Excerpt for I'm Not the Man I Was by , available in its entirety at Smashwords


(But Time Will Tell)

A Short Novel


Phillip N. Hancock, Sr.

Edited by Bernadine Hancock

Original Cover Art by

Patricia J. Hancock

Text copyright @ 2017 Phillip N. Hancock, Sr.

ISBN: 9781370601554

All Rights Reserved

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Table of Contents:

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26



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Sample pages of other books


Time travel novels, I think I may have read them all from 'The Time Machine' by H. G. Wells, 'A Wrinkle in Time' by Madeleine L 'Engle and Hope Larson, 'Doctor Who' by Terrance Dicks, 'Time Crimes' by H. Beam Piper, 'Time Bandits' by Charles Alverson, 'The Time Travelers Wife' by Audrey Niflenegger, and I loved the movie 'The Butterfly Effect' written and directed by Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber and, to me, it becomes very clear. A wrong step in the past could very well eliminate the future you currently know.

As far as I'm concerned, building a machine powerful enough to bend the fabric of time seems a pipe dream. What if the ability to traverse time is inherent to just one person or maybe a few certain people and that ability is not transferable to others no matter what they do or what they wish.

I have found that we all dream, and to some extent, travel back in time giving us another look, albeit a more informed view, at those wonderful days of our youth. We can see where we wasted chances as we were too young to simply realize what lay ahead or visualize a future we would aspire to have. These brief glimpses of those past days are randomly selected and presented to us while we sleep the night away. That is most of us, however, Aaron Conroy discovers that he has a slightly altered dream state and an unrealized ability that he will ultimately use to his benefit.

Dreams are one of the most powerful influential path directing tools ever discover and they are available to the whole human race. Poems are written, songs are composed and murders are sometimes planned and committed, all the result of a simple but inspiring dream. The only thing lacking in our dreams is the actually physical projection of a person into them either as a witness or as a willing participant. What if one found out he or she had the power to do just that and send themselves back into their past and make minor changes, thereby insuring a safer and more rewarding future. This fictional story is about one young man who discovers that he is one and maybe the only one. Someone who has the ability to insert himself into his dreams and travel through that impenetrable fragile fabric of time and tinker with what had been then change it to what he wanted it to be.

Chapter 1

One Strike and you're out:

His parents had left Waverly City two years ago for a quieter residence out here in the country. Their home now bordered a large government protected forest area instead of the noisy strip mall that was their city home. These neighboring woods were open to hikers and daytime only campers, no overnighters allowed and it banned any and all types of hunting.

The young man was an explorer and had spent numerous hours walking the trails and learning the ways and beauty of these woods. His dad had made sure that Aaron knew how to handle himself while out exploring as his dad, before his unexpected young death, had explored most of this area with him. It had been five months since his passing and Aaron had just now returned to his adventures in these woods.

Just about everything he did, saw or touched brought reflections of his exploration along beside his dad. Tears were simply a fee he paid for the memories that flooded his thoughts, memories too fresh to not cause pain even in someone so young.

Aaron Conroy was seven when he first saw the strange man. The man wasn't strange looking, he was just someone Aaron didn't know and Aaron was quiet surprised to see him on that side of the chasm.

The log Aaron used to cross above the river that flowed so swiftly through the gorge, almost sixty feet below, spanned a little over fourteen feet side to side. It was the only way to get to and from his secret place and he had safely made that crossing many times, all unbeknown to his mom. He had no doubts about his ability to make it again until the man stepped out from somewhere and blocked his path.

"Don't cross just yet, wait here with me and watch for a moment," The man's voice was deep and modulated. His six foot five inch height probably assisted in causing his voice to be so low and to Aaron it had such a sincere ring that he obeyed without hesitation. The man also looked kind of familiar in an older, well he didn't actually know just what was familiar, but it caused him to impolitely crane his neck up and stare.

The crashing noise of a large boulder that had somehow become loosened during the previous rain storm pulled his attention to the cliff side above the log that crossed the chasm. The large boulder tumbled down the embankment careening as it went. It became airborne from hitting the last ledge before the log and as it fell it brushed the crossing log just enough to make anyone, that happened to be out on that narrow makeshift bridge, a candidate for an uncontrolled plummet into that chasm and the raging river below.

Even at seven years old, Aaron knew enough to know that the man had probably saved his life. He turned and looked up at the man, "Did you know that was going to happen?"

