OK, here's another of my stories. This is the one that I wrote for philosophy, so you'll have to excuse my character's inner reflection. :P
It is quite long, but I'd really appreciate it if you could take the time to get through it and give me feed back. :)
And just a warning that it IS a time-travel story, so you should probably read it expecting something weird to happen. It also contains some mild violence and swearing.
I sat perfectly still and watched the sun slowly sink below the horizon, tinting the clouds a glorious pink. I was comfortably positioned in a chair outside my favourite café: a small, cosy place with a friendly and peaceful atmosphere.
A pleasant breeze tickled my face and neck, and I let myself relax and enjoy the fresh, chilly air. Closing my eyes, I breathed deeply, listening to each sound, each heartbeat... Someone shouted drunkenly and my eyes snapped open in annoyance. The peace of the afternoon was broken by the distant sounds of rowdy laughter and singing: the unwanted consequence of Anzac Day celebrations. I thought in annoyance how some people would find any excuse to drink themselves senseless.
Anzac Day – that meant that it was the 25th of April 2008. Just three days before my 22nd birthday. I hadn’t realised that my birthday was coming up so soon. No matter – I wouldn’t do anything for it, anyway. Perhaps just a small party with some close friends…
I was distracted from my pondering when the waitress came bustling through the door with my coffee. It was Rosa today: a kind, friendly woman with pink cheeks and a dimpled grin. I smiled as she set the saucer down on the table, and gestured for her to sit down.
“Hello, Rosa.” I said. “How’s the book coming along?”
Her smile widened and she blushed slightly. “Very slowly, actually,” she laughed. “I think I’ll be an old woman before I finally finish it.”
“You’re just being modest. I expect you’ll have it published by the end of next year.”
“Well, if you think so, then. Would you like anything else?”
“No, I’m fine, thanks.”
“OK then. Well, I guess I’d better get back to work. And be careful walking home, will you. It’s getting dark now, and you know how people get boisterous on these public holidays.”
“I’ll be careful, I promise. Thanks for your concern.”
I watched her walk away fondly. I knew all of the waitresses and the regulars around here. That was part of the reason why I loved this place. I could name all of the customers here, not that there were many of them. On the table to my right was Mr. Renard, the balding telemarketer who came here every Friday to read the paper. To my left was Mrs. Appledore, who liked to sit and feed the birds. Two tables along were Jane and Andrew, who always sat holding hands and always ordered a cheesecake for two.
I turned away and two sparrows fighting over a piece of bread caught my attention. I watched them as I absently stirred my coffee three times clockwise and set the spoon down next to the saucer. Resting my elbow on the table, I dipped my little finger into the froth. Suddenly I felt a prickling sensation on my neck, as though someone were watching me. I turned my head cautiously to look behind me, and I found a woman of about 45 staring back at me. She was a stranger, and yet she looked eerily familiar. Her mousy brown hair hung over her face, almost hiding a long, ragged scar that began at her hairline and travelled over her left eye, stretching the skin taut. She gazed intensely at me, making me shift uncomfortably in my chair. I was sure that she had not been there a moment ago. As I watched she stirred her coffee three times clockwise, rested her spoon next to her saucer, and dipped her finger into the froth. Caught by a strange sense of déjà vu, I hurriedly averted my eyes.
Looking around I noted with surprise that it was pitch black. The only light came from shop windows and street lamps, and the song of birds was replaced by the steady chirrup of cicadas. I had not realised how much time was passing.
