The space he occupies is narrow, barely wider than his shoulders and stretches before him as far as he can see. Intuitively he understands this space, this thread, belongs exclusively to him, but had he been able to look from above, he would see the spaces of others, parallel and intersecting his own, in an infinite grid.
His space stretches between a series of glass doors, each of unremarkable width but as high as he can see. The door closest has gold numbers coruscating, which he recognizes as time. THE time immediately preceding the decision which led him here. He could choose this door, the door that would allow him a different outcome to his final decision, the decision to avoid the child in the road that led to his fatal accident. By entering this door, he could go back, avoid his accident, and trade the child’s life for his own, but he has no compunction over this decision. He walks past, and the door vanishes.
The next door has a time earlier than the one he had just passed, and he realizes that the doors are linear, representing the timeline of his existence, in reverse order. Looking through the glass, he recognizes the scene from earlier in the day. Stopped at a traffic light, staring at the road signs, he remembers considering, mountains or beach?
He continues past several doors, not pausing to consider the implication. His pace quickens, traveling back one day, one week, one month. At six months, he pauses, peering through the glass. His mother in the hospice bed, his siblings beside her, their shared grief evident, and only he, her youngest, is absent. He lingers, knowing this was not The One, but reluctant to continue. His steps, his heart are heavy as he turns away and the door disappears. “Goodbye,” he whispers.
He moves in the space between, back another two years, until he is before the door where she last appeared. She is in her car, a UHaul hitched to it, and he is at her window, lockjawed. This could be The One. If he stops her from going, she doesn’t become depressed, she doesn’t turn to drugs, she doesn’t…kill herself. He reaches for the handle, but stops as his fingers brush it. His eyes fill with tears and his breathing becomes labored, the weight of that moment, and this decision, crushing him. His hand drops.
Another ten years, he pauses again at their wedding day, but this is not The One. He continues through the space between the doors, each step bringing him closer to the realization that he needs to return to—here. The day they met. This time would be different. He would make each day special for her, as she had for him. This time their love would be forever. He would find the words and perform the deeds that would ensure she understood that for him, she was everything, she was The One.
Operations Manager by day and daydreamer by nature, Tom co-authored the anthology, “Nine Lives,” and is the winner of The Sunlight Press 2017 Spring fiction contest. When not reading or staring at the Ohio River, Tom works on his writing. Learn more at www.tomgumbertauthor.com or on Twitter @TomGumbert