Bobby chuckled at the absurdity of this. Dead as a doornail. Who cares? Who cares now? He was a goner. This was the end of it all. Bobby stopped chuckling and looked serious. Ah, wait a second. Supposedly time slows down but this is ridiculous. Haven't a couple of seconds gone by? That car should have slammed into me by now.
He opened one eye. He looked but what he was looking at didn't register. He opened both eyes. He stared perplexed at what he saw. Was he hallucinating? Was he already dead? This didn't make any sense. Bobby looked around. Yep, here he was, sitting in the driver's seat of his Toyota Corolla. There was the dashboard. He was holding onto the steering wheel. His right foot was on the accelerator.
He turned back to his left and looked out the driver's door window. He was looking at the front grill of some humongous sports utility vehicle. It was so freakin' large, it took up his entire field of vision. Heck, was that a car? It could be a truck for cryin' out loud; one of those semi-trailer trucks. Why in heaven's name did people buy such large vehicles? Are we compensating for a small penis or something?
Bobby smiled for a moment. Then it hit him. What the hell? The SUV wasn't moving. It was frozen a couple of feet from the side of his car. Bobby looked down at the front bumper and carefully looked at it in relation to the road. After a second he confirmed that nope, it wasn't moving. Did the owner manage to brake at the last second? Whew, that would be a relief. God, what a close call. Man, the guys back at the office are gunna freak when I tell them how close I came to being killed.
Bobby grinned. Who doesn't grin when they realise that Lady Luck has smiled upon them and they have managed to walk away from a potential accident, a potentially lethal one at that. Bobby stared at the grill of the SUV. Holy crap, that vehicle is so big; it would crush a Corolla like it was an egg. Splat. And the yoke's on me. Whew. I must be the luckiest goddamn guy in the world.
Bobby turned to his right and looked out the passenger windows. Everything was still. Nothing was moving. He turned around and started looking in every direction, out the front, out the back, to the right, to the left. Yep nothing was moving. And what he now started to think was odd, there wasn't one person. You would think that somebody would have gotten out of their car to have found out what was going on. Was he dead or hallucinating? This was too weird and he didn't have the foggiest idea of what was going on.
Now what? Bobby turned back in his seat and just sat there with both hands on the steering wheel. He stared at the speedometer in the dashboard straight ahead of him. He wasn't staring at the speedometer to look at his speed, although the needle was up to 50 mph, he was just staring off into space as he wondered about the rational explanation for this situation and what he was going to do. Yep, this one was bizarre and no he couldn't think of any other incident in his entire life which would even remotely compare to this.
Suddenly Bobby's eyes focused on the needle in the speedometer. Fifty miles per hour. He looked out the driver's window down at the ground. He wasn't moving. He looked back at the speedometer. How was this possible? He furrowed his brow trying desperately to figure out how any of this could be happening but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't come up with anything which would logically explain what he was looking at. What to do? Okay, how about getting out and surveying the scene.
Turning his head to the driver's side window, Bobby looked down at the front bumper of the SUV. It was close, damn close to the side of the car. He tried to judge the distance wondering if he could get the door open. Hmmm, even if he could get the door open, was he going to be able to squeeze through the narrow gap? Maybe the better thing to do would be to go out on the passenger's side. Of course, he'd have to climb over the console but what the hey?
Bobby looked out the window on the passenger side. There didn't seem to be anything there blocking the door. At this stage of the game, what did he have to lose? He unbuckled his safety belt and was turning in his seat when he heard a noise outside. He stopped and listened. It had been dead silent but now there was no mistaking it, he could hear the sound of footsteps. But the footsteps didn't sound like what he would have expected to hear in the middle of a traffic intersection. After all, this was an asphalt road and there was no way a shoe step would sound like that on asphalt. This sounded more like a shoe on a hard floor like linoleum or tile. There was that distinctive click of the heel on a hard surface.
Turning his head, Bobby craned his neck to look back. He wasn't sure but the sound of the steps seemed to be coming from behind the car over on the passenger side. The steps were getting louder but he couldn't see anything. What the heck was going on? Who could this possibly be?
