Warning – This story contains descriptions of child abuse.
The Time I Killed My Stepfather by Christopher Jackson-Ash
It was as if a switch had been flicked. My idyllic childhood turned into a nightmare. My father died suddenly when I was nine and everything changed. My mother remarried too quickly and then my terror began. I was ten years old when my stepfather first beat me for damaging something in the house. I had already worked out that he was a bully for he had begun hitting my mother soon after they had married. I was an only child; I had no one to turn to and I was scared. He beat me frequently after that, always making sure that the bruises were where no one would see them. Shortly after I turned eleven, he first came to my bed. He offered me a deal; the beatings would stop if I let him play with me a couple of times a week. I was caught between two types of abuse. I knew he would beat me more and more until I gave in. I hated myself for it, but I agreed to his terms. My mother was pleased that we seemed to be getting on better and his physical abuse of her seemed to diminish after he had sated his appetites on me. I was pleased about that. The other thing that saved me, which I only realised later, was that his cock was tiny. It was still uncomfortable the first few times he raped me, but it did no physical harm. When I saw my first pornographic pictures, I nearly fainted at the thought of a monster cock tearing me apart and was grateful for small mercies.
As I entered puberty, there was another cancer growing inside me, gnawing away at my self-esteem. I actually began to look forward to the nights he would slip into my bed and take me in his strong arms. I began to enjoy the sensations that he aroused in my body. He gave me my first dry orgasm and very soon my first ejaculation. I was torn between loving him and hating him. At school, I would listen to the other boys fantasising about girls and it would mean nothing to me. I dreamt about the boys in my class and what I would like to do with them. I began to realise that I was different. I was quiet and nerdy but managed to avoid most of the bullying. If they had suspected I was a queer, my life would not have been worth living. I began to deny it, even in the deepest recesses of my heart.
At around fifteen and a half, I had a huge growth spurt and I started working out in the school gym. The girls started to notice me more, which wasn’t what I wanted. What I needed to be was bigger and stronger than my stepfather. I was already as big as he was in the trouser department. I fantasised about the moment for weeks and I eventually put it into action on my sixteenth birthday. He thought he was going to give me his ‘present’. Instead, I turned on him, rolled him over, kneed him in the balls and held him on the bed with one hand around his throat. ‘This is the last time you come near me. Do you understand?” He barely managed to nod. His face was starting to turn blue. “If you come near me again, I will kill you!” There must have been real venom and hatred in my eyes. I let him go and he said nothing as he left my room for the last time. I felt elated and yet sad at the same time. As much as I hated him, I had enjoyed our sessions.
I guess I should have expected it. He took his anger out on my mother and almost killed her. She ended up in hospital and he ended up in jail where I hope he got all the cock he ever desired and more. I heard that he caught HIV in jail and died a few years later of AIDS. I never saw him again. Our little secret never came out. I blamed myself for my mother’s injuries and vowed that I would never have sex with another man as long as I lived and I would never speak of any of it, ever. You must be wondering why I have written it all down now for you to read. That will become evident as I explain a few more things. If you are reading this though, there are only two possibilities: either I am dead or I am stuck somewhere in the past, which amounts to the same thing.
I buried my true sexuality somewhere deep inside me and tried never to think about it again. I went to university, dated and eventually married someone totally unsuitable. Somehow, I endured 25 years of torment before I had a complete nervous breakdown. One unlucky counsellor managed to unblock the drain and was consumed in the torrent of sewage that spilled from my soul. Everything came out, including me. My marriage ended, of course, and in quick time, I found myself in a new relationship with my male lover. Times are different now, you might think. There’s no need for secrecy anymore. You would be wrong.
The one thing that sustained me throughout my marriage was my work. I can’t tell you very much about it as I have signed the ‘Official Secrets Act’. I work in the Ministry of Defence on some very high tech stuff. We are at the leading edge of research. If the Soviets ever had gotten wind of my true sexual inclinations, I would have been a ripe target for a ‘cummy’ trap, blackmail, and spying. Even today, the ghosts of the Cambridge Five still prowl the corridors and it would not be prudent to let my superiors know of my homosexuality. My lover remains a secret. They know about my divorce, of course. I have explained to them that my marriage breakdown caused my nervous breakdown and it will take me a long time to trust women again. The boffins usually nod sagely and agree with me.
