Reset: Chapter 37: Tuesday, September 11, 2001 (2)

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Eyewitnesses report that Joseph Gallagher, eighteen, of Lowell, Massachusetts, burst into Logan Airport’s Terminal B running with his arms outstretched and shouting “ALLAHU AKBAR!” Other witnesses stated that Mr. Gallagher also let out a high-pitched ululation some likened to a cry of pain. Onlookers initially thought him to be a run-of-the-mill crazy person and didn’t react, mainly because very few travelers were aware of what typically followed shouts of “Allahu Akbar!” or what it even meant. However, most seemed well aware of the meaning of his next words and how they tended to affect those traveling by air.

“Bombs!” he is reported to have yelled. “Bombs on the planes! For the Glory of Allah, we will blow up your planes!”

Mr. Gallagher streaked around lines of passengers, focusing on the American Airlines service desk.

“We will fly planes into buildings! All across the country! I won’t tell you which ones! Allahu Akbar!” And he continued shrieking.

Mr. Gallagher dashed through the security line, pushing several customers and knocking over a guard who was manning the metal detector. He made it as far as Gate 23 before being tackled by two uniformed security guards and one concerned citizen.

The rest of what happened never made it to the general public, beyond vague assertions that a major terror plot was thwarted in the nick of time, thanks in large part to the Federal Aviation Administration showing great wisdom in grounding all flights nationwide. Shortly after Mr. Gallagher’s arrest, one Mohammad Atta, an Egyptian national, was arrested at Logan International Airport along with nine other accomplices.

At Dulles International Airport in Virginia, five men were arrested.

At Newark International Airport in New Jersey, authorities captured four.

None of the nineteen would-be hijackers had ever heard of Joseph Gallagher of Lowell, Massachusetts. Continue reading Reset: Chapter 37: Tuesday, September 11, 2001 (2)”

The Influence of Art (and Other Hypocrisies)

[Preemptive request: I don’t buy the “video games cause school shootings” argument, so kindly don’t spam the comments to the effect that I do. Thanks.]

It’s a well known fact that violent video games create violent people. Except when they don’t.

It’s just like movies and TV: These things have absolutely no effect on the behavior of those who watch them. Unless they do.

The President waded into this recently after the terrible school shooting in Parkland, Florida, suggesting a summit to discuss the effect that video games have on young impressionable minds. He was widely mocked for this. It’s settled science, after all, that video games don’t make players violent gun nuts.

But they do turn gamers–especially white male ones–into misogynistic racists who hate gays. Or something. I don’t know.

And movies and TV, which influenced people to stop smoking, most emphatically don’t make viewers more violent. Except when they do. But they also paved the way for America to accept gay marriage. Except showrunners and moviemakers are unbiased souls who just want to make art and not propaganda. I guess.

My point is that this entire debate is pointless nonsense. Of course art influences people. How couldn’t it? Continue reading “The Influence of Art (and Other Hypocrisies)”

Reset: Chapter 36: Tuesday, September 11, 2001 (1)

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Nick Christakos spent Tuesday morning sitting alone in his dorm room, staring at the television. Six turned to seven, seven turned to eight, and eight turned to nine. Nothing.

Nothing.

Nick relaxed, surprised by how much his body hurt. He had clenched himself like a fist and had sweat through his t-shirt.

Nothing.

But why?

* * *

When Joe didn’t come back Sunday night, Nick had figured he had spent the night with that Gwendolyn chick. When he called her, she wouldn’t say any more except that Joe was really mad at him. No surprises there.

He checked with Jonesy and Carlos. Nothing. Same with Game and Quinn.

Amy told him he should call the cops, but Nick didn’t. He couldn’t. What would he say? That his time-traveling companion was going to stop the worst terrorist attack in the history of the United States and left without so much as a hug and a kiss? They’d be right back where they started.

He even called Zack Henderson. Miracle of miracles, Zack picked up the phone. He was terse, but not rude. “He came by, yeah,” said Zack. “He was pretty steamed.” But Zack had no idea where Joe might have gone.

So Nick waited, spending his time, as usual, with Amy. Things were going great in that department. They clicked; Nick literally felt a click when he started talking to her at Zeta Zeta Nu. Love was a beautiful thing. She was the whole reason for this adventure, the Helen that launched him back in time. Now he would be happy, would maybe finally have the courage to get some help and work through his issues without resorting to hookers and blow (though those things had been fun for a time).

Joe had to be on campus. He had to. He had no car, besides. What was he going to do? Thwart the attacks himself?

Sunday night rolled around, and still no Joe. Nick waited.

