Author : Axel Taiari
…And warps him back two minutes ago through an internal blizzard of gunmetal sparkles, the time-storm scrambling his brain before the world reboots. Swirling colors rearrange themselves. Janus stands still, gulping down the motion sickness, his confused body slowly getting used to the constant rewinds. Without losing a beat he rushes to the phone at the other side of the lab, vertigo making him collide with a table on the way. He picks up the receiver, dialing the number with trembling fingers. He stares at his watch while dial tones moan. I need more. I need more, he tells himself.
Her sleep-laced voice says, “Hello?”
“Hey”, she says, and Janus hears her rub the back of her hand against her tired eyes. “When are you coming home, baby? It’s late.”
I’m not. Please don’t hang up this time. Please.
Silence on the end of the line. Janus’ pupils stay glued to the slipping clock.
I want you to listen, okay. I love you. I love you. And I’m not coming home, I never will. I will keep trying, but I am not and I think I understand that now.
“This isn’t funny.”
He sighs. She always said the same thing.
It’s not a joke, honey. But I need you to know: I love you and I would have spent my life with you and I wanted to marry you someday and…
“You’re scaring me. You at work? I… I’m on my way, okay?”
No, no don’t, just lis-
She hangs up.
He listens to the static for a moment, muttering to himself before letting the receiver drop. Another failure. Janus looks around the lab. Endless rows of humming computers forever crunching mountains of data. Everywhere, discarded pages where hieroglyphic theories and equations craft a broken riddle. At the far end of the room, the chair waits for him. Neural nodes dangling, wrist straps undone. He shakes his head, preparing for another time wave to claw him away kicking and screaming. The experiment had failed, and the loop would not shatter. He has two minutes for everything. He has two minutes for nothing. He could try to warn the others of the incident, beg them for help, but they would soon forget, his attempt erased. Two minutes was enough to commit suicide and perhaps free himself. It was enough to call everyone he loves, tell them all the things he never dared to say. But they wouldn’t remember, or never believe him. Two minutes were not enough to fix anything, alter calculations, build up a new device. He had tried to destroy the time chair. In a previous attempt, he trashed the lab, picking up random computer cases and throwing them against each other. He had set the entire room on fire and ran out, only to be sucked back into the vortex. He had punched the walls, smashing his fists into concrete until the warp embraced him, nursing his bones and sucking up his blood.
Twenty seconds now. His skin begins to glow, an itching sensation creeps along his muscles and his vision dims. He runs to the nearest table and picks up a ballpoint pen. He draws another straight line on his arm, the thirty fourth in a row. The rushing current of time approaches with a roar, injecting fragmented echoes of unborn realities into his skull. He sits on the floor, watching the world disintegrate in chunks, and as he thinks of what to do next, the storm devours him again.
Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer
“I don’t care if it’s selfish, I don’t want you to go.” Sam stood halfway between the doorway and the foot of the bed, caught between staying and walking away.
“It is selfish, but I understand. I’m tired Sam, I’m worn out and it’s time for me to give in to the natural order of things.” The older man’s voice was slow, patient but firm. “No man was ever meant to see as much as I’ve seen in my life, and a man can only take so much.”
Sam wiped moisture from one cheek, quickly as though it might not be noticed. “Whatever it is that’s broken, get it fixed. We’ve got lots of money…”
Jacob cut the sentence short. “It’s not about money. There’s nothing to fix, no worn out part to replace. My body’s working just fine, it’s me that’s broken. This body and all its incarnations has allowed me the lifetime of four ordinary men. I’ve seen three partners age and wear out of their own accord and you, well it has seen you grow from a nervous youth into the poised and confident professional that another much younger man will take his turn caring for in my absence. I’ve had enough, done enough and seen enough. God damn it I’ve felt more than enough and it’s time to move on.”
Sam moved to the side of the bed and reached for Jacob’s hand. The flesh was warm, almost real. Jacob closed his hand around Sam’s tightly. Sam could feel tears welling up again, and through clouding eyes looked at everything but the man propped up in the hospital bed. Monitors tracked vital signs, the numbers exactly to spec. Diagnostics scrolled past on a pair of displays to one side, mechanical equipment passing test after test, repeating ad infinitum. Sam finally met Jacob’s gaze, friend and lover for longer than either of them had imagined possible. Jacob’s eyes burned with a crystalline intensity that, while artificial, shone with an inner light that was purely his own.
