Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

“Here goes nothing.”
I always thought being stuck in a time loop would be fun. It’s what started me on the scientific path that led to my current state: Professor Emeritus Epa Shadel, prodigy and teen superstar turned hardworking genius in the field of time studies. Right now, I’m supposed to press the activation button to try and escape this loop for the 47th time (subjective).
Building a time machine had always been my intention. Time observation turned me cold. I didn’t want to watch, I wanted to experience.
It is, I have to say, sobering to know my decision to run the prototype device was so wrong. In a fit of pique at having my funding pulled after 12 years, I discovered it worked!
For nine years after that, the fame was wonderful, despite the new technological race I’d started. Then reality changed state. Everything unravelled. Nothing survived.
The confusion at waking in my device at the moment I stepped back from closing the door for the first time was awful.
The second time it happened was heartbreaking.
The third, terrifying.
For 45 iterations of those nine years, I’ve tried to prevent the technological escalation I set in motion.
This time, I’m determined. I’ve concluded that killing myself is the only way.
Which I proceed to do.
I watch my lifeless form fall with a feeling of alarm. Seeing my head bounce off the activation button as my body collapses is accompanied by a rush of both humour and fear.
There’s a flash.
I die?

“Good morrow, stranger. What should we call you?”
The voice sounds masculine. I get the feeling of multiple presences. It occurs to me to open my eyes.
I’m sitting up in a low bed. The room about me is draped in fabrics that move in the gentle breeze. No, wait. The bed is rippling in the breeze, too. I hold a hand up. That ripples as well. What?
“Like a pebble dropped into a pond from a great height, your arrival has impacted what passes for reality around here.”
I turn my head to regard the speaker. He’s rippling, too. Aside from that, he looks like a classical picture of a pirate. Next to him is a tropical warrior queen. Then there’s a mechanic and a businessman. At the end is an elfmaid cradling a huge leatherbound book.
“I know, it’s crazy. I’m Anton. Left to right, that’s Porey, Jim, David, and Mehalnor.”
Words. He’s using them. So can I.
David cheers.
Mehalnor places the tome on the foot of my bed, then sits on it cross-legged.
“You were doing something involving time. Science, magic, or accident; doesn’t matter. Whatever you were doing, you persisted for longer than you should have. Regardless of origin or effect, in the end, you tried to kill yourself.”
I nod.
“Unfortunately, by then, what you originally did had become part of the passage of time. When you tried to change it irrevocably, you became the paradox. Causality removed you.” She grins. “Think of it like trying to remove scars. They might fade, but you can never go back to the original skin.”
“I presume that’s a simplified explanation.”
Jim nods.
“Best we’ve got.”
I smile.
“So how did we end up here?”
Porey shrugs.
“Good question.”
Well, now.
“I’m Epa. I’m a scientist. Maybe I can help find an answer.”
Anton nods.
“Anything to help pass the time. Nothing to do here except walk the beach, admire the dozen suns setting, or talk.”
Marooned after destroying all creation. Is there even anywhere left to escape to?