Breaking Back To Another Time

Breaking Back to Another Time

by Fulvio Gatti

Fulvio Gatti is an Italian ESL speculative fiction writer. He writes in English because, if it’s true that a flying saucer will never land in Lucca like Fruttero and Lucentini said, it was indeed Enrico Fermi who asked “Where is everybody?”. This story is part of his indie published collection “The Record Store at the Edge of the Time Stream” available in ebook format on all the stores (link below). His short stories have appeared in anthologies and bundles. His international report has appeared on January 2020 issue of Locus. Two completed novels are in search of a publisher. His latest Italian novel is La vita sociale delle sagome di cartone (Las Vegas Edizioni), among many published books in his country. In the northwestern wine hills of Piemonte, Italy where he lives he works as a local reporter and event organizer.
 
 
 

The Beatles were on TV the night I realized I was from the future. The Ed Sullivan Show was playing on a shiny, streamlined TV while the college party in the cozy, wood-and-marble restaurant lounge had already grown into a noisy, sweaty mess. I felt like some other band should be playing, one with a curly-haired singer I couldn’t give a name to, but I forgot about it quickly.

My friend Dave and I had been going awkwardly from sofa to sofa in an attempt to talk to the few available girls, but were now camped out at the counter, the shelves sadly empty, making sure we didn’t even think about drinking alcohol.

Soon Dave left his seat to talk to a scrawny, shady looking guy I had seen around college. After a few minutes, Dave came back and offered me a white, round pill.

Just to take off,” my friend smirked.

I swallowed it, expecting nothing but some extra color. I figured if acid wasn’t illegal in California, it wouldn’t be much different from chewing gum. Suddenly my seat began to tremble, and I felt like I was falling. The walls opened to reveal black-and-white images of bands playing. The same unknown singer showed up, bare chested and oddly familiar. On the opposite side of the room, the Beatles grew hair and beards as I watched, changing from black-and-white to full color, while the studio transformed into a rooftop.

Hey, Chuck!” Dave shook me. “Come back from the Moon, buddy!”

We’ll get to the Moon,” I replied. My voice sounded like someone else was operating my body. “Just need five more years.” In my heart I knew it was true, just like the music videos. Videos?

Dave laughed hard. “Boy, that must have been some trip!” he said, unable to hold his amusement. “All I saw were some pretty girls on an endless beach, Los Angeles or something, but you went much further,” he mused out loud. “You kept blabbering about doors, but there’s just one door down here!”

The Doors. The curly haired singer. Why was that so important? It felt like numerous splinters from dreams I had had all my life were coming together to create a weird painting, like the ones from Hieronymus Bosch.

It’s… the future,” I said, letting my mouth give shape to the words—feeling extremely true—that my brain hadn’t processed yet. “I mean, no, it’s… my past!” Uncertainty bloomed in the middle of my sentence. “I must… meet… Jim

Morrison?”

All the goofiness faded from Dave’s face, making room for puzzlement, echoing mine. “Who, the blond guy from the football team?”

I’m not sure.” If I were fishing at night in a swamp with my bare hands I couldn’t be more clueless. “I only know he attends UCLA.” I stared at my friend. “Also, don’t ask me how I know.”

All the way to L.A., buddy?” Dave wondered. “It’s because you want to meet the pretty girls, huh?”

Soon the lounge, with its remaining guests, felt like a burden I couldn’t stand anymore. I stood and noticed the low music was coming from a bulky, rusty record player—there had been no TV in the first place. Dave grabbed my arm.

Do you want to leave?” He was the one with the car.

I nodded.

He grimaced. “I’m quite bored, too,” he said. “Even the acid trip wasn’t that fun.”

I could argue about that. Yet, on the way back to our dorm I stayed quiet. What I had seen during my trip had felt so darn real. After he parked the car, I hurried inside, climbed into bed, and shoved my face into my pillow, inhaling dust in the process.

