|Ballyholme Short Story, Time Machine Caroline Gerardo|
The do-over spirit arrives in Natalie’s room under a waxing gibbous moon.
“I’m sending you back to a moment in time where you may correct any error,” the ghost says.
Natalie is unable to move her limbs, terror climbs from her toes to her chest, but the pain does not waken her. She cannot roll over and pull the covers over her head.
“Go away, I’m not buying any magazines, ghost.”
The apparition is not lovely, her knotty pine hands touch the smile lines on Natalie’s cheek.
“I’m taking you back to points in your life, twice you may change the tide of events, a time machine-”
“What do you think this is, a Christmas Carol?” Natalie says.
“No, trust me,” the phantom says.
“I’ve heard that line before, it never leads to good fortune-”
“It is 1980 and you are in Ballyholme, Ashley Gardens. Open your eyes Natalie back in time.”
“Oh, I know the stone façade of the flat- if I could shake myself awake, or put my feet on the floor,” Natalie says.
“Natalie you were in love, Robby does not know you were MI5.”
Back in the apartment, a slouching bed rests in the guest bedroom, like a rock swallowed by the sea. Fireplace ashes need clearing, the penetrating smell of soot consumes the confines. In the kitchen, a fit woman cranks the gas meter with twenty-five pence coins. This pays for the stove and hot water. She opens the window to allow the smell of salt air fill her heart. Robby is in the living room with his guitar. His brother Shaun and Michael Connelly (a rough and tumble punk with piercings and tattoos on his upper body) are speaking with sullen tones. Robby is six foot and lean, not as robust as his brother Shaun, the three of them make up the band Moondogs.
“He was such a fool to listen to his older brother, they should have stuck to punk music not politics, damn god and Ulster.”
“So - change what happened-” the spirit says.
“They sent me there with instructions to infiltrate the Blacknecks. I was doing my job as military intelligence,” Natalie answers.
“Didn’t they tell you not to fall in love?”
“Yeah, but they also knew I was incapable of not caring, that and my abilities made me great.”
“Seems like you should’ve known with your code name-” the spirit stops.
“Cumaean,” Natalie sighs remembering the taste of chili-mac dinner that stormy night. “We were poor and the boys thought it exotic compared to potatoes.”
“You have the chance to run, to back away, change what happened-” the spirit offers Natalie an out.
“No. I locked away my abilities with my past. I still analyze; but I never write down dreams. Going back doesn’t change who I am," Natalie says.
“This was your first kill?”
“They planned to bomb Belfast Central Rail Station. The VBIED (Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device) was already in the trunk. I slashed the tires to stop them, figuring they couldn’t substitute another car in time. I called the car location in. Then they borrowed a van, I had to stop them.”
“Don’t shoot three boys, change the altercation-” the spirit taunts.
“I wouldn’t change a thing.”
“Yes, I lost a love for Queen and Country, but I saved many others. Take me away from the smell of the ocean it makes me regret and feel shame,.” Natalie says.
“Then I direct you Natalie to a time you recall well, it is recent history. Again choose to change the course of events, perhaps better your life.”
Natalie says, “I don’t want to play this game. I have regrets but I’ve made my road.”
“About a year ago, you were betrayed by your fiancé, and made a choice that perhaps was unwise.”
“I don’t regret the geriatric pregnancy. I'm not taking anything back,” Natalie says.
“The Doctors warned you, elevated blood pressure might kill you or cause a stroke.”
“One life is not better or more worthy than my life.”
“Your other children what will they do as orphans? Will Catholic guilt help?”
“I believe in love, and giving unconditional love,” Natalie says.
“But-” the spirit plays devil's advocate.
“No there is no but, point out all the people who have hurt me, those who lied, cheated me and my children. It doesn’t matter, I choose to love, to forgive, every day of my life.”
The ghost grows more white and translucent. Her voice is higher in tone as a child’s, “Natalie you have chosen to stay on this earth.”
The doctor removes the disposable gel foam pads and applies gummy candy to the paddle, “hit her again, the foam on the pads are not making a good connection.”
The Defibrillation depolarizes a critical mass of Natalie's heart muscle. The sound of the force punches the delivery room. Her body bounces, the arrhythmia stops, and normal sinus rhythm returns oxygen to Natalie’s cells.
“Welcome back little mother.”
This was written for the Indie Ink Writing Challenge 9/11/2011 based on
Disease prompt to happen upon a time machine and go back and change something. I thought about the prompt last night, and given the opportunity, there is little I would change, except to grant myself more time.
copyright Caroline Gerardo
Character of Natalie I am developing to start another novel- in early stages noodling - getting to know her.
I would appreciate input about: female character who was a spy now middle aged. Can you like her or is she cold? This female protagonist may have flash backs to this past later in the story.