"It's safe to cross now but I suggest you steer clear of this area in the future, it is very dangerous and somewhat unstable," A smile was added in this dismissal.

Aaron crossed the log unhampered then, safely back on the other side and on solid ground, he stopped and turned around to wave to the man. Searching the area with his eyes revealed nothing, evidently the man had left and the young man wondered if the stranger had found another route from that area. The young man didn't dare mention the incident or he would have to tell his mom about his secret place and the dangerous crossing he used.

The second time he saw the man Aaron was twelve years old. It was the third inning of his little league game and he was due up to bat. Some inclement weather was closing in and a small amount of precipitation had started to fall and, if it increased, it might delay completion of the current game.

Aaron stored his fielding glove in his personal equipment bag then picked up his upside down batting helmet from the numerous wooden cubbies in the back of the dugout. He removed his batting gloves he had left inside the helmet. He shoved the helmet under one arm then put the batting gloves on and adjusted the glove's Velcro straps. He took a quick look inside the helmet at the note he had transferred from his old helmet to this new one, it simply said, "Stay Loose", written some years ago by his dad using a black felt tip marker. He put the helmet on then made some minor adjustments to the way it was situated as memories of his dad flashed before his eyes.

Aaron turned and reached for the red and silver aluminum bat he always used. All the bats hung from a metal bat rack attached to a fence that looked out onto the playing field. This cyclone fence shielded and protected the players from arrant throws while they waited in the dugout still allowing unhampered view of the playing field.

"Hey team! Get over here for a moment!" was shouted from outside close to one end of their dugout, over near third base. The players all responded and came out of the dugout and around to whom they assumed was the coach who had called them. "I need you guys to pay attention for a moment," the man said but he wasn't the coach, however, he was an adult, and extremely tall adult, so they stayed where he had called them.

The actual team's coach, who was over near the bleachers where he had been answering a question from one of the parents, realized that his team had left the dugout and were gathered around a tall stranger just off to the side of the field, over near third base. "Hey, what's going on here? Why are you guys out of the dugout?" The coach shouted and headed toward the group and the stranger.

An ominous black cloud gathered quickly almost directly above the ball field. Precipitation increased and began to fall much heavier than expected and parents started looking for some rain protection, opening umbrellas, putting papers over their heads or raising hoods of their jackets to keep as dry as possible.

No one was looking that way when the lightning struck the dugout with its thousands of volts of pure energy. The enclosing fence and the metal bat rack seemed to be the target of that vicious charge. That metal bat rack exploded away from the fence and the hanging bats were blown around the dugout enclosure breaking boards and knocking helmets out of their cubbies. The power of the lightning strike also threw buckets of balls around in the dugout as if they were pin balls in an arcade game. There was no place, high or low, no corner of the dugout that would have been safe for anyone. The surrounding cyclone fence kept most of the activity enclosed with only one bat going through an opening followed by a couple of balls that rolled onto the playing field.

The spectators were also affected as the force of the blow knocked anyone standing off their feet and the echoing cacophony caused moms and dads to jerk around looking for their children. One mom was crying and screaming her son's name as she abandoned the bleachers and raced toward the remains of the dugout that had started to burn in the aftermath.

The opposing team, waiting out on the field, abandoned gloves and other gear and quickly followed their coach off the field away from the fencing and away from their own dugout. The coach led them to a nearby house and begged entrance from the occupants to protect the children from harm. The home owner, who had heard the lightning strike and could see the burning dugout in the near distance, didn't hesitate to invite the frightened children inside out of danger..

Aaron and his team mates had all been shaken and knocked off their feet and were now laying sprawled in the dirt just past third base. Aaron could feel the heat from the fire that had now engulfed the dugout. He looked around and found the stranger just rising from the ground and again he asked the question, "Did you know that was going to happen?"

"You'll be ok now, go let your Mom know that you are safe," The stranger said then the stranger looked past Aaron staring at something long enough to cause Aaron to turn and look. On turning Aaron saw a silver glimmering vision of what appeared to be a young man standing and watching the flames as the dugout burned. The glimmering vision only lasted a moment then was gone and when Aaron turned back around the stranger was also gone.

Aaron went as he was told. He saw his mom coming, running from the bleachers. Aaron turned again looking for the stranger but a cursory search of the area showed no signs of the man. Aaron thought, he looks so familiar, I should know who he is.

