The sweltering heat of Savannah never seemed to lessen in the summertime, instead it forged itself into a new kind of creature that barreled into the hearts of the citizens who had to trudge through it. Sure, there were vehicles in which one could travel to avoid the blasphemous temperatures that arose when the sun reached its peak, but the people who lived in the realm underneath the Spanish moss had never been too inclined for that kind of getting around. No matter how times had changed in America, the South was still stubborn enough to stick to its roots. There were flying cars and air-conditioned walking tubes, but Savannah didn’t care for those options very much. Everyone would get from place to place the old fashioned way, by taking their bodies from one spot to another, with nothing except their personalities to guide them. And that afternoon, as Jeremiah Gold sat with his head in his hands, leaning up against the white windowsill, he saw a variety of peculiar characters come to pass.
Despite the July heat, Jeremiah was glad to let some fresh air into his bedroom. The wind rustled up a slight breeze, which rolled over his skin as he sat and witnessed the colorful charade pigment his brain with what took place down on the street beneath the enormous nineteenth century house he remained within.
Jeremiah knew most of the people who lived in and around Columbia Square, but it wasn’t long before an unfamiliar woman appeared wearing a cherry colored sundress, trotting along the avenue with a small deranged looking dog in tow. She had to convince the animal to follow her every step of the way, dragging it by its leash, even though it seemed perfectly content to stay right where it was. Eventually, she got sick of trying to convince the dog to follow her wishes, so she pulled a small shot out of her purse and injected it into the animal’s neck. Jeremiah watched as the dog shuddered for a second or two, and then happily followed the woman as she again went on her way.
Next, an old couple passed by on an afternoon stroll, holding hands in an adorable way. The clothes they wore were old fashioned, giving the appearance that they had been made at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Jeremiah noticed when they turned the corner to go around the square that they both had autotronic braces on their backs. They didn’t look it, but they both must have been over a hundred years old, it was the only explanation for the machinery that powered them. People younger than one hundred never got any kind of scientific support from the government regulated health care system, at least none that Jeremiah had met anyways.
Jeremiah had come to the window to escape his head, so that he could focus on the reality that existed outside his home instead. Yet, his thoughts of how technology had progressed over the years forced him to confront the secret of science he had originated, the very idea of it making him sweat. It had been a long process to get to this point, but that didn’t mean he was any less terrified about what he was about to do. Changing the course of history and altering one woman’s life completely had never seemed like an easy task. Then again, he had never appreciated anything that wasn’t deemed challenging.
Suddenly, he heard someone calling his name. A black woman of about sixty years old stood at the bottom of the front steps to his home. Her thick black hair was pulled up and covered with a white wide brimmed hat that kept the sunlight out of her eyes. Her face was scrunched, but she wasn’t ugly. Her features were concentrated, but they were lovely in their own way. Her gray eyes pierced Jeremiah like two pieces of sharpened graphite when she looked up at him. Her tiny body was covered with a delicate white blouse that billowed as the wind blew by again, while her turquoise skirt remained unmoved. There she was, waving one hand frantically while holding a piece of apple pie in the other. Even from a distance, Jeremiah could see the bright white ice cream scoop melting atop the piece of pie that Gilly Jenkins held in her hand. She knew apple pie and ice cream had always been his favorite treat.
“Jeremiah!” She called again. “Look what I’ve brought you! A nice sweet treat to simmer your senses on this outrageously warm Savannah day.”
“How kind of you Gilly.”
“You know me, sugar pie. Now come on down here and enjoy it with me!”
“Oh alright then, I’ll be right down.”
“Don’t sound so depressed about it baby.”
He smiled then, leaving the open window and exiting his bedroom. He had been looking out to the square to distract his thoughts, but he had also been waiting for someone. His best friend, Sarah Owens, was supposed to be on her way over, but apparently she was running late. Sarah was the only person Jeremiah could tell the truth about what he was planning to do that evening. Telling her alone was dangerous enough, but he had to tell someone, and there was no one he trusted more than Sarah.
He sauntered down the large oak staircase and landed in the main hall, where an elaborate crystal chandelier hung overhead. He walked outside to the veranda where Gilly was seated in one of the white rocking chairs that waited there. She was staring at the dessert that still rested in her hands, and he could tell that she wanted to take a bite, but he knew she wouldn’t. Gilly Jenkins had restraint, she had self-control, and an overall idea of what was right, and how things should be.
Jeremiah Gold on the other hand, brilliant though he was, didn’t understand time or why things happened the way they had. Thus, he had developed a machine that was going to be able to set things right. He had found a way to change the past. And though he wouldn’t tell Gilly about this, as he sat down in the rocking chair beside her, reaching out to take the plastic fork she handed him, he decided he would still enjoy the scrumptious treat she had brought him. If things went wrong when he set off, if he never came back, at least Gilly would have this one last memory with him.
The ice cream froze his tongue, but melted on his taste buds ever the same. The sweet apple tingled within his mouth, and he laughed as Gilly poked his sides and said, “I just knew this would brighten up your day. Be happy that the damn ice cream didn’t melt all over me on the walk over here. Wouldn’t that have been a shame?”
“A shame indeed.”
