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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Remember the Future by Eric Price

This concludes the three part story, Cloverleaf Project.
Click here for Part 1: Thank the Lucky Stars
Click here for Part 2: The Final Transmission

The beast came around the corner and eyed the dying man while Ray watched. All he could ever do in his dreams was watch. He knew it was a dream. He had had dreams like this his whole life. As a child, his mother would say, “It’s only a nightmare.” She quickly learned “only a nightmare” didn’t begin to explain Ray’s visions. He would see disasters, assassinations, devastating accidents. He had positive dreams too, but he seldom remembered them. They didn’t stick with him. They didn’t frighten him.

For a while, his mother thought he may have precognition. When she took him in for sleep screening, and they compared his results to the times of the actual events, they realized he didn’t have the ability to see the future. The events he saw happened as he saw them.

As a thirty year old adult, time had not lessened the effects of the visions. It didn’t desensitize him to them. If anything, they became worse. Stronger. More real. And now, as he watched some ungodly creature ripping Simon to shreds, he knew, beyond any doubt, his father was dead.

Ray awoke with a start. He sat in bed, gasping to catch his breath. Sweat ran down his chest like rain through a gutter. His bed sheets had been un-tucked and knotted into a ball. They fell to the ground as he sat, practicing the breathing exercises he had learned for the purpose of calming himself in the days before the sleep screening, back when they were “only nightmares.”

He pulled on some clothes and headed down the hall to his mother’s room. Her friend, Julie, had insisted she and Ray go into hiding. At first, just a seemingly casual move every few years. Don’t make a big deal out of it. Don’t mention it to anyone. But that changed a year ago when Adam P. Jackson, a childhood friend of Ray’s parents, Simon and Susan, and their mutual friend Julie, announced his candidacy for president. The people involved with Cloverleaf Project started disappearing. Not the first group. All except Julie and Ray’s mother had been sent on space exploration missions—from which they would never return. But the hundreds of babies born in the subsequent batches/breadings/broods, aside from enhanced strength, agility, intelligence and luck, they must have also been bread to withstand the effects of gravity. As far as anyone could tell, they may have floated into space.

Ray knew they hadn’t disappeared without a cause. So did Julie and Susan. Ray knew where they went because he dreamed about it. Julie and Susan knew because Julie had always been a firm believer in the old cliché, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” She proved her loyalty to Adam time and time again so he would keep her employed as an advisor. She betrayed said loyalty by secretly keeping Susan and Ray in hiding.

“Mom? Mom, are you awake?”

The door opened and Susan looked wide awake. “Ray? It’s 4:30 in the morning. I got up when I heard you screaming. Was it another dream? What’s wrong?”

He looked over her shoulder at the clock on her night stand. “Yeah. Another one. Come to the kitchen. I’ll brew a pot of coffee. I don’t think I’ll get any more sleep tonight.”

Susan came into the kitchen fully dressed as Ray set two cups of Highlander Grogg on the table. He motioned for her to sit has he pulled out his own chair.

She didn’t take her eyes off of him as he took a deep breath followed by a sip of his coffee.

“It’s Dad.”

Her gaze didn’t waver, but the muscles around her eyes spasmed, and a layer of tears formed on the rim.

“Did he—? What happened?”

“Mom, he’s dead.”

“You’re sure? Who am I kidding? Of course you’re sure.” A tear broke free of its eyelash levee and coursed down her cheek. “What happened?” Her voice cracked.

“Some kind of animal killed him. He hadn’t landed very long ago. Something happened to his ship too. Another animal, some type of bug, ate the metal. He…he never sent the final transmission.”

Susan took two large gulps from her cup and wiped the tears from her eyes. When she spoke again, her voice sounded as steady as ever. “We’ll have to move again. Soon. They’ll realize he should have landed by now. I’ll throw my things together. Let’s just go as soon as we can. How about sunrise?”

“No.” Ray went to the coffee pot and refilled his cup. “I’m done running. We’re done running.”

