It is impossible to say how much I had missed Sam. His death was a horrible time for me. I had known that he was ill; diabetes had systematically wrecked him: his sight was failing, his hearing was shot, and he could barely walk. The fact that he would try to continue with his old life, falling down the stairs in the process ripped me apart. But I could always see that he was happy, wagging his tail when he knew we were close, and trying to slobber all over my face. He was a brilliant, big dog.
Waking up one morning and knowing that he was not only alive once more, but back to his young, giddy self, with many years of playing and pestering ahead of him was something that made the shock of the trip through time all the more manageable. After a harsh day at school, it was always something I would run back home for. And boy were there many bad days at school from then on.
As much as I love and miss my boys in the 21st century, having Sam back was a little bit more special. I had known him from being a puppy, and he had left a profound mark on my life. My memories of him were more positive than the ones I had of so many of the people in my daily life back then.
It may seem odd that I was so willing to junk all of my life-long friends on a whim, just because I had been reminded of another of them. It didn’t feel so difficult from the inside: I didn’t want the life I had already lived, so there was little point in spending time with the people who had shaped that life in to the thing it was. They were contributors to Richard v1.0; this now was time for Richard v2.0.
It didn’t seem like causality was at play here; I had lived a life in a linear way, and was now in a new quantum reality where I had been thrown to a different time point. The decisions I would make in the v2.0 timeline would not just not alter the v1.0 timeline, they were effectively a continuation of it. The fact that I was able to bring my memories with me meant that I could live two consecutive lives.
That accepted, I was free to start again. There was no one in the school I was particularly drawn to as a new set of friends, so I decided to make the most of my time by learning things I had not known in the first pass. That would necessarily need to be computers: we have seen how critical they will be for the future history of humanity; in 1995 we were kind of getting to grips with that, but only just.
Have you ever, one day, just dumped all of your friends and gone off to do something else? I mean, if you then see them at all of the usual junctures, like lessons, and fail to interact as you usually had, and then spend all of your free time in the computer room, doing something utterly inane, they are going to ask questions at some point. They’re people who care about you, and they miss you. A bit.
If you basically become so distant from them that you, for all intents and purposes, become a different person they may begin to ask some pretty harsh questions of you. They may feel betrayed or confused or ditched or abused. Combine all of these with being teenagers and you have a rather large situation you may have to start dealing with. Hence running back to a friendly family Labrador.
If I had been a genuine teenage boy I may have found such a situation impossible, and my resolve weakened in the face of compassion and confusion, but I am an adult. Yes, I had the hormones of youth coursing through my veins, but I had the wisdom of a life lived to fall back on. I also had the awkward assumption of immortality playing hard on my mind. Egomania is always an analgesic.
One day, I was sitting in a computer lab, learning to play with the database software the school had lying around – I remember using a simplified version of it in computer science lessons, but got access to the full thing by asking for it: teachers will help anyone who wants to learn, it seems – when they came in. It took a short while before the five familiar faces entered my peripheral vision fully.
In the 21st century I would always be plugged in to a pair of headphones at this kind of time, listening to some music. That was not something I was going to miss in 1995, so I had snuck a Walkman in to school with me. I looked odd, discs of orange foam plugged to my ears the whole time, but it kept me in my comfort zone, and allowed me to concentrate on which particular brackets to use when.
The girl sitting next to me, using a rudimentary paint programme for homework, put me on to them first. She nudged me, and I looked at her, appalled. She nodded to them: a ginger one, a fat one, a tall one, a diseased one and a girl. They all looked at me with a variety of expressions: interest, faint boredom, condescension, anger and sadness. “Hi” I said. I wasn’t sure if any of them had spoken.
They all wanted to say something to me, but none of them wanted to speak. Ah, to be a teenager again, to experience the horror of being alive, of being human, neither one thing or another. It had to be the girl. She wasn’t the most confident of them, but she needed the words to come out most. “Where have you gone? I mean, like; I mean, not here. I mean, we know you’re here. You’re here.”
“I am here. Is that a problem?” Ooh, it was the diseased one next. There were times when I would forget that we had ever been friends, but that wasn’t about to be today. “Of course it’s a fucking problem, man. What are you doing?” I’ve left his accent at the door, so that you can understand him, but he spoke/shouted with a strong local twang. None of the rest of us did. I smiled at him.
The ginger one chuckled. “Come on you lot; let’s let him get on with it. He’s got better things to do than listen to us. See you later.” I nodded to him, and watched them all drift away. As the last one left the room I slipped my headphones back on and pressed play on the Walkman. The girl beside me shook her head in dismay. I was looking forward to seeing Sam already. Afternoon lessons first.