The only bigger shame he thought, would be if he was never able to make it back to the current year of 2062 once he left it. He had to return with the woman he sought at his side, who had left the world a hundred years before, or else it would have all been for nothing. He had to make it, he had to go to the past and then return to the present so he could greet the future. Otherwise, Gilly would never have anyone to buy apple pie and ice cream for, and Sarah would be without her best friend. He took another bite of the delicious decadence, and swayed back in the rocking chair, looking out again to where all sorts of people continued to walk by Columbia Square. He told himself that he could do it. Marilyn wasn’t going to die on that August night in 1962, because he was going to save her.
Jeremiah Gold was only twenty-one years old, yet he had already obtained a PhD in physics from Harvard. He was considered by many to be one of the most intelligent young men the world had ever seen. When he graduated from Savannah City High School at the age of fourteen, after receiving a perfect score on his SATs, the Ivy League universities came calling. Jeremiah chose the most prestigious one, and breezed through his coursework with ease.
His parents, William and Avery Gold, came to Harvard for his graduation ceremony in the summer of 2061. When he embraced his mother that day for the first time in months, he knew something was wrong. Her bones felt frail, her stature appeared weak. She was faltering, ever so slowly, all the while trying to hold herself together. She wanted Jeremiah to enjoy his accomplishments, though he was able to see through her thinly layered façade. Jeremiah and his mother had always been close. Whereas his father seemed like a distant stranger during his childhood, coming and going on business every other week, his mother had always been by his side. She was his source of strength, and now, something was changing in the atmosphere.
The reality of the situation wasn’t brought up until the day after he earned his degree. Although the Golds took the express train from Cambridge to Savannah and arrived back within two hours of leaving Massachusetts, the train ride felt like an eternity to Jeremiah. When he entered through the front door of The Kehoe House, the grand mansion that he had always called his home, he knew that what he had come to know was never going to be the same. The disaster that occurred in the evergreen parlor melted meticulously over him as his mother sat right by his side, while his father sat across the way, both simultaneously and separately telling him what was happening.
“Jeremiah, I haven’t been feeling well recently.”
“Well, that’s what I am about to tell you,” his mother said as her green eyes glistened, their color the same shade as the parlor walls that surrounded them.
“Dad?” He looked to his father, hoping to find strength in his eyes. Instead, all he saw was emptiness. No words escaped his mouth.
“Your father already has a lot on his plate. He’s been supportive throughout all of this, and I know you will be too.”
“Are you sick?”
“Yes…I am. I’m sorry to say that I’m very sick.”
“What do you mean why?” His father spoke up then, connecting his eyes against Jeremiah’s silver ones for the first time. “People get sick every day. Just because you are able to understand things faster than most of us doesn’t mean you’re allowed to be blasé when you are finally confronted with the reality of something that you don’t.”
“William, don’t be like that,” his mother said. “I told you to let me do the talking.”
She smoothed her hands over her coral colored dress and then interlaced her fingers with Jeremiah’s, which connected up against hers like magnets.
“I’m sorry Avery, I just don’t want him to make you feel hopeless. You know son, we’re very proud of all that you have achieved, but sometimes I don’t think you realize how you talk to people. Your intelligence can be off-putting.”
“William, I said that’s enough. Don’t make him any more upset than he already is.”
Jeremiah was in the middle of a mess that was swirling around him, and somehow the green parlor started to darken even though the sun continued to shine in from outside. His parents were two counterweights pulling him in opposite directions. He wasn’t certain of it, but he had always felt as if his father was jealous of his intellect. It was purveyed in the snide comments and envious glances that came across the air at the most unusual times, times such as this. Jeremiah let his father’s face slip away into the background as he looked at the woman before him. Avery Gold was beautiful, her red hair was the color of autumn, her structure equivalent to that of a Grecian statue. Even so, her loveliness was beginning to fade. She was dying.
“I’ve been having severe headaches for quite a while now. I’ve always had migraines you know, but these are worse. And recently, sometimes when I wake up in the morning, I have trouble getting out of bed. I can’t connect my mind to make my muscles move. I was afraid to find out what was wrong with me, but I knew that something was.”
“Oh, Mom…I’m so sorry. What is it? What did the doctor say? I’m sure I can-”
“I have a brain tumor, Jeremiah. It’s malignant. The doctors said they don’t think they are going to be able to remove it without causing damage to the rest of my mind.” She released his hands then and covered her eyes as they began to swell. She had been faced with her own mortality in an abrupt way, and even though she was not yet ready to die, Jeremiah knew she would rather leave the world complete than as something less than whole.
“I’ll find a way to fix you.”
It was the first thing he thought to say, the only thing he could say. The implicitness of the universe, and how the stars aligned inappropriately for him on that day couldn’t compute anything else. He wasn’t a surgeon, but then again, he wasn’t the typical son either. She couldn’t leave him, he wasn’t ready to let her go.
Once Jeremiah finished eating his apple pie and ice cream, Gilly took the paper container from him and got up from her rocking chair. “Well, I suppose I better go inside and start making dinner. Why don’t you come in and help?”
“If it’s alright, I think I’ll stay out here on the front porch for a while longer. Sarah should be here any minute.”
“Well, Miss Sarah, as we know, is always late. You may be waiting a while,” Gilly said. “Are you sure you want to stay out here in this heat? Even though that ice cream didn’t melt, maybe you will.”
“I’ll be fine. I’ll be in soon.”
“Alright then,” she said as she entered the air-conditioned house, sauntering along as her thin frame left the hot humid air and immersed itself within the cooler regulated space between the walls of 123 Habersham Street.
