“Oh, my God.” Chloe backed away from the very large man, her eyes wide with terror.
The man, Clark, saw her fear and raised his hands as if to calm her. “Chloe, don’t be scared -”
“Take what you want, and leave,” she said, her voice trembling. “We don’t have much, just…please…”
Clark shook his head and stepped towards her.
“No!” she screamed, holding out one hand as if to stop him and clutching herself with the other. “No, please!”
He froze, looking hurt at her defensive reaction. “Chloe, I don’t want to hurt you, I just -”
“Stay away from me,” she warned. “Take all our money, jewellery…everything. I won’t call the cops, I swear, just…don’t touch me.”
“Chloe, you don’t understand,” he said earnestly. “I need your help; you’re the only one I can turn to -”
“I already told you, I don’t know where Lana Lang is!” she screeched, and scrambled backward until her back hit the kitchen counter.
Oh, no. She’d blocked herself in, her phone was upstairs, and the only exit was…
…behind her intruder.
“Oh God, no,” she wailed, tears rolling down her face.
Clark stared aghast and hurried towards her. “Oh Chloe, please don’t cry,” he soothed, taking her arms in his hands. She flinched at his touch, and panic welled up in her as she tried vainly to push him away.
“Please don’t do this,” she pleaded, staring into his eyes. “Please…”
Clark shook his head. “Chloe, I’m not here to harm you-”
“I’m pregnant,” she blurted out in a desperately. “Twelve weeks. I can show you the pregnancy test if you don’t believe me.”
Clark gasped and glanced down at her still slender form, where just the tiniest hint of a bump was beginning to show.
She babbled on, sobbing in fear. “I don’t know if that’ll make a difference to you, but I beg you, please don’t hurt me or my baby-”
He loosened his hold on her arms. “Chloe, I understand why you’re panicking, but believe me when I say you have nothing to fear from me,” he said firmly. “I would never hurt you. Never. Now try and calm down; all this stress can’t be good for the baby.”
She looked into his eyes, seeing sincerity in their depths. “You’re not going to-?”
“No!” he exclaimed. “God, no.”
“Then why are you doing this?” she cried. “What do you want from us?”
He took a deep breath, and spoke. “I know I’m going to sound like a complete nutjob, but you always had an open mind and a knack for discovering the weird and unexplained, so I assume that hasn’t changed,” he said.
Chloe shook her head and stared at him hard, puzzlement beginning to take the place of fear. “I don’t understand,” she said at last. “What do you mean, ‘always had’? And why do you speak as though you know me?”
“Because I do know you, Chloe,” he said softly. “You’re my best friend…and you kind of sent me here.”
She stared at his as if he had gone mad.
“Can you hear yourself?” she said in disbelief. “No offence, but you sound like a crazy person!”
He shrugged. “None taken. I told you you’d think I was a nutjob.”
“Clark, I think you’re confused,” she said gently. “I have a best friend, yes, and you do look a little like him…but you’re not him. I have never seen you in my life before today.”
“Not in this life, no,” he said. “But in an alternate reality…” he trailed off, and she rolled her eyes as she heard what he was suggesting.
It was the Butterfly Effect pick-up-line. We were together forever in another universe, I gave you up for the world, I just need to make sure you’re okay, boo-hoo, boo-hoo…
She rested her hands on her hips and shook her head derisively. This was so not what she needed at two in the morning.
“Oh, I get it,” she leered sarcastically. “Let me guess; you’re going to tell me to-” she added finger quotes “-‘come with you if I want to live’ right before a cybertronic assassin bursts in, and then you’ll inform me that the baby I’m carrying is going to be the saviour of mankind,” she snarked. “Tell me, what am I gonna name him – John Connor?”
“I know it sounds like some lame science-fiction movie plot, and it seems stupid that I’m even attempting to explain this, but I’m not from the future; just an alternate reality,” he explained. “We’re the same age as we are now.”
“Oh, so you only moved across the timeline, like horizontally instead of vertically,” she said, nodding and stroking her chin with mock seriousness. “Yeah, that’s makes so much more sense. Really.”
“I swear, every word is true,” he insisted.
Chloe sighed and regarded him with genuine concern. He was loopy, that much was clear. Thankfully he didn’t appear to be violent, but he really wasn’t well. Chances were there was some handler out there frantically looking for him.
“Okay…Clark,” she said, using his name for the first time. “It’s Clark, isn’t it? I didn’t want to offend you earlier, because I didn’t want to get ravished within an inch of my life, but now that I see you’re a somewhat decent sort, I have to ask: are you off your meds, or something? Is there someone you want me to call, or…?”
To her great surprise, Clark smiled at her and shook his head. “I should have known snark would come into play sooner or later,” he grinned. “You always have a sharp retort at the ready, no matter what the situation.”
