Bob (SFC-Sergeant First Class (E-7) Robert Throckmorton) sat in the front passenger seat of the Hummer as they drove through the desolate scrub of rural Afghanistan. He kept his eyes moving, scanning, always scanning, for anything out of the ordinary, anything that looked out of place or potentially dangerous. He was going out with a small team from his platoon of medics to pick up a couple of slightly wounded soldiers not too far from the FOB (Forward Operating Base) they were temporarily stationed at in support of some Engineers. The injuries weren't combat related, rather they were the result of carelessness while erecting a prefab bridge over a ravine.
He'd just turned his head toward his driver to warn him they were approaching dangerous terrain and to be very cautious when the world exploded. There was a large roar, a flash of light, and he felt the vehicle begin to roll. He could still see the afterimage of the explosion and the roiling dust when the vehicle landed on the driver's side, skidded slightly and rolled over on its top in the left ditch.
Bob's vision darkened from the shock and pain. He lay still for a moment getting his bearings. He felt moisture running down his body from what he was sure were several shrapnel wounds. His legs were damp. He could smell diesel fumes. His world was going dark once again but he forced himself to move, to make his way to the apparently unconscious, hopefully not dead, driver and help him exit the vehicle. The pain whenever he moved was excruciating.
He pushed and pulled until he and the driver were both nearly out of the burning vehicle when the wetness on his legs that he thought, almost hoped, was blood ignited with a whoosh. Instant searing pain crawled up his legs as the fuel from the spare can that drained onto him ignited. He knew nothing else until much later when he saw a shadow kneeling over him. He reached for his pistol just as a voice said, "Easy there Sarge. You're going to be ok. We have dustoff (a medical evacuation helicopter) inbound."
"Who pulled me out? What happened to Pvt. Swallow?"
"I don't know. When we got here I found you laying right where you are now. There was no one nearby, they were all in defensive positions. It took us a while to get turned around. The men in the vehicle behind you said you were trying to get out of the vehicle then you were here. You don't remember crawling over here?"
"No. The last I remember I was trying to get Pvt. Swallow out, then my legs caught on fire and I screamed."
That was the last Bob remembered for several hours. The next time he became aware of his surroundings he was on an aircraft headed for Germany and the Army Hospital there. They did some work on him, stabilized him further and he was in the air once more headed for Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) in San Antonio (Ft. Sam Houston) Tx., the home of the Army's premier burn treatment center.
Weeks went by, most filled with agony he never knew existed as he healed from the burns and surgeries on some of his other wounds. Then the skin grafts began and more pain. He almost had to learn to walk again after his grafts healed enough for him to try. Physical therapy was excruciatingly painful as well.
While he recuperated from the burns and other injuries, Bob began to worry about a different problem. He felt his memory had been adversely affected by the explosion. Finally, after he made enough comments and was surprised by or claimed he had no knowledge of many items that should have been common knowledge, he was referred to a psychiatrist.
After the normal pleasantries of the initial meeting the Doctor leaned back in her chair and asked, "Now, Sergeant, tell me in your own words what the problem is."
"Ma'am, I'm scared. I just seem to be out of phase with almost everything. Some of the simplest things, things a child should learn, seem completely different than I remember them. For example, I Know Donald Trump is President but I've seen a man that looks somewhat like him called Donal Tromp on TV addressing the nation as President. I've read the Vice President is somebody named Ponce.
"I've found other people with slightly different names as well. Of course I've encountered some people with names I know and they look like the people I remember who had those names. Most of the time though they act slightly different than I remember.
"Much of the history I learned, or think I learned, or lived through, is different than I remember. For example, the world trade center was crashed into by highjacked aircraft piloted by members of a religious Muslim nut group killing thousands. The same day other aircraft were highjacked by the same group. One crashed into the pentagon, another in a field. When I reminded someone that was why we were in Afghanistan I was informed no such thing happened.