The Kehoe House, as everyone, including his family, called the home in which Jeremiah lived, was a large stately mansion that had been completed in 1892. Obviously a great deal of time had passed since then, but you wouldn’t be able to tell by looking at it. The orange shaded stone was the color of a crisp burnt pumpkin, and it shone against the blue sky and the greenery that encircled it. The white trim that surrounded each window made the orange hue pop even more. The front porch where Jeremiah often sat wasn’t large, but it was still impressive due to the elegant set of stairs that led up to it, and the large white Corinthian columns that held up the roof overhead.
In the late twentieth century, The Kehoe House was converted into a bed and breakfast, continuing in that capacity until 2040 when Mr. William Gold, and his young wife, Mrs. Avery Monsen Gold, bought the property and restored it to a single family home. William Gold came from a well-to-do family in Charleston, South Carolina, who had earned a fortune by developing the first flying cars. Floca became the colloquial name for all flying cars, and not just the name of the company that William’s father had founded. The word just flowed out of the mouth better than ‘flying car’ did. And there was still a need to differentiate between those that flew, and those that only drove, because people continued to use them both.
Incidentally, Jeremiah Gold was born in the back of a floca on July 14th 2041. His mother went into labor very suddenly as her husband transported her to the hospital in his flying vehicle, floating above the historic homes and buildings of Savannah. The baby decided he didn’t want to wait, and so he presented himself before he was expected.
Later, Jeremiah’s mother often joked that he had a knack for doing things fast from the very beginning. “Born in a floca right after I started having contractions, out of elementary school by the time he was eight, high school diploma in hand by the age of fourteen, and a bachelor’s degree at seventeen. My son has never liked waiting for anything.” Or so she would tell the ladies in her social club, varying the accomplishments Jeremiah had achieved, but bragging about him in a wholehearted way nevertheless.
He couldn’t help but think of his mother every time a floca sped by. He thought of her more as every day passed, especially now that she was gone. Women on the street who had any kind of similarities in facial structure, hair color, or body shape always garnered him to take a second look, as he hopelessly yearned in that split second that it was actually her and just not some deceptive look-alike.
Avery Gold was dead, and although she had been gone for months, at times it felt as if he had been by her side only yesterday. When he had been in her bedroom with her, he often stared at himself in the large gold encrusted mirror that hung above her delicate armoire. What stared back at him was a face that looked more like his father’s than his mother’s. While her eyes were green, his were less a color and more an element, comprising a texture of silver. His chocolate hair was rich and thick, but he never let it grow past his ears. The way that Jeremiah looked at the world was different than how most people did. What he saw were things to improve, or change, or fix, while the average individual just saw the things themselves. His mind was always clicking, always calculating, devising inventions and fictitious surprises that he could make real. The few moles on his face were light and not obvious to those who didn’t look closely, but they showed up darker to him. He noticed these intricacies like they were revelations that could change everything. His own face, the gatekeeper of where his mind laid behind, was the one mystery he could not make resonate.
Jeremiah wondered what Gilly was preparing inside. The afternoon was fading and the sun was lowering in the sky. It was still hot, but the temperature was finally beginning to lessen. Soon it would be dinnertime. Gilly had always lived in The Kehoe House with the Gold family for as long as Jeremiah could remember. She was their housekeeper, she was his nanny, and she was one of his closest confidants. Jeremiah loved Gilly sincerely, but he hadn’t even considered telling her about what he planned to do that very evening. No, he would only tell Sarah. Somehow, he knew that she was the one.
However, as more time passed, he was beginning to wonder if Sarah would show up at all. He contemplated activating the telebutton on his t-shirt to give her a call, but just as he thought to do so, she finally came into view.
Sarah Owens was just eighteen years old. While Jeremiah had a refined quality about his appearance, looking well put together and composed, Sarah was much more of a disheveled mess. She had always been a tomboy, and some of the girls at Savannah City High School teased her about the clothes she wore, but she still wore them anyways. Sarah’s mother, Tiffany, and Avery Gold had grown up together in Savannah on the other side of town. While Jeremiah’s father had come from a wealthy family in Charleston, his mother had come from more humble beginnings, just as Miss Owens had, and in that position she and her daughter remained. Regardless, Sarah was Jeremiah’s best friend.
Her short sandy hair flopped side to side as she ran up the front steps to greet him where he sat. When she stood before him, he could tell she was out of breath.
“I’m sorry! I ran the whole way over. I was in the garden planting some flowers with my mom and I lost track of time and then I fell asleep and-”
“Wait, what? You fell asleep? Where?”
“In the garden,” she said sheepishly, running her fingers through her pixie styled haircut, flattening out the pieces that had bounced up by the buoyancy of her movements.
“You fell asleep in the garden? In this heat?” He asked in disbelief.
“We were planting ragundrulas. You know, the flowers that produce those seedlings you can swallow to help you fall asleep. Mom told me she ran into Cooper Shaw at the Horticulture Center and he recommended them to her. You know how she has trouble sleeping.”
“Well, clearly you don’t,” Jeremiah said as he laughed, making the rocking chair shake.
“I think it was the aromas that got me. They put me under a spell.”
Jeremiah stood up beside Sarah and looked at her carefully. He could tell that her lungs were heaving slightly by the way her chest was moving.
“Stop looking at my boobs,” she said suddenly.
