This is the second chapter of my first book, which is a story about time travel and growing up into the future called Time Tempest.
Charlie raced into his high school and down the hall. He still had time as the bell had not yet rang, but just as he was about to duck into his classroom, he heard the low, booming voice of the vice principal, “Chuck,” followed by the dull, piercing sound of the school bell ringing as the two of them stared at each other in middle ‘C’. Charlie hated to be called ‘Chuck’, but Burt was fond of creating knick-names for all of the students he disliked. It was his way of making inside-jokes with himself where each name has a double-meaning. In Charlie’s case, Burt liked his clever way of calling him a ‘tool’ and it gave him great joy anytime he was able to catch him doing something wrong.
As the bell began to run out, Burt began to walk towards Charlie, but Mrs. Brittney, noticing Charlie just standing there in the doorway, called out in an exasperated tone, “Charlie, what on earth are you doing?” Just then, Charlie turned to look at Mrs. Brittney, then back again at Burt, but he was gone. Charlie stood there another second until Mrs. Brittney said, “Charlie, get in here, you’re holding up class,” so Charlie, slightly confused, walked slowly to his desk, hardly having time to remember the old photograph he had stuffed into his book bag just minutes before in the woods.
Lunch was the only time Charlie got to see Jason during school because Jason, taking a more advanced route through high school, was in completely separate classes. They had been friends since freshman year when they were on the swim team together. Charlie couldn’t wait to tell Jason about the building in the woods, the car, and the picture he had found. “Dude, you will not believe what happened this morning.”
“You were late to school?”
“No, I mean yes, well, I’m not sure. Anyway, my mom wakes me up late…”
“Dude, what’s all over your shirt?”
“I spilled ketchup on it. Will you listen for a second? You know that building, with no windows or doors?”
“Yeah, what about it?”
“Someone put a door in it. And I went in there.”
“What?! You went in? By yourself. No wonder you were late. What’s in there?”
“This old car, but listen to me, that’s not the most messed up part. Dude, this is going to freak you out. In the back seat, I found this.” Charlie pulls out the photograph and shows it to Jason.
“When did you take that?” Who are those people?”
“That’s just it, man. It hasn’t been taken yet. Look at the lighting. It’s at night.”
“And you’re wearing the same shirt!”
“I know! Which means this picture will be taken tonight!”
“Wait, how is that possible?”
“How is that possible, guy, why has this picture been sitting in the back seat of a car in a sealed building for the last 50 years? This picture is taken tonight, but it was developed before I was born.”
“That’s messed up dude. That’s messed up. What are you going to do?”
“What do mean, ‘What am I going to do?’”
“I mean, are you going to just spend the rest of your day like normal, are you going to try and figure out who these people are, or are you going to like, go in hiding or something to try and prevent the picture from being taken?”
“Is that even possible? To prevent it, I mean? Isn’t it inevitable?”
“You always have choices, man. Some of us have actually made decisions, though.”
“Dude, I promised my mom this morning that I will go to college. I will, I just haven’t decided on which one yet.”
“Just come with me, man. It will be awesome. We could be roommates. It’s not too late to apply. I’m sure you’ll get in.”
“There’s one other thing though. My dad, he lost his job. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to afford to attend college this year. I may have to work for a while first.”
“Well that’s not so bad. Here, let me take a look at that picture to see if there’s anything else that can give us a clue as to who these people are or where it was taken.” Jason gets out a magnifying glass from his book bag. “See that chick on your right. She’s holding something in her left hand. It’s like a ticket or something.”
“A ticket. A ticket to what?”
“Dude, what about the festival tonight?”
“That’s right! I probably meet them at the festival. But I wasn’t planning on going.”
“You are now.” Jason said, smiling. And Charlie knew he was right. He had to find these people and get his picture taken so he could figure out who took that picture and maybe then he could find out just how that photograph got put in the back seat of that car.
“Here’s to our last day of school.” Charlie raises his 2% milk to Jason’s chocolate.
“Cheers.” FLASH. Just then Beatrice, a member of the yearbook committee, takes their picture.
“Hey, that was a private moment,” Charlie joked. We were just talking about the festival tonight. Are you going to go?
“I have to. Yearbook is making me take pictures of the event. I tried to explain to them that it is technically after school has ended, but they mentioned something about holding onto my diploma if I didn’t attend or something so I guess I’m going.”
“Extortionists.” Jason chimed in.
“Anyway, see you there,” Beatrice said, as she took off, taking more shots of people eating the mix of leftovers the cafeteria chose to serve today.
“Dude, what if she’s the one who takes this picture?” Jason asks.
“It could be anyone, man. Who doesn’t have a camera in their pocket right now.”
“No, it has to be a film camera because this was clearly developed sometime in the past. It wasn’t printed tonight and taken back. Whoever took this picture is using a film camera. Wait, you said you found the picture in the back seat of an old car. How old was the car?”
“I think it is a ’62 or ’63. My dad and I go to car shows every now and then and I’ve seen others like it.”
“Okay, so if they are using a film camera, it’s possible that the camera may be from the same era as the car – and it’s possible – that we may even spot the car too.”
“What car? I’m not even sure if it runs.”
“Not that car as it is today, but that car as it will be this evening, which is as it was 50 years ago. Guy, haven’t you ever watched Back to the Future?”
“Dude, this is real life. This is my life. You’re not the one in this photograph. I am. I don’t know what’s going to happen to me tomorrow, let alone for the next 8 hours. You have a plan and a future. I don’t have anything, but this stupid photograph and a stupid stain on my shirt.”
“I’m not going to sit here and listen to you cry into your beef Manhattan, which looks delicious by the way. This picture is not your future. It’s just one of many versions of your possible future. It does not predetermine anything, just as me going to college does not predetermine that I am going to get a good job when I get out. In fact, I probably won’t. If I’m lucky, I’ll be a clerk at some bank for 5 years before being considered for a promotion, only to be passed up by someone without a degree, who is the best friend of the one hiring. Guy, life aint rosy, at least you’re smiling in this picture, probably because you’re standing next to that chick, which is more that I’ve got to look forward to tonight.”
“Shoot, that reminds me. Angela should be back home by now. Her last day was yesterday.”
“Would you forget about her? She doesn’t want anything to do with you!”
“Yeah, well. We’ll see about that, won’t we? Didn’t you just say all futures are possible?”
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