It doesn’t matter anymore, because he left me. He found my stash of boy porn and I admitted to him that I had been seeing rent boys too. I assured him that both the pictures and the boys were over eighteen, but he still accused me of being a paedophile. The truth is that I needed the fantasy of young guys to get it up and off with my lover. My psychiatrist would say it’s a case of arrested development. Because I never acknowledged my sexuality when I was young and never experienced sex with young guys of my own age, my sexual development has been frozen in the past. Whatever the cause, I find myself alone again and cursing the events of my childhood.
You might well wonder where all this is leading. I wanted to set the scene for you so that you will understand why I must do what I’m going to do. First of all, I am going to break the Official Secrets Act, only because I must so that you will understand. For the last seventeen years, I have been working on the development of a time machine. It has recently become operational. We have successfully sent fruit and small animals back one week into the past. There is much more testing required before we will risk it on a human. I have access to all of the protocols. I am going to use the machine at night and send myself back to fix the mess that being gay has made of my life. This will be my diary. If I don’t return from my travels, it will be found and you will know what happened to me. Wish me luck, for I shall need it.
Saturday 3 September
I have come in to work on Saturday on the pretext of catching up with some urgent paperwork. By late afternoon, it will be quiet enough to try my first trip. I am scared and excited all at the same time. My heart is racing and I still have several hours to wait.
All is quiet. I have programmed the machine. With any luck, I will emerge safely in 1963 and be back after just a few seconds have passed here. My palms are sweaty. I can hear my heart pounding. This is it.
It worked. I spent 12 hours in 1963 and returned just five seconds after I left. I feel very tired but otherwise well. The time and spatial coordinates worked perfectly. The trip was a complete success.
I haven’t spoken to myself yet. I haven’t done anything that could change my history. I have laid one ghost of my past though. When I was nine, I wasn’t allowed to go to my father’s funeral. The regret has lived with me all of my life. I never had the chance to say goodbye. Today, I went to his funeral. I passed myself off as a son of one of my grandfather’s brothers. No one questioned me. It was a simple yet beautiful service. I cried my eyes out. I had forgotten how young and beautiful my mother was, even in her grief. I was too afraid to go back to the house afterwards, but I observed from over the fence. I caught a glimpse of myself through the window. I looked out and saw myself looking in. Our eyes locked for a moment and then I ran away. I have searched my recollections of that day, but I don’t have that memory. I walked around for several hours, just walking and thinking. It was hard to comprehend that two versions of me were living and breathing at the same time. Now I must go home to sleep and plan what to do next.
Monday 5 September
A colleague noticed strange readings on the machine log. I managed to explain them away but need to be more careful next time.
I wonder whether I should go back and kill my stepfather before he marries my mother. It is very tempting but too uncertain. She might marry someone even worse. I will sleep on it some more.
Wednesday 7 September
I have a chance to travel tonight. I will take a journalist’s tape recorder with me and test whether I can record in the past and bring it home. I have decided to observe a bit more and try to make contact with my young self before I make any major decisions. I remember that I had to walk to school in the next village. I’m going to steal a car and offer my young self a lift. I’ll go in winter and hope that the weather is bad.
I’m back. It was cold, damp and miserable – perfect weather. Stealing a car was easy; there was no security in those days. I had to drive up and down the road five times before I saw him. I checked myself and made a note on the recorder. I definitely had no memory of ever being picked up by a stranger on the way to school. Now it is weird. It’s like a strange form of déjà-vu. I have two memories of the event; one from just now and an old one in my memory from childhood. The two memories are quite different.
