Nine Lives

I’ve decided to do this prompt:

“A random phone call from the future.”

Found it here.

Hope you enjoy.


Tom threw his backpack on his bed and sat down on his computer chair. He owned a desk computer, preferring that over laptops. He turned it on and leaned back in his chair as he waited for it to fully turn on. He rubbed the back of his neck. He picked up his phone and quickly typed a text:

I’m home. Still at work?

He pressed ‘send’ and waited for a reply. Almost instantly, a reply came.

Yes, hon. Will be late as I have to fill in for a nurse. Cook dinner?

Yep. Have to do some extra things for work, then will do.

You’re the best 🙂

Putting his phone down, he went on Google and clicked on his bank account. As he waited for it to load up, his phone suddenly vibrated. Glancing down at his phone, he saw it was his girlfriend calling.

He accepted the call and put it to his ear. “Love, what’s up?”

A scream filled his ears.

His palms became sweaty and his vision blurred. “Love? Love?! What’s wrong?” Oh nonononono!!!

“Your girlfriend is being questioned by the CIA. They are coming after you. You must leave now.”

What? “How is she with the CIA? I just talked with her!”

The voice was haggard and urgent. He could tell it was a guy. “Sixty seconds, Tom. The CIA will be there in sixty seconds. Run. NOW!!”

“No! No, I’m not. Who are you? What’s happening with Scarlett?”

“Fifty seconds. Scarlett will die now unless you leave,” the guy said firmly. “Forty-five seconds.”

Beep! Beep! Beep!

“Hello? Hello!?”

The connection was terminated.

Tom grabbed his backpack and ran into the kitchen. Please let her live, he silently prayed. PLEASE! He yanked open the fridge.

Thirty seconds.

He grabbed a bottle of water.

His phone beeped. A message.

He looked at his screen.

CIA ASSASSINS ARE COMING EARLY. LEAVE THE FRIDGE AND GO!!!

How did he know? Tom looked around, then out the window. There was nothing. His phone beeped again.

NOW!!!

He shoved the bottle in his backpack and bolted to the front door.

Tyres screeched outside. Car doors slammed. He peeked out a window, slipping on the backpack. People dressed in black were running up to his house.

Carrying guns.

He saw one focus on the window he was looking out of and Tom immediately turned and ran away.

Glass exploded.

Pain exploded in his foot.

The bullet must have hit it.

He fell to the floor.

He heard pounding on the front door.

Pushing himself to his feet, he saw his wooden front door beginning to splinter. He tried to run, but his foot felt like it was on fire. He quickly limped through the house to the back door just as he heard the front door break open.

“Spread out! Find him!” A sharp female voice demanded.

Tom opened the back door and limped towards the garage. His shoes squelched as blood soaked through them. I need to stop the flow. Thankfully, he knew what to do as Scarlett was a nurse. Dread dropped heavily like a stone in his stomach and a wave of nausea spread over him as he thought about his girlfriend.

“Where is he!?”

He shut and bolted the back door to the garage and slammed his fist on a button on the garage wall and the garage door began to slowly slid up. Fumbled with his keys, Tom finally slid them into the car door. Opening it, he collapsed inside and shut the door. He put the keys in the ignition and waited.

He heard the back door burst open and the others running around out the back. It would take them a few seconds – a minute tops – to figure out that he was in the garage. And the shut and bolted back entrance to the garage would only buy him a few extra seconds.

Not counting the ones that were probably out the front.

Pounding.

Curses.

On the back entrance.

Oh, shit!

And the garage door wasn’t high enough.

Come on…

More pounding.

Two pairs of legs stood infront of the rising door. He ducked down. He heard the back entrance splinter and then silence. “Where is he? Is he in here?” he heard a voice asked.

Footsteps drew closer to the car.

Slow. Cautious.

His phone’s screen lit up.

FLOOR IT!

He turned on the ignition and his engine roared to life. He sat up as bullets were fired on his car. He slammed his good foot on the accelerator and shot out of the garage and onto the street.

A lucky bullet shattered his windshield.

Jerking to the left, he zoomed down the street. Turned right. Then left. He looked into his rear view mirror.

Three cars were in pursuit.

Brring! Brring!

“Hello?”

