Wilson examined the old photograph he held in his hand, worn by age and elements, time and the trial of being lost, discarded, and reclaimed. The contents of the picture were not uncommon. Two lanky redhead boys, teenagers, one slightly taller than the other. They were standing in front of a school, smiling, gesturing peace signs with their hands as the photo was taken. A moment in time preserved for as long as that photographic picture existed--a moment in time that would never be exactly as it was if he succeeded.
The world was not as it once was. The streets, the cities, the movie shacks and fast-food restaurants... empty. Deserted. Abandoned. Any living soul up there, on that gray terrain and under the sunless sky, was already damned to die from radiation, given what short span of time was necessary for the poison to break down the individual into oblivion. Even the Undergrounds were not completely safe--miles down, beneath the mounds of earth, dirt, and carcasses, where the last hope for humanity stood firm.
"Wilson!" he heard his name called down from the winding labyrinth the survivors had come to call home. He slipped the old photograph into his pocket, blue and heavy eyes scanning the room that served as his quarters. It was in poor state, bed infested with insects, deep red blankets worn by use and time. He was in poor state--his head must have been some kind of resort for lice and other such unpleasant things. His clothes were ragged, hanging loose off lines of muscle, body from the neck down all covered in scars. How it all happened... ohh, he would never forget. "Wilson!"
Wilson. His friends used to call him Red--that was his name, after all. But after it all happened... after World War III broke loose, it was Mr. Wilson, Wilson, Wilson! No one had time to stand and act like friends anymore.
"I'm here," the sought said in a gruff voice. He did not move for the port as, moments later, the door swung open to reveal a scrawny figure, terribly lanky in frame. He looked halfway starved, black hair all mussed over his head. "We're ready for you, Mr. Wilson."
They were ready for him. Ready for him to undo the great deed that sent the world to hell. End the war. How appropriate. It was his fault, after all. His doing. How strange, he, an ordinary man like so many others, and it was his fault. And yet, it was true. He had always pushed his brother too hard--Adam, that was his name. Pushed him onto the student council back in high school, pushed him in the real world, wanting him to be something more than an ordinary man. He... he had told his brother that his ideas were too good to stay on the bottom of the barrel. And, well, after that, Adam took off on his own. Even stopped listening to what others were telling him... Adam Wilson became the United States president of his own doing, all because of a lone man that pushed his limits and made him great. Red had been glad... until the attack happened. The whole thing was pinned on Russia. Everyone told him it was a hoax--Red told him it was a hoax. He didn't listen. He never listened... and now, he was dead, soon to be followed by the rest of the world.
That was where he came in. Red walked down the narrow halls of earth, behind the lanky figure, moving by in total silence. A somber aura drifting in the stale air, the plan was simple. It was the consequences that were complicated, if it ever came to that--Wilson... within the hour, would no longer be a part of that world. Or that time, at least. Soon, very soon, he would take a step that no man had dared to trespass, a leap thought impossible to many until that age of darkness that swept over the earth like a blackened plague of locus and fire from the sky. When it all happened, when Earth's fate grew imminent, old intellectuals banded together for a single cause. Rogue scientists, one might say... having abandoned the lost cause of war, instead bonding for a groundbreaking feat. Red Wilson was going to travel backward in time. Wilson was going to stop his brother from making the most terrible mistake of his life--before he was born.
It best be first explained, Red's family had been a poor one--they had wanted to move into Europe, with very close relatives, for as long as he could remember. Therefore, the plan was set. Red would be sent back, armed with old currency, when he'd buy the tickets required for travel and sneak them into a particular woman's purse. Simple. Elegant. And potentially capable of bringing the world out of darkness or forever eradicating everything that made Earth and humanity what it was. There were so many holes in the theory... it could scarcely be described. To breach time like that might take the world and toss it in with Hades, destroying the dinosaurs, the knights of the old realm, Socrates, Mozart, kings, queens, and democracy... the ways of old and the world of modernization. But the fact remained: humanity was dying. And if that was the cost of Earth's final hope, so be it. There was everything to lose, but if the slightest chance of survival stood firm... it was worth it.
