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Authors: James L. Rubart

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BOOK: The Five Times I Met Myself
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He pulled the doors open and stepped onto the rain-soaked deck. The coolness of the water pelting him didn’t snap him out of his trance-like state, but deepened it. Brock slogged over to the red brick push-of-a-button fire pit they’d put in five years ago and dropped into one of the seven plush patio chairs that ringed the pit. The water on the chair instantly soaked his back, but Brock barely noticed. He closed his eyes, tilted his head back so the rain would fall directly on his face, and asked God a question he doubted would be answered.

“Why?”

He sat there for minutes, or it might have been an hour. He didn’t know, didn’t care.

The squeak of the doors opening filled the air.

“Brock?”

Brock didn’t open his eyes. Didn’t turn. Didn’t answer.

“Brock?” Karissa asked again. “Have you lost your mind?”

Again, he didn’t answer. He should have, but all that escaped his lips was a six-second sigh. The doors shut and he opened his eyes and glanced at them. Good. She’d gone back inside. Would leave him be, give him the time to do whatever it was he had to do. If only he knew what it was.

But half a minute later the doors squeaked again and he heard the rapid-fire patter of rain against Karissa’s umbrella. He opened his eyes and listened to her soft footsteps across their cedar deck, almost drowned out by the sound of the rain. When she reached him, he motioned toward the chair across from him. She didn’t speak. Just stared at him with a mixture of concern and worry.

“Care to join me?” Brock sat up a bit and motioned again to the chair next to him.

“What are you doing out here?”

“Taking a shower.” Brock lifted his palm and let the rain patter down on it. “Nature’s way.”

“What happened?”

“Nothing.” Brock wiped the rain off his eyebrows. “It’s all good.”

“All good? You’re sitting outside in a deluge with a look on your face close to the one you had the day your dad died.”

Brock stood and stared at the gathering blackness in the heart of the clouds.

“I should have gone to business school. I should have been the one running the business side of the company, not Ron. If I’d gone to business school I could have convinced my dad to give
me
fifty-one percent of the company.”

“What happened?” Karissa’s eyes narrowed.

Brock turned to face her. “We’re losing the company.”

“What do you mean,
losing
?”

“Our lives are about to change.”

The dark-blue umbrella slipped from Karissa’s hand and fell slowly to the deck. She blinked against the rain now peppering her face. Blotches of rain spread across her shoulders.

“What are you talking about?” Karissa’s face went pale. “How did this happen?”

“Someone hacked into our accounts. Stole the money. We’re broke.”

“And Ron didn’t catch it.”

“He trusted our CFO.”

“He’s the one who’s doing this?”

“No, but the CFO should have seen it. He got snowed. Whoever did it covered their tracks. I don’t understand that stuff. I just know the money is gone and whoever did it is good. We can’t find them.”

Karissa stared at him with utter despair on her face and gave slow, tiny shakes of her head.

“I should have done something.” Brock raked his hand through his hair. “Made him show me the financials. Sat down with him on a regular basis, learned the basic skills at least.”

“Don’t sign.” Karissa sat down hard and crossed her arms across her chest. “Fight this.”

“I’m trying, believe me, but in the end I might have no choice.”

“You always have a choice.”

As Karissa walked away, Brock asked himself for the fifteen hundredth time why he hadn’t gone to business school. The question haunted him the rest of the day and was still on his mind that night, when he slipped into a dream that called upon every one of his newly acquired lucid-dreaming skills.

Chapter 13

W
hat’s wrong with you?”

His dad stood at the top of the stairs in a home that looked similar to the one he’d grown up in. It had light-brown shag carpet, and the walls were painted gold. “Wonderful World” by Sam Cooke poured out of a nearby stereo.

Brock stood on a linoleum landing and tried to run as his dad clomped down the stairs, but he couldn’t move.

“What’s wrong with him?” His brother Ron leaned on the railing above Brock to the right. He held the same brown package his dad had held in the earlier dream, but this time part of the wrapping was torn off and Brock saw hints of a blue box underneath. It stirred a memory deep inside. But before the memory could land, his dad’s voice sliced through the air.

“He’s an idiot, that’s what’s wrong with him.”

