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One More Time

by Craig Wessel 10 months ago in fiction

by Craig Wessel

Kevin Davis sat in the stark, white room and waited. To say that the room was minimally furnished was an understatement. There was a standard industrial issue aluminum table with four matching chairs, and he was sitting in the same one he always occupied. Aside from the table and chairs, there was nothing else in the room. The walls were bright white, and the floor was tiled in white as well. The bright ceiling lights banished any shadows. Kevin always joked, to himself of course, that coming here was like sitting inside a giant refrigerator with the light on.

There were two doors in the room as well. One of them was the one Kevin had entered through just over ten minutes ago. The other door hadn’t opened yet. Kevin checked his watch again and looked expectantly at the door, which was white as well. Just as he looked away, he was startled by the sound of the door handle rotating. He stood up, chair sliding away behind him, and watched as an old man entered the room, shuffling through the doorway and closing the door slowly behind him.

The old man turned and looked at Kevin, nodding hello. Kevin stepped around the table and shook his hand, careful not to squeeze too hard. “How are you? It’s good to see you again,” Kevin said, smiling. The older man patted Kevin on the shoulder lightly, and sat down heavily in the chair across from his. As Kevin sat back down, he noticed that the older man looked much older than when he had last seen him. His eyes were sunken deeply into their sockets, and his white hair had receded much further. But the eyes that stared back at him were still shockingly blue, and the old man smiled his typical crooked smile.

“How am I doing? Not as good as you I’d expect, but I’m hanging in there,” the old man said. He coughed a bit into the back of his hand, then dropped a plain manilla envelope on the table face down, pushing it towards Kevin. Kevin licked his lips, which were suddenly dry. As Kevin reached for it, the old man put his hand on the envelope, his eyes suddenly clear.

“Tell me Kevin, how have things gone since last time? Did my advice work for you?”

Kevin smiled and nodded. “Yes sir, it definitely has.” He leaned back in his chair, chest puffing out a bit as he bragged. “My stock portfolio has never been stronger. Thanks to your advice, I now own three homes and have an extensive antique car collection. I’m a very wealthy and influential man!” He paused and blushed a bit. Leaning forward, he lowered his voice a bit, “And that super model you told me about is now my wife!”

The old man smiled, much like Kevin himself had smiled, and he seemed to relax. “And you’ve kept everything safe as I suggested?” “Yes sir,” Kevin said, “Copies of everything are in my safe deposit box downtown.” The old man removed his hand from the envelope and motioned for Kevin to take it. Kevin did, feeling something hard inside.

“So,” he asked, glancing down at the envelope,”what’s in store for me now?” The old man motioned for Kevin to sit back again, and he pointed at the envelope Kevin held.

“In that envelope – go ahead and open it – is all you need to be set for life.” Kevin opened the envelope, tipped it up, and a small bottle full of dark blue liquid fell out into his open palm.

“What is it?” Kevin asked, holding it up to the light. The fluid inside the bottle was so dark no light passed through it. He shook it, and the old man reached out in panic, “No, no, don’t shake it, boy!” Kevin stopped and apologized.

“Just drink it,” said the old man, “you’ll find out what it does after a few days.” Kevin hesitated and the old man added, “That’s as close to the fountain of youth as you can get, boy.” Kevin smiled, and popped the cork from the small bottle. He toasted the old man, and downed it in one gulp, never noticing how closely the old man watched, or how satisfied he looked once Kevin downed the contents. It had an odd flavor, and Kevin shuddered a bit as he put the empty bottle back on the table.

“You know,” said Kevin, “I’ve never quite understood why you’ve helped me as much you have.” He pulled a very thick envelope from his jacket pocket and handed it to the old man. “I mean, the information I’ve provided you must be valuable somehow, but it’s hardly compensation for what you’ve done for me.” The old man smiled and motioned for Kevin to sit down again. He did and the old man coughed and continued.

“Well Kevin,” the old man said, “you remember that I told you that on my side of that door, we have ways of telling what’s going to happen on yours?”