He was prepared for his journey. Bathed, hair cut close and treated, clothed in old-style attire. He soon sported some jeans and a long shirt, scratched-up hand roughing about his hair in the feel of cleanliness. Ahh, but it was quite clear, people didn't look envious. Of all the known survivors in close proximity, the amount that shot for the chance at truly saving the world amounted to one or two. And, in the end, he was the logical choice.
The chosen man walked into the laboratory with an apprehensive look about him. Tall, strong, and yet he bore that look of reluctance about his face, as though he were a mere lamb being sent to the slaughter. Striding in, ocean eyes glanced over the earthy make of the place, the buzzing equipment, dimming lights, and a machine that stood in the center of it all. It was a cylindrical containment unit, sliding doors up at the front. His destination. Red swept into the room.
Red soon found that more than just a few scientists stood there. Shaky old men bowed their heads at the sight of them, either out of intimidation or pity, yes indeed, but there were others. Men and women smiling, some stopping him to shake his hand. Red dodged each attempted speed bump, refusing to look anyone in the eye. He was not there for anyone's gratitude or his own remembrance. The whole addition of others made him uncomfortable. He would have liked it if he was alone when he did this. It was his job, his task, and he didn't want anyone else cluttering the issue with their presence.
With all the might he had to offer, he focused on what lay ahead. The huge iron doors slid open, and the man approached with his eyes trailing the ground. He knew... he knew he had to. He knew everything that rode on this, and he knew where it may lead. But, more than himself, he cared about the world in such a way that few could understand. Wilson grew up a thinker--pondering, alone, in his room. Mind wandering over the ways of humanity, the billions of souls that roamed freely across the cities and countryside. It had to be safe. It had to continue for as long as time would permit.
Red came up without speaking to a soul, not even the men who made it all possible. All instruction had been covered, reviewed, and restated. There was only one thing left. Hope. Wilson stepped into the machine, and turned to see the men who would use him for the cause of the world. One particular figure came up with his fingers intertwining one another.
"Do you have anything on you that may disrupt the past?" said the doctor's knowing voice. With a solemn face, Red's hand ventured into his pocket, withdrawing the only thing of value he knew anymore. That picture. Slowly, he handed it to the scientist, who held it tenderly in his old and thin hands. The image disappeared behind the man's back as he withdrew a wallet. Red knew it to be full of the credentials required for the tickets. "You'll need this."
Red took the leather bind and slid it in his pocket. And then... then the doctor brought to light another object of mention. The final key. The final piece of the puzzle, and the last thing he would ever need or do. The final end of the mission, a handgun with the single bullet anyone could spare, almost telling him not to waste his shot. Wilson took it into his hand, sealing his fate. Red... wasn't coming back alive from this mission. The doctors didn't know how to get him home, and didn't have the time to find out. It was ergo essential to make sure he wasn't there to somehow effect the future in ways he could not foresee. They could only hope an extra body in the lake didn't attract too much attention.
"Is there anything you want to say?" the old man asked. Last words and sentiments... Red hadn't thought of it.
"Close the door," was all he said. The old man solidly shook his hand and nodded. The figure stepping back, the panels closed around Red's body. To history or hell, he thought. And then there was light.
The light was everywhere, incandescent illumination blinding even he as he felt his molecules fall apart. Drifting over the ages, fast moving, atoms were spinning about as his head fell into disorientation. All was weightless, breathless, bright, and dizzying as the moments passed, moments after all fell into place, his body and mind growing clear as fast as it took to lose focus.
