Extracts torn from forgotten books
by David Bussell
A lozenge of piss-coloured light leaked between a set of tatty curtains as the sobbing man cupped a handful of painkillers to his mouth.
But the pills were sent scattering as a wormhole tore open in the centre of the room, allowing the man a brief glimpse of the guts of the universe before disgorging a young boy then snapping shut.
“I like airplanes!” shouted the boy, who began buzzing around the room, arms outstretched.
“Where did you come from?” demanded the startled man.
“I live at number ten, Stanley Avenue,” said the boy, then “vroom vroom!” as he continued to run in circles.
“I… know that place. What’s your name?”
“My name is Christopher Hill.”
“That’s my name! You’re me, aren’t you? Me from the past!”
“I like Rubik’s cubes. Do you have a Rubik’s cube?”
“No, I never had one.”
“You should get a Rubik’s cube. Vroom vroom!”
“But if you’re from the past then you can go back. You can change things. Change my life.”
“I want a sweetie.”
The man hurriedly rifled through some junk and dug out a tube of Smarties.
“Here, have a sweetie.”
“Wow! Thanks, mister!” The boy popped it in his mouth and went to take off again but the man grabbed him by the shoulders.
“I need you to do something for me now.”
“I need you to go back home, I need you to pay attention at school and I need you to never, never ever, do a degree in Contemporary Art. You hear me?”
“And when you’re sixteen and you’re invited to a party at Richard Matheson’s place, don’t you dare get together with Laura fucking Barrett.”
“Laura fucking Barrett.”
There was a flash of light as the portal reappeared in the centre of the room.
“You have to go,” said the man, giving his younger self a shake. “You know what you’re doing though, right?”
“Course I do. Vroom vroom!”
“Good, now hurry back – back to your own time.”
The boy ran to the portal then stopped and looked back over his shoulder. “Things are going to change for you, mister,” he said. “You’ll see.”
The boy stretched out his arms and airplaned back into the hole, vanishing with a pop.
The man rubbed his hands together expectantly and closed his eyes.
“Here we go.”
When he opened his eyes he found a Rubik’s cube sat on the floorboards in front of him. Not one other detail had changed.
Tears welling, the man scraped up the pills. “Laura fucking Barrett,” he said.
You can read 98 more of David’s short stories in his book, Bad Endings, available HERE.
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