There was no obvious reason for it, and yet here it was. He was certain it was the same one he’d had for years as a child, he recognized every groove and every imperfection without even noticing. He even recognized the exact weight of it. His hands had held this more times than he could possibly count, and they knew it well.
But that was impossible.
His family had lost everything in the fire. From furniture to the toys in his closet. Everything. Including this baseball bat.
He didn’t have to, he was already completely convinced, but he looked at his initials carved into the knob at the end. They were there, of course. JT as clear as day. He felt the slight crack that had appeared after he’d hit a walk-off double to win a game with the other kids in his neighborhood. He saw the tiny chunk that was missing dead in the center from when he somehow deflected a rock that Steve Beringer had thrown at him for talking to his sister.
“Okay, so how did you make this?”
“Make? No.” The old man answered, almost as if surprised by the question. “I didn’t make it. I simply brought it here.”
“Listen, this is a great copy and all, really. It’s flawless. I’d almost believe you if it-“
“I wouldn’t say copy, strictly speaking. It is very much the same bat you had.”
“Yeah. Okay, like I was saying, if it hadn’t been burned to ash along with the rest of my room and the rest of my parents’ house, then yeah, I might believe you.”
“No, you’re not wrong. It was burned, that’s true. But not this one.”
Jim shook his head, “You just said-“
“I know what I said, you’re just not listening.”
Jim frowned. This was getting ridiculous. “Is there someone I can call for you? Do you need a ride back to the old folks’ home?”
He laughed. Jim didn’t like it. It felt condescending. “Where I need to go, your car can’t take me.”
“Okay, great. Fine. I need to get back to work, so you can go back to being someone else’s problem,” Jim said as he started rolling his window back up.
“Jim, you already know this. You’ve been there before. You need to not only hear it, but listen to what I’m saying.”
Something about the intonation of the old man’s voice when he said that felt uncomfortably familiar. A vague memory washed over Jim like a warm wave and left him feeling disoriented, like his whole world had shifted slightly while he stood still.
“What the hell are you talking about?” Jim asked angrily. This was getting too weird. He didn’t like weird.
“You’re remembering. I can see it.” He leaned over the window eagerly, his whole head shoved into the car. “I can help you, Jim. I’m possibly the only person in this world who can.”
“Hey back the hell off, old man.” Jim went to grab the old man’s hands and take them off his car door, but stopped short when he noticed the tattoo. He stared at it; he couldn’t help it.
“Yes, you know me. Well, not this me. Another me, from a world where there was a fire.”
Jim looked up at him and really stared into his eyes for the first time. “No. You can’t… you died. In the fire.”
“I did. But not here.”
“It’s okay, Jim. I came to find you. You don’t belong in this world. I’m going to take you home”