American Kaiju: The Website


Fiction by Mike Bogue

Going Back by Mike Bogue


Running through the trees of the small-town park like a kinetic forest sprite, just-turned-twelve Sara Jessup waved at her anxiously waiting friend.

"Hi, Nicky!" she yelled, all arms and legs and braces-imprisoned teeth.

Nick Swanson, also twelve, felt the breath catch in his throat. He fought to quell the trembling in his belly as Sara plopped down on the opposite side of the concrete picnic table at which he sat. This was their favorite meeting place; almost four months ago on New Year's Day 1995, Sara had christened it "the hot spot."

"Hardly anybody here," Sara said, tossing her head towards the park's vacant playground equipment and empty tennis courts. "Guess people knew we needed the place all to ourselves, huh?"

"Guess so," Nick replied in his patented melodious tenor. Though it wasn't hot for April, he wiped his forehead. Do I have the guts to go through with this? He could still taste the minty mouthwash he'd spat out five minutes ago.

"Maybe," Sara said, "the new sidewalk's keeping people away."

"What?"

"Maybe the new sidewalk by the tennis courts is keeping people away. It's still wet."

"Yeah, maybe so." Nick stared dumbly at the thin red ropes strung from metal stake to metal stake in a vain attempt to keep kids from marring the sidewalk's fresh concrete.

Sara smiled, her green eyes aglow with Big G enthusiasm. "Thanks again for getting me Godzilla vs. Biollante for my birthday. Wasn't it cool watching it last night?"

"Sure was."

She harrumphed. "Of course, nobody else in this hick town would probably think so. But hey, Godzilla rules!"

Nick gulped. "I'm, I'm glad we're friends, Sara." His heart roared in his ears like a blast from Godzilla's maw. "I mean, you're the only person I know who likes Japanese monster movies the way I do." Go on, say the three words, say them.

Sara smiled. "I'm glad we're friends too, Nicky." Afternoon sunlight spilled through the branches of the overhanging pine tree and shimmered across the waves of Sara's long auburn hair. Did she have any idea what that did to Nick? Or what she'd been doing to his insides for the past three weeks?

Sara frowned. "Something wrong, Nicky? You look like you're gonna barf."

"I'm all right," he said.

"Okay." She pushed down thick eyebrows as she sniffed the air.

"Hey, you smell something?"

Oh, nuts. Nick knew he'd probably overdone it with the Brut cologne. "Uh, no. I don't smell anything."

Her lips curled into a knowing grin. "You're wearing your Dad's cologne, aren't you?"

Nick shrugged nonchalantly. "Maybe."

Sara leaned forward. "Maybe?"

"Well . . . "

"Maybe?"

"Okay, okay, you win. Yes, I'm wearing my Dad's cologne."

"Hey, nothing wrong with that. Smells kind of nice."

Nick's eyes lit up. "Really?"

"Really."

"Honest to Godzilla?"

Sara laughed. "No need for blasphemy, Nicky Swanson."

Nick cracked a jaunty grin in reply. "You Southern Baptists take everything way too seriously."

"And G-fans like you and me don't?"

"Well, yeah, I guess we do." What a lame-o reply, loverman. Nick rose, shoved hands in his blue jeans pockets, savored the honeysuckle wafting on the April breeze. He attempted to casually wander over to Sara's side of the picnic table, his tennis shoes making soft shuffling sounds in the grass.

Sara didn't seem to mind his less-than-subtle advance. "So which is best - Godzilla, King of the Monsters or Godzilla vs. Mothra?"

This important question and subject of endless debates between Nick and Sara almost made Nick temporarily forget his amorous afternoon objective. "Well," he said as he sat on the bench beside her, careful not to sit too close, "you just can't beat the original."

"But it's in black and white."

"So? That makes it more real. More authentic."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. But hey, nothing tops the adult Mothra's battle with Godzilla in Godzilla vs. Mothra."

"Ahem." He pretended to clear his throat. "I believe the original North American theatrical release title is Godzilla vs. the Thing, not Godzilla vs. Mothra."

