If Only

Discussion in 'KAW 12' started by RedCzar, Oct 6, 2018.

  1. RedCzar

    RedCzar Well-Known Member 2-Time KAW Winner

    If Only

    If only.

    How many times have we all said that?

    If only I had taken that sweet job in Ohio, instead of having to be “Near the ocean.”

    If only I had studied harder in college, instead of partying every weekend.

    Or the one Ethan regretted the most, if only I had had the balls to ask HER out way back in high school.


    Ethan sat looking at the collection of wires and computer chips in front him and thought about HER again, just as he so often did. He had never gotten over that missed opportunity. He’d obsessed over her ever since. He thought about her constantly, just as he was doing right now. He had no idea how long he sat there in his reverie before he snapped out of it and returned to his task.

    “This is it” he thought. “It’s going to work this time.” He was sure of it. This time he had thought of everything. He took one more glance through his notes, then one more scan over the machine. Satisfied, he attached all the sensors and wires to himself, then took his seat and flipped the switch. The machine jumped to life. He felt the tingle of electricity flowing into his body. He set the date, sat back in his chair, closed his eyes for a moment and took a deep breath. Then he touched his finger to the little green button, and pushed.

    The machine roared. Ethan felt the growing power surge envelope him. He tensed up. It wasn’t just at the physical connections, but everywhere. An aura that surrounded him. It was as if he could feel his mind being pulled from his body. That power kept building, getting stronger. It felt like it was going to rip him apart. Everything in the room disappeared into a light so bright it was blinding even with his eyes closed as tightly as possible. The power kept growing until he couldn’t take it any longer, something had to be wrong. All he could do was reach for the abort button. Unable to see, he swatted at the place he knew it was.

    The light surrounding him exploded. For a split second he felt as if his entire body had exploded along with it. Then he blacked out.

    * * * * *

    “Ethan! Get up! You’re going to be late for school!”

    His mother yelling up the stairs at him like she had to every day.

    His eyes popped open instantly. His MOTHER?

    He looked around, trying to clear his head, and found himself in his boyhood bedroom.

    IT WORKED!” He sat up on the edge of the bed. It worked! He was back! He ran to look in the mirror on his dresser. Sixteen, this was sixteen! The machine had worked.


    “ETHAN!” His mother shouted again.


    A flood of emotion overwhelmed him. He hadn’t even thought of this. His mother had passed only a few short years ago, and here he found himself, seemingly sixteen years old again and his mother alive and well and barking at him to get his ass to school.

    He quickly dressed and ran down the stairs. When he saw his mother, he ran to give her a tight bear hug. He couldn’t help himself. Mother, naturally, was surprised at this sudden overwhelming affection and figured he must want money. He assured her that he just wanted her to know how much he loved her. As he then sat eating breakfast, watching her, he realized this would mean his father was still alive as well. He had passed years ago, just after he graduated college, right now he would be at work, at the fire station, but he would be there when Ethan came home that afternoon. He quickly finished his meal and left for school. He had to get out of there before emotion took him over. He had not even considered the idea of seeing his parents again. That wasn’t his goal.

    He remembered the way to school, that was easy. It was less than a mile from home. Her house was between his home and the school. Today he decided to take the route that passed right by. He didn’t see her, of course, but he knew she was in there. He wanted to knock on the door, rush in, and profess his love to a girl he’d theoretically not even met yet. Instead he just walked past the house with his mind racing, running through all the things he was going to do right this time.

    Arriving at the school, Ethan realized he had only a remote idea of where he needed to be. He took a few moments to try to figure out what to do. With a little concentration, he discovered all of his memories of this current time were there, and started coming to him. He was able to make it to his first class in time. As he sat in those classes throughout the day, he started to realize how little he ever used any of this information. He also started to remember how much he despised so many of his classmates. No wonder he got the hell out of this town.

    The day could not pass quickly enough for him. He knew this was the day. He just knew it. Beginning of his junior year. He had first seen her during the summer. Ethan and his friend were at the art fair that was held in the local park when he saw her. He was instantly mesmerized by her. Bubbly and smiling. Dressed in a light blue t-shirt and pink gym shorts. He remembered because as he was watching, she realized that there was a hole in those shorts, right in the crotch! When she hopped on her bike, apparently to quickly ride home and change, he jumped on his own bike and followed her. That’s how he knew where she lived.