Suddenly Bobby saw the silhouette of a figure walk beside the car from the back towards the front. The figure stopped and the car door was opened from the outside. The head of a man appeared in the open door and looked at him. "Bobby Harris?"
Was Bobby more stunned than puzzled? It was hard to say but he looked at the man silently for a moment before saying hesitantly, "Ah, yes."
"I don't think you have enough room on the other side to get out. I think the front bumper is too close to the door. How about you scoot across the seat and get out here?" The man smiled. "Now watch yourself on the console. Don't get yourself caught on the stick." The head disappeared and Bobby could see the man push the door completely open then take a step back. Bobby hesitated. Just what the heck was going on? Who was this guy?
The man bent over so his head was visible in the opening again. "Coming?"
Bobby said, "Yes" and proceeded to climb over the console of his car. He fumbled a bit in the close quarters getting over the console and avoiding the stick. It occurred to Bobby that the stick was in the Drive position. Once again the thought flashed by about driving through the intersection. But now, he wasn't moving. What had happened?
Putting one hand on the door of the car and the other on the edge of the passenger seat, Bobby stepped out of the car and stood up. The man had taken a step back and was smiling at him. Bobby didn't recognise him and wondered who he was. The police? A rescue worker? A passer-by? The man was wearing a suit so that would seem to indicate he wasn't someone of an official capacity. But suddenly Bobby looked around and furrowed his brow. What the heck?
Booby stood beside the car with one hand still on the top of the open door. He slowly turned his head looking around. Everything was white. There was nothing but white. There was no intersection, no other cars, and no landscape. It was all just white. He looked down at his left hand and yes, it was gripping the top of the car door. Yes, the car door was there but everything else was white.
"I'm sorry. You must be discombobulated." The man's voice had a pleasant friendly tone to it.
Bobby looked towards the front of the car but it wasn't there. Bobby half turned and looked at the door. He could see the open doorway to the interior of the car and the open door itself but the rest of the car just wasn't there at all. It was just white. Bobby bent down and looked back inside the car. The interior was there, the seats, the steering wheel, and the dashboard. Bobby looked out the driver window and the grill of the SUV was still visible only a couple of feet from the side of his Corolla. He stood up and looked but there was no roof of the car. From the edge of the open doorway, there was only white. The outside of the car didn't exist. He looked around and it was as if the open door of the car was there hanging in the middle of space, in the middle of this white. Looking down, he couldn't see any ground just this same white. He picked up his feet one and after another and shuffled slightly on whatever he was standing on. It felt solid but it looked like more of this white, more of this sameness that seemed to be everywhere.
"Where am I?" Bobby didn't address the man. He asked his question while he was facing the car looking down at the ground. "Am I dead?"
"No, you're not dead." The man sounded quite matter of fact. "But how about we move along? I'll try to answer your questions but there is no point in hanging around here." The man paused waiting for Bobby to turn around.
Bobby slowly turned around and faced the man. He was standing there smiling at Bobby. Bobby glanced to the left and right perplexed by the whiteness, this lack of scenery, this lack of anything. "Where am I? Who are you?"
"This is a forty-second dimensional time break. It is a necessary part of doing a reset." The man kept smiling. "You can call me Mike." The man extended a hand towards Bobby.
Bobby stood still looking at the man's hand. After a moment, Mike raised an eyebrow and moved his hand slightly in a gesture indicating that Bobby should shake it. Tentatively Bobby reached out to the man's hand. Mike seized Bobby's hand and shook it with enthusiastic friendliness.
"There now. Hello Bobby." Mike spoke with cheeriness. "Now let's move on, shall we?" He took a step to the door of the car. "Would you mind stepping away from the vehicle?" The man held out his left arm gesturing away from the car indicating he wanted Bobby to step away. Bobby hesitated for a moment then took two steps and turned around.
"Great," said Mike. Bobby saw Mike push the top of the car door and it swung close. There was an audible click as the door closed into the car frame then there was nothing, just white. Bobby looked and the door opening had vanished. In fact, there was no longer any indication there had been a car there at all. There was just this white without any distinguishing features.