Aaron's mom hadn't seen the stranger and the coach's comments didn't help. "Yes there was a stranger here who had called the team out of the dugout saving their lives. I'm sorry, I saw the kids gathered around this stranger and I headed that way to see why and then the lightning struck. Now I can't find him, I just wanted to thank him but he's not here so I guess he's gone. I hope he realizes he is a hero."

Aaron told his mom he had seen the stranger and thought he looked familiar but he really couldn't place him. He didn't mention that this was the second time the stranger had appeared and saved his life.

Chapter 2

There's nothing like a good movie:

Aaron was a good student and took his class work seriously. As a tenth grade student he had several assignments that took most of his time. Researching for essays was something he loved and he put a lot of time and effort into getting the facts correct before he put pencil to paper.

His current high school assignment was to write a paper on his city and he was suppose to make it a single topic, like 'The Butcher Shop' for example, and isolate on that particular topic only. Aaron had chosen the city library as his topic. There was several reasons he chose this structure and they were a mixed bag of reasons. He loved to read, he spent numerous hour in there but the most important reason was the fact that his dad had actually designed it and did the blueprint drawings. His ideas resulted in its studious appearance and the design left zero doubt about the building's purpose.

He dug up the county records, he got copies of the drawings and he visited the police station asking for any info on it during the time of its construction. He wanted names and dates, people involved and wanted to talk to anyone that had been around during that time and he knew that a couple of the older policemen had been on the force for some time.

The desk sergeant was most helpful as he had a kid in the tenth grade also and he hoped that when his son asked for info others would be as helpful as he was trying to be. The desk sergeant referred him to a couple of the detectives that he knew had been around during the period he was concerned with.

Aaron made several trips to the station, during the last few weeks, and he talked to some of the detectives gaining some info that could be included in his report. His name got around the station and many of the officers knew him by sight and considered him as a likely aspect for a future in law enforcement.

Today was one of those days when they both had no classes and that essay, he was working on, was far from his thoughts because other things were on his mind as Chrystal smiled at him. "Are you sure this is the movie you want to see or are you just going to this show to please me?" He asked.

"Don't be so paranoid. I really do like Sci-Fi movies and I read Sci-Fi books, probably a lot more than you do," Chrystal explained as she took his right hand. Aaron collected the tickets with the other hand and they entered the theater.

Chrystal bought a large popcorn, a large Hershey chocolate bar and two medium soft drinks. "My birthday present to you, Mr. sixteen year old."

"Popcorn, chocolate and a soft drink, that's my birthday present?" He jokingly asked.

"Those are just the icing on the cake, my being with you is the real present," She coyly added.

The theater was sparsely populated as it was only the matinee and, being a weekday, most people were still at work. They agreed on seats, a few rows back and a center location. He didn't do any sound testing like Sheldon did in that Big Bang Theory sitcom although he had previously threatened too. Chrystal had warned him that if he did, the sound he would hear the loudest was her footsteps as she left him alone there in the theater.

The on screen advertisements started as the theater lights dimmed. The first thing up was the request, beepers and mobile device use was banned and quiet was requested from the audience so other patrons could enjoy the movie. A set of questions about movie stars came up occasionally throughout the ads and they both tried to be the first to answer them correctly. Coming attractions followed and were now blasting from the screen with the surround sound system in full force eliminating most all of the distractions inside the theater.

A small light came on at the end of their Isle lighting the way to their feet. "Excuse me sir, Ms. Could you please come with me, it's important," The man said.

Aaron and Chrystal rose and followed the man as he led them down front and out the exit that led to the open area outside and in back of the theater.

The loud bang, bang, bang that came from the inside of the theater was unexpected. "Was that actual gun fire or did that come from one of the trailers for an upcoming movie?" Aaron asked.

"It was gun fire, that's why I called you out here. I didn't want you two involved," The man said.

"I've seen you before. I believe this is the third time I have seen you. Who are you and why do you keep showing up?" Aaron asked as he stared at the man. "Hey, wait a minute!" Aaron almost shouted. "You look the same as you did when I first saw you some nine years ago, how is that possible?"

The stranger ignored Aaron's question. "The door we came out is one way and alarmed. They will ask why you left the theater that way. When they ask, you must tell them you were just trying to get some time alone with your girlfriend. That should hopefully satisfy the authorities curiosity. Don't mention me as I won't be here and they might think you a little crazy or mixed up in the activities inside. Get around front and find out what is going on." The stranger pushed them toward the edge of the building and the route they had to take to get back to the front of the theater.

