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Authors: James L. Rubart

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BOOK: The Five Times I Met Myself
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“It’s
Saturday
. You’ve made it, Brock. Black Fedora is everything you’ve ever dreamed it could be. More than what you dreamed. Far more. When are you going to slow down so we can enjoy the life it’s given us?”

“We do enjoy life.”

“Not like we should.”

“I love that company. It’s given us so much.”

Karissa turned and as she walked away she said, “And taken as much as it’s given.”

That night, Brock sat in his den gazing at a photo of his dad and him taken years earlier.

In the picture, they stood on the dock of the Talon Lodge fishing resort up in Alaska, a king salmon in each of their hands, big stupid grins on their faces. One of the best days of Brock’s life. The beauty of southeast Alaska had turned out to be stunning in late July, and the lodge was a genuine log cabin, but what made the trip unforgettable was it was the first time he and his dad had gone somewhere, just the two of them, since Brock was eight years old.
They’d started to chip away at the ice that had been their relationship as long as he could remember.

His dad had asked him to go again the next summer—wanted to make it an annual trip, and Brock had too—but when July rolled around he’d backed out. Work had been insane.

He’d tried to come up with a few more things to bolster his excuse for not going, but there were none. The third year he’d again promised to go—and again broke his commitment. The summer after that his dad didn’t ask. Then a heart attack struck him in early November of that year, and he was gone.

Brock lifted the photo off the wall and drilled down on every detail of the picture. The matching grins on their faces. The slightly whiter skin around their eyes where their sunglasses had shielded them. And their arms around each other.

“You still beating yourself up over that?”

Brock looked up to find Karissa standing in the doorway, arms folded.

“Hey, dear. Didn’t see you.”

“Are you?”

“A little bit, maybe.”

“Maybe? Long past time to let it go.”

“I know.” Brock slid the photo onto his desk and sighed. “Not that simple though.”

Karissa let the silence linger, but after a minute she said, “You should try it again.”

“Try what?”

“Your lucid dreaming thing. Try talking to yourself this time. Young Brock. Tell him about Alaska. Why he should go. It won’t change anything, but it might make you feel better. Get it off your chest, you know?”

“Myself?” He hadn’t thought of that.

“Sure. If you can control your dream, why not dream yourself into the past and have a conversation with the person you used to be?”

“That would be crazy.” Brock touched a finger to the frame. “But wouldn’t hurt anything to give it a shot.”

Chapter 8

J
ULY
1985

S
econds after falling asleep that night, Brock found himself staring at the entrance to Morgan’s place, Java Spot. Exactly where he wanted to be. As he stared at the door he willed the year to be 1985. Instantly the door swirled like a whirlpool. When it stopped it had morphed into the one Morgan had replaced when he took over the shop from his dad in the early nineties.

Brock drew a deep breath and stepped inside. If he was right, he was about to have an extremely strange encounter.

Brock glanced around. Two-thirds full. In one corner was a cluster of what looked like college students who seemed familiar. A few couples sat next to the windows. Three people sat alone, hunched over notebooks and textbooks, glancing from one to the other as they scribbled notes to themselves. He smiled. It seemed so archaic to study that way. But it would be another sixteen years before laptops would start taking over the computing world; ten before they’d be drinking his coffee in here.

He scanned the shop looking for . . . There! His heart pounded as he stared at the early-eighties version of himself winding his way to a table in the back. Brock had no video of himself from that time, only photos, so it was a strange sensation to watch himself in motion. It seemed like he moved faster, which shouldn’t have been a surprise but for some reason still was. His hair was thicker, darker—almost black—and he twirled a pencil around his fingers like a miniature baton as he settled down at an empty table. Brock smiled. He stopped doing that with his pencils years ago.

He stared for a few more seconds, then juked his way around the tables and eased up to his younger self. If he was controlling the dream, then he should be able to talk to himself without much problem.

“Excuse me.”

“Yeah?”

“Mind if I join you?”

