by: Dennis R. Humphreys
Sandi was a beautiful woman, young and angelic looking. Every man that saw her fell for her ...and there were women too. She ignored them at the bar she ran and considered it a condition of the job and not the effect she had on people. Then one night a man walked into the bar and she fell for him immediately. He was twenty five years older than her but it didn't matter. She was hopelessly drawn to him in a way that might reflect the attraction between the young lovers, Romeo and Juliet. He was enamored by her in a different way. He found her to be beautiful and one of the most intelligent women he had ever met. They were drawn to each other in a way that defied time. Others could feel it as well when he sat across the bar from her drinking alone or with friends. He considered the age difference more than she did and was concerned about it, thinking he would be old and gray, drooling in a rocking chair on the front porch while she would still be young and beautiful. She made several overtures to him which he ignored until one day he couldn't ignore her anymore.
They fell into an intense passion that defied reason, wallowing in each others' embrace and gaining strength through each others' breath. Reality and sensation heightened to a level beyond heavenly rapture and they fell into each others' sensitivities like no human could imagine. Time didn't matter now, it was the soul experiencing oneness with another soul...something created in heaven bringing that heavenly experience to earth.
They took long walks together when they didn't go out somewhere. The fact was, they reveled in each others' company so much so they avoided other people as an unnecessary distraction. The experience of each other was the ultimate in fulfillment.
The city had a park in the center of it where the two of them often walked hand in hand. Elm trees lined the path they walked and pigeons scrambled in front of them looking for food. Squirrels watched as they passed and chattered their displeasure of them failing to throw food. Blue jays called but they ignored their irritating attention.
“I should have better sense than taking your love with our age difference, Sandi,” he told her one day as they walked, getting into one of his more serious moods.
“Here we go again. I've told you before, your age doesn't matter. I want to take care of you when you get older. I can't be without you. What I feel is so deep I can't imagine not having you with me to share it,” Sandi told him.
“You say that now but there will come a time when reality replaces idealism,” conjectured Daniel.
“That's not going to happen,” she assured him as she turned on him and kissed him deeply. His heart raced at her attention and her conviction. She could be his daughter when he thought about it and put things into perspective, but then she would look at him and say or do something to blow reality out of the water.
“Leo, are we going to test this thing or not this week?” asked the lab assistant, Drew, working for Dr. Louis Marshall, a physicist working through the university under a government grant, attempting to control time and space. He had been working for five years, taking closer steps each year on the attempt. He felt he was close with the device he had created but was frankly, afraid to use it. There were all kinds of possible repercussions if he was successful. They were perhaps even more if he weren't. He could disrupt the balance of reality. Was he being too arrogant a person attempting to be Godlike in his actions? Like the Tower of Babel in the Bible it brought the wrath of God upon its builders for their attempt to become like God by constructing a stairway to heaven. Was he any better?
“Leo, did you hear me?” he repeated seeing the brilliant scientist was focused somewhere else.
“Yes...yes, I heard you, Drew. It's hard not to when you ask a question,” the physicist told him finding his assistant annoying sometimes but too good a partner to end the five year relationship.
“I'm afraid I'm not totally comfortable as to where to activate it. Here in the city the most obvious place would be the park in case things don't work right. There are less people there to be effected by a warp we create. I'm comfortable with creating a time wave but a spatial displacement might cause a multitude of problems,” the brilliant physicist surmised.
“We were ready two weeks ago, stop dragging your feet and just run with it. Flip the switch and we'll measure what we can afterwards. We have to start somewhere and assuming things won't be exact we'll have to test first and then measure to pinpoint any future results. We'll know what we're dealing with then and maybe we can surmise ahead of time that two plus two will always equal four,” the young assistant told his boss.
There was truth to what he said. Sometimes you had to take the chance to know what exactly will happen so you can trust reproducing an event consistently and with more accuracy as time went on.
