"That's a long way down." A young man said behind me. He was terrified I could tell by the sound of his wavering voice, like jello. I was startled, I hadn't expected anyone to come down the rusty old bridge at this time of night. I was in America in the 1930s in a desolate town. A whistle of the wind brushed the whips of my black hair that had escaped the intricate hairstyle I had pulled up for the occasion. It was nice to feel the strong warm breeze. It was soft and comforting. I felt free.
"That is the point." I said calmly. My hands gripped the iron bar of the bridge. I felt no fear as I looked down at the white, pounding, water rushing under me. As a Time Scholar I lived forever. Far in the future some of our civilization had devoted their lives to travel through time and study it. The only drawback was since we were always in Time, we never aged. We were meant to work forever but I had already seen forever. The portal might not appear for a while longer but I still could feel it was coming. My mind was roaring and pounding as much as the water. Too many people had died not thinking straight. I needed to concentrate if I was going to do it.
The young man interrupted my thoughts, "I-I have a great idea. How about you move back from the edge and I'll take you to the club." I didn't answer, he was starting to annoy me. It was a pity that only this idiotic man would see my exit. I imagined him when he was grown, telling his grandkids in a wobbly old voice, "...it was a long way down...I invited her to a club instead." I leaned farther until only the sleek black high heels of my shoes were touching the slab of concrete.
" Ahhah!" The young man rushed forward, moving closer to the bridge's railing, as if he was stabbed in the back with a pencil. Again he was interrupting my concentration, the audacity.
"Don't move any closer, please." I frowned slightly frustrated. I was in a position where I couldn't move away if he tried to touch me. Time Scholars are taught that if someone touched you it was mandatory to make them forget since physical touch made it easier for them to recall the experience with you. We can't have them remembering us since Time Scholars are the future and if people know their future terrible things can happen. It's difficult since we could be standing next to someone at the grocery store or by a caveman in prehistoric times. There are plenty of us and the world cannot know or Time itself would fall apart.
" Don't." He choked, " We can find a mattress or a ladder-" He stopped in amazement because unexpectedly I was laughing, laughing harder than I had in a long time. It was amusing, the conclusion he had come to. I would never hit the ground. I was a Time Scholar, not an idiot. He seemed relieved because he stepped closer to me and held my shoulder. I flinched at the contact, now I was aggravated. He seemed like a young man whose primary existence was to get in the way.
I knew I must have patience though. Logically, I had already made enough of an impact on him and it most likely would be easier if I relented and used the Obliterator. There would be no grandfather telling his children of me. It would be as if I had never lived. The only problem was where I could use it. The Obliterator would only work if the person who I was trying to Obliterate wasn't focused on me. Then I recalled he had talked about a club. Clubs could definitely be distracting.
"I see. I guess you convinced me. I'll come back from the edge," I said trying not to sound sarcastic. Twisting rather awkwardly towards the stranger, I climbed over the metal railings in my black buttoned down dress. I still didn't entirely enjoy the dresses of 1930. The lace collar was tight around my neck and the waistline too high.
As my feet touched the other side of the bridge, he looked surprised at his influence. He raised already arching eyebrows, "Um, yes. Good."
He slouched but he was still a head taller than me. He must have been only nineteen and by the way he was looking at me, I knew he noticed I was in the body of a young twenty year old. I had only been twenty when I had chosen to become a Time Scholar. Oh, how young and foolish I had been! Quickly, as if I had asked, the young man shrugged off his large expensive looking overcoat. He had a rather long nose with wide brown eyes which matched the light brown of his suspenders over his white shirt. He wore slacks with a thin black tie. He pulled the coat over me without asking. It was an act of kindness but I wasn't cold.
"Are you alright?" He said and from the ridiculous white toothed grin, I'm sure he thought he was heroic. I walked down the bridge, heels clicking against the pavement.
"I'm quite alright, thank you," I said trying to smile over my shoulder. I remembered the direction of the small town I had passed by to get to the bridge where Time had called me.
"Wait!" The young man said. He almost tripped over his large black shoes as he raced to catch up with me, "I want to make sure you're safe." He actually sounded concerned. I had to resist an irritated sigh.
"I assure you, I am fine."
He scoffed as he followed my brisk walk persistently, "Fine? I didn't know that jumping off bridges late at night is just a healthy way of saying 'Goodnight'." I bit my lip and felt he might have had a point, considering what he thought I had been trying to do. All I wanted to focus on was finding the club. I remembered I had walked past it on the way to the bridge. However, even that might take too long. Not to mention the Time Travel Portal could appear at any moment. I decided I needed to lie even though I disliked doing so.
