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Time Wars & other SciFi Tales

by Gordon Rowlinson

The Return of my Guardian Angel

by

Gordon Rowlinson



The first time I met my guardian angel, I was only ten years old. It is a distant memory clouded with age, but I remember all the crazy details. I was walking down Main Street on my way to meet my friends at the mall. An old man in strange black clothes came up to me like he knew me.

“This is a bad day for you to go to the mall,” he said.

“What are you talking about?”

“Listen to me, Tommy. Think of me as your guardian angel. You know that your friends Bernie and Larry think they are tough guys and always have something to prove. In the back of your mind, you have a suspicion that they will get into trouble someday. Today is the day. If you hang out with them today, the cops will pick the three of you up for shoplifting. Your parents will hire a high-priced lawyer to get you out of trouble. That will eventually cause them to get behind on house payments and the house will be foreclosed.”

“How do you know my name and who my friends are?”

“Guardian angels know such things,” he said as he smiled a broad smile. “We will meet again. From now on, I'll be helping you when you have problems in your life.”

I remember thinking that he didn't look like an angel. He just looked like a crazy old guy in strange clothes. He also seemed to walk with a limp. I thought about it and I didn't like the stranger telling me what to do. But the old guy spooked me. How did he know who I was and what would happen? Something deep within me made me turn around and head home. I turned my head to see if he was following me, but he had suddenly disappeared. There was no storefront or alley he could have ducked into. He must have disappeared into thin air.

I headed home and felt as if I had missed out on some fun. The next day at school, I got spooked again when Bernie told me that he and Larry got picked up by the cops for shoplifting and were in big trouble. They had to go to some kind of juvenile court and it seemed like a real mess. If it weren't for my guardian angel, I would have been in trouble too. At lunch time I had time to think about things. I was both grateful and frightened of my new guardian angel and friend. Who was this old guy?

                                                                                   ***                                              ***

Throughout my life, the identity of my guardian angel has a mystery that has haunted me. When I was younger, I used to think that he had all the answers because he was always magically looking over me. Now, after a lot of years and a lot of thinking, I think I finally know who and what he really is.

Several times today while I was thinking and going over my current job situation, I found myself looking behind me. You see—my guardian angel has a habit of showing up and helping me whenever I go through a difficult time in my life and need advice. This week I was at a major crossroad in my life and was terrified that I would make the wrong decision. I took a deep slug of the bitter, luke-warm coffee I was drinking and tried to make sense of it all.

                                                                                                                                 ***

The second time my guardian angel came into my life, I had almost forgotten about him. I was 18 years old and in my garage working on my old car, an ancient Chevy. I had a big date that night and was adding a quart of oil and was about to vacuum the interior.

He walked into the garage as if he knew the place. It was surreal to see a faded childhood memory come alive before my eyes. It had been so long, I had almost convinced myself that he was part of my imagination. He looked exactly the same as he did when I was ten years old—he was in his early 60s and was dressed all in black.

“Hello Tommy, do you remember me?” he said.

“Sure. The last time I saw you I was a little boy and you helped me. Who are you?”

“I'm your guardian angel. I told you I'd be back. I have to help you and tell you to stay home tonight. I know you're looking forward to a date with Yvonne tonight. I happen to know, if you go out with her tonight you will get her pregnant in the back seat of this car. You are way too young to be tied down with a child.”

“Look—I'll be careful.”

“That's not good enough. I know you are only going out with Yvonne because of her loose reputation.” The guardian angel smiled. Then he quickly reached under the hood of the car and ripped the spark plug wires off the engine.

“Hey you jerk! I was listening to your advice!”

“I know you better than you know yourself. I know how reckless and impulsive you can be and how you do the wrong things when you know better. Also I know you haven't been to the drugstore.”

I picked up the wires and looked to see if I could pop them back on the engine's spark plugs. The metal electrical fitting to the spark plugs had been ripped off the electrical wire and the part was ruined. My car was going nowhere tonight until I bought new wires. I slammed my fist on the car fender in frustration. I looked up to see if my guardian angel had anything else to say, but he was no longer in the garage. It was as if he had disappeared. Then I wondered when I would see the strange guy again.