Just before Aaron turned the side of the building he looked back, the stranger was gone. Trudging along the narrow sidewalk that skirted the vegetation, they slowly came to where they could see the parking lot. As soon as the two rounded the last corner up front, walking from around back, they were surrounded by a couple of police. Those cops stopped them and held them out front until a detective came out from inside the theater to talk to them.

Aaron and Chrystal, accompanied by a uniformed police officer, sat on a very uncomfortable cement bench there in front of the theater. They watched the activity as more official vehicles arrived and that entourage lit up the area with red and blue flashing lights giving the area an almost circus like appearance. The wait seemed lengthy but Aaron figured it was no more than an hour before they were greeted by an expected official.

"Hey there, I'm detective Cassidy." The unusually dressed detective said as he held up his badge and ID accompanied by a riding crop.

Seeing how the man was dressed, in old English style horse riding gear suggesting a fox hunt, caused Aaron to take a second look at the ID he offered.

"Could I get your names please?" He asked as he finally put his ID away and took out his notepad and a small pencil while he still held the riding crop.

"I'm Aaron Conroy and this is Chrystal, why do you need our names?" Aaron said as he looked around on all sides as if searching for something.

"Just routine, we have to cover all the bases when something like this happens." the detective paused, "what are you looking for or are you just nervous?"

"I don't want to be mean or insolent but I was just looking for your horse." Aaron said as he smiled at the detective while pointing at the attire he wore.

"For your information wise guy, I came here from a practice for Waverly's upcoming parade and festivities. I'm part of a mounted police crowd control group that also performs and represents Waverly City's police force when requested or needed."

"Sorry, I couldn't help it, I had to say something, sorry" Aaron said.

"Could you tell us what happened?" Chrystal asked.

"We're not sure, would you two come with me?" Cassidy said as he motioned and led the way back toward the theater.

"Inside, is that safe? I thought I heard gun fire." Aaron stayed put and held onto Chrystal's arm.

"It's safe, we have secured the theater. Now if you would please come with me."

Aaron, Chrystal and the detective entered the theater. There were a lot of police in riot gear milling around in the lobby and snack bar area. There were some EMT crews waiting also, they had one of those portable gurneys standing by. Aaron thought it was nice to see it was empty, hopefully meaning no one was injured.

"Which theater were you in before you left by the back exit?" Detective Cassidy asked.

"The one showing the Sci-Fi movie, I believe it was number 13." Aaron said as he turned to look at Chrystal for her input.

"It was number 13, I remember thinking that the movie was in the unlucky number 13 Theater." Chrystal said.

Detective Cassidy lead them down to Theater 13 and showed them in. There were more police in there lining the isles. Some of the people present were in civilian dress. Those people were wearing some type gloves on their hands and their shoes looked funny almost like rabbit feet. Aaron and Chrystal looked at each other and together said "Forensic Team".

"Could you show me where you were sitting before you left.?" Cassidy asked.

"We were in the center about four rows up from here. We were sitting right behind that man standing there," Aaron pointed.

"Bill, could you move aside for a moment," Cassidy said to the man standing in front of the fourth row.

As Bill moved aside Aaron and Chrystal got a good look at their previous seats. The holes that punched through the seat backs were clearly visible. The fabric was torn and the stuffing from inside he seat backs was scattered over the bottom cushions, now looking as if the cushions were covered with a light dusting of fresh snow.

"Holy shit! Our seats were a target for someone. What, why, who did this?" Aaron asked as Chrystal stared and Aaron could tell her thoughts were starting to wonder, What if?

Suddenly Chrystal's knees collapsed as the realization seeped in of how close they were to harm or maybe even death.

Aaron caught her then helped Chrystal to a seat in the nearby row.

"Evidently it was a life saving move but I have to wonder why you left the theater by the back exit just before this happened? That exit's for emergencies only and it is alarmed with the signal going to the manager's office." Detective Cassidy pointed at the exit as he spoke.

"I didn't consider it would be alarmed, I just thought it would get us outside so we could be alone." Aaron, following the strangers suggestions, told the detective while Chrystal nodded her head in agreement, "Did you get the person that did this shooting?"