“Ray, we knew it would come to this sooner or later. If Simon sent his transmission, it would have bought us some time. We’re too high profile for Adam to attack us now. We’d have had at least until the election or maybe until his inauguration, but he’d have come for us. Now he can have us arrested, and it will be perfectly legal because Simon didn’t send his final transmission containing details of Kapa1 Ceti VI.”

He sat at the table and took his mother’s hands in his own. “I have to stop Adam. You know as well as I do he’s killing the other people created by Cloverleaf Project. You and I have always been top of the list; you for being married to Simon, and me for being a genetic impossibility since you and Dad were supposed to be sterile. Plus, I don’t think they’d afford me the luxury of killing me. Not since they have no idea what special abilities I may have other than managing to beat the odds and live.”

 “Coffee on an empty stomach gives me the jitters.” Susan refilled her cup, topped off Ray’s, and brought a container of cinnamon rolls back to the table. “What do you suggest we do?”

Ray took a bite of cinnamon roll and took his time chewing it. He washed it down with a sip of coffee and said, “We aren’t doing anything. You’re almost sixty years old. I’ll take care of it. I have to stop Adam. At the very least, I have to stop him from becoming president.”

“First of all, I’m fifty-eight. That’s almost fifty-nine, not almost sixty. Plus, I’m in better shape, both mentally and physically, than most people in their thirties and forties. Second, I’m your mother, and I’m sworn to protect you until the day I die.”

“You’ve come to the reason why I’m going alone. With any luck, and we both have an exceptional amount of luck, neither of us will have to die.” Ray paused to drink more coffee. “Adam’s arms have a long reach, and his fingers dig well below the topsoil. Stopping him may take more than putting an end to his campaign for president. I don’t know.”

But he did know.

****

Adam read through his speech again. No mention of the disappearances. Perfect. The small amount of public outcry happened almost a month ago, and it died down as quickly as it started. It all came from the extremist branch of the other party, and nobody takes them seriously anyway.

A mention of my accomplishments. Discuss a few unattainable goals. Shake some hands, kiss some babies, and I’m sipping a cocktail on my private plane before noon. Do politicians still kiss babies? I should ask Julie.

A knock came at the door. Julie stuck her head in and said, “Mr. Jackson, it’s time.”

“Thank you, Julie. Oh, while you’re here, should I kiss babies?”

Julie’s brow furrowed, but quickly returned to its smooth appearance. “Sure. If someone presents you with their baby, you can kiss it.” A smile brightened her serious face, somehow making her look younger yet showing the crow’s feet at the corners of her eyes. “Don’t go picking up babies and kissing them if their parents don’t offer them, though. People will think it’s creepy.”

Four security guards stood sentinel outside his door. They flanked Adam two by two as they traversed the corridor leading to the outdoor stage. The draft carried the salty taste of seawater on the air. Adam had considered keeping some of the Cloverleaf Project products. He could see the benefit they’d provide with security jobs, but he calculated the risk as too great. He couldn’t have humans as advanced as himself walking around.

He had Julie where he wanted her. She thought him a savior of the human race. She’d be the last to die. But Simon’s family. They presented a problem. First, he had no idea where to look for them. They show up every once in a while and disappear again without a trace. Julie would help him find them, then she could go too. Who knows, maybe at the same time.

A muffled sound behind Adam pulled him from his thoughts. He turned, but no one followed him—not even his bodyguards. Another sound came from the other direction, and Adam stood alone in the corridor.

“This ends today, Adam.”

“What? Who said that? Show yourself. Is this some kind of prank?”

“You took something from me. Now I’m taking something from you.”

Footfalls landed on the ground behind Adam. He spun to look into an all too familiar face. But not a face from the present, a face from the past.

“I know you. You’re Simon’s son. What’s your name? Randal?”

“Raymond. My friends call me Ray, so you can call me Raymond.”

