A sunny day in the middle of a park. There are people walking around, couples pushing strollers, laughter and talking blending together. Everyone is enjoying the bright summer day. While one man sits on a park bench looking all around. He sticks out if people would stop to actually take notice. Sitting back he stares out through the darkened lenses of his shades. He is the only 20 year old in the park sitting around not enjoying the sunshine, the park, the day. A bunch of people his age sit right in front of him. Flirting with each other, laughing, talking and doing all the usual things people their age do. But they don’t have the same weight on their shoulders he does. One of the women in the group looks across to the bench. She smiles at him and slowly his lips curl into a smile. He takes off his sunglasses and their eyes meet. There is a moment that feels so familiar. He has seen those beautiful green eyes before. Every time he does he immediately drowns in them and becomes helpless. He whispers under his breath, half questioning himself “Vanessa…?”. At the same time the woman studies his deep brown eyes ignoring the conversations around her. “Vanessa” they shout before tapping her shoulder a couple of times while they wait for her answer. She is completely oblivious to the question and as she turns away to be filled in. He studies her from his spot. There is something different about her; there always is. Every lifetime there is always something different. Her hair, her age, but no matter what it is they always find each other. He might think it’s destiny if he didn’t know that destiny was just an illusion. It was one of the revelations that he learned after living many lifetimes. Perhaps he always sought her out unconsciously. A love that he held on to each time.
In the few moments that it took her to be filled in on the conversation. She turned back to face an empty bench. Sitting there he thought about her smiling. All different hers, but always still her. Then his smile slowly faded and he remembered the last time they were together. She looked different then, older and a redhead instead of blonde. It was pouring that night, a thunderstorm. As they sat on the couch snuggled up together. The candle light bathed the room in a warm glow. He pulled the wool blanket up to their necks and just stared at her face. She stared back talking and laughing. He could almost get lost in how much he loved her. The sound of her voice was like a melody that he could listen to all day. Her smile was intoxicating and as she spoke he cradled her face with his hands. Slowly leaning in he kissed her lips mid sentence. It was a soft, tender, kiss and as he pulled back. She just stared back the sentence lost to the moment. There was a flash of lightning and the door of the cabin they were staying in burst open as the thunder rumbled. A shadowy figure stood in the doorway for a second. Then the next thing he knew there was a gun pointed at him. The figure stepped forward from the shadow of the doorway. Her long, fire red hair the only thing he remembered before he vanished into the time stream. As hard as he tried he couldn’t remember her face. It was half illuminated by the dim light cast from the flickering candles. But in his mind it was too blurry to make out. He had lived many lifetimes and never experienced something like that before. It couldn’t have been a coincidence. Which instantly brought a question to his mind, “was there some sort of time protecting authority?” there always was in the movies; Time Cop, Deja Vu, Looper. Why wouldn’t he think it would be a real thing. He knew why, because of his arrogant belief that he was the first to figure out time travel. Now Vanessa had just paid for his arrogance. The irony was that he wanted to go back in time to that moment. But that wasn’t how time travel worked. He didn’t know what happened to her and that was the worst feeling in the world. A part of him died every time he played the memory over in his head. He had run out on her like a coward. He left her, the only woman he ever loved. Left her to die because his life was threatened. He was a coward and she deserved better. That was the day he decided never to put her in danger again. Why he continued to torture himself by seeing her he didn’t know. The love, the joy of seeing her only ever lasting for a brief moment before the pain and regret made him walk away.