She affected a mock-British accent. "And I believe you're a bit of a Big G snob."

"Shame on thou, Lady Sara of Bentontown, Arkansas," Nick said in mirror imitation of her Shakespearean parody. "The only snobs round these parts be the knaves at school."

"Oh. Them."

Nick scooted closer. "Yeah. Them. Sara, why do you care what the kids at school think about Godzilla?"

"It's important what people think."

"Bullpuckey."

"Look, Mom tells Dad all the time that you've got to go along to get along. I think she's right."

"You do?"

"Yes, I do."

"Well, I don't."

Nick edged so close to Sara that her warm aura crossed the borderline of his own heat register. Before he had time to think, he took her hand. It was warm, soft, wonderful.

Sara turned to face him, innocence swimming in the green pools of her eyes, green that mirrored the life's blood that coursed through the oaks and pines that surrounded them. The leaves of the trees whispered shyly in response to the wind's discrete overtures.

Nick squeezed Sara's hand, gently. "You mind?" he asked, voice barely audible.

"Is Godzilla gray and not green?"

A grin flit across Nick's lips, his face quickly shifting to a portrait of earnest boyhood sobriety. "Sara, I . . . "

"Yes?"

The spring breeze blew a patch of Sara's perfume Nick's way, the flowery aroma filling his senses like a drug. "I . . . I've got something I need to tell you."

"Okay."

Petrified, he stared numbly at his tennis shoes. "Sara, what I mean to say . . . "

"I'm listening,"

"I . . . "

"You love me?"

Nick looked up at her in surprise. Her understanding smiled assured him that she was not making fun.

Panic and relief seized his being. "How'd you . . . look, it may sound cornball. It may sound . . . I do love you, Sara." The glacier of his hope froze in suspended motion as he awaited the dreaded words.

"I love you too, Nicky."

Wha -- ??? Those were not the dreaded words.

His eyes went wide. Elation pushed his face into a silly grin.

"Sara . . . "

Her mouth reached for his, his for hers.

They kissed. On the lips. Once. Twice. A moment pressed in time.

Nick thought absently during the third kiss that the guys at school had been wrong - maybe other girls' lipstick was so thick it seemed greasy, but Sara's lip-gloss felt cool and smooth.

They parted. Heat flushed Nick's cheeks, his hope thawing into a roaring waterfall that splashed through his soul with puppy-like abandon.

"I never kissed a boy before," Sara said.

"Me neither. I, I mean I've never kissed a girl before."

She chuckled. "I knew what you meant."

"Mm-hmm."

Sara carefully pulled her hand from his. Turning away, she steepled her fingers atop the picnic table. "I don't know how to say this. Especially now." She cast a worried look his way. "I've got some bad news, Nicky."

Puzzled, Nick cocked his head. "What is it?"

"My Dad's taking a job in Phoenix."

"Phoenix? You mean Phoenix, Arizona?"

"No, I mean Phoenix, Wisconsin. Yes, Phoenix, Arizona."

"But that's over a thousand miles away!" Alarm rattled Nick's hopes. "When are you moving?"

"Six weeks."

"Six weeks?"

"That's right."

"Oh, man." Nick was not pleased. As a mockingbird trilled, Nick wished he had a shotgun so he could blow the noisy beast to songbird heaven.

"It's not that bad," Sara said, bunching her shoulders. "We won't be moving till the end of May. Six weeks gives us plenty of time."

Nick sulked. "Plenty of time for what?"

Her voice took on a forced cheerfulness. "Plenty of time to watch all the Godzilla videos we've got - again! To write to Toho and ask them to release the last few Godzilla movies over here. Time to . . . " She chuckled ruefully. "Look, who am I kidding? It stinks, I know. But we ought to make the most of the time we have left."

Nick hung his chin in cupped hands. "I guess so."

"Besides, it's not the end of the world. We can write to each other. We can see each other during summer."

"Yeah." Nick brightened a notch. "Yeah, I guess you're right."

"Yeah, you know I'm right."

