Man of Time

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Chapter 18- An Imposter Among Us

Time.

It’s a strange concept. We live our lives replaying old memories asking ourselves whether we are proud of the people we’ve become. Treating the present as if it’s any different than the past, but it isn’t. We act on impulses that propel us towards a goal. And goals change. People change.

Before 2020, I lived a life of ignorance. Set in my ways and indifferent about the injustices in our world. I believed that I was powerless to stop what had already corrupted society. That society was set on a course past redemption. One that prohibited minorities from ever advancing.

But things have changed. I can walk beside a white man with no repercussions. Indulge in an outing with a multiracial group of friends. Can showcase my light in public and get looks of awe rather than glares of fear.

Despite this change, a problem still lied within the fragments of our society. The rich elite against the world. Those with unlimited power acting their own benefit, leaving the rest of us to fend for ourselves.

I was stolen because I was seen as expendable. Someone who’s life made no impact in the historical timeline. A person who if disappeared, wouldn’t be remembered...

“I know yesterday’s evens may have been unsettling, but should have been predictable. We knew they would come for us. This isn’t a surprise, but it is a setback. Ralph discovered Alexander is taking a trip to the facility the time machine’s in on the 9th. That’s 8 days from now, this is our chance to act.”

The whole group sat at the dining table. Discussing plans that will send us all home. Edith led the discussion giving us a rundown of our situation.

“What are we facing?” I asked.

“We’re outnumbered.” Edith acknowledged. “But, if we can sneak in...” She looked to Ralph. “We have a shot. If we can get access to the room the machine’s being held in while Alexander goes in for inspection, kill the power, we can separate him from the officials and bargain ownership to Ralph.”

Catori and Bhaskar shifted uneasy glances on Ralph. Bhaskar’s stiff posture sat with one leg on each side of the bench. Hands twitching with caution.

Ralph’s posture straightened with focused eyes. “I’m here to stop my family’s horrors, not continue them. I’ll gladly sacrifice myself if that means getting everyone home.”

“I’d just like to add, I helped make this plan.” Helda sliced the thin tension.

“You did?” I tilted my head.

Helda giggled, “Yeah! I got the idea from this fanfic I-”

Ralph’s eyes widened, “Nope nope NOPE!” He shoved her, drowning out her voice. “That isn’t something Ray needs to learn about!” His cheeks flushed red.

The corner of my lip perked with curiosity, “Is it useful?”

“No.” He quickly shook his head.

“We’ll be carefully monitoring the situation over the next couple of days,” Edith withheld a grin, insisting on changing the subject. “I’ll keep everyone updated.” She stood up, excusing herself from the table.

Everyone got up to leave the table as well with Ralph and I joining each other. He expressed a sliver of nervousness, his gaze drifting to my hand where he gently slid his within mine. Comfort drifted through my subconscious while I reminded myself of this temporary joy.

“I have some things I need to take care of.” Ralph said.

“Take your time.” I nodded, exchanging a sympathetic smile as he walked off.

I turned around to grab a glass of water when I noticed Blake stood in my way, watching Ralph and I’s interaction.

“...Love.” The emotion rolled off her tongue with a charismatic grin.

The heat in my cheeks swelled, “Yes.” I replied, picking at my nails.

“You confessed didn’t you.” Blake inhaled, absorbing particles of my energy.

“Yes.”

Blake’s brows shifted. “What’s wrong?”

My lips hesitated. A nagging feeling hallowed my gut while I scanned around, ensuring no one was listening. I beckoned them back to the table, sitting gently while the anxiety billowed.

“What Ralph and I have, whatever it is... I like it. But I won’t be here after next week.” I frowned.

Blake mimicked my expression, gliding the pads of her fingers against the wooden table. “Are you afraid you’ll get hurt?”

“I’m afraid I will hurt him.”

Blake propped their elbow in reflection. “Well... I don’t think you can just stop loving him.”

Love.

Did I actually love him? A knot pressed against my stomach. I haven’t been in this time for that long. Yet this connection... It felt real. Made me, happy.

“You both deserve happiness. Might as well embrace it while you have each other, and look back on it as a fond memory when you go home.”

“I think that’s what I’m going to do.”

“Good. Cherish the time we have while we have it.” Tears glossed their eyes alongside a soft tone. “I’m really going to miss you.”

“I’m going to miss you too.” I replied.

“It’s going to be weird when this is all over. What will you do?” They asked.

“I’ll get back home to my Mama and Poppy.”

Blake paused, “That’s not what I mean. What are you going to do with your life.”

“I’ll live as a free man.” I said.

“In the 20s?” Blake perked a brow.

“I’ll be with the people I love. I don’t need to become anyone special.” I responded.

“But you won’t be able to live your truth.” Their eyes reflected pitiful ignorance.

