The man in the gray overcoat sat in his old station wagon. He waited. He took a sip of coffee from an old thermos and adjusted his glasses. He glanced at his watch and looked up and down the street that intersected with the side street he had parked on. He had a clear view in both directions. It was almost time.
He sighed and picked up a yellowing photograph of a woman. A tear rolled down his cheek. “I’m going to make it right,” he whispered to the woman in the photograph. “I will.” He sniffled and looked up at the rising sun.
How many times had he done it? The jump. He didn’t know. He’d lost track. Each time it had been just a little different but close enough that he could have made it work. If she had survived. But she never did. He was always too late or he fumbled it in one way or another. She always died.
For that last jump he had put in the wrong parameters. Maybe the equipment had been faulty. Or something. He didn’t know. He had been frustrated, he remembered. Frustrated and angry. The jump had misfired and he ended up thirty years earlier in the timeline than he had planned. It had been the end of everything. With the technology he needed thirty years in the future, he had been stuck in a time and with a life that would never be what he wanted it to be. He could never marry Kate.
Thirty years gave him plenty of time to think. Carefully and thoroughly. It only took a few years of him pouting in a chair on the deck of his house to realize that he had been selfish. Awfully selfish. Each time he jumped, he had to dispose of his other self so he could take his place. It had been the only way to be able to live with her if he was successful. She would never know, he had convinced himself. They could be together. Everything would be ok. Instead, all he had left were memories of killing himself. Over and over. For nothing.
He saw the lights of the oncoming car in the corner of his eye. He glanced across the street and saw the cafe. The Seabreeze Cafe. Her favorite spot for a morning cup of coffee. Moments from now, she would emerge. She always did, like clockwork. He would see her one last time. He sighed and turned the ignition and waited as the engine rumbled to life in front of him. He put the car in gear and left his foot on the break pedal. He waited.
He could hear the engine of the approaching red sports car, engine screaming. Its headlights approached at high speed and illuminated his car. It swerved across the lanes, barely avoiding the curbs. In the corner of his eye, he saw the door to the cafe open and Kate walk out, a cup of coffee in her hand. A smile was on her face as she waved goodbye to the shop attendant. She wasn’t going to see the car on time. She never did.
He let go of the brake pedal and floored the accelerator. The station wagon shot forward, intersecting the path of the approaching red car that would lead to her doom if left to continue on its path. For an instant, everything was white and bright, like her smile. He closed his eyes and smiled back, satisfied that she would finally be safe. Then, nothing. Everything went black.