained silent as an intern stitched up his cut hand.
He knew what he was going to do. He was going to kill himself. There was no other way out of this nightmare.
When the intern left the exam room, Trevor snuck out of the hospital and roamed the streets. It was nighttime and Trevor trudged down an unfamiliar neighborhood, neither knowing nor caring about his destination. All he cared about was dying.
He stopped at an overpass with a drainage culvert running beneath it. Shaken, he looked down at the nearly dry bottom. He put one foot over the railing and looked down again.
One jump and it will all be over, Trevor thought. But suppose it isn’t? What if I kill myself and wake up on July 17th, 1984? Or what if I really do kill myself?
In that moment, he felt his resolve to end his life weakening. Despite the temporal incongruities he had endured, he found that he didn’t really want to die. He just wanted things to go back to normal.
He pulled his leg back over the railing and squeezed his good fist.
Think, Trevor, what can I do to stay here? he said to himself.
The answer soon came to him.
Stay awake, he thought. Yeah, but for how long? As long as you can. It might not work, but at least he could try and fight this phenomenon.
He walked away from the bridge and entered a nearby pharmacy. There he stocked up on caffeine pills and coffee. After he paid for them, he took double the recommended dosage and drank several cups of coffee.
Time passed slowly. Trevor kept himself awake by roaming the streets, punching himself occasionally, drinking more caffeine and taking more pills.
He stayed up all night and into the morning of July 18th, 1983. Sleep-deprived, the world grew blurry and indistinct. He lost track of his location and found himself dozing off in an alley. But he slapped himself and forced himself to stay awake. He couldn’t fall asleep and time jump again.
The next day he staggered around like a zombie, wanting so badly to sleep but knowing that he couldn’t.
Finally, after nearly being awake for forty-eight hours, he collapsed inside an arcade and blacked out.
* * *
For the next eighty years, the pattern continued. Every morning, Trevor would wake up the following year on July 17th in a different place. Oftentimes it was in L.A., but sometime he would wake up outside the city. And he was always twelve years old.
Every time he read the paper, he would find different leaders, different facts, different issues. Historical events changed so frequently that after a while he only checked the newspapers for dates.
Eventually the constant changes wore Trevor down to the point where he felt like an alien amongst humans. Clothing styles changed, technology changed, the English language changed. He became increasingly isolated and scared, hurtling through an unknown world that became more strange and complex with each passing day.
But on July 17th, 2063, he found a small ray of hope.
He was browsing the classifieds in a newspaper at a corner café in Burbank when he saw an ad that intrigued him.
“Are you having problems with time? Feel like you’re skipping around the clock and can’t stay in one place for very long? Come to the Temporal Support Group at the Bakerman Hill Church basement, Tuesday July 17th, 2063. Serious inquiries only please.”
Trevor chuckled, wondering what kind of nutcase would hold a temporal support group. Was it like an AA meeting? Yet at the same time, a sense of curiosity filled him. Could other people really be suffering from time problems like him?
It couldn’t hurt to check it out.
* * *
Trevor arrived at the church basement a little after seven-thirty that night. The place was dimly lit and smelled of old cigarettes and lemony floor polish. Chairs had been set up in front of a lectern and a few people sat around chatting and smoking. One of the guys was a Luminal wearing a clear jacket. He had neon yellow and green light track line patterns grafted into his skin and looked like a walking stoplight.
A short, portly woman with curly blonde hair and a charcoal gray business suit walked up to him. Unlike many of the people there, she had no body mods, no tattoos, no earrings, no obvious signs of genetic adjustment.
“Hello,” the woman said, and held out her hand. “My name is Dr. Madison Rallerdan.”
Trevor shook it reluctantly and said, “Trevor Tillwell.”
She looked him over. “Let me guess. You’re a year skipper.”
Trevor’s eyes widened. “How did you know?”
“I scanned you with this when you came in.” She took out a small scanner from her shirt pocket. “It detects abnormal time fields in people.”
“Can you help me stop it?”
Rallerdan put the device back in her pocket and said, “I’m not sure. Each person’s case is unique.”
“How many people have temporal afflictions like mine?”
“Well, hundreds, maybe more. And I’m finding new cases every month.”
“Why are you--”
“--helping them?” Rallerdan smiled. “Because I had my own affliction. For years I only lived two or three hours sequentially a day and then skipped to the next. After a while, I thought I was going crazy.”
