The Time Keeper

A short fiction of love and time travel

Who wouldn’t love to? Go back in time, that is.

When the world learnt of the Time keeper, it caused a fever; Time fever. People became depressed, some obsessed with going back in time to correct their past mistakes.

Eddie, my best friend, had been ‘favoured’ by the time keeper and went back in time to correct his mistakes. The complexity of time travel, as revealed to favoured ones by the Time keeper, was that only those favoured and the people closest to them retained memories of the former and newer lives lived by the ‘favoured ones’.

Eddie who was formerly depressed by regrets of the past came back from time travel and through time a refreshed and a better person. He even had a home with a garden, white picket fence and a pretty wife, Cara_ formerly married to Kane! Funny thing is that Cara and Kane had no idea they were formerly married! This is so because they were never so close to Eddie, not as I was. We were best friends, shared our secrets, successes and woes. Now, Eddie’s time travel cost us our friendship_ it so happens it was the woes that brought us together as friends in the first place.

I guess now you might be able to understand people’s fustration, confusion, depression and obsession with time travel. A change in one’s life was a change to many lives. But they were no ‘big’ changes. According to the time keeper, from the experiences of favoured ones, certain things were meant to be; ‘constants’ he called them.

But then who was qualified to time travel? The time keeper made that choice. He would favour as he seems fit. Studies have shown that he appears mostly to those with the greatest sincere regrets, although there are certain exceptions where he appeared to random people. The favoured ones are given the chance to correct the slightest or greatest mistakes they made. But then, correcting certain mistakes have great cost on few favoured. Some favoured ones just disappeared and never returned, some made changes that made them appear in the wrong places; prison, confinements, hospitals, coma or in the grave. The catch was to make the right change in the past: of which many favoured ones failed to do.

This was what caused the small conflicts, the Time fever. People would couldn’t change the past or changed it wrongly tried to take revenge or correct the present; to their own taste, mostly not rightly, mostly to their peril. Favoured ones were never given a second chance. So, people_ favoured and unfavoured ones_ hunted the time keeper with different motives and methods, most of which were absurd and wrong.

But people tend to forget there is a reason why people who were graced with the opportunity to correct their past mistakes were called the ‘favoured’ ones.

Therefore, imagine my surprise when a plain young looking man, probably in his early twenties, wearing a fine gray suit and hat came to me on a sunny Sunday afternoon, while I was reading a book under a tree just outside my house.

“Hello there, fine day today is it not?” The young man said.

I looked him up and down, and watched him smile softly. “A fine day indeed.” I replied and went back to my book.

“I am sorry to intrude, Mr Gabriel, but I could not help but be drawn by your…state. For the first time, since my arrival, I am…well, curious.” The young man said calmly with a hint of amusement in his cool voice. He should be a radio presenter, I noted.

I looked at him again, this time closing my book. “How do you know my name and how may I help you…sir?” I asked, an edge to my voice. I didn’t like being intruded especially when a good book was involved.

“Oh, I assure you I know everyone’s name. And I am here to help you rather. You see, I am popular around here…most people call me the Time keeper.” He said with a smile.

“Yeah right,” I couldn’t help but say it out loud. Another fraudster. People would come up with any thing to make some quick money. “I’m not interested.”

“Well, we shall find out would not we? Nice meeting you Mr Gabriel.” He stretched a hand for a handshake and out of courtesy I shook it. He had a firm hand.

Then, colours began to swirl around me. I could hear the speedy rolling of a fan. I felt a little woozy as if I was on a rollercoaster ride. Then it began to slow down; the rolling fan…only this time it sounded more like a clock and then it stopped. I felt nauseated and held back the urge to vomit. Everywhere was dark but I could clearly see the young man still holding my hand. He was smiling. I noticed I was standing, no more on the chair, no more with my book, no more under the tree, no more near my house…no more in time!

“You…it’s you! You are the Time keeper!” I said, wondering why he looked so young contrary to popular description.

“Time, they say, is as you perceive it.” He replied smiling as though he could read my mind. Then he burst into a soft song

Through time past time
Past time through time
When does it hurt?
Where does it wrong?
A chance for a right
To write by sight
Along the path
Buried in time
When it went wrong
Where it does hurt

I didn’t know when my eyes shut but when it opened I found myself back home. Home!
I jumped from the bed (when did I get on the bed?) and rushed into my bathroom to take a leak. It was when I looked into my bathroom mirror it hit me. My God! I was fifteen again!

I just stood and stared at myself for the longest time in shock and wonder. It wasn’t until I heard my mum’s voice complaining about something on the phone, in the passageway, right outside my room, that I regained myself. Mother! She was alive!

I ran outside my room and there she was looking as beautiful and sleep-tossed as she always was. I ran to hug her and buried my face in her shoulder and wept. My mother just stood in shock of my outburst of emotion. I couldn’t help but remember that back then, now, I wasn’t so emotionally expressive. It was just not our family thing.