    Finally, he found himself where he wanted to be, in the auditorium after school, with the drama club. Ethan was not a member of the drama club, but all of his friends were, and she was too. Then, just as he remembered, he was sitting in the middle of all those empty seats with his best friend Peter. He had told Peter about the girl in the park a few times already. When she came gliding across the front of the room. His heart jumped, just like it did the first time. She was exactly as he remembered. Fourteen, slim, beautiful, and sparkling with laughter as she ran up to her best friend, who just happened to be dating Peter.

    Ethan replayed the original scenario. He grabbed Peter, pointed and exclaimed

    “THAT’S HER!”

    “Who?” Peter asked.

    “The girl from the park! That’s her!” he explained.

    “Her? That’s Jessi” Peter replied.

    Ethan stood up and bolted for the aisle.


    He practically pulled his friend down the aisle to introduce them, which Peter did. This time, Ethan did it right. He was charming. He was funny. He was smooth. In moments he had them all eating out of his hands. Not like the first time, when he could barely form words in her presence. Jessi smiled and blushed and played with her hair as she spoke with him. The attraction between the two of them was instant and obvious. To everyone.

    Within days all of Ethan and Jessi’s friends were already sick of them. All they ever talked about was each other. “Oh my god just go out already!” they all said. It took a lot of convincing for Jessi’s parents to let her, but eventually they started dating.


    Ethan reveled in this time. He looked forward to every moment he was able to spend with her, and he spent every moment he could with her. They were the perfect couple. Her parents loved him. His parents loved her. Even all the teachers thought they were perfect together.

    During this time, Ethan still seemed to retain most of his memories from a life already lived, and decided to make a few changes. He remembered that track, and sports, were mostly a waste of his time. He wasn’t very good, and it gained him nothing down the road. So, he quit. He decided to devote all of his time to his studies instead, that’s where the money would be.

    By the end of his senior year, Ethan and Jessi were going strong and madly in love. Neither of them had ever even looked at another. Ethan did keep a close eye on all those other guys who he knew were also interested in her, and he kept them all well away, or rather, he kept her away from them.

    Over time, Ethan’s mind was now filling with new memories. Their first date. Their first kiss. Their first dance. The first time he touched her naked breast. The time her parents almost caught them naked in her room. They hadn’t had sex yet, but they had done just about everything else. Jessi wanted to wait and Ethan was perfectly happy with that. As long as it made her happy, he could wait. Ethan often found himself daydreaming of all those moments, and smiling. This was the way it was supposed to work out. He almost never thought about the machine anymore.

    Soon he was coming up to graduation, again. He decided to make another change. A big change. He wanted to be closer to home this time instead of going to college half way across the country. The first time his main goal was to get the hell away from this town. Now he wanted to stay, closer to her.

    He applied to, and was accepted by, a very prestigious technology school that was only half an hour from home. He would still live on campus, but could be home every night to see his love. He was so excited the day he signed the enrollment papers. He sat at the kitchen table and closed his eyes imagining what the next four years would bring.

    Suddenly, his whole body began to … buzz. What was this? He’d felt this before. It was like every molecule in his body began to vibrate faster and faster, and he could feel them all. The light in the room began to intensify. Brighter and brighter, until he couldn’t close his eyes hard enough. Just before the whole room exploded, a single thought went through his mind. The machine.

    * * * * *

    Ethan was snapped out of his trance by an unmistakable sound.

    DAAAAAAAAADDY!!!

    He had only a split second to try to comprehend what had just happened, where he was, and WHEN, before he was assaulted by two beautiful little girls demanding hugs and kisses, which he was happy to supply. His memory filled like a tidal wave and everything came back into focus quickly. Looking past them to the driveway he saw their beautiful mother, obviously pregnant with baby number three, struggling to pull grocery bags from the car. He put the girls down and hurried to take over that task for her. She was as beautiful now as he always remembered. The hug he greeted her with was just a little bit longer and tighter than usual this time.

    Jessi could tell he had been napping deeply on the front porch while she was out shopping with the girls. Nothing new there. She wondered if he even knew where he was. At that very moment, he wasn’t entirely sure.