I realised with some trepidation that I would now have to walk home in the dark. Picking up my bag, I walked briskly away. My footsteps echoed through the deserted street, but I had a sense of something odd. Something not quite right. After some time I realised there was a second set of footsteps shadowing mine. I sped up, and the footsteps sped up. A sudden sense of foreboding struck me, and I frantically turned corner after corner, losing myself in the maze of streets. I was choosing turns at random, desperately trying to get away from my pursuer. Soon I found that I could not recognise any of my surroundings, but in my panic I barely registered that I was lost. My heart was beating like a drum, getting faster and faster… The footsteps behind me were pounding along the ground now, and I broke into a run. Then the world jolted and spun as my foot hit a rock and I was sent sprawling to the ground. Breathing raggedly, I listened as the footsteps slowed to a walk and came to rest beside me. Gritting my teeth, I looked up, expecting to see some sort of night marauder. Leaning over me was the woman from the café, a look of concern upon her disfigured face. She stretched out a hand to help me up, and I took it warily, still shaken.
“Are you all right?” she asked.
“Yes, I’m fine, thank you.” I replied curtly. Why had she been following me? And who was she? She seemed so familiar, almost as if I had known her in another life. In irritation, I recalled that I had tripped because of her, and I was now lost in some deserted alley.
She smiled, almost as though she knew what I was thinking.
“You dropped this as you left the café. I came to return it to you.” She explained apologetically.
She held out a little wooden pendant with a flower clumsily carved into it. I examined it closely, recognising my own handiwork. I had made this when I was about ten, using the carving set my Dad bought me for Christmas. Warily I held out my hand to accept it. Again, I had the feeling that something was not right about the situation. It took me a moment to realise what it was. I had not worn the pendant today. I clearly remembered taking it off and leaving it on my bedside table last night. So how had this strange woman got a hold of it?
There was definitely something odd going on, but I decided to leave things be. After all, it was getting later by the minute, and I didn’t want to run into any gangs or muggers.
Realising that the woman was looking for some form of acknowledgement, I closed my fist about the pendant and said stiffly, “Thank you.”
She still did not leave, but stood peering intently at my face. Her eyes seemed to be devouring me, and I shifted uncomfortably, waiting for her to turn and go.
“Do you know what day it is?” She asked, and there was a new tone to her voice now. A darker, mysterious quality.
“Of course. It’s Anzac Day.” Seeing that she wanted me to elaborate, I added, “The 25th of April 2008.”
“Just three days before your birthday,” she expanded. “But that’s not all. This is the day that will echo in time and haunt you until your dying day. This is the day that I die. The day that you die.” She said portentously.
Chilled, I whispered faintly, “You’re insane.”
Pulling myself together, I stared her directly in the eye. “How did you know when my birthday was?” I demanded. “And how did you get my pendant?”
“I know everything about you,” she said. “Don’t you recognise me?”
“No,” I said flatly. “I don’t. And I would thank you kindly to step away now.”
Ignoring my request, she leaned in closer. “I’m you,” she said, her eyes boring into me. “Or at least, I was you. 20 years ago.”
Not knowing what to say to this alarming revelation, I simply stared at her, dumbfounded. This had all started off as such an ordinary day, and now I was lost in an unfamiliar alleyway, being cornered by a woman who was clearly deranged.
“Right. Of course you are. Now I’d really like to go - ” I turned to leave, but she grabbed hold of my elbow in a vice-like grip. I gasped in shock and fright and tried to wrest my arm from her grasp, but she was too strong.
“What do you want?” I gasped.
“I want you to listen to me. We don’t have much time.” Her voice was urgent now. She pulled something out of her bag and pressed it into my hand.
“Take this,” she said, letting go of my arm.
I spun away from her, rubbing my arm angrily. Gathering myself, I stalked off in a random direction, feeling her eyes on my back the whole way. That woman was insane! As I turned the corner I heard her cry after me.
“Be careful, won’t you? It’s dangerous at night time. Anything could happen to you. Anything at all, on a night like this.”
Her words hung ominously in the air and seemed to follow me down yet another unfamiliar street, like some sort of prophesy. Anything could happen to you. Anything at all, on a night like this.
I was so distracted by my thoughts that I almost forgot about the object she had forced me to take from her. It was cold and hard in my hand, and when I brought it close to my face it glinted dangerously in the lamp-light. A knife. I felt sick suddenly. I was holding a knife in my hand. What kind of crazy person was she? I wanted desperately to throw it away, but some instinct bade me not to. Swallowing hard, I gripped it in my hand and walked on.