"You guys were very lucky and, well, we were too. Bill there was inside the theater, at another screen when the shots were fired. However, by the time he realized it was real gun fire and responded he didn't see who did the shooting. He must have been just a little too late to catch the shooter so the answer to your question is no, we haven't caught the culprit yet but we will," Detective Cassidy responded but Aaron didn't hear a lot of confidence in his statement, "Hey Bill, I want you to swab these two people's hands for possible GSR," the detective said then turned back to the, mouth opened couple, "Don't worry, it's just routine, it will help us eliminate you two as suspects."

Bill, an older detective with some years on the force, worked quickly and expertly but he avoided eye contact with Aaron just enough to raise a question in Aaron's mind that left him wondering why the avoidance. Once Bill finished the hand swabbing and bagging the results, detective Cassidy had the two show him where they went when they were out in back of the theater. Once they finished walking him around where they had previously gone Detective Cassidy turned to a uniformed officer who was following them and said, "Hey Fred, cordon off this area then do a grid search 50 ft. that way and all the way around to the front of the theater on this side," While Cassidy spoke he pointed out the suggested area.

Detective Cassidy couldn't think of any real reason to keep these two young people so he made sure he had names, addresses and telephone numbers before he released them, saying, "You can go but don't leave town, make yourselves available if I have more questions."

Although innocent of any infraction they were unsure of what the detective was thinking as he relayed instructions to subordinates. They both assured him they would follow his request as they left for the parking lot and a very confused ride home.

"Ok, who was that man and when did you see him before, and why does he look so much like you just older?" Chrystal asked as soon as they left the parking lot.

Chapter 3

He wasn't a happy camper:

Chrystal's questions caused Aaron to slow the car down and pull off the street into the parking lot of the large Wal-Mart. He parked far out from the store where there were no other cars. Once stopped he opened his door and exited the vehicle.

Chrystal opened her door and came around to where Aaron was leaning back against the front fender of his car. he was standing with his fingers massaging his brow, his hands were shaking. "What are you thinking, why did you stop and get out?" She asked.

"I don't believe this, why hadn't I recognized the similarity? I knew he looked familiar but, I couldn't phantom the reason. Now I understand, he looked a lot like an older me." Aaron paced around in a small circle as he gestured his hands about, "Did we just hallucinate that encounter or was it real? Hey, you and I both know that the mind is capable of many, too many to mention, realistic seeming scenarios that aren't real. Our dreams are a fine example."

"What could be the catalyst for us to have a mass hallucination, both seeing the same thing without any provocation?" Chrystal paused thinking hard, "Maybe it is a post hypnotic suggestion brought on by our current study in our high school science class on the power of the mind. For whatever reason we both decided to take that class and it sometimes stretches the imagination to a point of infinity."

"The power of the mind, hey, you could be on to something," Aaron then shook his head then pointing to the right and backwards with two fingers extended. "What about the two previous encounters with this older me, one when I was seven and one when I was twelve? Were those post hypnotic suggestions, I don't think so, I hadn't even thought about being in high school or studying this area of science when I was seven or when I was twelve."

"Ok, I really do believe it really happened. I was just trying to find another path if it was available," Chrystal assured Aaron as she placed both hands on his chest as she moved close to him.

"You're the one, I knew it when I first met you. You are smart and your choice of high school academics being the same as mine only proves that point. I guess our goal now is to investigate this and somehow find out what's actually going on," Aaron pulled her in closer as he spoke.

Two days later Aaron nor Chrystal had made any progress in finding an explanation to the incident.

Detective Cassidy called Aaron at home, "Hey, this is detective Cassidy, you know from the theater."

"Hello detective Cassidy, have you found the shooter yet?"

"I can't comment on that but I have a question for you."

"For me, well, uh, what's the question?" Aaron hesitantly asked.

"I have a witness that says there was a flashlight that came on in your row and he thought you were asked to leave the theater by someone, like someone on the theater staff."

"Asked to leave, I don't think so," Aaron tried to keep his comments short and sincere.

"Aaron, can you explain why this witness seems to recall the possible presence of a light?" Cassidy asked.

"The only thing I can think of is my using this little pin light I have on my key chain to light the way out, that must be what your witness saw."

"Did you use this pin light to light the way out, are you sure?"

"I'm pretty sure I did but I can't be absolutely positive. After being shown those destroyed seats where we were sitting, things have gotten a little hazy and what we did just before that is not real clear."

"Key chain pin light, ok, I will take that back to the witness and see if he can agree with your assessment."

