Lucas was a special patient. While most of my patients came around and occupied space on my couch for an hour or two, I had never actually seen or met Lucas. He insisted I call him Lucas.
I had received a strange call one day asking if I had an hour free – billable of course. It had been a slow week so I was not particularly unreceptive to the idea even though I was deep in paper work. But I needed him to be a patient in order to protect the two of us. My medical license and also the doctor-patient confidentiality so he’s protected as well.
He had hesitated. Then suggested he calls me back in 30 minutes. He had dropped the line before I could think of something to say. Well. There goes my chance to earn some living.
There was a knock at the front door about 25minutes later.
I went through to the outer office. I had let my receptionist go early.
There was a man in an overall on the other side of the door. Actually three men. The one in front who seemed to be in charge from the look of him just handed me a phone and said “Mr Lucas.”
“Apologies to be doing this on short notice. But I would be much more at ease if I could install a direct line to your office.”
The thought of the additional cost was almost completely formed in my mind when he said “There are no costs attached of course. I have handled everything already. Just the additional space on your desk for the phone is required. And you can put it away if you like when we don’t have a session.”
I was a little weirded out, but in my business anything is possible. The phone was rigged up and tested in under 30 minutes.
I was alone again.
He had indicated he would call on the following day at the same time if I was available.
The sessions started out benign enough. Nothing much out of the ordinary. Felt like a man who needed to talk. I wasn’t above getting paid to listen: most times that’s the bulk of what I do anyway. Because initially I couldn’t really get in a word or question. In fact during one of the sessions I had to wonder who the patient was.
“Are you rich Mr Johnson?”
“Not really. Comfortable yes, rich. No. “
“Do you think I am?”
“You have to be. You are paying a small fortune for my service. The private telephone line and so on. “
“How rich do you suppose I am?”
“Very rich? I couldn’t name a figure.”
“I could give you a ballpark figure. But it would be incorrect the moment I say it.”
“Would you like to be rich?”
“Well. Yes. Some more free cash wouldn’t be unwelcome. That could buy me some free time. I smiled a little uncomfortably. I guess the talk of money knowing fully well he was paying me could do that. Or maybe it’s just the fact that money wasn’t something you discuss with barely known people.
“Good to know. Some people are not sure. Ok. What do you do in your spare time?”
“Read. Walk. Think.”
“I meant what do you do for extra cash. “
“Oh. You mean multiple streams of income?”
“Well. That’s one way to look at it. But that sometimes seem to suggest more work to most people.”
“Oh. You mean making your money work for you and so on?”
“That’s one approach.”
“Well. My excuse would be that my practice takes most of my time. But I know that’s lame. One can always make time if one wants to. But I am sure you know wanting and actually doing something about it are two different things.”
True. And I like how you said “make time”. So do you have any other ways of making a little extra?”
“I play the lottery. But I have never really won anything substantial”
“Yes. I have a booker. I just send him the numbers and he buys the ticket on my behalf.”
“The jack pot”
“How do you pick the numbers?”
“Well. I have 3 consistent ones from the birthdays of my folks and mine, the remaining three are random: day of the month, a number someone says in passing, a figure that jumps at me from a paper, it could be anything. “
“You know the odds are not really in your favor?”
“Yeah. But who knows? I guess that’s the kicker right? Anything can happen. Besides it’s only a few quids every week.”
“Indeed, anything can happen. You could for example be dead tomorrow.”
I have got used to the fact that some of his remarks can be quite “dark”.
“Or I could win the jack pot draw Of course.”
“Yes. But What if you could find a way to improve your odds?”
“You mean game the system somehow?”
“No. No. No. Nothing illegal. At least not by today’s standards.”
That didn’t sound too legal.
He must have sensed my hesitation
“Have you ever committed a crime?”
“Well. No. I don’t think so.”
“Are you sure? Mr Johnson?”
“Well. Em. Not really?”
“Not really? What does that mean?”
“Big crimes. Little crimes. Or the fact that you have never been charged to court or arrested by the police?”
“Well. No never.”
“Have you ever jaywalked before Mr Johnson?”
“Not that I remember. “
“Have you ever lied before Mr Johnson”
“Do you think you have accounted for every penny you owe the government in taxes since you started working?”
“Well. I should think close enough. “
“So you see Mr Johnson, crimes is a matter of degrees. As long as you don’t take a life or cause an injury, most people have learned to leave with a certain degree of criminality – it’s the difference between thriving and being a nut case. If every single person has to worry about every little thing they do wrong, there isn’t enough couches in the world to occupy them.”
“But I digress. We were talking about making money and getting rich. You are probably wondering if I am trying to draw you into some Ponzi scheme ain’t you?”
“Well. Not really. But now that you have mentioned it. It doesn’t sound too farfetched.”
“Rest easy, Mr Johnson. It’s nothing of the sort.”
“The short version is that my ego has finally got the better of me. But so that you believe what I am about to tell you, let me tell you exactly what you have in your office and where each item is.”
That caught my interest.
“I am listening”
He went at length to describe the office. Mentioning even insignificant things like pens and pencils, cups”
My Window blinds were drawn close but I still sneaked a peak. The fact that he got so many details right was deeply troubling.
I looked round the office. Maybe … Some camera of some sort? The phone in my hand was solid enough. Maybe the chaps who setup the phone planted something?
“Mr Johnson you have been awfully quiet for a few minutes there. I assure you there is no bug in your office.
Can we continue?”
Even as I answered in the affirmative, my eyes were still roaming round the room.
“Now that I have your attention, the brief version of it is that I can unwind time. That I have legally been inside your office before.”