* * *
After a few hours of roaming the streets, looking for a recognisable building, I was exhausted. My legs ached and my throat was parched. I was beyond panic, simply resigning myself to a night of useless wandering.
My legs seemed to give way of their own accord and I sank dejectedly down to slump on the ground. I had no idea where I was, or where I was going. I had never been more lost.
I sank into a sort of doze, but was woken by the sound of shouting and laughter. I looked up to see a gang of men about my age turn the corner. There were about ten of them, all swaggering slightly. The stench of alcohol emanated off them in waves, making me gag. Most of them were still carrying half-empty bottles of spirits. A burly man with tattoos covering both arms was at the front, carrying a crowbar in one hand. He swung at random letter-boxes as he passed, denting metal and scraping car doors. Now that I looked closer, I could see that all of them were carrying weapons of some sort.
All at once I was very aware that I was alone in a strange neighbourhood, in the middle of the night. There would be no one here to help me. I shrank back into the shadows, hoping they wouldn’t notice me, but the movement caught the leader’s eye and he turned suddenly to face me.
I held my breath as he peered into the shadows, but then he seemed to catch sight of me.
“Oi!” he called. “Watcha doin’, hiding over there? You ‘fraid of us, or somethin’?” he yelled drunkenly. The others snickered.
I didn’t say anything. I wasn’t sure what to do. Would he get more angry if I did answer, or if I didn’t?”
“Hey! ANSWER ME, DAMMIT!” he roared. He was getting himself revved up for a fight, and the others were eagerly getting ready for some entertainment.
What should I do?! He was going slightly red in the face, and he took a menacing step towards me.
“Umm… yes, I suppose I am…” I said meekly.
Wrong answer. He made his way down to where I was crouched, the rest of his gang following a few steps behind him. Suddenly he reached down and scooped me up like a rag-doll by the collar of my shirt.
“Yeah?” he asked threateningly. “And why’s that?”
I couldn’t speak. His breath was foul in my face, and his eyes widened dangerously. He shook me roughly, and I flopped helplessly to the ground.
“I said, answer me!!”
I couldn’t take this. I didn’t know what he wanted. I curled into a ball and began to cry, the sobs shaking my body. He looked down at me in disgust.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw someone creep into the next alley. As they passed under a street lamp, I recognised the crazy woman claiming to be my future self. I wondered vaguely what she was doing here, but in my confused state, anything seemed possible. I watched her as she took out a mobile phone and dialled a number. The police? I fervently hoped that it was.
After a while I realised that the gang leader was still standing over me, but he was talking with one of the other men.
“…she’s not much fun. I say we just take her money and find something else to do.”
“We could beat her up first. That’d be fun.”
“She’s a girl. You don’t beat up girls! Where’s the fun in that?”
“Still, I say we giver ‘er a good kicking. Teach ‘er a lesson.”
“Yeah, we’ll see.”
Turning back to me, he nudged me with his foot.
“Give us ya money. All of it.”
Still weeping slightly, I reached a shaking hand into my purse and brought out my wallet. Wordlessly I held it out to him. He reached out to take it, but one of his friends yelled out a warning.
“Oi! She’s got a knife, the little [censored]!”
Too late, I realised that I was still gripping the knife in my hand. I felt someone tear it from my grasp, and rough hands were hauling me up. The leader grabbed me round the shoulders and shook me so hard that my neck snapped back, leaving dots of pain behind my eyes.
“Watch playin’ at, huh?” he shouted, spitting in my face.
“I…um…” He drew his hand back and slapped me, hard. My vision went blurry with pain.
“Little [censored],” I heard him mutter.
Then he pulled out a knife and held it close to my face. The others jeered drunkenly, calling out encouragement.