"Shall we go?" Mike held out his hand in the direction behind Bobby. He continued to smile. After waiting a moment, Mike dropped his arm and started to walk. After a few steps, he stopped and looked back at Bobby who had turned to look at him. "Coming?" Mike smiled pleasantly. His voice was friendly.
Bobby followed and the two men walked together. Bobby looked around. While they were walking and had the appearance of moving, everything around them was white without form and without feature. "I've got to be dead." Bobby kept moving his head around trying to see something, trying to see anything. "Either that or I've been hurt badly and I am unconscious and dreaming." Bobby looked behind them and saw only white. "Maybe I'm delirious and hallucinating. Is this what happens when they drug you up with morphine or something?"
Mike looked at Bobby and chuckled. "I assure you, none of that has happened. Yet. But we'll get to that in all due course." Mike kept walking. He walked in an assured manner so he seemed to know what he was doing. He seemed to know where they were going.
"I had to reset the scenario as things had gotten mucked up. Through no fault of my own, mind you." Mike had raised his hand with his index finger out to emphasize his point. "There is always an element of chaos even in deterministic systems." Mike looked at Bobby.
Bobby had a perplexed look. What the heck is he babbling about? Who is he? And where am I?
The man looked forward and continued to walk. "You like to think you've got things set out with mathematical precision but unfortunately precision itself is more of a concept than a reality. You do your best to get as close as possible to perfection but as the old saying goes, nothing is perfect. Consequently unexpected deviations from the original model crop up from time to time and you have to step in and make a correction."
Bobby looked at Mike. "Who are you?"
Mike looked startled. "I'm Mike." The two men continued walk along beside each other.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. You're Mike." Bobby sounded a little exasperated. "But where the hell am I? What is this place? And who are you? Really, who are you?"
Mike was silent for a moment as if he was mulling over how to best respond. Suddenly he stopped walking. Bobby took a couple of steps before he realised that Mike had stopped. He stopped and turned back to face Mike.
Mike looked Bobby in the eye with a serious expression. "As I explained before, this is a forty-second dimensional time break. It is a necessary consequence of wanting to do a reset. I am an intervener and I am here to guide you through the process." Mike looked at Bobby with a raised eyebrow as if to say, "There, did you get that?" Of course he knew full well that Bobby would have no idea of what he was talking about and he'd have to launch into another one of his many analogies, metaphors, or tall tales to try to impart to the uninitiated just how the universe worked.
Bobby stood there with a look of total incomprehension. Mike sighed and took the two steps separating the two men. He took Bobby's arm, turned him around and half pulled him forward to get the two of them walking again. As Bobby walked he kept his head turned and was staring at Mike.
Finally Bobby talked but sounded again like he was exasperated. "What are you babbling about?"
Mike didn't look at Bobby but continued to look forward as they walked. He shook his head and quietly said out loud, more to himself than to Bobby, "I don't know why I bother."
There was another moment of silence as Bobby stared at Mike with a quizzical expression. Finally Bobby said, "What?"
Mike looked at Bobby and smiled. "Sorry, I was talking to myself."
Bobby furrowed his brow. "You're not going to answer any of my questions, are you?"
Mike shrugged. "It's not that. It's a question of whether you're going to understand what I'm telling you. After all, would you explain nuclear physics to a dog?"
"What?" Bobby looked both puzzled and irritated. "What does that have to do with anything?"
"Well, would you try to explain nuclear physics to a dog? Would you? What do you think your chances would be of getting a dog to grasp the fundamental principles of the atom? What's an electron? A proton? A quark?" Suddenly Mike looked off in the distance with a concerned look on his face and spoke not to Booby, but as if he was thinking out loud. "Those quarks are the oddest things. I still wonder why we couldn't have come up with a better idea."
Bobby took note of Mike's lost in thought look. "Focus, Mike, focus." Bobby reached up and snapped his fingers in front of Mike's face. "Would you mind coming back to me and my little dilemma?"
Mike shook his head slightly and turned to Booby and smiled. "Sorry. Now let's see, where were we?"
"You were telling me about some forty-second thingamajig. But admittedly, I didn't quite get it. After all, I am only a dog."
