The Grisly Ghosts of Gruesome Time – Chapter 12
The Great Substack Story Challenge
Happy THURSDAY, Fantasy Readers!
It’s my turn to contribute to The Great Substack Story Challenge, a round-robin story written by 13 fiction writers. If you haven’t read the story yet, just click the link below to go to the table of contents. Enjoy!
“Seriously?” Joey scoffed. “Star Wars?”
Anton shrugged. “I wasn’t sure if you’d remember me with all this time hopping.” The old professor withdrew the same ballpoint pen Joey remembered from his college days.
Wait — I remember?
It was like putting on a pair of glasses for the first time after discovering your vision is 20/100. He turned back to Crystal, seeing her for the first time in—well he didn’t really know how long it was anymore.
“Chrissy.” It wasn’t a question, but still, she nodded. Tears filled her eyes as she threw her arms around Joey. He waited until the sobbing subsided before stepping back, but he couldn’t let go of her hands—not again.
“Are you alive? Are we—” Feeling as if his legs were about to give out, Joey took a seat at the bar. Chrissy and Anton followed, sitting on either side of him.
Joey flipped to the first page of the manuscript that was still lying before him. He realized that in all his hurry to try to put all the pieces of the story together, he never stopped to look at the dedication.
I will never forget my first love lost, nor the one who stood by me as I searched...til the end of time.
Joey held his hand over the words for a moment, before carefully closing the book. He reached into his pocket and removed the time disc. Anton revealed an identical disc. “It’s the original.” His former professor, mentor, and father figure said seriously.
Joey placed his palm over the disc and closed his eyes, knowing very well what would happen next. He felt the flying sensation once again, but this time, he wasn’t scared of where he’d end up. Remembering what Crystal-Chrissy said about the parts of him out there in the multiverse. He tried to relax and let those pieces of himself come back home.
The movie that was his former life began to play inside his head.
First, the party he attended with Chrissy and her friends during senior year. Then, the morning he woke up and realized his fiancé was gone. The police questioning him, accusing him of something unspeakable.
Joey wished he could skip over those parts, but he understood now that this is what was necessary to become whole again.
Next, the search around campus. There were weeks of news coverage with no real results. Joey isolated himself from the world. And finally the funeral without a body…
Using all his strength to control his breathing, Joey continued to watch.
The distraught Joey had isolated himself from most of the world, except Professor Deckard. He saw himself and the professor in the lab, working tirelessly on the first time discs.
“We’ll find her,” the younger version of Anton said. “We will save Chrissy.”
“I know,” Joey replied, no clue what he was getting himself and Anton into. The two men stood side by side, each staring at their respective disc. “I’m ready.” As soon as their fingers hit the smooth surface, it was over, or perhaps, it was just beginning.
The last time Joey saw Anton Deckard they were embarking on their mission to travel back in time and save Chrissy, but of course, something had gone terribly wrong. They were immediately separated in the time-space continuum. Joey emerged from his time travel broken, defeated. That’s when he turned to the whiskey.
Now, opening his eyes, Joey realized what must have happened. “I didn’t make it to the past,” Joey whispered. “I went to the future. I jumped to the future where I refused to accept that Chrissy wouldn’t return.”
Anton and Chrissy didn’t say a word, but Joey knew he had to continue. “But how did you find her? How long have you been stuck her on the edge of time?”
Chrissy responded carefully. “That’s the thing, Joey…we’re not stuck.” She tried to continue but broke into a cry.
“You’re stuck,” Anton said. “Until you come to terms with what happened,” he added.
“What do you mean?” Now Joey felt the tears forming behind his eyes.
Neither Anton nor Chrissy replied, and Joey felt his breathing get heavier than when he was watching his past.
Hand trembling, Joey picked up the ballpoint pen that was left next to the manuscript on the bar. “Can’t I just write the ending that I want?” He pleaded with no one in particular. Then he dropped the pen and spun to face Chrissy, fists clenched and eyes on fire.
“I thought you said I had a choice! I thought you said that we were going to work on the end of the story together?” The rage consumed him, until Chrissy squeezed his hand.
“You do have a choice,” she said calmly. “We are writing the ending together.”
“No one said the choices were good,” Anton chimed in.
Joey glared at his old physics professor, but then his gaze softened. He wanted to badly to be angry at everyone for what happened, but that’s exactly how he got himself to this point. By fighting so hard against reality, Joey hasn’t been living at all.
The time travel, the Illuminati, Sam, John, Maureen…it’s a defense mechanism. He couldn’t see it before, or maybe he could but he just didn’t want to.
But he can’t ignore the truth any longer.
“Can you at least tell me what happened?” He stared first at Chrissy, then Anton. “If I’m going to write the end of this story, I need to know the beginning.” Joey sobbed. “It’s always been about the beginning.”
“I don’t really think that knowing will make it better, Joey,” Chrissy asserted. “It won’t change anything.”
Joey sobbed loudly, but Anton interrupted.
“But we agree with you Joey,” he said.
Chrissy gulped, and Joey realized she was spinning her engagement ring around her finger—the ring he gave her right before she went missing. “Yes,” she said. “Even if this isn’t a better ending, you deserve to know the truth.”
[To be continued (and concluded) next Thursday on Adventure Snack]
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Text (c) 2022 by Meagan Voulo.
Header image by Erica Drayton.