The young version of himself looked up and gave a quizzical smile. “You are?”

“A friend.”

“Uh, sure, why not?” He motioned to the chair across the table.

Brock sat and spread his hands on the table and stared at the wrinkle-free complexion, the expectant, believing eyes. So much hope. The days when he had all the answers.

His younger self spread his hands on the table in an almost exact mirror of Brock’s.

“What can I do for you?”

“I so wish this was really happening,” Brock muttered.

“What was happening?”

“I need to tell you a few things.” Brock sighed. “Just to get it off my chest, you know?”

“Not really.” Young Brock glanced at Morgan, who stood behind the counter drying coffee mugs, then pushed his chair back a few inches.

“If this was real, I’d tell you so many things.”

“If it was real.” The younger version of himself raised his eyebrows.

“Yes.” Brock stared into his own eyes. The moment felt as real as the dream in which his dad told him to embrace the painful truth because it would set him free.

“I’d tell you about obvious things to do differently and then ones that are more subtle, the ones under the surface of life. As the years wear on, they float up and demand you look at them. And if you don’t pay attention to them now, you won’t like the cloudy water you’re left with.”

“Should I be taking notes?”

“Great idea.” Brock smiled to himself. He’d never been one to keep a journal. Wished he had. So many moments lost from memory.

“Who did you say you are?” Young Brock pulled his hands tighter across his flat stomach.

“And love your wife. Don’t let the wind die down.”

“Morgan put you up to this, didn’t he?” Something shifted in his younger self’s countenance as if he knew this was a practical joke and decided to play along. “So I’m getting married, huh?”

“Yes.”

“What’s her name?”

“Karissa.”

Younger Brock leaned in and whispered, “So when should I let my girlfriend Sheila know about this?”

“When it’s time.”

“You’re not going to give me the date?” Young Brock bobbed his head side to side as if taunting him. “Want to get the moment right.”

“I don’t want to spoil everything for you.”

“Right, can’t do that.” Young Brock scooted his chair back, stood, and stuck out his hand. “Great to meet you, but I gotta go.”

“A couple more things.” Brock took his younger self’s hand but didn’t let go. “Stop beating yourself up over the fact that Royce stopped following Jesus. Not your fault.”

Young Brock’s face went pale as he pulled away from Brock’s grip and sat back down. “How do you know about that?”

A slew of possible answers spilled into Brock’s mind, but in the end he decided on the truth. It would make the dream more fun.

“Okay. Why not?” Brock smiled. “I’m you, thirty years from now.”

“How do you know about Royce?” A sliver of fear hung in his younger self’s eyes. “I’m serious.” His younger self glanced in Morgan’s direction, and when he turned back, his face had relaxed. “Wow. Right on. Finally you’re here. What took you so long? Did you get here in a DeLorean or on a moonbeam?”

“I’m serious too.”

“Oh yeah, I can tell you are.” Young Brock brought his fingers together, formed a square, and peered through it at Brock as if it was a frame. “Not really seeing the resemblance between you and me.”

“Trust me, gravity and gray will catch up with you.”

“Uh-huh.” Young Brock pointed at him. “How much did Morgan pay you to do this? He’s making fun of the fact I think
Back to the Future
is the movie of the year, right?”

“No. I really am who I say I am.”

“Cool.” Brock snatched a scrap of paper out of his back pocket along with a pencil. “So lay it on me then, Future Me. Stocks to buy, Super Bowl winners to bet on, the exact date I meet this Karissa gal, friends to avoid, all of it. Gotta write it down so I don’t forget.”

“The problem isn’t me being real, it’s you. I so wish you were.”

“I’m not real?”

As the words left his younger self’s mouth, he blurred for a moment, and when he came into focus again, he wasn’t Brock. In his place sat Mr. Hammond, Brock’s fifth-grade teacher—and basketball coach.

“When you want to accomplish something, you don’t try to do it, you do it.” Mr. Hammond poked the table. “You don’t try to practice, you practice. You don’t try to get better at your outside shot, you put in the hours that will make it happen. Right, Brock?”

