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F U T U R E !

1       the terrorist
2       stevie
3       the lightning bolt
4       in shock
5       the road home
6       home to mother
7       shari meets steven
8       steven
9       sunny saturday
10       the meeting
11       going home
12       jobs
13       melissa
14       psychiatry
15       going online
16       the terminator solution
17       hypnosis
18       the movement
19       tuning in
20       seasons
21       flirting
22       discipline
23       rocky
24       technology
25       rocky II
26       rocky III
27       vision
28       laurna
29       the murder
30       greg
31       affairs
32       closing in
33       phone calls
34       the morning after
35       testimony
36       batman passing thru

1           THE TERRORIST

The arrogant fat man sat in a luxurious swivel chair behind a vast mahogany desk in the middle of an office on the 49th floor. Outside the windows were buildings of the CoSanto Biological Laboratories complex. Without looking up from the papers on his otherwise vastly vacant gleaming desktop to the journalist who had come to interview him, he pointed towards a chair and continued reading. After a few minutes of ignoring the journalist, he laid the papers aside and looked up. "As you know we've got a bomb threat happening out in the complex, I'm really not in any humor for an interview. I only agreed to see you because you said you know this...this mad bomber." "Yes, I went to high school with Stevie Carpenter," Jackson Hart said, sitting relaxed in the chair. "Was he always so...arrogant? So sure that he was right?" "No, actually, he was a bit of a loser back then. A nice guy, but a nerd. A little too eager to please, easy to push around and take advantage of." "Well, so much for Mister Nice Guy. Now he's a paranoid schizo- phrenic with a messiah complex, who believes that only HE can save the world. And a terrorist with some suspiciously inexplicable high-tech weaponry." "He's dedicated to a cause," Jackson said, noncommittally. "Maybe--but he's mad as a hatter. Claims that CoSanto Corporation will be among those responsible for the end of the world, so he's demanding that we stop doing legally contracted research for the United States Government..." "Biological weaponry, right?" Jackson interrupted. Marquand Allora frowned at the interruption and challenge implied, "...uh, perhaps...but he has NO right to interfere with the government." "Unless he IS right about the future: that we're all going to die unless we change it." "Can you believe such idiocy?" "Oh I couldn't either, at first. But he has published a list of predictions: presidents to be elected, wars that would happen, natural disasters, historical events to occur in the future, all dated and detailed. He knew no one could believe him without proof." "And?" "The list was first published in the Greenpeace magazine almost 30 years ago, and is posted on the Future2 Organization web-site on Internet. Just about everything has come true up to date, it IS pretty impressive." The fat man just stared at him. "Also on that web-site are drawings and plans for a lot of also inexplicable high-tech inventions," Jackson went on, "even a cure for AIDS--which works. Stuff that's hard to ignore once you check it out." Allora just shook his head, "Nothing on the Internet can be trusted, it's easy to falsify anything." "And yet, everything True is also there," Jackson reminded him. "You sympathize with this nut?" "I believe that Steven DOES remember the future--a doomsday version of it, so awful that he'll do anything to keep it from happening. And I know that he was convinced that he COULD change it--and that he was sent back in time to do just that." "Well, it sounds to me as if Steven Carpenter is nothing more than some typical fanatic who erroneously believes that he has been touched by God." "Oh, but he certainly WAS touched by God," Jackson said, "I was there when it happened..."

2           STEVIE

I don't think Stevie had ever seen a naked girl in his life before I took him with me out to The Lake for the first time, when we were both 17 years old. That Stevie and I were friends at all was considered odd by some, we were nothing alike. I was Mr Cool in our high school days: long hair, didn't drink but I smoked pot, athletic enough to be on the basketball team, just academic enough to be on the school newspaper, dated cheerleaders, all that stuff. And Stevie was my polar opposite: shy, technical nerd, self-effacing, unathletic, irritatingly overeager to please, kind of scrawny, unlucky with girls. But we had been neighborhood kids the same age, lived a block and a half from each other in the north end of Seattle, more or less grew up together. We respected each other's talents-- I wanted to be a journalist, and Stevie was simply a technical genius, especially with electronics. We got along, took care of each other. For example, in high school I often took him along cruising the strip in my old '74 Chevy. Stevie didn't have a car, or even a driver's license. I was more popular in school than he was, but I really didn't have a better friend there than Stevie. He made electrical gadgets for me, fixed things. Once built me a fantastic stereo amplifier system, cheap because he could get parts at cost where he worked at Radio Shack. He kept improving it too, year after year, just because he kept getting better ideas. Phase-shifting sound waves, dynamic ambience, I had no idea what it was, but it sounded great. Back in '83 I'd been introduced to a certain lake hidden in the middle of a logging forest, which was THE hippy summer scene, where everyone came to get naked and get high. It was paradise. So one summer day, a week after we had graduated from Shorecrest High School, I took Stevie with me out to The Lake for the first time. We had picnic lunches, towels, and no bathing suits. "Boy, I hope this Lake is half as good as you say it is," Stevie said as we drove NE from Seattle. "It's actually twice as good as I say it is," I assured him. "And there really are...NUDE girls there?" "Yeah, well, nobody's wearing clothes, so naked guys too-- no big thing." "Boy, hope I don't get a big thing." "Not a chance," I kidded him, but he didn't get the joke. "So how're things going with you and Shari? Gettin' any?" " gentleman never tells." That meant No, of course. Stevie actually did have a girl friend whom he'd been seeing for half a year, Shari Lessing, but it was a loser's game-- I knew, because she had come on to me a couple of times. He liked her more than she liked him, so she was calling all the shots. And I think she liked pushing him around a little. Here we were graduated from high school, and he'd still never gotten laid. "Maybe you should bring her out to The Lake sometime," I suggested. At least he could get a good look. "Oh, no no no. God, if she even THOUGHT I was coming out to a nude lake, she'd...well, I don't know, call me a PERV or something." "If she's that uptight, drop her, man." "Aw, I'm kind of in love, you know." I knew: he kind of didn't have anything better going on. But I didn't say anything. Sort of felt sorry for how hopeless Stevie was with girls. They either ignored him or used him. Like Shari; it was easy to get him to spend his hard-earned money on her because he was actually pretty horny, although he never admitted that. "What'll your mom think about your going out here with the naked girls?" I asked, just to change the subject. "Oh, she'd be cool. Probably be glad for me--she thinks I'm way too much of a nerd." Stevie's mother, Melissa Carpenter, was a trip. She believed in everything, kind of religious, but kind of not. She had faith in God, but not churches. Yoga, Tarot, Astrology, Numerology, you name it, she was into it. She was also still quite a pretty woman back then, only 35, but lived without a man. Stevie's father was a mystery. So she was this Free Spirit Hippy Mom with a kid who was a dorky science nerd, but that seemed all right with her, because she believed in science too. She supported his interest in electronics, but they would often get into arguments about things like "the spirituality of electricity". "Do you think that that Laurna girl will be there?" Stevie asked. "Laurna of The Lake? Oh, I hope so," I said, "I really hope so." And I meant it. I had mentioned Laurna many times, perhaps building her up a bit: the Playboy Playmate of the Lake scene. Her face, her figure, her fantastic breasts, and how she seemed so much more naked naked naked than any other girl there. Truthfully, I was a bit infatuated with Laurna, but then so was every other guy at The Lake. Alas for us each and all, she had a jealous boy friend who was always with her. As if it mattered anyway-- after all, she was 22 years old, I was 17. "What if the cops come when everyone's naked?" "Doesn't matter: it's a private lake, not a public beach, so they have no jurisdiction. And the owner of the logging company likes the scene--comes down every once in a while to drink a beer and look at girls too, you know, so we have permission to be there as long as we keep it clean." We left the highway after Sultan and drove up the hill through the timber forest on dirt logging roads. There were no signs, you had to know the way, it was a secret place known only to about 30-40 people. Finally we arrived at the wide spot on the road, parked the car among a few others, and walked down the trail to Paradise. It was all completely hidden until you came out of the woods, where you suddenly could see a lake about half a mile wide, and a big flat dock out on the water, totally surrounded by evergreen forest, with no houses or signs of civilization visible. Then you had to balance along a log over the water to actually get to the dock, kind of challenging. There were about a dozen of the regulars sunbathing, two guys were playing guitars, others were swimming. People waved to me, I waved back, it was nice friendly little society. I'd been there 4-5 times, so I was a regular too by then. Stevie was trying to hide behind me. I heard him squeak, "Oh God, there IS a naked girl...and another...oh my god they're ALLLL..." "Just relax. In five minutes it'll seem completely natural." "I don't know. Oh My God, I can't take off MY clothes-- let's go back..." "Hi, everybody. This is Stevie." "Hi Jackson, hi Stevie. Another nice day at the lake," Dan greeted us. And it WAS a nice day, the sky was blue, the sun was hot, the water was inviting, there was a smell of marijuana, and suntanned skin everywhere, female and male. The cadre of regulars at The Lake were dedicated Lake People: some who came every day, some all day long; others after work; some could only make it on weekends, but they came EVERY weekend. It was a Way of Life. And it was comprised of all sorts, mostly young, in spirit if not years, wealthy and poor, all equalized by their bare butts. And somehow they were ALL very nice people, it was almost a peace & love hippy commune--people contributed things to the common good, kept the place clean, helped on improvement projects, respected each other's comfort. I liked them all. When I think back to The Lake, it was THEM who made it a special place. And Stevie liked them too, because they welcomed him. But he didn't want to take his clothes off while they were all being so friendly. He stripped to his underpants, and that was it, as far as he could go. "Are you really going to be the only guy with pants on?" I asked him. "Yes, or they'll see my wiener!" he explained in a whisper. I shook my head and tossed my clothes off, no big deal once you're used to it. In 5 minutes you really have forgotten about being naked, the horny attitude dissipates, and then it's just normal everyday sunbathing. "Come on, Stevie; let's swim out to the rope swing." "Uhhh, not just yet, Jackson. I wanta just sit here a while and...sunbathe." I swam out alone, about an eighth of a mile, to the other side where a thick rope had been set up in a big tree, and we could swing wayyyy out into a dive, lots of fun. When I got back, Laurna had arrived. Of all the people I liked at The Lake, she I liked the most. It wasn't just lust...although it was certainly also that. But then, all the guys liked Laurna, get in line...but first say hi to Greg, her jealous boyfriend. She was already naked on a blanket on the dock, and I was amused to see her shaking hands with Stevie. She had obviously introduced herself, and the amusing part was that Stevie looked like he was going to faint at the sight of her breasts bobbing to the handshake. Greg didn't even bother getting jealous, it was obvious how harmless Stevie was. Sometimes he comes and sits himself down between Laurna and anyone who gets into a good conversation with her, but Stevie he ignored. Greg was actually a classically good-looking guy. Dark-haired, square-jawed, wore horn-rimmed glasses that made him look like Clark Kent. He was tall and athletic, dressed in sort of a yuppie style, but of course that was gone when he was naked as the rest of us. He and Laurna made a handsome couple, unfortunately. But he didn't make many friends with other guys, he was too busy watch-dogging his hyperbeautiful girlfriend from the wolves. Laurna gave me a hug when I arrived--and both Greg AND Stevie gave me the jealous eye. Myself, I almost fainted. It was hard not to hold on to her, but that wasn't the offer, so I didn't. I controlled myself and sat down. I could see that Stevie was having some problems. He had to lie on his belly to hide his erection, and to get a good look at every inch of Laurna without being too obvious. I make this sound like Laurna was the only beauty at The Lake: that wasn't so; there were several very pretty girls, and all of them were really nice in one way or another. But Laurna was just so PERFECT that it was like seeing an angel on earth: her skin, hair, eyes, teeth, figure. And perhaps it was because such extreme physical beauty can so often be at odds with just being nice, for obvious practical reasons, that she surprised everyone by always being nice to everyone, considerate, interested and helpful. God, listen to me rave on, and this was 30 years ago. There were joints floating around, I took some but Stevie wouldn't. He didn't do stuff like that. It was pretty hot, Stevie finally had to come into the water, still in his underpants. He just couldn't bring himself to take them off.


We swam over to the tree-swing, played around there for half an hour, swinging and diving with 4 or 5 other people. Laurna came out too, her boyfriend trailing right behind, and we all enjoyed watching her swing out over the water and drop in, like the most luscious Jane you ever saw in some really good Tarzan movie. Then Stevie just had to climb the tree. It was a big old alder tree, and he headed for the top, just like a little kid. Stevie WAS a little kid in a lot of ways, at least up until then. And then everything changed. Even the Future. It started with the weather. Up to that moment it had been a hot day without a cloud in a bright blue sky. I could hear Stevie up in the tree top, he was making a lot of noise, Tarzan yells, and "Looka me!" so I looked up. He was a silhouette against a bright blue sky, and then a black cloud just seemed to slide in above him. It actually got dark. And cold. The change was so sudden and so dramatic that it was spooky, unnatural. The cloud wasn't big, and it was the only one in the sky, but it was so dark and dense that it seemed ready to explode with rain, and I could actually feel static electricity emanating from it, the hair on my arms stood on end. "Oh My God, Jackson, look at this cloud..." Stevie called down. "Stevie, better get down from that tree, man, if there's lightning..." There was lightning. Even as I said the word. A great white blinding light arced down from the cloud and I actually SAW it hit Stevie. Once again he was a silhouette, but this time against a white hot spark of cosmic power. The branches of the tree all around him exploded, including the one he was standing on. The image fried onto my retinas; of him floating up there, arms spread wide, a crucifix. Touched by God indeed. I couldn't see what was happening after that, momentarily blinded by the flash. But I could hear him crashing down through the leaves and branches, then hitting the water with a heavy SPLAT! I stood frozen in horror, as stunned as if it had been me struck by lightning. Then realized that Stevie was going to drown if he wasn't already dead, and forced myself to do something, anything. I was up on the bank, and as soon as I could see where the ripples on the water were, I dived in. I couldn't find him. It was a deep part of the lake, and the water was murky, dark, and I was still seeing spots. Others also went in after him, but we all floundered around without any luck. I felt myself slipping into panic. I was also afraid of finding him dead anyway. But Laurna came up to the surface, splashing and gasping, and she had Stevie. He was unconscious, but not dead. We hauled him out of the water. We were reluctant to lay him on the wet earth, since he HAD to be in shock, but there was nothing else to do until Dan got back with the rowboat from the dock. He looked dead, unconscious and limp, scratched and bloody from falling through the branches. He was also naked, his underpants must have simply been blown away, like the tree. And yet, he was obviously breathing, and except for the minor scratches, appeared to be in pretty good shape for being hit by lightning-- the only burn on his body was a thin line where the elastic of his underpants had been seared away, and his hair was singed short. A very weird thing: I looked up to see if the tree was burning, which it was slightly, and saw that the sky was flawlessly blue again; the black cloud was simply gone.

4           IN SHOCK

Dan came with the rowboat and we got him to the dock, where we wrapped him in a blanket, discussing if we should get him to a hospital or call an ambulance. Everyone had an opinion, it was pretty chaotic. Until Laurna said, "He's conscious!" We surrounded Stevie, all looking down at him lying on the dock. His eyes were open, looking back at us as if in wonder. Then he looked at the sky, the trees, the water. He seemed very amazed, and yet very relaxed. "Stevie? Stevie, you all right?" Then he smiled. " one's called me that in years." And he laughed weakly. I felt goose bumps everywhere. He hadn't sounded or laughed like Stevie at all, but like someone else, someone older. Laurna knelt beside him, put her hand on his shoulder. "Are you hurt, Stevie?" she asked. He turned to look at her, and his amazement expanded. "Is, Laurna? My God, if you're here, I really have died and gone to Heaven!" Okay, she was beautiful--and still naked-- but this didn't sound like flirting. More like a revelation. She laughed, nervously perhaps, "Oh, actually, it sounds like you've survived all right." But he shook his head, seriously and sadly, "No one survived. No one nowhere. It's the End." "Can you sit up?" she asked, ignoring his ramblings. "I'm afraid that if I, and all this, will vanish. It must be a delusion...I mean, I don't really believe in Heaven. And I certainly don't belong there. But that sky can't be real, you can't be alive...hell, I can't be alive either, what's going on?" "You were hit by lightning," Dan said. He pivoted his head over to see Dan and smiled. "Hi, Dan, long time no see. Yeah, lightning, I remember that day..." then he closed his eyes, smiled and shook his head, "...oh my God, we're doing a rerun of that now, aren't we? Ha ha ha!" "He IS delusional, maybe we should be careful," said Laurna's boyfriend, putting his hands on her shoulders to pull her back a bit from Stevie. "Well, you would be too if you'd been hit by lightning," Laurna said, and shrugged free from his hands. "Come on Stevie, see if you can sit up," I insisted, offering him my hand. He looked up at me in surprise, as if seeing me for the first time, and he frowned. "Is that Jackson, you're here too? But just how the hell did YOU ever get into Heaven?" I almost couldn't answer him, I was so surprised by the DISLIKE in his voice. But I wise-guyed my way through, "Hey, I brought you here, remember?" He frowned, as if trying to remember something long long ago. "Oh yeah, I suppose you did that day, okay..." then he gave me a very stern look, "...but you leave her alone this time. Got that?" I assumed that he was demented from the shock, nodded and said, "Okay, now see if you can get up, or we'll have to take you to the hospital." I offered my hand again. He ignored my hand, but stood up. Awkwardly, as if drunk, groaning at sore muscles. He managed to sit, crawled to his knees, stumbled to his feet, and was up. Wobbling at first, out of balance-- then he stood up very straight, like a military man, and looked out at the lake for a long moment, ignoring us all. Then he said, perhaps to himself, "Was it really this beautiful, or is this just a fantasy of how I wished it had been?" We looked at each other. Dan gave a sign that "the guy's wigged out," and we let him just stand there for a while. Then he abruptly dived into the water and disappeared from sight. "Hey, maybe we better go in after him--he's not in complete control of himself." "Think he's suicidal?" "Dunno, but he should be in a hospital bed, not going for a swim!" "Aw, I think he's okay. Just disoriented." "I don't know," I said, "it's like he's totally changed personality. Kinda scary." "Well, let's keep an eye on him." We all watched the ripples expanding from where he had dived in, but of Stevie there was no sign. I began to worry when he'd been under for about half a minute. "Shit, he's not coming up!" I said and was about to dive in after him when he surfaced about 50 meters out with a great gasp. He swam back to the dock and climbed up, faced us all, gasping for air. "I don't understand," he said, "how can I feel so alive? The water is cold, I have to breathe...this is all so real!" "I think you're in shock, Stevie, you've been hit by.." "By lightning, yeah I know, I remember. But..." he held up his arms in front, looking at them. "...I'm all scratched to hell..." "You fell down through all the tree branches," Laurna said, "maybe we should disinfect some of those cuts." He looked at her, very directly, up and down, not shyly at all. "No, I'm okay, this is nothing..." suddenly a look of vast amazement appeared on his face. He reached up and covered his left eye with his hand, then took it away again a couple of times, experimenting. "What's wrong?" Laurna asked him. "My vision. No macro...I see normally with both eyes!" "Couldn't you before?" "No, my left eye was replaced years ago!" "Really? Uh...maybe the lightning..." Laurna didn't know Stevie, had never met him before this day, so she had no reason to doubt him, but I knew that he'd never been blinded. I knew he was lying. Or crazy. I could also see that as he looked at Laurna, beautiful and naked as she was, he was getting an erection. Which he was making no attempt to cover or hide, he simply wasn't aware or didn't care that it showed. "I'll get the first aid kit and disinfect those scratches," Laurna said. She hadn't noticed yet, being too close. Greg the boyfriend stepped in again. "No, you won't. Let some one else do it." He'd noticed, and was getting pissed off now. "Why shouldn't I do it?" she retorted. There was a challenge in her voice, she was visibly irritated by Greg's jealousy. "Well, look at him, god dammit." "Oh. Oops." Now she noticed. Yes, oops. Stevie, who had been too shy to be naked was now totally unconcerned about pointing his semi-prodigious erection directly at Laurna. Now WE were embarrassed, but not him, not at all. Stevie was addressing her now, ignoring Greg. "This is all so fantastic," he said, indicating the world around them, "but the most wonderful is seeing you again, Laurna. So alive, all naked, so beautiful and desirable. I've always thought about you, even years after you died..." "All right, that's enough, freak! You're scaring her!" That was Greg, and Laurna did look upset, maybe afraid, now letting Greg pull her back away from Stevie. For the first time there was caution in Stevie's face. He looked at all of us staring at him with our mouths open, and he finally understood that he was making social blunders. "Uhh...maybe I'd better take you home, Stevie," I said. He frowned. "I'm not going anywhere with YOU," he said, "I want to stay here with Laurna forever." "Yeah, well, don't we all? But I'm your ride, you're stuck with me." "And you're definitely not riding with US!" Greg stated unequivocally. "I'm taking you home, Stevie," I insisted. He looked at me funny. "Home?" As if to ask, where is that? I guess I looked at him funny too. "Yeah, home. I think your mom is going to be worried..." His face went white. Suddenly I could see that he was in shock after all. "Mom--?" he said and choked, as if he'd just been hit in the belly, "--she's here too?" Tears started running.

