Never Know Anything [Gen, PG, 342 words]
Sam's forgotten he's from the future (in a different way to "Forgetting Tomorrow" - a more sensible way, actually.)
The corridor was empty save for Sam, peering up at the ceiling with a detached sense of wonderment. He was trying to remember what he was doing in the corridor in the first place. His mind had been playing tricks on him, making the shadows loom ominously, making him think he could hear things that weren’t there. Small things. He wasn’t sure why this disturbed him more than it might. Ray rounded the corner, almost barrelling into Sam and gazing at him with the same distant malevolence he usually showed suspects.
“Oh. Right. That’s it.” Sam gave Ray a small insincere smile and began to walk forward. Ray fisted his sleeve. “Wrong way, boss.”
Sam brought a hand to his head and turned around. He expelled a deep breath and started walking in step with Ray.
“Ray, do you ever think you’re losing your grip on reality?”
Ray glanced at Sam sideways before answering. “No, boss, but it wouldn’t surprise me if you do.”
Sam nodded a couple of times; indistinct movements which came from the subconscious. “Maybe I’m still hungover from last night.”
Ray didn’t follow up Sam’s statement with a query. Sam decided he’d let Ray continue in silence.
Often there are days where Sam doesn’t quite feel he fits and he doesn’t know why. He goes to the pub, he plays darts and poker, he chats about the football. Sometimes people stare at him, waiting for something. He doesn’t know what. He guesses he’s not the same as everyone else. He’s not really up to talking about his latest sexual conquests. If he had any, he wouldn’t be. And he usually tries to find another way before the fists come punching in. But it can’t be just that. The only reason he’s like that is because --- well, he doesn’t know why, actually. There are times when he can’t even figure out why he’s doing or not doing something, so it shouldn’t really be any wonder that he’s not the only one.
ParalleloSam [Gen, PG, 350 words]
What if our Sam was from a parallel world? And what if there was a corresponding 1973-style Sam who swapped places with him?
And in this, I was right. I’d attempted to tell myself that everything would be fine, that this was just an extended visitation, but the truth of the rest of my life brings the veil crashing down. Not fine. Not an extended visitation. I am stuck here. In 2006.
Maya stood to the side, her arms lightly crossed and her stance that of a sentry guard as Sam, a different Sam, a wrong Sam, tapped furiously on the keys. She knew that car accidents had great impact on those involved, but the metamorphosis Sam had undergone was difficult to comprehend. He did not know the things he used to know. He did not have the same desires. He was a man cut of new cloth. Cheesecloth. It wasn’t amnesia. The doctors had insisted that there had been minimal brain-damage, and Sam knew his name, had some idea of what he was. It was a personality transplant. And appeared to be permanent.
“Love, could you bring me a tea? I’m parched,” Sam asked, over his shoulder. He hardly gave Maya a second look.
“I’ve said this before, Sam. I am not your personal assistant. Have you come up with anything from the police records?”
Sam turned back to Maya and arched an eyebrow. “Not yet.” There was a narrowing of Sam’s eyes which suggested he mentally added another phrase to the end. Perhaps ‘you impatient hussy’ - something he had once actually said to Maya’s face, or maybe, ‘but if there was, I wouldn’t tell you.’
Most boring place in the universe. In the whole wide universe. Ever. In all of time. It’s just horrendous, in every possible way.
“I hate 2006.”
“Never mind, it’ll be 2007 soon enough.”
“I hate you.”
“You’re so charming ever since you got bashed on the head.”
“You know you love me.”
My closest companion is a bird who doesn’t even put out. Despite the fact I’ve heard tales she used to. For whoever it was who held this most esteemed of positions before. Just wonderful. Just my luck.
Door Number One [Gen, M 15+ for language, 968 words]
What if Gene knew Sam was from the future? Because things weren't quite as they seem?
“Don’t tell me. I’m dead?” The lilt of the question rested on the last word, and Sam fixed Gene with a white hot glare. Nervous energy jumped, bubbling beneath the surface of Sam’s exterior, filling Sam with a thrum that bounced off the walls of CID.
Gene raised an eyebrow. “D’you look dead to you?”
The bitterness in Sam’s voice could hardly be mistaken. “I feel dead.”