Mike rolled his eyes. "Hey, don't take it personal. It was the best analogy I could come up with on the spur of the moment. You want me to refer to you as a cow or a fish or some other lower life form like an insect or an amoeba?"
"Couldn't you just say I may not be smart enough to grasp something which requires an advanced degree like a Ph.D.?"
Mike thought for a moment. "Nope. I think my dog analogy is a better one. Your schools don't even come close to what's necessary to understand these ideas."
Bobby took a deep breath as he tried to muster his patience. "And just what ideas might they be, Michael?"
Mike turned to look at Bobby trying to discern any hidden meaning in Bobby's words. "You can call me Mike. No need for supposed formality."
Bobby looked away and exhaled in a loud manner to express his frustration. Either Mike didn't understand that his use of the formal "Michael" was meant as an admonishment or Mike was choosing to ignore him. He reached up with one hand and absentmindedly rubbed his forehead. "Yes, I've died. But this isn't heaven."
Mike chuckled. "At least you're keeping a sense of humour about all this."
Bobby looked at Mike with a wry smile.
"Okay, okay," said Mike. "I'll try and break it down for you in a way that…"
"A dog could understand?" Bobby had raised an eyebrow to emphasize his question but now had a smile of disdain.
Mike ignored him. "Yes. The problem here is that your accident is wrong."
Bobby now looked puzzled.
Mike noted Bobby's reaction. "Yes, it's wrong. Well, it's not completely wrong, but some deviations to the original model have now inadvertently introduced a subtle variation which is going to snowball into things I never intended."
Bobby slowed his steps while Mike kept walking at the same pace. Mike pulled ahead a bit before he noticed that Bobby was no longer walking beside him. Mike stopped and turned around. "What?"
Bobby now stopped walking and was standing there staring at Mike with a rather confused look on his face. "What are you talking about?"
Mike looked at Bobby thoughtfully. It was obvious he was thinking, trying to figure out how to respond. How does one explain nuclear physics to a dog?
"It's like this," Mike said as he walked back to Bobby then went by him. Bobby turned around to follow Mike and was stunned to see a rectangular table. It hadn't been there before but now, magically, there it was. Bobby looked around to see if anything had changed but no, the two of them were completely surrounded by this nondescript whiteness. Mike motioned to Bobby. "It's like this."
Bobby stepped forward and suddenly saw in the middle of the table a row of dominoes all standing up on one end. Mike pointed to the dominoes. "I'm sure you are familiar with this idea. Knock down the first domino and the rest fall down one after another. The various events are linked to one another. But what if…?" Mike reached into the middle of the line of dominoes and carefully displaced three of the dominoes. As Bobby looked, Mike placed the three pieces in a way that led in another direction. Then Mike walked to the end of the table. "Watch." Mike pushed the first domino and it fell over hitting the second domino which toppled then hit the third and so on. Bobby followed the dominoes until toppling arrived in the middle. Each of the three displaced dominoes fell over as expected but the last one, now positioned away from the next domino fell over but did nothing to continue the chain of falling dominoes. The rippling event had come to a halt early and did not continue to the end of the line of dominoes.
Mike pointed to the middle dominoes. "That's your accident." Mike reached over and touched the last domino of the displaced group of three. "As you can see, it has been displaced and this event comes to a dead halt. It fails to affect the next domino in the line."
Bobby looked at the domino Mike was touching. He looked up at Mike. He looked back down at the domino. From the expression on his face, it was apparent his mind was going a mile a minute trying to sort out what Mike just said and connect it back to his own circumstances. It didn't seem to make any sense. Or did it?
"Are you God?" asked Bobby.
Mike chuckled. "Oh no." Mike thought a second then burst into a grin. "Should I say, 'Oh hell no?'" Mike laughed. "Although, I did set this up. As a matter of fact, I thought I had done a pretty good job if I do say so myself." Mike looked at Bobby with a conspiratorial grin. "And I do!" Mike waved a finger at Bobby.
Mike took a step back and waved his arm towards the line of dominoes. "I set this all up. I planned it, executed it, and stood over it to make sure I hadn't made any mistakes. Unfortunately, stuff happens. As you can see from my dominoes experiment, if you fiddle with the positioning of some of the dominoes, you can bring the whole event series to a dead halt. That certainly isn't the way I planned it."
