When Are We? A David Wilcox Adventure

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Chapter 2


A teenage boy yelled as he shot up like a rocket in his bed. David Wilcox was covered in sweat, and shaking with fear. He was 17 and still having nightmares. It was the same one, over and over again. As if on instinct, his mother burst into the room.

“David! Honey, are you alright?” She asked with the same sincerity as if it were his first nightmare.

“Huh? M-mom?” He took a moment to look around, realizing he wasn’t in danger anymore. “Oh, yeah. I’m okay. It was just that dream again.” This conversation felt like déjà vu; even his initial reaction to his mother’s concerns were too familiar.

“Sweetheart, do you want to do your calming exercises again? Would that help?”

“No thanks. I…I just need to get a drink.” David lumbered out of his bed and made his way downstairs to the kitchen. His hand slid along the banister, bouncing up briefly to avoid a well-known crack in it. We’ve lived here for 15 years and Dad has yet to fix it, he thought to himself. He flicked on the kitchen light switch and the room was enveloped with the pasty white glow of fluorescent bulbs.

By the time his eyes had adjusted to the harsh light he had already shuffled to the cupboard, grabbed a glass and had started running the faucet. David knew this place well enough to avoid injury, the other rooms of the house being cluttered with what his parents, both professors at the university, called ‘research’. Among it all were one of the first home televisions, a piece of a column from Rome, and some stone carvings supposedly belonging to the Maya. Growing up among such works made him respect history and his parents.

David downed the cool water and started the trek back to his room. He glanced at the Felix clock on the wall in the hallway and sighed. It was only three in the morning. Felix didn’t seem to care as his eyes flicked back and forth in time with his tail. David moved on and went back to his room.

Upon closing his bedroom door he heard something fall over on his dresser. It was a framed picture of him and his grandfather, Ervin Wilcox. Maybe I should go visit him sometime, David mused to himself as he adjusted the picture. It had been over a year since he last saw his only living grandparent, and felt a tinge of guilt as he thought about the passage of time since then. He was one of the now dwindling population of World War II veterans left in the world, and David yearned to learn so much more about his past.

The event also sparked an odd thought about another person who had grown important in his life: Professor Karl Heilman, who had until recently been the physics professor at his high school. He had taken David under his wing and taught him more than his peers cared to know.

High school set David apart from his classmates in a completely academic and unusual way: time travel and its benefits. David had never been interested in a subject this debatable, but now it was his dream. He and Heilman spent hours after school talking theories and conducting tests in hopes of disproving the time travel critics.

As they tinkered with the idea of time travel, David began to revel in where he would go and what he would do if this were truly possible. Heilman once asked him who he would like to see from the past, and the answer he gave was humble, but honest: his grandfather. He would go see him before he enlisted in World War II and stop him.

“But, why?” Karl asked.

“My uncle told me a few stories about what he did during the war, and that he came back a completely different man. Almost…broken.” David went on to tell the professor about him being involved in some secret government project which almost tipped its hat in Germany’s favor. There were numerous rumors about this project, ranging from nuclear power to antimatter to even time travel.

“By the way,” Heilman said. “What was your grandfather’s name?”

“Ervin. Ervin Wilcox.” For an instant David swore he saw a hint of surprise arise on the man’s face. Then it was gone.

From then on, the good Professor seemed a little off kilter every time they worked together. Was it something he said? David did his best not to pry, but something in the back of his mind ached every time he thought about time travel and his grandfather. And after learning of Heilman’s departure from his high school he really started to wonder. It was a silly thought, but maybe he was hiding more than he let on.

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