I was holding the file when Walt entered my office.
“Doug, you’re not dressed! C’mon, man, it’s time to go!”
Walt looked like he’d stepped out of the early 1960s: crew cut, black-framed glasses, dark suit, a thin blue tie.
“I see you’re ready.”
“We’re all ready – except you. We’re waiting for you!”
“I’m not going,” I said gently. “Go without me. You’ll be fine.”
“What are you talking about? We can’t do this without you!”
“You can. You must! I’m depending on you. My place is here, with my family. Go, while the window is open.”
Walt didn’t budge.
“Go! It will close soon, and so will our hopes!”
He left then, without a backward glance.
“Good luck, Walt,” I whispered. I stared at the name on the file I held: WORMWOOD.
I pulled up to the cabin where my ex-wife and daughter live. Work had been the reason for our divorce. Jeanie said it consumed me.
Switching off the ignition, I inhaled the sweet night air. The porch light came on, and Jeanie stood in a pool of light, peering out into the darkness.
“Doug… is that you?”
I got out of the car and walked slowly to the porch. “Yes, Jeanie, I’ve come to talk with you.”
I sat down on the step and my seven-year old burst through the front door.
Her tiny arms encircled my neck. Any calmness I’d felt these past months then deserted me and I began weeping.
“Daddy, are you crying?”
Jeanie noticed. “Cathy, go inside, watch TV. Let me talk to Daddy.”
Reluctantly, I released her, wiping my tears with the palms of my hands. When Cathy was inside, Jeanie sat down.
“What’s wrong, Doug?”
“Everything…” The story poured out, how months earlier we’d discovered a meteor half the size of Earth, hurtling toward our planet. Disasters? I’d seen some big ones in my time, but this one… this one was huge.
“Can’t anything be done?”
“That theory I’d been working on… about windows opening and closing…”
“Yes, portals to different points in time. But that was a theory, right?”
“Not anymore. Jeanie, we need time to figure out how to divert the meteor’s trajectory, and time is the one thing we don’t have. Tonight a team of scientists is traveling back to 1964. That gives them fifty years to figure things out.”
“Will it work?”
“I hope so… it’s all we’ve got.”
“When will the meteor hit?”
I reached for her hand. “Soon… dawn…”
Stunned, she stared at me. “And if the team is successful?”
“We won’t remember any of this. We’ll never have had this conversation.”
“And if they’re not?”
“It won’t matter then, will it?”
She was silent for a moment. “What do we do until then?”
“I think you, me and Cathy… I think we should enjoy this beautiful night. Let’s gaze at the stars, let’s believe there’s a tomorrow.”
Jeanie rested her head against my shoulder, and we both looked up at the slowly brightening sky.
Word Count: 500
Author’s Note: This week’s tale is written in response to a challenge to write a 500-words or less story utilizing the phrase, ‘I’d seen some big ones in my time, but this one… this one was huge.’ You can check out these weekly flash fiction challenges hosted by ThainInVain here.