Adam smiled. “I’ve been looking for you, kid. Well, I’ve been looking for your mom. You don’t interest me much. Julie tells me you're not special. She says you may not even be Simon’s son. What are the odds two sterile people could reproduce?”

Now Ray had a chance to smile. “You recognized me at once. I could see it in your eyes. You know as well as I do how much I look like him. They are my parents, and there’s a lot about me you don’t know.”

Adam shot his hand into his sports coat and produced a classic Smith & Wesson 500 Magnum revolver.

With advanced genetics coming from both parents, Ray sidestepped the line of fire, and kicked Adam’s arm skyward. Without his incredible strength, Adam would have never maintained a grip on the gun.

“Unbelievable. How can it be? How can you be?”

He lowered the gun level with Ray’s head and pulled the trigger. The report sounded like a cannon in the corridor.

Ray’s cheek stung from the graze of the bullet. He spun, backhanded Adam in the face, and ripped the gun from his hand.

Adam landed on the ground. A two inch gash below his right eye gushed blood. Disoriented and off balance from the blow, he struggled to get to his feet.

While Adam fought gravity, Ray opened the cylinder, checked the remaining rounds, and snapped it closed. A swift kick sent Adam sprawling. Ray stepped on the presidential candidates neck and rested the barrel of the gun on his forehead.

****

Susan passed through the hallway for probably the fifth or sixth time before she noticed the envelope on the table. Simple capital letters on the front said, “MOM.” Her heart stopped as she fumbled with the seal and began to read.

Mom,

I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you any of this face to face. I had another dream a few days before Dad died, and I knew what I’d have to do. I didn't want to worry you, or have you try to talk me out of it. This dream wasn’t like the rest. It didn’t show the present. I could see the future.

I have no way of knowing if my vision will work the way I saw it, but either way you’ll have to go into hiding one more time.

Everyone will think I’m dead, but I’ll be living incognito in the country you told me you most wanted to visit. I can’t write it here in case someone by chance were to find this note before you. Of course, you should destroy it after you’ve read it. Go wherever Julie sends you, give everything a few months to settle down, then it should be safe to join me.

Love,

Ray

The phone rang, and Susan dropped the note.

“Answer phone. Hello?”

“Susan, it’s Julie. Have you heardthe news?”

Thinking of the note, Susan asked, “What news?” Did Ray contact Julie as well?

“I can’t talk, now. I just wanted to make contact with you. I’ll have press conferences the rest of the day… maybe the rest of the week. I’ll get back to you when I can. Turn on the television. It will answer your questions.”

The conversation cut off with a click.

“Television on.”

A light below the counter illuminated, and a three dimensional image showed a reporter standing in a stadium. A few moments later the audio started.

“…will keep you updated on any new findings. Here's what we know right now. Presidential candidate Adam P. Jackson has been assassinated. The identity of the gunman is currently unconfirmed. Witnesses report seeing a Caucasian male, of average build and about thirty years old, running from the crime scene. He then advanced east to the pear and jumped into the ocean. A body has not been retrieved, but he is believed dead.”

“Television off.”

Susan retrieved the note from under the table, set fire to it, and threw it into the fireplace. When the last embers turned to smoke, she went to her room and started packing.

****

Dedicated to Philip K. Dick (1928-1982), my go-to for a short science fiction fix.

****


Eric Price lives with his wife and two sons in northwest Iowa. He began publishing in 2008 when he started writing a quarterly column for a local newspaper. Later that same year he published his first work of fiction, a spooky children’s story called Ghost Bed and Ghoul Breakfast. Since then, he has written stories for children, young adults, and adults. Three of his science fiction stories have won honorable mention from the CrossTime Annual Science Fiction Contest. His first YA fantasy novel, Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud, received the Children’s Literary Classics Seal of Approval and the Literary Classics Award for Best First Novel. His second novel, The Squire and the Slave Master, continues the Saga of the Wizards. It is scheduled for an August 4, 2015 release. Find him online at authorericprice.comTwitterFacebook, and Goodreads.