Gene raised a hand and slapped Sam across the face. Hard. Sam’s cheekbone and jaw tingled with the warm flush of pain, the skin sizzling. Sam whipped his tongue around to the inside of his cheek, bringing up his left hand and gently smoothing fingers over the area which had quickly turned flamingo pink. He winced.
“Oh really?” Gene rocked back on his loafers, shoving his hands into his pockets; the picture of cool and nonchalant. There was a pause. “It’s a waiting place.”
“You’re not dead, but you’re close to,” Gene said. There was a frankness in his regard that was unsettling. “See, most people, they forget after about a week. I’ve kept waiting for you to do so too, but you haven’t, have you Sammy-boy? You keep clinging onto the future.”
Sam gazed at him, his mouth hanging open.
His words were hesitant. He fumbled over the consonants. “Are you joking?
“Would that I were, oh young one,” Gene replied.
“You are. You’re fucking pulling my leg. This isn’t some game, Gene. I need to know.”
Gene’s hand was steel and fire on Sam’s shoulder. His voice was quiet and smooth as scotch, the rasp making the hairs on the back of Sam’s neck tingle.
“I stopped playing games in 1973. I’ve been waiting for you to figure it all out, Sam. Do you know how long I’ve had to wait?”
“What are you saying?”
Gene rolled his eyes. “What does it sound like I’m saying? This isn’t the real 1973. It’s imagination. Artificial. Fake.”
“So this is your world. This is about you. All this time I’ve been thinking that I’d never put sand in a girl’s hand, that I couldn’t possibly remember details of hideous wallpapers and ties and news programmes. But I haven’t. That was you.”
“I told you the first time I met you, Sam. Don’t ever waltz into my kingdom acting king of the jungle. I did mean that very literally.”
Gene let go of Sam’s shoulder and Sam turned around. He heard Gene retreat; the sound of a lighter and then a few short puffs on a cigarette.
“Chris was one of the first to join me. At first I thought he were like everyone else. Imaginary. Then he started talking about it being 1977 – that he’d just been to see some flick called ‘Star Wars’. I thought he was nuts, of course, but he was so blagging insistent. I’d ask him question after question, and everything he said was the same every other day, so I started believing him.
“Unfortunately, he stopped believing in himself after about a month. It was like he were becoming part of the furniture. He started wearing his suits with pride. One day, I tried to get him to tell me more all about this R4D3 bloke in the film – he was obsessed with that film - and he’d no idea what I were on about.”
“R2D2. It’s R2D2,” Sam replied. His knees weakened and he sat down on the closest chair.
“A few others turned up. They’d ramble for a week or two and then go about their business like everything was hunky dory.”
“So, how many people here are real, Gene? And how many aren’t?”
“Not sure. Lost count. Lytts – that one who sits where you’re sitting now? I saw him arrive. I’m pretty sure he’s a lost one. Phyllis. Sometimes I think Phyllis is actually from the past. 1930 or thereabouts. I’m not sure if that’s possible. There’s your bird, Cartwright. Ray. He’s from the 1980s, apparently.”
“How do you know, Gene? How do you know for certain we’re not all in the ground somewhere? Or scattered on the wind?”
“I just do. It’s a feeling. Down here. Don’t you have that? Doesn’t it whip up sometimes, outta nowhere?”
“No. No, I’m pretty sure I don’t. The only feeling I have, especially right now, is that you’re insane.”
“That’s rich,” Gene said, cocking his head to the side. “I’m not the one who hears doctors on the radio and screams in bathrooms.”
“You know about that?”
“Course I know about it, Sammy-boy. You really do think I was born yesterday, don’t you?”
Sam’s brow furrowed and he stood once more. He paced. “No, I just… I’m confused. I thought there were only two ways to be. Dead or alive.”
“You’re trying to pin existence down, give it a label. It doesn’t work like that, Sam.”
“How do you know?,” Sam asked. “You don’t have any clue. None. You’re as lost as the rest of us.”
“Oh, shut it, Sam. Just… you’re no help at all, are you?”
“I never knew I had to be. Why didn’t you tell me before?”
“Before. Before what? Before now? Before you made an arse of yourself in front of your sweet little plonk? ‘I’m going back’? Then go back. And for Christ’s sake take us with you.”
“I don’t have the answers, Gene. I didn’t even have the questions.”
