Aphelion Issue 242, Volume 23
August 2019
 
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In Time

by Charles E.J. Moulton





Through the nearly closed curtains, I saw daylight peek through the fibers of cotton and silk. A few sunrays caressed my vision and reminded me of my childhood, the memories coming back and sending me home. I remembered sweet breakfasts on a patio overlooking the countryside. I remembered love. I remembered yesterday. I remembered a time before pain, before psychological disorder. I remembered being normal.

The luscious scent of chocolate filled the house the morning I traveled back in time with the help of my clairvoyance. The scent meandered up the stairs into the bedroom and made me smile. I even detected the sweet sounds of Mozart's 43rd Symphony.

Sweden. Summer. Carefree laughter, frolicking on the meadow. Monopoly games in the living room. Midnight snacks and ball games. Grandma baking crumb cakes. My mother setting the table. Me, reading comic books under the covers, sneaking the candy bar into my tummy, one that I had brought with me from the fridge the night before.

I was back in time, back home.

Candescent like the sugar cane from the old corner drugstore and more seductive than a sea of honey coated biscuits, my grandmother's light chatter awoke a need in me to shuffle down and rediscover what had inspired me back then. I hadn't felt the soft texture of the red carpets on the staircase for decades. It felt sacred and touching. My small bare feet loafed down to see a woman who had been dead for twenty years in my time. The chatter approached my audible reality and now I could hear what they spoke about.

Me.

"Claudio has always been clairvoyant, mother," my mom told my grandma. "We have to start trusting that."

There were light slammings of plates and what sounded like cups being pulled out of the cupboard. "What does that mean, Dierdre? I mean, can the boy see into the future? Is he a time traveler?"

By now, I had positioned myself on the third stair from the top. I listened intently to what they were saying and I did my best not to be heard. My hands rested firmly on my lap, my unusually small lap clad only by soft cotton pajamas decorated by ducks and bears.

"Think back, boy," I thought to myself. "Where did you fall asleep last? Or better: when?"

I couldn't let them notice me.

If I did, I might have trouble returning to my own time.

"Claudio?"

My mom's commanding voice raised to get me down for breakfast had me shooting up

from the stair I sat on. I almost lost my pants in the process.

"Get up, honey," she continued. "Dad will be back with fresh bread in a moment."

"Did you let him sleep in the big bed last night?" my grandma inquired just as I tiptoed up the stairs. Right, I thought, I had woken up in the bed of my parents. I had probably left my bed sometime around two at night for the safer haven that was my parent's bed.

Okay. think this through.

My mom had noticed that I was clairvoyant.

Obviously, it had been a topic of conversation already.

She had said: "We have to start trusting that."

Start trusting that. That would mean that it already had been an issue in the Laccisaglia household. The first time I had foretold the future was what? 1986?

Yes. 1986. I had been 7 at the time. What was I now? 8?

"Claudio?"

Oh, no.

I had to figure out when my clairvoyance had gotten out of hand. Had I been 14? 15? Maybe even 16?

No, I had been 14.

Mirror. I had to find one.

My playroom. The big closet had one.

"Claudio?"

Oh, no.

"Where are you?"

Quickly.

Look into the mirror.

My Star Wars Laser Gun, my dinosaur collection, my Lego city.

My Lord, was I ever this small? It felt weird being a child.

I quickly wandered up to my mirror and looked at the innocent unwrinkled face that I used to have. So unhurt, unspoiled by the hard winds and spiritual twisters of life.

Like I was accustomed, I closed my eyes shut so tight that it hurt my face. I imagined a place: Italy. A time: 1993, I had been 14 years old. The light filtered in through my eyes. The flash, flicker, and orgasm of the lightning got more intense and in a second, I was somewhere else.

The summer we didn't travel to my Swedish grandma's house in Kalmar. The year my mom tutored literature students at the Webster University in Rome and my Italian father spent most of his time working on that damn bestseller.

Me? I spent most of my time either in my room listening to my Nirvana record "In Utero" or building that strange spaceship out of plywood, plastic and tin foil.

