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22 April 2012 @ 08:34 am
Go Outside [1/11]  


Chapter 01

July 21, 1969

“In the year 2525, if man is still alive…”

The old, familiar song filled the heated air; the tone tinnier than Dan Vassar remembered. He shook his head as awareness slowly returned and he found himself wedged between a bushel basket of avocadoes and a pyramid of canned cat food, a full shopping basket hanging from his arm.

“Mommy, mommy, look! He’s from Star Trek!”

Dan spun to see a little boy with too-big ears and a gap-toothed grin pointing at him, eyes wide under the floppy brim of his cowboy hat. His mother, a harried looking woman in a sundress, hurriedly reached out and snatched his hand, tugged the boy behind her.

“Don’t say things like that, it’s rude,” she scolded her voice strident, so familiar that Dan just about had to laugh. Sounds like Mom.

“But he just appeared! Out of thin air! Scotty beamed him dow-“

“Dylan! Stop it!” She shook her son’s hand, and looked at Dan apologetically. “I’m sorry, sir, kids these days…”

Dan laughed, a bit, shaking his head. “It’s alright, believe me. I know. It’s no harm done, really.” He shifted the basket so the different logos on the milk jugs, the best if sold by date of May 12, 2008 wouldn’t be readable. “He should be a writer.”  Dylan’s mom blustered, looking halfway between flustered and pleased. He might have been tempted to stay in chat, but the feeling – that niggling, nagging sense of premonition that always accompanied the right track – wasn’t here, so he excused himself and made his wary way towards the front of the grocery store.

Supermarkets were a newfangled thing in the 1960s. They hadn’t discovered the same correct, uneasy balance of futility and advertising as their modern counterpoints. It was, as a result, easy to find his way to the front counter.

A very pregnant young lady stood at that counter, her narrow face buried in a newspaper. The front headline read, in huge text, U.S. ASTRONAUTS WALK ON MOON…

And there was the feeling.

“Wow,” Dan said aloud, reaching out for a copy of the paper, over the feeling of when do I get to track him that he usually felt for famous figures. “Kennedy was right.”

The woman – barely more than a girl, really – didn’t look up from her paper, though she went very still. It reminded Dan of nothing more than a little mouse, just spotting a hawk.

“K-Kennedy?”

“He said we’d put a man on the moon by the end of the decade.” Dan shook the wrinkles out of the paper, feeling that little sensation of confirmation tugging at his brain. This woman – or someone close to her – was his target. “He was right. Amazing, huh?”

“Oh. Yes. I guess.” Her voice was soft, shy. It reminded him all the more of that little rodent, creeping along some field.

“Seems like it’s a long way from Sputnik.” Silence fell around the newspaper rack. Dan kept sneaking peeks at the young woman. She was small and would have been thin if it wasn’t for the swell of her belly; the stereotypical picture of a hippie in beads, charms and buckskins, her long, straight brown hair pulled back in a single smooth braid.

“My dad used to talk about Sputnik,” she finally said, almost wistful. “He thought it would all stop with the satellites. Guess he was wrong…”

“It’s only going to move faster from here,” Dan replied. “Your little one’s going to grow up in a strange new world.” The girl laughed at that; a high, tight, almost-hurt sound. Dan frowned, pressed on. “When’s the baby due?”

Pale grey eyes met Dan’s bright blue over the top of the paper. Dan smiled, non-threatening, shifting his hand so his wedding ring flashed. “I still remember when my son was born. I thought his mother was going to kill me before he came…”

The girl laughed, faintly, at that. “The doctor said it could be a month,” she said, looking down at her stomach. “And…the thought has come to my mind, once or twice.” Something crossed her face when she said it, like a cloud over a field of wheat. Dan’s gut gave another twinge of foreboding. “I…this is a bit…unexpected.”

“You didn’t want a kid?”

“No, that’s…we’ve…I’ve only known Jeremy, uhm. M-my husband, that is. I’ve only known him for a year, we…” A blush was starting to creep up the young woman’s freckled cheeks. Dan shifted a little further away, just to give her space. “We hadn’t….didn’t really talk about kids. Before. Sometimes I think he only married me because….” Her hand drifted over her stomach again, and Dan winced when she pulled up her paper again, effectively creating a wall between her and him.

“Oh, there you are, Dan!” Livia’s smooth, half-expected voice soothed over some of the disorientation of displacement in his mind. Dan turned just as she wrapped her arm around his waist, brushed a chaste kiss across his cheek.

“Livia! I was just about to tell-” He trailed off, fishing for a name.

The woman knew it, too, judging by her look, but she said, softly, “Rachel.”

Dan smiled at her warmly before turning back to Livia, “-Rachel here about Zack.”

“..You were?”

“Yeah. About how he…” He scratched the side of his head, going for a sheepish look more than anything. “About how we weren’t married when…”

Livia, as always, caught on quickly, though something glimmered in her eyes that Dan knew he should be apologizing for later. “Oh, oh, that…” She shook her head, her expression a familiar one: reassurance. “You can work past that, sweetheart; we’ve been happily married-” Again, there was that something – “For seven years now.”

“Zack’s the light of my life.” Dan picked up the thread of the conversation as he tried to follow the swell of the instincts, rubbing his hand across his hair again. “Stick it out; you’ll make it. I promise.”

Livia tugged on his arm, then, insistently.

“Dan, now-”

“What’re you looking at?” Whatever Livia was going to say was cut off by a low, harsh voice. Rachel dropped the newspaper; Dan managed not to jump, but only just barely, held still by Livia’s sudden grip on his bicep, eyes drawn to the floor. The air rustled as a bony hand closed around the fallen paper, folding it back together neatly. The speaker stood, every movement carefully controlled.