When Nick sat in class on Monday, listening to Delino drone on about how Bush was single-handedly destroying the Earth, he began to worry. Amy had noticed it, insisting that they go to the police.

The jig was up. It would be too suspicious if he did nothing about his missing friend. So they went to the Hollister PD, bypassing the campus cops who tended to stick to parking violations, and reported Joe missing. Continue reading Reset: Chapter 36: Tuesday, September 11, 2001 (1)”

Reset: Chapter 35: Sunday, September 9, 2001 (4)

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Joe stood in front of Zack’s door knocking loudly, a plastic bag full of NHU shirts and a jacket clutched in his other hand. He’d give it a five count, and if Zack didn’t answer–

Two seconds later, the door widened a crack and out popped Zack’s head. Anger flashed on his face, his mouth open with a rude word chambered and ready to fire, until he saw the source of the interruption. “What’s wrong?!” he said, his eyes wide.

“Hi Zack. Got a minute?” Through the crack in the door he could see a very attractive, very naked co-ed covering herself with a sheet.

“Uh, that’s, uh . . .” Zack flushed. He lowered his voice and spoke close to Joe’s ear. “I didn’t, um, we . . . you know, I didn’t–”

Joe held up a hand. “I’m not your father, Zack. I just wanted to say thanks for everything.”

“What’re you thanking me for?”

“What’s the problem?” called the girl.

Zack turned. Joe noticed he had no shirt on. “One second.”

“I can get going . . . .”

“No!” Zack stepped out, wearing nothing but his boxers. Joe admired his hard, muscular body, eighteen and already built like an action figure. “I don’t know what you got going on, man, but I’m going with you.”

“Not so loud,” said Joe, flapping a hand like the words were real and he could bat them away. “And no you’re not.”

“Come on, we’re in this together. Let me just get dressed and we’ll talk, get our plan straight–”

“No talking, Zack. That’s the point. I didn’t come here to talk.” He put a hand on Zack’s upper arm, resisting the urge to squeeze just to see how hard the muscle was. “I’ve messed things up enough without dragging anybody else further into it.”

“Come on, that’s not fair.”

“No!” He said it dad-stern, one of the few advantages of being a thirty-something trapped in the body of a teen–it lent him a certain gravitas unattainable for most college-aged boys.

Zack clammed up with an audible snap. Joe went on: “I came here just to say thanks, and to see you before . . . in case . . . you know. I figured I owe you that much.”

“The only thing you owe me is letting me help you.”

The door crept slightly open. “What’s going on?” said the girl, peeking into the hallway.

“Hi,” said Joe. “He’ll be with you in a second.” He caught a glimpse of the girl’s lovely mocha body and quickly turned away, feeling like a dirty old man.

“Shut the door,” said Zack. “Please.” The girl did as asked.

“You’ve got more than enough on your plate, Zack,” said Joe.

Zack waved a hand over his shoulder. “I don’t care about any of this, man. I care about saving those people. I couldn’t forgive myself if I just let it happen and did nothing.”

“You won’t have to. This isn’t your fight. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you, blank pages waiting to be filled. Play football–”

“I don’t care about that.”

“Play football,” said Joe, “get your degree, do all the things you never got a chance to do before you . . .

“Died,” said Zack softly. “You can say it: before I died.” Continue reading Reset: Chapter 35: Sunday, September 9, 2001 (4)”

Reset: Chapter 34: Sunday, September 9, 2001 (3)

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The dream was shocking. Audacious. Like it had come from the devil himself, designed to scare the foolish mortal to death in his sleep.

He was on an airplane, sitting with the other passengers, frightened but docile. He heard the shouts, the chanting–“Allahu Akbar!” and the ululating cries of victory. Some laughter, but mostly screams. The woman next to him started to talk; her mouth moved but Joe only heard sounds like drums emanating from her blurred face.

And then out of the window he could see, growing bigger, the North Tower, the plane drawn to it like it had gravity, inviting the impact the way a catcher calls the winning pitch. Put ‘er there, buddy boy. He can’t hit the ones that come in hard and fast.

Hard and fast . . .

He awoke before impact, jerking upright and gasping the way he thought only happened in movies. The buzzing in his brain began anew, the telltale sign of that cognitive dissonance born of the impossible. Something else that should be impossible was the woman in the bed next to him. Continue reading Reset: Chapter 34: Sunday, September 9, 2001 (3)”

Reset: Chapter 33: Sunday, September 9, 2001 (2)

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Her voice came crackling over the loudspeaker in an angry snarl. “Who’s this?”

“Hi Gwen,” said Joe into the intercom next to the door. “It’s Joe. Can you let me in?”

“Joe! Are you alright?”

Joe sniffed noisily and gave his nose a swipe with his arm. “Yeah. No. I don’t know.”