Bobby's eyes moved around as he tried to grasp what Mike had just told him. "You mean the last domino is me. It's my accident."
"But you end up dead. You weren't supposed to die. You were supposed to live. You were supposed to go on and push the next domino in the series. But if you're dead like the last domino, you have been displaced from the event series and are unable to play your part in the continuation of the series."
"You're not God."
"Nope." Mike stood there with an amused smile.
"I'm just a builder. I like to put stuff together."
Bobby furrowed his brow. He wasn't making any sense of any of this and he thought he was starting to get a headache. "I'm positive now I'm all doped up in a hospital someplace and I'm in a full body cast. You are a hallucination caused by the pain medication. I vaguely remember reading something about this with morphine."
"You wish," said Mike. "No my friend, you are not going to get morphine but you are going to feel pain. Although, it won't be fatal."
Mike came from around the table and started to walk towards Bobby. He pointed behind Bobby. "What I did was to set up a scenario."
Bobby turned to follow where Mike was pointing. There was another table. It wasn't there before. Bobby turned back only to discover the table which had the dominoes was no longer there. It had disappeared. While Bobby was startled, he was beginning to accept this as normal. Normal? Nothing had been normal since he opened his eyes in his car and had discovered that the world had stopped.
Mike said, "Look at this."
Bobby walked over. The table had an aquarium in the middle of it. Mike looked at Bobby while gesturing towards the tank. "I set up the scenario, an environment if you will, where you thrive. There is some randomness in any situation but for the most part I can foresee the eventualities and plan accordingly. Such is the nature with my stuff."
Bobby stared at the tank trying to make sense of anything Mike was saying. "Your stuff?"
"Well, it is my stuff. Technically it's my stuff. But let's face it; it's all part of the system at the end of the day."
Bobby had this puzzled look on his face. "Are you talking about the Earth?"
Mike looked a little surprised. "Why yes. And the surrounding sector which obviously contains your solar system."
"Of course," said Bobby. He said this matter-of-factly but really meant this to be more sarcastic. If Mike got this, he didn't let on.
Mike pointed to the aquarium. "I set this up."
"Ah, yeah, but what I meant was for this to be a metaphor."
Mike looked at Bobby. Was he dense? Was this going to be an uphill battle? Then again did it really matter? It wasn't like Bobby had a say in any of this. It was going to happen according to plan whether Bobby liked it or not.
Mike pointed to the fish tank and held the tip of his index finger against the glass. "This is Earth." Mike glanced at the tank and noticed a tropical fish swim by the end of his finger. "That is you." Mike chuckled then reached behind the aquarium and pulled out a glass bowl and a little fish net. Mike dipped the bowl in the top of the tank and scooped up some water. He then stuck the net into the tank. Mike bent down and looked around for the same tropical fish. Spying it, he said, "Gotcha!" as he managed to sweep the net around the fish and pull it up. He set down the bowl in front of the aquarium then used both hands to turn the net over the bowl grasping part of the net with one hand and shaking it to make sure the fish fell out in the bowl. Mike held the bowl up with the fish. "Ta-da!"
Bobby had watched all this with a bemused look. Now he looked at Mike and said, "The aquarium is the Earth and you just plucked me off it."
Mike held the bowl with something akin to pride. "Something like that. I needed to reset the scene and due to the oddity introduced by sheer randomness, I had to actually remove you from the scene to perform the necessary modifications."
"I was going to die and you didn't want me to die."
Mike his head. "In a nutshell, yes. I am now rearranging things and am going to put you back in the game as it were."
"But you're not God."
"No. Well, not in the way you mean, I'd say. You folks have some pretty primitive ideas when it comes to the way the world works. Or should I say how the universe works?" Mike chuckles at his bon mot. "Let me show you something. Mike started to walk and motioned to Bobby to come along. After a few paces, Bobby turned around and saw that the table with the aquarium was gone. He thought that it no longer seemed all that strange.
When Bobby turned back he noticed something coming up. Without looking at him, Mike asked Bobby, "How long has it been since the dogs passed away?"
"You don't know?"