“You said ‘had.’ Did you cure it?”
“Not exactly.” She led Trevor over to a small case near the lectern. “I created a drug called BQ-297. It’s what I call a limited temporal stabilizer.” She opened it a bottle full of green and blue capsules. “In my case it let me live a full day, but I was stuck here in 2063 and kept looping back to the beginning at the end of the year.” She spread her hands. “But that was me. If you take it, it may cure you or it may give you a few more days in each cycle or…”
“Or?” Trevor said.
“Or it could make things worse,” Rallerdan said. “Or it could even kill you like it did to Anthony Trantanelli.”
“What happened to him?”
“He was a twenty-five year old who looked eighty and his body generated extra hours in each day that he lived. He came to me for help and I gave him the drug. But what I didn’t know then was that he had an undiagnosed heart condition. He dropped dead less than an hour after I gave him the first pill.”
Trevor frowned. “I don’t have any pre-existing conditions and I’m not allergic to any drugs.”
“I’m not denying you anything, Trevor. I just want you to know all the risks before I give it to you.”
Trevor took one of the pills from the case and looked at it. Was it worth the risk? If it could cure his problem, then maybe.
“Could I take it?” Trevor said.
“If I medically clear you, then yes,” Rallerdan said. “But first I have to run some tests and do further scans on your time field.”
Rallerdan performed a physical exam on him in the back room and judged him fit to take the drug. When she finished, she left and came back with a paper cup of water and one dose. Trevor popped the BQ-297 capsule into his mouth, drank some water and swallowed it. He stood there for a moment. He didn’t feel any different.
Afterwards, Rallerdan scanned him with the device.
“It seems stable,” Rallerdan said.
“What does that mean?” Trevor said.
“Well it means that it hasn’t affected anything yet.” She rechecked her scanner. “The drug might not work until you hit your next time jump. Or it might not work at all.”
“Great, so I’ll jump ahead again.”
“Relax, it may still work.” She gestured outside the room. “There’s a cot in the next room. Go lay down and relax.”
Trevor sighed, walked to the next room and laid down on one of the green army cots in the room. He didn’t feel sleepy. Outside he heard Rallerdan talking to the other members of the group.
He sighed and closed his eyes. Before he knew it, he was asleep.
* * *
Trevor awoke with a gasp. He shot up and looked around. He was back in the strange bedroom with walnut wood-paneled walls.
Trembling, he looked down at himself. His arms had hair and felt bigger. He raised his shorts and looked at his genitals. He had pubic hair.
When he stood, he felt slightly taller. He ran over to the bathroom and looked. Now he looked slightly older, around thirteen years old.
Trevor stared at his reflection in the mirror, not knowing whether to feel happy or sad. At least there had been some change, but he was right back where he had started. He walked out of the room and checked the TV.
It was July 17th, 1980.
He sighed with utter regret.
This was going to take a while.
* * *
And sure enough it did.
Trevor had to wait another eighty-three days to see Dr. Rallerdan again, skipping across year after year, repeating the cycle. When he went to the church earlier than 2063, the support group hadn’t been formed yet.
When he finally met Rallerdan again in 2063, she sat him down in the church basement.
“This is good,” she said, scanning him.
“Good?!” Trevor said. “Nothing’s changed except my age! I’m still shifting through time.”
“But you’re growing older each time. If we can get you to twenty-one, you might snap out of the cycle and go back to your normal life.”
“So you’re saying I have to live through this cycle another seven times?”
“And how many days is that?”
“Well let’s see. Eighty-three days times seven cycles is five hundred and eighty-one days. So it’s only a little under two years.”
“That’s assuming other unforeseen complications don’t occur or the drug stops working.”
Trevor buried his head in his hands. It wasn’t fair. Rallerdan put her hand on his shoulder and rubbed it.
“I know it’s tough, Trevor, but you can make it. Just keep thinking about the goal, okay?”
Trevor looked up at her and said, “Okay.”
Rallerdan handed him another pill and a cup of water and he took his medicine.
* * *
Seven cycles later, Trevor returned to the church as a twenty-year old man. His heart raced with excitement as he walked down the stairs to the support group.
But when he saw Dr. Rallerdan, the grim look on her face told him that the news wouldn’t be good.