"Chrystal, Aaron here," Aaron said into the phone when it was answered. "If detective Cassidy ask about seeing a flashlight in the theater that night when we were leaving, tell him you're not sure but that I have a little push button light on my key chain and maybe I had used it, ok"

"Was there a witness or something to our exit?"

"You are one smart lady and yes it seems so. Try to deflect his questions as best you can. He only asked me about the light and the possibility of someone from the theater staff asking us to leave by that door."

"I can handle that, no problem," Chrystal hung up and returned to her studies.

As expected, detective Cassidy did call her and she felt she was convincing when she gave him the answers Aaron had mentioned. The conversation was short and Chrystal returned to her studies.

Detective Cassidy was not a happy camper. The results he had achieved was less than zero as far as he was concerned. He couldn't close the case with the info he had and the witness he had been talking too wasn't really positive concerning the possibility of a staff worker or what type light was used. He readily admitted that it could have been anything or nothing as he was more interested in the previews than other patrons in the theater.

Chapter 4

That's one hot car:

Heading home from work at the Beach Hut sandwich shop, a nineteen year old Aaron was thinking back on his previous encounters with that older stranger who looked like him. Why this particular time he was recalling those incidents, he had no idea, it just happened to be a thought that came out of the clear blue. He had not put the resemblance together until that night at the theater and Chrystal surprising him with her observation and conclusion. An older me, is that possible and if so why, he thought?

His thoughts were interrupted by a distant echoing crack followed by a loud pop that seemed to occur somewhere in the rear of his car. Aaron glanced in his side rear view mirror and he saw debris that was being thrown up from under the rear of his car. He suddenly realized that the debris was the left rear tire shredding and coming apart from a blowout. The left rear seemed to settle and drop a little and he could hear the metal rim, minus all residual rubber, as it rolled and skidded on the payment. The blown out tire was completely gone.

Aaron started steering his car to the right side of the road trying to avoid all of the high speed traffic that gave him little space to maneuver. He stepped lightly on the brakes to slow his vehicle but that was the wrong thing to do. The right side tires, still with rubber, had traction and would have slowed the vehicle, however, the left side rear tire was only a bare metal rim on the asphalt and, having little or no traction, it started shooting sparks as it skidded and bounced on the hard pavement.

With most of the traction, on one side only, the car began to spin clockwise going toward the right side of the road. By some unknown luck the out of control car missed all the traffic as it spun. The car continued across several lanes of traffic and ended up heading toward a dry grassy area between the pavement and a 12 foot tall cinder block sound wall that paralleled the highway.

The bare wheel continued to create sparks as it dug into the dry grass and rocks that littered the sandy off road surface. The grass was ignited by either the hot engine exhaust or the sparks from that bare rim as it contacted the rocks. The actual cause was not important, the fact that it was burning was of considerable concern.

Aaron was dazed and temporarily nonresponsive as he sat in the now motionless vehicle. The stranger was suddenly beside the vehicle knocking on the glass and calling his name. "Aaron, Aaron, get out of the car, you got to get out now!"

Aaron looked up at him as he came back on line. "What, huh, wait, wait, I need to get my stuff, hang on a moment," Aaron didn't understand, here again it's this familiar stranger directing him, he now wanted Aaron to get out of his car.

"Forget your stuff, you've got to get out now, the grass is on fire and your vehicle might be next to burn!" The stranger shouted and tried to open the door but it was locked.

Aaron unlocked the door and unsnapped his seatbelt. The stranger took him by the arm and got him out of the car pulling him away and putting a little distance between themselves and the vehicle. The stranger continued leading them away until they were both on the hard surface at the edge of the freeway and out of the dry vegetation.

The trail Aaron's car left as it plowed through the high dry grass was clearly visible. That trail resembled a bomb's fuse as it now smoked with flames easily seen as they raced up that plowed path toward the abandoned vehicle. It was almost as if that car was a fused bomb suddenly engulfed in flames with a loud whoosh that pushed the heat out toward Aaron and the stranger causing them to move back several additional paces.

Aaron, almost back to somewhat alert, turned and looked at the stranger and asked, "You again? How did you get here and did you also know this was going to happen?"

"Are you hurt, are you ok?" The older him asked.

"My chest is sore from the seatbelt but I think I'm ok," Aaron turned and with tears in his eyes he said. "All my worldly possession, everything that I personally own is in that car. The money I had been saving for a trip, my favorite pair of Air Jordan's and several things that can't be replaced, they are all in there."

