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John struggled, battling his way up to the main avenue where he heard another electric sizzling sound. This time, however, it was due to passing streetcars, their poles arcing and creating bright sparks, followed by crackles and dark smoky wisps as the passed over the ice build-up on the overhead wires. He laughed at all those clunky, old-fashioned vehicles grinding their gears. They looked straight out of a post-World War Two movie - and in color!

But trolley cars? No buses? He sensed something wasn't right. Reversing direction, he stepped into his deep. just-made footprints to ease the way to Dottie's house. At once he noticed a different name on the bell. He rang it just the same and knocked for emphasis.

A middle-aged lady answered. "Guten Tag. Ja?"

"Hello. May I speak with Dorothy once again? Just for a minute."

"Dorothy? Ach, aber...dere ist no one here by dot name. Sorry."

"But I was here. Inside this very house. I just left!"

"You must be mistaken, mein Herr. Auf weidersehn," she said, smiled politely and closed the front door, leaving him standing there, baffled. No use in arguing, he muttered an unheard apology to the immigrant woman, turned and descended the stairs.

As he retraced his path to the corner, he was hit with a wild thought. Can storm systems and weather patterns decades apart be interconnected in some way? Do they have an unreal ability to create an inexplicable displacement of people? Of material objects? He quickly dismissed this as too far out, more concerned that Dottie might have spiked his coffee with chemical goodies.

With the newly-fallen snow and overnight ice, the park across the avenue ahead took on a winter wonderland look, a most idyllic setting. Shrieks of laughter hung sharply in the air as so many icicles from tree branches. Must be right after Christmas, he guessed, with bright winter clothes the children were wearing and all those new wooden sleds. He wondered if this could be the aftermath of a storm like that huge blizzard that had dumped over two feet of snow when his mother was far along in her pregnancy with him. He recalled hearing all his relatives speak about it for years afterward. Again, he laughed off this crazy idea.

But if it should be anywhere near accurate, it created another perplexing situation.

He had read in a sci-fi novel once that time travelers - a most strange concept in itself - were unable to occupy the same space and time as another version of themselves. An adult traveling back in time, for example, couldn't revisit his earliest neighborhoods and observe himself at school or at play. Or, as an older child, personally interact with his youthful parents. It created a paradox. But he recalled Rod Serling had written one just like that for a "Twilight Zone" episode only a few years ago. Walking distance back to Homewood. "One summer to a customer," the dad had told his adult son. Hey, he thought, only one summer? I'm a guy who's flush with winters! Three of 'em! And I'm not certain I've even been born yet...

Before he could attach any significance to those thoughts, not fully crystalized, excited laughter suddenly turned to shrieks of panic and fearful screamed warnings. A mother up above on a too-steep hill had given her young children a push on their sled. The older boy sat at the rear and held the little girl in front. Their father, waiting below to slow and stop them, slipped and fell hard, unable to reach his kids. The sled began picking up speed and was headed toward the open park gates, toward traffic on the avenue, and toward a fast, oncoming westbound streetcar. There were no barriers ahead to stop the runaway sled. Terror registered on both children's faces, unable to cry out or jump off.

John broke into a run as fast as conditions would allow. With leg muscles straining, rushing headlong across the avenue, he dodged a trolley car by inches. The sled entered the street with a low thump and a bump. John scooped up both children and shoved them to the safety of the snow-covered sidewalk, but his own forward momentum made him fall. Dazed and disoriented, he rose and staggered, falling backward this time, and was immediately struck by an eatbound streetcar. The rookie motorman had been inattentive to road conditions ahead as he chatted with an attractive young passenger. When he saw John begin to fall, he panicked and accelerated instead of braking.

As John rolled over on his side on the ground from the force of being hit, and then being snagged and dragged, he saw himself dive off the Manhattan side of Welfare Island. He was fully dressed and very concerned about his wallet in the rear pocket of his pants as he hit the frigid waters of the East River. He felt and smelled the rush of salt water filling his nasal passages and finding its way to his lungs. Thrashing, he began to panic and attempted to swim, but became aware he had forgotten how. He could not execute even a simple backstroke.

Out of breath, unable to swim, he sank below, down into the blackness.

***

[To be con't.]

Copyright 2010 James D. Young


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