“There’s No Time Like the Past”
by Kevin Hopson
“My head hurts.”
Taylor looked at his son, Scott. Sweat accumulated along the boy’s forehead despite a deep chill in the air. Light trickled through the forest canopy, but darkness would soon engulf them, making the trek even more difficult. To make matters worse, Taylor felt the same. His head throbbed, and he felt a cold sweat developing as his stomach muscles tightened. However, he hid his afflictions from Scott. He needed to be strong. Dizzy and off balance, Taylor righted himself.
“We should rest.”
“I don’t need to,” Scott said. “It’s just that I’ve felt weird ever since we saw it. Like it did something to us.”
Taylor nodded. “It could be anxiety,” he said, only half believing his words.
“Maybe.” Scott gazed at him, offering a weak smile.
Taylor grinned. He touched his son’s forehead with the back of his hand, a sense of relief washing over him. “You don’t feel warm, so I don’t think you’re running a fever.” The boy rubbed his belly. “Is your stomach bothering you, too?”
“I can make it,” he said after a long pause. “I just want to get home.”
“Me, too, buddy.” A noise in the distance broke Taylor’s concentration.
“Dad, do you hear that?”
“What is it?”
Taylor took a few seconds, allowing his ears to track the sound. “It can’t be.”
“It sounds like an air raid siren.”
Scott exhaled. “Like the ones on TV?”
Taylor bobbed his head. “I know the town used to have one, but I’ve never heard it before. It must be seventy years old.”
The boy’s breathing accelerated. “Is the town under attack?”
“I don’t know.” Taylor had no time to think because something else caught his attention. Leaves crumbled, twigs snapped, and a small evergreen waved back and forth. “Who’s there?” Taylor couldn’t suppress the panic in his voice.
A man moved into the clearing.
“He’s got a gun, Dad!”
Taylor noticed a rifle over the man’s shoulder and pulled Scott close. Dressed in an olive green outfit resembling military apparel, the man was clean cut with short hair parted down the middle. He looked fresh out of high school, but Taylor couldn’t be certain given the dimming light.
“I don’t mean any harm,” the man said.
“There’s no hunting in these woods,” Taylor said.
“I apologize if I scared you. My name is Daniel.”
“Daniel?” Taylor stared at him, receiving a slight nod in return. “You live around here?”
“I grew up in Batavia.”
“Isn’t that where you were born, Dad?” Scott said.
“Yeah. It isn’t too far from here.” Taylor turned to Daniel. “Do you hear the siren?”
“I hear it wherever I go.”
“Are we under attack?” Scott inquired. “We saw something in the sky earlier.”
Daniel’s eyes narrowed. “What did you see?”
Taylor shrugged. “Some sort of aircraft.”
Scott broke away from his father’s grip, bending over and vomiting a few feet away. Taylor knelt beside him, rubbing his son’s back. “You okay?”
Scott caught his breath. “Yeah.”
Daniel walked over to them. Resting his rifle on the ground, he took a sack and opened it, untying a piece of cloth. “These might help.”
“Crackers?” Taylor said.
“They always help my stomach,” Daniel said.
Scott looked at his father as if awaiting approval.
“No candy from strangers, right?” Daniel smiled and took a cracker from the cloth. “I’ll eat one first if it makes you feel better.” He placed a cracker in his mouth and swallowed it a few seconds later.
Scott glanced at his dad again.
“Go ahead,” Taylor said, feeling more at ease. “That’s if you’re up to eating.”
“Thank you.” Scott took one and slowly chewed it.
Daniel removed another item from his sack. “You could probably use this as well.”
Taylor inspected the L-shaped object. “It looks like a flashlight from my Boy Scout days.”
“It will be dark soon. I’m assuming you don’t have one.”
“No,” Taylor said. “We don’t, but we can’t take yours.”
“I have another,” Daniel said. “Please.”
Hesitant at first, Taylor gripped the flashlight. “Thank you.”
He extended his arm, wanting to shake hands with Daniel, but a blinding light forced Taylor to cover his eyes instead. When his vision cleared, Daniel was gone.
“What was that? Where’d he go? Dad,” Scott continued before his father could answer, “the siren. I don’t hear it anymore.”
Scott was right. The sound had ceased.
Taylor got to his feet and placed a hand on Scott’s shoulder. “Are you strong enough to walk?”
“I think so.”
Taylor fiddled with the flashlight, noticing something inscribed along the side of it.
He has the same last name.
“Dad?” Scott said. “That guy kind of looked like you.” He grasped his father’s hand. “Do you think we’ll be okay?”
Taylor smiled. “I know we will, kiddo.”