Loved and Lost by Schroering1 October 23, 2020

Chapter 1

TRAVIS

AUGUST 3

Do you know what it’s like to die?

There is this feeling... I can’t describe it in words. It’s not pain, not comfort, not cold, not warmth… But a feeling of emptiness. A feeling of nothing at all. It’s like everything that made you human vanished into thin air, leaving only a hollow husk, devoid of any sense and any possible way of interacting with the world around you. 

You’re powerless to do anything. All of the thoughts you’ve ever had are flowing through you, seemingly at random. There is absolutely nothing you can do but think, to hold still while in a constant state of slipping away. Any questions you may have will remain eternally unanswered, because there is no one to tell you anything.

Well, there is no more you. No more body, no more brain, there’s just a loose consciousness, but you still feel in control… Somehow. You’re staring into nothingness. It’s not darkness. You can see darkness when you close your eyes, but now you are surrounded by nothing. You’re nowhere. No sights, no sounds, no smells, no experiences. All that remains is a void, from which there is no escape.

That’s how you’re stuck, for however long it takes for your consciousness to collapse. When you’re in there, you know naught when anything else will happen, or even if anything else will happen. Eternity is a long time, after all. Maybe time wasn’t even passing anymore… 

I’ve been there once.

I’m never going back.

Perhaps I should explain who I once was...

Regardless of what happened afterward, life started out for me the exact same way it started for the rest of humanity: thrust into a world of endless turmoil, forced to deal with a cycle which would continue to force itself onto me for as long as I could stand to hold my ground against it.

When I still walked among you, I was known as Travis Montgomery. I came from the town of Auburn. It was small, nothing particularly special about it, a close-knit city of barely-paved roads and modest-sized buildings. The people all seemed to blend together, a population more than a community, with nobody around to stick out above the rest.

Like the rest of you, I thought I knew what life was like. You’re born, you get an education, you work, maybe you fall in love and have kids, then you enjoy the rest of your days while you still have them. Compared to the grand scope of it all, my life seemed to flash by before I even realized that I had one.

Oh, how foolish I was…

Memories of the man I once was were barely anything more than a blur in the darkest corners of my mind. When my life was robbed of me, I let go of them all. I repressed them and locked them away where nobody could ever find them again. I didn’t care enough to remember. Yet… Even then, there were still ones that reluctantly remained. They often crept their way back to the surface, regardless of whether I wished to hold onto them or not.

Most of those memories regarded the girl that I fell in love with. Her name was Avalonia. I depended on her and she depended on me. We were perfect for each other. Whenever I was in her arms, I felt as if there was nothing that could split us apart. It seemed as if it was pure destiny that we would end up finding each other, and I couldn't think of anything that would make me happier than spending the rest of my life with her. 

Well, fate works in mysterious ways. It was kind enough to grant me that wish, but of course I wouldn’t be allowed to enjoy it. I still wonder why all of this happened to me of all people, but then again, I know better than to question the great forces of life. 

All of my future and past were snatched away in an instant, courtesy of a street thug with a rusty old blade. I remember being panicked, petrified... I didn’t want to die, I didn’t want to have to leave the world that I loved. Zealots speak tales of a perfect afterlife, but to me, an existence without Ava wasn’t worth any perfection that I could be offered.

My wishes fell deaf on the girl who I depended on so much. Ava sacrificed me so that she could continue living. She left me to die, cast me out with the level of regard that you show an apple core. Where was the great destined savior that love had promised me?!

I think it was in my final moments that I finally realized that. Even with a knife stuck in my back, I was calling out for Avalonia, for the girl that I trusted… With my last breath, I called out to her as she turned her back on me and ran for the hills. 

I should’ve never depended on somebody else to save my life for me. I wish I had never fallen in love with her in the first place, maybe then I wouldn’t have had to learn that lesson the hard way.

But, for me, it was too late to do anything about it. No amount of enlightenment could’ve saved me from the reaper’s scythe.

Then there I was, in the boundless abyss of death, left alone to truly realize how much of a fool I had been. I tried to fight off an endless train of what ifs and you should’ves, but I learned fairly quickly that one could not fight against what has already won. Might as well embrace it.

Many people speak of an afterlife. Heaven, Hell, angels, demons… If there was one, I certainly never got to experience it. I wish I did, maybe I would’ve been rewarded for all the suffering that I had to put up with on Earth. It was suffering under the guise of love. I just sat there and let Ava turn me into a weak, spineless creature that cared more about Valentine’s Day than anything that truly mattered.