1993. My father's voice screaming voice.

"Damn it, Claudio," he said, "turn off that ugly music. I can't concentrate. I still don't know what is supposed to be revolutionary about it. It's just noise. Claudio?"

Damn. Quick. I couldn't let my dad see me yet.

I just had to answer him. That would be okay.

I could do this couldn't I? Change the past? Not scream at him. I could avoid pain.

"I'm turning it off, daddy," I said, hiding behind my bed and pulling out the electric plug. Kurt Cobain's doomed voice dwindled down, the vinyl record slowing down and coming to a weird growling halt.

"Turn off the record player the normal way, son," my dad grumbled, "that thing cost a lot of money."

"Okay," I hollered.

"Just have another chapter to write, big guy," my father said in his usual self-confident Italian-American voice. "Then I'll take you for a pizza down at Corleone's. Molto bravo, mio amico?"

"Bravissimo!" I answered, hoping I would not be discovered yet here in my corner.

If my father saw me here, I would literally be stuck back in time.

The aliens had told me that much.

But was that bad? I mean, I would relive my life then, wouldn't I? Would I want to?

Okay, where was I? My father worked on his chapter.

I had turned off my Nirvana record.

That meant I had avoided the huge fight we had that sent him out of the house and sent me into the arms of those creatures.

Now, wait a minute. I remembered that the aliens arrived fifteen minutes after our fight ended. The fight lasted only three minutes, but it destroyed my life. Once the aliens arrived, in a spaceship I had already seen fly by our house twice, I got so involved in that alien thing that it totally consumed me. My inborn clairvoyance got out of hand. My abilities were used and abused by secret agents and aliens alike until one day I woke up in a mental institution. That alien was back one day, telling me I could undo the past by using my clairvoyance to travel back to the day when that spaceship had returned to offer me a collaboration. I could turn back time.

I remembered it well. They told me how I could use my abilities to foresee the future decisions of political leaders in order to create an alien government.

The alien in my time told me I could change my life. All I had to do was go back and say no the second time around. My life would turn out differently.

Would I want to stay here, relive my life?

I sat there, my little body transformed into what it had been back in 1993. The first step behind me, I now faced a much greater challenge.

Sticking around long enough to say no to the aliens.

I stood up, gently walking through my old room, past my Nirvana and The Cure LPs, past my Marilyn Manson poster and my painting of the Grand Canyon, one artifact that never quite fit with the rest of the decorum. That and my own space ship were weird additions to my boy room, and yet, jumping across the canyon of my own doom felt like overcoming my own inner demon.

I knelt down and looked at the replica of the spaceship I had built with my 14 year old hands, feeling the black surface of its triangular shape.

Fresh glue. Fresh tin foil. Fresh plywood. Made all after the memory I had of how the UFO had looked. Triangular. Oval on top. Flat bottom. Six spotlights in back. Like a flying car without wheels.

Today I was making contact.

"Claudio?"

I looked over to the door leading to my father's office. There he stood, tranquil, younger, his hair still black, his favorite white Camel shirt still white.

"Hey, kid?"

I could feel my heart beating faster, the increased pulse and the cold sweat overpowering me. I saw myself stuck here or maybe even doomed to experience this whole thing over again. On the one hand, my soul swam in a feeling of triumph over seeing my dad again, successful, young, thin, happy. On the other hand, I felt like screaming at him to go away. I could be here for good now.

"Uuh, hi, Dad," I trembled. I could feel myself panic, trying to close my eyes and rethink myself back to square one or even to where I had been a moment ago.

It didn't work.

When I opened my eyes, my dad was still there, smiling, looking at me, and probably wondering what was going on.

"Come on, Claudio," he began, "I'm taking a break for you. Your favorite pizza, Salami Pepperoni. It's waiting for you at Corleone's."

Something clicked in me. I don't know what it was, but I looked into my father's eyes and saw something I had not seen before. Whatever it was, it was different. A harshness that my father never possessed. That and the fact that I could not tolerate spicy foods.

Slowly, I stood up. Not only did I fear that I would be stuck here.

I also feared that this was not my father.

"You know that my favorite pizza is a Margherita, Dad," I said, backing toward the stereo.

