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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2022165-Zero-Hour
Rated: 13+ · Fiction · Gay/Lesbian · #2022165
LGBT Writing Challenge Entry 3000 Words - Prompt: Time Travel
Created for the LGBT contest found here: http://www.writing.com/main/forums/item_id/1980539 This was written on December 1st for what I thought were the December Prompts... but unfortunately I didn't notice that it hadn't been updated and I was writing for the November Prompts.  I was pretty heartbroken when I realized this but I'm still pretty proud of the story so I decided to post it anyway.  Hope you like it.

Zero Hour

         I gasp as my consciousness snaps back into my body. Nearly a thousand times and the experience was still as unnerving as the first trip back. I sigh and open my project log to enter the details of my latest failure. Data entry complete, I open Log 991, pausing at the subject line.


         I start to type 'Cardiologist' but the auto search pulls up 373 separate Logs with those results. I bite my lip and start to type 'Foreign Specialist'; 65 previous Logs. 'Fitness'; 109 results. 'Spirituality'; 20 results. 'Research'; 315 results. I stop typing.

         The Zero Hour device. A machine that returns you to a set point in time from which you have 12 hours to alter the events of your life and provides you with a brief glimpse at the future that will stem from your actions. Find the life you want, choose not to return after the 12 hours are up, and all memory of the Zero Hour is removed allowing you to enjoy your chosen life to the fullest.

         I can't help but laugh at the irony of the situation. I'm the world's first time traveler with the ability to create any future I desire... and I don't have one. Of all the timelines I've set into motion I've never gotten farther than five years, a congenital heart defect combined with a rare autoimmune disease apparently sealing my fate.

         I find my hand guiding the mouse to the 'Cancel Project' button. A simple click and a password is all it would take to give up the struggle and accept my dead end destiny.

         “Hey sweetie, want a refill?”

         I blink a few times to refocus my thoughts and turn to look at the waitress; young, pretty, looks a little tired, possibly worked a night shift. I've taken Juliet up on the refill a hundred or so times when it took a little longer to plan out my next attempt.

         “Sure,” I say, watching her pour the coffee with numb disinterest.

         “Cream and sugar?” she asks, stifling a yawn. I smile at her and shake my head, she nods and goes about her rounds.

         I look back at the empty subject line in Log 991 and let out a dark little chuckle, typing in 'Do Nothing'; 0 results.  I hit Enter and close the laptop, settling in to stare at the goings on of the Cafe.

         The place, like my future, is pretty dead. A few hours pass in relative quiet, only a few groups coming and going. I let out a long tired sigh and rub the bridge of my nose.

         “What the hell am I doing...”

         “Writer's block already?” a voice asks, I open my eyes to see Juliet sitting in the seat across the table.

         “What?” I ask, completely lost.

         “You were so excited yesterday, scared the hell out of me when you jumped up and shouted that you'd 'finally did it!',” she says with a smile.

         “Did I really?” I ask, blushing a bit.

         I'd lived this depressing day so many damn times that yesterday was becoming a distant memory. I wracked my brain, thinking back to all the time I'd spent in this booth working furiously to iron out all the kinks in the Zero Hour system. Yesterday I had a breakthrough and managed to lock in the final bits of code to complete the program. I had chosen this spot in this Cafe for the beginning of my Zero Hour cycle as a symbolic gesture of that moment. Little did I realize how soul crushing that first trip would be...

         “Mind if I read it?” she asks, bringing me back to reality. “I feel like all the caffeine I've provided should at least earn me a mention in the Special Thanks section,” she says with a wink.

         “Oh, it's actually just work stuff... it'd make for one damn depressing story.”

         She seemed to brighten up a little at this.

         “Really? What kind of work do you do?”

         I regarded her curiously for a moment. In all my memories of Juliet she was always just kind of going through the motions. She was pleasant, smiled, and always got your order right but she obviously wasn't going for any waitress of the year awards. Talking to her like this she seemed bright and alert, downright chipper and the smile she was wearing was a genuine one.

         “I do R&D for a Theoretical Physics lab with some Medical Research on the side,” I say, deciding it's true enough.

         She blinks.

         “That's... a new one. Normally the answer to that is 'Artist', or 'Self Employed' or 'just finding myself'' if they're feeling particularly new age,” she said with a laugh, smooth and melodic. “So was your big breakthrough not as big as you'd hoped?”

         “Bigger actually,” I said, caught up by her friendly nature, “the results it led to just... aren't what I was hoping for.”

         “Well that sucks.”

         “It really does,” I mutter, unable to hold back a little sigh.

         She regards me curiously for a while before another smile, her brightest yet spreads across her face.

         “This might be a bit of a long shot but you should hang out with me today, maybe I can cheer you up a little?” she offers.

         “W-What?” I sputter.

         “I get off in like ten minutes. We can catch a movie, grab some dinner, and there's a pretty decent local band playing tonight if you're interested?”