I was stuck in whatever that purgatory was, waiting. I didn’t even know what I was waiting for. It couldn’t have been all for naught, right? There had to be a reason that life was the way it was, and every reason had to lead to a conclusion! So where was it?! As it turns out, that conclusion found me before I found it.

I don’t even know what happened, but I didn’t need to. I had grown accustomed to what the rest of my existence was to be, but it wasn’t too long after that when I found myself back. Back in my body, back again in the world I once called my home. I rose myself up, lying in a pool of my own spilled blood. It couldn’t have been more than an hour…

Just like that, death became nothing more than an inconvenience. I could walk, talk, think, act… It was me alright, but I wasn’t the same. There was something else within my soul. Something… Not bound by the limitations of this world. 

It was astonishing. Nothing like this had ever been possible, and I’m still not convinced that it's possible now. Not possible for humans, at least. Could I even still be classified as one?

I had begged and pleaded to whatever force tied me down to give me a second chance, a chance to live life the way it was supposed to be lived, and now, my prayers had been answered.

I looked around and I saw everyone else, people just like I was. People who had fallen in love... I would bet if any of them knew the true cruelty of life and death, they would ditch the fallacy of love altogether and live a true life, one devoid of this idiotic obsession with another human being.

It wasn’t right. Their blind belief was only the beginning. People barely had the energy to keep themselves alive, exhausting it all on reckless actions for love. If you let another person into your mind, they tend to stay there, festering like an infestation until you aren’t allowed to think for yourself anymore.

That same attachment was what ruined me in the first place, and now, it was going to ruin us all. Humanity was ruined by people’s unwillingness to give up things they desire, or their stubborn need to just find more desire. That stubbornness had caused so much harm throughout history.

I still valued the world, and I wanted to protect it.  But this love, this desire, everything “good” that humans always strive for? It’s holding everything and everyone back. I cared too much about each and every human being to just let them be corrupted like that. Luckily, I now had the opportunity to cure them.

Life is the most precious thing that anyone can ever have the privilege of obtaining. If you’re going to waste your gift of life on someone else, then you don’t deserve it. I was angry. Humans were being led astray by love, and they didn’t even know it. In fact, they sought it out! Begged for it! Sacrificed for it! That is no way to live!

Don’t worry, everyone…

You’ll learn soon enough, one way or another.

AVALONIA

AUGUST 17

…Reality is cruel.

Every night, I cried myself to sleep, and every morning, I cried myself right back awake again. Without Travis to lift me up, I only sank further down. With the light of my life extinguished, all I had left was a shroud of darkness…

Literally and metaphorically.

For the first time in a while, I let the sunlight creep its way back into my life.

Peeking out the window, I saw that the street was clear. No back-alley criminals, no judging eyes… After all that happened, I longed to have the world all to myself, but the piercing silence and a pulsating feeling of guilt forced my trembling hand over to the doorknob, and opened up my gateway to the outside world once again.

I questioned if it was worth it.

I never liked going outside more than I had to. Ever since what happened with Travis, I felt like the world was out to get me. Nothing good ever seemed to happen out there. When Travis was around, every single day was an adventure, and I smiled knowing the next day would bring me more joy and more time to be with the man I loved.

But when Travis died, most of me was slaughtered right along with him. I couldn’t even remember the last time I was able to feel genuinely happy. The world was so cruel, I just decided that I didn’t want to be a part of it anymore. Maybe then I could see him again… 

Still, I kept telling myself, “You’ve only got one life, Ava. You shouldn’t waste it.” That somehow ended up working, as I peer-pressured and bullied myself into wandering out to the store every now and then. It was the only thing keeping me from starving to death.
Travis’ one life ended so quickly… I knew he wouldn’t have wanted me to spend all this time doing nothing. He was a man of unbridled ambition. Whenever he got an idea, he immediately began putting it into action, and there was absolutely nothing anybody could do to stop him. That courage and drive to succeed managed to rub off onto me.

I couldn’t help it. I’m not Travis, and I’ll never be Travis. He was so much better than me, I knew I didn’t deserve him. Yet, he still picked me, out of every other person on the planet, to fall in love with. I guess I could just credit it to good luck, but even that felt like I was disregarding the good memories we shared.

With that thought, I took a step onto the smokey grey pavement outside my house and began to walk, hands in the pockets of my jeans. Nothing was ever really out of walking distance in Auburn, and a bit of exercise might do me a bit of good. 