Dangerous.

You’re not the hawk here, Dan, he realized. It wasn’t ever you she was worried about.

“I…Jeremy…” Rachel’s voice didn’t quite quaver, but the edge was there. She was close. “I wasn’t….looking at anything.”

The tall, leggy man who had startled them all shoved the paper back into the rack. His hair was dark blonde and shaggy, his broad shoulders tense beneath his flowing white shirt. He took a long time arranging the papers, pointedly ignoring his audience. When he finally turned, his stormy green eyes snapped with electricity –

And Dan found himself staring into a face he’d last seen thirty years older. He swallowed hard, fighting the sudden surge of fear that spiked through him.

Jeremy Kaplan.

“Bullshit.” Jeremy growled back at Rachel, still disregarding Dan and Livia as he grabbed her slender wrist and pulled her closer. She tried to jerk away, and Jeremy’s long fingers tightened. Dan watched warily, every instinct saying to interfere here, that something wasn’t right, somehow. 

“Let go,” Rachel said, but the defiance faded away just as quickly as it had flared up when Jeremy didn’t move; his thin lips parted in a cat-like smile, almost as if entertained.

Alright, that’s it.

“Hey,” Dan rumbled, voice low as he pulled against Livia’s hand on his arm, “she said let go.”

Jeremy paused, head cocked, his eyes not moving from his wife’s frightened face. She gave a tiny, scared shake of her head before his smirk widened and he let go, rounding on Dan smoothly. His voice was cool, bored.

“You tellin’ me what to do, now?” He asked, stepping closer, and Dan fought the future-knowledge of everything this man had the potential to become, the urge to step back; turn and run and keep running.

“Possibly?” The word came out more like a question than he would have preferred, but he squared his shoulders anyway, ready for a fight if it came down to it. It wouldn’t be an unfair fight, at least not physically - what Jeremy had in height, Dan more than made up for in weight.

What you don’t have is an effective form of counter-insanity.

Jeremy leaned into Dan’s personal space, and Dan took that step backwards, Livia’s fingers tight, reassuring around his bicep; reminding him that, even here, he wasn’t completely on his own. “And if I don’t?”

Dan met Rachel’s worried stare for a moment past Jeremy before looking back to those electric eyes. “Then…we’re going to have a problem.”

“Oh.” For a second, Jeremy looked away, the tension in his shoulders ebbing ever so slightly. Dan watched him still, warily taking a step further away. If he wasn’t entirely mistaken, if this wasn’t Jeremy Kaplan, the Jeremy Kaplan, everything would be ok.

But if it was…

Jeremy moved too fast for Dan to entirely follow, but his eyes focused on the knife with no problem. The blade was easily three quarters of a foot long, flashing in the florescent lights. Dan barely scrambled out of the way in time as it slashed through the stack of papers like they were butter. Livia dove the other way.

“Hey, whoa whoa whoa, I don’t know if it’s that big a problem!” Dan blathered when Jeremy slashed out again, hitting one of the milk jugs in the process. It split around the knife blade; Dan yanked it out of the basket, ignoring the cold splash against his shirt, and threw it. The half-full jug hit Jeremy in the face, drenching him with milk.

Dan didn’t wait to see the results. He legged it for the back alley instead, the madman hot on his heels.

The back door opened onto an alley. Dan charged down it, leaving a trail of white in his wake as his shirt dripped. He had almost made it to the mouth of the alley when he saw movement there and skidded to a stop.

He nearly run into a wall of people – six or seven men, dressed eerily similar to each another, all with equally angry looks on their faces. He gulped as he glanced over his shoulder. Livia was nowhere in sight, but Jeremy was advancing, his knife flashing in the dim light of the alley. He jerked his chin towards his friends, something wild in his eyes.

“Hold him still for me, eh?”

The tallest of the group – taller than Kaplan, certainly taller than Dan, and heavier built than both – stepped forward, grinding his knuckles into his palm in an almost stereotypical gangster move. Dan took another step back, torn between the instinct that drew him on and the very real fear at the edge of that knife.

“Can’t we talk about this?” Jeremy shook his head, flipping the knife from hand to hand with an almost playful quirk to his mouth. Kaplan’s man just kept prowling forward, moving too much like a tiger for Dan to breathe easily. “No such luck?”

“Not today,” Jeremy said lightly, nodding to his friend again. A huge, cold hand clamped down on the back of Dan’s neck, but the instinct froze him in place, kept him from lashing backwards or striking out. “Tomorrow’s not looking too good for you, either.”

“Dan!” Livia’s voice drew all of their attentions, sharp in the tension of the alleyway. Dan bit his lip, looking over Jeremy’s shoulder. Livia stood in the doorway, her arm around Rachel’s shoulder, concern in every line of her face. Rachel’s hand rested on her belly, fear in her eyes.

And the ground beneath her feet…

Jeremy, just look…

“Jeremy,” Rachel said, softly – Jeremy didn’t respond; Dan shifted, trying to keep his eyes on everyone at the same time. “Jeremy!” This time, her voice was higher, louder, more insistent. Jeremy still didn’t look her way as he raised the knife high. Dan planted his feet, spine rigid, trying not to squirm from the hand on his neck, feeling the pressure growing in his head.

“Jeremy!” he barked.

“What?” Jeremy’s voice was almost plaintive; whiny, but the knife didn’t move. Dan forced himself not to look at it, not to even acknowledge it existed.

“I think Rachel’s water just broke.”

The last thing Dan saw before the lights flared behind his eyes to carry him home was Jeremy dropping the knife and running to his wife’s side.





One :: Two :: Three :: Four :: Five :: Six :: Seven :: Eight :: Nine :: Ten :: Epilogue ::
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