“Living with the people I love most is truth enough.”

Vexation exhausted my tone. Manifesting into an unintentional raising of my voice. Blake froze, rotating their wrist which drained my anger. I closed my eyes, sighing with regret.

“I’m sorry.”

“Hey Raymond come here.” Helda interrupted our conversation from the kitchen.

“Yes?” I called, turning away from Blake.

“Mind going on a shopping trip with me?” Helda swung against the kitchen wall, her long hair flowing behind her.

“We’re all out of food,” Catori emerged behind her, smiling nervously, “And the rest of are on a wanted list.”

Helda giggled a bit before standing upright, “Sorry, that’s just a funny sentence.”

“Yes.” I stood up, keeping my back to Blake, “When are we leaving?”

“Nowish?”

---

“You nervous?” Helda asked, in the middle of a super market.

“For many reasons.” I nodded, squinting from the harsh illumination.

“Yeah I figured.” Helda picked up fruit, observing it closely, “How are you handling the whole Ralph thing?”

I paused, inhaling deeply, “It was shocking.” I admitted.

“Just shocking?” Helda raised her brow.

“It’s scary. I have no idea what he’s been through. Or, done.” I shivered at the thought.

Helda nodded her head, walking towards the bakery. She carefully scanned the assortment of breads before choosing one to her liking. My nose drifted toward the cookies. Their sweet aroma calling me to an innocent comfort.

“You think he’s killed people?”

I froze in the middle of the bakery. “I don’t think I want to know.”

Has he?

“Yeah it’s probably best not to know.” Helda caught my discomfort and shuffled to the next aisle. “You’re not about that kind of thing, right?”

“About what?”

She paused, chewing her words, “Un-aliving people.”

I turned in discomfort. “Oh, no. I don’t. I don’t believe in violence.”

Helda waltzed into my field of view, a grin on her face. “Wait. You don’t believe in violence, then why are you going to be apart of the mission. Task? I have no idea what we’re calling it...”

“I don’t believe in unprovoked violence.” I explained. “There should be other ways to obtain what you want without hurting someone. But, peace is no longer an option. All the history from the Forgotten has made me realize sometimes you’re forced to do things that you don’t want to.”

For what is life without sacrifice. Without compromise. We pry ourselves to be this glorified version of ourselves but, we’ll never become that ideal person. I despised the events that occurred in my time. The war. The oppression. The prejudice... But I’m becoming what I feared most... A fighter.

Helda had waited patiently for me to reconnect contact. A light pressure wrapped around my forehead persuaded me to connect back to reality. Her piercing gaze followed my moment. Observing.

“And for you that’s hurting someone else.” Helda asked.

A bout of anxiety bursted from my chest. “I can participate in my emancipation without taking the life of another.”

Helda’s jaw hardened. “Morals are good to have. Glad you got some.” She patted my shoulder, pushing the cart along.

“You don’t agree with me.” I strayed behind her, watching her behavior shift.

“I don’t.” Her bubbly tone dropped. “Why should I have to be the better person to keep someone who’s fucked my life over alive. Showing mercy is letting the problem escape, not resolving it.”

I followed cautiously. “It shows that you are not as bad as they are. Displays a difference between good and evil.”

“Life isn’t that black and white.” Helda shook her head, now visibly irritated. “Might as well take care of the problem while it’s there.”

“And in doing so you’ve gotten rid of the potential of change.” Tension rolled over my shoulders.

Helda chuckled, her claw clenching with perked brows, “Some people never change. It shouldn’t be up to me to keep bending myself to the will of others.”

She turned to me with devastation in her eyes. Pursing her lips together and brushing her long blonde hair aside. We continued the rest of our trip in silence with intuition guiding me to compliance. Carefully pacing behind her while pulling items from our shopping list.

I held open the door for her as we exited. Hands full of bags. We walked under the sun’s blazing aura. An unusual feeling given it was the middle of winter. Still, it was refreshing to walk through neighborhoods and businesses with the warmth on our backs.

“Why are you so determined to fight the corporation?” I asked.

“They robbed me of a childhood... And revenge is the sweetest medicine.”

Helda’s expression hardened. A trace of desire burning away at her pupils. She strained herself in conversation, taking a level of patience I had never seen before. She dropped her teenage facade, and responded like a woman who had seen it all. The trauma of her past wearing away her youth.

“I don’t mean to invalidate your experiences but I’ve seen some fucked up shit. I can’t just forget what’s happened like you want to.”

We approached the factory, sliding through the gates. “Once Ralph takes over this will all be over.”

“Because he’s a good person, right.” She said as a rhetorical statement, not question.

“He has been through a lot, and I don’t want to hold his past against him. He wants to make things right.”

“How do you know he’s not lying?”

Insecurity lodged itself in my throat, “He wouldn’t.”

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