Here is Chapter 3 of my new novel. Chapter 1 can be found here.
On the drive to Dave’s place, I stop at a newsagent and I scan the pile of newspapers and the shelves of magazines, hoping to confirm the date.
I recognise most of the magazine titles. The usual suspects are still there including New Idea and Woman’s Day. Readers Digest and Time, Rugby League Week and two of my old favourites, Playboy and Penthouse. Each of them has a printed date on the front cover of September or October, 1990.
I pick up the Brisbane Daily newspaper – Dave’s paper – and notice the date of September 14, 1990. All of the other papers on the shelf have the same date – September 14, 1990.
I head back out to the car and begin the few minutes’ drive to Dave’s place.
I drive in silence, having turned the radio off. A million thoughts are going through my mind. How could this possibly happen. People don’t just go back in time. Not in real life anyway. It’s been happening in movies and TV shows for as long as I can remember.
I must be sleeping and this is just a bad dream but it is so vivid. I can feel the sun on my face and the wind in my hair. I can smell the aroma of freshly cut grass and of the car air freshener dangling from the rear vision mirror.
My stomach growls and I realise that I haven’t eaten since, well I don’t know since when. I had eaten greasy pizza for dinner last night, but that was 2010. This morning in 1990, I’m not sure when the young version of me had last eaten because I didn’t have those memories. I can remember everything that has happened to me in the past twelve months no problems but it is the past twelve months of 2010 me, not 1990 me.
I spy a strange sight about 100 metres ahead of me and to the right of the road. It’s a Silvio’s Pizza outlet. I remember the red and yellow logo well with the little car with the big red telephone on top because I use to deliver pizzas for them when I was at uni, but Silvio’s changed to Domino’s and were no longer around.
I make a left onto Addison Rd and then a right into Burness St – Dave’s street. Even though Dave moved out of this house a long time ago I easily remember my way there having spent many a day playing cards and watching the footy or cricket over the years.
There is a Holden Commodore in the carpark and I instantly recognise it as Dave’s old clunker. Beauty, he’s here already.
I park the car and practically race to the stairs and bound up them two at a time. I knock on the door of his flat. I am filled with apprehension and fear. I haven’t rehearsed what I was going to say to him because I honestly have no idea what to say to him.
How on earth am I going to convince him of what I am saying when in all truthfulness, I don’t really believe what is going on myself. Will he just laugh at me and think I am having a go or will he believe me?
I feel like if Dave doesn’t believe me then I will go insane. I can’t work this out of my own.
The door begins to open and standing there, dressed in emerald green trousers, a blue chambray shirt and a loud polka dot tie, is Dave. His fashion sense has only improved since 1990 though he looks great. He looks younger. He looks like he did in 1990. Gone are the glasses he wears in 2010. He is fitter and leaner. His hair is long, almost a mullet and lighter in colour. Ah that’s right, Dave liked to get his hair bleached when he was younger but that had stopped some time ago. I had totally forgotten about that.
In 2010, Dave is not in the best shape. A little bit of a beer belly hangs over his belt. His hair is closely cropped which I suspect he does to avoid the grey hairs from being to prolific and he wears glasses as I previously mentioned.
He smiles at me from beyond the doorway and with a thrusting out of his hand, I accept the offer of a shake and we both grip firmly and try and break the bones in the others hand. Some habits don’t change and trying to outdo each other with the firmest hand shake is one I hope we never lose.
“G’day mate, thanks for seeing me on such short notice”, I say as I pull Dave in for a hug while I still have a firm grip of his hand. This is not unusual for us to hug each other. I really do see Dave as the brother I never had. He accepts the hug readily. It lasts longer than it normally would but it feels great to have an ally.
“Whoa big fella, not so tight, you’re crushing my ribs”, Dave says with a smile and a laugh. “Come in and sit down. Do you want a drink?”
I realise that I am parched. I notice on the clock on the wall it is quarter past 10 and so far today, whatever today is, I haven’t had anything to drink. “Yes thanks. I think I need a beer”.
“A beer”, Dave replies, “it’s a little early for a brewski isn’t it? I don’t have any cold ones anyway, so how about a coke?”
“Actually a coke sounds pretty good. Thanks Dave”.
Dave grabs a couple of cans of coke out of the fridge and hands me one. The can is different. It’s the old style tin can without the lip at the top. I crack open the tin and take a big mouthful and then another and then another. I don’t stop for breath. I stop and feel my eyes begin to water from the bubbles. I notice Dave staring at me in a quizzical kind of way.
“Man, you are thirsty”, he says. “That was impressive”.
