Aleena,” said Yvonne, supporting her friend, who had more glasses of alcohol in her system than what was clearly recommended. “Are you sure you don’t need to call a taxi?”

“Yvonne, I’m fine. Look at me. Look at me.” Aleena glared at her through her bloodshot eyes. She thrust her keys towards the vague direction of her mom’s Honda. The car beeped twice in response. “See? Everything is alright.” 

Aleena yanked herself off Yvonne’s arms and stumbled her way to her car. After a few attempts, the door swung open and she eased herself in. Yvonne rushed towards her, hands helplessly waving in front of the car window, but Aleena was neither in the mood nor condition to give her notice. An unknown singer introduced her new single through the speakers as the car came to life, and it made its way onto the road, the only light pouring from its headlights. 

The car picked up speed as Aleena pressed down harder on the accelerator. She rested her head on the steering wheel, her hair tumbling down her arms. Her car sped straight towards a seemingly empty crosswalk— or so she thought through her half-closed eyes. It was only when the Honda slammed into the unknowing toddler with a sickening sound that her eyes snapped open and she raised her head to see what she had done. A short silence was followed by her piercing scream, the kind that would be mistaken by no one. 

Aleena’s eyes jerked open as she realized that she had gone to sleep with the wrapper from yesterday’s dinner still in her hand. Without hesitation, she threw it into the bin in the corner. Perfect. The bin shook slightly. She whistled. 

Lorenzo Garcia. It was a name that she forgot during the day and replayed in her head when it got dark. She couldn’t help it. It was the name the mother shrieked out when she discovered her son lying on the cold asphalt. It was the name that her public defender mentioned more times than she liked. It also happened to be the result of her actions. A victim. A label. 

“No more visitors are allowed at this hour.” 

The officer’s demeanor was cut short when she noticed his wheelchair. She sighed. “All right. Sign your name here, and then you can follow me.” 

Her footsteps echoed across the empty hallway as she led him on a short trip to a lifeless steel door. Lorenzo confidently wheeled himself in where there was nothing but steel, more steel, and a petite and disheveled teenage girl in a chair, the blue streaks in her hair providing the only colors in the room. Her arms were still wrapped around her head when she looked up. 

“Who are you?” 

“My name is Lorenzo Garcia.” 

She, like the officer, stared— first at his wheelchair, then at his scarred face. Her expression changed briefly to that of realization. She took a sharp breath. Then, without warning, she kicked her chair behind her and rose from her seat. 

“No.” She shook her head. “No—”

“My name is Lorenzo,” he continued as if he hadn’t heard anything. “You may recognize me. Thirty years ago for me, and three months ago for you, you and I were involved in a rather regrettable car accident.” 

“You—” she pointed a trembling finger at him. “The person I ran over, he was a toddler.

“You could consider asking a different question, such as what I mean by thirty years.”

His statement was met with cold silence until the girl burst out laughing. Not taking her eyes off him, she slowly eased herself back into her chair. “You are actually suggesting,” she said, pausing as if she was holding back more laughter, “that you are from the future.

“How clever.” Lorenzo clasped his hands together and leaned forward. The girl flinched. “We are running out of time, Aleena, and quite literally at that. I am here to offer you your only way out. I am telling you that you and I can make sure that none of this, including this conversation, will ever happen in your future.” 

She smirked. “And how do you propose we do that?” 

He reached into the pocket attached to his wheelchair and produced two black capsule-like devices. He briefly fiddled with one in his hand, put it on the steel table, and delicately pushed it towards the girl, who now had her arms and legs crossed. 

“All you have to do,” he said, “is to make sure you keep hold of that while I do my own thing.” 

The girl didn’t move. The longer their silence went on, the faster the clock in the background seemed to tick. Finally, she gave the man one last glare and snatched the device from the table. 

“Remember,” he said, “I was on the right side of the road, just off the sidewalk, and the only thing you will have to do is to swerve left.” 

She frowned. “How do you remember all this? How many times have you been here?” 

He made no reply. 

“If we’re lucky, we’ll have enough time to go as far back as we can so that you will still have time to react,” he said. “We have only been given so much time. Ready?”

The girl hesitated, then nodded, her veins visible as she tightened her grip around the device. 

His fingers closed around a button on his. The girl closed her eyes, and so did he, as they were yanked from the cell and spiraled down, down nothingness—

Her eyes snapped open as she slammed her head onto the steering wheel. She glanced to her right. It took her a few seconds to recognize the man sitting next to her. She turned her attention back forwards, her face drenched with sweat, red from drinking two or three bottles— maybe even four. 

Aleena!” Lorenzo screamed in her ear.

Her headlights flooded the crosswalk in front of them. Lorenzo, the toddler, stood dangerously close, just off the sidewalk, like she had been told. Like her life depended on it, she held onto her steering wheel and made a wild left turn. 

A squeal from the toddler and an audible sigh from next to her meant that she had successfully, but narrowly missed him. She shrieked in celebration, madly honking her horn, over and over again. But her foot was still on the accelerator, and little Lorenzo giggled, waddling into the spotlight. 

She slammed on the brakes. 

The car made its last honk. 

And then there was silence. 

She did it. 

She did it again.

The car screeched, skidding aimlessly on the road, and it’s too late, she observed with panic, as the wheels groaned softly under the pressure. She wailed, tears running down her flushed face, and she looked to her right, searching for reassurance, or possibly confirmation, but Lorenzo was nowhere to be seen, and instead of him was an empty seat.

4 thoughts on “ It’s Always Too Late ”

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