Short Story: Decade
Fiction Posted: 2,729 words
Okay, so here’s a short story I wrote that’s partially based off of a dream. Weird, I know — these types of stories always are. I make no guarantee or claim that this is a true representation of anyone’s life depicted herein within the next decade This is just my weird brain being…weird. Oh, this is sorta long….almost 3,000 words. You might want to refill your coffee cup.
I shook my head and sat up from the bed. My covers were rumpled in a heap at my feet. The chill dark of Moscow winter was shining outside, around pale pools of orange streetlamp that illuminated the falling snow.
Abigail stood in the doorway and chuckled, “Come on, mister. Time to go.”
I sat up and grinned, “Okay, I’m coming, I’m coming.”
As she walked into the kids’ bedroom, she tossed back a parting remark, “And when we got married you were such an early bird.”
I grinned ruefully and searched for a clean shirt on the floor. Thanksgiving. Well, with the snow and dark outside, it sure did feel like winter, at least. I peered out the window again, “It’s going to be hard driving. It’s hard to believe it’s eight in the morning — feels more like five.”
“Well, Mom needs help with the pies.” Abigail re-emerged from the bedroom with Joshua in her arms.
I poked my head in the kids bedroom and yanked the covers off of Rachel, “Hey, wake up! Nana and Grandpa’s for thanksgiving!”
She grinned hugely. Abbie always said she got her grin from me, “Pies!” She definitely got that from me.
We bundled on our coats, layer by layer. Rachel looked like a little Russian doll in her bright red coat and a checked cap. Josh just looked like a bundle of coats in Abbie’s arms. He was sleeping, lucky guy. I picked up the huge tray of sweet potato casserole, stacked two cans of sweet corn on the top, and pushed open the door, “Let’s go!”
Downstairs we crunched through the snow to the car. I deposited the steaming food into the backseat, and started the car. The motor croaked and groaned. Every year we’d wonder if this was the last time the motor would heat up enough to run. Russian winters are hard on cars, but so far the old van had held out pretty well.
I buckled Rachel into her carseat and returned to the front seat. The motor hummed, but still groaned every few cycles.
“We’ll try it anyways,” I decided.
I backed out of the spot and turned along the road. Mom and Dad lived just fifteen minutes down. It was one of the perks of this apartment. We’d driven for a while when Abbie gasped. “Andrew! Mom specifically asked me to make sure to bring some baking soda.” She sighed, “I can’t believe I forgot it. But with getting the kids ready and myself, and…”
“It’s okay,” I said, “I’ll pull off at the store and get some.”
I pulled into the grocery store parking lot and left the car running. No use to let the motor freeze again.
“Y’all stay here and keep warm,” I said, “I’ll run in and grab some and be out in a minute.”
“Hurry,” she said, “You told Mom we’d be there at nine.”
I nodded and shut the door. I crunched through the snow to the grocery store and entered into the welcome warmth of the store.
It was a dark little store, with tiny shelves and not much for sale. There wasn’t really anyone about, except for a few employees which lounged lazily at half-lit cash register. I guess at this time, they wouldn’t have much business.
I walked through the aisles, trying to find the labels for baking soda by the dim light of the bare bulbs that hung above.
Here we are.
I grabbed a box of soda off the shelf. Better take two just in case.
A hand clapped me on the sholder and a familiar voice said, “Andrew! What are you doing here?”
I turned around. Caleb stood behind me.
“Hey, what a surprise! So you came out for Thanksgiving, huh? How are things in the States?”
“Good, good. Couldn’t be better.” He stuck his hands in his pockets.
I grinned, “So Mom and Dad know, naturally?”
“Oh, sure! They couldn’t wait to meet Aimee.”
“My daughter?” Caleb’s tone was confused.
I shut my eyes tightly and opened them again. “Your…daughter. But you’re not married!”
“Andrew…I got married a year and a half ago. You were there…you were my best man. You gave Hannah and I a Royal Crock Pot.”
I shook my head, “I know I’m bad at remembering gifts I’ve given…but when I forget the whole event…”
Caleb put his hand on my shoulder, “Andrew, you’re acting weird. Come on. Let’s get back to Mom and Dad’s and sort this out. Are you feeling all right?”
“I’m feeling fine!” I snapped.
I dropped a box of baking soda on the floor and a corner broke. Stark white baking soda began to spill out along the dark tile of the supermarket floor. Caleb grabbed my arm, “Come on, let’s go.”
“But…I need to buy baking soda for Abbie.”
“Nope, we’re going, come on. ‘Abbie’ can wait.”
We walked outside into the chill blast. I told Caleb, “Come on, the van’s just over here. Abbie and the kids are waiting.”
