Bill rested his body on the ancient mattress that lay upon the floor in his run down inner city apartment. In his hand he held his most prized possession, a chrome Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum. He admired the gun, marveling at the way it reflected the glare of the sole light bulb that jutted from the ceiling above his head. This gun was his companion, his partner. He fancied it as part of himself, an extension of his right arm. It was a thing of beauty.
Bill was a big man, roughly 6’ 4” tall with a 250 lb. muscular body draped across broad shoulders. He kept himself in good shape. Since he lost his last job there wasn’t much else to do but work out. Work out and steal, that’s what he did. That night wouldn’t be any different. Bill was hungry.
He glanced over at the red glow of the clock that sat on the floor next to him, 7:35 pm. 'Time to go,' he thought and hopped up off the mattress. He grabbed a handful of shells out of a box next to his door, threw six in his revolver and the rest in his pocket as he headed out the door.
The hallway smelled like spicy B.O. and some kind of ethnic cooking that Bill was less than fond of. He breathed as little as possible when making any trips up or down the hallway. On his was down the hall Bill bumped into Larry, the landlord. Larry was a short, stocky, balding man of about 45. He also happened to be one of the stinky blokes that made this hallway such a rancid, uninviting environment.
“I’ll have the rent tomorrow,” Bill said with a smile, before Larry could ask about it.
“Huh?” Larry seemed a bit startled, “Oh, okay thanks”.
Bill bounded down the steps like a twelve year old boy headed out for the daily stickball game. The only difference was that Bill was showing his age by whistling the theme from “The Andy Griffith Show”. He hated that song but he always caught himself whistling it. In three long strides Bill was down the stairway and pounding through the door. He had about five minutes to make three blocks. That would get him to the quick mart by 7:40 pm. The safe would be open by 7:45 pm, and that’s what Bill was after. He figured he’d take about fifteen hundred bucks. It was Sunday night and there were no weekend deposits so this was the best time to hit. That store was a big fat turkey on Thanksgiving morning and Bill was planning a feast. He loped down the sidewalk feeling pretty good.
When Bill walked into the quick mart there was only one other person, other than the two clerks in the store. Perfect, he thought because that one customer was on his way out. Bill nodded and winked at that gentleman who returned the gesture with a smile as they passed in the doorway. Bill looked behind the counter. One clerk, an average sized, middle-aged man was filling up the safe while the other clerk, a tall, thin, pale redheaded kid of about sixteen stood at the counter.
“Can I help you?” the redhead asked with a shiny, metallic smile.
“Absolutely,” Bill replied returning the smile. “I’ll take a pack of Marlboro box and…” he paused. “What’s that guy’s name?”
“Oh him?” The boy said gesturing behind himself, “That’s Roy. He’s da’ boss.”
Bill couldn’t help but smile at the boy’s innocent, pasty face. “Okay, then I’ll take a pack of Marlboro’s and tell Roy I’ll take all the money he’s got there in the safe.” With that Bill hauled out his mighty hand held cannon and thrust it into pale face’s forehead.
“Oh shit,” the boy whispered. “Roy. Roy this guy wants the money.”
Roy began to turn around slowly, catching the light glimmering off the barrel of Bill’s gun. He didn’t know what to do. He wasn’t about to give this big, scum ball gorilla the money, but he didn’t want to see his only son, Ben take a bullet either.
Just then the door opened and a woman walked in with two small children. Bill spun around and aimed his gun at the woman. “Do your kids a favor, don’t…”
Before Bill could finish Roy lunged at him, tackling the big man. As the two men were headed toward the floor the gun went off and Bill dropped it. Then he noticed that one of the cherubs that had just come in with his mother was now missing most of his face. Blood splattered against the walls and poured out of what was left of the poor boy’s exploded head. The mother started screaming and Roy pounded on the back of Bill’s head, but Bill tuned everything else out and concentrated on the bloody mess that used to be a little boy. Bill had never killed anyone before and would never think of killing a kid. He could taste bile welling up in the back of his throat. Then a good shot to the back of his head from Roy quickly snapped him back to reality. Instinctively, Bill threw his left elbow back and connected with Roy’s nose, busting it along with Roy’s two front teeth. Roy was done, for the time being.