His glance bounced back up to her face and he saw that she was smiling.
“What boobs?” He asked as he turned away from her and went into the house.
“Hey! I am still a girl you know! Even if I don’t dress like the rest of them,” she called out from behind him as she followed him inside. Once they were both in the main hallway Jeremiah shut the doors behind her.
“Dang, it feels great in here,” Sarah said as she yanked on her thin yellow tank top and shook it slightly, as if to make the sweat leap off of it. “Didn’t you say you had something important to tell me?”
“You’re going to be that vague about it?”
“I just don’t want to talk about it here.”
“Because of Gilly?”
“What are you two doing out there? I can hear you!” Gilly yelled from the kitchen.
“My point exactly. Come on,” Jeremiah said, not answering Gilly, but instead heading towards the stairs. “Follow me. I think it’s best if we talk about this in my room.”
So they went, up the stairs away from Gilly’s prying ears towards Jeremiah’s personal chamber where they could have privacy. A conversation about inventing a time machine was not the kind that transpired frequently, and Jeremiah needed to be some place where he could explain himself comfortably. Even though technology had advanced a great deal over the years, what Jeremiah Gold had created was something that was still virtually unthinkable. What he had planned could very well change the world forever. Thus, it was best that such a matter was discussed in private, otherwise, it could all go wrong. And that, that was the last thing he wanted to happen.
Everything started to change at an alarming rate after Jeremiah was informed of the reality that had latched onto his mother’s mind. Spring turned into summer, and as the temperatures rose her strength rapidly began to weaken. By August, she was bedridden for most of her waking hours. Jeremiah didn’t have any responsibilities, since he was out of school and had indefinitely squelched his future plans. He stayed by Avery’s side and did all he could to distract her from the pain that was beginning to overwhelm her.
Jeremiah hadn’t studied medicine, but he was still trying to calculate a cure. However, the pain his mother’s suffering caused him often blinded his thoughts. Every breath, every day, she struggled to survive.
Often when he was in her room, he stayed still and quiet, since any noise made her headaches worse. He told her repeatedly that he didn’t need to bother her if he was only going to cause her pain, but she wanted him there. The only real pain she said, was when he went away.
Despite his wife’s failing health, Jeremiah’s father left more frequently and for longer periods of time than ever before. Although he had been supportive of Avery when her illness first came over her, he all but abandoned her now. William Gold was the CEO of Floca, and he regularly traveled the world. He was in every city that he needed to be during the second half of 2061, except for the one in which he was needed the most: Savannah.
Neither of the Gold men could cure Avery. The agony that persisted and pounded on her brain only grew as the days went on. Her husband was nowhere to be found, and although Jeremiah was by her side, there wasn’t much he could do. The times he wasn’t in her room he pored over books about malignant tumors and the kinds of surgeries that could fix them, trying his best to think of something that could save her. He walked the city streets of Savannah at night, searching for a solution. Most of the time, he went by himself, but sometimes Sarah came along. He bounced ideas and theories off her, looking for some sort of feedback, but much of what he proposed was too complicated for her to understand. Few could comprehend the ideas Jeremiah came up with, but Sarah tried her best to support him even though half the words he spoke were irregular extinct sounds she had never heard spoken previously.
In the end, it was a woman who lessened Avery’s pain and brought her delight as she got closer to death. The woman’s name was Marilyn, and she had been dead for a hundred years.
In September 2061, Jeremiah was walking past his mother’s bedroom door when he heard music streaming out from it. He stopped and listened to a guitar play, pushing his ear up against the door to hear the music better. The voices of two women begin to sing. He opened the door slowly, and was shocked to see his mother out of bed, her back facing him, her white nightgown swaying as she moved her hips back and forth. Now that he was inside, he recognized one of the voices as her own. He walked in quietly, so she wouldn’t hear him. It had been ages since he had seen her like this, for although her face was not visible, as her voice sung out, he could tell she was happy.
Avery’s words came into focus: “One silver dollar, worn silver dollar, changing hands, changing hands. Love is a shining dollar, bright as a church bell’s chime, gambled and spent, and wasted, and lost…in a dawn of time.”
The sweet inflection of her voice overcame him, just as she turned around to see him standing there. Abruptly, she ended her song, covering her mouth in a slight gasp. He took another step forward and attempted to say something, but instead the other woman’s voice came to his attention then, sweetly humming out a melody. He walked forward and approached the spot next to where his mother was standing so he could face the large wooden cabinet that stood directly across from her bed. There he saw a large three-dimensional television, the old fashioned kind that was invented before he was born. On the screen he saw Marilyn singing, the same song his mother had been singing moments earlier. She took the tune and went on from where Avery had left off.
“One silver dollar, worn silver dollar, changing hearts, changing lives, changing hands,” sang the blonde on the screen who in a way appeared as a miniature version of a real person, emanating off of the display and delivering herself to the two of them in three dimensions. Her red dress sparkled, but the fabric of it left her shoulders bare. Black feathers were tied into her glistening blonde hair, creating a noticeable contrast. Suddenly, she strummed her guitar one last time and finished the song. The cowboys who surrounded her in the smoke filled tent cheered wildly. The song was finished, but Jeremiah couldn’t move. He was rooted to the spot.