“Soon...we'll do it soon, I promise,” Louis assured Drew who looked at him in dismay. Sometimes the lead physicist was so hard to deal with in the lab Drew wanted to flick his nose when he said such a thing. Waiting wouldn't guarantee anything but time wasted. They had to have something to show with all the time and expenditures that had come and gone with the project over the past five years by the end of the week or they ran the risk of funding being cut and the project shut down. Six people would be out of a job if that happened, including Louis. It would be a mark against him for future projects if he let things go. By Thursday, government people, including military personnel would be breathing down their necks.
“It's a beautiful day,” Sandi remarked, “let's make love in the clearing.
“It's also mid day with the most people around. Were likely to be seen. I'm not into public sex and I don't want to be cited for lewd behavior,” Daniel responded.
“You need to be a little more adventurous. I don't care if I'm seen making love to my lover. It's natural and out here even more so. Come on, where's your spirit?” she chided. She took his hand and pulled him towards a small clearing under some large old sycamore trees about thirty feet off their path they always walked. It was actually quite secluded and they had made love there a number of times but it was later in the day, in the evening.
Soon he found himself inside her as she breathed heavily and clawed at his back whispering endearing things into his ear causing his intensity to rise. At some point everything became distant., Sounds became background noise and the underlying music to a show. They were engulfed in each others' being and had become unaware of anything beyond the several feet they occupied. When they had finished, Daniel rolled off of her to his back. They both stared at the tree tops where birds flew from one branch to another, watching the intruders.
“Whew, I have to go take a piss,”Daniel announced suddenly, jumping to his feet and walking twenty feet away behind a tree.
“Why do you do that?” Sandi called after him.
“Because my bladder's full,” he responded to her question.,
“No.,. I mean, we just made love, naked. We've seen each other naked dozens of times and when you pee you go behind a tree twenty feet away to do it,” she observed.
“Why do women not fart until after they're married?” Daniel answered.
“No fair...a question for an answer,” Sandi pouted.
Daniel turned to go back to the mossy area where Sandi lay. She looked like a wood nymph, naked on the moss under the trees, her pale unblemished skin and her long blonde, curly hair moving in the slight breeze. She had perfect breasts and a perfect body. Daniel almost felt embarrassed being seen naked around her but she failed to see his growing waist and other aging imperfections of which he had no control.
“You're looking at that switch like it's the Holy Grail,” Doris said, one of the other student scientists working on the project and her masters, as she went to pass Drew in the lab.
“I'm afraid Louis is dragging his feet with the test. He's going to blow our funding and we'll all be out of work," Drew told Doris.
"Listen, the remote cameras are in place at our designated test area. Louis is gone for the day...let's run our own test. Turn the cameras on to record everything and the time clocks to see about the differences that happen when we turn the system on. Louis doesn't have to know anything unless he drops the ball. Hey, if it doesn't work no one will ever know and we'll be out of a job anyway. If it works...we'll, being forewarned is being forearmed. Flip the the damn switch," Doris told him. She was the Eve in the Garden of Paradise. She was attractive and very aggressive. What she said made sense and Drew didn't need much prodding. He was chomping at the bit to run the test.
Check the cameras, to make sure they're functioning I'll power up the system," Drew instructed Doris. She did so and everything was working the way it should be. She couldn't see what the cameras saw but she could see they were on. They'd have to gather the cameras and other recording mechanisms to review. If everything worked and things went the way they were supposed to Drew could deduce whether or not to tell Louis or at least give him the encouragement to force Louis off the fence.
"Here goes, "Drew announced as he flipped the switch. There was a dimming of the lights in the lab as the system drew the power it needed to create a momentary warp.
Daniel had started back to the spot he left Sandi. He had slowed a bit to look at her. He was mesmerized by her and somewhat perplexed why she even gave him a second look. Friends explained it had something to do with pheromones while others said 'why question it...just screw her'. He couldn't 'just screw her' there was more to her than that.
