I walked into the neon-lit glow of the diner. It wasn’t hard to spot Jerry among the rows of empty booths, but I saw, sitting next to him, a man that I had never met before. His hair was combed neatly and even from the back it glossed nicely, giving off a presence of unintended high society. As I rounded the gauntlet each step revealed a little more of him, and his clean shave and sterling glasses looked much too pretentious to be sitting in the same cruddy diner that I was in. Jerry saw me and stood.
“Todd - great - GREAT - to see you. Please, sit.” We both sat and he leaned in. “Todd, let me introduce you to an old classmate of mine from state, a Dr. Brooks.”
We exchanged polite glances.
“Dr. Brooks and I were roommates for our freshman and sophomore years and even pledged PSO together.” They looked at each other with the brotherhood glances as if they were both reliving the glory days instantaneously. “Dr. Brooks and I have had the pleasure of keeping touch over the years and I called him the other day about an upcoming reunion. He asked me what type of clients I had nowadays, you know, typical b.s. stuff, and I mentioned you and your story. Just casually, you know. Get this, Todd, he goes wow that’s weird. He tells me he’s been working on similar stuff, I go, what do you mean? Because when we last spoke he was this big-to-do doctor and I wondered what he was doing working with bum athletes, no offense. He says well I’m not working on athletes but I’m kind of working on something similar. He called it something like undoing the past or whatever, I don’t know, I don’t really understand it. But he asked if I was up for a drink and we got together earlier. He told me about his work and I’m telling you, Todd, it’s like it was made for you. Here, I’ll let the Dr. explain.”
“Hi, Todd, Dr. Brooks.” He said and we shook hands. “Yeah, what Jerry was telling you is pretty much the jist of it but I want to talk a little more about the work involved. I’m a researcher with, believe it or not, your alma mater, in the center for genetic initiatives. My work focuses on looking at production levels of certain chemicals produced naturally by glands responsible for both, and long story short, I’m looking at this to try and find some way to link it with the progression of terminal illness. However, what I found in the process is pretty remarkable and ground breaking, and I’m going to try and tell you in the simplest terms possible. But please, you have to remember, this is going to sound outright silly and impossible. You need to believe me when I say it’s not. Essentially, I found that by manipulating the glandular production at high altitudes, the low-density air would allow for odd reactions in cellular restructuring. When we did the preliminary study with mice, we found that by injecting a substance that would work directly on the glands responsible for development, in combination with the high altitude it would completely rearrange them to a different point in development. But that’s not it - we found that large increases in the dosage would produce the same results but not just to the specific glands, instead, to the whole body.”
He paused a moment to let the scientific nonsense settle inside my brain.
“Todd, what I’m getting at, is that we’ve created a synthetic substance that has the potential to transform a person into their younger self. We made mice one-fifth their age in just an hour. We replicated it on chimpanzees with the exact results. This is not species specific. We’ve found some loophole in the natural world that is making this possible. And now we’re looking for the final piece of the puzzle: you.”
“Ha!” I laughed. “Come on, seriously, what’s up. Jerry did you think this would be funny?”
“Todd,” Dr. Brooks continued in the same serious tone, “This is no joke. I’ve been looking for someone like you for a while, and after talking with Jerry, I am completely positive that you are such a unique component to this puzzle that I need to have this conversation. What we want to do is invite you to take part in this experiment with us. We’d like to invite you to start over with us. We we’re proposing is performing the glandular procedure on you at high altitudes and bringing you to a different time in your life. That doesn’t mean go backwards or forwards in time, but that you will physically morph into the person you were years ago. After this procedure you will not be the crippled and impotent hockey player you are today. But you will be a vibrant and capable young hockey player with an entire career ahead of you. Make no mistake: this is your second chance.”
“Jerry - what the hell is this. You call me with this weird shit and get me to meet you in the weird hours of the morning to hear this guy tell me that he’s going to shrink me?”
“It’s not shrin-”
“Hold on Dr. Brooks, just hold on.” Jerry said to him before turning to me, “Todd, don’t get me wrong I had the same reaction you did I thought my old friend was fit for a jacket. Todd - he showed it to me. I saw it. This is not a joke. Just think of it - you do this and you have another entire life of hockey to start with. You’ll get to go through the draft again - through college. You’ll get the contract you never got. You’ll get your shot. Todd, this deal is once in a million...”
To be honest, I wasn’t sure what I was thinking of at this point, or even if I was thinking at all. When you’re woken and brought to a diner hours before your first cup of coffee, and right away some crazy scientist is going on about something even the TV wouldn’t try and feed you, you generally don’t respond to it well. But, in more sincerity, my interest was definitely piqued.
“So... I mean... Will I just forget everything and wake up younger? Like the years never happened?”
“That’s the beauty of it, Todd,” Dr. Brooks began, “brain matter is not affected by glandular manipulation and we’ve seen the only changes are minute changes in brain density. It appears the brain selects parts of itself not in use and restructures the rest. You’ll still have all your mental faculties and memories. For you, this will be just another day in time.”
“Seriously guys,” I started, “I don’t know. I just don’t know. I need some time to think about this, I mean, I can’t make up my mind on something without at least looking into it. Especially something as nuts as this.”
“Todd,” Dr. Brooks interjected, “unfortunately that is not an option. Our sector is due for a Dean’s assessment in two weeks, and I’m afraid to say that if we are unable to produce evidence that this technology can be adapted for human use, we risk losing a huge portion of our funding and I don’t know if this opportunity will be able to survive. I can’t imagine the situation this puts you in, but I can’t wait any longer than after this breakfast. If it’s not you, I need to have another meal with another former colleague. I unfortunately can’t wait. After we leave this table, you either come with me to continue the experiment or you leave and the possibility is gone.”
I paused and took a sip of coffee, probably one of the biggest sips I had ever taken. I looked in Jerry’s eyes and they were as serious as they ever were and I don’t think he was bullshitting me. I tried to come up with some reasons to talk myself out of going with the crazy geneticist but kept coming up short. I hadn’t had a family in years that I kept up with, no girlfriend, and, let’s be honest, I wasn’t getting called up to play anytime soon. Maybe this was my best shot right now. Maybe the second chance was what I really needed. I mean - if I started playing again with all the knowledge that I had learned over the years... I’d be unstoppable. I’d be twice what I was when I was a rookie. I began to notice the points of my mouth were tugging my lips into a smile without me knowing. Maybe my unconscious had already decided for me.
“OK, Dr. Brooks, you’ve got a deal.”
“Wonderful!” He yelped and clapped. “We’ll leave as soon as we eat, you will not regret this, I assure you!”