“Hi kid, need a lift, you look a bit wet and cold?” He stopped and looked at me, taking me in. His cheeks were rosy from the cold air and his eyes were blue and piercing. To be honest, I hardly recognised my young self until I saw the eyes. They had been staring back at me from the mirror for the last fifty years.
“I don’t know you. I’m not allowed to get into cars with strangers.” Even in those days, my mother had drilled safety into me.
“I’m your great uncle. I was at your father’s funeral.” I knew that hook would tempt him. I couldn’t tell him who I really was, not yet anyway.
“What’s your name?”
I hesitated for a moment, wondering which name to use. I decided to use my own name. “I’m Peter Smith.”
His eyes brightened. “That’s my name too.”
“We are both named after the same person; your great grandfather.” Actually, we were named after my grandfather but I would have found it hard to explain how his grandfather’s brother had acquired the same name. I hoped that the slight subterfuge would go unnoticed. I knew that I had taken no interest in the family genealogy until very recently.
“I remember Dad mentioning a grandad Peter,” he said as his eyes clouded over. I wanted to take him in my arms, hug him, and tell him that everything would be all right, even though I knew that the reality was going to be the exact opposite. I felt tears welling in my own eyes.
“Are you getting in then? You are getting wet.” He slid into the passenger seat and closed the door. Our breaths began to fog the windscreen. I was frozen to the spot. I didn’t know what to say next.
“I’m going to school,” he broke the silence, “Could you drop me off there, please?”
I looked at him, stared probably. I struggled to remember what my life had been like in those days. Again, I felt the urge to hold him. “I’m so sorry about your father. I lost my own father about your age too. I understand what it feels like.” Again, I stretched the truth of the family history, but he would be none the wiser.
“No one understands.” His face looked pale now and traumatised.
“It is like someone has taken your heart and ripped it out of your chest. The pain is the worst you have ever felt and it never gets any less. Not even your mother can comfort you for she is caught in her own black grief. Nothing interests you. You would spend all day in bed, curled up and sobbing your eyes out if they would let you. Neighbours bring pies and meaningless platitudes.” The memories came back to me now.
He looked at me, uncomprehending. “You do know,” was all he said.
“If there is anything I can do to help, I will see you again. I’m planning on sticking around for a few days.” I started the car. “You will get over it.” I didn’t think my lie was very convincing. We drove on in silence. There was so much I wanted to say but I dare not. We reached the school and I pulled up. He opened the door and the urge became too strong. I reached over and grabbed his leg. I felt a surge of electricity run up my arm and into my body. He looked at me. Was that fear in his eyes? I removed my hand and he was gone. I drove the car to a good hiding place. I would use it tomorrow when I picked him up again.
Thursday 8 September
I have been examining an old memory, trying not to confuse it with a new one. It was just after my father died and I was walking to school. A weird old man stopped and offered me a lift. I wouldn’t have got in, but I didn’t really care about anything anymore. He said that his name was the same as mine and he was my great uncle. He told me that he’d been to my father’s funeral. He seemed to understand. I was a bit scared. He had a strange look in his eyes. He grabbed my leg as I was getting out of the car and hurt me. That was the first time I was assaulted. I think I saw him looking into the house on the day of my father’s funeral but I never saw him again, thank goodness.
Wednesday 14 September
I have been desperate to go back but there has been some round the clock emergency going on and I haven’t had the chance. Tonight, I will go back to the day after I gave myself a lift to school. I will try to make amends. Perhaps I should take a present. It’s too risky to take one of today’s toys back with me. I have been to a local coin and note shop and bought some money that would have been in circulation at the time. I’ll just buy him some sweets this time. I remember that I liked sherbet fountains and the halfpenny chews – black jacks and fruit salads.
The car was where I left it yesterday and I drove around until I saw him again. He wasn’t keen to get into the car but the large bag of sweets did the trick. I noticed that he huddled by the door, keeping as far away from me as he could. I decided not to force things, in case he refused to see me again. We chatted about his schoolwork and I dropped him off without incident.
