One Life for Each of Us

by Stefan Zelentchuk


A complex man seeks the means to turn from selfish to selfless; in order to do so, he must face the unknown and let the universe guide him through the ages.

These are the extracts from a diary of one, Alexander Storm.

A man who went missing on Christmas Eve 2014; he appeared to vanish off the face of the earth. Alexander has never been found and the missing person's investigation is still ongoing. This was the only belonging found at his estate - these are the last entries.

August 20th.

As soon as I walked in I could feel the tension, I know that I'm very lucky to be alive. For the past 20 years, I've down nothing but spill my blood, shatter my bones and live the life of a rowdy knucklehead. You see, I was always brought up to believe that being yourself was the best viable way of leading a noble and respectable life, but now I realize it's the most fallacious advice I have ever received. Oh, and when I say brought up, I mean to say I was flung from one foster family to the next, back and forth like a yo-yo. I never had any real parents, not biological ones anyway, it was clear they never wanted me from day one. Along the way, I gained numerous vague memories of mothers and fathers, more than you can imagine; although this wasn't for long, as they'd flog me back to where I came from once they saw fit to be done with me. I've had more fabricated parents than you've had hot dinners, but that's all in the past; I realize now that one cannot change things, everything happens for a reason, right? Or so they say, but who makes up these rules? It takes real courage to grow up and become who you really are. I'm on the straight and narrow now.

In hindsight, as I write this, I think back to when I was in between jobs - I had hit the clichéd mid-life crisis; however, recently I have stumbled upon a new, life-changing profession. I've yet to start my first day, but I can see the assignments and daily grind being something worthwhile in the long run. Some months ago, I would never have believed in my wildest dreams that I would be doing this - I don't think any of you would either - but that's just the way life is sometimes. There will be a constant flow of twists and turns during our existence that eventually put us in our place and where we are meant to be in this self-imploding world.

If anyone is reading this: know you and I are both here for a reason - I only learned that one recently.

That fateful day, I remember it clearly. An alarm bell rang with such ferocity you would think it was some kind of emergency, but it was merely the welcoming signal for visiting time at the hospital a good friend of mine was currently allocated in. I approached the receptionist; it had felt like a lifetime since I had seen him. I leaned toward her, speaking in a cautious tone, Korby, Finn. She cast a glance at her list of patient names, then looked at me, and finally back down at what would seem an archive of endless names. She looked sour. After a few moments of silence, she requested my name. Taking the last few sips out of my tumbler of coffee, I replied, Alexander Storm. I'm clueless even to this day where that surname name originated from. It is the name my first ever fosters parents gave me; I barely remember anything about them or who they were. All I have from that part of my early life is a picture of whoever they were cradling me as a baby, nothing else sentimental or tender.

The receptionist ticked my name off on her register and directed me to Finn's room, which was situated in Ward 8. Heading towards his room, I could feel the detestable stench of malignancy eating away at everyone - I am surrounded by it. This place is truly death, the deeper you parade into a hospital, the darker the corridors seem; It's consuming me, but it will choke on me. Reaching his room, I don't bother knocking; instead, I thunder in hoping what little charisma I have would light the room up. My nervous smile soon faded into a look of uncomfortable despair. Finn was lying there, almost lifeless; I stood there gawking at the man who was once the life and soul of the party. You see Finn had helped me copious amounts ever since the day I met him at a building site many years ago. Ever since then he's been there to bail me out of jail, how many times I cannot tell you. He's brought me back from the edge of the darkness and has acted selflessly from beginning to end. Advancing towards his bed, I take a closer look and he appears to be older than his time - how terminal diseases violates your body is only obvious to me now. He awakens gradually and greets me with a smile; he is happy to see me. We shake hands and I tell him I'm sorry I couldn't come sooner. He coughs violently and then sips his water slowly. You were never one for routine, he laughed. We carried on talking for over an hour, the conversation was predictable. He filled me in for over half an hour on how he has accepted his fate a long time ago - he was ready to die, and that was it.