He had heard of Marilyn before, and he had seen a few photographs of her in the past, but he had never seen her like this, not on film, not in such a way that made her appear as if she had once been a real woman. He knew she had been some kind of enigmatic icon in the early years of Hollywood, but people didn’t watch those kinds of movies anymore. There were new processes in the industry, ways that you could actually immerse yourself into the movie and become a character that interacted with the actors themselves. And so, her popularity that had lingered on for many decades after her death had lessened in recent times. Marilyn was finally beginning to be forgotten, as most people eventually are.
“Jeremiah, you look like you’ve just seen a ghost,” his mother said, reaching out and placing both hands on his shoulders, turning his attention away from the screen so he faced her.
“I think I have.”
“Haven’t you seen a Marilyn movie before?” She asked as her hands slipped away from his shoulders. She pushed her red hair behind her and then turned off the screen, letting the room become reacquainted with the silence it was so used to.
“No, I haven’t. In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen more than five movies from the twentieth century. They’re so old, it seems as if they came from another world entirely.”
She sat down on her bed, and motioned for him to take a spot beside her. “You’d be surprised how much things stay the same, even if it seems like everything has changed. Similar stories repeat themselves all the time. The themes and catastrophes that run through films from before we were born are the kinds that are repeated in the new pictures made today.”
“You really think so?”
“I know so, I used to watch old movies all the time.”
“Because I enjoyed them. The nostalgia of olden days warmed me up inside. You know Tiffany and I used to watch Marilyn movies together quite often when we were young. Tiffany’s father was infatuated with her, and he had all of her films on DVD. I’ve seen every single film she’s ever been in.”
“What’s a DVD?”
His mother laughed then. “Sometimes I forget that there are things you don’t know. DVDs are discs that movies used to be put on, to watch on your television or computer. They don’t make them anymore, but growing up, you know how poor my family was, and Tiffany’s folks didn’t have much money either. They had those DVDs though, and Marilyn would entertain us on the screen during many rainy days. We wanted to grow up and be as beautiful and charming as she was.”
“You did,” Jeremiah told her.
“How sweet of you to say. In fact, I used to dream about Marilyn all the time when I was a girl. I dreamt that I had become a scientist and invented a time machine. I would go back to 1962, and save her from her untimely death. Oh, I must have had over a hundred different incarnations of that dream fill my mind over the years.”
“How did she die?”
“No one really knows for sure. Some people say it was suicide, others say it was murder. Mostly, everyone always just says how sad it was that she left so soon. She was only thirty-six when she died.”
“That’s so young,” Jeremiah told her, as if she didn’t already know.
“It is,” she acknowledged him, as she looked down to the ground before reverting her gaze back to where his silver eyes waited. “Didn’t you write a paper about time travel once? I think I remember you sending me a copy of it. Wasn’t it called ‘The Time Principle,’ or something like that?”
“Yes,” Jeremiah admitted. “I did a lot of research about the proposed methods of how time travel might be possible. They’ve had a lot of breakthroughs recently, getting the idea closer to becoming a reality, but the thesis of my paper was actually that the time principle doesn’t exist. I don’t think it’s possible to go back in time, or forward for that matter.”
“What a shame,” she said before placing her hand on her forehead as a slight amount of pressure returned to her cranium, which made her reconsider. “Then again, maybe it’s for the best if we don’t tamper with how things went, or how they are going to go. Still…I always wished someone could have saved her.”
Jeremiah felt queasy and he didn’t know why. It was an unusual day, affecting him down to his core. He hadn’t had an interaction with his mother like this since he had returned to Savannah. He looked away from her and returned his attention to the screen, where Marilyn had been earlier.
“How about we watch the rest of the film?” She asked him, noticing the slight amount of strife that had come over him.
“That sounds great.”
“Good. These films always make my headaches go away, and I’m sure if you’re here to watch one with me, perhaps the power of you and Marilyn will combine together to cure me completely.”
“I can only hope,” he said as the two of them got cozy on top of the thick cotton comforter. His mother pushed a button on her nightstand and the screen lit up, bringing Marilyn back to life, before his very eyes.
When Sarah and Jeremiah entered his bedroom he made sure to shut the door behind them. Sarah plopped down on his bed, while he went over to the window he had been looking out earlier. He grasped the glass pane and pulled it down, shutting it completely with a loud thud.
“You really don’t want anyone to hear us, do you?” Sarah asked.
“No, I don’t. Gilly already seems suspicious. We probably don’t have much time before she calls us to dinner, so I guess I better tell you what I have to fast,” Jeremiah said as he left the window and went to sit down beside her.
His bedroom was filled to the brim with books; three out of four walls were covered in shelves that held words and wonders, bound together by board and paper. Jeremiah had read every book he owned cover to cover, and he owned over a thousand of them. His desk was covered with various sheets of paper that had scribbled equations, diagrams, figures, and mathematical principles drawn all over them. It hadn’t been easy, but in the seven months since his mother died, he had worked tirelessly to calculate and create what he previously thought impossible.
“Do you know what she’s making?”
“No, I don’t. I swear Sarah, it seems like all you ever think about is food.”
“Well I can’t help it. Gilly is a better cook than my mother is. I love eating here with you. Sometimes I pretend like I’m in a fancy hotel. You know this house used to be one a long time ago, or so my grandpa told me.”
“Yes, I’m aware of the history of this house,” Jeremiah said, slightly annoyed by the fact that Sarah was already distracted. He decided it would be best if he started out with the simplifications of the matter, and let it progress on its own. “Sarah, the reason I needed to talk to you today is because I’m going away tonight.”