Mike chuckled and turned to Bobby. "I was just being polite. I find it more, ah, human if I ask the question and be polite. I suppose I could have just taken you out of the car and drugged you until I was ready to put you back." Mike laughed. Bobby chuckled nervously.
Mike pointed ahead of them. "Recognise this?" Bobby looked. It had been years but yes, he did. When the family had owned a couple of dogs, small dogs, Bobby used to walk them in a little park, what was actually called a parkette. The entrances had been set up with barriers to prevent people with bicycles from riding through the parkette. Each barrier consisted of two arcs, inverted U's at the height of one's waist made out of a metal tube set in the concrete walkway. A pedestrian had to zigzag between the metal arcs to get into the parkette but anybody on a bicycle could not ride through. If anybody did want to take their bike into the parkette, they would have to pick it up and carry it over the barrier.
"You had a lot of fun with the dogs there," said Mike. Bobby smiled as he remembered the two small dogs. "But do you remember what you wrote about the dogs and their ability to perceive things?"
"You read that?" At one time in his life, Bobby had written some articles for an online newspaper. It was his journalist period when he thought to try his hand at writing.
"I am aware of it, yes." Mike walked over to the first arc. "You hit upon an idea which is applicable to us."
"Applicable to us?"
"In your article, you described how you took the dogs into the parkette each day and how you had to navigate these bicycle barriers. You described how the dogs would race forward pulling on their leashes anxious to get into the parkette. You said that you would follow holding the ends of the leashes with one hand. At the barrier, you would pass the leashes under the arc then grab them with the other hand so you barely had to slow down. The dogs went forward almost unimpeded by the barrier. Right?"
"Yes." Bobby was hesitant wondering where Mike was going with this.
"You pointed out that because of the size of the dogs – they were small – they could easily walk under the tubular arc. The barrier represented for them no barrier at all. In fact, they didn't notice it." Mike paused a moment to let it all sink in and give Bobby a chance to catch up with his thinking. "You noticed that first of all, you were bigger and could see the barrier and in fact were affected by it. But secondly, you noticed you were more intelligent and were aware of things the dogs weren't aware of."
"You wondered if there were things around you that you were unaware of. You wondered if there were things going on around you that you were unaware of." Mike smiled and held his arms out to each side to bring attention to himself. Booby looked at him questioningly. Mike pulled his arms in then put them back out and said, "Ta-da!"
Bobby hesitated. "Ah, you're referring to you?"
Mike looked disappointed. "Yes, me." Mike sighed. "I did say this was going to be difficult."Mike brightened a little."What I mean is that much in the same way you are the next level up from those dogs, I am the next level above you."
There was a moment of silence. "I'm a dog to you?" said Bobby.
Mike rolled his eyes. "Okay not quite. This is a metaphor, remember? Geesh, you're making it sound like you're taking this as a personal insult."
Mike shook his head. "You humans are so arrogant. You think you're God's gift to the universe. Okay, I grant you, you have potential. But right now?" Mike rolled his eyes. "Don't make me laugh."
"You brought up the dog idea. Besides, what am I supposed to think about anything you're telling me? I'm walking around, aimlessly it seems, in this white void with somebody called Mike who claims to not be God but can pull dominoes and tropical fish out of thin air. Great magic show."
Mike looked at Bobby with a sly smile. "Are you now going to ask for a card trick?" Mike held one hand up to his forehead and looked up as though he was concentrating on something. He then pointed at Bobby and said, "You are thinking of… the number 42." Mike dropped his hands and looked at Bobby. "Right?"
Bobby stood looking at Mike with a confused expression on his face. Who was this? Some wise guy? Was God a wise guy? But he said he wasn't God.
Mike saw Bobby's confusion. "Okay, you're not thinking of the number 42." Mike stepped through the barrier then gestured to Bobby to follow. "Let's continue, shall we?"
Bobby went through the barrier to Mike then the two of them started to walk together. "You said you are here to change my accident. You said that it wasn't right. Aren't you interfering? Aren't you fiddling with time?"
Mike looked at Bobby with a raised eyebrow. "Good question." Mike cleared his throat a bit. "I would say that the analogy is that I am tending my garden."