My father had left us when I was a baby and my mother had been responsible for me until she died on my sixteenth birthday along with my girlfriend. I was then alone to fend for myself before I reconnected with Eddie (that is before he time traveled to better his own story). My new memories, however, shows that Eddie and I never met. It was hard but I came up on my own.

Those people who were affected by the adventures of the ‘favoured ones’ were given the options of accepting either one of the former or newer memory. Those who accepted the newer memory found it easier to move with the change. Those who accepted the older memory found it impossible to move on and kept on being confused. Those, like me who didn’t accept either, but held on to both memories found it quite confusing, as on the long run we can’t be sure which really happened.

“What’s wrong dear? Nightmare?” My mum patted me, her voiced laced with thick emotions. I just held on to her like I was never letting go. Never again.

“At a point you know you’re gonna have to let me go if we are gonna be having that birthday party today. Happy sixteenth birthday, son”. I let go of her, shocked. It was today, the day I lose her and Tate.

She looked at me quizzically and then starts leaving, probably towards the kitchen.

“Go shower and dress up, Tate’s coming over to help with the food,” she called out on her way, her voice still laced with emotion.

I went back into the room and shut the door. No this couldn’t be happening again! I don’t think I could take losing them all over again. I was going to stop them this time!

I checked the time, 8:00am, I had three hours until the incident.

After rushing with bathing and dressing up I jumped out of the room determined to stop them, even if it meant tying them down to the chair, God help me!

It was when I saw Tate and my Mum laughing in the kitchen, I came to an halt. I never thought they ever looked this beautiful. I had a sense of déjà vu. Why don’t I remember any of this?

“Hey. Its the birthday boy!” Tate squealed and ran to me giving me a hug and then a kiss. Seeing her, holding her and kissing her, it all came back, this time stronger than before: the heat, the love and the passion.

I hold on to her for what seems like an enternity totally forgetting my mission. “C’mon. I still need help in the kitchen.” My mum called and for the first time in a long time, I laughed.

I sat on a tall stool in the kitchen listening and laughing to Mum and Tate talk and argue about things that didn’t even make sense to me. I was so lost in the moment I forgot about the time. Everything appeared so real, I even forgot I was almost fifteen years older than I actually was now.

When I did remember though, the time was 10:35am. My mood changed totally to that of a frantic kid. “Mum, Tate…there’s something you need to know.” I said and earned stares from both Tate and Mum.

“No son, let me say something first,” Mum cut me off “I know you are of age now and…”

“No Mum, that’s not..” I cut in desperate to tell her while trying not to sound like a fool or like I was on drugs or something.

“Son, listen to me!” Mum cut back in sternly and sixteen year old me had to keep quiet. “I want you to know that I support whatever decision you make regarding college and life in general.” She looked to Tate to send her point home.

“You know, my fear had been that you’d grow up and be like your father. I didn’t want you to become a man that doesn’t appreciate life and love. By God, I was scared…you look just like him!
“But you are not him. You are my son. And for what it’s worth, I’m proud of you, of the man you have become. God knows I love you more than life itself.” Tears welled up in my eyes and I went to give Mum a tight hug. I don’t recall having this memory.
“You wanted to say something, son.” My mum’s voice was clogged with tears. Even Tate was crying.
I thought for a second. Back in my time, favoured people, like myself, were given an opportunity to change their lives. Even Eddie changed his and in turn changed others associated with him. I think of Cara and Kane. They were both happily married, their love story an epic one! That was until Eddie came back and messed everything up. Perhaps it was fair, perhaps not.
But then I wonder, what right do I have to change a life? Would I not be my father if I had no respect for life and for love?

I looked at my mother with a sad smile “Nothing mum…just that I love you to pieces. Thanks for everything you have done for me.” My mum hugs me again and I soaked in the embrace for the last time. Tate broke out into a sob and I went to her. I gave her a long kiss, putting all my emotion into it and whispered in her ears, “I love you too pumpkin. So much.” She giggled with a sob.

“Whoa! So many emotions in the air…Tate, let’s go get that thing now.” Mum said wiping her eyes and laughing.
Tate beamed, “oh, yeah!”
“Can I tag along?” I asked, hopeful.
“It wouldn’t be a ‘thing’ if you tagged along,” Tate said giving me a playful jab on the shoulder.

“Don’t worry. We’ll be back in a few. Don’t eat those chicken without us!” She called as she left.
I watch them go whispering delightly and getting into the car…knowing they would never come back.

Colours began swirling before my eyes, I could hear the spinning of the clock and the voice of the time keeper far away singing his song. His voice came closer and closer, the clock stopped spinning. It was dark again. the time keeper stood before me with a kind smile.

“Mr Gabriel you do surprise me. A trip to time and you did nothing.” He said.