    Fifteen years had passed. How had that happened? WHY had that happened? DID it actually happen? Or was this just an odd memory lapse? Maybe the machine had given him a tumor! The machine. That was the only time he’d ever blacked out like that before. Could someone be fucking with the machine? How could that happen?

    He imagined that back in his own time he may have “gone missing” when he jumped backward. He had been here a long time. Had any time passed there? Did someone come looking for him and find his body hooked up to the machine? Maybe they tried to disconnect him? Did that make him jump? He’d never thought of that. The machine didn’t send his BODY backward. How could he could he miss a huge detail like that?

    Then another thought crossed his mind, what about him. The him that used to be where Ethan was now. If Ethan was here, now, did the Ethan that was supposed to be here jump to his time? Maybe he woke up? Was he trying to get back? Surely, he couldn’t figure out the machine. He’d worked on that for years, it was much too complex for a sixteen-year-old to figure out. Of course, it did have a time and date setting and a little green button, how much figuring did that require? And his notebook was right there.

    Once again, his concentration was broken by his beautiful daughter demanding that he come play with her and her sister. He was happy to drop the subject and go play.

    As he played with his daughters he recalled the memories filling his head. He had graduated college and gone straight into an engineering firm, the job he already knew. With all the experience he already had, he became a rising star very quickly. Jessi had graduated all the way through grad school and was currently doing private tutoring until after the new baby came. She then planned to return to teaching second grade at their local school the following year.

    He remembered all the special moments. The first time they’d made love, the night of Jessi’s senior prom. It was magical, for both of them. He had used everything he’d learned from his previous lifetime of debauchery to slowly and thoroughly bring her to the heights of orgasm. Although he was just a poor college student at the time, he devoted everything he could to make it the most wonderful night of her life. And he succeeded.

    They were married a few months after she graduated from college. Another magical day. Two years later their first daughter was born. Three years after that, the second. Now a new little brother or sister was on the way. They were happy, and as he sat cuddled up on the porch swing of their house on the beach with the love of his life, he could not remember any bad times. His life was perfect. This was the life he always knew they should have had.

    It happened again five years later. Ethan was home watching the girls, waiting for Jessi to come home from another late night. She had been teaching these evening classes more and more lately. He didn’t understand why. It wasn’t like they needed the money. He was doing incredibly well at work, but she said she needed something of her own.

    Lately, there had been arguments. More than he would like to admit to. The big issue was moving. He could make so much more money in New York. She didn’t want to leave Cape Cod. Her parents were here, their friends were here, and what about the girls? Did he really want to uproot the girls? As he sat up waiting for her to come home, he thought about all the issues they were having. He had just started to doze when he felt that buzz again.

    “Oh no” he thought, “Not again!”

    * * * * *

    He snapped out of it in his office overlooking Central Park, four years later. This had been a compromise. He had taken the job with the NY City firm. He worked three weeks each month from his home office, then spent a week in the city. Financially, it made them very comfortable. In every other respect, not so much.

    Jessi had gone back to work teaching. He saw her less and less these days. She often came home late. She also spent a lot of evenings out with her friends. They all planned class lessons together she said, or discussed other school issues. Did he believe her? Yes. He never would have imagined her cheating on him, why would he not believe her? Still, he was the only man she had ever been with. At all. And he knew how much attention she got from other men. But he knew her, he couldn’t believe she would cheat. He refused to even consider it.

    They continued to make it work for the next few years. They took family vacations. They traveled. He took entire months off to be home with her. He still saw the beautiful young girl he had fallen in love with the first time he saw her. But things did not really get better. There seemed to be suspicion between them. She had even accused him of cheating when he was in the city. That shocked him. How could she think that? Her girlfriends told her she was crazy, that he would never do that to her. But that didn’t stop her from saying it. Ethan was desperate to make her happy, but couldn’t seem to find the answer. All he ever seemed to feel from her now was anger and resentment.

    Three short years slipped by before it happened again. He knew it instantly. He had to stop it somehow. Could he stop it? It had to be that damned kid. He must be trying to work the machine. He gripped his chair as tightly as he could and tried to hold on. The light enveloped him once more and exploded. For a split second he could see every moment flashing before his eyes. Then he blacked out.