I stopped short in front of the parking space. The van was absolutely and completely gone. I ran up to the parking space and stood in front of it, dumbfounded.
“Caleb! The car’s gone! Why’d Abbie drive off like that? She would have called me!
“Or someone’s stolen the car! My wife and kids are inside! We’ve got to find them! Abbie!”
Caleb put his hand on my shoulder, “Andrew…you’re not married.”
“What are you talking about? I am married! If I’m not married then how do you explain this ring on my ha—”
My right hand was empty. My ring was gone.
“Caleb, I was wearing a wedding ring. I was!”
“Andrew, listen to me. We need to go back to the apartment. You need to talk with Mom and Dad. You’re not well!” Caleb held both of my arms behind me.
I shook in his grip, “Shut up! My wife and kids are gone! I’m going to find them!”
It wasn’t any good, and I knew it: Caleb had always been more athletic, stronger than I was. He told me for the thousandth time, “Andrew…you’re not married.”
I turned on him, “No, you’re not!” Is this a prank? Did Abbie drive off to the apartment and you’re in on the whole thing?”
Caleb releaed me and shook his head, “I’ve never met anyone named Abbie, Andrew.”
I ran my hand over my short hair. “Okay, let’s think about this logically.
“I don’t know anyone named Hannah. I didn’t even know you were married. You live in Fort Worth and you’re a graphic illustrator. I’ve been married for three years and I live in Moscow.”
Caleb stared at me, his eyes wide, “What have you been smoking? Andrew…”
I grabbed at him, “I know those events like the day I was born!”
“I live in Atlanta, Andrew. Hannah didn’t want to move far from her parents. I’m a youth group leader. I have a daughter. You were there when she was born. You were so proud to be an uncle…I never thought I’d have kids before you did.”
“I haven’t been to Atlanta in years!” I burst out.
“Okay, stop this.” Caleb said, “One of us is right, one is wrong. Your…family, is gone. I know my family’s back at the apartment, though. We’ll go there and sort things out. It’ll work out.”
I rubbed my head again and stared at the parking space even harder, as if just staring at it would make the van materialize.
“Maybe Abbie went back to the house….maybe Josh needed something, or maybe…..” I trailed off. She would have called. Besides, Abbie couldn’t stand driving in the snow. She’d never leave without letting me know. Never.
Caleb took me by the shoulders, “Enough of this. We’re going to Mom and Dad’s and we’re going to sort this out.”
I went limp and let him guide me along the wet, dark, sidewalk. In the distance ahead of us, the sun was barely peeking out above the horizon. Its light bathed the very tips of the tallest buildings, but the sidewalk where we walked was still dark. Caleb said a few bits of something, but they were swallowed up in the silent darkness around us.
Finally we came to the apartment. I knew it well: I’d lived here for a year. That was before college and before I met Abbie, before we came back to Moscow as missionaries ourselves. I pounded my fist into my hand. I knew it had all happened. I knew I had lived it! How did Caleb know nothing of it? Mom and Dad would remember…they’d know. I hoped they’d know.
No. They had to know. There had to be some way to get out of this. I felt like I was blind, stumbling along in the dark. The pitch-black Moscow morning wasn’t helping.
We went up the elevator in silence. We opened the door to the apartment, number 84, and walked in silently. I shed my coats as Mom came up. She smelled of apple pie and had an apron wrapped around her, “Caleb! I sent you to the store for baking soda and you come back with Andrew. You’re early: this is a nice surprise.”
Her face changed quickly though as she looked closer at us both, “Is something wrong?”
“Everything’s wrong!” I said. “Everything is totally and completely wrong.”
A young woman sat at the dining room table, peeling apples. She must be…Hannah. Caleb’s wife. Oy, how to even fathom that!
A little girl played under the table. When she saw Caleb, her face lit up. She ran to him and he scooped her up in his arms. She giggled and Caleb tickled and kissed her, “This is Aimee,” he told me.
It was true. It had to be true. Somehow…Caleb was married. He loved that little girl. She loved him…and I’d never seen her before in my life, or his wife. How?
Mom repeated her question, “Andrew…what’s wrong…”
I gestured wildly at Caleb, “All of that! All of this! Everything! Caleb has a daughter, that he loves, and a wife, and…even a beard! My wife and kids are gone!”
My Mom’s face had the same confusion as Caleb’s did. No! More darkness to stare at. When was light going to shine on this whole thing? More importantly, where was Abbie? Josh? Rachel? Where was all of my life?
My mom put her hand on my shoulder, “Andrew…I think you need to lie down. You’ll feel better by lunchtime.”