“What is it?” Trevor said, frowning.
“We need to talk,” she said, and led him into the back.
She sat him down on a cot and took a spot next to him.
“I’ve been examining your case for a while now and I think I understand what happened.”
“I’m going to die, aren’t I?”
“Not necessarily. I think what may have happened is that in another timeline you did die on July 17th, 1970. But right at the moment of death, either you pushed your mind or it was somehow pushed into another timeline where you never got in the plane and lived to be twenty-one. Your transferred consciousness wiped out the original one and you continued to live on in the alternate timeline.
“But this time jump might have caused a delayed ripple effect that activated on your twentieth birthday. Once it kicked in, you started bouncing across alternate timelines and living only one day in each of them. Some were quite similar and some weren’t. But when you fell asleep, you bounced to the next birthday.”
“But why did I become twelve instead of turning twenty-two, twenty-three and so on?”
“The ripple effect might have also caused your body to regress temporally to the age of twelve. When I gave you the first dose of the drug, it restarted your aging process. Each time you went back to 1980 and repeated the cycle, you aged one year.”
“So what’s the bottom line?” Trevor said.
“If I give you another dose of BQ-297 and you go back to July 17th, 1980, I believe you’ll turn twenty-one and die immediately.”
Trevor’s breath caught in his chest.
“So there’s no way out.”
“As I said, not necessarily. I could be wrong. There’s the remote possibility that you may survive more cycles and live for a number of years like this. But in my opinion, another reset will almost certainly kill you. Then again, it’s all theoretical. The last reset might snap you back to July 17th, 1979 and you may resume your original life. But as I said, it is extremely unlikely.”
“I’d say less than a ten percent chance.”
Trevor shook his head.
“There is another option,” Rallerdan said.
“What?” Trevor said.
“Don’t take the drug. You can continue to live one day a year. If you don’t get hurt or sick, conceivably you could live a very long time. Possibly even until the end of the universe.”
Trevor gawked at her.
“So either I live one day a year for eternity or I go back and risk dying. What kind of choice is that?!”
“I’m not saying they’re good choices, but they’re the only ones you have.”
Trevor grabbed a coffee cup and threw it at the wall. Rage made him tense up and he pounded the cot with his fists.
Why can’t I have my old life back? Trevor thought. What did I do to deserve this shit?
Rallerdan took his arm and said, “Easy, Trevor.”
Slowly he began to calm down and stop hitting the cot.
“If you want to risk taking the drug again, that’s your right,” Rallerdan said. “I just want you to know the truth.”
Trevor snorted and rubbed his eyes. “Some truth.”
“I admit it’s not right and it’s not fair, but it is what it is.”
“What do I do, Doc? What’s the right choice?”
“I can’t tell you that, Trevor. You have to decide for yourself.”
Trevor sighed and said, “Do you think in the future you could come up with a new version of the drug that might help me return to 1979?”
Rallerdan frowned. “I’m not sure your case is curable, but I’ll do everything I can to help you find a way back.”
“So it’s a death sentence if I take the pill?”
“In all probability, yes.”
For a few minutes, Trevor pondered his options. Finally, he came to a decision.
“Then I won’t take it.”
“I will keep looking for a cure, Trevor. Believe that--”
“It’s all right. You did everything you could to help me and I appreciate it.”
He reached out and hugged Rallerdan. She put her arms around him and kissed him on the cheek.
“Good luck, Trevor.”
He stood and left the basement.
* * *
When Trevor awoke the next day, he found himself lying naked on a waterbed in a strange bedroom. The room was hot and a ceiling fan spun lazily around, blowing stale air through the closed up room. A small computer lay on the nightstand next to him. He reached over, opened it and checked the date.
July 17th, 2064.
Trevor sighed and closed the computer.
So that was it then. The first day of the rest of his life. Eternity faced him and he didn’t know what the hell he was going to do about it.
Trevor rolled out of bed and threw on the torn white undershirt, underwear, socks, ripped blue jeans, black leather jacket and boots that were lying on the floor; he found seventy dollars, a Swiss army knife and some loose change in the pants pockets.
He finished dressing, walked over to the nearby bureau and looked at his twenty year old self in the mirror.
It may not be a perfect life, but it is a life, Trevor thought.
And he was going to make the most of it.