I’m so very tired these days. My hair has turned grey in the last week and I’m finding it difficult to climb stairs. Both of my hips are giving me pain and I think I’m starting to get arthritis in my hand. I’m worried that the time travel might be affecting my body. I always seem to feel much better when I’m in the past; perhaps it’s the adrenalin.
Thursday 15 September
We started the latest experiment on the time machine today. To be more correct, we will begin on Thursday 13 October. We received a basket of fresh fruit from the future. We will keep it for one day and return it tomorrow. We sent a similar basket of fruit to one month in the future. We should get it back tomorrow. If only they knew that I was already experimenting across multiple decades. I hope to get access to the machine again next week.
My memory has changed again. I remember getting into his car the second time. I almost refused but was tempted by the sweets he offered. He didn’t seem as weird this time. I had a great day at school for a change. I was very popular while the sweets lasted.
Friday 16 September
I am feeling very afraid as well as very old. The fruit that returned after spending one day one month in the future showed significant signs of decay. I’m thinking that I might have to stay in the past in order to prolong my life. In any event, there’s urgency now to act. I must reveal myself on my next trip.
Thursday 13 October
Damn the maintenance boffins! The machine has been down for the best part of a month for “unplanned maintenance”. We only got it back on-line in time to receive our fruit from the past. Unfortunately, it showed similar signs of decay to the fruit from the future. I’m not feeling any worse than I was a month ago, so I’m thinking that the decay is a function only of the number of trips. This makes it even more urgent for me to act.
Friday 14 October
There was an early finish today for a Department function. As the function is for partners as well, it gave me a good reason not to attend. They understand that I have not fully recovered from my divorce yet. I am going to expose myself today. If I don’t return, this will be my last entry and you will know that I have failed.
Monday 14 November
I have struggled into work to clear my desk and make my last diary entry. I had a mild heart attack immediately on return from my last trip and a security guard found me in my office on Saturday morning. They have pensioned me off. The doctors are confused by my premature aging and don’t give me long to live.
The project has been cancelled. They announced it today at the conclusion of a month’s animal testing. They have determined that use of the machine causes significant cellular damage and is too risky for human use. Perhaps my work has not been in vain and my diary will prove that a few trips are possible. The machine could be a useful tool to send operatives back to avert terror attacks or to kill Adolf Hitler. Perhaps we will all cease to be, in that alternative future.
Before I cease to be in this one, I must tell you about my last trip. Fortunately, I have my recording to remind me. It seems that only living cells are damaged by time travel. Perhaps, this project should be combined with the robot project.
I felt better in the past. I bought him an Airfix model of a Lancaster Bomber. The last present my father bought me was a model of a Spitfire. I cherished that gift until the day my stepfather smashed it up in front of me and then beat me for not looking after my toys. He got into the car without too much fuss and even seemed quite pleased to see me. I had placed some boxes on the front seat and invited him into the back seat. The child locks were on the back doors. If I spooked him, he couldn’t get away easily. I drove to a secluded spot and gave him his present.
“Wow, a Lancaster Bomber! Thanks, Uncle Pete. That will go great with my Spitfire.”
“I know that your father gave you the Spitfire and it’s very special to you.”
He looked at me, a quizzical expression on his face and a tear or two in his eyes. “How did you know that?”
“You might find this hard to believe but I know everything about you.” I took a deep breath and plunged in, risking everything. “I am you. I am your future self. I have travelled back in time to see you.”
I saw the incredulity in his face replaced by fear and he tried to open the car door but found it locked.
Before he descended into complete panic, I held up my hands. “Please Peter, hear me out. If I can’t prove that I’m you then I’ll let you out and never see you again. Give me one chance.”
He was breathing rapidly and his face was flushed but he sat back into the seat. “You mean like H.G. Wells?” I had been well read as a child.
“Something like that. In the future I am employed by the Ministry of Defence and have been working on a time machine for many years.”
“And you are testing it? Can I visit the future?” His excitement was defeating his fear.
“I’m breaking the rules by doing this, but I needed to see you.”
“Prove it!” His voice was defiant. I liked that streak in myself.