But nothing good seemed to last anymore. Just when I was beginning to perk up, the horrific scene managed to claw its way into my mind yet again. Despite my best efforts, the scene began to replay in my head.

 

"Hey, babe! How'd the audition go?" I heard the calming voice of my boyfriend, holding the door open for me.

"Good!" I cheerfully responded, slipping out of my heels into some more comfortable shoes. “Got some really good feedback, and I'm feeling optimistic!"

"That's great!" he cheered me on. He was interested, still making small-talk. The celebratory restaurant was probably on his mind. My favourite, his treat.

 

We had a nice meal, chatted about our day, the usual stuff. We didn’t have any reason to believe that anything could be out of the ordinary.

 

“Wanna head downtown, to the lake? We can-”

“Feed the ducks?” He finished my sentence, chuckling as he ran a finger through my hair. “I’d love to…”

 

The lake was Auburn’s main claim to fame. People used it and the surrounding park for anything you can think of: boating, fishing, morning picnics, evening barbecues. Personally, I would run a lap around the water a few times, taking in the scenery and fresh air.

Of course, Travis couldn’t go without some stale bread to throw to the ducks. He loved those birds. I always teased him about it, but even I had to admit, it was relaxing. There was no better feeling in the world than when we would sit together, usually on one of the park benches. I would rest my head on his shoulder, and he would wrap his arm around me, not a care in the world, living in the moment.

On our way there, we passed one of the rougher parts of town. There were quite a few of those around, littered with alleyways, dumpsters, and all sorts of rats. They were the meeting places for those with a certain disregard for human life. Travis and I were alone. Just two naive young adults. Easy targets.

We had passed this alley so many times, we didn’t question it anymore. Over time, we had steadily let our guard down, until this particular day… 

 

“Empty your pockets! NOW!”  The sharp-sounding voice came from a disheveled man, with unruly hair and battered clothes. He snatched Travis up with one hand, tightening around the back of his collar, before spinning him around and throwing him down onto the hard sidewalk with all his might.

“I… I’ve got nothing!” Travis bluffed, genuine fear turning his face pale and widening his eyes.

“LIAR!”  the robber spat back, drawing a knife from his pocket, and hovering it over the center of Travis’ back, right above his rapidly-beating heart… 

 

Travis tried to fight back… But it was too late. Whether out of panic, or maybe malice, I don’t know, but… The man… He stuck Travis right in the back with his knife. 

What I felt in that moment was both something I’ve never felt before and something I never want to feel again. It was fear—complete and total fear. There wasn’t a single drop of hope left in my mind, replaced by a bunch of white noise bouncing around my skull.

Without hesitation or even a second thought, I turned and sprinted the opposite direction down the sidewalk. I ran and I ran and I kept running. Through the alleys, round the bends, up the stairs, into my door, and right onto the bed. I knew not the consequences of my actions. Not at first, at least. The only thing I knew was I was alive. 

But when I did finally manage to comprehend what happened, all I could do was sob; that’s all I did for hours. I had the chance for a perfect life with a perfect guy, and then I left him to die on the sidewalk. I barely managed to keep myself together, and it took a great amount of convincing to not end it all right then and there.

I did everything I can think of that might help… I called love ones, took my anger out on anything in grabbing distance, I screamed until my vocal chords were shot, I drained myself dry with all the tears that I shed… Nothing could ever bring Travis back. 

I dropped by Travis’ apartment many times in the days after. There were almost always detectives there. There was no way I couldn’t have known Travis was dead, but I still didn’t believe he was gone. Everything good in the world vanished, just like that. They never found his body, and so closure was treated as nothing more than a pipe dream.

 

“Excuse me, ma’am…  Are you Avalonia Miliken?”  They attempted to question me, sitting me down on Travis’ couch to get me stabilized.

I nodded my head, avoiding the detective’s eyes as I shuddered in place.

“Where was the last place you saw Mr. Montgomery?”

“O-out… O-outside t-the p… The park…”

“Do you have any idea where he might’ve gone? Ma’am? Are you quite alright?”

 

I couldn’t get a single word out over my tears. I was held for a bit so they could question me, but after I calmed down to the point of being able to speak English, they sent me home… And that’s where I had been ever since.

My house wasn’t that big, nothing more than an upgraded apartment. It was all I could afford fresh out of college. I had gone to a big theater school to pursue acting. That’s what I wanted to do more than anything else in the world. I didn’t feel too confident in myself, so might as well show the world someone that they would actually want to see.