Brock focused.
Change it! Get out of here!
But nothing changed. Nothing shifted, except the air grew thicker.

“I think your brother’s right. You think you should have gone to business school? Nah, not a good idea.”

“Why?” The word eked out as if Brock couldn’t stop it.

“You know the truth. Do I have to say it?” His dad’s face grew stony. “Ron, a business man? Yes. You? No.”

“You didn’t think I could cut it.”

“You said it, not me.” His father stopped halfway down the stairs.

“But if I wanted to run Black Fedora when you retire, I should have gotten a business degree.”

His dad slowed his cadence to a crawl as he glared at Brock. “I never said you had to work for my company.”

“I wanted to, Dad! Don’t you get that?”

“You just wanted to beat your little brother.” His dad stared at him with unblinking eyes. “And now it’s going to destroy you. ’Cause it’s coming.”

“What is coming? Tell me!”

Brock woke seconds later, covered in sweat. He eased out of bed, careful not to disturb Karissa, took a shower, grabbed a cup of coffee, then went to his den to practice his lucid-dreaming techniques. Now more than ever, he needed to find his younger self again and test the idea that what he said to himself in the past truly could have an impact on his present.

He returned to bed an hour later and immediately returned to the land of dreams, but this time he was in control.

When the dream started, Brock immediately knew where he was. He stood four and a half miles north of the North Cascades Highway’s Rainy Pass on a section of the Pacific Crest Trail. No idea why his subconscious had brought him here, but it was a spectacular spot to converse with his younger self.

This section of the PCT ran along the eastern edge of the Cascades and through the Pasaysten Wilderness. The lack of any
snow told him it had to be at least mid-August, maybe as late as mid-September. But if he was about to bump into his younger self, it had to be September 1986.

That was the date of his first solo backpacking trip, and he’d been more nervous than he let anyone see. But he’d made it to Manning Provincial Park in British Columbia with no major incidents, touched the marker, then made the trek back to road 5400 at Hart’s Pass, where Morgan picked him up.

A sweeping fir-lined valley spread out before Brock. Behind him was a series of switchbacks that led to the top of Cutthroat Pass. An ache of regret welled up in him. He’d promised himself that if he ever had a son, he’d take him on this trail, but he and Tyson had never made the trip. Brock had never even mentioned the idea.

He smiled at the memory of a man he’d bumped into nicknamed Yukon.

“I’m California born and bred, but I’m a Washingtonian now. Folks up here are kinder than warm snot on a cold day.”

Brock didn’t want to understand the analogy and didn’t ask for an explanation.

“Yeah, I might not have a home, but I’m not homeless.” Yukon spread his arms wide and gazed over the vast array of mountains. “Got everything I need on my back, and this is my front yard, backyard, living room, and kitchen. No mansion on earth can compare.”

Brock pulled himself out of the memory and gazed up at the jagged peak of Golden Horn in the distance. A moment later he saw movement on the trail one hundred yards away. A royal blue backpack moved along in quick rhythm. It took Brock only a few seconds to know it was himself. Brock strode toward his
younger self, amazed at how real the dream felt. Not only what he was seeing, but feeling as well. The cool breeze, the strain on his legs as he pushed forward to catch himself.

The scene morphed, and he stood on the beach in front of a home down on the Oregon coast while a storm raged out over the ocean. But he pulled it back in seconds. He was definitely getting better at controlling these dreams.

When he got to within thirty yards, he called out. “Brock!”

His younger self stopped, turned, and stared. “Yeah?”

Brock closed the gap. “Can I talk to you?”

“Do we know each other?” He stared at Brock with a puzzled expression.

“Not really.”

“You are?” But recognition swept over his face. He pointed at Brock with an incredulous look. “What in the world? It’s you, isn’t it? The bizarre guy from Morgan’s coffee shop last year. Unbelievable.”

“You remember me?”

“With that act of yours, you’re kind of hard to forget.” His countenance was full of caution. “It’s hard to forget a guy who predicts you’ll meet a girl named Karissa and then it happens. However you did it, that was a nice trick.”

“How long have you been dating?”

It would interesting if the dream version of himself would give the correct date they started seeing each other.