“Head for the docks. Eliminate all disadvantages. Board the third ship from the left.”

“No! No way! What is this shit? Who are you!?” he shouted.

A sigh rattled down the phone line. “I know. I understand. I do. But now’s not the time. You don’t need to worry. You have nine lives. Just please-“

“Not until you tell me who you are,” Tom demanded. He’s mad! How could I have nine lives? What kind of sick game is this? Why’s the CIA after me and what do they want from my girlfriend?

“Someone who doesn’t want someone else to experience the same fate.”

“Wh-what does that mean? Hello?” Hung up again. Putting his phone on the seat beside him, Tom glanced into the rear view mirrors.

The cars were gaining.

And up ahead was rush hour.

Eliminate all disadvantages…

He couldn’t kill. Not intentionally.

He just couldn’t.

Eliminate all disadvantages…

Maybe I can just lose them, Tom thought as he swerved around the corner, and joined all the huge traffic. In his rear view mirrors, he saw one of the cars three cars behind him. He couldn’t see the other two.

As he ducked and weaved through the traffic, he kept an eye on the car behind him. It edged around the cars between them and drew up alongside him.

He looked out of his window and stared into the red eyes of…a robot?

The robot jerked towards him and slammed into the side of Tom’s car, ramming him into the concrete traffic barrier. Sparks flew and Tom struggled to push away. His car jerked as it was squished between the barrier and the attacking car.

Suddenly the attacking shot forward, a Ute ramming into it from behind. Tom got back on the road and saw the Ute push the car off the road. The car flipped and landed on it’s roof. The Ute flipped over, but Tom suspected that was done so that it wouldn’t look like it had deliberately rammed the car off the road.

Seeing another road branching off that led to the docks, Tom drove onto it, his car going slower due to the recent bashing.

Something big and dark shot out infront of him.

His car crashed into it.

Something slammed into him from behind, pinning him between them. He tried to drive away, but couldn’t.

Brring! Brring!

“Yes?” he yelled.

“Jump out of the sunroof!” It was the same voice as before.

Stuffing his phone in his pocket, he unbuckled and climbed over the seats, trying not to cry out in pain. He suddenly felt weak. I need to stop the flow of blood. I need…

He collapsed on the back seat.

Everything swirled.

Became darker.

There were two bright explosions behind and infront of his car.

The passenger door in his car was jerked open.

Everything faded away.

***

He smelt seawater.

Kept going up and down.

His eyes jerked open.

A lantern hanging on the roof swayed to the sides as his room bobbed up, then fell down.

Tom looked down and saw he was lying in a cot. Pulling the thin blanket off of himself, he looked down and saw his foot was bandaged and his legs were strapped to the cot.

Hell.

He looked around. His cot was in a corner. There was a portal, but a cover was over it. The walls were grey and clean. There was a door up ahead. Where that lead, he had no way of knowing.

There was nothing else in this room.

Except for two IV lines that were piercing his arms.

What happened?

Suddenly everything came rushing back – along with the deep twisting of terror in his gut.

Scarlett…

Tears filled his eyes.

I’m sorry.

The door opened. Tom’s head shot up and his eyes angrily locked onto the man in a white coat that entered the room, holding a clipboard. “Ah, you’re awake,” the man remarked, oblivious to Tom’s anger. Or deliberately ignoring it.

Tom glowered.

“And how do you feel, Tom?”

“Feel? Feel?! How do you expect me to feel with my girlfriend kidnapped, a mysterious psycho talking to me on the phone, CIA assassins trying to kill me AND waking up to find myself strapped to this bed like a prisoner!? What do you want from me? What have you done to Scarlett?!”

The man merely raised an eyebrow and scribbled something down on his clipboard. “We don’t blame you for being mentally dishinged. We didn’t kidnap your girlfriend,” he corrected him.

“Mentally dishinged? I’m not ‘dishinged’. I’m angry. What have you done with Scarlett?”

“I repeat, we haven’t done anything to your girlfriend. We didn’t kidnap her. We don’t have her. We are not the CIA.”

“Then who the hell are you?”

“I believe I’m the better one to answer that.”

Tom turned to the door and saw the speaker was…

WHAT!?

It was him!

An older and more haggard version with a beard and a scar running from the bottom of his right eye to the top of his top lip, but it was him!!!