When Bill got up the back of his head was throbbing from Roy’s blows and Ben was standing in front of him. Bill was now staring down the barrel of his own gun. He didn’t like it so much from this angle. He glanced over and saw that the poor mother who had interrupted the robbery with her two boys was now holding her baby’s lifeless body in her arms wailing madly. While she sobbed she tried to push the boy’s brains back into his shattered skull. Goddamn, why did that have to happen?
Then he turned his attention back to Ben. “Give me the gun kid.”
“I called the police,” Ben stuttered. “You ain’t goin’ anywhere.”
Bill lunged at Ben and heard a loud crack. Almost instantly he felt hot metal tear through his left shoulder. He grabbed the gun with his right hand and drove his forehead into Ben’s nose knocking the would-be hero out on contact. With his gun back in his own hands, Bill charged for the door.
He stopped by the poor woman who was still trying to revive her dead son and said, “Hey lady, I’m real sorry. Gimme’ your car keys.” The words dropped heavily off of Bill's tongue. If only he could keep them from passing his lips, but he had to get out before the cops came. Sirens were already wailing across the night sky. The lady didn’t respond so Bill grabbed her purse and found the keys himself.
Within’ moments Bill was in the woman’s blue Ford peeling out into the street right in front of a squad that immediately gave chase. Bill’s shoulder was throbbing. The pain seemed to expand with every pulse. ‘Dammit,’ he thought. ‘I didn’t even get the money.’ Blood pumped out of his shoulder like Niagara Falls. He was starting to feel woozy, having trouble controlling the car. He started nodding off when he saw a semi headed straight for him. He yanked on the wheel but the big Ford responded like a big Ford, slow. It was too late. He saw a bright flash, a brilliant light like nothing he’d ever seen as his stolen car pounded into the front of a mountain of Peterbilt truck.
When Bill woke, he was surrounded by light. He was obviously in the center of some type of room but he couldn’t make out any walls or doors. There didn't appear to be any kind of ceiling, or anything else for that matter. Everything was just bright, white light. It was seamless. There was no beginning and no end. Bill looked at his shoulder and there wasn’t even a scar. ‘What the hell?’ He thought. ‘Am I dreaming? Am I dead?’
Finally he spoke. “I must be dead,” he muttered
“Not yet,” a voice responded. He couldn’t tell from where, “but you will be.”
“Who is that?” Bill demanded, turning nervous circles desperately trying to locate the source of the voice. “What the hell is going on here? Who the hell are you?”
“Who I am isn’t important,” the voice continued, “you’re in the future Bill. How does your shoulder feel? It was a mess when we brought you in.”
“This doesn’t make any sense. Somebody better tell me what the fuck is going on!”
“Relax Bill.” The voice continued in the same monotonous tone that it had begun, “It is exactly fifty years and two weeks from that fateful day at the market on Lincoln Avenue…”
“Fifty years? Are you crazy? What, have I been in a coma?” Bill interrupted. His mind was freaking out. He was sure that this was some kind of a dream or maybe hell or who knows what.
“Bill, we brought you here. We pulled you out of that car wreck because it would have killed you. We brought you here with a time traveling device. I would explain it to you but there are quite a few things that we know about our world now that you could not possibly understand. Any explanation would only serve to confuse you more than you already are. The important thing is that we brought you here because we need you. We healed your shoulder because we need you to be strong.” The voice droned on like some kind of learn to tape. Bill was ready to scream.
“Need me for what?” Bill’s patience was at its end.
“Testing Bill,” the voice calmly responded. “You see Bill, we’ve developed a new, more humane method of administering capital punishment. Your job is simple, Bill. You just have to lay back, relax and we’ll determine if it works.