Mike shrugged. "You asked. That seems like the best way of describing it. Well, the best way in terms you would understand. I set up the garden. I tilled the soil; I put in the fertilizer; I planted the seeds. Now, from time to time, I need to step in to water the plants, pull out some weeds, or trim the leaves. Let's just say that your accident was a branch growing off in the wrong direction. I am here to trim it a bit and get it back growing in the right direction."
"But you're not God."
"Listen, you people have some really confused ideas about God. Some omnipotent bearded man looking down from above and talking to you personally."
"Aren't you talking to me?"
"I'm not God. Well, I'm not God in the way you think God is supposed to be."
"So just what is God supposed to be? What are you?"
"I am a being. I am a few levels up from you. In the same way you exist above a dog, I exist above you."
"Are you saying I'm an animal?"
"Aren't you?" Mike looked at Bobby quizzically. "You yourselves define humans as animals."
"Yes, but you seem to be presenting it as though we're not that intelligent."
Mike chuckled. "Well, you are a legend in your own mind. Your species has a tendency of seeing itself greater than it really is. You think you're king of the hill not realizing there are other hills, bigger hills, elsewhere in the galaxy and you truly are a small fish."
"Why bother with us?"
"This is my garden and I'm trying to tend to it."
"But if we are so insignificant, why do you talk to us? Why are you bothering to talk to me right now?"
"You talked with your dogs. Why? Did you think they understood you?"
Bobby remained silent.
"Of course not, but you talked with them anyways. And we could argue that you and your dogs did communicate on some level. Obviously a very rudimentary level but you did communicate. Picture that as the same with us. Although I have the ability to talk down to your level but you can't talk up to my level."
Bobby scratched his head and looked around. He had no idea of what Mike was really talking about but because of what was happening, walking in the white void, the random appearance of various props for discussion points, he had to assume Mike was speaking the truth. Unless this was all a dream or a hallucination.
"It's not a hallucination," Mike said.
Bobby looked at Mike with a surprised look. "Can you read my mind?"
"Hmph. Like I need to read your mind to understand that perplexed look on your face."
"Well, here we are." Mike gently grabbed Bobby's arm and pulled him to a stop. Just then Bobby noticed the vague image of a car door to the left. It wasn't quite visible, more like a washed out grey. Mike took a step to it and pulled open the door handle. The greyish door swung out revealing the interior of the car which looked totally visible and quite clear. "How about you hop back in and we'll get this show on the road so to speak."
Bobby looked at Mike askance. He didn't know what to make of Mike. God? Superior alien life form? Mike's off the cuff remarks using slang or idiomatic references was a bit disconcerting. Whoever or whatever he was, he was intimately familiar with Bobby, his life, and the entire planet. "Aren't you afraid I will tell people about you?"
Mike looked at Bobby a little startled as if Bobby had caught him unawares. Then Mike chuckled. "Think about it, Bobby. You're going to tell people about our little meeting. Can you imagine what anybody is going to make of this? Heck, they'll either think you're on drugs or you've flipped. Either way they'll be dialing 9-1-1 to get the paramedics over as quickly as possible to sedate you. And put a stick in your mouth so you don't swallow your tongue." Mike was now laughing quite heartily. "Worried? Not in the least bit. But I'd tell you to think carefully about doing that."
Bobby looked at Mike. Did he see tears? Was Mike laughing so hard he was actually crying? Bobby felt a little miffed. Why make fun of him? But slowly Bobby reflected on what Mike just said. No, he couldn't tell anybody. This was absurd. Nobody got taken out of a car to wander around a white void in the company of some powerful being while waiting for an accident to be reset whatever that meant.
Mike straightened up and was back to just periodically chuckling. "Come on, get in. Let's get you back on the road to the rest of your life." Mike gestured with his free hand towards the opening into the car.
Bobby bent over and climbed first onto the passenger seat then worked his way over the console to settle in the driver's seat. "Don't forget to buckle up," said Mike. Bobby dutifully put on his safety belt. He noticed that everything looked the same. The console stick was still set in the D for Drive position. "If you'll look to your left, you'll see how the scene has been reset."