"I was in Afghanistan fighting Taliban religious fanatics that harbored some of those terrorists but now people say we were there fighting a group of drug marketers, trying to improve the country and keep the farmers from growing poppies. Some of the wars I remember never happened. Much of the social unrest caused by the President I remember doesn't exist here. The population lives harmoniously, well more harmoniously than I remember. There's less poverty and a more equal distribution of wealth than I remember and way more interracial couples.
"I can go on and on but what's the use? I think my brain got scrambled or something."
"Hummm. That is strange. Well, lets do some tests and make sure there's not a medical reason for your problems then, if we rule out medical issues, we'll talk more."
After several X-Rays, CT Scans, MRI's and blood tests, Bob once again met with the Colonel (his female Psychiatrist). She said, "Sergeant, all your tests came back completely normal. Now I need to delve very deeply into your past. Please bear with me until we finish our discussions before we discuss your condition in any detail."
For the remainder of that meeting and two more, Bob was basically led through his entire life's memories from his earliest ones to the present day. She pressed him for names, places, dates (if he could remember them), events, and even his thoughts.
Finally, the questions ended. She said, "Sergeant I think that's all I need to make a diagnosis. I want to discuss your case with some colleagues before we delve into it further. We'll go over things in detail at our next session."
Bob was extremely worried about his problem for the next four days. Finally, the time for his next session arrived and he got to the Doctor's office almost 30 minutes early. A few minutes after the scheduled time for his appointment, Bob was allowed to enter her office. After the greetings and getting Bob seated, the Doctor leaned back in her chair and said, "Sergeant, I've read about cases like yours and, frankly, I thought they were far fetched, perhaps even complete fabrications. If one of my colleagues hadn't personally been involved with a case like yours I would probably have blown you off as a nut case, or you trying to better your disability rating.
"Fortunately, or, perhaps not, from your standpoint, that's not the case. Sergeant, we believe you're what we call a World Walker. There are only fifty seven known cases world wide. I know you feel as if everything is off kilter, slightly different than you remember. Well, you're right. We checked everything you told us you remembered from your life and literally everything is slightly different than the information you gave us. Where you named names, a similar person existed in most cases we found, but the name was slightly different and, mostly, their actions were less controversial than those undertaken by the person you named. Very few people whose names you mentioned had the same name and even those people were slightly different than you described them, or at least their lives were different.
"Come on, I mean ACTORS being elected President? What could our electors possibly be thinking? Professional politicians? Impossible! The constitution has iron clad term limits built in even if someone would want to spend their entire life in government service. Our forefathers knew serving the country was a duty, an onerous duty in some cases, and allowed for it, limiting the time any one person would need to spend doing their civic duty. Even those who run for the office do it as a civic duty, mostly to implement certain legislation or help with problems they forsee.
"Anyway, back to the test results and my and my colleagues thoughts on your problem. As you know, we checked your DNA. You're definitely who you say you are.
"You are SFC Robert Throckmorton, but, you're not. At least mentally, you're not OUR SFC Throckmorton. You're basically a different person, from a different time stream or dimension or whatever. We haven't determined which for sure because there's no way to verify any of this. The first few World Walkers we encountered were locked away and put through the wringers until the idiots in the intelligence agencies finally decided they just didn't know anything out of the ordinary and decided to leave them alone."
"Oh, uh, thanks, I guess. What, exactly, does that mean for me though Ma'am? I mean I know who I am and, well, things are the same, but different. I mean, I've talked to what I thought was my sister but we didn't remember our childhood the same. What's to become of me? Can I go back home? And how did I get this way, what caused me to be here?"
"I'm sorry, Sergeant. As far as we know, you're stuck here. Your home, now, is probably the same place as before, but slightly different. Your injuries are severe enough you'll probably be boarded out of the Army and awarded a disability retirement. While you're here, however, I would appreciate it if we could continue our talks, partly so I can better understand what you're going through and partly to help you acclimate to our reality. As for what caused the transfer, we just don't know. We do know one common factor for the world walkers is great stress, usually in conjunction with great danger, life threatening danger. Almost every one of the world walkers showed up severely injured much as you did.