As I had hoped, more visions came. I was older, probably in my thirties, with a beard, adult clothes, and an aching back, strolling across a dusty, unusually large record store. Tall stacks of vinyls, with and without colorful sleeves, all covered with drawings and text, gave the feeling of an endless labyrinth, where the possibility of getting lost was a true risk.

At the edge of the room, a place I seemed to find out of pure chance, I stopped. Standing behind a tall table was a figure mostly shrouded in darkness. I could barely see a faint spark where the eyes should be, along with the bright metal glimmer of a pair of large headphones hanging low around their neck.

So, you want to go back, huh?” the mysterious individual said in a hissing voice. “Find a missing private concert from Jim Morrison and bring it back?”

Yes,” I said, in an unfamiliar tone. That was what I wanted—what that other me wanted. It came out of nowhere, but it also felt like a long-pursued goal. Awareness grew stronger as I shook in my bed, experiencing the duplicity. A home with impossible tech, talking phones, and an instant connection to the world, lived side-by-side in my mind with my childhood and teenage years in the California sixties. Somehow, I was reliving a memory. I had been older, before, willing to travel to the past.

The figure stood in front of me. “You still have doubts.” White teeth flashed briefly; too many of them.

It’s just—I’m not sure,” I heard my other self say.

Go on.”

Shouldn’t it be easier? Cross a door or something, and then I’m in the past?”

The shadowy figure showed signs of impatience. “Alas, it’s not.”

But being born again to do it,” I insisted. “Isn’t that a bit—extreme?”

It depends on how much you want it.”

Deep down, I knew the pantomime was about to end and I looked forward to starting my journey. What lay ahead felt much more promising than what I had. But this other me was also chatty in his own way. “One last thing.”

The shadowy figure sighed.

Let’s say I get my private concert with Jim,” the other me said. “How do I bring it back here?”

That’s no concern of yours,” they said. “Just be here on February 17, 2018.”

That’s… yesterday.”

Indeed.”

Both my versions held their breath. “What if I fail?”

A soft cackle. “Then you’ll vanish from existence.”

I sat up in bed, sweating. The vision—or memory—was over. The quiet and familiar nondescript edges of my dorm room were not enough to soothe me. I got out of bed and crossed the hallway to the bathroom. Standing in front of the stained mirror, I splashed water on my face.

I was able to tell the difference between me now and my future-past self. The other me was fatter, maybe just because of age, and had green eyes instead of hazel. Also, my former self sported many signs of depression, from the trembling hands to the eye bags, to the dismissive pose—someone desperate enough to leave everything behind to challenge a dream.

A fly buzzed, a rumble in the quiet common area. I followed the irregular trajectory of the insect as it hovered below the blinking light. If I believed what I had seen—and I couldn’t help it—I was as helpless as the tiniest creature on Earth.

Right now, I was in my early twenties, with little money and no connections, and I had to find Jim Morrison and ask for a private concert. How could I ever have thought that could succeed?

Shivering in the cold, I managed to focus enough to grasp at the scary dream. I caught some of the scrambled memories; neither of my two lives were memorable. Yet, the chance of meeting him, Morrison, the rock star, the poet—I knew little enough of him to see him as a god—felt like a worthy endeavor.

The vertigo grew into determination as I walked back to my room, a newly discovered fire burned in my chest. I spent the rest of the night packing my things, then I wrote a goodbye letter to my friends and family; I couldn’t be distracted by anything nonessential. I wound through the empty campus, made my way to the bus station, and took the first bus to Los Angeles.

As the sun rose, I imagined my friend Dave waking up and finding nothing but my last, cheerful note. I felt bad, but I had no better choice.

The tall, tidy buildings of the UCLA campus surrounded me and its colorful, happy crowd swarmed around. I struggled against despair. There were too many people. Locating Morrison would be almost impossible. But I told myself I was in the right haystack, at least, and all I had to do was wait. I had a lifetime ahead to accomplish my mission.