“Yes,” said Kevin,” and you told me that this room is a portal or meeting place between our two universes. On your side,” he nodded towards the old man’s door, “Another version of me is living his life as mine would have been without your help.”

“Yes,, that’s true,” the old man said, nodding. “ I know what will happen on your side, in your universe, but I can’t do that on my side. Even if I could, it would change nothing,” the old man said. “As for the value of your information, trust me, my boy, it’s been more than a fair exchange. You have helped me a great deal.“

“All I’ve done is keep a daily journal with the details you instructed me to include – times, dates, places – it hasn’t exactly been a hardship.”

The old man winked conspiratorially, “Well, I have a confession to make to you - I lied to you,” Kevin’s smile faltered, “Lied? Lied about what?

”A tiny lie, but still a lie.” The old man stood slowly. “What I didn’t tell you, Kevin, is that the reason I know what is going to happen in your universe, is because I am you, or at least, the version of you that has lived in my universe for the past 94 years.”

Kevin sat stunned, staring up at the man. Once he knew, he could not believe he had never seen it before. The eyes were the same as the ones that stared back at him every day in the mirror. The deep wrinkles in the ancient face couldn’t have hidden the resemblance, if he had been looking for one. Even stooped and slowed by age, the old man’s walk was his, and his voice, although dry and cracked with age, was nearly the same. Shocked to the core, Kevin could only stare as the old man continued.

“The information you’ve given me has merely been to confirm that things are progressing as they should for you on your side of the door.” He sat on the corner of the table, looking down at Kevin. “I have lived the years between us so many times I’ve lost count, Kevin. I’ve tried just about every different permutation, every experience. Some were good, some bad, but I believe I’ve finally found the perfect life this time around.”

Kevin started to protest, but suddenly, he felt light-headed and his throat constricted, making it harder and harder to breathe.

The old man continued, ignoring Kevin’s discomfort, “You might remember I told you that you could never go through my door, and that’s true, because I’m on that side, at my current age.” He smiled, “But what I didn’t tell you is that we can go through each other’s door, as long as the other of us is not there too.” He smiled again, but it was a hard smile with no warmth in it at all.

Kevin clawed at his throat, and struggled to move, but could only gasp for breath.

“Oh yes, sorry about that. I’m afraid you’ve been poisoned.” He patted Kevin on the shoulder and ruffled his hair. “Don’t worry though, my boy, it’s not a painful death. You should consider yourself lucky. One time I brought a gun.” The old man shuddered, “That was very messy.” He reached into Kevin’s pocket and withdrew his wallet and keys.

The old man walked past Kevin toward his door. My door, thought Kevin.

“Oh, and you would not have liked the experience of walking through my door anyway, Kev – you see, only one of us can exist on either side, and on my side, I’m 94 years old, and you would be too if you walked through my door. I imagine that aging 70 years in a matter of seconds would be very unpleasant.” Kevin, who was busy dying, couldn’t even turn to watch as the old man walked to Kevin’s door and opened it. “However, having done it many times, in many universes, I can tell you that becoming 70 years younger in seconds is a wonderful experience.”

Kevin twitched and slumped to the floor, his face hitting the floor with a dull slap. He landed facing his door, and he could see the old man standing in the doorway, who now did not seem quite as old. In fact, he was becoming younger and younger as Kevin drew his last breaths. The old man’s hair grew darker and fuller, his back straightened and his eyes grew even clearer. The last thing that Kevin saw was him as he had seen himself in the mirror just hours ago, smiling down at him.

“I found out that it’s impossible to live forever, boy,” Kevin Davis said as he stepped through the door, not even bothering to look back, “but being able to live the same number of years infinite times comes really, really close.”

The door closed on the room. Slowly, Kevin’s body began to disappear, until it was completely gone. The room was empty except for the table and chairs. The room waited, and somewhere in the infinite multiverse, another Kevin Davis was born.


Craig Wessel

Freelance Fiction / Non-Fiction author with over 20 years of experience

- Published 3 novels and multiple video game strategy guides (40+)

- Ghost writer for fiction and non-fiction

- Business / Technical writer

- Article summaries and reviews

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