Two Years' Time
In his hands, the apple grows into itself, taking on a life, each side, silver, gold, melting.
There’s a pool now, in his hands.
He looks, bending over his open hands.
The liquid is cold, slightly sweet-smelling.
Still separate in his hands though, the gold and silver side by side, untouching, like an explosive gum. Or the vinegar in a cryptex.
The fluid moves with his hands, flowing smoothly as one body, like the mercury in an old thermometer; there is something otherworldly about the way it seems to... look at him.
One of his eyes peers from the silver on the left, the other is waiting, just as demurely, in the gold floating on the right.
Absently he wonders what would happen if they...
The liquids melt together, swirling together and within like a ba gua sand plate.
Each eye of the ba gua winks at him suddenly, forcing him to blink and stumble, dumping the twin waters over himself as his arms fly backward.
When he opens his eyes again, he is on Boeshane.
Five years old...
His mother is washing him in a tub...
Boeshane was a backwater, until the Time Agency showed up.
The water flows over his face, blinding him. Stinging.
He is standing in front of his father, with twenty year old hands holding tightly to a document, while a fifteen year old’s fractured ambition burns lines down his face.
The water stings again.
This time, they are both with him. Watching. Standing.
His mother has those eyes, those ancient eyes. She might have had wings, in the right light sometimes, standing there, washing things in the pans. They both liked things old school.
His father, tall and dusty, is telling him something about when they immigrated here...
But they would- they were grateful to be there.
“...the Other,” Jack hears him say, “... the Other brought us here to keep us safe, but we have to go back... we have to save him now; he’s not the Other anymore and he needs us. Please...”
“But I need you,” Jack hears himself say, as a younger Jack slumped and clutching younger fists and clapping them open again on dusted nut brown hair greyless and slightly bleached by long hours under alien suns.
“Gray needs you more... a travelling physician made our golden wedding rings, you remember? We gave them back to him, like he asked. And he never asks. So, we have to go... we have to go so we can be there for the man who gave you to us... because we couldn’t... because of what was taken...”
His parents trail off, echoes now, no longer vibrant. No longer present and breathing in the shadow of the old barn-ship.
He blinks back tears that blast his skin like seething embers, trying to see through the sudden uptwist of dust.
Though her body is absent from the scene, the trace of his mother’s fingers remains along his strong chin as she guides his face toward a shadow sitting behind her in the dark, swaying softly in a creaking rocker.
Hunched in the chair is the figure of a young man, the pear of his pregnant torso heaving beneath a striped shirt, pricking up the edges of a plum tweed jacket close to popping buttons, despite its not being done up. There is a bruise-colored bowtie on the floor next to a lonely black boot; a leg with fine hairs on it squirms out straight from the trousers leg, scuffing itself on the edge of the rocker’s worn seat, the toes curling and spreading next to the other foot, which is flattening itself against the replica wood plank flooring.
His father’s hand holds a cloth to the man’s forehead.
One peridot eye gleams from beneath the cloth; it finds Jack and slams him in the guts like a homemade shiv.
“He’ll be back soon, Jack,” the gasping man says softly as he labors, “...I’m sorry but I can’t talk to you now. I have to concentrate on this...” He tries for a smile, then turns away to scream soundlessly into Jack’s father’s chest.
‘Let him be, my lonely boy,” the Woman, his mother, suddenly breathes as she looks at Jack square, with oldness in her eyes and face, her hair brown and curled, her body weighted by the harshness of a feminine pantsuit.
His father...the Man had always had a touch of blonde to his hair. It shows up now, in the light Jack’s mother is shining on his father’s face... as he clutches the scrabbling fingers of the younger man in his birth throes.
Soon it is early morning, and the bony young man is standing by the window, touching the one pane that never got fixed; there is a sharp jut of wood there, forming a cross that shades a part of that strange and youthful face. The man adjusts his bowtie, pulling it into meticulous place above his chest. His tweed and shirt and trousers and boots are all in place; it’s time to snap his suspenders and leave.
“Thank you, old friend,” Jack’s mother says, her younger appearance returning with arms full of two little boys in the quiet of the empty room. The young man’s footsteps echo against the dust, then disappear with a mechanical, familiar wheeze, like the air-boom dance of two freighters colliding.
Jack’s father echoes her.
Jack closes his eyes, murmuring to himself, “...oh god. So -that’s- why...”