"Someone's being a smarty-pants."

"Smarty-panties, you mean."

Nick shook his head in mock-disdain. "Now what good Southern Baptist girl would say such a thing?"

"A good Southern Baptist girl who's going steady with a G-fan atheist, that's who."

Nick blushed. Going steady? Things were moving too fast, life was see-sawing too rapidly, but one thing Nick was sure of: He would love Sara till the day he died.

Aching with sincerity and sadness and need, Nick spied the wet sidewalk before the tennis courts and made a decision. "Sara, I'm gonna do something a little crazy."

She chuckled. "You?"

"I'm gonna write our initials in the sidewalk. Okay?"

Sara shrugged elaborately. "Whatever."

"I'm serious, Sara,"

Her face softened. "Sorry."

He grinned. "That's okay." Without another word, he searched the ground. He picked up a sturdy oak twig about four inches long. This should do the trick.

Sara followed Nick as he trotted to the newly laid sidewalk. He turned his head from side to side, making sure the coast was clear, then took the oak stick and wrote "N + S" in the wet concrete. Not satisfied, he frowned. He sought inspiration, and then . . . A-ha! Grinning, he quickly sketched a crude outline of Godzilla facing Mothra beneath the initials and wrote "G-FANS FOREVER" at the foot of the primitive artwork.

"Just think," he said, tossing the drawing stick aside, "years from now, people may look at those initials and wonder who N and S were."

"Yeah. They may even wonder who Godzilla was."

Nick shook his head and grinned. "No way, darlin'."

"Way," Sara replied.

"Oh, yeah?"

"Yeah, G-brain!"

With that they were off and running, laughing as they collapsed beneath a magnificent oak.

From out of nowhere, a shadow the size of a battleship passed over the park. It could have been a cloud. Or a plane.

But it might have been a colossal moth from across the sea.


*****


Five years and three months later in July 2000, seventeen-year-old Nick Swanson looked at his watch and swore. She's late, just like she used to be.

Beneath the Bentontown Park picnic bench, his feet fidgeted like trapped mice. Summer-induced sweat pooled beneath the elbows he had propped up on the tabletop. After not having seen Sara for five years - and not having heard from her for three - Nick had received a surprise e-mail three months ago: an e-letter from Sara!

En route to Disney World in Florida, Sara and her family would pass through Bentontown on a July weekend. She wrote that she wanted to see Nick again. She wanted to see him AGAIN!

Even though she hadn't written for three years.

Even though she didn't reply to the seven e-mails he had sent in reply to her spring e-letter.

But Nick didn't want to think about that.

Besides, she had sent a brief snail mail last week telling Nick the specific day (today) she and her family would be stopping over in Bentontown. And she had told him she would meet him at their old "hot spot" at 3:00 p.m. this very afternoon.

Nick thumbed through the stack of G-FANs he'd brought with him. He knew Sara had read at least a few G-FANs in '95 and '96, when she used to write. Hoping she was still as big a Godzilla nut as he was, he planned to give her the last ten issues, all in mint condition, as a reunion gift. He was sure she'd be pleased; in his imagination, he'd practiced variations of her grateful response for days.

Again, Nick glanced at his watch. Seven minutes late and counting. Where is she???

As he swung his feet, a fat drop of sweat fell from his forehead and plopped onto the picnic table. In addition to baking Nick, the summer heat had scorched the surrounding grass and trees and flowers to near-juiceless parchment. Bentontown Park had suffered a drought for far too long.

So had Nick Swanson.

"Hey, lover."

The female voice from out of nowhere sounded both familiar and unfamiliar. His hopes sparked to life, Nick stood and spun around. Oh, my . . . He struggled to adjust to the shock that confronted him. "Sara?"

"That's right," said the curvaceous seventeen-year-old, "Sara."

Time had been good to her. The childhood braces were long gone, and she had filled out in all the right places, her skimpy halter top showing off her flat belly and silver navel ring. Tanned, lithe, and tigerish, her face, eyes, mouth, and nose seemingly without blemish or symmetrical imbalance, Sara could put Britney Spears to shame any day.