                                                                              ***                                               ***

I didn't have to wait long. It was my first year of college, and I was coming out of a party. It had been a disappointing night as none of the friends I thought might be there showed up. As a result, there was nothing left for me to do but to get drunk out of my mind—which I proceeded to do. I knew I shouldn't drive home, but it was only about 15 miles and I knew some back roads to avoid police cars. As I was opening the door of my old car, I heard a voice behind me.

“Hello, Tom. If you drive home tonight, you are going to hit and kill someone. Also, you will put yourself in the hospital and destroy that relic you call a car.”

I didn't know what to say so I just stood there. I must have looked like a drunken fool. I guess I was. He pulled a knife or a screwdriver out of his pocket and jabbed it into my rear tire. I could hear the air rush out.

“You have a good spare in the trunk,” he said. “You can barely stand up—much less change a tire. I estimate that if you sleep it off in your car, you will be able to change the tire in the morning and be able to drive home.”

As he turned to walk away, I followed him.

“Why are you following me?” he said.

“After you talk to me, you always mysteriously disappear. I want to see how you do it.” I was surprised at how inquisitive and logical I could be even while dead drunk.

“Fair enough.” The old guy reached into his pocket and pulled out a strange device. He pressed several buttons and immediately there was a bubble of dim light that enclosed him. Then a second later the bubble and the old man disappeared. There was a very soft sound of the air rushing into the space where the bubble had been.

Even though I was drunk, I was sure what I had just seen was real. But it raised more questions than answers. I didn't know what to think. It seemed he was using a high-tech device to transport out. Since when do guardian angels use high-tech devices? Where was he transporting to? Why did he appear when I was about to make a bad decision?

                                                                                                                                    ***

The fourth time I saw my guardian angel was when I was flunking three courses in college. I was alone in my poorly lit dorm room studying physics. Books and papers and old clothes were stacked everywhere as I cared more about studying than the interior decorating of my small, shabby room.

“Hello Tom,” he said. I almost jumped out of my chair.

“Man, you startled me! Don't sneak up on me.”

“I came to talk to you about the courses you are flunking.” I saw that the old guy was still wearing the strange black clothes as he stepped into the light of my desk lamp.

“Yes, I'm behind on some dumb courses. But they are not important courses. My major is in physics and I'm getting straight A's.”

“Your major is the most important courses. However you are skipping classes and ignoring the other courses. It's important to put effort into the courses you dislike. If you flunk English 101, Sociology 101, and that Mickey Mouse political science course, it will hold you back. What would happen if you studied physics only after you've studied the courses you are flunking out of?”

“I'd pass those courses, but I'd probably get a B in physics.”

“Then why not do that? If you flunk those easy courses, it will cost you.”

I had no answer or defense. The old dude had thought all of this through and was way ahead of me. I racked my tired brain looking for a rationale for my study priorities and, at the same time, wondered if I should waste my time arguing with him.

“You are catching me off guard here, but that seems to make sense,” I finally admitted.

“Do it,” he said.

He was right. I was embarrassed that I had not seen what was simple common sense. He walked over to the other side of the room and activated his strange device and disappeared. After he left, I realized he didn't seem to have his slight limp anymore.

                                                                                                                              ***

I took another drink of my stale coffee and idly wondered where my guardian angel was. I picked up the benefits pamphlet the HR guy gave me. It was a risky move, but how could I turn down this job offer? Yet if it was such a great deal, why was I apprehensive?

“Well—what do you think?” came a familiar voice behind me.

“Good to see you. This is the deal. I'm happy in my assistant professor job. Yet this new company offered me a 25 percent raise. I hate to lean on you, but I wondered what you thought.”

“You are only thinking about the money. A 25 percent raise isn't much when you consider that the company is a shaky start-up company that will go under in about a year and leave you out of work. Also they require you to work 60 hours a week, and that will prevent you from being a good father to your son and the other two children you will have in the future.”

“How do you know this?”

“Your kids grow up only once. The time you miss with your kids is not recoverable. When you get older, you will never regret the time you spend on your family. However you will regret the time you spend on work. Which brings me to my next subject. I think you should spend more time with your wife.”