It was decently successful. I got cast in a few commercials, and even got a callback for a small part in a sitcom. That’s about it. I’d just been waiting since then. I did my best at every audition I went to, but almost always, was just shot down weeks later. Luckily, I always had Travis to catch me if I fell.

There was something that most every single producer seemed to say after I did any kind of scene.

“Good emotion, Ava.”

I used to take that as a compliment. It used to tell me that I did a good job in my dialogue, but now it told me that I was good at faking my emotions, at convincing people that I was someone that I wasn’t. 

I averted my eyes from the sidewalk to focus on where I was going. Thinking about the incident might’ve made me turn around, and in the ever moving current of life, turning around was never an option. After a while, I gave up trying to understand the world, and I just embraced what happened to me. Nothing I could do would make any kind of difference, anyway.  

I was heading into the more urban parts of the city. Just needed to get some groceries to last me a bit, possibly pick up a few movies to keep me from going absolutely insane. 

Maybe I’d get back in the swing of things someday. But when you’re in my situation, all you can really do is wait for life to come along, pick you up, and throw you along to wherever it wants. Until then, I’d just stick to what I had.

After getting my supplies, I glanced over to a paved path tucked in between a few buildings. I knew that path better than anyone else, and had taken it many times with Travis. It led to the lake we frequented.

I looked back and forth between the small alleyway and my road back home.

Maybe it would help to divert from the path a little…

Well, you never know if you don’t try. At this point, I would do anything for a chance to feel better. 

I turned and crossed the street, walking down the familiar pathway. I could feel the gravel under my feet slowly turn into dirt as I walked into the city square. The big man-made park was a distraction from the intimidating nature of the city.

I trotted into the large recreation ground and looked around at the different people. Kids played on swing sets, joggers ran along the concrete pathway… People fed the ducks. 

I sat down at the edge of the lake, drowning out the chatter of the world around me. I tried to only focus on myself, and just ignore the awful world that had stolen Travis away from me.

Eyeing a pebble beside me, I picked it up and skipped it across the lake.

The little pebble created ripples, which quickly spread out from it. The ripples kept getting bigger, despite starting from such a small source… 

That’s… Enough outside for one day.

TOCKMAN

AUGUST 24

Tick, tock. Tick, tock.

Time is the most riveting topic to me. It doesn’t stop for anyone. No matter who you are, your wishes will fall deaf on time’s ear. If you’re rich, if you're poor, if you’re smart, if you’re dumber than a bag of rocks, time will treat you equally. It’s one of the last things in this world that wasn’t corrupted by human-originated inequality.

Tick, tock. Tick, tock.

Early on, humans decided that they wanted to conquer around them, and that included time. For so long, people, both real and literary, had tried to crack the secret of time travel. I assume they just want to prove that they could. It’s an obsession, humans have a complex that there’s nothing in this world that could possibly be stronger than them.

Tick, tock. Tick, tock.

Human potential isn’t something that can be written off so easily, of course. Our little species had come so far from monkeys walking upright. Absolutely no one would argue that humans are the most capable species to ever inhabit this Earth. Our animal instincts had manifested themselves in ways that lead us to glory.

The only way anything can survive is by being stronger than something else, and humans have no qualms about challenging every single thing that crosses their path. In a way, I guess you could say that the desire us humans have to be at the top of everything is what has kept us around so long.

If humans didn’t have anything to overcome, they wouldn’t do anything at all. From what started as sticks and stones, we have left our own planet. We understand more and more complexities with every passing second. Neanderthals would die of shock if they even caught a glimpse of a smartphone. 

It was impossible to know. Maybe, one day, we would beat death or conquer time.

It’s human nature.

And I am only human.

Tick, tock. Tick, tock.

I was alone in my lab, with nothing but that reminder of passing time to keep me company. There were clocks lining every square foot of the rather modest-looking building. The first floor, at least. The second floor was full of a gallery of machines and half-finished experiments.

My name is Dr. Timothy Tockman, PhD. I doubt that many people had ever given more than a passing glance. Rightfully so. Nobody wants any distractions, least of all me. If I wanted to make any real progress, I needed to devote more than my full attention to my work.

I was not as lucky as I wished I was, however. I wasn’t alone in the building. The bottom floor was a regular store where people could come in to buy timepieces, and I hired a plucky girl named Penny to run it, who also occasionally acted as my lab assistant. 