The illumination dimmed. The world gained focus. Like water, the images shifted around him until they found one another, forming the room he stood. Red froze. He remained there, waiting, eyes examining every tiny detail of that place. The tile of the floor, the white walls, the door off in the corner. They told him it would be like this. Some facility still under construction that would later be a great help in the formation of the Underground. He shook himself. It was... difficult to absorb it all, even as long as he knew it would come to this. He was there. He was really there. And soon... he would walk amongst his past.
The elevator doors opened unto the world.
The sun was shining in the sky like it hadn't in years--in the future, he had to correct himself. The day was glorious, the beaming yellow in the sky, the streets all filled with people. Tall, small, black, white, individuals, alive and blissfully ignorant. The tall buildings loomed overhead, vivid video clips playing advertisements propped up on these grand structure, bright and glowing in contrast to the looming tombstones that took over his home. He wallowed in reminiscence. But he could not stay there for long. There was still a job to be done. Simple... easy... even to the last moment.
Down on the road, the man certainly attracted a few stares. He was tall, taller than most, and definitely had his fair share of muscle. Aside that, scars covered his arms and neck. After surviving war, that kind of thing tended to happen. He fought to keep his eyes on the road, though he couldn't help but catch a glance at the newspaper stand--just to be sure. It was July, 2155. Down to the letter. And by the clockstands, it was 10:30. So, they were right. The old men had done it. Now, all that was left was for Red to do his part.
It wasn't far, the destination of his. Just to get the tickets... the doctors gave him all that was necessary for that specific venture. And then, to get them into his mother's purse. Find her at her job or something of similar like. It shouldn't have been difficult at all, indeed not. Her work was just down the way, and if he was fast enough, he could run into her just as she went off break.
Red walked into what looked very much like a bank. As a matter of fact, it was. Computers lined across the back, providing his key to the plane tickets--or dinner reservations, hotel rooms, movie passes, and the like as far as anyone else was concerned. As for himself, a couple, just for himself and his mother, were all that was needed. His brother wasn't born yet and his father was waiting around in Ireland somewhere, so no real trouble there. Without the interference, his father would eventually move to the U.S., so he could only assume that his parents would meet up again outside of the States.
With the use of the proper materials provided, the tickets printed right then and there. One job down. Two to go. Slipping the tickets into his pocket, he thought over the directions to his mother's workplace. Just around the corner, couldn't have been too much of a try. The Laundromat--not a bad gig, but definitely not enough of a provider to get two people out of the country. One, maybe, but with a pair to provide for alone, not a chance. Red would do his part. And when that much was done, well... well, he needed to see his mother first.
It was surreal, the thought of going after his mother. She had been dead for quite some time, even if it seemed just like yesterday. Victim to the first attack... during those pondering moments alone, he wondered if that was why Adam didn't listen. Blinded by hatred... blinded by loss... searching for a target and finding only one.
Red was halfway down through the bank on his way out, sticking close to the wall when his thoughts were brutally interrupted.
"Everybody on the ground!" the voice boomed through the room, Red lifting his gaze onto a man and his hostage.
The lone gunman had that vile look in his eye, that reek of chaos and greed. The nozzle of the weapon was digging into the base of a woman's jaw, the offender's other arm wrapped about her waist. Red stood there, instincts telling him to go for his gun.
"Hey, you too!" the gunman demanded, Red the single figure that stood his ground. "I said on the floor!"
Get the gun, his conscience bade him, some essence deep in his gut telling him that the woman would be dead if he did nothing. But... the job. The job was more important than anything, and deviating from the plan would without question sincerely mess everything up. No... his mission was to save the future. That was more important than the life of just one woman.
Red raised his hands in submission. Slowly, he began to kneel on the ground, the gunman following his every move. He seemed so close now, that thief and criminal, Red privately wondering if he had been too engulfed by thoughts to notice him moving closer.
The woman thrashed. The gunman turned around, yelling in her ear as he held her close. Red burst to his feet, tackling the gunman, tearing him from the woman he threatened. The gunman collided with the ground as the woman shuffled on the floor in the background, Red having never so much as brushed the tile floors with his knee. He pulled the gun from his belt, and pointed it at the figure on the ground. He knew well enough not to pull the trigger...