5           THE ROAD HOME

We got him dressed and into my car. He didn't say anything, not to me anyway. He seemed angry at me, but unsure about it as well. We drove in silence all the way from The Lake down the logging road to Sultan, then east to Monroe. Stevie was just looking out the window as if he'd never seen anything so fascinating before in his life. I broke the silence in Monroe. "I'm hungry, gonna grab a burger," and pulled into a McDonald's, aiming for the drive-in window; I wasn't about to take Stevie into a public place in his condition. "My God, a...hamburger bar!" He said that with such awe that I thought he was being sarcastic about my choice of restaurant, until I looked at his face and saw that he resembled a child just arriving at Disneyland. "I'm going inside," he said, "I need to pee." I groaned, but couldn't really stop him because he was already out of the car and on his way in. I parked the car and went inside. I found Stevie in the men's room, staring at his reflection in the mirror, looking as if he'd never seen it before. Turning his head this way and that, laughing. "Was I ever really this YOUNG?" he asked me. "You were even younger yesterday," I told him. There was a newspaper sticking out of the trash bin, a Seattle Times. Stevie took it out and looked at the date. He seem quite amused at what was written, shook his head in wonder. "It even says 1983! What detail!" He laughed. I went out to get away from him. But he followed me, reading the newspaper as if it was the most interesting document he had ever seen in his life. "Hey, I even remember these headlines: 25 members of the Italian Red Brigade sentenced for the murder of Aldo Moro, former Prime Minister..." "Do you want anything?" I asked, pointing up at the menu behind the counter. His brow wrinkled in worry. "Do we have to pay here? I don't know if I have any money..." He started going through his pockets. "Hey, my treat," I offered. But he shook his head. "Not from you!" he said sternly. "Dammit, Stevie, why are you so pissed off at me? What have I done to you?" He gave me a long look, as if I was crazy. "Not to me. To Laurna: you murdered her." "What are you talking about? Laurna's alive, you just saw her!" He seemed suddenly to comprehend something big. Looked at the date on the newspaper, calculated something. "Okay, rather you WILL kill her, later on." "What--now you know the future?" He frowned, looked confused. "No...just the past." "God, Stevie, you're really fucked up!" "Stop calling me that," he said, irritated, "my name is Steven." And then he continued reading the newspaper intensely. I ordered the burgers and drinks to go. When we should pay Stevie found his wallet and opened it. He pulled a bill out and looked at it in wonder, held it up to the light, rumpled it. "Old US Dollars! My god!" We took the food and continued driving towards Seattle in silence once again. But I heard him moaning with every bite he took, eating very slowly and delicately, as if a Big Mac was the finest cuisine he had ever tasted, then weeping when it was finished. I didn't even look. And all along the way he was muttering to himself, "How far does this GO? How big IS this place? It all seems so REAL! Can this really be happening?" But by then I didn't care. I just wanted to dump him off at his mom's.

6           HOME TO MOTHER

I stopped my car outside the Carpenter's house with Melissa's weirded-out son, just wanting to drop him off and let somebody else deal with Stevie for a while. But he was looking at the house as if it was haunted. "The old house," he said in wonder, not getting out of the car. "Well, you're home. See you later." "I'm afraid to go in there, Jackson." I didn't want to be with him anymore, but I could see that he meant what he said. "Okay, I'll go in with you." "No, I don't want you in there!" "Fuck you, Stevie!" I went to the door and rang the bell. Melissa Carpenter opened the door a minute later, looking as terrific as ever. I always enjoyed seeing Stevie's mom. "Hi, Jackson...what's wrong?" Nothing slow about her. "Stevie's in the car. He's kind of in shock and is afraid to go home." She shaded her eyes against the sun and looked into the car, where Stevie was cowering. For a second I thought that she looked scared too. But then she looked back at me as if everything was cool. "So what happened?" "He was hit by lightning. He's physically okay, but..." She said nothing, just walked over to the car and opened the door. Stevie got out, stood up and faced her like a military man, his singed-short hair added to the illusion. But tears were streaming down his face. They looked at each other. "Mom," he finally said, and that was all. That was all he could say before he started sobbing. She held him. And said, "Steven, you've been touched by God, I can see that." He nodded and sniffed. She took him inside. Nobody waved goodbye, they were just gone. I left.


I'd had enough of Stevie for awhile. It had been pretty intense, I'd been scared, but I'd been there for him--and yet he'd turned on me like an enemy. I knew it wasn't his fault, that he was in shock, but sometimes the truth comes out in times like that. He didn't like me... ...the worst was that he'd accused me of going to murder Laurna. So I let a few days go by. I had a job in a gas station, and there was a girl I liked to flirt with, Tracy. She wasn't Laurna, but she was okay. I was at her place when her best friend Shari came over--the girl Stevie'd been seeing. Shari had visited him when she'd heard what had happened to him, but it seemed he hadn't been his usual puppydog self. In fact, he had broken up with her. Shari was not the best girl for Stevie, she was kind of pretty, but also pretty vain. Expected the world on a platter, opportunistic, self-centered, and kind of mean to Stevie. I didn't expect her to really care, except maybe for wounded pride, but she seemed oddly upset. "He's just weirded out by the shock," I said, smoothing things. "He seemed pretty coherent to me," she said, "except that he didn't remember who I was when I came in. I had to tell him my name!" "Yeah, he does seem to have time all mixed up somehow," I agreed. "Finally he did remember who I was--but like I was someone he'd known a long time ago and hadn't seen in 50 years. It was weird." "So did he try to tell you the future?" I asked, as a joke. Shari suddenly looked at me very pointedly. "Yeah, he sure did. He said that there was no point in us seeing each other because I would dump him for Marty Rossen next year anyway. Then he said our relationship was a waste of time for both of us--even told me that we'd never once have sex, called us a dead-end, like he knew everything that was or wasn't ever going to happen to us." I actually felt the classic shiver go down my back. Tracy asked her, "So, did you let him get away with it?" She nodded, "Oh yeah, yeah! He was kinda intimidating, didn't talk like Stevie at all. More like some school teacher--older man, grownup, whatever--who seemed to know so much more than I did about everything. He wasn't unfriendly, but wasn't especially friendly either. Weird: Stevie's always been so overeager, so desperate." "Well, are you so heartbroken anyway?" Tracy asked, "You WERE pretty lukewarm about Stevie." "Yeah, I was..." Shari admitted, then, "or THOUGHT I was. I don't know now though, he was kinda very cool..." "Aren't you mad at him?" She shook her head. "No, everything he said about us seemed to be right on. He got me to thinking." Later, Tracy told me that Shari was actually rather interested in the New Stevie--or rather, Steven. That she wanted to win him back. "Well if Stevie really doesn't believe that they'll ever have sex, it's easy: all she has to do is screw him to prove him wrong." "That may be her plan," Tracy confided.

8           STEVEN

The next weekend was sunny and I wanted to go out to The Lake. I felt guilty that I hadn't called Stevie all that week, felt that I should check up on him, maybe he was back to normal by now. But I didn't want to invite him out there again, so I didn't call. I wasn't ready. Friday night the phone rang. My dad took it, said it was for me, some man named Steven, he hadn't recognized the voice. "Hello Jackson, this is Steven." His voice did sound different, I almost didn't recognize him either. Older, wiser, commanding respect. "Oh, yeah, hi, how're you doing, Stev..uh..en?" "Much better now. Thanks for taking care of me that day. I know it was pretty scary for you." "Yeah, well, that's what friends do." I guess I sounded a little martyred. "Look Jackson, I know I've hurt your feelings. Sorry about that. But I'm sure you know I couldn't help it, I was extremely confused as to where and when I was. But I'm oriented now, and I'd like to explain, to you, and to some others. How about sharing a ride out to The Lake tomorrow?" "I thought you'd decided not to have anything to do with me." "On the contrary, it's very important that I do. We need to talk."
When I picked Steven up the next day about noon, I was shocked at how much he had changed in the week since I had seen him last. He looked 10 years older--which was an improvement from a 17 year-old nerdy kid-- he actually looked pretty good. He was wearing a t- shirt and shorts, so I could see that he'd been working out or something, his thin body was definitely muscled up. That military man look was now more pronounced--even his face was CRISP. He loaded a travel bag into the trunk, which seemed a little heavy for a day's outing. When he got in the car with me I got the same feeling Shari had described, of being with someone much older than myself. Someone who was on another plane of mentality, more mature, more experienced. Suddenly I too felt intimidated, just as Shari had, and he hadn't even said anything but "Hi" yet. So I took the first move and challenged him: "Well, are you back on Earth again?" He hesitated for an instant, as if I had asked some heavily philosophical question--which, it seems, I had. "Yes, I am," he briskly assured me, "back again indeed." Sounded like a hidden message in his words. Dee do dee do, Twilight Zone, I thought, he's still not quite with us. But where then is he? "So have you been to work this week?" I asked, as I headed my Chevy north onto Highway 2. Stevie had a job at Radio Shack, I was simply wondering if he was able to function in the real world yet. "No. My mother called me in sick--and I guess they agreed that lightning was a good enough excuse. I'm supposed to show up Monday...but we'll see." "Not feeling up to it yet?" "Oh, I feel fine, physically--wonderful, actually! It's more a question of my own time priorities, it's a dead-end job. And I'm not quite sure I can remember everything I'm supposed to know anyway." "Do you have amnesia?" I asked, wonderingly. Stevie had always been especially good at retaining facts and figures. "Not at all, in fact I remember most things incredibly well, considering..." "Considering what--that you've forgotten stuff you knew last Friday? And I saw Shari, who said that you'd forgotten who she was. Sounds like at least partial amnesia to me." "I'd better explain what's happened to me," he started. "Yeah, that might be entertaining." I was keeping it light. "Have you ever wished that you could just go back to when you were younger, knowing what you know now?" I gave him The Funny Look. "Back to when I was...what, 10? No, I've never wished that." He actually laughed. It wasn't Stevie's usual squeaky-teen giggle, but a man's laugh, hale and hearty. It scared me a little: just who WAS this guy? "Okay, you're too young yet, only 17 of course," he said as if he wasn't, and went on, "but later on you WILL wish it, everyone does sometime: to go back to their youth. Well, that's what's happened to me. Last week I was 78 in the year 2044, I died, and now I'm 17 again, doing a rerun of my life." I didn't say anything. Just kept driving. "When I revived at The Lake I truly believed that I had died and gone to Heaven, it was the only logical explanation I could come up with. It took a couple days for the Truth to settle in." The Truth was settling in for me: Stevie was insane. I didn't even dare look at him. We drove in silence. Finally I had to ask, "Okay, so what do you think the Truth is?" "Oh...that I'm really here, in the world of 1983, neither dreaming nor delusional--nor in Heaven--and that the Future is ahead of me, yet unhappened." "Well, that sounds pretty much like the basic Truth all right," I admitted, just to say something. "Yes, that was the easy part," he said, "now comes the part that's hard to swallow: I remember the future, and it's so bad that it's totally unacceptable, so I have to change it." " you said, that part's hard to swallow." "A week ago, just before I woke up back at my life here at age 17, I was a colonel in the Allied Nations Task Force. As I said, 78 years old, the year was 2044, 61 years ahead of now." "Not swallowing yet." "It gets harder. It was more or less the end of the world," he went on, "biological warfare and environmental catastrophes had disrupted the photosynthesis of plants the world over, and blended with the noxious methane rot bubbling up from the dead oceans, not only had the atmosphere simply run out of oxygen, it was also poisonous. "Therefore the sky was always dirty brown, there were no living plants anywhere in nature, the earth itself was just grey mud and rock eroded by acid rain, strewn with dead things everywhere; trees, insects, animals, people. This planet had become an absolute Hell. "The last thing I remember was dying of asphyxiation, along with everything else, on a battlefield in southern China. Even to the very bitter end we were fighting our stupid wars that no one could win. This time we were out to steal the last water supplies. "My unit's Walloper Battle Transport had fallen--the acidic gasses in the open air were so concentrated by then that electric motors would short out, a few old-fashioned bullet holes were all it took, our engines quit--and we crashed down in the ruins of a city, maybe Peking. I survived the crash, but my suit was torn open, and my tank air ran out...didn't seem to matter much, all the tank air the ANTF had would be used up in a month anyway. "So I just lay there, looking out over the pulverized city that someone had nuked earlier, at all the death, and accepted that I was dying. I started strangling, retching--atmosphere was seeping into my suit--throwing up, shitting and pissing myself, pain swelling throughout my body, so much that I only wanted it to end. "Finally it did end, faded out, I felt cold, then nothing. I was dead. "Until a cool breeze kissed my face, sweet clean air supercharged my lungs, golden sunlight lit up my closed eyelids. Impossible feelings. I opened my eyes and there was blue sky above, green trees waving. And The Lake--which I'd always remembered from back when the earth was still healthy. And all of you people, whom I'd known in my youth, all so young and beautiful, miraculously alive of course I thought I'd gone to Heaven, who wouldn't?" He paused, as if waiting for me to answer his question. We drove in silence through Bothell. I turned on the radio. "Every Step You Take" was playing. Steven cocked his ear at the radio. "Wow, I remember that song... Sting, isn't it?" "The Police." "Oh yeah, that's right, before Sting went solo." Finally I had to shake my head and say, "You sound as if you believe what you're saying. But I don't. And IF you do...well then, you ARE delusional, Stevie." "Call me Steven, please." "No, man, I'm not contributing to this New Persona charade. God damn, I can't believe your mother let you out of the house! Let me get this right: you've come back from the future to save the world?" "Well, mom believes I've had a Vision." "I guess! Been taking any LSD, crack, mushrooms?" "Just a bolt of lightning in the head," he reminded me. I calmed down. Okay, there was the reason he was like this. Not really his fault. "You know," he said, "I remember being hit by that lightning, over 60 years ago. I was stunned but unhurt, and went on to live the life I've known-- college, girl friends, drafted into the Gulf War, doing research for the government, married & divorced, more wars, military intelligence, worse wars, had a daughter with Gisele my French true love, then the epidemics, the atmosphere collapsing, the mega-war for survival, dying last week--and here I am again, starting all over." "So you're really serious: you think you're from the Future?" "Yes, Jackson, I'm quite serious." "All right: so what was that shit about me murdering Laurna?" "Two years from now you will be arrested, tried, and convicted for killing Laurna by strangulation. You were given life in prison, but got out after 14 years." I shook my head. "That's some crazy shit idea you've got going on, Stevie. I'd never murder ANYONE, and especially not Laurna." "It was a crime of passion. You were jealous of her other boy friend. But it was premeditated, you had an alibi, which proved to be false, because you were actually waiting for her in her apartment." "How can you possibly be saying this?" "Because I REMEMBER it. And because you CONFESSED, Jackson!" I almost got angry, but remembered that Steven couldn't help it. "I never believed it myself," he said, "all through the trial, I figured it was Greg, that jealous bastard, or anybody else. I KNEW you'd never do it--not to Laurna, you were as infatuated with her as I was...but then you confessed. I never saw you again after that." "Yeah? Well, here you are with me again. How can you stoop so low?" "You haven't done it yet. Just as there were things I couldn't even forgive MYSELF for having done in the name of war--but now, I haven't done them yet. And never will this time." "And I never would do what you said!" "No, you'll never murder Laurna now. That's one of the future changes we have to make sure of." "Whaddya mean WE, white man? You think I'm in on this with you? You're..." I was getting angry again, but he raised a hand and I shut up, as if he had authority over me. Maybe I was just afraid of him. "I certainly don't expect you to believe me yet, Jackson," he said in the calmest of voices, "no one could...without proof." "You got that right." "But if I AM going to change the Future, I have to start with you. I have to find out how to convince you first, and then others, and eventually everyone, of all the shit that's about to go down."