He pleaded when I hadn't answered, "At least let me take you to where you would like to go."
I pretended to relent to his increasing demands, "Alright, I think you should know I wasn't planning to jump. I was only getting a better view of the water. I'm a painter, you see and I needed inspiration." I heard the lie as clear as day but the boy broke into a smile.
His smile turned into a laugh, "Oh and here you made me think you were...jumping!" He rose his long hands dramatically up in the air. " Only now I have more questions, you still haven't answered where you are going."
"Of course, excuse me. I'm going to the club you mentioned. I need a drink," I said. I was disappointed in myself with how easily I had lied to him.
He jumped onto the opportunity like I had expected, "You know, I was planning to go to the club anyway, the only one here in this area. I was just crossing the bridge when I met you. Imagine the luck, we can go together! It's lucky since usually I'm in the city but to be honest I really needed to....er... get away." He grinned rather emotionlessly as if it there was a morbid inside joke to his comment. He peeked at me from out of the corner of his eye and looked quickly away. He was getting much too interested in me. The more I was around him the harder it would be to make him forget.
We were now walking briskly and the bridge was behind us. We were going down a dirt road and the clear sky held the bright moon. Tall grass with a few skinny shadows from thin trees lined the path. It was disturbing how alone and quiet it was even when the sparse little houses came into view. It was too peaceful now. We walked in silence but it was the silence that I was comfortable in.
He said disappointedly,"I don't think I know your name. I'm Lawrence if you were even having the smallest flicker of curiosity." In my mind I congratulated Lawrence on starting to correctly read my body language. I had not a single flicker of curiosity.
I said, "What I'm curious about is how far away this club of yours is."
" Oh! Yes, actually it's right down this street. You can hear the music if you listen closely." He raised an eyebrow. Sure enough I heard the loud saxophones, trumpets, an echoing piano and a happy male voice combining to form swing music.
The moment I saw the building I knew it would be simple to make him forget me. There were bright lights, roaring laughter, and the sound of livestrong instruments. The rickety old building was one story with wide windows overflowing with yellow light. Lawrence opened the wooden door for me and the overwhelming smell of smoke filled my lungs. Round tables made of cherry wood sat in corners and a filled dance floor was right by the cramped stage where the band was playing. Middle aged men in suits and hats stood smoking on the sidelines, young women with chin length hairstyles and knee length dresses swing danced with young men. The young men who were in shiny black shoes and white buttoned down shirts twirled their sweethearts.
Lawrence grasped my hand and pulled me to the dance floor but soon learned I had never trained in the art of dancing. I had never had anyone to dance with. "Who are you? Where are from?" He asked me once I clumsily finished a turn. He was stubbornly ignoring everything around him. His eyes watched my face a little too intently for my liking.
"I can't Lawrence-" I started.
"That's fine, what's your name than?"
"I'd like a drink. Can you get me one?"
"I don't want to leave you yet. I know how it works."
"What works?" Fear almost made me run from the room right then. Was he talking about the Obliterator? I glanced the crowds around me and it felt like everyone's eyes were on me. Was I drawing too much attention just by dancing? The music was becoming unbearably loud. Lawrence smirked, "It's an excuse for the ladies to go find some other man to dance with." All at once the innocent young man who had saved a young woman didn't seem so innocent anymore. He wouldn't be as easy to Obliterate as I had expected.
"No, not at all," I said as I took the small break in conversation to glance around the room. The middle aged men in gray suits, who had been standing on the side of the dance floor, stood next to the two exits I had mapped out as soon as I had entered. They were talking much too seriously for a club. I saw one lock the door and I saw them glance at me. I felt a gnawing feeling in my gut again. I must have been recognized. It has happened before to other Time Scholars. Some intelligent minds could break through the Obliterator's block in their mind and spend their lives devoted to catching us.
Lawrence followed my gaze and when he saw the gray suited men his jaw tightened and he suddenly grabbed my wrists so hard it hurt. His body was tensed and his friendly sparkle in his eyes were gone, "You're one of them! You knew all along, didn't you?" I pretended to act confused but panic built up inside me.