Red looked up to see that someone, or rather, some many, had made an appearance as the small span of time had passed. Police officers, taking up every spare inch of space the bank had to offer. Weapons, of course... were pointed at him.
"Wait!" The woman he saved thrust herself between him and the bluecoats, arms spread wide like she'd be ready to take a bullet for him. He shuttered as a spark of recognition was made clear by the sound of her voice. "He saved our lives, you can't do this!"
Red wouldn't listen to anymore. Gently, he pushed her aside, and dropped his weapon to the floor.
Some span of time later, he leaned against the walls of his jail cell, carrying a look that might suggest he'd be hitting his head against the wall at his own stupidity. How... how could he not recognize his own mother? She wouldn't have died. She would have been perfectly fine...
The least he could have done was slip the tickets into her pocket when he had the chance. Every second, he felt his chances drizzling away like sand down an hour glass, moments going by, chances disappearing while he lay to rot in an iron pen.
All in a moment, a memory flashed. He closed his eyes, in what appeared to be in a mix of strain and concentration, brow furrowing in focus as the image polluted his brain. It must have been a time ago, yes, a long time... he was looking up to his mother, who wore that tired expression like she had raced from down the street without a moment to lose. She told him of some lone vigilante that saved her life, how she was going back to get the whole mess cleared up... the memory... so distant... so vague... and yet, all at once, so very certain. Had it been there before? It... it felt like it had always been a part of him, but some piece of his soul told him this was brand new.
Across the stony halls, there was an echo, a resonating sonancy of footfalls against the concrete floor. Red looked with semi interest, finding a man and a woman striding down the passageway. The male, all clad in uniform, carried a ring of keys in his hand, and the female... he recognized her only too well. Curly locks of brown that just barely made it past her shoulder, a sort of rough look about her, like she could take on anything that came her way. She was just as he remembered her--from the point of view of a six-year-old.
"You're free to go," the officer said, unlocking his cell. "Witnesses confirm that you are not the guilty party. However, we will have to take in your weapon as evidence--if you give us your identification and location, we can send it back to you as soon as possible."
"I don't..." Red began uncertainly, the woman there immediately catching onto the direction of his words.
"He stays with me," the woman got in before anyone else had the chance to speak. Moments later, he and the woman trotted down the steps on the outside, the sun beginning to dim to an orange gold beyond the horizon. Red kept his head down, fingers groping the tickets in his pocket. Do it... do it now...
"I'm Samantha Wilson," the woman at his side interrupted his thoughts as he slid his hand from his pocket, carrying the two tickets in his fist. "But I like Sam. And you are?"
Red shook his head with a gruff look in his face, moving as though to turn from her, but she persisted. Ahh, the vice of saving someone's life--or looking like he did, at least. Though he fought to keep his eyes on the walkway, he knew she carried that expectant look on her face, far too focused for him to meddle with her pocket or purse... well, pocket, rather, for as soon as he let a casual glance drift across the belt, he found that said purse was missing.
"Andrew," he said after little thought, "... just Andrew."
"Ahh, Andrew," she went on as though she had known him for quite some time. Ironic... "Well, be that as it may, I do believe I have something that belongs to you."
Red flinched as his mother caught him by the arm, turning to see her handing him something that had been momentarily lost. With the grip turned towards him, she unknowingly offered him the very tool of his death. True, there were many ways to die in that world... but all the same, the gun was heavy when she placed it in his hand, ignorant smile on her face as she did.
"You know how they are," she spoke in a casual tone, "it'd probably be stuck there for ages before they decide to take a look at it. It won't be missed, I promise."