Finn was tiring, yielding to the sickness that had been growing inside of him for some time now; his frail and ravaged body was almost at its end. His speech had slowed down into whispering now, just enough energy left to tell me of his only ever longing for. He clutched at my wrist, Alexander, you have always been like a brother to me, we've shared so many ups and downs - It was truly a case of bad luck that we had to meet in our later years. Looking back to my youth, the only thing that went amiss, was the void aspect of a brotherhood. I found myself wishing time and time again, that I didn't have to wait till I met you to be able to have a bond with someone who feels like family.

He sipped at his stale water and pressed on with his tale of woe. His voice was fading, almost incomprehensible.

From what I could gather from this ill-fated man, was that he repeatedly asked his folks if they could bring him a baby brother for Christmas. It was the only thing he would ask for every year; however, it was only till he grew up, that he realized his mother was diagnosed infertile after she'd given birth to him. He carried on, just barely. Finn came closer with what little strength he had, he began reminiscing about our many years of being each other's sidekicks. He fell asleep at that instance. I looked at him as he lay there attached to a machine that was keeping him alive. He is pale and weak looking, and I know realistically the machine that's keeping him in this world will be turned off soon. He will be gone before his time. He is 35, slightly older than me, but that doesn't get away from the fact he is far too young to die by societies rules.

Do I keep on thinking to myself what can I do for this man? He has done so much for me and I've yet to return the favour, but maybe I can now. I think it's time to attend my new job, this is the perfect opportunity. I leave Finn Korby and don't look back.

The tension I first felt, was now gone. I know now what I must do, how I can return the many favours he has done for me in life; if I can do this one piece of business for David, he'll finally have that one thing he always wanted when growing up. Albeit that cancer eating away at him won't disappear, it will still come with monstrous brutality - and no matter what, he'll still be in this hospital bed today if I succeed in doing what I aim to do. You cannot escape death, it's our fate; we die once, and only once.

Opening the trunk of my car, I empty the contents of my pockets into a carrier bag, making sure that every item I have on me is now not in my possession. I take one last look in the bag; there lay my wallet, ID, a few pennies and my phone. I throw the bag into the trunk, and close it; but not before picking up my briefcase. This briefcase would look odd to anyone else but me, it was bulky and leaking fluids of assorted colours mixed together like an artist's palette. A thousand rainbows locked in a box, with no way out. It made an additional humming sound that dog and cats were especially assertive too. If you've watched any bullshit anti-terrorist shows on late night TV, you wouldn't be wrong to mistake this for a bomb. The might of what's in this briefcase holds way more prestige and capability of any bomb you or I will ever know of. Its power is limitless and could end the universe as we know it - if handled by the wrong person. Look and behold: my own personal Time Machine.

Looks like tonight, August 20th, 2014, I'll be starting my new job.

My wildest imaginations that once plagued my mind full of fear and mortal dread, at what the aftermath would be like if I started this time machine up and actually entered it's blinding light is now gone. I tried it once before, a few weeks back I felt like going back in time to 1964 when The Beatles were gigging at The Washington Coliseum; I've never been to America before and more importantly never seen The Beatles live; it was hitting two birds with one almighty stone. This was one of many enticing ideas that flowed through my artistry. I didn't bother though - the negatives outweighed the positives at the time. What if I arrived in the past and left an arm in the present from where I came? What about the millions of other things that could go wrong? Tonight all of that doesn't matter, I have an assignment to attend too, and tonight it's going down.

You're probably muttering to yourself, how did he obtain this Time Travel Machine. How did it get into his hands? Talking of hands, I'm very hands-on, I can build and repair things like a piece of cake. It's a skill I've had since I was 12 years old, after devoting myself to every hand on trade possible, endorsed by my parents of that time. I built this time machine with my bare hands, but I'll never know its true origins. I received a letter in the mail; it was addressed to me only by the second name and had no return address. Inside were instructions on how to specifically build a time machine with the resources I had at my disposal. I'm not going to bore you with the rest of the letter, but there you have it, I built it and it's mine to be used now.

This is it, the defining moment in my life.

