There hadn't been on thing about this leap that had been easy or clear to me. I just didn't understand what it was I was supposed to do. I'd leaped into the life of 16 year old Kenny Douglas and, according to Ziggy, my mission was to prevent Kenny from committing suicide. How I was supposed to do that, I didn't know. There was no way that I, Sam Beckett, would commit suicide so as long as I inhabited Kenny's life he was safe. As soon as I leapt out, though, what was to keep him from doing it anyway?
Three days. It had been three days that I'd been living Kenny's life. Sometimes I had a hard time remembering what my own life was like when I was 16. Hell, sometimes I couldn't remember the most basic things like my parents. Over the time I've been leaping I've sort of developed a bit of a mantra – a series of thoughts that I run through as soon as the leap-in has finished and I can think straight. I remind myself of my name and who my parents are; where I’m from. Sometimes it all comes easily to me but sometimes it's a struggle to force those memories to the surface.
One thing I did know, memories or not, my life at 16 had been a hell of a lot easier than Kenny's was. It was no wonder the kid was given to bouts of depression and suicide.
Since I'd leaped in something strange had been happening to me as well. I think Kenny's emotions started bleeding over to me, but I wasn’t sure. Maybe I was just tired of it all and wanted it all to end.
Sometimes it gets to a point that don’t know what’s real or everything around me is a dream - dream that just keeps going on and on and on. A dream that I just wish I could wake up from. This had become one of those leaps. I started to think that if I just tried hard enough I could will myself awake and back into my own life.
I was sitting at the desk in Kenny’s bedroom looking at the night-darkened sky and started to repeat over and over to myself, "this is all just a dream, it's all just a dream and I'm going to wake up." I didn’t wake up, though. I was still sitting at that desk and I knew if I got up and looked in a mirror it would be Kenny’s face that I’d see, not mine. I wasn’t even sure if I would have remembered what my own face looked like. I wanted it all to end and I wanted it to end now
I remembered reading once that you'll never dream of your own death because if you do, the shock of it would kill you. I wanted this dream my life had become to end. I wanted to know what reality was.
It felt like I was moving in slow motion as I rose from the desk and walked out of Kenny’s bedroom. I walked down the hall to his mother’s room and over to the closet in it. I stood in front of it for several minutes just staring at the closed door. It felt like something was calling me here, leading me to something in this room – in this closet – but I didn’t know what that something was. I felt as if I was no longer in my own body but that I’d stepped outside of it and was just an observer.
I reached out for the door of the closet and pulled it open and looked up to the shelf. In a back corner of the shelf I spied a box, a locked strong box. I reached up for it and pulled it down closing the closet door and heading back to Kenny’s room.
I sat at the desk staring at the box unsure what it was about it that compelled me to bring it in here. With a quick move of my arm I knocked the box off of the desk and onto the floor. The lock on the box wasn’t very strong and it popped open as soon as it hit the hardwood floor and the contents of the box spilled out of it. I knelt down next to it on the floor and reached down to pick up what had fallen out with a trembling hand.
I wrapped my hand around the object that had fallen out of the box – a gun. As soon as I touched it I saw with clarity what it was that I had to do to end the dream. I reached out and grabbed the bullets that had fallen to the floor as well and quickly loaded the gun.
"You won't see yourself die in a dream," I whispered to myself. It was all so clear to me now. I knew how to end it – to end the dream or to just end everything. I wasn’t sure what it was that I wanted to end.
I moved back until I was sitting with my back leaning against the bed and crossed my legs in front of me with the gun cradled in my lap. I knew what I had to do but I didn’t know if I could. Something inside begged me to wait but I didn’t know what – or who – I was waiting for.
I lost all track of time and I wasn’t sure how long I had sat there cradling the gun before I heard the noise and saw the reflection of light from the Imaging Chamber. With a flash of clarity I knew that’s what I had been waiting for – Al. He had to know that I was going to make it end – that I was going to end this hell that we’d both been living in for I don’t even know how long.
I knew that whether this was a dream or not there was no way he was going to agree with me and steeled myself for the argument I knew was going to happen. I couldn’t let him sway me from what I had to do or it never would end – for either of us. I had to do this and if it wasn’t for me that I did this, I had to do it for him.
I heard him gasp and knew he must have seen the gun. How could he not see it? It wasn’t like I'd been trying to hide it.
"Sam, where did you get that," he asked me. He was trying to keep his voice neutral – trying not spook me, I guess. He didn’t realize I was long past getting spooked – or so I thought.
I didn’t look at him – I just shrugged. "Found it," I said and for just a moment I couldn’t remember how or where it was I found it. That's what happens in dreams, though, you disconnect from what's happening and things just appear or happen for no rhyme or reason.
"What are you planning on doing with it?" Hew was getting nervous now. He knew what I was planning to do. I shrugged again but this time I looked up and met his eyes. I was right, Al was getting nervous. There was something else there, though. I could see the concern he was feeling. Al always seemed to worry about me and I had a vague recollection of something from before I started leaping. I’d told Al not to worry about and he’d told me that he had to – it was his job to worry about me. For a moment I began to question what I was doing, wondering if I was wrong and everything around me was real. I wondered what my planned actions would do to this man who thought it was his job to worry about me.
I dismissed my second thoughts from my mind. I knew what I needed to do; I just had to explain it to him and make him understand that it would all be for the best.
"Do you ever wonder, Al, what's real and what isn't? What is reality? Is all this real?" I asked gesturing to not only include the room I was in but everything else including him and me. "Are you real? Maybe, maybe none of this is real. Maybe when I got in the Accelerator it didn't work at all. Maybe I fried my brain or something and the reality is that I'm really in a coma or something and this is all just a dream – you're just a dream."