9           SUNNY SATURDAY

Actually, I had almost turned the car around and driven back to Seattle, I didn't want to inflict crazy Steven on that idyllic little society at The Lake. He was my responsibility, I'd introduced him. But I was unsure of how Steven would react, so I went on to where I'd have some backup. We arrived at The Lake about 1:00 o'clock. It was a beautiful sunny Saturday and most of the regulars were already there. The sun was baking brown naked bodies, male and female. Ron the watermelon man had come with free watermelon for everyone, Dan was playing guitar, joints were being passed around, people were quietly talking and laughing. It was Life on The Lake. I could easily see how someone could have mistaken this place for Heaven. People on the dock greeted us, recognized Stevie and asked how he was; all concerned about the guy who had been hit by lightning. He nodded that he was okay and greeted them back by name: which was weird, because he'd never been told their names, some of them hadn't even been there last weekend, he'd never met them before. As Stevie he'd always been painfully shy, but as Steven he was charismatic. He announced, "I'll tell you all about what happened to me, but I'm waiting for a few people to show up first," and stripped off his clothes as if that was totally natural for him. "Who are you waiting for?" I asked when we were no longer the center of attention. "Laurna and Greg. Frank, Jeannie, and Rocky...especially Rocky." "Rocky? Who's that?" Steven looked at me and raised a brow. "Don't you know him? He used to come wait, maybe that was later, next year..." I rolled my eyes to the sky. "Future stuff," I said, with some sarcasm. "Yeah, I'm afraid so. Damn! I wanted to...see him." "Why?" He hesitated, then shrugged, and told me. "The most traumatic experience of my life took place out here. Rocky was--will be, whatever--a biker who started hanging out here. He never blended in, was just here to look at girls..." "Hey, that's why we're here," I reminded him. "No we're not," Steven told me, "we both became part of this little community. Anyway, Rocky could get aggressive when he drank too much, also taking amphetamines, etc, and one day he just beat the shit out of me. Really bad, broke my front teeth, my nose--the rest of you pulled him off before he could kill me, because he was enjoying it too much." "So why did he do it?" I asked, falling for the story, even though I knew a future-narration couldn't be real. "Simply because he just wanted to hurt someone, and I was an easy target: too nerdy, too wimpy, too weak to defend myself. A perfect victim to dominate. "Anyway, I remembered that for the rest of my life as the worst indignation anyone had ever done me. He was never even arrested for assault. And when I went into military training, I always imagined Rocky as my opponent. I learned martial arts with a passion because I was going to fight Rocky one day, and defeat him as totally as he had me. Never did, of course." "But Grasshopper, is Revenge truly the way to enlightenment?" I couldn't help being sarcastic, Steven's fantasy was so childish. "Grasshopper...?" Steven ransacked his memories for something far away, "oh yes, that's from some TV show, isn't it?" "Come on, Stevie, now I'm supposed to believe that you're a kung- fu master from the future come to save the world...well, if ONLY ONE MAN can do it; at least this guy's got a fighting chance." "Yeah, I can imagine how it sounds," he admitted. "But how about this: in a few minutes Laurna will show up, with Greg AND another couple--I don't remember the guy's name, but the girl's name will be Joyce, she's not quite as pretty as Laurna, but with a terrific body. She was pretty wild too, as I remember, and you'll have a fling with her later on." "All right, wait a minute: you're telling me you remember all that about this particular day from...what--60 years back?" "51 actually. The Lake made a big impression on me, and this was the second time I'd ever been here--also a week after the lightning bolt. And the truth is that I was already crazy infatuated with Laurna, which was the most hopeless love of my life, so I was breathlessly awaiting her arrival. Of course I remember." "Really? You too, eh? Okay, what was she wearing when she arrived?" Steven wrinkled his brow. "Hmmm, that's stretching those memories a bit--I was more interested in how she looked when she took her clothes off." "Come on, man, this is your big chance to prove to me that you're not completely full of shit." "Yeah, you're right. Let me think..." he closed his eyes, put his hands on his brow. "I sort of remember...sunglasses...t-shirt, something on it...shorts..." At that moment Laurna and Greg came out of the woods, walking the log to the dock. Steven had his face buried in his hands, hadn't seen them yet. She WAS wearing sunglasses and a t-shirt, shorts, a black Seattle Seahawks baseball cap. "Don't look up," I said. "What was on her t-shirt?" "I can't remember...but a baseball" I felt reality slip a cog. "What was Greg wearing?" "Who knows, did we ever actually look at Greg?" Laurna turned to call to someone in the woods behind her. Another couple came out onto the log. The girl had a VERY nice figure. "The other girl--what's her name?" "Who...Joyce?" "Yeah. What color hair?" "Red." The other girl had brown hair. I began to relax. Her name probably wasn't even Joyce. My reality was safe. "No wait," Steven said, "she dyed her hair red sometimes, but she really had brown hair. And...and an especially nice bottom." "Hi, everybody," Laurna said, setting down her picnic basket, "this is Joe and Joyce; we thought they'd like it out here. Hi, Stevie, you're still alive, that's good!" Steven looked up at her from his hands and smiled. "Yes, it's good to be alive, all right," he said. I couldn't help watching the new girl undress--well, I never could anyway, but I was especially interested in seeing her "bottom". And, well, wow, Steven was right on about that. How had he done it? Had he contacted Laurna by phone, arranged this series of coincidences, was it a scam? There was no way I could believe what he had told me. Would you have?

10           THE MEETING

Steven called everyone into a circle, said he had something important to tell them. Beginning with, "Now, none of you are going to believe what I'm going to tell you. But please, ride it out for a while, just listen. Because you're the very people I most need to convince. You were witness to what happened to me last week..." "You mean the lightning?" Laurna asked. "That, but also how I behaved. I'm sure you all thought I was in shock--and of course, I was--but there's more at work here than simple lightning..." He told his story, much as he had told it to me. The regulars on The Lake were a well assorted flock of people, from different towns, from different economic levels, although most of them were WASPs, and a lot of them were smart and well educated. They listened to Steven's story much more patiently than I had. While he was talking, you found yourself believing him because he spoke with such authority and clarity. His words rang true. He said he'd been a Colonel--well, he SOUNDED like a Colonel, someone who was used to having authority and issuing commands. And when he said he was from the future, hey, it seemed plausible the way he said it. Or maybe not TOO impossible. Anyway, some even seemed to accept it, or parts of it. "So did you have an after-death experience, or something," Joyce asked, "floating out of your body in a tunnel, light at the end, dead friends leading the way, all that?" "THIS is my after-death experience. I DID die, no question about it. And that should have been the end of it...but I woke up, and here I am. Here, of all places." "Oh, I don't know," Dan said, "this is where I'd like to come back to." "Okay, maybe you DID die for a split second," postulated Nelson, who was a medic, "--I don't know, it's amazing that you survived getting hit by lightning at all-- but how can you really KNOW that other life isn't just a hallucination?" Steven answered without hesitation: "I considered that at first, of course, but then I kept having déjà-vu's, things I remember having happened to me 61 years ago: the news on TV, things my mother said and did, accidents, incidents. Too many coincidences. "Actually, I was horrified that I might be locked into a repetition of all the rest of my life-- talk about boring--but worst was the thought of that horrible future the world was going to endure...once again, as far as I was concerned. "But I've been behaving differently than the first time around, I've been changing things, interrupting the déjà-vu's. Which means that if I could change my own time-line, then I could possibly also change YOURS-- and eventually everybody's. Even the world's. "So I'd better do that, considering what that future IS. Therefore I have to act on the assumption that what I'm experiencing is real. At least until proven otherwise. "Sure, I could be wrong. I could be totally insane, as Nelson suggested: how would I know? After all, this CAN'T really be happening, but here I am. And I can only try to convince you people with a body of proof, and thus convince myself. I've started with Jackson." Everyone looked over at me. "Hey, don't look at me! I REALLY don't believe this at all." But they got the details out of me concerning Laurna's arrival, and Joyce's name...and admirable butt. Joyce seemed to like that, by the way, although her companion Joe was less amused. So it was ME who began to convince the others that Steven might be genuine-- although I did not myself believe it. Then Nelson asked a very relevant question: "Why are you telling US this, Steven? Instead of...the Media, the Authorities, the people who could make the changes you claim have to be made?" "I'd be dismissed as a madman, you all know that. Never be heard. I have to learn HOW to prove my story, so I'll start here. I choose this group because I once knew most of you pretty well, in the future that is, and this was the most admirable society I have ever spent time with. Arriving here, with all of you, is a Godsend...literally." "And just how do you think you CAN convince us?" Nelson asked. "One method is, of course, by personal predictions, as I did with Laurna's arrival. But especially predictions of historical events: wars, catastrophes, presidential elections, movies, academy awards, hit songs; everything I can remember of my past and your future. "But I'd have to present a flawless chronicle of that future, which could eventually prove that I was really there. The trick is to remember all the correct dates, names, sequences of events. That's not easy." "But that would take years," someone said, "you told us that the damage to the environment is already in progress." "Right. It will take years, I'm sure of that. Another method is by presenting ideas, inventions, future technologies with which I was involved during my years in military electronics weapon design. That would be more high-profile, maybe get me into the echelons of government that actually can make drastic changes. Only thing is, I don't trust those people." Steven reached into the travel bag he had brought from home and pulled out a small metal case. "So I put this gadget together to demonstrate a little future technology." He placed it on the dock. It was just a book-sized metal box with an on-off switch. "It's primitive, made from current technology parts from Radio Shack, running on standard D-cell batteries, but it works." Everybody looked at it with curiosity, having no idea what to expect. "It's a proximity field generator," Steven said, "now watch carefully, because the batteries will be drained in seconds." He turned the switch to ON. The box hopped up two feet above the dock. We all hopped as well, not knowing what it would do. It just floated there. Steven reached for it and it slid away from his hand, he put up his other hand before it and it returned. He waved it out over the edge of the dock, and it fell, only to hover two feet above the surface of the lake water. "You can see the ripples in the water," Steven said, "the box is actually supported by pulses of static electricity." Everyone crowded to the edge of the dock, wondering at this device. "Look, it's sinking lower," someone said. "Batteries are going already," Steven explained, "better pull it in." Dan reached out to grab it, but it glided away from his hand. Now it was out of reach. "Sorry," he said, "I'd better jump in and chase it back before it sinks...." "Never mind," Steven said. He had another device, with a short antenna which he pointed at the floating box, pressed a button on the top of it, and the box slid back towards him. Then it settled onto the dock, batteries apparently spent. "I'll have to come up with some much hotter batteries to actually get any practical use out of this thing, but as you see, it works." We all looked at the box, then at Steven, who sat waiting for our response, eyebrows raised, as if to say "Well--?" "Shit, man," Dan said, "that's basically a deflector shield right out of Star Trek!" "Was that real--or a magician's trick?" I asked, suspiciously. "That was--is--real. I can take a patent on it. But of course, I'd be stealing ideas that were developed and patented in about the year 2015. But then again, those who patented it all died by 2044 anyway, so if I steal it from them I'll be saving their lives later on. As well as every other living thing, if this helps to convince people that I know what's going to happen."

11           GOING HOME

On the way back to Seattle, as we passed through Monroe, I asked Steven if he wanted to stop at the McDonald's there again. "Oh no thanks," Steven said, "it's not very healthy food." "Last week you almost had an orgasm eating a Big Mac." "Hah, yes I suppose so. But you don't know how long it had been since I'd tasted ANY real food--years, eating nothing but tasteless synthetics. A real meat and bun hamburger was... Ambrosia! And you've got to remember: I thought I had died and gone to Heaven." "And that was the Heavenly Burger Bar?" I gestured piously as we drove past the Golden Arches. "It's all relative, believe me," he said so seriously that I did believe him. "But since I returned I've been eating my mother's cooking, lots of vegetables, fresh fruit, juicy steaks. You can't imagine what that's like after the garbage I've been living on in the 30s and 40s." "Steaks? Meat?" I asked because Melissa was a vegetarian and never cooked meat, but Stevie had always eaten burgers and pizzas on the sly when he was away from home. "Oh yes, I want the protein." "Does your mom allow that at home?" "Oh yes, she's accepted that I know what I'm doing." That was surprising, Melissa tended to be somewhat dominating, not just over Stevie, but in general. "Shari told me that you broke up with her," I said, further on down the road. "Broke up? Hmm, it may have seemed that way to her, but actually we were never really a couple." "Well, she seems more interested in you now than ever before. I guess if you treat 'em rough, they come around." Steven looked at me as if I was a 17 year old kid. "I didn't treat her rough," he protested, "I was polite--even kind--I wasn't angry at her for anything." "Well, she hasn't really treated you that well," I said. "I can hardly remember. Anyway, so what? She was just a kid." "Yeah well, whatever you said, it worked. If you play your cards right, I'll bet she offers you her nubile body." "Hmm, well yes, she already did. Last night." "And--?" "I had to turn her down, of course". "Aw man," I now protested, "What--are you too cosmically OLD for nooky?" "Not at all--okay, sure, I was tempted, she IS nubile all right, and I'm in this healthy and horny 17 year-old-guy body. Plus I haven't had a woman in a long time..." "Yeah, 17 years." He had to think back, "Oh, in this time frame, I suppose that's so. But really, she's only 16. I think that's too young, she can wait a couple of years. Which she did anyway, as I remember." "So are you going to wait a couple of years too?" "Well, I hope not. At any rate, Shari's not for me: just the thought of starting an actual relationship, maybe getting her no, not with her. The second time around one should know which mistakes not to make again." "But you'd also know, if you did screw her, that you will have started changing your own future." "I considered that...I really was quite tempted, and almost any excuse would do. But once she offered it was ALREADY changed, since she had never once done that in my first life. But I need to change the future in the right direction, not the wrong." It was only later I realized that our conversation sounded as if I had accepted that he really was from the future.
Later that evening Steven called me on the phone, very excited. "I just saw the news on TV about Sally Ride being the first woman in space--I remember that story! If only I had thought to predict it, then people would have to believe me..." "Yeah, well you didn't," I had to tease him a little. "Damn! It's that I can't just pluck dates out of my memories. Although I DO remember that the space shuttle she went up on, Challenger, is going to explode someday, killing all of its crew." "Yeah? Well, when?" "That's just it...later, 89-90? Earlier? No, I can't see a date --but I DO remember there was ALSO a woman on that flight, a school teacher. But no names. Very frustrating."

12           JOBS

Anyway, we seemed to be friends again, and I was certainly intrigued by this new Steven. I didn't really BELIEVE in him, but I wanted to see what he did next. We both had jobs, both at the Aurora Center, by coincidence. I worked in a gas station that summer, and Stevie had a job at Radio Shack. We were both planning to go on to college; I wanted to get into journalism and Stevie was into electronics. Actually Stevie was already so good at electronics that the Radio Shack management wanted to train him for a permanent position. They were offering him "a future with the company", and as Stevie he had been considering their offers. But as Steven he considered it a waste of his valuable time. He did go back to work, after that week off due to being blasted by lightning, but he didn't last two days. He told me, "I felt like I was in a toy store, peddling primitive junk. It was also pretty embarrassing, I couldn't remember any part numbers or prices, all that was over 60 years behind me. But one thing I could remember was how quickly it all would become outdated: wait till you SEE what's going to happen with electronics in the next few years." So he quit, apologizing to the store management, because they had been quite good to him all along, and they were very sympathetic because the poor kid had gotten his brains scrambled by lightning. That same day his mother drove him to the State Patrol, he took and passed the tests for driver's license, borrowed her car and drove out to Renton, where he walked into Microsoft without an appointment or any credentials and immediately got a job programming computers. At that time Microsoft was still a young people's firm, they liked nerds and weirdoes. But there were some minimum requirements, of course--you had to be really good at computers. Stevie had never even HAD a computer, and yet he walked in and blew them away with what he could do. "I didn't tell them that I had learned to program at Microsoft ten years from now," he said, "or that the software I seemed to be creating on the fly was something it took them thousands of man- hours to develop. I'm stealing it from them, but they're getting it now at absolute minimal expense, so the ethical questions here are kind of... elusive. "Besides, I'm out to change the Future, and this is the way to go: quantum leaps in software will have dramatic effects later on, believe me. I also needed computer access, and I couldn't do what I need to do on some amateur computer from Radio Shack." "But what do you need a computer for?" I asked. This was back in the early 80's, you know. "Lots, but mostly Internet. I'm going to start a web-site where I can accumulate evidence, communicate with people on a planetary level." "Internet? Never heard of it." "You will. And in 10 years everybody will, in 20 it'll be the biggest commercial enterprise the world has ever seen, in 30 it'll rule the world. Everybody, every major and minor organization and government will be online, information will be freely distributed around the world instantly, for good or evil. The computer age is coming, Jackson, better hop on."

