“Gah!” I wake with a shock, completely unaware of my surroundings. Blinking rapidly, I try to bring the blurry images into focus, but squeeze my eyes back shut when the flaming agony sneaks into my head. “Holy fuck!” I yell, grabbing at my head. The pain slowly intensifies and I know it would feel a whole lot better if I could just pass out right now. A guttural scream pierces my ears, and it takes a couple of seconds before I figure out it’s me who’s screaming.
“Ya okay back there?” a voice calls, sounding really far away. Just then I decide it’s the stupidest question I have ever heard.
I gasp, unable to form the words I want to say to shut the voice up. The pain lessens terribly slowly and I lay back into the leather, panting as if I’ve run a marathon.
“Your nose is bleeding,” Roland mentions, not taking his eyes off of the road. I cautiously get up, leaning on my elbows to see where the hell I ended up this time. At Roland’s comment I bring up my hand to touch the blood that’s running from my nose over my lips and dripping on the soft leather of the backseat. I flash Roland a fearful look into the rear-view-mirror.
“Don’t worry about it, it’s perfectly normal,” he assures, calmly driving the Interstate.
“Yeah, I figured you would say that,” I sneer hatefully. I am absolutely done with being at the mercy of a time-travelling lunatic with a preference for blood.
Roland chuckles softly, watching me in the mirror, “Your brain needs to adjust to the flexibility of time-travel. It needs to reinterpret the memories from both times. It gets worse every time you jump to another timeline.”
“Luckily we’re not planning on doing that anytime soon, are we?” I mutter, smearing the blood on my hand on the underside of the leather seats.
“Nope,” Roland confirms. “We have to finish something in 2014 first. A quite complicated procedure, I may add,” he smiles.
“You seem in a good mood,” I comment surly.
“I am,” he says before swinging my car into the exit.“I’ve actually never gotten this far. Lord knows I’ve tried enough times.”
“Whatever,” I mutter, deciding it best not to question further. His vague explanations make my head spin and groan as I lie back, feeling my stomach churn dangerously, “Where are we going this time?” I sigh.
“We are on our way to see an old friend of yours, I figured you’d like to have a word with him about what’s been happening around here lately,” he smiles, watching me expectantly. “I actually sent us back minutes before you crashed this car into the guardrail on Bendrick Road, how about that?”
“Spectacular,” I moan, shutting my eyes at the intrusive sunlight as I gently massage my temples.
“A little more enthusiasm might be in order, I’m also doing this for you,” Roland chides quietly, though he doesn’t sound all that mad.
“No way, you’re just dragging me along to everywhere. I don’t get a say in this,” I grumble.
“It’ll sure be interesting. I thought you actually wanted to change things,” he scoffs, fumbling with something on the passenger’s seat.
“I never meant you hopping in and scooping me to ’99.”
“Oh come on, you gotta admit, aside from the gruesome blood practices, it was kinda fun to be back, wasn’t it?”
“No,” I lie. He’s kind of right. ’99 marked a time of careless popularity. It felt pretty sweet to be the centre of the universe again. But most of all, in ’99, my friends were actually still my friends, and not just some colleagues I worked with.
“Okay, alright,” Roland relents, “time to stretch our legs.” He pulls over to a gas-station turning the engine off. The car jerks forward at the sudden action and a wide smile spreads on my face as Roland stares at the wheel in amazement. “Damn old cars,” he mutters darkly.
“You suck,” I let him know, swinging open the back door.
With a grunt, I stand up, swaying slightly on shaking legs. A few tentative steps later I head for the shop, suddenly starved. I contemplate making a run for it, leaving Roland outside by the car, but in all honesty, I have no idea where we are, or how to get back home.
He catches up with me before I can make any further plans, ordering two cokes and a bag of chocolate cookies. I frown as the sudden déjà vu hits me. Shaking my head, I watch him lead the way in amazement, slowly trailing after him.
We sit down on one of the picnic tables scattered around the gas-station. It’s silent for a few minutes while Roland stares off into the distance and I watch my shoes.
“You know, the time you almost ran me over, when we met?” he begins quietly, not shifting his gaze from the unfocused spot in the distance, “ It was Brian right? You said you were on your way to help him, despite of all the stuff he pulled on you and your friends?”
I nod, “Sort of.”
Roland finally looks my way, “We’re on our way to see him, but you must have already figured that out.”
I frown, not understanding, “Y-you can’t.”
“I know it won’t be easy.”
“No, I mean, you actually can’t!” I hiss, staring back at him, “Nobody knows where Brian is. He took off as soon as he figured out we were on to him. He doesn’t answer his phone, not to anyone. He’s just basically… disappeared. Vanished. Poof!”
“Good thing I happen to know where he is,” Roland mutters, averting his gaze.
“I don’t believe you,” I mutter, “I mean, you know a lot of weird stuff, but even you can’t know this from just research,” I spit out the last word, indicating I clearly don’t believe anything he claims to be research.
“He’s in Chicago, Illinois,” Roland replies simply.
I scoff incredulously, “Brian hates Chicago,” I state the fact as if it’s something everybody is supposed to know.
“Exactly, nobody would even care trying to look for him there,” Roland smiles.
I swallow, wondering if he’s telling the truth. I know there is a hidden meaning in most of his words and that everything he says is like a puzzle you have to decipher for yourself. Chicago.
When we get back to the car, Roland invitingly points to the passenger seat. I drop my can of coke when I see him lifting up the bag that has haunted my mind for the past two days.
“W-what are you going to do,” I stammer, backing away from the car slowly.
“Get in, you’ll see when we get there,” he says, carelessly tossing the plastic medical bag onto the backseat of my convertible. It might just be my paranoid imagination, but I can swear I hear the bags of blood landing on the leather seats, making my stomach churn for a second time.
“No- no,” I mutter, my voice shaking, “I rather you tell me now.”
“Damn it Nick, when will you ever learn to trust me!” Roland grumbles in frustration, “I’m doing this for the greater good, for the both of you, alright? Will you now please, get in?”
Not really knowing why, I open the passenger door, slowly sitting down. “What. Are. You. Going. To. Do?” I demand, slowly speaking every word as clear as I can.
“I already told you,” Roland smiles at my surrender, “Forced Recapture.”