    * * * * *


    When he opened his eyes, he was sitting in his car outside the Cape house. He had just arrived and sat for a moment to collect himself before getting out of the car. It was summer time and this was his week with the girls. Of course, the older two were teenagers now and would much rather spend time on the beach watching boys than with daddy, which was why he was here instead of having them come to the city. At least the little one was still happy to see him. She came running out to the car to greet him, the other two followed, a little less eagerly.

    As the three of them came up to the car to say hello, he marveled at how much they looked like their mother. They were all so beautiful. He screwed a smile on his face and opened the door as the youngest ran up to him with arms outstretched. As he picked her up and twirled her around, he caught sight of Jessi standing on the porch watching them. A smile for the girls turned to an instant scowl when he caught her eye.

    The divorce had been especially hard on him. She was the love of his life. How could she leave him like that? How could she accuse him of the things she had said? He’d worshiped her since the day they met, before that even! He could honestly say that he had never even looked at another woman since they'd been together. He had provided her with a beautiful home, three beautiful daughters, as well as anything else she could ever want, all she had to do was ask. Still, she said, she couldn’t take another minute. He just couldn’t understand why. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to happen. They were supposed to live happily ever after.

    Shortly after, Jessi left for the week. He could have his time with the girls but she didn’t have to be there for it. He could feel the older two sympathizing with her. They still loved their daddy, but he could feel their attitude shift whenever mom was around. She’d obviously been bad mouthing him behind his back. At least the little one still clung to him like a papa bear, and he clung to her just as tightly. He couldn’t stand to lose them all.

    One evening later in the week, as the girls were glued to some awful show on MTV, he found himself staring at a picture on the wall behind them. It was him and Jessi at her senior prom, right next to the one from their wedding. All those years ago. She was so beautiful. How could it have come to this? He thought he had done it right this time. As he began to drift off into daydreams of what he thought were perfect times, he felt that now familiar feeling. He closed his eyes and waited for the flash.

    * * * * *

    His eyes opened and he let out a deep breath. When he realized where he was his eyes nearly bulged out of his head and he had to grab the table to steady himself. He was back in his workroom. The machine was spread out before him, all the lights flashing, the gizmos running, and the readouts reading.

    “Holy shit!” he thought.

    “Did that really just happen?”

    “How the hell did I get back HERE?”

    “DAMMIT!”


    He remembered every detail. Vividly. So much so in fact that being back here in this place seemed impossible.

    “It worked!” he thought.

    “IT WORKED!!!”


    Then the ending played out in his mind. He closed his eyes again and sighed. He thought it all through for a few desperate moments.

    “I can fix it!” he thought.

    “I can go back and…”


    The ending played out again.


    “And what? Go back and do what?”


    How could he fix that? He didn’t even know what to fix. He never knew what had gone wrong. Could he fix it? Even if he wanted to? And if he did, would it hold? Or would he find himself back here again?


    “What time is it?” he thought.


    Time. Suddenly so much more than a simple question. He looked around the room, the only clocks were on the machine's displays. He had no idea what time it was. For that matter he had no idea what day it was, or even what YEAR it was? Had time passed here at all here?

    “I can fix it” he thought again.

    “I KNOW I can!”

    He started to scan the machine, looking for bad connections or burnt out wires, as in his head he tried to decipher what had gone wrong.

    “I need to write this down”

    He reached for his notebook. It was then he realized all the sensors attached to his hands had come loose. How did that happen? Is that what caused him to jump back?

    He found his notebook splayed out on the floor. He must have knocked it over when he tried to reach the abort button. He picked it up and flipped through to the last entry to begin writing.

    He read through that last entry and paused.

    “What the hell?”

    Scribbled in his own handwriting was a single line.

    “You can’t change it, move on already”
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2018
  2. RedCzar

    RedCzar Well-Known Member 2-Time KAW Winner

    Apologies for the formatting. Even as I was posting it didn't seem to have SO much spacing. Not sure what the gremlins did there.
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2018
  3. A_GIRL_NAMED_SAM

    A_GIRL_NAMED_SAM Tom's Blonde Soulmate CAW Winner KAW Winner

    Really really GOOD! A few boo-boos here and there - this was one that jumped out at me. You can still fix the formatting and anything else you want. This isn't like CAW, where what you post is set in concrete! Do you have an 'edit' button at the bottom of the story? If so, fix the formatting yourself.
     
