Here it is:
It starts with the watch. Always, the watch. Dylan has long come to realise that the watch means change, means doom, spells wonder and amazement.
The watch makes his father the most powerful man in the world. But once a year, it also makes him the most vulnerable. Dylan cannot understand why he does this to himself – each year, back to the same place. A little church in Wales. A trip back to the time that my mother lover the best – the end of the Norman period, the start of the Tudors. Dylan remembers his mother standing, half torn between revulsion and wonders, on the edge of the battlefield. He remembers clutching her skirt, peering around at the blood and misery. He remembers the three of them travelling to the small church, his father and mother disappearing into one of the side rooms. This happened only ever after they thought Dylan asleep, but still, he heard them, whispering to each other, snuggled together in the choir seats, talking about the events that were taking place, the societies that were being made.
Dylan never had any interest in societies, or how they were made. He didn’t see the point, didn’t recognise the significance. Now, he recognises it, but he’s not in awe of it. He’s seen Significant Points so many times that he now recognises them for what they are – a mere blip in what he assumes is a giant plan. There are no reversals, no harkening back – history and future is just a giant circle, with humans either trying to cling to the animals they originally were, or trying to find the spark that god made them to make them human.
It is the in-between bits that Dylan finds the most interesting – the relationships and events that are achingly important to those that have them, but have no effect on the world around. It’s why he likes soccer – a game filled with what feels to be significant moments, but is really just colour and flavour to the great scheme and no more.
When he told his father this, his father offered to take him back to the soccer games that spiked revolt in Ireland. Dylan remembers shouting no. It was the only time he ever really wished he had a door. Soon after that, he learnt how to deal without one.
Dylan has never had a proper home. He goes to school, and when that is finished he goes travelling with his father for half the night. He spends time in the great cities, on the outskirts of great laboratories, on the edge of the aftermath of great battles. Then he falls to sleep on his father’s lap.
Once a year, on the day his mother died, they go to the place where they scattered her ashes – that one church where his parents stayed up late murmuring to each other. Every time, Dylan’s father leaves him at that place in the present, and travels by himself, with the watch, to the age where they scattered her ashes. He comes back on the strike of six, drunk and reaching for his son. Dylan sleeps with him on those nights, his twelve year old body curled up beside his father’s; his heart-beat loud in his ears.
His father has never been violent, or done anything else when he is drunk. But he clutches that book to his chest. That book is unmovable – if you write something in it, the words will never change. Ever. If you change the timeline, you can still read about the previous timeline in that book, no matter how many times you change history. Dylan has never been able to read the book. He knows only that on the first page, written many times is one sentence.
I have a son. This must never change.
Some part of Dylan knows that his father does not stop his mother’s death, because doing so results in Dylan not existing. He does not know why. But he knows that every year, on that day, his father sits staring at the first page. And every year, he makes the decision not to wipe Dylan from existence.