It’s now or before (a short story)

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Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

“It’s been ages,” he shook his head as we entered the record shop. Something was off.

“What are you on about? We saw each other last month.” I headed straight for the vinyl section as we always did and started flipping through the cardboard sleeves. My brother sidled up next to me and started looking through another stack.

“Well, yeah but…” he trailed off with a shrug. He looked off too. It had only been a month but he looked tired, I could have sworn there were a couple of grey hairs standing out against his near-black locks that had never been there before. My brother was three years older than me but had been living away from our home town for years. He left to study physics at university and never came back for longer than a visit. Don’t get me wrong, he came back regularly. I didn’t feel abandoned, I just felt like our worlds didn’t overlap any more. Still, we’d always have records.

I picked out a live recording of Elvis and slipped the vinyl out of the sleeve to check it wasn’t damaged. We’d been brought up on rock and roll; Mum and Dad had rocked us to sleep to Love Me Tender and from there we both devoured everything in our paths.

“Now that was a good show.” Sam reached over and tapped the cardboard sleeve.

“Have you got this one already?”

“Uh, no. I just, heard it before.” His eyes dropped back down to the piles in front of him but his fingers were flipping through them too fast. There was no way he was looking at them properly.

“What is going on with you, you’re acting proper weird.” I put the record down on top of the box and faced him. It took a few moments for him to look up at me, his teeth clamped on his bottom lip.

“You remember that project I was working on?”

I nodded, although, to be honest I still had no idea what it was. Physics was not a love we shared.

“Well, we had a breakthrough.”

“Well, that’s good…” my eyes started to wander.

“Not one we were expecting.” I was starting to get annoyed with him now. He was acting like some children’s horror story narrator, trying to drag out the suspense to painful degrees. All it made me want to do was punch him in the arm.

“They discovered you do have a brain?” was what I settled for.

“That one’s still undecided,” he shrugged, a playful smile crossing his face, putting me slightly more at ease. Then he lowered his voice again, “Look, we were messing around with particles like at CERN but not on that kind of scale and we had a side effect. We opened some kind of tunnel, like a wormhole. We played some more and managed to make it bigger and more stable.”

“Have you been watching Stargate again?”

“I’m serious,” his eyes flashed brightly, a sort of mania creeping into them. He slid in even closer, checking around that no-one was close enough to hear him. “What if I asked if you wanted to go and see this concert?” He was tapping on the Elvis record again. The one recorded in 1970. I stared at the yellow cover, for a second imagining how incredible it would have been but I ended up looking at his finger before tracing it back up to his face. The frown must have been etched on my face.

“I’m not mad,” he assured me. I wasn’t assured.

“This concert was nearly fifty years ago Sam. Unless you’re talking about seeing a video recording…”

He shook his head slowly, the grin widening.

“Are you telling me, that your lab, has…” I could barely bring myself to say it.

“Look at the picture Isaac.” I didn’t know what he was talking about for a second until I heard the rhythmic tapping of his finger on the sleeve again. He had lost it. My big brother had gone mad. I wondered if I got him to the café could I ring Mum to come and get us without him knowing? I took the record sleeve from him, should I humour him? Should I tell him he was talking…

My eyes scanned the cover.

“Holy shit.” I pulled the cover out from under his finger and lifted it until it was nearly touching my nose. There was no mistake. I would recognise my brother anywhere. There, in the middle of the crowd, dressed in late sixties clothing was Sam. “How? What? I…”

“Sssh.” His head snapped round checking for reaction to my outburst. When he was convinced we were clear, his smirk reappeared, as did a familiar glint in his eye. “Imagine how good the ’68 comeback special would be?”

This story was written in response to a prompt on Creative Writing Ink Dec 6th.

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