Turning to look out the driver's window, Bobby immediately saw that the SUV was not there. Well, it wasn't precisely there. The SUV was back sitting in front of the rear panel of his car by the trunk.
Mike was now leaning over and his head was in the open door. "You will note that the SUV has been moved back. If it had slammed into the driver's door, it would have killed you. Now the SUV is going to hit the trunk and you are going to live. In fact, you're going to walk away. Instead of your life coming unceremoniously to a halt, it will continue for the remainder of its allotted time here on Earth."
Bobby turned to look at Mike. "But why do this? What is it you are trying to change?"
Mike hesitated. "You will eventually get married and have a son. I want that to happen." What Mike didn't say was that Bobby's son, at the age of 35, would fall asleep at the wheel of his car and cross over into on-coming traffic and hit a tractor trailer truck head-on. He would be killed instantly but more importantly, the resulting traffic tie-up would cause delays which would in turn have rippling effects throughout society. Mike had lined up the dominoes and wanted them to fall in order as planned.
"I want you to pick up that neck pillow you have in the back seat."
"Just reach around and grab it while I explain." Mike watched Bobby. "I'm trying to spare you from getting a concussion. When the SUV hits your car, the car is going to go left while inertia is going to keep your head still. Unfortunately, that means your head is going to slam into the driver's door. If you hold up your neck pillow to the side of your head, you'll have some cushioning when this happens. Oh you're going to feel pain, a very nice headache and you will probably see stars, but at least you won't have anything as severe as a concussion.
Bobby held the pillow up to the left side of his head and turned to face Mike. "Like this?"
"Perfect," said Mike. "Well, I guess this is it. It's been a pleasure Bobby. Good luck in life. We will not meet again."
"Ah, you too Mike," said Bobby thinking about how strange all this was.
"I'm going to shut the door now then in a moment, things will resume. Ready?"
Bobby looked straight ahead while holding the neck pillow to the side of his head. "Ready." He heard the sound of the passenger door being closed. He shifted his eyes across the front windshield and made note that everything seemed to be the same, still frozen in the middle of the action. There was an eerie silence, the calm before the storm, as he waited for life to restart from where it had left off.
Suddenly there was a loud bang. The car was pitched to the right and Bobby's head toppled to the left and slammed into the supporting post beside the driver's door. Bobby saw stars and was only vaguely aware that his car continued to move to the right for a bit then began to roll onto its side. There was the sound of metal being bent, torn, and crushed along with glass breaking. Bobby flopped around like a rag doll held in place by his shoulder strap.
The movement stopped. Bobby was still dazed but he was conscious and was slowly deciphering what his senses were telling him. The car was now over on its right side. Bobby was hanging down to his right but his safety belt was keeping him in place so he didn't fall. God, did his head hurt. There were voices outside but he couldn't tell what they were saying. He heard an odd swooshing noise then realized it must be a fire extinguisher. Was the car on fire?
There was noise around the car then on the car. Was somebody walking on it? Suddenly the driver's door was pulled open and light poured into the car. A voice from above said, "Hey, are you all right?"
Bobby shook his head. "Yeah. What happened?"
"You got hit by an SUV but man, are you lucky. It hit the back of your car. If it had broadsided you, you would be dead now."
Bobby was still confused by the hit on the head. Broadsided? Dead? That was just as that guy had said. What guy? Mike? Wait, did that really happen or had he been knocked unconscious by the crash? Bobby vaguely remembered hearing stories of people smashed on the head then recounting all sorts of bizarre things. Did he hear a siren somewhere?
Mike watched the paramedics pull Bobby out of the car. Fortunately Bobby hadn't really been hurt and could manage under his own steam. The difficulty was climbing up out of the driver's door. Mike looked at Bobby's car. It was a write-off but that was a small price to pay for being able to walk away alive. Bobby would go on to live a normal life. He would, however, stop from time to time to reflect on just how lucky he was. If the SUV had just been a little earlier, it would have slammed right into the driver's door. Yes, what luck. It was luck, wasn't it?
Mike turned and stepped through the crowd. He headed off down the sidewalk for his next appointment. Accidents will happen but with a little manual intervention they can happen according to plan.