Out of the darkest sky he had ever known, a soft rain began to fall. It slowly trickled down his face, mixing blood and tears, before dropping to the ground where it collected in obsidian pools around her once glowing hair. His eyes had not left her, not even to blink, in the three long hours since the accident and as the rain composed mysterious hymns on the underside of the mangled red muscle car, he somehow knew he was attending a funeral for his own bleeding soul.
“Why?!?!” he screamed, sobbing once again.
Her eyes were rolled back in her head and her mouth hung open in defeat. She gave no response. He wept uncontrollably for a long time before it became a whimper… and then, silence again. He reached over with his broken hand and pulled pieces of shattered glass from her soft, dead hair and whispered, “I was going to ask you to marry me tonight.”
Eugene Sullivan’s eyes snapped open in terror. His sweat drenched body rocketed from the bed and Eugene found himself in the same position he had been in every morning for the past fifty years… On his knees, on the floor, weeping. He closed his eyes and slowed his breathing…collecting himself. Eugene stood up slowly, walked achingly to the bathroom and splashed handful after handful of cold water on his face. He turned off the faucet and stared deeply into the bloodshot eyes of the old man in the mirror, his hands gripping tightly the edges of the cool porcelain sink.
Never again, He thought. Never again will I re-live that horrible moment in time. A strange smile crept across his face.
“Today is the day,” he said aloud. “Yes, today is certainly the day.”
Eugene was suddenly filled with an energy he had not felt in half a century. He threw his robe across his shoulders as he bounded down the hallway to the kitchen. Humming joyously to himself, he began to prepare the largest and most delectable breakfast of his life.
After he had finished his sunrise feast, he called into work.
“I’m sorry Mr. Adams, I won’t be coming into work today.”
“But Eugene!” Mr. Adams exclaimed, “You haven’t missed a day of work in your twenty years of working here! Are you ill? Are you alright?”
“Sir,” Eugene replied, “I am not ill. I’m ALIVE! Today I will finally make things right with the universe!”
And with that, Eugene Sullivan hung up the phone and, on fragile bones, danced wildly in his living room, throwing his hands up in the air in celebration.
What a strange man, thought Mr. Adams as the telephone line went dead.
* * *
The time for celebration was over. Eugene stood before an old bookshelf in his basement in a somber, meditative state. He reflected on the past fifty years of his life, all leading to this very moment.
This is it! He thought. I’m really going to do this. Am I really going to do this? Yes. I’m really going to do this!
With all the withered muscle left in his body, he slid the bookshelf to the side, revealing a hidden staircase. Down he carefully walked. Three stories below, he came to a metal door with a padlock on it. He fished his bony fingers around his pocket until he found the key and then withdrew it. He turned the key over in his hands a few times before stuffing it into the lock and pulling the door open wide. Another dark staircase. He descended lower into the earth and this time came to a metal door locked with an electronic keypad. He punched in her birthdate and the door slid open. He stepped inside. Before him was his life’s work. His secret. His gift to her. He placed his hand on the time machine, took a deep breath, and cried one last time.
* * *
Eugene Sullivan was a strong, good looking young man of twenty-seven years. He had dark well-groomed hair, a sharp angular face and emerald eyes that could tear through diamonds. He had just graduated from Harvard with a bachelor’s degree in engineering and a master’s degree in theoretical physics. He felt brilliant…was brilliant… and the entire world was at his fingertips. Every scientific entity in the world wanted him to work for them and they were all clambering at his front door with gifts and glitter to try and win him over as their own. But Eugene was in love and he wouldn’t, couldn’t, move forward with his career and life until he had secured her heart for eternity.
Tonight, Eugene was going to ask for her hand and he was beyond excited. He skipped and danced about as his quick and confident hands removed the stubble from his face. He crooned to unheard music in the shower, all songs of her. He laughed allowed and daydreamed of her as he tied his silly, but symbolic bowtie. He was, ecstatic. Eugene planned to drive her down the coastal Highway 1 to the small bay where they fell in love and then he would ask her. He waltzed his way to the garage and ran his fingers gently and lovingly across the hood of his red ‘67 Challenger. He slid behind the wheel, turned the key, and with a thunderous sound, the engine caught fire and roared to life.
* * *
Lilliana McKenna was a beautiful woman. Her gray-blue cobalt eyes pierced through any darkness they came across and her golden hair glowed brilliantly, even in the absence of light. She had high cheekbones that framed soft lips and her thin eyebrows moved with her intellect. Tonight, she wore a sleek dark blue dress that hugged her slender body in a way that made her appear almost as royalty.
My queen… thought Eugene as he saw her appear in the doorway of her home. She swayed as she walked down the steps to his car and he felt drunken in the soft orbital movement of her hips. She opened the door to the Challenger and got in.
“Good evening Mr. Sullivan.” She said with a playful smile.
“Good evening Ms. McKenna.” He returned with a wink and just as playful a smile.
“You look amazing!” He said.
“Not so bad yourself Eugene.” She winked back. “So, what is this special surprise you say is in store for me tonight?”
“You’ll just have to wait and see my love!”
And as Eugene was about to shift into reverse to back out of the driveway, he felt a cold steel barrel press to his temple through his open window.
“Get out.” A voice said.
Lilliana shrieked in horror.
“Do what he says Lili.”
She followed suit.
Eugene turned to face the gunman. Emerald eyes pierced through his own emerald eyes and Eugene thought for sure that this old man with a gun was someone he knew deeply…though he couldn’t place it.
“Give me the keys.” Said the gunman.
Eugene obeyed. The gunman said nothing more. He pressed a small metal object into Eugene’s right hand, looked deeply at him and drove off into the night with his beloved red Challenger.
* * *
Old Eugene felt alive! He laughed victoriously as his old wrinkled hands gripped the steering wheel as tightly as the tires gripped the sharp Highway 1 curves. He thought about his younger self he had just encountered. He thought about the love of his life… and as he approached mile marker eighty-seven, he thought of the fabric of existence that he had just altered. Eugene Sullivan felt finally at peace as he swiftly took the curves in the blackness of that night. He floored the gas pedal around a curve he knew he couldn’t make, and with a sound of thunder, the engine roared and the car rolled over a cliff and tumbled to a devastating stop. As his lungs collapsed, he turned his face to the rain and felt it wash over him…cleansing him. As he took his last breath, he smiled his last smile and let the world around him fade into darkness.
* * *
Eugene Sullivan and Lilliana McKenna sat on the front porch swing together and rocked slowly backwards and forwards. The police had just left after taking the report and were now dutifully on the hunt for his car thief.
“What a strange night,” Said Lilliana, “They’ll find your car though Gene, don’t worry.”
Eugene opened his clenched hand and looked down at the diamond ring the old man had placed there. It was identical to the one he had in his jacket pocket for Lilliana just… tarnished and much older looking.
“What is that?!” asked Lilliana.
He turned his emerald eyes to her cobalt blues and looked deep into her soul.
“Will you marry me Lili?” “Of course, Gene!”
She threw her arms around him. “I thought you’d never ask!”