  4. Redbeard1031

    Redbeard1031 Well-Known Member

    I enjoyed reading this story. One thing I found out about time is if you go back and change something from your past your future will always be affected. At least that is what my science fiction reading leads you to believe. Thanks for submitting this story and remember be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.
     
  5. Lo Ro

    Lo Ro Well-Known Member

    a very exciting and gripping story!!! thank you for sharing it was a wonderful read
     
  6. Uncle B

    Uncle B Well-Known Member 3-Time CAW Winner

    This is very good. Be careful what you wish for. There are so many paradoxes involved with time travel, I enjoyed thinking about all the angles here.

    I think that of all the stories I have read for this KAW, this one fits the theme precisely. You showed us a regret, and exactly how you changed it. Even though it didn't work out as you would have liked.

    It's an interesting thought that Ethan got a full lifetime of memories, while never even leaving his work room. This is a story that I look forward to talking to my girlfriend about. I bet we will have a great conversation about it. That is what makes a story a success.
     
  7. bistander

    bistander Well-Known Member Multi-CAW Finalist KAW Winner

    Yeah, it's got a few technical issues and booboos, but so far, and I've read most, it's my favorite. You should save this for a while then revisit it and rework it. It will get even better than it is now. There are some many ways things could go. I had all kinds of thought about story ideas while reading this. That's the sign of a great story.

    Thank you all the effort you put in. I think this baby might be a wiener!
     
    Little Miss K, RedCzar and Lo Ro like this.
  8. This was so good and I couldn't help but suffer the comparison to my own.
     
  9. A_GIRL_NAMED_SAM

    A_GIRL_NAMED_SAM Tom's Blonde Soulmate CAW Winner KAW Winner

  10. Little Miss K

    Little Miss K Naughty but Nice 3-Time CAW Winner CAW SS Winner

    Wibly wobley timey wimey! :D

    I love the thought of time travel. It has so many different things to consider. :confused:

    I was sad, but loved that even though he got what he wanted, he still lost it in the end. Was that because he was never supposed to have it in the first place? o_O

    Then there is the question of did it really happen? :eek: Maybe the machine fried his brain, and all of these "memories" are nothing but ghosts from a cerebral trauma. :D

    These are only a couple of thoughts that come to mind. There are countless other points that can be explored when it comes to time travel. I love the possibilities. :)

    The writing was good, but some mistakes. It didn't take me away from all my thoughts on the story. I really like it. :)
     
  11. A_GIRL_NAMED_SAM

    A_GIRL_NAMED_SAM Tom's Blonde Soulmate CAW Winner KAW Winner

    trophy.gif

    RedCzar, it gives me great pleasure to present this trophy for your first place finish and for winning KAW 12!

    Your story, 'If Only' was truly remarkable and touched me deeply!

    Enjoy the thrill of your victory!

    Thank you for your efforts!

    A_GIRL_NAMED_SAM
     
    Michael McDaniel likes this.
  12. RedCzar

    RedCzar Well-Known Member 2-Time KAW Winner

    Okay, so now I can ask the vital question that Little Miss K touched upon. Do you think it ever really happened?
     
    Uncle B and Lo Ro like this.
  13. Uncle B

    Uncle B Well-Known Member 3-Time CAW Winner

    I was right, and there was lots of good conversation about this.

    At first I was going with the thought that it happened, and had been unsuccessful. Then I started to think about it, and realized that it had been a success, but not in the way he wanted it to be. He still got the girl. Still had a beautiful relationship, but at 30 you don't still want everything you wanted at 20. At 40 you can't even remember why you wanted some things from your younger life. He had the memories of a beautiful relationship that didn't make it in the end.

    Then Miss K comes along and ruins even this thought! The premise that this was only a dream doesn't work for me. I would rather believe that he traveled through time to gain the love of this girl, but it slipped away from him in the end.
     
  14. True Love requires such total commitment to romanticism that it must ignore much else that is real.
     
  15. RedCzar

    RedCzar Well-Known Member 2-Time KAW Winner

    I have another scenario where his targeting doesn't work so well and he ends up in HER head, at 14, and then lives the relationship out from her point of view. I'm not sure if I can write that one though, I think it needs a female perspective.
     
    Little Miss K likes this.