I had completely forgotten about this until recently going through some old stories — but apparently, at the beginning of 2017, it seemed things in the world were the most perplexing they had ever been.
That was 2017.
I had done a flash fiction piece called “Stranger Things Have Happened” with an alternate title of “2016: The Year of Death,” which is below.
The story actually took place at the end of 2019, with the characters looking at a retrospective on t.v., as the countdown to 2020 continued. When recounting 2016, it showed unexpected election results and a look back at 2016 when it seemed, for a while, that one celebrity after another had perished.
A few years later — and having passed 2020 — revisiting this was actually really strange.
Because let’s face it: The title of “The Year of Death” could now belong to 2020. And as for the election results….Well, take that part as you will. Either way, there were unexpected issues.
If it were possible to relate to the future while writing about a retrospective that has yet to come, this story fits.
And I know that last sentence hardly makes sense, but then again, neither did 2020.
So what would I now tell Will’s dad in the story below? “You have absolutely no idea what you’re in for.”
P.S. The image is a reference to the whale spotted in the Hudson River in 2020 — just like Captain America mentions in “Endgame” after Thanos wrecks his havoc.
“Stranger Things Have Happened” (Flash Fiction)
Will’s dad never allowed him at the bar, never brought him there — after all, he was only 6 years old. This, however, was New Year’s Eve. And this year was different. Will did not understand why, but his dad decided to not open the bar that night — though New Year’s Eve, he remembered from his past few young years, was one of the busiest nights of the year.
This time, Will sat at one of the old-looking wooden tables on a chair made for adults — much too big for him. He watched his dad pour some kind of drink bottles (the kind he wasn’t allowed to drink from at home) behind a big bar counter. The bar was full of empty tables, empty tall seats at the counter. The entire place was quiet — except for the t.v. images projected on the wall. Will looked back at the digital projector, sending its beam to the only bare spot on the wall with no crazy pictures of dogs playing poker, and felt more at home. The projector reminded him of the same model they had in their living room.
Will’s dad brought over two glass cups, one with his drink and one with Will’s, and set them both down on the table as he sat himself down with Will. “Here’s your soda, kid,” he said.
The t.v. projections showed flashes of images that Will remembered to be called “important,” though half of them were unfamiliar to him. His dad glanced at the huge touch screen display hanging front and center behind the counter: 11:45 p.m., December 31, 2019.
“Yep,” he said, “glad I didn’t open tonight — this New Year’s Eve’s gonna be a wild one.”
Then he turned back to the t.v. show again, showing “2016.” It started saying something about “retrospect countdown to 2020 continues….2016 was one of the weirdest. Some later called it ‘The Year of Death.'”
Then it showed a bunch of t.v. and music people — some he had heard of, some he hadn’t — who passed away the year they were talking about. There seemed to be a lot of people from what they called “the ’70s” and “the ’80s.'” Six-year-old Will didn’t know those numbers.
His dad, however, chimed in, “Yeah, you were only 2 at the time.” Will kind of felt better hearing this. He was younger then, so that’s why he didn’t know what was going on.
Then they started talking about “surprise election results” and “stunned the country,” ending with “stranger things have happened.”
At that, Will’s dad questioned the t.v. projections. “Have they?” he asked. He then turned to Will. “You know,” he said with a sigh, “you’ll be happier if you stay 6 years old all your life…or wait.” He swished his drink around while he thought. “Maybe 10 or 11. Just stay 11 forever, and you’ll be the happiest guy on earth — especially in the ’80s, like they were talkin’ about. Take it from an old bartender.”
At that, Will smiled.