By Ryan Matejka
This story was a winner of "Best of WritingPrompts 2016"
Based on the writing prompt: Everyone is born with the ability to skip ahead a period of time once in their lifetime.
Dad skipped through the awkwardness of high school to the start of college. Mom skipped from the end of her honeymoon to the day after my birth.
Dad said he didn't even notice when Mom skipped. He said that's how it works; your consciousness skips, but you're still there for everything in-between. He says you remember everything you skipped, you just aren't experiencing it. He says you only get one, so you've got to use it wisely.
I'm older than both of them were and I still haven't used mine.
Back in high school, when my friend Jake was suffering from a particularly bad bout of depression, he tearfully told me he had decided he would skip to his death from that very night. I'm seeing him next week at a surprise birthday party his wife is throwing for him.
I haven't told her that he's never actually met her, and that he's skipped all of this. They seem so happy.
I've been thinking about Jake a lot, lately. I never liked the idea of skipping before, but then again I've never had terminal brain cancer before, either. Maybe he was right to skip to the end. Maybe it was a gift to all the family and friends who couldn't stand the idea of losing him. Maybe all the good that has become of him doesn't overshadow his past and future struggles.
I'm supposed to go in for my operation tomorrow. If it's a success, the tumor could still grow back and I might come out of the operation not remembering who I am or who my family and friends are. For all we understand about the human brain, they might remove or damage the part that lets me use my one and only skip.
This could be my last chance to skip the bad part. I could skip a few years and hope I'm okay by then. Or I could skip until my death just to be safe and nobody would even know.
I would skip to the exact moment things are better, if it worked like that. You can only skip a set time or to a certain event. You find a dark, quiet place, close your eyes, clench your fists, picture the date and time or the precise event, and you find yourself there. If you picture something that won't happen, you don't go anywhere and you lose your one and only skip.
My head hurts. It's been hurting like this for weeks.
I call my parents to tell them I love them and that I'm scared. They tell me they love me and that everything will be alright. We cry over the phone together.
I hang up. I turn all the lights off. I sit on the couch, resting my heavy head against the soft cushion. I close my eyes and picture all the most vivid times in my life; the good times I wish I could relive and the bad things that I chose to experience. Even having lived each and every single one of them, the memories are still nothing more than just that; memories. It's no different than if I'd skipped them all to this, exact point in time. With tears in my eyes, I begin to clench my fists.
My phone rings. It's Jake. He asks me how I'm doing, and I tell him I'm alright.
Jake tells me he's back.
I ask him what he means.
He says that night in high school he changed his mind at the last second. He says he chose to skip to the moment I needed him most. He asks me again how I'm doing.
I tell him I'm scared, alone, and confused.
He tells me he'll be right over.
I skip to the moment he arrives.