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The Sly Fox
At times, the human body can be the frailest thing on the face of the planet. Rolling down the side of a mountain pass in the flaming deathtrap that was once your car is one of these times. But other times, it seems like the human body is the most indestructible thing on the planet. Its ability to recover astounds me to no end.
The thing that is not as resilient as the human body is the human mind. When you come so close to death but do not face it, things start to click in your mind. You start asking yourself endless questions about what could have happened. What would have happened had you chosen a different pass or decided to drive down from the mountain on another day. You think and think for ages but never really learn anything because humans are social animals who, without outside contact, start to self destruct. Lying awake on a hospital bed while recovering from serious burns is one of those times.
So there I lay, staring placidly at the only thing I could stare placidly at. A fluorescent light above me. Honestly though, who designed this hospital? Don't they know that patients here spend 90% of their time awake looking at the ceiling? I thought about what kind of tapestries could be hung above me, or perhaps a TV. But I guess tapestries and entertainment aren't things one should be thinking about when they are recovering from a serious car crash. So, I started wondering about more important things. I wondered how long I was going to be hospitalized and what I would do about the cost of the medical treatment I was receiving without consent. Of course I couldn’t say yes or no really because at this point in time I was a blob of conscious, unmovable flesh.
I know doctors mean well by helping people out who are near death, but it's obvious that I can't afford the procedures they are performing for my ruined legs, so why didn't they just avoid the effort of operating on me and leave me to die like I was supposed to. I guess I have some explaining to do. Anyhow, along the line of serious things to be thinking about, the next up was a lawyer. I knew one was going to be coming soon because the hospital I was in would be wanting their money soon. The lawyer would also want to know what the cause of my crash was and that's a completely different story.
So, where to start? For months I had been dwelling in my own thoughts, no, dwelling is too light a word. Drowning is more the appropriate choice. So, for weeks I had been drowning in my own thoughts, debating whether I should stay in this miserable world any longer, or just end it all. I had been thinking about my perfect suicide for a while, what rope would be the strongest, what razors would be the sharpest. You get my point. So, I made a list or supplies and then ran out of my house into the pouring rain and jumped into my car to make a stop at Lowes. On my way down I had reached over and turned up the music coming from a radio station I had taken a liking to. When I looked back up I saw a red fox staring straight at me, frozen, mid-stride, in the middle of the road. I closed my eyes, veered off to the left (bad choice) and started the very accident that should have killed me but somehow did not.
It was horrible having the pleasure of killing myself taken away from me by a mere woodland animal. I lay in the white hospital bed cursing the stupid beast and trying to think of new plans for my impending suicide but none came to mind. I would have been tossing and turning if my body would respond to my brain but unfortunately, I wouldn’t have control over those things for the rest of my life. As well as having my legs burned to pieces, my spine had been broken. From the neck down, I was completely paralyzed, which would make even the simplest of tasks impossible let alone suicide.
The strangest thing about my stay in the hospital was the second night (or at least my second night conscious). I had been staring at the lifeless fluorescent light above me when it suddenly flickered and every light around me burst into life like a camera flash. But as bright as a camera flash was, it only lasted a few thousandths of a second. I lay there on the bed wondering what the hell had caused the flash when I saw a man in a black fedora and blood red trench coat stand over me. It was dark in my private room in the hospital so I couldn’t see the man’s eyes, but I was able to make out a toothy grin. This man had the whitest straightest teeth I had ever seen and they seemed to glow in the dark room.
The lights raised a little and finally I was able to see his eyes. They were a blinding shade of green that made me want to look away and stare at the same time. He turned his head to look over my ruined body which gave a good view of the side of his face and hat. A white feather with a black cross running down its length stuck out of the back of his hat and ended in a unnaturally sharp tip. I was observing his short dark brown hair when he interrupted me nearly scaring me to death.
“What is your name?” His words were heavy with a British accent and I looked at him angrily, my eyes motioning towards a clipboard next to my bed. The mysterious man reached towards it and flipped quickly through the papers, frowning. “I never liked the name Michael.” He looked at me and I weaved my eyebrows together angrily. Is this what the man came here to tell me? That my name isn’t to his liking? He picked up on my anger and chuckled a bit, “No, I didn’t come here to pick on you.” I showed a look of relief and then shot instantly into astonishment, had he just read my thoughts?