They must have followed me through history. I had only heard stories of some Time Scholars who had been captured and tortured for being tracked just because some high authorities from their time period thought they were suspicious. Before I had anytime to act on the thought, the gray suited men reacted immediately to Lawrence's panic, some stayed by the door, some started walking closer towards us, but all of them pulled black instruments from the inside of their jackets. It took a moment for me to realize they were guns. Once the crowd of smoking, drinking, and dancing people saw those weapons, the atmosphere changed dramatically. It was as if someone had sucked all the noise out of the room. Then someone screamed. The cheerful noises of enjoyment had changed to horror as people dove under the cherry wood tables, others fell to the floor.
A gray suited man shouted as he weaved through the dancing crowd. Lawrence was close to tears now and he shouted over the screaming people, "You were supposed to draw me into this club in the first place. It's your fault I'm here!" My mind stopped as I tried to understand. Why did he think he was the victim?
Acting on the boiling panic inside me, I jerked forwards slamming my head in Lawrence's nose. He stumbled in surprise, his face bloody and dazed. As I expected his grip loosened just enough for me to escape. I slipped to the side and fell into the massive crowd of people jam packing the back exit which was being guarded by more men in gray suits.
"Lawrence Rider!" One of the men said as he pointed the gun at the nineteen year old boy. I noticed an FBI badge clutched in the gray suited man's hand, "We were told you liked this spot by a reliable source. We only had to wait." Trembling, Lawrence rose both his hands. He looked shocked and utterly terrified.
At that moment the familiar dizzy feeling washed over me. The portal was truly opening. I knew now was the right time to use the Obliterator. Everyone was distracted. It just wasn't the distraction I thought it would be.
Another FBI agent who had been standing behind in the crowd, roughly grabbed ahold of Lawrence. The man with the gun continued speaking, "You are being arrested for manslaughter. You have the right to remain silent-"
I tuned out and focused on fiddling with the Obliterator disguised as a gold watch. Twisting the small knob on the side. My fingers shook and fumbled from the tension building up inside me. I flicked open the face of the watch. Instantly, a pulsing blue light expanded like an explosion around me. The blue light, like gas, spread across the room filtering through everyone's eyes and coming out of their nostrils. It lasted for only a minute but it was enough to freeze time in the room. After it had gone through everyone but me it all settled back into the golden watch, flipping shut.
Everyone was absolutely still, some caught in awkward positions. A woman was just about to fall to the ground, scrabbling like the rest of the crowd to get out the doors. The gray suited man that had been struggling with Lawrence was clicking handcuffs around his wrists. Lawrence's pale face was staring at the dark gun in front of him and a glass full of amber liquid that was stopped in Time was at the brink of shattering across the old wooden floor.
I smiled in satisfaction. None of them would remember the last hour at all. I knew I had already interfered enough with the thriving story of history. I was old enough to know whatever was happening was happening for a reason. It was interesting but I had been called to the Time portal. I hoped this last excursion wouldn't cause too much of a ripple.
I noticed a few people were starting to move again and with a sickening call back to reality, I felt another straining tug from the portal. Careful to touch no one, I slipped past them to the doors. The Time Stopped, Obliterated, gray suited FBI men didn't stop me when I unlocked the front door I had come through and quietly went out into the night.
I ran now. Everything would be for naught if I didn't make it to the portal. It was my time, I needed to make it or I might not have the chance again for another year. I felt the tingle of energy as if Time was welcoming me as I got closer to the bridge. To move faster, I stepped out of my black heels and sprinted, my bare feet slammed into the ground, lungs burning. I saw the rusty metal bridge around the corner of the dirt road. I came to the exact same place I had been before and clumsily went over the railing. The rushing river below me pounded out the rhythm of my heart. I searched for the portal, concentrating, breathing.
Maybe it was gone now. I couldn't help but realize it might be true. Not another year of running and Obliterating! Tears started to form, I was so tired. I was so old, even for a Time Scholar and since we committed to be trapped in time forever we all knew we had to, at one moment, realize the only way to rest was to jump without protection.
I closed my eyes and opened them again. I sighed in relief.
"Oh, there you are friend," I said aloud. I saw the familiar dark shadow of black in the night. It was a thin circle just below my bare feet. It was slightly horizontal so I would have to jump a few feet forward to get through it. I steadied my breathing. I took off my Obliterator, which was also used as a body shield in Time Travel. It had been a good companion for me and without it I would be torn through all Time itself. It was the only way to die. I had agreed to it so long ago when I had been curious, when I hadn't known. I felt the comforting hot breeze whispering from the rift and I released the metal bar and pushed myself forward. For one heart thudding moment, I fell through thin air. I finished my life by dying in Time like every Time Scholar before me or after. I am a Time Jumper.