13           MELISSA

I had moved out of my folk's house when I turned 18, got an apartment in the U District, since I was going to attend the University of Washington. But Steven continued to live at his mom's. Once I teased him about that, and he turned on me, the muscles on his face bunched up and said, "Don't you think I know what's going to happen to my mother pretty soon?" It was a very heavy moment, and I realized that he was carrying more burdens than just the fate of the world. Whether I believed in all of "his" Future or not, I knew that HE believed it. No matter if it was true or false, he had experienced it. Humbled, I had to ask, "So what happens?" "I'm not going to say." That was unusual, for Steven made all the predictions he could, so that when they came true (and they almost always did) it would prove to people that his message was valid. We were often at his mother's house in Ridgecrest. She was always glad to have Steven's friends show up and ready to set up an extra plate for dinner. Not that Steven had so many more friends than me: he had been that dorky nerd, you know, and now--well, who knew what he was now? But Melissa Carpenter was his staunchest ally: Steven had told her his tale and she believed her son unreservedly. She had always been on the fringe of alternative religions and parapsychology, and this was her dream come true. She was maybe a little too fanatic about it, but then again, if what Steven was saying was TRUE...who can judge? And it was easy to forgive Melissa for any weirdness because she was so beautiful. In fact, second to Laurna of The Lake, Melissa Carpenter was probably the most appealing woman I knew. Long waving black hair, green green eyes, hell of a good figure--she was the good witch of Ridgecrest. But I was only 17, she was 35 and my best friend's mother, and that was that. Anyway, I really liked her, so what Steven had hinted at sort of bothered me. But I also forgot about it whenever we were all together. She wanted to plan out the Future: literally. There were great sheets of paper upon which she and Steven were writing notes in chronological order whenever he could pinpoint a future memory. One for catastrophes, acts of God that couldn't be guessed at. Another for wars, who fights whom and when. "This isn't easy," Steven complained, "I remember lots of major events over my last 60 years, but to get the dates right, or even the general order, is almost beyond me. And I don't dare publish any mistakes, or my entire story becomes discredited." "And so the world expires, yes, we know," Melissa said cheerily, "but if we just keep working at it, bit by can do it, Steven, it's your destiny, that's why you were sent back to us." "Nice that you're so confident, Mom. Wish I was." I was looking at the pages of wars. "Holy shi...uh..cow, Steven, the Future of War doesn't look very comforting. Falk, Gulf War, Russ-Afghan, Yugoslav Civil, India-Pakistan, Russ-Kazak (?), all these African wars, Arab-West, Pan Lat America, China-West, so many, and not many breaks between them..." "Oh, they're not all big wars-- but no, it's not especially comforting." "China against the Western World, not big?" "Oh, THAT one's big. Devastating, all the way to the end of the world. That's one that HAS to be changed or...well, or nothing." Steven put his finger on a line that read Arab-West. "And this one. Little war, big mess, biological: terrorist Shiite martyrs infect themselves with Virus-Z, travel to airports in America, Europe, Australia, spreading the worst plague Mankind will ever know-- it had better not happen, it's definitely the beginning of The End." "Holy shit," I said, then oops'd because Steven's mom was right there. "Holy shit indeed," she agreed. "But I can't for the life of me remember when the first plagues arrived. 2007? '08? Or if this mess started first," he pointed to S.Africa-Mozamb, "the one led to the other, but which one? I wished I'd thought to bring a World Almanac back with me." "I've researched your idea about hypnosis," Melissa said, "and I've found a psychiatrist who's interested. I think it's the only way." "Memory regression hypnosis?" I asked. "Yeah, we'll see if that helps to organize my memories." "What if you remember that time you were Christopher Columbus instead?" "Chris'll have to get in line, THIS is my previous incarnation."
Steven went to the store for some beer--he drank beer now, another change, although I never saw him get drunk--so I was alone with his mother. "So what do you think?" Melissa asked me. "I really don't know," I had to admit, "he's convincing, but..." I didn't want to mention how most schizophrenics were also convincing, "but what he's saying IS impossible, you know." "No, it's not. He's had a vision, that's happened all throughout the history of mankind. Edison had visions, so did Einstein." "Yeah, but so did Joan of Arc, and look how that worked out..." I could have bit my tongue, no need to say that to his mother.

14           PSYCHIATRY

from the files of Dr. William Vanslow, psychiatrist, 05/11/83 VANSLOW: Recorded Thursday July 11 1983, in the office of Dr William Vanslow, Edmonds Washington, first session with Steven Carpenter, male, age 17. Subject requests that Patient Confidentiality be waived, that this document be free for eventual publication. Hello Steven. Your mother told me about your situation, and I was quite intrigued. She said you'd be interested in meeting with me for hypnosis therapy. STEVEN: Yes. I need to pinpoint some memories-- historically precise dates, locations, names-- I'm hoping that hypnosis might help. VANSLOW: Now let me get this straight, you're talking about Future memories? STEVEN: Your future, my past. VANSLOW: Right. Hmmm. Let's define your situation first. Your mother told me that a month ago you were struck by lightning, with no apparent damage to your physical self. But you have undergone a psychological change. She tells me that you believe to have returned from 60 years in the future, where you had DIED, along with all life on the planet, due to biological warfare, pollution, environmental catastrophes, and the like. The notorious End of The World. She maintains that you were sent back in time to save the world. STEVEN: That's her version. Mine is that until a month ago I was Colonel Steven Carpenter of the Allied Nations Task Force, aged 78 in the year 2044. I definitely remember living all those 78 years, by the way. And how bad it got at the end. My final memory was of gasping rotten atmosphere in China, but it was the same everywhere by then, everything on the planet was dead or dying. I had only survived so long because the ANTF had air supplies. And yes, I did die, when my protective suit became torn. But then I literally seemed to wake up in Heaven--to fresh air, a healthy planet, in the favorite place of my youth, and somehow I was 17 years old again, reliving my life over from the moment when that lightning bolt hit me. That was a month ago, and here I am. VANSLOW: So you're repeating your own life over again? STEVEN: Actually no, not exactly. I'm not the same "Stevie" this time, being older and wiser--and knowing the future helps--so I'm changing things as I go along. VANSLOW: Doesn't that create a paradox? To be changing the future? STEVEN: Apparently not. After all there's no physical baggage involved, only my own memories. Anyway, I've already changed so many events in my own personal life, that even now the future I know is no longer the present I'm experiencing day by day. VANSLOW: And now you want to change the future of the world? STEVEN: I have to. The future I know is unacceptable. VANSLOW: How will you do it? STEVEN: Information. Publishing. Web-site on Internet, where I'm posting my predictions of future events: wars, presidents elected, etc. I need to build a body of evidence that will support my story, so that people will believe me when I say that the future needs to be changed. VANSLOW: Tell me, Steven, do you believe that you've been CHOSEN to save the world? STEVEN: I don't know, but here I am. However, I do know that I can't do it alone. VANSLOW: Do you know what a Messiah Complex is? STEVEN: Of course. But it really doesn't matter if I believe myself to be a messiah or not: what happened to me has put me in the position of being the Man On The Spot. VANSLOW: Are you religious? Do you believe in God? STEVEN: I do now: you die, wake up again, you'll believe. VANSLOW: Yes, a Second Coming. Your mother is quite spiritual, didn't she always tell you that "Jesus was a Carpenter"? As in Steven CARPENTER. STEVEN: That was a family joke. I certainly don't think of myself as a Christ figure. What I do think is that this might be a survival technique programmed into the race of Mankind; that since survival is otherwise impossible the race has sent someone back in time to try to undo or prevent the damage. Who knows? VANSLOW: All right, one thing more I have to breach as a professional psychiatrist--you seem educated enough to know what paranoid schizophrenia is? STEVE: Of course: a mental disorder causing hallucinations, distortions of reality, split personalities, all that. And yes, I understand that what I am saying suggests that I be classified in that category. VANSLOW: Have you at all considered that you MIGHT perhaps BE schizophrenic? STEVEN: Of course. When I arrived I assumed that I WAS. But the delusion had to be all THIS: 1983? 61 years back in time? 17 again? Impossible, preposterous. But after a week I realized that it wasn't going away--I'm really here, and have to deal with it. VANSLOW: Yes, well, a very common trait of schizophrenia is to turn reality around so that your own perception is the only valid reality. STEVEN: Well, fine. You're a psychologist, I'm here with you now to find out everything I can about my memories. If you can prove to me that that Future I know is just my schizophrenic delusion, and NOT going to happen, I will be a very happy man. Then I'd also be FREE of this duty to Change it. VANSLOW: Very well then. We'll try hypnosis and see what we get...

15           GOING ONLINE

Steven was earning good money at Microsoft. He bought a computer to work at home, an IBM 386, hooked it up to the Internet. This was all new stuff back then. One day he showed me the web-site he was working on. He went online to "" and we were in. On screen was a white page with text, some of it underlined in blue, and his message in large font: CHANGE THE FUTURE. Not especially pretty, but functional. He showed me how the links worked, the HTML document it was all based on, I was impressed. Maybe even a little envious. "So you're going to save the world with this?" I challenged him. "This is part of it, a base of operations and a contact point." "But only computer nerds use the Internet, a pretty limited audience." "Right NOW yes, but the entire world is going to be online before too long, the average family will be surfing the net on their TV sets by the turn of the century. Got to think in future terms, you know." "And it can really be seen anywhere in the world?" "Well, it can, but it's not that simple of course. No one sees it if they don't click on it, or can't find it, or don't know that it exists." "Or don't believe what you're selling," I had to add. "That's what the site is for, to convince them." There was something I needed to say, which was hard to come out with, but finally I did. "Excuse me Steven, but your text here--" pointing to that page on the screen, "--you come across as a raving lunatic who's 'seen the light'. No one's going to read more than four lines before they zap away." "You think so?" "Sorry, but...yeah." "Any suggestions?" "Well...yes: take it out of 1st person singular, become the SUBJECT of the site rather than the ego; that will give the impression that there are others who believe in your story. Better yet, call it "future2 ORGANIZATION", as if was already the movement you want to inspire." "I can't fictionalize this, Jackson, it has to be able to stand up to scrutiny...but you could write it, just the way you said." "Me?" "You've always been good at writing, you're the future journalist, after all." "I thought I was the future convict." "Not this time. And when you were, in that other time, you had published several books." "I did--I mean, I will?" "I doubt that you'll write those books this time--they were about life in prison. But you'll write others. And my web-site?" "I'm flattered, and I'd love to do it for you, but..." "But you're still not sure my story is true?" "...Steven, I'm constantly balanced between having absolute faith in you, and keeping a reasonable grip on reality." "Then you'd be the perfect voice, instead of a fanatic who has 'seen the light'." He was right. "Okay, sure, I'd like to do it--hell, of COURSE I'll do it!"
We analyzed his home page for form and content, studied several other web-sites for ideas to steal, agreed on a text, and started building "the FUTURE2 ORGANIZATION Home Page". Steven showed me how to code a HTML document, which in those days was much simpler than today. He told me how later on improved versions would get more complex, but at that time there were no frames or Java or Flash effects to fiddle with. In later updates we added graphics and colors, of course, as web browsers improved.


Brainstorming the web-site. Art and Nelson, whom we knew from The Lake, also got involved. Both were believers in Steven's story, and computer literate. "The thing right now is to establish this web site as the official source of a CHANGE THE FUTURE movement. We've posted several predictions online, and Jackson is writing an article we're trying to get into to the Greenpeace Magazine. "The trouble with the Internet as a depository for predictions is that everything can always be updated transparently, document dates can be changed, falsified. So there needs to be a dated paper publication referred to as documentary evidence." "Well, you haven't got much proof stacked up here yet," Art critiqued, "a list of American Presidents, and that bit about the Challenger going to blow up, all that sorta stuff take years to become confirmed. You need some current hard data, names and facts and figures, stuff that's going to happen NEXT WEEK." "I've started working with a psychiatrist doing regressive hypnosis, to see if we can unlock some of my latent memories. We're taping every session, and if they're productive I plan to post transcripts on the home page," Steven said. "Any luck with that?" Art asked. "A little vague yet, but I think it'll work. Just need to find the right technique." "Right, you can't afford to be making any wrong predictions." "However," Steven mentioned, "there's also a problem in that if anyone DOES believe me, and for instance they double-check the Challenger over the next few years--find the problem and fix it--then it DOESN'T blow up, and my prediction becomes wrong." "Jeez, Steven, wouldn't you rather that it didn't?" Nelson asked. "Of course, I'm only human, I'd love to save those lives--but if I don't get enough backup to change the future, then it DOESN'T change, and ALL human lives are lost by 2044." "Just how ruthless are you really willing to get about this?" Nelson asked. "Well, as time runs out with no results, things could get pretty desperate. There will come a point of no return about 2015-25, ask me then." "I mean, are you going to become a radical activist or something?" "You mean a terrorist? I hope that's not necessary." "Blowing up factories? Killing people?" "Funny you should ask: that's what I was good at in the future I'm trying to avoid. But I don't believe in the Terminator Solution, it's not that simple." "Terminator Solution?" I asked, "What's that?" "You know, like in the Terminator movies, One and Two, Arnold Schwarzenegger?" "Never heard of 'em." "Aren't they out yet? Must be--the first one anyway, wasn't it in '83? Okay, maybe '84." "Yeah well, it's not '84 yet, sorry. So what's the Terminator Solution?" "Okay, well, Arnold's the Terminator, a killer-robot who comes back to the past, destroys ONE microchip factory, with lots of explosions and shattering glass, changes the future and saves the world." "Yeah? I'll have to see that one," Art said, "Anyway, Arnold might pull that off, but can you?" "Not EVEN Arnold could pull it off: the death of the world isn't caused by one microchip, or one biological weapon, or any one evil government, or any ONE anything. It will come about due to an entire world's lifestyle of planetary technological abuse, accumulated poisonings that are already well under way, political philosophies which accept the right of sovereign nations to make war, and the point of no return is much closer than anyone suspects." "So we don't get to blow up any evil microchip factories?" I faked being disappointed. "No, we have to educate and inform the world of the error of their ways..." Nelson stated, "a much harder job." "Oh, I get it," I said, "we blow up the SYSTEM." "You know, Steven is right about human disasters, they could be avoided by predictions," Art mentioned, "but how about Natural Disasters? Earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, etc. They'd happen anyway, but lives would be saved." "Yeah," Nelson agreed, "and it would be pretty impressive if you could give some accurate count-downs to a few major earthquakes. I think people might sit up and notice that." "Really. And if we publish the death tolls I remember along with time and place of a quake, a reduction in casualties would give us an accurate index as to just how much the future is changing--or not." "There's just one question," I had to mention, "can Steven actually do that?" Nelson immediately asked another question: "Steven, when did Mt St Helen's blow?" This was an interesting test. We all knew approximately when Mt St Helen's erupted because we had experienced it in recent time-- our very own local volcano, less than 200 miles south of Seattle. I remembered looking South and seeing the great black cloud of ash, about 3 years before--I'd even written an article about it for the high school newspaper. But for Steven it was ostensibly more than 60 years back in time. "Oh, about..." "About won't do," Nelson suggested. "Well, 1980-'81, I don't remember the date, sorry." "When you try hypnosis," Nelson suggested, "I recommend that you start recalling some dates that can be confirmed, before you start predicting the future."

17           HYPNOSIS

from the files of Dr. William Vanslow, psychiatrist, 06/14/83 VANSLOW: All right, Steven, try to remember back to your other life, when you were "Stevie", back in time to this very day. STEVEN: That was a long time ago. VANSLOW: Not so long ago that you can't remember as if it were yesterday. July 14, 1983. A Thursday. 10 days after the 4th of July. Almost 5 weeks after the lightning hit you. Got it? STEVEN: I guess. I...went to work at Radio Shack...nothing special happened. I don't remember. VANSLOW: Hmmm. Who am I talking to? Identify yourself. STEVEN: Steven Boyd Carpenter, Colonel UN Task Force, serial number UN5773836. VANSLOW: I want to talk to Stevie. He's 17 years old. Hello, Stevie? STEVEN: I was called Stevie, when I was a kid, now I'm... VANSLOW: I don't want to talk to you, Colonel Carpenter, I need to talk with Stevie, the kid. Come on, Stevie, speak up. (pause) Stevie? STEVIE: Yeah, okay, I'm here...Stevie here. VANSLOW: Hi, Stevie, how are you? STEVIE: Okay, I guess. VANSLOW: Do you know what day it is? STEVIE: You said it was Thursday. July the 14th. VANSLOW: What year? STEVIE: It's 1983. VANSLOW: Anything special happen to you this year? STEVIE: Oh yeah, I graduated from High School. At last, heh heh. VANSLOW: What about the Lightning? Remember that? STEVIE: Oh, yeah, that was pretty special, I guess. I was knocked out, freaked everybody at The Lake, they thought I was dead. But I wasn't hurt at all, just stunned a bit. Really lucky, I guess. VANSLOW: And what happened after that? STEVIE: My Mom freaked out a bit, made me take a few days off work, I've got a job at Radio Shack. But I was really okay, went back to work after a couple days. My girlfriend Shari was even nice to me for a while. VANSLOW: You like your job? STEVIE: It's okay. Gotta earn some money. VANSLOW: Wouldn't you rather work at...Microsoft? You could earn a lot more money. STEVIE: Oh sure, but I don't know anything about computers. I've never even turned one on. VANSLOW: You could learn. STEVIE: Sure, I'd like to too, but it would take years to be good enough to get a job at Microsoft. And I'd have to get a car, and a driver's license. VANSLOW: Now it's midnight, same day, Stevie, tell me what happened today. You went to work at Radio Shack, what did you do after that? STEVIE: I had dinner with Mom, gorgonzola pasta--she makes that a lot, but that's okay, I like it. Then I saw some TV Kung-Fu--you know, David Carradine. I called Shari, but she wasn't home. Called Jackson, we're going out to the Lake again if it's good weather this weekend. Read a book...Stephen King's Pet Sematary, until I fell asleep. VANSLOW: Now it's Midnight, New Year's Eve, 1984. Where are you? STEVIE: I'm at a party at Marty Rossen's, along with Shari and Jackson and Tracy. But it's no fun for me. Everybody's drinking except for Jackson and me, and Marty's flirting with Shari, and she seems to like it. I'd rather just leave, but it's a long way home and we came in Jackson's car, and he's busy being cool smoking dope. Shari doesn't think I'm cool at all. Happy New Year my ass. VANSLOW: See if you can pinpoint something that happened a few years back: do you remember when Mt St Helen's erupted? STEVIE: Oh sure, it was really something. VANSLOW: Can you remember the exact time and date it happened? STEVIE: Uh...not really...I remember seeing the cloud--no wait, the blast woke me up early, it was so loud, even over a hundred miles away. So it was in the morning. And on a weekend--a Sunday--so I went back to sleep and dreamed about atom bombs. Later I saw it on TV...hmm, I was 14 years old, so it must have been 1980. It was nice weather, spring I think...May? VANSLOW: You are younger now, it is that day, you are watching it on television. Can you see it? STEVIE: Yeah, I see it--really churning up the smoke, trees all laying down in rows, wow, cool! They're saying an old man named Harry Truman was living up on top when it blew... VANSLOW: Can you see a calendar? STEVIE: (turns his head) Yeah, over on the wall. It's the 10th of May. VANSLOW: Hmmm. All right, let's go ahead. You're 18 years old now, what day is it? STEVIE: February 22 1984. VANSLOW: Tell me about anything that's happened since last July, something in the news. An international incident? STEVIE: Since July...let's see. Oh yeah, there was a Korean 747 that was shot down over Russian air space, that was pretty big news. Everybody onboard died, heavy international incident. VANSLOW: Can you give me a date on that? STEVIE: Oh...early September sometime. And, well-- oh yeah of course, the US Marines invading Granada... around the end of October. That was on the news a lot too. VANSLOW: Granada? You're saying America invaded Spain? STEVIE: No, no, some nowhere island in the Caribbean. I'd never even heard of it before. VANSLOW: All right, Stevie, that's fine. Enough for now...

