Estimated reading time — 4 minutes
As the last of the crisp brown Autumn leaves fell to the worn pavement, the young man let out a sigh. So much had happened in the time since he left in the spring of 2001. His home, his workshop, even his favorite stores and restaurants were gone.
Walking past the town hall, he was glad to see the building all patched up, as the earthquake of ’96 had destroyed most of the building. The park was a lot cleaner now as well. Small children played, while others around them drank from thermoses and chatted as the Fall air playfully turned their noses a slight tint of red. A smile crept onto his face. He was definitely home. Life seemed brighter.
He checked his watch, 13:04. Right on time, he thought to himself. Suddenly, the man was thrown into a fuzzy, cold darkness.
The man relaxed and a small smile appeared on his face.
“Is that you, Anna?”
“Wha-How did you know?!”
John removed the gloved fingers from his face and turned around. Standing in front of him was Anna, a girl whom he hadn’t seen in five long years.
“John, what are you doing here? I thought you were in Toronto.”
“Yeah, well, I got a week of vacation so I came home.”
“To be honest, you look like you need it. You look a lot older than I remember. How hard are they working you up there?”
John smiled. He thought Anna would notice, however it wasn’t in her character to investigate too much into trivial things like that, so it didn’t create an issue.
“About as hard as the cash I’m making up there. I think I’ll have enough saved to afford a dorm when I come back. Want to go get something to eat?”
“I guess, I don’t think I have anything going on.” She smiled, “let’s go to-” “Wait,” said John, “How about we go hit a hot dog stand. After all, I’ve been craving a good American hot dog for a while now.”
“Alright, I’m fine with that.” Thank God. John was flooded with relief. He certainly didn’t want to waste time arguing about where to eat.
He looked at the watch again before catching up with his friend. 13:06, I’m making good time. Just twelve more minutes.
“So, meet any ladies up there in Toronto?” asked Anna.
John replied with a solid, “No.”
“Whoa, are you serious? You’re more hopeless than I thought.”
Clutching his chest, John made a pained expression and fell to his knees. “And to think I called you my friend,” he sniffled.
They both laughed and made it to the stand, where a young man was lazily twirling the ketchup and mustard bottles.
13:08. A little early but that’s alright.
“What can I get started for you two?”
John needed to buy some more time. “Let’s get two dogs with everything on them.”
“Alrighty, that will be…” He did some math in his head, “uhh $7.60.”
“I’ll pay, Anna.” Great. This should take a while if this kid is as slow as he seems to be, and the safest place to be is here in the open.
“Alright, here you go, enjoy!” He smiled and handed us our beautifully crafted hot dogs, moments after accepting my ten dollar bill.
13:10. Shit. You’ve got to be kidding me. Who the hell makes a hot dog that fast? How long has this guy been working here? We’re four minutes off schedule dammit.
“John, you okay?”
John couldn’t escape it. “Yeah I’m fine, just spaced out a little.” No, you’re not fine. At this rate, Anna will be done eating at 13:12, and she will NOT wait here. I need to find a way to stall. She cannot leave this spot. I must protect her.
“You gonna eat? I’m getting bored, we should go for a walk or something.”
Think of something, dammit. Keep her here. You can’t lose her again.
13:13. Six more minutes. I can’t do this. Why, dammit, why.
“John, are you sure you’re not sick?” She stepped closer to him.
“Hm? I can’t hear you, John. Spea-”
“I said, please stay here.”
In the distance, dogs started to bark. The birds seemed absent now. They knew it was coming, and so did John.
“Please, five years was too long to wait to see you.”
“What are you talking about? You’ve only been in Toronto for a month. You’re coming back to college with me next month, right?”
“I didn’t want to have to explain this…”
“Explain what? You’re not making any sense.”
“Anna, I need you to listen to what I have to say right now. Do you know why I look older than I did last month? It’s because I am. Five years older, in fact.”
Anna gave no response.
“In four minutes, there will be an earthquake that hits here. In that earthquake, you will be killed. I’m still in Toronto.”
Anna started to look nervous, though if it was in response to the earthquake part or the time travel part, he was unsure.
“When I heard you died, I started to research time travel extensively.”
A subtle smile showed up on her face.
“Through those years, I developed a way to come back. Due to expenses, I only get one shot at this, unless I can manage to get another half-a-million saved up. Anyway, this open area is left virtually untouched by the earthquake. That’s why you need to stay here with me.”
“Please just stay here. Believe me for two more minutes.”
She gave a skeptic look. However, she quietly sighed, “Alright.”
“When this is over, I will disappear, but the me that belongs to this time period will still be here. He doesn’t know anything, and he doesn’t need to.”
They braced ourselves. John held on to her as tightly as he could. John wasn’t going to lose her.
Absolutely nothing happened. Children remained playing in the park, the hot dog kid was busy twirling around condiments and chatting it up with a few girls, people still walked up and down the street without care.
Another minute passed, and Anna quietly got up. “If this is some kind of joke, it’s not very funny.”
“I… I don’t understand.” He winced. ”It’s not a joke, I swear! October 28th, 1996, at 13 hours, 19 minutes, 23 seconds. I memorized it. Why didn’t it happen?!” His mind raced for answers.
As Anna walked off and out of view, passing a city worker who was now starting to blow leaves into neat little piles, John noticed something that made his heart sink. Looking at the large billboard across the street, he began to laugh, tears in his eyes.
I’m such an idiot, he thought.
“Don’t forget!” the sign read. “Set your clocks back an hour – daylight savings time ends October 28th at 2:00 am!”
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