“Where are you going? To visit your dad? Where is he again? I can never keep track.”
“He’s in Tokyo. But no, I’m not going to see him. I’m going to California.”
“What for, to promote a new model Floca? You know, I always found it funny that you and your family live in Savannah, when the people here barely even drive the things. This city’s too old fashioned for flying cars.”
“I’m not promoting Floca, I’m not doing anything for my dad. I haven’t seen him in months. He hasn’t been back to the house since she died.”
“I’m sorry Jeremiah. Well, why are you going to California then?”
“I’m going to visit a friend of my mother’s. She lives in Brentwood, right outside of Los Angeles.”
“Well why does it have to be such a secret? Doesn’t Gilly know that you’re going? I’m sure she wouldn’t mind if you went to see your mother’s friend.”
“Well, she isn’t really my mother’s friend in the typical sense. You see, the two of them never actually met.”
“What do you mean?” Sarah asked, the confusion contorting her face as she searched Jeremiah’s silver eyes for an explanation.
“I’m going to California, in a new model of a floca that I created and designed.”
“I knew it had something to do with Floca!”
“It’s a flying car, but it’s not one of my father’s. You’ll understand when I show you. The thing is, I’m telling you about this and only you, because there is a chance I may never come back.”
Sarah’s eyes shook in their sockets when these words reached her ears. The last thing she wanted was for Jeremiah to go away and never return. He could tell that this proclamation had churned her down to the final fragment of her core. Savannah wouldn’t be the same without him. It had been hard enough for her when he was away at Harvard, but at least then she knew he would eventually return.
“I don’t understand.”
“I don’t really either, but I wanted you to know the truth in case something goes wrong.”
“But what are you doing? What’s your plan once you get to California?”
“I’m going to find Marilyn,” he said steadfastly, saying her name out loud for the first time since his mother died.
“What? Jeremiah, did you huff one of your science projects before I came over or something? You’re not making any sense.”
“I know it sounds crazy. You probably won’t believe me until you watch me leave. But Sarah, what I’m about to say is the truth, so please listen carefully. I want you to know I mean every word I say…okay?”
She said nothing, staring at him as if she was a deer being penetrated by headlights, sensing her own impending doom. He took her hands in his, and felt the clammy sweat that was running amuck on the underside of her palms transfer onto him.
“I’m leaving for California tonight, to find Marilyn, and to bring her back with me. You see, I’m not going to the California of this year, I’m going to the California that existed in 1962. I know it sounds impossible, but I’ve found a way to go back in time.”
Sarah squeezed his hand tightly as she momentarily lost touch with reality. When she was able to focus again on Jeremiah’s face in front of her, she couldn’t comprehend what he had just said, mostly because, as absurd as what he proclaimed was, somehow…she believed him.
It became a frequent ritual for Jeremiah to watch Marilyn movies with his mother. Although her condition was worsening, somehow when they watched Marilyn onscreen together, it was as if her pain temporarily disappeared. He knew that she was suffering, and from what the doctors told her, it wouldn’t be long before she was gone.
Meanwhile, Jeremiah continued to try to come up with something that would save her. He refused to give up, unable to accept the idea that soon she would be dead. As the movies of Marilyn flashed before his eyes while he lay by his mother’s side, he often thought about all that had changed. He hated the fact that technology had advanced so much since the time the blonde bombshell was alive, yet it had still not progressed enough to save Avery Gold. If only there was a way to make it go further.
It wasn’t until these thoughts collided in his head while watching a film with his mother one day during November 2061 that he found the answer, even though it was the most farfetched one he could muster. It clicked into his head at the exact moment when Marilyn’s white dress blew up from the wind that came from beneath the grate. He turned his attention away from the screen and looked at his mother beside him. Her red hair was as bright as ever, but her face had taken on a sunken look recently. She was dying.
He couldn’t save her then, not with the way things were, but somehow, if he found a way to take her to a place where technology had gone far enough, perhaps medicine would then be developed to fix her. He remembered the dream his mother used to have about Marilyn, how she would travel back in time to save her, and it inspired him to apply the absurdity of the situation to his own life. He wouldn’t go back in time, instead he would go forward. He would reevaluate the time principle. Even though he thought there was no way for time travel to be plausible, perhaps there was something he had missed, maybe he hadn’t opened his mind enough, maybe he had to force his dreamlike state to become broader.
And so, on that November afternoon, Jeremiah Gold put into motion a plan to reconsider how time could be changed. For the first time in his life, he hoped he was wrong about what he had thought before. He wanted time travel to be possible, for if it was, he knew he could make it happen. And if he did, he could take his mother into the future, to a place where her mind could be corrected, somewhere where her brain surgery could be performed without an unruly defection.
He lay still then as all of the ideas flowed over him. He let the film finish and left her quietly, kissing her on the forehead before tiptoeing away. “Goodnight, Jeremiah,” she said to him, even though it was the middle of the day.
He pored over all of the books he had regarding time travel, and the certain theories of physics that claimed it was possible, and in the lines between the words somehow he found what earlier had been missing: the dream particle. It was her story that led him to it, the connection between time, Marilyn, and his mother was the answer to the puzzle. The power of dreams was what could make time travel possible.