I fire up the machine and in no time it's ready to be used. I'm taking a bigger step here than Neil Armstrong ever did. I enter and reality changes, I can feel it, there is nothing but blinding white light, so blinding I couldn't open my eyes or make sense of my surroundings. My mind is in one place, body another. The light begins to dimmer and I'm standing in what appears to be the same place as before. The hospital barely looks any different, if it wasn't for the fact I was standing in the middle of a field, and not a car park, you would still think it's 2014. I quickly pack up my machine and close the briefcase; I release the strap and throw it over my shoulder. My pockets are still empty from before, and I'm wearing more or less all black which will always fit in with no matter what time you are residing in. I won't look odd or out of place here, now to concentrate on the mission that is to be completed with haste.

32 years from now, I'll be walking from Finn's room to the car park, it is then when I formulate the plan as to how I would go about doing this. With the memory still stuck in my sentiment, I make a short journey towards the hospital entrance. Marching through the door with assurance, and with what would seem a new-found confidence in my stride - you'll be surprised how much of a power boost time travel can give you, but I'm sure like everything else in life, the buzz is just for a brief time before it becomes nothing but natural to me.

I check the newspaper that hangs up beside the inner entrance; it states the date to be 21st September 1980. Spot on, my calculations were correct. Looking at the hospital, a dreamlike sense takes over. The place is completely different to what it was mere moments ago, or many years in the future depending on how you look at it because time is perception, a minute for me could be two minutes for you. It's late now and the visiting times are over; I need to make sure I'm not caught roaming these ancient halls. Looking at the equipment around me, including the typewriters that are scattered around everywhere, you'd think how did people manage to survive back then or now as it happens to be, with such minimal technology and assets? This is my present for the time being though; I better get used to it. Sneaking through the hospital corridors, I head to the sound of crying babies. It's getting louder now, and I know I'm closer to what I need to do. The babies are all lined up in their respective cots in their ward

This can be seen as a cruel act, but I have no choice.

I scan each baby through a single glazed window, looking for one that seems extra special, but they all look the same, wrinkly and untouched. I enter the Ward through a side door, it's not locked. There is a woman watching late night TV in her office, I need to get past her. I walk towards her office, the Nurse is young and pretty, I don't want to hurt her. Luckily, I don't have to, she is asleep on the job, and this pleases me. I walk towards each baby and the nerves kick in, paranoia soon after, I need to act fast and get a move on; I've stalled too much already thinking about what to do with the female nurse on duty. I pick up the first baby I see, cradle him in my arms and look on as he sleeps peacefully. I apologize in my head to the parents of this small child for what I've done, and acknowledge in the future I will pay for this misery bestowed upon them. I know the baby will be well treated with the Korby family, and this urges me to continue; I calm myself down and start to breathe normally again.

I wipe the sweat from off my forehead and head towards the door, the hospital is so silent you'd think the child and I are the only people on the planet. I make it to the exit of the hospital, and there were no interruptions. The plan I thought up of in 32 years time has actually come to be, and I'm one step closer to helping Finn and returning a lifetime of favours.

I march towards the route I need to take, suddenly a dose of hard-hitting reality takes hold of me - I'm holding a baby boy in the palm of my hand. Looking at him there is a sense of affection that overwhelms me. I find myself drawn to him, and hope, unlike me that he will grow into a man who will achieve great things; after all I have just abducted him, I'm the only person in the world he has for the time being. It becomes a daunting trail of thought when I think back to the hospital; I was swindling the baby from under everyone's noses and a shocking revelation hits me: I forgot to check his name. I was in such a rush that I didn't even bother finding out his name or date of birth, I was so concerned about the mission I forgot about the little things. No matter, it's not my choice to be naming the youngster anyway that will be up to The Korby's. I'm just the courier service, I'll be delivering this baby and that's it, gone like I was never here in the first place.

I catch a cab; the interior of this taxi looks a far cry from the ones in some 30 years' time. I expected this, it's one thing to imagine, but it's another to see it for yourself - talk about the surreal feeling of it all, even the meter which counted the cost of the journey was unrecognizable. I travel for what seems the entire length of the country, the hospital Finn was stationed at was in London. Far, so very far from where he grew up. It's an incredibly long journey but I feel no sense of fatigue, the adrenaline is still pumping through my veins.

