Take It All Away
I had one request.
"Just...take it all away." I looked up, eyes welling. "Please, I can't deal with this pain, this shame, this..." I choked. "I'd do anything to change it. Anything."
He nodded. "I have just the thing." He reached into his pocket, taking out a silver pellet, no bigger than the average eraser. It was smooth and cold, and it fit easily in the palm of my hand. I looked up, and the man was gone. Typical. Everyone vanishes without an explanation.
I flipped it over, and saw a note was taped to it. I removed and unfolded it. In an uneven, jerky script, it read:
"Time Machine Instructions:
"The top screen reads where you are, the bottom's where you're going. Use the buttons to adjust, and the big one when you're ready to go. One round trip only. Good luck."
Time machine? It seemed like a load of garbage to me, but the way the man's eyes looked when he said that he could solve my problems...something told me he wasn't lying. And one round trip only? That would solve my problem, alright. I decided I'd wait a little, find the right time to go. I picked up my bag and my newfound solution, and headed home.
I was intercepted by Kendrick, our little next door neighbor, when I reached my front porch.
"Hi there, Kendrick!" I greeted the seven year old. "How're you?"
"I'm okay. Gerard sent me over to get you though."
"Did he?" My brow furrowed. I knew Gerard; he had been my best friend since I moved to Spring Brook, just over a year ago, and I knew him as well as I knew myself. He'd almost always come over and get me. The only time he ever sent anyone else over was...
My eyes widened, realizing the urgency of the situation all at once. "Where is he?" I asked, putting my hands on the little boy's shoulders. Shaking him, I asked again, nearing hysterics, "You heard me, where is he?"
Kendrick looked at me, extremely afraid. "He-he's in his room."
"Thank you." I gave the kid a hasty hug, and dashed off in the direction of his house.
I ran up the stairs of the back porch, and kicked off my sneakers.
"Hello, Beth!" Mrs. Nelson said. "How're you?"
"Just swell, Mrs. Nelson. I'm here to see Gerard. Do you know where he -"
"Last I checked, he was in his room. That was about an hour ago, right about the time Kendrick went over."
I inhaled sharply, whispering an expletive under my breath. "Thanks." I ran up the stairs two at a time, and tripped up the last three, burning my hands on the rug as a result. I paid it no mind and continued down the hall to Gerard's room. The two seconds it took for me to dash down there seemed to last an eternity that spread itself longer as I jiggled the door, realizing that Gerard had propped something up in front of it. My breathing hitched, and praying to whatever deity was listening, I gripped the knob and slammed into the door with all my strength. It flew open, and I tumbled to the floor with the utmost grace, looking up to see Gerard at his desk, head in his hands. He had his novel up on the screen of his computer, and I realized, judging by the multiple cans of root beer, he had been up here for a long time; he probably had barely slept. When the door flew open and I hit the ground, he spun around, startled.
"Beth?" He asked. "What are you -?"
"Kendrick sent me." I turned around to see what had gotten in the way of the door, and was greeted by several pillows and some books. Gerard had thrown them in front of the door, most likely during a fit of writer's block. I scrambled up, relieved to see my best friend, and enveloped him in a hug. "I'm so glad you're okay," I choked.
"Wha -" He pushed me away, confused. Then, seeing the wild panic in my eyes, he realized what I thought had happened. "Oh. Oh, Beth, I didn't mean to - I'm sorry." He whispered.
"It's alright. So, your novel?"
"Yeah, everything's coming together, but...I'm scared."
"Well, you know how I was going to read a few chapters of this at the open mic at the library?"
"Yeah, is that it?"
"Yeah. It's just...after what happened in seventh and eighth grade..." Gerard lowered his eyes, studying his hands that had fallen into his lap. "I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to do it."
Gerard had been ridiculed throughout most of middle school for his love of writing; many of his peers banded together to torture the poor kid. Over many late-night phone conversations, Gerard told me all of the horrible things the kids did to him, and the horrific aftermath. For some reason, instead of being completely compassionate, I was enraged. How dare they, these people I didn't even know, torture who I considered to be the kindest person to ever grace the planet with his presence? How dare they completely ruin him?
I placed my hands on top of his, his gaze meeting mine with a delicate smile.
"You're going to do fine, Gerard. Trust me." I gave his hands a squeeze.
He drew back, flipping my hands over. Noticing the burns, he looked at me inquisitively. "How'd you get these?"
"I tripped on the stairs, and slipped when I tried to break my fall."
He snorted. "Really, Beth, I can't leave you anywhere."
"That you can't, Gerard, that you can't."
I sat on my bed that evening, looking at the time machine. Did it work? And if it did, what would I use it for?
I stared out my window, thinking of Gerard. Suddenly I realized what I had to do. I had to help Gerard.