         “You're really asking me out?”

         Her smile faltered a bit.

         “Hmm, my Lesdar is usually pretty good...” she said, sounding disappointed. “But I'm a girl of my word so the offer still stands even if you wanna go totally platonic. I solemnly swear not to make a pass at you, cross my heart and hope to die,” she said, laughing as she made the gesture.

         “N-No, you're not wrong,” I said with a blush. My love life hadn't exactly been stellar but I didn't regret the few scattered romances and flings I'd managed. “Just... why me?”

         Her smile at this reveal was absolutely dazzling.

         “Well you're short, cute, and wear adorkable glasses. Those are three off the bat pluses in my book,” she said with a wink. “You're also a fantastic tipper even though the coffee here is mediocre at best and your server, though cute, is half-zombie most days so I know you're a good person deep down.” My face was really starting to heat up now. “And lastly, anybody who can get so excited about their work that they stand up and shout 'I finally did it!' in the middle of a crowded cafe is definitely interesting enough to warrant a further look.”

         She stood and offered me her hand. I looked at the offer it held; full of warmth and the promise of happiness, then down at my laptop; full of misery and death, and closed my eyes. A few seconds passed before a smile spread slowly across my lips.

         “Sure,” I said, opening my eyes to meet her smiling gaze, “a day off with a pretty girl sounds exactly like what I need right now.”

         Somehow her smile grew even brighter.

         I checked the time on my phone for the twentieth time in five minutes. We had agreed to meet back at the Cafe in twenty minutes so we both had time to drop off our things and change. It had been twenty-three minutes and I was starting to get nervous.

         “Probably not coming,..” I sighed.

         The sound of sandals slapping concrete to my left caught my attention and my heart skipped a beat. Juliet was hurrying towards me looking all kinds of amazing in a yellow sundress and waving happily.

         “Ack, sorry I'm late! Couldn't get my roommate out of the...” she trailed off as she gave me a slow once over. “Well well well! This is a pleasant surprise! I was expecting your usual jeans and T's but damn!”

         “It's ah... it's been a while since I had much of a social life,” I said, blushing and shifting nervously under her scrutiny. “I had to dig pretty deep in the closet to find this number,” I murmur, smoothing out the blue halter top and tugging at the bottom of the short shorts, wishing both covered more of my too pale skin.

         “Hopefully not too deep, I suck at controlling my affection with the cuties,” she said with a wink.

         “What was all that crossing your heart stuff then?” I ask with a laugh, quirking an eyebrow.

          She tilted her head and smiled brightly.

         “Total lies!”

         I honestly couldn't tell you much about the movie, some generic horror flick. I was too busy being assaulted by Juliet's death grip on my arm, joyous squeals of terror, and full on burying her face in the crook of my neck uttering “Nope! Nope! Nope!” repeatedly during the climax. All in all... it was the most enjoyable movie experience of my life.

         “My knight in shining short shorts!” she shouts, swooning against me and giggling as we walk down the street.

         “How much of that was real and how much was just you wanting to snuggle?” I asked through giggles of my own.

         She looked up at me and gave me a sly wink.

         “I'll never tell!” she said in a sing-song tone. Serendipity chose to strike at that moment in the form of dog barking from a nearby ally. Juliet let out a horrified shriek and literally tried to leap into my arms. I managed to hold her up for about half a second before being squashed to the cement underneath her. I gasped for breath and quirked an eyebrow up at her. “Okay so I'm a total wuss...” she murmured, pressing the tips of her index fingers together shyly.

         “So cute...” I wheezed.

         She finally realized she was crushing me and rolled off, helped me to my feet, and proceeded to dust off my back and butt unashamedly. Task finished, she gave me an appreciative once over, took my arm, and pointed off down the street.

         “Onward to the feast, lady knight!”

         I was sad to discover it was only a few short blocks to the restaurant; Juliet's affectionate hold on my arm and idle chatter effortlessly piercing through years of brooding misery. It was one of those out of the way places that you have to be lucky to hear about. Cozy, intimate, and right in that sweet spot of classiness where you could go for an elegant meal without feeling like you needed to wear a ball gown.

         “This place is fantastic,” I exclaimed after we were seating, basking in the warm and inviting atmosphere.

         She beamed proudly.

         “I know, it's my favorite! And I just randomly found it one night too!”

         “I bet you bring all the pretty girls here...” I murmured, a little shyly.

         “Only the ones I really like,” she said seriously, reaching across the table to give my hand a reassuring squeeze. Butterflies began to dance in my stomach. Luckily I was spared having to come up with a response as the server appeared to take our orders. “So,” she said matter-of-factly once we were alone again, “what do you do for fun?”

         “I...” I started, only to realize that even before my years in the Zero Hour it had been some time since I'd spent any effort on having fun. Juliet frowned at my pause and the worry in her eyes cut through me like a knife. “I game a little,” I finally managed, her worry eased a bit. “Nothing too serious, just the occasional builder or strategy game.”