I remember the street where Finn spent the majority of his childhood; we had visited it before while on the way to an old favourite pub of his, along the way telling he told me a few amusing stories, the one that stood out the most was about how he chipped a tooth. Looking down below me as my foot hit's the curb on the way out of the taxi, I wonder if that's the curb where he'll fall in a few years' time from now. As I go to pay the driver, I remember I have no money on me. I emptied my pockets before my journey through time, as not to afflict with the time I'll be entering. I can't go back in time with modern money; they'll look at it as if it's not worth the paper it's printed on. I should have purchased some old English notes off eBay before taking the trip. I'll remember that one next time if there is a next time. I decide to pull a quick one, I had no choice. The taxi driver was rather on the large side and he'd never catch me, I'll be surprised if he could get up from his seat, so that's exactly what I do, run.

Time moves on, I'm now on the outskirts of Finn's street. Considerable amounts of dismay are starting to set in. I only remember this street how it was in the future, not as it is now, none of it seems familiar. The houses are derelict and old, not like the new foundations that have been built over them in the future. This is an unpredictable and distressing moment for a time traveler, but who said time travel was fun? I face the facts and tell myself I know Finn is in one of these houses, a small 3-year-old child, not aware of anything that's going on around him. It must be one of the houses in front of me I further convince myself. Finn pointed out this area before when divulging in his past times as a young man, one of these houses will hold those memories.

The baby is getting restless now, it's shaking and crying and I have not the slightest clue how to ease it. I've listened in on enough conversations women have had at the clinic and I know the baby is hungry by now. My choices are dwindling; stand here in the middle of this street as the baby continues to cry, is the question that pops into my brain because if I do, I'm going to arouse suspicion soon. My chances of completing this mission are now decreasing; I need to act fast, even if it's without rational thought. There is just one life for each of us, and I'm about to deliver this child into his world to come. I run across the street and lay him down ever so gently on the doorstep of a house numbered 22. By now I was certain this was Finn's house, though it seems it's a naive option for me to drop the infant on a doorstep, I had a strange feeling of déjà vu which made me assured that I was doing the right thing. I deliver a very large bang on the door, as to be certain The Korby's hear the call. I run across the street with thunderous pace, as to look for a position to hide in; finding a large tree I stand behind that, waiting eagerly for the door to open and thus, mission complete, time to go home. Five of the slowest minutes of my life pass and the door finally opens. It's at that moment I feel like I've been here before. The door creaks open slowly, a woman appears. I do not recognize her, and I find this especially strange as I've met Finn's family before, very nice people they were.

I still cannot distinguish this woman.

I'm still cloaked in the shadows behind this enormous tree, I look on as a man now appears from behind the door; he also shows no familiarity to me either. Have I made a mistake in my calculations? No, I tell myself. Everything was positively correct, there is no way I'm in the wrong time period, I do not make mistakes, I built the damn thing and I know it from the inside out. The two of them pick up the baby, he promptly stops crying. After the confoundment of it all, they close the door and decide to take the baby boy into their home. This wasn't the family I originally intended on delivering the baby to, so how did this happen? Did the universe find a way of correcting the flow of time, and making sure Finn never did have a brother? Was that the way it was always meant to be? I'm finding time travel unpredictable now. I come out from behind the darkness and bask in the street light, convincing myself I must get to the bottom of this before I return to 2012. The gateway will be closing soon, and I sure as hell don't want to get stuck here with this cut off time machine strapped to my back. The kind of electronics and exotic matter that is used in the time machine will not be available until at least the 28th century. To the population of 1980, this would be seen as alien technology, it'll be best if I leave soon.

