After Time

by slodwick

I dreamt of them last night.

All of them. We were sitting in the kitchen on the farm. The house looked the same as it had before the new owners had remodeled, with Mom's homemade curtains and my initials still carved into the back doorjamb. I was nine, and I remember Dad really let me have it for that.

Mom and Dad were there, both looking impossibly young, and utterly in love with each other. Mom's hair was darker than I remember, a more vibrant red. It was good to see them with so few wrinkles, the perpetual worry gone from their eyes.

Chloe and Pete were there, too, both of them telling the same old jokes and laughing with their same old effortless ease. They exchanged knowing glances when they thought I wasn't watching.

And Lex. Of course, Lex.

He sat at the opposite end of the oak dining table, legs crossed, that same smug half-smile playing at his lips. He didn't speak much, just absorbing the activity in the room. I was most surprised at his appearance, looking so much like he did right before he died. He never looked old, even towards the end.

I dreamt of all of them, and it was so nice. We talked about life, the world, and Superman's latest exploits. We talked about soaring cattle futures, the corruption of the media and the bankruptcy scandal of LexCorp.

And this wasn't like some of my other dreams. It wasn't like they had never died. They were all there, and yet we all knew it was only me who had survived. It was only me who was left.

But now, they all knew my secret.

I talked with Chloe about the missed opportunities I'd had with her. And we talked about how much better her life had been, moving on and finding Jacob. Her granddaughter was poised to step in as the Planet's next editor-in-chief. We both were proud, and I stopped the tears before they could fall.

I apologized to Pete for not being there when he needed me, and not just during the fire. All those times he needed a friend, and I couldn't be there. He and Lana had invited me to the wedding, but I hadn't attended. I wish now that I had. He just clapped me on the back and smiled. Such a good guy.

Lex stepped into the kitchen, and I followed. We reminisced about the time he taught me to make a martini, and when I introduced him to the wild world of a 4-H fair. He laughed, like he used to before the cancer treatments started, back when he was mellow and at peace with the world. I noticed he was holding his cigar in his right hand, and that made me smile.

It was so good to hear the sounds of their laughter, beyond everything else. Dad's, deep and boisterous. Mom's, rich and soft. Chloe's, light and bubbly. Pete's, youthful and strong. And Lex's, sly and textured.

It was like a gift to hear them all together, laughing. No lies, no bitterness, no regret.

I woke up happy.

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