18           THE MOVEMENT

After several rewrites, Steven and I submitted our article and a list of his predictions to the Greenpeace Magazine. They accepted and printed the material because it echoed and supported their environmentalist policies, but they prefaced the article with a "what if..." They wouldn't go so far as to say that they believed a word of it. However, all of the predictions for the '83-'84 time frame proved to be quite accurate. Some readers did notice that, and many looked into the "" web-site for updates of the predictions, and word got around in the environmentalist and alternative energy circles. People began to contact us by e-mail, intrigued by the odd story, and ended up joining forces with us. FUTURE2 ORGANIZATION became a network for volunteers to rally around. The Headquarters was the "F2O Home Page", but soon we had to get a Post Box and an answering machine. The whole thing was set up to be "virtual", that is nonexistent in terms of a specific address, moveable. In the spirit of guerrilla warfare, Steven said, just in case. I don't think anybody flat out BELIEVED that Steven was a genuine time traveler, but many people who had been involved with environmentalist activities, anti-nuclear demonstrations, Greenpeace, and such were disposed to agree that Steven's version of a future was dangerously probable if no one intervened. And his predictions were amazing. Consistently accurate, specific, extremely impressive evidence that he was telling the truth about the Future. But when I say that SOME people may have believed in him, and joined forces with him, what I also need to mention is that MOST people thought he was either crazy, or working a scam of some kind to swindle money. Even when his predictions did come true, they could always be explained as a lucky guess. He was NOT having a major impact on the media world. Those who MET Steven were usually convinced that HE believed what he was saying. Not selling snake oil anyway, but maybe psychotically delusional. It did not help his image at all when he made statements like: "This Change the Future movement will start out grass roots, and there should be no trouble at first-- but at some point I'm going to have to start revealing military secrets and illegal governmental agreements, and then they're going to come after me." There were also people who saw Steven as entertaining: "So was 2001 like in the movie?" they might call out, "space stations, moon cities, intelligent computers?" "No, sorry. It wasn't much different from today, except that everyone had mobile telephones and home computers. Actually, that's not quite true either-- I remember reading at the time that only 10% of the world's population even had access to a telephone then, so for them 2001 was just like 1001." Others were seriously interested in how the world might turn out, and even if they didn't see Steven as the Messiah from tomorrow, they were interested in any concept he had of what might come some day. "Technology got better all the time," he would say, " but often at the expense of quality of life. By the end, the equipment was great, but life was shit. "Space Travel, for example, never really got a chance to blossom. Too expensive, too much politics involved--no country would allow another to have laser cannons in orbit above their heads. When the technology for cheap space flight finally did arrive, it was used to make war instead, and everything fell apart before we really got out there. Too bad--literally." When he spoke like that, people took him seriously. Because they could see it coming.

19           TUNING IN

from the files of Dr. William Vanslow, psychiatrist, 09/01/83 VANSLOW: Let's try again, Stevie. Any natural catastrophes you can remember after the 1st of September '83? Floods, volcanoes, earthquakes? STEVIE: Hmmm, yeah. There was a big October... in Turkey, I think. Not sure, I saw something about it on TV, but wasn't paying a lot of attention at the time. VANSLOW: All right, let's go there; you are seeing it on TV right now. STEVIE: Yeah, okay. I see it. Earthquake in Eastern Turkey... 7.1 on the Richter Scale...1300 people dead. VANSLOW: Epicenter, time? STEVIE: I didn't catch that. VANSLOW: Back, you're watching it again. STEVIE: Yeah okay, epicenter...70 kilometers Southeast of Ankara, 5:57 pm their local time. VANSLOW: What day is it? STEVIE: It's...October 30th, 1983. VANSLOW: What program are you watching? STEVIE: 6:00 Evening News on NBC, Dan Rather commentating. Now he's talking about kids and Halloween tomorrow. VANSLOW: You're getting very good at this, Stevie. STEVIE: Thanks. So are you, Dr Vanslow.

20           SEASONS

When summer cooled down at the end of August, the scene at The Lake died away. But both Steven and I had become quite good friends with most of The Lake People, and saw them other places as well. They were pretty well spread around, we were among the few who came all the way out from Seattle, most lived around the Monroe/Sultan area. Some of them, like Art and his wife Beth, were very enthusiastic about Steven's project to change the future. Art and Beth were glad to offer their house in Duvall as a meeting place, where we could all gather for discussion, "" web-site brainstorming sessions, and all-out parties. The New Year's party was really fun. I was supposed to have gone with Tracy to another party in Seattle at Marty Rossen's, but when Steven told me that The Lake People were doing one, I went with him instead. Good thing too. All the regulars came, especially Laurna and Joyce. Of course nasty old Greg was there to make sure Laurna didn't have too much fun (nor the rest of us), but she did end up doing a strip along with all the girls to Michael Jackson's "Billy Jean". Then all us guys stripped too, just because. This wasn't an orgy, we were all used to being naked together in the summer and it seemed totally appropriate here on New Year 1984. It was sweet. Okay, for some it was an orgy. That Joyce, wow. 1984 was supposed to be The Future--the Orwell book, the movie-- you know, and we had Steven with us, who WAS the Future. It all seemed so symbolic. I still didn't drink in those days, but we smoked a LOT of marijuana and Steven told some stories of the good things the future had to offer: he'd been in space, described looking down on the Earth from orbit, and we all flew with him that night. Believe him? Oh God yes. But we didn't see much of each other for a while after that. Steven got really busy at Microsoft, producing a whole new generation of software that was simply turning the computing world around. He was becoming famous as a software genius. In that world Steven was keeping quiet about who he really was. The message was on the web-site, but not on his job resume. Not yet, not until the world was so impressed that they just couldn't call him crazy. But there was a stir going on. His predictions about the Invasion of Granada, the Korean Boeing 747, the earthquake in Turkey, had all been seen in Greenpeace Magazine, and had all come true. Lives could have been saved if anyone had believed his prediction, Steven had tried to convince the authorities in Ankara by phone, but they weren't interested. 1300 people died...again for Steven. But AFTER that people were taking note of his other predictions yet to happen; big earthquake Mexico City in '85, a nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl in Russia '86, a major earthquake in San Francisco scheduled for '89. The National Inquirer wrote some articles about Steven, calling him a "clairvoyant" and a "psychic seer", which irritated him, but even bad publicity is better than no publicity. His name became known, and his story. And his "" web-site address. Of course, the trouble with being featured in the tabloids like the Inquirer is that you get a lot of weirdoes trying to contact you, those people who BELIEVE in UFOs, bigfoot, ghosts, ancient astronauts, and "psychic seers". Steven got ever so many letters on the theme of: "If you know the future--how long will I live? --or how will I die?" He had a standard answer for that sort of question: "I didn't know you in the future, so I don't know if you died before 2044, but everyone dies very badly by then--you too, I guess." (A year later, one of those guys cornered Steven at a presentation he gave in Everett, trying to convince people that changes had to be made or else. The guy was about 50, kind of heavy in body and mind, alcoholic's nose, etc. He asked, "Hey, tell when I'm going to die--maybe I can change THAT!" Steven gave his standard answer. The guy thought about it, calculated as best he could, and came up with: "Hey, 2044's 60 years away, I'd be dead by then anyway!" "Well, then, you're all right then," Steven said with some irony. "Yeah, I got nothin to worry about, let the fuckin' world end." Steven turned to go--but couldn't resist, made a dramatic turn around and said: "Wait, now I remember! Aren't you the guy who dies screaming horribly on the way home from this very meeting?") As for those of us he DID know, he wasn't telling us our fates-- unless he figured to change it. Of course, we wouldn't ask him that, it would be admitting that we really believed his story, and everyone knows about a prophet in his own land... I had no idea what he had told his mother, but I did know that he had not yet told Laurna about the fate she was supposed to have shared with me. The winter of '84 passed, I was enrolled at the UW and worked at that gas station, went to parties, broke up with Tracy, flirted with some other girls when spring arrived. And finally it was time to go to The Lake again.

21           FLIRTING

There was a blast of summer weather already in May, so Steven and I agreed to spend the entire weekend at The Lake. We had both been working long days for weeks at a time, this was like a vacation. We took sleeping bags, food, cokes, and were like kids camping out. Hell, we WERE kids--or at least, I was, just turned 18. Steven wasn't sure just HOW old he was any more, 18? 79? something in between? We arrived about noon, greeted many old friends who had also jumped at this nice weather to return to paradise. Laurna was already there, with Joyce, and for the first time ever, without her jealous boyfriend Greg. Those two girls were already surrounded by guys who had yearned for the chance to get closer to Laurna, and to Joyce too, just to flirt with them a little, whatever. So there was plenty of room on the far side of the dock, where Steven and I laid out our towels, more or less setting up camp for the weekend. Several folks had "" details to discuss with Steven, there was a swimming-race out to the swing, it was all very social. We talked and laughed about the New Year's party out at Art & Beth's. Then Laurna and Joyce came over to us, bringing their towels. "Can we join you over here? It's just so-o-o crowded over there," Laurna said. We almost pushed some people away making room for the girls. I had hoped Laurna would lay next to me, and she did, but it was soon obvious that she was in fact flirting with Steven. And he was being just so damned cool about it. A lot of girls were flirting with him these days, but he didn't seem to be interested in getting involved with anyone. Too old in his head, I figured. But when Laurna asked him the fatal question, "Oh Steven, could I please get you to rub this suntan lotion on my back?" he almost knocked me over to get at her. At least now we knew he wasn't gay. I couldn't help watching, even that was fun. I won't bother describing all the details of his rubbing her succulent well-toned healthy beautiful young female naked body, but when he started on her bottom I had to lie on my belly. Joyce evidently thought that was funny, so she insisted that I rub oil on her back. Well, that was fun too, she was pretty free with her body, but I was also tuned in to the conversation between Steven and Laura. "Good thing Greg's not here to see this," Steven said. "No kidding," she agreed, dreamily enjoying the attention she was getting, "He's so possessive, feels good just to get away for a day." "How did you pull it off?" "He's in San Francisco for a meeting, stayed over last night to meet his brother. He'll be back tonight." "You know, my first time around, this never happened. You NEVER came without Greg." "You can remember that?" "Of course, you were my great hopeless unrequited lust." Steven said, not kidding. "Hopeless? Somehow I doubt that." "I was Stevie then, not Steven. Not a chance." I had to add, "That's true. You didn't know him before the lightning. A real geek." "And you were 23," Steven told her, "and just as perfectly beautiful as you are now: absolutely unattainable." Smug little smile. "Oh, tell me more!" Nonchalant shrug. "Naw, that's enough. Wouldn't want to sweep you off your feet." "Well sorry guy, but I'm not THAT easy." "Of course not--you ARE unattainable!" "I'm hardly that...but...well, I CAN afford to be choosy." "I'm sure. For over half a century I've remembered you as one of the ultimately most beautiful women in my life." "Just one of the? So who was THE most beautiful woman?" Steven got suddenly serious. "Well, my daughter, Maiia. But she never got to be a woman." " the future, you mean?" Laurna also got serious. She saw that she'd hit a nerve. Steven nodded. "Everyone died, so she died too. Her death, and my wife's, were just minor tragedies compared to the fate of the entire world. But now, if the future does change enough to rescue the world...well, I don't see how she can ever become born again." Laurna looked at him without saying anything for a while. Then, "You actually remember a wife--and a daughter--from the future you're working so hard to keeping from happening?" "Yeah, I do." There was a play of emotions on Laurna's face: sympathy, disbelief, irritation, curiosity. "So did you love your wife?" "Oh yes, that I did." "So where is she now?" "Gisele was quite a bit younger than me--I was 44 when I met her, she was 24. She'll be born in Lyon in the year 1987." Laurna shook her head in disbelief, then laughed a little. "Oh come on, Steven, you're not serious?" He managed a smile and a shrug. "So are you going to wait for her? Long wait." "Oh no, there'll be other woman. Actually, I figured I'd just amuse myself with you until it's time to report to my wife. If that's okay." "Hah! That'd be--lemmesee--27 years from now..." "2110," Steven helped her, "in the Spring. Paris." "Sounds romantic." She sounded amused. "It was. I was a soldier on leave from the ANTF, a Major at the time, she was studying anthropology. Face like an angel, wonderfully big breasts.." "Bigger than mine?" "Oh, mmm, about the same, but she was shorter." "You keep saying WAS, don't you mean WILL BE? I mean, if this will happen in the future?" "It's in the past for me. And I won't be a soldier this time. Not for any military agency, at least." "Then you won't meet her?" "How can I know? The future HAS TO change, I simply CANNOT allow it to be the future I experienced. And anyway, I'm living a completely different life this time." "So what about your daughter?" "Yeah, well...who knows?" Laurna looked pensive. "Talk about your hopeless love..." Then decided to change the subject, something lighter. "So, since you know all our futures--how will I look when I'm older?" "I..." Steven was suddenly evasive, "well, I...lost touch with you last time. Told you it was hopeless. But I assume that you'll be simply magnificent." She rolled over onto her back, and well, my god, she was certainly magnificent just then. She was waiting for Steven to rub her with oil, but he sat up and just looked down upon her. "Well?" she asked. "If I rub your front," he said with total candor, "I'm just going to want to fuck you, Laurna. But Greg's coming home tonight, so I think we'd better cool it for now. Okay?" She gave a disappointed little shrug, "O-okay," she tried to say, but had to clear her throat first. Most of the flirt in the air died away then, and that was actually nice, then we were all just friends. Swam out to the swing, played there like little kids--okay there was still a little flirting going on, grabbing asses and whatevers, but mostly pretty innocent. That evening we ended up driving down to Sultan to eat in a Mexican Restaurant with the girls, before they headed back to Lynnwood. Laurna had to go because Greg was coming home. Steven and I drove back up to The Lake and partied with others who stayed late. Some got to drinking until midnight, we thought they'd never leave. Finally Steven and I were alone on the dock, sitting up wrapped in our sleeping bags. It was a full moon night, zillions of stars, crickets, an owl hooting somewhere out there, and the stillness of the water. Beautiful is not the word. There is no word. Well all right, there were a lot of fucking mosquitoes. "You never know what you've got until you lose it," Steven said, philosophical tone to his voice. "We lost all this where I've been. My God, how could we do that?"

22           DISCIPLINE

The next morning I awoke in the early dawn to see Steven doing an exercise routine on the other side of the dock, balancing on his hands in a sort of suspended lotus position. He smoothly uncoiled his body up into a handstand, then stood on just one hand, then the other. He moved in slow-motion, as in Tai Chi, rolling onto his feet, into various fighting positions. It looked easy, but I knew that I couldn't do it. No wonder he was so athletic-looking these days. When he was done, I couldn't help clapping my hands, breaking the silence. The applause echoed across the still lake. Once again, he looked at me as if I was a kid. "So are you Bruce Wayne, or what?" He looked puzzled. "Who's Bruce Wayne?" I was surprised. Stevie and I had traded comics when we were kids. "Aw, come on, you don't remember Batman?" He pondered for a moment, then nodded, "Okay, yeah, got it. It's been a hell of a long time since I've read any comic books. The millionaire playboy eternally training to be Batman, obsessive super-hero dedicated to fighting evil, yeah yeah." "Secretly disguised as a mild-mannered Microsoft employee..." "Wasn't that the other guy?" "Yeah but, why not be ambitious?" Steven didn't say more, he wasn't that amused. He'd obviously been in an almost trancelike state, which I had intruded into. "That looked like Tai Chi, or Kung Fu: so do you really know the heavy martial arts?" He nodded. "Oh yes. I was a trained killer. Soldier, officer, did my duty for fatherland, slaying Philistines upon command." Sometimes I believed all this stuff Steven said, other times I took it with a grain of salt. This time I felt a slightly creepy fear at being alone out there with him, like being with a big dog you don't know, or a stranger with a gun. How sane WAS Steven? How dangerous? He seemed to read my mind. "Don't worry Jackson, if my stories are bullshit, then I'm not really a trained killer, am I?. And if I am sane and telling the truth, then I'm probably not psychotic." "Do you do that routine every day?" "Yes. I also start the day with a little self-hypnotic trance to remember what happened this day back then. I've learned how while working with Dr Vanslow. So if you'll excuse me..." Steven went over to the other side of the dock from me and sat in a yoga-like position. I could take a hint, so I went for a walk in the woods. When I came back an hour later there were already other people beginning to show up for a sunny Sunday at The Lake. Steven was talking with Stan, so it seemed safe to approach him again. "Hey, Jackson," he called to me, urgently, "it's a good thing I remembered today: we'd better check your brake lines." On this day the first time around, he told me, we had been driving down the hill from The Lake, on our way back to Seattle, when a hydraulic brake line on my Chevy ruptured. So we had no brakes all the way down the hill. Steep hill, lots of curves, lots of trees, traffic coming up the hill. It had been a miracle we hadn't been killed. "Well, no problem," I kidded, still not capable of taking this stuff 100% seriously, "then we can't be killed this time either." "That was THAT time--this time might be different. Timing, attitude, another set of events." We went up into the woods to where the Chevy was parked beside the logging road. He told me it was the flex-line to the right front wheel, so I crawled under and looked, still skeptical. "Holy shit! This thing's split almost all the way through!" I shouted. We discussed how we were going to get back to Seattle, it was Sunday, there were no auto parts stores open out here in the boonies. Steven recalled that the line ruptured when I had stomped hard on the brakes to make the Chevy slide through the turns. We ended up wrapping the line in tape and promising to drive very carefully until we got to Bothell, where there was a Shuck's Auto Store. We left early in the afternoon, for the long slow careful ride down the hill. There was no Laurna that day anyway. We made it back alive, by the way.