“I don’t understand Jacob, if everything’s working, then why? What is it that’s so bad about staying alive? Is it me? If it’s me Jacob, say so and I’ll let you find someone else. I don’t want to be the thing…”
“Sam,” Jacob interrupted again, “it’s not you Sam, trust me, you’re the only thing that’s kept me here this long.” Jacob raised one permanently manicured hand and pondered it, flexing the fingers and turning it to study the hairs on its back. “I can’t remember a time when I was really real. I’ve forgotten what touching real flesh with real flesh feels like, and I don’t believe anymore that what I feel now is the same. I can’t remember what my first lover liked for breakfast. I can’t feel the warmth of the sunrise on my face, the magic of being underwater or the thrill that comes with being out of breath. I’ve been living for so damn long, and I can’t remember what it feels like to really be alive.”
Sam’s cheeks were wet now, and no effort was made to conceal the tears.
“I can’t even cry anymore. I’ve loved and lost so much and I can’t even shed a tear.”
Sam stood stoic, this argument had gone on before but this time there was no fighting back.
Jacob held Sam’s hands, and locking eyes said, “When I’m gone, have whatever flesh of mine remains cremated, then cast me into the wind. In the mornings, look to the east as the day breaks and feel my warmth there. In the darkness know that I’m never far away.” Jacob settled back into the pillows on the bed, and said simply, “I love you” before closing his eyes for the last time.
Author : Katie West
“I’ve figured it out you know,” I said it casually as we ate lunch at our kitchen table. Right before I took a bite of my sandwich.
“Figured what out?” He looked at me questioningly, and then with annoyance once he realized I had filled my mouth with food just to prolong the anticipation. Looking at me with exaggerated exasperation, he watched me finish chewing and then swallow in silence.
“Time travel,” maintaining that same casual tone to my voice. I watched his reaction; he didn’t laugh, or shake his head in disappointment over having to share the table with someone so out of her mind. No, my husband, he had excited eyes and a mischievous mouth.
“I figure, we go into the future, no one’s there yet. We go into the past, everyone’s already left. The only place where anybody’s gonna be, is right now. So, time travel could only be for people who want to be alone.” I took another bite. Swallowed. Thought about barren landscapes void of people, eerie cityscapes impossibly still. “Really alone.”
He slowly nodded and I could see him thinking it over. Imagining a future where no one exists, and a past empty as a ghost town. “We can’t be in more than one place at once, that makes sense.”
“Right? We can only know our future selves, once we arrive there. Our past selves, only known in memory. We travel within time, through space, and must exist in only one space at one time.”
“Then time travel is useless, giving only strange echoing answers to any questions you might have hoped to ask. That makes sense too. And I only ever want to be here, where you are. What’s the point of being anywhere else?”
I finished the last of my sandwich, looked at the man who would give up the silent mysteries of future spaces and empty revelations of past places to just sit and eat lunch with me, everyday.
“Exactly,” I agreed, dumping more chips onto my plate, looking at him again, “what’s the point?”
Author : Asher Wismer
Jenkis and Layla examined the husky robot. It stood fifteen feet high, maybe nine feet wide at its thickest point, gaping, many-toothed mouth in the front.
“It’s pretty ugly,” Layla said. “Maybe a coat of paint.”
“Maybe a coat of new parts,” Jenkis said. “It’s rusted through to the recycler, look.”
They looked. Layla took out a tension wrench and popped the front panel off. Inside, some species of rodent had built a nest, died, decomposed, and then been replaced by some species of insect, which were also dead.
“Not much insulation left on the wires,” Layla said.
“Not much wire left on the, uh, the thing,” Jenkis said. “And the internals are gone. No point to a Digestor without a recycler. Just… let’s go.”
They stopped in to see Honest Gephart on their way out.
“We don’t want it,” Layla said.
“You don’t want it? That Digestor is in prime condition! It’s practically an antique!”
“It’s a relic,” Jenkis said.
“There are multiple generations of dead things inside it,” Layla said. “You couldn’t sell that thing to a scrap yard. Not even you would buy it!”
“I did, so that proves you wrong,” Gephart said. “Listen, how about I cut the price in half.”
“Half of what you wanted for that robot would buy a brand new one, with better recycling,” Jenkis said. “And a three-year warranty with parts and labor and full replacement on referral.”
“Nobody’s going to buy it,” Layla said. “Your only hope would be a groundhog straight from downside without a clue, and you just won’t find one of those way out here. It’s going to sit on your lot forever, ruining your landscaping.” She grinned at Gephart. “On the other hand, we could haul it off for you.”
“It’s worth nothing already,” Jenkis said, “unless you haven’t eaten in a long, long time.”
“Good point. Just sign here and here,” –Gephart held out a sheaf of papers– “and fill these out and you’re fine for it.”