“But you must be it. Don’t you see? It has to be you.”
“Why me? Why? I’m just some bloke who stumbled onto the wrong film set and played with all the props.”
“So sort it. Change it. Do what you have to do.”
Sam turned his head, moving slowly, until he could see Gene out of the corner of his eye, hulking over him like a spectre.
Keep Smiling Through [Gene/The Missus, G, 2540 words]
The first part of this exists in a slightly different form in “Your Heart was an Open Book”. The title is from the Vera Lynn song “We’ll Meet Again” [any man who likes Roger Whittaker probably has a place in his heart for Vera ;) ]
How Gene won Clara's heart. Except not, because I can't get past him returning from National Service, no matter how hard I try.
He stood at the far end of the hall, a soft smile playing on his lips, cheeks red and highlighting his acne. He gazed at her for no less than ten minutes with those light eyes of his, long eyelashes fluttering as he blinked. She waited patiently, watching him in her own time, pretending to be invested in conversation with Agnes. Agnes was obsessed with the weather and had been using it as her main discussion point all evening.
“I don’t mind the wind, me,” Agnes was saying, playing with the lace of her collar. “It’s only trouble when it starts ripping into things like it did those two winters ago, but it’s been awful wet, too.”
“Yes,” Clara agreed, nodding slowly. She wondered if there was a suitable topic to distract Agnes with.
“Why is it always wet in April, d’you think?”
“For the plants to grow?” Clara used an unnecessarily questioning tone. She tilted her head to look at him once again, but found he had moved. He was striding towards her, straight-backed and long-paced. Her heartbeat sped up and a muscle in her lower abdomen twitched. He stopped before her, his hand outstretched.
“Would you do me the honour of dancing wi’me?” he huffed in one long word, his eyes increasing in size and his lips drawing into a tight line.
She held out her hand with casual confidence she did not feel and a smile that was trying to be charming. “Why not?”
He was awkward and cumbersome when he put his arms around her, clutching onto her hand as if trying to crush all the bones in her fingers. She gently flexed against him, loosening his hold. When he exhaled, he blew her hair from her forehead. After a minute, she realised he was counting in time with the music. It didn’t appear to be doing him any good. He kept getting the steps mixed up and out of beat with the band. They turned around the room once and as they began a new circuit, one of his very heavy feet crashed down on her own, causing her to wince. He pulled away.
“Sorry. Sorry. I’m…”
“You’re sorry, yes, that’s okay,” she laughed, playfully batting his shoulder and taking hold of him once more. “Don’t worry, I’ll probably pay you back at some point.”
This did not appear to console him. His movements were stiff and he stared steadfastly forward. His arms were warm and strong and he smelled nice, like cut grass and boiled sweets.
“So do you come to these things a lot?” she ventured, successfully dodging another of his misplaced feet.
“Sometimes,” he replied, bouncing his head quickly.
“This is only my second one. I was living over in Barrowford, do you know it?”
He shook his head quickly this time. “No.”
“I’m originally from London. Can you tell?”
“You do speak a bit different-like, yeah.”
“I’m glad you can hear it. Not everyone can. I moved up here to stay with my aunt at the beginning of the war, so I think I’m starting to speak like a proper Lancastrian now.”
He glanced at her. “Not quite.”
A new song started and he got her again, squashing down on the toes of her right foot. She grinned at the pained expression on his face.
“Do you dance with many girls when you come dancing?”
His mouth opened and then closed again. “No,” he finally admitted.
When the song finished, he started to move back to his friends, but she latched onto his arm and steered him towards the open doors of the community centre. He looked shocked, somewhat dismayed, and quite possibly terrified. The ground was damp with the rain Agnes had been discussing, but the clouds were clearing from the sky, and the stars were glimmering merrily.
They stood silently for a while, the wind whipping up occasionally to batter them, tossing about her brown and his blond hair.
“Would you, maybe… I don’t know if you’re busy or something, but perhaps, if you aren’t, if you’d like, we might, I guess… go to the flicks?”
“I’d love to.”
She glinted at him, mischief playing in her eyes. “Yes. But first of all, there’s something I need to know.”
“What’s your name?”
She could see him blush in the light from the hall. “It’s Gene.”
“Like Gene Autry?”
