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Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

Phil Temples: Rebound

ym_94_rebound_wburke.jpg
Art by Wayne F. Burke 2022

Rebound

by Phil Temples

 

          “Housekeeping.”

Randy Pratt announced his presence before entering. Most of the residents of the Centerwood Assisted Living and Nursery Facility were gathered in the common room for arts and crafts. The room was unoccupied, or so he thought. But then, he saw Billie Madison curled up in a corner of the room reading the latest Super Dynamo vs. Dark Phantasmo e-comic that Billie had received the day before.

“Oh, I’m sorry, Billie. I didn’t know anyone was in here. I can come back later, if you’d like.”

“Naw, that’s okay, Randy,” replied the five-year-old rebounder. I’m just killing time until Johnny and Lizzy get back from crafts.  You go ahead and do all that grownup stuff that needs doing.”

“Okay, kiddo.” Randy walked over and stripped the bunk beds of their sheets and tossed them in the portable incinerator on his cart. They disappeared in a whoosh! Then he pushed a button and four sets of sheets and pillows popped out. The newer carts were equipped with robotic arms that installed the linen. But Randy was fine with the older model. He enjoyed doing it by hand.

“How’s Lizzy doing, by the way? She still hanging in there?”

Billie looked sad. “Not so good, I’m afraid. She’s three now, and she’s beginning to lose a lot of her vocabulary. Heck, so am I. Image that! Three doctorate degrees under my belt, and I’m only interested in comic books now.” Billie paused to put down his tablet. “I guess it’s only a matter of time before you’ll be slappin’ diapers on me.”

Randy chuckled. “Gawd, I hope not. I don’t want to get anywhere near your little pecker. Besides, you still got a few good years left in you.”

Around 2047 the world’s elderly population started to experience sudden age reversal. People around sixty-five began appearing younger. Despite intense investigations by the world's leading medical schools as to why seniors no longer assumed the typical signs of decline but instead grew youthful over a relatively short span of time, no definitive cause had ever been found. Some scientists speculated that the answer to this vexing question might exist in the reactivation of telomerase, the enzyme that lengthens telomeres––prompting gene reproduction. While this dramatic change in the human condition pleased most elders, it upset their descendants, who witnessed their parents—and grandparents—“rebounding” past them in chronological age and maturity.

“Randy, can I ask you a question?”

“Sure.”

“Are you still linear?”

“Yep. Guilty as charged. Is it that obvious?”

“Well, I figured as much. If you were on the rebound, you wouldn’t be taking care of little kids. You’d be out doing fun stuff instead. I tell ya’, enjoy it while you can. It sucks to get young.”

“I’ll keep that in mind, Billie. I surely will. You take care. Be nice to the others, and share your toys. I’ll be back the day after tomorrow.”

Randy finished his duties on the second floor, and headed for the infant’s ward on level eight. He was responding to the dispensary, which had messaged him saying it needed more diapers.

As Randy passed by one of the doors, the sensor detected his proximity and flashed on the screen the names of the room occupants. One name caught his attention immediately:

PHILIP R. PRATT, AGE 1.25 YRS

Could it be…?

Randy had a stepfather—a rebounder—who would be around one or two years of age now. The two had been estranged for decades. Randy touched the sensor and then pressed query. Up flashed more vital statistics about Philip Pratt.

Is it really you, you son of a bitch?

Philip had been an evil stepfather. He was fifty-six years Randy’s senior. When Randy was a child, Philip delighted in playing cruel pranks on him. Like the time he threw rocks at Mrs. Madison’s tabby cat, and then he told her that Randy was the culprit. Randy’s mother punished him for weeks by making him scrub the floors, clean the dishes, and perform other intensive labor meant for the cleanbots. Philip even got Randy arrested once when he bullied his stepson into entering a bodega to say, “This is a stick up. Give me your money.”

Above all, Philip was a sadistic sociopath who delighted in smacking the youngster around simply for the pleasure of seeing him suffer. It wasn’t until the elder Philip divorced Randy’s mother and moved out of state that Randy escaped his cruel treatment. Randy severed all contact with Philip, and they lived their separate lives. Once or twice over the years, Philip had tried reaching out to Randy, but Randy never reciprocated. The two hadn’t spoken since.

Randy walked into the room. There was no need to knock. The occupants were infants, all assigned to cradles. Randy spied the cradle occupied by his stepfather. He bent over and put his face inches from the baby’s.

“It’s been a long time, hasn’t it, Philip? Do you know who I am?”

The baby had been staring off into space. But when Randy bent over the cradle, Philip stared up at him. The infant was transfixed.

“Yes, it’s me. Randy. You remember, right? You remember how you used to knock me down, and kick me? You broke my ribs, once. Then you told mom that I had fallen down the basement stairs. You threatened to kill mom if I told her the truth. Remember?”

The baby Philip continued to stare at the figure above him. The words Philip heard meant almost nothing to the nearly preverbal infant. Yet, they stirred vague recollections. Feelings. Feelings of hunger. Or concern. No, perhaps… delight?

 “Do you remember when you trapped me in the bathroom and pulled down my pants? Do you remember how you raped me? I’m sure you do. That’s something even a slobbering infant wouldn’t forget, right? I know you remember! I can see it in your eyes.”

Indeed, Philip’s eyes betrayed him. The scene was registering in the infant’s mind. It was ancient and powerful and …

Something dark moved across Philip’s face. Suddenly he was aware of pressure against his throat. Philip’s instincts told him to both cry out and suck in air at the same time. Neither was possible, however, as the grown man’s hand seized the infant’s throat in a viselike grip. Philip struggled, to no avail.

Randy squeezed more tightly. Seconds later, Philip’s vision grew blurry. Soon he stopped struggling and surrendered to the impending darkness.  Randy, knowing the sophisticated electronics in the building would soon identify him as the assailant, abandoned his cart, headed down the elevator, and walked calmly out the building into the bright morning sun.

Justice had been meted out by Randy’s hands in a most satisfying fashion. It mattered little to Randy what happened to him now.


Phillip Temples resides in Watertown, Massachusetts. He's had five mystery-thriller novels, a novella, and two story anthologies published in addition to over 180 short stories online in: The London Independent Story Prize; Wilderness House Literary Review; Boston Literary Magazine; and Ariel Chart to name but a few.  Phil is a member of New England Science Fiction Association, the Mystery Writers of America, and the Bagel Bards. You can learn more about him at https://temples.com.


Wayne F. Burke's drawings have appeared in a number of publications, in print and online, including FLARE, Portland Review (ME). Red Savina, Duane's Poe Tree, Driftwood Magazine, Grey Sparrow, The Octopus Review, About Place Journal, and elsewhere. He lives in the central Vermont area (USA).








In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2022