"One thing I never explored with you while we were covering your life was, uh, call them strange happenings or abilities. Have you ever had any episodes of, uh, psychic powers." She held up her hand and made a stop gesture before continuing, "Look, I know how stupid that sounds but we've found a few of the World Walkers have some capability in that way. We even have a few native born, or people we are pretty sure are native born, who have slight capabilities. I assure you, if you do, nothing bad will happen to you if you admit it. We've found certain areas of the brain that show a lot more activity in world walkers than in other people. The activity increases when the world walker does psychic endeavors, things that many lesser educated might call magic."
"Colonel, I don't know. I don't think so but there've been a few, uh, strange things. For example, the day we hit the IED I was in the Hummer burning, the next thing I know one of the other men was kneeling beside me several feet away. He swore no one pulled me there yet there I was, almost instantly it seemed like. That's the only strange thing I can think of."
More weeks went by and the meetings continued. They mostly covered his mental battles with knowing he was not in the United States he grew up in but he WAS in A United States. The Colonel even tried to help him break through into psychic knowledge, to no avail. All he accomplished was to generate several severe headaches. Finally, Bob went before a medical review board. The result was discharge from the army with a 60% disability which resulted in a medical retirement.
Throughout his treatment and convalescence Bob continued to feel "off". He got many strange looks when he said something or asked strange questions. He continually found things that just didn't seem right, things he misremembered or had forgotten. Finally the day came when he was discharged. He had appointments to keep for further treatment with the Veterans Administration hospital nearest his home of record to which he was returning. He really didn't want to go there, yet he did. He knew his parent's were dead and even though he knew her, he didn't know his sister. Finally, he decided to go there because there wasn't anywhere else.
He flew into the airport nearest to his home and was met by his sister and her husband. After a tearful greeting they helped him carry his luggage to their car. His sister Rose insisted he ride in the front seat while her husband Doug drove them home.
Rose leaned forward from the back seat as they left the airport and asked, "Now that you're retired, what do you plan to do?"
"Not sure, sis. I'll need to find some work to supplement my retirement check but I don't have any idea what I want to do. I can't do anything too strenuous for any length of time with my fucked up leg. They said I lost about 60% of the muscle in my left leg and the scar tissue on the right one pulls and hurts a lot. I think I'll just clean up gramps old house and move in there for now while I look for something to do. I've got enough I can take my time finding something.
"I figured the old place would just be sold two years ago when he died. I was surprised when I inherited it. I was going to put it on the market several times but just never got around to it, then I ended up going back to the sand box and put it off until I could get home. Guess it's a good thing now though. At least I have somewhere to live.
"Are you sure? That old place hasn't been lived in for almost four years. There's no telling what kind of shape its in. I drive by it occasionally and the yard's all grown up. The house and outbuildings need painting and probably a lot of repairs."
"Yeah, I'm sure. Heck, all I have left is time now and I used to like to piddle around with carpentry and gardening. I can probably do most of the work myself."
The day after he got home Bob borrowed his brother in law's truck and drove the six miles from Demming, the town his sister lived in, to Strickland, a small bedroom community in which his grandparents had lived. At one time they owned a farm on the edge of the small town but over the years they'd sold off most of the land. When his grandfather died there was only the house, out buildings, and about ten acres remaining. Much of the remainder of the 160 acre farm had sold to developers who built houses on it for sale to people who wanted to move out of the larger town to live.
From the time he arrived in Demming, Bob felt strange. Nothing was as he remembered it but at the same time, he couldn't put his finger on what bothered him. He felt the same way when he arrived in Strickland. Some of the buildings were different than he thought they should be and he swore some of the street names were changed. At least he knew why, assuming the shrink was right.