It had to be a dream because if it wasn’t…I couldn’t complete the thought.
He didn’t say anything to me for a minute. I knew he was weighing his words carefully. He'd knelt down in front of me making it easier to look him in the eyes. When he finally did speak he asked me to give him the same thing he’d asked for so many times before "I don't know what I can say to make you believe that this is all real, Sam, except to ask you to trust me."
I did trust him – with my life but I knew that if it wasn’t real then he was just a part of me. I didn’t know if I could trust myself anymore.
I reached out to him and deliberately passed my hand through him. I've always tried to respect Al's personal space. I think it's because as long as I do I can go on believing he's real. There was no substance there, though, just a trick of light and shadows. It was just my mind providing what it thought I needed.
I wondered if the real Al had missed me or if he even remembered me. I could feel the slight smile on my face as I tried to explain to him again. "See, Al, you're not real. I think…I think you're just up here," I said while pointing to my forehead. I brought my hand back down to my lap cradling the gun in both hands. He didn’t believe me. I had to prove it to him. It was time.
"I know how to prove what's real, Al. I know what I have to do but…I think…I think I'm scared. You see, Al, all I need to do is use this to prove what's real." I held up the gun for him to see. I was scared, I’d realized. Scared of what would happen when this all ended. I wondered what my life must be like that I've spent so long escaping from it here in a place where it didn't exist for me?
"Saa-aam, what are gonna do with that thing?" Al has the singular ability to make my name sound like it has so many more syllables than it does. I know when he says my name that way it means he's upset or scared. I guess I didn’t blame him this time. He knew what I'm going to do and, if I was right, I was going to effectively end his existence.
For a second, just a second I doubted what it was that I had to do. I didn’t want to hurt any more, though – I didn’t want to hurt him any more. I had to harden myself. This was for him just as much as it was for me. "You know what I'm gonna do, Al. If it's just a dream, I'll wake up before anything happens."
"And if it's not a dream, Sam, you'll be dead. Is that what you want?"
Was it what I wanted? I didn’t know. If it was then it would go against everything my parents had ever taught me – everything that I believed. I didn’t think it would make much difference, though. It had been so long I doubted anyone would care.
"If it's not a dream – well, then it will all be over finally. I can't do this anymore, Al. What's the point? No one cares. No one would miss me and if this is all real you could go back to living a normal life not being stuck waiting for me." I owed him that if this was reality. He shouldn't have had to keep living his life waiting for the next time I leaped.
"I care Sam or don't I matter anymore. I care about you, your family cares about you, your friends. I know you're probably tired as hell of all this. Believe me; I know I am so I can only imagine how much worse it is for you. I know you probably don't think what you're doing – what you've done - means anything to anyone, Sam, but it does – probably more than any of us will ever know. Each person you've helped, each life you've touched, they're all like ripples in a pond and they spread out further and further and further. You just gotta hang on right now, Sam. Please."
"How long?" I asked him. I had to know how long I'd been away. If I’d been gone so long would my family even care anymore or had they already given up hope that I'd come back? I didn’t even know if my mother was still alive. Sometimes I couldn't remember her face but other times I could remember every detail about her: the smell of her perfume, the way it felt when she hugged me, the feel of her lips kissing the top of my head. I needed that – I needed to feel that.
"How long? How long what? How long do you gotta hang on?" My question had confused him. He didn't know how to answer me or maybe he just couldn't. If I didn't know how long it had been, I asked my self, how could I expect this conjuration of my mind to know?
"How long have I been gone? How many years? Do you really think it would make any difference to people now if I did this," I said showing the gun to Al, "or if I just went on dreaming? It's time, Al. It's time for it all to end."
I raised the gun up and felt the muzzle of it brush up against my temple. I wondered if I'd feel any pain or if I’d just wake up. I had to believe that the dream would end and I'd wake up otherwise I'd be betraying everything my parents ever taught me.
As soon as I raised the gun to my head Al tried to push it away screaming out, "Sam, no." His hand went right through me, though. He didn’t exist so there was no way he could touch me.
I could feel my finger tense on the trigger it was suddenly as if someone had frozen time. I could see Al's lips moving as he faced me but I couldn’t hear anything and wondered if he was praying.
Suddenly the room flooded with light and there was another person in the room with us – a woman. "Kenny," I heard the feminine voice say, "what are you doing sitting here in the dark. Oh my God!" she exclaimed when she saw me with the gun. "What are you doing?"
The suddenness of the light seemed to blind me momentarily and when I looked in the direction of the voice it looked just like…
"Mom?" I asked and I could feel my voice breaking. I didn’t want my mother to see this. She’d be so disappointed in me. I threw the gun down and ran to her hugging her and crying into her shoulder. I couldn’t do it anymore. Even if it was just a dream I couldn’t let it end.
I felt her arms go around me; one of her hands running up and down my back and the other brushing through my hair. I cried into her shoulder and clung to her.
I knew this wasn’t my mother but she offered me the comfort and assurances that only a mother can.
I vaguely saw Al come around so that he was in front of me. He said something about Kenny being ok now and that I'd done what I had to do.
I could feel the leap starting to take hold of me but there was something I had to say before it did. I held out my hand to Al and said, "I'm sorry" just before the leap carried me away. I wasn’t sure if I was sorry that I wasn't able to end it and set him free; if I was sorry for stepping into the accelerator to begin with; or if I was sorry that he had had to witness this. I knew the chances were pretty high that I'd probably forget everything that had happened here but I knew Al would have to carry the memory with him now. For that I was truly sorry.