“That’s the one. Actually, there’s a Gene Autry film showing tomorrow – we could see that, if you want?”
“I’d like that very much, Gene.”
“Me too,” he replied with gained confidence. “How about we meet here, five o’clock.”
He stepped away from her and began returning to the community centre.
“But, Gene – don’t you want to know my name?”
He positioned himself so that he was walking backwards, staring at her with a small grin. “I don’t need to know your name. I’ll never forget your face.”
She suffered the breeze for another minute before returning to Agnes.
Serenade of the West wasn’t the best film she had ever seen. It wasn’t the worst. She liked the musical numbers. She found that whenever she turned to look at Gene, he was already staring at her, his pupils dilated in the darkness of the cinema theatre. In any other boy, she would find this disconcerting, but not him. There was nothing malicious or untoward in his gaze. If anything, there was a sense of wonderment. He felt lucky to be in her company. It gave her no small sense of power, and she didn’t dare abuse it. He liked her. She wanted him to continue liking her. She wanted to know more about him.
Leaving the cinema, she hooked her arm around his. The sun had set in the time they had been in the cinema and it was twilight.
“I thought it was fun, how about you?” he asked, accepting her arm with a quick grin.
“Yes, I agree. It was fun. I haven’t been to see many westerns.”
“They’re my favourite kind of film,” he replied enthusiastically. “I like how you can tell the bad guys from good guys just by looking at them. Don’t you like that?” He stumbled and paused, looking at her with a small expression of confusion.
“You still don’t know what to call me, do you?” Clara said. “I’ll tell you what; if you can guess my name in three attempts, I’ll let you kiss my cheek.”
They continued walking and he pursed his lips and narrowed his eyes. “Jane.”
She laughed. “No. Not Jane. Nice try, though. My aunt’s called Jane.”
They made it to the end of the street, Clara silently guiding him in walking her home. She enjoyed the heat of his arm against hers.
“Is it Gladys?”
“No, it most certainly is not,” she said, allowing distaste to mar her otherwise calm features.
The sky grew ever darker as they walked. Before long, the moon shone down on them. The chill of the night air gave Clara goosebumps. She indicated that they were at the end of her street and Gene stopped, whirled her around with more grace than he had shown at the community centre, and let his hand rest lightly on her shoulder.
“Will you come out with me again?”
“Are you going to make your final attempt?”
“Alright, if I must. Let’s see,” he studied her, brushing back a strand of hair that had fallen across her forehead. “I think you look like a…” He paused, his tongue poking out under his top teeth. “Clara.”
She laughed and shook her head. “You knew. How did you know?”
“Asked your friend, of course. Girl with the freckles.”
“And yet, you pretended you had no idea.”
“It was more fun this way.” He ducked his head down, the flush of nerves evident in the pink creeping across his skin. His voice was quiet when he spoke. “I think you owe me a kiss to the cheek.”
Clara reached up and kissed him, just at the corner of his mouth. He tilted his head so that their lips touched. He coughed nervously when they parted.
“Will you dance with me again?”
“Yes, I will. You need all of the practice you can get.”
“You’re the sweetest girl I’ve ever met.”
She smiled because she knew that his tone was not indicative of his sentiment.
They danced and they danced and they danced. He was still awkward and clumsy, but he managed to stop crushing her. He overcame his aversion to looking at her as they span around the hall, taking instead to glancing at her from moment to moment. Agnes stared at him with distrust and Clara was fully aware of several pairs of jealous eyes glaring at them from the sidelines, but she didn’t care.
“Why do you want to join the police force?” she asked, giggling as he dipped her to the side.
“Dunno, really. I guess I’ve always had dreams of being a sheriff – you know, large and in charge.”
“No offence, Gene, but you’re not what one would call all that large,” she said, casting her eyes over his frame. He was relatively tall, but had no real weight on him. He had the figure of most boys his age - underdeveloped.
“Not yet, maybe. I’ve the voice for it, though. Everyone says so. Got some real pipes on me, Brian says.”
“One of me mates at Harkers. If I can’t haul ‘em out into the street, I’ll just shout at ‘em instead.”
She used a chiding tone. “I think police officers do more than that, Gene.”
“I know they do. What do you take me for?” he asked, crinkling his nose at her and pulling her off to the side. “I have figured out something about this, you know. I’m not just planning to rock up and learn on the spot.” His forehead creased and he looked genuinely hurt.