“No, I didn’t.” he held up his hand and I looked at a small silver disk implanted into his palm. “This did.” He let it reflect in the light and then held it up in front of his own eyes for inspection. “It picks up emotions and general thoughts like a microphone.” He lowered his hand and then looked back into my eyes, “it’s just programmed to pick up thought waves instead of sound waves.”
I would have nodded but found that it was extremely difficult, he chuckled again. “Oh yes!” he came over to the side of my bed and kneeled in front of my ear. He moved his lips close to my ear and then quietly said, “Would you like a second chance?” I sat there for a moment just thinking about what he had said, I was seriously confused. “Would you waste it if I gave you a second chance?” Once again I was baffled by what he had offered. Was this even possible? “Oh I bet you’d like to know that.” It was true, he had me captivated. “But,” I listened closely and he looked even more seriously into my eyes, “If you choose to accept my offer, you will be my apprentice and assist me in my… excursions.” It was a hard offer to turn down but I asked in my thoughts, What is it you do?
He smirked for a moment but then slowly answered me, “I am a thief.” I raised an eyebrow, Continue. “But I steal things from different times.” My eyebrows obviously explained my thoughts because the mysterious man laughed deeply and then gave me another perfectly toothy grin, “Well? Do you accept?” He held his palm up to my forehead and I gave him my answer.
Yes. Why wouldn’t I?
His lips curved into a sly smile and then the lights in my room flickered again and then flashed. I was stunned for a moment but then shut my eyes in sheer pain as I felt my body being pulled into some kind of worm vortex. Every cell in my body screamed out in pain but I managed to crack my eyes open for a second. My entire body was glowing a bright white as if it was made completely out of energy.
I ran out of my house into the pouring rain and jumped into my car to make a stop at Lowes. On my way down I had reached over and turned up the music coming from a radio station I had taken a liking to. When I looked back up I saw a man wearing a red trench coat and a black hat staring straight at me, determined, crazy-eyed, in the middle of the road. The man raised his hand and I saw a silver ring in his palm, it was emitting some sort of green ripple. My car ran straight into the green pulse and immediately yet softly came to a halt. Then man lowered his hand and disappeared leaving a swirling trail of light behind him. The next thing I knew, the door of my car was thrown open and the man ripped me out of my seat, completely tearing out the seat belt buckle. He threw me down on the road and then leaned over my chest. I was so surprised and freaked out, I didn’t know what to do, but it was obvious the man crouching over my chest and holding roughly onto my shirt knew what he was doing. He raised his palm to my forehead and a white light glowed from within the silver ring.
All around me the hospital was disappearing as if files on a computer were being removed with a powerful magnet. Then I put two and two together. I remembered what the man had told me just moments ago, “I steal things from different times.” And then it hit me. He had gone back in time to do something, most likely with me, and had changed the course of events that had led to my current position in time. My surroundings were continuing to disappear until the only thing left around me was a black void of nothing. I shown a bright white from within the void but soon felt myself being pulled deeper into the vortex behind me. And then I was gone completely, lost in a shining tunnel of light for what seemed like an eternity.
The light in his palm glowed brighter and my eyes widened in fear, I heard a high pitched beep and then the ball of light ripped open a swirling blue portal and another white entity from within came hurtling out and flew straight into my head. Suddenly, I knew everything that was happening. Two personalities from the same person but different time periods merged and I looked up at the man in horror. I opened my mouth to say something but he was faster.
“A deal is a deal Michael.” His smirk widened.
“You tricked me- this isn’t-“ he cut me off, waving a finger at me as if I was a boy who had stolen cookies from the cookie jar.
“You said yes and you know it.” His smile disappeared and his eyes got darker, “Now you have to fulfill your end of the bargain.”
He was right.
I was no longer thinking of my perfect suicide. He had saved me and cursed me at the same time. Makes you want to think about what you could have done, what you could have changed. But the next twelve months of my life were going to be… interesting to say the least.