"Those are all material things and most can be replaced, you are safe. Aaron, listen to me, you are safe and that's what's important."

The smoke from the burning grass and now burning vehicle reached high into the afternoon sky. It could be seen for miles. Fire and rescue arrived shortly just before the CHP motorcycle officer arrived. Someone must have dialed 911.

Aaron was totally focused on the burning car and was surprised and, while to him it seemed sudden having a flood come across the area, a flood of firemen, tow trucks and at least one ambulance. Several hoses were rapidly unrolled and were now being used to spray water on the dry grass and the hulk of the burning vehicle. The noise of the water spray seemed especially loud almost blotting out the noise of the six lanes of freeway traffic.

Those passing vehicles had slowed to a crawl as rubber necking drivers tried to see what was going on. A large RV had made a quick lane change to avoid hitting an errant driver's car that had slowed and drifted into his lane. The violent lane change shook the large vehicle and caused an exterior awning framework to jar loose and fall to the pavement. The dragging bare aluminum tubes, still attached to the base of the vehicle, made the width of the vehicle twice as wide as it originally was. The firemen were jumping back away from the moving scythe that threatened to cut their legs out from under them. They were also waving and whistling trying to get the driver to stop before he ran the awning framework into their fire truck. Fortunately the RV was stopped without a major incident.

After making sure that the RV situation was secure the CHP officer got Aaron's attention and moved him down the road from the busy emergency personnel. He took out his note pad and started with questions about the incident and Aaron's personal information. Aaron answered the officers questions as best he could. He mentioned the sounds he had heard but couldn't be sure that those sounds weren't all from the tire blowing out.

An EMT person joined Aaron and the CHP officer. The officer moved back as the EMT checked Aaron over to make sure he wasn't injured worst than he knew. He checked the abrasion on Aaron's chest and suggested some precautionary remedies Aaron could use to prevent a lengthy healing process. Once he was satisfied with Aaron's condition he left. The officer who had held his questions and waited until the EMT had finished checking Aaron over took only a short time to finish his questions. He took the answer Aaron gave and noted them for his report on the accident. Once the CHP officer was finished Aaron followed the EMT over to the ambulance where the driver, another EMT, had waited. After making a few final notes on some response forms, he had Aaron read and sign the paperwork that related to the accident then both EMTs climbed into their emergency vehicle and merged into the slow moving traffic and left the scene.

One of the tow truck drivers approached Aaron and asked him if he would like for him to remove the vehicle after the fire department had completed their check of the car. Aaron gave him the ok and handed him his insurance card so he could bill them for the towing service.

"I don't know what to tell you to do with the remains." Aaron stated.

"That's not a problem, I will haul it to the nearest junk yard for demolition. All you need to do is make sure that DMV knows the car is no longer on the road." The operator said. He completed his paper work and handed Aaron back his insurance card and a business card with the info for his towing company.

Suddenly Aaron was all alone. He looked around for the stranger but to no avail. He turned back to the tow truck driver and asked for a ride that would get him off the freeway. A little over an hour later the driver dropped Aaron off at the first gas station they came too after leaving that too busy roadway. Aaron thanked the driver then got out and went in search of a phone to call his mom and let her know that, due to a minor vehicle problem, he needed a ride home. He would fill in the blanks later in person and, that way, maybe his uninjured, healthy and physical presence would be more than enough. Just maybe, it would preclude, or at least dilute his mom's mind from taking that mother type avenue of what could have been rather than what actually was.

Chapter 5

All about My Fair Lady:

College was a blast even with the requirement to maintain grades or lose the scholarship his high school grade point average had obtained for him. There were occasions of inebriation but those were few and they were controlled by keeping any chance of drunkenness inside the frat house and only with very close and trusted friends. These few instances occurred only on long holiday weekends and when no school preparation were expected or assigned. During his first two years here there had actually been only two times that he consumed a little more than he could handle and those only resulted in his laughing, giggling, eating some unidentified food product and then sleeping off the buzz on the hard tiled floor of his frat house room.

Chrystal was here now in her first year and, as a freshman, in the evenings she was mostly confined to the freshman dormitory. It would be another six months before she could pledge a sorority for admission where she would gain some freedom to physically have some contact with Aaron. However, this current confinement did not dampen their relationship and they were on the house phones sometimes to all hours. They met for lunch, dinner and breakfast at the school book store everyday with only a few exceptions caused by mandatory meetings that precluded their get together.