In recent years, scientists had been able to harness and record the imprints from which dreams existed, and in doing so they could study the reasons they occurred. Jeremiah realized in the weeks following his initial discovery that if he was somehow able to capture the energy that dreams created, and formulate a fuel from it, he would be able to power a vehicle to transverse through time in the similar kind of way that dreams crisscrossed reality. The particles they contained were unlike anything else, they were memories, but they were the kind that existed in some unknown reality. Just as time travel was somewhat of a ridiculous illusion, so were dreams, and because of this, the connection thrived. Dreams could bend time.
Unfortunately, these conclusions, although they came to Jeremiah rather quickly in certain terms, they didn’t come fast enough for his mother. By December, Avery was ready to let go. The day after they watched the final Marilyn movie together, she asked Gilly to send him to her, so that they could have one final chat. She knew her time was up.
When he heard the knock on the door, he didn’t turn around or remove the device that was on his head. Instead he continued to write furiously on the paper in front of him, calculating how to exchange the energy from his sleeping mind into the container that could be placed into the floca, which he had yet to design. There were so many things he needed to invent, to build, and to create before it would be ready, but time was running out.
“Jeremiah, your mother wants to see you.” Gilly said softly as she entered his room. At her words he paused, as he could tell from her tone that something was wrong. Gilly was a lot of things, but soft-spoken was not one of them. He didn’t want to turn around to face her, because if he did, he would be acknowledging what he had been denying was about to come.
“Where is my father?”
“He’s always out. I’m so sick of it! If he’s not here when she- If she-” He stuttered as he ripped the device off of his head and threw it to the ground. “I’ll never forgive him.”
Gilly walked over to him and placed her hand on his head, smoothing out the hair that the headpiece had crumpled. “It’s going to be okay Jeremiah.”
He got up from his seat quickly and left his room. He knew then in that moment as he removed himself from science, that there was not going to be enough time to save her. He had to say goodbye.
The fragrance of her room washed over him as he walked through her doorway. She still smelled like flowers, as she always had, and her scent filled the space where she remained. Being in that room that day was like leaving The Kehoe House and entering into another world entirely. He didn’t know how to feel, or what he should say as he sat down on the bed beside her. The cabinet that stood in front of her bed was closed. The screen was hidden. No more Marilyn movies would play.
“I’m afraid…” she said before pausing. “Oh, I’m not afraid of dying, but I am afraid for you.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’re so adamant on not letting me go. And I don’t want to go in that regard. I want to be here for you, but nevertheless, after all of the pain that I’ve felt these past months, it’s drummed me down into a pretty thin line. I feel like a woman who is trying to pass along on a tightrope across the sea. What I’ve come to clear is impossible.”
“Nothing is impossible,” he told her.
“But what if some things are?”
“I don’t want them to be.”
“Jeremiah, it’s okay if you can’t save me. I want you to know that. I don’t want you to be upset with yourself when I leave. I am ready to go, I’ve accepted that it’s almost the end.”
“Don’t be angry, son,” she told him. “I’ll always be with you.”
“But you won’t be, not if you’re not here.”
“I’ll always be here,” she said, placing her hand up against his chest, touching the cloth that lay over the skin that shielded his hidden heart.
Fires rose up and the sea was overtaken by them, although the water should have been able to put out the pain Jeremiah felt in that moment, the reverse took effect and he was unable to understand why this was the way it was.
“I apologize for going before you are ready, but you know, even if you can’t save me, I still know that in the end, you will save someone.”
“I don’t want to save anyone else, I want to save you.”
“Think about it Jeremiah. I am ready to die, but maybe there is someone else you could cure who wasn’t ready to go when she did.”
And then the ocean slipped away from her, the fires pushed her under and even her own death, which she knew was coming, took her by surprise. The last word left her mouth as the tumor grew too large and the blood stopped rushing up, and only went down. She felt the beat of his heart through her hand, even as her own stopped. Avery Gold was gone, and the last thing she said had come to him as if from another place, some reality that she once dreamed of, where she let a woman live, who wasn’t ready to go when she did.
Sarah opened her mouth to say something, but before she could, another sound erupted from behind the door.
“Dinner’s ready!” Gilly shouted. “Get your butts down here if you want to get the getting while the getting’s good!”
“Be right down,” Jeremiah shouted back, before looking back to Sarah, waiting for her to speak. There was no way he was going to go downstairs before she replied to what he had just pronounced.
“Do you think I’m insane?” He asked her, when she remained silent still.
“I always have.”
He smiled then, unable to hide his teeth as his mouth opened up. “You know what I mean.”
“As ridiculous as it sounds, Jeremiah, if anyone could invent a time machine, it would be you. But why Marilyn? Of all the things you could change, why her?”
“Originally, my plan was to save my mother, to take her forward in time to a place where they could heal her, but she died before I was finished. Even after she was gone, and I realized my theories were correct and the time machine might actually work, I thought about going back and taking her while she was still alive and then moving forward in time as originally planned, but whenever I thought of that, the last thing she said to me kept replaying in my head.”
“What did she say?” Sarah’s eyes blinked harshly as Jeremiah relayed his mother’s message. “You mean…you think she knew what you were planning?”
“Somehow, she knew what I wanted to do, and so she told me what she wanted.”
“To save Marilyn?”
“In so many words. She wanted me to turn her dream into a reality. In the final seconds before she died, my mother told me she was ready to go. And she told me that she believed Marilyn wasn’t. She wanted me to save her, so that’s what I’m going to do.”
