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The Present

Updated: Jan 24

By Pranjal Kharbanda

Summer vacations have started at Lakewood High, located in The Lakewood town. This town is situated between a lake which has bypass over it and a dark and endless forest. In between, there lie a lot of stories. Archie, a 16-year old boy or well you can call him hotness with brain, is going to buy the first slushy of summer with his friend Jughead. After this, they have plans to do some brainstorming on the science fair project as they have just one month left to complete it. Archie is going to make a robot and Jughead is planning to create a toddler electric car. Archie is the biggest of nerds in his group, a total science boy. His parents live separately, his mother lives in Chicago and he lives with his father in this town. He has this special connection with his father; they are each other’s best friends. 

It’s Monday morning and he is excited for his date with his girlfriend. Only later did he find out that his father was planning to go to La Bonne Nuit, a new restrobar in town. His father is a little upset to know about his son’s absence but he is also immensely excited for his son’s date. He gives the bar passes to Archie and his girlfriend, and they thank him and leave. Later that evening, Jughead’s father goes to Archie’s house to invite his father for some drinks but he finds him dead in his kitchen with water and smithereens of glass pieces all over the floor. He panics and calls the hospital, and then also informs Archie and his mother who is currently travelling to Illinois. 

As soon as Archie gets the call, he rushes to the hospital and is met with the devastating news that his father is dead due to a heart attack. The news crushes his soul completely and leaves a void in his heart and mind. He is surrounded by extreme guilt because he feels that he wasn’t there with his father in his last moments, and that he was enjoying a silly date while his father was suffering with this agony alone. 

After a few hours, his mother comes and hugs him hard. They break down without saying a word. Later, they hold a grieving funeral for his father. 

Time passes by. Gradually, everyone goes back to their routine life of the summer vacations. And Archie? Well he is trying his best to move on with his life and carry it on like a resilient person. But every now and then, something snaps him back to grief and the gloom of life without his father. 

It is a random Wednesday morning; Archie is washing his father’s car. His mother comes and says, “Don’t do it, I will ask someone else to do it.”

“NO, NO, NO, I will do it and I should be the only one to do it” Archie wails. He gets hyper and has a panic attack. He runs and ends up in his father’s room. He starts yelling hysterically - “I shouldn’t have gone there” “there has to be a way, he can’t just leave me”. He keeps thrashing around the room in agony. It is clear that the guilt and depression has metamorphosed into his breaths and moves. 

He stays there for a while looking at all of his father’s stuff and then his eyes get fixed on the table clock, “OHHHH OHHHH What if there is a time machine, I mean then anything could be possible , I can stop everything and he would be alive with me right now having a slushy”, I can make it YESSSS”.  He knows he is thinking of the impossible but he wants to try everything possible to bring back his father, his world. He goes to the market, and gets stainless steel, generator, and lots of wires, current system, batteries and a big important piece of crystal that can help in controlling the atomic habits and nature of time. 

That’s where his isolation begins. In the process of making the time machine, he completely abandons his life, his summer holiday homework, the parties, night outs,  shopping and hopping up on all of those slushies and how can we forget the burger and fries of Hope’s kitchen. 

“You have been like this the whole of summer, I miss our lame talks” Jughead says, Archie replies forlorn, “I know dude but you know I am trying to bring my dad back and I also can make the biggest invention of time”. 

Jughead stares at Archie disbelievingly. 

“Buttttttt still….. You are just letting your life go for something stupid that has zero chance of being real dude”. Archie clenches his fists and gets hyper, and yells at jughead frustrated, “Go! Go! Just go away and never come back to me”.

This continues for five months. Archie is obsessed about bringing back his dad but all his efforts prove to be futile. However, he isn’t ready to give up. 

It’s 2 in the morning and he is trying to place the crystal in the right place, “OH! Shit! I had to go and pee I will place you in a minute, don’t go anywhere” he talks to the crystal like a companion. He comes back and is shocked. “What the hell! I was kidding! Where on earth did the crystal go!”. He starts looking around and sees a man leaving his backyard with the crystal in his hand. “Stop! Stop! Hey you old man give my thing back to me or I will kill you”, saying this he jumps out of the window and runs towards the man and stops him. “Give it back to me; it’s mine” Archie instructs, “Hey!! Archie, oh you want this thing back. No way I know you are trying to make a time machine and I won’t let you do that” the man says. “See, I don’t know who you are and how do you know all this just give it back it is none of your business” Archie says and snatches his crystal back. 

Days pass after this incident, and Archie realizes that the man who he had met is following him around. Not like stalking but he is able to sense someone keeping an eye on his moves. 

One evening, Archie manages to confront the man and questions him.

 “Hey big guy what do you want”. The man smiles and says, “Archie listen to me carefully; do not make the time machine. You can’t just change the past it will make thing worse and complicated in future for everyone”. 

“How do you even know that this is going to work I haven’t even done the half of it”, Archie replies irritated. ‘

“I know because I have come from the future. Archie, I think you have not recognized me but I am your future self” 

Archie is dumbfounded. ‘

“How do I know you are saying the truth”, he manages to mutter in shock. ‘

 “well, do you remember about the Baxter brothers books, we used to get the new editions of those books every year from dad on our birthday with a love note stuck to the last page of it and also we had the box full of it in the bottom left compartment of cupboards” 

No one else could know this except Archie and his father. Archie has no reason to not believe the man. 

Archie agrees to meet his future self at the decided spot.

Later that day, Archie is just sitting on his bed and thinking of the words said by his future self. He ponders and has a realization that maybe, this will ruin everything. He wants to bring back his dad but now he understands why this may not be a good idea. Somehow deep down he knows that he isn’t doing the right thing by going against nature. He sleeps over these thoughts. 

The next day

“Oh my god! Mom, I am late for school” Archie exclaims and rushes towards the door.

 “What about lunch?” 

“NO, I am okay and also I will be a little late as I am meeting a friend after school at Hope’s” 

“Friend? Which friend??” 

“A pig-like future self of me”

 “Only god knows what you are up to, byeeeee be safe”.  

Archie attends school and then heads to Hope’s. There he is - the future sitting already with their favorite food burgers and fries. 

“Heyy! How was your music class?” 

“Just come to the point, why are you really here?” 

“Let’s be clear, you have to stop making that machine now, it will cost you so much – am not talking just money here” 

“How can you even say that? All I am trying today is to bring back our dad, didn’t you want the same thing when you were practically me or I don’t know” 

“Yes I did and I was so glad when I made it. However, after isolating 14 years of my life, I can say it’s not worth” 

“Worth??? It is our dad” 

“Just stop!! You missed your whole life, your college degree, your birthdays, your parties and you know the saddest thing is you have never ever fallen in love, you didn’t have your first kiss, and practically you don’t have anyone even to talk. No friends at all”. 

Archie just stares at him. 

“Just tell me even if you did bring back dad, will you be able to bring back your whole life, and will he be happy? You have to accept that he is dead and wherever he is, he is in peace. This is life and death is part of it, you can’t just change it. All you can do is to make your loved ones proud and live your life fully and I think that is what dad would have liked us to do”. 

“I get your point” 

“Yeah please and you do remember our pet movie” 

“Of course! Kung Fu Panda 1 and 2” 

“Yeahh if you remember, in that Oogway said that Yesterday is a history, tomorrow is mystery but today is a gift that’s why we call it present, so just live it”. 

Archie smiles and closes his eyes thinking of his father. When he opens his eyes, there is no one. He looks around and notices there are just the two plates of burgers left. He sighs and heads back home. Ready to live his present, ready to live the life his dad would be proud of. 

By Pranjal Kharbanda

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