The Leaper

The empty M&M’s candy wrapper flittered on the draft produced by the window air conditioning unit, ultimately coming to its final resting place upon Vincent Cambridge’s right foot. He twitched his boot, sending it sliding to the carpet below his feet. He winced at the pain in his knee as he did so. He often forgot that even though he was only thirty-five years old in mind, his physical form was closer to eighty-five. He avoided his reflection like the plague these days. It was a side effect of the time traveling that he was working hard to cope with.

Within seconds, the pain was gone and he stood in the darkened apartment distracted by the television in front of him. The light from the TV illuminated his face as he watched Big Bird and Elmo dancing around on the screen. He’d forgotten that people actually watched this show. Of course, back in 1989, Sesame Street wasn’t the only questionable thing happening in society.

Sidling up to the TV and rotating the plastic volume handle to the zero position, the cacophony of children playing with mysterious creatures diminished, leaving the room filled only with the sound of the air conditioning unit, which had become nothing more than a dull buzz in the background. Vincent took a few careful steps backward and lowered himself into the easy chair behind him. He took a few moments to contemplate his surroundings and mused at what filled the familiar, yet foreign room. To his right, a picture of a man and a woman attempting to connect arms around the base of a massive African baobab tree. To his right, another photograph of the same man and woman on either side of an Eskimo, with what appeared to be his igloo in the background. Hanging over the TV was a picture of the woman coddling what appeared to be a wombat, her face full of apprehension. It was obvious that this couple enjoyed traveling, and was the most obvious reason as to why they didn’t appear to be home at present.

Vincent liked to travel as well, but it was never for pleasure. Only business. This San Francisco address had always been his base of operations: 2857 Sunshadow Street. Wherever he was in time, he always tried to locate the address. It made his life easier to have a central location. Though the place always looked different, he felt geographically sound. It was much better than his actual home, which was nothing more than a cave deep under the Bay City. The place was a breeding ground for hopelessness, but in his time, they don’t dare go to the surface.

He paused, considering his next move… considering his next place. His central mission remained the same: find a way to shut down The Corporation or ensure it ceased to exist. He’d been a Time Leaper for so long, that he was having trouble recounting everything that he’d tried. Before he could further contemplate how to save his time from ever being oppressed and at the mercy of those who would test on innocents and force them into temporal servitude, Vincent heart the faint tinkling of a key ring at the apartment door.

Moving with a youthful fervor, Vincent made his way into the darkened apartment kitchen just as the door opened. In sauntered the couple from the photos. They were loud and boisterous, exchanging comments about the dinner from minutes previous. By the volume of their speech and the faint smell of aged bourbon, he could tell that they’d been drinking, and finding an old man in their home would likely only complicate the situation.

His back to the wall, Vincent slinked underneath the wall phone, listening intently. This wasn’t the first time he’d have to sneak his way out of trouble, and unless something went extremely wrong, it likely wouldn’t be his last. He considered simply traveling to a different time, but how much more could his body actually take? The rush of moving through time and space was addicting and he forced the thought down in his brain, reminding himself that notions like this one were what caused his wrinkles in the first place.

The couple had moved to the living room couch where they continued to talk about everything and nothing with much exuberance. Vincent’s eyes darted around the kitchen, taking everything in. He sniffed the air, picking up the aroma of gas from the nearby oven. His geriatric nose wrinkled. It reminded him of the jet fuel they used to power the city in his time. His eyes scanned the room, looking for any tool that could aid in his escape. On the counter he spotted several pots and pans. He’d prefer not to injure anyone if he could avoid it. He’d learned the hard way not to affect the time streams he visited. Next to the kitchenware was a rotten white potato, obviously left to die when dinner plans changed. On the kitchen table were two crochet needles intertwined with red and blue yarn. A tiny, cat-sized sweater appeared to be in progress between them. Vincent quickly made his choice and reached for the slimy potato.

If he could throw the spud over their heads and distract them, perhaps he could make a quick escape through the front door. He had trouble lifting his hands past his shoulders these days, but any option that let him continue his mission was currently being weighed out. He turned around to sneak to the kitchen door and found himself face to face with the male homeowner.

“Who the heck are you!?” Hollered the man, obviously startled.

Before Vincent could give it a second thought, he instinctively reached into the deep recesses of his brain and activated the implant left so long ago by The Corporation when he was taken against his will. In the blink of an eye, Vincent was gone, leaving the man standing in his kitchen alone. The man was slightly confused, but in the morning he would only have the alcohol to blame for his hallucination.

***

Vincent had jumped three years into the future. He was still in the apartment of 2857 Sunshadow Street, but the kitchen had received a fresh coat of wallpaper and the furniture was different. As he sauntered his way into the living room, he rubbed his cheek. Had he gained another wrinkle? He couldn’t bring himself to locate a mirror to find out. As before, the living room was dark, illuminated only by the television. On the couch slept a college-age female, wrapped in a blanket and snoring loudly. He remembered the show currently playing on the TV. It was a sci-fi program called Quantum Leap. He chuckled to himself, considering how it paved the way for his entire reality. The old man went back into his head, considering his next move in the never-ending battle against The Corporation. Before he was completely lost in thought, he realized that right then, he’d give anything for a bag of M&M’s.

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