On the intersection of Halfway Street and Avaroe Avenue, there is a streetlight that flickers all throughout the night. Some of the people who walk underneath it every night and have lived with the faulty light all their lives conjecture that the lackadaisical leadership of the city have allowed the wiring to go bad over time. No inward maintenance has been done on it since it was constructed and placed there, they say. Others suggest that it’s not the wiring but the lightbulb that needs to be replaced, but since that specific type of lightbulb isn’t made anymore, the city doesn’t want to have to go to all the trouble of upgrading it when it works most of the time. The city is blamed for being lazy either way, and the inhabitants of that town go about their business all the same.
But this night, a solitary woman stands there motionless, only moving her freeze-frame to check the time on her watch. Her eyes otherwise stay straight ahead, her head turned towards Halfway Street facing north. At one in the morning, the street ends in darkness, obscuring the houses that appear non-threatening in the sunlight. But at this time at night, that black pit could be a portal to hell, death itself beckoning yet another soul to oblivion.
There is a rustle on the street to her right, and her head slowly turns towards the source of the noise. Her hat obscures the very top of his head, but clear in her sight is a ragged man with a worn face in need of a good shave.
“I heard you needed an escort,” he murmurs. “You touched your pendant, so I came.”
She flutters her eyebrows demurely to acknowledge his presence. “Indeed. I have been waiting for half an hour, however. You said you would be here within seconds last time we met.”
“My apologies. I was already entangled with a different client. The tent was… difficult to escape from, especially seeing how she had cast a ward around the place. Almost singed the hairs on my arms, but I made it here as quickly as I could.”
“I see.” She tips her hat and turns around, striding towards western Avaroe Avenue. “Where are we going tonight, Lucas?”
“That is your decision. You’re the one who summoned me.”
“And I want you to make the choice.”
“Alright.” He sighs, defeated. “How does the ice cream shop on Main sound?”
“That old place?” She giggles at the preposterous offer. “Sure. Whatever. It’s been too long since I’ve been there, anyways.”
Indeed, it has been quite a long time since the woman has been there, because when she steps in, she is immediately confused at the somber atmosphere that has settled there. One of the employees has died recently, and their picture hangs on the wall beside a few pots of fuchsia flowers planted in their memory. The paint is chipped and fading, and old music from a few decades back plays on the radio. This place could almost be permanently stuck in the nostalgic version of the nineties, the version with all the old romances that blossomed over the summer and died from the weed of high school.
“Lucas?” The woman takes off her hat and sets it on the closest table. “Why did you pick this place?”
“Because this is the closest place that I could think of where the divide between past and present is thinnest.” He also takes a seat at the table. “Close your eyes. We could be in high school again.”
“Don’t touch me,” she reflexively spits out upon seeing him slowly reach for her hand.
“My apologies.” Lucas retreats his hand. “The atmosphere was poisoning me, I presume. Why did you summon me, again? Surely an escort was not all that you needed?”
She gulps. “I wanted to request one thing.”
“I’m all ears.”
She rolls her eyes at the phrase, which has always rubbed her the wrong way for a reason she could never pinpoint. “There’s this one girl I went to high school with- she’s probably a woman now, unless the allure of the gun finally bit her. I forget her name all but for the last letter- A.”
Lucas whistles and wiggles his eyebrows, which earns him a slap across the face from the woman. It stings for a moment, and he grimaces behind his hands, but he is back to normal within a minute.
“I’m sorry, miss.”
“You better be.” She casts her eyes to the flowers, trying to regain her train of thought. “Can you really travel to the past here?”
“Anything is possible here.”
“Then I want you to go back and find A and shelter her. There are a few people I want you to keep her away from.” The woman reaches a hand into her pocket and retrieves a crumpled slip of paper, which she slides to Lucas. “Their names are on this paper. make sure she never comes into contact with these.”
Lucas scans his eyes over the paper, his eyebrows arching higher as his eyes go down the list. “This would cause more chaos than it’s worth, ma’am-”
“Then do whatever it takes to make sure that these people don’t cross paths. Rewire memories, cause weatherly disorder, whatever.”
“As you wish.” Lucas stands up, scratching his shoulders. “I guess this is goodbye then.”
“Goodbye?” She bolts from her chair suddenly, disturbing the employees snoozing at the counter. “What do you mean?”
“If I make any changes to the timeline whatsoever, even if it’s just buying an ice cream cone, then I’ve altered history irreversibly. When I return to this time, it will not be this timeline.”
“Oh…” She clutches her pendant. “I suppose I didn’t consider that.”
“Are you sure that you want me to carry this mission out?”
“I…” A few beats pass in hesitation. “Could you take me with you?”