The can is empty. I’ve drunk the whole tin in one go but I’m still thirsty. “I think I need a glass of water”. I grab a glass from the bench and go to the tap and fill it with water. I refuse the offer of ice from Dave and take a mouthful of water.
“Come into the lounge room mate and take a load off”, Dave says. “You don’t look the best and in fact you look a little pale. Are you ok?”
Glass in hand, I follow Dave into the lounge room. He sits down on one of the two recliners and I sit down on the other. The lounge room is typical of a bachelor. A TV in the corner, game controllers on the floor. Magazines cover the coffee table. There’s a couple of empty beer bottles also on the coffee table and an empty Silvio’s Pizza box as well. It appears as though we both had pizza for dinner last night.
“I don’t know how to tell you this. I don’t know how to begin even. I don’t know if I am going crazy. I just know that there is only one person I can count on right now and that is you”. I take a breath and wait for a reaction from Dave but nothing is forth coming. This is a good sign. I continue. “What I am about to tell you will sound totally bizarre. Just know that I’m not drunk or on drugs and this is not a trick. I’m in serious trouble and I think I’m losing my grip”.
“Ok mate, slow down a bit. I’m here and there is nothing you can say that I can’t handle…”
I cut Dave off. “Oh this will really rock your socks, mate”.
“Well give it to me. Take your time. I told the boss I was chasing a story so I’ve got all day”. Dave offers.
“Ok, don’t say I didn’t warn you, Dave, just stay with me and let me finish ok?” I plead.
“I give you my word”, he says.
“This morning when I woke up it was a little after 5am. Now that is not unusual but the difference is that it was a little after 5am in….2010”.
His eyes clench a little into a wince. This is going to be harder than I imagined.
“I went into the bathroom and splashed water on my face. When I stood up I was staring at me in the mirror, but it wasn’t me in 2010, it was me now, the same me sitting here with you, in what appears to be 1990. Dave, what is today’s date?” I ask expectantly.
“It’s September 14”, he replies hesitantly. I can see the confusion in his face.
“And is it the year 1990”, I ask not really wanting the answer to be confirmed.
“Today is Friday, September 14, 1990. What is going on here, Matt?”
“I know this sounds weird but let me finish telling you about this morning”, I say. “Do you remember that chick I dated, Natasha?”
“Of course I remember her, we all hung out last weekend together, remember?” Dave said.
“No, I don’t remember. Other than this morning, I don’t have any memories of last week except of me sitting alone in my house. You say we hung out last weekend, but in my world, I stayed home all weekend, sitting in Jack and Amy’s room pondering why?”
“Who are Jack and Amy, Matt?” Dave asks wearily. I can see he is getting confused.
“Jack and Amy are my…..were my kids” I correct myself, “who were killed last year. They were shot dead by a maniac while they were at school. You wouldn’t know this, Dave, because it hasn’t happened yet because it happens in the future. They were killed and taken from me on February 22, 2001……”
“Matt, you don’t have kids. You aren’t even married. You’ve been knocking around with this current chick, Natasha for what, I dunno, a month? I think you hit your head this morning when you woke up and you’re not thinking clearly”, Dave interjected.
“I am thinking clearly. I didn’t hit my head. I’m not high and I’m not drunk. Let me fill you in”. I sternly say. I take a deep breath. “In 1992 I get married to Jess who I meet in a couple of weeks when we go out for a feed. In 1994 we have two kids, Jack and Amy, they are twins and the love of my life. They go to school one day, just like they have done every other day but they never come home”.
Tears begin to fill my eyes at the memory of my kids.
“Some animal, who had just lost custody of his own kid, decides that if he can’t have his son, then neither can his ex-wife. So he arms himself with a cache of weapons, walks casually into the classroom that my kids share with his son, and starts shooting. Not only does he kill his own son, which is a tragedy in itself, but he also kills the teacher and he also murders six other kids, including my Jack and Amy”.
I have tears falling down my face as I recall the story to Dave. He must be starting to take me seriously.
“Go on”, he asks as he hands me a box of tissues. I take one and continue.
“I buried the kids a week later. You were at the funeral of course and gave a very touching eulogy. It was beautiful. After that I fell into a deep, deep depression. I went back to work but I wasn’t the man I use to be. Just a shell of who I was. I would sit in the kids room, staring off into space. I swear I could hear their laughs every so often. Just memories. I would fall asleep on their beds, waking after a couple of hours. I would then go to my bed and Jess would be long asleep. By the time I woke in the morning, she would be gone already and the cycle would repeat. That is how my life has been for the past nine years. It’s like a sick, sick version of Groundhog Day.” My tears have stopped flowing. My talking has slowed right down and is barely audible.