23           ROCKY

The next weekend we were again laying around on the dock, taking it easy, just enjoying the sun, Dan's guitar, free watermelon, bare browned-skinned girls. Suddenly Steven sat briskly up, intently looking at where the trail came out of the forest. I looked too, at just some guy coming out of the woods onto the log. Nobody I knew. Kind of a lumberjack-type, big and beefy, bearded, long hair, carrying a six-pack of beer. Didn't really look like anyone Steven would know either. But know him he did. Said his name, "Rocky's here." I remember him once telling me about a guy named Rocky, but couldn't remember exactly what. The guy landed on the dock and looked around from behind his mirrored sunglasses. He didn't seem to know anyone, was obviously a little self-conscious, tried not to look at the naked girls too obviously, and sat down on the dock without speaking to anyone. He opened a beer, lit up a cigarette, obviously planning on just blending in for a while to check out the scene. Steven got up and went over to him. He stopped and stood right in front of the guy, naked of course, and just looked down, smiling. The guy looked up at him, it was pretty hard to ignore Steven's dick hanging right in front of his face. He puffed on his cigarette, said nothing for a while, then finally said, "Uh...hi, guy. You just gonna stand there?" Steven sat down in front of him, like a yogi going into a lotus position, smoothly, deliberately. "Hello, Rocky, welcome to The Lake." "Uh...thanks, nice place here. do you know my name?" "Oh, we've met. Long ago." "Zat so? Sorry, can't place you." "Steven. I doubt if you remember. You were pretty drunk at the time." Rocky laughed, "Aw well, that could be!" "Yeah. You beat me up pretty badly." "Oh? Rilly?" Rocky looked surprised, apologetic, "Well, I don't recall that. Sorry, man, guess I get kinda wild when I'm drunk sometime...hope there's no hard feelings." "Oh, there were. I considered it the greatest indignity I had ever endured, so I learned to fight in case I ever met you again." Rocky looked around carefully to see if he had walked into some kind of trap, if he was surrounded by thugs I suppose, but nobody else seemed to be threatening him, only naked Steven sitting there in front of him. He was bigger than Steven, so he might have regarded the threat as minimal. But still, never underestimate a madman. "Look, buddy, I'm not here for trouble. I just wanna sunbathe, drink some suds, look at the girls, hang out, y'know, I'm cool." "Well, that's cool then. I just wanted to welcome you, Rocky. I've been expecting you, that's all." Steven stood up, rising gracefully on one leg, a kung fu movement, the hint of a threat in the very skill of it. He came back over to me and laid on his towel again. "Shit, Steven, what are you doing? Are you trying to start a fight with him?" "Not really, just letting him know I was here. Maybe teasing a little." "Why provoke him? That guy's bigger than you." "He won't stand a chance, I promise you." "Man, you're losing it! You want to punish him for something he hasn't even DONE yet? In fact, he probably never will now, I'm sure he thinks you're psychotic enough to be dangerous." "That would be fine if I just scared him off. But he's a mean drunk and he's drinking. We'll see." Nothing happened. Rocky didn't talk to anyone other than Steven, but he kept looking over at him every now and then. He drank his six beers, ogled the girls, swam a little, smoked some of the joints being passed around, and went home after a couple of hours without really talking to anyone. Steven seemed disappointed. At one point he started to go over to Rocky again, after the sixth beer, but I stopped him. "Don't, Steven," I whispered, "Remember about making the right changes rather than the wrong? He HASN'T attacked you." "He doesn't know that," he said, but let it go. For the moment.

24           TECHNOLOGY

Steven was becoming moderately wealthy. Besides his well-paid job at Microsoft, where they considered him god or a guru, he had sold several inventions. Of course now he's relatively famous for his design of "the virtual battery", which was a completely new concept in 1984, actually using SOFTWARE to force electrical storage capacities up to previously unachievable extreme, by "fooling" the battery core into accepting more charge than was actually physically possible. Today they're considered standard everyday batteries, but at that time they were an absurdly advanced concept, a quantum leap in self-contained power supplies. Those new batteries stored so much more energy than any other conventional system that it simply revolutionized the practical uses of portable electricity. Electric cars, for example, were suddenly technologically practical. Which meant that smog-free cities were possible within a few years, this was high-impact techno stuff. We see it all around us today, a major Change towards Future2. And yet Steven had sold it cheaply. I knew why, but his money managers were more critical: "You could have made a lot more profit on your virtual battery design if you'd only kept the patent," said the man at Steven's bank. "I knew that," he told me later, "but I don't need the money, I need the batteries. And so does the world. So I had to get them out on the market as quickly as possible. I've also designed some power-hungry portable applications, and those batteries are what I need to actually make them work." "You mean, like the proximity field generator?" "Among others. You know, it was absurd that the world ended when it did, there was some pretty fantastic hardware available at the time. Stuff that could have saved the world if it had arrived earlier." "So this time it IS arriving earlier?" "By a generation," he announced. I saw some of the high-tech inventions he was working on: electrical field generators with various functions, like that first "proximity field" he had demonstrated, tweaked to act as defensive shields, or potential weapons. But he didn't talk too much about those. There were certain things he didn't want to tell anyone, for their own good. He was candid about expecting trouble from certain authorities later on, and he didn't want to put any of his friends in the awkward position of knowing too much. Of course, I was already on the edge of knowing too much, being his best friend. We spent a lot of time together, what with The Lake, and FUTURE2 ORGANIZATION, I'd gotten closely involved with many of his secrets, so I was already compromised. And he NEEDED a close friend, his situation was so isolating and frightening that it helped for him to remember that he was REALLY just a teen-aged KID. So I got to see some stuff I wasn't really supposed to. He was constructing something that certainly looked like a ray gun, a cluster of plastic pipes and wires, which could be worn around his forearm like a hollow sleeve, held by a pistol grip. Powered by one of the new batteries. Easy to aim. I asked what it was. "Just an idea," he said, and that was all I got out of him at the time. But he took it with us one trip to The Lake and we stopped out in the woods, walked in from the road a ways, where he put it on like a big glove. "I need to test this and I don't want to do it alone. But it's secret, okay?" I nodded. He turned it on, there was a sound like a hard disk coming to life, and he aimed it at a large alder tree about 50 feet away from us. "Ultrasonics, plug your ears," he warned me, so I did. There was no bang or flash, but the compression impact slapped my face pretty hard, my eyes winced closed in surprise. When I opened them the tree was toppling, crashing down through the branches of the other trees around. When we looked up close the entire middle part of the tree was simply wet pulp that couldn't support the upper part any more. "I think I'd better work on turning down the volume," was all he ever said about it. While I'm on the subject, I can tell you that about a decade later-- after I had lost contact with him except through his web-site-- he was at a demonstration against an unsafe nuclear power plant in Ohio, where he was to be one of the speakers. This was between his "outlaw" periods, so he could show his face in public. However, a sniper (CIA) shot at him with a high-powered rifle from a building across the street. Everyone heard the shot, saw a white-hot spark flash just in front of Steven's chest, but nothing happened to him. The sniper, however, was found shot dead by his own bullet--which had melted into a spray of lead and apparently returned to him at undiminished velocity, like a shotgun blast. Steven offered no explanation, just a shrug, as if he didn't know any more about it than anyone else. But I remembered him developing the "retaliation field". It was one of his portable field generators, small enough to hide in a pocket, powered by one of his super batteries. It surrounded the wearer with an electric shield--yes, a lot like the Starship Enterprise--and was a formidable defense. He once showed me how he could gently touch someone with one finger (in this case me) and stun him with an electric shock. It was just a low-volt jolt I got, but he said he could turn the voltage up to cattle-prod levels. I think he was being cautious about what he admitted--I know what's in those batteries--the voltage could probably go up to output of an arc-welder...or an electric chair. It was clear that he also missed some of the technology he had been accustomed to in the future. He was constantly accusing his incredibly expensive state-of-the-art computers for being "antiquated pieces of shit", ranting sometimes at how long he was going to have to wait "for a decent 25 tetraherz processor to show up", and fumbling in his pockets in vain for "a common everyday mobil vidifone". Also physically, he was apparently missing some amplified body parts: he had lost his left eye in combat, he told me, but it had been replaced with an artificial digital eye that had some advantages he now missed: macro-micro zoom functions, lo-hi light sensitivity, expanded visible color spectrum. And microscopic nano-bots throughout the body and blood stream which had kept him healthy in the future were also gone, he could now catch a cold-- or even the AIDS virus. But those things were technologies out of his range of expertise: "I'd been involved with top secret weapon design at one point, but not medical nano-technology, unfortunately." "In a way," he told me, "it was the nano-medical technology which had doomed the world: the standard biological weapons of today just couldn't kill any soldier pumped full of nano-medications and shielded by retaliation fields--so they turned the bio-weapons against nature itself. And that was that..."

25           ROCKY II

Steven couldn't always make it out to The Lake on weekends, he got rather busy assembling his organization and didn't have the time. So I was there without him one day when Rocky also showed up. "Hey, man," he greeted me carefully, looking around for Steven. "Yeah, hi," I answered. He took that as an invitation and sat down on the dock beside me. "Wanna beer?" he offered, hoisting his fresh six-pack. "Naw, thanks, I don't drink. Under 21, you know." "Shit, man, I started drinking when I was 12." "Oh, I've tasted it, just don't like the taste." Now that we were deeply involved in conversation, he got to the point. "You know that Steven guy pretty good, right?" "Right. We go way back." "I hear he's supposed to know the future." "That's what he says." "So is he for real...or is he some kinda wacko?" "We're all wondering about that, Rocky." "I hear ya." He drank a beer at one go. Starting the next beer, he asked, "But he seems to want to get in my face. Says I beat him up once, but I sure as hell don't remember that. Is he as tough as he thinks he is?" "He was in some kind of UN Task Force, sort of Airborne Special Forces Ranger, I guess. Ever see KUNG-FU on TV? Yeah? Well, Steven's like Cain, quiet peaceful Shaolin martial arts master, humble walking death. Best not to fuck with him." I couldn't help it, just for fun. "How could he have done all that? Looks like he's just a kid." "He's older than he looks," I said, not filling in any blanks. "Yeah, he does act older..." Rocky was as intimidated by Steven as were all the rest of us. He wasn't going to start any trouble with Steven. I figured that future had already been changed, nonviolently. I was almost right. Sometimes Steven asked me to spar with him when he practiced martial art techniques. Any skeptism I had about his ability to deal with Rocky, or anyone else, were quickly dissipated after that. We started with defense techniques, I was supposed to try to hit him, he wouldn't hit me, it was all about deflecting blows. I couldn't touch him--oh at first, a couple of times, when he wasn't yet up to speed, I got some contact in--but after a few sessions he could simply slap my hands aside and I never landed a punch. And the longer that went on the harder I tried, even getting angry because he was making such a fool of me, but all it did was wear me out. He was training specifically for a fight with Rocky, told me so. "Rocky is bigger and stronger than me, he could still beat me with a lucky punch. I'd be an idiot to be overconfident. But I know that he's not a real fighter, just a coward and a bully who only picks on the weak. An amateur who wouldn't stand a chance against a professional soldier like I was. "But that's what I was then, not what I am now. In my old man's head, I know how to take him, but this young body has not yet processed the moves, these muscles have never been through those routines. My body hasn't learned them yet, and in real combat there's just no time to be thinking about the next move, which has to be automatic, gut instinct, blindfolded stuff." "You must really hate this guy Rocky." "Actually, I'm grateful he showed up. You don't know how hard it is to keep up this training discipline, living in this beautiful time in this young man's body. Hey, I've got YEARS to save the world, why not just relax for a while, have fun, screw girls--stay soft? But Rocky comes along, reminding me that I will personally get badly hurt quite soon if I'm not ready to change the future." "Well, that future is already changed," I assured Steven, "he'll never fight you now, he thinks you're a dangerous madman. So I don't think you have to worry about Rocky anymore." "Oh, but I do worry about Rocky," Steven said, executing a graceful karate maneuver, "about how he was never punished for what he would do to me."

26           ROCKY III

But the future arrives one day at a time. Rocky was still on course, his future with Steven had only been detoured, not derailed. On the drive to The Lake Steven was acting fidgety, "There's something about today, something happens...but I can't remember what..." There were a lot of people there that day, it was summer at it's hottest, and the dock was overcrowded. People were sitting in the rowboat because there was no more room of the dock. And still more people kept coming. "Too many people are finding out about this place!" Everybody was saying that. Rocky came. He looked for a spot to sit but there really wasn't any room left without nudging somebody. He looked over at Steven and me, but didn't dare approach Steven. So he sat by Stan. Stan was a little guy, kind of shy, glasses and books, read most of the time. Didn't talk that much, so he didn't have many close friends there on the dock. He was easy to nudge. Steven and I swam out to the swing with Laurna and Joyce. Once again Laurna had managed come without Greg to watch her every move. We had fun, guys and girls swinging together, bumping and brushing bare bodies. Only halfway innocent. When we came back to the dock it had already happened. Rocky had drunk his six-pack, smoked some grass, snorted something. Then he had no more, it was hot, crowded, he got irritated, got mean, and decided that Stan was crowding him. "Get the fuck outta my space!" Rocky told Stan, and pushed him away with his foot. Stan wasn't about to argue with Rocky, he was meek, weak. And that was what set Rocky off. He stood up, while Stan was gathering his towel up, and kneed him in the groin. Then pushed him backwards so that Stan fell over several sunbathing girls. They screamed, and Rocky pulled Stan up again, "Leave those nice girls alone!" he said and crashed his forehead down against Stan's. Stan cried out. "Hey, you, stop that!" There was a public outcry. Violence wasn't allowed at The Lake, generally there were enough like-minded people to keep the peace, but everyone was groggy with the heat, spaced out, and there was no immediate retaliation against Rocky. People were also scared by this wild man who was actually HURTING someone. Plus Stan had never really made friends, so now he was on his own. When we got back it was over. Stan was barely conscious, some people were taking care of him, bathing his face. Rocky was hurriedly getting ready to leave, he was aware that he had gone too far. I heard Steven make an angry sound. I saw that he looked horror- stricken. He caught my eye. "It was today," he said, "I remember it now. The overcrowding, the heat..." He looked at Stan, blue mark on his brow, bloody nose, scraped knees, black eye... "...only instead of me he did it to this guy, someone something like I had been..." Rocky had dressed and gathered his towel and was working his way through the crowd to get out of there. "Rocky!" Steven called. He looked over at us, and I'm sure he cringed at what he saw in Steven's eyes. The crowded dock was suddenly a swirl of people getting out of the way, and then it wasn't so crowded any more. Then there was a circle of clear deck, and inside that circle stood only Steven and Rocky. Two gunfighters. "Don't fuck with me, kid!" Rocky commanded, still sounding slightly drunk. Steven stood in the way, Rocky couldn't get off the dock without going through him. He thought about it for a second, then tossed his towel over his shoulder and moved aggressively toward Steven. Rocky was bigger, heavier, stronger, meaner. Steven stood in a pose that was relaxed, elegant. This was the moment many of us had wondered about: was Steven what he claimed to be or did he merely think he was? When they came together it was like a revelation: Steven was not making pseudo karate-poses, his technique was genuine. He made one smooth swerving motion and Rocky crashed heavily to the deck face first, with his left hand folded backwards and two fingers broken. There was no hitting, no flashy karate moves, not even any struggling, it was quite un-dramatic, casual, easy. Then Steven released him and stepped back, waiting for Rocky to get up. Howling with anger and pain Rocky did, rolling up on his feet and charging, punching at Steven's throat. This time it was his right hand with a broken finger as he thudded down, loudly, on his back. This was too unfair. I didn't like what I imagined happening next. Neither did Rocky apparently, because he didn't get up, just rolled around moaning in pain, holding his fingers. "Come on, Rocky," Steven was saying, "we're not done yet." "I'm HURT!" Rocky wailed, "somebody help me!" But nobody came to help. Nobody dared to. But then, nobody wanted to either. "Steven," I whispered, stepping in close, "don't kill the guy. He's not worth going to prison for." "Oh, I agree." Steven was amazingly calm. Suddenly I could see that his expression was hardly that of a hot-headed kid out for revenge, but a completely mature and experienced soldier who was skilled at dealing with enemies in a disciplined and strategic manner. "Rocky's the one who'll go to jail. Let's take him and Stan into Monroe, Stan to the hospital, Rocky to the police. Press charges of assault and battery, do it all legal." And that was Steven's revenge.

27           VISION

from the files of Dr. William Vanslow, psychiatrist, 08/18/84 STEVEN: So Bill, what do you think, after all these sessions? Do you have a theory about what happened to me? VANSLOW: (humorously pretending to wince, hedge, struggle, rather than commit himself to admitting that he believed) Well you know, we do get a lot of funny stuff in the psycho biz; reincarnationists who really believe they were Napoleon--or whomsoever--and can lay out the most amazing stories and convincing details, with miraculous moments where we become almost absolutely sure that this is really really real (because we want it to be, just as much as anyone else)...and then it all fizzles out into coincidence and maybe some low-grade telepathy or simply intuition, like body language, poof. STEVEN: I've got a LOT of coincidences going for me now, thanks to you. VANSLOW: Not so fast: let's see if Reagan DOES win, as you say he will. STEVEN: Then you'll be convinced? VANSLOW: Well, it'll be 50-50 either way. STEVEN: Just wait till Nancy gives her "just say no" speech. Then you'll believe me. VANSLOW: Oh, I believe you already, Steven. I'm totally convinced that you had a precognitive episode of some sort, a clairvoyance, obviously quite valid. STEVEN: A Precognitive Episode? Well, it was quite an "episode" --lasted my entire lifetime. VANSLOW: Or a split-second, seeming like a lifetime. I can accept a clairvoyant vision much easier than a dying man's soul returning from the future...and then being able to change that future, which would be paradox. STEVEN: But I think any "vision" would not have included all the personal details of my future life, which I have to deal with now: my guilt for what I did in the war; how I miss my wife--who isn't even born yet; and how I fear that my daughter Maiia may never BE born if I change the future too much. I'm not an 18 year old kid who caught a glimpse of the future, I'm a 78 year old man who has lived a tragic life, lost his family, done terrible things to other people, died along with everyone else at the end of all life on this planet--and who has suddenly been dumped back into a replay of his own youth, given a 2nd chance to keep it all from ever happening. VANSLOW: Perhaps a vision COULD contain all of that, who knows? Believing it to be your own personal history makes it important enough to you that you are DRIVEN to change it... but if it was REALLY the future, then you couldn't possibly change a thing. And you say yourself that you're living a totally different life than the one you remember. But if that other lifetime was REAL, then you should be locked on a track, doing the same things, saying the same things, as you remember having done--right? STEVEN: I don't know, just dunno. That life is getting farther away from me every day, more unreal--and yet, all the coming events I remember: they DO HAPPEN. The inventions I steal to re-invent: they WORK. People I knew but haven't met yet: they EXIST. It's a mystery... VANSLOW: Have you begun to doubt the validity of your other life? STEVEN: For a long time I had a quite different fear concerning my experience: that all of THIS was the fantasy. Here and now. You see, I agree with you about the unlikelihood of a soul returning from 60 years in the future. Sounds pretty impossible to me. And messy in terms of cause and effect, very unscientific. I was trained to search out the most probable explanation, and there IS one--but that's what bothered me, because it isn't good. VASLOW: I'm interested. STEVEN: It's that I haven't died at all, I'm still alive in 2044, captured by the Chinese after they shot my ANTF unit's Walloper down. That they have strapped me into a virtual reality program of all this... VANSLOW: What's "virtual reality"? STEVEN: Computer generated illusion, indistinguishable from reality. Something like hypnosis, you experience what's programmed; sight, hearing, feelings, smells. VANSLOW: Surely you could tell the difference from a computer picture and reality? STEVEN: Not in the future I knew. Oh, as a soldier I was trained in VR detection techniques, but the software keeps improving--who knows what the Chinese might have? VANSLOW: Sounds kind of paranoid, Steven. STEVEN: Hah! It isn't paranoia if they're really after you, is it? But my supposition aren't fantasies, the hardware and software existed in my time. VANSLOW: you actually BELIEVE that you are in this... program? STEVEN: No. No, I don't, but that might be the most PROBABLE explanation for my being here in 1984. Maybe the most LOGICAL. But life's not especially logical, and anything is possible. Even me. VANSLOW: I'd like to follow that logic a bit, this is very interesting. Suppose it were true that all this is an illusion the Chinese have programmed into your head--why would they do that? STEVEN: The Allied Nations were at war with China, I was an electronics weapons design specialist, they could pluck my brain for military secrets, fool me into designing weapons for them, I don't know. VANSLOW: Pretty elaborate plan. Why wouldn't they just give you some sort of futuristic truth-serum and make you tell them everything? STEVEN: Well...they ARE inscrutable, you know. VANSLOW: Ha ha. But really, there are some rather dreamlike elements to this re-living of your life; being returned to your youth, but with the wisdom of age; where you take on this very heroic, very superior role of the Man Who Knows The Future and can Save The World! You then proceed to right the wrongs of your youth; the fight with Rocky; the girlfriend Shari; and you tell me you might even win the girl of your dreams. All of this is very suspect--total ego gratification! STEVEN: Well, yes, that would support the theory of a fabricated fantasy programmed to get me to cooperate. But I don't think YOU really need to consider the validity of the Chinese VR theory. VANSLOW: And why not? You said you feared such a possibility. STEVEN: Me, sure. But if that's what's happening to ME, then this conversation is an illusion, and YOU are simply a character in the programming and therefore do not actually exist. VANSLOW:, hmmm...that's right...