Aaron was now six foot three inches tall and still growing. He was the first baseman for his college team. He was a switch hitter with an excellent batting average and an error free fielding career so far with his college team. Due to his earlier liaison with the lightning strike, he never failed to check the sky before entering any baseball dugout. It didn't matter if it was practice or a real game, the sky was always his first priority when coming to a ball field. He never trusted that old saying, "lightning never strikes the same place twice.".

Aaron's classes ran the gambit of normal except for the one class that dealt with the expanded use of the human mind. This class was only offered for this one semester and his name was on the roster and the class was listed on his personal schedule. Aaron didn't know why he signed up for this particular class nor did he remember actually signing up for it.

A stickler on commitments and schedules, Aaron joined the class on time and on the first day. Later, in the book store with Chrystal, he gave her his impressions of that first day.

"I don't know, it seemed more like a test of us student's attention and ability to recall complicated instructions rather than a class on some brainy subject," Aaron said.

"I don't recall you mentioning this class when we talked about class schedules," Chrystal said then continued with a question. "Are you keeping deep dark secrets from your lady love?"

"No, not on purpose, actually this class was a kind of secret for both of us as I don't remember signing up for it," Aaron replied.

"Well, are you sure you were supposed to be in this class?"

"My name is on the roster and on my personal class schedule. So yes, it seems I'm supposed to be there. I will attend and see where it goes."

Those papers the teacher passed out, the first day, tested each student's ability and that should have been a clue but, then again, some teachers deal with their subjects in an unordinary way. Aaron stayed on to see where the class would lead him. Within a week the class size had dwindled. Those students leaving felt ill equipped to handle the memory needed to recall a never ending list of instructions required to complete in-class assignments before the bell rang. Aaron, for whatever reason, had no problem with in-class assignment's completions, usually well before the ending bell. Instructions to Aaron, whether received orally or gained by reading, remained up front and assessable no matter the length or the complication factor of those instructions.

Two weeks in and the class was now more like a drug induced habit, however, the reason for the class was still a puzzling mystery. Mystery or no, he couldn't wait to get to class and his weekends now seemed more like a short cold turkey class withdrawal period rather than a couple of days of relaxation. Chrystal, now a sorority sister, was concerned with Aarons fidgeting actions and by Sunday she had to say something.

"Are you ok?"

"Fine, I'm fine." Aaron sharply replied.

"Please, don't snap at me, I don't like the way this mind class is affecting you. You are as touchy as a lion with a sore paw," Chrystal said with a little over acting pout.

"Sorry, hey you're right, I have been a little bit of a pain. I will watch it, I will deal with this class without letting it get the best of me," Aaron offered her his hand. "Let's go do something together, something fun and then we will top it off with a nice dinner."

"Sounds good, really good but, even though I have my first six months in, my escapades, at the present, are still somewhat limited to campus activities only."

"Not a problem, the drama class is putting on a dress rehearsal of "My Fair Lady" and I have been thinking about going to see if their rendition stacks up to the Broadway production."

Tickets were cheap and the audience was small. This dress rehearsal wasn't advertised to any length, by word of mouth only, so very few people knew about the performance. Aaron's roommate was one of the behind the scene workers so he knew the set inside out as his roommate was a regular motor mouth on the play.

The production had some glitches but the actors continued ignoring all the small errors, up until the leading actress, now playing a transformed Gutter Snipe, was introduced as a refined lady at the horse races. She was dressed in a full length strapless gown with a beautiful train that flowed to the floor and trailed her as she walked. Professor Higgins, following close behind, inadvertently stepped on that train and the wardrobe malfunction that occurred was far more revealing than Janet Jackson's exposure at half time during that less than memorable Super Bowl game.

The young lady, a consummate actress, continued the scene with some adlibbed lines.

"Now if I have everyone's attention, I can continue." No panic, she calmly raised her arms, accentuating her ample endowments, unpinned the large beautiful hat she was wearing and brought it down in front of her, she held it like a shield, then followed the act's script to its conclusion. The small audience stood and gave her a standing ovation as the curtain closed on that scene.

"Wow, they did a great job. It was more entertaining than the Broadway production by a long shot," Aaron later said as they left the theater at the end of the play.

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