“After a few months of this, Jess had had enough. She needed to move on and she needed me to move on with her. To heal. I just couldn’t. I almost missed their birth, Dave. I was away on a trip and the kids came four weeks early, as twins often do. I got a phone call from Jess early one morning and she told me her waters had broken. She was here in Brisbane and I was in Melbourne. Luckily I was able to jump on a flight and get home and arrived only minutes before they were born. It was a close call. At that moment I fell instantly in love with my kids and I swore I would protect them forever and that I would never miss an important event ever again”. I smile at the memory of that moment. The happiest day of my life. “Dave, you know when you hear parents say that they would die for their kids?”
“Sure. I hear it all the time”, he responds.
“Well I’ve always thought, what a crock! No one would willingly die for someone else but the day I saw my babies come out of their mother and I held them for the first time, I knew that statement to be true. It was then at that time, I made a vow to them that I would protect them and die for them if that meant they would be ok and never be hurt then so be it. I failed, Dave. I fucked up. I didn’t protect them and now they are dead.” The tears start to flow again.
“Ok, I’ll play along with this story, Matt but I gotta tell you, the leash is short and getting shorter by the moment”. He seems irritated. “So if this story is true, then that is bullshit, Matt. How could you have protected them? They were at school. How were you to know that a madman was going to go to school and shoot the place up? There is no way you could have known”.
“I had a feeling that morning, Dave. I couldn’t explain it then and I can’t explain it now, but I had a bad feeling in my gut that something bad was going to happen that day. I should have kept them home”
“Had you had these bad feelings before?” Dave asks.
“Nope, never.” I reply.
“Then how the hell could you have acted upon it. It was a totally foreign feeling to you, unless you are a psychic or clairvoyant? Are you a psychic or clairvoyant?“ He asks mockingly.
“No, of course not, but that doesn’t alter the fact that I sent my kids to school when something, I dunno what you want to call it, intuition or something was telling me not to. I don’t believe in all that hocus pocus crap anyway but I should have listened to my gut. And if I had have, well…my kids would be alive today.”
I pause, not sure where to go from here. As I have been talking I’ve been listening to what I’ve been saying and I don’t believe it so how the bloody hell am I going to expect Dave or anyone else for that matter to believe me.
“So do you believe me, mate?” I ask hopingly.
There was a long pause. Dave, head bowed into this hands with his elbows leaning on his knees. He looks up and runs his fingers through his hair. He pinches the bridge of the hose and rubs his eyes. He’s fidgeting and I am sure he is trying to make up his mind. “Dave? I really need you to believe me right now. I’ve got nowhere else to go and I don’t know what to do.”
Dave jumps to his feet and moves towards me. Once he’s about 2 feet away, he crouches down in front of me and he says, “Listen, it’s a stretch. C’mon you have to know that yourself. If I came to you and told you the same story would you believe me?”
“Probably not”, I admit.
“I’m not sure what to believe at this minute, Matt, but I will tell you this. I have known you for 12 years and I have never known you to tell me a lie and especially not about something like this. I can see you are scared and frightened and I don’t think you are making this up but you are asking me to go out on a pretty big limb here and that is something I don’t think I can do. I do believe that something has spooked you and if what you are saying is true, then I would be spooked too. But the story you have just told me is science fiction and I’m sorry, mate, I can’t….”
I cut him off. “You can’t or you won’t? I know this sounds far fetched. I don’t even fully believe it myself so how can I expect you to? I can’t and that isn’t fair of me to ask you”.
I can see he is grappling with it. Dave is a good mate but he is also a journalist and as a journalist he has instincts and I think his instincts are telling him to run. Get away from me before I take him down with me. He rises to his feet.
“Can I call someone for you, Matt? What about your doctor or parents?”, he asks.
It’s time to get out of here. Whatever is happening to me it looks like I have to work it out on my own. “I gotta go”, I whisper. This hasn’t gone to plan, not that I had a plan anyway, but I thought Dave would believe me no matter what.
I rise from the sofa and head towards the door. I turn to face Dave whose head is bowed. He is moving from foot to foot, obviously unsure as to what to do or say next.
“Don’t knock yourself out about it, Dave. I’ll sort it out.” I open the door and the mid morning sun fills the room with natural sun light. The dust particles in the air swirl around in the gentle breeze. “I will prove to you I am telling the truth, one way or another. I’ll speak to you later”.
Dave says nothing as I close the door behind me. I stand there a moment, contemplating my next move but also hoping Dave races to catch me and joins me so I don’t have to work this out alone.
He doesn’t and I head to the car. I get in and take a look at the stairway leading to Dave’s apartment. There’s no movement and I now know there won’t be, not for now anyway.
For now, I’m on my own.
Chapter 4 – coming soon