He took it from her hand, stuffing it into his belt with a nod. He closed his eyes again, succumbing to thought, a terrible thought that made him long... long to tell her something, anything, whatever came from the heart before he was gone forever. It was not some strange woman he met by chance, no, it was his mother. A dead woman who stood there, for however little time they had, and yet he was forbidden to give himself away. To save a stranger's life was of too little importance next to the mission he had come to complete, and to speak to a family he loved very much pushed the boundary.
"Silent type, eh?" she spoke, almost as though to fight away the quietude that threatened to overtake them both. "Each to their own, I suppose. My offer still stands, by the way. If you don't have a place to stay, my apartment it open for your use."
"I couldn't," he said without thought. His mind was on a great many things, right then. The mission. The future. Her money. The space he'd take up if he decided to stick around for awhile.
"Then you don't have a place to stay?" she inquired like the detective she sometimes seemed to be. "Well, that's not tolerable. Listen, whether or not you believe it, you saved my life back there. I can't let something like that go unrepaid."
"... all right," he said slowly after a moment of consideration. It's for the cause, he told himself. He'd be able to leave the tickets somewhere he knew she'd find them that way. For the cause... though, somewhere, deep inside, he must have known that there was some ulterior motive behind it all.
"Good!" Sam clasped her hands together with pleasure, "you'll meet my son, Red. He's a good boy."
He did not reply.
Walking up the steps of the old apartment was like a dream. Everything was there, exactly as he remembered it, his former home all run-down and poorly kept, all of which he noted as he climbed the unstable steps. As bad as it looked, it was like some miracle that he'd be able to see some glimmer of his past after what the future had thrown at him. Calming... golden, for all it was worth.
"It's not much," Sam ushered him in the small speck of living space, toys and other such randomized objects scattered across the floor, "but it's a place to stay before you move on--I mean, after what you did at the bank today, it's the least I can do. I have a few friends who were there, you know--I'll talk to them as soon as I get the chance, you know, to find a way to repay you in a way more practical and less-"
"Uncomfortable?" he turned around, for once, wearing a placid expression. The woman, there, bore an uneasy look, shrinking back so that she may pass him untouched.
"The couch folds out," she said with a more disquieted tone than before, "though soon, I expect, you'll be meeting my son."
Red nodded briefly, though he doubted such an event was happening anytime soon. It was wonderful, being there again, but he really had but one imposing goal. Sam seemed to be going about to fetch... himself, at an earlier age, but he didn't plan on being there long enough. Eyes briefly scanned the run-down apartment when he found his mother's purse lying on the tabletop. He swept there with a quick step, sliding the tickets into the white pouch of leather. He turned to leave but fast found someone standing in his path.
If ever there had been a moment in life where he could simply do no more than stand there, transfixed at a sight so surreal and so fantastic, that was it. A little boy, less than half his height, scratching behind his ear with a single finger as he looked up with a pair of faded blue eyes. In honesty... in absolute honesty, they looked nothing like one another. He knew it, too--the years, the change, and there a child stood, his past staring him in the face. It didn't feel like he was looking at himself. He was looking at someone else, some other child who had crossed his path, innocent gaze locking with his. But, someday... someday, that child would become him. And then the boy would suffer the same fate as he.
His eyes drew closed. All this seemed so familiar. Was... was this memory always there? The image of he, as a boy, looking up at this strange man his mother let in for the night. Ahh, the memory was so old, so faded, it was like a pinprick in the back of his mind, a blotched window, a shower screen, the images blurred and disfigured to the point of unrecognition. Something... something about windows...
Those eyes drew open at the feel of the young boy tugging at his shirt.
"Are you the guy from the bank?" he said in an obnoxiously loud voice. "Mom says you were a vigilante--what does vigilante mean?"
"And what's your name?" he asked, like he would any child, crouching low to meet his level.
"I'm Red," the boy said, still rubbing his head with his hand. "What were you doing to my mom's purse?"