Jenkis didn’t take the papers. “Seriously?”
“There’s insurance, liability, refusal of warranty–”
“You turn your back for twenty minutes,” Layla said, “and then the wreckage is gone. No worries.
“Fine,” Gephart said. “But only because I like you and I need the space. You make sure nobody ever finds out that I let you have it for free, ok? It’ll ruin my rep.”
“Great,” Jenkis said with a huge, fake smile. “Now, let’s talk about our haulage fees.”
“Fees,” Layla said, pulling up a chair. “Insurance, liability….”
“You could have just offered the job first,” Jenkis said.
“It’s more fun to haggle,” Layla said. “You know that. Besides, now he has a great story about how little he spent to have that thing hauled away.”
“To tell all his fellow sharks at the bar, over a cold pint of absinth,” Jenkis said. “Anyway, we’ll break even on it, but why were you so bullish to buy?”
“The insects,” Layla said. “You noticed all the caripaces? They’re rare off this world, and particularly at our next stop.”
“You had me buy that whole thing for some insects?”
“We’ll make about fifteen times the scrap price.”
“You know,” Jenkis said, “every time I wonder why I married you, you go and do something like this, and I remember.”
“How much you love me?”
“How much you conned me before I got wise. You are a sneaky bitch, no question.”
“No question,” Layla said, and kissed his cheek. “Now go strap the gear down. We’re superluminal in thirty minutes.”
Author : Kathy Kachelries, Staff Writer
My husband doubts the existence of history. I wonder why I married this man.
When I woke up to the banshee-screech of a bandsaw, I assumed we were getting another door. He likes that too, building doors. But, when I came downstairs in a yellow bathrobe hoping he’d brewed a morning pot, I found no coffeemaker. In fact, I found no kitchen appliances. Nor did I find a husband, though a sign reading “time machine” was taped to the garage door.
“Progress calls, sweetheart,” he yelled from the garage. “Many scientific innovations have failed due to lack of funding.”
“You don’t believe in history.”
“I believe that history, if it exists at all, is subjective, but more likely, each instant is a singular point of awareness suspended in-”
“All right, honey,” I said.
“It’s entirely different,” he said. “Also, don’t go into the garage.”
One might wonder how my husband learned so much about time, space, or mechanical engineering. Since most modern philosophers discount his beliefs about the former two and he still hasn’t fixed the dishwasher (won’t, now), one might do well to dismiss that curiosity.
But if he is anything, it’s determined.
After returning from Starbucks with the sense of patience possessed only by those who expect their wealthy in-laws to replace their kitchen appliances, I was greeted by a man with curly, powdered hair.
“Bonjour, madame,” he said.
I knocked on the door to the garage. “There is a Frenchman in my kitchen,” I said.
“Well, so long as you know.”
“Thanks, dear,” he said.
My husband isn’t good with sarcasm.
I sat the man in the living room, set the television to Nickelodeon, and went upstairs to read. I let my husband deal with his own problems, until the police or fire department get involved.
When I finished my book, the living room was filled with Frenchmen. Again, I knocked on the garage door.
“There are more Frenchmen,” I said.
“Where did they come from?”
I needed more coffee. “Did you invent a time machine?” I asked him.
“Even though you don’t believe in time?”
“Are you going to send them back?”
“As soon as I invent an un-time machine,” he told me.
“Maybe you should invent someone who knows what they’re doing.”
The silence suggested he believed that science did not concern women.
Since I couldn’t cook without an oven, stove, or microwave, I ordered pizza for the Frenchmen. All in all, they didn’t seem disturbed by the displacement-in-time thing.
The next day, I found not just Frenchmen, but several Russians as well.
“Honey, there are Russians in my living room,” I said.
“I know.” I heard a whirring sound, then a thud. “I’ve almost got the ‘specific time’ thing down.”
“And this will empty out my living room?”
“I’m getting Americans next,” he said. “I heard that they both did some crazy stuff during the Cold War.”
“It’s not like I believed in history,” he said, cross.
I went to buy coffee. I also bought several boxes of donuts. The Frenchmen were still transfixed by the television. The Russians, from several points in time, were eagerly exchanging stories. In the garage, my husband was negotiating his own little cold war. I took a leisurely stroll and had reached the town park when the solution occurred to me. I hurried home to tell my husband.
“Dear,” I said.
“I’m busy, darling.”
“Why don’t you invent a future time machine, and ask someone how to do it right?”
There was a long silence. “I don’t believe in the future, sweetheart,” he said.
The voices in the garage resumed.