I constantly debated whether the privileges of having an assistant were worth the many risks. Penny was always hyper, always bouncing around. Imagine if you went to a room full of trampolines and threw a shot put ball, that’s the effect that Penny left wherever she went.

She didn’t seem to care whenever I talked about our timeline, or clocks, or humanity, or anything, really.  She just wanted to live life as it was. It was almost admirable. Ignorance is bliss, I suppose, but I didn’t think that was any way to live. Penny tried to have those philosophical debates with me, she never won.

I wouldn’t have kept Penny around for that long if she didn’t prove to be as useful as she was. Besides sending her to run errands, I decided to capitalize on that overabundance of hyperactivity. I managed to invest in a brand-new type of generator that proved to convert mental energy into actual motor power that could run my machines. 

I’ll admit, I was skeptical at first, but after merely putting the arm band on Penny and showing her a video of puppies yielded me enough electricity for a whole day, I stopped caring. It was a hassle hooking her up to the generator but much better than paying the bill every month. Why the lights sometimes ended up blue was a mystery that I was too preoccupied to solve. 

I had sent Penny out to get some more parts from an electronics store. I didn’t even truly need any, but she was having a particularly loud phone call, and I needed more time to truly focus. 

My ultimate goal was to be that one man who would invent time travel, turn fiction into reality. No matter who I told, they always laughed it off. 

“Oh, Tockman, that’s impossible. Why don’t you try and actually do something useful in your life?”

Maybe it was impossible. We can’t always assume that everything can be accomplished, after all. It’s a dangerous undertaking for anyone to declare themself stronger than the Earth itself. But I bet that’s not the attitude Wernher von Braun had, and we reached a new frontier because of it.

All of those movies would have you believe that stepping on a bug, or something along those lines, in the past would drastically change the present. In my point of view, it’s much more practical to do something small in the present and drastically  change the future. 

While it is my belief that time travel would simply create a new past, where no present has happened yet…  No one really knows. People have been trying to figure out timelines since Buddha, and yet, there has never been a single soul throughout Earth’s existence that has been able to crack the code.

With time travel, we wouldn’t have to worry about what the future would hold, but that might prove to be even more complicated. Of course, traveling to the future is the one that’s already possible. You could take a few laps around a black hole and by then, you’ve experienced less time than everybody else. Seems like the universe knows more than it is letting on.

Getting back to your present, however…

There were definitely things that had to be ironed out. I was okay with that, no one reaches the top of a staircase with just one step, and whining over impatience simply delays progress. I would not give in.

We were getting closer, I could feel it. Things were happening that would’ve been deemed impossible mere years ago. In the future, I’m sure the same will be said about what we deem impossible now.

I was positive we will have a generation where children are born with time travel being just another fact of life. I was to be the one who brought about this future. I would write my name in the history books first, and then, carve in the constellations, along with all the greats that had walked the world before me. 

Ready or not, here I come. 

Tick, tock. Tick, tock.

 

PENNY

AUGUST 24

Pretty woman, walkin' down the street.

Pretty woman, the kind I like to meet.

With a bit of pep in my step, I strolled down the street, headphones in, listening to some of the classics. I don’t know what it was about music, but letting those calming notes flow through me was the perfect way to ease any kind of tension that had built up. That song in particular always got me particularly pumped up.

Doc had sent me out for another errand. I never minded getting out of the lab for a bit; he didn’t get my taste in music and was always in a bad mood if I played it around the lab. He would never even let me plug headphones in, something about wave radiation interference or whatever. All I knew is that it made him cranky, and a cranky Doc is never pleasant to be around.

Usually I just sat around at my desk, working on whatever Doc put in front of me. Sometimes he’d give me a puzzle to work on or have me put on a bracelet. We didn’t really interact much, outside of when he screamed down the stairs at me.

I savored my moments outside the lab. Sure, it was fun having a job like that, but Doc wasn’t the best company. Plus, it got boring sitting in the same room for a while, with nothing but an endless cycle of ticking and tocking to keep me company.

When I first met Doc, it’s just ‘cus I was curious about the small clock shop in the middle of nowhere people told stories about. I had watched enough fantasy shows to actually believe in some of those stories, so I was a tad disappointed when the only mystical creature there was a thirty-something man in a dirty coat.

He tried to turn me away, but my curiosity had already been piqued, and there was no going back after that. I kept returning to the shop every time I had some down time, just to be met with the same runaround from Doc.