“I’m sorry,” Clara said, smoothing her hand down his arm. “I really didn’t mean to upset you.” She moved closer into him and wrapped his hand in hers. “I guess I’m surprised.”
He caressed her fingers, concentrating on them resting between his hands. “Surprised? Why?”
“You seem too kindhearted to want to be a policeman.”
“Policemen can be kindhearted too,” he said quietly. “I’m gonna wear a white hat.”
“Are you sure you wouldn’t prefer a green hat? Or a blue hat? It would look lovely with your eyes.”
He took her joke in good grace and twirled her once more around the hall. They danced to the very last number, only parting because they had to, and she agreed to see another film with him. He let her choose which one.
He told her that he was scared in a moment of quiet stillness between them. He said that he would write. He never once suggested that she should wait for him, and she wasn’t going to, so that was just as well.
She promised herself she wouldn’t cry for him. She had only known him for two weeks. She wasn’t always up to keeping her promises. She cried for everything he had been in the time she had known him. She cried for everything he could be in the future. She cried for everything he may never be. She knew that plenty of boys came back from National Service hearty and healthy, but she also knew that it despite being peace-time, there was still conflict to be resolved.
She had sold three pairs of shoes in the past hour. It was more than she had hoped for the entire day. The bell rang once more and she raised her head over the counter to see who it was. A young man with broad shoulders was looking at the stack of boxes leaning against the left wall of the shop.
“Hi, love. Looking for a pair of brown boots.”
He was taller, broader, more muscular. The set of his jaw had become more prominent, forceful. His skin had cleared up, but not completely, little indents and raised marks visible around his cheeks and down his chin. It was definitely him.
“Gene?” His head whipped around and he met her gaze. He gave no sign of recognition. She tried not to let her disappointment show. “It’s me. Clara. You don’t remember?”
He blinked once, twice and then inspiration dawned. “Clara. Of course.” He waited, wrapping his left hand over his right bicep. “I’m still looking for a pair of boots.”
She extended her hand towards one of the stools and collected the measure. She decided upon his shoe size and began collected boxes of boots of what she felt were appropriate styles. She ignored her heart beating steadily against her ribcage, the sound reverberating in her ears.
“Are you back in Manchester for good?”
He made a non-commital sound in the back of his throat.
“It must be strange, coming back to live a life you’ve left.” She smoothed out the irratic highs and lows of her voice, consciously willing herself to speak in modulated tones.
“I’m sure I’m going to find out.”
“Were you going to go sign up?”
There was a pause as he appeared to consider her words. “For what?”
“For the police.”
“Yeah, I was thinking about it.”
She showed him one of the pairs of boots and he nodded, so she knelt down and placed it on his foot. When looked up to gauge his reaction she saw he was staring at her chest with not-so-subtle concentration. It made her feel both vaguely uncomfortable and flattered at the same time.
“How’s it feel?”
“I’d give anything to find out,” he replied in mock wistful tones.
She stood and stepped away. She was used to the attention, but she often didn’t appreciate it. She found she was especially opposed to his. He arched up off the stool and paced from left to right with an easy swagger. He delved into a pocket and brought out a moneyclip.
She gave him the price and accepted his money with a guarded expression of gratitude that was more courtesy than genuine emotion.
Three days passed and she kept thinking about him.
"Go on a date with me, Clara, go on, you know you want to."
"I'm dating Jimmy."
"So what? Toss him over side. I'll take you to the finest restaurants, to the funniest flicks."
"Oh, give over. Jimmy's a sweetheart, I couldn't do that to him."
"Jimmy may well be a sweetheart, but I'm pure gold and a banana. I've all you need in a man and nine times more."
"You're not the same boy who left, Gene. I hardly know you."
"But you want to know more."
"I'm taking that 'er' as a yes. Friday night, you, me, and the moon."
"Just say yes."
"No, Gene. No."
"One of these days, you'll be saying yes to me, Clara."
"One of these days, I'm gonna have to hose you down, I can see it now."
"Let that day be soon."
I'll probably come back and take out phrases or aspects I like for something else. I tend to do that a lot. But, I very much doubt I'll have the inclination to try and get any of these to work in the form they are now.