I wake up on a couch in an unused office in the admin building. How I got here, or how long I’ve been asleep I have no idea. The room is dark, but light streams through the edges of a window boarded up from the outside.
I sit up, my head pounding. I hear something move on the other side of the room.
“They said you’re dehydrated,” a voice says. “There’s some vitamin water on the table there for you.”
“Why is it so dark here?”
“They boarded up the window. Probably to keep us from leaving. I kept the light off so you could sleep. I’m Trevor, by the way.”
I look to see if I can recognize him from my childhood, but the room is too dark. I grab the bottle of water, twist the cap open and chug half of it down.
“I have an idea why I’m here,” he says. “But what about you? Why are you here?”
“That, I couldn’t tell you,” I reply honestly before gulping the rest of the bottle.
“Whoever put us in here together, did so deliberately,” he tells me. “They said it would give us a chance to get to talk. Any idea what that’s about?”
I nod my head.
“Good.” He says. “Care to fill me in?”
“Why don’t you start,” I say. “Tell me what you know.”
“Uh-uh,” he replies. “I don’t know what all you know about the space-time continuum, but there’s a lot at stake here. I have to be careful what I say and to who.”
I stand up and stretch. “Mind if I turn on the light?”
“Go ahead,” he says. “Can you at least tell me your name?”
I flip on the light and turn to look at him. I barely recognize the man in front of me. Mom scrubbed all pictures of him from our house after he left—or was taken, rather. I have vague memories, but they are hard to reconcile with the man I see here.
If he recognizes me, he doesn’t let on.
“My name’s Cam,” I tell him. “We’ve met before. Years ago,” I add.
He studies me as if trying to make the connection. Finally, he says as a matter of fact, “You’re my son.”
I look him in the eye and nod slowly.
“Which means I’m in the future.”
“And here I thought we were the world’s first time-travelers. Guess you beat us to the punch.” I wince at my own comment. Poor choice of words, considering he was abducted and dragged into the future.
“I take it, then, that by destroying the machine I didn’t alter the course of history?”
I shake my head, “Nope. From our perspective, you just confirmed it.”
“Did you or your mom know that I was brought here? Any idea at all what happened to me?”
Again, I shake my head. “I didn’t know up until the moment it happened. In fact, up until a few hours ago, I had always believed you walked out on us. And I’ve spent the last twenty years hating you for it.” I wipe away a tear from my eye before it gets a chance to escape.
“Son,” he says to me, coming over to kneel in front of me. “I would never leave you or your mother. I love you more than the world itself. In fact, that’s the reason I tried to destroy the machine. Your mom and I argued about this just last night, and then I knew something was up when I saw those two men in the lab. Time travel is just too dangerous. And now look. Look what it’s done? It’s destroyed our family.” I see tears stream down his cheeks.
Overwhelmed by everything, I break down and start to cry. It’s slow at first and then comes rushing out. I can’t stop from sobbing like a little child.
Dad pulls me close to him and hugs me tight. For the first time in twenty years, I feel safe. I’m a child once again, embraced by a father who wants nothing more than to keep me safe from the dangerous world around me.
Hours go by as dad and I talk. At some point someone brought us more water and food, leaving the door open behind them, but I barely notice. I tell him everything that has happened in my life for the past twenty years. He listens intently to every word, reliving each celebration and comforting me through every tragedy. We spend hours crying together, laughing together, and crying some more.
We talk about the future and everything our team knows. I tell him why we went to the past and he agreed that it was the right move, regardless of how it turned out. The decision was sound. He has some thoughts on what our next moves are, but we put those off for later. Right now is our time.
I share with him my thoughts on free will and how I blamed him for what I thought were the choices he made while giving myself a pass on all of mine. And now, with all this, I don’t know what to believe about it anymore.
“You are who you choose to be, son,” he tells me. “I don’t say that to judge you for your past decisions and actions, but to allow you to make decisions that will lead you to where you want to go.
“My whole philosophy on time travel has been changing. That’s what your mom and I fought about last night. And now, this just confirms it to me. We were not made to know the future. Everything you have seen is just a glimpse of a moment in time. It’s not the end. Where you are, how you have been living for the past twenty years, that doesn’t have to be how you live the next twenty. Just because we see a picture of what is to come, doesn’t mean we have to accept that as our fate. You still get to make every decision from here. Nothing is pre-determined.”
“How can you say that?” I ask. We just made decisions that did nothing more but confirm what has already happened.”
“Every decision you made was yours to make, not the universes. Think of life as a game of Chess. When you play a more skilled player, the outcome is almost inevitable. Everybody knows who will win. But you still get to make every decision along the way, what pieces to move and where to move them. And maybe, just maybe, you can avoid the fate that everyone already knows is going to happen. Maybe, a move you make will defy all odds and allow you to beat the more skilled player.
“Time is no different. It can be beaten, but it will take a man willing to step up and take control of it. Don’t let anyone or anything tell you who you are or what you are supposed to do. You spent the past twenty years living a lie you were so sure was true. The outcome may have been the same, but the truth is completely different from what you believed. And, as long as there is some aspect of the future that is still unknown, then anything can happen. You can either let life happen to you, or you can happen to life. Change it, don’t let it change you.”