Being young and in full health, I eventually found work at the Port of Los Angeles. I enjoyed physical work. It felt good, after the distant memories of a repetitive office job in my other life. Earning some money let me quickly go from sleeping rough under a bridge to renting an apartment.

A couple months later I applied to UCLA, and I soon found out how being alone, with little or no family background, made things much harder. I redoubled my efforts at the harbor so I had enough money for extra expenses. A smart coworker, with university connections, suggested that a couple of useful bribes might help me get accepted. Soon, I was UCLA student in the full sense.

I did my best to attend all the classes the young Jim Morrison might fancy. Whenever I wasn’t at work, or sleeping, I hung around the campus. The classrooms smelled fresh due to frequent cleaning and the buzz of the people was joyful, but every place was always too crowded to tell one face from the others. Even changing my seat every hour didn’t work.

I started having lunch at the college canteen, hoping to have better luck. The place wasn’t as tidy, but the chattering and the decent food made it a good stop. Then one day, Jim Morrison sat in front of me. I barely recognized him; his face was a bit plump and he was shy as heck. The burger on his tray dripped with ketchup and smelled delicious.

Hey!” I said.

He looked around, uncertain. We were alone at the table. The nearest people were three girls to our left, busy talking.

Hey,” Jim replied. His eyes wandered around the canteen, clearly debating whether to say something more. “Are you new?”

Yes, I am,” I said.

I’m Jimmy.”

Chuck.”

I looked away to keep from embarrassing him further. Instead, I ended up sharing his awkwardness. It felt like staring at a family member through a distorted mirror. All we managed was a short talk, telling each other where we were from and our favorite writers, before Jim begged off and left.

I sat at the same table for the next two days hoping the soon-to-be self-proclaimed Lizard King—his favorite nickname, about fear and the irrational—would show up. On the third day, I had just entered the canteen when I noticed Jim sitting with some other people. One was Ray Manzarek. The future Doors co-founder, with his long blond hair and sideburns, was unmistakable. I didn’t recognize the two others, but they seemed to be having a good time. Both Jim and Ray were bursting with energy and enthusiasm. I grabbed my meal and quickly sat at a nearby table. Simply sharing the same room with them made me glad.

My duties at the harbor kept me away for more than a week, but I was confident that I could meet Morrison again, now that I had a vague idea of his schedule.

One Thursday, I was absently munching some raw vegetables when he showed up at my table.

Hey,” he said. I caught a glimpse the charismatic man he’d become.

Long time no see, Jimmy.”

He shrugged. “Been busy.”

I see,” I grinned. “Where’s your friend Ray? He’s a fine musician!”

Morrison was surprised. “You know him?”

For a split second, I wondered if I had exposed myself. The future kept appearing in fragments, yet I knew more than anybody else. “He plays with Rick and the Ravens, right?” I improvised, grasping at something that sounded true.

Morrison nodded and looked pleased. “They’re playing downtown tomorrow night!” He mentioned the venue. It didn’t sound familiar.

Will you be there?” I asked.

Yes. And you?”

I finished chewing my zucchini, then nodded. “I think so.” I looked at him. “Maybe, you can sing something with them?”

He chuckled, his cheeks reddening. “Are you crazy? I can’t sing.”

I shrugged back. “You never know.”

The pub was crammed and the musicians on the small, half broken stage were mostly ignored by the drinking patrons. All the food and beer weren’t enough to overcome the smell of cheap paint. Yet, Manzarek and his brothers put on a decent set, playing blues classics and rock’n’roll hits.

I arrived early and got a seat at the bar, to make sure I had a good view of the stage. I kept glancing around. There were many slightly overweight, curly-haired boys, but none was Jim Morrison.

I ordered another beer and sipped it slowly, letting the flavor persist on my tongue. Even if the future rock star didn’t show up, I was having a good time. During a break, I started chatting with the waitress. She was a short brunette with bright blue eyes, kind enough to laugh at my jokes. She told me her name was Gemma.