A welcome chill fanned out across Nick's shoulders. "Where'd you come from?" he asked. "I didn't even hear you come up behind me."

Sweat slicked her brown torso. "I decided to walk. Motel's only a couple of blocks away." She batted her ebony eyelashes. "Besides, I thought it might be fun to sneak up on you like a vamp on the prowl."

Her tone of voice threw Nick for a loop. Was she joking with him? Or at him? "Well, hey, Sara, you look great."

"You look pretty hot yourself." She winked suggestively. "Been working out?"

"Oh, I run a little track is all." He wasn't about to tell her he'd been hitting the weight machines like a mental case since he'd heard from her three months ago.

"Well," she said, "track obviously does a body good."

"Yeah. Just like milk."

"Right."

"Or Godzilla."

She chuckled and planted hands on hips. "Can you believe we used to be into all that Godzilla stuff?"

The ground dropped out from beneath Nick's feet and left him dangling in space. "Hey, that Godzilla stuff was a lot of fun."

"Yeah, I know. But it's so juvenile. You know, I saw a couple of those nineties Godzilla movies they finally released on video."

"Really? Which ones?"

"Umm, I think Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah and something else. Who cares? Anyway, the special effects were so lame. And the dubbing? A blind man could do better."

Nick's head floated in free fall. "They're better than the American Godzilla."

Sara arched a plucked eyebrow. "That's a matter of opinion. But you're right. The American Godzilla sucks. Big time. But so does all that Japanese monster junk we used to watch."

Nick's weightless stomach drifted into his chest. He couldn't think of anything to say. The memories of him and Sara as kids were tumbling in their tombs, his hopes for this sweet seventeen reunion inching towards the embalmer's table.

Sara's painted eyes narrowed to slits. "Hey, you're not still into all that Godzilla stuff, are you?"

Nick felt the mass of his body snap back to earth. He crossed his arms and pressed them tightly against his chest.

"Oh my God," she said, her jaw dropping as though he'd just told her he had AIDS. "You are still into all that Japanese monster crap."

"So?"

"So?" Her head bobbed atop her graceful neck. "So you're seventeen years old, for God's sake! When are you gonna grow up, Nicky?"

"Grow -- " Nick's confusion and disappointment morphed from cold disillusionment to heated anger. "Why'd you quit writing, anyway?"

"Why do you think? All you wrote about was that damn Godzilla stuff."

"That's not all I wrote about -- "

" - the hell it wasn't -- "

" - that's not fair -- "

" - Earth to Nicky: Get a life."

Rage choked Nick's tongue and reddened his cheeks.

"Am I still the only girl you've ever kissed?"

"No," he said, forcing out the word.

"Do you even have a girl friend?"

He shook his head, once.

"Well, I've sure as hell got a boy friend. That's another reason I quit writing. I mean, you kept writing about this great love you had for me, this love that would never die." She snickered. "My God, Nicky, that's so adolescent. We were just kids back then."

"Maybe you were just a kid."

Sara crossed her arms. "Now what's that supposed to mean?"

"I love you, Sara."

"Look, Nicky, I'm not trying to be mean. I don't want to hurt you." Pity filled her eyes, as though Nick were a diseased dog that had to be put down. "I don't love you. I haven't for years. I mean, that was just puppy love anyway."

"Not to me it wasn't." Nick cursed the tremor in his voice.

"Well, I'm sorry, Nicky. I really am." She yanked a wisp of red hair off her sweat-soaked forehead. "But you've got to get over this. That's all there is to it. I'll bet you've never even been with a girl."

"Meaning?"

Sara snickered. "You know what I mean."

"Somehow this doesn't sound like the good little Southern Baptist I used to know."

"Don't talk to me about Baptists." Sara twisted her face, looking as though she were about to spew a large tadpole from her mouth. "Church people make me sick. They're just a bunch of hypocrites and prudes anyway. I only go to church now 'cause my parents won't buy me a car if I don't."

"Poor thing."