         Her frown turned into a smile.

         “I used to love the Civ and Sims games!” she announced happily. “Though I guess I also haven't had much time for play lately between work and school.”

         It was my turn to brighten up.

         “Oh you go to school, what do you study?” I asked, causing her to grin.

         “Saw me zombie through work and figured I was a career waitress, did you?” she asked, eyeing me accusatorily. I smiled and shrugged. “Um, well, I haven't really decided what I want to do, nothing's really sparked my interest so I've just been doing core stuff and some classes with multiple Major outlets. Guess I'm kinda leaning towards the tech industry, the idea of creating something the world has never seen before sounds pretty awesome.”

         I couldn't keep the dark little smile from appearing on my lips.

         The club she took us too was pretty interesting. I guess you could call it an Indy gay bar and it was Ladies Night so the place was packed to the gills with lesbians and trans people.

         “Don't leave my side!” she shouted over the music as we finally made it through the throng at the entrance. “I'll never forgive you if you let yourself get stolen away by some other bitch!”

         “Other bitch?” I ask with a laugh. She nods.

         “I'm the only bitch for you tonight, got it?!”

         Our eyes lock and she leans down to give me a kiss on the lips. Nothing too serious, but it carries a lot of promises with it.

         “Got it,” I murmur, flushing crimson.

         She smiles, glomps onto my arm, and drags me deeper into the club. The music isn't really my style, but the things it's making Juliet's body do definitely have my interest peaked. I find myself staring in wonderment as her body begins to shake and move to the rhythm. She catches me watching and grins, beckoning me over to her. I consider shouting that I don't really know how to dance but she wouldn't be able to hear me and probably wouldn't care even if she could.

         I try to mimic her movements, probably looking all kinds of awkward as I do but Juliet seems to be having a blast with it. Jumping, gyrating, hips grinding together in a miasma of sexually charged movement that has my head swimming. At one point another girl tried to hop in and join us but Juliet managed to run her off with the cattiest death glare I'd ever seen. It felt good to be wanted so much... it felt damn good.

         Even with all of this going on was the ever present ticking away of the clock in the back of my mind. For the first time since my first day in the Zero Hour... I didn't want the night to end.

         Juliet's hand didn't let go of mine as we came to a stop outside of her dorm building. I smiled, and hoped it wasn't showing the sadness I was trying to keep buried inside. I looked into her eyes, those beautiful eyes that had shown me more happiness than I ever thought I'd see again.

         “Juliet... what would you do if you only had five years to live?” I asked.

         “Oh!  I love these kinds of questions! Let's see... I think I'd...” she stopped, her smile faltering.

         She looked questioningly into my eyes for a long while, her hand eventually slipping free of mine as she took a step back. I have never despised my destiny more than I did in that moment, a painful reminder that I had nothing to look forward to... Juliet only let it last for that one moment. Her hands appeared on my face to wipe away the tears I hadn't realized were falling.

         “Is that... what you're researching?” I simply nodded, knowing I didn't have enough time to explain. She took my hand and lead me toward the building. “My roommate won't be back... you're staying with me tonight,” she said quietly. It wasn't a question.

         I held her tight against me as the final seconds counted down, she had cried herself to sleep in my arms a few minutes ago. I leaned down to kiss her tenderly on the lips, the sweet beautiful girl that had brought joy to my grim existence. Maybe if it was with her... five years would be enough..



         I closed my eyes as the small chip implanted in my Cerebral Cortex powered on and the images began to flow through my mind...

         Juliet at her graduation... Our wedding day... Our honeymoon in Japan... The first time I'm hospitalized... Helping her through grad school... Juliet working herself ragged... The hospital again...

         I feel my body clenching up, anticipating the inevitable blackness that follows...

         Waking up... The doctor congratulating Juliet on the success of her invention... Our second honeymoon in Japan... Juliet pregnant... The birth of the Twins... Our trip to the Grand Canyon... Their high school graduation... Their Wedding Days... Planning our trip around the world... The darkness...

         The images fade as my phone starts to buzz, I pick it up with trembling hands and look at the data results. 'Current Project Lifetime: 33 years. Do you wish to return to the Zero Hour?' I knew that I had fifteen seconds to decide before the machine would automatically return me in the event I was unable to make the choice for any reason. I looked down at Juliet's beautiful face and smiled through my tears.

         “You save me... all that time searching and you were literally the first person I see every day...”

         I tap the flashing YES button...

         I gasp as I my consciousness snaps back into the Zero Hour. I take a steadying breath and delete all previous logs, creating a new entry; Juliet 1.

         “As wonderful as our life was... I really want us to go on that trip around the world,” I whisper to myself, excited to get to work for the first time in years.

         “Hey sweetie, want a refill?” the savior and love of my life asks.

         “Keep em coming, I've got a lot of work to do,” I say, giving her my brightest smile.

         She smiles back.
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