Suddenly I saw his eyes widen in shock and he took a hasty step backwards. He stumbled and fell forward, putting out his hand to break his fall. He crashed into me, and I felt the knife slice across my face. For a moment all I could feel was pain. Blood was clogging my left eye, forcing it shut. I think I passed out for a second, but I woke to shouts and panicked voices.
I felt the gang leader hastily get up and heard him swear vehemently. The others seemed frightened. One of them ran past me, and no one went after him.
“[censored]. That old woman just appeared out of thin air!” the leader gasped.
“Oh man, Tim. [censored], I think you killed her. Look at all that blood!”
“Shut up! It’s just a face wound.” He sounded uncertain.
“But - ”
“I said SHUT UP!”
I heard footsteps behind me, and I tilted my head so I could see what was happening. There was an old woman of about 70 standing in the alley. Her hair was steely grey, and she was slightly bent over. She had a long faded scar on her face, stretching from her hairline down over her left eye. She began to walk slowly towards the gang.
“Who are you?” the leader asked. “How did you just appear out of no-where? [censored]! I swear I just saw you appear in the middle of that alley. You guys saw it, right?” he appealed to his gang.
They muttered uneasily. “Yeah, we saw it,” one of them said.
The old woman continued to advance, and a few more of the gang members ran past her, losing their nerve.
Suddenly the woman from the café came out of her hiding spot to walk beside her. Seeing them side by side, I was struck with a sudden certainty that they were the same person, only different in age.
They walked in the same way, and they both brought their hand up to brush the hair from their face in exactly the same way. Their eyes were the same, as was the shape of their faces, hands, lips, nose… But most obviously, they both had exactly the same ragged scar across their features.
The same scar that I might now have. A voice told her. Maybe the crazy woman wasn’t so crazy after all.
They both continued to advance, not speaking. They looked rather like vengeful spirits, with their eerily similar movements.
The gang leader was trembling now. He took a step back, but then straightened himself. He obviously didn’t want to lose face in front of the other gang members.
Taking a deep breath, he raised the already bloodied knife.
“Back off,” He warned.
They gave no sign of hearing him, just stared at him with wide, hazel eyes. The faint sound of police sirens could be heard in the distance, and they were getting closer.
Thank you. I silently called to whatever God there was. Oh, thank you.
The sound of the sirens drove the gang leader into a frenzy. The two women stretched out their arms, blocking the only exit.
“BACK OFF!” he screamed. “I’m warning you…” He stepped towards the younger woman, brandishing the knife menacingly. She looked impassively at him and kept walking towards him. Walking towards the point of the knife.
The man was really scared now. I could see it in his breathing, in his eyes that darted everywhere, looking for an escape. He looked crazy and unpredictable. He could do anything right now. Why were they just walking towards him so calmly? Why weren’t the police here yet? Why didn’t they just let him go?
Suddenly something inside the man snapped. He yelled in furious frustration and pulled back his knife to plunge it into the younger woman.
To plunge it into me. I thought.
But the older woman, my future self, was too quick for him. She stepped in front of the blade and it plunged into her stomach, gutting her. Blood seeped slowly through her dress, and the old woman gave a single gasp of pain before sinking to the ground. The younger woman caught her under the arm-pits and laid her gently on the ground, giving a strangled sob. She did not look surprised.
The gang leader seemed momentarily stunned by what he had done. He stepped back in horror, staring down at his bloodied hands. Then he dashed blindly down the alley. Fleeing from the sirens, or himself? I wondered vaguely. I had lost a lot of blood, and everything was going in and out of focus. Dumbly I stared into the eyes of the old woman as the last vestiges of life drained from her features. My features. My younger future self was crouching over her, weeping silently. Then she stood up, wiped her face, and turned to stare at me. She looked directly into my eyes, and the moment seemed to stretch on forever as I stared at my future. The one I had believed could not exist. Then she turned away and slipped into the shadows.
The sirens were very loud now, and I could see lights flashing. Someone was talking to me. “Can you hear me, ma’am? Squeeze my fingers if you can hear what I am saying.”
When I woke up, I was in hospital.