One Life for Each of Us

by Stefan Zelentchuk

These are the extracts from a diary of one, Alexander Bokensberg. A man who went missing on Christmas Eve 2012, he appeared to vanish off the face of the earth. He was never found and the investigation is still on going. This is the only belonging we found at his estate, these are the last entries.

September 21st, 2012

As soon as I walked in I could feel the tension, I know that I'm very lucky to be alive now, for the past 20 years I've down nothing but spill my blood, shatter my bones and live the life of a rowdy blockhead. You see I was always brought up to believe that being yourself was the best possible way of leading a noble and respectable life, but now I realise that was the most fallacious advice I'd ever received. Oh and when I say brought up, I mean being flung from one foster family to the next, you see I never had any real parents, no biological ones anyway, they never wanted me from day one. I've had people who would take me in for a while. 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 now. You can't change these things, everything happens for a reason right? Or so they say, but who makes up these rules?

I've found lately it takes courage to grow up, and become who you really are. I'm on the straight and narrow now, no alcohol, no drugs and certainly no time for misleading and self consuming women to lead me astray from my work. I had been jobless for quite sometime, hitting that clichd midlife crisis, but I recently 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'd never believe in my wildest imagination that I'd be doing this, I don't think any of you would either, but that's just the way life is sometimes. Twists and turns that eventually put you in your place and where you are meant to be in the world. We are all here for a reason; I only learned that one recently.

An alarm bell is ringing, you'd think by the way everyone just shot up it was some kind of emergency, but it was just the signal for visiting time at the hospital my best friend was currently allocated in. I don't know anyone that enjoys going to the hospital, it's all smiles at first but when they leave, they just end up crying.

I approached the receptionist; it had felt like a lifetime since I had seen him. I leant toward her, speaking in a cautious tone, Brewster, David Brewster

She cast a glance at her list of patient names, then looked at me, then directly 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 Bokensberg

Not quite sure, 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 ward 8, where David is. Heading towards his room, I could feel the detestable stench of the cancer eating away at everyone; I am completely 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 rush in with excitement. David was lying there, almost lifeless; I stood there gawking at the man who was once the life and soul of the party. You see David has 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 can't tell you. He's brought me back from the edge of the darkness, and has acted selfless from beginning to end. Advancing towards his bed, I took a closer look and he appeared to be older than his time, how terminal diseases violates your body is only obvious to me now. He awakes 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 at 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 before I arrived today, he was ready to die, and that was it. David 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 bad luck we had to we meet in our later years; I just wish looking back I had a younger brother to grow up with, to share things with, 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 a sibling. He sipped at his stale water, and pressed on; I repeatedly asked my folks if they could bring me a baby brother for Christmas every year, however it was only till I grew up, that I realised my mother was diagnosed infertile after she'd given birth to me. I've never told you this before Alexander, you made me forget about it during our many years being each others sidekicks. He was on death's door and I realise it's something he's wanted for a very long time, to grow up with a younger brother.

He fell asleep at that instance, I didn't know if he'd ever wake up again. 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 getaway from the fact he is far too young to die by societies rules. 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 David, and don't look back; I'd rather remember him as he was before. I finally reach the exit, and vacate the hospital. The tension I first felt, was now gone. I know now what I have to 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. Albeiting that the cancer eating away at him won't disappear, it will still come with great ferocity, 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 fate, we die once, and once only.

Opening the boot 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 even my mobile phone. I throw the bag into the boot, 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 various colours mixed together. 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'd mistake this for a bomb straight away. You'd be phoning the police without hesitation, help please, there is a maniac in the car park with a rather large bomb, please stop him. Thankfully there was nobody about, which made my plan even more ideal to execute at once.

The might of what's in this briefcase holds way more prestige and capability of any bomb you or I will ever know. 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, September 21st, 2012, I'll be starting my new job and the only job I'll ever work again. 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? Well tonight all of that doesn't matter, I have an assignment to attend too, and tonight it's going down.

You're probably wondering how I obtained this Time Travel Machine. How it got into my 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 post one day; it was addressed to me only by 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've 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 you can't open your eyes or make sense of what's going on. Your mind is in one place, your 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 2012. 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 complete with haste.

32 years from now, I'll be walking from David'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 head, 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 short 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 inside the hospital, a dreamlike sense takes over. The place is completely different to what it was some few minutes ago, or many years in the future depending upon 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 wandering 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 use 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, I assume the mothers are asleep in their rooms, but we won't be waking them up anytime soon. This can be seen as a cruel act, but I have no choice. I scan each baby through a window, looking for one that seems extra special, but they all look the same, wrinkly and untouched. I enter the ward through the door, it's not locked. There is a woman watching late night TV in her office, I need to get pass her. I walk towards her office, mentally preparing myself to knock her out even though I've never raised a hand to anyone in my life. 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 pleased me. I walk up to 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 apologise in my head to the parents of this small child for what I've done, but I know deep down it will be well treated with David and his family. I calm myself down and start to breathe normal 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 in helping David, and returning the favours.

I walk towards the route I need to take, suddenly 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's daunting thinking back to the hospital now, 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 David's family's job. 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, but it's one thing to imagine, it's another to see it for yourself, talk about the surreal feeling of it all, even the meter which counted up the cost of the journey was unrecognisable. I travel for what seems the entire length of the country, the hospital David was stationed at was in Virginia, far, so very far from where he grew up. It's a very long journey but I feel no sense of fatigue, the adrenaline is still pumping through my veins.

I remember the street where David spent the majority of his childhood; we had visited it before 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, and 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 have no choice. The taxi driver is rather on the large side and he'll never catch me, I'll be surprised if he could get up from his seat, so that's exactly what I do, run. The taxi doesn't stick around for long; he throws a ton of rubbish including fast food wrappers and debris out his window in anger, and drives off into the night. Where I come from in the 21st century, I've had many dirty looks off drivers of cabs at the end of a heavy session on the drink. Maybe it's because of what I just did tonight in 1980, maybe one of the drivers is the driver who I just pulled a fast one on mere seconds ago, and he will recognise me many years later, it's a possibility. Or maybe it's just in their job criteria to give dirty looks, we'll never know.

Time moves on, I'm now at the outskirts of David's street now. Considerable amounts of panic 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 traveller, but who said time travel was fun? I face the facts, and tell myself I know David is in one of these houses right, a small 3 year old child, not aware of anything thats going on around him. It must be one of the houses in front of me I further convince myself. David 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 16. By now I was certain this was David's house, though it seems it's a naive option by me to drop the infant on a doorstep, I had a strange feeling of dj 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 David's parents hear the call. I run across the street with thunderous pace 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 recognise her, and I find this especially strange as I've met David'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, and he stops crying. After the counfoundment 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 David never did have a brother? Was that the way it was always meant to be? I'm finding time travel unpredictable here.I come out from behind the darkness, and bask in the street light, convincing myself I have to 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 21st 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 dj 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. Infact 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 2012, and be by David'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 David's dad standing there, he appears much younger and is wearing a football jacket. 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 realise 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 David'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 David 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 labelled 16. Above the letterbox are tiny letters glowing in the sun spelling out Bokensberg.' I look to 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. Going back to 2012 is the final step I must take now. Tonight I had a lesson in time travel, and realised 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 September 21st 2012 again. 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 David dying got in the way of that. I set out to help David 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 2012

David died yesterday, a few acquaintances but more 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 2013 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 David 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 Virginia. 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 me. 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, then that will be me finished with the future. Finally on the 15th of July 2012 I'll be delivering the completed notes 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.

Alexander Bokensberg.

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