As he stepped forward he felt a slight tremor. There was a difference in the way things looked as well. It seemed a translucent veil of sorts dropped between him and Sandi. It was almost imperceptible but it was there nonetheless. It shimmered with a wavelike movement. It made him stop not understanding what it was. Sandi saw it too and looked around at its surface. Then her eyes rested on Daniel and you could see the surprise in her face. She slowly rose to her feet and stared intently looking puzzled. Daniel looked at her wondering what she saw. She looked the same as she always did. The veil seemed to dissipate and he walked towards her.
"What's the matter? I wonder what that was that all about?" he asked her putting his arms around her waist.
"Something strange just happened. I have to show you," the young woman said as she went to her clothes on the ground and rummaged through her pockets, grabbing her compact. She held it out after opening it and handed it to him. He took it and looked in the small, round mirror. It wasn't what he expected.
"What the hell...I've aged twenty years! I look like I'm sixty five complete with liver spots," Daniel yelled, horrified at the sight. It was one thing to be and look the twenty seven years older he was than Sandi but almost doubling it?
"Don't fuss, maybe it's temporary," Sandi assured him.
"And maybe it's not. What do I do?" he stammered.
“Let's go to my apartment and spend the evening on Netflix. Try not to think about it. Spend the night and we'll sleep on it. Things will look different in the morning" Sand assured him.
They went back to her apartment after dressing. Daniel looked at his changed body as he redressed. He had lost some muscle tone and he had more gut than before. His pubic hair was half gray now and his toenails were yellowed. He had become old. Maybe he should just go home and lock the door and not come out again.
They went to Sandi's apartment, As normal, they sat on the sofa and she cuddled close under his right arm to watch television. She could sense the distance growing but didn't say anything.
After the movie was over, Sandi turned off the television and put her hand out, motioning Daniel to come with her to bed. He took her hand as she helped him to his feet. It was more of a struggle than previously. When they got into the bedroom, Sandi made it clear she wanted to make love again. Daniel wondered why, thinking of what he looked like now. He was self conscious as he began to undress and Sandi realized it so she took the lead and undressed him showering his body with kisses as she unveiled his aged body.
"Shit, that's never happened before," remarked Daniel in frustration. "Now I have erectile dysfunction.:"
"Don't worry about it. Every man experiences it sooner or later. I enjoyed it," Sandi assured him.
They lay there for a time. Daniel was on his back while Sandi laid her head on his chest twirling her index finger through his chest hair as she did. Soon her breathing announced she was asleep but Daniel continued thinking into the night. Maybe they had fallen asleep in the woods on the ground and everything was a dream. He'd wake up in the morning and everything would be normal. They'd have breakfast and he would tell her about the dream and they would both laugh about it.
But during the night Daniel found he had to get up several times to pee. Each time he turned on the bathroom light he would look in the mirror and he would see the same reflection of an old man there.
Morning came and the alarm went off for Daniel had to go to work. Sandi was at the bar later that night.
"I'm calling in sick. This is going to be a shocker to everyone at work. I go home Friday night for the weekend and come back in to work Monday looking twenty years older. I can't concentrate anyway," Daniel told Sandi as she rolled over in bed to watch him.
"They'll probably say you must have had a hell of a weekend with your girlfriend!" Sandi joked.
"It's not funny. What are we going to do?" Daniel inquired without getting the answer he wanted.
"What are we going to do? Just accept what happened and continue with our lives," Sandi replied sitting up in bed the covers dropping to reveal those perfect breasts Daniel was so fond of but now they were just a reminder of his condition.
"In just a few years I'll be really fucking old. You'll still be young and beautiful with a perfect body. Each day I get older I'll be less than perfect," Daniel reminded her. He did so before too but now it was even more obvious. People would see them, in public and they'd think he was being awfully friendly with his grand daughter.
"I don't care. I love you. I've loved you from the very beginning. I don't know if this kind of thing is decided in heaven or what but I know how I feel I can't be without you.," she told him intently.
