We were instantly in the Quantum Cave, as it was, as it should be. It wasn’t as we had seen it last, just an unexplored cave. It was the built up and excavated version that was supposed to be. There was the electricity and the paneling and the computers. And there, standing before us, was Jamal, in his own body, his real body. He looked up from working on the plane. He saw us and smiled. “There you are. I was looking for you both earlier. Where were you?”
“Daddy?” Tilly said, cautiously. I could see the tears start to form as she looked at her father. “Do you remember me?”
“Remember you?” He looked confused.
How do we explain to him that we had been trapped in an altered reality where he was living a different life? How do we explain to him that we had met this alternate version of Jamal who hadn’t known Tilly because in his reality he’d never had a daughter? How do you explain that kind of craziness? How do you explain that kind of heartbreak?
“Is this a crack about my age?” Jamal joked. “I know to you it might seem like I am, but I’m really not that old. I still have all my hair.” Tilly ran and hugged her father. “What is this about?” he asked, but gladly hugged her back. “You keep this up. I might start expecting more of it.”
“Hey, Frank,” Doc said coming into the hanger. “You want to tell me what’s going on?”
I looked at her and smiled. It was so good to see her. We hadn’t gotten to visit her in the other reality. By then, we had figured out that everything was screwy. “Nothing’s going on.”
“Yeah? You want to tell me where the two of you have been?”
“Just fixing some things. Speaking of which, how are you doing?”
She gave me a look that suggested maybe I didn’t ask her that question very often. “I’m fine, Frank. How are you doing? You feeling ok?”
“I don’t know,” I replied. “I suddenly started thinking about your father.”
“My father? Why? What brought that on?”
“Because I think he should be here.”
“Don’t do this to yourself again, Frank. I thought you finally got over all this guilt. What happened happened. There’s nothing you can do about it.”
“Except for there is.”
“No!” Tilly yelled, pulling away from her father.
“What’s wrong?” Jamal asked.
But Tilly ignored her father’s question. She was focused right on me. She knew what I had in mind and she didn’t like it. “Don’t you do it! Don’t you do it!”
“It’s already done,” I told her.
“What’s done?” David asked, coming into the room. Seeing him again made my heart grow. I felt ready to start crying. And this wasn’t the crazy, discredited David that we had read about in the Zlodeyskiy-altered world. This was the David I had known. The David who had been my mentor and my friend. The David who had been Doc’s father. Except this David was still alive.
“What did you do!?” Tilly yelled at me. “What’d you do!?”
“Honey?” Jamal said, reaching for her. I could hear the concern in his voice, but Tilly pushed him away.
“Are you crazy? Do you know what you’ve done?”
“I saved a good man,” I told her.
“And what else!? What else did you do? Do you even know? If he didn’t die, what else didn’t happen? What else have you changed?”
“Tilly?” Jamal asked, reaching cautiously toward her. She could have quite the temper, she was her mother’s daughter after all. “What are you talking about? Who died? Or…didn’t die? Does this have anything to do with your mother? Is she playing with time again?”
“It has nothing to do with my mom!”
“It’s him!” She pointed at me. “He’s the one messing with reality!”
“Frank?” Jamal laughed. “How could Frank do anything? He can barely plan a day without someone’s help.”
“He’s doing it with magic!”
“Magic? Oh, so you’re just messing with me. Having fun at your old man’s expense.”
“I’m not joking. He has a magic horn!”
“A magic horn? Oh, ok. Now I’m totally convinced that this isn’t a joke. Because magic horn’s are completely serious and real.”
“Look, it’s right there! On his forehead! Look at it!”
My foreheard? I looked down at my empty hand. Where did the…? I reached up and grabbed the horn on my forehead. I ran my hand down to the end and I could feel it was connected to my skin. How did that happen? Why hadn’t I noticed it?
“His forehead?” But Jamal’s skepticism became surprise when he gave my head a close look. “He does have a horn on his head! Why didn’t I notice that before?”
“Because it’s magic!” Tilly told him. “And he’s changing reality with it!”
to be continued…