Hah! Sorry, but the muse struck! Enjoy! And…oh yes, try this one.
“Genry? I have question.”
“Okay, Anton…fire away.”
“War this summer? All this has something to do with war?”
Henry nodded. “I think so, Anton, but there’s no way to be sure. The word we have is that your government became convinced that somehow this mutation was released by us, maybe acting in league with the Pinks, so that somehow this outbreak was part of a plan. The Chinese, by the way, have at least three ARVs of their own now, and they’ve been working with their own teams of Pinks and Blues for almost twenty years so they got up to speed on the mutation almost as fast as we did.”
“The Chinese?” Anton asked. “I hear nothing about this.”
“That figures. The Chinese are good at keeping secrets, and while we think they are trying to build ships to head for another world, Pinky told me it won’t work. The mutation is already global, so they’d more than likely just spread the plague to another planet.”
Tracy looked at Henry and grinned. “You son of a bitch,” she sighed. “You’re going to die and then just take off to this happy place somewhere in the future…”
Henry shook his head. “Who knows, Tracy, maybe I could, but that’s not the plan.”
Dina sat up and shook herself awake then refocused her attention on Henry. “Wait. You say you could go, but you will not? What does this mean?”
“It means I’ve been there…”
“What?” Tracy cried. “How could…?”
“Each time I’ve died, or come close, the past few months I’ve been yanked from our present to some kind of future earth, supposedly fifteen million years in the future. The earth is no longer a part of our solar system; it’s in orbit around a gas giant and part of a new solar system.”
“What happened?” Rolf asked.
“I think the result was, or will be, part of a galactic collision of some sort. Earth was ripped from one orbit and stabilized in orbit around this new planet…and around a new star, too.”
“So,” Anton asked, puzzled, “Earth a moon in this new time?”
“And Genry? We can go this new time? All of us?”
“If you like. Yes.”
“But Genry? You not go?”
“No, I don’t think I will, Anton. I’ve lived my life and I have no regrets, and going to this new world might extend lifespans a little but there are no guarantees. About the only thing the Pinks hope to accomplish is to wipe out the effects of the mutation, and to therefore enable a reset of humanity, perhaps on a more sustainable course…but who knows…that part will be up to you, not me.”
“You said time travel to the past is impossible, right?” Tracy asked.
“That’s right,” Henry replied. “It has something to do with the Pauli Exclusion Principle and the same matter occupying different places at different times, but the short version is that if you went to the future and became mutation free and then tried to return to your original past you’d negate yourself.”
“But Henry,” Tracy said, “don’t you see a problem with that? Isn’t that exactly what you’ve been doing?”
“How so?” Henry sighed.
“When you’ve had these near death experiences you describe, haven’t you traveled to this future and then returned. If so, maybe this exclusion principle doesn’t work the way you’ve been told it works…”
Henry nodded. “Yes, the thought crossed my mind, but Tracy, that doesn’t mean I’m not going to die – and soon, and as far as I know there’s still no coming back from death.”
“That you know of,” she added.
“Well, I’m all ears, Tracy, so if you know something I don’t now is the time to speak up.”
But Tracy simply sat back and shook her head in defeat. “If anyone knows, Henry, it’s those friends of yours.”
Which made Henry smile. “They’re sentient beings, Tracy, not gods…and it’s not like they’ve ever claimed to be anything like that…”
Edith coughed gently and spoke up: “It’s kind of funny then, isn’t it, Henry, that they look so much like angels?”
“Angels?” Henry said, puzzled. “So, let me see, you know what angels look like because, of course, you’re an expert on them, right?”
“Or maybe,” Tracy added as Edith scowled, “they look like what we expect angels to look like because they’ve been messing around down here on earth for thousands of years and that maybe, from time-to-time, they do little things that could easily be mistaken as miracles from heaven.”
“And all it took after that,” Edith continued, “was for a Botticelli or Titian to come along and put it all down on canvas and voila! Instant angels, everywhere you look!”
“Okay,” Henry shrugged, “I get what you’re saying but I’m not sure I get the point.”
“Isn’t the point,” Rolf said, interrupting, “that maybe Pinky can do things she hasn’t told you she can…?”
A woman walked into the restaurant and was seated not far from Henry’s table, and she ordered escargot and duck, speaking reasonably good French, too, but even so Henry felt there was something peculiar about her. She was wearing a decent enough dress, yet she had been wearing a white ski parka when she came in the door, and then he saw she was wearing brown Birkenstocks – with purple socks, no less! – he realized she just had to be from California! And with those hairy legs she was from the Bay Area, probably Berkeley…
Then he turned back to the table and found everyone staring – at him.
“Sorry. I guess I drifted off for a moment.”
Tracy grinned. “Don’t bother. She’s not your type, Henry.”
“The hippie chick from Berkeley. She’s not your type.”
“Oh? What makes you say that?”
“The hairy legs, for one thing. The thick glasses, too…”
“Da,” Anton chuffed. “Look like librarian uses aspirin for birth control.”
“What?” cried everyone at the table.
“Sure,” Anton said, grinning. “Hold between knees. Work like charm.”
The Old Man and the Young Boy stood just outside the restaurant, looking at Henry and at the people sitting with him. The Old Man tapped his cane on the cobbles once and thunder rolled across the valley…
“I don’t know why,” the Old Man said as he looked at the woman sitting by herself, “but I wasn’t expecting to find her here.”
Lloyd Callahan shrugged and shook his head. “There’s no way she could have found out, is there?”
“I didn’t think so.”
Lloyd looked at Elizabeth Bullitt sitting at a table beyond Henry Taggart’s and he was suddenly overcome with love for her once again – until he remembered she had become his mortal enemy. “She has to have someone helping her…but who?”
Perhaps fifty meters away two men stood deep in shadow; both were watching the Old Man and the Young Boy.
“I don’t know why,” Harry Callahan said, “but I wasn’t expecting this. How could they have known she was going to be here?”
“It doesn’t matter, Harry,” Frank Bullitt said. “As long as they don’t interfere, the plan will still work…”
© 2021 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next element will drop as soon as the muse cooperates.