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The Old Man cradled Clyde’s head in his hands and then looked into the old pup’s eyes. “Your pain will be at an end soon enough, old friend.” He put a finger on the forehead right between Clyde’s eyes, then he rubbed in small concentric circles… “Why don’t you take a rest now,” he added, as he gently rubbed the spot. Clyde put his head down and was soon snoring away.
“Who are you?” Henry asked, feeling a little paranoid.
“Oh, probably not who you think I am, Henry.”
“Well then, it’s certainly reassuring to know that you know what I’m thinking.”
Which made the Old Man laugh, but now he didn’t take his eyes off Taggart. “I have been watching you for a few months now, trying to come to an understanding of the relationship you have with the Others. Tell me about the one you call Pinky?”
“Go fuck yourself.”
And this only made the Old Man laugh harder, and this time he laughed so hard his eyes began to water, then he coughed a few times before he settled down again.
“Are you human?” Taggart asked. “Because, frankly, I’ve never seen one of the Others laugh so hard they pissed their pants.”
The Old Man stopped laughing and looked down…
“Gotcha,” Taggart said, grinning.
And this time the Old Man did piss his pants.
“Yes, of course I’m human,” the Old Man said.
“I know what Pinky told you, but I am not from another world…”
“Well hell, Paco, you sure ain’t from this one, so just what the hell you are?”
“You could think of me as a time traveler, sort of, but that wouldn’t really be accurate, either. But Henry…”
“…is not really interested, Old Man. So why don’t you just tell me where you’re from?”
“Yes dammit, originally.”
“Oh, I grew up on a small farm. At least what you would have called a farm, but all that is unimportant now.”
“A farmer, huh? So, let me guess…you know your way around with a tractor, right?”
“A tractor?” the Old Man asked, clearly confused.
“So, you’re full of shit…and that’s okay, I get it. Yeah, well, so tell me, what do you want with me?”
“When the time comes I need you to trust me. I’ll need you to come with me, and to not ask any questions.”
“Man-oh-man, but you really are full of it…”
“Henry, it’s important or I wouldn’t ask, so until then you’ll just have to trust me.”
“Okay…but…tell me just one thing,” Henry sighed, grinning. “Why should I?”
The Old Man smiled. “Well, Clyde trusts me. Will that do?”
Henry shook his head. “No, sorry…but I don’t think that’s gonna cut it, Slick.”
The Old Man nodded and reached into an interior pocket and produced a leather wallet, then he pulled what looked like a hollow glass container – not quite the size and shape of a deck of cards – from inside the wallet, and this he handed to Taggart.
“A photograph. Hold it by the sides, and place your right thumb here,” the Old Man said, pointing to a spot on the side of the container.
Henry took the glass and held it as indicated; he felt the gentlest electric shock – more like a static discharge – when he placed his thumb on the side of the container, then a dazzling high resolution image appeared on the glass surface. He saw an older woman, a middle aged woman, and a young boy standing on a beach. “Okay. Nice family photo. What about it…?”
“Look close, Henry.”
Taggart looked at the old woman and his heart froze. She was in her late sixties, maybe even a little older, but it was Britt. He could see the nervous kindness in her eyes and she still had the same smile, and now he looked up at the Old Man with wonder in his eyes. “Is it…Britt?”
The Old Man nodded. “It is indeed, and the other woman is Britt’s daughter, the firstborn twin.”
Henry fought back an urge to cry. “And who’s the boy?”
“That would be Britt’s grandson, who just so happens to be, well, me.”
“What?” Henry said, though he’d heard everything his great-grandson just said.
“You can pinch to zoom in or out if you like, kind of like the original phones did.”
Henry pinched the image and he examined Britt’s face, then he zoomed in closer – until her eyes took up the entire display. It was her…no doubt about it…and now he didn’t know what to say.
“Zoom out if you want to see the farm.”
Henry zoomed out and wanted to scream when he saw the image. There was the sandy road, the white house in the distance – and overhead…the ringed blue planet – and then Henry’s hand began to shake.
The Old Man reached out and took the glass container and slipped it back in its protective wallet, then he put it back inside his loden cape.
Henry’s hands began twitching, then shaking violently, and the Old Man took Henry’s hand and examined the skin where he’d felt the static discharge – then it seemed to Henry that the Old Man smiled for a moment…just before he disappeared again…
© 2021 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next element will drop as soon as the muse cooperates.