“Ask me anything. Ask me something extremely personal that only you know and I will remember.”
He thought for a while, his brow creasing with concentration. “How much did Daddy love me?”
The tears welled in my eyes as I remembered sitting on my father’s knee, getting hugs and kisses, before he told me. “He loved me more than all the tea in China.” We shared tears and a hug. My heart melted as I held my younger self in my arms. We sat like that for some time, in silence. If I had died then, I would have died a happy man.
“Why are you here?” He disentangled himself and returned to the back seat. He had asked the inevitable question. Now I had to make the decision on what to tell him.
“I have thought about this long and hard. You are very young and I don’t know how you will react. I have repeatedly asked myself whether I would have benefitted from knowing certain things.”
“You are waffling,” he said.
I swallowed hard. “Peter, if nothing changes, you will have an unhappy life. You will have to endure five years of brutal sexual abuse and later 25 years of unhappy marriage before you come to your senses about your real sexuality. I am, you are, we are gay”
“He looked at me, uncomprehending. How could I explain a life in a few words and what could he do about it anyway. I regretted telling him, almost immediately.
“Why are we happy?” His voice suddenly seemed tiny and weak.
“Of course, that connotation of the word hasn’t been coined yet. I mean that we are homosexual.”
He understood that. “I’m not a queer!” He shouted, almost spat, the denial.
“You are too young to understand such things. Your mother will remarry soon. Your stepfather will be a bullying bastard who will begin by beating you and then rape you twice a week until you are 16. We must figure out a way to stop it happening.”
He looked at me with disdain, as if I were completely mad. Then he displayed the fundamental knowledge of time travel, presumably gleaned from Mr Wells, which would get me into the job in the future. “If we stop it happening, presumably I will have a different life, won’t have the need to come back and warn myself, so you will never be here. You have created a paradox.” Talk about out of the mouths of babes. I was flummoxed by his argument.
“I’d like to get to school now,” he said.
Bemused and uncertain, I dropped him off and went away to think. I hadn’t achieved anything but at least I had warned him. I couldn’t do any more on this trip. I needed to get back and see what difference this had made to my memories. My fear was that I’d be too weak to make another trip.
I think that the shock contributed to the heart attack.
When I read this diary now, it seems like a novel, a work of fiction. The things that I wrote down do not match my memories.
It was as if a switch had been flicked. My idyllic childhood turned into a nightmare. My father died suddenly when I was nine and everything changed. My mother remarried too quickly and then my terror began. My Uncle Peter had some sort of supernatural fortune-telling power and had warned me of what was to come. I contemplated killing myself but instead I stole a carving knife from the kitchen and the day that my stepfather attacked me, I stabbed the bastard in the heart. I spent many years in juvenile detention where I was subjected to severe sexual abuse by the older boys. In the end, I came to look forward and enjoy it, as it was the only physical contact that I had.
After my release and rehabilitation, I eventually married in an attempt at a normal life. I had 25 years of hell before a nervous breakdown awoke my hidden true sexuality.
I had a minor, very boring, clerical position at the Department of Defence, where loose talk in the canteen alerted me to the time machine project. I managed to find out enough about the machine to go back in time, surreptitiously, in an attempt to change my miserable life.
It was as if a switch had been flicked. My idyllic childhood turned into a nightmare. My father died suddenly when I was nine and everything changed. My mother remarried too quickly and then my terror began. Some deranged lunatic who claimed he was from the future broke into our house and murdered my stepfather. The loss of two husbands in quick succession was too much for my mother and she went crazy. I was taken into care and lived in several “homes” where I was repeatedly sexually abused by the older boys and some of the staff.
Despite everything, I excelled at school and managed to win a scholarship to university. I knew that I was gay but I married and tried to live a normal life. It took 25 years before I came to my senses and acknowledged my real self.
My university degree got me a good job at the Department of Defence, where I worked on the famous time machine project. Secretly, I used the time machine to go back in time and try to fix my life.
It was as if a switch had been flicked…