28           LAURNA

I knew that Steven had an eye for Laurna. Well, sure, every guy had an eye for her anyway, me too. But one difference was that she was definitely looking back at him. And why not? Steven was interesting, scary, weird, noble, heroic, fascinating, etc etc--so she had to look, all the girls did. Steven was hot. But there was also one special reason for his interest in her: he remembered that she was going to be murdered (by me) and he wanted to save her. Finally, he told her so. But he didn't do it behind my back, he arranged for the three of us to meet at her apartment in Lynnwood. This was in the beginning of September 1984, the season at The Lake was more or less ended anyway as the rainy days moved in. It was kind of strange for us all to meet with clothes on and in such a closed environment. Laurna wore a nice tight turtleneck sweater and blue jeans that showed off her figure to an advantage. And although we'd seen her naked innumerable times, she looked even more sexy somehow. Greg was not there, as arranged. She seemed to be a little nervous. As well she should. "So what's all the mystery?" she asked, after we had exchanged the initial polite small talk. "Laurna, do you believe the things I tell about the future?" "Well, you've putting together a pretty convincing case so far-- all your predictions are right on time. I guess I could say: Probably. Why?" Steven was silent for a little too long. "Something about MY future?" she asked, carefully. He nodded. "Something we have to fix." She gulped. Then said, "You know, you scared me the first day... after the lightning...when you said 'after you died' to me... Is it about that?" I couldn't wait, "Steven says that I murdered you in 1985." Her eyes went wide. She looked at me. At Steven. I waved my hands in negation. "But I'm NOT going to murder you, Laurna. I promise." "Well, thanks. I'm glad." She didn't look glad. Steven finally spoke. "I can only tell it as I remember it. The truth is I don't really KNOW that it was Jackson, but he was the one who was convicted and put in jail for it. And the police said that he DID confess...but never to me. And I never WANTED to believe it, but that's what I remember. "Now, what I DO know is that you were strangled to death in this apartment, on Wednesday the 11th of November 1985, about 9:30 at night. Apparently by someone you knew, since there was no forced entry, no robbery, no rape. And since you had just changed boyfriends, the motive was believed to be jealousy." "Guys, this is...sick." She looked scared. "Agreed, but it's what I remember. I have to tell you. So that we can prevent it." "But can you change the future?" she asked. "That's what I do. This too can be changed." "Wait, wait, let's take this from the start," Laurna shook her head, blonde hair whipping about, "this is all coming from you, Steven: WHY should I believe you?" "Because I know what happened..." "Well, you SAY you know what happened. Even if you HAVE come back from the future, you could still be LYING...about this." "Why would I?" She gave him that look a woman gives a man who's being stupid, as if that explained it all, and of course, it did. Getting it, Steven nodded, "Ahh..." "Some guys will pull anything..." she started. " get their thing pulled, yes, I suppose. Very well, cards on the table then," he went on, "you mean: am I trying to scare you into depending on me so that I can have my way with you?" "For example. Well?" "I don't need to do that--I could already have my way with you now." "My--aren't we confidant?" she challenged. "Experience breeds confidence--you HAVE let me know that you're interested in me; and yes, of course I'm interested in you; I certainly wouldn't blow it with this unpleasant story. No, I simply can't allow you to be murdered all over again, no matter if we loved or hated one another." "How come you remember the date so well?" "That date was impressed into my memory in many ways: there was a trial, I was called upon as a witness. This was also one of the greatest personal traumas in my best friend allegedly murders the woman I hopelessly lusted for from afar..." She considered, nodded, looked at me, then asked Steven, "But why would Jackson have murdered me?" "You were lovers for a while, broke up, then you had another boy friend. Jealous rage. That's the scenario the District Attorney constructed, anyway." She looked at me with wonder. I could see her wondering: lovers? as if it had never occurred to her before. I shrugged apologetically, "Steven's story, not mine, sorry." "So, ARE you lusting hopelessly for me too?" I shrugged, nodded. "Everybody is. You know that." She sighed and ran her fingers through her hair, said "Yeah, wonderful," without much enthusiasm. "So who was the new boy friend?" she asked Steven. "The other guy was actually your current boy friend, Greg. You'd gotten back together after half a year apart." "Greg?" she asked, as if startled, surprised. Then she looked off into the distance, seeing something there, something wrong. After a moment's reflection she asked, "Did Greg have an alibi?" Steven and I exchanged glances. What's this? "Yes. He was in San Francisco at the time of the murder," Steven explained. "A lot of us suspected him first, because he was always so jealous, but the police cleared him. A bar full of witnesses noticed him being drunk and noisy at Fisherman's Wharf exactly that night." Laurna closed her eyes. She seemed to get dizzy, then excused herself, went into the bathroom and threw up. Steven and I just looked at each other, eyebrows raised. "She knows something," I said. Steven nodded, said "Yeah. Something that hasn't even happened yet. Interesting." Laurna came back a few moments later, after washing her face and gargling with mouthwash. She didn't seem upset or embarrassed at all, just resolute. "I do believe you Steven, and I believe I know what happened...or will happen, if we let it: I tried to break up with Greg two days ago. He's insanely jealous, threatened my life...and yours." "Mine?" "We broke up because of you. That day I went to The Lake without him and you rubbed me with sun oil; he heard about it. Accused me of fucking you, we got into a fight. I know: you and I didn't have sex--but I refused to deny it anyway, I was so tired of his jealousy. I tried to throw him out. He went bananas--totally out of control, really scared fact, he was...strangling me..." Laurna pulled down the collar of her turtleneck. There were blue bruises--thumb gouges--in her neck. "I had to say I'd take him back, that I'd never been interested in anyone else, that I loved him. He stopped strangling me, but he said IF he was driven to kill me he'd make it look as if YOU did it," she said to Steven. "I believed him. Now you tell me this. I don't want him coming back. But he'll be back tonight. I'm scared. What can I do?" "Let me talk to him," Steven said. "He's hard to talk to when he's like that." "He'll listen to me," Steven said with utter confidence, "don't worry about it." "My hero!" Laurna said, and meant it, smiling for the first time that day. "Laurna, I'll kill him for you," I said, trying to keep up with the competition. But I could see already that it wasn't my turn yet. She was Steven's. Then I realized that I really was jealous, and that scared me... what if it HAD been me?

29           THE MURDER

"WE need to go through what you remember," I told Steven, "just how did I ever get convicted for Laurna's murder? And what was Greg's alibi? And what about my alleged confession?" "And you said all this happens November 1985--that's almost a year from now," Laurna noted, "but I can't imagine getting back together with Greg once I'm free...just can't." "That timetable is obviously no longer valid, there have been too many changes concerning myself, and thus everyone in contact with me," Steven reasoned. "In the original version you didn't break up with Greg until early 1985, then you and Jackson were dating through that summer..." "I can hardly wait," I said, to lighten things up a little...I think. Laurna did give me a quick little smile, at least. "...and then about September, somehow Greg was back together with you, and Jackson was out. I remember talking with you," he pointed to me, "about how you felt. You were hurt, but did not seem homicidally jealous to me. And I specifically recall how confused you were about the whole thing, how there had been no explanations or reasons given, Laurna was suddenly just incommunicado. In fact, it was Greg who told you that Laurna was with him and not you, and you never got her to confirm that." Laurna did manage to give me a sympathetic look, "Poor baby," she said, with a little humor. My heart twittered, or whatever. "The thing is, Laurna dropped out of sight for all of us at that time. None of us heard a word from you," looking at her, "until your murder was reported in the news." Laurna gulped, and scooted a little closer to Steven. He put an arm around her protectively--like a father would. "All of us who knew you from The Lake got in touch with each other--everyone universally suspected Greg right away, but the news stories all confirmed that Laurna's boy friend had been in San Francisco, where he had been on a 4-day business trip, from Monday the 18th to Friday the 22nd. And he was so shocked when the police informed him that she had been murdered." "The murder was on Wednesday? He could have flown to and from San Francisco in a few hours," I reasoned. "That's what we all figured, but there were witnesses: business associates who had spent Wednesday evening out on the town with Greg at the very time the murder occurred, 9:30 pm. They mentioned that he had gotten quite drunk and noisy, and the staff in several bars where they had been confirmed that he was seen by a lot of people." "Of course he was..." Laurna muttered, knowing something. We looked at her with eyebrows high. "...Greg has a brother who lives in the Bay Area: his twin brother." "Hmmm. I don't remember that being mentioned in the trial," Steven said. "Hardly anybody knows it, they were raised separately and only found each other a few years ago," Laurna noted, "Greg told me about him: he even said they had a standing joke about pulling off the perfect crime someday." "Right.." Steven said enthusiastically, "that's a pretty handy way to have a perfect alibi: get your twin brother to go drinking with lots of witnesses...if he says or does anything out of character, well, he was just drunk." "While Greg himself flies to Seattle under another name, commits murder, and flies back," I added. "Could be done in 5-6 hours, with all connections prearranged, rented car, etc." "Can't we check airline records or car rentals for evidence?" Laurna asked. We both gave her The Look, for not thinking ahead backwards. "How? This is--and only potentially--in the FUTURE." She winced. "Oooo, that's right, stupid me!" Kinda cute, though, really. "We can't research this in any way, since it's never happened," I complained, "we've only got Steven's 60-years-back reminiscences to go by." "We're also making a very nice tight case out of thin air because we all want Greg to be the guilty one instead of Jackson," Steven said, "there's still the matter of Jackson's confession." I gulped and nodded. "Okay, tell us about that. What did I say? Was it beaten out of me? Could Greg have blackmailed me somehow? In fact, why was I arrested at all, was there some evidence against me?" "Because it was assumed to be a jealousy homicide, every guy who had ever shown any interest in Laurna was investigated--me too, by the way--and especially you, Jackson, having been the dropped boyfriend. They found your sweater in the apartment, forensics found hairs, skin flakes, signs that you had been there at some time, but no clincher evidence concerning the murder itself. Until they started getting unsigned letters of confession, ostensibly from you." "Letters? Unsigned? Shit, Greg--or anyone--could have written them." "Of course, even the police knew that. But it slanted their investigation against you, suggesting the possibility that you were a compulsive psycho who had to confess--besides, they had no one else. You were arrested. "The letters had also irritated the police, taunting them with confessions that were not evidence because you hadn't signed the letters, as if you were making fun of them. The police finally insisted that there were so many personal details that only you could have known, about your private life and about the murder itself, and that those details themselves construed logical evidence. "Finally they got you to SIGN those letters--to certify the confessions, and that was it. The trial went ahead. You denied everything in court, but they had those letters as proof. You were convicted to life in prison." "Did I ever tell YOU that I had done it?" "I only visited you a couple of times at Washington State Prison-- the one we drive past on the way to The Lake--and you were so bitter and negative that it was hard to talk to you at all. I did ask you once if you had done it and you answered with such angry sarcasm that I couldn't be certain WHAT you meant. You said: 'Oh sure man, don't you know I confessed?' That was in 1987, the last time I ever saw you." I believed Steven's every word. I was scared, angry, jealous, hurt, sad. I looked over at Laurna. She was the same. I almost started to cry, she came over to me and held me to her bosom. I thought she was going to comfort me, but she started crying instead. The door opened. Greg came in. "Hi honey-poo, I'm home!"

30           GREG

"Uhh...hi, guys," Greg said, a little surprised to see us there. We'd never visited "them" before. He was staring at Laurna and me embracing, both of us teary-eyed. "What's up?" Steven took over. "Kind of a crisis meeting, Greg. Good you could make it, this involves you too." "I'm sure it does, if it's making Laurna cry," Greg said nobly. He pushed his horn-rimmed glasses back up on his nose. "It's making Laurna DIE we're really concerned about," I blurted out. Not much finesse, I know. Steven held his hand up, so I shut up, let him take over. "Better take a seat, Greg, this may take a while," Steven said, sounding like a cop. Greg didn't like any of this: he didn't like taking orders, he didn't like me hugging Laurna, he didn't like us being there; so he didn't sit down. "I'm not sure how much time I want to waste on whatever it is, just say it, okay?" "Sure. In the future I know, you are going to murder Laurna." Greg just stood there. Finally let his jaw drop to say "Whaaaaat?" He looked at us all three, from face to face, unbelieving. Finally he said, "What is this? Laurna, are you really letting them tell you this shit? Steven is CRAZY, you know that! You guys get out of here! Right now, and if I ever see you again..." "They're not going, Greg," Laurna shouted, "YOU are!" He gave her a murderous look. "Don't let them poison your mind, baby! They're just trying to get close to you..." She pulled down her turtleneck to display the bruises on her neck. "The future Steven describes has almost happened already!" He looked away from her neck, his nostrils flared in rage. "Nobody knows the future!" Greg shouted with deep conviction. "I do, Greg," Steven asserted, "and we're not leaving until we fix it. Change it." "Oh that's right--Change The Fucking Future--you and your goddamn heroic quest. Well, save that shit for someone who believes, because I don't..." Greg moved toward Steven threateningly. I really hoped he would attack Steven, because I knew what would happen to Greg if he did. Greg hadn't been at the lake that day Rocky got it, he didn't know. Or maybe Steven was wearing that retaliation field device he'd been developing... But Greg stopped short, as intimidated as everyone else by Steven's composure and confidence. He had already sensed that Steven was no one to attack openly or frontally. Steven was still sitting calmly. "Sit," he commanded, as to a dog. Greg sat on the sofa table. Steven told the story he knew. Or parts of it, nothing about exactly when, or San Francisco, or any twin brother, I noticed. Greg tried to scoff it away as lunacy, but soon he too was along for the ride, listening to the future being revealed to him. And he knew it was true, we could see it in his eyes the way he looked over at Laurna, at her neck, at his own hands. But he had to deny it, of course. "This is...craziness," he insisted, but very calmly now, careful not to present himself as a murderous psychopath, "you can't possibly accuse me of something I've not even DONE yet, according to your schedule." "Oh, we're not accusing you at all, Greg: as you said, you haven't done it...yet. Actually, we're assuming that you don't want that to happen any more than we do." "No! Uh, my god no...of course not!" "Especially since you can't possibly get away with it anyway," I had to say, digging just a little. "However, I can see that it was going to work out a little differently this time," Steven explained, "you would try to frame me instead of Jackson, and the murder would probably be sooner because you're already threatening Laurna ahead of time." "What bullshit! How can you possibly know how THIS future will work out once you've start changing it?" Greg challenged. "Oh, I can't. But I've observed that some future events are difficult to derail; they adapt and try to happen anyway, just differently. First time through you were jealous of Jackson, this time you're jealous of me, but it's the same event." "Jealous of YOU? You must be joking? You're just a crazy kid, schizophrenic from that lightning bolt you got in the head. Laurna doesn't want anything to do with you." "Yes I do, Greg," Laurna announced. "I love Steven, all right? And I certainly don't want to be alone with you any more--I'm afraid of you!" Greg went white. "Laurna baby, you can't mean that!" "I do. You almost killed me last week, and when Steven told me that you were destined to finish the job later, I already knew that it was true. I want you to leave, today, now, please." "We'll talk this over when they're gone..." Greg started to say. Steven stood up. "No, Greg, get your stuff. You'll be gone before us. And you're not coming back." "You think you can stop me?" Steven moved right up into Greg's face, but absolutely calm and polite. "I've been a soldier for many years. I've killed a lot of enemies: I don't like to, but I know how to do whatever it takes to survive. Now, you're not my enemy yet, Greg--but if and when you are, I'll kill you." Greg staggered back a couple of steps, 100% intimidated now. He could sense when a guy wasn't fooling. "Go pack," Laurna ordered him. He glared at her, but when Steven made a slight motion, he went into the bedroom and began to pack his clothes into a box. Before Greg left, Steven gave him one last message: "I'm posting some information on my home page for future reference by anyone investigating any murder of anyone I know. The police would have their case made easier by having your name, address and M.O. on file. And that way they'll also know how to identify your body."

