“I’m not going to tell you anymore about it,” Mr. Cross said. “It’s bad enough you know it’s going to happen to you. I’ve made such a mess of things, and I need to get back to see if what you did tonight will make a difference.”

“You’re still not sure? Don’t you have memories of it being fixed?”

Mr. Cross shook his head sadly. “I have no clue what’s going to happen day to day. I don’t even have any memory of meeting my old self when I was young. So, whatever I’m doing, it must be the first time it’s been done.” He looked at his palm again, then made a fist with his hand. “Maybe when this is all done, I’ll just fade away into nonexistence. A new Mark Cross will show up with a scar on his hand and a head full of memories of meeting me.”

Mr. Cross slid out of the booth. He seemed stronger now, less likely to collapse from exhaustion, but he still looked very old. Mark wondered how old he really was.

“Do you have this?” Mr. Cross said, waving at the half eaten meal.

“Sure,” Mark said, digging into his pocket for his wallet. “Don’t you ever bring money on your trips?”

“It doesn’t come with me. I’ve tried to bring all sorts of things back, but all that appears is me and the clothes I’m wearing.”

The old man went outside while Mark paid. He was standing on the sidewalk when Mark came out. The night was turning cool, and the breeze was picking up, ruffling Mr. Cross’s white hair.

“Do you know if everything is fixed?” Mark asked.

“Nothing is fixed. Somehow it’s been broken beyond repair. But I hope things have been set back on track. If it’s not, well, I guess you’ll be seeing me tomorrow.”

“You’re going back now?”


“Okay.” Mark couldn’t think of anything more meaningful to say.

“I hope we never meet again,” Mr. Cross said. He closed his eyes, cleared his throat, and stood absolutely still. Mark waited for something to happen. A hum in the universe, a swirling vortex of light, a slow fade to nothing. None of that happened. 

Mr. Cross was there. Mark blinked.

The old man was gone.


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