At his familial tone, Chloe stiffened and folded her arms. “Look, I’m sorry, but you really are freaking me out,” she said bluntly. “I appreciate that you don’t want to hurt me, and I know you just want someone to talk to, but it’s the middle of the night, and -”
“Your name is Chloe Ann Sullivan,” he said softly. “You were born in Metropolis General Hospital on the tenth of November, 1986, to Gabriel and Moira Sullivan. You were the third baby and first little girl to be born in Met Gen’s brand new East Wing back then, and your 1-day old photo hangs on the wall along with those of the two little boys who preceded you. You’re an only child; grew your first tooth at six months, walked at nine months, and your first word, according to your dad, was ‘why’, which you repeated often. And still do.”
Chloe stared at him in flabbergasted shock. Sure, there were some things he’d said that could have been gotten from Lowell County records…but there were others that could only have been known by someone close to the family.
“Your Mom left home when you were five,” he went on quietly. “You came downstairs one morning, and saw your Dad trying to make waffles for your breakfast.”
Chloe paled, and her legs started shaking. She’d never told anyone that, not even George.
“At first you thought she’d just walked out on you, but I assume that in this reality as well as ours, you’ve long since discovered the truth: that she was caught in Smallville’s meteor shower and developed a powerful ability from the meteor rock radiation.”
“The ability to control people’s actions and take away free will,” she said quietly.
He gave a slight nod. “Exactly. She decided to have herself committed after she inadvertently caused you to hurt your hands trying to clean ink off them. You thought you’d cut them-”
“…playing kick-ball,” she whispered, sinking into a chair before her trembling legs gave way on her.
He nodded. “Should I go on?”
She nodded in a daze.
“You and your Dad moved to Smallville in the Millennium year,” he supplied. “I’ll try to stay away from details of the two of us, because you won’t have experienced it, but I’m pretty sure you wore the same pair of Doc Marten boots throughout your freshman and sophomore year in this reality as well.”
For the first time since this crazy night began, Chloe managed to crack a genuine smile. “Oh my God. You really do know me, don’t you?”
He grinned. “Well, don’t take just my word for it,” he said, extricating his wallet from his pocket. “Here.”
She stared up at him suspiciously, and then took the proffered item from his hand and flipped it open.
Her eyes widened in surprise. Looking back at her was her own face, grinning from ear to ear with her flippy blonde locks in wild disarray. Freshman year, she realised, recognising the purple top and the army jacket she had on. In the picture, she was leaning over a desk and touching heads with a much younger version of the man in front of her.
Naturally she was sceptical. Being a true product of the Digital Age, Chloe couldn’t discount the possibility that this was all an elaborate hoax with carefully gathered information and digitally enhanced images via Photoshop. But the picture she held in her hand looked one hundred percent genuine.
Curiously she turned it around, seeing the yellowed handwriting on the reverse side.
Chloe & Clark; Lab partners for life!!! was scrawled in her own handwriting, along with a few smiley faces, her childish signature, and another one that she assumed was Clark’s.
“Unbelievable,” she whispered, tracing the photo with her fingertip.
He smiled. “I have a photo of you in that wallet from every year that I’ve known you,” he said quietly. “It’s sort of my thing.”
Chloe leafed through the pictures, everything seeming so surreal. She was seeing photos of herself, hairstyles she’d had, clothing she’d owned…and in all of them, Clark was grinning by her side.
There was some other stuff in there, too; some IOU’s in Clark’s writing that had her signature and some snarky comment on the bottom; receipts for items purchased in her name, and, most curiously, a pressed white rose petal in one sleeve.
“What was happening here?” she asked, tapping a photo of them in formal wear. She was wearing a fuschia pink dress, he was in a sharp suit, and they were smiling at each other as if they shared a secret that the rest of the world didn’t know.
“Spring Formal,” he said. “We went together. The petal was from the boutonnière you pinned on me.”
“I went with Pete Ross,” she said, smiling with nostalgia. “He was my closest friend in Smallville High before he and his family moved to Wichita.”
Clark smiled. “If you slide that picture aside just a bit…” she did as he instructed, and gasped. There was a picture of her, Clark, Pete and Lana sitting on a crumbling stone wall, grinning like little explorers.
“Wow,” she whispered.
“Oh, and your Dad let me have this one…” he dug into a corner of the wallet and pulled out a tiny, passport-sized photo of her when she was about eight or nine months old.
“Dad doesn’t give away baby pictures,” she said softly. “If he let you have this, then you and I must be really close.”
He nodded. “We are.”
After a long moment, Chloe finally spoke.
“Clark…if what you say is true, then why are you here?” she whispered. “Has something happened that’s put your reality in danger…what?”
He sighed deeply. “It’s a really long, incredibly crazy story,” he finally said, “but basically, someone is about to go back in time and kill me when I was a baby. If that happens, humanity is doomed.”
Chloe folded her arms and gave him a disbelieving look. “Okay, forgive me my derisive scepticism…”
“Forgiven and forgotten, and I wouldn’t expect anything less of you,” he quipped with a smile.
She ignored the familiarity he was projecting and went on. “Thank you. Now I come to the question: what makes you so important to the human race?”
He gave a wry smile and sat down next to her – careful, she noted, not to invade her personal space. “Funny you should say that,” he mused. “Because I happen to be an alien.”
To be continued…