"Go to hell." Frowning, Sara pointed to the stack of G-FANs on the picnic table. "What's that?"

"Nothing." Nick moved in front of the would-be gifts.

Brushing past him, Sara dove into the pile of pristine magazines. She sighed. Snorted. Carelessly tossed each unopened issue to the side.

"G-FAN? Ah, man, you still read G-FAN, for God's sake. Boys will stay boys, won't they?"

Steeled with flinty determination, Nick glowered as a tear of sweat stung his eye. "I don't suppose you'd have any interest in going with me to see Godzilla 2000?"

Amused, Sara smirked. "I can't believe you really said that."

Nick wagged his head, thinking that he must be dreaming, that this cavalier, oversexed woman-child before him couldn't possibly be the real Sara all grown up. He wished she were an alien duplicate; after all, she sure as fire acted like one. "Sara, it doesn't have to be like this."

She smiled sympathetically and put a hand on his shoulder. "Word to the wise: Give it up while you're ahead." She turned away. Only her model's profile graced Nick's view. "Look, I thought we could get together and maybe share a few laughs. I was wrong. I'm sorry. But you need to get over me." She sighed expansively. "Nicky, there's a whole wide world waiting out there. Don't let it pass you by."

Stuck-up, condescending witch. Nick drew himself up to his full height. "By the way, it's not Nicky any more. It's Nick."

Without a word, she turned her back on him and stormed off in the direction of the Bentontown Motel.

"Did you hear me?" he shouted after her. "It's Nick!"

He watched her until she disappeared around the corner of the Bentontown Café at 5th and Main. The trees swayed in the hot breeze, listless witnesses to Nick's determined vigil.

Staring at the ground, Nick stomped to the sidewalk in front of the park's tennis courts. He glared at the inscription he'd written in wet concrete five years ago: "N + S." He wished he had a sledge hammer so he could smash that message to satisfying rubble. But on second thought, no - he wouldn't want to mess up the picture of Godzilla beneath the inscription.


*****


Five years later in the fall of 2005, Nick couldn't believe Sara wanted to see him again at their old hot spot. But she did, and he came.

Surrounded by evergreen pines and oaks whose leaves had turned brown and red and gold with the advent of the Arkansas autumn, Sara smiled as she took a seat at the old Bentontown Park picnic table. Now twenty-two, she looked older and less wild but no less striking than she had five years ago, making Nick wonder why she hadn't become a model.

"I hear you're still going to Tech," she said, her sitting posture stiff and unnatural.

"That's right." Nick chose not to sit. "I hear you got a B.A. in business admin from U of A."

"Yes. Yes, I did." She looked away at nothing in particular. "So what's your major?"

"Don't know yet. I've changed it three times already."

"And you don't care what anybody thinks about that." Shaking her head, she laughed pleasantly. "Still the same bull-headed Nicky."

Nick chose not to reply as the chill wind buffeted his cheeks and hissed through the trees.

Sara steepled her fingers atop the picnic table. "Bet you wonder why I asked you to come here today, huh?"

"Yeah."

Sara glanced first this way, then that, careful to avoid direct contact with Nick's eyes. "You cut your hair. It looks good."

"Mm-hmm." Nick frowned and casually folded his arms across his chest. As usual, Sara was hiding something. But who cared any more? You do, loverman, you do.

Nick had tried to write Sara off long ago, but he'd never succeeded. And he didn't appreciate opening an old wound just for the sake of erratic small talk. "So what's the deal, Sara?"

"I wanted to see you so I could apologize."

"What for?"

"For acting like a witch five years ago." Her green eyes met Nick's and locked tight. "I said some really cruel things back then."

If she expected him to deny it, she was barking up the wrong aggrieved party.

Sara looked as though she might cry. "Still into Godzilla?"

"Yes," Nick said, dead leaves crunching underfoot as he took a few halting steps towards the picnic table. "Yes, I'm still into Godzilla. Believe it or not, a lot of people our age are still into Godzilla. And it doesn't have anything to do with how mature somebody is."