"You say that now with the idealism of youth. But I don't want reality to set in and you're saddled with some old fart. I don't want you to grow to hate me. I'd rather leave so you can remember fondly, our relationship, not come to despise me," Daniel told her.
"I could never despise you. Think of this as some kind of illness. I would never leave you because you were sick and you would never leave me," Sandi said.
"It's not a sickness though,...may be a condition, but an irreversible one. A sickness you normally get over. Maybe it's a punishment or something for what I've done or didn't do. No, it's better to say goodbye now than to end up hating each other...you hating me for me being decrepit and me hating you then for leaving because of that," said Daniel as he walked to the door to leave.
"Don't say that, Daniel. Come back here. Let's talk some more," Sandi yelled running after him. She chased him down the stairs as he hurried out the door, not even realizing she was naked. Knowing he was adamant about his decision and committed to it by the way he left she cried and walked back up the stairs past the neighbors who looked at her shocked by her lack of clothes. She didn't care. The one thing in her life she did care about had left.
For two days she tried calling and finally got a disconnected number. His cell phone number didn't work anymore and Daniel's email address was dropped. He was gone. The finality of it sunk in on the third day when a completely despondent Sandi killed herself.
Daniel moved from where he was and left a forwarding address. That's when the urn with Sandi's ashes appeared. Until that time Daniel had no idea until he opened the UPS box and saw the urn. He was the responsible party for disposition. Daniel was devastated because he was responsible for this. He had no idea she would do such a thing. He decided to go back to where they always met in the wooded area of the park, where they made love for hours, to dispose of her ashes. It was decision he felt she would like.
"At least you finally ran the test. It's super to have worked out perfectly," Drew applauded Louis who in the end took it upon himself to flip the switch.
"I have to tell you something though. I ran the test myself to see if it would work and it did but I didn't want to influence you in anyway. I feel I need to come clean and let you know about it," Drew told the physicist.
"You what? What exactly did you do?" the scientist asked angrily.
"I set our test area ahead about twenty years give or take to see the changes that occurred inside and outside the area. It's all on digital record. You can see the changes," Drew told him suddenly feeling worse for coming forth about what he had done.
"Did you reverse it when you were done?" the doctor asked his assistant.
"Well no...I didn't think it was necessary," Drew stammered.
"You fool. You might have caused some damage out there with your actions. You can't make a permanent change like that without disrupting time and space. At least show me what you did and let's reverse it right away. This might even cause more problems now than what you did...it was what, a couple of weeks ago now?"
The woods seemed a distant memory rather than two weeks past when Daniel and Sandi made love there. Daniel picked the spot where they last met and distributed Sandi's ashes. There under the sycamores, he prayed for her. In the quiet of the woods as he prayed he heard a slight humming noise, like a yellow jacket stuck in a soda can. He turned to see the veil he saw that fateful day that changed him forever.
He moved towards it, maybe to curse it for whatever it was. There was a slight tingling as he stepped through it. He no sooner did what he did than the veil disappeared. He turned to go back to his car and realized he was walking easier and in fact some of the joint pain he had over the last two weeks was gone. When he unlocked the car and slid in behind the wheel he moved his rear view mirror to look and what he saw was devastating. Not only had the hands of time been turned back, they were turned back further than what they were prior to his change. He looked like he was in his mid twenties. Even the scar over his right eye. he got then he was twenty nine on a skiing trip was gone. Reality came crashing down around him. His decision to leave Sandi turned her to suicide because of his aged appearance. Now he was cursed with the appearance of someone close to her age when she died. He was the cause of it. If he had waited perhaps both of them would have gotten what they wanted.
He pulled away from the curb, despondent and went onto the highway that he had come back on, into town. Green signs flashed by him but he was unaware of what they said. They flashed by faster and faster as his foot pushed more and more on the pedal. He found himself crying. He had taken everything away from Sandi including their future. He couldn't live with that. He had been totally selfish thinking he was being unselfish. That last thing on his mind was Sandi smiling as he struck the bridge abutment at one hundred and ten miles per hour.