“I’m not sick!” My voice sounded harsh and screeching to my own ears.
My family stared at me. I snapped my fingers.
“The apartment! Mom, you’ll remember it for sure. Dad, you too. You helped us move in! You were so excited when we came back to work in Moscow with you. Mom, you picked out the dining room rug. You and Abbie did – you went to Ikea. I know it happened!”
Dad started to say something but I stopped him, “No – I’m not crazy. The apartment…we’ll go to the apartment! I was just there. I just woke up there this morning!”
Dad stood up, “I’ll go with him to his apartment. Come on, Andrew.”
I left the apartment only five minutes since I’d walked in. It was all wrong. It was Thanksgiving, but turned on its head. My own parents didn’t even remember any of my whole life!
Dad walked me to the car and started the engine. We waited for it to heat up, and I banged on the dashboard, “I did this same thing for my van, this morning. Dad, you remember my van, right? I bought it from the Merrils when they retired?”
Dad’s face was pained as he looked at me, “Son…I don’t know what’s going on. But we’re going to shed light on this.”
He backed out of the apartment aparking lot and said, “Where to?”
He should know how to get to my apartment. “Turn left,” I said.
We drove along the road and I directed Dad to the apartment he’d been to a thousand times. The van wasn’t in its spot. God, where were they?
I checked my pockets and found the key. I held it up to the door and it beeped. I pulled on the door, “See, if I were crazy, would I have been able to open the door to a strange building?”
Dad raised his eyebrow. I tugged on the door again. I held the magnetic key up again and tried it. Finally, the concierge opened the door. I greeted him and he stared at me. Dad looked at me, “It doesn’t convince me much, son.”
We entered the elevator and I hit the seventh floor. It hummed along and when the doors opened I dashed into the hallway. It was dark and I hit the lights. I stuck my key in the lock of our apartment door. It wouldn’t turn.
I sank to the floor.
“Dad…is this some sort of “It’s a wonderful life” thing, or something?”
He crouched down beside me and said, “Son…where did your…ife start diverging from what we remember?”
“Well…I went to college up in Minnesota. After I graduated, I met Abbie. We got married a year and a half later.”
“Son, you dropped out of college in your second year and moved to California. You started writing books. That was a decade ago.” He fished around in his shoulder bag and pulled out a nice hardback, “Vickie said I should grab this. She said it might help.”
I ran my trembling fingers over the embossed cover, felt my name in print. “Impossible,” I whispered. I flipped open the cover. It was autographed. It was my signature. “But I’d never thought of even publishing this story idea!” I protested. Being a writer, I flipped ahead to the ending to see how I’d ended the book.
I shook my head, “Dad…but I decided not to become a writer. Abbie and I decided to come back here, to Russia, after we had Rachel. We’ve been here for two years!”
Dad shook his head, “Andrew…something happened at that grocery store. Let’s drive over there.” I stood up, tried the apartment door once again. Then I followed him. The lights automatically clicked off behind us.
We got back into the car and drove to the little supermarket. Dad turned into the parking lot and parked the car, “Andrew, I don’t know what’s going on. But we’ll figure it out. We’ll get to the light somehow.”
We got out of the car and looked at it. The sign blinked in Russian. I turned to my Dad, “Dad…wait in the car, please?”
He shook his head, “No. Something’s going on here, and I want to stick with you and make sure you’re all right. Let’s go.”
“Dad, please. It’s just a supermarket. I’ll be fine.”
I walked into the supermarket. It was as empty as before. I walked to the aisle where Caleb had found me. The box of baking soda still lay on the black tile, spilled out. I kicked it slightly. Stupid baking soda. Stupid Thanksgiving. What was there to give thanks for when my wife and kids were gone and my family didn’t know me?
I crouched down by the baking soda and sifted it through my fingers. Why?
A glint on my hand caught my eye. No. It could not be.
I tore my ring off of my finger and laughed.
My wedding ring. I wasn’t crazy.
I picked up two boxes of baking soda. It was the last thing Abbie had asked me to do. She had to be outside. This was Moscow – the same Moscow! Nothing had changed! Please let nothing have changed!
I walked to the cash register and paid. Then, I ran out to the parking lot, clutching the two boxes of baking soda like a lantern. The sun had nearly risen by now.
The dark green van stood exactly where I’d left it.
I sprinted towards the van, afraid that it would vanish if I blinked once. Abbie was out of the passenger door, running towards me. Her voice was laced with worry, “Where were you, Andrew? I tried calling a thousand times and you didn’t pick up and I didn’t know what to do and–”
She started crying.
I held her close, “It’s all right. It’s all right. Everything is all right…now.
“But you’ll never believe what just happened…”