“Okay, stay right there. I’m coming down now.”

Joe nodded, as if Gwendolyn could see him through the speaker. But that technology was at least a decade away.

He glanced at his watch, groaning at the late hour. He shouldn’t have woken her up. He should have gone back to his own dorm room and into his own bed like a responsible adult, keeping his worries to himself. But he couldn’t stand the thought of Nick. And Joe knew he wasn’t a responsible adult. Not anymore.

When Gwendolyn opened the door, Joe marveled at how good she looked given the time of night. Dressed in a Navy blue pajama set with furry moccasin slippers on her feet and her hair piled haphazardly on top of her head, she still appeared controlled, beautiful. She was also wearing glasses, big thick ones that would be all the rage among young women in another ten years.

Joe hurried through the open door to spare both Gwendolyn and himself from the chilly wind. The door shut behind him with a soft whump. “Are you sure you’re alright?” said Gwendolyn, “what’s going on?”

Joe sniffed again, corralling some errant snot. He looked around the lobby of Parsons, empty but still too public. “Can we talk in your room? Continue reading Reset: Chapter 33: Sunday, September 9, 2001 (2)”

Reset: Chapter 32: Sunday, September 9, 2001 (1)

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It was getting late, Joe was getting hungry, and he still couldn’t force his thoughts into any defined shape. Three thousand people were going to die in two days’ time and all his idiot friends could think about was getting rich and getting laid.

They’re the idiots, he thought bitterly, yet here I am, wandering campus like an answer would fall from the sky.

He found himself, once again, on the road that lead to the next town, outside a small Italian restaurant on the fringes of Hollister that Joe knew wouldn’t be open a year from now. He had circled downtown six or seven times by now, conspicuously avoiding the throngs of nighttime revelers who hooted and laughed and yelled obscenities at him, at passing cars, at each other. During one circuit he saw a very tall, very attractive girl in a miniskirt squatting down in the alley between two buildings to pee. In the future, this girl might have been his stockbroker, or his accountant, or the teacher of his children, but for now, she was just another party girl at a party school.

The thought had angered him, because it made him think of Jason, which in turn made him think about Nick. Nick made him think about Amy, who made him think about Gwendolyn, finally leading his thoughts to Sandra. And thoughts of Sandra brought him back to Jason, starting the cycle anew.

There was no question about what he had to do, he had thought at one time. But like a parasite worming its way into his body, Nick’s honeyed words burrowed into his mind like worms: Gwendolyn . . . she’s perfect for you . . . forget Jason . . . Not just Jason. Jason and three thousand other doomed souls. But hey! What did they matter next to his personal happiness!

He smacked his fist into the rough brick of the building behind him. The pain that followed was sharp and welcome. He left behind a small smear of blood as he lifted his hand, painting a world he didn’t belong in with a little piece himself.

God damn you Nick! Joe kicked his leg, venting his rage at a garbage can minding its own business by a telephone pole. It toppled with a bang, vomiting trash violently all over the road.

A window opened overhead with a sound like a sword being unsheathed. “The hell’s wrong with you, buddy? Want me to call the cops?”

“Sorry,” Joe muttered, ignoring the barrage of curses, too ashamed to look up at the speaker. He ducked his head and ran around the corner to the hill leading back up to Main Street.

It was cold; Joe rubbed his arms for warmth, wishing he had his jacket. September days were pleasant in New Hampshire, but September nights still had teeth.

Cold, hungry, tired, depressed, confused . . . Joe finally felt one-hundred percent like a teenager, all vestiges of wisdom and maturity sublimating into the chilly night.

9/11 . . . the thought of reliving that day, knowing it was going to happen, made Joe crazy. Crazier, he supposed, although at this point it was just a matter of degrees. If you’ve already lost most of your marbles, what difference did a few more really make?

But it was a moot point. All of it. There wasn’t anything he could do by himself. He had never felt so helpless, not even when Aunt Gina had died, or when he heard the final divorce decree, the judge tearing everything he had built for himself and his family to pieces. If God was really, there and had given him a chance to do good, He would surely be disappointed with His creation’s lack of conviction.

It was the knowing that was the worst part. Why couldn’t Nick have turned on The Machine without telling him about it? Being sent into the past without any advanced knowledge of the future actually did sound like paradise. Would his path have differed from what it had been the first time? Probably. Gwen’s had, hadn’t it?

I gave it the old college try, he thought, literally and figuratively. It made him smile for a second. And then, just like the teenager he had once again become, Joe sat down on the curb and wept, not caring about the partiers’ comments as they passed.

Chapter 31                                               Table of Contents                                             Chapter 33

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