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Justin Campbell Justin Campbell
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'Sunglasses, Time-Travel, & Iced-Tea' Part 20

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Under the Double Star - Chapter One

20. – John Paiten

       I sat in the back of an ambulance, as a grief counselor talked to me. It was Shawn, from Donald’s Foods, but not really Shawn.

       It was only beginning to dawn on me that I’d been sent here by the High Society of Iced-Tea Drinkers specifically to witness Brian’s death, and to witness people plunged into a life-or-death situation. I certainly hadn’t experienced anything like that before, or had someone close to me pass away. It was a whole new feeling, and it was a deep one.

       Oh, the life of a swivelhead. Only Brian would have thought The Specials had recorded that song.
       “We are all very sorry for your friend Brian,” Shawn said. Next to him, a paramedic, in the form of Gabe, another of Jason’s friends, sidled in.

       “Can I speak to you for a moment?”

       “Sure. Are you okay by yourself?” Shawn asked me.

       “Yes,” I replied. As they walked away, a blood splatter analyzer who looked like Greg, another person I knew by sight through Leonard and Jason, walked by.

       The details had properly been announced – five men had intended on robbing the Brinks security truck that delivered the bank’s money. It was an armored car heist – and people in the bank were largely just subdued while it took place. Four of the gunmen had been arrested, while the fifth had been shot to death on the scene. Two policemen – including the Raymond Dorsey I’d heard on the walkie-talkie – had also been shot, but not killed.

       This was a whole new experience for me. But then again, it might as well have been my first taste of adversity. Brian was dead – no one could come back from the dead. I was just glad Jason and Leonard weren’t here, wherever they were. They probably just appeared in a different section of mall and hadn’t come around yet. They’d be here shortly. As I looked around, I spotted a familiar-looking guy shooting photographs and talking to the police, and when I saw his face, I realized it was my professor, Mitchell Bowen. Sporting a head of long, dark, straight brown hair (which he completely lacked in 2012), he was focused on the crime scene.

       I got up from the ambulance and walked up to him. “Hey," I said to him. "What are you doing here?"

       He lowered his camera and acknowledged me. “Excuse me?”

       “You work for the paper or something, Bowen?”

       "How do you know my name?"

       I had to think quickly about that. "Um...I don't know...I...I saw it on a photo caption once."

“Oh. Yes, I take photos part-time for the Ottawa Citizen, though I also teach part-time. Are you one of the victims?” he asked, interested.

       “Yeah, my friend was the one who got shot in the back. It’s been a horrible day.”

       “Oh, wow, I’m very sorry. What’s your name?”

       “John Paiten.”

       “Would it be okay if I took your picture? It would have a huge impact.”

       “Um, sure, I guess. Do you know Larry Macklin?” Larry had been a Lady Gaga-fanatic theory professor in the program alongside Bowen.
       “Larry Macklin? No, I don't believe I do.” He focused the camera on me and snapped an image.

       “Ah. Okay. Well, I won’t keep you…it’s been a stressful day.”
       “I hope you recover from it,” Bowen said. "Thanks for letting me take your picture." He then bid me goodbye and walked elsewhere to get a different angle.

       I hoped I would too. This was a huge lesson I was struggling to deal with – the idea of Brian no longer alive was so difficult for me to accept that I kept forgetting he was not coming back. He’d left this world, albeit before he’d even entered it chronologically, and what the coroner would do upon finding he had no parents and a date of birth from the future was beyond me. I didn’t know what we’d do when we eventually got back to our own reality – explaining that Brian had died twenty-eight years ago would not be easy or rational to explain, and there’d be so many people ready to see him again only to realize he’d not be coming back…oh… I was almost consumed with grief all over again. This was just so unfair.
       As I grieved over my lost friend, I became aware of this music that began to play. I looked around, but there was no one carrying any boomboxes on their shoulders like I’d seen in the mall. No one else was reacting to the increasing volume of sound, and I finally realized it was only in my head. I heard a very slow, mellow piano.

       As the voice started singing, I realized it was R.E.M., playing 'Everyone Hurts.' As I listened to the song, everything started to get brighter, until it was all white.

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