He walked along the park trail deep in his thoughts and memories. He had figured out so much about time travel. He developed rules and made discoveries. He revelled in it, in his idea that he was the first. Now he laughed at himself, at his ignorance and arrogance. He thought about her, pictured her sitting on the blanket with her friends. Her head darting back and forth as she scanned all the faces in the park searching for his. He knew she felt the connection each time just like he did. His pace slowed until he stopped. He stood in a shaded area the trees over hanging the path while rays of sunshine filtered through. The gentle breeze blowing the fallen leaves on the ground carrying them a short distance before they rested again. He could go back and find her, find Vanessa. They could live lifetimes together and this time he would protect her. He would show her how to time travel. Teach her the rules and intracacies. He would finally have a companion on his biggest adventure. He turned to head back to the area of the park where hr saw her last. As he turned standing less than an inch from his face was the barrel of a gun. There she was again her outstretched hand holding the gun in front of him. The white hooded robe was as out of place in this time as he was. Her blood red hair reaching out beneath the hood and laying on her chest. The white of the robe with it’s absence of color amplifying the red. He needed to leave this timeline he would find Vanessa in the next one. But to his surprise he couldn’t. The woman in front of him must be just as capable at controlling the flow of time. The blast of the gun slowed and pulsed angrily. As he watched it struggling to get to him. Time was slowing down and speeding up like two opposing forces playing a tug-of-war. She was countering his control to slow time. He ducked under the gun and dove for the wooded area off to the left. The blast of the gun finally echoed behind him mixing with the sound of the splintering wood. Leaving behind a huge gaping hole in the tree that stood in front of the woman. After running and darting between trees he crouched in a pile of dead leaves using it for cover. His mind was racing with a million thoughts and just as many questions. The sunlight quickly disappeared while the shadows and quiet enveloped the park. It was much too quick for the sun to have gone down. He figured she must want to hunt him in the dark. When there was no one around to see what happened. A hand slowly reached below his shirt. The darkness made him feel concealed but also alone. The moonlight filtering through the trees made an eerie scene. It mixed with the darkness of the woods and weird noises of the night. Did he dare try to time shift again? He wasn’t sure why it didn’t work earlier but he figured the hooded stranger hunting him must have countered his frequency. A shaky finger found the time control on his belt. As he slowly turned the knob he felt his body start to vibrate along with the warm muzzle of a gun at the back of his head.
When he opened his eyes he heard a familiar voice call, “Ryder” and he answered back “yes mother I’m coming”. He smiled, happy to be alive and somewhere familiar. He was home and ten years old running to his mommy. It was dinner time and Ryder sat in his usual spot at the table. It was like an old familiar routine that he reacted to without thinking. Sandra looked over at him and smiled “chicken or soup tonight Ry?”, although she already knew what the answer was going to be. He smiled back, paused as if thinking, “hmmmm soup please” he grinned. The kitchen was small and dimly lit. There was a window behind the kitchen sink with curtains tied on each side. The window was usually open to let in light and the occasional breeze. A gas stove was to the right of the kitchen counter and only the two front burners worked. Mom was usually in the kitchen if you couldn’t find her. Ryder took a deep breath inhaling the smells and closing his eyes. Sandra spooned out the carrot soup into a bowl and set it down in front of Ryder. “How was school today?” Ryder had no idea how to answer the question. Usually time travellers don’t remember their shifts. It was the first thing he learned or deduced after his first time shift. He had no idea about the time he shifted from for almost a week. Slowly it all started coming back to him in bits and pieces. It took almost another two weeks before he remembered everything. Ryder noticed Sandra tapping her foot on the tile floor and looked up, “It was fine but so boring. Do I have to go to school mom? It’s holding me back”. Sandra laughed out loud at his question, “you know normally when a 10 year old asks not to go to school. Well it’s usually because they don’t want to do the work. But you are different Ry, they probably are holding you back” she laughed again and sat down beside him without answering the question. Ryder knew she never would anyway. It was one of the perks of time travel or as he termed it “time shifting”. Which he thought was more appropriate. This timeline was very similar to his “origin” or his first. After living so many different lifetimes time was such a flexible concept to him that Ryder didn’t really consider any his home.
“Ryder”, the single mention of his name broke his thoughts. She only called him by his full name at two times. When he was being scolded or when she needed him. Otherwise it was always Ry. He looked up “You haven’t even touched your soup”, which was very unlike him. Ryder smiled “I’m sorry mom got a lot on my mind”, if this timeline was anything like he expected that wouldn’t sound weird coming from him. Sandra looked a little worried her brows furrowing as she concentrated on him. Ryder smiled back and started to shovel the carrot soup into his mouth. Sandra’s expression eased but he could tell there was still something on her mind. It had been quite a few lifetimes since he had seen his mother at this age. Her dark, curly, hair wirey and tied back with her favorite orange bandana. Lightly toned skin darker from spending time outside washing clothes. Her dark brown eyes filled with love, kindness and tenderness. She always saw only the best in everyone she met. Sandra opened her mouth for a second but then as if unsure of what to say she didn’t say anything. It was a very rare thing because his mom always knew exactly what to say. Her demeanor and dress betrayed her educational background. His mother was a brilliant scientist at the top of her field before she met his dad. When she got pregnant she decided to stay home instead of going back to work. This was what happened in his original timeline and probably would in this one as well. She stared at him and finally found the words she for what she wanted to say “Ry how would you feel about changing schools?”, he perked up immediately in his chair. The excitement of reliving this moment again setting the synapses in his brain on fire. He was in the middle of a spoonful of soup. The spoon hung in the air as he waited for his mom’s next sentence. She continued “Your dad and I have been thinking you might enjoy the….