When he arrived at his house, Bob stopped the truck in the overgrown driveway and began walking around the place. The land lay East to West in a rectangle with the house on the west part of the land. It sloped gently to the east where the eastern boundary was a decent sized river that flowed into a lake a couple miles downstream from the town. A paved village road ran in front of the house to the west. Small "farmett's" as the developer called them, bordered his place on the south side and small "estates" on the north. The estate lots were one to two acres with a large house on them. The "farmett's" were about 4 acres in size.
Bob spent most of the day looking over the house, out buildings, and land making a list of things he needed to do and a partial materials list for building materials he'd have to buy to make the repairs. The house was built in the early 1920's by a local physician and, for the time, was quite fancy and upscale. There was a lot of intricate woodwork and wainscoting. The outside was mostly brick which was good, but quite a lot of the woodwork would need repair or replacement and all of it needed a good coat of paint. When he got back to his sister's house he spent most of the evening working out a plan and prioritizing the work. He decided his first job would be to get his grandfather's old truck working.
Bob decided, considering what he knew of his change in location, to just ignore the perceived differences of this realm as much as he could and treat people and things as if he had always known them. That being decided, Gramps had an old 1965 Chevrolet half ton truck with a very rare factory 4X4 in his garage. He bought it new and drove it for years but it still only had about 53,000 miles on it. As he remembered, it was a gas guzzler but it was in great shape and should last him for years unless he did a lot of driving (which he didn't plan to do). He wasn't a mechanic so he had to find one to do the work and hope he was honest and wouldn't charge an exorbitant price. Oh, he could do simple things on that old a vehicle such as change spark plugs, oil and fluids since it didn't have the modern electronics but if it needed more, such as carburetor work or rebuilding, he couldn't do it. It was better to hire it done and move on to things he was better at or could do.
Over the course of the next few days Bob drove back and forth from his sister's place to his future home working there during the day. Thankfully, the Bob of this realm or reality was as frugal as he had been, perhaps more so. When he died or was transported or whatever he had around $250,000 in savings and investments. His accounts here had nearer $275,000 in them plus, of course, the value of his inheritance.
It quickly became known that Bob was back in the area and people greeted him in a friendly manner when he was seen in town. He began making it a habit of going to the local cafe from time to time, taking most of his lunches there and stopping many mornings for coffee with the farmers and retired men that frequented it. He soon became a welcomed member of the morning coffee group.
One morning while chatting over coffee one of the men said, "I see you're trying to put Doc Adam's old place right. Looks like a lot of work for just one man. You maybe needing some part time help?"
"I might. There's several things I want to do that'll either go faster or easier with help and a few that demand it. Why? Do you know someone that'll help?"
"Might say that. I've done some carpentry work in my time and the missus and I could use a little extra. Besides, I'm getting a little tired of just sitting around."
"Fine by me. When you're done here why don't you come by and we'll talk about what needs done and the pay you'll need. If we can come to an agreement I'll give you a try."
Bob left shortly after that conversation and soon after he got to his house the old man showed up. They walked around the place while Bob showed him what he'd already done and told him what he still wanted to do. They agreed on pay and the man, whose name turned out to be Frank, agreed to start the next day.
The work went faster with Frank's help and they soon had the old house back in excellent shape. It had mostly needed cosmetic work but Bob did pull some of the inside wall boards to be sure it was insulated well and he replaced all the windows with modern, high efficiency windows. Of course he installed a new HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning) unit. The downstairs had a master suite with an ensuite bathroom, large living room, kitchen and dining room plus a powder room for guests. There was a large Utility and Mud room off the kitchen between it and the breezeway.
After the house was completed, they turned their attention to the garage, barn and fences. Bob had spent about $43,000 on the house and had about $7000 left in his budget to use on those repairs. He could easily live on his pension so that would leave well over $200,000 for emergencies and a little income from the interest it generated.