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‘Man in the Mirror’
Timejacker #3-B
© 2023 James LaFond
SEP/30/23
Above Golden, Colorado, rounding the first mountain, the train came to a halt. The conductor, “Brad” by name, made an announcement, “Assistant Conductor Conway and I, will be taking a merry trip back in time, getting our hands dirty. A boulder has fallen on the rails and we are headed out to break it up with sledge hammers just like our forefathers. Enjoy the view of the Gateway to the Eastern Plains out of the right hand window.
‘The old bladder can’t make it an hour anymore? Jesus, what a piece-of-shit. Down to the bathroom I go.’
Jamie rose and headed downstairs, the best time for pissing on the train being when it is not moving. The eaters were all upstairs gawking out the windows. So he had his pick, which would be the cleanest bathroom, the one all the way to the back of the tiny hallway. Eaters always violated the nearest toilet the worst, in the largest numbers.
He entered the changing room with the vanity mirror and two stools, with two sinks, obviously designed for mother and daughter to primp in the mirror. To the right, the tiny bathroom was open and he entered.
Minutes later, after rearranging his groin supports and truss, he heard someone come into the changing room. He exited and noted that a man was at the second sink over. The man was younger, stronger and fitter, about his size, adding an inch. Jamie turned and washed his hands in this outer sink, which was not quite as vile as the sink in the toilet chamber.
The man next to him said, in a deep, nasal voice, “So The Great Writer is all squared away, after being consigned to the back of the train for failure to economically thrive?”
Jamie looked up into the mirror, and saw a man there that might have been him 25 years ago. His nose was wickedly broken, his head slightly wider, his build maybe 175 pounds, as if Jamie had been juiced up on steroids back in the day from that 145 pound frame. The man was grinning mockingly, wearing a Team Yankee T-shirt, black with green print and sporting a close shaven beard and a flattop hair cut, balding in the same central pattern that Jamie had experienced at that age.
He was wearing camo fatigues and combat boots, both in Russian Autumn pattern, a JASOC Land Navigation Championship desert camo pattern jacket and a watch. The last article was proof to Jamie that this man was not an hallucination, not a projection of himself in the mirror, but somehow real. The watch was an old hour hand watch the like he could never wear—they had all stopped working within a day: Grandpa’s watch, Great Grandpa’s watch and Dad’s watch.
He stared at the watch and squinted with his left eye, trying to make out the time, but could not.
The man answered, “Five minutes to midnight—for you, then it stops.”
“What?”
“Cracker, your blind, not deaf. You heard me. You have five minutes. You either leave with me or I stuff you in the shitter face first.”
‘That’s it, the line has been crossed. This is the ditch I die in,’ damned Jamie himself.
“Crossed that final line, did I, LaFranc, finally got your weak ass to stand to on principle?”
His inner ears, always ringing, began to ring more loudly with stress, his bald head drained of blood, his hands warm and throbbing.
“Who are you?” he asked, though he thought he knew.
The man stood square to him now, “You, two of you, the body of the stock boy that said ‘Yes’ to the man with a blue horizon for eyes in late December of 1998, at Shoppers #45, inhabited by the soul of the looser that said ‘No.’ That would be you—who died from heart failure stacking firewood in January 2023, some six months from now.”
Jamie’s ears rang like an electric alarm and he felt unsteady on his feet, “Why, I’m shot, worthless, all I can do is write.”
“Exactly,” said that stud who could have been him as he shook out his hands for action, “you can’t write the next book. You’re predictions, they’re echoes from beyond Time, not your ideas, not your minor league genius at all. They are stolen every bit as surely as if you had kept that wallet that you found on Hazelwood Avenue in 1982—the one your wife wanted you to keep—or that wallet you found on the bus to Middle River in 2012, and took back to the hoodrat in Essex: remember, the guy looked at you like you were insane?”
“I’d rather die than stop writing,” said Jamie, level and calm.
“Oh, do I know. You have nothing to live for and fear the insanity of having to keep it all bottled up. We visited your editor twice, twice had her ask you to stop making predictions. She chimed out in that sweet silvertone voice for you to please predict something good. But, no, Doomsinger, its all about you, about your dubious and over-valued sense of sanity.”
“So, what happens now?”
“Believe it or not, you can still be of value. The you that said, ‘Yes,’ he never read those additional 3,000 books, and never read any after passing age 35, that time at which we both well know a thinking man begins to see with a clarity unavailable to us in younger life. He was kicking ass and kissing the fair lass. Somehow he—the owner of this body—was whisked into Eternity, and me—piece-of-broken-down-shit you, dies sympathetically and was sucked into this ass kicking machine. I must say, we messed up, should have said yes. To be this alive for a day, hell, I think it’s been an hour, is worth not writing the next 15 books, don’t you think?”
“How would I know—besides, you have the memories too.”
“For some reason, the historical knowledge is absent. All I have is your life memories. The books we read post 1998, I don’t know, perhaps something about the make up of this action frame, something in the nature of our alternative masculine upgrade, was just unable to absorb the trivial lore necessary for the next operation.”
“I don’t care,” declared Jamie.
“Of course you don’t, old man. Look, your predictions, those were possibility dreams Dreamed by The Dreamer, that did not have to come to pass. But somehow through you the listening post, who had not been designed to even be able to read let alone write, echoed them down the stairs of Time. Now those possible futures became true, because you put those ideas into real time just as Leviathan, the Transhuman System, became self-aware and absorbed them as a course. I know, all that is important to you is that some bookworm finds your predictive fiction and fact and declares you a prophet.
Jamie sighed as his amplified self continued preaching.
“The Spic future, minus the only good thing about Spics, that they don’t put up with negro bullshit, will come to pass, has come to pass. We have one chance to ethnically cleanse a post civilized, ice age Africa-America. We can only carry a platoon-sized crew and they must be doomed English-speaking combatants from North American battlefields, and somehow, through the course of this fortunate transmigration, I’ve lost the dates.”
‘Fuck him—them, let the world burn on its deserved wick,’ thought Jamie.
His elder self within his better self, has-been within could-have-been sensed it, that he wasn’t going to help. Jamie could see the read in the eyes, knew from long years of soul searching in the mirror what resolves passed behind those watery windows.
“You crooked prick,” snarled the younger, broken-nosed muscled up him and Jamie ripped out the neck knife he kept in his front right pocket in a reverse grip and extended his left hand high to keep from eating a cross while he closed, knowing that with a knife he could best his better self…
‘It must be nice,’ he thought, as the he in front of him proved himself a he-man and leapt into a superman punch, the right straight crossing over Jamie’s high left hand, and striking sparks off of his face like the very Hammer of Time beating a rhyme on the Anvil of All Forget.
Jamie LaFranc never felt this, or any train, move again.
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