"Well, I'm... Andrew," he stood, pausing before he gave his alias. His face grew hard again, filled with the knowledge that his work there was done. He felt along his belt, fingertips smoothing across the grip. It was time to go. For good.
A feeling disappeared and returned with a more heavy weight, the aura of the window. Something...
His eyes rose up to the window pane, and an unwelcome sight came to greet his trespassing gaze. A woman. Sleek brown hair falling over her shoulders, her eyes displayed a cool and collected want, need, desire...
Without hesitation, Red swung his arm around the waist of the small child, lifting him from the earth like a piece of paper, barely a moment before the window crashed. The fire spread like blood in water, racing across the floors like some high wind was working against them. An unfeminine yelp exploded in his ears as he saw his mother, clasping her cheeks, shrinking in the corner like she was a little girl cornered by lions. Red seemed to stretch halfway across the room as he seized Sam by her hand, almost throwing her out the door. Red burst outside, with... Red under his arm. In a rush, he stumbled on the first step down, falling the rest of the way--with the child safely on his chest and out of the way as he landed on his back. Sam had managed to evade such gracefulness, as he saw her practically running down the path he tumbled.
"What just happened?!" the woman demanded as the adult Red lay reclined on the ground, the boy fast getting to his feet. Of course, never mind that Wilson had just fallen down a flight of stairs... but in the grand scheme of things, it didn't matter. After Red had a horrific moment of pause, it didn't matter at all.
"That man," Red pushed up on the concrete, soon finding that others were gathering round, pointing up at the burning structure, holding back at the sight. He took the hint as he stumbled, making distance between he and the apartment. "That man who tried to rob the bank... apparently had a girlfriend."
At the moment he said those words, he had to close his eyes. The man who tried to rob the bank was never alone. He had a friend--friends, perhaps. And those friends weren't supposed to go after the child Red and his family. And they wouldn't have, had they not an adult imposer to seek revenge on... who they had followed to that desolate place, that run-down living space, to achieve some small sense of personal satisfaction. It was his fault. If he had just gotten on the ground like he was told to...
"No!" Sam covered her mouth with her hands in a state of shock. Red opened his eyes to find that they were all standing a good ways away from the fire, with a movement he hadn't even noticed. The sound of sirens shifted through the air, near and far all at once as he tried to focus on the distortion of heat and flame. It was then, when the wretched truth became clear. The fire was spreading.
"Stay... stay here," he said in a breathy voice. He couldn't let it be. He... he could fix this! Somehow... somehow, he was going to fix this.
"Don't you dare!" Sam yelled before he moved a muscle. Before he knew it, he felt the woman gripping his clothes, fire dancing in her eye. It was difficult to tell if it was merely a reflection of the already blazing inferno or a production of her own pair of azure specs. And then, the strangest thing happened... she slapped him.
It felt like he was a little kid again, disobeying his mother for the umpteenth time. And, somehow... he knew that Sam felt like she was scolding her six-year-old child. Some things never changed... even despite the strange circumstances that surrounded it all. A mother was always a mother, and a son still yet a son.
He darted without another word. He had to stop this. He had to stop this before it got out of hand... if it was not already. Any single one that died changed the future in ways even he could not foretell. Every one and every thing had a purpose in the world. Them, their descendants, their pets... he was almost certain that the homes were beyond help. But the people were not.
He burst through the doors of the newly caught structure, the flimsy thing falling to the ground with little force wielded against it. The fire had not yet fully thrust itself upon the place, but the smoke was clear and thick in the air. All the better. More time to work. More time to save as many as he could, and with any luck or faith at all, save the future as he knew it to be... or, at least, in part.
The road was as difficult as he perceived it to be. While, for a little while, all there was to fret over was the suffocating smoke and ash, soon, the fire raged like never before. He came down with one at a time, leading them by the hand early on, but as time drew forward... it could not be as simple. He knew the fire department had already responded. He saw them working on the other places, those in more desperate need, the restriction of men making it difficult to strike so many places at once. Red would know--he was having the same trouble. Burns ran down his back, the heat and smoke was restricting his breath like a pair of blazing bony hands squeezing the life from his neck, but he had to continue. It was not only his job... as a human being, he had to continue.
