Changing the Future
The next day, Dave’s two-person tent was up behind his dad’s place on Myers Ridge. He and Lenny were inside the house. Vree and I sat inside his tent where I shivered from the unseasonal fifty-degree weather despite a rich July sunshine that hurt my eyes as it glared off Mr. Evans’s house.
I stopped looking outdoors and returned my attention to Vree. She wrung her hands while she spoke, her voice hoarse from crying.
“I’m fourteen and pregnant,” she said. “What am I gonna do?”
My thoughts whirled with changes I would make in the rewrite. But the first draft was always the truth, so I settled on what lay in store for us as I watched outdoors again, this time at the front end of what looked like a rain cloud sailing toward us.
I said, “I love you, Vree.”
She said, “I’ll get an abortion.”
“No. It’s dangerous.”
“It’s the only way.”
There had to be a better way out of our predicament. After all, it was still my story.
I took her hands in mine. My eyes paused on her sweet face. She looked at me, quiet and big-eyed; she shivered. I stroked her face and my love went to her the way it had done the November night we made love in the very tent we now sat in.
She had never balked when I undressed her, undressed myself, and then gently pressed her to my sleeping bag Dave had allowed me to put there. I fumbled my way to her warm body. We touched and smelled and tasted each other until finally I poised above her. She brought her legs up to me and I fell into her. We dared to be bold and loud, and I lost myself within a joyous symphony of sound and color. Wrapped inside her embrace, the symphony seemed to go on forever until I felt brand new in her arms.
“I’ll always love you,” I had promised her that night. I still meant it when one hundred miles beneath Myers Ridge, magma exploded and slammed superheated carbon toward the earth’s surface at supersonic speed. It shoved tons of carbonic graphite into the deep bowels of Myers Ridge and shook the limestone remnant created by an ice age more than ten thousand years ago. Along the ridge’s surface, rock that had been weakened by acidic rainwater caved in.
None of us knew that, of course, until after Vree vanished.
While the ground vibrated lightly, she looked puzzled as she lifted the tent flap and peered outside. “I need to think,” she said before she crawled from the tent. I followed. The ground stilled, but the sky turned busy as rainclouds covered the sunlight.
Vree turned and faced me. The look on her face was close to accusing. She said, “Do you believe in time travel?”
I thought about what Nancy Pennwater Stephenson must have told her. “Why?”
“Humor me. You like science fiction, so you must know all about time travel theories. Tell me.”
I shrugged. “If you mean like being able to pass through holes in space and time, some scientists believe it’s possible. But it’s all conjecture. I’m reading a sci-fi novel about a time tunnel that’s accelerated at one end by nuclear matter and stationary at the other end. The main character just entered the stationary end and went into the future.”
“What about going backward in time?”
“Only if the tunnel’s stationary end was created last. It’s believed you’d go to the accelerated end’s moment of creation if you went that way.”
“Could lightning cause a time tunnel?”
“It’s powerful enough, so I suppose it’s possible.”
“Well, suppose lightning struck a place seventy years ago. And let’s say lightning struck the same place today. Would that create a time tunnel?”
A few raindrops fell. I bit my lower lip. Then, “Yes. Probably. But that doesn’t mean—”
“I’m going home now.” Vree started toward the driveway where a visitor had parked a yellow Sunbird. That’s when the ground trembled again, harder than before.
Below Vree, a cavern ceiling crumbled and created a sudden sinkhole. Inside the grotto, ancient crystal-filled geodes splintered and opened.
She scrambled to get out of the ground sinking and become a hole swallowing her.
I lunged at her, missing one of her outstretched hands by inches. The hole widened and threatened to take me too until I backpedaled far enough to solid ground.
Thunder boomed where storm clouds churned and rumbled.
Heat suddenly blanketed my front side as a bolt of lightning struck the center of the hole. I felt an explosion in my eyes and skull as a plume of green light erupted from the hole. Electricity filled the air. My eyes and head throbbed; fire tore inside my lungs. The air cooled and the rain started. I lay on the ground for almost a minute before the pain lessened and allowed me to think, to remember, to see again. I scrambled on my belly close to the edge of the sinkhole and called Vree’s name.
Green light emanated from inside, rising to the sky like a beam of swirling light. Then there came a sucking sound before the light blinked off. Several green crystals glowed inside the hole until they too went dark.