Silence fell over the table. Mr. Cross looked at his hands, at the veins on the backs, and then turning them to look at his palms. He rubbed his left palm with his right thumb, prompting Mark to sneak a glance at his own bandaged hand. The old man didn't have a scar. Would one magically appear on a previously unmarked hand?
Mark pulled the half finished plate of chili fries towards himself, and ate one lukewarm, cheese covered fry. It was greasy, and just the one piece tumbled like a rock into the pit of his stomach, but he was hungry, an for once Mr. Cross wasn't. He waited for the old man to elaborate on his statement. After three more chili fries, Mark relented.
"You fall asleep and then you time travel?"
"I really don't think I should be getting into this with you," Mr. Cross said. "It's your future and I've messed around enough with the past, my own past, as it is."
"You can't just drop this on me. You're saying you fall asleep, dream about the past and then you're there? When did this start happening?"
"It's not exactly like that. It's more like lucid dreaming. You know all about that, don't you?"
Mark nodded. "I do it all the time. Have been since high school."
"Right. So, you know how it is. You fall asleep, start dreaming, realize you're dreaming, and then you start do direct the dream. And you've also experimented with determining what sort of dream you're going to have before you even fall asleep."
"I just started doing that. It doesn't work."
"Keep it up. It will. Although the fun of it runs out after a while."
"So, it's like lucid dreaming, where you determine where you want to be, or when you want to be-"
"That's bad. Just bad."
"Sorry. Just couldn't resist."
"Still not quite right, but close enough for now."
"But when did it start? How did it start?"
Mr. Cross sighed, and picked up his coffee cup. He sighed even louder when he found the cup empty. Mark caught the waitress' eye and waved her over. Once the cup was full again, the old man took a long careful sip.
"One night, I was thinking about something that had happened in my past. It's a situation that had been weighing on me for a few days, cropping up like one of those bad memories that you thought you left behind. But then it comes flying back at you, and you can't stop thinking about it."
Mark knew what he meant. The Nana story Mr. Cross had used to convince him, still nagged him even a week later. The fear and guilt struck him at odd hours, then the memory came at him again, and he was stuck reliving that day over and over.
"I went to bed that night, with that memory still eating away at me. My brain wouldn't let it go, and I thought it was going to be another sleepless night for me. I didn't have to worry about that. I fell asleep and when I woke up, I was back in that memory. Well, it wasn't a memory. It was the actual day."
"What day was that?"
"I'm not telling you that. It's your future."
"But how did you know it was the past, and not some really special dream?"
"I just knew."
"How did you get back?"
"The way I always get back. I closed my eyes, told myself I was dreaming, and then I woke up in the present. It's like falling asleep, and then waking up again."