"Oh, yes," my father said, smiling. "Right."

"What's my favorite soft-drink, Dad?"

The person that claimed to be my father would know.

He would not make a mistake about this.

"Coke," my father mused.

"Do I drink a lot of coke, Dad?" I asked.

My father nodded. "Fair amount."

Now I felt like testing him.

"What kind? Coke or Coke Light?"

"Coke, of course," he answered. "Who drinks Coke Light?"

I shook my head frenetically, waving my hands about and screaming. Not only was I stuck here in this time frame, something even more sinister also lurked behind the dimensional shadows.

I threw myself against the record player, banged my fist against the plastic, and screamed: "You're not my father!"

The creature that posed as my dad laughed. "Now, what makes you say that?"

That gaze, I recognized it. Where had I seen that look before?

From behind my supposed father, I saw another person appearing in the doorway.

"Claudio," the person said. "Why are you screaming at us?"

In my mother's body, I saw something whose aura seemed stranger than fiction and more static than electricity.

"Go away," I shouted, "my mother is teaching in Rome. My dad wouldn't say that my favorite drink is a coke when I am a damn diabetic."

"Look," the creature chuckled. "You always liked cakes and chocolate."

"I became a diabetic when I was twelve," I cackled. "Who are you people? You taught me how to go back in time just to fool me back into working to put you people in power. Get me back to my goddamn mental institution."

The light that appeared from outside the window appeared just when I remembered that it had: fifteen minutes after my father left the house screaming at me to shove that damn music into Nirvana's arse.

Now, I supposed that I had changed that reality because I had not fought with my father yet, but who knew that for sure? The extreme intensity of that light had me hold my hands in front of my eyes. It actually threw me down, away from the stereo, and onto the floor. Had I looked into the light, well, then I would have lost my eyesight.

So, accordingly, I did the only thing possible. I turned away from the light.

It was then that I saw the two beings that had posed as my parents now slowly morphing into their real form.

These silvery tall beings had no trouble looking into the light. In fact, they stared into it, their eyes open, transfixed by the authority of some supreme physical being.

Out of the blue, in a flash, the boyhood room of the Tuscany house that once was turned into a veritable conglomerate of rainbow colored lights. They would have amused me just as much as they had last time, if it hadn't been for the fear of being caught in that trap of working for the government as an alien conspirator again.

Through the open window, the alien boss again arrived just like he had decades ago in my time. His terrifying persona imposed on me just as compulsively as he once had. I looked into the dark eyes of that creature and saw my own hell.

Now, the tall creature stretched forth his willing claw and let his sharp, sharp nails flutter in front of my face. I gazed back at the beings that used to my parents and saw expectancy. I gazed back at the alien boss, his claw inviting me to make the same mistake once again.

"Claudio," a telepathic voice boomed into my head like an audio catapult, actually giving my ears and brain a seriously hard time to cope. "We have noticed you. Your mental abilities are above normal. Are you ready to take on the assignment as a master of clairvoyance? You will receive a high reward in the political game of global alien rule."

Suddenly, I remembered why I had taken on the assignment at all. I had only wanted to get back at my father. Once I jumped on the ship, however, I had reached the point of no return. The total abuse of mental clairvoyance turned mean.

I remember infiltrating political leaders to fly into a tall building under an assumed name sometime in 2001 just to make money for the weapons industry. It was meant to confuse humanity, rip them apart, and pave the way for the aliens.

This time, I looked into the eyes of the alien boss and saw the same creature that had sat next to my bed in the mental institution in the future.

"This is a darned vicious circle," I spat. "How many times have I been here? I mean," I corrected, "have I traveled back to meet myself more than once?"

Now, the alien boss and his two totally transformed stooges, who had been acting their parts as my parents for a short moment in time, chuckled. The chuckle turned into a laugh and the laugh turned into a bellow.

"Endlessly," the boss mused. "I believe you call it Pandora's Box. You see, we are extra-dimensional creatures who only come when we are called. We live in what you would call the fifth dimension. It's a parallel reality. We kept escorting you to your own doom in that institution, knowing that you one day would let us go."

"When?"

"When what, Claudio?"

"Do I let you go?"