"I didn't say it did."

"You didn't say it didn't."

"Don't." Sara stood and stashed her hands into her windbreaker's pockets. "Nick, I just want you to know . . . look, I'm sorry. I mean, five years ago, what difference did it make if you were still into Godzilla? What difference does it make now? To each his own, you know?"

"Yeah," he said, a cursed warmth from times past stirring to life, "yeah, I know."

"So . . . do you forgive me?"

He shivered as the wind lifted a tuft of his hair.

"Well, do you?"

"Yes." The word floated from his lips before he had time to think about it.

She smiled, her posture relaxing for the first time since she'd arrived. "Oh, thank God. I've felt so rotten."

"Why is it so important to you to get my forgiveness?"

Sara took a step towards him. "Five years ago, I was running around with the wrong crowd. Doing things I shouldn't have done. I recommitted my life to Christ in February, and since then, I've had a burden on my heart for all the nasty things I said to you."

"Oh." Now an agnostic instead of a full-blown atheist, Nick had developed a certain sympathy towards monotheists, and Sara seemed sincere enough. But was she?

Softly, the woman with the flawless complexion smiled. "Nicky, I've come to realize you're a good guy. One of the few I've ever known. You deserved better than I gave you. You still do."

A foolish but undeniable hope welled in Nick's chest. "I, I don't suppose you'd be interested in going to Russellville with me to see -- "

"That new Godzilla movie? No. I don't think that would be a good idea."

Nick shrugged and fought to maintain control. "Can't blame a guy for trying."

"No. And I'm flattered by your offer. But there's something you don't know." She showed Nick her ring. "I'm engaged."

Nick nodded, afraid his voice might crack if he spoke.

"Ted and I get married in November."

"Congratulations." Nick's hushed reply was almost snatched by the gust of cold wind that whipped Sara's hair across her face. She took a couple of steps forward and laid a hand on Nick's arm. Even through the sleeve of his jacket, her touch sent tingles across his back.

She said, "Nicky -- I mean, Nick -- we had some good times together when we were kids. I want you to know, I cherish those times. I always have."

Nick smiled. "Remember that time the sirens went off and we were under a tornado warning and the wind got real high? Remember how you said it was Mothra, and I said no way, it had to be Rodan?"

"And your Mom and Dad looked at us like we were crazy?"

"Or remember the kaiju wars we used to have in my backyard?"

"How could I forget? My ten-inch Trendmasters Mothra was never the same."

"Hey, my Godzilla took a pretty bad beating too." Nick found himself eyeball-deep in nostalgia. "Mothra was always your favorite. You used to say you'd sic Mothra on the kids at school when they made fun of me 'cause I talked about Godzilla."

"You were the first boy I ever kissed."

"You were my first girl . . . " Nick's head swelled with unrealistic hope. From a chimney far away, the wind carried the tang of burning firewood. The smell reminded Nick of winter, of shared mugs of hot chocolate, of him and Sara talking before his parents' fireplace over ten years ago.

Slowly, deliberately, the present-day Sara leaned forward. Her lips brushed the adult Nick gently on the cheek. His face flushed crimson.

Sara laughed, an honest, good-hearted, silver-throated laugh. "I, I can't believe it."

"What?"

"You're still as bashful as a choir boy!"

"What's so funny about that?"

Nick's bewildered tone only made Sara hoot harder. As though in sympathetic response, giggles erupted from Nick's own belly, and soon he too quaked with laughter.

He and Sara whooped and howled and snorted, breaking up anew each time they looked at each other. Nick laughed so hard, his side began to ache like a bad tooth. The feel of good cheer on his lips seemed fine, real, free.

For several sweeps of the second hand on his watch, he forgot everything.

"I'm sorry," Sara said, recovering, her chuckles trickling to only one every other second. "Sorry." Tears had run from her cheeks down to her chin.

The laughter dried up in drips and drabs, and soon, as with spring and summer, it was gone.

Above, autumn clouds blotted out the afternoon sun like great gray sponges. The chill wind grew careless and unconcerned, swatting leaves from tree branches left and right.

