It was just another evening for Alex. He finished his calculations, cleaned his desk, drove to a pub, bought a drink, ordered his dinner. He sat there, thinking about where his life could’ve been instead, wishing he’d proposed to Jane. He’d moved away for his first job when he could’ve stayed and proposed, and on that day, he regretted.
“Al, you’ve got terrible taste in beer.”
Alex’s head jolted up to see the speaker. Standing beside the table, smirking down at him, was an interesting man to say the least. His ears were pierced with simple rings. His shoulder-length hair was covered in a black fedora, his eyes in mirrored sunglasses, and his casual black suit in a crisp grey trench coat. He looked as though he couldn’t decide between a casual, formal, or mysterious appearance.
“Who are you?” Alex asked, his left eyebrow practically grazing the ceiling.
“A man who doesn’t punish himself for leaving his lover with Budweiser,” the man responded, his smirk growing at Alex’s look of shock. “Yes, I know about that, Alex. I know about everything that’s happened in your entire life. If you want to know more about me…” he paused for a second “…and what I can offer you, buy me some top shelf.”
Alex, his jaw hanging limp and his eyes wide, just nodded weakly.
“Who are you?” Alex asked.
“For simplicity’s sake, call me Mr. Always.”
“Mr. Always.” Alex turned it over and over in his head. Considering how strange this man had acted, such a name didn’t surprise him at all. Normally, Alex would’ve gotten as far from a man like this as possible. However, there was some sort of allure to him that Alex didn’t quite understand.
“Well, Mr Always, have you been stalking me?”
“Stalking is for people who don’t know who they’re following.” Always said, laughing hysterically at the comment, “I see you every second of every day already. Don’t flatter yourself; you’re just one person out of billions.”
“What do you want?” Alex softly demanded, the initial shock wearing off.
Always didn’t even bat an eye. “A little snappish, eh? I want to give you what you want.”
“Let me guess, you know where Jane is after 34 years, and you can give me some reunion? You think I was born yesterday?”
Mr Always broke out laughing once again, drowning it with some beer. “Who do you think I am? I’m not some scammer, I’m the master of time itself!”
This time, Alex let out a chuckle of his own. “Do you expect me to believe that? I’m not some idiot, I was at the top of my Caltech class.”
“Really?” Always said.“Then tell me, mister-big-shot-engineer, when did the waitress ever hand me the drink?”
Alex was confused for a moment. He didn’t know. He looked around the bar, and he realized that there hadn’t been any noise. Everyone, everything, had frozen. Alex turned around, seeing Mr Always sipping that beer and smirking once again.
“Need more proof, or are you ready to listen?”
Alex nodded, the shock back in his face.
“Good. If you shake my hand, I can send you back to college. You can propose to Jane, marry her, live with her forever after. No caveats, no price, just Jane for you and personal satisfaction for me.” Alex pondered this. Figuring that a handshake couldn’t hurt, he stretched out his hand. Mr Always grabbed it, and all of a sudden, Alex wasn’t in the bar.
There he was, sitting in class on that fateful day, his body years younger, his glasses back, his clothes rattier, and only ten minutes left until the end of class. Alex almost cried out in surprise, but all that got out was a strangled “Ooo, aaa, ooo”. He pretended to listen, but in his mind, he was planning his next move. When class was out, he went to his dorm, took the ring he’d bought, found Jane, hanging out on top of the classroom supply closet, and proposed.
Alex sat in his cubicle, performing his calculations and thinking over his life. He had to admit, the job he’d gotten was starting to grate on him. While high-paying, it wasn’t as fun as NASA. He did have plenty of fun with Jane, with nights out, fancy cars, and a penthouse apartment, all at Jane’s request. Alex was enjoying this life, even if it was a little taxing at work and on his wallet. In evenings, he had Jane, and Jane enjoyed them as well. He was wondering what fun Jane got up to while he worked when, all of a sudden, the phone rang.
“Alex, this is Jane.” the voice on the other end said, “I need you to bail me out.”
“Alex, please! I can explain!” Jane began crying, and Alex softened up.
“I’ll be right down!”
It was when Alex arrived and bailed Jane out that Alex found out where that money Jane kept for herself had gone. He was even shown the little white packet Jane had been using that day, fished out of her ‘prison wallet’. Alex couldn’t believe it, he knew that Jane must be innocent. He knew that he would defend Jane when she was tried. That was melted away, though, when, he heard the dealer in the jail.
“Jane! I didn’t know you were married!”
This made Alex’s blood freeze, he could only stare at Jane, who avoided his gaze the whole silent time. After he came home, he left to get another beer; he needed to think. It didn’t surprise him when yet another man criticized his taste.
“Why don’t you look the same?” Alex asked, sternly.
“You don’t wear the same clothes every day, why would I?” Mr Always replied
“Always, I want to go back.”
“What do you mean?”
“Back to my old life. My wife doesn’t love me. I’m just a money pile to her, she cheated on me, and she’s probably going to cost thousands in lawyers.”
“I understand.” Always said, nodding his head.
“So, can you do it?” Alex asked.
“What do you mean?” Alex asked, his eyes narrowing.
“Of course I can take you back. The question you should be asking…” Mr Always said, smirking as always “…is whether I will take you back.”
“What?!” Alex cried, “You tried to make me happy before, why won’t you now?!”
His tone calm as ever, Mr Always planted his tongue firmly into his cheek and asked “When did I ever say I wanted you to be happy? All I said was ‘Jane for you and personal satisfaction for me.’”
The realization hit Alex like a ton of bricks. “You knew this would happen!”
“I’m the master of time itself, of course I knew.”
Alex went out of his skull at that moment. He lunged at Mr Always and tackled him to the ground. He paid no attention to the man’s agonized screams and confused inquiries as to who Mr Always was. He was deaf to everything but the adrenaline in his blood and the profanities spewing from his belief. By the time the police arrived to question him, Mr Always was gone, and the man Alex was beating was dead. They took Alex to jail to await trial. Alex thought of the wife he’d thrown his life away for, who didn’t even bother bail him out. He sat in the cell, and on that day, he regretted.