The heat scorched his flesh as he entered, sweat pouring over a dirty face. Just a little longer... just a few more, and the firemen could take it from there.
His knee buckled as he made it to the center of the room. He almost wondered if that was an adequate way to die. Burned by fire, scorched by flame, passing from history with his small contribution that hid a secret damnation no one would ever recognize for what it was.
No. Just a bit further... just a bit further. He still had a chance! He could salvage this, he knew he could. Who knew how this would turn out? Perhaps he could scrape up enough money for another set of tickets. Perhaps some new reputation would help him along. Or... was this merely wishful thinking?
False hope or no, it kept him going. Anything that could bring him weakly to his feet in an urge to succeed was worth the consideration. It was worth it. No questions asked.
A cough, a wheezing sound blurred by the roar of the flame. His final rescue, or one of if his body could handle the stress.
Red dodged the knives and bullets of hell's army as he fell by the victims side, little hands wrapping around his waist. He was on the ground with the child as the roof caved in around them. He clasped tightly around the child's back, standing as he murmured words of comfort, the occasional squirming of his passenger bringing ease to himself. He had to get out of there. There was only one way he knew how.
He bolted. He stumbled, he was knocked about, shoulders banging against the embers of burning wood. What were a few more scars? What was a little more hurt next to a child life given the chance to prosper...
The door broke against his body. In his surge, he clutched the hot and sizzling rail that gave way under his sudden thrust of weight. Unprepared for the fall, he held tightly onto the child in his arms, the drop more shocking than wounding. He managed most of the way gripping onto that rail that hung in place for a second, landing on his knees when it broke. He breathed the freshness of the outside air, wheezing, eyes of the world wide with a wild craze, hands unwilling to let go of the lifeless form in his hands.
He knew what they were going to say to him. He knew, as they formed a circle around his body, keeping safe distance, like a corpse was going to jump out and hurt them. A body that could never do anything of the sort, a vessel never to bring laughter or pain, joy or sorrow. A chance that had slipped away like water through his hands. They would have told him... he could not have saved them all. It was not his fault. He never could have anticipated what was to happen. But it was his fault... he screwed everything up! He sent the world to hell along with some before their time. It was then, when he saw... Sam and himself.
They stood there, so close and so far, a mother and child, pitying him, honoring him, gazing at him like a farm animal to be poked and prodded, revering him like the most holy of saints, staring with those hollow eyes of nothing and everything at once. He knew... he knew, right then, what it was he had to do.
He raised his gun, and leveled it with the child.
To history or hell.
He pulled the trigger. All light began to fade as a distant scream came through to his ears as all succumbed to nothing. Nothingness... no light. No darkness. No sound. No music. Emptiness. Nothing. Nothing, as time, in all its infinity, raced to fix the wrong to be made right.
A woman sat up in a hospital bed, a paleness about her face as the nurse came through the door, holding a lifeless infant.
"I'm sorry," the lady said, though the mother already knew. The woman also knew what would be asked next... "I would have named him Red," she said. "I would have named him Red."
Red... the world would never be whole without Red. A piece of the puzzle lost beyond all seeking, gone into a distant night. But, from that day on to an uncertain time, there was a certain... essense that never went away. A chain that could never be fully explained. Why a young boy came to be known as Andrew instead of Adam. Why an Irish family stopped to take a picture of their only son in front of a school they had never seen before while touring the Americas. Why a small urban area felt safe from the lash of fire and unseen danger. A man, never to be known for his sacrifice. His compromise that cost his existence, yet for as long as time would permit, brought the world from a darkness it never knew, bringing day to a night that never was, and letting music sound through a plane that never once fell silent.