Thursday, May 30, 2019

Microstory 1114: Willoughby Franklin

Willoughby Franklin was one of the most intelligent people of his day. His parents sent him off to higher education, hoping he would one day run their company, or at the very least, start one of his own. Instead, he chose a life of service. He was a member of ROTC while he was earning his bachelor’s degree from St. Louis University, as a civil engineering major. He then joined the United States Army, and ultimately the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. When he was well into his career, a stranger approached him with a video file. The film was a collection of footage, showing Willoughby recovering from a severe gunshot wound to the head. It also showed him undergoing multiple surgeries, working through physical therapy, and coping with his new life. To the best of his recollection, Willoughby had never experienced any of this. His brain, and his intellect, were entirely intact. Unless he was going through life with both no memory, and no grasp on reality, this had never happened. The stranger gave him an address, and a time to be there, then quite literally disappeared around the corner before Willoughby could press him for more details. Who was this man in the video? Was it a twin he never knew about? A clone? What? He decided to show up at the address, not sure what to expect, but too worried about his own sanity to involve anyone else as backup. He found nothing of note in the abandoned house, until the walls of the living room began to transform. The walls gave way to molten video screens. More footage appeared, this time of Willoughby’s life growing up. Some scenes he recognized, but others he did not. Some even looked like they were of him, but much older. It showed people who were actually in his life, and wouldn’t have lied to him about a twin, so that theory didn’t hold up. Perhaps his entire family had been cloned too, along with a few neighborhood friends. Yet someone would have also had to build exact replicas of the two houses he lived in as a child, and that felt quite unlikely. No, this seemed to just be him, except he didn’t remember all these home movies. Finally, the montage was over, and the stranger walked in from the other door. He ceremoniously held up a small device that resembled a USB stick. “My surrogate father wore this after he was discharged for medical reasons,” the stranger said. “He suffered so much brain trauma that he couldn’t remember much of his life...or me, so he needed it as reminder. I recovered it from his body after he was finally killed, and sent it with an enemy of his killer, who I knew would be slipping into a divergent timeline. He then sought out the alternate version of me, and helped me get my memories back. I remember who I was when you were my father, and I remember this timeline now.” When Willoughby—who, of course, wasn’t wholly sold on the idea that there was some other version of him running around a parallel timeline—asked the stranger what he wanted, he smiled. “I want you to help me kill the man who killed you first.”

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