“Jeremiah! Sarah!” Gilly’s voice interrupted them again, louder than it had been before. She pushed through his bedroom door and placed herself in the space before them. “I told you it’s time for dinner. I’ve spent over an hour preparing this meal. I won’t wait any longer.”
“We’re coming,” Jeremiah said, getting up from his bed. Sarah did the same, her heart beating at an alarming rate. After this revelation, she didn’t care about eating, but it appeared that Jeremiah didn’t want to make Gilly think any further about how he seemed to be avoiding her. The three of them left the bedroom and walked down the staircase one by one, with Gilly leading the other two as they tried to silently regain their senses. Both of their minds were racing.
The chicken cordon bleu that Gilly had prepared was delicious, but although the meal was an enjoyable one, neither Jeremiah nor Sarah barely said a word.
“I swear the two of you have never been this quiet before. Is it something I did? I didn’t interrupt a sweet summer kiss or nothing like that?”
Sarah’s face immediately became flushed turning a salmon pink. “Gilly, don’t be silly. We were just talking.”
“You both looked awful terrified when I walked in.”
“You just scared us, that’s all,” Jeremiah said. “We were in the middle of a conversation.”
“Oh alright, I’ll leave you two alone. Even I can take a hint.” She got up and started to clear off the table. “You may be excused.” As soon as the words left her lips they both pushed their chairs away and stood up quickly.
“Let’s go outside. I’m sure the heat has died down by now,” Jeremiah said, thinking out loud. Sarah opened the front door, letting the darkness of night creep in. It was almost time to go. There was no point delaying what he had set out to do any longer. Time wouldn’t wait, as it went on like it always did.
When Gilly returned from the kitchen she stopped in the hallway before going back into the dining room, looking upon where Jeremiah and Sarah stood about to depart. “Thanks for dinner, Gilly. It was lovely,” he told her as she stared at him.
“Be here tomorrow and I’ll whip you up something just as nice.”
“I’ll try my best,” he said, nodding his head in her direction and following Sarah out into the night, silently saying goodbye to the walls from which his house was built, in case he never returned at all.
When the door closed behind him, Jeremiah was happy to feel that the air had cooled. He followed Sarah down the front stairs of the porch, and as they walked on, he realized she was leading him exactly to the spot where he had planned to take her. Somehow she knew that the time machine, the altered floca he had designed, was parked in his father’s garage on the other side of the square.
“I don’t want you to go,” she said. “What if something goes wrong?”
“It might, but I have to try. It’s all I’ve been thinking about for months. I’ve prepared myself for the unknown, and I’m ready to immerse myself in it.”
“I don’t know what I’ll do if you don’t come back.”
“You’ll be fine, either way, I know you will be.”
“But what if I’m not? Don’t try to calculate this as if it’s some sort of equation that you can solve. This is your life, and it’s mine too. If you don’t come back, nothing will be the same.”
“Well, let’s hope that I do,” Jeremiah said to her as they reached the garage. He pulled a small rectangular device from his pocket and pushed the button that was on it. The garage door rose up and unveiled what was hidden behind it: a floca that looked as if was built in 1962.
“This is it?” Sarah asked in disbelief.
“I had to design it so that it wouldn’t stand out once I get back there. I don’t want anyone to be suspicious. After all, what I’ve set out to do isn’t going to be easy.”
They walked into the garage together and Sarah slowly ran her hands along the front of the vehicle, its golden color shimmering in the moonlight. It looked like an antique Ford, certainly old, but not so out of this world. She imagined that anyone who saw it in 1962 wouldn’t think twice about it. Her limbs overtook her then and she threw herself into Jeremiah’s arms, embracing him and pulling him close. She felt Jeremiah hold her tightly in return, and she realized then that he was scared too. Sarah tried her best to convince herself that he would come back. He had to.
Slowly they let each other go. “How are you going to find her?”
“They’ve written hundreds of books about her, especially on her final days,” he said as he leaned into the vehicle and reached into a large canvas bag, pulling out a book. He lifted it up in front of her face. The words Marilyn: The Biography were stretched across the cover. “I should get to California on August 1st 1962. I know where she’ll be on that day, and the following three. I have it all planned out. You can worry if you must, but I’ve put a lot of time and planning into this, believe me. I’m as prepared as I can be.”
“I still can’t believe this is real.”
“Neither can I,” he told her. “But it is”
“Promise me you’ll be back.”
“I can’t promise you something that I don’t know. But if I do come back…I won’t be alone.”
He pulled his eyes away from hers then and got into the floca. He wanted to leave as quickly as he could. Although it was obvious that this was hard for Sarah, he was trying his best to not let it show how difficult it was for him as well. He started the floca, and rolled down the window.
“I refuse to say goodbye to you, Jeremiah. I love you,” and as those words parted her lips, the vehicle reared up and lifted off the ground. The three words encircled themselves around his mind and delved themselves deeply within. His hand reached out and pushed the influx, delivering the dream into the vehicle’s engine to take him where his mother had only imagined she had gone all of those times when she was sound asleep. He had set the date one hundred years back, to July 25th, 1962. He didn’t have a chance to respond, as the automobile lifted off into the Savannah sky. Sarah watched as the floca not only flew, but sparked and shined as it disappeared completely, altering time and vanishing into the night.