Ghost Boy wants to travel back in time. He stands at one end of a large field in a small town that some of the locals call Cultland. This is the kind of place where fog seeps from the trees and rolls across the field under the light of the full moon. Ghost Boy doesn’t have a machine to help him go back to the past. He thinks of The Flash. The Flash can run fast enough to break the physics of time. He, The Flash, went back to save his mom from being murdered. This was the point he determined had ruined his life, and everything would be better, how he wanted it, if he could fix it. So he did.
Time travel obsession. Ghost Boy’s desire was vague at first, simply go back and tell his younger self to not wait to come out of the closet or else he’ll be thirty three when it finally happens, and he will feel like everything is happening too late. Like he doesn’t fit in the world.
While not the same as having your mother murdered by a superpowered maniac, all of our lives our ruined in their own ways. Barry Allen also known as The Flash had his mother’s murder. An exact moment. Ghost Boy had his too.
The moment: the summer after graduating high school. On breaks from his movie theater job, Ghost Boy would cross the asphalt and concrete of the mall parking lot to see the guy he had a crush on that worked at one of the clothing stores. Ghost Boy gushed to his closest friend at work about Store Guy. Ghost Boy’s friend said: “when are you going to tell your mother that you’re gay?”
Soon after, Ghost Boy went to see Store Guy, but he wasn’t working his normal schedule. Store Guy’s co-worker said to Ghost Boy: “You know he’s got a girlfriend, right? He’s not a faggot.” And with that Ghost Boy stayed in the closet for the next fifteen years.
When The Flash went back to fix his moment, it wrecked time. In the altered timeline, The Flash didn’t have powers, Bruce Wayne died instead of his parents, the grief of losing her son turned Martha Wayne into The Joker, and Wonder Woman and Aquaman were at war with each other, ultimately destroying the world. He had to go back again and stop himself from stopping the murder of his mother to save the world.
There is danger in changing time. Things you don’t want to change do anyways. But at the edge of this field, the hazards lights on his car flashing, Ghost Boy wants to erase all the unease he feels when trying to explain why he took so long to come out, why he got married. He doesn’t want to feel broken. If he could go back to the moment with Store Guy’s co-worker, find the will to come out back then, all of that would be undone. He’s not thinking about the paradox.
If Ghost Boy could zoom across this field, electricity caused by his speed cutting through the mist, who would he become?
Brian Kornell’s writing appears in The Rumpus, The Kenyon Review, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Luna Luna Magazine, OCHO, and elsewhere. He is currently working on a memoir called Ghost Boy about growing up gay in the Midwest as well being closeted and married until he was in his early thirties. You can find him on Twitter @briankornell.