Author : Bob Newbell
I hugged the grieving woman and told her I was sorry for her loss. I said her son had been a good friend and good soldier. I told her I would be thinking about her and then stepped aside to allow the mourners lining up behind me to offer their condolences. I looked back at the casket, at the old woman, at the fifty or so people attending the viewing, and walked out of the funeral home. He’s better off, I thought to myself. Another veteran of the Battle of Eternity who’s finally found peace.
That’s what we called it. The Battle of Eternity. The official name was the Second Battle of Winnipeg. It was the biggest battle of the third and final year of the war. We’d liberated Ontario, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. We had momentum on our side. The Canadians launched a major offensive from newly liberated Ontario into Manitoba and we made a push from North Dakota across the border. The enemy wasn’t prepared to fight on two fronts. They pulled back immediately. We had them on the run. Then the bomb hit.
It was a nanotech weapon. The enemy hadn’t used nanoweapons up to that point. We’d deployed them discretely, knowing we were violating the Bucharest Accords. An enemy platoon here would get taken out by a debilitating febrile illness. A regiment there would suddenly have trouble comprehending orders. That was us. It was fighting dirty. And it was quite illegal. But we figured when the war was over we’d rather face our own war crimes tribunals than the enemy’s.
Both Canadian and American forces detected unauthorized molecular technology. We knew we’d been hit. We also knew that nanotech countermeasures would have already been triggered. They’d work or they wouldn’t. We pressed on. After ten days, Winnipeg — what was left of it — was liberated. Nothing that could be definitively attributed to the enemy nanoweapon attack was discovered. We figured the countermeasures had worked.
Six months later, the war was over. The United States and Canada were battered, but victorious. It was a couple of months after that when the first symptoms started showing up.
“Hurry up, we’re going to be late,” I’d said to my wife one Saturday as we were heading out to the movies.
“Be right there,” she’d replied.
When she’d come downstairs, I told her we may as well forget going. There’s no way we could make the movie.
“We have plenty of time,” she’d said.
“I told you to hurry up a half hour ago. You took too long.”
“A half hour? That was less than a minute ago.”
I’d checked the time. She was right. The drive to the theater seemed to take well over an hour. But the clock in the car showed it had only taken twelve minutes. The movie was two hours long. It had felt like ten.
In the weeks that followed, most of the soldiers who had fought at the Second Battle of Winnipeg experienced similar symptoms. The subjective perception of time had changed. Diagnostic imaging scans found changes in the cerebrum, cerebellum, and basal ganglia of those afflicted with what the media dubbed Eternity Syndrome. They’re still trying to find an effective treatment for those of us who haven’t committed suicide, tired of the living death of a world where everything takes forever.
I look back at the funeral home. I recall the sobbing old mother I consoled not three minutes ago. For me, it seems like it’s been a year.