Just in Time — Interlude 18.3

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Sam took another turn and the wild spinning in his head stopped, lifting like a fog. He was close enough that he could hear Lachlan speaking at the back of the group.

“Seriously? ‘We’ve got company’?” said Lachlan. “I didn’t realize we were starring in a mediocre action movie.”

He waited to hear his own reply of “shut up”, but there was only silence. When Lachlan spoke, his voice was almost too quiet for Sam to make out.

“He’s gone. Sam’s gone.”

“Gone?” came Mrs. Sharma’s reply. “What do you mean gone?”

Lachlan replied, but this time Sam couldn’t make out his words.

So when Sam traveled back to a time he’d already been, his past self would vanish?

He made a mental note to ponder the implications of that later, but now, he had a mission. The important thing was he didn’t have to worry about causing a paradox by having two version of himself exist at once or something.

A shadow shifted in the corner of Sam’s eye, catching his attention. He turned his head. The creature was there, shambling towards the unsuspecting group. Towards Lachlan.

Sam broke into a run, surprised at how light he felt on his feet. Despite being somewhat slight, he’d never been a fast runner. In gym class, he’d finished the mile run in just over 15 minutes. Now, he was moving about twice that speed.

He heard Lachlan cry out as the creature grabbed him, and saw commotion break out among the group. Sam had to act now.

He was armed and ready to fight the monster, but he was so much smaller than it was. If only he could attack from above…

Wait a minute. Maybe he could. He could move in impossible directions, directions that froze time around him as he walked. A mundane direction like ‘up’ was nothing compared to that.

He lifted both feet off the cobblestones and soared upward, fifteen feet above the street.

The group had spotted him now and were staring up at him. Even the monster paused, contorting its head upward to see what had captured everyone’s attention.

Sam took advantage of its distraction, flying toward it and slashing at it with the longer sword in his good hand. It let out a surprised shout and twisted around, snapping a small featureless mouth at him.

“Let him go,” said Sam.

Lachlan’s eyes went wide as he spotted Sam for the first time.

“S… Sam? W-what?”

Sam held the swords up, crossing them in front of him and then slashing the blades downward in a way that he hoped looked cool and intimidating.

The swords were heavy, and Sam didn’t know how to wield them beyond what he’d seen on TV and in movies, but he had enough control over his body that his movements felt smooth and graceful, at least with his left hand. His right hand was a different story; he was able to keep a firm hold on the sword with the bony parts of his missing fingers, but there was an uncomfortable, prickling pain every time he gripped it too hard.

“What, am I supposed to be scared of some loser kid playing with swords?”

The creature unwrapped an arm from Lachlan and swung it at Sam’s head. Sam blocked it with the larger sword, but the impact still shook his body and sent him flying backwards through the air. He stopped a few feet short of the roof of a building and flew back toward the creature.

Behind the creature, Mrs. Sharma retrieved her axes and started forward.

“No,” she said, “but you should be scared of me.”

The creature twisted its head back toward her, whipping out its arm as she approached in an attempt to knock her off her feet. She leapt over the outstretched arm.

While the creature was distracted, Sam slashed at its back again. This time, he drew blood.

Fighting off the mental image of Lachlan lying on the shop floor surrounded by his own blood, Sam held his breath and slashed again.

The creature roared in pain and outrage.

It threw Lachlan, tossing him aside as casually as one would toss a used sock, and Sam’s heart dropped as Lachlan flew through the air toward the same shop window.

Then Sam remembered. Everything was different now.

Now, he could do something about it.

His hands shaking, he dropped the swords, and made one more sickening turn. Time stopped around him and Lachlan hung suspended in midair.

Sam fought off a wave of nausea as he floated downward, wrapping his arms around Lachlan and pulling him to the ground.

He held Lachlan tight as he turned back into linear time, and found himself pushed forward onto the ground by the force of Lachlan’s fall, his back scraping against the cobblestones. An object in motion stayed in motion, apparently, even where time-warping shenanigans were concerned.

The two boys landed side by side on the curb, Sam’s arms still around Lachlan. Sam could feel Lachlan shaking.

Sam looked over at Lachlan, who was looking at him with such intensity it made him nervous. Sam broke eye contact, unwrapping his arms from Lachlan and standing up.

Sam saw the swords a few feet away from him and headed toward them, grabbing the longer sword in his right hand.

The monster spotted him and let out an inhuman laugh.

“Go ahead, loser kid,” it said. “Try it.”

Sam hovered a few feet off the ground, staring the creature down.

“Alright,” he said. “You asked for it!”

He flew swiftly toward the creature and slammed the hilt into its head. It crumpled to the ground.

Sam followed suit, strength leaving his body as he dropped downward toward the street.

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