I had just waved at her to get another beer when Manzarek announced a guest. I was unsurprised when Jimmy, his legs trembling slightly, climbed onto the stage. He blushed as the musicians started up and he waited for his cue to sing. What followed was a decent rendition of “Louie, Louie,” during which the new vocalist looked both thrilled and happy.

Once he left the stage, I joined him.

Didn’t you tell me you couldn’t sing?”

He smiled, his eyes sparkling. “Like you said. You never know.”

It became clear it was too early in Jim Morrison’s career to have him sing a proper, unique concert. His songs were probably still stray notes in his notebook, and he probably wasn’t dreaming about a career as a musician yet.

Even though I was dutiful and attended every single Rick and the Ravens gig, Jimmy didn’t. Every night I became less concerned about the music and more about Gemma. Once, she told me when her shift ended, so I suggested a date. She accepted with a delighted, glowing smile.

We kissed the first time on the bridge where I’d been sleeping rough in my first days in town. Stars shimmered in the night sky and the gurgling water below made it a perfect moment. When, later, I confessed to her about my recent move, it felt like a step forward in our relationship. She understood how hard life could be, and she wanted to share it with me.

After we made love the first time, I started doubting I had ever had a different life, before, in that other time. This one was the only one that mattered.

One day I helped a coworker repair his garage. I’m not sure if it was thanks to my grasp of some future knowledge, or simply because I had a knack for engineering, but we did such a good job that we soon switched to construction. In a few months, I was able to start my own company and one year later I had ten people working for me.

In January, with a billboard of the first Doors record standing high above Sunset Strip, I asked Gemma to marry me and she said yes. Neither of us had much family, so it was a small ceremony I will always remember for the aroma of roses, freshly baked bread, and vanilla.

With an eye on my former mission, knowing that the Doors were on tour there, I suggested a trip to New York for our honeymoon.

We spent a full week sightseeing, alternating between skyscrapers and trendy venues. Here and there, I received hints about how the city would eventually turn out. I shivered when a local guide mentioned the amazing Twin Towers of the World Trade Center that were currently under construction. Gemma asked me what was wrong, but I dismissed it. International terrorism and its aftermath were still far ahead in the future.

On our last day in Manhattan, we managed to find the club where the Doors were playing. Gemma enjoyed the music and commented on how much Jimmy had changed. Gone was the plump, clumsy boy, leaving room for the rock’n’roll shaman people would remember for decades.

After the show, the band hung around the bar. I saw Morrison and called to him.

Hey,” he said. “Long time, no see, Chuck.”

I introduced Gemma to him. Like me, she was enchanted by Jimmy’s charisma. Soon he was surrounded by young women vying for his attention. He grinned, muttered an apology, and left hugging his fans.

That night, after making love in our hotel room, I wondered whether I should tell my wife everything. But I held back because I had no proof beyond my own, changing memories. And Jimmy, with his shining talent and personality, didn’t need me as a follower more than I needed a private performance. I even started doubting that the shadowy figure’s threat—me being erased from existence if I didn’t deliver the prizewas even real.

Back in L.A., my company kept growing. I had an eye for new building techniques, cutting edge materials, and innovative practices. I continued to get new work and was eventually asked to build my first skyscraper.

The moment I signed the deal, “Light My Fire” started blaring on the radio. It was a good sign.

The next day, Gemma told me she was pregnant.

My happiness was so broad I could almost touch it.

Then came the unexpected telephone call that pierced the first hole in that perfect, shiny glass that was now my life. From there on, cracks started appearing.

An inquiry from local police grew into a CIA investigation. A black car came to pick me up, smelling like antiseptic and mint; I couldn’t have been more clueless about my destiny.

Evidently, my company had been growing so fast it drew the attention of local authorities. Upon further examination, I realized I had my workers using tech and materials ahead of time. Too much ahead of time. One chemical compound in particular was suspiciously similar to something being developed by the Russians.

I knew explaining I was from the future and that I had retained some awareness of future tech advancements wouldn’t do me any good. It was an even more unlikely explanation than me simply being a traitor of the country.