Sara brushed a fallen leaf from atop her red hair. "Look, I have to go." She smiled, and for a moment, the ghost of Sara's twelve-year-old face passed across her adult countenance like a cloud drifting over the moon. "Someday you'll find someone of your own. I know you will."

"I already have."

"Oh, Nicky." Sara pulled her lips inward and faintly shook her head. "Good-bye." She held out her hand.

"Why does it have to be -- "

"Good-bye, Nick." The gentle steel of her eyes told Nick that she would accept no other response.

"Good-bye, Sara."

They shook hands. Then, Sara turned away.

Nick watched her walk to the parking lot in front of the tennis courts where she slid into the front seat of her 2001 Jeep Cherokee. As though with a mind of its own, the red auto pulled out of the lot, tires crunching over gravel, and soon it vanished around the corner of 5th and Main.

No one saw Nick's tears. No one ever did.

He trudged to the now-ten-year-old sidewalk in front of the little-used tennis courts, glad to be alone. He kneeled, studying the inscription he'd written when he and Sara had been kids: "N + S." Beneath the initials, the outlines of Godzilla and Mothra had gradually filled in with dust and debris. They might have been here twenty years instead of ten.

A gust of cold wind stung Nick's cheeks, but he barely noticed.

He picked up a twig, rough but sturdy to the touch, and poked it into the groove of Godzilla's outline. Slowly, methodically, he moved the end of the stick around the crude shape he had drawn years earlier. Brittle leaves scooted across the sidewalk, screeching in protest as the wind whisked them aside.

Time waited.

Nick might have squatted there for five minutes or five hours, studying his adolescent artwork in the concrete, dramatizing the way things might have been like a play director in search of the perfect dress rehearsal.

If only Sara hadn't moved away; if only she hadn't quit writing; if only she hadn't changed. If only, if only, if only.

"Just think," a familiar female voice said behind him, "years from now, people may look at those initials and wonder who N and S were."

Nick slowly turned his head, and when he saw the source of the female voice, adrenalin rocketed to the roof of his skull. It can't be. But it was: skinny legs and arms, braces on her teeth, floppy red hair - Sara at twelve years old.

"Sara?" he said, receiving a second shock as soon as he'd spoken. His voice had changed from his adult baritone to the musical tenor of his early adolescence. He stood up, examined his clothes, his arms, his chest, his legs. Everything had changed. He now resided in a boy's body - himself at twelve years old.

And the park - it wasn't autumn any more, it was spring. Lush greenery abounded everywhere.

Frowning, Sara pushed down her eyebrows. "Is something wrong, Nicky?"

Nick looked at her, then back at himself, then back at her. He deliberately bit down on his tongue. "Ow!" The sharp sting of tooth piercing flesh and the salty taste of blood told him he was awake all right.

"Nicky," Sara said, "what is it?"

Nick chuckled, twice, feeling like a dead man who'd risen from the grave. That he and Sara were twelve again was beyond dispute. Had he been given a second chance in some alternate time-line?

"Nicky," Sara said, "you're scaring me."

Nick looked back at the sidewalk in front of the tennis courts. The concrete was wet, fresh. It looked as though his G-inscriptions had just been etched. "Did I just write that stuff?"

"No," Sara said, "the twin fairies of Infant Island did it."

Nick smiled. Her sarcasm had just started to blossom in the old days.

The old days . . .

He didn't know how long this would last, whether it was a dream or a delusion, whether he was in heaven or another dimension. But he was going to enjoy it as long as he could.

"You know," he said, comfortable within his twelve-year-old being, "when people in the future look at the stuff I just drew, they may wonder who Godzilla was."

Sara shook her head. "No way."

"Way," Nick replied.

"Oh, yeah?"

"Yeah, G-brain!"

With that they were off and running, laughing as they collapsed beneath a magnificent oak.

From out of nowhere, a shadow the size of a battleship passed over the park. It could have been a cloud. Or a plane.

But it might have been a colossal moth from across the sea.

THE END


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