Author: Claude Ramone Bernhard
He arrives. I expect a shock of gray or two but, instead, his once black hair has all gone white. He sits in the chair with the high back. His chest heaves as he goes for the breast pocket of his work shirt. He pulls out his deck of cards and hands them to me.
“I can feel the imprint on them. I guess you really are you, then,” I say, as my hand sparks with electricity. “Or maybe I should say I guess you really are me?”
He extends his arm again and it dangles like spaghetti from a fork. He takes back his deck and sinks further into the chair.
“How did you get here?” I ask.
“I used another card from the deck, is how. We used another.”
“You… we did it again?” I point to the windows. “After what happened the first time? Have you gone insane?”
He groans. “You won’t understand. I didn’t. But I’ve used a few of the cards. Sorry to disappoint. You and I… we don’t figure out time travel. We keep thinking we can do it with science. But it’s the more spiritual folk who figure out the secret. And it’s too much for us to master. We resort to the cards.”
“Spiritual folk? So, we save humanity, then?”
“We assumed we’d turned everyone. There are still people out there. Living, but barely. Like we have. You’ve done well. But the androids have figured out where you are. And they’re coming. Now.”
Outside of the window, the trees sway on the horizon. A set of orange dots appears from the darkness of the wood. And then another appears. And that continues until I can’t count.
“And what of me?” I ask him, wobbling.
“I’m sending you into the future.” He wields his deck. Static thrums through the air like radio.
“I’ve been trapped in here for five years. And now you’re just… sending me off. To where? And to when?”
A card floats, now, doing pirouettes over his outstretched palm. He groans and says, “To the day that we… the day that I die.”
Out the window, orange washes the scene in a glow that defies the sun’s setting. Lights shine from the androids’ eyes, hundreds of them, sweeping across the land.
He sighs. “I know you want to stay. Want to help. But that’s not how this goes. I can’t protect you here. I don’t have the means.” The card is glowing now. “Go on. Grab it. The same way you did with the one that started all this.”
The androids are yards away from my house. I sigh. I lower my head and reach out for the card. I begin to sublime.
He looks at me with a smile. Then stands and puts a hand on the chair. “I’m grateful I got to sit here one more time.”
He preps another card and this time he grabs it himself. He lurches and bends into a mass of arms and legs. I scream but hear nothing. My mouth isn’t here anymore. But I see him rise. He expands like a balloon being prepped for a parade. His mouth opens wide. If there is sound, I don’t hear it because my ears aren’t here now. He lifts the seat over his head and runs. He is twice the size he was moments ago. I don’t hear the glass break as my favorite chair goes flying through the window. He jumps out after it. I can’t see where he lands from my perspective. He has gone from here. And so have I.