"Are you ready to let us go now?"

"I'm terrified."

"It's okay to be afraid," the alien boss replied. Now I felt genuine kindness emanating from the alien's heart. "But you have to let us go."

The grown man in the 14-year-old body that I used to be realized that my psychic abilities had become a serious problem.

I realized there was more to discover.

"Who are you, really?"

"Creatures from another reality," he answered me. "Your proverbial tentacles brought you so far down into the pit you didn't really know how to find your way out."

"Did I summon you?"

"You did," he said. "Or, in a way, you did. When you walked into the magic cave that was your clairvoyance, you walked deeper and deeper and found yourself lost in time. You find yourself really meeting yourself at the end. You have come full circle. Let go of yourself. Don't be afraid to let go of your clairvoyance or the aliens you summoned. Close Pandora's Box."

I don't know how or when I let go of my fear. I don't even know why I had held on to my psychic abilities in the first place. Maybe because I had feared cataclysm and feared bad things happening so much that I used my extra sensory abilities as a kind of a crutch in order to eliminate uncertainties. So, in a way, I kept the vicious circle going just to find a way to predict the future. It was like the bomb expert that tried so hard and long to disarm a bomb that he finally set it off.

"I'm letting you go," I whispered as the alien boss gazed at his two assistants, hoping that my real parents would replace them. "I will not be offering you my services anymore. You can leave me and let me live my life!"

Now, something weird happened. I saw the alien go back into the ship and disappear. Not only that. His two alien stooges, who for a few moments had posed as my folks, lift off the ground and disintegrated into little puffs of what looked like fairy dust. It was as if my entire clairvoyant work for the government, my entire past, ceased to exist.

My pain disappeared. My clairvoyance, in fact, went to rest.

It was there, okay, but dormant.

Now, after the disappearance of the aliens, I expected to experience my subsequent life pass in fast forward before my eyes and have me end up in my mental institution once again, somehow free of pain, but of filled with confusion, neurosis and all.

I closed my eyes, just to send myself back to the future.

It didn't work. Well, of course not. I had given up my psychic abilities, in a way, just to get peace of mind.

The aliens left me.

I stood at the beach of my own future in the past, watching the waves crash against the shore of my own confusion.

In time, I learned to accept the fact that I, in fact, was reliving my life.

Fact of the matter is that I got to do far better things the second time around. I finished my high school diploma in time, I got a college degree in English literature. I learned to play the piano in a big band. I'm happily married and the father of three great children.

I console myself with the fact that I can pick and choose what I want now.

Sometimes I look up at the sky and look toward the sky for a sign of UFOs, but as soon as I see something suspicious, I look away and lean across the table in order to kiss my family. After all, I don't want to be enrolled into promoting the alien government.

One thing is weird, though. In the reality I experienced the second time around, 9/11 never happened, Iraq and Afghanistan was never attacked, the Egyptian revolution never got under way. Our current president is also not Obama.

Our president is William MacLaren.

I am not sure, but he is implementing laws that are harsher than the ones I experienced the first time around. Theft is now, in my current alternate reality, punished with death.

Most terrifying are the images and pictures that are used as logos to promote our new leader. The logo of the new government security department has a face that very much resembles the face of the alien boss.

I am happy.

Nevertheless, I wonder. My own withdrawal from the alien conspiracy made it possible for it to become reality. So, now I look up toward the skies.

I am searching for the alien boss again. Maybe I can save the world the next time around. I was 45 years old when I became a time traveler the first time.

It might just work this time.

Once again, I am opening Pandora's Box.


THE END


2016 Charles E.J. Moulton

Bio: Mr. Moulton grew up in a trilingual and artistic family and spent his childhood on stage. He played his first role at age 11 and has since then acted and sung in over 100 stage productions. His publication credits include horror stories for SNM Magazine and Aphelion, historical articles for Socrates and Skirmish and literary fiction for Idea Gems and Pill Hill Press. Mr. Moulton enjoys versatile creativity, is married and has a daughter. His last Aphelion appearance was Caught in the Excess Zone in our April, 2016 issue.

E-mail: Charles E.J. Moulton

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