“Right.”

Brock closed his eyes and concentrated. When he opened them, Hammond was gone and Young Brock was back.

“Wow. That was strange.”

“It’s strange that you think I’m real?” His younger self shook his head.

“No, what just happened. I’m asleep at the moment, but aware I’m asleep, and controlling this dream, but I lost it for a second.”

“So like I said, I’m not real.”

“Correct. I’ve created you out of my mind and memories.”

“I’m a figment of your imagination.”

“Essentially, yes. All from my subconscious.”

Young Brock knocked his head rapidly. “Hello? McFly? Anybody home?”

Brock stifled a laugh.

“What’s funny?”

“I forgot how much I quoted from that movie after it first came out.”

“What? You don’t like
Back to the Future
in the decades to come, Future Man?”

“Not true.” Brock smiled. “I own the trilogy.”

“Trilogy? What trilogy?”

“You know how it says To Be Continued at the end? Zemeckis makes the next movie and a third one at the same time. But the second one doesn’t come out till ’89. All three DVDs together don’t come out till 2009.”

“DVD? What’s DVD?”

“You’ve seen CDs, right?”

“Yeah. Expensive.”

“And you rent movies on VHS.”

“Or Betamax.”

“Right,” Brock said. “I forgot about those.”

“Betamax is far better than VHS.”

“True, it was, but the better product isn’t always the one that wins in the marketplace.”

“You’re getting off track.”

Brock leaned back in his chair and smiled. He liked himself. Even though this wasn’t real, and he was fully aware he was asleep right now next to Karissa, it still felt completely authentic and surprisingly fun.

“A DVD is a movie on a CD.”

“A CD can’t hold that much information.”

“It will. By the summer of 2003, DVD rentals will pass VHS cassette rentals.”

“Thanks for the uh, future history lesson.” His younger self pushed back from the table and stood. “Like I said a few minutes back, I gotta go. Anything else?”

“Yes, the most important thing.”

“Lay it on me.”

“Years from now, when your dad asks you to go on that second fishing trip, don’t turn him down. Go. The year after that, when he asks you to go a third time, go on that trip too.”

“I’m not exactly a fishing kind of guy. And my dad and I aren’t exactly—”

“Go on the trips. Trust me. I promise it’ll save you a great deal of regret. No matter how insane life gets, don’t miss the trips.”

His younger self laughed as he ambled away from the table. “Sure, Future Brock, why not?”

“One more thing.”

“Yeah?”

Before he could respond, the floor of Java Spot tilted forty-five degrees, and Brock slid backward till he slammed into the wall and woke up. A combination of hope and regret filled his stomach. It had been therapeutic to talk to himself, but it hadn’t done a thing to ease his regrets about not going on the Alaska trip.

Chapter 9

M
AY
17, 2015

A
s soon as Brock woke the next morning, he stretched his arm out to feel for Karissa. She wasn’t there. Probably already in the shower. Yep. The water was running along with the fan. He turned over and opened his eyes a crack and peered into the slice of light coming through the window curtains.

He rolled over, closed his eyes, and toyed with the idea of trying to get back to sleep, but he knew it would be futile. An instant later the dream from last night hit him. He’d done it, controlled his dreams to a greater degree than ever before. And it had felt so real talking to his younger self. Just as real as the dreams of his dad.

Brock opened his eyes for the second time and reached for Morgan’s book as he sat up on the edge of the bed. He stared at the cover of
Lucid Dreaming: Turning Dreams into Reality,
blew out a long breath, then tucked the book under his arm and went to make coffee.

Eight minutes later, Brock shuffled into his den, set his coffee and the book on his desk, and wiggled the mouse to wake up his computer. As it fired up, he glanced at the photo to his right and faced the bittersweet memory of being in Alaska with his dad. The instant he looked he cocked his head and frowned. What in the world?

BOOK: The Five Times I Met Myself
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