“You have no right to mess with people’s life like this!” I replied with venom in my voice.

“I believe I give people the chance to learn from the past, whatever they do with the opportunity is totally up to them. Time is complex but easy to understand, Mr Gabriel. What will be will be, what could be can be, and what would not be would not.” The time keeper said waving hand for emphasis.

“Are you saying I could’ve saved my Mum and Tate?” I asked in anger or was it frustration.

“Have you learnt nothing, Mr Gabriel? You should have learnt to flow with time as it comes not against it. Well, funny of you to talk of Miss Tate Bridge. She is next to be favoured by time.” He adjusted his hat and cleared his throat as if to start singing.

“Tate is alive?” I almost go weak in the knees. How did I not know about that?

“Did you ever bother to find out?” The time keeper asked, “I can feel her woes. And you will never guess her greatest woe…” He continued as if in a dream state.

I didn’t know what to say. I was dumbfounded. “She blames herself for the death your mother. That is what she wishes to correct.”

“Please take me to her!” I pleaded. Tate was alive! All this while!

“Her woes call to me. I need to give her a chance to learn from the past.” The time keeper said in a troubled voice. I was very sure he was saying the truth about feeling people’s woe and I couldn’t blame him for trying to relieve people of it.

“I promise that if you give me just a little time with her, I would relieve her of woes and if I don’t then give her a chance at the past.” I said holding the time traveler by the arm. He nodded his head and I could have sworn he aged by at least fifteen years. Then he started to sing:

Through time to time
To time through time
Who does it hurt?
Where does it wrong?
A chance for a right
To write by sight
Along the path
Buried in time
Who it went wrong
Where it does hurt

I didn’t know when I closed my eyes but when I did open them, I was in the graveyard, seated on a bench. In front of me, beside a gravestone, bent a lady in her late twenties, wearing a black jeans and a red turtlenecked sweater. Her hair was auburn and wrapped in a bun. I couldn’t see her face but I could tell she was beautiful. She was holding a flower, talking to the grave.
I know that grave. It was my mother’s. That lady bending over the grave was none other than Tate.

“You have ten minutes. Time is of essence.” Said the time keeper who was seated beside me all the time.

I stood and went to her, my heart beating faster by every step.
“Tate,” I simply said when I got to her. She stood up shocked and nearly fell back in surprise.
She looked at me for a while before recognition dawned on her face. “Gabe!” She exclaimed. I gave her a warm hug despite the fact that she didn’t respond at first. But then she melted into me, a few seconds later and I could feel that familiar heat, love and passion like never before.

“I have missed you, Tate.” I said taking in the scent of her hair.
“I’m so sorry Gabe! I’m so sorry!” She cried on my shoulder.
I looked at her, her face in my hands. God! She even got prettier as a lady.

“I thought you were dead! You made everyone believe you were dead. You have no idea how much that broke me.” I said with enough hurt in my voice, I almost shuddered at the sound of it.

“I couldn’t face you after what I did. I killed your mother! I got her distracted in the car. I kept on talking…I should have stopped. I should have been the one dead not her.” She cried and it broke my heart.

“Look at me, Tate. It was never your fault. I never blamed you, no one did. God! It would been a miracle to have known you were alive! Losing the two people I love most in the world was the worst thing that could have happened to me. I love you, Tate. More than ever.” I said looking deep into her eyes. The pain I saw in there was so much, I couldn’t even begin to fathom what she had been through, carrying the burden of my mother’s death for years.

“You can’t love me, Gabe. I killed your mother!”

“I don’t blame you, Tate. I have no regrets and you should have none.I love you. I can’t lose you twice. Let’s start again…from here. There is no need to change anything. I know you love me Tate…please.”
She looked at me with teary eyes, her lips parted in surprise and I pulled her into a kiss.

My lips bruised hers and hers mine as well. Our tongues sought each other like lost lovers. The unsaid words and emotions poured into the kiss.

Someone cleared his throat next to us we broke the kiss. It was the time keeper.

“Hello, Miss Tate. I am the Time keeper.” He announced. Tate was surprised and stared him up and down.
“Your woes called to me and I am here to take you through time.” He continued.
I looked at Tate with pleadingly. I couldn’t say a word. It was her choice to make, I have had my chance. She looked at me, with those dark eyes and parted kiss-swollen lips. This was it.

“Mr Time keeper. You’ve no idea how long I have waited and prayed for you to come so I can right my wrong.

“But for a time keeper, you seemed to have come late. My woes have already taken its toll on me but it doesn’t matter anymore…I have found love again.” Tate rested her head on my chest as if to prove her point.

The time keeper smiled, “You both have surprised time. For that, time will no longer disturb you until it is time.”

“One more thing time keeper, I accept the newer memories. I think it’s time to flow with time rather than against it.” I said holding Tate closer to me.

“It is done.” The time keeper said with a nod and vanished.

And indeed it was.

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