THE MANDATORY SIX, Part Four: Noland Randall 10/11 | 6:20 p.m.

Noland was doing okay with the cleanup process until he got to Dad’s office. Everything in here was torturous to look at, from the empty bottle of Scotch ale on the desk to the UFO poster on the wall.

Then there were the filing cabinets, filled with notes about aliens, parallel dimensions, and other such things. Dad’s ability to believe in that stuff had always been enviable. It made for a magical life, which Noland wanted more than anything.

He crawled into Dad’s chair and curled up, hugging his knees. “Please, come back.”

The rain pattered at the roof as his muscles seized up with grief. It came in waves. When it was here, it felt like that calm numbness would never return. When it did, he missed the grief, wishing to cry until he turned inside out.


He’d given Dad that UFO poster for his birthday twelve years ago, along with some other alien-related items. Two years before that, they’d gone shooting with the gun that was in the closet. Noland hadn’t enjoyed it. Too loud and jarring. Plus, it had always scared him knowing the tiniest movement of a finger could change everything. That type of change was starting to sound comforting, and that frightened him even more.

The walls were closing in. He stumbled out into the hall, which was filled with empty spaces where their family portraits had been. The rain was coming down hard now, so he ran out back. Down it came, drenching him as he walked across the muddy grass.

He stood there as the water collected and spilled down his surfaces. Life was supposed to grow into something. He was supposed to have a family, or at least a career that meant something to him. He hadn’t accomplished any of that, and what little he had was being washed away, becoming one with the puddles and streams.

If only he could go back in time.

He thought of Jasmine. He was an idiot to have left her back at the apartments by herself. This had been his chance to be a gentleman and at least stick around the building for the evening to make sure she was all right. Maybe someone hadn’t traveled through time to warn of her murder, but there were people obsessed with the idea, and self-fulfilling prophecies were a thing. He’d look her up online and find a way to message her soon as he was back inside. Just to check if she was okay.

He turned, and something caught his eye. He walked closer, doing his best to focus through the rain.

Someone was standing in the shadows.



Discover more of the story in BEYOND MY DYING MIND, available now on Amazon.

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