“Maybe you're right. You seem to know a lot about me. Did your wife leave you?” I countered.

The old man paused and then replied. “No. But she almost did. She complained that I never spent time with my family. I caused a lot of pain to my family. You figured it all out didn't you?”

“All these years you've visited me, you've never aged. Also, you used to walk with a limp. What happened?” I asked.

“I think you know the answer. I injured my knee in an auto accident when I was young and foolish,” he said. “After I prevented you from getting into a drunken car wreck, my injuries disappeared.”

“I used to think you looked like my father. It took me a while to see that I was looking at myself only older. You must be using some kind of time travel. Why didn't you just tell me that you are really me from the future?”

“Because you would press me for answers as to what your future will be. This way was better as, step by step, I steered you in the right direction and corrected all the mistakes and the regrets in my life. You see, I worked hard all my life and have been a success in physics. Yet I've had a terrible personal life. When I invented a time machine, I had the rare opportunity to go back and repair all the bad decisions I made in life. When I fixed the major mistakes I made in my life, we both benefited.

“Will I ever see you again?”

“No. The bad job and spending more time with your family were the last things I wanted to fix. However, I will leave you with one last piece of advice. Buy 100 shares of Synergy Plus stock.”

“I never heard of that company.”

“Yes, I know. In ten years, everybody will know it and you'll be wealthy as that stock will be worth ten times the price you pay now. I have to go now. Goodbye, Tom.” He stepped back into the middle of the room and activated his time travel device.

“Goodbye Tom,” I said. I looked at the empty space where my guardian angel had been and felt a curious lonely feeling. A dear childhood friend was gone forever. I wanted to know more about his time travel device and what it was like to travel through time.

That was the last time my guardian angel gave me advice. The years went on and I found myself having a very successful career in physics as well as a great and rewarding family life. I was grateful for my friend steering me in the right direction and fixing my life. One day when I was almost 60 years old, I was looking in the mirror I thought I recognized someone. I leaned forward and saw my guardian angel in my reflection. Then I smiled. My guardian angel had finally been wrong. I did see him again.

A spark of excitement burned deep within me. I realized that I was close to revealing the mysteries that had eluded us for so long. The time experiments that I had been working on for the last 20 years at the university would soon be a success. After I invented a time machine, it would be my destiny to find out what it was like to travel through time. I would be able to change history and create a new time line.

A second thought came to me. After I discovered how to travel though time, it would now be my task to visit my younger self to provide advice. I couldn't let the fixes my guardian angel had installed in my life fall apart. Like a computer program loop, I felt I had to complete the cycle.

                                                                                                                           ***

I saw Tommy walking down the sidewalk. l casually walked up beside him.

“This is a bad day for you to go to the mall,” I said.

“What are you talking about?” he said.

“Listen to me Tommy. Think of me as your guardian angel...” I smiled. This was easier than I thought. It wasn't like a computer program loop. It was like acting and reciting your lines in a play where you already know what the other guy will say and you know what will happen.

As I continued to play my part, I pondered if what I was doing and what my guardian angel did before me was really changing history and creating a new time line. Perhaps time is a fixed thing and cannot be changed. Perhaps this whole time loop was supposed to happen and was part of a bigger, grander history. Perhaps the role I was playing was just my destiny. I suddenly wished my old guardian angel was here to help me solve that gigantic philosophical question.

 


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2013-11-02 07:03:37
micheledutcher - SFWannabe: I like how this story builds up to its final conclusion smoothly. We start off thinking that the guy is a guardian angel, we then realize he is using some kind of teleport device and finally we get to experience being the guardian angel who is Tom in a way that is kind of strange and resonant and spooky. I like the ambiguity of whether Tom is changing the timeline. Its also interesting that you end the story positively. Usually in these kinds of stories, attempts to muck with the timeline go horribly wrong. You portray it going right.

2013-11-02 07:01:32
micheledutcher - simonarthur: this is a great story. Well written and great plot. I liked the character development in the story and knew that the guardian angel was his future self all along. I enjoyed the story and it was well written. I loved it. Id give it a 10 out of 10.




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Books by Quantum Muse contributors and friends.
Time Wars & other SciFi Tales

by Gordon Rowlinson


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