But there wasn’t enough proof of my misdeeds, so I was simply held in a cheap motel. Every so often, an agent would show up at the door to bring me meals or lead me back to the interrogation room. I wasn’t under arrest, yet I wasn’t free to leave. They had found out about my bribes to be admitted to UCLA, which made them more suspicious.

Months passed, during which I was barely allowed to call my wife or my company. My son Jimmy was born without me being able to see him. On TV, the original Jimmy, Morrison, appeared live on The Ed Sullivan Show. The band challenged the censors by keeping the word “high” in the lyrics of “Light my Fire.” It wasn’t something that was well-known, but I knew about it.

The CIA investigation ended up with nothing, so, finally, thanks to a good lawyer and threatening to tell the press about my illicit detention, I was finally released. A pretty brunette with a newborn in her arms was waiting for me near a taxi outside the main door of the building.

I smiled at her and asked if I could help.

Tears filled Gemma’s eyes as my mind lurched back onto its rails.

I had forgotten about her.

I knew everything about how Jim Morrison’s career would continue, yet something had, for a short time, canceled out any memory of my own family.

The glass was cracking badly, now.

I’m sick, honey.” Once home, I confessed to my wife. “Disconnected wires in my brain somewhere.”

We had put our cute Jimmy to sleep, but being in the comfort of our house didn’t make our bed less eerily cold.

Did they do something to you?” she wondered. “The CIA, I mean?”

I shook my head. “This goes way back to college,” I explained, and gave her a sanitized version of the truth. “Mostly fake memories and weird dreams. It’s not something that can be cured. It’s just… there.”

She hugged me hard, and we laid in the shadows until we both fell into a deep sleep.

Mine was restless. I kept wandering through the huge record store, looking for the figure in the shadow. Here and there, I heard their creepy, inhuman voice reminding me how failure would mean fading into nothing.

The next day, torn between fear and incredulity, I delegated most of my work at the company and started doing research about the Doors; where they had played, where they would play next. I finally determined the easiest place to meet Jim would probably be in Miami on March 1, 1969. I had a few friends I used to work with at the Port who were now involved in the music business in Florida.

As I packed, something started feeling wrong. I couldn’t track it down to anything specific. With two hit singles and a few albums so far, the Doors were skyrocketing. Why was I worried?

I decided that it had to do with his early death. Even though my glimpses of the future were blurry, I knew that Jim Morrison would die at 27, becoming a member of what would later be known as the infamous Club 27. That was just two years from now, but getting close to a famous rock star would become harder and harder. So, now I had a ticking clock.

A long chat one evening with Gemma wasn’t enough to convince her I should go on my own. I explained to her how my illness didn’t affect my body—which was true. As I kept speaking, her eyes grew wet. I was finally able to persuade her, but more because she knew that I’d do it anyway. She could read in my eyes that I loved her more than anything else in the past, present, or future.

Arriving at the concert venue, I found out it was already overcrowded. I contacted my local friends and, after some fast talking and some money changing hands, I managed to get backstage.

I talked with the band and the crew only to find out Morrison was late. Through half muttered comments, I learned he had turned to drugs and drinking. I couldn’t believe that. Jimmy was a good guy.

I offered to assist with stage set up. Everybody was nervous as they heard the news of the excess of tickets sold, and the noise of the impatient audience reached us. When I finally sat on the stairs to have a beer with a pissed off John Densmore, the drummer, I didn’t know what to think.

Suddenly, a shadowy figure sneaked in through a back door. My heart missed a beat. I realized the darkness hadn’t left Jimmy as I caught sight of the strange black hat, with a broad brim and a skull and crossbones front-and-center, with which he hid his bearded face and the deep eye bags. Everybody ignored me while the band did its best to get ready for the concert.

Backstage, I heard moans and grunts from the audience. The usual cheerfulness of a Doors concert had left the room to cruel buzzes. Jimmy sang half the first song and stopped in the middle to lecture about freedom and fun while the band continued playing. I didn’t think a man could speak about those topics in such a somber tone.