“You tell me, Future Brock.” His younger self pulled off his pack and leaned it against a large boulder on the side of the trail. “What in the world are you doing up here?”

“Looking for you.”

The look on Young Brock’s face said that wasn’t the best
answer. He understood why. Even inside a dream, his younger self would react in a realistic way. Bumping into himself at Java Spot was one thing. Seeing each other on a remote trail in the Cascade Mountains seventy-five miles from the closest town was another.

“Without any kind of a pack? Water? Who are you really, and why are you stalking me? And tell me the trick. How did you know I would meet a girl named Karissa? Lucky guess?”

Brock twisted his head and felt for a daypack. Nothing. “I’m not stalking you.”

“You’re just a hiker out for a stroll, huh?”

“Something like that.”

A marmot skittered across the trail as his younger self laughed and said, “Sure you are.”

“I am.”

“Where’d you come from? Rainy? Are you trying to get back there before night? That’s another twelve miles, so unless you’re planning to jog the rest of the way, I’d turn around.”

“I’m in a dream, remember?”

“Oh yeah.” Young Brock gave his forehead a mock slap. “Right. And I’m just a part of that dream. Not real.”

“No, you’re not.”

His younger self picked up his pack and cinched it up. “This is weird, I have to tell you. You coming up here, finding me.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll leave as soon as I tell you something.”

“Fine.” Young Brock hoisted his pack higher on his hips. “Then get yourself back to the highway.”

“Will do. First, you changed things. You went to Alaska two more times than I did.”

“I did, huh?”

“Yes. Thank you.”

“Is that it? Are we done?” His younger self turned to go.

“I want to try an experiment if you’re up for it.”

“Oh sure, Future Me, anything to help you feel like you’re living like Doc Brown.”

“In 2003, Steve Miller is going to release a more comprehensive collection of his band’s greatest hits. I bought his first greatest-hits album, but never this updated version. Buy it for me, all right?”

“Again, why not?” Young Brock pointed at him and grinned. “I’ve always kind of liked Steve Miller, and if it makes you happy, F. B., I’ll do it.”

Chapter 14

S
EPTEMBER
1986

B
rock’s sky-blue ’74 Volkswagen Super Beetle sputtered as he threw it into third gear. Two emotions fought for his attention. The first, excitement about his date with Karissa; the second, his frustration over not being able to stop thinking about the old guy who claimed to be him in the future. That was impossible, so then who was he? And why had he targeted Brock?

At the park, Brock stretched while he waited for Karissa to show. She arrived a few minutes later wearing dark-blue spandex, a purple windbreaker, and that radiant smile that soaked him in warmth every time he saw it. No makeup, hair tied on top of her head, and still stunning. She grabbed him around the waist, squeezed tight, then released him and jogged away. “What are you waiting for? Let’s go.”

Brock grinned and broke into a run to catch up to her. When he did, she yanked on his sweatshirt. “Think you can keep up with me today?”

“Gotta keep hope alive.”

“Good.” Karissa picked up her pace. “I need a full workout and I don’t want any weak links in the chain holding me back.”

“We’re chains?”

“A chain of fools.”

“You’re too young to know that song.”

“So are you, but you still know it.”

“That’s because I was forced to play it in my high-school rock band days. Morgan loved it, and since he was the leader . . .”

They buzzed past walkers and slower joggers down the Burke-Gilman Trail—built over the top of an old Eastern Railway corridor—which ran from Seattle’s Gas Works Park all the way out to Lake Sammamish twenty-seven miles away.

Cyclists decked out in sunglasses and bright form-fitting tops and shorts zipped past them, calling out, “On your left!” as they sped by. Women pushing baby strollers ambled past them going the other direction. The trail was bordered on each side with an ample assortment of maple trees, thick with huge green leaves that filtered the sun.

When they passed Matthews Beach, the right side of the trail opened to opulent houses that sat on the shore of Lake Washington, and that’s when Brock broached the subject he’d hesitated to bring up.

“I have something to tell you”—Brock sucked in a breath and tried to talk without gasping; Karissa might get the impression he was winded—“that’s on the far side of bizarre.”

BOOK: The Five Times I Met Myself
7.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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