“W-what’s going on here? Why am I looking at an older version of myself?” Tom demanded, looking between the doctor and…himself.

His other self – Tom shivered at the thought – came over and stood at the end of Tom’s cot.

Tom swallowed.

Then he realised something.

“You! It was you talking to me on the phone!” he burst out. He recognized the voice now – now that he wasn’t listening to threats to Scarlett or running for his life.

Tom #2 nodded. “Yep.” He then turned to the doctor. “Good job at repairing his foot.”

“Thank you,” the doctor replied.

“Why am I tied to this bed?”

“To prevent you running away. We can’t afford that.”

“I-I don’t understand. What’s going on? How could I call myself?” Tom demanded.

Tom #2 turned again to the doctor. “You may leave us now,” he ordered. The doctor nodded and left the room, shutting the door behind him. Tom #2 turned back to Tom. “You must understand something first. While I am an older version of you, I am not you. We are two separate persons.”

Huh?

Sensing Tom’s confusion, Tom #2 elaborated. “We are from two separate realities.”

What? He must be on drugs. Tom #2 continued, oblivious to Tom’s thoughts. “There are nine realities – or alternate timelines, if you will. They really do exist,” he added when Tom scoffed, “I’m an older you from one of the timelines while you are a younger me from different timeline altogether. Our memories and experiences are practically the same, except for some minor discrepancies. One of our common experiences is what has just been happened to you.”

Tom was surprised at how coldly professional he sounded when he spoke. But when he said the last sentence, the professional barrier broke and his voice softened, cracked. None of this is true. It’s all just a bad dream.

“I thought the same thing,” Tom #2 suddenly said. “I wouldn’t believe it.”

“What happened with Scarlett?” Tom chocked out, emotions and fear making his voice crack. Wide.

“She really was kidnapped by the CIA. She – and you – have both died.”

Oh no. Not Scarlett

“You are both dead in one timeline. You are now in another timeline. Each time you die, you go to the other timeline until there is none left. Scarlett is alive as we extracted her from the other timeline just before she was meant to have died and is now in hypersleep and will only awaken when you agree.”

“Agree to what?”

“Six years ago, this machine was invented by some American scientists. It went rogue. The CIA went after it, trying to shut it down. They failed. Their intelligence officers discovered that the name that signed and approved the designs and the turning on of the machine was our name. That’s why they sent the CIA assassins after you.”

“That’s why you said what you did when I asked who you were in car,” Tom realised.

Tom #2 nodded. “They succeeded in my timeline. They would have succeeded in yours if I hadn’t called you.”

“So, why are you older and I’m younger?”

“Because after I was killed, and I entered another, I was picked up by this group, who live outside of time, and have been working with them for years, which is a loose and relative term where I live.”

“What do you mean? If you’re outside of time, why have you aged?”

“You’ll understand. In time. Your girlfriend was kidnapped by the CIA as they believed that she was involved and she was close to you. She was killed through the torture process. We went back and, as I said, I extracted her. You had died just as we reached you. But, thankfully, you arrived in another timeline, so we were able to extract you there.”

“So, where am I?” Tom demanded.

“On a ship in the other timeline. We have dealt with the rogue machine and will leave for the groups place and your girlfriend will be awaken from hypersleep only when you agree,” Tom #2 replied.

“Again, agree to what?” Tom repeated.

Tom #2 sighed and for the first time, Tom saw the look of fear on his face. He watched as his other self looked down at his feet, looking like he was struggling with what he had to tell Tom. He finally met Tom’s questioning gaze and Tom saw him push the terror away from his face. “I’m dying,” he answered, his voice shaky and filled with open chasms. “I have leukemia.” Oh no. “I need to find a replacement. I need you – or, well, me – to take over from…me.”

“Okay, I agree,” Tom said, only because of Scarlett. “What am I doing?”

Tom #2 stood up straighter. “You are now a Guardian of time.”


Hope that all made sense. This is a prelude to a future Azren Chronicles novel, BTW, and the Guardian of time thing will be more fully explained in that novel. Have a great day/night!

[Please note that I am still writing and working on Winter Kill, but when I saw this prompt, this story immediately came into mind, so I wrote it].

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