I moved to the side of the stage, sinking into a gap between all the equipment from which I could get a proper view of the stage. Meanwhile, Morrison had taken off his hat and shirt. Manzarek and the others tried to hide it, but they looked worried. Menacing rumbles emanated from the audience.

Then, so many weird things happened at once that I lost track. Someone offered Jimmy a goat, he took it and cradled it, looking silly. A policeman in the first row got too close, so Jimmy grabbed his hat and tossed it to the audience. The Lizard King kept babbling about changing the world and began inviting people on stage. As members of the audience hopped to his side the music became deafening and the air smelt like doom.

Through the noise, I barely managed to hear a guy from the crew calling my name. My wife was on the phone, it was an emergency. I rushed to the backstage office, grabbed the phone, and tried to talk to my wife, but all I heard was white noise. Confused, I strolled through the backstage area which was now crowded with policemen and high kids.

Eventually, I found a way out of the venue. I glimpsed a bare-chested Jimmy peering at the growing riots below from a high position. He looked utterly detached from the events.

My trip back was long and tiring. I didn’t stop to sleep and only made some brief stops for napping when my eyes threatened to shut, or grabbing something to eat when I stopped to gas up. It was an exhausting trip, but finally I arrived at my doorstep.

I should have guessed something was wrong when my key didn’t fit in the lock. I tried so hard that the key broke, and the door was still locked. I started ringing the doorbell, knocking, and calling my wife’s name until an angry old lady opened the door.

Who are you?” I asked her.

Who are you, sir?” she retorted.

Brief exchanges with her, as I did my best not to break up in tears, eventually made everything clear. No Gemma and no Jimmy had never lived there. The mature couple from Boston owned the flat and had lived there for years. Further checking made me realize that my company still existed, yet my employees swore I was single. The glass was breaking, about to shatter into a thousand pieces.

I rushed to the pub where I’d first met Gemma. I sat at a table and ordered some coffee, trying to think. The waitress told me that no one named Gemma had ever worked there. I thought I heard wicked cackle from a shadowy figure. Today, my wife and son, tomorrow—if I didn’t manage to get Jimmy to sing for me—myself.

Could I reverse it? Maybe.

I took a drink of the strong coffee. It burned my tongue, reminding me I was still alive.

I would try. It was better than letting oblivion overcome me without doing anything.

Through my coworkers, I figured out where I lived. I turned the house into a fortress, only coming and going from local libraries when I wasn’t making phone calls all over the country. With my foreknowledge, I knew there would be different, quicker ways to do research, yet this was my time, now, and I had to fight with the weapons I had at hand.

It took me a few months to learn the full extent of the aftermath of the Miami concert. Jimmy’s movements in the US were restricted after he’d been charged for exposing himself—or pretending to—and profanity. I made friends with Manzarek during my frequent visits looking for Jimmy. Ray hadn’t seen him in weeks.

After the trial in Miami, Jimmy was even more unreachable. He was controlled day and night, partly to assist him, partly to prevent him from harming himself. He did TV interviews but slipped away afterward, as though he had turned into a sneaky shadow.

The day he was found guilty, the court freed him on bail until the appeal and a mutual friend finally revealed the address of the house he and his girlfriend Pam were renting in Paris. I had never been to Europe, but I bought a ticket and made arrangements for the trip.

I phoned my company one more time from the airport, to make sure everything was all right. A mailing office replied. As expected, there had never been a company named with my initials. It was likely the skyscraper I had built was the work of someone else, now. It hurt, but not as much as losing my family. I focused on the belief I could still turn things around with my final efforts.

My first days in Paris weren’t as disorienting as my arrival at UCLA. I was older, more experienced with this past world, and I had been smart enough to keep some cash reserved. I settled into a hotel room, got cleaned up, and tried to hide all the frustration and pain of my imploding life. Eventually, I started wandering through the charming boulevard, plazas, and monuments.