“Been in my office? When? Did you say unwind time?”
Yes. On both counts. You invited me in of course. Let’s set that aside for now as it will soon become clear. And yes, That’s what I said. Unwind, rollback. Probably not rewind though. Call it whatever you will.”
Nut case. But he’s paying. I will indulge him.
“You think I am a paying nut case right? Nah. I am as sane as you are Mr Johnson.”
That’s what they all say, I said to myself.
“How does that work?” I ventured.
“Despite your unbelief I will continue. You see. It’s gets a little lonely and boring keeping this secret to myself. I can’t obviously let all and sundry know about it. But what sort of power is it if you don’t have at least one worshipper at your door? I have decided you shall be my worshipper figuratively. My ego demands it.”
“You see when certain events of a very strong emotional nature occur, I have found there is some threshold at which I can literarily unwind time. I have to be involved of course. Intimately. It’s complicated to explain. I don’t even fully understand it myself. Yet.”
“But a year ago, you actually saved my life. “
“Have you had any strange recurrent dreams in the last year Mr Johnson. No you won’t necessarily be saving anyone in the dream. But it will be recurrent.”
“Well.” My voice trailed off as my mind went over something that felt as if it fit the bill.
“You probably haven’t had it in the last month or so. That’s how it works. It’s starting to fade. The effect I mean.”
“Yes. I am still here. I am just thinking. There is a dream … I am running up a hill, I can see that I am almost at the top. But my legs are caught in something. I look down but there is nothing there. Then I discover I have no feet. My legs start from the knees. Below them there is nothing there. That’s when I wake up”
“Yeah. That would qualify.
That’s one of the side effects of you being caught up in a time rewind Mr Johnson.”
I had tried to get him to call me Paul several times, but that never worked. I finally gave up.
“Any other side effects I should be wary of?”
“You mean aside the slightly higher rate of suicide among such people. No. Nothing else.”
If that was a joke I wasn’t laughing.
“Mr Johnson? Are you there? I am just yanking your chain. That’s about it. Just the weird recurrent dream that fades away with time.”
I must have been holding my breath.
“Is that a sigh of relief?”
I was embarrassed.
“So. Now you know my secret. I am going to have to kill you.”
“More jokes Mr Johnson. You are completely safe.”
“After all you saved my life.”
“And how did I do that if I may ask?”
“Oh. Just a little matter of being at the wrong place at the right time. And most important, not letting me bleed out when I was mugged on some seedy alley a year ago. I still wonder how you came to be there. But it was so sudden I had lost Consciousness before the emotional threshold kicked in a time rewind.”
But after I came to at the hospital and learnt what had happened, the time rewind still got triggered by the flurry of emotions I felt. Basically that I could have died so suddenly.”
“You see. I had always thought myself indestructible. I had almost always assumed the only way I could die was probably in my sleep. My reasoning was that if I knew death was imminent I would be so traumatized that a time rewind would have been triggered.”
“But now I know better. “
“I am just as vulnerable as the next man. Maybe not quite. But time and chance can mess it all up.”
But I digress. That wasn’t quite the whole truth. You see under certain conditions which I understand even less, a time jump into the future can happen. In fact I had first jumped briefly into the future before jumping back in time after my mugging. That’s how I came to have been in your office. I had then rewound time to a couple of hours before my mugging. I could then take certain precautions. Which meant we never actually met in your own reality.
But I had of course gone to some length to learn about who you were.
So here we are.
You see, during the forward shift I found out you are going to lose the jackpot by that single figure you decided to change just this once. You are going to be so distraught that I am going to feel the vibes even though we are separated by space and technology. This is where it gets interesting. I am going to go into a tailspin by my choice and trigger a rewind. The numbers are in already. So it’s hard to tamper with that. And you are not depriving anyone as no one else bought the winning combo.
So you are going to play the same set of numbers but replace the last number with today’s date. What you are going to do is go out now and send yourself a return mail. The mail needs to cross at least one time zone to ensure its not affected by the time rewind. I will give you an address to send it to. By the time you get it back, it will almost be now minus my phone call. Then you are going to play the numbers.
But you should write all these down in the mail because when the rewind happens you won’t even remember this conversation.
So I have just played the numbers. As usual I am seated in my office. The blinds are drawn. And before midnight I will know if I am a nutcase or not. Because I certainly don’t remember any of this nor any Mr Lucas. And there is no case note in my office for him either.
Maybe I should have arranged a place for myself in an hospital. It’s probably the time to do it while I am still sane enough.
How many people have I met in my time who were borderline or outright psycho who still felt they were sane? Yes. Mentally ill if you prefer. But this is not the time to border with being politically correct.
I scrolled through the contact list on my phone to the number for the medical director for a facility near by. His line is off. I hadn’t spoken to him in a while so maybe he’s changed his number or something. I decided to call the direct line to the doctors common area at the hospital facility itself. It sounded as if the call was being diverted.
“Hello. This is Dr Johnson. I don’t want to go into details. But I would like to arrange for a transport to your facility for myself say anytime tomorrow. You can look me up. I am in the (phone) book. I was a consultant there for several years as well if you need to verify this with the medical director who as a matter of fact is a friend. I just can’t seem to get hold of him right now”
“Evening Mr Johnson. Lucas here. Dr Paulson is on leave somewhere in the wilds of Alaska. Now why would you want to do such a thing Mr Johnson? Admit yourself into a hospital?”
I put down the phone slowly without saying a word. If Lucas is still a figment of my imagination, I am not sure there is any help for me out there. Only one way to find out. The jackpot draw will be announced shortly.
I switched on the TV.