I guess he had a change of heart, because soon enough he gave me an offer to be his assistant. Personally, I think he was just lonely, even if he’d never admit it. I was amazed at all the gizmos that Doc was working on above the shop, but I caught on fairly quickly that I was not supposed to mess with them.

That was a while ago. Doc almost never got out, despite my encouragement. I know work is important, but there’s more to life than that lab, or those machines, or all the stupid clocks. Whenever I try to invite him out to get a pretzel or something, he turns me away.

It’s always the same exact excuse, too. Time travel. I’m amazed by the concept. Just the thought of being able to pet a dinosaur or see ancient Greece brings a smile to my face. If Doc could really pull it off, it would be a monumental achievement!

Doc doesn’t seem too excited about dinosaurs, though. The last time I asked him about it, he ranted on and on about wormholes and timelines and whatnot. Would it kill him to just have fun for once? Apparently so, judging by the lengths he goes to in order to avoid it…

"Pretty woman, I couldn't help but see.

Pretty woman, that you look lovely as can be.

Of course, it was fun having a jam session, but maybe I got a little too into my music…

My music cut off as the pair of earbuds were yanked out of my ears and I found myself tumbling toward the hard concrete below me.

“Oh shit, sorry… Are you okay?” I heard a voice apologize.

I picked my phone and earbuds up and answered, “Yeah… Just a scrape.”

As I looked up, my eyes met with an extended hand belonging to the one who I ran into. It was a boy… A really cute one. He had jet black hair, and was in a blue shirt paired with gray shorts. 

Seemingly forgetting about the fall I had just endured, I took the hand he offered me and got back on my feet, putting my earbuds back around my neck for a moment. 

“…What’s your name?”

The boy answered, “Zinovi Nielson…”

“Penny Novoa!” I smiled, taking a step closer.

Zinovi glanced around, then replied, “Yeah, so… Nice to meet you…?”

“Nice to meet you too!” I enthusiastically replied.

“Sorry about knocking you over,” Zinovi apologized, before walking past, continuing on his way.

I ambled down the sidewalk as well, internally squealing, but before long, I stopped myself in my tracks.

What are you doing, Penny? You’re letting him get away!

I turned around and cried out, “Zinovi, wait!”

He stopped and looked over his shoulder, giving me a few seconds to catch up with him. I stopped in front of him and tried to work up some courage to say something cute, something flirty…

But I forgot about all that and just blurted out, “Can I have your number?” 

Smooth. That’s real smooth, Penny. He won’t think you’re a weirdo at all.

Zinovi didn’t know what to say. He contemplated for a few moments, then nodded, probably just going along with it in case I hurt my head or something.
At any rate, he pulled out his phone and we exchanged numbers.

“I guess I’ll see you later, then.” Zinovi responded, tucking his phone back into his pocket.

“See ya!” I waved, before putting my headphones back in and resuming my stroll down the sidewalk.

Cause I need you, I'll treat you right.

Come with me baby, be mine tonight.

I can’t believe it!

I actually got a boy’s number!

I was trying to imagine how to move forward with him when I came across the door of the electronics store. Suddenly remembering why I was out, I entered, pulling out the list Doc had made for me. It was mostly a bunch of specific types of screws and metal plates, nothing I wasn’t used to at this point. Doc wasn’t the most exciting individual, and I dreamed of a day where I saw a bag of gummy bears on that list, or at least something that wasn’t just silver.

As I read off the labels on all the shelves, I thought more about Doc. He always sent me home before he left, and I’ve never waited to see where he went after work. 

That is, if he went anywhere after work.

Doc’s a genius. There’s got to be a reason why he’s in the middle of nowhere instead of in a facility with a bunch of other geniuses. I just can’t imagine… What could drive a person to not want to interact with society?
I mean, in my opinion, the best thing about life is other people. Your family, your friends, your coworkers, strangers that you smile and say hi to on the street… Heck, even your cat or dog. Add a connection and time with someone and you get the greatest thing worth living for—love. If you have at least one person to live for, then you have a purpose in life. 

I don’t know about Doc, though. He kept me around, but even I could tell he didn’t see me as a friend.

Maybe I could change that. Like I said, there’s more to life than that lab. You have a whole world in front of you! So many people to meet, so many places to go!

If I could show Doc that, I’m positive he’d be happier! The only real challenging part would be getting him to unclog his ears… 

I picked up all the screws and parts, paying and sprinting back towards the lab, Zinovi still lingering on my mind.