Before I leave, I sense the need to approach the house of where the baby now resides. Climbing over the back fence and into their garden, I peer through the window making sure not to be seen. The three of them look like a happy family, the unknown male and female are rocking the kiddo by the fireplace. To anyone but me, they look like your ordinary family, no sign of any kind of difficulties or interference, it's like this was mean't to be. I get that nostalgic deja vu feeling again, I soon shake it off with the jealousy that comes at looking how happy they seem to be. If only my parents showed me love like that, but that's just how things turn out so I'll let it be. In fact, I'll let this all be, there's a reason I failed and I won't be finding out soon. I'm going to leave now and go back to 2014, and be by Finn's side as he passes away.

I hear a car pull into the drive next door and quickly fling myself back over the fence and into the front yard. I walk from the main door, down the steps and back into the street. I am now fleeing the scene or so it seems until I hear somebody shout after me. I reluctantly turn back and see Finn's dad standing there; he approaches me and notes that I've dropped something on the floor behind me; I look down in complete astonishment. It's the family photo of me as a baby, with my first adoptive parents. I pick it up and realize I forgot to empty the inside pocket of my jacket and hit myself on the head for being so stupid. I try to keep this photo close to my chest, as for Finn's dad not to see. He asks what it is with much curiosity, and I feel a sense of loyalty and cannot lie to him. I come clean and say it's a family photo, trying to avoid eye contact as much as possible.

Smiling he walks away, his wife now appears from behind their car holding a 3-year-old Finn asleep in her arms; they both share a kiss and enter their home.

I look at the family photo I carried through time with me, and it all makes sense now. A sensation of clarity carries itself through my passage of thought. It is now dawn and I take one last look at the house next door labeled 20. Above the letterbox are tiny letters glowing in the sun spelling out Storm. I look at the photo again, this time with much more warmth, the two-people holding me as a child become much more familiar now, and I look into the distant horizon and know what happened tonight was always meant to be.

I can't believe we were once next-door neighbours.

Going back to 2014 is the last step I must take now. Tonight, I had a lesson in time travel and realized there are rules. Rules we must obey, laws that are forced down upon on by space and time itself. I start up the time machine and set the coordinates to where I originally came from. Before I know it, my present is August 20th, 2014. The most important thing that ever happened to me is time travel; it has given me much knowledge and a scoop on the inside story, the story being myself. For the first time in my life, I know where I come from, and how I've gotten to where I am today. I now know why I have no memory of biological parents, because I never had the chance to have any, my own selfish needs and guilt about Finn dying got in the way of that. I set out to help Finn and give him a much-needed brother, but instead, I just played my part in history, whatever happens in the past is what always happened, we cannot change that. What I did in 1980 a few moments ago is what always happened in 1980 before I even created and comprehended thought of time travel. At least that rule is clear to me now, but it will not stop me from using my machine, and instead, it will inspire me to do what I can to preserve the timeline as we know it.

December 24th, 2014

Finn died yesterday; a few acquaintances but most importantly, I was at his side when he passed on. When your time is up, it's up, I see that now. I have nothing left for me now in 2012 and there's no need to face 2015 that's coming shortly, either. I've cut myself off from the world, in fact, I won't be putting myself through spending Christmas alone tomorrow, because I don't plan on attending Christmas day. I might one day, but not tomorrow, not for a very long time. Now Finn is dead, just like him I'll be moving on from this world. I fancy seeing that Beatles show I always had an urge for, or maybe catch a movie with a girl from the 1960's, just as long as she isn't my mother - that could end in disaster. I think I'll stay away from London. I might go back into the past and plant a shrub outside a house I use to live in a very long time ago.

Before all of that, there are two things I must do, I will travel back to 1992, and make sure my adoptive parents of that time make it be I pursue a career in the trades. After that I'll take a trip into the far future and see what that has to offer. I'll travel so far and deep into the future, that time travel will be an everyday affair to the advanced civilization of that time. I'll study their teachings and make notes. Finally, on the 15th of July 2014, I'll be delivering the completed notes via letter to my household. Once that's all done I'll be free to travel through time as I please, this will be my last entry in this diary. You'll never hear from me again, but your great-grandparents might very well so. Keep an eye out in history; the mysteries of the universe will seem much clearer now.

Look for miracles and search excessively for the only survivors of natural disasters, they'll have me to thank for that.

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