31           AFFAIRS

Laurna didn't want to be alone after Greg left--not that I blamed her--so Steven stayed with her that night. It was hard for me to leave them alone, I'd rather have been the one who stayed. I was an emotional mess: overjoyed we'd saved Laurna's life--and my own as well--but sad that she'd chosen Steven. Yet glad for his sake. Hating Greg for the things he would have someday maybe done to all of us (and yet knowing that he'd never really done them and was still totally innocent). Afraid that he was lurking out there to get revenge. Lots of emotional paradoxes. Fortunately, Laurna saw all that and understood. She made a phone call and told Joyce that I was going to stop by and visit her on my way home. Joyce told Laurna to ask me to pick up a quart of milk, and I was off. It was dark by then and had started to rain heavily. Joyce lived only a couple of miles away, in Alderwood Manor, so I drove to a 7-11, bought the milk, and was at her place in 15 minutes. It was a big apartment complex, mostly for singles. I'd never been there before. She was glad to see me. For one thing, she wanted me to tell her what was really going on with Laurna: it sounded so dramatic. For another, she liked me, and when Laurna said I needed cheering up, she volunteered immediately. And cheer me up she did: the milk was for our coffee in the morning.
Steven and Laurna were a couple after that night. I had seen it coming, we all had, so I didn't feel betrayed. In fact, I was relieved to realize that I didn't even feel jealous--not really-- since there was still a fear that what Steven remembered was a True Future. At last I was free of the dread that I might someday murder Laurna. And Joyce and I became a couple as well, although we were both aware that it was just for the time being. She was older than me, a bit more promiscuous, she like to drink and smoke and party. I was still Mr Organic, didn't drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes, was more serious about life than her. But we liked each other's bodies a hell of a lot, and had fun for a while. We went out as a foursome several times. Saw the movie premier of "Trading Places", threw a 1985 New Year's Party together for all of our friends, many from The Lake. Steven did not party like a kid, but like James Bond--I mean it: he was sophisticated about clothes and food and wines, he knew all the stuff an older and wiser man is supposed to know. I learned a lot about how to impress a woman with elegant manners by watching him with Laurna. But our days of carefree youth were numbered. Well, Steven's more than mine: his Future was approaching all the while. He had work to do, and he got very busy at it. He had also become famous to a degree, the virtual battery had hit the streets, his television appearances had shifted from the "weird cases of paranormal psychology" coverage, to the more respectable "future prognosticator with a high degree of proven accuracy". People were beginning to believe in his vision of the future. Especially when his inventions proved that he had access to technological ideas literally "ahead of their time": antistatic paint, proximity field generators. Our Future2 web-site was becoming quite trafficked as it grew in size and scope with information, predictions, eyewitness accounts --in fact Steven's entire Internet presence was expanding exponentially, supported by several environmentalist and other alternative-lifestyle organizations, like Greenpeace, Whole Earth Org, Amnesty International, etc. There were also unofficial or independent "Steven Carpenter" web-sites posted by political activists, or even just plain old "fans". Steven quit his job at Microsoft, he needed more time to work on his own projects. And more clout for changing the future. He got a job in the Federal Government, doing exactly what was never clear, but it was very technical in nature, and top secret. At that point he disappeared from our lives for a while. He moved East, leaving Laurna behind. They wrote for a while. I visited her, of course. She confided in me that although Steven and she had loved each other, there had been too many dark clouds on the horizon for them to really be happy. He was obsessed with that Future looming: a precise date for the end of the world is hard to ignore. And there was another woman. I knew about her. Gisele, the French girl who had been Steven's wife in that other life; much younger than himself, she would not even be born for another 3 years. And there had been/should be a daughter, born in 2012...but the chances of conceiving the very same child, with all of the variations that would have accrued in Steven's life by that time, were astronomically against him, and he knew it. He wasn't the same man he had been before, and to be at the same place at the same time, to hit the same ova with the same was the major tragedy of Steven's life: his daughter was lost in the future. Laurna and I didn't become a couple then, although I wanted to. I was still too young, only 20 by then, she was 25 and had a career in the banking business. We lost touch for awhile. Joyce got married to an older guy. And the next summer The Lake was closed. There was a chain across the road, we couldn't drive in any more. It was on logging land, after all, and the lumber company was planning to harvest all the trees. What would be left was just a wet hole in the ground, not The Lake. I couldn't help thinking about Steven's Future, relentlessly closing in on us, until everything was dead. And Steven, he showed up in television-land every once in a while, becoming more important, more respected. It made me feel that he really WAS going to change the future, and I felt a wave of pride that my best friend was going to save us all. And shame that I wasn't out there helping him, except for writing occasional documents for the Future2 Organization. I was too busy studying journalism at the University of Washington. But then Steven became an outlaw. He had made several statements that a nuclear reactor in Minnesota was going to have a meltdown. And when no one took him seriously he announced that it would have to be blown up to avert a very major environmental disaster. And it was. The Terminator Solution, after all. The government, for whom Steven had been working, suddenly tried to shut down the "" web-site. They ordered our Internet server to delete it from their hard drives. But by then we had set up so many mirror sites that if you wrote "f2o" into a search engine you got a list of hundreds of URLs to click to, many of them overseas. It was too late, Steven had become One with the web. He had also posted some of his home-grown computer viruses on the web-sites, so that anyone trying to attack his home pages were themselves attacked, and THEIR hard-disks were wiped clean instead. After that, he was a wanted man. FBI came around asking what I knew of his whereabouts, I was being followed, it was spooky.

32           CLOSING IN

from the files of Dr. William Vanslow, psychiatrist, 05/09/85 VANSLOW: Steven, I think perhaps we should consider...intensive therapy. STEVEN: I thought this was therapy. VANSLOW: I mean... STEVEN: You mean containment. Aha. The Feds have gotten to you, haven't they? VANSLOW: They talked to me, yes. But I had to agree with what they said. STEVEN: I can imagine. What choice did you have? VANSLOW: I'm sorry. STEVEN: Yeah, me too. You've been a good friend, Bill. And very helpful to proving my case. You even believed in me. VANSLOW: It's a fantasy! No one comes back from the future. Or from the dead, in fact. You're schizophrenic, Steven, disturbed. You need to be helped. STEVEN: A fantasy? You know why the Feds want me put away? Because I'm telling the truth...and messing with their weapons technology secrets. VANSLOW: Truth...that's such a relative concept. STEVEN: In the late '90's there will be a TV series called X-FILES. The slogan will be "The Truth is Out There" and it'll deal with bizarre phenomena and sinister government cover-ups thereof. But the hero has Faith. Pay attention when you see it, remember I told you so. VANSLOW: That won't prove a thing. STEVEN: Nothing proves a thing if it's inadmissible. Well, so long Dr Vanslow, I'm leaving before they close me in here. VANSLOW: I'm afraid it's already too late, you can't leave, Steven. They're outside, the building is surrounded. I'm sorry about this. They said you were dangerous... STEVEN: They're half right about that. Actually I'm ARMED and dangerous. They'd better watch it. VANSLOW: Er...what are you doing? ...and what IS that thing? STEVEN: This is just a product of my delusional fantasy, so don't worry about it. You'd be crazy to think something like this actually WORKS. Bye now... VANSLOW: He's gone out the window!...he just FLOATED out the window, and now he's GONE! Send your men, Captain, send your men...

33           PHONE CALLS

On Wednesday the 20th of September 1985 I called Laurna on the phone. I didn't dare go visit her--perhaps I was still afraid that somehow Steven's remembered future would happen anyway. She had moved, unlisted number, I finally got her number from Joyce. But no one answered. It was 7:15 in the evening when I got her. "Hello?" I recognized her voice. There was a lot of noise in the background, like a party. "Hi Laurna, this is Jackson. I'm just calling...well, you know why I'm calling." "Jackson! Oh hi! I'm SO glad you called! And yes, I'm still alive so far, if that's what you're wondering, ha ha ha." "That's good, I'm glad," I said, and I was, "just thought I'd check." "Joyce said you'd call. She's here too." Suddenly I felt a cold fear shoot through me: could the murderer be...Joyce? "Just you two?" "No way I'd be alone with ANYONE tonight--sorry Joyce-- also got some friends from work here. Party party!" "Smart move...I can understand that you don't want to be alone tonight. And you've moved--are you in hiding or what?" "I couldn't stand to live there anymore," she said. "I can understand that too." "Just being careful until tonight is over. Especially after Steven's latest prediction about the big Mexico City earthquake in September came true. All of his predictions come true!" "Have you talked to him?" "No, but I check his home page every day. Do you still write for it?" "Not so much right now, the Feds are watching. But I could, if I had something to write about. Kind of pointless without Steven's input, though." "Oh, Jackson--come on over to the party, right now!" I could suddenly hear that she'd been drinking. Couldn't blame her for that either. " Laurna, not tonight. I want to, now that I hear your voice I really want to--I've missed you--but I'm still just as scared of Steven's prediction as you are. I don't want to take any chances." "It wasn't you," she said, sounding absolutely sober now, "it was Greg, we've determined that. I trust you, Jackson and I...well, I really miss you too." My heart leaped a bit. "Well, then I'll come see you later on. Just not tonight, okay? Sounds like you've got lots of company anyway." An awful thought occurred to me, "Maybe a new boyfriend?" "No, thank you. No new boyfriends until this night is over. And then, well...we'll see." My heart leaped again at the "we'll". One last scary question: "So have you seen Greg around?" "Once, a couple of months ago. That's why I moved. Otherwise no." Oh, I really wanted to go over to her, to be there through that night, to protect her if that son of a bitch did show up. But Steven had said that some "changed future" events try to happen anyway, find weird perverse detours toward their destinies. I didn't dare be there--in fact if I was smart I'd also be somewhere surrounded by people, establishing my alibi...that's how scared I was. "Keep your friends there all night," I said to her. "Bet your ass I will." "And, well...I love you, by the way," I had to say. "Yeah, I know...well, good night."
I did go out. I couldn't help it, I was as afraid of spending my life in prison as I was for Laurna. I called some friends, Gary and Tom from English class, and we went out to see a movie. "Ghostbusters" had just come out. We went to a pizzeria in the University District after that. My buddies were a little older than me so they drank some beers, I got to be the designated driver. I arranged to crash on Gary's sofa. I got to thinking about Greg, who was supposedly on a business trip to San Francisco at that same moment. Was he there at all, at Fisherman's Wharf, or had that future been changed? If so, was he out getting drunk-- or was his twin brother? If so, was he secretly in Seattle, looking for Laurna? By 11:30 pm I couldn't stand it anymore, I had to ring to Laurna again. The future murder Steven told us about happened about 9:30, which was now 2 hours in the past. Laurna took the phone. She didn't say anything, but I just knew it was her. The party sounds had diminished to a few voices and a television. "It's Jackson," I announced. "Oh thank God," Laurna said, "I was afraid it was Greg." "Then he never showed? It's over?" "I don't know if it ever will be over," she said, and began to cry. "Oh shit," I began to cry too, "I wish I was with you." "Me too," she said, but didn't invite me over that night.

34           THE MORNING AFTER

The next day was Thursday, I had classes. I got home late in the afternoon. The phone rang about 4:00 pm. It was Laurna. "Jackson, I've been trying to call you all day!" "Oh, hi! Well, I stayed at a friends last night-- needed to be with people too-- I just got home." "Greg was here!" "What? --Are you all right?" "I am, but he's not. He was found dead outside my house!" I couldn't say anything for a moment, while I felt Steven's universe tightening around me. "Hello, Jackson? --are you there?" "Uh...yeah, yeah, I'm just stunned...but not really surprised." "He was just lying out there on the grass in the morning. Looks like a heart attack, the police say, he must have had a seizure while sneaking around the house. He had a pistol. No sign of violence, no trace of anyone else there." "No, there wouldn't be. Let me guess, the police are confused as to what he's doing there, while he was also getting drunk in San Francisco." "Yes, they are." "How are you?" I asked. "Relieved. Grateful. Lonely." "You want me to come over and...comfort you?" There was a pause. Then she said, "Mhh...not yet, Jackson. I need a break from all of this, and you're part of it. Sorry, I know you want to... Maybe later on, just not now." "Yeah, okay. Well, I'm glad...yeah, well, see you someday." I hung up. The phone rang again. I snatched it up, expecting--hoping--to hear Laura's voice. But a man spoke. "No names on this line, please. Sorry I ever suspected you, it was undeserved. I hope this makes up for that." "You saved her, that makes up for anything. Thank you...are you still around?" "Don't ask, I can't tell you. Take care of her for us, okay?" "You took care of her, she's grateful but wants out now." "I remember you and her together in that other time. You were a nice couple. That's why I could leave her." Click. That was the last time I spoke with him.

35           TESTIMONY

Melissa Carpenter, before she died of cancer at the age of 46: Yes, Steven Carpenter is my son. Stevie was always a good boy, if maybe a little bit dorky. He was a nerd, really intelligent little scientist, but clumsy about real life. Until he came back from the lightning. Then he was a Man. Steven, no longer Stevie. And what a man: graceful, powerful, wise. He had been touched by God, I could see it in him. He was blinded by the vision for several days, then he took charge and accepted his destiny. Now he is being hunted by the authorities because he tells the truth about what they are planning to do. They call him a madman because they want to discredit him and shut him up, but it is they who are mad: they'll destroy all life on Earth if we let them, Steven saw the result of their work. How can he convince us of his vision? How could anyone do it if that burden had fallen upon them? I'm afraid that most of us would take the easy way out: the only way to convince us that we're all going to die if we don't change the future, is to just let it happen; then we'll die knowing that he was right. It's always difficult to select the Truth from a list of too many possibilities--we tend to chose some Truth that we personally like the best. Which is fine, as long as that Truth works for you. Steven does that too--but he has never accepted the most simple and elegant explanation of this journey he is on: that God needed an agent in the field to fix the future, and Steven was drafted. The little black cloud that came and went like some UFO, the lightning bolt of Zeus, he wants to explain those things with science. I'm sure it can be done, if you accept that science is simply understanding the way God does things.


There was an explosion outside. Then sirens, cries, coming from the direction of the laboratories. "My God, he's done it," Marcus Allora said, without even getting up to look out the window. Jackson did look. The lab building was issuing black smoke, but the structural damage seemed to be minimal so far. Just then, as he stood looking out the window of Allora's office on the 49th floor, a man dressed in black plastic battle armor suddenly dropped and stopped in front of him, apparently standing on air out there. "Holy shit!" Jackson cried out in amazement, then laughed "it's Batman!" Jackson stepped back quickly when he could see that the man was coming in through the window. He had a familiar-looking weapon mounted on his forearm, aimed at the glass. But the man paused to give Jackson a sign first: cover your ears. "Ultrasonics, better cover your ears" Jackson calmly suggested to Allora, as he turned his back to the window. There was a mighty singing sound, and the window instantly turned into a spray of sand. The man in black coasted on into the room. Allora finally moved his body, his fat bulk shot out of the great chair and he reached for a panel beside his desk. The man in black fired his weapon at the panel, there was a singing sound again, but otherwise no reaction. But when Allora pushed the button to call security it didn't work. Allora tried to run for the door, but the man in black was already in the way, holding the weapon up. Allora stopped, hands raised in surrender. Jackson had stayed back, deliberately not interfering with the man in black, whose face was hidden behind helmet and visor, but now there was a lull in the action. "Hi Stevie," Jackson said. Steven Carpenter pushed his visor back and smiled. "Hey, nobody's called me Stevie in years. Hi Jackson." "You!" Allora cried, "this is the last straw! You'll never get away with this!" "Sure I will," Steven said jovially, "Once I reveal how CoSanto is illegally selling biological weapons to the Arabs no one is going to go after ME." "Is that so? Sounds like a good news story," Jackson said. "You can't prove that!" Allora blustered. "I hardly need to. You'll prove it for me, all the details are on your computer, which we'll just dump onto my web-site. Let the whole world read what you were going to do with the Viper-Z Virus." Allora still looked arrogant and skeptical. "And I suppose you know the access code as well?" "Rosebud69," Steven said. Suddenly Allora looked worried. "How could you know...?" "You told it to me yourself-- in another time, while you were old and dying, along with the world you had helped to destroy. You were so full of remorse for what you'd done that you confessed everything to me... although too late to have saved millions of lives. At that time anyway. Maybe this time that confession will do some good." As he was speaking, Steven was also punching keys on Allora's desk computer. The password opened the file, he went online and within seconds the data was uploading for the world to see. That was too much for Allora, he attacked Steven. Who reached out and touched the larger man with one finger. The fat man grunted hard from the electroshock, and fell back sprawling into a corner, where he lay sobbing. "Do you happen to know how Laurna's doing?" Steven asked Jackson as they waited for the computer to finish uploading, ignoring Allora. "Yeah. She's been happily married for years, two kids, both in college now." "Really?" Steven's eyebrows went up. "Who's the lucky guy?" "Me," Jackson said. Steven's eyebrows went up even farther. "You don't say? How about that!" Then he laughed. "How about yourself? Did you ever find Gisele?" "She'd be about 14 now, so I haven't even tried yet. Got lots of girl friends anyway; fellow revolutionaries, very dedicated, passionately idealistic, I'm doing fine. Remember Shari? She's one of them." Jackson had to laugh this time. Shortly, then he nodded out toward the lab, still billowing smoke. "I thought you didn't believe in the Terminator solution." "This is hardly a total solution, there's a lot to do yet. But it was necessary at this time: they were about to generate the first Viper-Z bug. Couldn't let that happen. We took out enough of the lab to stop them, but what remains can prove what they were doing." The computer finished uploading the files. Then Steven took a compact flash drive from his very-Batman-like Utility Belt and plugged it into a USB slot to upload some software into the CoSanto database. Who knows what that was going to do? "No, there's a long way to go yet," Steven went on, "It's not easy stopping wars from happening, there's a lot of people involved, lots of strings to pull and to cut over. "And you win some, you lose some: super-weapons technology is showing up everywhere at once now-- because I've inadvertently advanced it myself." He raised his weapon, "You remember this thing?" "The test model anyway," Jackson reminisced. "Old stuff in my other future, science-fiction here. But I've lost a few of them in skirmishes, so I suppose they'll be using them against me soon. "However, the future IS changing: people are joining me now, lots of volunteers for radical action. My home page is still the best weapon I have: the predictions I posted years ago keep coming true, one after another, year after year, and there's a good-sized following now. Got some nano-technology people working with me: our posting the cure for AIDS has also attracted a lot of interesting publicity, especially since it works. "We've also posted antidotes for some of the biological weapons which will be developed eventually. And my predictions concerning the next two potential World Wars are already being discussed in college classes and TV talk shows-- maybe everyone will agree not to wage them. "I also imagine that the up-and-coming CoSanto scandal will generate some intense public interest." Steven looked at Allora, who still lay there weeping. "Especially with a journalist as eyewitness," Jackson promised. "Well, I'd better go before CoSanto's security guards do show up. You too, they're going to be pissed off. But too late, of course," Steven said, patting the computer once. He touched a control pad on his wrist, started to float back out the window, to who knows where. "Hey, Jackson, when all this is over, let's get together again out at The Lake someday." "Oh, didn't you know? The Lake was logged off years ago. It's gone." "No it's not. I bought the 100 acres of land surrounding The Lake from the logging company just before they started cutting. They took a steep price, but I considered it an investment for the future." Jackson blinked a few times in surprise, then laughed out loud in sheer delight. He recovered and hurriedly asked one last question: "So you're WINNING the battle against the future?" Steven shrugged. "Who knows? Hope so. There've been so many changes now that it can't possibly become the very same future I lived in--thank God. But how different? --we'll see. This coming future's as much a mystery for me as it is for you."