On my fifth day in Europe, I found Jimmy in a cafe. He was alone, clean shaven with his hair combed. His eyes were veiled with sadness, a feeling underlined by his stillness, as he looked at the people passing by; a decadent gargoyle somewhat aware these might be his last days.

Afraid of missing the opportunity, I stepped closer. His gaze focused on me the moment I put my hand on the free chair. There was a flash of recognition.

Oh, hey,” Jimmy said.

May I sit with you?”

Jimmy shrugged in reply.

How’s your life here in Paris?” I began, unable to think of anything better.

I’ve seen worse,” Jimmy replied. Then, with a pale smile, he waved at the waiter.

Fancy a beer?”

Sure.”

Silence fell until our drinks arrived. The waiter left us alone.

What brings you here, fellow American?” Jimmy asked.

I stifled a chuckle. “You, of course,” I said, meeting his gaze. “I don’t want to sound like a creep, but I’ve been trying to see you since Miami. I was there, too, but you probably don’t remember.”

Jimmy waved his hand in dismissal. “Everybody has a bad day.”

I smirked. “But not everybody gets their mistakes advertised worldwide.” I was trying to captivate him, yet I spoke from the heart.

My remark seemed to catch Jimmy’s interest. He took one last big drink from his bottle before putting it down. His back was straight and he tilted his head in my direction.

Who are you?”

You want the long, unbelievable story,” I said, after a sigh, “or the short, acceptable version?”

Jimmy grinned. “What do you think?”

So, I told him everything. From the acid trip that had slammed open my own, uncanny doors to my future-past self to my new life and the way it was vanishing, splinter by splinter. We ordered more beer, and we drank, yet my words kept flowing, sober and clear. Jimmy listened with that piercing gaze of his, pupils dancing as if he was rummaging deep in my soul.

That’s it?” he said, in the end. “All you need is a private performance from yours truly?”

He hadn’t said anything about believing—or not believing—my story. There was a chance he’d simply enjoyed it as a tall tale, compelling, heartfelt, probably tear jerking.

Yes,” I said, weighing every letter. “That would save me.”

Jimmy raised a finger, his lips slightly pursed. “I have a condition.”

Please.”

Remember me as a human being,” he said. “Remember me as someone who struggled with creativity, someone who had something to say.” He sniffed; his eyes wet. “And as someone who tried to do his best.”

Back at my hotel, after Jim Morrison had sung for me, recited poetry, and opened his soul in a stunning, lifechanging experience, the concierge called my room to tell me someone had called.

Gemma.

Life has been good to me. I’ve had children and grandchildren, a lasting marriage, and a satisfying job. After retiring, leaving the reins of the company to my daughter-in-law, Gemma and I moved to Paris. In our last, serene days together, we strolled across the boulevards and plazas of one of the most beautiful cities in the world. At every cafe, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Jimmy. He is gone, but my memory of him will never fade.

Gemma is now buried at Père-Lachaise, not far from the man whose simple existence took me back in time to live a much more fulfilling life. It was my last gift to her, giving a purpose to my now broad influence. I believe, under the moonlight, Gemma and Jimmy get together for a drink and talk about the good old days.

With the help of my children, I’m now back at the record store where it all began. I kiss my daughter goodbye, as I step out the car in front of the main entrance. I wipe a tear from her eye and tell her to be good. She hands me my cane, before I forget it.

It is February 17, 2018.

I limp between the stacked records, finding them just as I remember. Along the edge, the record shop clerk is still a mysterious, genderless being shrouded in darkness. White teeth flicker in the shadow.

You did it.”

I grunt. “I don’t think you ever doubted it.”

The clerk offers me a seat at a table. Now that I’m closer, I realize they’re wearing a black T-shirt. It shows all the bands who made 20th century music great, none of them at the same time. Awed, I look away.

Chilly as a breeze, the clerk settles metal earphones around my bald head. The touch is soft, but I experience a soft shock.

The T-shirt now depicts the cover of the first Doors album with fine, almost impossible details.

Seems fitting,” I confess.

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